Australia - the Southern Hemisphere

Updated: Jul 13

A journey to the land down under...


Sneaky, unmarketed, fireworks display celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Look how small the crowd is! Photo - CCRiney

The time had finally come when we were able to visit Australia. I am half Australian and I have parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends living on the other side of the world (I live in London). My journey with my sister from London to Sydney on March 9, 2022, felt like nothing short of a major expedition! We decided to go before anything else changed, again...


Finally we could make the journey after two years, no quarantine, no permission needed just paperwork and a pre-departure COVID test. Oh the joys, of the pre-departure COVID test, as I write this many destinations no longer require them! What a difference a few weeks make.


The Journey


I always think a journey starts when you first start thinking of a place you want to go to and why. You know my where and why, so here is where I am taking you next:


  1. Pre-departure tests - London.

  2. Airlines - we didn't have much choice as airlines had just started flying again to Australia. We chose Singapore Airlines based on length of flight, price and reliability.

  3. Arrival at the airport - Sydney.


Tests - The Travel Admin (even as I write, this has changed)

Pre-Departure COVID tests - Terminal 2


I booked mine for the day of the flight and the testing centre turned out to be right next to where I was checking in. My sister had her Antigen test (or RAT, as it is known in Oz) the night before so she was good to go. We had a very short conversation about, "what if...I was positive." I, obviously, would be heading home alone and she on the long flight not so alone.


I did a test the day before at home (still have a small stash of tests) and was negative. But what a way to start your journey! Also, fortunately for me I went in the wrong entrance (see the photos below). Why I thought "No entry" was where I should go, who knows?

Photo: CMRiney


The photos above show - on the left, definitely not the right way in. Middle, my cubical for the test and the final photo is of the long line to get into the testing area that I managed to bypass (by mistake, yes really).


Pre-test - still required at the time of posting to go to Singapore.


Other forms - are not needed for Australia now but do keep checking what you need, things are moving and changing quickly. See my other post about COVID & Brexit travel documents.



Singapore Airlines


I do like flying Singapore Airlines - I have found the staff friendly and the aircraft comfortable. As for dealing with COVID infection risk - I have read that sitting in a window seat and turning off the overhead airflow helps among other things like wearing a mask. Also, the way air is filtered in large planes mitigates the risk.


Photo: CMRiney


To get to Australia was a two-flight journey, one taking 13 hours (6,600 miles) - London to Singapore. Second flight, 7 hours (3,518 miles) - Singapore to Sydney. We also had a 3-hour transit layover in Singapore. That makes 23 hours in a mask. But when you add the time at the airport before the flight it was a horrible 28 hours.


Below Pictures: Singapore Airport: with Donning & Doffing stations for airport employees PPE, a nervous passenger in full PPE and a mostly empty arrivals area, really strange feeling compared to the relative hustle and bustle of Heathrow.

Photos: CMRiney


Singapore was operating a Vaccinated Travel Lane VTL flight. You could only travel on these flights if you were fully vaccinated. These are still in place. Even so the flight crew had visors, gloves and masks. We were also continually asked to make sure our mask was on.


The flight was bearable, full, but comfortable. The flight crew kindly filled in my flight log as well. Thank you Singapore.


Photos: CMRiney


Note: Carbon impact A new thing is happening when you book flights, have you noticed? They are telling you the carbon impact of your particular flight compared to others on booking websites, showing you which are lower than others going to the same destinations.


Arrival


From the inflight entertainment on Sinagpore Airlines - photo CCRiney

Amazing to finally touchdown in Sydney after feeling more cut off than I have in years, even with the likes of WhatsApp and Facetime etc. My parents were waiting at the arrivals gate for us to appear - just amazing to finally have a hug.


Of course, there were a few weird and funny last-minute hitches before we were allowed to leave the passport control and baggage claim. Apparently, I am unable to follow fairly simple instructions regarding the automatic gates that read your passport! Didn't realize I was supposed to have a ticket from one machine to take to the other...


I was caught in a weird electronic reader loop! At least I wasn't the only one, in my defense I hadn't slept for over 24 hours. Note my sister follows directions and was wondering if I was caught up by the notorious border control - think sniffer dogs! There was an incident, years ago, involving a satsuma.


I made my way out of one loop only to get stuck in another... our planeload of people was held in

Sydney Airport - Baggage Claim photo:CMRiney

baggage claim for over an hour due to flooding of the runways and difficulty of getting our bags unloaded. We were the only flight in the whole area and there was a nice feeling of comradery while we waited.


Mainly around who had what duty-free in their possession in case we needed sustenance (alcohol, it was agreed was what would be most needed!).


But we had arrived. As you can imagine, a lot of time was spent with our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, it was much needed and wonderful.



In the next section, I would like to tell you about the places in Australia that we visited and, as usual, through words and photographs.


Here's a tale of two cities. Coming separately, Part two - a week in the outback.



Part One

Tale of Two Cities - New South Wales (NSW)


We only had time to visit NSW but we made the most of it!


We mostly stayed in the state of NSW, starting and ending in Sydney, with a brief afternoon in Hebel, Queensland. We were away for two weeks which is too short if you have never been and only just long enough if you have... Here's the outline - click on the sections that interest you most or follow the journey.


1. Sydney - rain and sunshine

  1. Harbour views

  2. 90 year old bridge and the sneaky fireworks

  3. Circular Quay & the Rocks

  4. Top tips

2. Newcastle

  1. Beaches

  2. Lake Macquarie

  3. The Hunter Valley



1. Sydney


An iconic city known for the wonderful images of its harbour or harbor.


Sydney Opera House - CC Riney

Harbour Views


Sydney Harbour, in the rain or sunshine, is just gorgeous (follow the link as it is an excellent summary of what to do around the Harbour).


A friend came up to meet me in Sydney and it absolutely poured all day. We were there during all the horrific floods in Queensland and NSW in March 2022. The rain and flooding is still happening 2 months later.


Sydney Harbor - photos CMRiney


So, what did we do, we just headed for the harbour and found the perfect place to take in the view, chat and stay dry! That was all we needed.


If you find yourself in a similar position head for the cruise terminal opposite the Opera House near the Sydney Harbour Bridge till you come to the end of the building and reach The Squires Landing.


We were in the forecourt area which is a low key, light & airy, bar restaurant with an amazing view! The two photos show the view from inside looking towards the Bridge and directly in front of our table, the Opera House. Very wet, but we were warm and dry behind huge glass windows.


I am not saying it has the best food or making any other claims, you can look it up for reviews, mine would be 3 1/2 out of 5 but the views & the relaxed ambiance, at that time, were 11 out of 10.


Sydney Harbour Bridge - 90 Years Old in March 2022


We did not know until we arrived back in Sydney about the celebration that was about to unfold around us.

Sydney Harbour Bridge - 90 Years Old - CM Riney

I use to live and work in Sydney taking the train across the bridge into the CBD (central business district) every morning from Artarmon on the Northside of Sydney. What a commute, definitely my best ever!


Little did we know that the bridge was celebrating it's 90th Anniversary the day before we left. We arrived in the morning and headed down to the harbour via a quick visit to the QVB building (another recommendation for you), and there were actors dressed in period clothes handing out newspaper fliers and sustainable puzzles declaring the Harbour Bridge to be 90 years old.


We spent a very pleasant afternoon enjoying the festivities including a small stage show with singers and