Already have been in Sydney a couple weeks prior to going on our second excursion, I wasn’t as excited as the last time. In addition, our group found out our ISA rep was sick and could not make it to and a Sydney rep would be taking care of us instead. We hit the train early (ISA likes everything to be early) with everyone and rode the train for the long 3 hour ride down to Sydney. Along the way I knew I was tired, but didn’t want to sleep yet, so I got lost in my thoughts looking out the car window, taking in the views. Lost in thought starting at foliage, I was shocked to see dozens of Kangaroos. I work Marissa up to see them and we both were confused because Gary had told us there weren’t any wild ones left in this area, but our best guess was it was a farm or reserve where they were kept. After our cool discovery, we took a nap to make the ride seem shorter.
Once we arrived in Sydney, Pauline, was there to greet us on the platform. We collected our things after meeting her and headed to our hotel in the rain. Rain seemed to follow us everywhere we went, it started in Cairns and now our second excursion, among other instances. I had my trusty umbrella and had no problem walking the distance to our hotel. We wasted little time once at the hotel, dropping our bags off in the conference room, hitting the bathroom and out for our day of adventures around Sydney. We had a large list of things on our agenda and Pauline wasted no time getting us out the door to start our walk to Sydney Harbor. On our walk we walked through the beautiful Hyde Park (equivalent to Central Park in NYC) on our way to Sydney Harbor. We stopped to take some photos of the fountain, surroundings and even got a group photo with some local police officers. With little time to waste, we moved on and once at Sydney Harbor we took in the views and I watched everyone react to seeing it for the first time and seeing how excited I must have been from a different perspective. Pauline gave us a few moments to grab a coffee and we all branched out. I went with Alex to a cute little place on one of the wharfs called Pablo & Rusty’s where I grabbed a hot chocolate, after almost ordering a espresso shot on accident. Enjoying our morning drinks we began our walk to the Harbor Bridge. After stopping off at the gift shop, we lost one of us and she called one of the other people to catch back up. Once on the bridge we entered into one of the pylons, where we would be climbing for a better view of the harbor. (stone pillars on either end of bridge) There were so many stairs, I could hardly count and my legs definitely got a good workout in. Once at the top, the view was breathtaking, you could see for miles in either direction. I along with everyone else, took dozens of photos. I had already seen the view, but this was impeccable and well worth the climb.
After taking countless photos in the semi decent weather we descended back down the stairs where we watched a short video on how the bridge was made before exiting and heading to lunch. I had already seen the Opera House and Sydney Harbor, but the view and having the experience with everyone made it a new and exciting experience. Once down the many stairs, we headed to The Australian Hotel, where the majority of us had prearranged for unique Aussie pizza with Kangaroo, Emu, and Crocodile. I, along with a few others that had already been to Sydney, opted out of the pizza since it was $20 for a personal pan sized pizza. We had to wait till everyone had their food before we could head back to the harbor to look for our own lunch. We had to walk back through the market stalls on our way back and we noticed a few places that were serving food. Morgan, Jesse and I bought wraps from this middle easter place. I got the meatball. This wrap has to have been one of the best I have ever had. The meatballs had a tender and juicyness to them that brought warmth to my wrap, while the lettuce made it fresh and the cheese melted ever so slightly to make it creamy. I could hardly contain myself, we took some photos to remember how good it looked and finished our walk back to the group just down a few blocks at the harbor. As we were about to meet up with everyone eating a sea gull tried stealing my wrap, being the food lover and former athlete, I am I threw up an elbow to block the stupid bird from getting my food. Thankfully I scared it off and could finish my meal in peace with everyone else. We watched as a street performer began to set up and start her performance, but had to leave before it was over to continue our day chock full of things to do.
Heading over to wharf 4 to meet up with Pauline, we gathered and walked to the Opera House where we would have our 3 hour boat ride in the harbor and stop at Goat Island. The Mari Nawi, an aboriginal let tour, took us around the harbor explaining what Sydney Harbor once was and who inhabited it. Our guide educated us that where the Sydney Opera House sits today was originally an island where historical events took place for the aboriginal people. We were told several things about the local people, but at times it was hard to pay attention because we were all being filmed. There was a crew on board filming for an aboriginal video to educate people and we were participating in the film. (we all are getting a copy once it’s finished) We were all enjoying our boat cruise through the harbor, but we had a stop at Goat Island (name given because the shape looks like a goat) where a local ranger and aboriginal performance would take place for us.
Once docked at the Island we all got off and were met by the ranger who would take us around the island. The ranger told us about this history of the island, how the colonial people kept gun powder on there and several prisoners. We walked along the path and listened as she spoke, we were given a chance to walk around a few of the abandoned houses on the nicer side of the island where the men in charge stayed. The old wood floors and tiled fireplaces were still in tact and beautiful at that, you could tell they were made well and with care. The walls were pealing as well as the ceiling from age. We moved from one place to the next after exploring and thinking what it must have really looked like when it was in full swing. This side of the island had a moat so the prisoners couldn’t get to the informants part of the island. We took a beautiful stone path back down to our starting point where we were told about a man who was chained to a rock, settlers nearby could hear his screams at night and after learning he was mad they let me out of the chains.
