South Coast Easter Weekend

(Memo to myself: set a reminder to post to the Dingoblog at least one a fortnight!)

Over  the long Easter weekend, we went for a short holiday to the South Coast and Jervis Bay – following pretty much the route of DIngotours’  South Coast day tour.  Wiebe made a few snapshots and edited them into the following video.

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Snapshots from a recent trip Sydney – Melbourne.

It has been a while since our last post. We’ve been very busy over Christmas, and it looks like the dust won’t be settling for a while yet. Happy New Year everybody. Here’s how Dingotours ended 2013 – with a bang. At Mallacoota.

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Dingo Tours @ Oceania Road Show 2013

We are very proud to announce that Dingo Tours has been invited to facilitate a workshop at the Oceania Road Show 2013 in Gent (Belgium). Theme: Day trips, weekend getaways and short holidays in and around Sydney.   

When: Sunday 8 December

Where: Flanders Expo (Gent, Belgium).

The Road Show is organised by Aussie Tours – Belgian’s leading agency (wholesale and retail) for all travel to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Aussie Tours has chosen Dingo Tours as their preferred partner for all day trips and shorter tours in and around Sydney.

 

 

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Unveiling the nature, wines and people of Wollemi National Park

Like a veil being lifted from before my eyes.  This is what Julia thought about Dingo Tours’ 4 day  Australian Explorers Wilderness Tour, which took place from 12 September to 15 September. Julia, a born Sydney-sider, was one of the 5 Australian guests who made this first Dingo Tour of the season a stand out success that exceeded everybody’s expectations.  Impressing overseas visitors with a well balanced tour to and beyond our Aussie tourism icon is what we are about. But to have given a group of locals a fantastic holiday in their own backyard really does make us proud. A huge encouragement. So here’s just a snapshot of what we’ve seen and done, in no particular order of importance:

  • spotted a wide variety of mammals, birds and reptiles including common, wombats, swamp wallabies, rock wallabies, eastern grey kangaroos, super lyrebirds, regent honey-eaters, sulphur crested cockatoos, echidnas, King Brown Snakes, Red Belly Black snakes, Blue Tongue Lizards, long neck turtles and goannas;Image,
  • savoured a freshly baked apple pie at the world’s largest fruit bowl in Bilpin
  • made and shared our own pizza’s cooked in a wood fired stone oven
  • gazed at the Southern Cross and the Milky Way around a camp fire
  • discovered the industrial ruins of the oil shale plant at Newnes

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  • marvelled at the colourful stencil art that  Aboriginal families left behind at the Black Fellow Hand cave 500-1600 years ago
  • climbed to the top of the Pagoda Rocks for a multi-million dollar look-out over the Cudgegong River and the Wollemi National Park

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  • carefully avoided the King Brown snake basking on the path to the at Walls Lookout over the Grose Valley

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  • encouraged the Blue Heeler Little Lady to round up the sheep in time to win the sheepdog trial competition at Rylstone Oval

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  • tested and approved the home made and yummy garlic and herbs infused extra virgin olive oil at the Rylstone farmers market

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  • enjoyed a fantastic blue cheese, nuts and pear salad on platform 2 of Kandos’ historic train station

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  • learned about Henry Lawson and the rich history of pittoresk Gulgong during local historian Kevin’s private tour
  • sampled award winning Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cab Savs at 4 wineries around Mudgee

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  • mingled with the locals at the Rylstone community art auction and the pub afterwards
  • rediscovered the pleasure of sucking up a strong coffee through a Tim-Tam
  • spotted the Regent Honey Eater in the Capertee Valley – one of top 50 bird watching spots in the world

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  • reminisced at Simmos’ quaint little museum of Glen Davis
  • panned for gold at Sofala, Australia’s oldest surviving gold mining town
  • interacted with the breathtakingly beautiful nature of the Wollemi National Park, and of the Hartley Vale, Wolgan and Capertee Valley

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  • finished a wonderful touring experience with a invigorating walk to the Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains

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In summary, the first Australian Explorer’s Wilderness  Tour had it all; a perfect balance of nature, culture, outdoor activity, gastronomy and “couleure locale

Check our profile page for the next trip. Or contact me (jelle@dingotours.com.au) for a private tours at very competitive rates.

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Ten quirkiest spots around Sydney

I probably shouldn’t tell you this to protect my own chances, but the ballot has just opened for the annual Tank Stream Tour, which this time will be held on 27 October. The Tank Stream was the original water supply for Sydney and is now encased in tunnels below the city. Unless you know a secret entry to the tunnels (tip: look for a hotel in the CBD, close to the Marriott. Or shout me a drink and I’ll tell you), the tour is the only way you’ll ever get to see what made Captain Philips decide to dump 696 convicts and a few hundred officers and free settlers at Sydney Cove in 1788. You’ve got until 12 September to enter, with the lucky winners announced on October 11. Cost is $35 for a 1 hour tour in the sewers under Sydney’s busiest Pitt Street. Don’t worry though if you don’t get drafted, or if you’re claustrophobic. There’re plenty of other places off the beaten tracks around Sydney to lure the adventurer out of anyone. Besides: go to the Botanical Gardens to see the Tank Stream emerging from its hide out. Look for Monet’s Giverny footbridge look-a-like.

