Sydney and Beyond

We arrived in Australia after an easy flight from KL — only 6hrs., departing 11:30pm, arriving next morning. Before a friend could pick us up, we encountered our first major sticker shock: $35 for two coffees, three muffins, and a scone. Sure, it was airport coffee kiosk pricing, but after getting lunch for the whole family for less than that in Kuala Lumpur, it was a little unsettling. We are grateful to our friends Denton and Evie, and their two kids, who have shared their house and dinner table with us, and shown us around town. We are really fortunate to have had them as guides and interpreters. Sydney is beautiful and highly liveable, one of those rare spots that combines hills, forest, sea, and all the attractions of a major world city. Oh, and the coldest winter in decades? Still only a light jacket and sunscreen; careful you don’t run into a palm while you’re texting.

We’ve been to Taronga Zoo, Luna Park, The Rocks, Queen Victoria Building, Botanic Gardens, New South Wales Art Museum, and walked around various neighborhoods and several gorgeous beaches. We’ve been to suburban soccer games and a couple of movies, and enjoyed a wide range of food, including a Kangaroo Steak for yours truly.

A different sort of treat was meeting up with David and Stacee, whom we met in Peru. Yes, four hours up the Amazon. We piranha fished together, zip lined through the canopy, and swapped tales of a survival overnight in the jungle. In Sydney, David kindly took a day off to drive us down to Royal National  Park, along the coastal highway, and down to Stanwell Park, where we paid homage to Lawrence Hargreaves an earlier pioneer in human flight. Then we had an awesome Pakistani/Indian meal in New Town and finished off a fine day with some otherworldly gelato at Cow and Moon. Later that weekend, we also got to see a little bit of one of David’s rugby matches at the Leichhardt Oval. After tea (what else?) Corey stayed late at Dick’s pub with David, Stacee and another friend for a televised rugby union match between South Africa and Australia. In some exciting last minute action, the Wallabies won it. I got to learn a lot about the game, with lots of half-time discussion of cricket and — Stacee’s sport — netball, thus soaking up some quintessentially Aussie culture. Okay, I may have also swilled a few pints of Tooheys Old, but I wasn’t driving.

We left Sydney for a five night stay on Lady Elliott Island, which is really an atoll sitting 40mi off the coast, on the southern edges of the Great Barrier Reef. We took our friends’ kids with us, and all had a blast. So on this tiny ‘island’ that you can walk around in 45 minutes, we snorkeled, Jenni and Audrey dove, and we enjoyed informative talks, reef walks and more. It is both whale and manta migration season, so we had lots of amazing experiences. Snorkeling with giant manta rays, 12-15′ across, the most graceful ton of creature you’ll ever see, with whale songs in the background. Some of us almost got into the water quickly enough to swim with a humpback that came within a few yards of our boat, but then disappeared silently into the blue. Beneath the water we saw several kinds of sharks, rays, eels, and more types of fish and coral than we could count. While having breakfast or lunch, or enjoying a sunset, we watched humpbacks rolling and ocassionally breaching, or tail slapping and spouting for about as long as we cared to sit and watch. On our snorkel outings, we saw several whales pass just a few yards away from our boat. Overall, an incredible experience.

We’ve been back in Sydney hammering away at the last few chunks of homeschooling, helping our friends pack up for a big move, and doing some more sight seeing. Today we went to a Koala Park, then drove out to West Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park where we spotted several wallabies in the wild! The first one we saw jumped out of the bush just ahead of the car and ran away from us down the road in a high speed blast before slipping under the brush and brambles.

Tomorrow we will see a production of Romeo and Juliet geared for school kids, by the Bell Shakespeare Company in the iconic Sydney Opera House. Then we’ll walk through the city one last time, and head home (to our friend’s house) to pack. This time, as our great voyage comes to a close, the packing is different. But more on that in another post.

Sydney, good on ya!