The thing that really gets me about Australia is the birds. It’s winter, it’s cold, most of the trees and all of the architecture are pretty standard generic modern Euro-American. If you’re not paying attention, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in a town on the east coast somewhere, or maybe in England. And then you hear a squawk and there’s a parrot flying past your head, or an ibis eyeing your pie crumbs. Okay not an actual parrot, a sulphur-crested cockatoo or a galah or a rosella. Close enough. All of which are gorgeous, by the way, even the magpies. And they’re constantly singing (or squawking, in the case of the cockatoos), way more so than I’m used to in a US city. One of them, I’ve yet to figure out which (ETA: the magpie), sounds exactly like the beep-boop noise computers and robots made when they talked back in movies from the ‘80s. Taken together, it’s a techno-jungle out there – aurally, at least.
Walk two miles to the harbor: check. Scenic ferry ride to the zoo: check. Actually see the zoo: well, no; it was an hour before closing time by that point and I didn’t think I’d get my $44 (!?!) worth. But there’s a lovely bushwalk around Bradleys Head starting there, so I strolled through a few kilometers of Australian bush unchanged in the last two hundred years, except for the view of downtown Sydney you get over the harbor, and the occasional gum wrapper. The view’s stunning. No really exciting wildlife, but plenty of swooping, cacophonous birds.
Ferry back to the harbor, followed by a trip up to the Sky Tower Eye: check. Tallest building in Sydney, with exorbitant ticket prices and more spectacular views from the observation deck up top. I missed sunset, but the night view was still great. Then soup dumplings voted the tastiest in the world – maybe not the tastiest, but pretty darn tasty – followed by the monorail (check) to Chinatown (check), where I had Uighur food for dinner. And then back to Eco-House to crash on the futon. (Ridiculously sore feet: check.)
Day 2 in Sydney was lower-key, with some overpriced dim sum and a stroll through Paddy’s Markets, the cheap-o tourist souvenir market in Chinatown. Right next to the knockoff Uggs and boomerangs most stalls were selling kangaroo paws made into keychains and backscratchers, which might be the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. Also kangaroo scrotums made into keychains or, for an extra $10, a larger pair attached to a beer opener. I’d like to know who came up with that idea.
That’s the other thing down here – they like to make things out of marsupials. I’ve seen possum merino sweaters and kangaroo-leather purses. I’m just waiting for the Koala-fur beer cozies. I will say I sprang for a $3 jar of emu-oil hand cream. Seemed appropriate, all things considered.
And this morning I got a 4:15am cab ride out to the airport to fly to Bali for the ICAL conference, and on the way we passed a big grey kangaroo sitting and munching by the side of the road. Check.