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We've spent the past two days enjoying more great outings, where today's was, once again, thanks to Angie. After collecting us at the usual rendezvous, we enjoyed a lovely scenic drive to Mona Vale, where we met Melina and Laurence, friends of Angie, for a very tasty lunch at the Bronze Kiosk, followed by a walk on the beach.

Yesterday, after a bus and train ride into downtown Sydney, it was time for some additional tourist delights offered by the city.

After a morning coffee at the St James Metro café and a walk through Hyde Park, we visited St Mary's Catholic Cathedral, one of Australia’s most beautiful and significant buildings, as well as Australia’s largest Cathedral.

After the first Cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1865, architect William Wardell was commissioned by Archbishop John Polding to design a new St Mary’s Cathedral. According to Archbishop Polding to Wardell in a letter dated 10 October, 1865: “Any plan, any style, anything that is beautiful and grand. I leave all to you and your own inspiration” and he certainly hit the mark. Besides St Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, it is one of the most magnificent Cathedrals we have seen, particularly the main alter and the stain glass windows. While the style is considered "English-Style Gothic", it is constructed of honey-coloured Sydney sandstone and Wardell used Australian native flora throughout as a decorative element to ground the Cathedral in its local setting.

It took close to 100 years to finally complete St Mary's, with the first stage constructed between 1866 and 1900 and stage two between 1912 and 1928. However, the original Wardell design was only finally completed in June 2000 when the metal frames of the imposing Southern Spires were lowered into place by helicopter and then sheathed in sandstone.

According to a former Archbishop of Sydney, this beautiful Cathedral is considered to be a historic building, an architectural wonder and a monument to the role which christianity has played in Australian life from the first days of Europeans. It is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Immaculate Mother of God, Help of Christians. In 2010, blessed Mary MacKillop was canonised in Rome and given the title of St Mary of the Cross, thus becoming Australia’s first Saint, following which the statue of St Mary of the Cross was unveiled at the Hyde Park entrance to the Cathedral.

The Cathedral celebrates its sesquicentenary this year, 150 years since the laying of the foundation stone of the new Cathedral by Archbishop Poldin.

From there we walked to the Royal Botanic Garden and visited the Green Wall / Pollination exhibition which was most unusual. The Royal Botanic Garden, is situated immediately southeast of the Sydney Opera House and curves around the Farm Cove anchorage, occupying 30 hectares / 74 acres. The first farm, established in 1788 by Governor Phillip and farmed by the first European settlers to arrive on the Australian continent was at Farm Cove. Although that farm failed, the land has been in constant cultivation since that time, as ways were found to make the relatively infertile soils more productive. The Royal Botanic Garden was founded on this site by Governor Macquarie in 1816. Australia's long history of collection and study of plants began with the appointment of the first Colonial Botanist, Charles Fraser, in 1817, making the garden the oldest scientific institution in Australia and one of the most important historic botanical institutions in the world.

From 1848 to 1906, Charles Moore, a Scotsman who had trained in the Botanic Gardens of Trinity College in Dublin, remained director for 48 years and did much to develop the Royal Botanic Garden. He boldly tackled the problems of poor soil, inadequate water and shortage of funds to develop much of what is seen today. The Palm Grove at the heart of the garden is a reminder of his skill and foresight, as this is the reclaimed land behind the Farm Cove seawall which significantly expanded the area. Towards the end of his time as director, Moore, together with Ernst Betche, published the Handbook of the Flora of New South Wales, further establishing the Royal Botanic Garden as a centre for the science of botany.

Before leaving the garden, we had the opportunity to wander through the Rose Garden and see the Garden Palace. This building is an outstanding example of Victorian architectural exuberance, with towers and turrets deployed around a giant dome 30 metres / 100 feet in diameter, surmounted by a lantern 61 metres / 200 feet above the ground. This building was also destroyed by a fire in 1882 and the land added to the Royal Botanic Garden following its reconstruction.

Another short train ride took us to our last stop off the day, the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), where we enjoyed lunch at the Parisi Café. It is a late nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival building, designed by the architect George McRae and constructed between 1893 and 1898, replacing the original Sydney Market and was named to honour the monarch's Diamond Jubilee.

When it first opened, the QVB housed a concert hall, coffee shops, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople. Over many decades, the concert hall became the city library, offices proliferated and many tenants moved in. Remodelling occurred during the 1930s to accommodate the Sydney City Council, then from 1959 to 1971, the QVB faced near-demolition. However, a massive restoration project was given the green light in 1982 and the fully restored QVB reopened her doors to Sydneysiders and visitors alike in 1986. A major refurbishment in 2009 restored her even further. Today the QVB stands in all her glory, testimony to the original vision for the building and the superb craftsmanship of the artisans who put it all back together again.

