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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 03 Mar 2007

Location: New South Wales, Australia

MapWe spent our first week in Australia in New South Wales - firstly at Mannering Park - about an hour north of Sydney on the Central Coast and then in Sydney, both times staying with friends which made a really nice change from hotels, hostels and campervans. We also managed to catch up with some other friends - one of whom we last saw over 20 years ago!

We went straight from the airport by train to Wyee. Just like English trains, the announcements were quite incomprehensible and lots of the stations began with letter "w" but we managed to get off at the right stop to be met by Kathy who we met in New Zealand walking the Milford Track (together with Jan, Jan's daughter Misty and Celia). We spent 2 nights with Kathy and her daughters and they were so hospitable. Mannering Park was really nice - right by Lake Macquarie (which Sue has difficulty pronouncing to locals' confusion - it should be spelt "quarrie") and near the beach. We felt that it was a taste of a real Aussie lifestyle not the normal tourist experience.

We arrived on Friday night and went off to the beach on Saturday morning (after our first bacon and egg breakfast in months). We had a lovely walk on the beach and through native bush. We also swam - the sea was not quite as warm as we expected. We met up with Jan, Celia and her husband at the beach for lunch and then went back to Jan's for champagne with guava juice and nibbles - us travellers are really not used to such delicacies.

We then went back to Kathy's for a delicious slow cooked lamb dinner - so nice to have a relaxed home cooked dinner with friends. The wine flowed freely but we were a bit shocked by local beverage of red wine and coke - what a waste of wine. After dinner, the Playstation Singstar came out (belonging to Kathy's daughters) - think karaoke but with the singing graded for tunefulness on screen for all the world to see. Colin of course was right into it, singing and strutting his stuff (despite an official "tone deaf" rating for one rendition). Sue needed to let the wine take full effect but then got into the competition. Next day we were slightly disappointed not to wake up to blue skies so the beach was off but we took Kathy's dog down to the lake and then had lunch at Jan's - more nice food by the pool.

We went back to Sydney to stay with Andy and his family in Mosman - a posh suburb of Sydney just across the harbour from the Opera House. They live just near the ferry so it was really easy to get to the city and not a bad way to commute for Andy. Again it was really nice to be with a family for a few days - we really enjoyed watching Darcey swimming at the old Olympic Pool in North Sydney right by the Harbour Bridge, playing football with Isaac, listening to Darcey's saxophone recital, playing with the cat, not to mention meeting Maria and catching up with Andy.

We had a relaxed few days in Sydney with not too much sightseeing. We went on a tour of the Opera House, had a picnic lunch in the Botanical Gardens, walked round the harbour from Mosman to Balmoral and caught the ferry to Manley for a swim at Shelley Beach. We also met up with a very old friend from university days, Jenny, and had lunch with her at the Icebergs Club overlooking Bondi Beach. Jenny is a full on Aussie now and doesn't even think that "behind the 8 ball" is a peculiar Aussie expression. It was also really nice to meet up with Di and Veronique from our trip to Patagonia and Robyn who we met in the Galapagos Islands.

We also managed to buy some more travel guide books as we really need to get on with planning the rest of our trip - it's all getting very last minute, or very laid-back depending on your point of view. Off to Tasmania with a barely thumbed brand new book!