G’Day Mates and welcome to “down under!” We knew it was a special sail in because of the early morning commentary as well as the Opera Rolls with the juice and coffee! The sun was just coming up as we entered Sydney Harbor, the largest natural harbor in the world. The iconic sites for this city/harbor are the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge. Doug and I probably took 100 photos of these two icons during the two days we were here! This is how they looked as we sailed in early morning.
It was a spectacular sight! Also included one of our many, many pictures of the city’s spectacular skyline – this one at sunrise.
You can see passengers out on the bow as well as anywhere they could find to get the best pictures!
There was another cruise ship docked in the harbor at the better of the two docks, so we were docked in Darling Harbor rather than right at the Circular Quay which is the hub of the harbor area. Thus, the our ship provided a complimentary shuttle bus to take us into the city center area.
Since Doug and I had been here about five years ago when we did our land tour of New Zealand and Australia, we chose not to do an organized tour, but rather go out and explore on our own for the two days and one night we were here. Today was a big day beginning with Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. It is one of the best zoos in the world. It is across the harbor, so we took a ferry to get there. We used the Captain Cook “hop on, hop off” ferry which also gave commentary around the harbor.
One of the interesting things about this zoo is the layout. It starts at the top of a huge hillside and goes down toward the water. So, you can walk or take the cable car to the top and then you just make your way down visiting all the different exhibits on the way. It was a rainy day, off and on, so we didn’t get a great view from our cable car on the way up – but we were glad to be inside it and dry! Since we had so many things we wanted to see and do today, we didn’t want to spend the whole day at the zoo – although you easily could have and it would have been a fun day doing so. So, we focused on the Australian animals for the most part. Here are pictures of a few of these.
The koala bears
The red kangaroo
And my all-time favorite and the animal I most wanted to see – the Tasmanian Devil! This little guy is cute until he opens his mouth to eat – then his fangs appear and he looks really ferocious – and thus his name. Plus, he has really red ears on the inside – kinda weird. We happened to arrive at feeding time at this part of the zoo, so we saw this little guy looking both cute and mean! We learned that there is a real concern for the ffuture of these Tasmanian devils because of a cancer that is taking over their population – started about 12 years ago – and is highly contagious, unlike our cancer. It eats away their little faces. Because they bite and claw at each other over food, territory, and even when they mate, they are transmitting this disease quickly. So, it could be, unless conservationists and naturalists, etc. get this under control, that they become extinct.
It just so happens that where the giraffes are located, it is also a great view of the Sydney skyline from the zoo side. It almost looks like the giraffe is in the city of Sydney! We wanted a better picture of this, but the giraffes were eating and we didn’t want to wait another thirty minutes for that perfect picture! So, this will just have to do.
We took the ferry back to Sydney via a narrated harbor cruise. It was a beautiful sunny day now and there were many small water craft in the harbor. It was also fun to see the rest of the harbor from this catamaran rather than our ship. And, we decided to get dropped off in Darling Harbor so we could explore this part of the city. We passed our “home away from home” on our way. It looked really good against the backdrop of Sydney.
It was a pretty walk along this harbor with lots of little cafes and restaurants, and because now the weather was perfect, there were lots people out. We stopped at a Thai restaurant called NokNok and had some of the best Pad Thai ever. We continued along past the Chinese Garden of Friendship with the Maritime Museum on the other side. That would be another fun place to visit. They have a replica of the Bounty sitting in the harbor. Our ship’s travel guide said it was one of the best maritime museum.
We then walked through China Town (smaller than what we thought it would be) to the Haymarket area and Paddy’s Markets. It is a huge covered area with hundreds and hundreds of stalls selling everything from clothes and housewares to souvenirs and fresh food and plants.
We were looking for something very specific – an Australian didgeridoo. These are musical instruments that the Aboriginals make from logs that are hollowed out by ants, and then they paint them with Aboriginal art patterns. They range in size from about 14 inches to almost five feet. Some are made just for souvenirs, but we were looking for an authentic one. On our last trip to Australia, we found one but couldn’t get it home easily so didn’t buy it and regretted it for years. So, today we were on a quest! And we were successful. I forgot to take a picture of ours before it was bubble wrapped for the trip home, but the next day we saw an Aboriginal man playing one and so I am putting that picture here – along with the non-Aboriginal man! This shows how it is blown/played and how big it can be. He was also selling his CD of this music so we bought it because we knew it is hard to play and we would not be able to demonstrate how it is supposed to sound – mostly a one-note song!
This is a heavy instrument so we decided to take a taxi back to the ship instead of walking for 30 minutes. Once there, we quickly dropped off all the other things we had purchased (mainly souvenirs) and then headed back out to the City Center before dinner. Since this was our one night in Sydney, there were a lot of people all dressed up in fancy clothes to go to the Opera House for a performance. We did this the last time we were here and it was such an extraordinary experience, we didn’t want to do it this time and not have it be as good!
So, instead we went to the oldest pub in Sydney, the Fortune of War (1828) for a beer. Inside on the wall was a framed newspaper article written in 1997 claiming this was one of the “World’s Best Beer Joints” and the newspaper was the St. Louis Post Dispatch! Doug likes dark beer so he had a Tooheys, and I like light so I had a Carlton Draught. We walked around a little bit but realized we were getting a bit weary after a long day with lots of walking, so we went back to the ship for a light meal in the Lido. We ran into Barb & Charlie and ended up talking for almost an hour! Charlie had been in isolation for two days so we were glad to see him up and about. It seems lots of people are coming down with “something” that is keeping them under the weather.
A great first day in Sydney and we were pleased to be able to go on our own at our own pace seeing what we wanted to see instead of in a big bus tour. Looking forward to a similar experience tomorrow!