Peeking In Sydney – A Free Walking Tour
16th August 2012
‘So you saw everything then?‘ Mark glared at me as we supped over Coffee. Bedraggled he was from taking a strenuous overnight bus journey from Byron Bay. Or was it that he was running from a girl? Who knows?
I shrugged my shoulders with a disbelieving look trying to make him feel bad for accusing me. After all, I only just scouted the city of Sydney for him ready to get a great walking tour underway.
‘I simply don’t know what you are on about, and quite frankly, I’m hurt.‘
Mark gave me another look only to find a camera awaited him. FLASH!
Laughing, I told him to get a crack on with this tour whilst he rubbed his tired eyes. First off, we would be hitting up Darling Harbour to check out the Maritime delights there and also to call Mark, Darling, as we entered the place. In a loud voice of course. He cringed.
‘Darling! I suppose this is Darling Harbour! What do you think Darling?‘
He responded by scuttling away to take a picture of the place. Beaming, I couldn’t believe the weather. It was hot, sunny and fantastic blue skies ahead. This is truly Australia as I sunbathed my face lifted high to the sky and listening the lapping of the water in the harbour. It was an hubbub of activity around, whether for exhibition centres, maritime museums, coffee stores, and even a shrine to the Sydney 2000 Olympics!
Next we headed up to the Observatory, one of the highest points of Sydney to look down and across Sydney Harbour. It was also a chance to do some posey pictures with the Harbour Bridge in the background. How stunning it is…my pose that is. This was probably the point when I told Mark to take his cap off. I didn’t want to be seen walking with a homeless person I told him…a chavvy one. He agreed to take it off when I took a photo but proceeded to tell me to get lost afterwards.
But we had to quickly scarf down lunch, MacDonalds of all places, and be on the steps of Customs House to await Peek Tours. They are a company that offers free walking tours by one of their esteemed guides who work for tips. They have taken the similar format of Sandeman’s New Europe Tours, in which I attended one in London and another in Edinburgh.
We were actually lucky enough to have the Manager as our guide, Gregg Peek! He told us to grab a drink for the 3hr walking tour ahead and also to check out the 3D Map of Sydney inside Customs House. As you can see Mark looks tres excited. I think he feels like he’s conquered his fear of heights. He refuses to do a Skydive even as I press him plenty to do so…not even when I said I would do a Bungee Jump naked if he does a Skydive. ‘Why would I traumatise myself doing the Skydive and then traumatise myself again by seeing you naked?!’
All thoughts of my nakedness was soon turned to the walking tour starting. Given a brief history of how Sydney was founded, Mark and I were soon whooping everytime Britain was mentioned. We definitely did rule the waves. Gregg was expecting us to make a convict joke all the time but neither Mark and I knew any much to the surprise of Gregg. Do you know any?
Before showing us the splendour of Sydney Harbour, Gregg concluded his history lesson by showing us the place where the first flag stood to found the city of Sydney….only now it is a bus stop. Australia, you do love your historical icons!
Seating us on the wharf, Gregg began to orientate us where to go for our time in Sydney only to stop when Mark burst out laughing. I knew why. Mark simply pointed at me and said, ‘Ed can’t really go to Manly Beach,’ as he continued while I glared at him, ‘he’s not really manly enough.‘ I’ll soon show him, the little beggar. Yes, Gregg was simply telling us where to go on one of the many ferries that leave the harbour. You can either go to the old penal colony, Manly Beach, across the harbour, and many more. There are 6 wharfs and there’s a regular ferry service throughout.
Elbowing him in the ribs, I passed my camera to Mark to take a picture of me with good old Sydney Opera House! I listened to Gregg as he told us about the architect who designed it only to be shunned aside because he wasn’t Australian. Sad times. But luckily, later on, he had a room inside named after him. I forget his name. But I was more interested in how to get inside without paying….in which he explained, simply go to toilet and then update your Facebook status from within…’hey, just having a slash in the Sydney Opera House, wahey!’ maybe not with a photo doing so with thumbs up..’
Gregg took us on a tour of The Rocks, the first settlement of Sydney where the ground was mostly…you guessed correctly…rock. You had to be careful living in those days, you wouldn’t want to run into the fearsome straw hats. The gang members had pretty much lethal weapons…a sock filled with sand. To bash you over the head with while robbing you.
‘Give us your money!’
Looks down, peels a sock off, fills it with sand…’or I’ll hit ya with my sock!’
It was quite ingenious really, because as crime rocketed, police was sent into the area and likely to arrest someone carrying a blunt weapon. But if you were a criminal and saw a policeman coming, he couldn’t arrest you really for carrying an empty sock and a pile of sand next to you.
‘what am I doing? Me? Just taking my pet Sock out with me for a walk’
From then, we took a tour throughout the CBD, checking out great eateries, a couple of squares, a way to get on Australian morning tv by getting in the background of the presenters jumping up and down…but the next port of call on our walking tour was rubbing some balls. Lucky balls. Lucky boar balls. It’ll appear in the next edition of Lonely Planet just you see. I simply had to have a photo taken. You can see in the photo that the only rubbed items on the boar is his nose and…his balls. Pretty funny we thought. Everyone had a photo with it rubbing the balls. Even Mark…who I think possibly liked it too much.
I still forget why we have a statue of the boar…
Finally, we entered the grounds of the Botanic Gardens that showcases the best exotic plants of the world. And also Gregg said, contains one of the best sights of Australia but not there any more. Huh? It all soon came to light. There used to be a massive colony of Fox Bats hanging off this tree. It was a sight to behold particularly when it was dusk and you see them flapping around….best to wear a hat then to avoid any unwanted deposits. However, there was no colony. The Council had scared them off with chainsaw noises and shotgun noises. Imagine having a wedding in the Botanic Gardens and the next thing you hear is a Shotgun!
Apparently, the bats were munching all the exotic trees so action was made to scare them away and find a new place to roost. I was pretty disappointed that this happened. I like Bats. But these thoughts were turned to madness when Mark stated that Batman was his favourite superhero….Batman is not a superhero! He doesn’t have any powers only a utility belt! This would be a long running argument I feared.
However, we came to the end of the tour with a stunning view of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge as the sun set behind them. What a way to finish the Peek Tour!
REVIEW: I actually thought the Peek Tour was extremely good and funny. Gregg kept me thoroughly entertained throughout with his local knowledge, jests and enthusiasm. So if you are ever in Sydney, take the afternoon walking with him to discover Sydney as you’ll never know it. He runs the tours daily and you can book ahead online here. Not to be missed whatsoever!