Philip and I went to Sydney with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law (co-sister would be the Indian expression). We had a purpose as well as a purpose for the purpose behind this visit.
Our purpose was to visit some of our relatives we had not seen in a long time and see a bit of the city too, this being our first visit to Australia.
Our purpose for the purpose was that my brother-in-law and sister-in-law needed to re-enter New Zealand in order to extend their stay in New Zealand. What better way than to cross the Tasman Sea and, meet up with the pleasantest of companies, and experience our giant neighbour across the ditch .
In 1975, in V Standard in Baldwin Girls High School (Bangalore), we had a lovely glossy-paged geography text book with the most beautiful pictures. A big chunk of the book was to do with Australia, and the teacher taught it well. Finally, after 43 years, I was going to see this great country, albeit from the vantage point of Sydney, and perhaps I would get to see a kangaroo or two and a duck-billed platypus.
At the end of each day that we spent in Australia, I made some quick notes. The rest of this post will comprise these notes and some pictures. After all, this blog is for me to remember. Each photo here and each sentence will, I am sure, jog a whole reel of moving visuals in my mind, whenever I come back to this post. What a wonderful time it was, especially meeting family and making new friends.
Day 1: TO SYDNEY AT LAST
We caught the early-morning flight to Sydney from Auckland. The Jetstar flight was so uneventful that the only thing we could gripe about was that the volume of the intercom was almost painfully loud.
Hulda came to the airport to pick us up and took us to the home of Kiron and Sumi. After some brief introductions, we felt as if we had known them all our lives.
After lunch and a rest, Kiron took us to the Westfield mall.
I was looking for a coat but ended up buying a pair of canvas shoes for 15 dollars. Good thing too, because we would end up doing more walking than we anticipated.
Ashok, Achu, and Ashu came to see us later in the evening. Such a joy!
We would enjoy the hospitality of Kiron and Sumi in their home for two days.
Day 2: KATOOMBA WITH KIRON
Sumi had to go to work, and so we left with Kiron who was our guide for the day.
Our first stop was at Wentworth Falls in the Blue mountains, where we did a small trek. Good thing we left Philip seated at the start of the trail, as it would have aggravated his back injury further had he walked with us.
It did remind us a little of our visit to the Grand Canyon.
Boys will be boys, I suppose. We came to this somewhat-dangerous ledge.
Naturally Surendar annan wanted to stand on it — and be photographed.
And then Kiron too (sigh)
I offered to take a safer photo of their precariousness.
And fell in love with this fearless little visitor in the process. Can you see him?
While the walk was a bit tiring, the views of the Wentworth Falls and its surrounds were spectacular.
And Philip had been patiently waiting for us.
Next, we went to a pretty little town called Leura where we had lunch in one of the restaurants.
We wonder if Kiron is tired, what with all this driving.
Scenic World in Katoomba was next.
We would get to go on the skyway, the railway, and the cableway.
Here we are as we enter the Skycar.
This is Vino taking a picture from the Skycar.
I clicked a picture of the Skycar after we disembarked.
The railway at Scenic World claims to be the steepest railway in the world.
We had a look at the train as it came up into the station.
And then it was our turn. Not too bad an experience, and the ride was short.
This railway was built to transport coal.
The view was pretty awesome and you could see the Three Sisters from almost anywhere in Scenic World.
We also got to ride the Cablecar.
And the Skycar once again. Pity the glass was not very clear, but I had the tops of tall trees under my feet.
After we left Scenic World, Kiron took us to a lookout to get a closer look at the Three Sisters. He even told me the legend about the Three Sisters and how they were turned to stone by a witch doctor who meant to reverse the spell but got killed before he could do so in the battle instigated by the girls’ lovers.
On our way back we stopped at Bunnings to pick up a basic garden arch to replace a munted one in my garden in Auckland. For some reason Bunnings in NZ does not stock these.
When we returned, it was good to see Sumi, who provided us with a lovely meal.
Our thoughts and conversations were then dominated by the predicament of my nephew in Auckland who would be denied a work visa in New Zealand unless we did something about it quickly. So we went to bed only after praying about this matter and helping with his letter to Immigration.
