After a rough and restless day at sea, we finally arrived in Sydney on February 27th. I’d never imagined ever being lucky enough to visit Australia, but there I was, right in the heart of it and best of all, I had 2 days to explore.
Marian and I left the ship as soon as our deck was called for immigration and we were on the ferry to Darling Harbour before 10AM. We docked at White Bay, as the Queen Elizabeth was also in port and she’d taken the prime spot at Circular Quay, but the ferry journey was only a few minutes in each direction and actually quite enjoyable.
Marian had visited Sydney several times previous to our call on Black Watch, so she was my map and guide for the day. We started by walking from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay. It was hot, but not too uncomfortable for exploring, and before I knew where I was, I spotted the Sydney Opera House. It was very impressive, but smaller than I’d imagined it to be. I took dozens of pictures of it and the QE before we continued towards the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The bridge was beautiful and as it’s identical to the Tyne Bridge in Newcastle upon-Tyne, it reminded me of home. We wandered around the Circular Quay area for a while, taking different shots of the bridge and Sydney Opera House from various angles before we made our way towards The Rocks.
Sadly, there were no markets on during our visit to The Rocks, but still, it was a charming little place to explore. I bought myself a boomerang (as you do when you’re in Australia) from the small aboriginal gallery inside the shopping centre and then I stopped again to buy a t-shirt. I liked the area, it was peaceful and a little slower than the rest of the city. There was so much construction going on in some places that it felt chaotic at times and people were rushing around in all different directions. From The Rocks, we made our way towards a restaurant called The Ship Inn. It’s opposite the train station at Circular Quay. They had pizzas for $10 and we were both hungry, so we stopped to fuel up. I’d definitely recommend a bite to eat here if you’re peckish during your exploring.
We continued being adventurers after lunch, with a cab ride to Bondi Beach. It had to be done. I wasn’t looking for a beach day, but when in Sydney, a visit to Bondi is obligatory, right? It was smaller than I thought it would be but it was beautiful and surf was definitely up, I’ve never seen waves so high when the weather is so calm. We walked in one direction along the road and along the beach in the other. I can actually say that I have walked along Bondi Beach, I’m so lucky! We looked in a few stores as we went and continued to take dozens of pictures. It was so hot there, I was very pleased that I’d thrown a bottle of Australian Gold sun lotion in my bag before we left the ship. That’s the only sun cream I’ve used for the entire trip, even the post-tanning moisturisers are incredible, I’ll never use any other product.
Our Uber arrived to pick us up from Bondi and we were soon on our way back towards the city. We had decided to go out in the evening, so we wanted to head back to the ship and freshen up before hitting the town. We didn’t stay out too late, but we did enjoy a few drinks at Cargo in Darling Harbour. How could you not enjoy this view?
Day two was taken at a slightly slower pace. We’d had so much fun and excitement on day one and we had to be back onboard the ship for 4PM. We got the ferry back across to Darling Harbour and set off looking for somewhere good to have lunch. We ended up in a food court in a local shopping mall and decided we’d go with Mexican food at Mad Mex. It was my first burrito experience and I can tell you that it was a good one. I devoured every last piece and then off we went in search of Birdcage Alley. I’d heard about it before I left on the cruise and was desperate to see it. It’s on Angel Place and not exactly easy to find, but if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s worth looking for. It’s called ‘Forgotten Songs’ and it’s an art installation of 50 birdcages, suspended in the air, that commemorates the songs of fifty birds that were once heard in Sydney, before they were gradually forced out by European settlement. The songs from the birds play overhead and they change as day turns into night. It’s something totally unique and I really did like it. There was a small restaurant in the same alley, so you could sit and listen to the sounds of the birds as you enjoyed food and drinks.
Our departure from Sydney was spectacular. We may not have had the best berth, but we got to sail out under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it was truly magical. The images you see of Sydney Harbour will never do it justice, you have to see it with your own eyes. Sadly, the sun was so low in the sky that it caused issues with images, but I did manage to grab a few decent ones as we left. I could never have seen everything in 2 days that Sydney has to offer, but I’m happy that the places I wanted to see and visit, I did. Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to go back there in the future and see more.
A sea day followed, a very hot and sunny sea day, before we arrived in Brisbane. I couldn’t wait to get off the ship, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was calling my name.
