In the Land of Oz

15 Feb

It’s hard for me to talk about Australia without descending into amusing hyperbole. I can’t tell right now if it’s the sunny blue skies, the warmth, or just the sheer joy of being in a awesome city with great architecture, amazing food, friendly locals, and gorgeous beaches. Sydney is worth the time and money and effort, you guys.

I went to Australia with Mom and her bff Kari. (Hi guys!) Vacationing with the parents is always different than vacationing with the friends. For one thing, they have a better budget and can afford the nice rooms at the Marriott with the Sydney Opera House view. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last month, Dad and I parted ways in the Chengdu airport: he was heading home to NY via Beijing and I to Sydney via Bangkok on Thai Airways. Let me be the first to say that Thai is a lovely, lovely airline and I recommend it highly if you’re travelling in the Pacific. Just, uh, be careful of flight loads and give yourself a good buffer in between connecting flights. This is important, people. I know, no one wants a five hour layover in an airport, but it’s better than a 15 overnight camp out in the terminal.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport has lovely couches, by the way. And they have showers! You can actually take a shower and not feel all grimy-gross. Oh man, it’s great.

I missed my first connecting flight to Sydney by a matter of minutes but it was no big deal. The international terminal there is totally swanky, if expensive, and once again, the couches are quite comfortable. I made the flight to Sydney the next morning by the slimmest of margins – I got the last available seat – and spent the nine hours in flight conversing pleasantly with the old Romanian man seated next to me. I was reading Jeremy Clarkson’s latest book, Around the Bend, a collection of columns from the Times (UK, not NY), and he mistook my enthusiasm for Clarkson’s humor as an interest in cars. He then talked about classic cars for an hour, saying earnestly, “I don’t like Top Gear. It’s all exploding cars and not serious at all.” Uh, dude, that’s the point of Top Gear. That’s why I like Top Gear. I couldn’t give a damn about the cars, it’s all about the wacky hijinks. Top Gear hatred aside, it was moderately interesting to hear about how he fled communist Romania and sought asylum in Sydney. All in all, a pleasant flight.

The downtown Marriott was very nice. We spent about a third of our trip there, which was kind of cool. It’s centrally located and about five minutes from Sydney Harbour. My only beef with the place is that there was practically nowhere to eat cheap after 8pm, which was kind of a problem since the days run so long down there; it’s light out until 8:30 in high summer and the afternoon stretches on, long and golden. Your normal time cues are totally thrown out of whack and then by the time you think you should maybe grab a bite to eat everything has closed down. This happened to us like five times.

The view from my room. Yes, that is the Opera House.

****

I spent my first day in Australia on a tour bus. Mom and Kari had booked us on a tour group to the Blue Mountains, which is west of Sydney. Included in this little day-trip was a visit to a petting zoo, a small tourist town, the Three Sisters, the 2000 Olympic park, and uh, the scenic highways, I guess. I am not a tour bus person. I found this out when I went to Israel with a Birthright tour group of 40 Jewish kids, which was fun but I swore to myself I would never subject myself to that sort of regimented tour schedule.

Of course, our tour guide Libby was like a tiny, demented, time-conscious maniac. Given that my grasp on punctuality is tenuous at best, this was not exactly a match made in heaven. And then there was Mom, who made me look punctual by comparison. It was not pleasant, especially as Libby changed “meet by” times and locations.  Annoying, but the tour itself wasn’t too bad. Australia’s totally gorgeous, and we got to see a lot of places we just would not have gone to on our own.

One of my favorite stops was the Featherdale Zoo, which was basically an exotic petting zoo in the middle of the suburbs. Do they even have zoning laws in Sydney? Apparently not. Anyways, they had Australia’s greatest hits of animals: kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, dingos, crocs, and my personal favorite, wombats. Wombats are awesome, you guys. I’m not just saying this because of Ursula Vernon’s Digger (which you should go read now because it is amazing and even the New York Times thought so). They’re marsupials that have adapted to digging so much that the pouch is reversed, so that dirt won’t get in. And wombat is fun to say.

wombat!

wombat on the prowl.

Wallabies at the Featherdale Zoo.

Sleeping koala at the Featherdale Zoo.

This was my best shot of a Kookaburra. It’s uh, eating a chick.

Kangaroos and wallabies, hanging out.

Mother and joey wallaby.


Here is a dingo that looks exactly like my Gramma’s dogs.

The big stop on this trip was the Blue Mountains. They’re a mountain range about an hour or so from Sydney that, from a distance, appear to have a blueish haze. We did not see the famed haze. It just looked like ozone and heat waves to me. Despite the lack of the eponymous blue-ness, the mountains really were quite gorgeous. Imagine the American West, like Utah or Nevada, except green and not desert. The Three Sisters are three rocks that sit next to each other. Very pretty rocks, but rocks. It was fun to wander around in the park, though.

The not-very-Blue Mountains.

The Three Sisters.

Here we are at the Blue Mountains. 

On the way back into Sydney, we took a Captain Cook “cruise” into down town. Basically, it was a tourist ferry, but it was cool to see all the harbours and islands where the prisoners used to live. And of course, it goes underneath the Harbour Bridge and docks next to the Opera House.

The dynamic duo, Mom and Kari. (And the all-important Lonely Planet guidebook.)


On the cruise back into Sydney (the ANZAC Bridge is in the distance).

Here’s the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

All right, I think that’s enough pictures for now.  Can you believe this was only my first day? Jeez, we got a lot done. Because we rock.

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One Response to “In the Land of Oz”

  1. Trish February 17, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    OMG Those little nubbly wombat legs! <3

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