No sooner has our plane touched down in Sydney than it feels like it’s taking off again.
Our six days on Australia’s east coast go by in a flash as we do the tourist dash between the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, from the historic Rocks district to flashy Darling Harbour and countless neighbourhoods all around the city.
We buy a bus, train and ferry pass to do all this running around and when the cashier asks for A$125 in return, we can’t help but miss our trusty, economical bicycles. This backpacking malarky gets expensive quickly! Either that or travelling by bike has just made us very, very cheap indeed. Since we still tend to compare everything to the cost of a 50-cent iced coffee in Thailand, maybe it’s the latter.
But really, we can’t complain and we certainly can’t feel hard done by when we arrive at Dave and Nancy’s flat. They quickly get added to our list of the world’s most wonderful people (even if Dave does tease us about putting everything ‘on the invoice’) and during our visit we’re treated to many fantastic meals and cycling chatter. Dave also points out that we’re lucky enough to be staying in a flat with an Ocean View, which is mostly true, if you squint and look really hard at the dip in the landscape on a clear day.
On the cheap in Sydney
1.Visit the NSW Art Museum.
2.Explore the halls of Government House.
3.Stroll through the Botanical Gardens. Don’t miss the fruit bats!
4.Take the ferry to Manly or anywhere around the harbour. It’s a great way to rest weary feet.
5.Learn about The Rocks at the museum detailing the history of the area. It’s just opposite the tourist bureau.
6.Check out local handicrafts at The Rocks weekend market.
7.Walk along Bondi Beach.
8.See Sydney in 3D with the model at Customs House.
9.Sit on the steps of the iconic Opera House and admire the view.
10.Cross the famous Harbour Bridge on foot. Go back and do it again because it’s just that wonderful.
Halfway through the week, we put the Sydney sightseeing tour on pause and go north to Newcastle. This part of our journey is purely cyclist-focused. We want to meet Chris, an Aussie whose feet have yet to hit the pedals on his epic journey.
Just imagine being away from home for 8 years and travelling 75,000km on a bicycle, from Australia through to Europe, down Africa, up South America and back home. It’s a huge undertaking and we try to offer some encouragement to Chris before he heads out at the end of March.
Even though Chris is saving hard for his own trip, it’s a constant battle for us to pay for anything as he shows us the beautiful seaside around his hometown. His whole family turn out to be incredibly generous and all we manage to buy are a few ice creams so if you see this Aussie pedalling up the coast, flag him down and give him a bag of pasta for his supper. He’s a top fellow and we’re sure he’d appreciate it.
Back in Sydney, we use our last afternoon to cram in a drink with more cyclists at the cozy Lord Nelson pub. Sipping our beers, we find ourselves wondering when the last time was we were surrounded by so many fans of pedal power. Catherine and Malcolm are seasoned Australian bike travellers, who’d already treated us to lunch earlier in the week and have welcomed many other cycle tourists to Sydney. And then there’s Anna, who we’ve only just met but who is planning a trip from Alaska to Panama. The bike talk flies back and forth and before we know it, it’s time to go.
We’ve promised to meet Dave and Nancy for an evening ferry trip to Manly. We think we have plenty of time to reach the dock but then we spot Nancy from a distance. She’s just outside the gates, looking slightly nervous and scanning the crowd. Friedel (the must-be-early type) starts to dash and Andrew (the calm-and-collected type) holds back but soon all three of us are sprinting onto the boat. We slide onto a bench on the bow, which Dave has already reserved, with just seconds to spare. Phew! The plan for fish ‘n’ chips on Manly remains intact.
A few short hours of sleep later and we’re back in the airport. How did it all fly by so quickly? It seems to be the story of our lives lately. Everywhere we’ve been since we landed in Perth, we’ve wished for a bit more time to explore. We’ve only covered the tiniest sliver of Australia and now there’s a cargo ship looming in our future. Yes, it’s off to the next country, New Zealand. Australia is a place we clearly need to come back to but who knows when we’ll manage the return ticket.