From Austin to Oz. I'm planning to flee the country for 7 months - working for 4 and traveling for 3.
Departure = 03 Sep 2003 / Re-entry = 03 Apr 2004

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Long day

Yesterday was quite a long day. Maybe it was a premonition of how my body will adjust to a 16-hour time difference.

I woke up at 03:00 (Christchurch) to get ready to board the airport shuttle at 04:30, arriving at 05:00 for my 06:30 flight to Sydney. After queuing for 1 hour, I finally checked my bag at the Pacific Blue counter and left for the gate. After grabbing a takeaway long black and a ham & cheese croissant from a snacko, I boarded the plane and sat between an Aussie and a Canadian with a UK passport.

We arrived in Sydney at 08:00 (Sydney time), only 10 minutes later than expected. Now, 08:00 Sydney = 10:00 Christchurch, so by this time, I have been awake for 7 hours already, and most Sydneysiders are still preparing to start their 09:00 work day. All this for a cheap NZ$139 flight across "the ditch" (Tasman Sea which separates Australia & New Zealand). But, who's complaining? I reckoned that I could have a whole day of exploration during this beautiful 17oC Sydney day - at least until a potential jet lag moment when I might find a park bench and sleep like a koala (which sleeps 20 hours a day).

So, I left the International Terminal, purchased an A$8.80 gate pass to leave the terminal and an A$15 Day Tripper train/bus/ferry pass. I arrived the Central Station, and walked a few blocks to my hostel, The Maze Backpackers. I booked a single room because, at the end of the whole magnificent trip, I need a bit of private space free from the incessant symphony of plastic bags, zippers, nylon, bed springs, talking, cell phone beeps, and alarm clocks that multi-bed dormitory rooms house. Call me shellfish.

After having dropped off my gear in my room, I headed for Souvenir World to pick up some last minute gifties. Then, I had some lunch and rode the train to the Sydney Olympic Park. At the Olympic Park, residents and tourists alike can use the facilities and take lessions. Some of the venues were closed to prepare for the Royal Easter Show. Rather than take a tour, I decided to head for the Archery Area, where I wanted to take an archery lesson. By the time I arrived, the last lesson of the day was wrapping up, so I walked to the ferry terminal to ride back to Circular Quay in the CBD. Sydney Olympic Park is served by all modes of transporation and is bicycle friendly. It truly is well planned and accessible.

The ferry ride was just what I needed. When the ferry landed at Circular Quay, I hopped on another ferry going to Darling/Poopshen Harbour. (Why walk to the Harbour when I could ride another ferry? Let's just say that I got my money's worth from the DayTripper pass.) I debarked at the Aquarium stop to visit the Sydney Aquarium - Australia's most popular tourist site and highly recommended by Kim & Jen when we were in Sydney in late February.

To begin my description of the aquarium visit must start with superlatives - most ... , best ... , -ist ..., etc. Yet, I don't want to appear as I'm exaggerating. Kim, Jen, and whoever else has been to the Sydney Aquarium will understand. Let's just say that these are some of the highlights:

* First exhibit as you enter the aquarium: THE PLATYPUS! Yay! I've finally seen one!
* Fairy/blue penguins: the smallest penguins in the world
* Sea dragons: like seahorses, yet they look more like seaweed. Almost like smooth fractals
* Moon jellyfish: translucent hemispheres just floating along with the current or flapping slowly
* Seals: they were all asleep by the time I arrived in the late arvo, tho.
* SHARKS! : there are glass tubes around the perimeter of the shark exhibit allowing visitors to walk underneath the water and observe the sealife at tankfloor level. There were 6 - SIX - small sharks resting on the bottom of the glass tubes as I entered, allowing me to see them from underneath. It was mesmerizing. I am still astounded that my hand was separated from a shark by mere millimeters of glass. I like sharks. They are beautiful creatures. They just get a terrible rap from people. More Australians kill each other with automobiles every year than die from shark attacks, almost 3'000 vehicle accidents versus 0.7 shark attacks. On the way out of the exhibit, there were 7 other sharks perched atop the exit tube. Thirteen shark bellies! That's what I'll entitle my day.
* Rays: in addition to the sharks there are a few rays gliding about the tank. The largest one is about the size of a twin bed turned sideways. It moves thru the water with a ripple akin to ballet folklorico or flamenco dancer's dress.
* Turtles: one of the 3 turtles in the same shark tank is the size of a bonnet/hood of a mid-size car.
* Crabs: I had no idea that Australia is home to so many species of crabs - 80% of a shark's diet is crabs.

While under the shark exhibit, I became part of a tour group of young Koreans. By that, I mean that I was touring at the same speed as they were. They were a funny lot, them, and I'll give them credit with taking creatively posed photos instead of the normal "Here is me in front of something, now I will put on a bland smile and stand like a two-by-four" photos that plagues most tourists. At one point, had advanced a bit and was at the Great Barrier Reef exhibit. There is a section that compares the Reef's size to the size of certain countries. I had already flipped the Australia, Germany, and New Zealand flags that cover the statistics for those specific countries. Then, I flipped the Korean flag, was reading it when the group had caught up with me. The tour guide was translating for her group as I was reading along. The tour guide then thanked me, as did some of the group. Que polite Koreans!

I skimmed thru a bit of the Reef exhibit, as I was fortunate to have dived/snorkeled it in February with me mates. There is one point in the exhibit where there is an enormous tank full of colourful fishies, starfish, and other fauna aquatica. And, there's a point where the visitor can "walk inside" the tank because there is a square tube thru the aquarium. Fish swam above, below, and along two sides of me! Uberkool!

At this stage of the exhibit, along bounded a heap of cacophonous, spastic pre-pubescent girls on a field trip. They could learn heaps of manners from the polite Korean tour group. So, tired of the excessive noise, I walked quickly to the exit, as the Reef exhibit is the last.

I walked back to the Aquarium ferry stop, boarded the ferry for Circular Quay, passed into the train station, then exited at the Town Hall station. Am I lazy for not walking the 30 minutes back to the hostel? I don't care because I was making the most of my Day Tripper. Ha!

It must have been about 20:00 when I returned to my hostel room, which means it was 22:00 Christchurch time. I had been awake for 19 hours. Let's just say that my head found the bed and my nonstopsupahfastouttacontrolWednesday ended early.

13 shark bellies.


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