Anyway, I was wondering: ever been to a place that puts you slightly off balance, and makes you wonder whether to mock or love it for its tackiness, ugliness, sadness or ever so subtle state of decay and threatened insignificance? The sort of place that gets its charm not from any human intervention, but mostly from the lack of it? Locations that soak in nostalgic couleur locale (also referred to as ‘Australiana’ ) and make a trip a thousand times more rewarding than the overly promoted Sydney Bridge Climb or the Behind-the-Scenes tour of the Sydney Opera House ? This weeks’ Top 10 List is : our favourite quirky spots within a few hours’ drive from the CBD.

  1. Yarra Bay Sailing Club. The only place in Sydney where you can get Resch’s in a glass, and have it on the beach. On Sundays, and weather permitting, they often have a band playing outside. The bar is frequented by members of the local Aboriginal Gadigal tribe that live in this area of La Perouse. With a little luck you might even see a pod of dolphins frolicking about in Botany Bay.
  2. Little Manly. Al fresco dining directly by the ocean, glistering in the moon light, sailing boats mooring for the night, locals trading their catch of the day for a glass of chilled wine to the tunes of distant bouzouki music. Is it Naxos? Is it Dubrovnik? No, it is… Little Manly Park! Don’t forget to look for the local bilby.
  3. The Wombeyan Caves. Two hours on south on the Hume Highway gets you to the nearest spot to the Big Smoke to see such a rich variety of kangaroos, wallabies, possums, wombats and birds (e.g. bowerbirds , magpies, sulphur crested cockatoos) roam free in the wild. Set in a lush green and generally beautiful area of the Southern Highlands between Sydney and Goulburn, the Wombyean Caves is a largely unspoilt, not overly commercialised attraction for all nature lovers.

    Kangaroos at Wombeyan Caves

    Kangaroos at Wombeyan Caves

  4. Mittagong and Wombeyan Cave Road Wineries. Few Sydney-siders know this, but scattered along the road between Mittagong and the Wombeyan Caves, there are about 50 vineyards producing not too shabby cool climate wine varieties including chardonnay, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, sauvignon blanc, rose, pinot gris, pinot noir, cabernet merlot, tempranillo and verdelho. If you like wine tasting, but dread the crowded and overly commercialised cellar doors of the Hunter, head for the Bou-saada Vineyards and Tertini Wines on Kells Creek Road, or the McVitty Grove and Joadja Vineyards near Handleys Lane. Get a few bottles of Verdelho and organise your own private wine tasting in the shade of the Wombeyan Caves a little further down the road. But be careful: parts of the Wombeyan Caves Road are very rough and has many curves and narrow stretchs as it descends down to Wollondilly River and then up very rugged mountains. Some of the views are spectacular.
  5. The Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park  OK, so the $24 entry fee is a little rich for a rather under-facilitated park with a few kangaroos, an emu, a couple of chickens and one fat goat. On the other hand: lack of facilities, and an occasional animal roaming about is exactly what you get in the real Outback. Also on the plus side: fewer visitors, fewer children (!), more time to interact with the wildlife and a pleasant Aboriginal walking track.
  6. Malabar Rock Pool. Sydney’s northern and eastern beaches are dotted with rock pool of all shapes and forms, and they all are great places to hang out for an afternoon. The Malabar Rockpool makes no exception – although most white fellas will disagree. Not so the many Pacific Islanders, who’ve claimed the secluded spot for their weekend family gatherings. .. and gladly put up with less than desirable water quality of the algae infested pool water. Thankfully there’s a shower, and the nearby golf club serves great fish ‘n and chips to enjoy while marvelling at the beautiful sun set over Malabar Heads. Unbeatable.
  7. Port Kembla. Drive one and a half hour drive from Sydney CBD’s, and enter the eerie town of Port Kembla – a former flourishing and vibrant commercial hub on the NSW South Coast, just south of Wollongong. A trip at Port Kembla (the Aboriginal word for ‘plenty wildfowl‘) on the tip of Red Point is a trip to the State’s rich industrial and multi-cultural past, and its painful present of youth unemployment, vandalism, drug addiction and prostitution. Confrontational yes, but a must-see for every visitor interested to see what is behind the varnish and glossy tourism attractions of Stepford Wives’ Sydney. Besides. it’s not all doom and gloom at Port Kembla. There’s a fantastic beach, a great public swimming pool, an authentic community atmosphere and a great surf. So much so that business is slowly picking up, making Port Kembla an interesting prospect for patient new home buyers. Plus: the road from Sydney takes you through the Royal National park, with its many secluded spots and beaches.
  8. Kurnell & Kurnell to Cronulla Walk. Kurnell Peninsula Headland, in Botany Bay, is the site where Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook first set foot on Australian soil in 1770, forging the beginning of British settlement in Australia. From the Captain Cook Memorial Obelisk, there’s a great walk taking into the Kamay Botany Bay National Park, past the informative Discovery Centre to the whale watching spot of Cape Solander and on to the cliffs leading to the 3.5 miles long Wanda beach and Cronulla. About a 15 km walk past memorials, historical farms, shipwrecks, tin shed villages of the 30’s, lighthouses and other remnants of Australia’s colonial history – including the recently closed Caltex refinery.
  9. Unless you are a 2nd hand car dealer , IMOO there’re never been too many reasons to endure the 1 hour drive through hell down Parramatta Road. However, if you’re lucky enough to have a western-bound train stop at your local station, on schedule, and there are no rail works or derailments, then a trip to Parramatta’s Old Government House may well be worth the trouble. As one of the oldest remaining public buildings in Australia, dating back to within a few months of the establishment of the penal colony and Sydney Cove in January 1788, Old Government House – since 2010 on the UNESCO’s World Heritage Register – rewards visitors with a major collection of Australian colonial furniture, a ghost night tour and informative lectures and exhibitions.
  10. Bondi Beach Pavilion. Sure, Bondi Beach is the last spot you’d expect to see on a list of off the beaten track places. Amazingly though, even on the busiest of summer weekend days, when the beach is standing room only, you are likely to find some peace, shade and tranquilly at the back of this iconic building that has a colourful history dating back to 1928. Venture on to the balcony on the first floor, or to the open air theatre in the back, or into the dressing rooms, or find an empty alcove along the back walls of the pavilion, and imagine how life much have been at the birthplace of Australia’s beach & surf culture nearly one century ago. Or join the East-Europeans cards, chess and backgammon players – oblivious to the thousands of sun worshippers just a few meters removed in easterly direction. Well then, know that the Bondi Pavilion is now subject of a management master plan, launched by Waverly Council, to “ensure Bondi Pavilion is a lively cultural and community hub“. Which, judging by the Councils’ track record and their role in the redevelopment of the Icebergs about ten years ago (a project whereby an authentic, iconic and affordable local RSL club annex swimming pool was turned into an expensive, tedious, thirteen in a dozen trendy place for the bold and beautiful), bodes not too well for all who rather appreciate the last remaining bit of Australiana (or couleur locale) around Bondi Beach. If you like your say, you can make s submission to the draft plan of management and master plan here.

