Tuesday, May 18, 2010


This blog is falling behind because I'm out living instead of writing about living, but I am slowly working on catching up. I am currently at my brother's house in Greensburg, PA (near Pittsburgh). I'll be heading for Detroit and Wisconsin next week and then west to Minneapolis and Colorado for June. Mean while about two months ago . . .

Multi use waterfront in Sydney Harbor.

I headed for Sydney after leaving New Zealand. The US Antarctic Program negotiated with the airlines to get us free stopovers in Sydney, Honolulu, and Los Angeles on the way home. I didn't really have the time because I extended my stay in New Zealand, but I couldn't possibly pass up a chance to explore someplace new and visit old friends on someone else's dollar. Sydney scored points with me as soon as I landed because I was able to dodge the expensive taxis and slow buses to take the train almost all the way to Clem's house in west Sydney.

Flying foxes or fruit bats in the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens.

Clem, my high school friend, was being sworn in as an Australian citizen (congrats again, Clem!) the first night we were in town. After a quiet night of catch up, he went to work and I set off to explore Sydney on foot. My first stop was the Royal Botanical Gardens, but I wasn't chasing flowers this time. I was hunting down fruit bats, or flying foxes as they like to call them, on a recommendation from Loren. There are apparently 20,000 to 30,000 bats in the park. They sleep all day upside down from the trees and then fly out to hunt each night. Unfortunately, their claws are destroying the trees so they are looking at ways to force the population to move elsewhere. I can't say that watching them sleep was the most exciting, but a few of them were restless sleepers and moved around a little bit. I can't believe how big or furry they are compared to bats I've seen in the past.

For Dulabon, Pancake on the Rocks, Sydney's oldest neighborhood.

After the gardens, I wandered through Circular Quay (pronounced key for reasons I don't understand) along the waterfront on my way to the oldest part of the city, The Rocks, at the base of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was lunch time and a few weeks ago, I wrote about the Pancake Rocks in Punakaki, New Zealand. My old teammate, Dulabon, thought I was talking about a restaurant in Sydney called Pancake on the Rocks. He endorsed it so off I went to check it out. I second the endorsement. I didn't have any pancakes in New Zealand that were up to snuff. Pancake Rocks got the job done and they are open 24 hours for all your late night munchie needs.

Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House.

Close up of the opera house.

After filling up my belly on American breakfast goodness, I set out for the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Some people spend 3-4 hours learning how to climb to the top. I opted for immediate gratification and just walked up the pylon to the sidewalk and across to North Sydney. It was a pretty windy day and it wasn't very warm. The views were great, but to be honest I didn't have a clue what I was looking at. I saw the opera house and the rest was a mystery. It was a great walk though. That night, I got to head out to trivia with Clem and his work friends. We came in third place, by a single point. As usual, everyone bemoaned their single point mistakes. On the other hand, we won some cash because we got three bonus questions right at the end of the night. I haven't seen that at trivia, but I like it (at least when we get them right)!

Giraffe and its long tongue at the zoo

Penguins, but not in Antarctica.

Echidna feeding time.

Pelicans at the zoo.

A tiger eyes me up.

Goat attacking the fortress . . . at the zoo.

Favorite lizard at the zoo.

Koala and their amazing keeper!

After another late night, I set out early on bike for Manly Beach and the Torango zoo. I wasn't going to be able to find koalas or platapi in the wild, but I wanted to at least see them in Australia. The Manly Beach was a beach. It was nice, but I guess I just don't appreciate beaches enough to really love one more than the other. This was my first real look at how many people spend time on the water in Sydney. I don't think I saw a single empty beach near the city. People were sailing, kayaking, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, and just about every other activity you can imagine. I'm just not used to the waterfront being used that much recreationally and that frequently. I suppose it helps that public transit can get you to any of the major beaches in thirty minutes or less.

Bondi Beach

Sydney waterfront

My last day in Sydney, I set out to explore the other great beach in Sydney, Bondi Beach. I had hoped to get my surf lesson there, but I was moving a little too slow that day and missed my chance. I'll just have to go back some day. I'm not going to weigh in on the Bondi vs. Manly beach debate. As I said, most beaches seem about the same to me. However, I definitely enjoyed the walk from Bondi to Coogee more than from Manly to the Spit Bridge. The Coogee walk was more of a path and biker friendly. The Manly walk wasn't bike friendly so I carried my bike over half the hike. Normally, I think I'd prefer the Manly walk, but carrying the bike put a damper on things by the end.

Sydney waterfront between Bondi Beach and Coogee Bay.

Sydney. I'm a fan as a tourist, but I'd never live there. It didn't have the grit or edge that I love so much about New York City, but the sunshine, friendliness, and cleanliness balance that out too. The public transit was great for where ever I was going too. I'm curious if it is just as good for locals going to work. I definitely hope to make another visit some day. Next up, a whirlwind visit to the GBR.

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