I hope you enjoy reading about the adventures of Haverford students abroad. Once again I am a junior biology major at Haverford College studying abroad at the University of Melbourne in Australia. If you would like to ask me questions about my trip, about Haverford or if you have general questions you think I can answer feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I flew out of Washington, DC on February 6th 2008 and arrived in Sydney after a very long flight on February 8th 2008. I was surprisingly not jetlagged. I got to my hostel by 10am which was in the center of Sydney (located right next to central station), dropped my luggage in the hostel’s storage and joined a guided beach tour. The beach tour took us to every main beach in Sydney, basically from Coogee to Bondi beach stopping by 4 other beaches. The guide was telling us about the different areas next to each beach which helped us get to know some of the neighborhoods in Sydney. Bondi beach was our last stop so I relaxed by the pier and strolled through an aboriginal art exhibit there.
The next couple of days were rainy and cloudy. I walked around the city and by chance ended up in front of the Australian Museum where there were submissions for a photography competition. The pictures were so beautiful. I then walked through the Domain and the Botanical Gardens. The Domain had some very modern sculptures. One of them was of a match next to a burnt match that were about 20 yards tall. I stopped by the Art Gallery of New South Wales which has a wide collection of modern art. The botanical gardens were breathtakingly beautiful. Most of the trees and plants there I had never seen before. There were “peeling trees” (their bark just peels off naturally), other trees that had branches that grew into the ground and became roots… also all the trees were covered in flying foxes (a type of bat with an orange face that looks like that of a fox). I then saw the Opera house which was as architecturally superb, just as you saw it in pictures. When walking around the harbor I stumbled across a 25ft long and 15feet high artwork of a woman that was made of peaches. It was meant as a promotion for the fruit company Ella. Then I walked all along the harbor, through the Rocks (a historic area of Sydney with lots of colonial houses, shops and pubs), around Dawes Point and all the way down to the Darling Harbor.
Third day started of by attending the Chinese New Year parade which was really fun (I got to pet four of the parade dragons!). I then followed the parade to the Tumbalong Park where the Chinese New Year concert was to be held. That park is circular and surrounded by water. It is located near the exhibition center (it was closed then but it had just been hosting a backpackers exhibit) and the entertainment center (which hosts sports matches and concerts). For bigger concerts or events, the entertainment is not longer used, having been replaced by the Olympic Stadium. I then went to the Chinese Friendship Gardens which was beautiful and peaceful. That garden was a bicentennial gift from the Chinese community to the government of the NSW and symbolized the friendship between both nations. They had really big orange fish and beautiful water lilies. There were multiple pavilions, a bamboo forest and statues of Buddha. I then went to the Darling Harbor and over the Pyrmont bridge which has a middle rotating part (that’s how they let the big boats in instead of having the bridge lift up). I then went to the Sydney Observatory which used to be really important for navigation (it would let ships know what the exact time was). It is elevated over the harbor so that ships could see it in the distance it gave us a great view of the harbor and the harbor bridge. It has an astronomy museum and old observatory. I then went over the Harbor Bridge. I never realized how BIG it was until I had to walk it. It is 1150m or 3772ft long (which does seem very long when it’s very hot and you’ve been walking for 8 hours every day). Cool fact about the bridge: it takes about year to paint it and Sydney paints it every year! Once on the other side I strolled through Luna Park which is an attraction park…that burnt down 3 times already.
Fourth day was started off with a boat cruise which gave us a tour of the Sydney Harbor. Our tour guide was really funny. He kept mixing in facts with fiction. For example, he told us that this week-end Sydney officials were draining the harbor to scrub the tiles or he tried convincing us that you could see albino bats flying amongst the sea gulls or that the Opera House was once used by the Mayans as sacrificial grounds until it was discovered by settlers and then transformed into the Opera House…the sad part is that some people actually believed him… I got off at the Taronga Zoo which is built on a hill. So I took the lift up to the top where the view was amazing and then walked all the way down. That zoo was incredible. In many sections, the animals could roam around and there were no fences dividing them from the visitors. I went into an enclosure with kangaroos and wallabies and I could have easily pet them. It allowed us to see all the Australian animals and many others I were already familiar with. It’s a great zoo.
On our fifth day I decided to get away from the city and go to the Blue Mountains at Katoomba. (about 2hours out of Sydney). Once there I went to Echo Point where there is this rock formation called the 3 sisters (one of the main attractions). I hiked down the cliff and into the rainforest where the vegetation was abnormally large and green. It was really beautiful. The most memorable part of my trip happened there. As I was rolling up my jeans I notice something on my leg… a leech! yes I know… I almost died! (not from the leech but from the heart attack I almost had). Obviously, I just rip it off… for future references don’t do that (I was later told) because then it takes a really long time for you to stop bleeding… instead pour salt on them or use fire…none of which I had on us anyways. So after I ripped it off I realized that there were lots of leeches on the trail because it had just rained. So I was basically walking very fast and not stopping until I was standing on rocks where I knew the leeches would not be. At a point in time I got to a fork where I can keep hiking 2 more km through the rainforest or alternatively I can climb a staircase that was carved into the cliff all the way back up called the Giant stairway which descends or goes up 300m (1000ft) and has over 800 steps and which had a sign indicating that it was reserved for experienced hikers…well I figured after that leech experience I was enough of an experienced hiker to go up that (and besides you could not pay me more to keep going through that rainforest at that moment) so up I went for the biggest leg workout of my life. I then walked to the Scenic Railway where I took the Skywalk which had a see-through floor and which took us above the valley and right by the Katoomba waterfall. I then took the railway which was used to bring up coal from the mine. It’s the steepest inclined railway in the world (52 degrees). Going on it was like going on a rollercoaster ride…except that I had no bar or seatbelt or anything holding us back. I then walked on a boardwalk that took us through the rainforest and took the skytram (which is also the steepest one in the world) to bring us back where I started. I headed back to the Katoomba train station and right before catching our train back I bumped into other Haverford people! What a small world! So I sat down, enjoyed hot chocolate, told each other about our adventures and then parted ways.
On day six I went on a guided city tour offered by the hostel where I got to see everything for a second time… it was a nice recap plus I learned a lot (and I saw cockatoos in the botanical gardens that would drink from your water bottle!) I then went to the Sydney aquarium which had some fantastic marine life. The Sydney aquarium is especially known for its underwater glass walkways. That is they have a huge tank which holds many sharks, manta rays, sea turtles and other marine wildlife and visitors can walk through the tank thanks to tunnels build into the tank. So basically I had sharks swimming right on top of us, on either sides and in some tanks under us! It felt as if I were swimming with them.
Day seven I went to the Maritime museum and the museum of contemporary art. There were some really cool exhibits such as one on Ozti, a Bronze Age man found in a glacier in Italy. I relaxed and walked along the Harbor during the afternoon and then went to see “La Boheme” at the Opera house. The inside of the Opera House is just as beautiful and I loved the performance.
After a week in Sydney I went Canberra (the capital of Australia) to visit one of my high school friends. He gave me a great tour of Canberra. We went to the Anzac memorial (which I would recommend everyone to go to) to the Old and New Parliament, to Black Mountain and to its tower which gives you a 360 view of Canberra and which has a restaurant that revolves so you never have the same view! We also went to the Multicultural Festival where there was live music and great food.
I then left my friend to finally arrive to the city I would be spending the rest of my semester living: Melbourne!