The list above is of course very arbitrary, and incomplete.  Instead of the locations listed, we could have easily included Lane Cove National Park (especially if you like to take your sweetheart on a romantic paddle up the river), Cockatoo Island (although quickly coming into view of tour operators and tourist agencies. Pitty.), Audrey Weir (we love the timber bridge across the creek at the back of the NP information centre), Featherdale Wildlife Park (except at 4 pm, when all the tourist coaches on their way back from the Blue Mountains unload their contents), Waverley Cemetery (final resting place of Sir Edmund Barton, first prime minister of Australia), Evelyn Markets in Redfern,  the public pool right in the middle of Vaucluse’s marina west of Watsons Bay, Nielsen Park (well know to the locals, but not so to tourists depending on public transport),  Marramarra National Park (just one of the many secrets hidden away in Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River system).

Know another hidden secret? Please share. Email info@dingotours.com.au or leave a comment below this post.

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Possums and scrotums

Guests on my Dingo Tours often ask me where, in Sydney, they can buy genuine Aboriginal art. A painted didgeridoo or boomerang would look nice in little Buster‘s room. Or a decorated piece of bark off a gumtree for the hall way.  On my full day Sydney to Surf Tour I sometimes  take them to one of the aboriginal art galleries (like the Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery in Danks Street, Waterloo) only to see their incredulous looks at the price tag hanging off some of  dot-paintings.

In July 2007, on the eve of the financial crisis, Warlugulong, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932-2002) dot painting, was auctioned off for $ 2.4 million Australian dollars (1.8 million Euros). The painting tells the story of the blue-tongue lizard Lungkata and his two sons from the dream time – the time when the earth and its inhabitants were created. Easy money, the previous owner must have thought – a bank teller who had purchased for a pittance of $1000, barely 30 years earlier from the Papunya. It is in this desert community, in the north-west of Australia, that modern dot painting had developed only several years before. It is a technique whereby the contours the contours of symbolic images are drawn dot after dot, using wooden sticks and twigs that are husked in acrylic or home made paints.

Warlugulong

Warlugulong, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

The Papunya had been painting for many centuries before of course, just like all Aboriginal communities across the Australian continent. Their sand paintings of shells, twigs, stones, flowers and seeds illustrated stories about the dreamtime, and formed a part of important initiation ceremonies which strengthened the cultural identity of the Australian natives. But it wasn’t until European art teacher Geoffrey Bardon in 1977 convinced the Panunya artists, including Clifford Possum, to transfer their sand paintings onto canvas that the first Australian dot paintings could be stored, transported and more importantly marketed on the international art market.

Since then dotpaint-art began its steady march to international museums, galleries and auction houses. And to souvenir shops from Antwerp to New York to Sydney, where dotted didgeridoos, boomerangs, refrigerator magnets and coffee bags always find willing buyers. The Aboriginal art market now accounts for an estimated $ 500 million per year.

Unfortunately, only a fraction of that money ever makes it to the Aboriginal artists and their community. Still in 2007, the year of Clifford Possum ‘s record breaking sale, a Senate committee testified about dot-painters that were getting paid with alms, drugs or used cars. Following the inquiry, since 2010, all Australian artists now receive a 5% of the price each time their work is sold and resold on the art market.

