Leif was the only one to climb. The following is from his journal
The climb begins with the waiver and breathalyzer test then on to introductions and jumpsuit selection.
Brief instruction on how to put on the jumpsuit.
Changing/locker room to remove all loose articles and put on the jumpsuit.
Gear room. Get a climbing belt with a special wire running device that acts as a stop in case you fall. Also handkerchiefs, gloves, fleece jacket and cover (in bags that clip to the belt). Everything has its place and is tied to you. Glass cords for those that need them. Caps.
Next is the test catwalk. Last chance to back out. Brief instruction on how the restraint works and how to go up and down the ladders (one at a time on each segment).
Then the radio room, pick up radios and earpieces. You get to put it on the person in front of you. I get to be demo man so donít get to, but mine is done by a professional (Graeme our group leader).
Out to Cumberland street, down half a block to the entrance to the bridge. Up some stairs to a tunnel cut through the pier. Latch on and start walking the catwalk under the bridge approach. Lots of commentary by Graeme. History of the bridge and information about the park and cannons below us. 40000 granite blocks cover the Pylons. Lots of interesting facts about the bridge. Through the Pylon (its hollow, the bridge maintenance facilities are inside, workplace for the 116 people representing 18 trade unions who maintain the bridge). Head out on the catwalk under the east side of the bridge to where there are some ladders to the upper chord of the bridge. Up the four ladders, one person per segment. On the top of the upper chord we walk under the maintenance crane and begin the ascent up the long curved upper chord. More commentary and pointing out the sights of Sydney harbour. Fantastic view and wonderful weather, perhaps a bit cool but it is Winter. At the top Graeme takes 3 photos of each of the parties in our group. Across the catwalk at the top and down the West side upper chord. Down the corresponding West side stairs through the road deck and back on the catwalks, through the pylon, catwalks under the bridge approach, latch off and back to the radio room. Taking the gear off is not quite as elaborate as putting it on. Done and on to buy the pictures.
A nice aquarium with some unique viewing arrangements. The most unusual was to pass through an arch in the shark tank while walking on glass over the tank (everyone seemed to prefer the metal supports to the glass). The Aquarium was divided into the various ecosystems of Australia and very well laid out. There was even a crocodile (the only one we saw). The most spectacular display was of the reef system, which included many species that we did not see while on the reef.
We never actually went into the museum itself, we were more interested in touring the docked ships.
The cruise was relaxing after a long day walking but not very impressive. The taped narration kept referring to landmarks that were not visible at night. Sydney just does not have enough lights to warrant an evening cruise.
Click here to see our complete Sydney Ablum
The mountains appear blue due to the Eucalyptus trees. Early settlers were convinced that there must be something wonderful on the other side of them, but all they finally found was desert. Our first stop was to a national park where you can see wild Kangaroos. They actually allow you to get fairly close. We also saw several types of birds, including Sulfur Crested Cockatoos.
We then drove through the Blue Mountains. Just looking out the window provided ample scenery, but we made two scenic stops anyway. One was to see the three sisters and another to see Australia's "Grand Canyon" Finally John, our guide, put the van into 4-wheel drive and we went to an undeveloped lookout over some very bumpy roads to a very high rock cliff looking into the same valley. You could walk right up to the edge and look straight down several hundred meters
This park started in a back yard but has grown to be a large display of Australian animals. Kangaroos, emus, mocking birds, kookaburras, pigeons and peacocks were free to roam many of the paths. The animals were friendly, the kookaburra let me pet him for quite a while. There were rows and rows of bird cages, it took me quite a while to find the budgies and cockatiels. Samantha sought out the dingos. William made sure his "passport" was stamped at all the areas.
To acknowledge the aborigine's prior claim to Australia the names of many places are being changed back to the aboriginal ones. What has been known as Ayer's Rock is now Uluru and the Olgas are Kata Tjuta.
Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park is actually a semi-arid area, not desert. The month before we arrived the area had received a large amount of rainfall, making the total for the year twice the average annual rainfall. The local vegetation took advantage of this unusual event and bloomed, giving us a rare and beautiful backdrop for Uluru.
Riding a camel to watch the sun set over Uluru was not my idea, but the kids really enjoyed it. You are seated 2 per camel, heavier to the back. the camels are connected to each other using nose pegs. The most dangerous part is when the camel stands up or goes to its knees, the angle of it's back gets pretty steep. Before the ride we learned about camels and after we had snacks, including smoked camel.
The magic of Uluru at sunrise made clear why the aborigines found it so special. I had seen pictures of the brightly colored rock but did not believe they were real until I saw it turn bright orange myself. Afterwards we were taken to visit some highlights including aboriginal paintings and told some of the stories of the area. Finally there was a stop at the Uluru Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre where you can see and buy some genuine artifacts.
We had a personal tour of Kata Tjuta as no one else had booked at that time. We got to walk up to a water hole in the Olgas and visited a lookout. the aborigines will not share the stories of the Olgas (they only share the children's version for Uluru), but they have told us that it is a sacred male place.
The evening starts at sunset where you can watch the sun set over both Uluru and Kata Tjuta at sunset, champagne in hand. A buffet dinner follows accompanied by a didgeridoo. After dinner an astronomer showed us the stars. The sky had been heavily overcast, but some holes cleared allowing us to see the Southern Cross and Alpha Centari. In total it was a very enjoyable evening, although ended a bite late considering how early we had started the day.
Our dinner companions were from Japan and Samantha broke the ice with them by discussing Sailor Moon.
A bus is available to take you into the park on your own . Leif and William took it to the base of the climb on our third day while Samantha and I relaxed at the resort.. When they arrived the climb was closed due to high winds at the summit so they walked around the base (9km). When they get back, around 3 hours later, the climb was open and William was anxious to ascend. Leif and William made it the first third of the way up the steep chain assisted section and another third of the way afterward. William decided it was time to go back down before they completed the walk when the wind started picking up again.
Click here to see our complete Uluru album
Click here to see our complete Kata Tjuta album
Our plane from Ayers Rock to Cairns was delayed 20 hours due to mechanical problems. We missed our rain forest Kurunda tour because of it. A very nice stewardess (Donna) suggests we hire a car in Port Douglas. and drive to Mossmon Gorge.
A nice, slightly energetic, stroll through the rainforest. This is not a tropical rainforest so it does not have the characteristics seen in Central American rainforests. The path had markers detailing information about the trees and plants such as what native animals ate or lived in them and how the Aborigines used them. We were told there was a swimming hole on the river but saw many signs warning about drowning hazards. The river was quite swift and contained many rapids and small waterfalls. The only animals we saw were birds, and we heard more than we saw.
We rode out to the reef on a high speed wave piercing catamaran operated by Quicksilver. Once we arrived on the reef platform we took the first semisubmersable tour. I hoped that this would give us some information about what we would see once we started snorkeling. Samantha, Leif and I all snorkeled for a while, William seemed afraid of the depth despite us agreeing to let him wear a life jacket. This was to his undoing later in Kaikoura when I would not let him swim with the dolphins. After a short time Samantha went off with the marine biologists for a tour outside our small roped off section of the reef. I finally got William in the water and dragged him around to see the fishes that swam within inches of us. Leif had the underwater camera.
Lunch was a cold buffet that consisted of king shrimp, ham, chicken, ziti, and a wide range of salads. We made a large plate for Samantha as the buffet would close by the time she returned. She ate everything except the cold pasta salad.
Click here to see our complete Port Douglas album.
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For daily by day synopsis of our trip visit
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copyright (c) 2000 Elizabeth Anderson. Pictures copyright (c) 2000 Elizabeth Anderson, Leif Stembol, Samantha Stembol, William Stembol. Video copyright (c) 2000 Cathy Rowsell, Samantha Stembol, William Stembol. Any copyrighted images appearing in photos or video are used with the permission of the copyright holder.