Tag Archives: fun

A Bit More of Sydney Pt.2

Continued from Part 1

Vivid Sydney

IMG_20170527_202727The Vivid event takes over Sydney for a couple weeks each year, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the area at the time, it’s highly recommended. There’s lots of spots that join in, from huge projections on the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge through to a walk through of artistic visions through the botanic gardens. Some of it is better than others that for sure, the stuff in Circular Quay is very impressive, while some of the smaller exhibits are more suited to kids and families. IMG_20170526_200526Be aware that opening weekend is absolutely packed out and it’s very easy to lose your friends. One highlight is the water and light show in Darling Harbour. They project animations and scenes up on a wall of water sprayed up from the harbour accompanied by orchestral music building to an impressive crescendo.

Blue Mountains, Three Sisters and Wentworth Falls

IMG_20170529_150733While the Blue Mountains are certainly a touristy spot, they’re still worth a mention. Without a car, getting up here is a little limited, with only bus tours or the public train to choose from. The tours are fine, and with good guides most of them allow you to see the highlights including scenic world with it’s funicular railway, while the train will drop you off in Katoomba, close enough to the Three Sisters to walk, but not see much more.

With your own car you can head out and see a little more, and avoid the worst of the tourist crowds. The Three Sisters viewing point is huge, with multiple levels which means there are some quieter spots for those typical photos. It’s a reasonable walk down to cliff edge though, and with viewpoints along the way it’s easy to find a good spot away from the masses. There’s a lot of hikes in this area, and a few days up in the hills would be a good way to see a lot more. You can even walk across the bridgeway to the base of the first sister, although the visuals are somewhat reduced when you get close, as you can’t see the other sisters.

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Wentworth Falls is a short drive back towards Sydney and is well worth the stop. The right amount of infrastructure to point you in the right direction but not so much that it ruins the environment. The view points over-looking the falls are pretty impressive, but as the fall cascades down near the cliff edge theres a good spot to explore and find some interesting vistas. Just be cautious at dusk, again we found ourselves finding our way home in the dark.

Royal National Park, Bundeena, Wedding Cake Rock and Wattamolla Beach

IMG_20170531_122603This was probably my favourite location on the visit. We started our exploration of the RNP near the main road, a little lake spot which also has the info centre and a little cafe. We strolled about the lake and despite the road running through the middle found it charming and quiet, a huge departure from the Sydney traffic we’d come from. It was a good warm up for the rest of the day.

IMG_20170531_145849We stopped in Bundeena for lunch, wonderful fish and chips from a cute cafe in the town, still miles from the tourists and it really felt like the little local place it looked like. Just around the corner is the walk around to the cliffs, and along to Wedding Cake Rock. The walk along is well maintained, and plenty interesting by itself, a few dips down where brooks reached the ocean and plenty of overhanging rocks to get the adrenalin pumping. Wedding Cake rock is now protected by a large fence, enough to put off some, but it seemed as though most tourists were hopping over to get their snaps on the rock itself. We were told that they have plans to make a visitor centre for it, both to prevent accidents, but also to stop it from cracking and a falling into the sea. The rock itself is made of a beautiful white limestone, a relatively weak rock and the fence is there to stop erosion or an accident if the rock does break away. A visitor centre would probably ruin the area somewhat though and potentially reduce the amount of the visitors to the site. Perhaps with more information at the location fewer people would be willing to hop the fence. It’s an impressive rock, and certainly quite unusual but not in need of too much infrastructure.

The last stop of the day, and of the trip was the pinnacle. The simply gorgeous Wattamolla beach and headland. The beach itself is tiny, it’s more like a small cliff right into a meander of the river. About 5 metres high it’s perfect to dive from and catch some sun. While there’s the typical Aussie safety rail around the cliff it’s easy to hop over. There’s a few rocks below and a tiny beach/slipway to climb back up. The spot would be ideal with a group of friends, some food and a summer afternoon. If you follow the path around you’ll find yourself at the end of the headland, a rocky outcrop pointing out into the wild Pacific ocean. amazing views and almost total isolation, it was blissful to clamber around in such a location, and so close to Sydney city as well. If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d certainly make that spot one of my regular haunts.

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So, all the way across the planet to spend not even two weeks, but so much seen in such a short time, and so much more than most ever see in 5 times the time. Comparing to the first trip to Sydney it was a real eye-opener, there’s so much beauty surrounding the city that is missed by 90% of the tourists there. Even some locals don’t know about these spots, so please go explore!

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Download Festival

I’ve been to plenty of music festivals in my time; Weekenders like Reading, Hevy, Beautiful Days, Buddha Fields and even the tiny Plymouth Festival, plus a load of one-dayers such as Hit the Deck and Slam Dunk, but this was the first time I experienced the biggest specifically Rock and Metal fest in the UK.

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Going with a couple of mates, we drove in each day, staying at an AirBnB nearby rather than paying the same amount for the pleasure of sleeping in a field. While it takes away from the fun festival vibe a bit, as gentlemen of our age it was a lot more comfortable.

IMG_20170610_125558We arrived to join the long queues to get our wristbands on the first day, sadly missing the first band we were hoping to catch. However once in it felt much like the usual festival affair, a fair stages scattered over a couple acres of land, littered with food stands between and the usual mix of hippy or gothic clothing stalls. We were there for the music though, and were quickly watching the bands hit the stages. There was a reasonable distance between each area, but with the RAW wrestling tent in between at least we had something to giggle at as we walked past.