With the commercialization of Indigenous Australian art comes another a less desirable phenomenon: counterfeiting. The Australian state broadcaster ABC recently reported about inflated prices, falsified certificates of origin and even genuinely authentic Aboriginal dot paintings made by English backpackers.

Wiebe (one of our Dingo Tour guides) during a dotpainting workshop with local artists of the Metujrua community near Uluru.

Wiebe Bereza at a dotpainting workshop with local artists of the Mutitjulu community near Uluru.

So if you like to take home with you a real dot-paiting, you’re better off skipping the tourist markets of The Rocks (Sydney), Queen Victoria Markets (Melbourne) or Scarborough Fair (Perth) for a visit to a Aboriginal artist collective or indigenous run gallery. Such like the Aboriginal and Pacific Art Gallery in Waterloo, the Karlangu Aboriginal Art Centre in Pitt Street, the Bandigan Art Gallery on Gymea Bay or, a bit further afield, the Maruku Arts Centre in Uluru. Who knows, maybe soon there’s a small fortune hanging on your lounge room wall.

But mostly, a $4 China made kangaroo scrotum purse from Paddy’s Market will do fine. Not that little Buster would mind.

Kangeroo Scrotum

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Dingo Tours run daily city tours that include a visit to Aboriginal communities and art galleries.

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To climb or not to climb

On a recent visit of the Red Centre, I overheard a heated discussion between husband and wife about the question whether or not to climb Uluru – the mother of all Aboriginal sacred sites. Reading out the No Climb sign at the foot of the large monolith, the wife defended the Tjukurpa tradition which reserves the right to Uluru climb to the initiated members of the Pjintajara tribe. Her man on the other hand considered Ayers Rock as a part of a world heritage which no-one, not even the Aborigines, can claim as their own on the basis of religion or ethnicity. Like everybody else I have an opinion on the matter, which I’ll share in a minute.

ClimbClosed

But Sydney-siders and visitors don’ need to travel as far as Uluru and Kata Tutja to have a sacred Aboriginal site (*) invite profound political and ethical reflections about indigenous land ownership, cultural identity and land use.

In Sutherland, about 25 km south of Sydney’s CBD, lies Camp Wonawong – a former ceremonial site for Aboriginal men and women. The small midden, creek, rock overhang and five rock shelters of Wonawong, in the traditional country of the Dharawal people, is a place where Aboriginal people still feel a connection to their ancestors. The Kameygal from La Perouse and the Yuin from the South Coast believe that Camp Wonawong is part of an initiation trail that runs up the south coast. And what does one see on most Saturdays afternoon? Abseilers, no less from the Anglican Boys Society who have a training centre on the site.

Keep going south past Jervis Bay and Batemans Bay and you’ll arrive at the mountains of Biamanga (Mumbulla Mountain) and Gulaga (Gulaga Mountain) National Parks near the coastal town of Bermagui. The area is steeped in aboriginal history, and have only in 2006 been returned to their Aboriginal owners, the Yuin people. The Yuin now help run the Umburra Cultural Centre, which takes tourists on bush tucker walks, 4WD trips and guided tours to various aboriginal sites at Fairhaven Point, Mystery Bay and Camel Rock. The scenery is spectacular by the way.

Mount Yengo

Mount Yengo

At the sacred Mount Yengo, in the great Blue Mountains Heritage area on the other side of Sydney, you will still see local Wonnarua, Awabakal, Worimi and Darkinjung tell their kids the story about Baiame. Baiame (Baayami or Baayama) is a creational ancestral hero who flattened the top of Mount Yengo when he jumped back up to the spirit world after he had created all of the mountains, lakes, rivers and caves in the area. Mt. Yengo forms the central point of connection for major rock art sites from northern Sydney to the north of Newcastle and the upper Hunter Valley. The area is now also used as a camp site, with the well maintained Finchly Cultural Walk taking visitors to a rock engraving site.

Still further north is Birubi Point, within Tomaree National Park at Port Stephens . Birubi Point is a sacred Aboriginal ceremonial and burial site for the traditional Worimi people, who still use the site – which contains extensive archaeological material – for teaching their kids about Birubi ancestors and local Aboriginal culture. Also on Birubi Point Aboriginal Place: several car parks, roads, paths, infrastructure, a surf club and residential developments. A number of these developments have been built over Aboriginal archaeological materials and sites.

The ceremonial grounds of Gooreenggai on the slope of Baromee Hill, at the other side of Port Stephens represents a tangible link between the present and the past. Baromee Hill has been subject to various land clearances in the past due to coastal residential development. However, the western part of the hill containing the North Arm Cove Aboriginal Place remains heavily vegetated despite being previously divided and sold for residential development. The area is used for recreational activities such as picnicking.
In all, there’re about 40 sacred sites in NSW alone. And there’re hundreds of Aboriginal burial grounds, settlements, resource sites, gathering places and art sites – each holding great cultural and religious significance to the local Aboriginal people. Some are even located within walking distance from your inner city home or hostel:

The Golf Course in North Bondi contains a group of rock carvings (not to be confused with a nearby group of carvings thought to have been done by Portuguese sailors in the 18th century.)

