Porcupyn's Blog

June 6, 2017

Sydney and travel to Cairns

Filed under: Family,Travel — Porcupyn @ 7:35 am

Upon landing in Sydney, I was a bit apprehensive:

– this was the first time I had gotten an Australian visa, and it was an online process with no way of independent verification other than an email that said that our request for a visa had been approved (i.e., no stamping on the passport); so, I was unsure of what we would do if we ran into any issues
– I had read and watched a few episodes of the Australian border agents in customs and immigration. Those were a bit scary, especially their looking into luggage for “contraband” article such as forbidden food products. Though I had done my homework well, there is always that anxiety until you pass the checkpoint!
– my friend was supposed to be picking us up at the airport to take us to his house for the day, and we didn’t really have a means to communicate with him, to let him know if we had arrived, whether we were getting delayed, etc.

Be that as it may, I knew that we could cross our bridges only when we got to them!

First up was the visa: I had all the passports with me, and the family lined up with me as well. The friendly agent asked me about the purpose and duration of our trip, scanned my passport, kept it aside, then scanned Mrs. Porcupyn’s and gave it back to me. This process repeated with kids’ passports, i.e., I got them back. She then re-scanned my passport, pressing it harder. No dice. Tried again moving it a bit to the edge of the machine. Still nothing doing. I wondered what could be going on. She then said that the rest of the family could go past, but that I needed to come with her for an additional procedure. After telling family to go to the luggage area, I meekly followed the agent to the holding area. She told me to wait a bit and went somewhere – with my passport. A few minutes later, she came back with another agent, who asked me a few questions about our trip as well. She told me to wait there as well, and then went back inside with my passport. After a few minutes, she came back and said that I was good to go. Apparently what was happening was that my passport had the information scrolling over to a new line because of my rather long name (not Porcupyn!). So, it was not being properly scanned by their machines. I am assuming that she had to manually enter the information for it to process properly.

Next was the luggage: by the time I was sanctioned into Australia, family had collected the bags; however, there was a long line for bags to be checked. Though we didn’t have any goods that we thought would be prohibited, we didn’t want to take the chance of getting in trouble. So, we decided to go in the longer line where the officials check everything themselves regardless. And so it was that we had dogs sniffing our bags. That was kinda interesting. For one of the passengers a few people ahead of us, the dog sniffed the bag and just sat down right next to the bag. That passenger had some ‘splaining to do. Fortunately for him (or her, I forget if it was a he or a she), the explanation was a valid one and accepted. We passed without any incident. However, by now, it had been over an hour since we reached the customs area.

And so I was getting really worried about meeting our friend. Thankfully, as soon as we exited the baggage claim area, we saw him waiting for us. It was such a relief as I didn’t know what we would’ve done by ourselves. One thing is for sure – we probably would not have left the airport area, as our flight to Cairns was to leave in about seven hours or so.

Within a few minutes, we were all loaded up into his car; my jaw already dropping when I heard how much the parking costs were (though he refused to let me pay for it!), and in about half an hour, we were at his home by the Pacific Ocean. Apparently, during the migration season, they can see whales on the way north (or south, depending on the time of the year). After showering, we decided to walk off our jetlag by taking a stroll up to the beach.

Here, I need to mention that we were presented with the greatest weather ever – clear skies, temperature in the mid to upper 60s (that would be in the upper teens in degrees Celsius) and low humidity. We were already envious of our friends πŸ™‚ [though we did learn later that we apparently did get the best of the Sydney weather – the day that we were returning to the USA, it was overcast and apparently rained the rest of the day as well as the next day]

At this point, Mrs. Porcupyn twisted her ankle at a portion of the sidewalk that was just a bit abnornally higher than the grass next to it. Though it was not serious (we did not know how bad it was then), she decided to opt out of walking down to the beach. So, it was just Baab, Katya, me, friend and his two kids who walked down. Later, we had a yummy breakfast spread that our hostess had prepared, after which we went on a ride to North Sydney, which was my friend’s favourite spot of the city.

It was a great feeling to drive on the Sydney Harbour Bridge right by the Opera House. We then parked on the other side of the bridge and walked down to Luna Park to take in the sights of the city from that side. Mrs. Porcupyn did not get to walk a lot, but she managed to take in the sights regardless.

After spending some time in this area, we got back in the car, went past The Spit, and the quaint suburb of Manly (there is more to come about Manly later), up to a spot called the Park Hill (according to Brother Google, it is technically Sydney Harbour National Park), a location that gives a great view of the Sydney CBD (which is how Australians/Indians refer to the downtown) and the ferries criss-crossing the bay. The weather being nice, we sat down in a grassy area for some time and took in the sights, the sun and the breeze. Winter in Sydney is not too bad, though it is quite Down Under!!

By this time, we needed to return, as our hostess had planned for us to have lunch before getting dropped off at the Sydney domestic airport. We had a great lunch, then were back in the airport to resume our journey to Cairns, where we planned to do boomnetting (a first for us, as we had never heard of anything like this before) with Compass Cruises.

IMG_3779a

The Infamous Sidewalk

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Beach

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Sydney Opera House

Random photo - Sydney CBD

Random photo – Sydney CBD

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Red Bus

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Luna Park

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Carnival Cruiseship

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Sydney CBD

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Sydney Opera House from across the bay

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Bride getting ready

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Opera House (not so white)

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Park Hill entrance sign

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Hornby Lighthouse from Sydney National Park

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Sydney CBD from Sydney National Park

A Sydney Ferry Boat - as seen from North Head, Sydney (Manly area)

A Sydney Ferry Boat – as seen from North Head, Sydney (Manly area)

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Park Hill

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Quaint pedestrian warning sign in Manly

Sydney Domestic Airport - walking towards gate

Sydney Domestic Airport – walking towards gate

ANA

ANA

Waiting for our JetStar flight to Cairns

Waiting for our JetStar flight to Cairns

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