Friday, August 12, 2011

Our two week trip around Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne

I was fortunate enough to be given a scholarship to finish my masteral degree at the University of Queensland in 2005. My family joined me in Australia about 2 months after I got there. My wife wanted to visit her sister in Melbourne but lack of funds made us defer the trip.

We started planning on how to go there the cheapest way we can. It was then that I came about the website of CountryLink which offered a travel pass where one can travel almost anywhere between Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne by train/bus for two weeks for about A$200. The pass comes with four bonus CityRail passes. First there's a DayTripper ticket so you can travel all day on Sydney trains, buses and ferries. Next is a return bus/train ticket to the famous Bondi Beach. And then there is a return train tickets to Katoomba, heart of the scenic Blue Mountains. You can choose between making a day trip or staying in the mountains for longer. The good thing with the pass is my daughter travels for free since she was less than 6 years old then.

Day 1

We left Brisbane late in the afternoon by taking a bus at the Roma Park station bound for Casino in NSW, which is about 3 hours away. From there we caught a train to Sydney.

We got a short nap on our way to Casino. When we stepped out of the bus, we were greeted by a very cold strong wind, which is colder than what we had experienced in Brisbane.

We waited a while inside the station where it was warm. About half an hour later, the train arrived and we boarded it. We asked the conductor if he can turn the two seats 180 degrees so that the three of us will be facing each other.

We were to get off at Hornsby Station, which is a few stations before reaching Sydney. I had earlier contacted a former classmate, Ernie, in elementary/high school who had offered their home for our two-night stay in Sydney.

Day 2

About 11 hours later, we got off at Hornsby, where I called my classmate and he picked us up at the station and took us home and there we had our breakfast. Ernie's wife offered to give us a ride back to Hornsby station as she was also taking the train to Sydney to go to work, while were bound for the Blue Mountains.

We had complimentary return passes to Katoomba and took the opportunity to visit the place. Upon arrival in Katoomba, we purchased passes for the hop on - hop off buses, called the Blue Mountains Explorer Bus, where we are able to visit the various tourist attractions between Katoomba and Leaura, such as the Three Sisters, Carrington Hotel, Echo Point and we got to roam the towns of Katoomba and Leura.

Before dark, we left the Blue Mountains and had our dinner in a mall near the Hornsby Station. Tired, we slept soundly that night.

Day 3

On our 2nd day in Sydney, we used our day tripper ticket, which gave us unlimited trips on buses, trains and ferries around Sydney. We spent most of our time around Darling Harbour via ferry. We walked from the King Street Wharf to Pyrmont Bay Wharf seeing the Sydney Aquarium, National Maritime Museum, Harbourside and Sydney Convention Centre.along the way. Taking the ferry gave us a good view of both the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We also went to the Luna Park for some rides and entertainment. After lunch, we went to the Queen Victoria Building or popularly known as the QVB.

Day 4 - 5

from left, Val, me and Ernie
From NSW, we were supposed to travel to Canberra by bus. But my classmate offered to take us there by car,which would also give him the opportunity to meet our classmate there, who will be our host for our two-night stay there. I readily agreed as I know that the trip would be faster and more comfortable. We stopped by about two times in gas stations along the way for some rest and visit to the toilet. We were able to finally get to to Canberra, where our former classmate, Val, treated us to lunch in a Chinese restaurant. After lunch, Ernie, Val, my family and I visited the Federal Parliamentary building as well as the Telstra Tower, the tallest structure there, which gave us a commanding view of the entire Canberra. After a brief tour, Ernie bade goodbye for his return trip to Hornsby. We went back to Val's place where we met his wife and two children.
The following day, Val gave us a tour of his town. We visited the War Memorial, the old Parliament Building, the Royal Australian Mint and other places, whose names I already forgot.

Day 6 - 13

The following morning, Val dropped us of at the station where we were to take a train in Cootamundra bound for Melbourne. We arrived early in the evening in Melbourne and waited for my wife's sister to pick us up. She and her husband actually live in Casey City, less than an hour away from Melbourne.

Our one week stay in Melbourne was mostly spent in Casey City and exploring Melbourne riding their free City Tourist shuttle and Tram to visit tourist spots around the city. We also went to Queen Victoria Market were fresh produce and souvenir items are sold. Our only out of town trip was a visit to Phillip Island to watch the penguins return to their nests at night.

On our last day in Melbourne, my wife's sister and brother-in-law took us to the train station for our trip back to Sydney where we will were to catch our train back to Brisbane.

Day 14

We arrived Sydney at around 7 AM. Since our train back to Brisbane leaves the station at 4 in the afternoon, we decided to have a short visit to Bondi Beach using our free return bus ticket. We checked-in our things in a locker in Sydney''s central station and proceded to Bondi. When we got there, we bought some food at a nearby 7-11 and went to Bondi beach to where we had our breakfast. The weather was so cold since it was winter then but we saw some people surfing the waves.

We also went to Paddy's Market in Chinatown to have our lunch and walk around the area. We returned to the train station where we took our showers and waited for our trip back home.

After 11 hours and sleeping in the train overnight, we finally arrived in Brisbane. We took a taxi bound for home in St. Lucia.

Note: This blog took more than 6 years to make. Always finding ways not to write about it, I finally found some time to finish it. Since the details of the  trip was based on memory, some of it may not be accurate. The trip took place from 22 June to 5 July 2005, winter time in Australia.

More photos of our two-week trip may be viewed here.


Beng Gee said...

Wahhh.. this post makes me miss Australia. We were there in 2002 but was able to see only Sydney and Canberra. It was October when we were there but still kinda cold. Experienced colorful springtime in Canberra. Really lovely! I wish we were able to get to explore Aus. the way you did. Your kind of adventure was sure to be nothing but fun and excitement. Kelan kaya namin magawa yun?

Beautiful photos! Thanks and ingat!

Batangala said...

thanks beng. the trip to several places in australia wouldn't have been possible where it not for that train pass as we were really short of funds then and budget fares from jetstar and virgin blue were not yet available. having friends from said places also helped us save a lot in terms of accommodations.