Stats. dst. (km) Today 0.0 Trip total 0.0
Departed this evening for the NSW Bike Ride.
For the first time ever we were charged excess baggage for the bikes, the woman on the Qantas check-in counter quoted a “mandatory $10 charge plus $1 GST”, so we paid up, weighed the boxes, and deposited them with the other oversized luggage then went to get the first beer of the holiday.
Looking up we noticed that our flight had closed, so we sprinted off through the airport, endured the evil eye of the attendents at the gate, and made it to our seats. There was then a slight delay while one of the cargo doors couldn’t be shut, before we taxied off and were on our way.
A stuff-up by Qantas catering meant that there was no dinner on the flight, only a snack consisting of three tiny breadsticks and some salty nuts.
Once in Sydney the fun began; how to get from the airport to Darling Harbour, with two bicycles, without killing each other. We discussed the relative merits of Taxis vs. the train and decided to attempt the train, then use the light rail from Central to Darling harbour. Jo tried asking at an information desk whether the light rail was at ground level and was given a puzzled look, then told in very slow, carefully enunciated words, that “it is part of our public tranport system”.
Getting to the train is not for the faint of heart, not if they have any luggage! There are three lifts to negotiate, each is too small to wheel a laden trolley into, so one person has to hold the doors open while the other unpacks the bags and boxes. Down one floor, open the doors and reverse the process, then off to find the next lift. At the ticket gate there is a sign forbidding luggage trolleys, so you are meant to carry all your belongings from there onwards! Luckily one of the staff decided to let us through a wider, staff-only gate.
Tickets are another mystery; the one-way ticket from the airport to the city is $10, but on one brochure I had seen a mention of a $15 group ticket that could be used by up to four people travelling together. The automatic ticket machines made no mention of these, and the couple in front of us in the queue were charged $20 for two single tickets to Central. It was only when I explicitly asked whether I could use a group ticket for the two of us to get to Central that I was told “yes”!
As I had been previously warned, the train has minimal luggage space, so we had to stand in doorways with our bags and bike boxes, at least this meant less distance to carry them on and off.
At Central we seemed to be on a platform which had no access other than via stairs at either end, so we picked the boxes up again and made our way through the Friday-night football crowd to Eddy Avenue, intending to try and catch a taxi. Eventually I managed to flag down a station wagon and became involved in a bizarre argument with the driver, who tried to tell me, in very broken english, that I couldn’t possibly want to go where I wanted, as there was no bus terminal there. Finally he saw the bike boxes and shrugged, pointing out that the seats in the station wagon are bolted down and can’t be hinged to make use of the load area, then drove off! Two police walking past then suggested that we carry everything down to Pitt Street and flag down a taxi heading north, as that was the direction we would need! We were both nearly exhausted by now when Jo spotted the light rail station at the top of the escalator above us, a quick check showed that the stop at Haymarket was the closest we could get, so we waited for the tram.
The tram arrived and we met the first helpful person we had spoken too so far in Sydney. The conductor had a good laugh at the size of the boxes, confirmed that we could get where we were going, took our money and helped us get the bikes into the tram!
Finally at 10.30 pm we were at the meeting point, three hours ahead of departure, with nowhere to store our luggage and no way of getting dinner. Luckily a few other early arrivals watched over our bags while we walked back to china town and had two large plates of noodles.
By midnight the crowds had arrived back at the buses, very few people from Sydney, most seemed to either be interstate or international travellers.
Despite a number of warnings that the buses would leave exactly on the scheduled time, all of them were delayed about ten minutes, and ours was forced to wait an additional half hour “just in case” there were any late arrivals. Luckily the video recorder seemed to be broken so the driver couldn’t (illegally) show a movie, unfortunately he managed to fix it, so at 4:30 am the idiot woke the entire bus by playing an Arnie movie. Obviously it doesn’t occur to bus drivers that normal humans sleep at that time.
By 7 am we were driving through scattered patches of fog in the dawn, and made it to Manilla to commence the great task of unpacking, meeting old friends, and getting ready.
Manilla (30° 44’S, 150° 43’E)
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