Two walks on the wild side

Tuesday 21st October – Wednesday 22nd October
Sydney, Australia

Walking Coogee to Bondi
One of the main recommendations that everybody gave us about Sydney was that we should do the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi. So, although Tuesday was a little grey, we jumped on a local train followed by a bus and took a stroll alongside the crashing surf of the South Pacific.

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A couple of days after our visit, an exhibition of outdoor sculptures was due to begin along the coastline here, and we saw a few of the exhibits being installed.

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Walking the Blue Mountains
Sydney is surrounded by national parks on three sides (the fourth side is bounded by the Pacific Ocean!). A couple of hours’ train ride inland is the Blue Mountains national park, so called because of the colour of the haze that hangs above the eucalyptus trees.

On Wednesday, we caught a train to Katoomba and then did a two-hour cliff-top walk from there to Leura. The weather was lovely, and although the train was busy, we barely saw any other walkers during our stroll.

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We did, however, see a number of unusual (to us!) birds, and a small and rather brave lizard (or possibly a skink), who had apparently lost his tail recently and was in the process of growing a new one. However, we can’t show him to you, as we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking a photo of him in his state of semi-undress!

Simon did spend some time trying to photograph some parrots that were flying high above us. As it turned out, however, the mountain came to Mohamed, as, when we were sitting in a cafe in Leura while waiting for our train back to Sydney, a parrot landed on a table outside and stole a packet of sugar, which he proceeded to break into using his claws and beak!

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Historical insight of the Day
While we were in Australia, former prime minister Gough Whitlam passed away at the age of 98. We heard a bit about him on various news programmes, and we also talked about him with a couple of the people that we met up with during our visit.

His story is pretty fascinating. He was elected in 1972 as the first Labour prime minister of Australia in 23 years, and he certainly made a splash early on in his premiership. During the first two weeks of his term, before he had even appointed a cabinet, he and his deputy worked together to pull Australia out of the Vietnam War, end national service and began a trading relationship with communist China, which had been unthinkable previously. Subsequently, he set up Australia’s national health service, Medicare, began to repair the country’s relationship with its indigenous people and introduced free university education.

The end of his term of office, in 1975, was even more dramatic. Labour had been ruling in coalition with another party, but they fell out. An election took place, and Labour won very narrowly, although they still had to enter into coalition. The relationship between the parties broke down again shortly afterwards, and this time, Whitlam refused to call an election. For weeks, the government was deadlocked, and the situation was only brought to an end when Australia’s Governor-General, the Queen’s appointed representative, sacked Whitlam and appointed the opposition leader as prime minister. Nothing like it had happened before or since, and we couldn’t even imagine the Queen doing anything similar in the UK!

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