Two things you’re unlikely to hear a Melbournian say: I caught a train to Sydney, and I loved my time there. There’s more than a little rivalry between Australia’s two largest cities! When I was fifteen I lived in Sydney for a year and every day was kick-a-Vic(torian) day. I wasn’t fond of the city, but I did make some good friends, so I try to visit every few years.
How I got there
Most people assumed I flew to Sydney and I can understand why. The train takes a long time and isn’t very comfortable. But I wanted to try this more sustainable alternative and it is at least a viable alternative.
I caught the night train. The train staff were friendly and helpful, and to my surprise the train carriage was full. An economy seat was an affordable AU$70 each way. Of course, this meant that I couldn’t lie down to sleep. I brought a travel pillow, ear plugs and pashmina to keep me warm so I slept ok, but I was still tired the next morning. I wish there was an economy sleeper option; I couldn’t justify over $200 each way for a first class sleeper.
It was convenient to finish work, head down to Southern cross station and walk onto the train. By the next morning I was at Sydney’s Central station, transferring onto a bus to get to my friend’s house. I’d seen the sun set and rise again, and it had felt like an adventure.
What I saw
I shared meals with friends and rough-housed with their kids. We had long chats and long hugs. It was lovely to see everyone again.
A friend joined me for the Berowa to Cowan walk. You can catch the train to Berowa, walk 10 min to get to the nature reserve and then you’re in bush until lunchtime. Here you can stop at one of several cafes in Berowa waters for lunch. Then it’s up the hill and along the ridge to Cowan to catch the train home. How amazing is that?!
It was an overcast and drizzly start, so the famed Naa Badu lookout wasn’t its usual impressive self. I loved the different colours of the rocks and tree trunks about. After lunch was mostly climbing, both by steps and large boulders. Lots of fun! We found a lovely water hole along the way, and lots of caves. Up on the ridge it was more business-like: dry eucalypt forest and an easy stroll back to Cowan. It’s a comfortable six hour walk; the rock scrambling and climbing would make it a challenge for some.
On my last day I was at a loose end on what to do before catching the train home. I got advised to head to Manly. What excellent advice it was. I caught the ferry over and headed straight to the beach. The weather was warm, and the atmosphere relaxed on that weekday afternoon. I walked round to Shelley beach too, wishing I had time to round the headland. Next time!
Public transport for the win
One last transport memory to leave you with. Sydney has an electronic ticketing system these days, the opal card. Gone are the days of separate tickets for bus, train and ferry! The card also has an app which made traveling around Sydney so accessible for me. No more juggling of timetables or squinting over routes! Just enter where you’re heading to and the app works out how to do it. Bliss.
Lying on the beach in Manly, I worked out what time I would need to catch a ferry to get to Central station for my train home. It wasn’t till I was on the ferry that I realised we were close to sunset. As we turned into Sydney harbour, the silhouettes of the Opera house and Sydney harbour bridge stood with a shining orange backdrop. What a way to finish.