Back at our starting point we took a bathroom break and sat on the lawn to watch an aboriginal performance. The two men were brothers and they did various dances for us to enjoy, discussing the reasoning and history behind them. One danced while the other played the didgeridoo. Towards the end of the dances they welcomed a few of us up to learn one of the dances, I wanted to, but my stage freight took over and I watched enthusiastically. It was hilarious and looked like heaps of fun. After our joint dancing fun, they explained the reason for the paint on their bodies. Depending on the color and pattern it meant different things including, their journeys they have taken as an aboriginal, their families and so on. They informed us that even though they are not 100% aboriginal they are no different, if you are aboriginal you are aboriginal. This made me feel very comforted as many people say if you are only part of something you aren’t really that something. The most astonishing fact to me was that their men and women share events and things, but each gender has their own sacred events and things that the other cannot see otherwise they will be punished. This culture is very old, one of the first in the world and they had a form of equality, but we still to this day do not have equality between genders. Finalizing our time on Goat Island people asked questions and took photos with the aboriginals, they let us hold and attempt to play the instruments they had (didgeridoo & clapsticks). I was really happy to be able to partake in this, as I learned more about their culture and in turn my own.
Leaving Goat Island we boarded the boat and finished our tour getting off by the Opera House again to finish our first day of events in Sydney. Before heading back to the hotel, we had some time to take photos. Since I already did that, we stopped at Guylian for some Belgian chocolate. I split a peanut butter cookie with Kristen. She didn’t like it, but I was very happy, it was crumbly peanut buttery goodness topped with some delicious chocolate that just melted in your mouth. After our short break we headed back to our hotel to check in, rest and get some dinner. I roomed with Abi, Abby, and Alex. We all talked about our plans for break as we laid in bed, getting super excited for the other who was doing something different than ourselves. In the meantime, I let my phone charge and I got ready for dinner. A group of us decided to go to a cheap place not to far from our hotel. We all met up in the lobby and started our walk in the rain to a restaurant, but ended up not staying because it didn’t really have what we wanted. Surprisingly, across the street was an inexpensive Italian restaurant, Vapiano. This experience was one I will not forget. Ive had some great Italian, but this chain has to have been one of the best. I ordered the pesto with one of their pastas that would soak up the goodness. We ordered and our food was prepared, cooked and given to us literally right in front of us as we stood at the counter. It was really awesome to be able to watch them prepare it, but Jesse and I were confused when we got our food. I asked which is which and the girl told me what I had ordered, but it wasn’t a pesto, but rather a tomato sauce with a sprig of basil and I could see the premade pesto right there in front of her. A little irritated we ate our food, once we took our first bite we instantly were relived, it was so delish! I didn’t care at all that it was the wrong order, whether it was my fault or the chef. Unable to stop, I ate the entire bowl of pasta and my two pieces of crusty bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic. Everyone seemed to be so full, but my eyes were on the look out for some dessert. I realized that they had some choices up at the bar, including cheesecake, panna cotta and chocolate cake. I myself chose the pan cotta topped with strawberry jam. The wrapping of the desserts was so cool too, they were in little jars and when I dove into it, it was a creamy sweet explosion in my mouth that kept me going for more. I had never tried panna cotta before and I am very happy I did because it was fantastic. Once everyone finished all their food, we paid our tabs (you scan a card that rings up a tab and when you are done with your meal you bring this card to the counter on your way out to pay). We grabbed almost the entire bowl of gummy bears as a second dessert and made our way to a local spot for a drink. Pauline had recommended the Glenmore Hotel for drinks if we were interested later and thats exactly what we did. We made our way there and went to the roof where it was still raining, but covered, grabbed a drink and hung out overlooking the Opera House, taking a few more photos.
After my drink was gone, I decided to head back to the hotel with Chesley and Lotus since we had to be up early yet again the next morning. On our walk back in the rain, we didn’t quite know where we were going, but Lotus figured out the directions and we made our through to Hyde Park (sorry dad, I don’t know my way around here, might be losing my sense of direction). Walking through Hyde Park we made references to Central Park in NYC and realized there were rats in the grassy area, seconds after noticing this they scattered freaking us out and we bolted about 100 ft to get away from them. After laughing at ourselves for being a little crazy, we finished walking to our hotel and said goodnight.
Up early to pack our things, grab some food from the continental breakfast and take our prearranged busses to Bronte Beach. I was tired and a little annoyed because the weather was gloomy and we were going to the beach. I didn’t even bother to bring or wear my swim suit because we would be done and free to head back to Uni around 1pm. We stopped at Bronte and took some cool photos with the cool clouds and waves, while surfers were in their zone. We also took a group photo of us smiling then jumping on the beach which turned out to be pretty bad. We didn’t waste any time and started on the Bondi to Bronte Walking path taking several photos of cool places along the way. But the best was when we got to this ledge where we took some photos looking out and I was a little terrified of falling, along with Kristen, who just signed up for skydiving (we made fun of her of course). Pauline went ahead while we kept taking photos and we ended up losing the group, but met back up at Bondi where we hung out for a couple of hours before grabbing some lunch. In the meantime, a small group of us hit the local markets just down the road to see what they were selling. We walked around for awhile seeing what they had to offer for reasonable prices, but ultimately ended up back at the stall we started with that sold coaster and such with cool sayings and photos on them. I was so elated that they still had the ones I was originally looking at and bought two. One is a blue coaster with Live Simply on it above an old Volkswagen van and the other is a yellow coaster with a suitcase and writing that reads I would gladly live out of a suitcase if it meant i could see the world. They were worth the $5 I spent! Taking a long way back to kill some time we stopped off in a few stores to look around and went back to the beach where we got fish and chips for lunch from Bondi Surf Seafood. I chose a lift as my drink and grabbed some salt and pepper on my way out. There was so much food I could only finish about 2/3 of mine and ended up throwing the rest away, while a couple people decided to feed it to the sea gulls and our group was suddenly swarming with dozens of them. The girls I was eating with, along with myself, got so irritated we moved away from the group and waited for our departure to the busses back to our hotel. Thankfully, it wasn’t long and we walked to the busses, headed back to the hotel, packed up and hit the train back to campus after a fun and exciting weekend in Sydney.