Saturday, March 28, 2015

Sydney Public Transport

$80 would have been the perfect amount to put on my Opal Card. $34 was the return trip off peak cost to and from the airport. Most of the charge is the airport gate charge, going to a private company. This compares very favourably to Melbourne's Airport bus of $36 return but I do object to paying private companies such large amounts of money for what should be basic public transport to and from major airports.

I am not sure if I reached my weekly cap but after the first ferry ride I was no longer being charged that day, which was quite a saving. Eight journeys a week takes you to your cap, but note journeys, not trips. They are different things. I just trust the system worked and as far as I can see, it was ok. Once you know what flag to look for, it is easy to find shops where you can top up your Opal.

The Opal card readers are much faster than in Melbourne, but like in early stages of our Myki system, people will wave their cards around the readers instead of holding them still. I can't really read the details on Myki readers without glasses on, but I could with Opal readers, except it takes my eyes a little longer to read the detail and unlike our system where the details remain on the screen until you remove your card, you have to be quick and ready to read.

On trains and the ferries the readers worked flawlessly. Not so in buses, with readers often not working. I suppose it is to prevent people touching off their ticket early to receive a cheaper trip, but the scanners don't come on until the bus has nearly stopped at a stop, controlled by GPS I suppose.

This brings me to the extreme slowness unloading when the bus stops. With trams, people are normally at the door when the vehicle stops and there is no need to touch off your Myki. Trams are smoother than buses and it is not hard to be at the door once the tram stops and if you aren't, the driver may well close the doors and take off and you will be left on the tram. I don't blame people for not being at the door of lurching buses but what a mess happens as people make their way to the doors, touch off their Opal and because no-one is at the door to get off, people start getting on, then the woman with a pram gets to the door, touches off and is tangled with people getting on, dodging around and the whole thing is a ridiculous mess. As I have already said I think, Sydney bus drivers seem endlessly patient with unthoughtful passenger behaviour.

I understand there are still trains in Sydney without air conditioning but we never struck one. I feel the aircon could be set a degree or two cooler. Most of the buses we travelled on were modern and quite smooth with the interesting feature of interior lights brightening when the bus doors were open. I may have assumed that all Sydney buses had aircon but at the driver changeover at Waverly Depot, the relieving driver mentioned to the other driver he was pleased the bus had aircon. The aircon temperature on buses seemed correctly set and unlike in Melbourne where the driver on some buses have control of the aircon, every bus had the aircon on, I assume on an automatic setting. The two longer bus ride trips we took had older buses working the route. Coincidence? Get the most out of them before they must be retired and go easy on the new ones?

What else to say? Stops can be a long way apart, but not for the good burghers of Military Road, Mosman where stops are quite close together. Most buses have a route number at the rear, which is so useful if you need to know what bus you have just missed. Seriously, rear showing route numbers are useful. At busy bus stops where there are multiple bus stands, signage as to which bus stops where could be better. It is not really a criticism but as we discovered on our first visit to Sydney in the early 80s, you do have to be proactive about catching a bus. Standing at a stop is not enough and the bus will just pass you by if you don't hail them. I expect this mostly applies to streets where there are multiple routes.

A strong criticism of Sydney Buses which equally applies to Melbourne's public transport, is that during a special event, such as St Patrick's Day,  and street services are re-routed, times are not correctly adjusted resulting in buses running very late, as we discovered when we were at La Perouse. The L94 buses were running very late and I am sure because they were re-routed and probably some resulting traffic congestion. The ever so patient Sydney bus drivers seemed to lose their patience, with some people just being left behind. Such behaviour by drivers can be firmly slated back to Sydney Buses management who did not adequately plan for changed circumstances. St Patrick's Day in Hyde Park is hardly a new event. Sydney Buses will have experienced what happens on St Patrick's Day many times and Sydney Buses staff will have been paid very good money to plan for the event and in my opinion, they failed.

But don't come to Melbourne expecting any better.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cultural divides and polite behaviour

This really was the last straw and yet R pointed out to me a different example just today on a tram.

Some time were going to Victoria Street in Richmond by tram. Almost unconsciously I noticed as I went to climb onto the tram, two older Asian born women managed to get in front of me from behind where I was standing to let people off the tram. I kind of noticed it, but took little notice. I must have noticed it a little as I remembered it when the same thing happened again when we were again catching the tram to Victoria Street. One older Asian born woman pushed right past me to get on the tram in front of me and R noticed and put his arm up to the side of tram behind me to stop her companion doing the same. First onto the tram grabbed the prime seat, of course.

This is not nice and polite behaviour.

