From Canberra to Sydney - end of journey (8.2.-26.2.)
After several rainy days in the Snowy Mountains, we decided to stay a couple of days at our great Lithuanian hosts Mindaugas and Rasa on the outskirts of Canberra. We spent the first day doing necessary maintenance of our bikes, washing our clothes, drying soaked gear from the previous days and resting. We were also trying to one set of new tyres. We wanted expedition tyres Schwalbe Marathon XR, but they were not available in Canberra. Finally, Martin bought usual Maxxis ones.
We spent the following days sightseeing. Canberra is a special city, which was planned to be built as the Capital. This was a compromise after endless disputes between Sydney and Melbourne over which of them would be the capital. It is actually a network of little satellite towns surrounded by forests and meadows with only a small centre. Canberra is a paradise for cyclists with 700 km of cycling trails. We didn’t feel like in a city at all.
First, we visited the National Museum, which was very different from most museums in the way the information was presented to the visitor. It was very interactive and a fun to be there. For example, we could go to a small broadcasting studio and make our own radio announcement. Another attraction we couldn’t miss was the new parliament. It is a very special building with 4500 rooms, 17 courtyards, 10 km of corridors and 2800 wall clocks. There are 3 full time employees to change light bulbs only. There is about 80 m tall steel construction sticking up from the middle of the roof and supporting the Australian flag of the size of a lorry.
We spent one night with Milan from the Czech community, who took us out and introduced us to his friends. We had a nice chat.
The following day, we visited the War Memorial, which is a must in Canberra. It is a unique war museum originally dedicated to the WW1 and later extended to include all the war Australia took part in. You can walk in a trench there or sit in a helicopter and virtually fly over Vietnam or even take part in the air battle and watch the attack of the bomber in the Anzac hall.
The last few days in the bike saddle
Just before we hit the east coast, we saw something incredible. There were quite big patches of snow on the side of the road. Snow??? In the middle of Australian summer??! Australian weather can be quite weird sometimes and you can experience all 4 seasons in one day, but we definitely did not expect to see snow. We checked it, the snow was quite coarse and we realized that it must have been hailing from the thunderstorms. The snow was dirty and it must have been there for almost a week. Strange that it had not melted in such a warm weather.
East coast was very busy and we were relieved when we got to the Royal National Park. We took the tourist walk trail along the river and enjoyed the last moments in the Australian nature among big trees and rocky cliffs. Only about 2 km after the park, we got to Princess Highway, the main road leading to Sydney from the south. We were on the outskirts of Sydney. Then, it was another 25 km to the centre on a several lane road in a tailback. Arriving at big cities was much more dangerous than riding across Nullarbor with road trains. We made our way through the packed centre to the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This was the end of our journey. We stood there with mixed feelings – happy to have made it, but sad at the same time – no more adventures, time to go home and plan another journey.
Sydney is a very attractive city for a European tourist – clean, colourful and full of parks, gardens, picturesque bays and ports. Unlike Melbourne or Adelaide, Sydney is full of Asians. It is a very hectic and hurried city, its population amounts to 4,5 million people, so there is no wonder.
We couldn’t miss the lookout from the Sydney’s highest building, a 300m high tower. We wanted to watch the sun setting over the city, but we lost too much time trying to find a save place for our bikes and queuing for the lift and by the time we arrived at the top, the sun was gone. I was a bit sad, but soon I realized the best time was only to come. The horizon turned orange and slowly the city began to lighting up. That was really magic, being on the top of all the hive of activity below and diving into the fire-red sky. Each second hundreds of lights were lighted up. The most impressive was the view of the gigantic ship anchored just next to the 150m tall Harbour Bridge when its millions of lights were turned on. I loved the warm evenings in the city harbour. I went to sit on the Opera House steps almost every evening and enjoyed the city’s passage to night.
We visited also other Sydney’s attractions – the aquarium with see-through tunnels over which different types of sharks swam or the adjacent wildlife park. We had a look in the National Museum and watched the Tasman’s map depicted on the entry hall’s floor. This version showed Australia connected to Indonesia, which later turned out to be false. We walked in the interior of the National Bank, which is full of shiny marble of different colours. Very interesting was the visit of the China town at the time of the Chinese New Year celebrations. We went to a large dining room there, for about 500 people, where we could try just anything from really tasty Asian cuisine. Of course, we couldn’t omit the famous Bondi beach, full of men with perfect bodies and beautifully shaped young girls. This is the reason why everyone wants to go to the Bondi beach, because swimming there is almost impossible, the waves are high and the currents very strong and dangerous. This is ideal for surfers though.
In SBS radio
The Australian largest radio SBS was in contact with us already before the expedition. Ika de Detrich, the editor from the Czech section monitored our trip and recorded regular reports with us. The last report was made at SBS premises, where we made a little interesting excursion.
Where we lived in Sydney
We spent the first few days in the pretty flat of our friend Markéta, who had lived in Sydney for a couple of years with her English husband. Then, we moved to Neutral Bay, the Northern part of the city, to our other friend Marcel. The last two days before Martin’s departure, we spent at the residence of the Czech general consul Vít Kolář, who had monitored and supported our expedition. We had already met him in Adelaide just before Christmas. He lives with his family in Vaucluse, a beautiful and calm quarter. He also took us to the Czech consulate, where we met other office employees. Then, he arranged a lift for Martin to the airport and I stayed one more week with Marcel and other friends in Neutral Bay.
Marcel is a keen surfer and we couldn’t turn down his offer to try out one of the most popular Australian sports. To be honest, I was too afraid of the waves to even try it properly. Martin was braver, but to stand up on the board takes much more than only 1 hour. Marcel said that we needed about three months of training to learn it.
The biggest trip of our life is a history now. We had a wonderful time in Australia and we will never forget all our adventures and meetings with Australia’s bush wildlife and mainly with the fantastic people living in this special part of the world. We have brought great memories and many friendships back to Europe.
We would like to thank to all our sponsors, media partners, families, friends and all the great people we met during our trip and all those who in any way helped us to successfully finish our bike expedition.
Martin Stiller & Renáta Lorišová