Unlike the West Coast (Perth) where I was spoilt by not having to pay for accommodation Sydney was quite an eye opener to the costs and the most affordable area is Kings Cross which if this conjures up images of a seedy area with working girls on the corner you've hit the nail on the head. The Funk House Backpackers was the hostel I chose for my stay which was perfectly adequate for my purpose at about 20 euro a night it was close to supermarkets and bars and only a 2 minute walk to the train station and as it turned out staffed by really nice people.
I signed up for a free walking tour (booked at Hostel ) on Boxing day, which is a great way to see any new place anywhere in the world. Locals show you around the main sights and if they do a good job you pay them what you think they deserve if not impressed don't pay much or even don't pay that is always a little harsh.
The tour and the guide on this occasion was excellent and it took approximately 2 hours and took in a lot of the major sights and I have added pictures below with descriptions of what they represent.
There are some fabulous parks in and around Sydney with Hyde Park and The Botanic Gardens being two of the best to wander around and take in the everyday life with giant chess games being played, joggers and Rollerblade riders, and views over Sydney Harbour and the opera house.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge promotes a walking tour over the top span of the bridge which seems to be very popular but I didn't partake of the walk which at $210 is very expensive, especially as you are not allowed to take your camera and the only picture you get is one of the group you are in which is an extra - do what I did and walk across the main thoroughfare which is totally free and you can take as many photos as you like - Entry via The Rocks.
To the left of central quays as you look to sea is an area known as The Rocks which is the oldest part of Sydney and has a bohemian feel about it with pubs and eateries museums and markets it is a must visit area.
Darling Harbour abounds with trendy places to eat and drink and is a great place to people watch and every Saturday night it has a firework display that is very impressive. Darling Harbour is also home to the IMAX that boasts the biggest screen in the world but be prepared to pay the biggest entry fee in the world at $35.00 (tip:- the information booths scattered around Sydney have blue Sydney guide books and housed in the back of these books are discount vouchers one of which is 20% off entry to IMAX.
I decided to join in with a group from the hostel on a walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach around the coast for an afternoon on the beach and a swim. The bus and tube system are very efficient clean and cheap and you can buy daily or weekly tickets that allow unlimited use of train, bus and ferry services.
The trip from Kings Cross to Bondi Junction took about 40 minutes and the walk is worth the effort, then after a fresh fish & chip lunch we all settled down for a relaxing afternoon on the beach which did not go quite to plan.
The waves at Coogee beach make it a favourite for surfers but if you visit beware the beach has a vicious riptide, which means the water going out from the beach will take your legs away if you are standing and if you are unlucky to be hit at the same time by a 6 foot high wave coming in, the result can be that you are picked up and slammed down with great force on the seabed which in my case resulted in a broken collar bone, which although very painful is better than a broken neck.
The lifeguards, unfortunately, look nothing like the bay watch babes from the TV and so I made my own way to the accident station where an ambulance was called and after paramedics administered the morphine I was whisked off to the local hospital.
There is a reciprocal agreement in place with Australia which means the treatment is free and I cannot fault the treatment I received however in my case surgery was decided against due to the position of the break and the only course of action was to place my arm in a sling, dose me up with painkillers and send me off for 4-6 weeks rest for the break to mend.
One of the most important considerations when travelling is, do I need travel insurance, some of you may be covered with offers from Credit Cards or banks or even extensions to home insurance but if not make sure you buy a good policy.
Many policies will be for a maximum of 30 days travel even the annual policies so if going for longer as I was make sure you have a single trip policy for the period you are away they can be quite reasonable and invaluable when something happens.
You only find out how good an insurer is when you need them and the policy I had taken out was with 1 stop Travel Insurance who I had sourced on the web and had paid £183.13 for cover for 6 months.
Initially, they were not very helpful, and some time passed before they saw things the way I saw them and agreed a course of action with me, so get the right cover and be prepared to argue your corner to get the result you want and I will come back to this before the end of this newsletter.
Luckily for me a friend of mine had flown into Sydney that day to enjoy the New Year Celebrations with me and with help I managed to get out and about to see some of the local sights.
Talking of fireworks did you see the Sydney spectacular that heralded in the new year of 2013 - not only can I say yes I did I but I was there, sitting in a park overlooking the bridge with (don't tell the medics) a drink in my good hand - what a show.
Central Quay ferries depart to various destinations up and down the coast, the most famous of destinations being Manly where there is a really good shopping area and beaches that are good for both safe family bathing and at the other end of the peninsular great surfing and you can even snorkel or do scuba diving it is a place with something for everyone and for $5.40 return on the ferry I fully recommended it as a place to visit.
As I was hindered from doing too much by my injury I am afraid I am unable to give you much advice on places to go and things to see around Sydney but one place I did make the effort to visit was The Blue Mountains.
Situated two hours from Sydney by train this mountain range gets it's name from the blue mist given off from the eucalyptus trees and is part of a national heritage site.The return fare on the train is $12 and on arrival there is a bus that for $35 allows you to hop on and hop off all day around a course that takes in all the main sites. For an additional $20 you can ride the sky train - the cable car to the bottom of the mountain and back which is spectacular and ride the scenic railway.
The whole area is great for walking and hiking to visit rock formations and waterfalls with different levels of difficulty and a free map will help guide you around, there are even hotels, backpackers and a camp site for those that want to spend more than one day there.
I mentioned in a previous newsletter how expensive Perth was, Sydney is less so but with the exchange rate the way it is at the moment it will still set you back a tidy sum to eat well and enjoy a drink so make sure you budget well.
So getting back to the subject of Insurance - I gave my insurers a choice of allowing me to continue on to New Zealand and to pay for better accommodation than the backpackers I had booked, to allow me to rest and recover and then continue my journey or to repatriate me to the UK. I am sorry to say that after 10 days of discussion my Insurers decided that the best course of action would be to send me back to the UK to recuperate, so journey cut short and on my way back to England but as General McCarthy said "I shall return"