Tasmania Day 14: Zeehan & First Impressions of Cradle Mountain

Yesterday was Australia day. Obviously we did our bit as temporary residents of the red island continent and had a few drinks in one of Strahan’s pubs and so next morning I woke up crumpled up under a duvet in the driver’s seat of the car with David beside me. We weren’t feeling too bad, Strahan wasn’t exactly an exciting night out and the burgers we’d cooked at the beach before the pub had been a master-stroke of planning and damage-avoidance. Still, I was a bit confused, seeing as it had been Kevin who’d been in the front of the car with me when I’d fallen into a slightly drunken sleep. Wiping the dripping wet windows cleared that one up though: he’d had the raw deal last night with David sleeping in the back seat behind him and had bailed out half-way through the night to sleep on a bench overlooking the beach. Even with the view of the calm waters of Macquarie Harbour to wake up to, I still can’t say I was envious of that move.. To the humble, grubby backpacker, Strahan is a jewel though, as it’s the only place we found on the island that had free, hot showers so we basked in the glorious steamy goodness one more time before heading north towards Zeehan.

On the road up the coast we hit a viewpoint overlooking the expanse of Henty Dunes, but they were quite far away so it wasn’t all that interesting, letting us crack on to the free bbqs in Zeehan and where we tried to boil pasta for lunch. Overall it was a bit of a failure with at least one of the pans looking more like a pot of starch than spaghetti, oh well. Zeehan felt, like most of the towns in the west, very sleepy with nothing catching our attention and in little time we’d got through it, Rosebery and Tulla, leaving not much between us and Cradle Mountain.

This was more like it, heading back into the highlands of the island, with the promise of seeing some of the most stunning scenery it had to offer. Tomorrow David planned to do the Overland Track – a 6-day, 80km walking trail from Cradle Valley to Lake St Clair – and that was why we were giving him and his bike a lift to the starting point. The information centre was still open when we got to Cradle Valley so David got his bike locked up (he’d have to find a way back up here by road after doing the track). While we had some light I really wanted to get a first glimpse of Dove Lake and The Mountain and, as far as first glimpses go, rolling up to the lake side, catching the last of the low sun breaking through the dramatic and now colourful clouds was just what I needed to get me raring to climb the ominous collection of rocks that loomed in the distance.

Scoping out the place for possible camping spots for the night we realised the place was far too popular and completely devoid of secluded spots suitable for a bit of rock-bottom-budget sleeping, forcing us to drive back out of the park boundary, heading north along the main road in search of side tracks and the likes. Seemingly land-owners were on to our kind long before we arrived, as every possible track off the road had a little ‘private – no entry’ sign nailed to a tree, so we ended up finding a patch of relatively soft ground at the side of the road and made it our home for the night.

Tasmania Day 13: Australia Day in Strahan

Waking up to the quietly moody atmosphere hanging over Lake Burbury, I had two surprises awaiting me. Last night, I’d left my camera running the black-frame noise-reduction for the 23-minute long exposure I did of the Milky Way over the lake, and it was great to dig the cold camera out of its bag to find that the battery hadn’t died before the noise-reduction finished, and the resulting shot looked like a winner. It was just a shame that without a computer of my own, I’d possibly have to wait almost 8 months until I returned home to have a chance at post-processing it.

Next, Kevin’s dead car awaited the attention of my somewhat-amateur mechanical skills, after we killed the battery by leaving the headlights on to help with tent-pitching last night. Handily, we were parked at the top of a slope that ran – not-so-handily – into the lake, so we pushed the car round to line it up and then I tried a rolling start. Half-way down the hill, thinking I had enough speed, and wanting to be able to stop the car one way or another before I ended up in the lake, I let the clutch out, but nothing. So it was do or die, clutch in, off I rolled until, just before I hit the boulders marking the shore, I let the clutch out again, but the engine was lifeless. Now we were buggered, down an anonymous road, with a dead car, and nowhere to push it. In a last-minute-save, two guys who were camping beside us, probably quite amused by two foreigners trying to resuscitate their dead car, helped us push the car back up the hill, and back down, giving me the momentum I needed to tempt the reluctant engine back to life.

Hardly daring to let the engine rev down to idle, we were back on the road west. Cresting a hill we stopped at the lookout to take in the view of what looked like an open-cut mine, then realised it was Queenstown. The combination of it being the Australia Day public holiday and the west of Tasmania drew all but the smallest bit of life out of the town, so we cracked on through the rain to Strahan (pronounced ‘Stawn’). It was great to hear from David, who we’d left in Hobart with his bike, saying he was in Strahan too so we caught up with him and sheltered from the rain in a café across from the police station, soon stuffing our faces with as much chips, wedges and burgers as we could summon from the ever-beckoning food counter. I can’t remember the name of the place but the food was really good despite being pretty decently priced.

