Australia, the land down under. The place of koalas, gum trees, and stick bugs. Home of the Outback with its kangaroos and dingoes and the significantly different Great Barrier Reef where you will find fish ranging from Dory (Blue tang fish) to the infamous great white shark. Did you know 80% of the creatures here are exclusive to Australia?! In the first week, I sampled delicious kangaroo meat, canoed a river in the Royal National Park, and took nearly 200 pictures of the Sydney Opera House. A lifelong dream has finally become a reality. I still can’t believe it is real, but I take a big breath and that skepticism is laid to rest by the refreshing smell of eucalyptus.
A glance from afar and everything looks the same, houses, trees, birds etc.-but upon closer review, that is quickly proven incorrect. We all know you drive on the opposite side of the car… on the opposite side of the road, but did you know even the grass here is significantly different- It is soft and mildly fuzzy, almost as if someone cut little blades of grass from an extremely thin felt. Like I referenced before, because of the trees there is a slight eucalyptus aroma, making even the city smell incredibly fresh. The foliage upon closer inspection is also significantly different, most leaves and flower petals are thick with a spongy consistency that you can fold and it won’t break. The trees do not simply grow straight up with branches growing out, but rather look like they maybe had a little bit much to drink and are all crooked and follow no obvious growth pattern. (Perfect for climbing!) While they do have seagulls-I am yet to find a continent or island that doesn’t- the rest of their birds are quite different. As of 2014, there are 898 different species, of that over 45% are only native to Australia. Here, cockatoos are wild and their obnoxious squawk alerts that they are near. One of my highlights this first week was sitting in a park on a sunny day feeding cockatoos, kookaburras, and rainbow lorikeets (yes that is how you spell it J ) I even had a cockatoo take food directly out of my hand!! I have even seen parakeets flying around on a few separate occasions! It feels like I am living in an exotic bird cage… but this is natural!
Upon arrival, I was treated to a beautiful drive to Cape Solander on the Kurnell Peninsula. Fun historical fact: this is where Captain Cook first landed before moving on to the more accommodating Sydney Harbour. We were in the middle of the bush, but every so often could catch a glimpse of the city and I was amazed at its close proximity. One direction had forest as far as the eye could see and then the other direction was coastline with the city a mere 30-minute drive. Listening to the ocean waves smash onto the beautiful red rock cliffs was amazing. It was here, that I saw my first cockatoo in its true, natural habitat!! 😀 (I maybe was a little too excited about that) Leaving there, we went to a beach where there were shells as far as the eye could see. To me, this is heaven; I could’ve spent the whole day picking up shells and once again the Sydney skyline was just across the bay.
I spent two full days in Circular Quay (pronounced key), which is where you find the Sydney Opera House and are also close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which creates some great photo opportunities. If I had rushed, I could’ve seen almost everything there is to see in a single day. In fact, my first day, I did start out with a pretty specific agenda-I needed to see this, absolutely must go there, and make sure to try that-but I quickly realized in order to enjoy this experience I absolutely had to throw the agenda out, take longer, and make sure I absorbed as much of Sydney as possible. I spent an entire hour at the end of a pier that had a great view of both the bridge and the opera house and I simply people watched, snapped pictures, and drank my coffee. I finally started my walk back to check out the opera house and had to stop at multiple shops, annoyed birds trying to snap their picture, and again stopped to marvel at the city across the water-In my first hour I probably took 100 pictures. Coming back around to the other side of the harbor, I started to get closer to the Opera House, there were people from all around the world near me and everyone was doing the same thing but reacting their own way and in their own language. While I did my best to still take pictures, I found myself just enjoying the moment, inhaling everything, walking up to and around this icon of Australia. I can’t explain how massive this building is and the intricate detail couldn’t be captured in photos. (Though I did try) This building, that bridge, the water, the view across the water, and all the people around me, it was more awesome than I had ever imagined… which is why I spent about 3 hours in its vicinity.
I ate fish and chips at a little restaurant with the bridge as my view and then went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and found a huge tree to get out of the sun, relax, and again just watch everything that was going around me. Apparently, I picked a good spot because I was able to catch a group of locals play a quick game of rugby in a quiet corner of the park. Again, it was a “taste of home” just instead of our football it was their football being played. After a while, I got up and continued around the park, witnessing many more crazy/beautiful birds, extravagant plants, and always a glorious city as the backdrop.
So that is week one in review. Next week I am going to the local aquarium, a small zoo (with kangaroos and koalas!!), watch a snake performer, a rugby game, some more bush walking, and so much more! I can’t wait to share it with you, this place is far more amazing than I imagined, start saving your pennies and schedule a trip! In the meantime, I will be posting a heap of pictures on my Facebook for you to giving you a sample of this phenomenal country. I miss you guys, leave me some love below!