A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Welcome to the flies

We arrived at the Uluru airport. It is one of those airports without gates, where the plane just rolls in wherever and they pull up a set of stairs. Apparently, the only thing in the whole area is the resort that exists solely to bring in visitors to the rocks, so they don't really need a large airport, it just has to support one large tourist plane at a time. The nearest town is Alice Springs, which is 440 km away, and takes longer to drive to than it takes to fly to Sydney. We had some time before our dinner, so we wandered around. The resort has a spa, a few different hotels, and a small town center with a grocery store, a bunch of souvenir stores, and about 3 restaurants. That's it for miles. Mostly though, the resort has flies. Tons and tons of obnoxious flies, indoors and out. Fortunately, they are not the biting kind, they are the kind that eat your sweat. Unfortunately, that means that standard Off of other bug spray just attracts them more. We got some fly nets for our faces and some strong-smelling lotion/cream stuff specially designed to keep these bugs away. This is the type of place that you don't care how you look or how you smell, you just want to keep the flies away. In fact, if you have a few pet bats, birds, frogs, or lizards that like to eat flies, I highly recommend that you bring them with you and just wear them on your shoulders everywhere you go. Beyond that, the other first thing I noticed was the sweltering heat. It is freakin' hot here. It is also reasonably muggy. It's pretty much impossible not to sweat outside. Even taking a nap in the shade would be a sweaty ordeal. Which of course, would attract more flies. Wonderful. I tried to make our explorations short, although I definitely wanted to check out the aboriginal art gallery. I LOVE the aboriginal art. It's so colorful, yet not tacky. It's all dotted, but the dots are separated, more like old-time newspaper print than a Monet. I want to find a print for my house, but those are a lot harder to find than the originals. I would love to have an original, but somehow I don't think that spending $2000 on a piece of art is within my budget right now, unless the art can also clean my dishes, do my laundry, and vacuum the floor. I've decided that every second we're not on a tour, I'm going to be inside in the air conditioning, where the flies aren't too bad. I brought enough reading material to last, plus I have some pictures to sort through. There's no way I'm going out in the nasty unless I'm headed towards a directed experience. This is no place to just go wandering about aimlessly. Our first tour was tonight. We left a little before sundown and travelled to a highly rated "restaurant." That's in quotes, because the ceiling of the building is the sky and the walls are the desert (except for the bathrooms, those have real walls). The cocktail hour area was on top of a hill that had a view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. We ate little hors de oeuvres while listening to a digeridoo player. I had these adorable mini sushi rolls the size of a dime, but Rachel, Mike and Mom had some sort of crocodile and kangaroo ones. My statement about the digeridoo player is a little misleading. Apparently, that is the name of the melody that the instrument makes. He did play those melodies, but the instrument itself is called something else. The musician also told us how real ones are made. They take trunks that have been hollowed out by termites, cut them off, and play them. However, if the termites haven't hollowed the trunk out enough, they place the cut trunk into a termite mound and leave it there for a while until the termites finish. The little tracks the termites leave are different on each individual instrument. As a result, each instrument has its own voice, just like people do. If you had a good ear, you could tell which instrument created a piece of music, just like many people can identify individual singers. After cocktail hour, which dragged on a little long because we were waiting for the sunset, we were led down a path to the tables. They were very fancy- tablecloths, candles, wine glasses. Not exactly what you'd expect to find out in the middle of the wilderness. We ate dinner as the twilight turned into night. It was a little hard to see the food on the plate, but that was a cheap price to pay for being able to see each start come out. Besides, the food itself left me unimpressed. With our bare eyes, we saw Venus, Orions Belt, and then star after star I couldn't name twinkle into existence. By the time we were all done with dinner and they blew out all the candles, the sky was jam-packed. We had view of more stars than in a planetarium. It got difficult to see Orion as he was full of stars that weren't part of him. We saw nebulas with our naked eyes, and had a great view of the Milky Way. As we were watching, we got a glimpse of several shooting stars. Just like the Greeks and Romans, the Aboriginals have their own stories about what the stars are and how they got into the sky. One of the staff members told us about a man who went fishing. He caught many fish, even some so beautiful he put them in a special river because he didn't want to eat them. At some point, he got tired of fishing and wanted to go home to his family. He tried to find a good place to put his canoe. He searched and searched, and finally settled on an empty spot in the sky. He threw his canoe up there for safe keeping, as during the day it would be hidden and at night he would be able to keep an eye on it from anywhere. If you look at what is also called the Milky Way, you will still see his canoe to this day. From a city, there may not be enough Milky Way stars to see it well, but out in the darkness of the wild, where the nearest small town was hundreds of miles away, we were definitely able to make out the canoe. During dessert time, they opened up some telescopes for us to see the craters on the moon and also see some stars closer. The whole experience was breathtaking in a similar way that going camping and seeing the night sky is when you're used to city lights blocking the stars, just on a grander scale, and a little bit neater because we could see the southern cross, which I don't think had been pointed out to me before. To be honest, I could have done without the food. They could have brought us out, had us all lay on blankets or towels so we could see the sky better, and then taken us back. By the time we left the site to go back, it was after 10 pm. Tomorrow: some tour that leaves before 5 am- you do the math

