Australia my 7th Continent

Sydney

Most people visit Antarctica as their 7th continent, for me since I’ve been to Antarctica last december (2016) Australia was the last continent and my 7th continent to visit.
After long flight from Brussels to Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur I finally got in Sydney where I would begin my Australian journey.
On my Australian trip I planned a visit to Sydney,Melbourne and Brisbane aswell as Uluru and the great Ocean road, all on my itinerary.
How was my experience in Sydney well it’s surely one of the nicest cities I’ve been to.
Sydney has the views, from the Harbor Bridge over the bay with the Opera House at the opposite site, it’s the photo image of Sydney you see on every postcard but to see it for yourself with your own eyes it makes it even more beautiful.

Sydney Harbour seen from the Harbor Bridge

Walking on the Harbor Bridge

It’s also a very busy city for the locals, Australians in Sydney you see them in the morning and evening when they go to work or come back from it. during the day you see most tourists and immigrants who run their little businesses. Mostly of them are Asians and they got their own restaurants, bars, massage rooms (Thai massage) etc,…

What to do ?

You can visit the Opera House if you are interested in seeing an empty room and a stage, nothing for me as I have been visiting the Music Hall in New York years ago and it also didn’t live up to the expectations. The MTV Music Video Awards were held there and that’s why I wanted to see it and booked a tour of about 2 hours but it was disappointing so I promised to myself never to tour Music halls or Opera buildings again, I don’t find it interesting. The opera house is nice from the outside and I prefer to enjoy to view of it from different angles when I’m outside, then to check out the empty hall inside. Seen pictures on the internet about it and it didn’t convince me to pay the entrance for that. I’m not saying it’s not nice inside from what I’ve seen on google images, but just not worth for me personally to buy a ticket for.
Same thing with the Harbor Bridge, it’s a nice bridge and in Sydney they are proud of it, and how it’s been made. One local guide who I had been going on tour with to the Blue Mountains had allot to say about the history of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and about the possibility to climb it.

Opera House

It’s a nice huge bridge to climb and you have various climbs you can do, depending when you want to go in the early morning or the late afternoon. Prices differ from how long you want to go. Climbs of 1,5 hour or 3 hours.
I personally found it to expensive and also the fact that you can’t bring your camera or smartphone to take pictures is lame. They take pictures for you but then they off course sell it and for the high price that you pay to climb that bridge they could have include the pictures of the experience in the price. So I think they like to rip you off as much as they can for this experience.
Also they make you wear a ridiculous blue suit, why ? I don’t know cause I once saw a Touristic program on tv about bridge climbing in Germany. The bridge was over a highway and you had the nice view of the highway and the natural environment behind it. No crazy suits, smartphones and cameras allowed, so yeah why are there so many rules here, it beats me.

Under the Sydney Harbor Bridge

In general compared to Europe no matter what excursion you want to do in Australia, its expensive cause even day trips that I did to the Blue mountains and the Ocean road later on from Melbourne weren’t very budget friendly. Again in Europe you would never pay this much for day trips. I won’t be comparing prices here , since there are many agencies and many similar tours you can book, but when you do a little research on the internet you will see the difference if you look for daytours from Melbourne or Sydney or let’s say from Barcelona or Athens.
Australia is expensive and it reminds me of Argentina which for backpackers isn’t the most budget friendly place either. Ask backpackers who travel around South America and they will tell you. Trust me, believe me it’s true 🙂

The first thing you can do in Sydney to get to know the city a bit is to go on a free walking tour. They start at on one of the most important streets of Sydney which is St. George street between Town Hall and St Andrew’s Cathedral.

St Andrew’s Cathedral

If you have never on a free City tour before then I explain it :
You turn up at the starting place of the tour (info can be found on http://www.imfree.com.au/sydney/ ) your local guide in green t-shirt will tell you about the city during this 3 hour walk. There is one at 10.30 am and another at 2.30 pm. You can leave the tour at anytime you want and since it’s a free tour you don’t have to pay, but you can give the guide a small tip at the end of the tour to show how much this tour was worth for you. Most people do give something for the effort the guide did to tell you a bit more about his or her city.
I took the morning tour which is the same as the one in the afternoon, I preferred to go in the morning so then in the afternoon I could go and explore the highlights of the tour again by myself.

