Australia & New Zealand Trip – Sydney
This past summer, my brother and I had the incredible privilege to track through the beautiful countryside of both Australia and New Zealand. As he was graduating from high school and I from college, our grandparents put together nearly a month long trip to the Great Down Under. Accompanied by our ever-loving Oma, Zachary and I trekked through Australia and New Zealand, meeting interesting people, seeing fantastic sights and experiencing things that created memories to last a lifetime.
It’s been nearly a year since we went on this trip of a lifetime, and I’m only just now getting around to putting this project together. The trip was simply too full of wonderful experiences and places to cover in one post, so I’m going to break this up into a six-post series, one for each stop along the way. We started in Atlanta and nearly a month later we had covered most of Australia and New Zealand and ready to head back to the states. The following is a retracing of our steps and a retelling of our story. With lots of pictures along the way. I hope you enjoy it!
Our trip began with a five-hour flight from Atlanta to LAX, after which we endured a long layover before embarking on a fourteen-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney. I used to be unable to sleep a lick on flights when I was younger, so traveling by plane always seemed interminably long to me. A few years ago, around the time of our trip to Ireland, I learned to sleep on an airplane. So I spent a majority of our flight to Australia fast asleep, wedged in a Qantas coach seat. It was not the most comfortable experience of the trip, but it wasn’t the most uncomfortable one either. Stay tuned.
Saturday, May 30
Seeing as our flight left Los Angeles late Thursday night and arrived early in the morning about a week later in Australia time. Not quite, but it seemed like it. We actually got into Sydney early Saturday morning and hit the ground running, checking into the hotel by noon and setting out by ourselves on foot around the city. We had no plans for our first day in Australia so we meandered through the streets and eventually ended up at the Sydney Wildlife Conservation that was situated right on the bay.
We spent a casual afternoon making our way through the conservation, introducing ourselves to some of Australia’s most famous inhabitants. The three most well known animals to the island nation are definitely the koala bear, the kangaroo and the kookaburra, all of which, I’m just noticing now strangely enough begin with the letter “K”. Interesting.
Sunday, May 31
Our first full day in Sydney had us on two different tours—a walking tour of the city by morning and a bus tour of the city and surrounding area in the afternoon/evening.
The morning tour took us through the area of town known as The Rocks, which was home to the early convict settlement of native Australia. The precinct has done a fabulous job of integrating the new with the historic, and the old cobbled streets, sandstone steps and small churches are intertwined with new high-rise buildings and modern day luxuries. The tour itself was a most enjoyable way to spend a morning as we went out with in a group no bigger than six or eight people. The guide was superb and the small ratio of tourists made the tour more intimate and informative.
We spent over two hours wandering up and down narrow streets and through the remains of what used to be Sydney’s earliest buildings and homes. We saw the trimorial for Australia’s first prison guards, farmers and convicts. We walked the length of Australia’s first street, George Street and went up and then back down the Argyle Steps. We skirted the Circular Quay, which was much more square than it was round
After the walking tour, we boarded a charter bus and off we went, navigating Sydney’s narrow streets in a bus that was over 50 feet long and had the approximate turning radius of the plane we flew into Australia on. For the most part, we stayed on the bus and saw sights like Kings Cross and Double Bay. We stopped for a while to take a walk along the famous Bondi Beach and then again at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. Which isn’t really a chair, but more of a bench carved into the rock overlooking the bay. Mrs. Macquarie was the wife of an early New South Wales governor, and her bench was carved out of sandstone for her so she could have a view of the harbor.
The tour bus returned us to our hotel by nightfall and we spent the next hour or so learning that restaurants in Australia are not open into the wee hours of the night like they are in America. We ended up having to grab cold sandwiches from a 24-hour mart across the street from our hotel. But we didn’t mind so much as they made for fast eating, after which we were able to go to bed, after what had seemed like a week’s worth of vacation, when in reality, we’d only been at it for two days.
Monday, June 1
Even though we had explored the Wildlife Conservation our first morning here, the premiere collection of Australian wildlife is located at the famed Taronga Zoo. The most convenient way to access the Taronga Zoo from downtown Sydney is to take the water ferry across the harbor. So that’s what we did. We loaded ourselves onto the ferry and made our way across the harbor and up to the Taronga Zoo.
I’ve been to several zoos – the Bronx Zoo, Zoo Atlanta the St. Louis zoo and a church petting zoo, but Taronga has by far, the most exotic collection of animals of any zoo I’ve been to. You can have your picture taken with a koala, although most any place with koala bears will charge tourists to have their picture taken with the sleepy marsupials. You can walk through the kangaroo habitat and go right up and touch them.
We took in an incredible bird show sometime in the afternoon and watched a few feedings. The zoo is situated overlooking the Sydney Harbor, and the bird show was backdropped by both the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House. After catching the ferry back, we made our way down to the famed Opera House, aptly named for the city in which it resides and the bay it overlooks.
Tuesday, June 2
Our last full day is Sydney saw Zachary and I tackle the world-renowned Sydney Bridge Climb, which entails strapping yourself onto the bridge via industrial strength cables and climbing from the base of the bridge all the way to the apex. And then turning around and going back down.
Let me preface our climb to the top of the bridge (134 meters above the bay) by saying I’m not a fan of heights. It’s not so much the actual height, but the assumption that I will fall from that height. So I was tentative going into the climb preparation, but passing up such an incredible opportunity wasn’t an option for me. I was going to do it.
First they strip you down to your t-shirt and boxers and stuff you into a jumpsuit tailored specifically for this type of climb. It’s fitted with the harness to lock onto the cables to keep the climber secured to the bridge. This helped somewhat in assuaging my fear of falling. Then they outfit you with a hat, sunglasses and an earpiece with a headset, to communicate with the guide and other climbers on the way up. In what was to be the start of perfect travel luck, we had an absolutely gorgeous day for our ascent to the top of the Harbor Bridge. It was warm and sunny with just enough of a breeze to keep us cool.
Our group of climbers consisted of myself, Zachary, our guide and eleven other people. At the front of the group were six American girls, studying abroad for a semester. They were very noisy, chattering away about nothing in particular and swooning over our stereotypical ruggedly handsome Australian tour guide. Behind them was a family of three from France, who also chatted away in rapid French the entire way up and down. Next in line was an American businessman, then me and Zachary and a man from Western Australia brought up the rear.
The first portion of the climb was the most difficult, as we wound our way through metalworks, from beam to beam and over scaffolding. We went up some steep ladders and crisscrossed our way until we reached the base of the structural arches. Once we reached those, it was a straight and easy climb up the hill. We made it to the top in about an hour and a half, as the process was slow when done with fourteen people all attached to each other and the bridge.
The view from the top of the bridge was amazing, and something that I will see again someday. The way that the harbor and the city unfolded in front of your eyes was breathtaking. After spending about twenty minutes identifying different landmarks around the area, we started our descent and arrived back in the lounge three and a half hours after embarking. The lobby contained signed pictures of celebrities that had made their way to the top of the bridge just like we did. The thought that I might have been wearing the same jumpsuit that NCIS’ Tony DiNozzo wore makes the trip a little more exciting.
After the bridge climb, we had a relaxing dinner in a small Chinese restaurant, making Australia the closest I’ve been to China while eating Chinese food. We retired back to our hotel and packed our bags. We had an early morning flight out of Sydney the next day. And by midday, we’d be further west, ready to explore the aboriginal grounds of Uluru.