One of the things Perth is rightly very proud of is Kings Park, 1,003 acres of park and bush overlooking the city and the vantage point for the quintessential postcard shot of Perth's skyscrapper skyline. Pride of place overlooking the city goes to the WA State War Memorial but there is also an impressive 17 acre gardens including an elevated walkway constructed using lottery funding.
Perth Skyline from Kings Park
The State War Memorial in Kings Park overlooking Perth
Me by the WA State War Memorial in Kings Park overlooking Perth
Perth, like Sydney likes its beaches along the ocean when it gets hot and the most famous of these is Cottesloe Beach. When we went there it was the first weekend of the annual Sculpture by the Sea outdoor sculpture exhibition that began on Sydney's Bondi Beach back in 1997 and has also been held at Perth's Cottesloe Beach since 2005. Wierd and wonderful modern sculptures were dotted along the beach and its immediate surroundings. I must admit for me I am not sure they all worked but it was a good excuse to have a look around.
Sculpture of a lobster on Cottesloe Beach
Skeleton on a ladder by the Pavilion on Cottesloe Beach
Crocodile sculpture on Cottesloe Beach
Admiring a sculpture hanging between the trees with the poles of the Bali Bombing Memorial on the beach in the background
However one thing I definately wanted to see while in Perth was a wild kangaroo; not as easy as it sounds and as we drove up to Mundaring Weir in the Perth Hills 24 miles outside of Perth there was no guarantee we would succeed. At first all we saw was a couple of kangaroos foraging in someone's front garden but they soon disappeared before we could get a decent photo, it looked like I was going to leave Perth empty handed. Then, just like the quokkas on Rottnest Island we were surrounded by a mob of about a dozen kangaroos just as we were about to give up! We celebrated with a drink afterwards at the local pub.
A couple of Kangaroos foraging in a front garden
Kangaroos foraging in the Forest
Me with a couple wild kangaroos behind me
One final photo of a wild kangaroo
Mundaring Weir Hotel
Having been lucky with the quokka on Rottnest Island and the kangaroos at Mundaring Weir I thought we would also tick off the camel ride I missed in Oman with a visit to Camel Farm at Calamunda.
Few people realise it but there are actually more camels in Australia than Egypt and Saudi Arabia combined! Camels were brought to Australia as pack animals in the 19th Century and when with the advent of trucks and trains they were no longer needed they were set free and thrived! Being bred as pack animals rather than for racing as happens in the Middle East they also tend to be larger than their Arab cousins. Anyhow after a short trek through the forest on the back of a camel called Wasim I had another tick in the box.
Me on a camel trekking through the Perth Hills
Camels waiting their turn at Calamunda
Nearby there was also an Emu in an enclosure but he looked grumpy so we did not get too close!
The big park near the centre of Auckland is called "The Domain" and is the site of yet another currently inactive volcano (called Pukekaroa) whose crater is now used for sports fields (there's got to be a cliche there somewhere!). Dominating it all is the Auckland Museum, an iconic building that looks like a Greek Temple that also serves as the Auckland War Memorial, an approach I have seen adopted in several other New Zealand towns as well.
The volcano's crater at the Domain is now used as a sports ground!
Me stood outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum
Looking down on the Grand Foyer of the Auckland Museum
The ground floor of the Museum is dedicated to Maori Culture with the impressive Maori Court containing amongst other things a Maori Meeting Room, Store House and a large War Canoe. The Maori arrived in New Zealand (called Aotearoa in Maori) about 1000 years ago from Polynesia. Meeting Houses are at the heart of every Maori marae (village) and are full of symbolism of the ancestors. There are protocols that need to be followed before a stranger is allowed to enter a marae (non Maori are called pakeha).
The Maori Court at the Auckland Museum
Maori Meeting House - complete with posing Maori warrior!
Inside the Maori Meeting House
Large Maori Pataka (Storehouse)
Maori War Canoe
The highlight of the Maori Court was the Cultural Performance, after being greeted and taken into a small theatre we were given an explanation and display of traditional Maori dances. The most famous Maori dances for women are with tethered weights known a Poi. There is also the Ti Raku where a stick is thrown from dancer to dancer, this is the basis of many children's games and it is considered bad luck to drop the stick! However the most famous Maori dance of all is the Haka War Dance and this was used to close the performance.