The Sydney Tower with its 309m over the Business district is the highest construction in Sydney from which you can have a magnificent view over the City

Another place that I visited which was not on the tour was the Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park. This monument is a tribute to remember all the Australian soldiers who died and served their country in the many wars all over the world.

Anzac War Memorial

Bullets in Hyde Park

 

Advertisements

Penjikent to Dushanbe

PENJIKENT

From Istaravshan I continued my journey in Tajikistan to the very far west of the country to Penjikent passing the Anzob pass, mountains so high and valleys so deep made it a scary ride, but the most scaring part was to cross the 5km long tunnel of death, the tunnel is not completely finished, the cause are the many construction problems during the years.
it’s dark inside like in every tunnel but with dark I mean really dark no light at all, only the lights from the cars in front of you or coming from the opposite direction, there are no lights on the side like in most tunnels, holes in the ground, flooded with water makes it even more hard to drive normally. It was a crazy experience. Because of the narrow tunnels and no ventilation system there is the danger to suffocate, when your car breaks down carbon monoxide poisoning can happen and it already brought deaths with it in the past.
Happy to made it out of this tunnel. It wasn’t really worth it to come to this part of Tadjikistan cause in Penjikent there is not much to see, I have been in one little museum where there were no other visitors but me and my Tajik guide who was with me the whole trip, the most interesting historical pieces found in this area are to be seen in the big national museum of Tadjikistan in the capital city Dushanbe.

Mosaic fresco's Penjikent

Mosaic fresco’s Penjikent

Approaching the "Tunnel of Death"

Approaching the “Tunnel of Death”

Inside the dark tunnel

Inside the dark tunnel

Penjikent

Penjikent

Somoni statue Penjikent

Somoni statue Penjikent

Statue of a local Tadjik women pilot of the USSR army who died in the 2nd World War

Statue of a local Tadjik women pilot of the USSR army who died in the 2nd World War

Dushanbe would be my next Tadjik city to visit and the end of my trip in this country, but before that, I visited the Iskanderkul Lake on my way to Dushanbe.
It’s a Lake surrounded by the Fann Mountains in a triangle shape and nowadays a natural reserve with water meadows and forests.
Iskander means Alexander and Kul means Lake in Tajik, referring to Alexander the Great, once the ruler of a big empire where Tadjikistan was part of.

Iskanderkul Reserve

Iskanderkul Reserve

Iskanderkul Lake

Iskanderkul Lake

Fann Mountains

Fann Mountains

P1030637

P1030643 P1030641

Dilovar Homestay near Iskanderkul

Dilovar Homestay near Iskanderkul in a Mountainous village

P1030692 P1030681 P1030678 P1030677

 

Finally Dushanbe

Dushanbe is a big city and after a journey through the mountain areas it was nice to take a rest in a city and just chill. I went to the national museum of Tadjikistan, it was a saturday and very crowded with students and schoolchildren visiting the big museum with 3 levels. It was funny to see some Tajiks taking the escalators to another level, some have never been on an escalator and were scared to go first, it was a real adventure for some, cute to watch those Tadjiks having all the fun and time of their life for something this simple.
The museum is a must when you’re in Dushanbe.

Tadjikistan flag

Tadjikistan flag

The Presidential Palace

The Presidential Palace

P1030835

Monument with on top the Tadjikistan national emblem

Somoni monument

Somoni monument

Rudaki Monument

Rudaki Monument

"The National Museum of Tadjikistan"

“The National Museum of Tadjikistan”

Park with paddle boats just outside the National Musem

Park with paddle boats just outside the National Museum

 

Hissar

Some 15 km out of the city I visited the Hissar fortress which was being renovated to make it look better for tourists and also here there was a bus with students visiting the fortress just when I was about to leave.
Here I saw more locals visiting the sightseeing places then it was the case in Khujand, but I think it had a lot to do with it being a weekend here in Dushanbe.
Just like in Khujand there is a big statue of Ismael Somoni, only this one is in the centre of the City near the Rudaki park and the Presidential palace.

P1030761

P1030766

P1030767

P1030773

Sangin Mosque seen from the Hissar fortress

P1030765

Locals visiting the place

P1030776