Sydney and The Blue Mountains

John Spy on 03 May 2008
On arrival in Sydney, although a bit bleary eyed after a long flight, the sun was shining and it felt good to be back in the Land of Oz. I was with some other Travel Agents and we were about to undertake a 10 day tour around New South Wales and Victoria using the Australian Rail Network.

We only had 1 day in Sydney so it was jam packed with places to go and sites to see. Once we had checked into our hotel and had a quick change of clothes, we were off to explore, starting with The Sydney Aquarium. The giant Shark’s mouth at the entrance makes this a memorable first stop. It has an outdoor section with sea lions, a huge reef with thousands of multicoloured fish of all shapes and sizes and two brilliant walk through tunnels where huge sharks, turtles and stingrays float over your head.

Next, we had a lunch date with Captain Cook. Not the real one, but a Harbour Cruise. Once on board we sailed under the Harbour Bridge before picking up other passengers at Circular Quay. We then headed off to explore one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world, whilst enjoying some wine and a seafood lunch as we went. Although a bit chilly at times with the wind, it was a great way to see the many beaches and bays of Sydney. On our return, we jumped off at Circular Quay as we had an Opera House tour booked. Unfortunately, we missed the start time by about 1 minute, so had to wait until another guide could be arranged for us. It really is a beautiful and multifunctional building and it is no wonder the acoustics are incredible when you see the way it has been built. En route back to the hotel we popped into Sydney Wildlife World at Darling Harbour. This was the perfect opportunity to get a photo taken with a Koala and have a close look at some Kangaroos.

Dinner that evening was in the revolving restaurant of the Sydney Tower, which gives incredible views out over the city. The food was gorgeous and the view simply outstanding. On returning to our hotel, tiredness was starting to kick in but I had arranged to meet my brother and sister in law, Ross and Nicky, who had emigrated to Sydney the year before. We met in Darling Harbour and it was great to see them. We chatted for about 1½ hours before they had to head home and by this time I had my second wind, so along with some colleagues we visited a bar with a fantastic live band. It was a bit of a late night!

The following morning it was a bright and early start for our trip to the Blue Mountains. We boarded the Dubbo XPT and it was a really comfortable ride out to Katoomba that took only a couple of hours. Once there, we headed for Scenic World, which is a great base from which to explore these stunning mountains. First, we joined the Skyway on its ½-mile journey, 270m above the rainforest. Although a bit scary if you don’t like heights, this is a trip not to be missed. Next, we boarded the world steepest incline railway for the 415m trip down into the rainforest. This journey only takes a few minutes and goes right through the forest. Once on the forest floor a wooden walkway meanders its way through the forest. This walkway though is best explored at night, when no one else is around! To get back out of the forest we took the scenic cableway that proved to be yet another great ride with more incredible views.

After a busy morning, we headed into the village of Leura for a spot of lunch at a local café, Josephans, which has won many awards for its chocolate. We had a filling soup before some infamous chocolate to finish up and it is easy to see how the café got its reputation. The chocolate was delicious. For the next few hours, we wandered around Leura before heading for our hotel. That evening we had a private nighttime tour of the forest floor. Except for our footsteps, it was peaceful, silent and pitch black. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife so headed back to the hotel for an early night, as the following day we had a long journey into the heart of the outback.