20 Oct 2019

20/10/2019: Sydney

We're now berthed in the CYCA Marina, home of the Sydney to Hobart rally, in a very nice part of Sydney Harbour called Rushcutters Bay.

It's lovely, very smart and in a great location for walking in and out of Sydney via the Royal Botanical Gardens, so named because the new Queen Elizabeth II first stepped ashore there in 1954. The gardens are a beautiful green space within the city, bordered by the harbour itself along one side and with the famed Opera House at its head.

Standing on the steps of the Sydney Opera House was one of my Dad's three big travel ambitions in life and sadly he never made it, so it was a rather poignant moment for me to walk up them, almost in his memory. It's an intriguing structure, all made from concrete and the legacy of an eminent Australian architect who apparently told the city council it would only cost $10 million to build while knowing full well it would be many times that! When challenged about the final cost his response was supposedly along the lines of 'well if I had told you what it would actually cost, you would never have given me the go ahead to build it!'

Walking across the sydney Harbour Bridge itself has been recommended to us so we made our way to Milsons Point on the north shore and climbed up the steps to the pedestrian walkway. It's an imposing sight, four stone pillars supporting a cobweb of steel girders all riveted together. Apparently the rivets were heated to red hot temperatures before being thrown to the workmen who effectively caught them in their riveting machine while straddling the girders. Modern day health and safety officials would have a field day! The bridge carries pedestrians,  cyclists, motorised vehicles and trains, all along designated sections. The pedestrian walkway is on the east side of the bridge and affords spectacular views of the harbour from the caged in pathway.

Underneath the southern end of the bridge is an area called the Rocks, the old heart of Sydney's maritime history and home to many heritage buildings lining narrow streets. It's a nice area to while away a bit of time.

Yesterday we had a fun day with some of the other WARC fleet and some of their crew on a scenic trip around the harbour, skirting in to Darling Harbour, sailing past the Prime Minister's residence and upstream passing some of the fabulous waterside properties. It was great to catch up again and hear Sydney residents' views on this incredible city. All in all a first class day!

Our highlight today was a late afternoon trip to the Sydney Opera House for a performance of Great Operatic Hits in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, the second largest venue in the Opera House seating 1500, and the home of Opera Australia.  Apparently Joan Sutherland was a famous Australian soprano and on a tour of Australia in the mid-sixties was accompanied by a then unknown young tenor named Luciano Pavarotti!

Neither of us is a great lover of opera but the chance to attend a performance in one of the world's best known theatres was too good to be missed. The repertoire featured such operatic classics as 'Nessun dorma' from Turandot, the 'Flower Duet' from Lakme (probably best known as the music used in the British Airways advert), the Toreador Song and the Habanera from Carmen and quite a few we didn't recognise! But it was a great opportunity to see inside this iconic structure and we largely enjoyed it!!

17 Oct 2019

17/19/2019: Sydney. We made it!

Well we actually arrived into Sydney Harbour at 11pm on Tuesday night and headed for the closest anchorage (Manly) and a good night's sleep. The trip down was reasonable, a few hours motoring to start with and then sailing the rest of the way.

We spent the day in and around Manly yestersay as our marina berth in downtown Sydney wasn't booked until today and so at 9am this morning we pulled up the anchor to head deeper into the harbour, chased by a P&O cruise ship (we gave way to it!) before rounding a headland and having our first view of the opera house and bridge! Wow! What a perfect end to an incredible trip, to see two such iconic structures and to sail underneath one of them! We made it, yeah!!

We're now in the CYCA Marina, home of the Sydney to Hobart rally, and will spend four days here exploring and relaxing. Bring it on!

11 Oct 2019

11th October 2019, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Well, we finally escaped from Queensland and have crossed the state border into New South Wales. After an overnight trip, more whale sightings (they literally are everywhere!) and a close shave with a fishing trawler, we arrived in Coffs Harbour at 2pm on Monday, settled ourselves into our berth (no help available as it was a public holiday out here for labour day) and had a relaxing afternoon doing nothing much before an early night to catch up on missed sleep.

