0 Wanderung 20 - Australian Walkabout

Wanderung 20

Australian Walkabout

May - June 2009

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009, Sydney Volksmarch.


Prying myself out of bed the next morning, I enthusiastically showered and ate Muesli and strawberry yogurt for breakfast, but really didn't have the energy to face the day. When I opened the main compartment of my luggage, I was surprised to see that the gift calendar we had prepared as a thank-you gift for Lyn and Neville was now unwrapped despite the fact that I distinctly remembered wrapping it before we left. The mystery was soon solved when I found a Transportation Security Administration official "Notice of Baggage Inspection". Eveything was still there, fortunately, but just the fact that a stranger had been pawing through my personal possessions did take me aback a bit. But it also explained the unzipped luggage pockets that I had found the previous day. Of course, I certainly can't blame the TSA folks because my luggage had an awful lot of strange metal objects in it that would probably have caused me to do a closer inspection too (Swiss Army knives, a sommelier's tool, carabiners, power cords, battery chargers, and spare batteries, and, last but not least, the sealing rings for the three jars of homemade jam I had brought with! Considering all that, I'm probably lucky that TSA didn't just skip the inspection step and go straight to the "blow it up" step of baggage safety!

After I checked that everything in my luggage (except the missing wrapping paper) was still there, I turned my attention to what we would do for the day. We had seen that the route for the downtown Sydney Volksmarch passed fairly close to our hotel, so we decided to see Sydney by trying to do as much of that walk as possible. Keeping active was also one way to avoid taking naps and try to force our bodies to adapt to the new time schedule, and seeing Sydney was, after all, part of why we had come to Australia in the first place.

The Permanent Volksmarch in Sydney has been prepared by the folks from Canberra Two Day Walk, Incorporated, a walking club based in Canberra, and it turned out that they had done a crackerjack job in laying out an interesting route with a map and clear, detailed directions. When we set off in the morning, the sky was overcast with occasional light rain showers. The temperature was 19 Celsius or about 66 Fahrenheit, so it was a warm rain, so to speak, but it did complicate my photography as I refused to take out my nice camera when it was actually raining. Fortunately Monika had brought her underwater, snow, and rain-proof camera and she could take pictures with impunity even when I could not, so we got along famously.

We joined the Volksmarch route rather in the middle, so the first attraction on our route was the Sydney Chinatown. That turned out to be a two-block business district guaded by fancy Chinese gates at either end where all the stores had labels in Chinese as well as English. The rain kept down the number of folks wandering around to a minimum, but Sydney seemed seemed to have a small but vibrant Chinese community.

The next section of the walk was along Darling Harbour where we followed a series of reflecting pools with fountains and lights embedded in them. We also passed a decent sized Ferris Wheel, but I wasn't sure if that was a permanent fixture like the London Eye or a seasonal or temporary addition to the surrounding park.


Trying to convince my body that it was night was not easy. I woke up at 3:00 and had a hard time getting back to sleep. Finally by 4:30 I managed to get back to sleep and sleep till about 6:30. By now my body screamed "I am awake!" so I got up. I looked out of the window for a while. We were on the 12th floor and had a nice view over the neighborhood. Across from us along the street were old four story houses with businesses on the ground floor and offices on the upper stories. Beyond these were modern apartment buildings of varying heights. On one side was a highrise that seemed to house offices. Some of the offices left their lights on all night and that illuminated our room like a nightlight if we left our curtains open. Below us was Wentworth Avenue, a major thoroughfare, but the sound insulation was good enough that the street noise was not very noticeable. It was fun to watch the driving during rush hour traffic.

I settled down to some writing until Bob woke up and we had Muesli for breakfast. We had decided to do the Sydney Volksmarch this morning. But at 8 AM it was still raining, so we decided to wait a while and indeed by 9 it cleared up and we got going. I had printed off the route description and a rather good map from the Aussie VM website and we figured out that the route passed within a couple of blocks of our hotel. So we just started the walk in the middle. We first headed over to Chinatown, a relatively small area delineated by arches in either side of a pedestrian mall.

After Chinatown we headed towards Darling harbor and the Maritime Museum past a park with a big Ferris Wheel that led up to the harbor. We had a nice view of the skyline of highrise buildings that are part of Sydney's CBD or Central Business District.



Continuing to Cockle Bay, we saw several historical ships moored out in front of the Maritime Museum. The one that caught my attention was a replica of HMS Beagle, the ship that Darwin had sailed on in the early 1800s as he was gathering the evidence that would ultimately lead him to the Theory of Evolution. That "theory" has changed the way we view ourselves and the world more than any other single idea in the history of man, and the museum even had a special temporay exhibit on Darwin's work. Boy did I want to see that, but that would have taken at least three hours if not the rest of the day, knowing me, so we kept walking across Pymont Bridge back into the heart of downtown Sydney.

