A Saturday on the South Coast

Every now and then, I’ll tag along with one of my friends who likes exploring areas of Sydney (and beyond) that have randomly popped up in one of her social feeds. We never know if the effort is going to be worthwhile but, at the very least, the adventure will make for a great story.

One Saturday, she picked me up at 5am and didn’t drop me home until 7pm. Everything in between was soaking up the south coast of NSW, including sunrise, beaches, hikes, cliffs, rocks, ocean, waterfalls, and sunset, as well as some of the most beautiful roads and scenery:

– Sea Cliff Bridge
– Port Kembla beach
– Nellie’s Glen
– Kiama Blowhole
– Bombo

We hugged the coast, we went inland; we saw the ocean stretch on for miles, we saw trees stretch up for metres; we saw the ocean creating salty spray and crashing waves on the rocks, we saw freshwater winding its way through the forest and cascading down in beautiful waterfalls; we saw the sunrise out of the ocean, we saw the sunset behind the mountains.

It’s hard to believe that just 60-90 minutes out of Sydney lies such varied and stunning scenery. From the beautiful engineering feat of the Sea Cliff Bridge to the gorgeous colours from a sunset at Bombo quarry, this was a gorgeous day. Who says you can’t wanderlust after your own backyard?

A Pirate’s Life For Me (Occasionally)

Despite my parents meeting in the Navy and having an affinity with the open water, my sea legs have let me down on two ocean-bound occasions. The first was when said parents encouraged my brother and me to join them as they sailed their yacht from Rose Bay to Kogarah Bay. We both spent all the time beyond the heads unceremoniously sick over the side while I’m sure our kin questioned their paternity. The second was when my best friend and I finally made it to the Great Barrier Reef but the water was so choppy that the majority of us lost our breakfasts before we even arrived.

That’s all very well and good, but what does that have to do with cruising? Please understand my full dilemma when one of my best friends proposed the idea of a short cruise for her 40th Birthday. There’s no way I would have turned her down (partly due to friendship, partly due to the explorer within, partly due to FOMO) but the idea of being trapped on a ship at sea for three nights with my track record was not an ideal scenario.

I am happy to report that I made it! I was not ill (or even really queasy) and it was a wonderful weekend away. All the assurance I had been given in regards to the size of the ship making it a mostly smooth ride were on point. In fact, I’d highly recommend it for something different and am glad to have crossed “cruise” off my experience list. Would I do it again? Probably not, unless it was another short one (at a bargain price) or the destination called for it (eg. Antarctica). I think more than four nights would get pretty repetitive (mostly in terms of activities and food) and I’d rather save time at sea by taking a flight.

That said, I had a great time. Sailing out of Sydney Harbour on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon was a wonderful way to kick off the getaway. And it’s pretty great to spend a weekend watching ocean sunrises and sunsets; being mesmerised by the ocean without land in sight; trying lots of different types of food (in casual or more formal settings); and I am always up for a round of bingo or trivia.

Sleepy Sydney Sunrises (May, 2017)

I love starting my day with the dawn. Even on the chilliest of mornings, the promise of golden hour can usually rouse me from my warm bed and down to the beach or the park (or the balcony, if I’m feeling particularly lazy) to bask in some beautiful early morning rays before continuing on with my day.

The approach of winter solstice means my chance of seeing the sun actually rise becomes almost impossible on weekdays and means a tiny respite (sleep-in) on weekends. Still, there’s no denying it’s a gorgeous time of day:

 

Never Get Enough of New York City

Last December saw me on my third visit to New York City and it amazes me that I can have a completely different experience each time I’m there – even in the same places!

On my first trip, we stayed in the heart of Times Square and it was overwhelming. Perfect introduction to the city that never sleeps, especially since we pulled out all the tourist stops (Rockefeller Centre, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Broadway, helicopter ride, etc.) but I wouldn’t do it again.

