Please consider all images as copyrighted – thank you. Contact me for use… DEClapp
Well I am again on a plane, this time headed to Christchurch New Zealand from Sydney. The flight is just under three hours and more than 1200 miles and we gain two hours so arrival is about 11:00 pm and we will be in the hotel at midnight, but my body will think it’s only ten o’clock. Today was a rainy day in Sydney but it didn’t interrupt our plans. The entire stay in Sydney went well and people, as always, just loved this city. Christchurch, where we are heading, is on the northeast side of New Zealand’s South Island and is our starting point in that country. Sydney is pretty far south on the Australian east coast (in the state of New South Wales), so we are flying east-south-east.
We arrived four days ago from the scalding hot center of the country only find that Sydney was in the mid eighties and a bit humid. The weather was pretty nice overall though I was ready for the low seventies. We arrived in the evening and had a dinner provided at the Sir Stamford which was very welcome and very tasty.
The next morning we toured the city and suburbs with a lunch time stop at Bondi Beach.
I was thinking that I have been in Sydney for more than two months in the last few years; at least eight days a year for eight years. I rarely get to Boston other than to catch a plane but Sydney, Christchurch, Auckland, Cairns, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and a few others are pretty well known to me. Anyway, we toured and then returned to the hotel and had a free night. I went to the Apple Store and the grabbed a quick supper. The second day was similar but with a visit to the Featherdale Wildlife Park and a stop at Manly Beach. Some of the travelers took the Manly Ferry back to Circular Quay. Dinner and the evening for me was the same as yesterday.
Wednesday was a sort of free day except I led a walk in the Botanic Gardens and then we had a planned dinner at The Waterfront restaurant just across Circular Quay from the Opera House. Barramundi was the entree (main course here, as the entree is the lead course) and it was light and very well done.
This morning we went up to the New South Wales State Library for a tour and visit with Captain Cook’s maps, Joseph Banks’ journal, and lots of drawings of the first Fleet by prisoners, aboriginals, and others. There was a diary from the late 1700’s by a guy named Nagle who was a US citizen who was on one of the first boats as a seaman. This is a real highlight of the trip and my favorite stop. Sydney’s Botanic Gardens offer lots of birds and that park is always a pleasure but the library is very special.
The other afternoon I had the following birds in the gardens, usually seen up close and like many urban park birds they were quite tame. Dusky gallinule (20), Sulphur-crested cockatoo (35), Laughing kookaburra (2), Noisy miner (14), Australasian ibis (55), Chestnut teal (2), Pacific black duck (2), Maned duck (7), Masked lapwing (6), Pied currawong (2), Australian magpie (2), Magpie lark (4), Rainbow lorikeet (8), Rock dove (3), Silver gull (17), Little black cormorant (30) and Little pied cormorant (12).
I never seem to get little birds in the Sydney gardens. The miners are robin-sized and the smallest bird I see. There were no mammals, as might be expected in Australia, and especially in an urban area. There are fruit bats in the city but they are no longer welcome in the gardens. I did attract a few very large eels for the group to see. These guys are the size of a baseball bat and pretty common in the pond where the cormorants nest.
Back when we were in Cairns there was a low pressure developing well off shore in the Coral Sea. It became Cyclone Debi after a few days and battered the coast about 150 miles south of Cairns the day before yesterday. It dropped rain at four inches an hour and had 170 mile an hour winds. Today as they recover, the rain has looped around and now covers from Sydney and about 1500 miles up along the coast to the north. That is where the rain we are getting is coming from. Some towns are expected to get 15″ of rain in the next few hours. As we take off it is raining and the clouds are thick and wet. I think we will be east of the storms in thirty minutes but this was a big and devastating storm.
The New Zealand weather seems pretty good. We are expecting temps in the 60s and 70s with not too much rain. The day that we drive through the Southern Alps and out onto the western coast to catch our Milford Sound boat is one day we hope has pleasant weather. The Great Barrier Reef, the luncheon cruise on Sydney Harbor, and the Milford Sound day are the three that we hope will have good weather. So far we are two for two.
Sydney is not inexpensive. The minimum wage here is about $20 an hour and that raises overall costs a bit. The wages are geared to allow people to make a living but as overtime, weekends, holidays, and Sundays are all time and a half or even double time and a half it makes running a restaurant on a Sunday very costly. Minimum wage is over $40,000 a year so it is pretty easy to see that teachers and plumbers and management people can make $75,000 to $100,000 easily. The same applies to New Zealand. So, hotels, rental cars, food, and clothing is much cheaper in the USA and people from here often go on big shopping sprees in Los Angeles and other US cities. Gasoline is about $1.45 a liter in Alice and $1.12 in Sydney. That is about $6.25 or $4.00 a US gallon. The health care and retirement here are pretty good. The weather is very nice and life is generally good and safe; no guns allowed.