I meant to have some toast after my cereal before I went into town, but I forgot. Somehow a McDonalds cheeseburger seemed to be the perfect snack. I walked in and at two registers there were two queues. Naturally I joined the shorter queue and as the lass asked me what I wanted, a woman from the adjacent queue accused me of queue jumping. I turned back to look at the adjacent queue and it had disintegrated, with the accusing woman standing midway between where I was and where the longer queue was. I am confident I did nothing wrong, but I was served before a person who had been waiting longer than I had.

I have noticed this before and R clarified my my thoughts. He mentioned about the Asian woman in Moslem dress sitting in the middle of two seats on a tram. Yes, I recall, they do that. It discourages anyone to sit on the same seat, as you have to either ask or at least indicate an intention to sit on the seats, whatever side of the person you.

The last straw? On the ferry returning from Manly R was sitting up front where I had been but I don't like sitting in the sun and had moved to the side of the ferry and sat on the long bench seat. One Asian lass kindly moved a little to give me some space. The bench seat were quite full and as the ferry approached docked at the Quay, everyone stood ready to disembark, myself included. The walkway was now blocked with people standing. An Asian guy pushed past me and his female companion was about to follow him. It was so blatant I couldn't let it go and challenged him and he apologised and indicated for me to go first. I said it doesn't matter, which it didn't to me. What mattered was the rudeness of what he did. I recounted what happened to R and described the guy and R said he was at the front of the boat and standing right in front of people to take photos, somewhat invading their space never mind blocking their views. 

In the two cases of older Asian born women, I would suggest it really is a cultural matter. It is how they do things in their home country. While I will prevent them from doing it in front of me again, it is probably too late for them to learn that it is not the Australian way. I am not sure how people can not observe how things work and follow suit, in whatever country they might be. We are the worst in the world if we don't show cultural sensitivity when we are overseas.

My incident in town at McDonalds would be solved by some sort of queuing system so that first there gets served first. Duh, it is so obvious.

The Moslem woman on the tram who did not want to share her seat?  Perhaps a cultural difference, but as she was young, she had better quickly learn polite behaviour. Two seats are for two people.

But the guy in Sydney. This one puzzles me. He spoke English well, was well dressed. Apart from his pushing past the queue, he seemed respectful and polite. Odd.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sydney Day 6 Monday

Monday morning, our last day saw us again on the 380 bus into town, a whole two stops actually. We were conserving our energy for a walk of unknown difficulty. We were off to Balmoral Beach in Mosman, described by some as Sydney's most beautiful beach. There is only one bus an hour to the beach, so we were in the city in good time. I knew which York Street bus stand to use but looking at the information at the stand, I felt no confidence and checked with staff in a booth. She assured me it was the correct stand. We had ten minutes to spare and this poster amused me. A New South Wales state election is soon to happen and lobby groups are trying to prevent the government selling off the electricity distribution poles and wires, or the maintenance of them at least. In Victoria's experience, no good has come from privatising our power system. 

We ducked in for a quick wander in the Queen Victoria Building. It really is amazing and in spite of it being restored quite a few years ago, it is holding up well.

I only included this blurry photo because the staircase fascinated me.

Over the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the 244 bus we travelled, along the congested Military Road and before you know it, we were in Middle Head Road and getting off the bus. I had planned this trip quite carefully, but I was thrown by the beginning of Mulbring Street being called The Tar. At the end of The Tar, steps led us down to Mulbring Street and a steep descent. 'We don't have to walk back up do we?" R queried. His knees were giving him problems. "Trust me. As if I would do that." A photo looking at the impressive Mosman housing. Balmoral Beach on Hunters Bay is part of Mosman.

Oh, I thought it would be big open parkland. Instead it is a narrow bush track. Light rain began to fall, so I was glad of the protection the trees gave us. It was a nice walk but there were always a bit of a house in sight.

What have we here? A man made cutting. Why?

Ah ha. A tram to Balmoral Beach ran through the cutting. Much of its convoluted route is now housing but its path through the cutting leading down to the beach remains. This isn't original track.

Pity this is so out of focus. You will just have to go back to my 2008 post to read a little about the tram to Balmoral Beach. There is a map in the post too, so you can see where we walked.

Almost at the centre of the photo is metal work driven into the rock to support the electric overhead wires.

Most beautiful Sydney Beach? Not on an overcast day. It was rather nice though.

It was calm and so peaceful in the wealthy and white enclave. Even if you were several metres away from the road, if you turned towards it, a motorist would stop in case you may want to cross the road.

This building in the distance grabbed my eye, roughly north of the beach. Anyone know what it is?

You need serious money to live in one of the beachside residences.

