An overnight bus ride to Sydney from Monash takes about thirteen hours and a few McDonald stops. Once we arrived in Sydney, it was Friday morning and time to explore the city. We made our way to the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park that recognizes those in the Australian and New Zealand armies that dedicated their lives to the service of their country. On the ceiling of the memorial, there are 120,000 stars that represent members in the service from New South Wales during World War I. Looking up and being blinded by stars in the middle of the day is incredible. My heart swelled with pride for the selflessness and dedication to their country and their ability to protect the lives of others.
After the ANZAC Memorial, we walked over to St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is the largest church in Australia. The church is in a traditional Gothic style and contains beautiful statues and stained glass. Visiting a religious site seemed strange in Australia in that much of Australia’s culture is not based around religion. There seems to be little religious affiliation or identification by Australians that I have met. However, I enjoyed visiting this church and it was nice to be reminded of the Lenten season approaching.
Following the church, we made our way through the Royal Botanical Gardens. The flowers and sheer beauty of the plant life seemed unreal to be located in the city. The Gardens had the same effect as wandering through New York City’s Central Park. One cannot imagine that such magnificent greenery and plant life exists in an active urban environment. After wandering through the Garden, I felt as if I had just stumbled out onto the Sydney Harbor. Blue skies, gentle water, and the Sydney Opera House had just magically appeared at the foot of the Garden. Walking to the edge of the path that wound around the Harbor and gazing out to see the boats, Opera House, and people just milling about made for a complete moment of disbelief. I had to remind myself that I really do live in Australia and these places exist here. After taking in the landscape, the group and I walked to the Opera House and climbed the stairs. The white shells of the Opera House loomed overhead as I envisioned myself studying the structure in Art History and now was standing at this piece of artwork.
After the Opera House, we went to the Sydney Habour Bridge and climbed to the first pylon. The first pylon is only 89 meters above sea level while the height of the arch is 134 meters. The bridge offered a spectacular view of the city. It seemed too incredible to be real. The Sydney Harbor Bridge began construction in 1924 and was opened in 1932. It took 1400 men to build the 1149 meters long structure and sixteen of them died during the construction. Once we finished taking in the view from the bridge we took a ferry to Darling Harbor and then perused Paddy’s Market. Paddy’s Market is an indoor market with booths full of souvenirs and various items. All of the stand owners were eager to display their merchandise but we had to make our way back to our hostel for showers and dinner. To end the long day in Sydney, we went on a night boat cruise around the Harbor. The city was just as beautiful when lit up against the night sky.
The second day in Sydney consisted of traveling to Australia’s Blue Mountains. The Aboriginals originally habited this area. We saw “The Three Sisters,” and the Aboriginal legend about them is:
The Aboriginal dream-time legend has it that three sisters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo' lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe.
These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry.
The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters causing a major tribal battle.
As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe took it upon himself to turn the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. While he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed. As only he could reverse the spell to return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their magnificent rock formation as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.
The mountains were beautiful and amazing to see. We were unable to go on any of the nature walks due to the inclement weather. However, it is fascinating to view natural beauty and learn about the Aboriginal history that accompanies these wonders.
Following the mountains, we were ready to get ready to celebrate Mardi Gras in Sydney. The Mardi Gras celebration in Sydney focuses on the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community. The parade went by the restaurant that we had dinner and socialized for the evening. Due to my lack of height, I was unable to view any of the parade in person. However all of the people in Sydney were dressed in Mardi Gras fashion of crazy colors, costumes, and masks. My friends and I had all purchased masks at Paddy’s Market for the occasion and enjoyed our interaction in the festivities.
I could not have asked for better weather for the next day. We toured some of Australia’s famous beaches. We went to Manly Beach for lunch. The water was crystal blue and there was a type of lifeguard race going on. The beach was full of people with the same interest as us- to get a tan. Soon after lunch, we went to Bondi Beach. We took a walk on the cliffs surrounding the beach and then down to the sand. The water was beautiful but rough when we went for a swim. After being knocked around by the massive waves, it was time to grab dinner and embark on the bus ride back to Melbourne.