digeridoo player

digeridoo player


the desert

the desert


the restaurant

the restaurant

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Happy New Year, Blue Mountains

I'd like to start today with a little ode to my shorts. You can skip over this part easily, just jump to the big space. I hate clothes. I hate shopping. I hate clothes shopping. One of the best things I did befoe I left for this trip was go clothes shopping for some shorts. Most girl shorts and pants other than jeans don't have pockets. Out of all the other non-jeans I brought, there are pants without pockets, shorts without pockets, and a pair of mens pants with two awkward insert side pockets. The shorts I got before the trip at Cabellas are great. They have back pockets, they have front pockets, but, more than just that, they have cargo side pockets. Today, that was one of the most convenient things ever. It was too hot to wear my sweatshirt in general, so I couldn't stash my camera there for convenient access. I needed my hands free and didn't want to be swinging a camera around on my wrist. The only quickly-accessible place I had to put my camera was my pockets. Not only that, but they still had room for my room key, my mp3 player (which I also wanted quick access to in order to record some animal sounds), and other junk that I wanted to put in there. I love my new shorts.

Now, on to the good stuff.

I don't think that they usually run the Blue Mountain tours on New Years Eve Day, but we got our own personal tour because somebody had made a mistake by booking the wrong day and we didn't get to go yesterday. Rachel stayed behind though because some friend of hers was in town and she wanted to hang out with him. The rest of us, the driver took by the house Nicole Kidman grew up in for some strange reason, and then we continued on to some wildlife park. I've discovered that "Wildlife Park" is the Aussie term for "Petting Zoo." Most of the animals are in cages, but there are always a few roaming freely in a larger fenced off area that you can get in so that you can feed them. While the one we went to had a larger selection of animals than some of the others, the cages were much smaller and there were less animals you could feed and pet. Overall, I was pretty sick of going to them. First, I had already seen most of the animals either in the wild or in another "Wildlife Park." Second, I don't like the idea of putting animals in small cages as a spectacle. I'd rather them have plenty of room to move around in, even if it means that I wouldn't necessarily get to see everything because they might be hiding. We finished up there and headed to the better part of the tour: the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are named that because the eucalyptus trees give off something that reacts with the junk in the air and the sunlight and creates a blue haze around the mountains. I kind of saw it, but not really. However, the views were stunning. We took this little train thing down the mountain. It was open on one side, and had no seat belts. It would never have been allowed in the US. It was also at a very steep (>45 degrees) angle. It is supposedly the steepest rail in the southern hemisphere, although I can't imagine anything steeper anywhere. At the bottom, there are two ways to see the area. The first is a standard hiking path with some 2-6 hour hikes. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to do that, but when I come back some day, I will. The second is what everybody was doing. The path consisted of a series of boardwalks that went around to various sights. I was highly impressed with the cleverness of it all. The boardwalks gave people an easy place to walk. It was flat, so you could push your stroller (pram) without having your kid fall out. It had railings, so if you needed them in order to walk, you had something to hold on to. Overall, it was pretty accessible to people. At the same time, the railings confined people to the boardwalks. (Other than the real hiking path) there was no way to venture out into the woods. The majority of tourists don't have the opportunity to trample all over the nature out there, and I'm guessing that most people who are willing to take a 4 mile hike know enough to stay on the path. Beyond that, because the boardwalks were raised slightly, animals still had the ability to get across them and plants that like shade could still grow under them. One of the neat things about the boardwalk, other than the well planned design, was that where there were trees in the way, they left at least some of them. There are a few holes in the boardwalk where trees pop out, so you still have a chance to get really close to them. This is good, because some of their trees are really unique and beautiful. One of the "different" trees we saw started out like some sort of palm or tropical tree at the trunk- straight up, no branches, and layered. At the top though, it was a LARGE fern instead of palm leaves. I thought it was one of the most interesting and beautiful type of trees I've ever seen. The other cool plant they have is a vine. The vines weave through the treetops and hold the trees together so that they stand up to wind and storms better. The vines can get pretty fat- wider than a human arm- and twist all over everything. Their ubiquity led my mom to comment that the place almost reminded her of a Tarzan movie. We took a little funicular back up the mountain. To be honest, the pathway was so short (although steep) that I think it would have been fine to do the stairs both down and up. Plus, from both the top and the bottom you get a decent view of the Three Sisters (more on that later), the tree tops, and the mountains in general. I guess for tour groups it's convenient, but next time I don't plan on taking that way if I don't have to. Perhaps because most large tours don't run on New Years Eve Day, we didn't have to fight through mobs of people and didn't have to wait more than one