Sundays and Taronga Zoo

When my wife announced she was going to work for two weeks in Australia I barely raised an eyelid. She’d been on a fantastic project which had allowed her to travel all across the world. India, America, Brazil, Europe. I was used to her announcing she was off for yet another jaunt. This time though she added the words ‘……and I want you to come with me’.

A380

I sprayed my wine across the coffee table. I hadn’t flown for 8 years, and that was only to Germany for a training course. I wasn’t scared of flying but I also wasn’t overly fond of it. Cramped in a tin can, that thrust you get throwing you back in your seat on take off, praying that it’s going to land in one piece. Okay, maybe I was scared of flying. πŸ˜€

‘……… and, if you don’t come with me I’m taking my auntie instead!!’

I’d flown to America a few times, and, quite a few places in Europe, including wetting my pants flying into Corfu airport when it looked to me as if we were two feet from landing in the water when tarmac intervened just in time. But, four flights, two of 7 hrs and 2 of 14 hrs to the other side of the world. I was on the verge of giving the Auntie the trip of a lifetime when I capitulated.

‘Okay I’ll go’

What was I doing. What was I saying!! Even car journeys make me nervous. Especially if it’s someone else who’s driving. We were travelling to work in the North East of England many moons ago when we hit the thickest fog I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t see two feet in front of us. One of the senior members of staff suggested we’d be better taking ‘this route he knew like the back of his hand’. I was still trying to work out whether that was the best option, when he turned off onto a country road. Now, we could still see only two feet in front of us, but there were no white lines to guide us. Doh!

People who live on their brakes, those who are talking so much they don’t realise the van in front has stopped, ones who drift across onto the gravel. I’ve had the lot. My wife once flew to Asturias in Northern Spain. She called me to tell me she’d landed in Bilbao instead.

‘How come?’ I asked her

‘Well, the pilot had two goes at landing, but, due to the weather he said ‘We’re going to let another flight have a go and if he doesn’t make it, we’ll divert to Bilbao’. What did he mean by ‘if he doesn’t make it’!!!

So, flying right round the globe would be an absolute doddle. Wouldn’t it?

I found out Glasgow airport had been extended to allow airbus A380’s to land, and we’d be one of the first passengers to test it out. This made me feel much better. πŸ™„πŸ™„πŸ˜³

A couple of months later I was in a taxi on the way to Glasgow Airport. The first thing I would say is, if you can scrape the money together, go business class. As my wife’s flight was being paid for, the money we saved paid for my flight. This meant we got picked up from home in nice Mercedes and chauffeured to the airport. This also meant we could use the Emirates lounge and drink as much fizzy champagne as we wanted. Three glasses passed through me with the aim of numbing the first fear. Take off!!

Once in my seat, I started to relax. It had all mod cons. A fancy television, chilled non alcoholic drinks and a chair that electronically morphed itself into a bed. They thrust another champers into my hand. I was beginning to like it.

I don’t remember take off. Didn’t feel a thing. Didn’t realise we were even in the air. It was so smooth. Seven hours later we landed in Dubai. I thought it was funny it was pithing with rain. it looked like Glasgow airport. We disembarked and headed to the Emirates Lounge. It wasn’t as good. You had to ask for a drink and the staff were less attentive and friendly. There was opulence but no Scottish friendliness. Thankfully, we didn’t have to stay long and we were off to Australia. I watched three movies and drank more free champagne before falling asleep in my electronic bed.

my bed

My fear of flying was now almost gone, and, I actually sort of enjoyed the long flight to Sydney.Well. sort of. The fact I could turn my chair into a full sized bed was a joy. You even get a little blanket. Apart from a spoilt child, no not me, crying for part of the journey, it went really smoothly.

On landing, my very experienced travelling wife, Fran, took control. Go here, wait, go there, wait again, get your ticket ready. She’s an organiser. I just wanted to get to the hotel so couldn’t care less. Australia is obviously paranoid, as they look at your passport photograph and compare your current face on camera to determine whether you are the same person. You put your passport face down into a machine which scans your photo, whilst a camera gazes down at you and compares the two pictures. I was struggling to get it wo work it wasn’t clear what you had to do, so Fran intervened.

‘You’re doing it wrong…..you have to do this!!!’

I got through in the end.

