Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Naaah, it's not for you. It's really more of an American idea.

About a month ago, in Auckland, I found an Australian Subway sandwich loyalty card, with 2 of its required 8 stamps already affixed. Over subsequent weeks, God provided enough NZ stamps for me to complete the card. Now all I needed to do was pop over to Australia and use it. Today on George Street, my plans came to fruition!

Also today, I was given a 10% off voucher for the Virtual Tour Of Australia available inside Sydney Tower. (the giant cotton-reel-like structure below)

Well of course, since this voucher had only had a few hours to sink into my mind, I got there, paid, and totally forgot to use it.

The idea of paying hard-won money to travel to Sydney for a Virtual Tour Of Australia inside a windowless room at the bottom of the city's tallest tower appealed to my love of originality so much, that I was helpless not to try it out. And anyway, they wouldn't let me up to the Sydney Tower's 360-degree viewing room without buying it as part of the entry-package.

This was, without a doubt, the finest multimedia presentation I have ever seen. I mean in 1996 I thought Victoria (in Canada)'s model village chronicling Earth's future was a pretty neat idea, but that was just peanuts compared to the Sydney Tower's Virtual Tour Of Australia, listen. (and so on)

First we watched a harmlessly funny health and safety video.

Then we sat in a darkened room wearing stereo headphones. (for some reason the lead comes out of the left channel down here, unlike in the UK where it always comes out of the right)

As we listened, we looked through a long window at a beautiful elaborate model of an Australian farm, on which a little holographic presenter chatted to us and threw his boomerang off to our left. We then heard said boomerang flying behind us, and all around the room until the little holographic guy's little holographic dog caught it on our right. The guy and his dog then got into their little holographic car and drove off behind a tree, emerging on the other side as an identical model car, and driving away into the back of the set. There was some clever conjuring going on here, not least because there were 4 separate holograms operating simultaneously, with their overlapping actions locking together in perfect unison, like a very finely-honed magic act.

As if that wasn't enough, the entire room then rotated us all to the left, depositing us in front of a second window, this time of a city roof-scape. Here a similar 3-minute presentation took place, followed by a further 4 scenarios. These included a beach and an undersea submarine.

After this enchantment was over, we reached the tour's only low-point - the virtual cave. That's right - the Virtual Tour Of Australia indoors at the bottom of the city's tallest tower also boasted a fake cave that we could walk in, just like a party of real tourists.

In recent years I've seen a few real caves, most notably in Slovakia, Crete and Waitomo. This one was necessarily small (smaller than, say, a room), and by definition fairly unimpressive, with typically cavey things found in generic caves the world over. Rock walls. Stone ground. Fire exit. Zowie.

Finally we got to go on the Imax ride, with 3 screens to fill up both our normal and peripheral vision. These things never convince me that I'm actually flying, but I was well impressed at the sheer level of thought that had gone into assembling the entire tour. Apart from in the cave we had the same 2 tour guides all the way, even though they'd taped all their inserts (presumably) years ago.

At last, having been denied the chance to do the whole thing again (they'd have said yes in NZ), I went up to the viewing platform at the very top of the tower, and listened to an hour-long talk on points of interest that we could see out of the giant panoramic windows.

Just as when I'd climbed (taken the lift up) the Sky Tower in Auckland 10 months ago, it was time for the sun to set, making for some majestic sights.

(yes, these pictures actually are in the correct order)

But the day's true highlight was yet to come...

Earlier in the afternoon, as I'd been waiting for the lights to change on George Street, I suddenly noticed a massive horizontal girder lurching out above the street in front of me.

On the side was written a truly iconic word. What was it called?

Ahhh yes - the Sydney Monorail!!!

Now that it was night, and I actually had somewhere to go, (Railway Square) this was my chance to fulfil my lifelong ambition.

I eagerly I bought myself some chocolate and a flavoured milk drink. (in retrospect, I realised this should have included a doughnut) All prepared, I then walked up the steps of the nearest Monorail station, purchased my 1 journey Monorail Token (coin) and keenly slotted it into the turnstile. Already my heart was thumping "Monorail. Monorail. Monorail. Monorail."

I enjoyed the whole circuit more than 3 times, and you know, it's true what they say. They really do glide as smoothly as a cloud, the track does bend (on the corners) and, yes Sir, there really is nothing quite like a genuine bona-fide electrified 2-car monorail! was like riding on air.

(apart from the monorail part)

Now all I need is a Top Trumps set.

More on monorails:
(day #1 here)
(day #2 here)
(day #3 here)
(day #5 here)
(day #6 here)


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