Extra: For all of you who read this and have no idea who Tracy is…
I met Tracy online on Knittingparadise and have been chatting with her for a little over a year now and was thrilled to know that I could visit with her on our trip..
I have waited for a while to write about Sydney because being in Sydney/Penrith with Tracy and her family was just so special I didn’t want to run through it like I did with other ports of call.
Get ready everyone, because this will be a long post with lots of pictures.
I am using Kal’s thoughts of Sydney because he wrote the details really well. I will add things in italics so you will get my input…
Love Tracy and family and really hope that we will meet again in the near future. She is truly someone I love to call a friend. So sorry we don’t live closer, I would love to spend time hanging out with her, learning how to bake scones and knit!!! (Oh, btw, she is a great knitter and gave me some great pointers on lace knitting).
After a day at sea, the ship arrived in Sydney on Sunday, November 11th for a two-day overnight stay. We woke up at 6 AM and had a quick breakfast before going onto the ship’s forward deck to watch the sail-in to Sydney. They provided “Sydney Rolls!” just like “Singapore Rolls” and “Hong Kong Rolls” (please ignore the guy’s hand down his pants! I can’t crop the pix and still have the rolls!)
Sydney has to be the world’s most beautiful natural harbor, and the sail-in from the Tasman Sea into Sydney Harbor is nothing less than spectacular.
Three years ago, when we witnessed our first sail-in to Sydney, people told us that although Sydney Harbor was beautiful, the sail-ins to Rio and to Hong Kong were equally beautiful.
RIO from land not the sea.. You can barely see Christ the Redeemer from the ship..(Last year)
Hong Kong Harbour (This year)
In the intervening 3 years we have had the opportunity to sail into both Rio (twice) and Hong Kong (once). Without a doubt Sydney has more natural beauty, although if the weather is clear and not foggy, Rio is also nice – but not like Sydney, where you enter the sheltered but huge natural harbor from the open sea by passing through two large rock attached to land on either side of a channel that passes through the rocks, known as The Heads.
The Beginning of the sail-in
Once inside The Heads, sailing down the main channel reveals numerous open side channels, all with houses along the water and on the hills above them, and so many sailing boats, yachts, and other kinds of water transport in each of the many side channels.
As you cruise further into the channel you pass a naval base for the Australian Navy on the left, the Tauranga Zoo on the right and across the harbor, then pass the Botanical Gardens that come down the hills to the shoreline near the downtown part of town, then on t o the famed Sydney Opera House with its “opening flower petals” design next to the oldest part of Sydney, known as “The Rocks”.
The last time we were in Sydney we docked in Circular Quay near The Rocks, just opposite the Opera House, which was separated from the ship only by a couple hundred yards of water. This time, however, that berth was taken, so we continued sailing, first under the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, also known as “The Coat Hanger”,
then past the Luna Park across the harbor, (Last time there was no moustache on the face of the entrance to Luna Park) then a left turn and into our ship’s berth at Darling Harbor.
3 Years ago
The sail-in lasted about 75 minutes and was truly wonderful, and the weather conditions were perfect, as they were 3 years ago.
Once we arrived in Sydney proper our plans were to take a cab to the Central Train Station and from there a train to Penrith, a suburb about an hour’s ride by train from Sydney.
Nina has a good friend, Tracy, in Penrith who is also a knitter, and for the past couple of years they have emailed and spoken online often and agreed to meet when we came to Sydney. We arrived at the Penrith train station and were met by Tracy, who took us to her home, sat us down at her kitchen table and served us tea and coffee and the most delicious freshly baked (BLUE RIBBON!!) English scones, with raspberry jam and clotted cream, that I have ever tasted.
We were joined by Tracy’s two daughters: Jess, and Sam. The girls are lolly-lovers (they love candies) and had asked us to bring them cherry Twizzlers (They asked for Red Vine, but I couldn’t find them so Twizzlers were it!), and an assortment of America chocolate bar candies (we brought a large assortment of 3 Musketeers, Snickers, Kit Kats, etc.). The girls loved the Twizzlers and had never heard of a 3 Musketeers bar, so we told them what to expect. They tenderly unwrapped one of the 3 Musketeers, placed it on a small dish, cut thin slices of the candy bar on the dish and gently placed the slices in their mouths as if to savor the taste of the melting chocolate nougat. It was like watching a child discover something wonderful for the first time.
