On the bike and on the water

Saturday, October 05, 2013
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
I'd emailed with Bonza Bike Tours the day before to see if they had any tours with availability for us to join on. Mike, the owner, had previously worked with David in Paris for the Fat Tire Bike Tours there. Mike and Patrick came back promptly to say that we could join their Classic Tour free of charge at 10:30. we gladly took them up on their generous offer! I was excited to be getting back on a bike and see another Bike Tour Company in action from the other side as a participant.

The tour was very good! We were a group of about 15 and with it being hectic because of Fleet Review, two guides (Matt & Adam) were put on the tour . They alternated between stops and gave us plenty of insight. We did of course bike the promenade that we had walked the previous night, but aside from that it was all new. We went up and to the middle of the Harbor Bridge, to the top of Observation Hill, saw China Town, biked through Hyde Park, went to the Botanical Gardens (shut because of the Fleet Review) and of course ended with the Opera House. In four hours we saw tons, had great weather, and really enjoyed ourselves. When I compare that to the joke of a bus tour we took in Tokyo, it reaffirms that what we offer with Fat Tire is a very good option for sightseeing.

After our bike tour we randomly ran in to Nani, Uli's wife from the PC12 that we last saw in Cairns, on the street! We heard that they had a great time in Fiji. The rest of the group that flew there individually were hit with big fees upon landing, as Fiji doesn't differentiate for small planes smaller than a 737. Given the great time we were having in Australia, expensive as it is, I'm glad we saved lots of money by not flying to Fiji . Johannes decided to meet with Nani and Uli for dinner, freeing me and Caroline up to have a nice dinner date ;-). That we did with some exceptionally overpriced Mexican soul food.

For Saturday we had two big agenda items: Manly Beach and the Fleet Review fireworks. Matt had told us that Manly Beach was having a jazz festival, so that was an added bonus for us. Even better, the ferry out to the beach would put us past all the Fleet Review action! We weren't the only ones with that idea as the line for the ferry was huge and it took a couple ferries before we could. Get on board. What could have been chaotic and cause for aggravation was very civilized though as everyone as enjoying the great weather and the festivities.

The ferry trip was great. The harbor s abuzz with activity and we were in the thick of it. At one point the ferry even had to slow and then halt as the boat carrying Prince Harry passed in front . Needless to say security was tight but with all the unique boats on the water and planes and helicopters overhead, it barely came across.

Manly Beach and the jazz festival were equally fun. There were numerous stages set up and between the people watching and live music it made for an entertaining vibe. The beach itself was also very pretty and nicely packed but not overly so with surfers ands volleyball players surrounding the sunbathers. We did a bit of swimming (quite cold!) and then enjoyed the sun before grabbing a late lunch. It was a great beach half day. O the ferry ride back - also packed - the Navy helicopters were putting on quite a show. With the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House providing such a unique backdrop, it was a really memorable event. On the one hand it would have been nice to enjoy Sydney when it wasn't so teeming with people. On the other hand the Fleet Review was providing quite a spectacle.

We decided to picnic for the fireworks even though that would put in the fray with the masses . After picking up supplies, we set off to find a spot. Perhaps all spots were great, but we found one just opposite the Opera House. It took a few hours for the fireworks to begin, but they were well worth the wait. Platforms for launching the fireworks were various Australian naval vessels and the theme of the fireworks unfolded as a projection on the Opera House and themed the history of the Australian navy of the last 100 years. Both World Wars were described, with a focus on Australian naval involvement of course, as well as the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, present day, and future plans. To each theme fireworks and music were played. Each mini show was impressive, but they paled predictably to the grand finale which really was a world class fireworks show. You could tell that Sydney kn how to throw a party after having hosted the Olympics.

Following the fireworks the spectacle for us continued. The downtown streets were filled with literally millions of spectators. The streets had been blocked off and the organization enviably perfect. Everyone was calm and just enjoying themselves as we joined the throngs shuffling down the blocks. Where were my stereotypical drunken Australian lads in thongs and singlets? ;-). I was relieved and impressed to have my preconceived notions not be correct. To all my Australian buddies, I stand humbly corrected ;-)
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