Day 3: CANBERRA WITH ASHOK
Ashok picked us up from Kiron and Sumi’s place and drove us to Canberra, 250 km away. During this drive, I was able to work on the immigration matter by connecting my phone to the mobile hotspot in Ashok’s phone. We were also hearing great news of God’s provision in this matter at the Auckland end—about how all the required documents were coming together. Once my nephew had made the submission to Immigration, there was nothing more to do, save to rest our case in the Lord’s good hands. For us to do today was to enjoy this wonderful outing.
From the moment we entered Canberra, several things about this little city, with its parliament focus, would remind us of Washington DC.
Our first stop was at the Old Parliament building. It was informative and interesting. We learned that the system of government was similar to that of the British with the Lower and Upper houses but with words borrowed from the American system of Government such as House of Representatives and Senate.
This photo was taken inside the House of Representatives; the person you see close to the camera was our guide. As I knew so little about Australian politics, I could not understand a whole lot. Wish Prisy had been here.
The horseshoe arrangement follows the arrangement in the British Parliament. I believe this would be the case in India and New Zealand and other countries of the Common Wealth.
Can you see the Speaker’s chair in the picture below, with its fancy carved canopy? This is a replica of the Speaker’s chair in the House of Commons at Westminster. This heavily carved chair with many symbols was a gift from Britain and ‘represents the ties between England and Australia and reflects a history of continuity through the inherited Westminster system of Parliament.’
Surendar annan was able to sit on a replica of THE replica of the Speaker’s Chair.
This photo was taken in the Prime Minister’s office. It was interesting to see what offices looked like only a few decades ago, with fax machines and typewriters.
Then this was the Cabinet room.
Posing with King George V in the King’s Hall in the Old Parliament Building in Canberra. [I don’t know how it is with other Indians, but I left India with little knowledge about the Kings and Queens of England. So to wrap my head around who King George V is, I now have to place him as the dad of the King in the movie King’s Speech. Another way to place this king is to put him between the two great queens I know of, Queen Victoria (Empress of India) and the today’s Queen Elizabeth. Thus this King George V is the grandson of the former and the granddad of the latter. ]
Below you can see the hall where the Senate (Upper House) used to meet. We noted that this was as red as the House of Representatives is green.
This photo is taken from the entrance of the Old Parliament building. Although it looks the picture of contentment and peace from here, the photo after this, taken from across the road, tells a different story.
Activists of Aboriginal Tent Embassy protesting across the road from the Old Parliament House.
Ashok googled and found a good Malayali restaurant called Binny’s Kathitto, where the food was simply brilliant.
Walking in Canberra CBD.
We then went to the new Parliament Building—Parliament House on Capitol Hill—and took some pictures. Vino and Surendar Annan reach for the flag.
A couple of magpies play
Funny to see them getting their feathers ruffled in the wind.
Next we went on top of the opposite hill to get another view of the Old Parliament building. You might be able to see it from between our heads in the photo below. I think this lookout is called Mt Ainslie Lookout, in which case there is more to observe from here than we bothered about.
Our last stop was the War Memorial, which helps keep alive the memory of Australians who died in war.
As we got off the car outside the War Memorial, I heard a very strange bird call. Sumi had told me that Kookaburras sound like the laughing of an old woman. Just when I was wondering if I had finally heard a Kookaburra, I saw this amazing scene of a hundred parrots in the shade of a tree.
By this time, Philip was clearly in pain, but coping.
An exhibit mentioning New Zealand.
This is the kind of museum that Philip would have loved spending time in but could not because of the pain. He will have to visit Canberra another time. We watched a show about the night of 31 May – 1 June 1942 when three Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour.
The long walls on either side of the first floor overlooking the Pool of Remembrance, bear the Roll of Honour with all the names of fallen soldiers.
Every evening at closing time, a Last Post Ceremony is held and the story of one of the names on the Honour Roll is told and the families of the person lay wreathes. It was interesting to watch.
On our way home we stopped at MacDonalds in Goulburn not far from the Big Merino for a hot drink.
The hero of the day was Ashok who did all that driving.
We will now be staying with Ashok and Hulda for the remaining days in Sydney.
