Sydney – day 286

Woke up from a really good nights sleep, although we both probably could have slept for a couple of hours longer! Showered and dressed before heading upstairs for breakfast, avoiding the school groups who had clearly been put on the top floor away from all the hostel users. Having eaten muesli for breakfast and made ourselves some cheese sandwiches for lunch, we started walking towards Darling Harbour. Dotted between the flyovers and fountains, this former dockland, and now purpose built tourist hub, is undergoing major redevelopment as the area gradually becomes a strip of visitor amusements, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, waterside parks, office towers and casinos. First stop today was the Sydney Sea Life aquarium. As well as the regular wall mounted tanks and ground level enclosure, the impressive complex has two large pools with walk through tunnels with an impressive array of sharks and rays. There was an interesting Jurassic world tank full of fish I’d never even heard of as well as platypues, moon jellyfish (always a favourite of mine!), seahorses, clownfish and an impressive two-million-litre Great Barrier Reef Tank. The aquarium also has two dugongs (although one was away having its annual health check up) which were rescued after washing up on Queensland beaches. Attempted to return them to the wild failed, so the aquarium built an enclosure to house them and have four members of staff dedicated solely to feeding them every 15 minutes for 12 hours a day! As sad as it was to see such large marine mammals in captivity, it was a really fascinating and rare opportunity to see them up close. Plus, the dugong we saw seemed so happy munching on the lettuce stacks and messing around as the staff member tried to feed her. They are also in the process of developing a new penguin enclosure attraction where you can float through on a dingy to see the penguins so there was a fair amount of building work going on but it didn’t stop us enjoying ourselves – we both love an aquarium and could have easily stayed for longer in front of the shark tank.

With our aquarium tickets, we upgraded to a five main attraction pass, so we popped straight next door to Madame Tussauds. Having done the one in London, which is always ridiculously busy, we only really visited because it was essentially free and right next door to the aquarium… However, we are really glad we did. We had so much fun! The museum was practically deserted and, with constant opportunities to dress up, we were able to pose with the hyper realistic waxwork dummies without feeling harassed or rushed by other people – don’t think either of us have laughed so much in ages!Back out in the sunshine, we found a quiet spot on Darling Harbour to have some lunch. Were descended upon by a couple of evil seagulls who were splitting their time between staring us down for a piece of our cheese sandwich and scaring off any other seagull that dared to come close to us!! Another neighbouring attraction to the aquarium is the Wild Life Sydney Zoo which hosted an impressive collection of Australian native reptiles, butterflies, spiders, snakes and mammals.  The kangaroos and koalas were equally as beautiful as the cassowary bird and the nocturnal section was particularly good, especially the quolls, potoroos, echidnas, possums and bats feeding on dead mice! Watched as people spent time looking for the crocodile despite there being a sign on the enclosure saying that the crocodile had passed away…

Leaving the zoo we walked through the streets toward the Sydney Tower Eye which is a 309m-tall tower built in 1970-81 which offers 360-degree views from the observation level 250m up. The visit started with a 4D cinema experience which showcased a birds eye view of the city, surf, harbour and what lies beneath the water before we were put into a horrifically creaky lift to take us up to the observation platform. The views were incredible – the weather was perfect and we could see as far as the eye could see. Jayne even managed to be brave enough to go to the window and look down at the streets below! We had a popping candy Freddo chocolate bar as we sat on the window ledge looking out over the city. Back on solid ground, we walked though the manicured gardens and tree formed tunnels of Hyde Park, watching a Japanese man zoom around on a handlebar less Segway before crossing the road to visit our 45th UNESCO site – the Hyde Park Barracks Museum.The convict architect Francis Greenway designed this squareish Georgian structure in 1819 as convict quarters which has now been turned into a three storey museum. The ground floor focuses on the barracks history, whilst the first floor is dedicated to the archaeological artefacts that have been found there. The final floor is set up as it would have been when, between 1819 and 1848, 50,000 men and boys did time here after being sentenced by British courts to be transported to Australia for petty crimes. It later became an immigration depot, a woman’s asylum and a law court. We got free audio guides which further enhanced the fascinating museum, we got so entranced by the history of the building that we had to be asked to leave after almost two hours as they were closing!!!

Walked through the streets, passed a live news reporter, towards the Sydney Opera House. Still can’t quite believe we are here, we spent time walking around, taking photos and touching it! Don’t think I ever realised that it was covered in tiles. Went to the box office to enquire about shows for tomorrow night before beginning our walk back to the hostel via the supermarket and avoiding the crowds of people searching for Pokémon…

A slight change to our dinner plans when the supermarket didn’t have the ingredients we needed but Jayne managed to cook up a lovely lamb casserole and we had a great night catching up with Vanessa. We had dinner before heading up to the rooftop to tuck into the insane amount of cakes that she had brought for dessert!Walked her to a taxi rank so she could go home before we both passed out in our bunk beds. 

Tuesday 19th July 2016

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