IMG_20170610_190541For me, the smaller Avalanche stage was the best, with a nice variety of heavier metalcore, post-hardcore, pop-punk and new wave emo bands to keep me happy. The main stage obviously hosted the bigger of the bands, with an interesting mix throughout the day, mostly hard rock and straight up metal. The second stage seemed to be more strictly metal bands of various descriptions. It’s always entertaining to find a brutally heavy metal band that are chatty and friendly between songs, the Swedish seem to be pretty good at this, with both In Flames and legendary Opeth cheerfully bantered with the crowd.

IMG_20170610_222439As far as best bands of the weekend a few really stood out. Steel Panther certainly put on the best show visually, with close to a hundred girls on stage to party with them, while their chat between songs was on point. Probably not for everyone, with the crude nature of the jokes, but to raise a laugh from an audience of that size is impressive. Moose Blood put on a great show, as did Basement, a couple of English bands who have revamped the emo/pop-punk/rock scene with a fresh attitude and new approach, a departure from the auto-tune and backing tracks of many scene bands recently. The King Blues put on a good show with a new bunch of musicians, but it was the legendary big bands that really made the biggest impact. Prophets of Rage, System of a Down, Biffy Clyro, A Day To Remember, all smashing their sets on the main stage.

IMG_20170611_181018There were plenty more that were seen, but that missed the mark as far as my tastes went, but what was most interesting was the people there. I’ve always stayed clear of the metal genre, finding it a little trite and contrived to really enjoy, but metalheads, especially those past their teenage years are genuinely very sweet people, there were no fights or issues with anyone, and it was very nice to see everyone there just getting along and enjoying the music. Despite the line-up featuring some pretty un-metal bands, there was no rivalry or animosity between any of the festival goers and the atmosphere was very positive, which I think was helped massively by the pleasant weather.

The line-up each year has always been borderline for my tastes, a few good bands, but not usually enough to make me want to pay the full price to go. However with the Busabout season looming it was the only festival I was likely to get to go to, and I’m glad we decided to go. Overall, not as mind-blowing as some of the other fests (RIP Hevy) but still highly enjoyable overall.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Festival Season Pt.1 – San Fermin

San Fermin – often mistakenly called the Running of Bulls – is a week long celebration of a local saint the town of Pamplona in Northern Spain. It’s a lot more than Aussies running away, bullfights and sangria, so here’s how to make the most of it.

IMG_20160704_123832072_HDRThere’s two main parties of the festival, the opening and closing ceremonies – the closing is a rather more sombre affair, with candles and quiet respect before getting drunk, while the opening ceremony has an early start with short presentation from the town mayor, followed by an impressive sangria fight. The fruity wine concoction is thrown everywhere dying those fresh white clothes a delightful shade of pink. This is followed by a full day of music, dancing and celebration by all those attending. The town is half boarded up by this point, with many businesses closed up for the entire festival and others making the most of their location to sell cheap but tasty bocodillas (sandwiches) and hundreds of bottles of Sangria.

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There’s no bull run on the first day, just the opening, and a full day of parties, although it’s highly recommended to take a siesta at some point, the 8am kick off makes it quite a challenge to go through till late. There’s plenty of streets where the party is outside, but also a few specific bars that work well, NZ bar is a favourite certainly.

Once opening day is done and dusted, it’s on to the bulk of the festival. Each day 6 Bulls and 6 Steers (the floppy bulls) are released at the end of the corridor, comprised of city streets and wooden fences, to run to the bull fighting stadium. Most of the runners wait outside the town hall, ready to flee from the beasts. The start is marked by three fireworks, the first letting people know the gates have opened, the second meaning the first bulls have left the corral, and the last for the last bull out. It’s considered cowardly to run on the first rocket, so the crowd wait until they hear the hooves on the stone streets before running. From then on it’s a matter of survival – many people get injured each year, broken bones, bruises and scrapes are very common, with the occasional goring from a bull. It’s not uncommon for people to be killed. If you want to run, you need to get down very early, Busabout ships you in with plenty of time to spare. If you want to watch, you can pay for access to a locals balcony, which ranges from 20EUR up to several hundred, cram yourself into the streets and watch over the double layered fences or my recommendation is to head to the arena and watch it on the big screens. With cameras all along the course you’ll see the best of the action (and slow-mo replays) along with a couple thousand other fans.

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Once the bulls have chased those brave/stupid enough to run into the ring and left themselves, one of the most entertaining sections comes next. The crowd is allowed to leave the arena floor, but six more bulls are released, although much younger and with covered horns, to charge around the stage giving everyone another opportunity to risk live and limb for the adrenalin rush. After just a couple minutes the floppy bull is released to collect the young one. The floppy bulls aren’t dangerous, although the do have big horns, they more like the pace car at car races, keeping everyone moving along.

The run and arena fun is all early morning, from 8am, so afterwards it’s best to head to breakfast and back to bed again. If you’re on the camp site, you will have been woken up at 4.30am (and were probably still drinking at 1) so midday nap is not a bad idea at all. Then once evening rolls around you can watch a professional bullfight or hit the bars and work on tomorrows hangover. I personally don’t recommend the bullfight, while the running is certainly questionable as far as animal cruelty goes, there is no arguing about the fight itself. The bull is slowly injured and weakened before being killed by the matadors, there’s a lot of tradition with it all, but personally I would not want to pay money to support the fights.

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2016 was the last year that Busabout ran it’s San Fermin package, which provided camping, hostel and hotel options for it’s passengers. From 2017 onwards they will continue with their Hop on Hop off network, which goes through Pamplona, allowing people to make their own arrangements for the festival.