I’ve put off writing about day five of my trip for two reasons now. One is because I’ve been busy, and I did an excessive amount of walking around on day 5 and 6 so simply crawled into bed after getting back and lay there. However, the other reason is because I was waiting for the sting to go away from what was a big disappointment.
But lets start at the beginning, shall we?
Monday morning, I woke up bright and early (at 11, as usual this vacation), had a nice brunch (this hostel has the most incredible breakfasts at their café) and then headed out on an adventure. Since it was a work day,. I figured the line up for Cockatoo Island would be much shorter. I originally hadn’t heard of Cockatoo Island, but there were free ferries there every half hour, and I will never say no to free ferry rides. I was incredibly lucky, because the line HAD cut off five people before me, but they had space for ONE more person. Since I was the only one travelling solo, I got onto the boat! Victory for the loner traveller!
It turns out, Cockatoo Island is the largest island in Sydney harbour, and is rich with history. It once was a prison, a ship building facility and school, and a reform school for girls. Throughout World War II, it was an important dockyard, and many ship builders in Australia did their apprenticeship there, creating some of the best builders around the world. The moment you land on the island, you can see the history of the place all around you.
Here’s the problem: Despite my history degree, I don’t care much for industrial history. Shipbuilding does not get me very excited. So I went through the tunnels, finding them cool and slightly terrifying, walked around the shore for a bit, and then decided that I was bored and left. I should have gone and seen the old prison, but by that point I was lazy and bored and could see the boat loading to go back to the quay. So I hopped on and speeded back.
Our boat randomly stopped at Walsh Bay before Circular Quay. I quickly thought about where I was going next, realized I could walk to the aquarium from Walsh Bay, and hopped off there instead of spending the money on another ferry.
Walsh Bay was GORGEOUS. There were all these beautiful waterfront condos being built, and I wanted to move into one so desperately. But obviously, it’s going to be super expensive. I really enjoyed walking through there though. I also got to walk through an area called Barangaroo, which might be the second coolest name in Sydney. First coolest name? Woolloomooloo. Look it up, it’s real.
Turns out the walk to the Aquarium was much longer than I expected. A few kilometres later, I finally get to the Aquarium, scan my ticket in, and start looking around.
I love Aquariums. And this one had something that not many other zoos or aquariums have: PLATYPUS.
The platypus exhibit is the first thing you see when you walk into the aquarium. I excitedly looked around the small water feature, looking for the small little creature, and found… Nothing. I asked one of the staff members, and they told me the platypus sleep 17 hours a day in their dens, so I should go look around and come back later. With a heavy sigh, I agreed and went off to explore the rest of the aquarium.
It was a pretty decent aquarium, comparing to other major ones I’ve been to. The jellyfish section was lacking in comparison to the Osaka Aquarium, and the building was under construction in some parts. Hopefully, when it opens fully again in September, the aquarium will be really awesome. I had a great time going through the Great Barrier Reef exhibit, and sat there watching the fish go by for ages.
One of the things that I’ve loved seeing with aquariums is the influence the movie “Finding Nemo” has had on these exhibits. Especially in Sydney, since the movie is set in the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour. Not once was the Regal Tang referred to it by its real species name, but it was instantly identified as a Dory Fish. Small kids watched the clownfish with joy, looking for Nemo, and even I caught myself gushing over the sea turtles, thinking of Crush. The combinations of fish sometimes match the ones in the movie (though with the Great Barrier Reef, that’s because Pixar did their research and those fish simply belong together) and even the gift shop had Finding Nemo running constantly. In case you didn’t realize that Finding Nemo was set in Australia. However, not once was it ever mentioned in the displays, for obvious reasons. Disney would go claiming huge copyrights, and it just wouldn’t be worth the money. However, I do think it would be really interesting to have an aquarium collaborate with Disney and make a Finding Nemo aquarium. Maybe for the sequel.
So after going through the whole aquarium, I back tracked to the platypus exhibit. There still were no signs of life.
So I waited. And waited. And waited.
For almost two hours.
What can I say? I REALLY wanted to see a platypus.
They never came out of their burrow though.
Needless to say, I was gutted. It was pretty much the only famous distinctive Australian animal I hadn’t seen, and I felt like my awesome animal streak that I had the day before had been ruined by the stupid platypus. It didn’t help that I had woken up feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach by Mother Nature and was moody and depressed, and was doing everything I could to curb the PMS. The platypus was not helping.
With slumped shoulders and a heavy sign, I left the aquarium and headed over to the Hard Rock Café. Apparently, Mondays are $10 dinner nights for people staying at YHA hostels. In Australia, $10 is REALLY CHEAP for a full meal, so I headed over. Apparently, their $10 menu is the kids menu, which suited me perfectly. One fish and chips later, and a mini chocolate caramel cheesecake for desert, and I was feeling much better. I wandered around the mall a little, and found the best surprise ever: a British Sweets Import Shop. I about died, because they sold my two favourite things: Prawn Cocktail Skips and Jaffa Cakes. And they were really reasonably priced, considering! So I did some retail therapy and bought a pack of each. Then I swung by next door to the pharmacy, and grabbed a few things that Korea doesn’t have (like super strong Advil in the liquigel capsules.)