train or funicular before we got on. In some ways, going a day late was a blessing because our tour guide told us that yesterday (when we would have gone) the lines were horrendous. After the park, we had lunch in a small outdoor cafe. While it mostly served western food, the wedge fries still came with a sweet chili sauce, a testament to the strength of the Asian influence here. To be honest, I much prefer the mayo and sweet chili sauce to our ketchup. However, I'm just not used to fries coming with those as standard. We made a quick photo stop at Echo Point to get a different view of the Three Sisters, and were on our way back to town. The story behind the Three Sisters varies depending on where you hear it, but basically, there were 3 daughters of a shaman. They were wandering through the woods (possibly headed somewhere they weren't supposed to be going), when a monster came upon them. In order to protect his daughters from the monster, the shaman used his wizard stick to turn them into rocks. Depending on who tells it, he may have also turned himself into a bird at the same time, losing his wizard stick and with it his ability to do magic. In any case, he was not able to turn his daughters back from rock. There they stand today, waiting for him to find his wizard stick and turn them back, or just waiting for the end of time. We also made a quick photo stop at the Olympic Village, but there really wasn't anything exciting there. Our last stop wasn't so quick. We had the tour guide drop us off at the hospital because we thought Michael had pink eye. (He did.) While my mom and Mike waited to get helped, (they gave him drops and he's doing fine so you don't have to worry, Grandma) Shanaenae and I went to find an art museum and see the botanical gardens. The special NYE info booth said the art museum didn't close till 5, but when we got there a little after 4, they were shut down. Also, the only way into the main part of the gardens was via the road to Mrs. Maquaries chair, one of the best spots in town to see fireworks. The line stretched for MILES. It extended through the main part of the gardens, into the Domain, zigzagged all across the Domain, and kept running down the street. I decided that perhaps I would rather just see the Domain part of the gardens and get some sleep at the hotel instead of waiting in line for hours. After our rest, Shanaenae and I headed out to see the first set of fireworks in Darling Harbour. The 9 o'clock fireworks are the "family" fireworks, but we wanted to see them anyway. However, we needed food first. The first few restaurants we checked out did have spots for people without reservations, which I was surprised at. However, they had a set menu with a $150 price. We were sure we could do better than that. We eventually found a place with only a $25 minimum where we could get pizza. We partied like it was 1999 by having dessert first, and pizza second. During our pizza the fireworks started. We could see them pretty well from our table, but got to go boxes for the rest of our food and headed just outside so we could have an unobstructed view. This whole time, the fireworks were ongoing. The fireworks in Sydney really were as great as they say. Instead of just throwing one or two up at a time and waiting in between, like most places at home do on 4th of July, they just threw everything up at once. The sky was lit up like it was daylight. The smell of burning was strong in the air, and the resulting haze was very thick. Not only did they have fireworks in the sky, but they also had these flame thrower things on the ground (out of the reach of people of course) that spat fire. I was most certainly impressed by the fireworks in front of us, and could also see some from further down the harbor that were going off at the same time. Getting back to our hotel, which was on the block directly next to where we were standing, was horrendous. The thousands of people trying to all go up a few sets of stairs at once, trying to cross the same bridge at once, and also trying to cross streets at once was just a nightmare. I expected they'd shut down the intersections nearby to cars, even just for 10 minutes, but they didn't, so there was a lot of either jaywalking or holding up the crowd. Nobody got trampled though, and the crowd was generally polite about everything. I'm not sure if everybody is calmer and less angry than Americans, or if it was due to all the kids around. The other difference in the crowd that I noticed is that instead of funny hats and glasses, people generally had tinsel or electric light up ears- bunny ears for adults and Mickey Mouse style ears for the kids. Some of the kids had cheap battery powered light up toys, but I didn't see a single one-time-use light-up necklace (the kind where you have to snap it to et it to start working) like the vendors sell at 4th of July fireworks. This time, when we got back to our hotel room for a break before the midnight fireworks, Michael and mom were there. Michael came with Shanaenae and I later to see the midnight ones down by the Harbour Bridge. We had originally found a space at the rocks, but fortunately they shot off a couple of fireworks early, so we could tell that we wouldn't be able to see them from our original place. We moved to a spot just next to the bridge where we had a great view of the fireworks ove the Opera House, the fireworks they shot off the bridge itself, and a decent view of the fireworks that were further over toward Darling Harbour. Again, they were pretty amazing. The Harbour was lit up like day time, the bridge continually appeared to be on fire, and the (high quality) fireworks were well timed with each other. There were so many that the ashes were falling on our heads, a small price to pay for such a glorious display. Check out the video to see some of what we saw. We are right under the bridge looking up at it so what you're seeing at first is stuff coming right over the side of the bridge.