After we had given the girls the candy we had brought for them and to Tracy a lot of white cotton dishcloth yarn Nina had brought for her, Tracy suggested that we all get in the car and drive to an area of “the bush” not too far from her home where we would be able to do a “walkabout” and visit a cave that contained aboriginal handprints. The cave, known as Red Hand Cave because the handprints are outlined by ochre colored paint, was discovered a few years ago when a child went missing in the outback, and a search party discovered it while looking for the child. It is really off the beaten path.
A couple of notes: when Aussies say “the bush” what they mean is a forest, generally pretty thick with trees and brush, but a forest nonetheless. When they say “a walkabout” they mean a hike through the bush or in the Outback. “Outback” refers to the desert area that comprises most of Australia away from the coasts.
Anyways, back to the walkabout in the bush to the Red Hand Cave. We drove into the Penrith Valley, into the Blue Mountains, followed the road signs until the paved road ended and then traversed the dirt road for another 10-12 km. until we came to a dead end that was the trailhead for the walkabout that would lead to the Rd Hand Cave. It was up and down on a granite rock-lined path, through eucalyptus forest, until we finally arrived at a small, shallow cave, perhaps 15-20 feet wide, 8 feet high and 5 feet deeps, that had been fenced from the outside cave edge in order to protect the prehistoric drawings inside. However, there were holes purposely left in the fence to enable photographers to push cameras through the fence and take unobstructed photographs of the dozens of handprints found on the cave walls. There was no aboriginal art or drawings except for several dozen (sets of?) handprints on the walls, where the handprints were outlined by ochre red, yellow and white paint. It was quite different and most interesting, and certainly buried deep in the bush.
From the Red Hand Cave we walked our way back to the automobile that had brought us here and began to drive back to “civilization”. Along the way we stopped at a lovely creek that ran through the Blue Mountains – in the distance we saw kids who were jumping off a high rock into what was obviously a deep water spot in the creek.
When we left the Blue Mountains we drove again through the Penrith Valley and crossed the Nepean River that runs through it, stopping in the small town of Glenbrooke, where we walked around the village and got something cool to drink. As some of us were getting hungry Tracy suggested we go to the Blacks Stadium but once we got there they were closing so we headed out of the stadium to “Harry’s Pies” which was a food truck selling meat and veggie pies.. YUM!! we had vegetable pies topped with “mushy peas”, which is kind of like fresh boiled peas then mashed to a thick paste with whole peas in the mix and then dolloped on top of the pie. I LOVE THEM, Kal didn’t.. Tough, I would have eaten another one if they had any left!!!
Does this pic make us look thinner????
Aussies also have some interesting slang terms: a “jumbug” is a sheep, a “drop bear” is a term used for a koala when trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes, and a “mountain dragon” is a term used for a lizard that can be anywhere from 3-4 inches to perhaps 2 feet in length, harmless but found in mountain and desert areas and also used when pulling the wool over someone’s eyes. Kangaroos are called just “roos”, and contrary to what we non-Aussies think, there are numerous varieties of roos ranging in size from about 18-24 inches high to the most familiar 7-foot roos. Koalas are very slow moving. This is because they eat only a particular kind of eucalyptus tree leaf (eucalyptus trees are known here as “gum” trees) that contains almost no protein, so the koalas that eat them are very weak and so move slowly. Aussies like to kid tourists by telling them that the eucalyptus leaves koalas eat are hallucinogenic and that the koalas move slowly because they are “high” on the drugs, which would also explain why they supposedly fall out of their trees (they don’t) and are also called “drop bears”. Contrary to what they look like in photos, koalas are not warm, light and fuzzy but chunky with brushy hair texture.
Had to ad a pix of Koalas that I took last time!
One of the interesting things about Penrith, and the area where Tracy lives, is that her home, in a city, is only a 3-5 minute drive from rural area. Tracy’s youngest daughter goes to a Catholic private high school that abuts a forest. Although the forest is fenced to keep animals inside so they don’t run onto roads and cause accidents, the forest itself is wild, covers a great deal of land and contains all the forest life one would normally expect to find on such land. As we were driving back to Stacy’s home and passing the high school, we fell upon a group of perhaps 15 kangaroos who were huddled together in what looked like a community meeting, perched on their hind legs and seemingly consulting with one another. Tracy pulled over to the side of the road and I left the car to try to get photos of the kangaroo conclave. I got off several pictures before I got up to the fence, at which time my presence must have caused some alarm, as the kangaroos sprang and scattered. When they travel they create a picture in my mind’s eye of what a four-legged animal would look like if he moved by bouncing on a pogo stick – very efficient but very funny.
From our encounter with the kangaroos our conversation somehow turned to rivers and white-water rafting, and Tracy mentioned that Penrith has the only artificial white-water rafting course in the Southern Hemisphere. I had never heard of anything like this and asked whether, if it weren’t too far away, we could go there and have a look at it. Tracy was most obliging, and after another 10-minute ride we ended up at the Penrith White Water Rafting Complex. This structure had been built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It consists of a large, landscaped water pool with devices built in that create 20 class-3 rapids in a rectangular track with rounded edges. At the end of the run a rafter or rafting team or a kayaker can simply paddle their boat from the pool where the rafting run ends, up to a conveyor belt (like a moving sidewalk) that will carry the raft and its passengers up the center section of the track and deposit them at the start of the rafting track so they can traverse the 20 rapids again. This kind of water park sport was completely new to me, but it is clearly a going concern in Sydney, and while we were there we saw rescue teams (perhaps from the White Water Complex but not necessarily – maybe the Sydney lifeguards or even the military) practicing their rescue skills. From the number of times we saw these crews getting dumped into the water, it was clear that this course is a serious whitewater training area.
From the White Water Rafting Complex we returned to Tracy’s home, where we met her husband Matt. The four of us went out to dinner at a local Thai restaurant – it was delicious – and from there Matt and Tracy dropped us off at the train station, where we took an express train back to Sydney, then a cab back to the ship. All in all it was a great day.
My camera died right before lunch and I had to rely on Kal and his little guy for the rest of the day which really SUCKED!!!! So I don’t have many pix of the things I would have loved to take pix of.. like the Aussie Pies.. and MATT!!!!! UGH…
The following day Tracy and her daughter Jess were coming into Sydney, so we arranged to meet them at the Sydney Aquarium.
From there we walked to the Chinese Gardens in downtown Sydney, somewhere that Jess had been wanting to visit for a long time. In China we had not found any gardens that were similar to these Chinese Gardens, which were established and donated by the ethnic Chinese population of Sydney in honor of its Bicentennial. The Gardens cover a large area, and with casual strolling took us a couple of hours to walk through the various sections of the gardens.
Jess wanted photographs of herself dressed in traditional Chinese costume, and Nina took dozens of photos of her in traditional imperial Chinese attire. Doesn’t she look regal! We couldn’t believe it! WOW!!!
After the gardens we went to the Haymarket District and entered the QVB or Queen Victoria Building in downtown Sydney. The building is Victorian in style with beautiful mosaic flooring and gorgeous stained glass windows that illuminate the sweeping stairways on both sides of the center of the building that were the original means of going up and down from one story to another. In the center of the building was a 3-story high Christmas tree made of Swarovski crystals. When we were in Sydney 3 years ago it was at about this same time of year, and at the time there was another beautiful Christmas tree in the center of the QVB, so this must be an annual Sydney tradition.
Continuing our walk up George Street, the main street of downtown Sydney, we eventually reached Morris and Sons, a knitting crafts store, the girls disappeared downstairs where they kept the yarn… they had a great time looking but didn’t buy anything. Thank GOD!!!!!
We had lunch at a Japanese fast food restaurant, where I had a bowl of sticky rice with a scoop of minced fresh tuna, seaweed and shallots, seasoned with soy sauce – simple, but the tastiest Japanese meal I can ever remember eating.
Following the meal we walked up to a nearby subway station, where we took our leave of Stacy and Jess, as they had to catch a 2 PM train from Sydney’s Central Station back to Penrith, and we had to head back to the ship, which was anchored in Darling Harbor, in time for the all-aboard at 3:30 that afternoon. Nina and I walked back to the ship and made it back about an hour before sail-away, and thus ended a most delightful visit to Sydney..
Just my take on the 2 days in Sydney!!!
They were fantastic.. I loved spending time with Tracy and the kids… What a great family.. So sad they live so far away… but I hope we will be back to see them again and possibly spend way more time with them. I really have to give KnittingParadise.com kudos for giving us, knitters, such great opportunities to get to know other knitters all over the world, and sometimes we actually get a chance to meet them.
Thank you, Tracy and the girls (and Matt, of course) for opening your city, home and hearts to us and making us feel so comfortable.. It’s as if we have been friends for years and years! I hope we can stay friends for years and meet up again, hopefully often!!!
The view as we sailed out of Sydney…
Leaving our berth at Darling Harbour.. and our views as we sailed away! Bye to one of my favorite cities in the world..