Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tamworth to Sydney

I have been staying with my Sydney mates again – as they don't have wireless internet (!) I haven't been online for a while.  Oh well, the sky didn't fall in.

But how did I get back down to Sydney?  Well, the short answer is that I drove, of course.

Since this succession of posts is doubling as my travel journal, let me just say that I departed Tamworth only a little before eleven o'clock on Tuesday, having made a visit to the attractive church of St Nicholas.  (The usual postconciliar reordering of the sanctuary at least featured marble rather than the stereotypical hideous green carpet.)  Next door, what had once obviously been a large convent is now the local conservatorium of music.

The scenery en route on both sides of the Great Dividing Range was beaut, and much better than that of New England.  I detoured to find the vineyards of the Upper Hunter, which meant that I missed closeup views of the "dark satanic mills" that burn the great coal deposits roundabout to power Sydney.  Sights of opencut mines, great hills of tailings and huge columns of steam going up for ever and ever were quite enough.  Having found some quite decent wine at Yarraman winery (bottles of their 2001 merlot going for $10!), I went on just as far as Denman for lunch: a decent steak and beer (Toohey's Old) at last.

Unfortunately, I still had a long way still to travel, and the highway through the lower Hunter proved slow, windy and congested as it passed through township after township, gradually gathering traffic on the way.  I gave up my idea of going back into Newcastle, and contented myself with a confusing drive round Maitland, trying to find the former cathedral (the see being now relocated to Newcastle).

I think this is the old Cathedral... in fact, it is the old old Cathedral, the nearby Catholic hall having been turned into the Pro-Cathedral in 1933, then itself replaced!

(Like many buildings in the area, it was badly damaged in the 1989 Newcastle earthquake, and is now unsafe, due to the risk of falling masonry.)

It was half four, and I was still over 150 km north of Sydney.  Despite the excellent freeway, I was running late for dinner with John and his friends – a dinner in my honour – and matters were made worse when I decided to turn off the Pacific Highway into the suburbs in the hopes of finding a quicker route: in the end I ended up back on the same, having wasted a good half hour.  Finally crossing the Harbour Bridge after all, I arrived an hour later than expected.

Dinner, it must be said, was excellent, and it was delightful to meet John's beloved, Laura.  I wish them well for the future.

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