Afternoon saw the weather clear up enough to let us get the body boards out and head – against the warnings of rip and undertow in the Lonely Planet book – to Ocean Beach. As usual I found myself freezing and desperately paddling, almost in vain, towards the shore within 15 minutes of jumping in, so I left Kevin – now master of looking like he was caught in every possible rip and undertow – to it. Reunited with David on Australia Day was just the excuse we needed to check out the pub, which kept us going till we had to stagger back to the other end of the village to find the car and try to squeeze the three of us in to sleep. Like that was ever going to work…

Tasmania Day 12: Lake St Clair & More Western Wilderness

Now that I’m writing about Tasmania 4 months after it happened, and I’ve left what notes I wrote about it back in Bright, some of these days’ posts might be a bit vague. It’s funny how much I can forget about what I’ve done on my travels, so quickly after the event – thankfully looking back over my photos helps fill in some of the gaps and dig some almost-forgotten events back up into consciousness.

Waking up to a beautiful morning at the idyllic and dead-silent Ted’s Beach, I wished it was warm enough to risk a dip in the dark tanin-tainted waters of Lake Peddy, since we were back to living without showers again. If it took us little time to get in to the wilderness, it took us even less time to get out again, breaking north across the Derwent River, stopping momentarily at the quaint Ellendale, dominated by a bright white-wash church overlooking a well-manicured graveyard. After another meal featuring the ever-popular indomie noodles and a side of nachos we stopped at Tarraleah – another part of Tasmania dominated by hydro-electric schemes – to witness the rows of pipeline quietly channelling the potential energy stored in nearby lakes to the generating stations tucked into the bottom of the valley.

Next stop was the end of one of the greatest walking tracks in Tasmania – the 80km Overland Track – at Lake St Clair. We walked a little bit of track as part of a much smaller circuit that took us round part of the south-west edge of the lake. On the return leg we branched off along an Aboriginal Culture walk, seeing some beautiful grass-land but not really feeling the information signs that were dotted around. Maybe that’s a testament to the lack of knowledge we have on Tasmanian Aboriginals due to wiping most of them out while trying to colonise the island.

Continuing west on the Queenstown road, we stopped at the Donaghy’s Hill carpark and did the 15 minute walk up the hill, being rewarded by a 360 degree panorama encompassing peaks from the south of Cradle Mountain National Park to the north of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, made only better by the late afternoon light. As that recommendation of the ranger at Lake St Clair had held true, we checked out Nelson Falls, further along the road, to find them flowing much better than Russel Falls yesterday. Not being totally fenced off by the board-walk, I got right up to the falls and was way happier with the shots I got.

With the sun down and the light fading it was time to scope out our sleeping spot, and with a few camping areas dotted round the nearby Lake Burbury we thought it should be quite easy. The first sight, tucked into a corner east of the lake near the bridge just north of the road, charged a fee but had loads of flat grass as well as showers, not that we were tempted by either. Next we tried a site near a boat-ramp on the west side of the lake, south of the main road, but all pitch-able spots were taken. That left us with a site marked just north of the road so we hunted it down, first driving past the access road as there was no sign. There didn’t seem to be a proper camp area as such, but we passed a number of mobile-homes dotted tucked into every slightly wider part of the road, which didn’t fill us with hope. Where the road ended, and met the bank of the lake, it widened into a rough sloping area that was just about adequate for us so we settled there.

By now it was pretty dark so we left the car lights on while we pitched the tent, then realising, as we tried to start the car afterwards, that we’d killed the battery. I had a fairly good idea how to do a rolling start so we decided not to worry about the small matter of being stuck in semi-remote west-Tasmania with a dead car until the morning. The night sky was brilliant and the landscape quite visible in the short summer darkness, letting me try some of those night shots that almost look like day-light, finishing up with a long exposure that I didn’t wait to see the result of before going to sleep. So, in the morning, I’d find out if my night photography skills were up to much as well as, crucially, those that I had in the art of starting dead cars.

