Monday, December 06, 2010

15 Nov 2010: From Sydney to Port Stephens

15 Nov 2010 (Mon):

This day was special. I embarked on a journey that I have never taken before, on my very own, from Sydney city to Port Stephens. My purpose was to be out in the open sea and to see whales and dolphins.

"Port Stephens is a large natural harbour located about 160 kilometres northeast of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. "(Source: wikipedia) It is a popular tourism destination. Many people visit Port Stephens for the aquatic activities such as whale and dolphin watching, fishing and recreational boating.

I think I was very excited to be at Port Stephens. I woke up at 12.40 a.m.!

Actually, I had already signed up for a dolphin-watching cruise at Port Stephens with the tour agency and that was scheduled to take place on 17 Nov 2010. The tour will get me to Port Stephens with way less hassle. However, my gut feel tells me that I am unlikely to see whales on that cruise. One of the reasons to visit Port Stephens at that time of the year was because the humpback whales are known to be sighted at Hervey Bay to play there from the months of August to November, before they return to Antartica. There are whale watching cruises setting off from Nelsons Bay, Port Stephens, that would get me closer to getting a glimpse of the whales in the wild.

I appreciate the truth that dolphins and whales are free on their own in the wild. We can only ask for good luck to be able to sight a few of them in the wild. There was no way we can control whether we would indeed see dolphins and whales even if we were to go for a dolphin and whale watching cruise. Wanting to increase my chances of sighting dolphins and whales, I decided I would book a whale watching cruise on my own since there was no tour agency in Singapore who could arrange one for me. Prior to my arrival at Sydney, I had done some research on ways to get to Port Stephens.

Here are the resources that I have found helpful:
- City Rail (Newcastle and Central Coast line)
- Port Stephens Coaches

After studying the resources that I had found in detail, I figured out a way to travel from Sydney city to Port Stephens on my own, with a car. I had the option of taking the Port Stephens Coaches' Sydney Express service. That did not serve my needs as it meant that I would have to find accomodation to stay overnight at Port Stephens and my tour agent did not have the service to help find accomodation at Port Stephens. I ended up deciding on taking City Rail from Sydney city's Central station to Newcastle station. Afterwhich, I would take a Port Stephens Coaches coach to Nelsons Bay, Port Stephens.

So here I go. At 12.40 a.m. I woke up very early to prepare to set off to Port Stephens. I took my time to shower and had a light bite of food. The hotel, Novotel Rockford Darling Harbour, was very thoughtful. The day before my trip to Port Stephens, I told one of the staff members at the reception that I had wanted to take a very early train to Newcastle and asked for help in the breakfast arrangement. At 3 a.m., just before I was about to set off from the hotel, I received a lovely packed breakfast from the hotel's reception!

As I walked from the hotel to Central station, the streets were rather quiet, with occasional sightings of people roaming about after a party and road-sweepers. I enjoyed the tranquility of the city streets at that wee hours of the day. When I reached Central station, I saw some people sleeping on the floor. All the counters were closed. Thankfully, there were automated machines which I could buy tickets from. I bought a return ticket to Newcastle that was AUS$15.60 per adult.

I was in time to take the very first train that would depart from Central to Newcastle at 3.45 a.m. There were only a handful of passengers on the train when the train set off for Newcastle.

On the train, I happily enjoyed my second helping to breakfast. I had a bun before I had left the hotel. The breakfast helped my body to ease into an awakened mode. Afterall, it was not even 4 a.m. Sydney time, and it was barely 1 a.m. Singapore time when I was enjoying the packed breakfast that the hotel had prepared for me. The sandwich with egg, ham and salad was wonderfully delicious. The packed breakfast also included orange juice, a pear and a mango yogurt. Admittedly, my body needed to catch naps on the train ride to Newcastle. If I was not eating and not watching the sceneries, I was probably resting with my eyes closed.

Although I was taking naps for a fair part of the journey, during the occasional times that I had opened my eyes to enjoy the sceneries, I was treated with views of the beautiful morning skies. I suppose the early birds do get the best worms.

At 6.52 a.m., I reached Newcastle station safely. Without much time to lose, I headed off to Stand 3 of Newcastle station to wait for the 7.10 a.m. coach from Newcastle to Nelsons Bay, Port Stephens. A one-way ticket to Nelsons Bay cost AUS$4.30. The journey took more than 1.5 hours. It was 8.50 a.m. when I reached Port Stephens.

One single trip from Sydney's city (Central station) to Nelsons Bay, Port Stephens, took more than five hours! The whale and dolphin watching cruise that I had signed up for was three hours in duration. So effectively, my travelling time to and fro Port Stephens was more than three times the duration of the whale and dolphin cruise. It was all worth it. I saw whales in the wild for the first time in my life. More about that in the next post.

People and moments that I am grateful for:
1) I reached Port Stephens safe and sound!
2) The driver of the Port Stephens Coaches was very kind and went out of his way to sketch a map of how I can walk from the bus-stop that I would alight at to the d'Alboro Marinas. That was what I needed to feel assured that I will get to the right place with confidence.
3) A nice lady who was a passenger on the Port Stephens Coaches bus that I had taken helped me confirmed the exact bus-stop to alight.
4) My friend, RL, was looking out for me. She was kind and thoughtful to send me a message that morning to check if I had reached Port Stephens safely.

New things that I did:
1) I travelled a five-hour long journey on my own from Sydney's Central station to Port Stephens. I like the experience of travelling to a new place on my own.



Richard Yap said...

I envy your trip! I tried in New Zealand - Kaikoura to catch some wild whales. In the end, I failed as the cruise cannot set sail due to wild weather which result in rough sea.

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Richard, you will have your good luck too. Go for another wild-whale-watching trip when interest, schedule and budget permits.

If it is possible, plan for a few more trips. I planned for one whale-and dolphin watching trip and one dolphin-watching trip for the holiday that I am now writing about. That was my way to increase my chances of success. Nature is not in our full control. We can however increase our success in simple ways for things that matter. :)

kyh said...

Seems like a wonderful trip! You love Syd a lot, don't you? I remember you visiting it like one or two years back?

I've missed your previous entries, and am going to read 'em back when am free.

oceanskies79 said...

kyh: Yes, Sydney is a beautiful place in its own way. :)
The good thing is also I have friends there, so I could make some time to catch up with friends when I am there.

You have good memory. Yes, I was there two years ago. I remember you commented on the Chinese name for Sydney. :)