On Tuesday, it was a very different story. We had been boat bound for three days and couldn't wait to stretch our legs again. We found a walk that wound its way through the forest on either side of Coffs Creek, through the town and back to the marina, taking in the botanical gardens along the way. 16 kilometers later, we were back on board and our legs were pretty tired!

Wednesday had us cleaning up and making preparations to have friends made on the rally for lunch. It turned into a very long lunch with them not leaving until 8pm but we had a lovely time relating stories from the time in French Polynesia.

On Thursday we hired a car to drive up into the mountains and see some of the very picturesque scenery in the Dorrigo National Park. The mountains here are even closer to the coast than in Queensland and the aptly named 'Waterfall Way' soon had us up on the plateau some 725metres above sea level. It was a steep and twisty climb, very dramatic with glimpses of the coast through the towering eucalyptus, red cedars and tallowwood trees.

In years gone by, and we're talking millions of years ago, this former volcanic area (Mount Ebor was active for a million years, spewing lava which has made this such a fertile area) was covered in trees but the arrival of the European settlers in the mid-eighteen hundreds saw them felling the red cedar trees for timber and creating meadows for grazing cattle. It became a big butter area. The plateau is still farmed today and presents a bucolic scene.

Arriving at the rainforest discovery centre, and having recovered from our exertions of Tuesday, we hiked down to some waterfalls on the wonderfully named 'Wonga Walk'! 3.5 kilometres down and the same back up again. We deserved our lunch!

It's a shame that there has been so little rainfall for several months or the flow would have been so spectacular.  Even so, we were thrilled to see them and even managed to get behind one of them, the Crystal Falls.

As we walk through the rainforests here, (yes, they are rainforests, even though there isn't much rain!) one thing that has really become evident is that the birdsong is SO different from anything we have been used to during our travels. One bird in particular, an Eastern Whipbird is very noisy, and a persistent singer with a very distinctive 'whipcrack' call. The Kookaburra calls are also very distinctive, and the longer we are here, the more familiar they are becoming to us. We recorded it's call but the sound byte is copyright protected so we can't add the video onto our blog!

As we drove from Dorrigo through Ulong and on towards Coramba and Karangi, (lovely sounding names for towns here!) the tarmac roads just ended and we found ourselves on dirt highways for approximately 30km. Not the most comfortable ride, but what choice did we have? The car came back absolutely covered in dust, and if it hadn't rained last night we would have had to have stopped into a carwash on our way to return the vehicle! Even so the rental company looked at us rather askance when we handed back the keys.

Today we took a walk to the island next to the marina, Muttonbird Island, part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park and with views back down over the marina itself.

It is named after the migratory marine birds (short-tailed shearwaters) that nest there in burrows that they make on the hillside to protect their eggs and young. There were no birds in evidence as it's not the nesting season at the moment.

It's cold here today too, the southerlies have come back again bringing the Antarctic winds howling up the coast, so we have got extra bedding to sleep under at night, plus sweatshirts to keep us warm during the day

We have decided to stay a few days longer in Coffs and wait for the next batch of northerly winds to blow us down the coast to Sydney. According to the forecasts, we will have favourable winds to leave here on Monday, sail the remaining 240 nautical miles in one go, and arrive in Sydney Harbour on Tuesday evening. We're really looking forward to sailing Tumi under the Harbour Bridge, that will be another tick in the box and a fitting finale to what has been an incredible trip!

5 Oct 2019

5/10/2019: Goodbye Sunsine Coast, hello Gold Coast!