at the "Wildlife park"

at the "Wildlife park"


Fern tree

Fern tree


fern tree

fern tree


fireworks

fireworks


Sydney hospital

Sydney hospital


Three sisters

Three sisters

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sydney

We got up in the morning and got ready for our tour of the Blue Mountains. As we waited, several different tour busses from different companies arrived, but weren't on the list for any- even the company we had our tour with. As it turns out, we were somehow booked with them for yesterday (when we were doing the bridge climb), but all our stuff said we were booked for today. Since there were no more spots left, we were on our own for the day, but were promised a Blue Mountains tour tomorrow. My sisters and I decided to head over to the Powerhouse museum, which was supposed to be a really great science museum. It also was supposed to have some art stuff, which is why I could convince them to go. We got to the museum. We saw the line. We gave up on the museum. The line was literally out the door, around the corner, down the block, and starting to turn another corner. I've seen lines for concerts and sporting events that were shorter. Also, this was also not a single-file line. There were hundreds of families with kids waiting to get in. Based on the number of light sabers in the crowd and the crowd of people trying to get their picture taken with the storm trooper out front, I'm guessing most of them were going to the Star Wars exhibit. Hey, whatever gets kids to go to a museum is fine with me. Instead, we decided to check out the big "Market City" building across the street. We got there and realized that the real market part was closed. However, there was also a large indoor mall part. The malls in Australia are so much more airy and open than the ones in the US. Most of them are open air, but even this one had so much natural sunlight coming in that it seemed more open than it was. We stopped in the food court for lunch. This food court was unlike any other I've been in. There was an Indian place, 2 or 3 Asian seafood places, 3 or 4 Asian noodle places, a Chinese restaurant, a Sushi restaurant, and more Asian places. I don't think there was a sandwich, taco, or plate of spaghetti in sight. The most "non Asian" place had fish and chips. And fried squid, some random seafood, and Asian seafood sauces. Afterwards, we wandered through Chinatown back to our hotel. Rachel got a great deal on a souvenir baseball hat. It was marked $2.80 (about $2 USD), but she unknowingly haggled down to $2 (about $1.40 USD). After changing, we headed out to Bondi Beach, one of the most popular beaches around, according to the travel books. We took their subway to get there. It feels most similar to NYCs in the sense that each station is somewhat of a maze with many ways of getting from platform to platform and to the various entrances. Also, there are some long tunnelways in the stations. The walls are mostly decorated with tile or have those very large ads on them. The main difference between these subway stations and the NYC ones is that Sydney's don't smell as bad or have as many bums. Also, in Sydney's subway, there are people carrying surfboards. That's not quite normal in NYC. In addition to the people carrying surfboards, there were plenty of other people wearing swimsuits, who were clearly headed in the same direction as us. The beach was pretty crowded, and possibly seemed more so due to its shape. Unlike many US beaches which are long, thin strips of sand that run for miles, this beach was a completely contained crescent moon-shaped beach. It was significantly deeper than the average US beach, but also much less wide as it is contained on both sides by hills, rocks, and other land that goes right up to the ocean. One other difference is that there were a lot of women sunbathing with their tops off, which I wasn't expecting and didn't really need to see. We got settled in a spot near the back and I went into the water. The waves were much larger than I'm used to, as I mostly go to East Coast US beaches. When the water was out, it came almost up to my knees. By the time the wave came in, the water would be up to my neck. Because they had really good waves, there were tons of people both surfing and just riding the waves in on their own. After I had enough salt in my mouth and water up my nose, I headed back to our spot to dry off and ended up falling asleep briefly. We spent a little while longer just relaxing and enjoying the gorgeous weather before we headed back to Sydney. That night, our whole family went out to Thai food for dinner. My dad had said that he would be leaving tomorrow, so it was our last dinner in Australia as a family. I was sad that he was leaving, but I know he has a good reason. As for the dinner, it was great. Mom ordered something that came out flaming-literally. We had to wait a few minutes in order for the fire to