While I was shopping in the pharmacy, I thought I was going crazy, because I suddenly started hearing k-pop. I shook my head, and kept walking around. But it kept playing.
I looked across the mall, and saw there was an EasyWay (a bubble tea place we have in Seoul as well) and distinctly heard Teen Top’s “Crazy” playing from their speakers.
I know the motto of Darling Harbour is “Expect Everything” but I didn’t realize that k-pop counted as part of everything. It was SO strange, because it was the very last thing I expected to hear, and it caught me way off guard, and put a huge grin on my face.
After that, I was good and ready to head home, and walked over towards the ferry. Only to find out the service from Darling Harbour and King Street stopped at sunset. Uh. Damn. So yet again, I walked all the way back to Circular Quay, took some night photos, and headed to the hostel to pass out.
By the time Tuesday rolled around, I was getting both poor and running out of cheap things to do. I peaked at my credit card online and winced as well. This trip is going to both be a cherished memory for years to come, and will haunt me for months to come as I try and pay it off. Oops.
I had one ticket left in my package, and it was out in Manly. I really like Manly, is a very cool area, a very relaxed beach town. I picked up some fish and chips at Quay Seafood and discovered the best fish EVER. Since it was a chilly morning, I sat inside the ferry, and watched as we slowly made our way down the harbour. As I seemed to be settling into a half brain-dead lull from the rocking of the boat, I saw something out of the corner of my eye that literally caught my breath.
Jumping up to the window, I watched as a pack of dolphins played along side our ferry for a bit, jumping around and generally being the coolest animals ever.
Forget platypus! WILD DOLPHINS!
Most the other people on the boat caught on really quick, and we were all plastered to the windows, watching the dolphins play. Even the local Australians seem to still be enchanted by the creatures. Only people who didn’t care? A group of French tourists. Way to play up to your stereotype.
Once I was in Manly, I headed over to Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, and went to get my tickets out.
…But they weren’t in my bag.
I was SO frustrated, because those things were expensive, and I had to rebuy the ticket there again. Not going in wasn’t an option, because I was RIGHT THERE. So I paid, again, and went in.
I do have to say, if I didn’t have a major love for sea turtles and walk through tunnels in aquariums, I probably would have been really pissed. Manly Sea Life Sanctuary is NOT an aquarium, and I think a lot of people go in expecting what they saw at Sydney Aquarium. Instead, the whole point of Manly Sea Life is education of keeping the seas and oceans sustainable, and helping endangered animals recover and breed. In other words: It’s small and educational. There are really three exhibits: the little penguins on the top floor, the reef section on the main floor, and the big aquarium in the basement with larger animals that are injured or used in breeding projects. I enjoyed the aquarium because the tunnel through it was shorter than normal ones, so the fish felt much closer. There were loads of sharks swimming around, and a few giant sea turtles who were chilling out. The coolest part though was the absolutely MASSIVE manta ray. It was incredible to watch it gracefully make its way around, and I was quite content to hang out down there and watch all the animals. I did hear other people complain about the lack of animals at the exhibit though.
Once I was done with Manly Sea Life, I headed over to Coles, a grocery store chain here, because I didn’t know where I could find one near my hostel. There, I grabbed three massive bottles of Ribena syrup, a few packages of tomato soup mix, and some Miracle Whip. I didn’t even know Australia HAD Miracle Whip, so I was SO excited and bought two jars of it. Once I piled all of that into my backpack, I headed over to the wharf to go get some extra physical abuse.
Last time I was in Manly, there was a Chinese massage place there that was decently priced. I had a 15-minute shoulder and back massage, and felt that he’d only skimmed the surface, so I went back again. I have a LOT of tension. This guy was GOOD, but it hurt like HELL. Even now, 24 hours later, my back hurts, but in the good kind of way, if that makes sense. After that, I hobbled back to my hostel and relaxed for the rest of the night, enjoying the kangaroo burgers that the hostel was serving for dinner.
So now I’m sitting here in my hostel, writing up about the past few days because… I’ve run out of money and don’t have much time to do anything. My bus to the airport leaves at 5, and I had to check out at 10, but I’ve been staying in the lobby most of the afternoon, relaxing and napping and writing. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be back in South Korea. Whether I’m happy about this or not… I’m going to give myself a few days to think about it. Right now, I’m dreading returning, because Australia is so comfortable and familiar feeling to me, I don’t want to lose that feeling. I’m sure though that after a few days, I’ll be able to feel better about being in Korea again. As long as the heat dies down.
Keep an eye out in the next week or so, when I’ll be able to get my photos up, and more posts about Australia before getting back to work. Happy trails~!