Thursday 31 December 2015
In the afternoon of New Year’s Eve the heavens opened and it poured down, ruining the plans for New Year’s Eve dinner on the beach. Mark and Laura, the managers of Kandolhu, and their staff did a fantastic job of reorganizing everything and setting up dinner in the various restaurants. We were joined for the evening by a lovely newlywed UK couple, Mark and Emma. We enjoyed their company while we partook of an excellent eight-course degustation meal including all sorts of sumptuous dishes made from really top notch ingredients. After dinner the rain had retreated and we settled at a table on the beach, behind a temporary bamboo wall that had been dug in to shelter us from the wind. A bottle of champagne rounded off the evening in style as we saw in the New Year. We enjoyed splashing in the lagoon and watching the bioluminescence sparkling in the sand. Shortly after midnight we retired to our bungalow to find a welcoming New Year made bed.
Friday 1 January 2016
After our final breakfast on the island we were farewelled as we departed on the boat for the short trip to Safari Island where we met the float plane at the raft we had arrived on. A very quick 5 minute flight took as to the W Resort island where we waited about 10 minutes for a few guests and their copious amount of suitcases to arrive. This 30+ year old DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 seaplane was soon airborne again for the 20 minute flight back to Male. We were surprised at the large number of these planes parked up at the jetties when we landed. It is apparently the largest seaplane operation in the world. We were a bit apprehensive about whether we would make our connecting flight as we had to pick up our suitcases from the Hulhule Resort and only landed in Male about 85 minutes before our departure time. Luckily things in Male work on island time. Roger was able to convince someone in a van to take him to the hotel to pick up the bags while I chatted to the guys at check in. Remarkably they seemed completely unperturbed.
Saturday 2 January 2016
The rest of the trip through Singapore and on to Sydney went very smoothly and we touched down just before 10am. We checked into the Shangri-La hotel where we had been upgraded to a suite with a fantastic view over the harbor bridge and opera house.
In the afternoon we wandered around Barangaroo. This area has been recently landscaped and developed into a spectacular park and recreation area with the shoreline lined with stone all cut and shaped to fit neatly into place. Hundreds of people were gathered enjoying themselves and the environment. We strolled round to Darling Harbour where we watched The Force being Awakened (Star Wars) at the I-Max theatre. After a few drinks and nibbles at the Horizon Club lounge it was time to call it a day.
Sunday 3 January 2016
After a lazy start to the morning we wandered around the markets at the Rocks. In the early afternoon we took a stroll up the Harbour Bridge. We opted for the “express” route which goes up through the centre arch showing off the engineering of the bridge construction before reaching the top, then crosses over the bridge and brings you back down the other side. Our guide, Matt, was fantastic – particularly when the heavens opened about a third of the way through with the rain coming in sideways and us all getting absolutely drenched. Surprisingly it didn’t detract from the climb at all – in fact I think it made it even more memorable. Matt said it was the worst conditions he had ever gone up the bridge in! It was good to get out of our wet shoes.
Constructed in the late 1920’s/early 30’s, and costing 6.25 million Australian pounds, 1500 men were employed on the construction, which was not paid off until 1988. The steel was brought by ship from England and fabricated on Milson’s Point, the site now occupied by Luna Park. 16 men lost their lives during the construction; only two feel from the bridge, the remainder were killed in the fabrication yard. One man fell from the lower deck of the bridge, landing in the sea and survived. He was back at work within a couple of weeks and presented with a gold watch for his tenacity. It was fascinating looking at the old construction photos of the bridge where guys were just strolling around on the steel work with no safety harnesses or anything.
Monday 4 January
It is a dreary day in Sydney and after another lazy start we decided to take advantage of the Pylon museum that was included with our Bridge climb ticket yesterday. This turned out to be well worthwhile – inside the pylon are a number of displays showcasing the making of the bridge that was quite a feat in its day, and we also were able to climb to the top for more fantastic views over Sydney and the harbour.
Then it was time for our farewells as we headed our separate ways (Roger to Auckland and me to Albury) to get ready for our next adventure in a couple of weeks time… Cuba here we come!