Australia – Down Under in Sydney and Cairns

08.03. – 14.03.17

At the beginning of our planning for the great trip, Australia was definitely on our list of countries we wanted to visit. At some point we even thought about doing a similar road trip as in NZ! Over the time, however we actually changed plans and even wanted to skip Australia – what a big mistake we would have done!! 🙂

Early in the morning we land in Sydney and take the incredible expensive train (17AUD for a 10min ride…thank you airport tax) to the central station. Our hostel is only a 3min walk from there, so we drop off the backpacks and wanna see the city. Surprisingly, tells us it is only 20min walking distance to Martin Place, the business district, where we wanna meet Jakubs friend Tomas. For some reason we thought Sydney is so big that we would have to take the train every time we wanna go somewhere. 😉 We also mistakenly thought that it must be always hot and dry in Sydney – wrong. 🙂 The weather was actually super nice, with a fresh breeze. Tomas takes us to the next coffee shop, where Ellen orders Nutella Cappuccino (yuuuuummyyyy) and he tells us that Sydney has a very good coffee culture, mainly because the citizens don’t hesitate to return a coffee when it’s not as they expected it to be. Good to know and indeed, the coffee is so good! We make our way through the business men and women, wearing suits and dresses (soon we will be one of them again, scary ;)) and through the lunchtime athletes, taking a run. And there we are, at the harbor with its famous harbor bridge and the opera building – wow! On TV it does look bigger, we have to admit… 😀 Just kidding, we are really impressed and love the view.

We learn from Tomas that the train is actually not as expensive as our first investment – within the center you usually pay around 3$ and never more than 15$ a day. The guys are hungry which is why we go back to the business district and thanks to Tomas, eat in a very moderate priced Asian food corner. You just need to know where to go. 🙂

2:30pm, our free walking tour starts! We begin the tour at the Town Hall and are at least 30 people in the group! Next stop: Queen Victoria Building, a small mall with a big clock on the ceiling. Every full hour the clock reveals its inside, shooting historical moments in the UK history.

At the harbor, our guide tells us that the Opera building is supposed to look like sails in the wind, which it indeed does, and that a Danish architecture won the proposal. However, on the opening procedure of the opera, his name wasn’t even mentioned because the Australian government cancelled his contract due to cost saving measures some time before being done.

The next day we want to spend mainly at the harbor, so we first have a walk through the botanical garden close to it. From there, we have an amazing view on the harbor bridge! Walking along the sea we are glad that we had not skipped Australia, especially Sydney. Though it is huge, the air is not polluted by emissions, it is clean and we feel good here…

Next stop: Darling harbor. Here are most of the famous attractions located, such as the Aquarium, Zoo, Madame Tussauds,…we decide to not spend money on anything there, but visit Chinatown and have a small lunch there. Since our hostel is, to be honest, a big s#$* hole and we wanna spend as less time as possible there, we go to the shopping center around the corner and enjoy good WiFi. 😉

A new day, a new plan. We really wanna take one of the ferries here in Sydney, so we decide to spend a day in Manly, which is on the opposite side of Sydney harbor. As we cruise out of the harbor and into the Tasman Sea, for a couple of minutes it gets pretty wild on the boat, waves are crashing and we experience the open ocean – shaky! After 30min we arrive at Manly, a pretty cool beach town with tons of souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes. At the beach we watch the surfers for a while and then walk to the North Head, a remote part of the island. Again, we have a spectacular view on the Sydney skyline. On our scale from 1 – 10, meaning „could we imagine to live here or not?“, we agree that Sydney is a 9.5. 😉

Back on the ferry, we arrive on time for the sunset and enjoy the orange-yellow-read background of the bridge and Opera. We discover that next to the opera building, hidden underground is a bar and so we get a cider and white wine with the moon rising above the opera…life is beautiful.

