Week 2: Australia Effortlessly Stealing My Heart

This week, I kept it local with a rugby game, touched a shark egg, took a picture with Heath Ledger (well, his wax replica), saw my first real koala, touched a wallaby, throw in a snake show with some beautiful and very poison snakes, and that makes it a successful 20160812_092408.jpgweek. I then get to add that I met Super Bowl XLVIII Champion and my personal hero, Marshawn Lynch, and that is where the pendulum goes past successful and into just… Well, when do I have to wake up from this dream?? Apparently it is real, and I am so blessed to be on this adventure!

20161129_144025.jpgAnybody that knows me, knows how much I love animals… the stray cat gets a couple pets, a wild bird definitely would like some sort of snack, and that doesn’t even get me started on the treatment I give my own personal animals. So, the aquarium and wildlife park… Well, the word excited doesn’t do my emotional state justice… I maybe slightly pushed a little kid out of the way to pet a wallaby, completely lost all forms of adulthood upon my first sighting of a kangaroo, and absolutely stood in front and listened intently during the “koala walk” (which was a trainer speaking about the koalas while the 4 or 5 slept within arm’s reach from the fence) Did you know koalas sleep nearly 20 hours a day?! Thanks to that fact, they do not allow you to actually pet the koalas. Needing that much sleep, you can imagine it would be pretty obnoxious waking 20161129_143930.jpgthem up all of the time for unrequested touching-especially from someone like me. They do allow you to get close and take photos, which I absolutely did, and it was hilarious to see how undisturbed they were with people swarming around snapping hundreds of photos. There were even a couple baby koalas all snuggled up with their mommas. I also didn’t realize that these little guys are NOT bears. They have a pouch, thus throwing them in the marsupial family with my equally adored kangaroo. As you plan your trip to Australia-which I am sure you are doing now- read up on the drop bear, don’t let the locals trick you!! 😉
The aquarium didn’t have quite the interaction as the wildlife park, but it was still equally amazing. Th20160830_234429.jpgey had tiny 40 gallon tanks with small coral arrangements and a few fish, all the way up to two huge tanks with sting rays and sharks that had to be close to 10 feet long.  These larger tanks had clear tubes through th20160902_005424.jpge middle, creating a walkway with these huge fish swimming on the other side of the glass. We were even lucky enough to be there during the feeding of one of the large tanks. Dory… well, she was a piglet! While I did get some of my favorite pictures from the aquarium, I feel like you need to go to my Australia album and just look through the pictures to see everything they had.

It has been called the most physically demanding team sport. They say only the strongest men can really do it. Being a passionate Seahawks fanatic, my brother made sure I saw rugby first hand. Hearing the first slap as one beast of a man throws another equally huge man to the ground I realize, yes Australia, you may just have this one right… Monday night I was able to watch my first rugby game, and even better, this game wasn’t on TV! I traveled to the stadium and watched the game first hand! Sharks VS Rabbitohs (which is Australian slang for, you guessed it, rabbit). Yes, the ball looks just like a football-well, from a distance- and they do have goal posts, but outside of that, you really need to throw out those rules when watching this battle. The only way I can briefly explain it is like soccer set up with American football aggression. My understanding is that these men wear a mouth guard, maybe a small excuse for a shoulder pad, and every so often a helmet that resembles Xavier’s headpiece in X-M20161129_143226.jpgen. Then it is an under-armor type shirt and shorts. Don’t let that lack of padding make you think these guys hold back. This sport is like soccer and football had a baby, and it inherited all of footballs aggression. I saw multiple tackles that I was sure they guy was done, but he would jump up, shake it off, and go back at it with no reserve. Despite everything that Mother Nature has taught me, the Rabbitohs beat the Sharks, and unfortunately we walked out hyped from the adventure, but still losers that day. L Stinking bunnies!!

The forecast said it would rain for the next week, so I didn’t make any tourist plans and decided to spend the time indoors. I was a little peeved when I woke up the third morning to a beautiful sun coming up. I love the sun, but I had scheduled no plans. Social media came through for me. Marshawn Lynch, my runningback, had been in Sydney for quite a while (he apparently did some trainings with the Rabbitohs, which is clearly why they beat the Sharks earlier that week), and was going to be supporting his brand Beast Mode at a sports store in the area. Well… A little over an hour train ride, but that’s close enough for me! Instantly, after finding out this news, I dug out my Seahawks 2014 conference champs shirt, and started my trek to Bondi. I gave myself a couple extra hours, which ended up bei20160825_212703.jpgng pretty smart, 20160825_195448.jpgbecause this store was located in a 4 story mall that also ran several blocks. Even using the directory, it took me a little while to find the actual store. A female lost in a mall… That was slightly embarrassing.

I walked through the doors about an hour before he was supposed to be there, and already a line wrapped halfway around the store. I couldn’t help but giggle as I saw “fans” walking around, wearing everything from Kaepernick jersey to even a Favre jersey. I found out the next morning someone even had him sign a Patriots shirt… He used this opportunity to exercise his freedom of speech, and in a few words he wrote how he felt about the Patriots… Moving up even higher in my book! Despite the large number of people, the line moved quite quickly, and in no time I was next in line to meet my football hero! I was maybe completely normal, probably a little closer to a blu20160830_234002.jpgbbering mess, but I did my best. While he signed my shirt (yup, he touched me!!), he noticed my accent (being American) and we were able to have a quick discussion about the odds of me running into a famous American football player-even more specific, one of my favorites- on the other side of the world, something about ‘go Cal’ and like that, I was ushered
off and the next person stepped up. It was a grand total of about 90 seconds, but I am so excited and blessed it even happened. This city has been packed with wonderful surprises!!

My time in Australia is quickly drawing to an end. It still feels like I am just arriving, and there is so much more to do. About
10 more days remain… Next week, I have to make it back to downtown Sydney, cross the harbour to Manly, maybe see some whales, quick trip to the capital, AND of course, make it to another rugby game (this time, Marshawn Lynch can’t sabotage my Sharkies… right?). I have a busy schedule, but I still make sure to slow down, inhale the eucalyptus, and appreciate the people that make this county so special! I promise I won’t make you wait this long for another post… Sorry all!

 

 

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Week 1: Landing in Australia

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. 

20160822_233556A 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 20160822_231701that 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 feed20160822_234314ing 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. 20160819_121420 - CopyWe 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. 20160819_123805To 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 2016-08-16-10-01-14-259Sydney 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, 20160817_121806 (1) - Copyannoyed 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.20160817_122018 - Copy.jpg

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 c20160822_234530atch 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 2016-08-23-00-13-33-695(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!