Week 7 Central Australia Virtual Challenge Final
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Part 3 Day 6 The End of the Virtual Trip to Oz- Sydney!
Sydney! The very name brings so many images to mind! How very different the capital city is from all the National Parks and wetlands and farmlands and desert based mines we've seen so far. We drop down out of the hills, on the Great Westtern Highway, which is a huge free way. The countryside is full of buildings and evidence of people all the way! Our stretch from Katoomba to Sydney will take us 1hour and 27 minutes approximately and is a segment of 63.5 miles.
We reach Manly, a city just outside of Sydney that many tourists prefer because of its
quaint atmosphere, pristine beaches, and fabulous attractions. It is purported to be one of Sydney's oldest and quaintest suburbs and is located just a short ferry ride across the harbour. We will be staying in the Manly Lodge Boutique Hotel which proudly tells us that it :
-has Quality accommodation to suit a wide range of budgets and requirements.
-Good value, Quality bedding, towels, and accessories, pleasant halogen lighting, modern security locks, a high standard of cleanliness, and friendly no-fuss service make for an enjoyable stay.
- Is just 100 meters (109yards) from Manly Beach.
It further promises this "Clean and Green Information"
By staying with us you are supporting a conscientious business. For example, using a
high efficiency, low chemical, on demand commercial ozone laundry (which happens
to be super hygienic at the same time instead of less), and through working towards
consistently making conscientious purchasing decisions where determined suitable
(ie. as often as possible) - such as purchasing (in order of importance):
1. Australian made and local products and services including foods.
2. Where we know, products or services we buy for our guests are not tested on
3. Fair Trade, Free Range, or products from conscientious businesses,
4. Organic or preservative free foods, or high quality foods or products.
5. Recycled and /or biodegradable products.
6. We were also one of the first hotels in Australia to go 100% non smoking.
7. In 2008/2009 we had 300 trees planted for wildlife habitat.
Nice to know we will have our final stay in such a caring conscientious establishment!
Since our accommodations boasted a free Wi-Fi internet I was quick to hook up to it
when I had time and sped a few minutes dropping a Skype to my husband, where we
decided I might be able to stay on a bit to really see the sights while I was in this once
in a lifetime trip. Also I looked at a local news page which told me that a man had built a bomb in Southern Sydney in April and had just been captured on the 9th as he
entered the airport from Malta. Besides being big news, the video gave me a first view
of Sydney Airport. Also The latest election poll has put the Coalition ahead of Labor in
the two-party preferred rating, and they were preparing for their first day of debates.
Still another story told about "Police have rescued nine people, aged in their 60s, who
failed to return from a bushwalk at a national park south of Sydney." It said they were
winched, or pulled out from where they were to a local oval, which is Australian for a
Football stadium. Pretty much life in a huge city such as I am used to in Chicago.
Another familiar thing was watching a you tube video of an event on Manly Beach. It
was the 2006 Steyne Hotel Ocean Swim Manly Beach. Here were the crowded beaches
with the latest swim wear mixed with more conservative styles for older and larger
sized women and crashing whitecaps of waves and deep slightly grey blue-green waters that I grew up with at the Pacific Ocean in San Diego California in my youth. The
bigger the world the more similar it seems to be. Showing that people are unique yet
so much the same all over so that we should learn to understand and get on with one
another and not have so much prejudice and fighting.
It was only a 3-5 minute walk to the Manly Wharf and a quick 15 minute ferry ride to reach Sydney, including my first sight of the Sydney Opera House.
I had no idea of its real size. Here is more of a close up. Take a look at the size of the people compared to the Sails of the Opera House!
Of course Ann was way ahead of us and had made plans for us to take a group
interactive guided tour around one of the greatest buildings of all time, where we
were entertained with the stories, history and magic of Sydney Opera House with an
incredible guided tour that took us underneath the world famous sails. We followed our friendly guide inside the World Heritage masterpiece, containing 1000 rooms, 300 corridors and hundreds of related snippets of tales and secrets. We were allowed to around inside the awesome theatres where more than 1600 performances come to life each year, and we learned how Danish architect Jorn Utzon’s groundbreaking design and vision for a world class performing arts came into existence. Best of all the tour was designed for people with mobility limitations so it was easy to go on.
