We finally made it to Sydney proper, and we are getting closer to making our trip into a vacation.  Justine was feeling a bit better in that we had a plan, and we were finally in a place where we weren’t worried about getting stabbed by a hobo.    We were staying at the Victoria and Albert Court B and B on Victoria Road in Pott’s Point (apparently there are many Victoria Roads.  Ours was in Pott’s Point.) The room was nice, but it was facing the road, which we’d find out later meant it could be quite noisy at night.  Considering the work that went into getting this place (I guessed, more or less), it ended up being a great location.  Take a right, and go a block or two, and down a long staircase, and you were on the waterfront, near the relatively famous Harry’s Cafe De Wheels at Cowper’s Wharf.  Most of the food and travel shows I’ve seen on Sydney end up eating here at least once (Anthony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, etc.)    From there, it was a short walk to the Royal Botanical Gardens, and then the Opera House.  And the Opera House is the true heart of Sydney, and once there, many of the tourist things you’d want to do are close by (The Rocks, Harbor Bridge, etc.)  Once we got there we made a big loop from our hotel to see many of those sites listed above.  On our way back, we walked by a “Pack and Send”, and wondered if they could help us better than the Castle Hills branch.

Friday, we went to the Taronga Zoo, which is one of the great zoos in the world.  To get to the zoo, you have to to take a ferry from Circular Quay, which is near the Opera House, and not that far of a walk from our hotel. As we were leaving, there were four Black Hawk Helicopters doing some training just off a cruise ship, moving back and forth across the harbor to the military base (which was near our hotel, along the waterfront.)    It was neat to see that from up close.   Once you’re at the zoo, a bus takes you to the top.  The zoo is splayed across a hillside, and has great views as you wind your way from the top to the bottom.  Some of the particular highlights include the Giraffes with killer views, a baby elephant, a great photo of a lion.  Best of all though was getting to spend some quality time with Koala’s.  We got a great picture of a Koala looking intently at Justine, but after the photo, he reached out to touch her, but the handler (Irish Grant) intervened, as they don’t want there to be contact between people and Koalas.  Apparently, Queensland is the only place you can hold a Koala.  It was explained they kept it legal there due to the tourism it brings to that region.  Justine had held a Koala many years ago in Queensland and since we weren’t going there this time, no Koala Cuddles for us.  The photos of these creatures doesn’t really explain how freaking’ cute they are.  They look like real live teddy bears, but only cuter (please note they are not bears, and apparently don’t like being called such.) Seriously, the pictures don’t do them justice.  They are more freakin’ cute than you could imagine.  The picture of her with the Koala is probably the best picture we’ve taken, and it made this trip worthwhile.   There were other very nice exhibits, but they all paled by comparison.  At the end of the day we ended up going to Trovata to eat, which was a moderate distance away, in an area called Darlinghurst.

Saturday I got up early to take a tour advertised as “Photographing Sydney.”  I’d hoped it would take you to great locations to photograph, but it ended up just being more of a Photography 101 class, which is was also marketed as, just not to me.    I met some interesting people, and got to see a few unique location, but it still wasn’t what I wanted.   While I was doing that, Justine took the train back out to Burwood and collected our travel packet (tickets, hotel reservations, etc.)  We met up afterwards, and walked back to the hotel room to drop off my 40 pound pack.  After lightening my load, we walked to a camera shop recommended by the photography guide.  When I was younger, I was a connoisseur of book stores, but now it’s camera stores.  This one was nice, and had a good collection of gear, but was somewhat small.  I bought a SanDisk USB card reader.  I’d sworn off any SanDisk products after I had a high end card died in the middle of a photography class (which I forgive – shit happens), but got the incredible run around when I tried to get it replace (which cheeses me off to this day.)  I ended up throwing the this high speed 16GB SanDisk card in the garbage.  But, the camera guy took the price from something like $90 to closer to $40, so I bought it, but mainly because I liked him, it was a good price, and I needed it. I’d still not buy, nor recommend, a SanDisk memory card.  After that, Justine and I walked to Darling Harbor, and explored some more of the city – the so called China Town, Hyde Park, and walked the long way back home.   For dinner we walked down to Harry’s and I had a Meat Pie with Mashers and Mushy peas on top, and Justine had a Hot Dog with everything on it.  She immediately spilled it on the ground, which made us very popular without the local pigeons.  Saturday was a rough night, as there was much street noise.  Fucking hippies.

