Okay, enough with the backpacker. It continued to rain the first couple days at the YHA, and I was getting sick again so I stayed low key and slept quite a bit. This was definitely the right move since I quickly recovered for the second half of the Sydney trip, when the weather was much nicer. Just up the road from the backpacker was nice park right under the Sydney harbour bridge. I ate breakfast there a few mornings with a lovely view of the Opera House across the water. One day there was a young family with the dad kicking a rugby ball to his 5 year old, who occasionally passed it to his 3 year old little sister. Down the road from the park, and down some steps, was a festival with lots of shops and types of food. My wallet was hurting, so despite getting a burger and some chips (aka fries) at a pub, I kept moving.
Across the Quay (KEY!!) was the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, which stretched between the Opera House at the tip, to past most of the skyscrapers into the heart of the city, across from Hyde Park and the ANZAC memorial. The most bizarre feature of the Botanic gardens wasn't any sort of plant, but the literally thousands of giant bats roosting in the tops of the trees. They were called Flying Foxes, but they sure looked like bats to me and they made tons of noise. At dusk they'd leave in massive groups, fly across the harbour and the city, apparently heading to other nearby parks to devour flowering plants and other things. They probably had up to a 2ft wingspan and bodies the size of rats.
There was a gorgeous cathedral just outside the Botanic garden, and along Hyde Park. I'd love to show you pictures, but they were stuffy about absolutely no photography. I get the no flash thing, and I guess it's not entirely reverent, but if a service isn't active it seems rather dumb to ban photography of such a gorgeous place. It was nice to cool off though, as Sydney shares Atlanta's summer woes in both heat and humidity.
Hyde Park was pretty, and meticulously planned out. There were a few large statues and a big fountain. At the back end was the ANZAC memorial, which pays tribute to the NZ and Aussie troops who fought in WW1 and WW2. Apparently Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory was bombed a bunch by the Japanese, and the Aussies were very worried about a Japanese invasion during WW2. Most of the able men for both Aus and NZ were away in north Africa and Europe, so both countries were very vulnerable, and greatly welcomed the US Pacific fleet's protection.
Walking around Sydney was fun and all, but the best trip was a day trip to Bondi Beach in the southeastern suburbs. The bus ride took over an hour, but the beach was amazing. The waters were deep and vivid shades of clear blue and green, the sands almost white. Thousands of people hit the beach and swam in the nicely warm waters. Though, it was disturbing how unnaturally dark some of their tans were. Like, white people with skin the color of stained cherry wood... Consequently, I got sunburned as well, but that was almost intentional since I was super pasty white from winter till that point. The definite low point of the Aussie trip though was having my iphone stolen on the bus ride back from the beach. I didn't notice it was gone until I got back to the hostel. Oh well...
I flew to Auckland six days after I arrived in Australia and stayed there for a couple nights before finally making it to Earthwise Valley. But you'll have to wait for yet another post before I finally get to talking about this place.