Sunday, March 13, 2011

42 Wallaby Way Sydney, Australia

We didn't find Nemo while we were there, but Sydney was certainly an adventure.

Let me set the scene for our arrival into the city. Envision, if you will, a cramped, dark bus with narrow seats, all of which are occupied by people with lots of unnecessary bulky items. Now add in the charming aroma that comes from stale air, body heat, McDonald's, and that distinct "bus" smell that always induces car-sickness. Let's also pretend that you have been twisting around in a stuffy seat on this bus for approximately thirteen hours, trying to sleep in all kinds of imaginative positions that make the sharp upright seat backs more bearable, and hoping to ignore that blazing beacon of a book-light which the person two seats ahead won't turn off. The result: Our group was tired, dirty, and the tiniest bit cranky when we finally pulled up to the hostel to drop off our bags. No rest (which it turns out, was a trend for this trip), just a quick change and freshening up before we were led like listless zombies out onto the streets of Sydney.

Fortunately for us, Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities we had ever seen, and an all day walking tour of it in absolutely gorgeous weather was enough to melt that transportation trauma from our minds. We walked the entire length of the city, moving from the south end by Darling Harbor up to the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was unbelievable to see these two iconic landmarks in person, just strolling by like it was an everyday attraction. We climbed the steps until we were standing just in front of those dancing arcs of the opera house, and if you walked down the other side there was a breathtaking overlook onto the brilliant blue of the Sydney Harbour with the famous bridge stretching across it.

After a brief lunch break we climbed up the first pylon of the bridge, and if the million flights of stairs to the top didn't indicate how high it was, the stunning view certainly did. The harbor curved around underneath, with tiny boats bobbing or cruising across the water. The white peaks of the of the opera house seemed all the more suited to the active blue peaks that crested around it, and with the streaming sunlight and puffy white clouds against the endless sky it was like looking over the railing and straight into a postcard.

We also saw St. Mary's Cathedral, the Botanical Gardens, and the ANZAC Memorial. Eventually, we caught a ferry ride back to Darling Harbour and stopped into Paddy's Market, a thriving mecca of tourist wares and cheap items.

ANZAC Memorial

Botanical Gardens

St. Mary's Cathedral

The day still wasn't over, however. We rushed back to our six bed hostel room and ran quickly through the showers to be ready in time for our cruise through the harbor. The boat didn't dock until around midnight, and we were so beyond tired that we skipped the after party and went home to rest up for the next day. With a 730 wake up call, it was a good thing we got our beauty rest. The day consisted of a bunch of bus trips around the Blue Mountains where, despite some cool and misty weather, we saw breathtaking views of the tree packed mountains against jagged rocks and a few trickling water falls. The paths led past huge twisted roots spiraling down ancient rocks to the look out points that opened onto vast expanses of tree filled valleys and mountain slopes. Then a quick lunch in the city where I drank the best chai tea latte I have ever consumed and another rushed preparation for a big night out: the Mardi Gras Festival.

In Sydney, the Mardi Gras Festival is a gay pride parade and it featured some of the most outrageous and fantastic outfits and floats that I have ever seen. The atmosphere was fun and chaotic, with brilliant colors and more sequins and feather boas than I have ever seen before in my life. Of course, we partook in the festivities with some outfits of our own, our masks and bright colors drew lots of attention and a few photographs as we walked to our spot for the evening.

The next day they took us on a scenic walking tour of the major beaches. We started at Manly Beach, and around the corner was Shelley Beach. Then they took us over to Bronte Beach, and we walked along the stone pathways until we reached Bondi Beach. The views from the overhangs looking onto the rocky coastline were unbelievable. It was hard to board that bus and go home, especially knowing that we would have to do that thirteen hour drive again, this time with sand sticking to our feet.

Manly Beach & Bondi Beach

The trip was amazing, if crammed with non stop activities. I got to know the city pretty well from walking around it and I wouldn't mind another (perhaps more leisurely) adventure to the place where Nemo finally found his way back into the ocean.

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