It was with great excitement 44 amazing Stage 3 students and their teachers set off on our much anticipated Sydney excursion. We had a quick and chilly break in Bathurst before reaching Katoomba and the beginning of the planned activities. For many students this was the first time on the Scenic Railway. The students loved the experience of travelling down the steepest passenger railway in the world, relieved that they were inside the confines of a caged carriage, rather than the less secure carriages of the past. After a short walk through the lush bush, some students chose to continue walking and ascend the cliff face aboard the Scenic Railway once more, while the others crossed via the Scenic Skyway with incredible views of the valley below. We were able to secure some indoor seating out of the cold wind, to enjoy our packed lunches and then back on the bus to continue the journey to Sydney.
Sydney Tower Eye was the next thrilling destination. Some children faced their fear of heights as they looked out the windows 250m above ground level, admiring the 360 degree view of the city sites below. Students spent a lot of time looking through the giant stationary binoculars found around the observation deck, pointing out recognisable landmarks and asking questions about what they could see.
When we arrived at our accommodation Stage 3 were keen to get settled in their rooms before dinner and a trip to Kingpin Bowling. With around 10 lanes bowling at once, it was interesting to watch all the different bowling styles, from throwing to smooth releases, with varying degrees of success. Win or lose, everyone had a marvellous time.
Stage 3 settled into their rooms for the night and in what seemed like only hours, we were ready for day two of our Sydney adventure. Starting with a wonderful devotion given by Mr Westcott on the balcony of the YHA, where views of Sydney Harbour and the city skyline stretched as far as the eye could see.
A quick breakfast and we were off for the day’s adventures. With inclement weather on the way, a quick change of plans was put in place to ensure students got the most out of the day. We walked around Circular Quay, past the Opera House and into Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Mr Denmead set a cracking pace and we managed a distance that took in kilometers worth of the garden and harbourside, stopping to discuss some of this country’s most iconic landmarks and see some fascinating plant life from many corners of the world. Upon our return to Circular Quay, the ferry took us across to Manly where we walked down the corso and onto the beautiful sands of Manly Beach. The sheer joy on the faces of our students as they played soccer, built sandcastles and other creations in the sand, and waded to their ankles in the water was lovely to see. Their exemplary behaviour earned them a much appreciated ice cream treat after lunch. We made it back to the bus just before the weather hit and headed to Sydney Sea Life Aquarium for a self guided tour. Stage 3 loved all the interesting sea animals and plants and spent considerable time reading facts about each exhibit. Disappointment struck for the souvenir starved students when it was discovered that the aquarium would not accept cash.
The change of weather interrupted our dinner plans, but thankfully Stage 3 was excited to be having pizza for our evening meal, which we enjoyed after showers and a change of clothes for our nighttime activity.
The escape rooms were unlike what many had expected, but quickly became for some their favourite part of the trip. A virtual reality adventure awaited the children, where they were sent on missions to space and had to work together to complete the challenges. While all students arrived safely back in their virtual reality, sadly Mr Denmead’s group chose to leave him behind in outer space. Our group was so large, that while half the students completed missions, the other half had the opportunity to play some group video games, again a first for some and enjoyed by all. The staff of the escape rooms were very impressed by the excellent behaviour of all our students and passed this onto the teachers. Another day over and everyone retired to bed, where sleep came more quickly than day one.
Wednesday brought the return of sunshine to Sydney and after a quick breakfast we headed out for our walk to the lookout on the Harbour Bridge. The centrality of our accommodation was such that within a very short distance we were on the bridge looking out over the harbour and taking in a little more history. We returned to the YHA to pack our rooms and the bus for the final walk of the excursion. Students were very engaged as we walked through The Rocks area, looking at historic sites, discussing buildings and architecture and standing where the convicts and soldiers of the First Fleet had come ashore. Students recalled that Captain Cook had falsely described Australia as “terra nullius” (nobody’s land) and they were told that the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation were the first inhabitants of this area of Sydney. We concluded the walk with a stop at Observatory Hill, where we enjoyed our recess and an excellent devotion by Mr Denmead, reflecting on what we had seen, with the old and new of Sydney mingled together and the purpose of the Old and New Testaments. Students were encouraged about their future and the possibilities it holds. Stage 3 climbed to the top of the hill to look once more at the harbour and the rest of the incredible view, before boarding the bus for the trip out of the city.
Our final activity was a stop at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. This was an enormous hit with the students. Once in the pool, they did not want to get out and swam, slid and circled in the whirlpool for just over an hour. After lunch outside in the sun, we left the warm climate of Sydney behind and headed home. Having just been swimming, it seemed very strange to drive through the mountains and see snow on the roofs of the houses and lying on the ground. A cold stop in Bathurst for an early McDonalds dinner provided an excellent finish to an amazing excursion. A huge “Thank you” goes to our bus driver Paul, who got us to each destination safely, working with some changing plans.
Students were able to write some thoughts on the way home and a few did:
“I think I am less scared of heights because I went on the Skyway and to the top of Centrepoint Tower.” – Evelyn
“I really liked it (the aquarium) because with all the giant stingrays, colourful sea life and beautiful detailed murals, it was a delightful place to visit.” – Natalia
“I loved wearing the VR goggles. It was so much fun flying. A great thing about that was that it taught you teamwork and you forgot where you were.” – Heidi
“The aquatic centre was a lot of fun. There was a waterslide that had lots of turns in it. There was also a current that took you around in a circle.” – Mackenzie
“In my opinion, I also think that this excursion has been the best one yet!” – Arabella
Overheard on the bus “I feel like I don’t have a family anymore. The teachers are my parents and Year 5 and 6 are my siblings”