Sunday we took the ferry to Manly Beach.  It was a beautiful 30 minute ride.  The day was gorgeous, but it was very crowded.  We walked around Manly and found some remote beaches with few people, and some roads that took us to a national park on the point of Manly.  We didn’t go too far into the park, but did get to walk around the area a bit.  There were areas where they were encouraging people and more importantly, cars to be careful of the bandicoots. Eventually we wound our way to Manly Beach.  It was amazing – very beautiful, and there was a surfing competition going on.    I had some Fish and Chips and we sat watching the waves for a while.  The beach was only a short walk back to the ferry.  On the way back into Sydney, we sat next to a very interesting man. He was one of the people called, variously, the Forgotten Generation or Lost Generation, or the Child Migration Scheme. These were children that were taken from their families in the United Kingdom and shipped to Australia, often to live in orphanages.  He was taken from his family when he was four, and he never saw or heard from them again.  He then moved out west to herd cattle at a young age.  When I asked him why, he said if he hadn’t he would have killed someone if he hadn’t.  While out west, he said he met up with a Japanese Buddhist that taught him some zen techniques for controlling his life,  and the foreman of the ranch took him on as a son.  He said these two people saved his life.  It was a really interesting story, and he would be the first of two people that were of the “stolen generation.”  There was a similar resettlement undertaken of Aboriginal children, but that is called, more specifically, the Lost Generation.  Australia only issued an apology to these people earlier this year.  After we returned we walked across the length of the Harbor Island bridge, then down to Kirribilli, in an effort to see where her parents lived when they were first married (they were able to watch the Opera House being built from their first apartment.)  That ended up being a huge day – we figured we walked 15 miles or so.    We still needed to eat, so we went back to Darlinghurst, and found a lovely italian restaurant. It wasn’t as close as we’d have liked, but it was reasonably priced.

Monday Morning, we went back to the “Pack and Send” we’d walked by earlier in King’s Cross, and boy did it make a difference.  It might have been because the location meant they shipped more stuff internationally.  The guy – Craig – behind the counter knew exactly what to do, and how to do it.   I felt very comfortable dealing with him, enough to leave my 27″ iMac there. We decided to ship a pallet of our stuff back rather than the quicker, but much more expensive airmail.  At this point we only had two suitcases, but hustled back to our hotel, and got it down to one large suitcase, and took the smaller one back to Pack and Send.   The hardest part of the whole deal was reclaiming our booty from the Castle Hills shop, and in the end, they charged us $45 for holding it the time they did (this wasn’t ever mentioned up front, but they did store our stuff for some time, and it seemed fair.)  Now, there is a down side.  It takes about 6 weeks for the stuff to get shipped from Sydney to Seattle, and we have to reclaim it at the Port of Seattle.  We’ll be back by that time, so that’s OK, but that means our wordily possession for the next few weeks are effectively in one suitcase, one camera backpack and one stylish shoulder thing (she calls it a Tory Burch Bag, but that might just be a nickname) Justine carries.  Since we don’t see the same people very often, wearing the same clothes over and over again isn’t that big of a deal.   Afterwards, we went to the Australia Museum in Sydney, just off of Hyde Park.  The Museum was pretty good.  There were exhibits of note such as “Surviving Australia” (covering the deadly animals of Oz) and a big exhibit of Aboriginal History and Art.  Both were quite worthwhile, and we were glad to have gone.  We left about 3 PM for a flight to Melbourne.