August 29, 1999 - Blakehurst, Near Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

We began the day by catching a taxi to the train station (the buses are operated by a private company and do not run on the weekend). Eventually, we arrived at Sydney Central and noticed that it had rained a bit but we had not noticed on the train.

We walked through Paddy's Haymarket (Darling Harbour) which is just around the corner from the train station. It is a big market full of stalls housed in a large open building. We wandered around and picked up a few things from the fresh fruit area for the drive we have planned for tomorrow. The oranges and apples have been absolutely fantastic, very fresh and very cheap (by my standards from the UK). We also looked through the fresh fish area and were surprised to see the large variety of fresh fish (including shell fish). The stalls sold just about everything (I even picked up some nuts - which I had assumed would be a bit cheaper in Australia but I have not yet seen any evidence of this – though I picked up some Macadamia and Pistachio nuts) and were very busy.

After the market we headed over to the Powerhouse Museum which mother had read was the best museum in Sydney and really must be visited. With our ticket from the monorail we had a coupon for a discount on entry into the museum. The museum is on multiple levels, the main entrance being on the fourth level (out of five). We started by looking at an Automotive display (Cars and Culture: Our Driving Passions) which had information about some Australian cars of which I was not familiar as well as information about safety equipment, car culture (movies and accessories) and design. It was quite interesting.

On the first floor we visited a computer history display (Universal Machine: Computers and Connections) which was quite good, with a good introduction section describing the various pioneering inventions in the computer field (though I found technical detail somewhat lacking). The section on robots was quite good with a car construction robot (essentially an arm attached to the floor) that played games with the crowd and 'danced' in time to music.

The museum was generally very well laid out though in places the information was quite sparse. It seemed to attract a lot of children and families which was, at times, distracting from the exhibits.

SegaWorld (in Cockle Bay)

We walked around the PowerHouse Museum and made our way to Cockle Bay, just south of Darling Harbour which is surrounded by various parks, shopping and amusement areas (including a Sega amusement park and an IMAX screen, never mind the casino just down the way). It was very busy but we managed to find our way through to just outside of the aquarium where we caught the same ferry we had caught the other day to get to Circular Quay. From Circular Quay we caught a State Transit Sydney Ferry to the Taronga Zoo. The ticket included the ferry, a bus to the zoo and the entrance to the zoo. It was a bit expensive but not bad if you consider all that was included.

The ferry was very quick since we were put on a high-speed catamaran which had to have been very new, very nice. Mother got out and sat in the front of the bow just before our first stop. It was a very smooth ride.

After leaving the ferry a bus was waiting which took us right to the top, main entrance to the zoo where we quickly passed through the gates into the park. After picking up a map we headed over to see the koalas which was quite good since we were very close to them (and they were awake) – though it was much better to see them, and many other animals we saw at the zoo, earlier in the wild (or in a game preserve). We wandered around the zoo, concentrating on the Australian animals (skipping the tigers and lions, etc). It was unbelievable to see the platypus which struck me as being a lot smaller than I expected (it was also a bit hard to see at first, but then it was paddling like mad all around the tank).

The zoo was quite good and covered all of the animals you might think of in Australia (the birds were interesting – we had seen many of them beside the road last week). The zoo is built on the side of a hill with a bay at the bottom (and the ferry dock), so we worked our way from the top of the hill to the ferry. A number of the exhibits were actually closed due to refurbishment for next year (so we figure – in time for the Olympics). We were surprised to see a few visitors ignoring the signs and being generally rude – walking around the kangaroo area, off the path, trying to pat a kangaroo (and get a picture; they were chased off by a keeper) – another leaning over the railing to pat a small animal in an enclosed area.

We caught a slower (more traditional) ferry back to Circular Quay where we walked down George Street/Pitt Street which we had not actually walked on previously, back to the Sydney Aquarium (the area we visited earlier) – this time to visit the Aquarium. We had left the aquarium for last since we knew that it was open until 10 pm every night (the zoo was only open to 5 as was the museum). Grabbing a quick bite in the aquarium café we entered into the aquarium (which was a LOT more expensive than I was expecting).

The aquarium was quite good with lots of small tanks in addition to a series of four large areas (one of which – the one with the seals – was closed at this time at night, about 7:00) which contained two large walk-through tunnel tanks (one with sharks, the other with fish you might find in the harbour) and a Great Barrier Reef display which was quite good (and included a section where you had water completely surrounding you – quite a neat sensation). The aquarium was relatively quiet in the evening making it a nice visit. There was a lot of information provided though, as I have found in other aquariums, they did not have a list of all fish in the tanks, just the more easy to spot. Another highlight for us was right at the beginning where they had a tank containing at least three platypus who were really active, swimming all around their tank (quite something to see them close up).

After the aquarium we walked along the relatively deserted Darling Harbour area into Chinatown where we stopped at a restaurant that was quite a let-down after Hong Kong (over priced, not terribly clean, very busy, not very good food).

The train was easy to catch to return once again to the hotel, waiting only a few minutes for a taxi. We are pretty tired from the day and tomorrow we have a bit of travel as we leave the city…

⇒ Continue to August 30, 1999 - Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia