DAY 22: Getting to our Sydney 747 was a very slow process (queued for over an hour at check-in), because an Auckland flight had been cancelled and all those passengers were added to our flight. The flight was particularly smooth and included breakfast and a Magnum! SunBus were waiting for us and the coach took us through the city centre to our Harbour Rock hotel, which couldn’t have been in a better location, on the ‘lanes’, only a short walk from the harbour. We took lunch, in the lane’s very pleasant Gumnut Tea Gardens and then wandered into the city to book tickets for Joe Cocker at the State Theatre (a chance sighting from our transfer bus). We then did a city circuit on the overhead monorail before wandering back to watch the boats at Circular Quay and visit the Opera House. Again in the lane’s, we chose Phillip’s Foote for our evening meal, where we chose our steaks and barbecued them ourselves, adding salad buffet-style – very Oz!DAY 23: First an ‘Explorer’ harbour cruise on a very fast catamaran. This started with a narrated trip (which included the offer of free sunblock!), along the shoreline to Watson’s Bay, where we alighted and walked the short uphill distance to The Gap, an impressive rock formation, this also gave us our first sight of wild parakeets. Back to the wharf for a drink, the temperature was getting up towards 32°, and then rejoin the ‘Matilda’ to set off across the harbour under the Harbour Bridge to Darling Harbour, having passed tall-masted and naval ships on the way in. The day was now at it’s hottest as we strolled through Tumbalong Park, full of water features and activities for the young. Along with the ususal pigeons and gulls were what I think were Ibis, even one in MacD’s! The park included a centre for aboriginal art worth a visit. Back on the water, this time a fast ferry, we passed a couple of paddle-steamer showboats, Luna Park fairground and back under the Harbour Bridge to Circular Quay. The evening saw us stroll to the city centre for a meal and a great performance by Joe Cocker, in the elaborate, if ageing, State Theatre. It rained quite heavily as we walked back.
DAY 24: We set off for Bondi Beach (using double-decker train and single-decker bus) and spent the morning ambling along the water’s edge and just sitting on the sands watching the bathers. A very wide stretch of golden sand, easy to walk on, some seaweed, but no pebbles, rocks or shells. The sea itself was quite cool. Plenty of 6-packs, bikinis (and half bikinis) strolling about. In our last half hour there, the heat was beginning to get unbearable, the wind and waves were increasing and a few were attemting to surf. Back in the city, on leaving the impressive (and cool) St.Mary’s Cathedral, it felt very strange to be looking at a nativity setting and Christmas tree surrounded by summer flower beds! We then strolled across Hyde Park to the Queen Victoria Building, a shopping mall – architecturally impressive, but more importantly, cool – it had 4 mosaic floors, a Swarovski Christmas Tree rising through all floors into a lovely glass dome, two huge hanging clocks (the Australia and the Royal) which displayed moving characters and scenes. The heat is unbelievable outside, any breeze to be found is like standing in front of a fan heater, even well into the evening.