The Tasman Sea delivered a spectacular show! 35 foot waves and screaming winds for two days on the way to Sydney. it was awesome! I took the photo below from the windows in the library on the 2nd floor. The waves were cresting above my head.
Sleep was fleeting. Partly because our bodies were constantly in motion, but mostly because of the booming racket from the breakers as they collided with the hull of the ship. I can’t imagine surviving seas like this without “modern day” stabilizers. They are long paddle like wings that are deployed from the sides of the ship under the waterline to cut down on the side to side rolling motion in high seas.
Relief finally came as we slid into Botany Bay, home to Sydney’s protected harbor before sunrise on March 10th. We docked in the heart of downtown, directly across from the iconic Opera House. This is one of the busiest harbors in the world, so cruise ships have to tie up before 6 am, or they interfere with the constant stream of commuter ferries. We were here on the Queen Mary 2 in 2010, if you would like to read about that experience, you can do a search for “Sydney” on my home page.
There are only 22 million people that live in Australia, and 4.5 million live in and around Sydney. Traffic is a horror show. Public transportation is grievously lacking, and there is no train system to the suburbs. If you are lucky enough to live near a ferry, that’s the best way to get downtown. Otherwise, good luck, if you have to drive.
This time, our Sydney experience was super special. We got to hang out with some locals! A high school friend (Andy), moved to Australia soon after college, and I had not seen or spoken to him since 1977. Yup, 40 years ago! On a whim, a month before arriving in Sydney, I “googled him” and easily found his website. Andy followed his dream of becoming a naval architect and has enjoyed a rewarding career of designing yachts. One of his most interesting projects was to design the hull of the Plastiki; a 60-foot catamaran made from12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled PET plastic and waste products. It successfully sailed 8,000 miles from San Francisco to Sydney in 2010. Very cool.
We visit most ports for only 8-10 hours, but on rare occasion, we have an overnight stop. Sydney is one of them. Andy invited us to spend the night at his home, about an hour from Sydney. He is the one who warned me about the storm in the Tasman Sea, and knew we would appreciate a night on dry land after the ordeal. He was spot on. He picked us up at the pier, and we headed out to Avalon, on the North Shore. His wife, Sue, was waiting for us, and after a quick snack, we headed out to explore. The storm swept out the hot weather, and it was gorgeous, in the mid-70’s. We hiked up to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, only accessible on foot and soaked in the views. The first light-keeper was struck by lightening in 1885 and “burnt to a cinder” according to the local press. His son, the next keeper, also got hit by lightening and his arm was badly burned. From that day forward, he bound his arm in snake skin to ward off further celestial visitations. It worked. Here’s the lighthouse and views from the top…
Another hike brought us to these spectacular headlands….
Andy and Sue’s home is surrounded by lush vegetation and nestled into the side of a steep hill. The driveway was nearly vertical, but they do not get snow, so no worries there. We lounged on their deck for the rest of the afternoon, watching the exotic bird life, hearing about life in Australia, and reminiscing about growing up in the 70’s. For those of you old enough to remember… rotary dial telephones, record players, bell bottom pants, hip huggers, platform shoes, and of course, “Farrah Faucet” hairdos you would have loved this trip down memory lane.
After a fabulous meal of chicken paella and a snappy Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand we gratefully fell into a stationary bed. The next morning we were woken up predawn by the ear splitting call of the Cockatoos. Such a beautiful bird, and such a horrible noise. Mother Nature had a wicked sense of humor with that one.
We packed a picnic for breakfast and headed to a nearby island in Andy’s motorized rowboat. The guys went swimming, while dodging huge white (harmless but ominous looking) jellyfish. Andy knew they were safe, but there are many species that will kill you on contact. Sue and I drank coffee and dug our feet into the cool sand. We heard movement in the woods behind us that I hoped would reveal a a wallaby or kangaroo, but nothing popped out. We did see tracks that belong to 6 foot lizards, but they alluded us too.
Sue drove up back into the city, and deposited us near the pier, where a huge queue of new crew members and passengers were waiting to join Queen Victoria. We spent the rest of the day wandering around downtown Sydney. We revisited the the Opera House, Harbor Bridge, and Royal Botanical Gardens.
In 2010, we left Sydney at midnight, and we were fast asleep. This time, we left at sunset, and got to enjoy the entire journey through Botany Bay back into the ocean. No wonder so many people are drawn to this magical place.
Next stop, Melbourne, Australia