Heading East toward the Sydney Skytower that looks rather like a huge golden marshmallow stuck on a very tall stick, we turned North at the Victoria Building. Our walking notes said it was worth a look, so we took the time to wander around inside a bit. We were rewarded for our efforts by a very beautiful interior complete with a fanciful, Victorian-styled clock hanging from the ceiling and colorful stained glass windows at the sides.


Bob, of course, was eyeing the Maritime Museum with its special exhibit on Darwin. Since that exhibit would only be here until the end of August, we decided to head back to the Maritime Museum on Thursday.

Meanwhile, we forged on across a bridge into the CBD. It reminded me of the shopping districts in many a large city: a lot of high priced stores with a lot of food places in between. One especially fascinating shopping mall was the Victoria House, an old fashioned shopping mall with beautiful stained glass windows and a couple of fascinating clocks. A little farther on was a more modern looking food court and since by now it was past 11, we decided lunch sounded rather good.



Although it was only 11:00, Monika and I were both famished and getting tired, so we ate at a food court just North of the Victoria Building. That gave us some energy, but not the usual amount as we were still coping with jet lag issues, I think. But we slogged on northward through the Nurse's Walk alley in The Rocks area and on toward the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the quintessential landmark of Sydney Harbour.


We passed the old post office with Queen Victoria looking on from over the door and a war memorial in the middle of the plaza in front. From there we headed to the Rock, the oldest area of Sydney where there where still some of the really narrow lanes.

Although we were tired, we decided to walk a little out of our way to head up to the Harbor Bridge. Unfortunately it had not been retrofitted for handicapped, so we had to climb several flights of stairs. But finally we did get to the bridge and enjoyed a nice view of Sydney Harbor and the world famous Sydney Opera House.


We climbed the stairs up to the bridge, but I just didn't have the energy to walk across it and back so we settled for taking pictures of the Sydney Opera House that was located on the next spit of land out in the harbour, and then going back to the Volksmarch route. We curled around the point of land into Sydney Cove and then followed that around past the Circular Quay at the southern end of it and followed the shoreline to the Sydney Opera House.

I was surprised to find that the completely unique structure of the Opera House is just as impressive from up close as it is from a distance. By that time the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, so the huge "shells" of the Opera House were brilliantly white in the sunshine and contrasted beautifully against the blue sky.


Back down we continued walking to the Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House and even had our obligatory "we were here" picture with the opera house in the background. We could see the Harbor Bridge against the sun for some very interesting almost black and white pictures.

We now were at the beginning of the Volksmarch and had to go back to instruction number one which led us past the opera house into the botanical gardens.


Working our way through the Royal Botanic Gardens under sunny skies with the occasional puffy clouds, we saw pools and fountains and ducks and other strange plants and animals. I was getting really tired by then as we had been walking for about four hours, but we decided to keep going to the last checkpoint out at Mrs. Macquarie's Point before turning back South to return to our hotel.


I had to remind myself that it was late fall here in Sydney, because only one tree out of hundreds seemed to turning color. I did enjoy the strange birds, an ibis-like bird with a long curved black bill was walking along the grass and poking at insects ever now and then. A cocatoo flew up into a tree and let me take pictures of him. We also passed some statues and some interesting looking stone formations. One looked to me almost like a mask.



On the way back we passed the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a gorgeous building that looked very interesting, and on past the old and new state libraries and a hospital to St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral. St. Mary's Cathedral was the largest of the religious buildings in Sydney, but the city certainly had an eclectic collection of them ranging from a Lutheran Church built by Germans in 1888 to one of only six Bahai Temples in the world. Somehow with the strong British influence on Australia we kept expecting to see an Anglican Church but never did.

Staggering back down College Street on one side of Hyde Park, we branched off the Volksmarch route to revisit the IGA store for our evening set of groceries, and then limped back to our hotel room where, after 6 hours of being out and about, I was certainly glad to put my feet up for the rest of the day. Shortly afterwards we were safely back in our room when a thunderstorm with lots of lightning and hail hit downtown Sydney, and we were very glad to be gack inside at that point. Safe and dry, we had a snack, worked a while, had dinner, read a bit, and then turned in for the evening.


We finally reached the farthest point, Macquarie Point, and Mrs. Macquarie's "chair" and from there it was a relatively straight shot back to the hotel. This was good, since we both were getting rather tired. We did stop at the IGA to stock up on milk and yogurt and finally got back into our room and put our feet up. This had turned out to be another one of those six hour volksmarches, since we kept stopping for pictures and later on to rest. But it really had given us a rather nice overview of the downtown Sydney area. The weather had cleared up while we were walking, especially while we were in the botanical garden we enjoyed beautiful sunshine. But now we looked out of the window and lo and behold it started raining again. We sure can call it!

Neither of us felt like doing a lot more that evening. Bob called Lyn and Neville Pollard, our friends from the bustrip, and they told us how to get to their place on Friday after we checked out of the hotel, although ultimately they were kind enough to drive down and pick us up instead.

Copyright 2009 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt
Prolog Map of Australian Walkabout Epilog

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