First sighting of the Opera House...

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Thursday, February 9, 2006

My final few days in New Zealand were completely uneventful, as I simply spent my time having a final look around, and saving my money for Sydney. I bought a guide book to help me get acquainted with the city before I even touched down in Oz, and Donna kindly emailed me a to do list, so I certainly didn't envisage being bored...far from it!

I woke up at 5am on the morning of the 7th, and walked to the bus stop on Queen Street. Jens, the German guy from Mt Cook, had given me his unused ticket to the airport, so that saved me $13! The Air Bus is supposed to run every 20 minutes, but I was stood waiting for nearly an hour with an increasingly irate American woman. I wasn't concerned as I had plenty of time, but her flight was earlier than mine and so she eventually gave in and flagged down a taxi. Inevitably, the bus turned up moments later!

My flights to Melbourne and Brisbane were both with cheapo airlines (no meals included), so I was pleasantly surprised when the Qantas staff served up a nice breakfast on the plane. I also had a front seat which meant that I had lots of legroom, although if I had a choice I would opt to have the extra space on the Singapore leg of my journey! Still, I couldn't complain, and even though I'd seen the movie before (Pride and Prejudice), I had a comfortable flight solely listening to my music.

I managed to get a free shuttle from the airport to Sydney because I'd booked into Wake Up for more than 7 nights, thus completing what had been a cheap journey all round (apart from the strange $25 'departure tax' that you have to cough up each time you leave New Zealand).

I'd been in touch with Rie and knew that she was arriving at the hostel at midday, whereas I got there about half an hour earlier. Despite knowing this, it was still something of a surprise when, after dropping my things off in my room on the sixth floor, the lift opened and there was Rie. In fact, I didn't recognise her at first as she was sporting a new dreadlocked hairstyle, and my first words to her were "are you going up or down?" Then it sunk in, and we both laughed at the coincidence.

We immediately went for a wander, commonly referred to as "getting your bearings," and I asked a friendly old Aussie guy for directions to help us on our way. My first thoughts were that George Street was incredibly long, but of course we wanted to walk to the other end to get our first glimpse of the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

It feels quite strange when you see such well known points of interest, because you've seen them so many times on TV and're there! I had to remind myself that I was in Sydney, but thankfully the harbour was stunning, and if anything surpassed expectations. We sat down at Circular Quay for half an hour and took in the views, and already I had a good feeling about Sydney. The people I'd spoke to before either loved it or hated it, but how you can hate somewhere that is home to such a beautiful harbour is beyond me.

That evening, we walked over the bridge to get even better views, and have a mooch around Luna Park. This is an old style mini rollercoaster park, and as the sun set the Sydney skyline lit up in the distance. As we were about to set off back over the bridge, a fireworks display started out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason to my knowledge. So we stood and watched for about 15 minutes, as the harbour was lit up and we had the best seats in the house. I'm sure it didn't compare to the New Year's Eve display, but we still felt lucky to witness this seemingly random showing.

After a much needed night's sleep, it was time for our first activity - a trip to Taronga Zoo. No trip to a major city would be complete without a visit to the zoo, although I was aware that I'd pretty much seen all the animals on show when I went to Brisbane. Rie, on the other hand, had never seen a koala before so I was looking forward to seeing her reaction more than anything else.

The boat journey took us right past the Opera House, and indeed the zoo itself offered superb views of the city. This became apparent when we caught the cable car to the top end of the zoo (it's on a pretty steep incline) and you could see the major landmarks in all their glory, on a beautiful sunny day.

After entering the zoo, we immediately saw the koalas and couldn't resist paying an extra $3 for a photo with them. It's illegal to touch them in NSW apparently, but the next best thing was to go inside the pen and take a few photos. Typically, my camera was playing up but Rie was on hand with hers, and one of the keepers eventually got a couple of good snaps of the two of us (once the koalas had stopped moving around so much!).

We walked around after this, seeing lots of animals including the lions, tigers and penguins (Rie's favourites). The seal show was entertaining, although more for the fact that one of the seals was doing as he pleased, to the delight of the crowd. While this wasn't as sleak as I'd seen previously, the bird show in the afternoon was amazing as the birds swooped about two inches above your head (literally!) and landed on the keeper's hand at the other side of the stand. It was great to see, particularly as it was situated so that the audience could see out to the harbour, and specifically the Opera House.

I paid another $3 to feed the giraffes which was an interesting experience, as I don't remember being slobbered all over like that before (not by a giraffe anyway!). This interaction makes it much more enjoyable, and I was a bit disappointed when I found out that you couldn't touch the kangaroos, more for Rie's sake than mine. The ones in Melbourne and Brisbane were so tame, and I just expected them to be like that everywhere, but obviously not...

Despite this, we'd had a good day, and a real bonus came when the boat returned via Darling Harbour, meaning that we sailed right underneath the Harbour Bridge.

I could now tick off a few things on Donna's to do list, but there was so much more to look forward to...
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