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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sydney,

Sydney I guess could be called the heart of OZ but I think I’d get hung at noon if I told an aussie that! I guess we could call it the financial hub but that could also be debated to death. The city is vibrant and full of anything and everything one can ever wish for. If you looking for nice beaches or the night life or arts and theatre, they are all here.

Our hosts in Sydney are Arno and Heather. We are staying at their place which is in Ryde, a suburb north west of the city centre. Ryde is a really nice suburb. Pity it’s not close to the beach otherwise we would definitely consider living here. A huge thank you to Arno and Heather for taking us in and giving us a place to crash while we scope out Sydney. They have ADSL and a wireless network which we hooked into and it’s made our research a whole bunch faster and way better. Thank goodness for technology. Arno and Heather are friends of ours from South Africa. Arno BASE jumps and we met up with them on a BASE tour in 2006. It is really nice to be out of the tent for a little while now.

We have already been to Sydney almost exactly a year ago and we certainly loved the place. Problem with Sydney is that property prices are ridiculous unless you are prepared to live way out west and do the traffic time every day. It can get a little insane. If you have a look at Google Earth and see the layout of the city you can see that there are many waterways to deal with and so the city is split up all over the place and the little bits of land that have access to the coast are prime premium gold land. If you want to live close to the beach and not too far out of Sydney then you are going to live in a little match box were listening to your neighbour’s sex life is a common past time.

So the plan is to live either way North or South of the city if you want to be close to the beach front. Now at the outskirts of Sydney and its suburbs both North and South there are national parks and the property from the centre to the very edges of these national parks is way expensive and it only becomes civil on the other side of these national parks. We made our way South first to have a look there and the first place we went to was Stanwell. It is really beautiful with high ridges to the sea below and the very first place we went to had paragliding ramp which put you out over the ocean. The views are to die for. The prices for housing are reasonable but once we started to drive along the neighbourhoods we saw that it didn’t quite fit our vision. Don’t get me wrong, the little towns are stunning and quaint but not exactly what we are looking for.

Next day we headed north to Woy Woy and the areas close by that are around the coast. We started with Macmasters Beach and slowly wound north of that. This area is also beautiful. In fact far prettier than down south. The place that caught our eye was St Huberts Island. This little island between Blackwall and Empire Bay is just the perfect setting. There is going to be no more development on this island because it’s full. The trick here is to get your hands on an old property and fix it up. 90% of the houses on this island are just beautiful and either rebuilt or renovated. There is only one road in and out of this island and it’s like a little piece of heaven. Check it out here – 33°29’44.60″S, 151°20’39.99″E on Google Earth. Granted, it’s not quite on the beach but it’s in the lagoon and a stone’s throw from the beach. The other places that also caught our eye were Avoca Beach and Terrigal. These are the places we have earmarked to possibly settle at.

The following day we went out to the famous Bondi Beach to go see what the fuss is all about and we were a little disappointed. We find Manly Beach a whole bunch prettier than Bondi. I guess the appeal with Bondi is the fact that if you looking for the Hollywood Stars this is the place to see them. Most of them have their houses in this area. We had lunch on the beach and lazed around in the sun until about 4pm. After that we thought we would surprise Rory and Jenny Culhane, old colleagues and friends of mine from SAS who moved to OZ five years ago. I don’t know if it was just bad luck or the traffic but we got to their place three hours later! At one point we did 7km’s in one hour! Insane! They only live about 40km from Bondi. We got so desperate we had to stop at Mikkie D’s for the toilet half way. It was really awesome to see Rory, Jenny, Liam and double N Glenn. I think we got to surprise them. The idea was to get there early so that we could leave early and have dinner back home but with the three hours in the traffic by the time we got to them we were just about fainting from hunger. Luckily Jenny’s persistence eventually had us begging for something to eat and she made us a nice pasta with Pesto. Thanks Jen!! We had a great evening of catching up and swapping stories. The Culhane’s are now a force to be reckoned with as the whole family is attending Tae Kwon Do. A very fit family. Don’t mess with the Culhane’s! They are all looking fit and strong. Well done guys.

Today we made our way out to the Blue Mountains for the day with Ray and Maria Greenwood. I guess the Blue Mountains are to Sydney what the Drakensburg is to Joburg/Durban although not quite the same beast. Mountains in Australia are like koppies to South Africans. None the less, the Blue Mountains are very beautiful and quite a special place. We did the classic thing and went to the most obvious and touristic place which is the Three Sisters. I must say that the rock faces around the three sisters were far more impressive but the significance both tribal and spiritual of the Three Sisters is what makes it the king of have-to-see in this area. The Aboriginals got upset with people climbing all over their sacred koppies, The Three Sisters, and therefore there is no climbing or abseiling allowed in or around this whole area. Seems like anything that sticks out of the ground a little higher than normal in OZ has been declared sacred Aboriginal stomping grounds (Uluru for example) and no-one must disturb the spirits. Fair enough I guess. We went off on a long walk around this area of the Blue Mountains which is called Katoomba. The walk was steep in places but very pleasant. The area was mined many many years ago for coal and the tour around here is really focused on the mining activities back then. It’s like a little outdoor museum. There are tunnels dug out in this mountain which total about 100km in length which are all half the height of a person. Working in these conditions must have been an absolute nightmare. Luckily the sun was hiding and it was threatening to rain but this made it nice and cool to walk around.

After the long walk we were a little bushed and got our picnic basket and went for a picnic. Lunch couldn’t have come any sooner as we were all starving. Unfortunately when you are sitting down and eating the cold starts to creep in and after a while Maria’s hands were white and looked like they were about to fall off. Moondust came to the rescue and Lynda and Maria went and sat inside Moondust with the seat warmers on full blast in order to get the blood flowing in their veins again. From there we went to the restaurant to have something warm to drink in order to warm up a little before heading back home.

One of the places we considered living was at the base of the Blue Mountains but now that we have been to that side of the world it doesn’t seem viable to us. The distances are far and nothing really struck us and stood out. Admittedly I don’t think we really gave it that much of a real look over.

The search continues. Not quite sure what our plans are for next week. We might stay in Sydney or move on to Queensland to go and have a look around there.

Love and peace to all,

Eddy & Lynda