Well, I mostly made it to Sydney. It turns out the “technical issues” involved baggage not plane function. As a result my luggage never made it on the flight so I will be without my backpack until Monday evening. While I’m glad I kept a well stocked carry on, it is still annoying.
First order of business? An extensive, free, 3 hour city tour of course.
Sydney as a city can trace its history back to 1788 and shares a remarkable amount in common with our own San Francisco. Both are Pacific-bordering bay cities that got their boom from a gold rush and have a prison island in their bay, famous bridges, and rich multicultural heritages. And although San Francisco didn’t start out as a penal colony, it has always attracted interesting, often unique people. The result is similar – a dynamic, world renowned hub of culture and tourism. My personal favorites included a hospital that was built by contributions from rum dealers and a bronze statue of a dog that speaks to you when you walk by. Part of the city is literally carved out of the cliffs and ridges, and appropriately called The Rocks. While it was a seeder area for most of the city’s history, the development of the adjacent Darling Harbor has turned it into a historic area.
I explored the beautiful Royal botanical Gardens and got a breathtaking view of the harbor and Opera House. Rather than visiting the touristy Bondi Beach I went for a ferry ride to Manly. It was a good decision not just because it was beautiful but because I saw a penguin! Fairy penguins are native to Australia and New Zealand and are the smallest penguins in the world. They might even be cuter than ours…
There a plethora of museums large and small in the city, everything for the tiny Museum of Currency to the Australia Museum (natural history) and three zoos and aquariums. The Australia Museum was particularly enjoyable. It is just about the same age as our own Academy and though the building has been added on to, the heart of it remains an old fashioned, cabinet-of-curiosity style, three story room filled with dioramas. Their special exhibit, Surviving Australia, was brilliant. It highlighted not only all the fun things that can sting, bite, smash, or otherwise ruin you, but also how flora and fauna have adapted (or failed) to the harsh environment and each other.
The closest to a planetarium in Sydney is an observatory on top of – what else – Observatory Park. I failed to visit because they close at 5 pm before any stars come out. In the mean time, I am looking forward to doing some of my own observing. The light pollution here, like any major city, is going to obstruct the view of the fainter stars. Additionally, many of the better know Southern Hemisphere constellations, like the southern cross, are not visible until the early hours of the morning. As a result, I will probably do better once I leave major cities.
Next is the overnight bus to Byron Bay, near Brisbane. Lots more beaches and parks to explore before making it to Port Douglas and the eclipse!