Posted in Travel on January 2017Facebook Twitter Pinterest
I’m not a collector of rare artifacts or even a big spender in general. My intangible collection is travelling. Whether an inherent urge or a seeker of knowledge, the attraction is experiencing new environments, cultures, and food. A year prior, I made the long trip to New Zealand, which was well worth the long flight—you can read about it here. What was a few more hours in a plane to reach Australia? The land of Aus has been the number one country I’ve wanted to visit my entire life, and I was finally able to set out on a new adventure. Giving a play-by-play of my travels wouldn’t be exciting for most, so I’ll be only touching on a few subjects that I feel is important or interesting to convey. Before I go into the specifics, I stayed in Narrabeen—a city about an hour north of Sydney. So, my travels were concentrated around the Sydney and Narrabeen nebulous and outlining national parks.
When traveling to France, Scotland, and even New Zealand bird varieties weren’t overly awe inspiring. Not because they weren’t beautiful, but because they were similar to what I see in the United States. With that said I’m certainly not a connoisseur of birds, so Birders might disagree. As the sun broke the horizon on the first day in Australia, birds started singing. I should use “singing” lightly because it wasn’t a beautiful chorus of chirps, but loud, rattling sounds that mimicked some sort of monkey calls. Many people might be accustomed to awaking to rooster calls, but, in Australia, they are awaken to a different sound. The sounds of the kookaburra were completely unique. Although not as beautiful as a songbird, it’s not a sound many outside of Australia has ever heard. Here is an audio clip of the kookaburra:
Pretty unique, huh? Imagine that sound ongoing for hours straight in the early morning. They were rather quiet throughout the afternoon, but would often start up again at dusk. Their stubby necks and long beaks were able to expel such a distinctive, but rambunctious call.
Waking to the sounds of kookaburras was only the beginning. Magpies, which look similar to a raven but with white patches, are common. They seemed to be rather unappealing in their looks, but, after reading about them in the Australian Museum, I found that they can be very territorial during mating season. Evidently, they will swoop down and attack your face. Something straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” To combat the aggressive birds people will put sunglasses on the back of their heads and paint eyes on the back of hats and helmets, so the birds won’t attack their face. Luckily, I wasn’t visiting during mating season. Nevertheless, many birds can be quite territorial, but these magpies take it to a whole new level.
The kookaburra’s morning serenade and magpie attacks were unintentionally overshadowed by colorful birds. Lorikeets, parrots, and cockatoos were everywhere! Birds I would only see in zoos or cages were flying about. Albeit all amazing to witness these beautiful birds everywhere, the cockatoos were my favorite. Not to mention, they were abundant. You didn’t see only one or two during your entire stay in Australia, but you would often see about 40 or more a day. Not only are they large and standout because of their bright white color, but they are LOUD. I referred to them as pterodactyls because of their aerial screeching. Whether circling above or in the distance, their prehistoric calls were unique. Here is an audio clip of a pterodactyl…rather, cockatoo:
Although not a bird, but should be noted, were the flying foxes. The United States is fairly accustomed to bats, but these giant winged, over three feet wingspan, bats were enormous. My first glimpse was at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden nearing dusk. Thereafter, I made a point to sit outside at dusk to watch them swarm the darkening sky. Whether day or night, there was always something in the skies.
I was raised in a time where the word “Christmas” wasn’t a negative connotation. As I’ve grown older, “Holiday” has reigned supreme—the United States often being overly politically correct. Personally, my choice is “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays.” Nevertheless, the media has been keen on the replacement and my American-centric life assumed all countries achieved the replacement as well. Almost immediately, in Sydney’s airport, I was surprised to see “Christmas” everywhere. The overly political correctness was exhumed in Australia.
This might not seem much to most, especially younger people who’ve been surrounded with “Happy Holidays”, but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, everyone I traveled with were as well. Probably the most intriguing aspect was their televised Christmas concert, Woolworths Carols in the Domain. A concert where Australian singers not only sung Christmas songs but many were Christian, such as O Come All Ye Faithful and Away In A Manger. This is why I love traveling. Seeing how, even English speaking countries, work, think, and even celebrate.
