The birds chirped and cawed, the school children gaped and yelled, and Kirsten and I couldn’t take our eyes away. We were at Featherdale Wildlife Park to make sure that we saw all the prerequisite Australian animals that dozens of people expected us to see. We weren’t disappointed.
Smaller than the zoo but much more interactive, the place boosted several examples of dozens of native species: everything from the common seagull to emus, koalas to Tasmanian devils. Cages and fences still populated the complex, but trees also covered the walkway and a few birds were allowed to roam free. And then there were areas where the animals were allowed to wander onto the path and into visitors’ reach.
Kirsten got to feed a wallaby a sugar cone full of food. I got to pet a kangaroo.
Everywhere we went, we would gap and comment usually with phrases like “so cute” or “wow…so beautiful.” And yes, we were well aware of the cliché nature of our speech, but sometimes things are so unexpected or astonishing that nothing but a cliché can be expressed.
However, shortly after we arrived, the place quickly swarmed with children. They all stood about waist high and were minded by tired looking adults. They ran around in their school uniforms, shouting to each other about the animals, lunches banging at their side. Even though they often got in the way and their boisterous nature sometimes scared the animals, Kirsten and I couldn’t help but smile at their youth and enthusiasm.
We stayed until after they left and wandered along the now nearly empty paths, taking in the sight of the animals that we were unlikely to see again. After a few more pictures, we deiced, yes, it was time to go.
A bus, train, and lightrail ride later we ended up at another of Sydney’s wildlife centers: The Fish Market. Seagulls swarmed the several warehouse sized buildings that sat along the waterside outside of Chinatown. As we approached the smell of fish grew stronger and the hum of last-minute shoppers grew louder. We were told we must eat here, and we were eager to do so before the place closed in an hour.
So we passed the fresh fish sitting in ice waiting to be bought and fried, and headed towards the restaurant area. Even at such a late hour, the place was packed with locals and tourists varying for their chance to eat freshly caught and cooked seafood. We wandered around in a daze, unable to comprehend the amount and variety, our stomachs too empty to allow our brains to think.
We were eventually caught by someone trying to sell the last of their food before closing, loudly advertising the sale prices. We jumped at the chance and then spread out to find more deals. In the end, we both got enough fresh seafood to stuff our faces with under $20AUD. (God, I wish this was near where I lived.)
We chilled at the hostel afterwards, nursing our full stomachs and tired feet, before heading out again to meet some other people in the BU program for a drink at the Opera Bar underneath the Sydney Opera House. Yes, it was probably the most touristy thing we could do, but when else were you going to sit in the shadow of the Opera House with the lights of the city twinkling along the water besides you?
The other tourists laughed and joked as we sipped the house brew, unable to stop staring at the shimmering darkness of the night.