I waited with a French guy ,who was moved rather gruffly, over towards me by the Australian customs police (avec guns). I waited for Fran, and waited and waited and waited. I was getting worried until I spotted her in a queue. Turned out her hair was much longer than her passport photo, so the machine had rejected her πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ So, I, who hadn’t travelled for 8 years got through but the experienced global traveller was standing in a long long queue. She wasn’t best pleased.

Soon we were in the Marriott Hotel in the middle of Sydney. We had to wait in a room for our room to be readied. Other tourists arrived. One asked of anyone knew how to use the plugs to charge her iPhone. I’d sussed this before we left so I was soon a hero. You can actually move the plug pins to get the correct position for different plugs. Buying Australian travel adapters ahead of the trip saved a lot of hassle. I also got talking to an elderly chap who worked for IBM. He announced he had voted for Trump because it was ‘the better of the two evils’. I groaned inside.

I was glad I was in Australia.

Marriott Hotel Sydney at night

I woke up on the first morning to this view………

Sydney Opera house from the Marriott Hotel

Waterways obviously play an important part of Sydney’s daily life. From ferries to yachts to huge tourist liners who drop in to the city like locusts to pillage the cities shops only to disappear overnight, water plays an important part of the city. Fran had to work for 2 weeks so we wrapped our holiday around that. For ten days I had to the freedom to do what I wanted during the day. I hopped on ferries and trains visiting the city and beaches as was my wont.

Having survived the flight πŸ˜‚ we started doing touristy things. We took a ferry to Cockatoo Island which was used as a prison at one point. To be honest it’s not that exciting unless you’re interested in history but it has some photo opportunities.

Cockatoo island
remnants of the naval activities on the island

As we started to find our way around we decided to take the ferry to Taronga Zoo……….

Now…..we’d been warned by Fran’s Aunt Margaret.

‘I went there and wasn’t impressed’

I said ‘but that was 20 years ago’

So, off we went….

For a start it’s not cheap. Nearly $90 so I was expecting magic. First of all they have a short equivalent of a cable car system to take you in.

the view from the cable car

from there we spotted the elephants……..

it’s busy……………..

the cable car from the ground

I’m going to be honest and state there are plusses and minuses about Taronga Zoo. Some people think it’s cruel to take animals out of their natural habitat. I agree, but if poachers keep shooting the poor things, the only place we’ll be able to see the likes of Elephants is in zoos. I hope that never happens but…….

The other thing is if the animals are happy in their zoo home, then I’m happy. We’d seen the elephants from the air and wasn’t long before we found them close up.

Happy throwing cool sand on it’s back πŸ™‚
Happy hungry baby
Komodo dragon eyeing me up for lunch πŸ™‚
Probably just common Sydney birds visiting but nice none the less
giraffes were beautiful

Some of the animals were shy. In quite a few areas, including the koala bear area, you couldn’t see anything. Not the meerkats though. The only meerkats I’d seen were on David Attenborough programmes, and the adverts between Coronation Street. These guys and gals were not shy. They were drawing large crowds to their wee patch. Once again they alll looked lively and happy to be there.

Happy Meerkat
Posh Meerkat πŸ™‚

Overall I didn’t think it was worth the hefty fee. However, I think if you shop around you can probably get better deals. There was a build to add an African Savannah section going on, it was hot, very busy. At several points we could hear tropical birds singing. After a while I turned to Fran….

‘I can hear the birds but despite standing here for 5 minutes I can’t see any…..’

It took a while before we spotted a Bose speaker lying in the undergrowth. Piped birdsong. Really?

The cable car did provide great views on the way out.

As we headed back, once again we were provided with beautiful views and colour…..

After a rest at the hotel we were invited for drinks on one of the many boats you can hire to see the harbour at night. Everything lights up at night, but not in a tacky cheap way. It’s not in your face like some cities do with neon lights everywhere. Sydney tends to get it about right.

Sydney lights up at West Side Story Open theatre

Each night they light up part of the sails on the Sydney Opera house and play a cultural video on them.

Aboriginal designs on the sails of the Opera House

The boat ride was lovely. Nice food, some fizzy and fireworks on the Harbour Bridge to wave the largest cruise liner in the world goodbye.

Fireworks on Sydney Harbour Bridge
Luna Park Fairground from the boat

Once we’d landed and meandered back to the hotel I thought about all the things I’d seen and touched in one day. As we said goodnight to Sydney for another day I hoped my Meerkat friends were all tucked up cozy for the night. It had been a good day.

Sundays and Dave’s Trip to Australia was brought to you by David Linden aka @qosfc1919 on Twitter ©️ Dodo Productions 2020

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