die down before she could even begin to dig in. Michael and I got curries. He got red, which is usually my favorite, but I decided to get green, since I was in the mood for something different. I identified the hot red peppers in my curry, but ate them anyway. My mouth was on fire. So, I just kept eating them because I'm brilliant and they tasted pretty good. By the end of the meal though, no amount of white rice and water would make my mouth stop burning. This time, when I stopped at a store to grab a candy bar, I was smart enough to ask the store clerk what his favorite was, instead of just picking. I didn't want a repeat of the Picnic Bar incident. Unfortunately, both his favorite and the favorite of the customer at the counter was a Snickers bar. I just cant bring myself to get things in other countries that are readily available at home. Fortunately, they had more types of Snickers bars here than at home, so I got a "Snickers the Lot" bar and was able to satisfy both my need for something new and not offend the clerk and customer. I was happy about my choice. In fact, I much prefer a "Snickers the Lot" better than a normal Snickers. The nuts were in much smaller, more manageable pieces than a normal bar, and there was some filling that made it creamier and seem more like a candy bar than a long turtle with caramel. More importantly, it put out the fire in my mouth. With that need fulfilled, Michael and I headed down to the Rocks area of town. When I had gone online to book a night tour of the Sydney Observatory, there were only two spots left, and I grabbed them both, but there weren't enough spots for the whole family. That was ok as most everyone didn't want to go anyway. They really did miss out though. The observatory tour was one of those "Thank you mom and dad for this amazing trip" moments. I would have to say that it was one of the three best tours I've been on during this trip (the others being the Penguin Parade part of the Penguin tour and the other being the Savanah walkabout). First, we looked at a bunch of the artifacts and stuff they had at the museum part. Because it was very crowded (did I mention we got the last 2 spots?) we didn't get to do all the hands-on games, but we did get to learn a lot and see some pretty old stuff. However, the best part was still to come. They split us into 3 groups so it wouldn't be as crowded. Our group started with the old telescope. We learned that Venus crosses the sun twice in about 120 years. It crosses, waits 8 years, crosses again, and then waits the 120 years. In colonial times, they used these crossings and some trig (yay math!) to determine extraterrestrial distances. One of the reasons Captain Cook was in Australia when he was, was for the purpose of making some measurements related to the Venus event. About 120 years later, they wanted to check his measurements, so they built the Sydney observatory. They got a telescope made by some European company that had a 4 meter focal length. It was one of the best in its time and is still a good optical telescope. How do I know? Because I got to look through it. The tour guide opened the observatory roof for us, which was pretty neat. The motor that turns the ceiling is still the original motor (although it is newer than the telescope as electricity wasn't invented back when the telescope was originally installed). The motor is about 100 years old and is still in operation. The telescope is over 130 years old, so even when the tour guide touched it to adjust it, he had to wear gloves. Each of us got a chance to look at some stars and such. After every two people or so, the tour guide had to adjust the telescope to keep the planet in view as it appears to move across the night sky because the earth rotates. To see what the old-time astronomers would have seen out of the very same telescope excited me. However, when one of the little kids took a look and the tour guide asked him if he saw what he was supposed to be seeing the kid replied "No. All I see are some stars." I guess you have to be a little older to appreciate it. Next, we went into the other observatory tower to see the modern telescope. This one also had a 4 meter focal length, but instead of being 4 meters long, it was closer to 1. This telescope had mirrors on the inside that reflected the image, so the telescope was more compact from the outside, but the light still traveled the same distance (via bouncing) on the inside. The tour guide picked something for us to look at, but this time he didn't have to touch the telescope at all. He just clicked on a computer screen, and the telescope moved itself to where the stars were. Not only that, but he didn't have to keep readjusting it as the computer caused the telescope to track the stars by itself. The tour ended with a 3-D movie, complete with funny little glasses. Overall, I was pretty happy with how the day turned out despite the few plan changes.

