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Big City with Bright Lights
“Are you sure they’ll let us in with hiking boots, hiking pants, and our dry-fit t-shirts? I mean we kind of look like bums,” Shru asked her cousin Nimish. We had just finished an afternoon of exploring Sydney Harbor and now we were meeting Nimish and his lovely wife Nikki for cocktails at the top of the glitzy Shangri La hotel in the downtown district. Shru’s aunt Santosh gifted us a cell phone for a few days so we felt oddly connected. No need to scurry back to a hostel to dial in to use Google Voice or figure out some strange pay phone.
Sydney Opera House
As expected we stood out just a TAD bit in the chic lounge and chicer crowd at the top of the Shangri La, but the sweeping views over the harbor and Opera House and soul satisfying drinks were well worth it. Afterward, we were treated to a fantastic meal at a high-end Asian fusion restaurant, Spice Temple.
The areas around the Harbor Bridge and The Rocks have quaint cobblestone streets lined with boutique stores, cafes, and top shelf eateries; definitely a great place to ramble around if you visit the area. Afterward, the royal treatment continued as we hitched a ride back with Nimish and Nikki to their home for after dinner flat whites….not lattes, the kiwi’s and aussies can clearly explain the difference.
Beaches and Coastal Trails
The next day we took a short ferry ride across the harbor to Manley Beach. Sydney has loads of beaches up and down its shoreline, Bondi most notably, all reachable via train, ferry, or bus. These are not those whimpy concrete or rock beaches you find near some big cities, so the locals can put a tick mark in the tourist guides. These are big, white sand beaches that stretch for miles; complete with ice cream stands, burger joints, fish shacks, and bikini clad women on roller skates. As expected, the waves are huge so surf board toting dudes are everywhere, much to Shru’s liking I’m sure. I took down an EXTREMELY tasty kangaroo burger followed by a pint of beer while Shru threw back an equally yummy falafel veggie burg with a spicy aioli sauce and avocado at Moo Gourmet Burgers – Thanks Nikki for the recommendation!
Later we tried our best to burn off the meal by hiking some cool trails down the coastline through a protected forest. Inside, we ran into lots of post WWII tunnels and artillery bunkers…pretty cool…and really eclectic terrain. It was hard to believe these places were only a few miles from Sydney.
Mountains, Huge Canyons, and Forest Trekking
We loaded up the car with water and food, a 4 course Indian picnic lunch prepared by Shru’s Taijis (aunts), MAN how we miss that food!!!, and set off with the family for the Blue Mountains. Amazingly, the journey to this Unesco World Heritage site was only 1:30hrs from the house. You arrive in what appears to be a normal suburban town, but when you walk up to the entrance to the park you are blown away. It looks like a somewhat smaller version of the Grand Canyon…No Joke! Sydney has a grand canyon in their suburbs, not too shabby! With both aunts and uncles we scaled down many, many steps from the top of an observation deck to the floor of the canyon. From there, we did a really nice hike through a forest where we saw countless birds and a few waterfalls.
At the end of the journey, Shru and I decided to burn off a little of the yummy, rich Indian food we’d been eating the past couple of days by scaling up another set of Giant Steps on the other side of the canyon, rather than taking the scenic tram. On the way up, we were treated with more sprawling views across the canyon and surrounding mountains. At the top, we put back on what we took off with a delicious picnic of Chole Poori and homemade chai.
We continued the weekend of excursions on a trip south of Sydney to Chiama Beach, to see the famous coastal blow-hole and relax in the picturesque town. The boyz hit up a fish shack to inject a little deep fried fish and chips into our diet. On the way back, we stopped at a spectacular Buddhist temple and roamed the grounds in the hopes of absorbing some positive energy and spirituality.
We can’t thank Shru’s family in Sydney enough for taking so much time out of their busy schedules to house, feed, and entertain us. We honestly felt like royalty and miss everyone so much. Come to Colorado, so we can show you our part of the world!
Next destination…Sri Lanka!