Australia – Sydney and the Blue Mountains

For a recap of our time in New Zealand, see the north island, and the south island part one and part two.

After a relatively short flight from Christchurch, we arrived in Sydney. We once again meticulously filled out the customs paperwork, because we’d heard it was strict, and we’d seen an episode of Border Security while flipping channels the night before.

While approximately four different people asked us if we’d been on a farm (we hadn’t), they didn’t so much as X-ray our bags. They just waved us through.

OK, then.

Sydney is massive. In fact, Sydney has more people in the city than New Zealand has in the entire country. After two weeks of small towns and no people, it was a bit of a shock.

Sydney has a subway system and a light rail system, plus a ton of ferries to get around the harbor. It reminded me quite a bit of London, though it didn’t feel nearly as old as London.

It was also hot. They were experiencing a heat wave, and though it really only got into the 90s, after New Zealand it felt much hotter than that. We all started sweltering on the walk from the train station to our hotel.

It was across the street.

Though, to be fair, Central Station was pretty massive.

Sydney also had, by far, the worst maps we’d seen, possibly ever.

The subway map was incomprehensible. Every time we got on the correct train, it was because we’d seen a sign in the station and not because the map told us that was the platform or even line that we needed. We naviaged London without a single issue, so we’re not subway stupid, but Sydney’s system left something to be desired.

The botanical gardens map somehow managed to in no way resemble the garden itself.

If we hadn’t had data on our phones so we could use real maps, we’d still be wondering around trying to find our way.

After we checked in to the hotel, we decided to head down to the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. Because it was so hot, there was no way I was going to wear a coat. And since I was allergic to New Zealand sun, I figured I was allergic to Australian sun, too.

So I made this lovely fashion statement all over town:

Look at that nice umbrella.
Look at that nice umbrella.

As I would later find out, the day we went to the beach, I wasn’t actually allergic to the Australian sun. I didn’t break out in hives, though I did get a nice tan/burn anywhere I forgot to apply sunscreen. So I carried that umbrella around like a doofus for no reason.

We walked around the Opera House and harbor area and marveled at all the people. The Opera House is more of a yellowish color in person. The bright white in all of the photos is because it’s illuminated by white lights at night. During the day, it looks kind of dingy, actually.

Then we walked through the Botanical Gardens where we had a nice view back towards the bridge:

Opera House and Harbor Bridge
Opera House and Harbor Bridge

After the gardens, we saw some of the old government buildings as well as a beautiful old church filled with stained glass before we called it quits for the night.

The next day we took a tour to the Blue Mountains just outside of town. Our first stop, however, was at a wildlife park. It was more of a zoo, really, but we got to pet koalas, so they can call it whatever they want.

The face of pure joy.
The face of pure joy.

Koala fur is softer than I expected.

After the zoo and after a stop for lunch, we finally arrived at the Three Sisters, a rock formation in the Blue Mountains.

It was meh.

I mean, it was pretty, but we’d just spent two weeks in New Zealand where nature goes to 11. Compared to that, it wasn’t anything special.

The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters

But then we decided to ride this:

The Skyway
The Skyway

Heights are not my favorite. Unstable heights are even less my favorite. Things that can fall from heights with you inside and smoosh you into itty bitty pieces are my least favorite.

Notice the death grip.
Notice the death grip.

This had the added benefit of having a partially glass floor. Because why not.

You can see our shadow below.
You can see our shadow below.

However, despite all of that, it didn’t bother me at all. It was so big and so stable that it didn’t freak me out.


Shortly after that, we took another cable car and a very steep tram and neither of those bothered me either. Maybe the sun fried my brain that day. Whatever it was, I’ll take it.

We returned to downtown Sydney by ferry, which gave us another nice view of the Opera House.

Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House

We stopped for dinner at the edge of the harbor and then waited for sunset so we could see the Opera House all lit up.

It was Friday night, and people were out in droves:

People in Sydney
People in Sydney

And they didn’t leave once it got dark, either:

Opera House at night.
Opera House at night.

The next day we decided to head out to Bondi beach. It was our last day in Australia, so swimsuits were worn and we were determined to swim.

I knew it was my kind of beach when we arrived to this sign:

Beach WiFi
Beach WiFi

It was a very pretty beach, but packed with people.

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach

The water was, predictably, freezing. I stood in it long enough that my legs from my knees down went numb and called that good enough.

So even though we were on three different islands in the middle of summer, I didn’t swim even a single time.

When we got back to the hotel that night, I started feeling bad. I thought dinner hadn’t agreed with me, but by the time we arrived at the airport the next morning, I was worse.

In fact, I felt a lot like Tracy had a few days before.

We flew from Sydney to Auckland, had a couple hour layover, and then had a nearly thirteen hour flight to LAX.

I am convinced that this is no more miserable existence than spending thirteen hours jammed in cattle class of a plane while enduring a violently upset stomach.

I ate nothing except the ice cream that was served with dinner and even that was iffy. I drank nothing. I didn’t move or talk, and I barely breathed.

I basically did everything in my power to avoid puking in an airplane bathroom, and it worked.

We landed in LAX, sailed through Customs in ten minutes (thanks, Global Entry!), and attempted to get on an earlier flight home.

There were no earlier flights.

We had an eight-hour layover while I felt like warmed-over death.

We camped out at our gate, and I slept most of the day. Airport seats aren’t comfy, but when you’re desperate, they’ll do.

I ate a plain hamburger that afternoon, after realizing that I hadn’t eaten anything in nearly 24 hours. I still felt terrible.

When we finally boarded the plane, I asked the flight attendant for ginger ale before we even took off. She kindly obliged, and I’m convinced it’s the only thing that saw me through.

By the time the shuttle dropped us off at the house, it was close to 2:00AM. We collapsed.

I was sick for another week and a half. I fully blame Tracy. :) It wasn’t a great ending, but I’m just glad I wasn’t sick during the trip or it would’ve been worse.

Overall, the whole trip was amazing. I would absolutely recommend New Zealand, and if you’re on the other side of the world anyway, you should definitely stop and check out Australia. It would’ve been nice to see more of Australia, but we were out of time.

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