Gong xi fa cai! Xin nian kuai le! Happy New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Pig!
Our time in Australia has absolutely flown by. It seems like just yesterday that we were in Hong Kong, and yet sixteen days have passed since we arrived in Perth: six days there, four days on the train, and another six here in Sydney. It’s been an amazing time, and yet we know we’ve only scratched the surface of this big and fascinating country.
For the most part it’s been very HOT while we’ve been here, from beginning to end. We knew we were coming to Australia in height of their summer, but we (me especially) were honestly not prepared for the blazing sun, high temperatures and the humidity (once we hit Sydney). Still, I’ve never seen skies so blue and have loved being out on and near the water once again – the trade-off has been worth it.
We traveled over to Sydney’s Taronga Zoo yesterday to check out their collection of Australian animals, excited to see ones we had only previously seen in books, and were not disappointed. Taronga (an Aboriginal word for “beautiful view”) was a wonderful, well-planned zoo, set up high on a hill with a sweeping overlook of Sydney harbor, and with well-designed animal enclosures. The zoo is good-sized without being overwhelming, and has an Australian “walkabout” area as well as a koala walkabout and a reptile section containing giant monitor lizards, crocodiles, and snakes both (highly) poisonous and not (there are also a few SE Asian and African animals, but we did not go over to see them). We arrived just a few minutes late for the koala encounter, where I believe I could have held one of them (swoon), but we still got a very good look at them. Koalas are just as adorable as you think they will be.
The nocturnal animals were of course asleep, and the platypus and echidnas were hiding the entire time we were there, but otherwise we got a good, fairly up-close look at many fascinating animals. My favorite, after the koalas, was the southern cassowary, the third largest bird in the world, and the bird most closely related to its dinosaur ancestors. The big one we saw yesterday was gorgeous and he knew it.
For our last day’s activity we took the train and bus over to the famous Bondi Beach this morning and took a hike along the coastal walk path to check out the ocean views. This morning’s weather was cool and slightly overcast in Sydney (although with high humidity), but by the time we got to Bondi the sun was out in full force and once again the humidity was pushing the limits (it’s been worse here in Sydney than back on Kaua’i). We walked as far as Bronte Beach, with a stop to share a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch at Tamarama Beach, at a spot overlooking the beach. There was a breeze as we walked, but it came and went, and unfortunately when it went away it was miserable, for me anyway. From Bronte Beach we caught the bus back to Bondi Junction, and then took the train to our neighborhood station.
By the way, we have greatly enjoyed our apartment in the Potts Point neighborhood, a suburb to the east of downtown Sydney. The apartment is conveniently located, and we’ve had no trouble getting out and around from here. The area is filled with lovely older terrace buildings in between some modern buildings and even some art deco stuff as well and we’ve enjoyed walking around and looking at those. Some of the old buildings have been converted into backpacker lodging while others are being or have been renovated. Potts Point sits up on a bluff from the Sydney harbor area and Wooloomooloo (try saying that fast!) neighborhood, so there are some rather daunting staircases to climb if you’re walking back.
Tonight we’ll finish our packing, and eat all of our odds and ends to clean out the refrigerator, making for a very weird dinner (remaining items include two eggs, half an avocado, a lemon, orange juice, wine, a few spoons of yogurt, some blueberries and some grapes). We’ve also got two lovely big slices of banana bread, but we’re saving those for our breakfast tomorrow as we’ll be up early to be on our way to the international airport for our flight to Auckland!