Next door is the Australian Botanic Garden. There was a walk through exhibit on Wattles there. They were everywhere! I had no idea there were so many types of wattles 180 in all at the garden; 950 types grow in Australia of the world's 1200 species. They range in size from ground covering bushes to beautiful yellow trees. Since they grow in most climates, flower in winter and bear seeds in summer they area an importan food source for wildlife at a time when food sources may be hard to find.
Other birds reptiles and animals feed off the insects they attract. They provide food shelter and nest sites in most Australian habitats. In this way they are vital to the
stability and well being of species' habitats.
The golden wattle (Acacia pycnantha)
was officially proclaimed Australia’s national floral emblem in 1988, the year of Australia’s bicentenary and also the year that the Garden was officially opened. In 1992, 1 September was formally declared National Wattle Day. It is a tree which flowers in late winter and spring, producing a mass of fragrant, fluffy, golden flowers.
Another variety is the Acacia amblygona 'Winter Gold',
which occurs naturally on inland slopes and ranges, frequently in shallow stony soils. It is a low ground cover and like all Acacia's has sharp spines on it.
Also there were examples of the world’s only red-flowering wattle,
Acacia leprosa 'Scarlet Blaze’,
which is a hybrid of the Cinnamon Wattle,
grown from seedlings to preserve its color, otherwise if it is grown from seed it reverts to its yellow form. The Scarlet Blaze, is one of the twentieth century's most surprising and significant horticultural discoveries. It has become Victoria's Centenary of Federation floral emblem. Acacia leprosa is regarded as a particularly hardy large shrub or small tree with a weeping, slender habit.
In common with all forms of Cinnamon Wattle, the leaves of the cultivar release a cinnamon-like scent from its foliage, particularly in hot weather. The blood-red variety of the Cinnamon Wattle (Acacia leprosa) was found growing in a Victorian forest in 1995 by two bush walkers. They took cuttings to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, which manages a specialized plant conservation program, thereby saving many plants from probable extinction.
The species Acacia mariae x semilunata ‘Annan Gold’
came from a chance seedling that appeared in one of the garden beds. Its parent species are very showy and the Garden grew this plant to observe if the hybrid was worth cultivating. It grew into a beautiful small to medium shrub with masses of bright yellow flowers with a lovely sweet perfume and can be seen in the Wattle Garden. It is, according to the Botanic Garden 'mobbed' by bees when in flower. The name 'semilunata' refers to the nearly crescent-shaped phyllodes (a flattened leafstalk that resembles and functions as a leaf).
The rest of the day was spent in a whirlwind of activity seeing some beautiful ights.
First riding on the Monorail, which, sadly, after 25 years of service is being dismantled. It reminds me of The People Mover at Disneyland and like that ride was hailed as the public transit system of the future. We have an overhead transit system here in Chicago that is most decidedly not in disuse! Its sad to know this iconic piece of Sydney's history is going to be dismantled. Ms Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Transport say that they are going to keep two carriages and about 10 meters(32 ft+)of track for display purposes.
Next we stepped off the Monorail to see the Sydney Tower,
an integral feature of the Sydney skyline for over 30 years. Measuring 309 meters(337yd 2.7795ft) at its highest point, it is one of the tallest structures in the southern hemisphere and by far the tallest building in Sydney. Ranked as one of the safest buildings in the world, the striking design has made the tower capable of withstanding earthquakes and extreme wind conditions. The golden turret has a capacity of 960 persons and contains two levels of restaurants, a coffee lounge, an Observation Deck, two telecommunication transmission levels and three plant levels. The spire located above the Tower is used for telecommunications and navigation purposes. At exactly twice the height of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, there really is no other experience in Sydney that comes close to SKYWALK at the Sydney Tower Eye!
When we stepped out onto the SKYWALK,
we found ourselves walking on air 268 meters above stunning Sydney, with the city streets directly beneath our feet. Looking down through the glass floor viewing platform gave a bird's-eye perspective of the bustling city below, as as we took part in a 45 minute guided tour around the outside of the iconic golden turret of Sydney Tower.
