(Johnny Cash? Really?)
It’s interesting how, based off where you live, some places feel nearer to you than others — both physically, but also non-physically. While growing up in Kenya, Europe and the Middle East seemed only a stone throw away; the farthest our travel vision seemed to go was (maybe) North America. Naturally, then, these became the places we visited most in my younger years. However, after Singapore became somewhat of a new home, a different side of the world suddenly opened up. So we took on Australia’s east coast!
In some ways, Sydney felt similar to New York City. It had a relatively quick pace; the people seemed to be on multiple missions while at the same time unafraid to um, have fun. We walked through fairs and markets, through dozens of restaurants (of these I remember eating ribs at a German beer café), and, of course, we walked along the Sydney Harbour Bridge which spans a total length of about 1,150 metres.
In August, it is winter, although I felt that Sydney’s weather was rather generous. It was around fourteen degrees or so, and there was a lot of sunshine during our stay.
Blue (Da Ba Dee Daa)
Australia manages to boast vibrant modern cities, but it also houses stunning and diverse landscape with unique ecosystems. You know, what with the koalas, gum trees, kangaroo, jellyfish, something of the sort.
We took a trip out of the city to the stunning Blue Mountains. There are Eucalyptus trees everywhere. Said mountain ranges have been inhabited by several groups of Aboriginal people, such as the Gundungurra people, for thousands of years.
This visit included a tour of the limestone caves (pictured above). When travelling as a family, we have found that it is sometimes easier to explore places through organised tours, especially in situations where the destination is very out of the city. I don’t recall much available public transport heading to the Blue Mountains, so the tours came in handy. The overly-optimistic driver/tour guide talked to us about the flora and fauna, towns and settlements; as well as the government’s efforts to co-exist while respecting the rights of the Aboriginal people and their land.
We stopped our journey midway as we found a field filled with kangaroos. They were friendly!
Pour It Up, Pour It Up
We took another day out of Sydney to go wine tasting in the Hunter Valley. This was also via an organised tour, which took us to several vineyards in the area.
The Hunter Valley is well known for its Semillon wine, though we explored everything from Shiraz to Rosé. Safe to say, I’ve forgotten about 90% of the knowledge I gained during the tour.
Canberra doesn’t really pride itself on being a tourist destination as it takes on more of a legislative role. In fact, it’s a planned city fashioned after Washington D.C., the capital of the USA, and it’s not hard to see the similarity. Nevertheless, it had its unique and um, [fairly] likeable attributes.
Truthfully, though? The primary reason of our stay here was to visit some family friends.
(For clarification, these kangaroos aren’t the family friends I speak of).
Catching up with them was fun and familiar. It is interesting to observe how members of the diaspora –Kenyan diaspora, in this case– manage to make a home away from home. A touch as small as a drink coaster can go a long way.
In addition to hanging out with them, we also had time to do a bit of sight-seeing (mostly museums, if I’m honest). We visited the Australia War Memorial, which was dedicated to remembering the sacrifice of Australian soldiers in the World Wars.
I was also keen to learn more about the culture and experiences of the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islanders in a way that genuinely portrayed their contribution to the fabric of the nation – void of stereotype and misinformation. (I may have to blame the largely Eurocentric syllabi of my high school history classes for my lack of knowledge). The National Museum of Australia had interesting exhibitions which explored this history, encouraging me to further inform myself on issues they continue to face today as a result of institutionalised racism and discrimination.
(I would encourage you to learn a bit more on their history, as well).
Is that what one calls them? Canberran? Is that a thing? Should I google it?
If I’m honest, one thing I love about winter is the fact that you can catch the sky changing its colours pretty early. It’s true that the sun will sets everywhere in the world, but there’s something special and unique about each one. Maybe I’m projecting. But I was blown away by the sunsets I caught over the um…Canberran? Urm, over Canberra’s skies.
Overall, I reckon that, based off this visit, part of Australia’s charm comes from the fact that its physical distance from the rest of the world encourages it to have a fresh and inspired emotional distance from it as well. In its pocket, its got insanely stunning landscapes; a rich, long, bloody and divided history, but even still, a bunch of people with good hearts.
I should like to think that Sydney, in the least, has mine.
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