First and foremost, if you’re afraid of bugs then Australia isn’t a country you should visit. I’m not saying all are venomous or deadly, but they are abundant and often times BIG. I was born and lived in Florida for over fifteen years, so cockroaches, spiders, and other pesky insects aren’t new for me. However, I’ve been living in Illinois longer now, so my tolerance has waned. My fellow travelers weren’t as accustomed to the infestation, which made the experience…well…more interesting. Narrabeen is a bit more rural, thus more chances of encountering bugs. The first day spiders and ants succumbed to the bottom of our shoes. Albeit not big, our luck quickly changed the following days. Everyday we encountered spiders. After that first day, we quickly found that the spiders were indeed large in Australia. From what we could tell, all were non-venomous, wolf spiders—hoping to never see a funnel-web spider. Although not poisonous, the 4-5 inch diameter spiders weren’t inviting. Often times I thought a shoe couldn’t kill them, and a shotgun blast might only wound it. Yeah, they are big. You’ll find them in the house and, mostly, you’d find them situated in their webs sprawled across tree branches or ferns.
I was fully aware of the potential bug situation in Australia, but that’s one of the many things that makes Australia unique. The most interesting bug issue that I encountered were cicadas. If you’re from the United States, you should be well aware of the loud, annoying, giant-eyed cicadas. I assumed they were native to the vast territory of North America, but I was completely wrong. They weren’t an Australian giant, like most insects, but similar to what’s in the United States. When the sun heated the Australian terrain, the cicadas would inevitably begin to scream—at least that’s how I describe their loud communication.
I’m a stickler for documentaries, especially about travel. Years ago, I watched a travel documentary about Egypt. There was particular part that’s stuck with me for years regarding flies. Flies are quite pesky nevertheless, but even more so when it’s a dry environment. People, especially visitors who aren’t use to Egypt’s flies, would wear scarves over their mouths. The constant attack of flies trying to reach any sort of water to lay eggs looked miserable. The eyes and mouths are the main attack areas. Flies weren’t much of an issue, but only in two places—the Barrenjoey peninsula and Echo Point (Three Sisters) lookout in the Blue Mountains, Barrenjoey being the worst. As soon as you exited your vehicle, you were bombarded. Constantly bombarded. They only cared about your face. You could have food or water, but they didn’t care about those. We made the mistake to eat by the Three Sisters. It was miserable, and the flies never cared about our food—only our faces. We even purchased bug spray, hoping to keep them away, but that didn’t phase them.
Royal National Park
The Sydney Opera House, beaches, and kangaroos is what tends to embody visitors’ thoughts of Australia. Mine, too. A major attraction when traveling is finding that under the radar spot. Whether it’s stumbling upon a ruined, but picturesque castle or national park. My itinerary included the Royal National Park, the second oldest national park in the world (Yellowstone being the first), and I knew it would be beautiful but I never thought it would be a dominant memory of Australia. It’s a place that pictures don’t do it’s beauty justice. No matter how many pictures or videos you take, it’s incapable. The Royal National Park is a hiking excursion and well worth the trek. The azure sea batting the vertical cliffs, lizards skirting away from your feet, and cool breezes on a hot summer’s day seemed to expel all frustrations you might have had from work, relationships, and general life. The patches of honeysuckle bushes that released a sweet fragrant certainly help as well. I can go on and on about the Coastal Walk, Wedding Cake Walk, and much more, but it wouldn’t do it justice. If you have an opportunity, visit the Royal National Park.
Albeit not a long discussion about Australia, I wanted to give a different perceptive—topics that common visitors will encounter. Everyone knows about the beaches and kangaroos, but there’s more depth to the land of Aus. It’s a country, like any country, that needs a month visit just to barely scratch the surface.