We used the free shuttle service into the city and then jumped in a cab to the sanctuary. We had planned on using the Koala Express ferry service, but we didn’t want to waste time and I was desperate to get there. We arrived, paid for our tickets and in we went to see the animals. I’ve wanted to see a koala since I was a small child, so you can imagine my delight when I turned to my left and there were at least 11 of them! I was so happy. I didn’t let myself get sidetracked, however, as I knew we had to get to the other section to queue for the chance to hold a koala, before there were too many people. We waited in line ( spotted a lady taking a very fat Wombat for a walk) and soon enough, it was my turn to step forward and meet my new best friend. He was a chunky little thing and very heavy! When the woman put him into my hands I thought I was going to drop him, I really hadn’t expected him to weigh so much. He was so placid and even though I was absolutely desperate to lean forward and kiss him, I managed to keep myself together and not intrude on his space. Our cuddle only lasted for a few short minutes, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life. I love animals and I feel so privileged to have been able to go there and do that. I really wish I could have brought him back to the ship and taken him home.
We left the koalas behind (only briefly) and off we went to feed the kangaroos. I’d thought you’d just lean over a fence and feed them, but no, you actually go inside their field and walk around with them. They were everywhere and the area they live in is vast, I couldn’t have possibly walked around it all. They’re not locked in, there’s tons of space for them and they also have a section beneath trees that is out of bounds for us humans. I guess this is where they can go when they want some shade, and peace and quiet from the intruders. The kangaroos were also very placid, there was one that looked like he could kill a grown man with one punch, but even he was quite laid back. I fed them, stroked them, took pictures with them and they were completely unphased by it. It was beautiful.
After the excitement of the kangaroos, we went back to see more koalas and some of the other animals before leaving and making our way back towards the city.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was established in 1927 and is home to more than 100 koalas. The koala can live for upto 14 years in captivity, which is longer than their life expectancy in the wild, and they have a main diet of eucalypt leaves. This low calorie diet means they need at least 20 hours of rest every day and when I was there, most of them were sleeping. The animals there are clearly well-cared for, that was evident by their appearance and in the way I watched them being handled. The people working there clearly love the animals very much. I thought I had a good job, but if I could do what they do, I’d apply without hesitation. It must be incredibly rewarding. Lone Pine is also home to the Tasmanian Devil, Wombat, Dingo and Platypus, and there’s a reptile section coming soon. If you’re ever in Brisbane, PLEASE visit!
Our next stop was Hamilton Island and we stepped out onto Deck 8 to be hit in the face by two things: humidity and stunning scenery. I can’t describe how beautiful the Whitsunday Islands are! Our original plan had been to visit Whitehaven Beach – voted the second best beach in the world – but sadly, our timings just didn’t line up. Instead, we took the tender across to the marina at Hamilton Island and then the shuttle bus to the resort side of the island, where we could access Catseye Beach. It was exactly what we needed. We’ve spent so many days exploring and walking for miles, all we wanted to do was relax and take in the atmosphere of the beach. It was very hot and I spent most of my time on the beach sat under a palm tree for shade, but I was quite content in my spot and happy watching people in the water.
Ninety-minutes or so after we arrived, we jumped on the shuttle back to the marina. We were both hot, hungry and thirsty, so we walked along to the Marina Tavern for lunch. It was quite busy and there were cockatoos everywhere! They were so lovely to look at and you could even stroke the odd one or two, but they were so naughty! They stole food from one man’s plate and then when a lady walked away from her table of food they swiftly swooped in and stole the lot! I even caught one of them casually sitting at the end of a table eating a chip. It was so funny.
Lunch was devoured and we made our way back along the marina, calling in several shops as we went. We did browse while we were in the shops, but we were mainly going in to take advantage of the air conditioning. It was just so hot. An hour or so passed and we spotted a tender in the marina. The dream of air conditioning and an ice cold Shirley Temple won and we hopped aboard and made our way back to the ship. We’d had a lovely day, but we were tired and hot.
We’re at sea now and will be for another day before we reach our last port in Australia, Darwin. It’s still incredibly hot outside, there’s just no air, and even the evenings are humid and sticky. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive once we get to Asia!
Everything on Black Watch is still as good as ever and I’ve started looking at places I can hide on April 24th, so I can stay onboard! 😉