NEW SOUTH WALES
2 February 2002 to 11 February 2002
After Canberra we crossed the Great Dividing Range, driving southeast along the King’s Highway to the coast. Australian highways are main roads, with towns, traffic lights and turnoffs. We arrived at Bateman’s Bay, a pretty town at the mouth of the Clyde River. We stopped to buy lunch – not fish and chips, our staple - but delicious home-smoked trout and oysters. Oysters again? Well, there is an oyster farm nearby and at the outlet freshly shucked oysters were Au$5.00 (about US$2.50) a dozen. We ate in a park by the river, as usual delighting in the power plays of the gulls as they maneuver themselves hoping for crumbs. Did I ever mention that many places have municipal barbecues, usually gas, that are free? Also there are plentiful, free and very clean public toilets. You can pee anywhere and be assured of paper!
We stopped overnight at Kiama, famous for its blowhole. We swam in
the sea rockpool with waves that sent a foaming waterfall into the pool
with a surprising amount of force.
We saw a flock of Galahs, a kind of Cockatoo, feeding in the grass so absorbed that I could’ve touched them. We shall never cease to be amazed at the variety and abundance of birdlife here.
The following morning, before we left, we went for a final time to the blowhole and this time were satisfied by the blasts. Water fireworks are the only way to describe them. We could have happily stayed the whole day. But why the fascination? The power of nature?
When we arrived in Sydney, Ilana and Leo Dubb fetched us and we went out for supper. Although they have been here for many years they don’t call it tea like the locals do. Some of you may know Ilana as a Rubenstein from Durban – Anthony’s last girlfriend before we started to go out. Memories!
On our first night in Sydney it began to rain. I finally knew what is the downside to being in a motorhome. Have you ever slept with your head in a bucket next to a waterfall with the clattering drops echoing in your head? Well neither had we until that night or at least that's how best I can describe the incessant rain we had all night. The sound is not unpleasant, just very loud. All I could think of at 6.00am was how was I going to keep awake that night at the Sydney Opera to hear a totally new opera (to us) Katya Kabanova by Janacek.
We arrived in the city without any clear idea where to go. We could see the impressive Opera House but couldn't see how to get there. It was now raining in buckets – like movies where they hold a hosepipe over someone – the streets were flooded and we were quite miserable. In the end we took a taxi for the few hundred meters to the Opera House. Dripping wet, we plonked ourselves down at the very posh Guillame Restaurant in the Opera House with a wonderful view of the sheeting rain and little else. Supper was outrageously expensive by Australian standards but we didn’t care – it was dry, the main course was a normal portion and the food was good.
We saw three operas in three nights. Katya Kabanova and The Marriage
of Figaro were conducted by Simone Young, one of the few top women
conductors; she was outstanding, especially in Mozart.
Only in the third opera, Faust by Gounod, were the sets elaborate; the first two had curtains and minimal props.
The music by Janacek was lyrical and I would love to hear it in symphonic form without the operatic bits. Faust was dramatic and we were swept up by the excellent performance. The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart was magnificent. The singers were all splendid. But the real difference was the outstanding acting, real acting, that added a different dimension and made it not only opera but excellent theatre as well. We had last seen Figaro in Prague, without surtitles, and all we could see were people going in and out of doors all the time and it was rather bewildering.
During the intermission the rain finally stopped and the skies were crystal clear. There is a huge promenade area outside the opera and it was magical outside.
We did some entertaining in our caravan when David and Sheryl Levy, Eitan’s cousins, came for lunch. It was with pride that we were able to serve up a very nice meal around a tuna and apple salad, homemade pilchard-anchovies (from our visit to Lake's Entrance ) with potatoes and yogurt and a delicious cheesecake that they brought. It was nice seeing David again and getting to know Sheryl. We sat and talked for hours until it was time for us to go to the opera again.
On our fifth day the rain turned to drizzle so I went to the Art Gallery of NSW. It has a wide collection of Australian art, as well as an extensive collection of Aboriginal artists with three huge paintings by Rover Thomas, considered the foremost and most expensive of the modern traditional artists. The paintings, somehow, even if they are only dots, are full of movement and energy and quite wonderful.
Eitan and I took the ferry across Sydney Harbour. Its size is impressive, but the weather didn’t show off its beauty. In Manly we saw the Aquarium, once part of the Coral World chain. Then we met David and Sheryl for dinner at Ribs and Rumps, a noisy, ex-South African owned restaurant, that served delicious and huge portions. We took no prisoners home and ate everything.
On our last day in Sydney the weather was fairly decent, and we decided we had to do something. We went to the Woolloomooloo wharf to Harry's Cafe de Wheels, famous for its meat pies. The pies were topped with mashed potatoes and peas and a puddle of gravy. We sat on the wharf edge and ate them. Since I usually don’t eat meat pies I couldn’t judge although they didn’t seem anything special. Eitan assures me that New Zealand pies are far better.
Congratulating ourselves on the fine weather and anticipating wonderful views we signed up to do the Bridge Climb, a walk over the topmost arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. With mounting excitement we put on the special bridgesuits, practiced hooking ourselves on and walking tethered up and down ladders and set out. Hooked on to a safety cord we walked along a catwalk for about 20 minutes to the pylon, where the upward walk with the views starts. Out of nowhere an electrical storm blew in and after waiting for about another 20 minutes, the walk was cancelled and in the absolutely pouring rain we walked back, pelted with hailstones the size of peach pips. It was a Great Disappointment.
In the evening Marty and Nikki
Davis and their children Ella, Tessa, Jedd and Luke came and took us to
the Stamford Hotel for a buffet dinner. We met Marty, the brother of
Richard Davis, in New Zealand at Jordan’s barmitzvah. We were
especially pleased that the whole family had come to meet us. When we
finally reach Cairns we’ll meet another family member.
The following morning we left Sydney for the Blue Mountains, determined to pick up the thread of our wonderful holiday, when an unexpected phone call changed our plans. ( Click here ).