a small portion of the line at the Powerhouse

a small portion of the line at the Powerhouse


Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach


on the train with a surfboard

on the train with a surfboard


the old telescope

the old telescope

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Put the butter on the butter

We started the morning with a walk across town from our hotel in Darling Harbour to an area called The Rocks down by Circular Quay. The Rocks is the original old part of town. Also, it is where the Sydney Harbour Bridge hits the city. We suited up in these jumpsuits that had hooks for everything- hats, glasses, headphones and put on a belt harness as well. They really strap everything down to you because if anything falls off it could cause an accident below. As we climbed the bridge, our guide told us all about when it was built, how it was built, and why it was built. Apparently, it was built during the great depression and helped keep food on a lot of tables. However, it was a very risky job. They had no safety harnesses; the men just relied on their own balance not to fall off. Also, when they were putting rivets in, one guy would heat them up in a set area, then throw them to a catcher who was some distance away. The catcher had to catch the rivet or it might hit him and burn him. Alternatively, it might just fall. There are thousands of rivets at the bottom of the harbour still to this day. Given all of this, only 16 men died in the building of the bridge, and not all of them from falls either. The view from anywhere on the bridge was gorgeous, but being on the very top of the bridge was incredible. The climb down was a little anticlimactic (no pun intended), but I guess if you climb up you have to climb down. Afterwards, we were all starving. We went foraging, but since it was still early there weren't tons of options available. We climbed up the bridge pylon instead (because apparently we hadn't done enough climbing already). The pylons are actually purely decorative- they don't really hold the bridge down at all. The designer thought that people would have less faith in the bridge without them, so he built them to be as imposing as possible, even using more expensive materials to do so. Finally, I got lunch at a food court area. While it was fast food, it was relatively healthy- spring roll wrapped tofu and veggies (not fried). I wish we had more healthy fast food restaurants back at home. At that point, we split up. Dad was tired so he went back to the hotel to sleep, but Mom, Mike, Rachel, and Mike went to the botanic gardens. Since they're pretty much always open, I decided to skip them for now and go see some of the things that I wanted to see but nobody else really did. As I wandered towards the Barracks museum, I was pleasantly surprised by the big menorah display in Martin Place. I had seen "Happy Christmas" stuff all over everywhere, but had yet to see anything recognizing Chanukkah. I saw the Australian national bank as well. As I was in that area, I noticed what looked like a big glass office building with a plan paper sign that read "Museum/ Free admission." I was curious, so I went in. (That's one of the things I love about not having specific plans- having time to stumble onto something unexpected.) The museum was a museum of Australian currency. There were displays of old money and some information about what it all meant. Overall it was pretty dry until I crossed some sensor that turned on a tv. It was playing this adorable cartoon commercial from 1966, the year when Australia switched from pounds and pennies to dollars and cents. It was in black and white and had the funniest music. There was this cute cartoon dollar showing people how much easier it would be to add up the new currency than the old. While I'm sure you can find it on youtube somewhere, the cartoon itself was worth going into the museum. It was hilarious. (Actually- <u>http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=TZVEEs-RJpw</u>) I continued on my way, stopping briefly to check out their hospital and a couple of churches that looked like they belonged in medieval Europe before getting to the barracks museum. Basically, it told the story of the people who may have stayed in the building (or maybe others like it). There was