It was a wonderful day filled with history and wonder!

Yesterday we spent the entire day on board getting through a host of phone calls to the US, in yet another attempt to get Roy's new iPhone sorted out, as well as preparing all the paperwork that is required for our alternative visas so that Elaine  can get her ongoing medical treatment in Australia.

However,  today was a little different. Every 26th January, Australians come together to celebrate their national day, reflecting the nation's diversity and achievements, as well as its past. It is also a part of history for all Australians, since the date marks the landing of the first British fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788. Although a fateful day for the Aboriginal people, the day also commemorates and celebrates the survival of their culture.

After a morning of just chillin' aboard, while observing the sights of all the powerboats motoring past us en route to the outer harbour, we saw flags of all sizes, as well as blown up toys, including huge kangaroos. It was definitely mayhem in Roseville Chase, so we can only imagine what it was like in Sydney Harbour.  The petrol companies were definitely smiling all the way to the bank!

This afternoon we took the bus to Dee Why,  one of Sydney's northern beach suburbs, where we enjoyed a late lunch / early dinner at the Stella Blu restaurant on the seafront, while listening to the live entertainment bands, followed by a walk along the promenade. Before heading back to Paw Paw and with the beaches teaming with people, we decided to find a shady spot under the trees to enjoy an ice-cream and people-watch.

Happy Australia Day to all our friends in Australia.  Hope you had a fun day.

Today we had planned to stay on board and get some pending paperwork out of the way, but, instead, we ended up tackling a host of tasks that were still on our Cyclone Season Do List.

These included installing our new and final solar panel, customising Roy's new mattress to the shape of the cabin bunk and restitching the mattress cover, completing the plumbing and electrical installation of the new watermaker boost pump and ultraviolet sanatiser, as well as getting through a few cleaning chores. Thank goodness for our electric carving knife, which has never been used since we moved onboard, but it certainly came in handy today. By early evening, though, it is fair to say, we were both in desperate need of our sundowners, given yet another very hot, humid day in Sydney, albeit a virgin G&T for Elaine.

Other than installing the new battery watering system and installing a new radar reflector, which has been missing for a few months now, after hearing a "clunk and a splash" in the night, but for the life of us, were unable to figure out what it was, only to discover recently that it was, in fact, our radar reflector, as well as collecting our re-certified liferaft and heading back to Drummoyne for Elaine's specialist appointment and some follow-up blood tests, we're free to enjoy the rest of the tourists attractions in Sydney before we start heading north again around mid February. All the other tasks, mostly maintenance, can be completed as and when we feel like it.

It was one busy day alright!

Yesterday we had an early start for another rendezvous with Angie and her mom at Echo Point Park, armed with our contributions to a picnic lunch. This time we had the opportunity to meet Australia's "other" inhabitants, the various indigenous wildlife species at Australia's Reptile Park.

The park was established in 1949 by Eric Worrell, who, by 1960 was renowned throughout Australia as a naturalist, with the park becoming the first Australian "zoo" to breed the Taipan snake in 1955 and the first to import foreign snakes, including the King Cobra. In 1973, the park pioneered a milking program for the deadly Funnel-Web spider in order to provide the commonwealth serum laboratories with the precious droplets. The venom is injected into horses, which, surprisely, are able to withstand it, thereby allowing their blood plasma to be used to produce the serum.

Our experience, however, was far less dramatic, but one of the coolest, nonetheless. We got to see spiders, ranging from the Funnel-Web and Red-Back to the Wolf and Huntsman. We got upfront and personal with almost all of Australia’s poisonous snakes, from the deadly Taipan, Tiger, Common Death Adder and Eastern Brown snake, tge latter being responsible for more deaths than any other Australian snake.

Crocodiles, dragons and lizards abounded, including the Komodo, the Jacky and the Eastern Bearded dragons, the Blotched Blue-Tongue lizard and the Cunningham's Skink.

Native birds, including the Blue Stone Curlew, the White-Browed Woodswallow, the beautiful Major Mitchell Cockatoo, also known as the Pink Cockatoo and our favourites, the Blue-Winged Kookaburra, as well as the Boobook owl, the Tawny Frogmouth owl and the Cassoway, being the only armour-plated bird left in the world and the third largest flightless bird.

