TRIP REPORT (SYDNEY) BY BILL MATHEWS WITH JACK DOSHIER
Posted by Bill
Mathews (188.8.131.52) on November 20, 2001 at 13:07:58:
On everybody's list for SpaceA Travel is a trip to Australia. Jack Doshier and left Ft. Worth NAS, TX Nov 3, on a C40, our "second try" to get to Australia from Hickam AFB, HI. Our first try was on Sep 28 and resulted in overnights at Hickam and San Diego as the C141 & C17 flights we hoped to catch from Travis through Hickam to Richmond, Australia did not take any passengers (we did have our Australian Electronic Visas, which Hickam requires; I got mine from AAA at no charge). So we returned to Ft. Worth on the same C40.
Our 2nd try was a flight from Ft. Worth NAS to Hickam scheduled Sat., Nov 3. We then found a C5 flight on Friday, going from Travis to Hickam and Richmond, Australia with 73 seats. So we headed from Ft Worth to catch the flight at Hickam with a 10pm show time. This worked as we were going with the sun, and arrived Hickam at 2pm, enough time to go in to Honolulu for the evening, before we caught our flight to Richmond,near Sydney. There were 35 pax. for the 73 available seats on the C5, so got to sleep (using 3 seats) on the 5 1/2 hr leg to Pago Pago and then 6 hrs to Australia, arriving 2pm the next day, Monday. Very nice, uneventful flight. The plane went on to Alice Springs and would stay at Richmond for 2 nights, where we hoped to take this C5 back to Hickam and Travis. This was not a long time inAaustralia, but a guarantee to get back to the USA as we didn't want to wait another week for the next Wed. flight to Hickam/Travis, which could be cancelled.
A few unusual SpaceAer's on the C5 flight. Two retired couples had been to Australia 3 times this year. Also, one lady who has been traveling for 7 months and seemed ready to go home.... but her husband and old Navy Sub. man, wanted to keep going....He was 78 and in great shape; she was 62 and was not a happy camper.
After Mon. arrival at Richmond, we had to walk to the RAAF Gate, where we met a cab to take us to our motel in Richmond. We stayed at the Colonial Motel, near the train station,for $96AUS/night ($48USD). We ate fish and chips for dinner and took the train, 1 1/2 hr to Sydney, and walked around the Circular Quay and Opera House areas. Then took the 8pm boat cruise around the Sydney Harbor and saw the city lights, an amazing site... then back to the motel for a real "bed". (Note: The exchange rate is $ 2 AUS for $1 USD)
We stayed in the small town, Richmond, near the RAAF Base. It is very quaint and everybody is friendly. Walked to the downtown from our motel and had breakfast in a local cafŽ daily. Got to be part of the "local scene". Saw another SpaceAer from our C5 and he wastrying to find a military flight to New Zealand, but had given up and will buy a commercial ticket. Everywhere we go everyone says travel and vacationing is way off in Australia, more than 50% and they are hurting for business. Commercial flight to NZ is about $400AUS return.
Tuesday we took the train back to Sydney using a Day Tripper Train Pass: $13AUS Adult Fare and $2AUS Over 65 Fare, if you can get them to honor your Medicare Card, which worked (one of us) 2 of our 4 days. We visited the Chinese Garden and Darling Harbor area. Then in the afternoon we took the ferry across from Sydney to the Taronga Zoo to see the koalas and echidnas, and wombats and other strange animals. Later in the afternoon we took the bus to the Bondi Beach area and walked the beach and had a great steak dinner for $13AUS at a street-side CafŽ, owned by an former Israeli, who has lived in Sydney 17 years.
Sydney is a very modern city, but the little towns 70 km out look like the town I grew up in the 1940-50's, very quaint with porch roofs on the front of buildings over the sidewalks. Very old fashion looking, but very nice. The people seemed to know me because they called me "mate", or think I know how to "sail". They are very helpful, but talk funny. I asked them if I talked funny to them, and they said "very".... They also drive on the wrong side of the road, so we had to be careful when we crossed the street as cars were coming from everywhere. Spring was in Australia, flowers were in bloom. Weather is 80 days/60 nights.