Tasmania Day 11: In to the Wilderness

Our short time as civilised back-packers was over this morning, as I, as usual, annoyed Kevin until he woke up so we could make the most of the day that promised to take us into some of the most pristine land in the world: the Tasman wilderness world heritage area. Driving the long and steep descent back into Hobart I wondered if I came back here to cycle round the island, much like David was doing, whether this hill and the cyclist-unfriendly nature of the highway would stop me making back down to this quaint corner of the state. Through Glenorchy, New Norfolk, and stopping in by some fish farm that really only interested me for the toilets, we hit our first scenic stop in Mt Field National Park.

Oddly enough when we got to what we were looking for all we saw was a sign for ‘National Park’ – seemingly a somewhat vague name for a place in a state, let alone a country, with dozens of national parks and reserves – but it was actually the turn-off for Russell Falls. We figured we had to see these falls as they were plastered over almost all the stamps we’d been sticking to postcards bound for back home, and naturally they looked quite stunning there. Our excitement to be walking along the trail to one of Australia’s iconic sites of natural beauty was all but culled when we got to the fenced off platform, peering through the menacing – at least from a photographer’s point of view – trees at the trickle of water running down the not-so-glamorous rocks. Clearly, at height of the Australian summer, we were a bit late in getting to these falls, although the Horse-shoe falls redeemed things, if only a little bit. Lunch in the quiet park across the road from the information centre, watching people in various forms of inflatable vessels bobbing down the river on what was another perfect day weather-wise, renewed our energy and optimism for carrying on into the World-Heritage-listed wilderness.

On the Gordon River road, I was almost completely in my element – it’s the closest thing to the Scottish Highlands I’ve yet seen, with almost as much drama and grandeur, but I think we missed a trick by blitzing through it quite quickly in the car. I thought there were quite a few walks to the various peaks that loomed over us as we twisted our way through the rugged landscape, but all I ever noticed were small signs at the side of the road, pointing in the general direction of peaks. But hey, maybe that’s why they call it a wilderness, and anyway, the walks would have probably just been long enough to be dismissed by our lazy sides. We hit Ted’s Beach, a little bit before Strathgordon and scoped out how good it would be for sleeping at that night: some space for pitching a tent and a well kitted out building with a sheltered kitchen area including free bbqs made it sound like the spot we were looking for.

Strathgordon was so small and devoid of any life we didn’t see any reason to stop so it wasn’t until we got to what looked like a lookout over a huge gorge that we got out of the car again. Looking out into the tree-covered wilderness, not even being able to see the bottom of the gorge we got distracted for ages shouting and waiting for the chorus of echoes to calm down, such was the size of the gorge and the number of little spurs that gave our voices something extra to bounce off before they returned to us sounding altogether more haunting. When we eventually turned and looked to the north we realised we only had to drive the car another 100m to be at the end of the Gordon River Road, for we were at the Gordon Dam.

Walking around the, now closed, visitor centre to get a view over the biggest dam I’d ever seen, seeing the ground falling away through the gaps in the steel-grate floor, I had to stop for a second to recompose my legs as I took stock of what was close to a 200m drop to bottom of the gorge and dam wall. Any nerves I had were overshadowed by Kevin’s almost palpable fear of the height, so I had fun coaxing him to the edge of the lookout. The dam is open to walk across, so I steamed ahead and did just that. I wouldn’t say it’s nearly as daunting being on the dam, as it’s wide enough to drive a car on and has a high wall on one side, so there isn’t that perspective of walking a tight-rope. Just as we were going we met a guy who’d rode in on a motorbike and, curiously, asked us where the last fuel stop was. We weren’t sure, knowing we had easily enough fuel for the return trip, so he probably had a bit of a nervous run back out of the wilderness after a bit of an overly-casual stroll in by the sounds of things.

Tasmania Day 9: Tahune Airwalk & Hartz N.P.

After 2 nights sleeping in a proper house we were probably getting a little bit too comfortable with our new-found high-quality living, and it was already getting harder to wake up at a decent time to do anything with our day. Liz worked remotely for her employer in Perth so even she could enjoy a long lie every day before the west-coast working hours caught up with her. Today, she was having some problems connecting to the company through her VPN, so giving me a chance to get some much-needed practice at my profession. Luckily, as I don’t know a huge amount about VPNs, the problem was fairly trivial for me to fix and soon I had another happy customer.