From the Tower we walked thru the streets, about a 10 minute brisk walk to Darling
Harbor, seeing on the way the marvelously constructed Sydney Harbor Bridge, the landmark that calls to mind Sydney for many people. In Darling Harbor is one of
Sydney's largest dining, shopping and entertainment precincts, with a full calendar
of outdoor events as well as one of the city's most restful spots, the Chinese Garden of
Friendship. I spent some time exploring and enjoying and experiencing the natural beauty, architecture and culture of one of the only Chinese gardens outside of Asia. The Garden has stunning landscape features including waterfalls, lakes, exotic plants and
hidden stone pathways. There is a 45 minute Audio Tour providing detailed information on the design philosophy and history of the Garden. The Garden was designed and built by Chinese landscape architects and gardeners, and is governed by the Taoist principles of 'Yin-Yang' and the five opposite elements - earth, fire, water, metal and wood. These principles also stress the importance of Qi, the central force of life and energy. It is built so that you must wander through and explore the garden, there is no one place from which to see the entire garden, and indeed only a part of the garden is visible at a time. When I finished the tour, I relaxed in the tranquil atmosphere and refreshed myself with tea and a light snack in the garden Tea house.
Cockle Bay Wharf offers waterfront promenades with alfresco cafes, bars and
restaurants. Some of Sydney's most popular attractions are here; SEA LIFE Sydney
Aquarium and WILDLIFE Sydney.
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is located on the eastern (city) side of Darling Harbour. The aquarium contains a large variety of Australian aquatic life, displaying more than 650 species comprising more than 6,000 individual fish and other sea and water creatures from most of Australia's water habitats. Its key exhibits in the aquarium are a series of underwater, see-through, acrylic glass tunnels where sharks swim above visitors, and recreation of a Great Barrier Reef coral environment. There is a glass-bottomed boat, or Shark Explorer, operating, giving guests a tour of the Great Barrier Reef Oceanarium Tank which has a total area of about 4,000 square feet, is ll feet deep and houses approximately 6,000 animals
Nearby Wild Life Sydney is a wildlife park in the heart of Sydney. It, too, is in Darling
Harbor on the city side. Wild Life Sydney is unusual for a zoo or wildlife park in that the public areas are almost entirely enclosed and air-conditioned. The A$52 million development features a 1 km walkway which snakes through 7,000 square meters of
enclosures. The upper level exhibits are open-air, enclosed only by a large stainless
steel mesh roof structure supported by curved beams, which were designed to look like the ribs of the rainbow serpent of Aboriginal myth when viewed from above. This
open-air feature has enabled the exhibits to be landscaped naturally with live plants,
including full-sized trees. The largest exhibit is the 800 square metre semi-arid habitat.
There are 10 key zones, comprising viewing-only, as well interactive, exhibits:
Butterfly Tropics; Devil's Den (Tasmanian Devils); Gumtree Valley (Koalas); Wallaby Cliffs; Daintree Rainforest (Cassowary (the most dagerous bird in the world)); Kangaroo Walk-About; Kakadu Gorge (home of a 16 ft male salt water crocodile ); Koala Encounters; Bugs Garden ; Night Fall; and WILD Discovery Zone. The average visit to Wild Life takes about two hours.
The final trip was by ferry to visit Taronga Zoo, where I opted to take the Nura Diya –
Taronga’s Aboriginal Discovery Tour. Set on traditional Cammeraigal country,
Taronga Zoo has many amazing Aboriginal stories to tell. Nura Diya, meaning “this
country or camp”, took me on a journey through Taronga as I heard stories of Australian wildlife told through the perspective of an Aboriginal guide, with tales of their shared history with the animals and land. Developed with the indigenous community and led by an Aboriginal guide, I was treated to their own personal stories, about their important connections back to the land, animals and nature, and heard about the binding relationships between flora and fauna. The Guide shared stories of the Dream Time, describing creation of creatures and the landscape. I also learned about centuries-old traditional uses of plants for food and medicine while enjoying interactive experiences with unique Australian wildlife, including Koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and a vast array of Australia’s birds. Here are some other rare creatures, Australian and from other countries, but all rare or endangered. A baby sugar glider, a Bilby, a Frilled Lizard, the Red Panda, the tiny Red Tailed Phascogale, and also the Tawny Frogmouth
After the tour I headed back to our Accomodations for a brief rest and then to join up
with the rest of the group and Ann and Sandra for our final evening together. The next day we all went our separate ways. I stayed on to go back and spend more time seeing the people and the night life and the museums, and art galleries more closely, before finally heading home to my dear home Chicago, in some ways greatly different and yet in many ways much the same as other great places like Sydney. There is so much more I want to learn about Australia! As a final souvenir I purchased a large book of stories about the dreamtime and another about the Aboriginal rock arts to read on the plane home.....The End........