Monday, October 11, 2010

Manly Jazz Festival and Darling Harbour Latin Fiesta

The October long weekend (1st weekend of October) saw a variety of activities across Sydney. I picked 2 of these to attend:
1. Manly Jazz Festival
Held across 6 stages in the beach suburb of Manly, this festival makes for a pleasant outing. On the ferry crossing from Circular Quay, I started talking with an elderly Aussie gentleman who has been living in the US for the last 30 years or so. He was thinking of coming back to Australia, and I enjoyed talking with him, hearing his experiences of Sydney from before he left for the US to the current economic scenario there.
The music at Manly was, as always, good. I listened to a school jazz band, a band from Queensland playing Latin jazz, and a solo artist who does not use any instruments! It made for an eclectic mix!

Latin Jazz inside a Church in Manly

2. Darling Harbour Latin Fiesta
The next day, Monday, I headed to Darling Harbour for the Latin Fiesta. It was a lovely, sunny, spring day, and the fiesta was well attended. Flamenco, tango, salsa, lambada, and Mexican pop, the festival had it all.
Stage at Darling Harbour

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Camping in the Royal National Park at Bonnie Vale

S and I went camping a couple of weekends ago at Bonnie Vale, which is within the Royal National Park.

The Royal National Park is the second oldest National Park in the world, and lies about 40 kms to the South of Sydney, along the Pacific Coast.

To reach our camping grounds, we took a ferry across Port Hacking, from Cronulla to Bundeena. The ferry crossing is an enjoyable part of the trip, in a smallish brightly coloured (in yellow and green) wooden ferry. As always, I was amazed at the cleanliness and clarity of the waters at Bundeena, which is not more than 50 kms from Sydney. One can see the sea bed a few metres below the surface, and all the marine life in the waters.

The camping site itself was about a 20 minute walk from the ferry wharf. Bonnie Vale camping ground is situated right alongside Port Hacking, and is part of the Royal National Park. There are a large number of camping sites marked and numbered on both sides of the road that passes through the site. We were at number 31, almost at the end of the road. Campsite 31 was a medium sized clearing at the base of a small hill. The site was a bit uneven, but we managed to set up our tent without much of an issue.

Being the end of autumn, the camp site was not very busy, and we enjoyed the late autumnal weather of blue skies and warm sun. After setting up the tent, we had our lunch of barbequed veggie patties, and set out exploring the site.

We had noticed a kayaking set up a few metres before the camp site, and we decided to kayak. It was a great experience to be out in a small kayak in the bay, though I was a bit wary of the speeding boats. After one minor adventure where I managed to run aground on a small beach, we completed our hour long kayaking session, and headed back to the tent for a cup of tea.

Preparing tea was an adventure in itself! We just could not get the camping stove we had purchased to work. After much fiddling around, we finally did succeed, by which time it was dark, and almost time for dinner!

We were wary of the cold at night, but, thankfully, it was not very cold, and we were prepared for it. We were woken early in the morning by the sounds of the birds, and awoke to another beautiful, sunny day. We went walking along a trail to a settlement nearby called Maianbar. The walk took us past some mangroves, where again, we could see a lot of marine life from the path.

After breakfast, it was time to pack up. While I was not very keen initially on the camping trip, I must admit that by the second day, I could very easily have stayed on longer, if I did not have to go to work! In the end, it was great that we managed this camping trip, before the onset of winter.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A few weekends back, we headed out to Bundeena, a small community at the edge of the Royal National Park to the South of Sydney. The travel to Bundeena involved a bus to Bondi Junction, train to Cronulla, and then a ferry. It did take some time, but it was well worth the effort.

The first thing that struck me was how clean the waters were, so close to such a large city. We could see right down to the bottom of the clear, green waters. The last time I had seen such water was in Lakshadweep.

Bundeena is nestled between the hills of the Royal National Park and the Pacific Ocean. We went on the Bundeena Art Trail, visiting the studios of resident artists. It was a beautiful day to be walking around, with the green hills of the Royal National Park in the background.