Near glamorous Tamarama beach (AKA Glamourama) there’s a large carving of a whale and fish, right beside the path from Bondi to Coogee rock path.

So back to our opening question: to climb or not to climb Uluru? SAlready in 1985, Uluru (and the area around it) was returned to the Aboriginals, on the condition that the rock was leased back to the government for a 99 year period and that tourists could continue to climb it.

However it wasn’t until 1993, with the passage of the Native Title Act, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were able to claim ownership of large parts of the continent on the basis of oral evidence and artifacts. To the resentment of many farmers, miners, project developers and indeed tourists – a resentment that sometimes gives way to heated discussions at the foot of Uluru.

Whether you climb Uluru or not, few remain unmoved by the plight of the indigenous Australians. After 250 years of white settlement, Aboriginal people represent at most 2.2% of the population. Most of the nearly 450,000 indigenous people live in settlements, townships, in Central and Northern Australia. Often in inhumane conditions. Without running water, electricity or sanitation. Without significant education, healthcare or employment opportunities. Hopelessness drives many to drink or, worse still, petrol sniffing. Alarming reports about women and child abuse often make headlines. And the average Aboriginal life expectancy of 60 years lies far below the national average of 80 years.

What to do? Politicians, bureaucrats and community workers disagree. The abuse of indigenous Australians has gone on well into the seventies, and the policy coming out of Indigenous Affairs-offices has for a long time been motivated by deeply rooted paternalism, or even outright racism (the Aboriginals were only allowed to vote in 1967). Until the end of the sixties, an entire generation of kids – the ‘stolen generation’ – was snatched from their families to be westernized in white foster homes and re-education camps.

And as recent as 2007, the conservative Prime Minister John Howard launched the controversial ‘intervention’ in response to alarming newspaper reports on pedophilia and abuse of women. Army units were to take over from the local elders to run the most remote Aboriginal communities. Then, in the same year: ‘Sorry’ day, the long-awaited official apology for all the wrongs done to the Aboriginal people since colonization began.

Six years later some progress had been made, but there is still much to do. The hated Intervention is still ongoing. And hundreds of small communities in the centre and the northern parts of Australia – the so-called ‘homelands’ – are still deprived from the most basic health care and infrastructure.

Fortunately it’s not all bad news. Take Yulara, also knows as the Ayers Rock Resort – the place every visitor to Uluru and Katja Tuta eventually ends up staying. The new owners – the Indigenous Land Corporation – promised to replace half of the 800 strong workforce with locally trained Aboriginals by 2018. Two years later, 134 Aboriginals – about 16 per cent – work in and around hotels like the Desert Sands, the Sails of the Desert and the Longitude. It’s a start. And take the cultural center near Uluru, which since its opening in 1995 has been educating thousands of Australian and overseas visitors in the history and culture about the significance of the place to the local Anangu people. Barely 20 % of these visitors climbed Uluru in 2012. Did I ? No.

(*) Discussed in this post are only sacred sites. There are however thousands of Aboriginal places in the Sydney basin alone – middens, burial grounds, axe grinding spots, rock art sites etceteras. In Sydney’s sandstone belt at least 1500 rock shelters have been discovered to contain a cultural deposit. A significant number of sites have been found in the northern Sydney area and there are likely to be many more that have yet to be identified. All Aboriginal sites have legal protection under both state and federal law and it is an offence to damage or destroy them without agreement from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

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Around The World In 10 Bites

One of the many things Sydney has got going for it, is the availability of a vast array of delicious dishes from around the world, with virtually every region of the culinary globe represented. And I don’t mean Massaman curries, Patatas Bravas, Kebabs or Kimchi.

Featuring a selection of acclaimed restaurants, here’s our own list of restaurants in and around Sydney that will introduce your pallet to the finer exploits of world cuisine. The restaurants have selected on the basis of cuisine, customer feedback, ambiance, gut feel and location (e.g. nearby clubs or bars, public transport).

Diningaroundtheworld

1. From North America, in Newtown: Hartsyard 

Located in Newtown, AKA as Sydney’s Brooklyn, are the 6 tables of Hartsyard – a new restaurant run by New York immigrant chefs Naomi Hart and Gregory Llewellyn (fitting the bill with his red baseball cap, striped apron and regulation tatts, having cooked his way around the US before moving to Sydney to work at Wildfire.)

Dishes include:

  • Albacore tuna
  • Cold-smoked fried chicken buttermilk biscuit, low country sausage gravy
  • Pickle back martini
  • Pulledpork
  • Oyster po’boy
  • Handmade Burrata with Eggplant Caponata, Ham Crumbs, Black Olives, Gabbalicious

Address: 33 Enmore Road, Newtown
Licensed: Yes.
Cost: About $45, plus drinks

2. From the Middle East, in Randwick: Lebanon & Beyond 

Actually Lakemba would have been an obvious location to tackle a plate of shish, but closer to home or to your inner city hotel, in Randwick, is Lebanon & Beyond. This busy restaurants always has great atmosphere (we prefer the outside area on Alison Road, close to the fresh air and the bottleshop) and food. In Sydney’s east, the chicken is genteel – served as fat breast fillet chunks rubbed with paprika, grilled on a skewer (shish in Arabic) and served on salad. But there’s nothing too genteel about the garlic sauce at this family-style restaurant. The toum is fluffy, smooth, white, not too overpowering (kidding myself here, but anyway) and divine.