Wed. we got a late start and had breakfast at the local Cafe in Richmond and talked to the locals for an hour or so. One lady told us to take the train North and we would visit a nice quaint town called Berowra.. We rode 1 1/2 hrs and got off and had to walk a mile to the town (missed the local bus) and then could not find anything but a small shopping center. The local "Chemist" laughed when we said we came to visit their town and wanted to know what to see. Everybody laughed in the store. I told him we were from Dallas and said "you know J.R. don't you".. that is a real ice breaker as they all do know J.R. ("reruns")... They all said "nothing to do in their town but there was a scenic drive outside of town", but we did not have time for that as we had to leave in 1 hr.. So a local mother (2 kids, 1 a 12 yr old in local school) said she would drive us to the local overlook and show us a pretty site where she goes when she needs "quiet Mommy time". Nice or her and we went to this Park for 15 min. to see a great overlook of the start of the Blue Mts. Then she took us to the train station for the ride back to Sydney. The people are great and really friendly. In Sydney we then took the ferry ride to Marley Beach, a famous spot the surfer and tourists go, and walked around and fed the birds. Then back to Sydney (30 min. boat ride) and went back to the Rocks area (Old Town) for dinner with George the Greek, who came to Sydney in 1960 and opened a restaurant. George was great and we had a lot of laughs. We did not know him until we asked the waitress who owned the place and she said George and that he was Greek. We said we loved Greeks and the "rest was history" as he came out and spent the meal with us, even gave us a jar of his "home grown" olives to take with us. Then we went (now 9pm) to the Kings Cross area to walk around and found an Internet Cafe, which is cheap to use and located everywhere in Australia ... about $ 3 AUS for an hour.
When we called the RAAF Base on Wed. at 10am (you call between 10-11am for "Roll Call") they said the C5 was delayed a day and will now leave Thurs at 9pm. So we could then take a train Thursday to the Blue Mountain area, which is very pretty like our Smoky Mts. They were not to far from Richmond. We rode the double deck bus to most of the Blue Mt. sites and took the train and local bus back to Windsor, near Richmond, in order to try out the Windsor RSL (Returned & Services League) Club's food. Food was great and cheap $5AUS. All in all the delay made just enough time to see most of the sites in Sydney and the surrounds. Was starting to be a "not to shabby of a trip".
Then we returned for the flight Thurs. night there was another repair delay until Friday night. We then found another, better hotel, The New Inn Motel, also near downtown Richmond for $82 AUS for 2 people. It was new and very nice (not on the AMC/Richmond RAAF brochure). This gave us another day (Friday) back in Sydney to again go to Manly Beach for lunch and take a trip to Paddy's Market for some great and inexpensive shopping that we had forgotten to do. We arrived back at Richmond 6pm and went to the Richmond RSL Club for dinner, another very nice club (food, bar, and gambling) that you can enter by showing your Military ID Card. We had dinner with 2 new friends we met for the C5 flight back to HI, who live (3 months at a time on a visa) in the Gold Coast (Brisbane area), Australia. They said it is very cheap to retire to Australia.
The C5 was fixed and we departed Richmond around 11pm Friday. After a 3 hr. stop in Pago Pago we were back at Hickam Sat. afternoon. We got a room at the Hickam Royal Alakai Inn, on a "walk up" basis only, using a rental car one of the guys on the flight rented. Had dinner down town at the Hale Koa Hotel and back for much needed sleep and off to Travis AFB Sat. at 11am. Arrived Travis AFB, CA late Sat. and again found a "walk up" only room at the Travis Westward Inn , a longer walk from the terminal. Then a 3:30am show for a 7am MedEvac flight to Kelly (C9 that we hoped to catch). We arrived Kelly Sun at 2:30pm and drove a rental car back to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, a 4 hr. drive.
Our original 1 1/2 day trip ended up 5 days in Sydney, which is a great city. Nothing like SpaceA to make your visit challenging and most unexpected. We plan to return next spring (their fall) with our wives. This is an amazing and safe place to visit, if you have time and luck - traveling SpaceA.