“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Sydney and Byron Bay

My Australian Adventure started with a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. That’s a long time, especially after flights of two and a half and four hours leading up to it. All told, I was in airports or on planes for a total of 31 hours. Amazing!

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I was able to sleep during the final leg, but I don’t sleep well in my own bed, let alone in a seat on a plane. Well, at least the flights were on time and I didn’t have any disruptive passengers around me. And the food from LA to Sydney was really good!

Sydney is much like any other major city, except that they drive on the wrong side of the road here, which is a little disconcerting, but I didn’t need to drive. It’s also very clean, since littering can result in a fine of $350. The people we met have all been so nice and most have had a great sense of humor! We really enjoyed bantering with the concierge at our hotel and learning from him some of the local lingo.

 

My traveling partner Donna and I began our exploration of Sydney with a 4-hour lunch cruise around Sydney Harbour. It was a beautiful, clear, cool day on the 55-foot boat, and we had great shipmates—just 6 of us aboard. Much of the city’s life and entertainment are centered on the harbor and Sydney from a boat is just beautiful! The lunch was fantastic—shrimp on the barbie, salmon, steak, potato salad, green salad, and cheese and Tim tams for dessert. (Tim tams are chocolate covered wafers that are very good. I understand you can get them in the States, maybe at Sams?)

The next day, we toured Sydney by land. The maximum number of people allowed on the tour was 15, but it was just the two of us on the bus. We had an amazing tour guide who told us a lot about the city and its history. We toured the Opera House and walked across the Harbour Bridge. Later, we visited Luna Park, an old-time amusement park.

Another day, we went out into the nearby Blue Mountains, riding along steep rutted paths in a Land Rover to see kangaroos and wallabies in the wild. We had a fantastic guide who knew the names of every tree and bush we asked him about. He gave us so much information not just about the nature and wildlife, but also about the health care system and what it was like living in Australia.

All in all we got to know several faces of Sydney, from the luxurious Double Bay (known to the locals as “Double Bay, Double Pay”) where we stayed our first night to the Harbour District with the majestic Opera House and the awesome Sydney Harbour Bridge to Bondi Beach and the historic neighborhood known as The Rocks. It’s a beautiful, clean, safe city, with so much to do that I’m going to have to come back to get to know it better.

From Sydney we headed to Byron Bay for a few days of fun and sun and what a treat that was! We stayed in the lap of luxury at Elements of Byron Bay. Our villa didn’t look like much from the outside (as we drove up to it, I wondered what I had gotten myself into). But when we walked inside, it was just lovely—a two-bedroom, two-bath villa with a very nice screened porch, living room and kitchen. The beds were soooo comfortable, it was like sleeping on a cloud. We had one day of just down time and relaxation (we sorely needed it), which included a massage at their spa. The beach at the hotel was large and, since it was early Spring in Australia and still rather chilly, we had Byron Bay pretty much to ourselves.

We took a tour of Byron Bay, though the guide didn’t do much but drive us around and grill us a mediocre hamburger with no sides for our lunch. This was the worst tour of the trip, with very little information about the area other than that Byron Bay is kind of a hippie town—lots of psychedelic displays and interesting people there.

The sights, however, were well worth seeing. We went to the lighthouse which is the easternmost point of Australia and to an organic farm complete with a huge hog farm and an apiary. We got an awesome Portuguese tart there. We stopped at Crystal Castle, which showcases and sells crystals of all sizes from all over the world. There was the World Peace Stupa, dedicated by the Dalai Lama, and a great rainforest walk, a nice change from the hurried pace we had been keeping. The entire place was very calm and serene. Beautiful.

 

Many thanks to the two people who made my trip to Australia happen: Elizabeth, a lovely resident of the Bankstown suburb of Sydney who invited my friend Donna to visit and bring a friend, and Donna, a friend from high school who chose me to go with her. Elizabeth made us feel so very welcome in her home, made the best chicken schnitzel and peas ever, and even gave us a cooking lesson so we can make it at home. We had a great time and I can’t thank these two ladies enough.

Finally, it was time to leave Bryon Bay for Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. We had traveled so far and seen so much! But our adventures were only half done, for the flight would take us to Honolulu for a cruise around the islands on the Pride of America. That’s another yarn I’ll tell you soon.

For now, I’ll just say “G’day, Mate!”