a section on convicts, on crazies, and on Irish teenage girls. Apparently, during the potato famine, unmarried Irish teenage girls were shipped off by the thousands to find husbands in Australia. When I got done in there, I still had quite some time before I had to meet back up with the family. Since nobody had wanted to go to Luna Park earlier, I figured I'd head over that way. However, it was all the way across the bridge from where I was and I was completely exhausted. My feet were killing me. So, I took the train over- smart move. Luna park was originally in Adelaide, but they didn't want it and had it shut down. Just around that time, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was being completed. The government gave Luna Park to Sydney both as a present for putting up with the bridge construction, but also as a way to keep some of the former bridge builders employed for just a little longer putting the park back together. It's a pretty small park- more comparable to Coney Island or some other boardwalk amusement park than Six Flags or Disney World. Also, unlike those parks that have cartoon characters parading around the park a couple of times a day, Luna Park has half-clowns in their parade. Just as I was getting on the ferris wheel, some men wearing neon capris and vests and some women wearing some neon skirts came parading out with a clown car. They were "locomotioning" down the street- a little bit of an odd parade. The view of the harbor, bridge, opera house, and park from the ferris wheel was nice, but I had been much higher up on the bridge earlier in the day so I wasn't as impressed as I could have been. When I got off the ferris wheel, the parade was still going on, except that the half-clowns had pulled some children into a circle and were dancing with them. It seemed a little desperate, but I guess that's how things work at Luna park. Perhaps due to the extensive amount of walking I had already done, I got hungry. I grabbed a Picnic bar. Don't ever get one. It's like some kindergartener put it together. There was a bunch of standard candy bar stuff inside, but not stuff that all made sense together. It fell apart every time I bit it because there wasn't really anything except the chocolate on the outside holding it together. I'm not really sure how these bars keep in business unless people are thinking "I want a little of everything random on my ice cream, but I'm too cheap to buy it all, so I'm going to get this Picnic bar and chop it into little pieces and put it on top." As I headed out with my snack, I was debating whether or not to take the train back- I was completely exhausted and had already walked lots of miles, but on the other hand, I thought I would regret not having capitalized on the opportunity to walk the bridge since I wasn't likely to have another chance. I walked all the way from one side of the bridge to the other and am really glad that I did. I would have regretted not doing it for the rest of my life, but my legs are only going to regret it for a day or so. Instead of taking the main roads back to Darling Harbour, I took some side roads. While the city near the bridge and Circular Quay was hopping, the side streets I took back were almost deserted. I enjoyed my walk back in the relative calm and quiet. When back at Darling Harbour, I went to the Maritime Museum to climb on a real submarine. Except, it was closed. Instead I went on a tour of (a replica of) Captain Cook's ship. It was pretty interesting. I know that people were shorter back then, but some of the areas of the ship were still pretty short, even for the short people. By the time I was done with that, I was time to head back to the hotel, which was a good thing, because I wasn't sure my feet and legs wanted to keep going. When I finally got back to my room and stopped, it still kind of felt like I was walking. It reminded me of when you've been on an amusement park ride and are still spinning when you get off. After a quick nap and shower we headed down toward the Sydney Opera House, stopping for a quick dinner at a Malaysian/Chinese Restaurant. One thing that I've noticed in general here is that a large portion of their immigrants seem to be from Asia the way many of ours are from Latin America. Just like back at home you can get Mexican, Brazillian, El