Fred's world tour
Week 14 – Sydney new years & Wollongong, Australia
29th of December until the 4th of January 2013
Do my first 5km run with local running club.
Go see the Freemasons DJs live in concert and get to the front of the stage.
Visit the Sydney Olympic park and swim in the Olympic pool.
See my first ever 20/20 cricket game in the Sydney Olympic stadium.
Queue up for hours to get in the perfect spot at Mrs Macquarie's point for the world famous Sydney harbour new year's eve fireworks.
Snorkel in the nearby Gordon's bay.
Meet up with Sana and Dan, friends from university for lunch in Sydney's Chinatown.
Visit nearby Wollongong and do the Illawarra Fly treetop walk.
Explore the surrounding forests and coastline of Wollongong including a 'blowhole'.
Sample the Wollongong night life with a 'retro' themed night out.
Go to a real Buddhist temple and learn calligraphy.
Watch a pro's polo match at the world famous Iceberg Bondi pool.
I have started to feel like a resident and less like a tourist here. I hence stumbled across a local running club that meet up at centennial park on Saturday mornings. They run together in two groups. One does a 5km loop of the park and the other a 12km run. The latter start at 7:30am and run to Bronte beach for a quick dip in a sea pool then back to the park. Once back, both groups go to get a bacon and egg roll from the park cafe. To ease myself in, I did the the 5km run first. The pace was ok for a chat as you run and then the breakfast was an amazing way to get to meet new people with similar interests. Unfortunately for me I still had a 5km run back home so I skipped the food and left it for next week when perhaps I would do the 12km run. Other than that my first day of this week consisted of going into the centre for yet more shopping for expedition gear. What is extra frustrating is that on one street several shops sell the same thing but with a huge variation in price. Sometimes half or even a third of the price so I did plenty of comparing for the best deal. Once back at Bondi I went to the fitness first (www.fitnessfirst.com.au) Gym for probably my last time on Tony's free December guest pass. What was great about this gym is the size of it, the variety of equipment and the outdoor shaded workout terrace! Not only that, but the view from the terrace while you workout is fantastic. Australians really know how to do gyms (on top of several other things)!
For Saturday night I stumbled across an advert for the well know Freemasons DJs from the UK. They were doing a gig in Sydney and the tickets hadn't sold out yet! So brilliant, I got myself a ticket and as I couldn't get anyone keen enough to join me I went alone. That didn't worry me though as I met lots of people at the front of the stage where I stayed pretty much all night. Freemasons came on and did an amazing DJ set and I really enjoyed myself. So much so that I lost track of time and decided that by 5am I probably should head home ;-) . What was also funny is that this night club is called 'HOME nightclub' and the event was named 'HOMEsexuals featuring the Freemasons'! As in, sexual beings in love with HOME nightclub. I thought was quite clever play on words.
The next day I had organised with my friend Mark to go visit Sydney's Olympic park where the 2000 Olympics were held. Mark showed me round this iconic sight including the real Olympic flame cauldron which has now been made into a fountain. I also saw the names of Brits that won medals immortalised in stone at its base.
We also went to see the aquatic centre and swam lengths in the pool not to mention traverse the inflatable obstacle course. Both Mark and I kicked ass on the obstacle course by the way. What was a shame was that the diving area was closed so I couldn't pretend to be Tom Daley for a moment.
Mark and I on the podium
After the swim we caught a quick bite to eat and headed to the Olympic stadium where Marks' name was on the 'thank you poles' outside the entrance. As as sign of gratitude for Mark's donation and volunteer work his name was immortalised by being engraved on these decorative poles still standing outside the stadium today! Very cool.
Mark also managed to get us tickets to see my first ever 20:20 cricket match between the Sydney Thunders and the Sydney Sixers from premium seats! It was very cool. The atmosphere was electric, the live music entertaining and the seats perfect. It was a win for the Sixers but I still left the stadium holding a cool green thunderbolt in support of the Sydney Thunders! :-)
The 31st of December 2012 was the day that I try to make my way to the best point in the harbour to observe the New Years fireworks. These fireworks are world famous so I wasn't expecting it to be easy. The queue to get into Mrs Macquarie's point was almost 2km long with people having camped out the night before to get the best spot. I made my way over about 11am and by 3pm I was inside and lying under a tree killing time. Lots and lots of time! I brought food, a book and picnic blanket. The original plan was for Tony and Daithi to come and join me but as the queues were horrendous they stayed home which was probably a wise choice. The time soon passed. There were aerial plane acrobatics, boat jet-water display, warm up fireworks at 9pm and a lit up boat parade to help keep us entertained. By this time I had packed up my picnic blanket and made my way through the crowds to the very tip of Mrs Macquarie's point! Pleased with myself I was able to appreciate the 9pm fireworks from the front row and be in the best place in the world for the midnight fireworks. They definitely didn't disappoint. It was epic! They went on for 20mins and I was so close my ribcage shook with every bang. The colours were breathtaking, the views impeccable and I managed to get great footage on my camera to remember the occasion. Once it was all finished I was pleased with myself that I had invested all the time in getting to this amazing spot. I even got chatting to some nice Columbians next to me. They had queued from 10pm the night before! I took some still pictures before being quickly ushered away from Mrs Macquarie's point. The Opera house and harbour bridge were lit up and there was a smokey haze that remained from the fireworks giving that extra nice touch to the pics. All in all a great experience.
