4th July -  Sydney (again)

And so it was that we arrived back in Sydney for the final three days of our great adventure. Somewhat amusingly, it had rained virtually every day since our last visit but, almost on cue, the sun was shining on the righteous once more. As we again had time to kill before getting into the hotel, we headed to Darling Harbour for a bit of brekkie in the sun followed by a ferry trip to Circular Quay, which provided great opportunities for pics of the iconic Harbour Bridge & Opera House. With that box ticked we mooched about the area before heading back to the hotel for a recharge & freshen up then hooking up with Findlay from work in the Three Wise Monkeys.

While we’d been in Cairns, Robbo & Christine had taken a few days driving the coastal route from Melbourne to Sydney, stopping on the way, first at Eden then Kiama, which they were particularly taken with. Like us, they had until now failed to see any of the indigenous beasts Australia is renowned for so had spent part of Thursday at Taronga Zoo to satisfy their needs before also joining us at the pub, from where they ventured for a romantic Chinese meal together. Age, fatigue & failing body functions had taken their toll on Ray & I so we left the young ‘uns to it from about 9 o’clock. Without us to slow them down, the boys ended up in the Establishment Bar in The Rocks until the early hours where, once again, they came across the non-Test Lions squad and a bevy of ex-internationals fresh from playing in yet another Classics match. As always the players were happy to mix with the fans and accommodate a few photo calls, by all accounts a great time was had by all

As Rob & Neil had barely had time to rest their weary heads it was just Ray & I who met up with the Robinsons at the impressive Queen Victoria Building the next morning before taking the ferry to Watsons Bay, which is renowned for beautiful sunset views of Sydney and the well-regarded Doyles Fish Restaurant. We then took the bus to Bondi Beach (another box ticked!) from where we walked the cliff-top path to Bronte. While waiting for the return bus one of the locals, very excitedly, had spotted a couple of southern right whales playing out to sea, they certainly put on quite a show as they took turns to surface, another great spot! 

A bus & train later found Ray & I at the Central Station in Strawberry Hills where we happened upon a few pubs worth investigating, one of which being the Evening Star where we got drinking with a couple of Irish ex-pats. From there they took us to Aurora roof-bar and the session was soon in full flow, needless to say we were a bit wobbly by the time we met up with the others back at the Monkeys. Jordie & the Millbrook boys were also there so a good night ensued, especially for me as I got to enjoy watching the mighty Pies crush Carlton on the big screen, much to the bemusement (and embarrassment apparently!) of the others. Once again the two senior citizens failed to last the course, leaving the rest to it. As it turned out this gave the welcome opportunity to find that our outstanding match tickets had finally been delivered to the hotel J

Saturday morning and it’s . . . . . . THE THIRD, DECISIVE, TEST

Longevity was to be the order of the day as kick-off wasn’t until 20:00 and we all wanted to enjoy and actually remember the whole occasion. A gentle stroll out for brekkie in the morning once again revealed the build-up in numbers of red and gold shirts milling around the Sydney streets, much to the intrigue of the locals who were, mostly, oblivious to the occasion.

It was mid-afternoon before we finally set about the pre-match revelries at the Monkeys to meet up with Findlay, whose staring contest with his only pint was very funny. From there we headed to the Central Station for the free train service to the stadium, stopping en-route for a disappointingly mediocre Thai meal at Café Kasturi on George St.

The atmosphere & excitement began to build on the packed double-decker trains as banter amongst rival fans made for an enjoyable and often amusing ½hr  journey. Emerging from the station at Olympic Park brought a first sight of the impressively presented ANZ Stadium and the swarms of supporters, the goosebumps were tingling crazily now! Though not ideal for watching rugby, it is without doubt an outstanding facility and the atmosphere inside was awesome!

The abundant bars and merchandise stalls were ignored as we parted company to take our seats in various parts of the ground. Mine was five rows from the front on the 22-metre line which, as it would transpire, was plumb position for seeing the three decisive 2nd half tries . . . . . UNBELIEVABLE ! ! ! After all the debate about selection Gatland & Co had been wholly vindicated, personally I liked the balance of the match squad and feel that, above all, we were able to bring players off the bench without weakening the team.

After enjoying the presentations & celebrations in the stadium it was back to the Monkeys for the last time, spirits were high but the impending 24hr flight back to Blighty the next day brought about a modicum of sensibility  . . . . . we still had a few though! With time to kill the following morning, we met up with the Robinsons for a final coffee in The Rocks before heading to the airport for the long, but almost comfortable, flight home. With that our journey ended . . . . . thank-you Australia, it has been an absolute blast!