The only disappointment was the lack of great eating options. There were literally 3 cafes, struggling to cope with the large number of people who had made their way down on a beautiful winter's day. It took us nearly an hour to receive our basic lunch order. This was made even more apparent to us when we were back in Cronulla. We came across some what looked like great eating options there, and would much rather have had lunch in Cronulla, and then crossed over to Bundeena. But we will keep that for some other time!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Missing in Action!

It's been almost a year since the last post, and I have been fortunate to have been able to visit quite a few places in and around Sydney since. Some of the places we visited around Sydney are:
  • Palm Beach
  • Barrenjoey Lighthouse
  • Blue Mountains
  • Bowral
  • Nan Tien Temple (Unanderra)
  • Hawkesbury River
  • Bundeena
  • Sikh Gurdwara (Parklea)
  • Helensburgh
  • Balmoral
  • Jenolan Caves
Each of these places deserves their own entry, but I am not sure I will get around to doing that!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Rocks, Turkish Festival and the Opera House

We set out on a city sight seeing tour a couple of weekends back. After alighting from the bus at Circular Quay, we walked down to the area of the city called 'The Rocks', passing along the way, the Customs House.

The Rocks is one of the oldest parts of the city. We visited Cadman's Cottage, the oldest private house still standing in Sydney. Mind you, this is less than 200 hundred years old! It is situated on the western side of Circular Quay.

We then walked along The Rocks markets to the base of Sydney Harbour Bridge. This offered great views of Syndey Harbour and the Opera House. We then climbed up to the Observatory Park which gave us views out over the western part of the harbour.

We had Turkish food for lunch at The Rocks, and then walked back towards Circular Quay. There was a Turkish festival taking place at the Quay, with a live band playing foot tapping music, and food stalls all around. We had some great Turkish sweets and tea with the music playing in the background.

There was plenty of action at the Quay. There was a street performer who somehow squeezed herself into a tiny glass box. There was a musician strumming away on his guitar. There were also 2 aborigines playing the didgeridoo.

We then made our way (yet again!) to the Opera House. After the customary lap of the building, we headed back home.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Manly Jazz Festival

The first weekend of October is celebrated as Labour Day Weekend, with the following Monday being a public holiday. This is the time of numerous events across Sydney, one of which is the International Jazz Festival at Manly.

Manly is an ocean beach a few kilometres to the north of Syndey city. The best way to reach there is by ferry. I boarded the 12 noon ferry from Circular Quay on a grey, overcast Monday. I was on the port side of the ferry, and had good views over the bush covered slopes of Middle Head on Sydney Harbour.

The ferry wharf is on the inner, harbour side of Manly, from where it is a 10 minute walk along the pedestrian only 'Corso' to the ocean side beach. For the jazz festival, there were stages set up along the Corso, near the wharf and on the ocean beach. I started at the stage close to the wharf end of the Corso, and made my way up the Corso to the beach. By the time I reached the beach side stage, the sun had broken through the clouds, and it turned into a nice, fine afternoon.

After lunch of packed sandwiches, I set about exploring Manly. Walking south along Manly beach, one reaches South Steyne beach. This is a small beach backed into tree covered hills. There is a walking track up the hill, which leads on to look out points along the cliff. These provide wonderful views over Manly and the beaches running north along the Pacific Ocean, right up to Narrabeen. 

I then walked back, and by now, the sun was again behind clouds, and it started raining. But it didn't stop the jazz musicians from playing. The music continued to be good, and the crowds just as strong. Luckily, it didn't rain for long, and the sun came out again as I was listening to the last programme of the festival.

The ferry ride back was an experience, simply for the strong winds that made it almost impossible to stand on the bow of the boat. My eyes were watering from the winds, but it was worth it for the beautiful views of the Opera House and the skyline of Sydney city against a backdrop of the sun setting behind clouds.

