We sat on floor cushions with our MacBooks open and Queensland brochures spread haphazardly, half eaten wedges of tangy dhokla and cups of chai beside us. We were up to the last days of honeymoon planning when I suggested that perhaps they should extend, after all it’s no small feat to see Australia in a week, it takes longer to get married in India, why the short honeymoon? It’s not the first time as an Aussie gal who’d lived in Delhi, friends getting married had called on me to share my local knowledge and map out a honeymoon holiday, stretching from Sydney to the tropical north. Whenever I’ve had guests from India come to Australia, they’re spellbound by the endless skies and the freshness of the great outdoors. Sitting on the sand with the waves softly breaking on the shore and only the sea breeze for company, it’s a world away from India and bound to be the perfect honeymoon escape.
Even when I lived happily in Delhi, I was always grateful for the days enjoying the beach or bushwalking through the Sydney mountains with the crispness of the air biting my face and filling up my lungs. Over the years I’ve felt fortunate to be able to call two places home though I find Australia so opposite to India that it’s like everything is existing in a parallel universe. Where there is clean here there is mess there; where there is space here, there the people amass; where here there is structure and order, there is the chaos of a billion people, a millennium old, all trying just to survive in a thousand different ways. It creates such an energy, such a buzz that where there is spirit and vitality there, sometimes there is emptiness here. But in that emptiness, is a vast landscape that stretches to the horizon, under a sky that never seems to end.
When people say Sydney is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world, it’s pretty hard to dispute. Having stood at the pinnacle of the harbour bridge on a sunny day and looking across the peninsulas and waterways, with the milky white Opera House beaming below, it is breathtaking. Sydney has become so broad, with many entertainments precincts around the harbour and along its beaches that a visit to Darling Harbour, a ferry ride to Manly or walk around Circular Quay to the Botanical Gardens each becomes a day trip. We’ve taken the ferry to Rose Bay to board a seaplane that flew us up to the North Head and Palm Beach, we’ve explored the little Islands of the harbour and one day, though we were planning to go elsewhere, jumped off at King Street Wharf and stumbled across dim sum’s and well, that was the afternoon gone.
For all of Sydney’s picture perfect moments, it’s by taking a drive just a couple of hours inland that you’ll really get an insight into the breadth and beauty of the cities’ surrounding landscape. Just two hours drive west to the Blue Mountains, with their soft lapis haze and sparkling bushland, brings all the quiet and serenity of a mountain retreat. Though the rocky outcrops of the Three Sisters have always attracted onlookers, the increasingly popular scenic railway and sky train give you a first-hand glimpse of the escarpments and deep gullies below. Head a little north and the rolling hills and countryside are dotted with vineyards and picturesque B&B’s. Beyond the hinterland towards the basin of Port Stephens is a hub of peaceful bays and open oceans and with its slightly warmer climate is paradise for kids and families camping out and spending their days chasing pelicans, dolphin watching and getting their cheeks sun kissed under the clear skies and warm sunshine.
I once flew from Sydney to Cairns as a waypoint to snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and though Cairns itself is not overly pretty, the reef certainly is. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to boat hires, snorkelling and diving tours and overnight cruises out to the sea, each one will take you on an underwater journey that is truly sublime. I recall one afternoon snorkelling through the turquoise and lime coloured corals, little nemo and angel fish darting around curiously, when a huge turtle swam by. It let me feel its mottled green shell as I watched it gently glide past though my heart was racing. From Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef Drive heading north to Cape Tribulation is a few hours of magnificent road trip beauty, with the Wet Tropics Rainforest on one side and the reef on the other; at times the way the road hugs the coast it’s as if you could wind down the window and let your fingers dip and splash in the cool water.
So you can see why it’s hard to pen a holiday plan for just a week or two. What so often happens when we travel to a new country, is that we see just one corner of it and the next holiday travel somewhere else entirely. For a country that’s sea bound as the world’s largest island, geographically diverse with rugged Arctic coasts and tropical seas, arid as a desert and a self-contained continent that stretches across the size of Europe, Australia and its various characters and corners need more than one trip. I’d say the same about India, there is no comparison between the dry dusty north, the pent-up anxiety of Delhi and the breezy, peaceful tropical south; not in the festivities, food, culture or vista. There’s a beauty in connecting to a country and seeing it from north to south, in different seasons, peeling back and understanding the various layers of its culture over time. I guess that’s where the honeymoon begins.