Also try the fattoush – crunchy scraps of Lebanese bread, mixed with cucumber, iceberg, mint and tomato, with sprinkled sumac for tartness. The other Lebanese greatest hit dishes are good here, too.

Dishes include:

  • Shish
  • Fattoush
  • Lady Fingers (my favourite)

Address: 187 Alison Road, Randwick
BYO (there’s a great bottle shop next door)
Cost: About $55, plus drinks, for two.

3. From South America, in Surry Hills: Morena

A bit more expensive, but probably worth it – especially if you’re exposure to South American cuisine so far has been limited to Brazilian BBQ, tapas or burrito’s. Morena is a modern Latin American Fine Dining With A Sassy, Cool Vibe. Morena showcases the amazing variety of ingredients, flavours and dishes of Latin American cuisine with a strong Peruvian influence, under the direction of renowned Peruvian Chef, Alejandro Saravia.

Serving top quality dishes, matched with top-notch cocktails including exclusive piscos and international wines, Morena provides a Latin American fine dining experience with passion, fun and a relaxed vibe.

Dishes include:

  • Causa de pulpo a la plancha
  • Anticucho de Corazón
  • Peruvian style spatchcok a la braza
  • Solterito Salad
  • Picarones e higos de carretilla

Address: 15/425 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Licensed: yes
Costs: About $60 plus drinks, for two.

4. From Sub-Sahara Africa, in Cremorne: Radio Cairo

A taste of African adventure awaits us at Radio Cairo – a very atmospheric resto that serves up African food, with some Caribbean dishes thrown in for good measure.

Dishes include:

  • South African Lamb Sosaties
  • Cajun Popcorn
  • Dwaaba and Jungle Bread
  • BBQ’d Jerk Pork Ribs
  • Afro Fries
  • African Mint Tea Cream
  • Num Num’ Roti Wrap

Great vibe. And across the road there’s the iconic, art deco movie theatre The Orpheum.

Address: 287 Military Road, Surry Hills
BYO : Corkage per person $3.95)
Cost: About $35 (dinner + starter or desert) plus drinks.

5. From North Africa, in Potts Point: Petrol

SBS says: “Okay, okay – Potts Point needs another drinking den/tapas joint like Miranda Kerr needs a nose job, but this fantastically funky breakfast, lunch and tapas joint has a lot going for it. For starters, Petrol stokes the gastronomic fires within, offering sumptuous dishes such as tortilla Espanola replete with salty anchovies, a share plate of dips, or a dish of proscuitto with goat’s cheese. Then there is the rather important matter of drinks, with a sizeable list of 16 quaffers available by the glass, and a slew of sexy cocktail options as well. Add an outside area with views of some of the Cross’s more “eccentric” residents, and Petrol is sure to fuel the engine of many Sydneysiders looking for a good time.

Dishes Include:

  • Sottocenera al Tartufo
  • Orange Roughy Moroccan Fish Dish
  • Morocan Kefta Ball Linguine
  • Morocecan Date and Coconut Tart

Address: 9 Springfield Avenue , Potts Point
Cost: About $50 (dinner + starter or desert) plus drinks.

6. From Eastern Europe, in Glebe: Tommy’s Beer Cafe

OK – Eastern Europe is not known for its culinary exploits, but one they do better than anyone: dinner parties. Fased in the bustling community of Glebe, Tommy’s is right in the middle of a myriad bars, restaurants, shops and curiosity stores. The place embodies all the great things about Europe’s cultural heritage: hearty food, welcoming atmosphere and most of all, beer. There’s a German beer hall feel to the place but the menu extends across much of Eastern Europe, including Slovakia, Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The restaurant is about a 10 minute walk up from the intersection of Glebe Point Road and Broadway and for those coming by car there is usually parking on the side streets.

Dishes include :

  • Slovak Halusky
  • Strapacky
  • Goulash
  • Spit Roast Suckling Pig
  • one meter sausage
  • and more

Address: 123 Glebe Point Road ,Glebe
Cost: About $40 (dinner + starter or desert) plus drinks.

7. From the Caraiben, in Manly: Miss Marleys

Finalist – Best small bar of the year in Australia

One of Sydney’s coolest drinking and dining establishments, Miss Marley’s embodies everything that is great about Manly – exceptional food and the finest cocktails delivered in a friendly and casual environment.

As you slide through the sheer curtains at the entrance, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back to the ’50’s – when style and sophistication reigned supreme. The retro backdrop and candle-lit tables provide an ambiance like nowhere else in Manly, and a read through the menu is sure to get your taste buds tingling.

Menu executed by Head Chef Paul Del Altura and the discernable tastes of owner Kieran Bailey, the menu is a concoction of traditional Pan American flavours mixed with some modern flair. Featuring classic Central & South American dishes, as well as influences from Cuba and the Caribbean, it may take you a while to decide which dish to choose!

