New Zealand – South Island (part 2) and Sydney

The last post about New Zealand ended with great expectations about the quad-biking trip. They all came true and it was even better. I did not fall off, although I did get stuck halfway up a steep incline and nearly summersaulted backwards, but that was the worst bit. Driving through the mud pools was even better, even though I got stuck in one of the largest ones when the rear wheels completely lost traction and spun me off sideways into the fence. Wellington boots are not only good for keeping water out, but also to keep water in, that I can tell you.

Leaving Queenstown and over 2,5 weeks of travelling through New Zealand, some sort of travel weariness started to set in and we felt like we had finished with New Zealand. Quite the opposite was true, of course, and we still had several days left along the east coast of the south island. We drove to Oamaru leaving the mountains behind and entering more flat farmland. You have probably already guessed that a bit of grassland with few sheep and cows did not impress these dutch countryguys. The biggest tourist highlight along the way, the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, which I wrote about earlier, did not help much to that feeling. Seeing Elvis later that night in the pub (actually, two of them), not sure how that helped.

After Oamaru, only Christchurch was left on the menu before flying out to Sydney. We did a short walk around town at night and were lucky not to get stuck in traffic as Santa was arriving in a park downtown that evening. The last full day in New Zealand, I was overdosed on all things touristy so I decided to stay in the hotel room and do some geeky stuff (see earlier post) working on download statistics of FreeBSD installation discs. Then it was up early morning to check in at 5am for our flight to Sydney.

I have been to Sydney once before, but then ended up having to call Qantas and ask for a plane out ASAP. This had much to do with the fact that we were unlucky enough to hit the same weekend as the rugby finals, and we were forced to move hotel two days in a row and couldn’t even find a room under AU$500 for the last night we had planned there.

This time was better. Much better. Having to get up at 4am (2am Sydney time) and arriving at 9am right in the middle of peak hour, did have some logistical difficulties. It turned out that CityRail was very capable of dropping us off at Artarmon station with only one change at Central without any trouble, and also the next few days they got us to where we wanted quickly, though at a price. So big props to them. Working public transport is a must in such a big city. Fin collected us from the train station and we could slowly start to wake up and get used to the idea of being in Australia and no longer in New Zealand over a cup of coffee. Even though Artarmon is only a few kilometers north of the city center, if does have a suburbian feel about it. A large green park starts right at the center of Artarmon and goes all the way to the sea, which turned out to be a surprisingly nice stroll after lunch completely without feeling as close to the famous bridge and opera house as we actually were.

Shu had taken a day off on Tuesday, and the 5 of use went for a trip to the Blue Mountains. After a few hours in a car, we stopped for a walk around a little lake to stretch our legs. After lunch, it was on to the famous Three Sisters and a stiff hike to a few of the wonderful waterfalls in the area.

Wednesday, Fin and me did all the must-do tourist things in Sydney. Starting on the north side, we walked across the bridge, via the opera house and botanical gardens, back into the city for lunch in an ants nest, or was it an underground food court in the middle of the financial district? Quite a nice walk, although you keep having the feeling that the pictures on the postcards are better than the ones you can take yourself. Somehow we ended up outside a microbrewery with pretty decent beer, but unwilling to serve us food, as our table was only for drinking and no eating, and there were no other tables available. Luckily, there were several other places near that were quite happy to make some money by giving us food.

Already the last day in Sydney, and of this trip. I used it for sleeping in and meeting up with Fin a bit later in the day. We took a ferry to Manly, north of the city on the coast. From the harbour we walked to the beach and followed it east into a nature reserve with some very scenic viewpoints and WWII anti-aircraft remains. We had to rush back to catch the ferry back to meet up with Edwin Groothuis, a fellow FreeBSD developer and my mentor when I joined the project many summers ago. We discussed the general state of the world over several dishes in Chinatown.

That was that. Coffee and lunch with Fin on Friday morning and all that was left was 30-some hours of flying and waiting to get back home. Home was still where I left it almost 4 weeks ago, although a lot colder. The snow that people tell me was here has already gone. Tomorrow it’s back to work and I’ll find out what has changed there. Thank you New Zealand and Australia, until we meet again!

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