Yes we've made it another 100 miles south having left Mooloolaba at high water yesterday and arrived at Southport on the Gold Coast at 2am this morning. We managed to sail all but the last 3 hours when the wind completely died - not what was forecast but when are they ever accurate?!! - but the whale activity more than made up for that. They were everywhere, waterspouts blowing, tails and fins slapping and dramatic leaps fully out of the water, as they courted in the shallow waters off Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands. We tried to get photographs, the best of them shown below, but it's tricky to know when and where they will next breach and so we have to rely on the wider-lensed phone camera without zooming in. Hey ho, we have the mental images firmly imprinted on our brains. When darkness fell we kept our fingers crossed we didn't run into a sleeping whale. In that regard having the engine on for a few hours wasn't a bad thing as they could at least hear us coming!

The Gold Coast is the part of Queensland bordering New South Wales (yes, we're nearly there!) with great surfing beaches backed by high rise apartments, eateries, clubs and theme parks.  The anchorage area is busy and criss-crossed by lots of people enjoying their weekend afloat on small boats and jet skis. Throw in the whale-watching tour boats and transiting superyachts coming into and out of the nearby Palazzo Versace Marina, then the swell is a nuisance slapping against our stern, but it's lovely to see people making the most of the ocean and it will be like a millpond again tonight.

While it's not really our scene, over 4 million people visit each year so I don't think we will be missed! Inland is reputedly very attractive with national parks offering hiking, waterfalls and great views but having thoroughly explored the hinterland of Mooloolaba we don't feel the need to repeat it here .... it can't be that different, can it?!

One of the main reasons we are making our stay here very short is the weather: we utilised a short northerly weather window to get here yesterday and tomorrow another one opens for twenty four hours which will enable us to reach Coffs Harbour in NSW before the next band of strong southerlies kick in. Everyone keeps telling us that the winds this year aren't typical ... just our luck! - so we will up anchor around midday tomorrow and sail overnight the 150 miles to Coffs Harbour.  It got quite chilly last night on our way here but needs must!!

PS: it turns out Paul did capture a few good shots after all! Much better detail and focus!!

2 Oct 2019

2/10/2019: Sunshine Coast Hinterland

We've hired a car this week to undertake a more thorough exploration of the beautiful countryside inland from the Sunshine Coast.

Monday morning dawned with clear blue skies and after a leisurely start we ventured up to Maleny and Gardeners Falls before heading over to a local state park with views out over the Glasshouse Mountains on the lookout for critters. One python (asleep under a rock next to the path) and several pademelons (small wallabies) later we headed deeper into the countryside along an unmade road into the Obi Obi Valley. Stunning, including the gradients of the roads!

It's probably fair to say that that description Sunshine Coast has been a bit misleading since late Monday night when we had two or three hours of heavy rain, loud enough bouncing on Tumi's coach roof to wake us up! It's a good job it did as we needed to reposition the dinghy on its davits, tilting it to let the rain drain out ... Paul's  job just before midnight and he got drenched! Given over 100mm fell in a few hours, it was fortunate he braved the weather....

The weather system hadn't cleared through by Tuesday morning and we experienced a cool, cloudy, windy day with frequent downpours. A quick visit to the local botanic gardens was about all we managed between the showers but at least we weren't confined on board all day. The sculptures in their setting of native bushland were actually very attractive ... inspiration for our garden when we get home, ha ha!

This morning dawned dry, not quite the warm temperatures and blue skies of the weekend but being the intrepid adventurers that we are we headed off into the mountains to see some waterfalls and do a bit of bushwalking. Our first stop, Kondalilla Falls near Montville were beautiful, set a few kilometers into the rainforest and with a flow given the recent rain but nothing like they must be in the wet season. Over eighty metres high, we descended through the forest to the base of the falls before climbing back out again!

Our next stop was at the Mapleton Falls National Park where we enjoyed a short walk through the forest and the views of the Mary River Valley but had to suffice ourselves with only a view of the falls from a viewpoint. On the upside the clouds cleared and we returned to clear blue skies again!

And then we took the scenic route home! A great day in lovely countryside off the beaten track.