Luckily, the extensive cocktail and wine menus are on hand to tide you over. Having been created with the same influences in mind, you are sure to find the perfect drink to accompany your meal.

  • Navajo Quesadilla
  • Crispy skinned quail
  • Goats curd & basil stuffed mushrooms
  • Aji de Gallina for 2

Address: 32 Belgrave St, Manly
Cost: About $40 (dinner + starter or desert) plus drinks.
No credit cards. Cash only.

8. From South-East Asia, in Darlinghurst: Phamish

Phamish serves up Vietnamese food with a modern twist and Chinese influences, like their delicious salt and pepper squid and prawns wrapped in crispy noodles. They also do succulent duck and prawn pancakes, though these are a little on the messy side to eat. The prices are closer to the premium end of the market for Vietnamese food due to the Darlinghurst location, but it’s worth a visit to try out something a bit different.

Address: 248 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst
Cost: About $40 (dinner + starter or desert) plus drinks.

9. From India, in Neutral Bay: Chaska

Going Indian in Sydney fortunately doesn’t always have to lead to a late night indigestion of $7 rogan josh lamb and a dried out Tandoori drumstick. Along Cleveland Street in Surry Hills, more than a dozen curry palaces align the stretch between Crown Street and South Dowling Street to serve up a not too shabby dosa, saag or vindaloo. If you like to take it up a notch though, venture out to the posher lower north shore suburb of Neutral Bay for a taste of authentic Punjabi cuisine at the Chaska. Five Star Chef Baldhir brings a fresh authenticity to Indian cuisine that will send your taste buds tingling with dishes like:

  • Amritsari Kulcha (Stuffed Naan Bread)
  • Punjabi Bakra (Goat)
  • Saag Lamb
  • Palak Paneer

Address: Shop 2, 81-91 Military Road, Neutral Bay
Cost: $36 (one entree & main course) + drinks
BYO: (corkage per person $1)

10. From Indigenous Australia, in Redfern and Camperdown.

Sadly, there are no indigenous run restaurants that serve dinner in Sydney. However there are two cafe’s that are 100% Aboriginal owned, and that do lunch and take-aways:

In Redfern, there’s The Purple Goanna .  Owner Suzanne Grech serves up locally sourced and fresh bush tucker that is healthy and inspired by her mum’s family from the Gamilaraay people in Coonabarabran, just outside the Warrumbungles .

The Gardeners’s Lodge Cafe in Camperdown, (it’s the historic building in Victorian park in front of Sydney Uni, at the corner of Broadway) is worth a visit just to meet Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, an Aboriginal elder of the Gamilaroi people of northwest NSW who set up the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training College in Eveleigh in 2006. With a mind to expand the employment options for her graduates, Aunty Beryl, along with friend and fellow teacher Wendy Johnsson, won a tender from the City of Sydney to set up the Gardener’s Lodge in August 2011. The café now has two indigenous trainee chefs, plus floor staff and baristas.

A coffee stop at the Gardener’s Lodge is also included in Dingo Tours’ Full Day City to Surf Tour.

Dishes include:

  • Three-cheese filo with spinach and warrigal greens
  • Buttermilk and wattle seed pancakes
  • kangaroo and stout pie

Gardener’s Lodge Cafe
Address: Victoria Park, Corner of Broadway and City Road, Camperdown

Purple Goanna Cafe
Address: 137 Redfern Street. Cnr Redfern and Renwick Street, Redfern

Enjoy!

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A sense for Sydney

Spend 5 minutes googling for holidays and day-trips in Australia (or anywhere else for that matter) and notice the touchy-feely lingo tour-operators generously employ in their sales copy. Immerse yourself in nature! Experience daily life as the locals do! Soak Up the country atmosphere! Engage all your Senses! In reality there’s often little of all that when you’re being whisked from one tourist spot to the next on an overpopulated 4 hour city tour through the busy streets of Sydney. Of course there’s the odd exception, like Dingo Tours’ City to Surf Tour. But it raises a challenging question: where in Sydney are your senses best engaged? Here’re some of our own tour guide’s (*) favourite city sounds, smells, tastes, sights and , aheum, feelings to get yourself immersed in. Like the locals do.

Sounds
The Laughing Kookaburra in Centennial Park, or in the Bronte Gully early morning, or at dusk. Best enjoyed with a strong cappuccino from Bronte’s Three Blue Ducks or a chilled chardonnay .

The sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks of south Maroubra. Especially on hot midday summers they’ll make you feel in a paradise (where in fact you’re just a 30 minute bus ride away from the CBD).

The croaking frogs of Trenerry Reserve, the (less-traveled leg of the) coastal walk between Coogee and Maroubra. Between June and September you may even have pods of dolphins and migrating whales in the audience.

The brewing coffee maker and kitchen staff in cafe Tropicana, Darlinghurst. This iconic cafe on Darlinghurst Cappuccino Strip is also the birth place of the now acclaimed short film festival Tropfest (which had to relocate to the Domain following its popularity).

The swearing Russian chess players at Hyde Park’s Chess Pitt (behind the kiosk opposite Market Street). Amazing how serious these guys are taking their blitz. Blyad!

