Sydney – day 287

The entire dorm woke up around 2am when the heavily intoxicated bloke came back from a night out and then proceeded to try to get into everyone else’s bed rather than his own! The Canadian girl gave him a swift kick to the face and then shouted ‘Dude! Go left!’ as he started stumbling over to Jayne’ and my bunk… Needless to say that every slight movement from then onwards woke me up in a panic that I would not be in bed alone!! Leaving the rest of the room snoozing, we headed up to the kitchen in the morning to discover it was free (cook them yourself) pancake day!!! Jayne befriended a nice American family who gave her butter so that the pancakes wouldn’t stick to the frying pan. Absolutely content with pancakes and coffee, we headed out into the wet and miserable day that was Sydney… Such a contrast from yesterday. Had planned to get the Circular Quay to Manly ferry as it is considered ‘Sydney’s best ferry journey’ as it gives superb views of the Sydney Opera House. We braved the cold wind and rain for some photo opportunities before sheltering inside! Decided to use the free ticket to visit the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary which was just down the beach from the ferry terminal. The sanctuary was small but lovely with underwater tunnels to allow us to see the 3-metre grey nurse sharks up close. We were fascinated by ‘Maurice’ the octopus, since we never usually see the one residing in the London aquaria. Had been given a food ‘puzzle’ (Perspex box with different tubes coming off of it) as an enrichment exercise and we watched him for ages trying to figure it out… Having watched him several times trying to locate the entrance to the puzzle (and having stuck his arm down the tube on several occasions), we gave up and headed upstairs to the penguin enclosure. A really interesting display as the roof was exposed to the elements, allowing the penguins to ‘experience’ the weather. Lots of displays to educate people about little penguins as Manly has one of the last mainland colonies of little penguins in Australia. 

A quick check to see if Maurice had solved the puzzle (he hadn’t!!) before we descended into the basement for the shark and turtle tank. All the animals have been rescued and are either rehabilitated and returned to the sea or, if deemed unsafe to return, remain in the sanctuary. There was a turtle with weights on his shell as the injury from a boat meant she couldn’t sink. We were there in time for the shark and ray feeding. The rays seemed incredibly fussy, spitting out whatever they didn’t like, although it was the Port Jackson sharks eating the squid that was most interesting – the squid would come in and out of their gills as they ate it! The divers then tried to feed the nurse sharks by tapping the fish on their noses… Not one of them were interested in the food! In fact, it became comical watching the divers swim after these massive sharks, tapping their noses and get absolutely no reaction.Stopped by Maurice a third time on our way out (still hadn’t figured it out!) and headed back to the ferry terminal. Had about half an hour until our ferry so used the time to pop into Aldi to do some food shopping for tonight’s dinner. The ferry back to Circular Quay was as cold as it was earlier but enabled us to get some good, unobstructed views of the Opera House as no one was stupid enough to go on the outside deck (except us!!). 

On the dock, we headed to a different wharf and immediately caught the ferry out to Cockatoo Island. Another one of the UNESCO convict sites, the island is studded with photogenic industrial relics, convicts architecture and art installations. As it was still raining, we decided to skip the audio guides (not sure how long we were going to last!), opting instead to read the information boards that were dotted around the island explaining the islands time as a prison, shipyard and naval base. There was a spooky tunnel that passed through the middle of the island (used as an air raid shelter during the war) and we also got to explore the remains of the prison. There were some solitary confinement cells that have been uncovered here recently after being filled in and forgotten in the 1890’s. There was also a walk along the upper island cliff to see the silo pits used to store food and water for a time. 

After about two hours of wandering around the island, we decided to head back to the hostel to dry off and warm up. Went via the Opera House booking office to purchase some tickets for the piano competition tonight (if you’re going to visit the 46th UNESCO site, you might as well do it in style!!!). Jayne made a beef curry and we ate some more of the left over cakes from last night before we headed out to do a free 90 minute guided walking tour of The Rocks, with plenty of not-so-tall tales and interesting facts. Led by a very enthusiastic young woman, the site of Australia’s first European settlement is unrecognisable from the squalid place it once was, where ex-convicts, sailors and whalers boozed and brawled in countless harbour side pubs and brothels. Really interesting to walk past the three ‘oldest’ pubs in Sydney as well as seeing how the open sewers and foul alleys have been transformed into an ‘olde world’ tourist mecca. The tour finished with enough time for us to make our way over to the Opera House and find our seats for the Sydney International Piano Competition of Australia. Considered one of the worlds most prestigious piano competitions, it was incredible to watch three of the six finalists perform an 18th century concerto (all of them chose a concerto composed by Mozart) with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra accompanying them as they played on beautiful grand pianos. Each piece of music lasted for at least thirty minutes although it seemed to fly by! Before we knew it, we had listened to all three musicians and were on our way back to the hostel with some free chocolates that were being handed out post performance. 

Back in our room, we had a giggle with the other three people about the drunken guy from last night and all swapped horror stories about other hostel experiences. Apparently, last night was not the worst by a long shot!!!

Wednesday 20th July 2016

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