The photo is of the iconic Sydney Opera House, but we come to Australia from New Zealand, and start our adventure not in Sydney but in Melbourne. There is a special treat I have planned for Nancy: She loves all forms of wildlife, and seeing animals in their native habitat has been one of the driving factors in determining where we travel. So I bring her here.
Just a little south of Melbourne, off the coast, is Phillip Island, and there is a spot where the Fairy Penguins breed. The pups are born in late August/early September. A few weeks after they are born, the Mom and Dad penguins leave the nest to search for food- departing before daybreak and returning each evening about a half hour after sunset. They come out of the sea, cross over the beach, past us, through the grass and bushes to find their babies.
Sorry they are blurry, but it is after dark. and they are moving rapidly, coming in waves, urged on by the cries of their babies in the grass and bushes behind where we are seated. The pups are crying because they are hungry; the parents are calling back to reassure the babies that food is on the way. There is a good bit of sex going on between the adult penguins who are bored by the whole thing.
The guard is there to prevent sex among the people in the viewing stand- but mainly to prevent humans from interacting with the penguins. Nancy finds the whole experience thrilling. To be honest, anytime you can be a part of Nature on its terms, not people terms, it is worth having.
Someone told us not to miss the Tram Car while we were in Melbourne. Whenever we get advice from "locals", we usually take it. We made a reservation for the following evening.
It is an old streetcar which has been restored to a sumptuous restaurant that cruises through Melbourne each evening, beginning at dusk. We were helped inside, and were amazed at the sumptuous appointments.
It was a most luxurious space, and the decor, the velvet upholstery, reminded me of the fancy restaurant in the movie, "Dr. Zhivago", where the very young Lara (Julie Christie) is taken by a much older and sophisticated Komarovsky (Rod Steiger) the night the Russian Revolution started. Fortunately for us, there was no revolution the night we dined there.
While most of the old streetcar tracks have been removed from the city, they left some on purpose, and our streetcar glides slowly along this pre- set course, having the right of way so we do not stop for cars or traffic lights. It was absolutely delightful- and the meal was quite good!
We travel next to Canberra (Australian Capitol Territory). All the government offices are here, but no different from offices everywhere. What was unusual, however, is that in the middle of all this drabness, there is a wonderful carousel.
There are a good number of accessible things to see and do in and around Canberra. Ever “chasing” animals, we visit a 200 acre sheep ranch, run by two elderly brothers.
Almost on cue, Brother #1 drives a few of the animals toward the shearing shed. We are unsure how Brother #2 gets the animals to just sit there and pose for pictures, but this one, obligingly, did.
Next, the shepherd starts the process. Delicately, and with an obvious appreciation of the finer things in life, he and turns on his shears.
Beginning skillfully around the private parts, he takes great care not to injure or hurt the animal. When he is finished, what started as a very large, fluffy animal becomes this pathetically skinny one!
The whole process from start to finish does not take more than three minutes. Brother #2, seventy three years old, has been doing this since he was a boy of 6 or 7.
The brothers keep a number of other animals on their farm. As you would expect, many of these are kangaroos. Nancy asks what they eat, and she is told if she wants, she can feed them.
Nancy fears no animal- not in a stupid way, but in the sense that often people are innately or overly afraid the animal will hurt them, so they shy away from contact.
Animals in the same way - just reversed - “know” Nancy is not a threat to them and approach her without hesitation. This photo shows exactly what we mean: The young girl would come no nearer to the animals than 10 feet away.
We spent a most pleasant morning visiting Cockington Green, a miniature exact copy of Devon, England, as it would have been a century ago.
They have included a typical English garden boxwood maze. Look at it first and then we will tell you something extraordinary about it.
All the plants in this miniature garden, indeed, all those throughout the little village are stunted Bonsai plants, and all of them are grown here in Canberra.
Replicated in stunning accuracy and detail, you don't realize how 'out of proportion' you are unless you are actually here and realize you are the largest thing in the area. We imagine this is how Gulliver must have felt in the Land of the Lilliputians.
On to Sydney. We stayed on The Rock, which is at the heart of the harbor. Our room had a lovely view of the world famous Sydney Opera House. Esthetically, the Opera House is a building of inspiring beauty and design from virtually every exterior viewpoint. Here, it is seen from across the harbor from our hotel.
Before it was built, there was a worldwide competition for its design. Unfortunately, the design proved to be much more costly than the budget. The deficit was made up by sacrificing the interior of the building, which caused serious compromise of the acoustics.
I have been an opera lover since I was a little child. We made reservations to see a performance of Mozart's "The Magic Flute". Nancy could not believe how excited I was while we were getting ready for the performance.
We arranged to have dinner outside on the terrace of the building, then went inside shortly before curtain time.
Now, the audience was in place. The curtain went up and the orchestra began the overture. The performers entered the stage and began to sing.
We were sitting fifth row, center, and could hardly hear them! I was crushed and Nancy spent most of the rest of the night trying to help me get over my disappointment!
It isn't just the Opera House that is architecturally striking. So is the bridge. Sydney Harbor makes a gorgeous setting for any building- and the sailing is wonderful!
There is a lot to see and do on the coasts of Australia, but very little in between. In the Sydney area, we went to a wildlife preserve where Nancy, who just naturally takes to animals, was totally captivated by this small Koala bear cub. In the photo, the Koala is resting on top of a stuffed animal.
If you go to Australia, sooner or later you will make contact with the kangaroos. Another time at a different preserve, Nan makes friends with this young "roo".
For me, however, it's about the scenery. One day we hired a car and drove out to the Blue Mountains. The driver took us to a spot overlooking the fabled Three Sisters rock formation.
According to legend, three sisters fell in love with three men of an enemy tribe. The sisters were forbidden by their chief from marrying them, so the men decided to take the sisters by force. A witchdoctor, learning of this, decided to protect the sisters by turning them into stone.
This is one of those situations where you really cannot describe - or capture in a photograph - the sweep and grandeur of what your eyes see. However, I place it here with strong suggestion that if you find yourself in the area of Sydnee, Australia, you will go and see for yourself.
I walked down the trail with my camera up to my eyes- taking pictures, framing the shot. I kept walking until I felt something nudge against my stomach. Looking up from the camera, I realized I had walked into the short guardrail at the edge of the cliff. If I had been a few feet either side, I would have plunged right over the edge! Wonder how many actually did plunge to their death before they put up the guardrail?
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