We had planned to walk to Spit Bridge but over night, smoke from the mountains had blown in. Liesel noticed the smell, but the haze outside told the full story.
Instead, Helen drove us to Palm Beach, where the air was clear and the views magnificent. We walked along the soft sand beach and up the sloping path to the lighthouse.
Last time here, there had been a big fire and the vegetation had only just started to grow back. Today, it was lush and green and there were some pretty but unusual flowers too.
Looking down on the picturesque Palm Beach with its pair of back to back beaches gave us all the encouragement we needed to reach the summit.
This is the place to come to see whales at the right time of year, but we were just happy to look out over the blue, empty sea.
Having walked up one way, we decided to walk back down the other, down the steps.
I was delighted to complete the descent in fine fettle, having passed a few young people, all puffing and panting and sweating. Then Liesel pointed out that we were walking down while they were running up.
Walking back along the beach and on to the restaurant, we passed what we thought should be our next hire vehicle.
In the loo queue, I spoke with a lady from California, mainly about the British monarchy. She knew more of the cast list than I did, of course! Plus, she thought I had an Aussie accent.
We stopped briefly at Warriewood Square, a huge shopping centre, on the way home. Liesel bought the biggest suitcase in the world. Well, it isn’t, but compared with the small, 10-litre backpacks we’ve been travelling with, it’s enormous. Have we really acquired that much extra stuff? We have a few bottles of wine from a couple of days ago plus a very few other small bits and pieces.
We all caught the ferry into Sydney and while on board, I watched the Sun setting behind the suburbs.
With about twenty other passengers, I was waiting for the magic moment when the Sun would appear behind or underneath Sydney Harbour Bridge. I thought how tragic it would be if someone were to fall overboard in the crush. On the other hand, there’d be fewer people in the way of a good picture. The best shot, cropped to lose people’s heads and some ferry superstructure, isn’t too bad.
For the second time in two days, Liesel and I found ourselves walking towards The Rocks, this time accompanied by Helen.
Vivid Sydney is a festival where art, technology and commerce intersect. Three weeks of game changing ideas and seminars, amazing music and light sculptures that transform the city. From our point of view, the lights would normally be an attraction. But the crowds of people might diminish the experience.
Plus, tonight, we didn’t need any more light pollution than was already present. My very welcome, late birthday present from Helen was a visit to Sydney Observatory, on top of the hill, above The Rocks.
The guide showed us round and it was interesting and exciting to be back inside a working observatory dome again.
Just about everything here is controlled electronically, so things are much easier than they were at Mill Hill Observatory, 45 long years ago, when I was a student.
We visitors took it in turns to look through the telescope at a couple of items. We managed to split the binary star ɑ Centauri and we viewed The Jewel Box star cluster too. Darker skies would definitely have enhanced the image.
The planetarium was just a big umbrella onto which images of the night sky are projected. It was interesting to compare the sky in Sydney, about 120 stars visible, with a really dark sky and 3000 stars visible plus The Milky Way. There’s plenty of other fascinationg equipment and artefacts here too. Maybe a longer, daytime visit is required. Next time.
We booked an Uber home rather than walk, fight the crowds, run for the ferry and walk up the hill in Manly. Thanks to Helen for being a wonderful host, chauffeur and guide today!