I have always romanticised the notion of travelling to the other side of the world. This romanticising became an obsession and that obsession had to become a reality for me to feel complete.
Taronga zoo is amazing. It is built into the side of a steep hill across the harbour from Sydney overlooking the city. First we had to get the ferry across the harbour which was exciting in itself but when we got there we realised that it had only just begun. We got up close an personal with koalas (stereotypically) tigers, lions, bears, Tasmanian devils, giraffes and hundreds more.
Out of the 20 most venomous snakes in the world, 15 live in Australia and I saw the number one guy the "fierce snake". I have always loved animals and the fauna of Australia is so unlike our own. Their special animals are under so much stress created by us that they are losing some of the most unique animals this world will ever see on a daily basis. When Western man first came to Australia about 180 years ago he didn't just bring dogs (which are now their wild dingos) and guns. They brought the unsuspecting rabbit. No animal like the rabbit existed in Australia and when some clever dick released a dozen into the wild for a bit of sport, devestation followed. Rabbits did what rabbits do and they bred. Low lying vegetation was devoured and was defenseless to their gnashers. small ground dwelling marsupials and birds lost their homes, aoriginal people lost many sources of food and water and disease spread. Years later, we tried to undo this problem by releasing mixamatosis. This wiped out about 99% of the rabbit population. Pretty good huh? Not really. The ones that were left were immune, and althoug they were only a small number, they had bred like .... and are now running around again but are little bit tougher thanks to un natural selection, if you like.
Sydney is a pretty mental place. The people there are really laid back and really do take their leisure time seriously. The beaches and parks are full at the weekend and all the shops and businesses are most definitely shut. They are still a very young city and development is everywhere. However, it isn't too easy to live there at the moment. House prices have soured so it is near impossible for people to buy for the first time which is a shame. There isn't too much crime, but we always watched the news in the hotel so we knew what was going on and what crime there was shocked us a bit. I have built up an interest and knowledge of aboriginal art. Their culture has always fascinated me. These people are only 0.6% of Australia's total population now. Their is a real problem with how to respect the original peoples of the country who lost so much when we came along and how to live with them. The two cultures do not exist very happily. There are many aboriginal and Torres island strait languages which was never a problem because they were always separated by hundreds of miles of land, yet they shared the same respect for the land. This is now an issue beacause "white man" has tried to group them together and work out a way in which they can contribute to this new society. Aboriginal people seeem to feel very isolated and lack purpose. There is frequently storied on the news about issue with alcohol. The police do not help these people when they turn to drink, they just send them back to their communities to wreak havoc. I do not want to sound overly negetive because I imagine that it has been very hard to strike a balance, and this issue is still not resolved. It will be, I am sure of it. Work is being done to offer education to aboriginal people in how we western people work, yet to maintain their culture. One of the key ways that this is being done is through art. People are buying aboriginal art which gives purpose to communities and funds what they need.This leads me nicely on to my next topic.
Galleries and Museums were at the top of our to do list. We went to the Art Gallery of NSW first to get a good feel for the art scene in Sydney. It is in the heart of the Royal botanical gardens and houses the region's greatest collection of Australian art. It was really interesting to see how they exhibited some key pieces of European art from the renaissance to the pre-raphaelites really. They then followed into the early settlers works. These were very airy fairy and romantic, with lots of grand landscapes. The rest of the space is dedicated to Australian artists and I found it really interesting as these names were mostly unknown to me. Grace Cossington Smith, Brett Whitely etc etc some of whom had obviously been influenced and were a part of some on the key movements througout the 20th Century yet being a Western educated person, I was educated on western artists. So, without boring you, I bought a lot of books and really enjoyed myself. We were actually there for their Biennale. This was spread across the Art Gallery of NSW, the Modern Art Gallery and Cockatoo island. We enjoyed getting the boat to cockatoo island to finish up out tour of the bienale which used to be an old dock yard and has a lot of history for the Australian people.
We climbed sydney harbour bridge! That was epic. It took three hours and we learnt a lot about why this bridge was so important. It used to take a whole day of travelling to get from the north to the south side of the harbour and people felt very separeated. The bridge brought them together and they then became a truly great city.
A great thing we did was to go out for a long hike into the blue mountains. It took two hours to drive to our starting point from Sydney. The walk was exhausting but totally worth it because we really got to see the land of Australia and the exotic flora it produces. There is nowhere else like it in the world. The trees are completely unique and most actually need fire to disperse it's seeds. This baffled me becase forest fires are devastating in the UK, but in Australia they are a littlerally a way of life. On this hike we visited some sacred places to the aboriginal people such as the three sisters. You are not supposed to tell the story if it isn't yours to tell, so I will let you guess why these peaks are so important :)
I had my first experience of sea sickness too. We went whale watching on this tiny raft which had to go out about 8 miles to sea to get to where the humpback whales were. I have never felt so rough! It was fantastic though and there were so many whales all around us. They are beautiful creatures, so big, yet so gentle. They swam around us looking at us and you could tell they were so curious as to what we were doing there! Due to 2m high waves, I didn't get any good photos. This really is the best one! You will have to trust me that they were there.
We did so much more, but I wanted to write down a bit of it for you to read if you want. I would go back tomorrow if I could. I've never felt so comfortable in a foreign country. I could have forgotten we weren't at home if it wasn't for the cockatoos and kookaburras flying past our heads!