Deciding we should explore some of the coast to the south, Roy drove us down through Geevestown, where we stopped off at the information centre to find out about the Tahune Forest Air-walk, and got lured into a really tasty pie-shop, that I can’t remember the name of, but it’s on the same side of the street as, and very close to, the information centre. I’d already been to the tree-top walk at Walpole, which is basically an aerial walkway through some dense and ancient forest, which gives a great view of the trees, but isn’t something that I’d really bother to do again, so I wasn’t overly excited by the prospect of another walk. Anyway, it turned out to be better than the one at Walpole, partly as it was a much nicer day but also there were more views out of the forest over the Huon River, and there was a really fun part of the walk where the walkway was suspended out towards the river in a dead-end bridge-construction-in-progress fashion, giving a great view and endless possibilities for scaring people with a lot more sense than myself but recruiting people with about as little sense as myself to jump up and down on the edge of the swing-bridge in time and watch fear creep over the faces of the other people as the whole contraption – suspended 20m above the forest floor – bounced and rippled wildly with various creaks and groans to finish off the horror-ride experience.

I think Kevin and Roy were feeling more energetic than me so I tagged along as we did one of the ground-level forest walks, which had a scattering of shaking-bridges that we naturally put as much energy into shaking till we were almost thrown off them. The bridges were so well made that once given a good shaking, it was quite hard to not get to get hit in the face by the all the ripples running along the bridge when you stood still and waited for it to subside.

On the way back out of the park we checked in by a few of the lookouts, including the Big Tree, a name which pretty well sums up the site, save for a few ‘very’s before the name. Hartz Mountains National Park is also accessed from the Tahune Road and I was keen to get a landscape vista fix so we did the fairly winding drive up to Waratah Lookout and did a walk to some quite scenic falls a little further along the road.

Back in Huonville, we gladly accepted yet another night’s board, set going with yet more Baileys and card-games.

Tasmania Day 8: Dossing About Round Huonville

I was a bit surprised to wake up slightly hungover from the meal and pints from last night, so it was yet another slow start to a day for me. My GPS logger had been playing up ever since we got to Tassie and had got to the point where it just wouldn’t stay on unless it was on charge – I’d been relying on it for the past 5 months to help me figure out where all those random out-the-window shots and the likes had been taken when I look back on them later so it was quite annoying to be faced with having to try to make some conscious effort to remember where I take all my photos.

It was a bit of a short visit to Huonville for David, our Israeli cycling friend, as he had to resume his cycle tour today, so we drove back to Hobart with him then took a more scenic drive back down the coast courtesy of Roy. Roy and Liz had been looking for somewhere to build their own home near Huonville so we took a detour up a farm track into a small and secluded valley to check out a site that Roy was keen on getting. Without my GPS working I can even remember exactly where it was..

That was about all we did in what turned into a very cruise-y day, finished up with Kevin and I cooking our hosts a curry for tea, as way of thanks for having us staying with them. Seeing as we hadn’t done much, and there was still plenty to explore south of Huonville, we gladly accepted their offer to stay another night and continue our streak of hot-morning-showers, and settled into a night filled with Baileys, whiskey and yet more shit-head.

Tasmania Day 7: Skipping Bail for the Beach

Breaking out of the rich atmosphere of the tent – rich from the three of us having nachos, cheese and dip, with about half a bottle of tabasco added, before going to sleep – we took stock of our surroundings that we’d stumbled into the night before. We really had just driven down some side forest track and happened upon a part wide enough to get away with pitching a tent on. Still as intent on seeing Fortescue Bay as we were on not paying to get in, we drove back up to the park boundary and walked in the half-kilometre to the camp-ground and beach. The bay is well sheltered and quite idyllic, nothing to rave about at least from our viewpoint, but definitely worth chilling out on for an hour while we woke up.

On to Port Arthur, we were a bit disappointed to find that, although being clearly marked on the map as a town, it was completely fenced off and the only thing we could do for free was look over part of the site from a lookout round the side of the visitor centre. It was something like $17 for basic entry, which I’d probably pay if I went back, but the group consensus – after taking in the view for a while and wondering if we could get away with jumping the fence at the lookout – was there were better things to do with our day.

Following the main road round the peninsula, we’d heard that Roaring Beach had some good surf, so we turned off west at Nubeena to check it out. Not deterred by the suitably roaring, and nippy, wind Kevin and I jumped in while David exercised better judgement and took photos from a distance. The rip was way too much for me, so after spending a few minutes almost hopelessly trying to get back to shore – even though I was only waist deep in the water – I bailed out, while Kevin, typically, swam so far out I couldn’t see him and assumed we’d be called the SES in.

