The first thing I noticed was the birds. Their tweeting, their cawing sounded different. Higher, shorter, harsher. In Auckland, the landscape was so British-ified that pretty much only pigeons and sparrows populate the sky. Here there are still pigeons, but others fly above the streets as well. Birds with white feathers or colorful coats or curved beaks or red feet. I woke up to their noise and knew instantly I was in another country.
Kirsten and I continued to hear them as we walked through to the Sydney Domain and then up to Mrs Macquarie Point to see, what else? The Sydney Opera House. As other tourists stopped and posed, we took our pictures and moved on, eager to get away from the chilly wind that was blowing off the harbor.
It was through the Botanical Gardens next, through exotic plants and more foreign birds. We were slow to move on, lingering over the flowers and the trees. As we moved on, we peered over the gate of the Government House, admiring the Victorian architecture and wishing they had tours open on the weekdays.
The peaks of the Opera House soon rose in the distance and we flocked toward it like birds to a meal. Besides the usual herds of tourists, there were also news crews and musicians and event planners getting ready to formally welcome the Australian Olympic athletes back from Rio. The drummers sounded a beat that could be heard across the quay as school children began to file into the audience, Australian flags at the ready.
The drumming faded as we moved away from the opera house, pushing against the crowds toward the city’s oldest neighborhood, The Rocks, for lunch. The suggested place, the Harbor View Hotel, was empty by the time we reached it. Noon and not a single other person. We didn’t care. The food was decent and decently priced, so we sat by the window in the warming sun, sipping our pints of cider and talking about travel and traveling.
But we couldn’t stay there all day. After a while we roused ourselves from our roost and headed out towards the Sydney Observatory. We got lost for bit, running into the Harbor Bridge and a bunch of school children before finally finding it.
We wandered amongst the old telescopes, gazed at the astrophotography exhibit, peaked into the still functioning observation dome, and relaxed in the aboriginal story corner. I was impressed with the care taken in designing this tiny little museum, but we didn’t stay long.
Kirsten had to go back to the hostel to finish a project for class, so I was left alone to do my own roaming. I strolled through downtown, the skyscrapers towering over me as office workers and tourists rushed around me. It struck me then how long it had been since I felt the rush and bustle of a city. Auckland gets busy, especially around Queen Street, but it lacks the population and infrastructure that helps to create the constant buzz and hum of life in a large metropolis. I’ve bemoaned this constant flurry before, but after not having it for a while it was nice to feel the rush again.
I ended up walking through Martin Place and then past the State Library and St Mary’s Cathedral before heading back to the hostel. The sun was lowering by that time and the birds had come out once again to greet the coming evening. Their cries only just managed to overpower the coming of rush hour traffic.