Besides the Platypus, though, it was the fury creatures that stole the show for us, including the Wombats, Echidnas and Quokkas (more spiky than fury) and, amongst our favourites, the various kangaroos and wallabies, including the Kangaroo Island Kangaroos, the Red Kangaroos and the Eastern Grey Kangaroos, where the latter has a superbly adapted breeding cycle which allows them to have three developing young at the same time, to take advantage of the unpredictable nature of the Australian environment and fluctuating food supply. A female may have a semi-dependent "joey" of 12-18 months, a pouch young of 4-8 months of age and an embryo held in suspended development until the pouch is vacated. Their long, heavy tails are used as a weight to counterbalance the body during hopping and they can reach speeds in excess of 50 kilometres / 30 miles per hour.

The Parma and the vulnerably listed, Yellow-Footed Rock wallabies, we're fascinating, where the latter are readily identifiable by their spectacular colours and flamboyant patterning.

It was, however, sad to learn about the devastating disease known as the "Devil Facial Tumour Disease" which is eradicating the wild Tasmanian Devils. The disease, not only has no cure, but is highly contagious and the only known cancer to spread as a transmissible disease. Once contracted, a Tasmanian Devil dies within six months in the most horrendous way. The disease was first detected in 1996 and is estimated to have destroyed at least 90% of the original population, with only 25,000 remaining. Programs such as "Devil Ark" have plans to repopulate Tasmania with healthy disease-free Tasmanian Devils was the last of the wild ones are extinct.

It was, however, the adorable Koalas that topped our list and we learnt that the apparent stupor and slow movements actually assist them by helping conserve their small amount of energy obtained from their diet of Eucalyptus leaves.

Although we didn't see any dingos, as they were hiding in there lair due to the heat, a fabulous day, including a picnic lunch fit for a king, was topped off with a visit to The Entrance on the Central Coast, where we had the opportunity to see the beautifully coloured Australian Pelicans being fed. A great big THANK YOU again to Angie for another wonderful day out.

Today, while far less exciting, certainly had the usual adrenaline rush associated with Elaine having to hoist Roy up the mast so we could replace our main halyard. After a job well done, we headed to Chatswood to meet Terence for coffee and get some provisioning done, before meeting Angie again, who helped deliver Roy's new mattress and our new solar panel. We also had the opportunity to video call the family in Arizona and, in particular, enjoyed a very entertaining "chat" to William who proceeded to tell us all about being "a big boy now" since he was no longer wearing a nappy / diaper or sucking a dummy / pacifier. We didn't get much out of the twins, though, other than huge smiles as they were too busy eating their dinner.

After our delicious dinner of Lamb Shanks, complements of Chef Roy, and the last of Elaine's birthday cake for dessert, another busy day came to a close!

Yesterday Roy spent most of the morning doing his second dive in order to finish cleaning the port keel and then both the propellers, which were in a right mess with all the marine growth; the worst they have ever been. So much for Propspeed for which we paid a significant amount of money and had a company in New Zealand apply it so that we wouldn't have this problem. Bang went that bright idea. Just another marine product that doesn't work and, as usual, there's no recourse.

Elaine spent her day yesterday sorting through all our photographs from Vanuatu and New Caledonia. She eventually got everything completed today and ready for the upload to our website gallery, which should be done in the next day or two, hopefully.

By 1800 yesterday evening, though, it was time for another rendezvous at Echo Point Park, where we were meeting Angie and her mom for a "night on the town" in Dee Why; dinner at the Wildwater Grill restaurant, followed by ice-creams on the beachfront. A delicious meal, a great Boschendal wine brought all the way from South Africa by Angie's mom and great company, not to mention, more birthday gifts for Elaine, made for a wonderful evening.

Today, besides doing software updates on our various electronic devices,  we also took a trip up the river from Middle Harbour this morning and discovered a whole new world as we dinghied under the Roseville Bridge, in particular, a great picnic area and various hiking trails through the bush, which are part of Davidson's Park on one side and Roseville Chase on the other. The dense Eucalyptus trees and Liquid Ambers along the banks provide a haven for the large numbers of native birds such as Kookaburras, Galahs and Rainbow Lorrikeets.

The park was dedicated to Sir Walter Davidson in 1923, Governor of New South Wales from 18 February 1918 to 4 September 1923, who began life as a mining quarry.

Captain Arthur Phillip's, searching for "good land, well watered", led to the discovery and colonisation of the rough shores of Roseville Chase, where Samuel Bates built a farm at Echo Point on the edge of what is now Middle Harbour.

