June 23 - Well guys, if you’ve been bored by my last few entries, get ready for today. This is gonna be good. Today was one of those days when the universe remembered that it owes me a lot of good karma for, I don’t know, being generally nice or something. I should have been HORRIBLY lost at least 2 or 3 times, but somehow I ended up in the right place every time, no thanks to myself! Highlights of today: 1) I saw a koala, 2) I FINALLY GOT TO EAT A KEBAB, and 3) I spent 4+ hours on public transportation.
So today started as so many in my life - I set my alarm for 7:30AM because I wanted to get a nice early start…and then actually got out of bed at 9:30AM. I just missed the bus, so I had to wait 20 minutes…which then made me just miss the ferry (by about 3 minutes). My original plan was to take the ferry to the Sydney Olympic Park, spend a little while there, and then take the train to Parramatta, and then take the ferry back from Parramatta to Circular Quay. I (mistakenly) thought it was the same ferry (because they leave from the same wharf), and that they left roughly ever half hour. However, it is actually two different ferries that leave every hour…So rather than waiting an hour to go to the olympic park, I decided to just head to Parramatta first and do things in reverse. It also turns out that the ferry ride is almost an hour long, while I had thought it was more like 30 minutes…oh well. There was only one bench to sit outside on the ferry, but luckily I got on 3rd and got a seat there (so windy)! The guy next to me was visiting from Brisbane with his partner (99% sure), and apparently used to be in the Australian Navy stationed in Sydney, so he was explaining some of the history of the various islands. At some point we were talking about the size of Australia, and there is a neat image (which I can’t find right now) where they show Australia made up of all the European countries (not that helpful for Americans, honestly). But in searching I found this which I thought you all might be interested in - Australia really is pretty much the size of the US, which even though I have known that for a long time, is still sort of surprising.
Anyway, I made it to Parramatta! Really pretty, seemingly relaxed and quieter city. My understanding is that this was the second area settled (after Sydney), and still maintains a little bit more of a European feel (e.g. there are tons of churches everywhere). I had no real plan, but being a good Irish Catholic I naturally decided to head straight for St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I have not included any pictures here (I do have several for later), because it was one of the least interesting looking cathedrals I’ve seen (I’m slightly embarrassed by how jaded that statement makes me sound, but…). I really liked the first church I saw (don’t know the name, first picture), and St. John’s was quite nice also. Weirdly none of the churches seemed to be open - in fact St. John’s had a sign saying it was open…which was placed directly behind a locked gate.
The street running past St. John’s (aptly named Church St.) is actually a pedestrian mall, and had a street fair going on. I finally thought I was going to get a kebab…but no, not yet! I found a place that had it on the menu, but they were sold out (it was almost 2PM by this point). One side note about this street fair - what is it that compels people to feed pigeons? Am I missing something here? There was this area that was probably really nice at one point, just benches in a park right near the church, shaded by some large trees. But because people were out there feeding pigeons (today and presumably habitually), there is just bird poop on everything. I just don’t understand. I’ve been warned also that the seagulls in Sydney will quite literally take a sandwich out of your hand too. I had one seagull staring me down while I ate my muffin this morning.
Anyway, Parramatta was very nice, though there were some less interesting parts that I’ll omit for space (this is already too long, and we’ve got a lot more to go!). I decided to move on to Sydney Olympic Park - It was maybe 2:30 at this point so I figured I could get there with still 2 hours of daylight (it’s not very far…). So I found the train station and bought my ticket. As I walked away from the ticket booth, almost as an afterthought, the woman decided to mention, oh, by the way, the trains aren’t running today because of track maintenance, you have to take the bus. Fantastic.
So I go out to the bus stops with absolutely no idea what bus I need to take. Luckily there are “helpers” so I ask. The first guy tells me I need to take the bus to Holcombe and then transfer. The second woman tells me I need to take the bus to Lindcombe and then transfer (actually I almost immediately forgot what she said, most of the ride I thought I was looking for Linden)…So I got on a bus, hoping that I would recognize one of the two names. Now the problem with the bus is, the bus doesn’t always stop at every stop, you have to request the stop (although it turns out these were city rail busses and they actually do stop at every stop, but I didn’t realize this at the time). I pretty much resigned myself to ending up in the wrong place. We got to the first stop. I didn’t get off because it couldn’t possibly be the first stop, right? And then as we drove away I see “Lindcombe” on the sign…craaaaaaaap. However, it turns out the sign just said that is was the route to Lindcombe (at the time I wasn’t even sure Lindcombe was the right stop anyway). Bottom line is I made it. And really, there wasn’t any drama, but it definitely made me a little nervous. The bus was also completely packed. As you know I’ve been watching Dead Like Me again. Rube describes public transportation as “the great equalizer.” It really is.
But I made it to Lindcombe, and after walking like half a mile, was able to find the bus to Olympic Park. This whole ordeal did take forever, and it was almost 4 by the time I got there (so more like 1 hour of daylight left). A very helpful guy at the information center gave me the tip to go to the 17th floor of a nearby hotel where they had a lookout where you can just look, out. The whole complex is quite amazing. One of the most surprising things is that right next to all the stadiums is a now abandoned brickpit where they have found an endangered species of frog. You can walk in and go around the really colorful and neat “ring walk” through the brickpit. Obviously you are not going to see any of the frogs this way, but the walkway itself is pretty neat.
The whole place is big enough that by the time I had walked past some of the stadiums and around the “Ring Walk,” it was nearing 5PM and getting dark. If I had heeded either the scale on the map I had, or the information center guy who told me that it would take me 40 minutes to walk to the ferry, I would have just taken the bus there. But instead I figured it couldn’t possibly take me 40 minutes and set off. Of course it took me at least 40 minutes. I also realized at 5:25PM, when I was still not yet there, that the next ferry was at 5:30. And that the ferry after that was at 6:30…disaster! However, the universe was looking out for me because there was still a huge line of people and I hadn’t missed it!
About 30 seconds after the ferry left the dock though, I became concerned. This was not a Sydney Ferry…It turns out this was a “Captain Cook Cruise” or something. To be perfectly honest, I still have no idea if this was the boat I was meant to take (I mean, it did leave from the Sydney Olympic Park ferry terminal at the time the commuter boat is supposed to leave…). And, it turns out, it did go to Circular Quay. So in the end, again, disaster averted. AND, there was a friendly audio commentary to tell us all about interesting things along the route (which we couldn’t see because it was dark).
The ferry also made a stop at Darling Harbour, and I ultimately decided to get off there so I could get a kebab (I remembered there being a place from the last Sydney trip). As I was walking towards the mall with the food places, there is this place called “Wild Australia” or something, which as best I can tell is an indoor zoo. In the vestibule, they had a koala in a tree, just eating some leaves (sorry I didn’t take a picture). So that happened. And shortly thereafter I got my kebab. And then I took some night photos in Darling Harbour, although none of them turned out as well as last time.
After that, I had to walk back to Circular Quay to get the bus (and importantly, more gelato). Walking around downtown I realized that I really do like Sydney. It’s a really pretty city, and even though there are lots of people, it doesn’t have that fast pace feeling to it. Maybe it’s just that I’ve only been downtown on weekends, but it just seems like people are out wandering around and enjoying the day. And of course right after thinking all this, I had to make a mad dash to catch the bus to avoid another half hour wait.
THE END. If you made it all the way, good for you! 100 points.