That pretty much summed up our time on the historic Tasman Peninsula before we headed back through Hobart, once again not really bothering to explore the place, only stopping so David could get his glasses fixed, while we made ourselves look like bums playing shit-head on the street. Kevin made friends with a couple how now live in Tassie, when he worked in a restaurant back in Perth, and after a week of uncivilised camping it was the perfect time to call in on them and crash in a proper house again, so that evening, we arrived in Huonville, an hour or so south of Hobart, and met Roy and Liz. For a temporary home while they find their dream spot on the island, their pad was pretty idyllic, set up the valley just outside town, looking over a sweeping bend in the Huon River, not that we really cared though, we were meeting up with some very welcoming people, not sleeping in a tent or a car for the night, and, most importantly, would have a hot shower for the first time in a week!

Tasmania Day 6: Passing the Capital & Heading to Prison

Feeling pretty crap from what was the worst night’s sleep ever, we got to the information centre at the head of the Freycinet Peninsula to find the weather wasn’t looking that great. We’d planned on doing the overnight hike round the peninsula, which meant camping somewhere near the south end, so possible rain and strong winds didn’t combine to make an attractive forecast. Ditching that plan, but at least much better informed about what we could do on the peninsula thanks to the information centre, we steamed on to Hobart to meet our Israeli friend David, who also was circumnavigating the island, but on two wheels, with no engine.

Almost completely ignoring the capital, we caught up with David, got some supplies and tried to leave Hobart. That was easier said than done as, once over the bridge, I assumed what seemed like a fairly sensible position in the left lane of the highway, only to find that after a corner there were signs saying this lane slipped off the main route and, with no time to change lane, then no sign of a slip road back on, I ended up driving back across the bridge, then back across again, just to leave the city. Once again, Australian roads: I despair.

Heading towards the famous and, by white Australian standards, historical penal colony of Port Arthur, we took a detour just before entering the domain of convicts at Eaglehawk Neck to see the Tessellated Pavement and check out a lookout over Pirates Bay and Eaglehawk Neck the spit of land that we’d cross to enter the peninsula. After reading the information on how the cracked formation of the ‘pavement’ – a flat area of rock on a beach – formed, I understand how the cracks formed but still don’t really know why they make a uniform grid. Anyway, passing Eaglehawk Neck didn’t have quite the feel of a no-man’s land marking the entry to what was once the worst prison you could end up at in the British Empire, as we couldn’t see the sea that was so close to us on both sides for the thick bush.

Just inside the peninsula, we checked out the Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen, and Tasman Blowhole: all fairly impressive rock formations carved out by the sea. Definitely in need of a shower again, Fortescue Bay looked promising, although quite far down some unsealed roads, with a camp site and showers. Determined not to pay anything for washing or sleeping though, we sneaked into the campground, had a hypothermia-inducing shower (hot water is available, at a price) then drove back out beyond the limit of the national park and camped by the side of some obscure forest track for the night.

Tasmania Day 5: Douglas-Apsley & Bicheno

Sleeping in the car overnight disposed of our usual morning routine: me putting off getting up for an hour, spending the next couple of hours trying to get Kevin up before the morning was over, then spending the next half hour packing the tent and stuff back in the car. Even if our sleep hadn’t been comfortable, it felt quite novel to wake up and then be ready to drive off 5 minutes later.

Heading south towards the Freycinet Peninsula, we stopped in by Douglas-Apsley National Park and did a 2.7km trail that we thought led to some amazing falls. After walking what felt like at least 2.7km we came back upon the river we’d crossed earlier, except this part was faster, deeper and looked a lot less fun to cross. If there was anything of interest on the other side, maybe I’ll never know, but when we got back to the carpark and re-interrogated the map, we realised the falls were on a different track that would take days to hike. The best view we got was from a lookout that was closed because of landslip, overlooking the bend in river where the shallow river-crossing is.

Bicheno, a small town with a beautiful bay and beach, was annoying as it seemed devoid of free bbqs – something we’d come to rely on to save us using all our camping gas in a couple of days – leaving us hopelessly trying to fry all the stuff we’d bought for a bbq on a useless frying pan, perched aloft a pitiful stove. We eventually ate and retired to the beach for the rest of the afternoon, although the water wasn’t really warm enough for my liking for a swim. It wasn’t far off Coral Bay for beauty though, with clear water and fish swimming right up to shore.

Intending on hitting the Freycinet Peninsula next morning, we took the Coles Bay road and parked up at the River and Rocks campground, not far from the town. I had a seemingly brilliant idea that I would try sleeping across the back seat of the car as I really didn’t like trying to sleep on the almost-but-not-quite-flat front-seats of the car. Doing this, though, meant Kevin couldn’t get his seat quite as flat as normal, and sleeping in the back seat wasn’t nearly as comfortable as hoped, so both had a shocking night’s sleep.

