January 26th is Australia Day – it's a big day for Aussies: a sense of national pride and celebration for their country fills the public holiday. It's a bit like America's July 4th celebrations, but without the anti-British sentiments. On July 4th, we avoided the crowds, yesterday we didn't, we were in Sydney along with thousands of other people.
The reason we decided to hang around Sydney was the number of free events going on – in The Rocks (Sydney's oldest neighbourhood) there were 5 stages each filled with bands all day – there were dozens of busker stages, a stage in Hyde Park and one in Darling Harbour. We hadn't realised there would also be boat races (of the non alcoholic variety) with ferries and tall ships racing. As we arrived, there was a huge boat parade from the Opera house under the bridge with an almost unimaginable number of boats, from P&O's ocean going cruise liner to small boats with outboard motors & hundreds of sail powered yachts, all vying for space along side the official vessels and attempting to out do each other in displaying copious national flags and decorated in the national colours of green and gold for the 'best dressed boat' competition.
Along the road between the Opera House and Hyde Park were hundreds of classic and vintage cars, all polished and proudly displayed by their owners. There was even a display of pedal powered cars, caravans from the early C20 – complete with authentic paraphernalia and vintage bus routes carring passengers around town. We saw lots of music acts, from popular indie groups and folk singers, to brass bands and an awe-inspiring organ recital in one of the City's old churches
The questionable weather of the last week was hiding and the sun shone all day causing us all to packing into the little pockets of shade there were. As the sun went down, the evening culminated in a dazzling firework display over Darling Harbour.
A thoroughly good day was had by all that we saw and it was only later that we found out about the resentment that some people feel about the celebration of the 'invasion' of Australia – we spent all day wondering why the skywriters spelled out 'Sorry' in the skys above the harbour, finding out this morning that it was an unofficial apology to the aboriginals.
Today we're heading into the Blue Mountains and then we're off to the olympic whitewater course for a bit of a paddle, before returning to the coast and starting our road trip to Cairns.