The area was also inhabited by Aboriginal people, who left their mark in the form of hand stencils that can be seen in various rock shelters in the area. Also, many people lived in the Sydney bush during the Great Depression and the remains of some of these dwellings can be found in the bush at Roseville Chase as well.

With the days feeling like they are "flying by", we wrapped up this one with a barbecue on board.

After breakfast yesterday, we took the bus to downtown Sydney, where we enjoyed a mid-morning coffee before taking a second bus to the Sydney Fish Market and what an experience that turned out to be.

Although we knew it is the third largest fish market in the world and the largest in the southern hemisphere, it was nothing like we expected. We've never seen such a variety of fish for sale and definitely didn't expect to find so many restaurants, as well as a bakery and a fresh produce market where we found fresh ginger and tumeric at last, together with some fresh sweet figs, which Elaine had never tasted before. Add to that the fact that we saw fish we'd never heard of or fish we'd heard of, but had never seen before, coupled with the unbelievable number of Oriental people we've ever seen in one place and is was a completely fascinating experience. Our heads were spinning by the time we left, but we thoroughly enjoyed the outing, especially since Roy was able to purchase everything he wanted for Elaine's birthday meal at very reasonable prices and we had the opportunity to enjoy a delicious lunch on the waterfront of the market before heading home to Paw Paw.

This morning, Elaine woke to the start of her birthday celebrations; a Swiss Roll birthday cake and a host of presents, many of which were her favourite South African goodies, some of which she hasn't had in years; Koo guavas, Ouma rusks, Rowntree fruit gums, peppermint crisps, tex bars and a chocolate log, topped off with a selection of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and a beautiful Australian tea towel featuring Aboriginal artwork.

Then, while Elaine enjoyed a lazy morning and a video call to Brooke and the grandchildren, since Keenan was at work, Roy dived Paw Paw's bottom to clean the keels, saildrives and propellers. Once all that was done, he wasted no time at all in cooking up a storm in the galley for Elaine's birthday meal, or rather, her birthday seafood feast; lobsters, languistines and prawns all done on the barbecue, fried crumbed calamari, mussels in a white wine sauce and some seared tuna, accompanied by a toss salad, potato salad and a delicious white wine, a small glass of which was enjoyed by Elaine, given that it was, after all, a special occasion.

A fabulous day was topped off with a phone call from Keenan and having Capri and little William sing "Happy birthday dear grandma" with such enthusiasm we were in stitches. Simply priceless and a wonderful surprise!

With the very high winds, which have continued unabated for the past week, we've had a few nights of interrupted sleep. In fact, the gusts were so strong at times, that it sounded like a train approaching as the wind came through the trees surrounding the mooring field, waking us both out of our sleep just before we felt Paw Paw yanking wildly on the swing mooring pennant. We're in a well protected part of Middle Harbour, so we hate to think what it must have been like in the more exposed anchorages of Sydney Harbour. We also learnt today that waves in excess of 5 metres were crashing into the shorelines along the coast, with some reaching much greater heights, apparently unprecedented.

So, yesterday we decided to leave Paw Paw and head ashore for a break from it all and enjoyed a day out in Chatswood, taking the opportunity to get a few errands completed, as well as have a delicious and very healthy, peri-peri chicken lunch at Nando's restaurant, again, something we haven't had the pleasure of doing since leaving South Africa. It was well worth the wait!

Today was another day of running errands, but this time via dinghy. First stop was the Southern Cross Dive Shop just on the other side of the Spit Bridge, where we received excellent service. In fact, we can't even remember if we've ever had the experience of our dive tanks being filled while we waited. Roy also managed to purchase a wetsuit hood so he can be better equipped to dive Paw Paw's propellers and saildrives in this freezing water. En route we happened to notice Plonk Café, tucked away at the entrance to the bridge, so we stopped for a morning coffee. Definitely worth a second visit, given their very unusual breakfast menu.

From there we obtained dinghy petrol and then continued on to Cammeray Marina, where Elaine did the laundry and caught up on emails, etc and Roy took the bus to Mona Vale, where he bought a host of our South African favourites - biltong, droerwors and boerewors.

By the time we returned to Paw Paw late this afternoon, the winds had eventually died down and Roy was able to put his new barbecue to the test - corn, garlic bread, boerewors and steak, accompanied by a toss salad and washed down with an Aussie beer. It's fair to say, he is one happy man again!

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