Never let your daughter be an exchange student. My daughter, Sheri, went to Australia the second half of her senior year in high school with the famous last words “It’s only for 6 months.” Ten years later, she’s still there.
Between then and now we had our first visit to Australia for her wedding. I arrived first, my niece Jen came the next day, and John a week later. During that trip we mostly saw Sydney and the the Blue Mountains since we did not venture too far from where she lived. Although I arrived in Sydney via airplane, it is a cruise ship port.
In between shopping for something to wear to the wedding, baking a wedding cake, and attending her hen’s night, we managed to cruise on into Sydney a few times. We found boatload of things to do in Sydney and the surrounding area.
The family she lived with as an exchange
student took us to Katoomba. A formation of three craggy rocks known as the three sisters dominates most views of the Blue Mountains there. We rode the world’s steepest scenic railway down the mountain for a hike on a boardwalk through an ancient forest of fernlike trees. Remnants of the former coal mine lurked along the trail. After looking up at the trees from the trail, we looked down on them from above while riding the sceniscender tram back to the top.
In Sydney, Sheri took us to The Rocks, the historic neighborhood where the first English settlers lived. She said the G’Day Cafe there had the best kebabs in all of Sydney. We bought our lunch there, a chicken wrap in Lebanese bread with things like tabouli and hummus. A short walk down a steep hill brought us to Circular Quay where we found a bench to sit on and enjoy our kebabs. We had a great view of ferries and other ships coming and going, and local street performers doing their thing.
The big red kangaroos most people think of when hearing the word kangaroo live in the outback. Smaller gray kangaroos live in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. At Blue Mountains National Park, wild gray kangaroos living in Euroka Clearing let visitors get almost close enough to touch them before they hop away. Flocks of wild cockatoos live in the park as well as many other areas near Sydney.
We did not see any koalas in the wild, but we did see some at Featherdale Wildlife Park in Blacktown. We fed wallabies and emus there and saw all sorts of other critters, including white peacocks. They had regular peacocks too, and the most interesting one of all, a half-and-half. Not blue and white mottled or or splotched randomly all over the bird. Half of it looked like a regular blue peacock, the other half like a white one. As this happened some time ago I don’t know if that one is still there.
One day walking around Sydney we found some interesting things. The girls had a good time posing for pictures with a tiny police car parked near the train station. Walking through the Asian district, we came across a store with a name that left us puzzled. We did not go inside to see what they sold there, one can only assume words mean different things in other languages.
Intricate architecture of an earlier era graced the green dome topped Queen Victoria building. Massive stained glass windows surrounded the doorway. Inside, a three-story tall Christmas tree decorated the shopping area. Outside around the Sydney area, many jacaranda trees bloomed in full purple color. The locals say when the jacarandas bloom you know Christmas is coming.
Hiking across the Sydney Harbour bridge offers great views of
the opera house as well as the harbour. Doing the bridge climb probably brings even better views, but we did not want to spend the kind of money that tour costs. At the opera house, we had a great time sliding down the slanted walls. So did a lot of other people. On our next visit to Australia, we faced the disappointment of signs saying not to climb on the slanted walls. Which is, of course, necessary to slide down them.
Sydney has great mass transportation, the trains even take people to the airport. Sydney even has a Kings Cross Station. It did not, however, have a platform 9 3/4. We traveled all around the area on the trains there. All the tracks go either over or under the roads, no railroad crossings to interfere with the car traffic in the busy city areas. We did not see a railroad crossing on a road until quite a ways up the Blue Mountains where smaller towns have a lot less traffic.
Where trains don’t go, busses do. They also have light rail from Central Station to Darling Harbour. John liked that one a lot as Darling Harbour had a casino where they had just started having poker tables, so he found it pretty easy to beat the players there at that time. He also enjoyed Paddy’s Markets, as he loves to haggle prices with people selling things in their booths at open marketplaces around the world.
We stopped in a cafe at Darling Harbour that had one side open air rather than a wall. The birds liked it as much as the people. An Ibis searched the floor for crumbs while a seagull perched on a table looking for handouts.
Australia is known for having all sorts of deadly creatures. They do have a few
benign ones though. While staying at Sheri’s host family’s house, we saw a huntsman spider crawling on the wall. While quite large, and looking somewhat like something made from pipe cleaners, it is not poison. They did say to check our shoes before putting them on, as small poisonous spiders could lurk inside.
Sheri and her new husband left for a honeymoon to Fiji shortly after the wedding. We stayed around another day or two, and her former host family treated us to a Sydney Harbour Cruise before we left for Hawaii, our stop on the way home. Sydney is a day ahead of us, minus a few hours, so according to the time of day, we got to Hawaii before we left Sydney.