This is Rocky Point, opposite to where the tram line ended in Mandelong Road after running along the beach front.

Lovely big trees grow in the parkland along the beach.

A walkway across to Rocky Point. I guess there is water under the bridge at high tide.

Bathers Pavillion.

Billy was a local dog and seen daily in the streets with his owner. When Billy died, local people funded this memorial to him.

A fine rotunda.

We puzzled a bit at the high rise towers across the water, to the left of this photo. Once we saw the two large ferries, we realised it was Manly. It was nearing lunch time, but R seemed disinclined to eat at one of maybe three cafes. Instead we bought an icecream and drink from the beach kiosk.

No, we did not have to walk back up the hill to catch the bus. The 245 bus terminus is the old tram terminus and we weaved and climbed our way up from the beach and quickly arrived back in the city. Do you fancy having a look at the World Square shopping centre, I asked R? We could have a spot of lunch there. Long was the site of World Square a hole in the ground, viewable from the defunct monorail. Hmm, bit of a walk. We could get a bus? No, we will walk. Later when looking at something bus related, I realised the free 555 bus runs along George Street from the Quay to Central. Nothing wrong with walking though.

Generally I think Sydney has done a better job of keeping its old buildings, but it is just my impression.

Graffiti, or graffiti on a mural.

Well, it was just after Mardi Gras.

World Square was not quite where I thought it was, and we walked around a block to get to it. We had an unremarkable lunch in a unremarkable shopping centre.

The evening again saw us at the Lord Roberts Hotel for dinner. Even Monday night, it was busy enough.

The next morning we were packed and ready to leave far too early. There had been a delay on the train line to the airport, but we didn't have to wait too long. Our flight was a little late leaving and about 15 minutes late arriving at Melbourne. We were still within our parking time limit. As always, nice to be home.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sydney Day 5 Sunday

Sunday was the day for St Patrick's Day celebrations, I think with a parade ending in Hyde Park with festivities. I saw far too many amusements for children being set up to like the idea of attending. We will go to La Perouse by bus, but because of the parade, the bus routes have temporarily changed. It was too hard to work this out and where they may stop as well, so we caught the train to Central and the bus from there. Trams used to travel to La Perouse via two different routes and current buses follow the routes with some variations. From Central we travelled along Albion Street, which was quite interesting, then along Anzac Parade and via Bunnerong Road to La Perouse.

A couple of photos of Central Station.

An arriving tram.

We left the bus at the terminus and were confronted with a howling wind. As we strolled towards the sea, down came a heavy shower and we took refuge in a shopfront. In spite of the weather I could see La Perouse had potential as a very nice spot. Across the water is the container crane infrastructure of  Port Botany and fuel storage tanks.

Here is a photo by and of Port Botany. La Perouse can be seen in the distance under the gap between 'Port' and 'of'.

The Boat House looked interesting so we popped in. In such weather the deck was of course closed. We had a mind to eat, but was another one of those places to take mum for lunch on her birthday and booked out. We did have coffee there in a separate area.

Laperouse was French explorer and the local museum exhibitions are mostly related to him. It was reasonably interesting and I learnt quite a lot about him. The building had been housing for cable station staff, a Salvation Army refuge for women and children and as housing for nurses and soldiers. The anchor was retrieved from the see floor where the two Laperouse expedition ships sank off Solomon Islands.

I liked this map showing the discovered and undiscovered Australian coastline.

The tram to La Perouose turned to go back to the city using a loop. Up until recently, the replacement bus service used the loop but I understand it has gone and the bus now turns around at a roundabout. I believe it was a smaller circle than the road around the central island. What is the island off the shore?

When we were in the bus on the way to La Perouse, I momentarily pondered as we travelled past relatively new areas why a tram would run all this way, into what then was probably sandy scrub. It was of course as many Sydney trams lines did, to take people to the beach. The beach on a nice day here would be very pleasant. It is said to be shallow and quite safe, but it really did not feel like that on this bad weather day.

From your left, the museum, the sentry tower and the war memorial.

The island is called Bare Island and although you can use the bridge and clamber around below the walls, an entry fee must be paid to go within the walls.

The waves were very strong, crashing onto the rocks a cresting in the open. Above the water line you can see the yellow of a kite surfer. They went back and forward across the rough water. They must have been very skilled.

Sentry tower or as it is called, Barrack Tower.

The couple had walked from Bare Island to take some photos on the leeward side of the tower.

There is a long tradition of snake shows at La Perouse and they still happen every Sunday.

I not like and kept my distance from the fence. This is a red bellied black snake. It was shown to us that the underside of the snake is more crimson than red.

