Down Under- part XIII
Saturday, April 12, 2014- Tasman Sea off SE Australia
The ship had left Melbourne last night, motoring NE through the Bass Strait towards Cape Howe. During the day on Saturday, she sailed around the Cape and followed the New South Wales shoreline on a northeasterly course, headed towards Sydney.
The Tasman Sea was running twelve-foot seas all day. The ship was rolling side to side and making some folks a little green around the gills. The ships crew must have been used to this. In each stairwell was placed a small sack of barf bags for use when the urge overcame a seasick landlubber. I find that if you lock one knee and leave the other one loose, it enables you to ride the back and forth motion of the decks. Also, I found graphic evidence of the golf concept of “hitting through the break.” If you walked slowly, the pitching deck and gravity would shift you in one direction or the other. But if you walked much faster, your speed carried you through the roll in a pretty straight line. You learn something every day.
We watched the Masters Golf Tournament on T.V. Ole Bubba Watson was performing his miracle again. God Bless him. We dined, read and watched television somewhat uneasily, as the roiling seas bounced us around the entire day.
Sunday- April 13, 2014- Sydney Australia
It was the early morning hours when the Dawn Princess passed through the headlands and into Botany Bay, the origin of the Australian Experience. We passed under the fabled Harbor Bridge, imagining and shaking our heads at the tourists who pay $200 each to don coveralls and walk along the top of the Bridge, braving the stiff winds that cross here at 400 feet above the sea. The neon lights of downtown Sydney lit up the Jackson harbor area as the ship entered her berth. We could see the pale, white shells of the Sydney Opera House on the waterfront, perhaps the most iconic image of the entire area.
It was the end of our cruise. We were anxious to walk on dry land after the last day’s rough seas. We had breakfast and then at 8:45 A.M. met for our disembarkation slot. Procedures were perfunctory, even customs. We sailed through everything and even very quickly caught a cab. It had been an interesting cruise, but we were glad to be done. Later in the day the ship would sail off for a thirty-day cruise that would take it around the entire circumference of Australia.
The cab ferried us over to the oldest and most historical section of Sydney, “The Rocks.” It is so called because when the first ships full of convicts berthed here and pitched their tents in the new land, they did so a rocky portion of the shore in Botany Bay. They called it “The Rocks.”
We were staying in a very old hotel, The Russell, dating to the 1880’s. It had sounded picturesque some 10,000 miles from here but who knows? It turned out to be a decent choice, in a great location, just across a small park from some cruise ship docks and rail and ferry terminals At Circular Quay. The rooms have no AC or services of any kind, but, it is clean and newly remodeled.
The room wasn’t ready, but we sat for a time in a small sitting room and caught up on our Internet correspondence. Then, we parked our bags and set out to see what we could see. A light rain was falling and we were grateful that we had packed our rain gear.
The streets surrounding the Russell were filled with tent vendors for the weekend “Market in the Rocks” experience. We walked up and down the rows of merchants, admiring the native jewelry, boomerangs, bric a brac and all manner of souvenirs on hand. We bumped into George and Jeanette, our dinner companions on the ship and exchanged pleasantries. They were also staying nearby in the Old Sydney Holiday Inn.
From the Rocks we walked over to the Circular Quay. The SS Oosterdam was berthed here. Streams of passengers were walking back and forth along the quay. It was like Time Square in NYC. The train and ferry terminal nearby yielded some decent coffee as we pondered our alternatives. We decided that the “Hop on-hop off bus” was our best choice. For $40 each, we could board this bus for a two-hour tour of greater Sydney. We had the option to get off at any one of twelve stops and reboard a later bus. We paid our fare and sat topside, on the open-decked bus, despite the light mist of rain falling.
The irrepressible seaman, Captain James Cook had first landed in Botany Bay in 1770, claiming the territory for England and naming the area New South Wales. Sydney was named after a Colonial Secretary in England at the time. In 1788, a fleet of eleven English ships arrived, carrying some 1,400 convicts that were sent out from England as indentured servants. The area has grown from these humble beginnings, through a gold rush era, and expanded into the modern urban colossus that now thrills millions of tourists today.
The bus passed through Port Jackson, passing under the famed Harbor Bridge. Even in the mist you could look up and see tiny figures walking the top levels of the bridge some 400 ft. above. To each her/his own. We passed by and through the statues laden Royal Botanical Gardens and then by the stately edifices of government house and the Sydney Museum.
King’s Cross and the “red light” district was our next neighborhood. This place must really rock at night. “Bada Bing,” “Porky’s,” “The Pleasure Den,” and the “show girl’s restaurants” all gave promise of a night out for conventioneers. “Dragon Massages” also promised comforts of another kind.
We then traversed George Street admiring the churches and commerce on display. The magnificent Queen Victoria Building is a four-story sandstone masterpiece, with a green copper domed roof, that had been remodeled at a cost of $75 million dollars. It now houses four floors of shoppes and restaurants, circling an open four story foyer.
Then, we drove around Hyde Park, Its oval shape due to an early racecourse that entertained Sydneyites for generations. The Anzac memorial here commemorates the armed forces of NZ and Australia. The Australia Museum near here is a treasure trove of historical, geological and environmental exhibits and is usually sro on Sundays. A long line was waiting outside to see the dinosaur exhibits.
Our next stop was Darling Harbor. On the way here we drove across Wooloomooloo St. past several vessels of the Australian Navy and the locally famous eatery “Harry De Wheels.”
The wonderful Sydney Aquarium here in Darling Harbor is the centerpiece for hundreds of newly remodeled shops and restaurants. Ferry boats bring in thousands who strolled the esplanade and linger over ice cream or lunch. The seven-story I-max Theater here draws them in for new film releases.
We continued on past Domain Park admiring the various statues and government buildings. William Bly, of Bounty Fame, had been the fourth territorial Governor of New South Wales. His log from the Bounty is displayed here .The nearby sandstone spires of St. Mary’s cathedral are a finely hewn portrait in sepia of the Westminster Cathedral in London.
The districts were becoming a blur now. We passed by the 1880’s terraced cottages with their wrought-iron railings and then on by the Sydney Seafood Market, the second largest in the hemisphere. Great old taverns like the “Quarrymen’s Hotel” and “Macquaires” seemed to pop up everywhere.
It was wet and we were tiring. We followed the bus around again on its new run, gott off on George St. and walked into the controlled chaos of the Queen Victoria Building. Every café was sro. We browsed several shops and then decided the crowds were too large for us. A huge rainstorm had burst outside.
We followed George Street towards the Russell Hotel, trying to utilize the store and building overhangs to keep out of the rain. We stopped in “Dymock’s Book Store” and on its second level, settled in for some welcome hot tea and delicious scones with clotted cream and jam. It is awesome fare.
Finally, we made our way back to the Russell hotel and checked into room seven. A very hot shower removed some of the chill from the day. We put on dry clothes, sipped some decent cabernet and read ourselves to sleep, tired with the day.