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Date: 23 Jan 2013 12:44:08
Title: Sydney Sightseeing and Back to Pittwater - 33 38.419S 151 17.144E

Came back up to our buoy at Pittwater the weekend before last and have started to get on with the work we want to do on the boat. However, before leaving we had another week of Sydney sightseeing, including going up the Sydney Tower Eye (fantastic 360 degree views of Sydney), the Zoo (a lovely setting), the Aquarium (the best we have seen) and seeing a show (Blaze) at the Sydney Opera House. Sydney is a lovely city, particularly in the summer sun. The Sydney Festival started on 5th January and continues on to 26th January, which is Australia Day, so there's lots going on. We loved the waterside areas - full of ferries and people coming and going, or just standing and watching the street entertainers. We really enjoyed our 'holiday' there. But it was time to go, so with a favourable forecast we headed back under the Bridge, passed the Opera House and headed out through Sydney Heads to the open sea and headed back north, all of 18 miles or so to Pittwater.
 
The weather here has been quite strange (or at least it is to us). While the interior of the country is having one of it's hottest ever heatwaves, the temperatures on the coast are very dependent on which way the wind is blowing. If from the south or southeast it tends to be around 20 degrees; if from the north or northeast it's around 25 degrees, but if it's from the west or northwest it gets up well above 30 degrees as the wind is blowing from the hot interior.  We had northwesterly wind last Friday and Sydney and this area of the New South Wales coast recorded it's hottest ever day - 45.8 degrees! There wasn't a warm wind blowing, it was a hot wind. So having had the wettest Christmas Day in Sydney for 70 years, we've now had the hottest day on record! However, the temperature in Sydney dropped to 18 degrees the following day and it rained - so it dropped 27.8 degrees in 24 hours. We spent most of Friday shopping, which may seem strange, but the shops all have air conditioning so if you couldn't be on the beach and in the water, the shops weren't a bad place to be. When we got back the temperature in the boat was 37 degrees (having been closed up with all the curtains drawn to keep the sun out). But a southerly change came through at around 17.00 and 2 hours later the temperature inside the boat had fallen to a nice 25 degrees. At 18 degrees the following evening we put the boat heating on!

Before the southerly change we had a thunderstorm with lightning down to ground. Shortly afterwards smoke started to rise above the trees and a bush fire was burning, probably 3 miles or so away in the National Park that surrounds the western side of the Pittwater inlet. It was the other side of the hills so we couldn't see the flames, but from the billowing clouds of black/grey smoke, it was clear that it was getting bigger. Then helicopters arrived, one with a water tank which it used to douse the fire. Once it had dropped the water (which we couldn't see) it came over the hill to Pittwater, lowered  a big suction hose to fill the tank and off it went again back to the fire. This carried on for several hours into the evening. It seemed to work as there was little smoke in the morning. Then we heard on the radio that New South Wales had 120 bush fires burning, 17 of which were still out of control. It's just as bad, if not worse down in Victoria where one of the fires out of control was expected to burn for the next 2 weeks! For bush, read forest - it's not just scrub, it's quite thickly wooded, at least it is up here.

 The first job back at Pittwater was to clean the bottom of the boat. Since arriving in Australia the fouling has been worse than Fiji and it took 2 full scuba tanks to get it clean. It really needs a 3rd go at it, but when taking our tanks into a dive shop in Mona Vale we found out that scuba tanks in Australia have to be hydrostatically tested every year and that will take over a week. In New Zealand it was every 2 years and I seem to remember that in the UK it was more like 4 or 5 years. So once a year at $50 a tank seems excessive. Finding clear water to clean the bottom was a challenge in Pittwater. We did the cleaning over 2 days and tried different places, but in both cases I couldn't see the bow from the stern when in the water. It was clear enough to clean, but in these waters it's nice to see what else might be lurking around you. They do have a shark net in one of the bays inside the Pittwater inlet!  
 
We've put up loads of pictures of the outside of the Sydney Opera
House, but this is what it looks like on the inside in the Concert Hall
where we went to see Blaze (a modern dance spectacular).
 
Pictures from the highest building in Sydney - the Sydney Tower Eye. The Sydney Heads, the
entrance to the harbour, is just right of middle in the distance. So this is the route we had to take
when sailing into the harbour. 
 
Looking north, with the bridge to the left of the high building and the Opera House just visible to
the right.
 
Looking northwest, and our mooring buoy is almost visible just left of middle (if you have a very
powerful telescope!).
 
Looking down on Darling Harbour. Note the yellow object just behind the warship at the Maritime
Museum. All will become clear later!
 
 
 
This is it, the Sydney Tower Eye - 1,014ft (309 metres) high. It looks very top
heavy. It did in 2001 when we first saw it and decided not to go up, but on the
basis it had stayed up for another 11 years, we thought it would probably last one
more day, so up we went!
 
In the viewing gallery at the top.
 
The Taronga Zoo. Although the spelling is different, having stayed in Tauranga in New Zealand for
10 months we sort of felt we ought to go. It's in a wonderful setting up the side of a hill overlooking
the harbour and city. The cable cars make it easy - you ride up to the top and take your time
walking down.
 
Probably the best view in the house, if you have a long neck to see over the trees!
 
 
 
That's what people who don't have boats keep asking us - what do you do all day? It seems
kangaroos get a lot more rest than we do!
 
Off to the Aquarium and a manatee swims over the top of the tunnel you walk through within the
tank. It is one of the best aquariums we have seen and it helped us make a decision on where to go
from here, but more on that another time.
 
Walking through the shark tank gave a chance to study the sharp end much closer than you ever
want to in the wild! We have swam with sharks in the water, and coming close, but although they
were quite big, they were white tip or black tip reef sharks which are generally not aggressive.
And they were below us, not on top! 
 
The live reef systems were very colourful. 
 
A sawfish. Not something we have seen before.........
 
... and looking up underneath it. Quite a smile! This one was resting on top of the walk-through tunnel.
 
Back to the yellow object -  and the start of the Sydney Festival.
 
There it is again - creeping up behind us!
 
The Festival started with the giant duck entering Darling Harbour and it will remain there until
the end of the festival on 26th January - Australia Day. It reminded us of the container full of
little toy ducks that went overboard from a ship years ago. The container broke open and ducks
floated free and helped map out world currents as they turned up in the most unexpected places.
 
Another giant cruise liner docked in front of the bridge. It's very convenient for seeing the sights
of Sydney.
 
Closer to home, from our mooring back in Pittwater. Hot Friday when the temperature went up
to a record 45.8 degrees. A few flashes of lightning and a fire bush fire started.
 
Not in the zoo, but just on a garden bush next to the pavement as we walked past. This one and .....
 
....................its mate, tucking into the nectar on this bottlebrush (or similar).
 
Double-Decker trains! The  local Sydney trains are all like this.
 
The doors are midway between floors, so you either go downstairs or upstairs to sit. With no car
we're getting good at traveling on the buses, trains and ferries. On a trip this Monday we went on
3 buses, 4 trains and 1 ferry!
 
 
 

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