Unfortunately, 3 days in Sydney have come to an end and we board the airplane to Cairns. Within 2 hours we arrive in a different time zone and yap, a different climate: hot hot hot! Our hostel is seriously in the middle of the city center, perfect. 🙂 We decide to grab some food and end up, for the first time in our lives, in a Sushi train restaurant! For everyone who doesn’t know what it is 🙂 : you sit at the bar close to a tiny conveyor belt on which small sushi portions on plates drive by! Whatever you feel like you grab and pay according to the color of the plate (3$, 3.50$,..). So cool!! Ellen is so excited that she’d like to eat everything, so Jakub needs to calm her down and plan strategically. 😀 Additionally to the very good sushi, we decide to try something crazy: alligator and kangaroo meat! It’s only a small portion and surprisingly, the kangaroo is very soft whereas alligator tastes like fish. 😉

We try to sleep early because tomorrow we have big plans: the Great Barrier Reef is waiting for us! Cairns is a perfect starting point for the reef, which is mainly the reason why we came here. At 8am the next day we board the „SeaQuest“, a huge Catamaran bringing us to the reef for a whole day snorkel trip. The tour we booked on and got a great deal on it. 😉 After the morning coffee on the boat, we get our snorkel equipment and a wet suit…we’re wondering why we need to wear that, since we expected the water to be warm. Our guide explains that the water is warm like a bathtub, but the yellow thing on the sky called „sun“ can burn us terribly which is why we should protect us…makes sense. 😀

The first snorkel spot looks great from outside and even better in the water. We learn that the Great Barrier Reef is separated in different layers: the inner, inner-outer, and outer layer, which is the furthest from Cairns harbor. Since a lot of trips cruise around the inner layer, most of the reef unfortunately was destroyed. We are lucky with our boat, because they take us to sport on the inner-outer reef, very close to the outer reef. And yes, the 2nd snorkel spot is a variety of different reef colors, corals, colorful fish in every size, fascinating! We feel like in another world and hover above the wonderful underwater world…everything looks so calm and natural. Wow. This trip was worth every penny.

We’re hungry from all the „strenuous“ snorkeling, which is why we decide to meet up with Marie and Frank, a Dutch couple who we met on the boat, for dinner. 🙂 Guess where we end up? In a German Brauhaus! 😀 After 8 months travelling, we have our first Bratwurst, Jägerschnitzel and Radler, haha. It was pretty tasty, to be fair – home sweet home is calling. 😉

The next day we had literally no plans, except for chilling in the lagoon with Frank and Marie. 🙂 The lagoon is located at the beachfront in Cairns, but since Cairns does not have a nice beach, they built a huge public pool! This is were you can handle the hot sun the best.

Spontaneously while we stroll along the shopping street, Ellen decides to get her ear pierced – not only one, but two new piercings, just a small souvenir from Australia. 😉 Tonight we wanna try our meal vouchers from the hostel and hence, eat at P.J.O’Briens, an Irish Pub. Marie and Frank join us and we have a great dinner, a couple of beers and a good talk. 🙂 Since this was our last evening together, we say goodbye only to find out that we fly to Cambodia on the same date!! We’ll definitely meet again!

Our last day in Cairns we wanted to spend with something typical Australian, which is to us wild animals and kangaroos! 🙂 Our flight only leaves in the evening, and so we do an afternoon trip to „Hartleys Crocodile Farm“. The whole area is pretty big and well arranged – the first resident we meet is Paul, a monstrous crocodile! The park has to keep him without other animals, because Paul is, according to the caretaker, a psychopath and total alpha male – he would basically kill everyone else…ooookay, we better keep distance to the fence….

At 2pm we start a river cruise. On a river crowded with crocodiles. Holy moly. To give us a good show, the animals are being fed with chickens and literally jump out of the water! The noise of the jaws snapping for food is unbelievable creepy.

After this crazy cruise, we need something sweet and fluffy, so we feed kangaroos! 🙂 They have a whole area (of course separated from the crocs) where they walk freely and lie around, so cool. We also feed small wallabies with fresh veggies and fruit – a great encounter with these animals.

To get our airport shuttle and be on time, we leave the farm at around 5pm and make our way to the city to catch the shuttle. Next stop: Bali! 🙂 Interestingly, at the Check In counter we are being asked for an exit ticket for Bali…several backpackers in front of us don’t have any and need to book some random flight out of Bali. Not us, since we are old stagers in travelling, we had booked a flight to Cambodia 😉 But now we’re super excited to discover Bali!


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