The Ladies of the Maori Dance Troupe prepare to do the Poi
Maori Poi Dance
Maori Ti Raku Stick Dance
Haka War Dance
The next floor of the museum was devoted to nature and as the Kiwi bird that symbolises the country is nocturnal I (as it turned out wrongly) assumed the stuffed specimen I saw here would be the only one I would see in New Zealand. Also covered on this floor were the volcanoes and earthquakes that have moulded the country's landscape. This included a room that looked like a normal Auckland suburban lounge with a patio door looking out onto the bay and a news channel being broadcast on the TV in the corner. The news follows the emergence of a new volcano in the harbour that can be seen through the patio door and then as it erupts the cloud moves towards you and the floor of the room shakes mimicking an eruption and earthquake - definitely one for the kids (including older kids!).
A stuffed Kiwi on the Natural History Floor of the Auckland Museum
The Earthquake Lounge in the Auckland Museum
The top floor of the museum is devoted to New Zealand's military history and emergence as a nation through the loss and suffering of war. There were galleries covering every conflict New Zealand has been involved in since the Maori Wars of the 19th Century with particular reverance to WWI and WWII including a WWII Hall of Memories where the names of the fallen of Auckland are inscribed on the wall.
World War I Field Gun at the Auckland Museum
World War II Hall of Memories at the Auckland Museum
World War II Field Gun from the Italian Campaign in the Auckland Museum
With only a limited amount of time in Sydney (and having got the Blue Mountains out of the way), I signed up for 2 days of touring Sydney and Bondi Beach by bus followed by a cruise of Sydney Harbour. Unfortunately for the open-top bus tour of Sydney it was raining, not only making the top deck seats wet but also weighing down the branches of the trees causing them to sweep the top of the bus! Sometimes when it rained we braved the weather, sometimes we dived downstairs for cover.
Open-top double-decker bus tour of Sydney - in the rain!
The tour started from the currently being restored Sydney Town Hall just across the road from the very ornate Queen Victoria Building, built in 1898 and full of speciality shops. The first place of note awe passed as we got underway was Scruffy Murphys, an Irish Bar on the edge of Chinatown. When I returned later in the evening it turned out to be a very friendly but basic rough local with good Guinness and lots of impromptu Irish singing and dancing!
Sydney Town Hall being restored
Inside the Queen Victoria Building on George Street
Scruffy Murphys - the most famous Irish Bar in Sydney
Hyde Park (named after the famous park of the same name in London) is the oldest public parkland in Australia and marks the eastern boundary of Sydney's Central Business District (CBD). The focal point of the park is the Archibald Fountain overlooking the Roman Catholic St Marys Cathedral. The spine of the park is a pretty impressive looking avenue of fig trees.
The Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park in Sydney
St Marys RC Cathedral with the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park in the foreground
St Marys RC Cathedral (note the fleet of vintage Rolls-Royce cars outside awaiting a wedding party!)
The fig tree lined avenue through the centre of Hyde Park in Sydney
On the south side of Hyde Park is the ANZAC War Memorial and Lake of Reflections. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed on Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915 during World War I and the day has been remembered as ANZAC Day in both countries ever since. Nearby there is a statue of Captain Cook to commemorate his discovery of the east coast of Australia in 1770 and there are also very good views of the 1,014 foot (309 metre) high Sydney Tower Eye amongst the city's skyline.
The ANZAC Memorial and Lake of Reflections in Hyde Park
Inside the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park
Captain Cook's Statue in Hyde Park with the Sydney Tower Eye amongst the skyline in the background
Heading east out of the CBD we passed through Kings Cross, Sydney's red light district. It was originally named Queens Cross in honour of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897 but nearly everyone got it confused with Queens Square on Kings Street so it got renamed. Dominating the area is the iconic 42 feet (13 metre) high Coca Cola Billboard sign originally erected in 1974, it's apparently the largest billboard sign in the Southern Hemisphere but isn't heritage-listed as most people assume. Kings Cross itself surprised me with how narrow its tree lined streets were although as expected nearly every second building seemed to be a strip-club or bar touting for business!
