Week 2: Sydney
What do we do on our first full off-day? Go see koalas and kangaroos, of course! Tessa, Meghan, and I caught the train, jumped onto the ferry (we are well-versed in Sydney transportation now), and took a gondola up to the Taronga Zoo.
Honestly, I do not even know where to begin. The animals ranged from a Komodo dragon, crocodiles, and skinks (tiny lizards whom I do not like) to wallabies, seals, giraffes, and elephants (whom I very much like).
Our first stop was the koala sanctuary, where you could get close to the eucalyptus tress and pose with the koalas above you, but not hold or touch them. These laws vary state to state; for example, when I was in Queensland eight years ago, I was able to hold a koala for the picture. What was unique this time around was that the koala had a joey, or a baby, on her back! He/She was adorable, and I spent most of time snapping pictures and having staring contests with the baby.
Alongside the koala sanctuary was an fenced-in park where kangaroos, wallabies, and emus could roam freely (or as freely as one can in the zoo). After that, we enjoyed a show with the seals; ironically, most of the rescued seals were from California. One of my pro-am partners from Pennant Hills, Lee, highly recommended the wild bird show. It is amazing how many birds they have here compared to back home. Florida is a very welcoming environment for birds, but the birds here seem so exotic! We have kookaburras serving as alarm clocks at 5 o'clock sharp every morning, the rainbow lorikeet at the top of the bird feeder pecking order (quite literally), cockatoos succumbing to the lorikeets' superiority, and masked lapwings, who Tessa believes look like birds with black toupees.
Going to zoos is always bittersweet for me. I have loved animals for as long as I can remember, but it is also disheartening to see them caged in, even if they are rescued. My favorite animal is the elephant, and I proudly wore my elephant pants that day. Every elephant pants purchase helps save elephants in Africa from being poached for their ivory. If this sounds of interest to you, please use this link for a 10% discount. You can help elephants and own comfy, colorful pants: win-win!
The Taronga Zoo Day will long live in our memories because we all got extremely sunburned. We had put lotion on in the morning, but we forgot about the whole there's-a-hole-in-the-ozone-layer thing and did not reapply. Big mistake. The Antarctic Ozone Hole covers southern Australia in the summers. This means that more UV rays affect the Aussies' daily life. In fact, Australians are diagnosed with more skin cancer than anyone else in the world; the same goes with melanoma, the harshest skin cancer. The summer UV index tends to average around 11 in the southern cities we are visiting (Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Adelaide). A Florida's summer UV index is approximately 7. What does that mean? Much more sun exposure and much more responsibility for taking care of our skin and eyes.
After that fun realization, we decided it was time for a drink! Why not go that extra step and dehydrate some more? We met up with our friend Emily and her host mom/my pro-am partner Lee. We showed up first to what we believed was the renowned Opera Bar, but we were actually one table off on the strip of bars and sat down at the Opera Kitchen. Either way, we had a fabulous view of the harbour, the bridge, and the Opera House. This particular cider, as well as most foods here, are significantly less sugary than those at home.
We had two days to recover from our sunburns before teeing off in our next pro-am at Oatlands Golf Club. Tessa and I had switched billets to Neil and Jill's home, just a couple minutes away from the course. We were welcomed by amazing salads and tennis enthusiasts. It was here that I began to follow the Australian Open in Melbourne (and met my future boyfriend, Harvey - sorry, Josh!). Baby grandchildren are just the cutest.
I admit the first day of the pro-am was a rough one. However, meeting Rebecca, a professional golfer from Australia, and Stephanie and her husband more than made up for it. That day, I learned to eat more. It sounds simple, but when it is so hot in the afternoons, your body needs more fuel. Another advantage - electric buggies. They're what we call pushcarts but with a battery, so it felt like it was dragging me up the hill as opposed to the other way around. Let's just say it was a lifesaver because the first day was a bit tough. It is rare to see anyone carrying here - everyone uses these remote control electric buggies. I played much better the next day and had a great time doing it! I was paired with Rob, Neil, and David, all local amateurs, and we hit it off discussing marketing, traveling, drones, and grandchildren. That may seem random, but when you have five hours, why not?
Tessa and I had two more days in Sydney, and one of them was Australia Day, so we decided to spend our last free day at Bondi Beach. Fortunately, it was overcast so we only had to apply a normal amount of sunscreen. Our first visit was to a small, Spanish cafe. Tessa ordered an iced coffee, which is coffee with ice cream - something you would think America would do - and I had a white hot chocolate. Finding delicious treats that are gluten free: priceless.
After watching surfers on the beach, we began the Coogee Coastal Walk, although we never found Coogee...We traversed cliffs and discovered smaller beaches and amazing views. We continued until we found a cemetery and detour signs; this is where we became hopelessly lost and decided to backtrack. As much as I love the city of Sydney, Bondi Beach has to be one of my favorite places in the area. Street art is welcomed, and we found walls and walls covered in paintings. The Boomerang video I used to introduce my blog on social media was shot in front of one such wall.
Now, what you have all been waiting for - Australia Day! Most Americans compare it to our 4th of July, but Australia gained full independence from Great Britain on March 3, 1986. Ironically, this holiday celebrates the arrival of the British in 1788. Every state has special events, and Sydney's were diverse and interesting. They highlighted the Aboriginals, who inhabited Australia before the British colonized it, and new citizens, who explained why they moved to such a great country. There were ferry races, airplane shows, military salutes, and concerts, both on boats sailing from bay to bay and on a stage outside the Opera House.
Tessa and I decided to watch the Ferrython from the Sydney Harbour Bridge since we had not walked it yet. After watching the Aboriginals perform with their didgeridoos on the naval ship, we returned to The Rocks for some gluten free banana bread (thank you, D.A.R.E.!) and opal shopping. The rest of the day passed in a blur as we explored the Opera House more closely, relaxed in the Royal Botanic Garden whilst listening to the NSW Police Band perform (they were really good!), ate dinner and Aqua S one more time for old time's sake, and stopped in a pub to watch the Australian Open and some cricket until it was dark. Once the sun went down, we found ourselves back in the harbour waiting for the fireworks; they exploded over the Opera House, and it was a beautiful sight. After such a long day, we hurried home on the train because Tessa was catching a flight home the next day and I was flying to the Gold Coast for the next swing of the ALPG Tour.
To learn more about the Antarctic Ozone Hole, please check out these sources.
To learn more about my daily life here in Australia, please follow me on Instagram/Twitter @KellyOkunGolf.