2 - The Olympics and Other Diversions!
-- Story by Erin --
September 14th - With the Olympics literally at the
doorstep, we began to get caught up in the fever of it all. The torch finally made
it to town and I spent it's last day on the route watching the torch relay in downtown
Sydney with my friend Sheelagh. The weather was spectacular and all of the locals
were in a great mood.
For the Olympics, Chris got a volunteer job with UPS film
courier service, riding a Harley-Davidson Sportster, delivering photographer's film from
the different events to the main processing center. UPS provided a custom helmet,
Olympic Harley jacket, custom shirts, and black jeans -- all to for the riders to keep.
In addition, the riders would raise $A 14/hr to be paid direct to Muscular
Dystrophy in each rider's name (Chris worked about 53hours) -- the total amount raised
should be about $A 100,000 (US$60,000) .
Friday, Sept 15th was the Opening Ceremony and Chris was
excited about his first opportunity to work the Olympics and maybe to have the chance to
see some of the event live. It turned out that they were over staffed so Chris and
several of the other volunteers spent their time soaking up the atmosphere at Olympic
Park, meeting several of the athletes entering the stadium, then watching the ceremony on
TV (like the rest of us). Since Chris did not have to work again until Sept 21st (6
days later) we departed Sydney on Sunday for a mini-trip down the south coast.
Motorcycle friends had recommended we drive down to a town
called Nowra a few hours away and stay at a m/c friendly place called M & M's
Guesthouse. It's run by a wonderful and welcoming couple, Marj and Martin.
Marj used to race old Matchless motorbikes in the early days and still likes
to take their vintage bikes out for a spin. They made us feel at home and guided us
to some nice rides over the next few days. Nowra lies in the Shoalhaven district of
New South Wales and has wonderful coastline as well as scenic mountain valleys to explore.
On Monday morning, we tried to find an old ghost town and deserted gold mine.
The road was nice tar until about 15 kilometers from our destination. As we entered
the mountains, it turned to packed dirt for the rest of the way and then deteriorated to
deep ruts as we neared what we thought was where we wanted to go. We never found the
actual site but enjoyed the ride and the dry bush scenery just the same. We had a
picnic lunch on the edge of the nearby river and decided to head back to Nowra.
Since we had the rest of the afternoon, I wanted to check
out the local animal park. I was really dying to pet a Koala and feed the
Kangaroos. I got my wish as the very friendly people at the animal park told us all
about the living (and handling) habits of these cute animals. We arrived just in
time for the petting hour in the Koala section. Most of them were dead asleep and
situated themselves in the high branches of the trees. One however, Mr. Magoo,
seemed to like the attention. He sat right at chest level in the "V" of a
tree branch and flopped forward on his stomach like a rag doll. His fur was thick
but soft just like that of a stuffed animal. He barely opened his eyes the whole
Next it was time to check out the Wombats, exotic birds (Cockatoos
and Kookaburra's), Goannas, Emus, Dingo's and Wallabies (small versions of
Kangaroos.) Then we entered the Kangaroo compound and were amazed at how many and
how lazy they were! We walked up to them and handed food out and they couldn't be
bothered to get up from their slumber to get it! Finally some did become interested
in what we had to offer and nibbled the little pellets (special roo-food) from our
hands. You have to be very careful around these animals as they may get excited and
try to push you away with their large feet. Their feet have really long claws and
can cut you cleanly and deeply if you are not careful. These however were
hand-raised at the animal park and were totally accustomed to humans around them.
The highlight for me was
being able to hold and cuddle a baby Kangaroo (who was scared to death and wanted nothing
more than to be out of my arms) and a baby Wombat (who loved being cuddled). Tuesday
we explored the area of Jervis Bay (much of which is Aboriginal territory) just south of
Nowra and found hidden beaches and quiet little seaside villages. This area is also
surrounded by national parklands and is a wonderful place to take long walks through the
bush or on white sand beaches.
Returning to Sydney on Wednesday (the 20th) we drove inland
through the Kangaroo Valley. This area is known for its green mountain valleys and
its cattle and horse farms. It looks very much like the mountain valleys in
Europe. We arrived in Sydney later that evening on the doorstep of our friends
Sheelagh and Martijn. We originally met them in Thailand while they were on a
three-month holiday before moving to Australia. Sheelagh is Irish and Martijn is
Dutch. They lived and worked in Amsterdam for more than 8 years. It was great
staying with them because they totally had the Olympic fever. Sheelagh and Martijn had tickets for
events almost every day. And when they didn't have an athletic event to go to they
had tickets for an arts event. We got caught up in it with them, even going to the
Holland Heineken House in the bustling Darling Harbor to watch all the Dutch coverage on a
big screen TV and cheer for Inge and Peter in the swimming! While Chris was working
and getting to see all kinds of events I managed to get tickets for Women's Handball and a
morning session of Track and Field (they call it "Athletics" here.) The
atmosphere was filled with energy and excitement at the Olympic Park and it was a pleasure
to just hang out in the park area and watch all of the people.
While here in Sydney we've been very fortunate to meet some
special people. One of these
was Tracey, who contacted us by email several months ago. She has introduced us to
many of her friends, some of whom are, like herself, motorcycle riders. Two of them
also have sailboats and were kind enough to invite us on board. First, we went out
with Tony and Sally on their boat the Occupational Hazard. Tony and Sally own the
marina where they work and have their boat, so I guess you could say their life really
revolves around boating. On the second Sunday of the Olympics we went out on their
boat for an afternoon. The wind was fairly strong that day and we were able to sail
for a good part of the way. We anchored in a quiet harbor and had a wonderful
barbecue off the end of the boat, complete with sausages and octopus!
||Sunday, Oct 1st: The day of the Olympic
Closing Ceremony we went to Sydney Harbor on the Boardroom, a 46' sailboat. John and
Kim couldn't resist the opportunity to see the fireworks on the Harbor Bridge, and invited
us out for a party on their boat, along with about 20 of their friends (including Tracey,
Tony, and Sally). It turned out to be the best seat in the house!
Oct 1st also marked day 500 on our journey -- check
out the fireworks!
While we've been in Sydney we've met some wonderful
motorbikers, most whom belong to the Ulysses Club.
We were mentioned on their website and many members have contacted us including Nigel and
Lynn of the Northern Beaches club in Sydney and, Sam and Kavlyn from Newcastle. We
participated in a club ride one Sunday together with these four wonderful people and saw
some awesome scenery on the edge of the Hunter Valley wine region, capped off with a
burger and drinks at the Wollombi pub.
Full membership in the Ulysses Club is restricted to riders
who have reached the half century mark, but junior membership can be obtained a decade
earlier. A few of the 15,000+ members have already contacted us with advice and
suggestions about Australia. Based on the folks we've met so far, we can't wait to
meet more of the club!
This is Sydney Harbor on October 2nd, the day after
the closing ceremonies. We're off on our (roughly) 6 month tour around Australia,
and won't be back in Sydney until sometime next year.