13 Mar 2008

Sydney From High and Far

The second and third days of our orientation were even busier than the first day. In the mornings, we were lectured on Australian Culture, Conduct, Health & Safety, Succeeding at University, and Local Travel, so that we had the rest of each day to see what Sydney had to offer.

I mentioned that on the first day we took a ferry cruise on the harbor. On the second day, we experienced the harbor in a much different fashion - while strapped into a Jetboat. This is an intense thirty minute ride around the harbor, going fast and riding the swells and the wakes of other boats. The best parts are the 270º spins that the boat does, causing everyone to grip the seat in front of them and get drenched by the spray. By the time we got back to shore, everyone was smiling and soaking wet.

After lunch, we rode the monorail (more of a tourist attraction than a serious mode of transport) to the center of the city to experience the Sydney Tower. This is the tallest building in Sydney, and there is a 360º enclosed viewing area near the top, complete with telescopes scattered around the perimeter. Our program director pointed out sights such as the Olympic park and the university and we were finally able to see where the opera house and harbor bridge are in terms of the whole of the harbor. After the tower, we returned to Coogee to enjoy the swells on that splendid, warm and sunny beach.

My Buddy

Monday was our day to get out of Sydney and experience the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we could get up close to Australia's unique wildlife - petting kangaroos and wallabies and cuddling up to koala bears. The animals were very friendly, letting us pet them, take pictures with them, and feed them out of the provided orange ice cream cones. Some of the more interesting things that we saw were emus running around and bathing themselves, kangaroos getting frisky and territorial, and a pair of dingoes trying to dig their way into the neighboring cage. We also found a (huge!) crocodile whose cage was surrounded only by a 4-5ft. fence. I'm pretty sure he could have gotten out of there had he been really provoked. Unfortunately, the Tasmanian Devil was hiding while we were there. Australia has the most amazing combination of native wildlife - I hope that I get to see the animals in their natural habitats before I leave.

Croc Wallabies Pelican Dingo

Our last stop was the Blue Mountains, affectionately described as "Sydney's Playground." The hike we did was about two hours from the city, and afforded incredible views of the canyon that is slowly being carved out by eroding sandstone. At the end, you could stand on a plateau in the canyon, yell really loudly, and hear the echo travel around the rock walls as it bounced back from further and further points. It was a beautiful experience. As always, check Flickr for more pictures!