To finish my new year in style I walked with the crowds to some bars and got a few drinks before getting my tired soul to bed. En route I sent out all my New Years wishes to my friends and family most of which were bemused by my messages because they still had 12 hours to go.
The first day of 2013 was spent recovering from the events of the last few days, relaxing in the sun, playing on Tony's Wii console and also going to Gordon's bay with Daithi for a snorkel. It is so nice to just be able to drive 10mins down the road and be snorkelling Australia's rocky shores!
On the Wednesday I was also fortunate enough to meet up with two of my friends from med school who had come to Sydney for the fireworks. Sana and Dan had recently got married and moved to the Gold coast to work for a year before starting specialist training back in the UK. We had a great little catch up over some tasty Chinese food in China town. I then left them to get some sightseeing done with the hope of catching up with them again in January when I go visit Queensland.
For the last two days of week 14 of my round the world trip I spend more time applying for jobs and headed to a town south of Sydney called Wollongong. I met up with my friend Mark there. 'Gong' (as the locals call it) is where Mark works so he showed me around. We checked out the beach and then headed into the mountains to walk around the lush green forests that surround the town. One of the best ways to see this is with a huge elevated walkway that allows you to walk high up in the tree canopy. Www.illawarrafly.com is just that. The impressive metal construction also has a huge tower which takes you much higher than the tree tops and give you a great view of Wollongong and the surrounding area.
From there we headed to some walking trails and saw a big waterfall. At this point we realised that Australian park rangers, here at least, grossly overestimates the time it takes to do a walking trail. A sign that said a trail would take 3hours took us less than one hour! Made us giggle. Its the other extreme from Bolivia where a '5 minute' walk would take forty-five!
Curious by the name and also this apparent 'costal phenomenon', Mark and I headed to the 'Blowhole'. It was a great coastal rocky point to appreciate the coast in the afternoon. The Blowhole however was not that impressive. I'm sure in the right weather conditions the might be a big jet of water projected into the air from the natural hole in the rock but on this day I could’ve made a bigger splash by jumping in the water myself! :-)
From the 'amazing' blowhole we went to the pool for a quick swim, had a great fresh fish dinner and went out to sample the Wollongong nightlife at a Retro themed night. The locals definitely brought their best dance moves which was pretty entertaining to watch.
On my last day I went for an early morning 5km run along the gorgeous Wollongong coastline. I have definitely got to love these ;-) and what better way to start the day than with the world's best poached egg breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised. Our first stop today was to explore a big Buddhist temple and walk around the grounds. Bizzarely there is this huge temple here but you don't see me complaining as it was stunning and I really enjoyed the Caligraphy session. We sat in a beautifully decorated classroom and copied some chinese characters holding the special pen in the special way. It was unexpectedly quite satisfying.
We then took the coastal road back to Sydney which was very impressive and we managed to get to Sydney in time so that I could go watch a waterpolo match. It was taking place at the iconic Iceberg salt water pool in Bondi. A mixture of international level players were playing against the local club the Aussie Sharks. The 'international all stars' consisted of three times Olympic gold medallist Tamas Kasas, Olympic silver medallist Deni Fiorentini as well as other world champions. It was a great setting to watch my first pro waterpolo match. I didn't pay the fortune to watch the game pool-side but got a great view from the coastal path that runs just above it. The result was 9-8 to the Aussie sharks in case you're wondering. A lot can be said for team play in this case because the All Stars team haven't really played as a team together before which I'm sure is why they lost. Remember everyone, there is no 'I' in team! ;-)
That ends my 14th week. Next week I go on a 12km run to Bronte beach with the local running club, sample lots of the Sydney arts festival events and of course persevere with job applications. Let me know if you like the blog, feel free to comment below or send link to a friend. That's all for now, until next time.