Sydney part 8

Monday 25 October 2010, 9 am
I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a cough and a sore throat. Not surprising, really, after yesterday’s adventures.
The rain continued in fits and starts of drizzle all day, with an occasional downpour to break the monotony. It was still reasonably warm though (on land, at least – it was much colder out on the harbour, so I was glad to have my fleece with me), so the rain was more of an annoyance than anything else.
I met Bargainqueen, Wombles and mini-Wombles at a cafe for breakfast, then we caught the train to Circular Quay, where they headed for the Opera House for a tour, and I headed to the wharves to meet Edwardstreet, Edwardsister, Awaywithfairies, and Goodthinkingmax for an Island Hopping cruise. Newk was supposed to join us too, but never showed up, so there was much comment from Edwardstreet and Edwardsister, his drinking buddies of the night before, about the relative stamina of New Zealanders and Australians.
The Island Hopper cruise was great. It took us around three islands in the harbour which we could explore at our own pace, as the boat returned every half hour to pick up passengers and take them to the next stop. The first island, Goat Island, had displays set up about Sydney’s convict days. Guides dressed as convicts and soldiers wandered around, and there were displays of blacksmithing, 18th century medicine, and music. There was even a flogging, though we missed that.

Next was Shark Island, which was the coldest spot on the tour – an almost bare island in the middle of the harbour, the wind racing across it was icy cold and the rain never let up. There were displays of local wildlife – sea urchins and fish that divers were collecting around the wharf, various creepy crawlies (the spiders were all locked safely away in tanks, thankfully, but I did get to pat a giant cockroach (and it was giant – about the size of the palm of my hand!), which was seriously cool!), a frogmouth (a weird-looking owl-like bird), a fruit bat, a baby crocodile, and a large lizard (I think the ranger said it was a bearded dragon?) which despite the spiky look of its skin turned out to be incredibly soft to the touch.

The view from Shark Island
The last island was Clarke, where there were displays of aboriginal life. We watched displays of dancing of dancing and traditional fishing techniques (and got to taste some of the fish afterwards – very nice), tasted some of the native plants once used as food sources, and I got my face painted with ochre dots (which of course smudged when I blew my nose, and I then made the mistake of trying to wash the smudged dots off. Not a good idea, as all I had was water and a few tissues, so all I achieved was smearing the colour further, and the more I tried to clean it up the worse it got, so that I ended up looking as if I’d applied a particularly bad fake tan. It wasn’t until we got back to Circular Quay and I managed to find a bathroom with soap that I finally got all of the orange out of my face!)
Back at Circular Quay, it was our turn to stand in the queue to tour the Opera House. The free tours are only offered infrequently, so are very popular, but the staff were pretty efficient at moving people through quickly (a bit too quickly – we found out later that people who’d gone through earlier in the day got to see more than we did). It was interesting to see some of the behind the scenes, but the crowds were so big it was hard to see anything properly. I think next time I’m in Sydney I might pay to do a proper tour, which wouldn’t be quite so crowded and rushed.
Looks like the rain has eased off now, so I’ll get out and make the most of it, and finish this later.

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