The Coca Cola Sign at Kings Cross, the largest billboard in the Southern Hemisphere
Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross - Sydney's Red Light District
Continuing north towards the Harbour, we passed the main east coast base of the Royal Australian Navy on the east side of Woolloomooloo Bay and also past a peculiar piece of street art of a car crushed by a large rock in the middle of the roundabout. We then caught our first sight of the two big Sydney iconic landmarks of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge although I was to get a much better view of both of these while on the Harbour Cruise the following afternoon.
HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Sydney moored up at the Naval Base on Woolloomooloo Bay
Street art in Sydney
The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge
Close by where the Hyde Park Barracks, built with convict labour in 1819 and now a world heritage site. Between 1819 and 1850 over 50,000 convicts passed through these barracks on their arrival in Australia, including potentially one of my ancestors (I found 2 convicts sharing my surname amongst the database of former inmates!). I also found the gallery on the Irish orphan women particularly interesting because of it potential relevance to my own family history. In the walls of the barracks was the An Gorta Mar, Australia's national memorial to the Irish Famine of 1845 to 1852.
Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks where 50,000 convicts were landed between 1819 and 1850
Convict uniform on display in Sydney's Hyde Park Barracks
Convict hammocks at the Hyde Park Barracks
The Court Room at the Hyde Park Barracks
An Gorta Mor - Australia's National Memorial to the Irish Famine
Moving back towards the city centre is the Circular Quay, Built by convict labour in the 1850s this was the original main port for Sydney. Today it is mega busy with tourists boarding ferries going to all the different parts of the harbour as well as being where the big cruise ships (such as the "Carnival Spirit" that arrived while I was there) moor up when they are in town.
The Circular Quay from the Sydney Opera House
The view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Circular Quay
Aboriginal Cultural Performers on the Circular Quay
By the following morning the weather had returned to normal for Sydney without a cloud in the sky so I was able to take the open-top bus tour to Bondi Beach, 4 miles (7 kilometres) to the east of the city and one of the most famous beaches in the world. After enjoying a stroll along the beach for a couple of hours I caught the bus back to Sydney, catching fleeting glimpses of the city views that are the reason why this area has some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
My first view of Bondi Beach
The Lifeguard Lookout and Pavilion on Bondi Beach
Me by the Lifeguard Lookout on Bondi Beach
Lifeguards on duty on Bondi Beach
Millionaires Row view of Sydney on the way back from Bondi
Once back in Sydney I boarded a catermaran in the Circular Quay to do the Sydney Harbour Cruise. The first stop was Fort Denison, a martello fort about kilometre offshore built in the mid 19th century to protect Sydney. From there we sailed onwards towards the ocean past the net-protected Sharks Beach in Vaucluse before reaching the affluent suburb of Watsons Bay.
Sydney's Circular Quay
Fort Denison in the middle of Sydney Harbour
Shark Beach protected by nets
Watsons Bay was the furthest we travelled east towards the open ocean before we turned around. The views of Sydney, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge as we made our way back were stunning.
Looking beyond Watson Bay towards the Ocean
Looking towards Sydney on the way back from Watson Bay
The replica of HMS Endeavour beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Me sailing past the Sydney Opera House
The 'Carnival Spirit' Cruise Ship berthed at the Circular Quay next to the Sydney Opera House
After brief stops at Taronga Zoo and the Circular Quay we passed under the Harbour Bridge and turned into Darling Harbour opened in 1988. The National Maritime Museum with its impressive fleet of historical ships (including a replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour) occupies the west side of the harbour while the Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussaud's and more tourist boat jetties occupies the east side. Sydney also has a monorail which runs across Pyrmont Bridge at the bottom of Darling Harbour but this was due to close in June 2013 so I was probably one of the last to ride on it.
Replica of Captain Cook's HMS Endevour in Darling Harbour
Darling Harbour and the fleet of historical ships of the National Maritime Museum from the Pyrmont Bridge
The Sydney Monorail coming into its Darling Harbour Station on Pyrmont Bridge