M double U

Sydney and Beyond

We arrived in Sydney the day before the annual Mardi Gras Parade. The Parade has an unrivaled reputation for glitz, glamour, satire and sass and is the biggest gay pride parade in the world. Indeed over half a million Sydneysiders turn out each year to cheer on the parade. Joining them are thousands of overseas visitors lining the route – from US circuit party boys to Japanese office ladies. It’s a celebration of pride and diversity that never forgets to deliver its messages with humor. Needless to say we wanted to be part of this party and in order to get the most of it we bought two tickets for prime seats at the Glamstand of the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. We had a fantastic position to watch the parade (1st row) and it was handy to have a champagne bar within reach so we could celebrate in style… Paul had already witnessed the parade once and he had not exaggerated the scale of the event. It was absolutely mind-blowing. It started of just after sunset in order to avoid the biggest heat and then it all started. The roaring sound of the dikes on bikes filled the air and Mardi Gras Parade 2006 had begun. Two ehh… lovely ‘ladies’ provided comments to the different groups and did some interviews with the participants as well. It was hilarious. The theme of this Mardi Gras was “I believe’ and throughout the parade books with variations on the theme passed by. There was a fantastic vibe in the air and everybody was dancing and partying while cheering on the groups passing by. It was an evening never to forget and in spite of the heat I had several times goose bumps all over.

A visit to Sydney would be incomplete without visiting the harbor with the famous harbor bridge and the Opera House. Both were definitely worth seeing and we spend a full day in this area and even returned for a second visit. As we already had our share of heights with the balloon ride we could not be tempted to climb the bridge. We made it to the top of one of the supporting pillars though and the view we had was one never to forget. Sydney harbor is indeed one of the most beautiful in the world and the Opera House is not to miss, it’s even more beautiful than on the pictures and contrasted fantastically with the blue skies. We thoroughly enjoyed all the musicians and street artists playing at the harbor area and creating a fantastic atmosphere. The area next to the harbor is called the Rocks and you can find lots of lovely restaurants over there. Needles to say we spend quite some lunches and dinners over there. Yummy. Another thing to remember was the Harbor Cruise we did. It was absolutely fantastic sitting on the roof deck, zipping a glass of wine and enjoying the breathtaking scenery passing by. This is where we realized that at home it was winter and we were enjoying temperatures of around 30 degrees. Life’s tough…

To get a good birds eye overview of Sydney we went to the Centrepoint Tower. The lift brought us within 40 seconds from downtown Sydney to the observation desk at 260 meters height. The views we’re marvelous. Of course we spotted the world famous harbor but it was also great to watch planes touchdown at the airport 10km away and the many beaches around Sydney. The most famous beach without doubt is Bondi Beach and so we spent a full day baking in the lovely ‘winter’ sun and swimming in the Ocean. Bondi Beach itself is not spectacular but the surfers have brought it to a real cult status. It was nice to be there indeed  but I’m afraid I’ve been too spoiled by the fantastic beaches in Asia, the Pacific and Brazil to be really impressed by Bondi Beach.

It became time to pick up a camper again for the last time, leave Sydney and head on to our next destination, the Blue Mountains. Katoomba, our departure point was not far away and it did not take us more than an hour drive in order to get there. We checked in at a campsite and witnessed the breathtaking views for the very first time. A short train ride on the steepest railway in the world brought us to the forest floor and we did a short hike before returning to the viewpoint by cable car. Back at the campsite we met our neighbors, Mark and Rainer, who we already had seen at the Mardi Gras Parade, and spontaneously we decided to have a BBQ together. Of course this was done in style so we had a real gourmet BBQ with pink champagne flowing richly…

The next day the four of us went to Echo Point in order to see the spectacular Three Sisters. The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that a witchdoctor from the Katoomba trip put a spell on three beautiful three sisters, ‘Meehni’, ‘Wimlah’ and Gunnedoo’ and turned them into stone in order to protect them from dangers of an on going war. As the witchdoctor was killed in battle the three sisters remained in this magnificent rock formation. The Giant Stairs had 800 steps which brought us to the walkway at the forest floor. During the descend we had the most magnificent view over the Blue Mountains and we could clearly smell the Eucalyptus damp which causes the blue haze over the forest and giving the area it’s name. We had a fantastic hike towards Scenic World where we once again took the scenic railway to bring us up another 250 meters. After Lunch we took a the scenic skyway, a cable car with a transparent floor, which brought us to yet another viewpoint. We followed a path at the edge of the Cliffs back to Echo Point where we could pick up our camper again and returned to Katoomba. The weather was lovely so we ended up at a terrace before we headed to the supermarket in order to do the shopping for yet another gourmet BBQ. We had a lovely evening with the four of us (champagne and wine was flowing richly once again) but we also started to realize our time in Australia was slowly coming to an end. We only had a couple of days left so there was still time to head towards one final place before returning to Sydney.

The next morning we had breakfast together with Mark and Rainer and then said goodbye. It was time to go on to Hunter Valley, our last stop in Ozzie Land. It might not come as a surprise that the reason we went to Hunter Valley was that this is yet another famous wine region in South East Australia. We had two very relaxing days over there sampling several wines at the many wineries and enjoying the pool and Jacuzzi at the campsite. Our favorite Winery was the Iron Gate Estate where we tasted some real special wines but the most spectacular one without doubt was Tempus Two, A hyper modern winery with a big focus on design and detail.

It was not only wine that was to be enjoyed in the Hunter Valley. We had been traveling for almost 5 weeks now but there was still one animal that was on Paul’s wish list which he hadn’t seen yet… That’s how we ended up at a rather small and run down Zoo in the valley and an enquiry at the cashier gave us the info we wanted. We got our tickets, went inside and Paul finaly had the opportunity to see a Wombat. It had to be waken up for us by one of the keepers as wombats are nocturnal, not a thing we would normally do but it was great to see a smile on Paul’s face. There were lots of other animals to be seen so we had a good afternoon in this little and extraordinary Zoo.

The original plan was to have our farewell dinner in Sydney’s Centrepoint Restaurant at 260 Meter height but since we had received not so good comments on it from several sides we decided to have a splendid farewell dinner in one of the top restaurants in Hunter Valley. It turned out to be a good choice and we indulged on a 7 course dinner accompanied by superb local wines. What a lovely way to celebrate our trip to Australia. Of course we had planned a taxi to the restaurant and back so we did not have to be bothered about driving and both of us could really enjoy. Yet another evening to remember…

Back in Sydney we repacked our luggage and spent our last evening out in Ozzieland. We couldn’t believe time had flown by so quickly. The last five weeks we had driven over 6600km, saw a lot and had one fantastic experience after the other. We were impressed by the variety of natural beauty, the extraordinary wildlife and the friendliness of the Australians. Did we like Australia? No, we loved it!! My skepticism of a trip to Australia had vanished and by now I guess I am just one off the people who, once having been there, loves it to bits. We were enjoying our last night knowing that once we will come back to this fantastic continent. The main part of this trip was over but both of us were absolutely excited spending the last 5 days with our friends Ulli and Nyoman in Bali before we would finally head home. Our 6 week trip was almost finished but the fun was not over yet…


Since we had a couple of very lazy days at Bali there is not a lot to report about. We did some shopping, participated on a cookery course and above all enjoyed spending time with our friends. That is why the story of our adventure down under the tropic of Capricorn stops right here.

However, I will still share some photographic impressions with you from my home away from home…