Sun was up really early and so were we at 630am. Wanted to maximized the day since shops close early and we had a day trip to Blue Mountains planned. After our breakfast, called Airbus to make our booking for pick up on Monday at 1050am and then walked to East Coast Car Rentals that was positioned on Williams road, just 10 mins from our lodge. Theirs had one of the cheaper offers for rental cars, yet we we didn’t manage to get the Suzuki Swift as it was already reserved. Settled for the auto Toyota Altis similar, which was costing $77 with the best insurance coverage, for one day. Only problem was with the toll system in which everything was automatic and if I had to go through the toll (e-toll), then I had to call to get the vehicle registered. Since we were going to Blue Mountain, the personnel suggested that we didn’t had to do anything since we weren’t be going through the toll. Done the paper works, turned on my own GPS and we were on our way to Blue Mountain.
Driving was easy yet I felt uneasy. I wasn’t sure if I could go faster but was at the same time worried that I might be caught so I kept to the speed limit. Went to a service stop along the way to get bottled water and moved on. Driving took some 1.5hrs, slowest at along the Great Western Highway where the lanes became just one as there were some construction to upsize the road. Arrived at Katoomba, the home of the 3 sisters, went straight to Echo Point, parked and paid for car tickets via the machine, 3.80 for first hour, pretty expensive. Visited the tourism info counter to get maps and tips and went out to get photos taken. Took the easy 15mins return to the 3 sisters and decided to drive westwards and visit the lookouts.
The road to all the lookouts were then named the BMD, Blue Mountain Drive and that made navigation straightforward though we did missed some since there were really easy to spot signboards along the way. The Eagle Hawk lookout did not have a big carpark while the rests were ok. The views were similar though and we were all not that impressed. We decided to give Scenic World a miss as it was quite expensive and it seemed like we saw most of what we could see already. Went over to cover eastwards of Echo Point at which point we decided to go for lunch.
Drove to Leura town for lunch, recommended by the tourism personnel. Parked and walked the small town and sat into one of the takeaways store to have fish and chips. Walked around a bit before driving to Blackheath.
10km down and we got onto Govetts Leap road and arrived at an info center. Checked the map at the entrance and decided to visit the 2 lookouts, reachable just by car, which was at the end of the road called Horseshoe falls lookout and Evan’s lookout. Definitely a difference in view, especially Evan’s which had the view of a valley. Didn’t stay too long since we had to return the car that day if not risked the uncertainty of getting a carpark in a carpark-starved city of Sydney, although the rental company told us it was easy.
The nightmare began on the drive back. The drive back to the M4 was quite the same, slow with medium amount of traffic. While on the M4, there were signs indicating accident on some road called Homebush bay and to avoid it, which I didn’t thought of it much. After pumping gas (E10 gas, something I haven’t never seen before, though it was the cheapest) to the brim into the car 12km from Sydney and continuing towards the city, the cars came to a major slow down at the split towards Olympic park and the main road. There I realized that the whole main road was diverted and no traffic was allowed on M4 anymore. What made matter was that the GPS didn’t recognized this and tried to get us back on M4. Had to “force” it by continuing straight on the diverted smaller road until it recalculated another route back to the city, in the slower moving traffic. The good thing though was that we did manage to see more of Sydney.
2nd part of the nightmare began when we arrived at Sydney center and GPS just went nuts, giving us directions on roads that either had toll, making us turn into single opposite direction roads and was too late in giving instructions. Fortunately we were familiar with the roads on the 2 days of walking previously and depended part of on that experience and re-entered a new destination on the GPS to get back to the hotel.
3rd nightmare was the parking. Seriously, the signs were cryptic and didn’t had other instructions on it. There wasn’t a ticketing box either and thus we found one along the side of the road which didn’t have the time limitation and left the car there, some 5mins walk from our lodge. Got back to the room at 7pm, googled Sydney parking signs and finally understood the requirements. Since it was Sunday, the parking were basically free for the location that we parked.
After rested for a bit, we walked through Hyde Park to Circular Quay for ferry trip to Manly. Bought the tickets from the auto machine at Whaft 3 and boarded at 755pm, just in time for sunset (summer time!). Sat outside at the rear end of the ferry and as it moved towards Manly, we had a fantastic view of the Opera House and the Bridge. It was also chilly and so we sat on the inside of the ferry and moved out for photos when necessary. There also weren’t that many people at that time and so moving around the ferry was possible.
The 30 min ferry brought us to Manly Wharf. It was linked to the pretty Manly beach through a walkway named the Corso, which was also lined with stores and cafés. Night sea breeze was strong and chilly and by the time we arrived at the beach, last of the twilight was gone and we could only see silhouette of waves crashing to the shore. It would have been pretty we were sure.
Headed back towards the wharf and went into Hungry Jacks (Burger King equivalent) en-route for some quick bites. The next ferry was at 930pm as we found out, so we walked around the harbor for a while. The pier side had many party goers and a few pretty crowded restaurants. There were also many people sitting on the grass patches near the shore just enjoying their own company and the cool night near the waters.
Ferry back had a little more people and again the night view of the harbour was nice (though sunset was prettiest). Went towards the Rocks to visit the ever popular Pancakes on the Rocks restaurant, hoping that it was still opened. In fact, it was never closed, in business 24-7 daily. And crowded at that time of the day too, amazingly! We got our tables in a bit and ordered 2 different flavors and it was tasty! Pancakes were soft and warm and the combination of toppings was perfect. We didn’t managed to finish everything as they were 2 big pieces of pancakes each topped with a scoop of ice cream and we were not entirely hungry (burger at Manly).
Walked back to the hotel and arrived at 1130pm, exhausted from the full utilization of the day.