The day ended with a train ride to Sydney Central followed by a bus ride back home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some typical Sydney (and Australian) sights

I would guess that if one were to ask people around the world what comes to their mind when they think of Syndey - the answers would be Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Cricket Ground (if the question were asked to Indians), and Bondi Beach. So let me write on these sights.

I first crossed the Harbour Bridge two weeks into my stay here. I was taking a train to North Sydney (across the harbour). The train starts its journey from Sydney Central station and quickly turns into an underground metro, before coming above ground just before the entrance to the Harbour Bridge. There are tow tracks that traverse the bridge, in addition to 8 lanes for car traffic, and separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians (the western side for cyclists and eastern for walkers). On the eastern side of the bridge, on the southern shore of the harbour, stands the Opera House. On this first day, though, it was raining, and the grey, gloomy weather did not really show off either the harbour or the Opera House in particularly good light.

My first close up view of Sydney Opera House came about one evening when I was in the city for some apppointments. As the Opera House is situated close to the place from where I had to board the bus to reach back home, I decided to visit this landmark building. The first thing that struck me as I walked around the building is its size. It is simply massive! The exterior of the building was influenced by the shape of the wind sails of the boats that ply the harbour, but the local Aborigines believe it's got an Oyster Shell appearance, and I agree with them. As I was there in the evening, I sat down for a while and was able to get a glimpse of the structure in both natural and artificial light. By then, the lights of the city were slowly coming on, and the Opera House provides one of the best places to view the big city lights of the city.

I made a second visit to the place one sunny afternoon in my wife's company. The place also offers one of the best views of the harbour bridge, and it's a nice place to just stay and obervse the ferries and other boats plying the harbour. And it impressed me just as much the second time around. It's definitely worth traveling a long distance to just view one of the landmark buildings of the world, one which is also recongnised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The other Sydney landmark I was keen to visit was the Sydney Cricket Ground, more commonly known as the SCG. As it lies on the bus route from where we stay to the city, I had passed by it a few times. The opportunity arose in the form of watching as AFL (Australian Football League) game between the local team, the Sydney Swans, and the visitors from Brisbane, the Lions. Tickets were arranged by my wife' University's International Students Services body, which helpfully, also sent us notes on the game. 

We reached the venue just past 6 pm, an hour before the game was scheduled to start. The stadium was lit up with the tower lights. We were seated at the opposite end to the pavilion, with it's old fashioned architecture, and clock tower. It struck me was that the stadium was not very large, though definitely bigger than the grounds at Mumbai, and Bangalore. We had assigned seat numbers, and comfortable plastic bucket seats to sit upon. However, we were not covered by a roof, so when it started drizzling later on in the game, we had to get our rain gear on. Luckily, it didn't rain heavily, and we did not mind the light drizzle.

The game started right on time. It is a cross between rugby and football, where the objective is to kick the ball throug the opponents goal, but the players can hold on to the ball and pass it by kicking or pushing the ball by hand (not  throwing, but kind of like boxing the ball which is held on the palm of the other hand). There are 18 players to the team, and the playing area is the same as the cricket ground. It's a high paced game. This particular one, though, was particularly one sided, with the home team run away winners, much to the delight of the home crowd. 

We have visited Bondi beach just once. Staying close to Coogee beach, that's where we head whenever the sun is out and we have some spare time. Bondi beach is bigger than the one at Coogee, but quite similar in layout. It's a long, semicircular swathe of sand between two cliffs, with golden sand lapped by the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. As the sea here offers longer and larger waves than at Coogee, one sees a many surfers trying to ride the waves. Even though we visited on a cold, winters' day, it was still crowded (by Sydney standards!). So one can only imagine what it would be like in summer. There is a very pleasant walk that starts from the southern end of Bondi beach, and winds its way right through to Coogee. We walked till the edge of the cliff that marks the southern end of Bondi bay, and were rewarded by views of a pack (?) of dolphins swimming in the sea, very close to the beach.