Day 4: REST AND A BIRTHDAY
As the pain in Philip’s leg became worse overnight, we dropped our plans to go to the city. We made an appointment with the physio who discovered that the problem was not with the sciatic nerve at all but with the femoral nerve. [When we got back to Auckland, another doctor explained that the term ‘Sciatica’ is often used in a generic sense. ] To relieve Philip of the intense pain and give the nerve opportunity to heal, the physiotherapist used a therapy called Amino Neuro Frequency. This therapy involved placing little round patches on the painful spots. The relief was amazingly immediate and the pain came down drastically to a bearable level. [Later, I found that this treatment is looked upon with considerable skepticism. I am merely noting down our experience, and we do not need to doctor truth to make neat stories.]
Still the pain was significant and constant. So Philip did not come out with us in the evening for Kiron’s Birthday.
We made a stop at Udaya Stores where I unexpectedly picked up an idly cooker. We then proceeded to Kiron’s birthday party at Chatkazz.
Chatkazz is an Indian restaurant on this street, which is full of Indian eating places. We had things like chat, pav bhaji and chole-bature and finished off with sweet paan. Among the new people I met this evening, I would get to know more of Aaron Albert and his mum Sandhya on Day 5.
Day 5: SYDNEY CBD WITH KIRON AND ASHU (AND ASHOK AND HULDA)
Leaving Philip at home to rest, again with Achu keeping watch, we went to the city with our two expert guides Kiron and Ashu. We were joined by Sumi’s friends Sandhya and Aaron at the train station.
We went to the city by train,
And took what seemed like a long walk to Darling Harbour, where we went to Wild Life Sydney and Madame Tussaud’s wax museum.
At Wild Life Sydney, we got to see many of the animals unique to this country, the very ones I had learned about in school.
Colourful frogs, lizards, and snakes
I could never write about a kookaburra without thinking of my mother, who first taught me the popular Girl-Guides song: Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree / Merry merry king of the bush is he / Laugh kookaburra laugh / Kookaburra gay your life must be.
Wallabies, which are similar to kangaroos but much smaller
Cassowaries, real and otherwise
Kangaroos real and otherwise
The duckbilled platypus was much smaller than I had imagined and quite plain. But I did catch a glimpse of it. Because of the cuteness factor, koalas seem to have special status here. I did not ever get to see a koala’s face.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum was next. The original museum is in London. Many major cities around the world have a smaller version of it, like this one in Sydney. Even New Delhi got its Madame Tussauds in 2017.
It took us a bit of walking to find Mac Donald’s, where we were joined by Ashok who accompanied us to Paddy’s Market.
We were joined by seagulls and these ibises. I don’t think I have ever seen an ibis before. Sad to say, I think they are ugly birds.
Paddy’s Market is very similar to China Town on Ti Rakau Drive in Auckland. But of course in Sydney you’d expect to get souvenirs like Kangaroo soft toys, boomerangs and so on.
From there we took a short train trip till we reached the station closest to the Opera House where we met Hulda. Hulda got us to take the needed photos of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Boy, is she an organiser!
We then went to the Botanical Garden where we took the train tour. After walking all day, it was bliss to sit down and simply look at the passing scenes. I am pleased to report to South Aucklanders that our own Botanical Gardens compares well with the Sydney one.
We returned to the station to take the train home stopping at Guylian for hot chocolate.
We boarded the train home. What a full-on day this turned out to be!
Later, we went to the Kannadys’ for dinner.
After we returned home, Sumi, Kiron, Sandya and Aaron came to say goodbye close to bedtime.
Ashok dropped us off at the airport in good time.
Although our flight was delayed by nearly an hour, we had much to be thankful for, especially for Philip being able to manage the pain and for the wheelchair that we were provided with at the airport. We reached Auckland in the afternoon.
Sydney was nice and reminded me of the US with its wide roads. I think Australia’s birds are much more beautiful than ours and the Kangaroos, Wallabies, and Koalas were cool. But it is good to be back home in New Zealand where the grass is actually greener and there are no snakes.
This visit was not so much about the place as it was about the people we spent our time with. I must especially mention Kiron and Sumi as well as Ashok, Hulda, Achu and Ashu, who were wonderful hosts, opening up their homes to us. They took time off for us and showed us around and very often paid for tickets and the rest. May the Lord bless them for their kindness.