Back in Sydney

Jump Sydney

My week of sleeping in the boot of my car was over – I was back to a nice bed, regular shower, and good food in the comfort of my auntie and uncle’s house in Sydney. Since I arrived in Perth in August I aimed to be in Sydney for Christmas and, even though I had to skip the east to make it happen, I’d made it and was really happy to be somewhere where I could spend the time with family, and hopefully spend New Year with some of the people I’d met along the way here.

The fortnight surrounding Christmas was pretty laid back: quite a few mornings I’d get up and head to Bondi Beach for a swim before it got too busy then spend the day checking out the city or covering some more of the coastal walks with my auntie. My favourite stretch of the coast was on a walk to the north of Bondi, trecking through quite secluded sections of woodland between alcove beaches, looking out across the bright green waters of the harbour to the CBD. If I had a canoe I’d have happily spent hours out on the water there, and then probably suffered the inevitable dose of sunburn in the evening.

Being in Sydney gave me a chance to meet quite a few members of my family for the first time, in particular one my cousins who has never been back in Scotland since I was born, as well as some more distant relations who all originally hail from Scotland. Originally, some of them were going to be round for Christmas but we ended up having a quiet Christmas, instead having them round for New Year’s Eve. Carrying on a routine I started at uni, after a family Christmas, I caught up with a couple of friends I’d made on the west coast. Jorrel, a Swiss guy I’d met in Kununurra had spent Christmas in the Blue Mountains and was taking the train back into Sydney just in time for New Year so I cut my family dinner a bit short to catch up with him before we caught up with Henrikka at Circular Quay.

Hard to miss

I was a bit late getting away from Bondi though, as a few days earlier I’d ordered a copy of The Art of Paragliding – the recommended reading for novice paragliding pilots – and it arrived literally as I was about to leave. I’d been dreaming of taking up this form of free-flight for months now and receiving the book started to hammer home the fact that I was going to learn to fly soon, very soon..

I didn’t make many plans for New Year, partly as there were far less people around Sydney who I knew than I expected and mainly as I didn’t know enough about what was going on. The botanic gardens, with their panoramic views of the harbour, Opera House, bridge and CBD seemed like the place to be for the night so we headed there fairly quickly as Henrikka heard that the number of people through the gates had hit about 75% of the limit. The queues were long but fast-moving, so by 6 we were sitting on a grassy hill in the middle of the gardens watching the flying foxes flapping around as the sun dipped behind the skyscrapers of the city centre, casting a beautiful warm glow over the park.

At 9 there was a fairly big fireworks display so parents didn’t have to stay till late for their kids, then on each hour, and on the quarters of the last hour before midnight, each of the batteries of fireworks would send up a single burst of firepower, leaving everyone listening in awe to the rumbles of explosions from up and down the river, rumbling like thunder all round the city. Even then, the crowds were so dense that we couldn’t get within about 20m of any of the decent vantage points, so I improvised and climbed what was nearer to a sapling than a tree, that was within a few minutes precariously supporting 3 girls and me. The improvisation didn’t work that well though, as by removing all the people from my view, I’d added a few dozen branches, which were just about as hard to peer through as the people, and not quite as comfortable to hang on to.

Sydney Harbour

As midnight approached, we tried to get a better vantage point for the main salvo and found a strangely quiet spot near Mrs Macquarie’s chair. That said, we were still about a minute too late to bag a spot right up at fence, but we were still close enough to look in awe at the harbour, packed with hundreds of boats, many with people on them enjoying the evening from their own unique bobbing vantage point. The show was obviously great, but, having been to Edinburgh for Hogmanay the year before, didn’t find them truly spectacular, but then I’ve probably seen enough firework displays now that I’d only be really impressed if I ended up with sore ears after the show.

It was great that the city’s public transport network was running so it only took about an hour to get back to Bondi, where the gig on the beach was still going in what looked like a fairly epic fashion – if I’m in Sydney for another New Year then I think I’ll go there instead.

New Year’s day was spent getting packed and ready to head south towards Bright, as well as pouring over The Art of Paragliding, getting ever-more excited at the thought of what I could be learning to do in a week. And so my time in Sydney was up – I still didn’t feel like I saw that much of the city so it’ll probably be worth a revisit some other time, but for now I had bigger plans..