Sydney to Melbourne

Friday, November 13 to Wednesday, November 18, 2015

(Geoff) It is actually harder to write about this part of our trip because the terrain is familiar – more so to me because I was here on my motorcycle trip earlier this year – and so the adventure quotient has gone down.

Our friend Celia May has very kindly lent us her VW camper van for this third leg of our trip. To get some experience behind the wheel we set out, on our first day in Sydney, to the beach. Specifically, to Palm Beach – the most northerly of the many surf beaches on Sydney’s coast. When we lived in Sydney it was our favourite beach, a pretty drive up the Barrenjoey Peninsula and a good distance from the crowds at Manly, Bondi, and the other popular spots. This day the surf was rolling in with enough energy to make swimming fun, and I enjoyed some time in the Pacific Ocean. On the way back down to the city the heavens opened, first with heavy hail and then torrential rain, ushering in a cold front for the weekend.

Saturday we shopped for groceries and packed the van. That evening Catherine and Celia went to the ballet at the Sydney Opera House (see her note below) while I walked around The Rocks, the historic site of the first convict settlement and now a tourist hot spot. Sunday, after church, we hit the road south.

When we lived in Sydney in the early 1970’s the highway from Sydney to Melbourne was a 2 lane road through every small town along the way. A protest by truckers angry about road conditions had to be called off when the road flooded on the scheduled weekend. Now the Hume Highway is like the 401, and we could have been in Melbourne in an easy 2 days. Instead we started on the slower coast road, then jogged to Goulburn for a Monday on the Hume, but got off when we hit the Victoria state border and took the slow road through the wine regions along the Murray River, ending up in Bendigo on Tuesday. I spent a weekend in this gold rush town back in February and it was one of my favourite stops on my motorcycle trip. Spending another afternoon in town and enjoying a morning swim in their outdoor 50-metre pool the next morning were welcome treats. Wednesday morning we trundled down the highway 90 minutes to northern Melbourne, and dropped in to see Catherine’s cousin Grace.

(Catherine) There is perhaps, no more iconic symbol of Sydney than the white sails of the Opera House. When we lived in Sydney in the 1970’s it was a thrill to see it. This time I saw a ballet with Celia and her friend, and as much as I enjoyed the dance, I was mesmerized by the view over the harbour at intermissions. That there were two intermissions was an added bonus as I took in the harbour sights at night; the harbour bridge outlined in lights, the bright circle of the ferris wheel at Luna Park, the quick harbour ferry darting over to the north shore and the more sedate Manly ferry making its more modest way out of the beach suburb. The evening was entirely magical. When the ballet had finished three dancers laid red, white and blue bouquets on the stage to honour those killed in the Parish bombings.

As we left I turned for one last view of the opera house. Only now instead of white sails, they were illuminated so that you would have sworn their natural colours were the red, white and blue of the French flag. A breath-taking moment.

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