Salvadorian, and Puerto Rican food, but often Asian food is all labeled Chinese or Japanese, here you can get Indonesian, Malaysian, Japanese, Thai, and different types of Chinese food, but Latin places are all relegated to the "Mexican" title. Also, I've seen lots of Asian people in the jobs we often stereotype to be "Latino" jobs at home. At home, when things are in two languages, the second is often Spanish, while here the second language seems more varied, but always uses characters that I can't recognize. We got to the Opera House and boy is it beautiful. Personally, I think the inside is more impressive than the outside. It isn't decorated with expensive looking materials, but the design itself is very simple, yet fancy. Even the bathroom sinks were designed to be pretty. The show we saw was a comedy that was supposed to be focused on events of the past year, and while some of the comedians did that, some others didn't. Overall, they were pretty funny. We didn't have that hard of a time getting past the accents, although some did refer to a few events that didn't quite make the news back home. There were quite a few comedians that I would recommend out of the bunch, but two acts stood out the most to me. The first wasn't because it was funny. There was a male comedian who was dressed as Queen Elizabeth and gave a so-so monologue "speech" to the crowd. Later, he/she reappeared in a "dueling piano" type of fight with the regular keyboardist. However, this duel was special. The "queen" was playing the concert organ. . That instrument is absolutely amazing and took my breath away for a moment. If ever you have an opportunity to hear it play- do it!!! The second comedian was the one who told the single best joke of the night, the joke that we'll be repeating for days and days and will probably become some sort of long0term family inside joke. He was talking about his daughter. He said that one day, he was sitting on the couch, looking for the remote control to change the channel. His daughter was sitting on the couch next to him. He asked her, "Where's the remote." Her response was to get off the couch, walk between him and the tv, and do a little dance while saying in a singsong voice "You put the butter on the butter." I was cracking up during the following comedians' acts just thinking about this. When the show was over, Shanaenae and I both said that we thought that was the funniest part of the whole show. Why? Because we can both see that clearly she must be his daughter as that is something we could expect her to say. (To finish the joke: He said "There is no question under the sun that can be appropriately answered by the statement Put the butter on the butter." Later, one of the band members piped up, "There is a question that it answers: How do you make a butter sandwich on butter with extra butter?")

Tomorrow: disaster strikes! (sort of)

Bridge climbers

Bridge climbers


Captain Cook's ship

Captain Cook's ship


inside of the Opera House

inside of the Opera House


Luna park from the ferris wheel

Luna park from the ferris wheel


the Chabad Menorah

the Chabad Menorah


the Opera House

the Opera House

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Perth to Sydney

We flew to Sydney, which pretty much took the whole day with the time change. The only thing we got a change to see was the Sydney Aquarium, but boy was that neat. I usually don't think that aquariums and zoos are that great, but this one had a lot of neat fish that you don't get to see elsewhere. The best part was that they had a bunch of tanks that you could walk into. From the tunnel inside the tank, we were right up against the sharks and fish. I got a pretty great look at the bottom side of sharks, which you don't usually get to see either. Also, they had dugongs, which is pretty uncommon. These are the animals that sailors often thought were mermaids.

Tomorrow, we're going to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge first thing in the morning, then spend the rest of the day doing who knows what before our Opera House show. It will be much more packed than today was.

dugong

dugong


Shark

Shark


transparent fish

transparent fish

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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