When I was in elementary school, a teacher assigned country reports. I picked Australia; fascinated by the vastness of the land and the unusual lifeforms that lived there and only there, I spent several weeks reading about the various Australian ecosystems.
And what intrigued me more than anything was the Great Barrier Reef.
This week, James and I had the amazing adventure of visiting the reef, just the two of us. (We hired the same babysitter who has watched the kids for us on several other occasions to stay here in Christchurch with Ev, Char, and Cal.)
It was a dream-come-true for me to see this beautiful place: the largest living structure on Earth.
The flight from Christchurch to Sydney wasn’t too bad (but we had to leave for the airport at 3:30am!), just a 2 1/2 hour skip across the Tasman Sea. But remember than Australia is a massive country, and the Great Barrier Reef extends more than 2000 kilometers along the northeast corner of the continent.
There were no direct flights from Christchurch to Cairnes, the town frequently used as the gateway to the reef. So we timed our trip over to give us a 10 hour layover in Sydney, which turned out to be a great day.
A short train ride (but at about $70AUD for two roundtrip tickets, not especially cheap) from the airport deposited us at the Circle Quay. The sun was shining and tourists and city-dwellers alike were out enjoying the gorgeous summer morning. Loud wild parrots gnawed on fruit and flower trees, and the beautiful Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge dominated the waterways.
We enjoyed breakfast (I had a poached egg breakfast bruschetta; James had a chicken sandwich) outside on a brick patio before walking over the huge and high Harbour Bridge.
We then walked back around the harbor and wharf and along the penninsula where the famous Sydney Opera House stands, its off-white sails billowing in the breeze. It was truly awe-inspiring to see such an iconic building in person!
Having earned another meal and another sit, James and I opted for another outdoor meal: I ordered a seafood curry and James got a steak. We had to protect our food from ravaging seagulls, who have learned how to snag food from unsuspecting diners… the waiter brought a faux owl with a bobble head out to spook the seagulls, as well.
After lunch we walked to the Sydney Botanic Gardens, which are not as striking as the Christchurch Botanics but do have the advantage of being situated on the water.
Some favorites there: dragon’s blood trees; succulants; lots of birds; taking an afternoon nap under a tree.
We wrapped up our time in Sydney with a dairy-free cocoa, banana, coconut smoothie and some hand-made chocolates from the Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe.
All too soon we headed back to the airport, but leaving felt easier because the main attraction–the reef–was still to come.