My trip to Sydney started on a swank new airliner, V Australia. The 777 was huge, as expected, but it also had a bar and colored accent lighting which changed color all through the flight depending on if the passengers were supposed to be eating or sleeping. We landed in Sydney at about 6am, and the sun was out and bright by the time I got through customs.
I ended up renting a car since it would be hours before I could check in to the backpacker where I was going to stay. After driving around Sydney a bit I drove to Canberra for a day. Canberra is Australia's capital, and much closer to Sydney than any other major city. But it's still a 3 hour drive, and my feet were aching from the lack of cruise control. The countryside changed quite a bit on the trip though, starting out very lush and tree covered, and slowly becoming the more arid bush I was expecting. I passed a massive grassland basin that was supposed to be a lake, but it didn't look like one had been there within the last few years. Overall the countryside was quite beautiful, green, and tree covered. And despite koala and kanagroo crossing signs, I didn't see any critters on my way to Canberra.
A constant feature of the first five days of my Australian week was plenty of rain. And that was true for Canberra as well. The second day was mostly dry fortunately, but the first night rained pretty constantly. I drove around the Australian National University, saw some of the monuments from the car, and drove past the various embassies.
Canberra is not very big, maybe 400,000 people, and its city center is fairly small. But the skyline is dominated by the massive flag mast above the Parliament building. The flag itself is bigger than a double decker London bus, and it rises a few hundred meters in the air on a four pronged mast. Inside the Parliament they have a very old copy of the Magna Carta on display for some reason. A friend on facebook informed me this was actually a copy made in the 1200s, but it still looked old and impressive to me. In both Canberra and in Sydney, they had large impressive ANZAC monuments to the armed services of Australia and New Zealand in the world wars and more recent times. I'll upload some pictures of Canberra and Sydney in the next couple days, but there isn't time to do so tonight.
The thing I found most striking about Canberra was how similar to America the city felt. The people were warm and helpful, and the city itself very much felt like Denver, aside from the lack of mountains, and all the Aussie national monuments. Sydney felt very familiar as well. More so than the other places I've been, I really didn't feel like I had left home.
I'll write about Sydney in a couple days. I hope everyone is enjoying the snow back home. The weather here in New Zealand has been pretty constantly pleasant, with a little mist / light rain most days, but not really enough to replenish our water supply. It's been a very relaxing trip though, but more to come later.