The second time, we rented an apartment in Spanish Harlem and pretended badly to be like ‘real’ New Yorkers by catching the subway, shopping for groceries at the local market, and going to see a Rangers game.

I have always wanted to be in Manhattan for Christmas (and, let’s be honest, as someone who was brought up in Australia, I was also hoping for my first White Christmas) so being surrounded by one of the most incredible cities in the world at such a magical time of year was amazing in its own right.

But we took full advantage of the time of year and checked off all the quintessential tacky Christmas in New York items; Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, Bryant Park Christmas Markets, Christmas Lunch at the Central Park Boathouse, Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree, Macy’s windows…

While we didn’t get a white Christmas, we did get beautifully crisp, sunny days on which to check out Central Park, The High Line, Grand Central, and the awesome NYC streets and scenes. It will be a hard holiday season to top.

Intensely Inspiring Iceland

On our last big trip, Iceland was probably the country I was looking forward to most. I’d been to the UK and the USA previously and we weren’t spending long enough in Singapore to treat it as a real destination.

At first, it seemed like an interesting stopover between London and New York City but the more I investigated, the more intrigued I became. So many stunning natural wonders and phenomenon made our measly five days seem like a joke compared to how much time it would take to fully explore this Nordic island nation.

We chose to drive ourselves as tours would have either meant a less intimate experience, a more expensive trip, or the frustration of not being able to do things at your own pace. After spending five days driving in terrible weather and in the snow (with no prior experience of icy conditions), I don’t think we would do that again. It was an amazing way to see the many beautiful sights Iceland has to offer but it’s worth investing in a driver or a professional tour guide to avoid being utterly terrified on the open road.

At one point, we were crawling down an 80km/h main road at 30km/h because the snow was thick on the ground and still falling, visibility faded in and out with the fog, and the wind was blowing a gale. But then we’d look out the window and see white mountains with streaks of blue where waterfalls had frozen. We’d drive over bridges where clear water was trickling underneath and tiny icebergs were floating with it. We’d see bodies of water frozen over and wonder how thick the ice was and if it would hold our vehicle, should we go sliding down the embankment.

The weather in Iceland changed so quickly and so drastically that I’m glad we didn’t get any further from Reykjavik than Vik because I’m not sure if we would have gotten back in time for our flight. One morning was glorious and sunny, hours later the rain was pelting down and just hours after that, there was a thick layer of snow across all the green meadows we had driven past earlier. The extremes meant we got to see how beautiful this country was in sun and in snow. Absolutely spectacular.

My top five moments from our five nights in Iceland:

  1. Seeing dark and angry waves foaming and crashing beyond just beyond snow-draped plains.
  2. Standing in the warmth of the Blue Lagoon with a silica mud mask under a starlit sky as snow started falling.
  3. Basking in the wonder of Gullfoss, a spectacular waterfall surrounded by ice and snow in the waning light of day.
  4. Winding our way through mountains, roads, and fields draped in snow before reaching the summit and seeing the ocean, dark clouds looming overhead, and the light of the setting sun illuminating it all.
  5. Spending the night in a bubble in the middle of a forest as snow fell on the pine trees around us.

Idling By On the Isle of Wight

With two weeks in London, there was always going to be a trip of some description on the cards. We all love travel, we love seeing places we’ve never been before, and we absolutely love being in each other’s company. So the obvious choice was squeezing five adults into a car to road trip down to Isle of Wight – accessible only by ferry! Two nights and we saw some of the most incredible sights; I still can’t believe that an island so small had so many varying landscapes.

Crawling Through Cambridge

The event which prompted one of the biggest trips I have ever done was a wedding between two of my best and closest friends who moved to London at the beginning of the year. As one of their bridesmaids, I got to be present for the whole wonderful day, which began in Cambridge, a place to which I’d never been. Wandering the streets for photos before the ceremony was such a lovely way to be introduced to this beautiful little city.