Taste
Hard to add anything to the gazillion magazine columns, reviews and SMH Good Food guides. But just in case our celebrity cooks & eaters’ culinary tips haven’t given you an indigestion yet:

The nectar of grass flowers along the Bondi to Coogee rock path. Perhaps not the best taste, but always good to impress your friends with your local knowledge of some of the native bush plants which the Aboriginal Cadigal people have been turning into soaps, powerful glues and sweet summer jam long before the white fellow got there.

Freshly barbecued brim speared by some teenage dear-devil of the Malabar heads . Just check the water for signs of an active wastewater treatment plant

Overhanging passion fruit in the back streets of the north shore and eastern suburbs. We mean passion fruit that hangs over the wall separating the street from the private garden which contains the passion fruit vines.

Home grown avocados’ bought from the kids operated street stalls along the leafy, multi-million dollar mansion aligned roads of Edgecliff and Vaucluse. The culinary experience comes with the warm and fuzzy feeling one gets when donating to charity (in this case to help fund Amelia’s $30,000 per year private tuition fees).

A cheese sandwich shared with Jo or Reggie at St James church (King Street) on a Sunday afternoon. Jo and Reggie or two of the hundreds of homeless people you’ll meet at the one of the food vans and distribution centres around Sydney.

Smells
Apart from the obvious ones (freshly brewed coffee or banana bread at your local coffee haunt, freshly mowed grass, permanent markers, the smell of rain on hot Bondi Beach sand):

The scent of blooming jasmine flowers in the tropical garden behind Bee Meng Soh’s terrace in Erskineville. In fact, all of Sydney’s suburbia has them. If you smell them, you’ll know it’s summer. Love it!

The eucalyptus infused fur of a koala, hugged at Featherdale Park or Australian Wildlife Park. How good this little fellow smells – even its shit beats any perfume.

The sea-breeze blown in from the wild Pacific chop over Long Reef. Feels good too.

The flagrance at the start of Sydney’s annual City to Surf run – an invigorating mix of sweat, muscle cream and cheap deodorant emerging from 40,000 armpits and buttocks.

The intoxicating smell of old books at Glebe’s second hand book store Gleebooks (Glebe Point Road, 191) – four times Australian Bookseller of the Year.

The bat (more correctly: the grey-headed flying fox’) shit in the Botanical Gardens – since their 2011 relocation also to be enjoyed in most city parks like Wolli Creek, Centennial Park, Fred Hollows Park and the old tram lines between Randwick and Coogee.)

Old tramline

Caption photo: The Sydney tramway network once served Sydney, the capital city of New South Wales, Australia. In its heyday, it was the largest in Australia, the second largest in the Commonwealth (after London), and one of the largest in the world.

Sights

Really, I think I’ll just skip this one. What about “all of Sydney”. Or perhaps just these two:

The view from Redfern’s Eveleigh Street on to the Aboriginal Flag painted on the last remaining wall of the infamous Block, contrasting sharp against a backdrop of a CBD skyline of neon lit corporate logo’s. In my view one of the most politically meaningful and symbolic snapshots one can take of (and in) Sydney.

Seeing a whale from the shores of Botany Nay NP( rather than from an exploitative & crowded tourist boat). The sight of even the tiniest black speck far off shore makes me ecstatic, especially when cast while on the beautiful walk between Cape Solander in Kurnell and Cronulla Beach.

Feelings
Big, heavy and tropical raindrops on my skin while cooling off in Coogee’s rock pool (AKA the washing machine).

The white beach sand tickling my feet at Yarra Bay. Just in front of the sailing club to be exact. On a summer’s Sunday afternoon, when there’s a band playing on the promenade, the beach bar is open, and a balmy night is pregnant with possibilities such as a skinny dip in the cool Pacific.

What is your favourite smell, taste, sound, sight and feeling in Sydney? Please let us know: info@dingotours.com.au

Jelle Marechal.

(*) Jelle Marechal is an Australian citizen, and was born in Belgium. He studied politics and worked for many years as a journalist, tour guide and conference organiser before migrating to Australia in the mid-nineties. In 2004, he set up Australia’s first social activity network (facetime.com.au). Since then, Jelle has developed, lead or participated in more than 800 activities – anything from contemporary art gallery tours and pub crawls in Sydney and Melbourne, to kayaking and bushwalking weekends in many national parks and cycling trips through the country sides around all capital cities of Australia. Over the years he has accumulated a wealth of knowledge about Sydney, and the whole of Australia and its natural and cultural gems – a knowledge which enables him to deliver participants of our tours unique and unforgettable experiences of learning, discovery and total indulgence.

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Pie anyone?

Good news for European and American travellers to Australia: the exchange rate has dropped dramatically over the last few months.  It sucks when you’re over in Belgium to promote Dingo Tours to local operators,  but for Aussie tourism wanting to reignite overseas interest in dosing koala’s, hunting platypuses and the elusive drop-bear, the cheaper Aussie dollar might just be what the doctor ordered. So what does the Aussie buck get you? Here’s to help you budget your next trip downunder:

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Tiger Pie

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