13 Hours in Sydney

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On our way to Auckland, Chris and I stopped in Sydney, Australia, for a 13-hour layover. At the time of planning, this sounded like a romantic idea, hopping off the plane, leaving our heavy gear behind to make our way around this iconic city!

Reality, as usual, was a little sobering. We landed in Sydney in the early morning after a long 18-hour flight. During said 18 hours, my then 3-month-old fetus decided to begin doing startling and incessant somersaults, which didn't cease after we got off the plane. During our entire stay, my little sea monkey made sure I didn't forget he was visiting Oz, too. 

 We took City Rail out of the  airport and into the city. We stopped  at Circular Quay and grabbed  breakfast. Then we hopped on a ferry to Manly Beach, a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. Of course, it was an overcast spring morning, and the waters were particularly choppy. 



We rode out past the Syndey Harbour Bridge and the iconic Opera House and took lots of pictures. Then we hunkered down in the cabin of the ferry to keep away from the chilly sea spray.  As we sat, the boat rocked up and down and up and down, and the baby in my belly rolled round and round, and I could feel myself turning as green as the water below.


Nevertheless, Manly Beach was lovely. We had our first glimpse of many things that would become familiar to us over the next three months, like the green Tasman Sea, little blue jellies on the beach, signs alerting us to the presence of penguins, and all sorts of new plant and animal life. 


We returned on the ferry and after disembarking tried to walk off our seasickness. The sun finally came out, and we ate lunch at a quaint sidewalk cafe where sweet little birds helped themselves to leftovers waiting to bused, and who sometimes hopped into the open cafe door to partake in leftovers on indoor tables. We were surprised, but no one else seemed alarmed. After some time in New Zealand, we'd come to realize that this is to be expected when you have open doors and windows with no screens.

 We were making our way to the Royal Botanic Gardens when we heard a strange noise. "A bird?" we wondered. Then it would stop. We kept walking, and there it was again! It was a weird, repetitive sort of noise. We looked around and saw huge white birds in trees and wondered if they were making the noise. But we couldn't figure it out.

Then we walked up to a crosswalk near the State Library (above), we heard the noise again. We stopped and looked around for the bird that was making that strange noise! Then suddenly, everyone began crossing the street, and it dawned on us that it wasn't a bird - it was the crosswalk alert. We felt like such idiots, but we had a good, long laugh about that. It even became our running joke in New Zealand. "Listen," I'd say as I'd freeze in my tracks and place a hand on Chris's arm. "Is that a bird?"

And that wasn't the last time we thought we were hearing strange bird noises. As we meandered through the lush greenery and odiferous blooms of the Botanic Gardens, we heard a faint noise in the distance. It was... What was it? Birds? "I think it's birds!" I said, and we followed the noise gleefully. But our glee quickly turned to sheer disbelief  when we approached the noises and found that they were not birds but GIANT BATS! Ok, technically, they were flying foxes, and the park was filled with them! I was terrified I was going to be pooped on, but we found them to be pretty adorable, as you can see from this picture and this video.

We explored the city for a while longer, and took lots of pictures (there's me, accentuating my 3-month belly!), but more quickly than we had anticipated, jetlag started to overtake us. We took the train back to the airport, and we spent the rest of the day sleeping on the floor of our terminal. All I wanted was a hot bath and a comfortable bed. Instead, we waited (albeit in a very lovely airport) to catch our late night plane to Auckland.


About the author


Rachel is a graduate student at Purdue University. She is completing her MA is English Literature, with a focus on Postcolonial Studies. She is also a freelance editor, writer, and composition instructor.

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