We only saw the 1.30 show because the scheduled bus did not turn up to depart on time. A bus arrived, the driver got out, locked the bus and disappeared. We stayed in the shelter out of the wind and the bus took off, so we had to wait for the next one, which was equally due no doubt to bus diversions in the city and congestion.

The L94 took us back to Oxford Street using Anzac Parade all the way. A short spur line used to run off the road into Long Bay Gaol, but now the gaol is right up to the road and nothing more than a bustop is needed. We then caught the 380 to Bondi Junction and had a nice lunch in The Cosmopolitan Coffee Lounge. Time to head back to the hotel but where on earth is bus stand N? Signs pointed up, down and all around and we could not find it. Eventually we discovered it outside the transport interchange. The next stop at the beginning of Oxford Street would have been the sensible place to catch the bus, had we known. Trams once ran along Oxford Street and are remembered by this faux track along the mall.

Somewhere along the way we sighted the harbour. In the evening we dined at long established Tandoori Palace. Tomorrow will be our last full day in Sydney. Where did we go? Another bus along an old tram route to arguably Sydney's best beach.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Sydney Day 4 Saturday Pt 2

After our visit to Manly we caught another ferry and now we are en route to Taronga Zoo. Diners are still at Fort Denison.

Approaching Athol Wharf. What is the chairlift about? No one was using it. It runs over the top of the zoo. Three buses seemed to be there to meet the ferry and indicated they would take us to the main entrance. We hopped aboard the second and the bus climbed the steep hill to the zoo entrance. I did use my Opal but many did not. I am not sure if it is a free trip. Before the Sydney tram system closed, many visitors arrived at the zoo by tram. The road down the steep hill beside the zoo was at times problematic, as you can see back in this post from last year.

The zoo entrance. I speculated that the entrance price would be nearly $30. I nearly died when I saw it was $46. It was a little cheaper for R. We really did hesitate before paying. I have just checked and Melbourne Zoo is $30 and I think better value, but you don't get the scenery.

We were at times distracted from looking at the animals by the views. On informal zigzagging paths we slowly made our way down the steep hill.

Komodo dragon from Indonesia. They will attack and kill people.

Looks like an alligator to me. Alligators aren't Australian, in spite of us having a river named after them.

Another fearsome looking chap.


Not cute.

More cuteness.

There are two tails, so there must be another head somewhere.

I love lizards.

I had not really noticed this model sitting on a rock. From the corner of my eye I just saw a rock, somewhere to stand up on to take photos. I turned to step up and nearly died when I saw the model. I haven't had such a fright for a very long time.

You can pay extra to feed some of the animals, including the giraffes. They seem a little shorter than the giraffes at Melbourne zoos. Perhaps they are different breed. Note the advantage of having a zoo on a steep hill.

Don't ask me.

Strangely, I have never ever seen any sort of seal show. I think back to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna which I did not like seeing. I would not rate a seal show as being in the same league and it did raise awareness of looking after our marine environment, especially among the young spectators. The seals perform for reward of small fish being thrown to them. The show was very entertaining and their antics were quite amazing.

Male gorilla being a grumpy husband and father. Mother protectively clutched her baby close to her chest.

We left the gorillas but grumpy exited the main stage into this room at the side and came up close to the window to glare at us.

The old elephant enclosure, no longer used.

A wings spread out display just for us.

A hippo.


The Italian ship still hanging around.

The seals have quite a large area for swimming. This chap/chapess was on its own.

There is a small beach without very good access, I think. The authorities may not want to encourage people to use it.

Quite a chop on the harbour now, with the naval ships still at their base.

Government House, the residence of the State Governor, sits to the east of Circular Quay.

The vertical garden at Pullman  illuminated at night.

From our balcony down below in the tangle of buildings and streets of East Sydney we could see a large old building flying a rainbow flag. With the aid of google maps, I worked out the building was the Lord Roberts Hotel. Fancy trying it for dinner, my dear? I am in the mood for a pub meal. We walked down the steep slope of Stanley Street. R, note the wide sweeping curve of Stanley and Yurong Streets, so shaped for when the tram used to turn the corner.

Lord Roberts was a brilliant find. It was buzzing with atmosphere and people. Ok, this is not a good photo of a buzzing atmosphere.

We had very nice meals in the upper dining area and as seats had become available on the adjacent outdoor deck, we moved out there after dinner. At the side of us a metre away were the tree tops in Riley Street.

An ad for Fat Yak beer. The steep slope down in Stanley Street became a steep hill to ascend when we left. We took it slowly, admiring houses or not. There are lots of restaurants along Stanley Street to be sampled, which we would have done had we been staying longing.