Well the festive period has passed in a blur, probably unsurprisingly and the whirlwind pace of life on the Australian leg of our trip shows no sign of slowing down. Natalie has been and gone, having left us at Brisbane along with Thomas and they’re now both safely back in the UK. Sydney has also come and gone and the remaining three of us are currently in Queensland on our journey up the east coast towards Cairns.
The girls arrived as planned within 2 hours of each other on Christmas morning with no delays to speak of and in plenty of time for the traditional Wright family Christmas Day breakfast which included, of course, some Bucks Fizz. The official opening of the presents under the Christmas tree (artificial tree courtesy of our AirBnB host) was followed by a walk along the coastal path from nearby Clovelly Beach to Coogee Beach – a very popular walk on Christmas Day. We had a short time among the throngs on the beach, splashing in the surf, before the return walk along the coastal path and home for a barbequed seafood dinner. Coogee Beach and the surrounding picnic areas were absolutely packed and getting busier as the day wore on, with no sign of the no alcohol policy being enforced. A large proportion of the revellers appeared to be from the UK and it was slightly amusing to observe their dismay as they discovered that the convenience stores in Australia don’t sell alcohol; only the Bottle Shops do and none of them were open! Back at our AirBnB the day fizzled out early as we struggled to eat our seafood Christmas dinner with the combined effects of wine and jet lag taking their toll.
Boxing Day began with Natalie, Faye and Ian leaving the other two slumbering whilst they went off in search of coffee then on the way back coming across the beautiful Waverly Cemetery high on the hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Boxing Day lunch consisted of barbequed lobster tails on Clovelly Beach whilst watching the Sydney to Hobart yachts sailing past and then it was back up the steep hill to Randwick for a traditional Christmas turkey dinner followed by the mandatory card games.
There was no time to rest the following day as we had to vacate our rented home and transfer to our next one, another AirBnB this time across to the north of Sydney in Fairlight, next to Manly. Unfortunately there was no room for all of us in the car due to the large amount of leftover food and booze so the girls travelled there by bus and ferry. We had the luxury of a whole week in this amazing house which was huge with a bedroom for each of us and a den/cinema complex in the basement. The house was at the top of a steep hill and a short walk to the centre of Manly so the rental car had a rest for that week.
Although we had a whole week there, it disappeared very quickly as we had no trouble filling our days. Needless to say, the famous Manly Beach and its surf culture absorbed much of our time although we limited ourselves to body boards – the waves were a bit too ferocious for beginners like us to try full-size surf boards. Then there was the Manly to Spit Bridge Walk, almost 10km along the coast through some national parklands, with great views of Sydney Harbour and ending up passing some multi-million dollar beach-side homes. The following day we took the ferry into Sydney where we met Ian’s aunt and uncle for lunch and then did the mandatory tourist walk around the famous Sydney landmarks before meeting Natalie’s friend, Belinda, for drinks at the Opera House. Drinks were followed by dinner and more drinks and a late ferry home followed by a trudge up the steep hill from the Manly ferry terminal to our digs.
Before we knew it New Year’s eve had arrived and with it our much anticipated boat trip out to the harbour for the grandstand view of the famous Sydney fireworks. We had worked out that not everybody on the boat was going to be lucky with that view so, bearing in mind how much we’d paid for our tickets, we determined to be first in the queue to be sure of the pick of the deck spots. The Manly Fast Ferry company had advised us that it was OK to bring our own booze but, at the same time, to be careful of the strict local laws about consumption of alcohol in public places. So there we were, on the quayside at 8pm, nearly 2 hours before departure, with our cool-bags packed with beer, wine and ice, swigging pre-mixed gin & tonic from a lemonade bottle! We weren’t alone in our firework viewing strategy as we were soon joined by an American family also with cool-bags and drinking wine from disguised containers. Sydney harbour was absolutely packed with boats of all shapes and sizes and our one spent about an hour and a half slowly meandering around the other moored vessels, keeping everybody guessing as to which side of the boat to position themselves on. In the end our choice of deck space was a winner as, when the boat finally came to rest for the start of the fireworks, our corner ended up having the best view of the display. So it was a very happy and slightly tipsy Wright family that ended up back at Manly wharf at around 1 am, drinks in hand only to be accosted by a thin blue line of the Manly police force who were removing drinks from the hands of the returning revellers and pouring them out at their feet. The festivities were well and truly over!
New Year’s Day was pretty much wiped out by the after-effects of the previous night, although we did again manage some beach time. We then had one more day to enjoy the beach before it was time to pack up and get an early night ready for the start of our long road trip up to Cairns. The first segment of this trip was from Sydney to Noosa Heads just north of Brisbane and we broke the journey at Coffs Harbour, a rather non-descript beachside town on the New South Wales coast. The weather had turned by now and most of the journey was undertaken in the rain as was most of our stay at Noosa Heads.
Noosa itself is a chic and very popular seaside/surf town and the rain did abate long enough for us to have a walk in the local national park in an (unsuccessful) attempt to spot Koalas. We were joined for the day by our nephew, Ben and his girlfriend Sarah, both of whom are studying in Brisbane. They joined us back at the AirBnB for a barbeque and ended up staying the night on the sofas – which ended up getting us into trouble with the AirBnB host!
After our very brief visit to Noosa it was time for another early start, back down to Brisbane where we had to leave Natalie and Thomas at the airport for the start of their respective journeys back to England. After saying our goodbyes we turned the car north again towards our next destination – Fraser Island.
Then there were three!