In 2009 I studied abroad at Macquarie University in Sydney. This page covers the first portion of my trip: arrival, some tourism, and student life.
I used the Center for International Studies (CIS) to facilitate my study abroad program. The company helps with logistics, and the handful of CIS students meeting each other is more inviting than meeting many new people on your first day.
2009-07-26 CIS organized a trip to the Sydney Tower the first full day in Sydney.
2009-07-27 The CIS students and I went to the Blue Mountains for a day hike. Our tour guide was named Tim, who seemed to run all forest activities, and he could tell us all about the site's history. He says there are over 300 Eucalyptus species in the park, but I believe there is only one. Granted, he showed us different trees that smell different pretty scents, however I still think it was all a hoax. We got to walk through some fire regrowth area (sorry, no pictures), which is necessary for the plants in the area to reproduce.
2009-07-27 Wentworth Falls - Because of a lack of rain, all this water is prehistoric, held in sandstone until today. While we walked a lot of the trails had water bleeding out of the rock, similar to these falls.
2009-07-27 Panorama of the Blue Mountains
2009-07-27 Behind us is an old plaque which says Charles Darwin visited this spot while travelling on the Beagle. He wrote of the area saying it went against all of his theories of evolution; leaves have an odour and flowers don't, the trees don't lose their leaves, flowers bloom all year around, etc. Evolution is the cause for all of these features, he didn't know the whole story. For example: the leaves smell because they are heavy with oils, which makes them burn faster and hotter, and the resulting firestorm will rush through the forest too quickly to kill the trees.
My last day of CIS orientation took us to the Taronga Zoo. Something like 90% of native Australian animals are nocturnal, so I struggled to capture their picture. My favourite Australian animal is the Echidna who was busy sitting in a dark room. The Platypus also disappointed us; we looked for five minutes until reading the sign that states the tank connects to a different room not available to the public.
2009-07-28 Ferry to zoo - Sydney Harbour Bridge
2009-07-28 Ferry to zoo - Sydney Opera House
2009-07-28 Koala - Boring little buggers, there were three and this was the most active one.
2009-07-28 Oh No!!! Someone let an emu in with the kangaroos and wallabies. They seemed to get along fine, despite the emu being one ugly bird.
2009-07-28 HOW CUTE!!! A JOEY!!!
2009-07-28 What an idiot. He picked up that leaf from the ground. If he wanted a good photo, he should have gone and bought a cheeseburger.
2009-07-28 Look, the chimp is using a tool. He was the only smart one, all the others were busy being violent, loud, dirty, and horny all at the same time.
2009-07-28 I heard nothing, and I found Zebras.
2009-07-28 A baby elephant.
2009-07-28 I don't trust meerkats. They look all adorable, but they are much too twitchy.
2009-07-28 He is clearly guilty.
After the zoo we came to the University in a taxi bus with some other students. Which was great because we dropped them off in their nice apartments before driving to our apartments. These buildings aren't too bad, however they look really worn down, so the initial shock was intense. For the next few days I was getting ready for classes and trying to contact home; I took 3 days after moving in before I got reliable internet in my room.
2009-07-29 The central courtyard thing. Most of the buildings look similar to these, lots of concrete, and no names, just numbers. I would expect this from an engineering school, however this most definitely not an engineering school. Most buildings are locked, so I look weird when I try to figure out what each building does. I think these are (left to right) administration, library, common space.
2009-08-02 My half of my room severely distorted by my camera's panorama function. It gets mighty at night, hence the heater under my desk and two identical blankets (Rich thought one blanket was enough the first night. He was mistaken).
2009-08-02 Everyone likes cockatoos, except the people who realize they are loud.
2009-08-03 Here is a picture of the apartments next to mine, as they are identical and mine is covered by trees. The size of those trees lets you know these buildings are old.
The cost of living is pretty high in Sydney, so I try to cook for myself.
2009-08-03 I made stir fry, all by myself. Which is fairly obvious because this did not taste good. I blame it's quality on my refusal and inability to purchase all the ingredients I'm used to in America.
2009-08-03 Completely inferior.
2009-08-11 Kangaroo is one of the cheapest meats in the market. Plus this one is Special, so it must be good.
2009-08-11 Alright, finished! Cooking always takes too long, I thought I'd be waiting on the rice and not the Kangaroo. Look, I also took the time to make up some onions.
2009-08-11 Sorry vegetarians, but the moral of this story is once again Rich can't cook. As delicious as this looks, anything labelled Special shouldn't be this red.
2009-08-11 Aren't I creative, I'm telling a story with pictures! Who thinks I'll burn it?
2009-08-11 So it turns out I can microwave successfully; the mystery of how I make food is solved. I found out the hard way that Kangaroo is tasty. Mine tasted a lot like olive oil. Now I need to find another exotic loveable creature to try.
I went to the beach with fellow travel abroad students. We started at Bondi and went south along a coastal path.
2009-08-15 This is an advert for Coke in Australia. Struck me odd at first, and today it still strikes me odd. However, it is a great transition into me telling Americans that high fructose corn syrup is awesome; all the soda in Australia uses sugar, and it tastes different. It is depressing to get an ice cold coke from a vending machine, and for it to not be that flavour you have come to love over the years.
2009-08-15 Hungry Jack is Burger King. They have very similar menus, just different names.
2009-08-15 This van, this bridge, they were made for each other. The dumpster is a bit of a third wheel though.
2009-08-15 So I finally get to Bondi Beach. You must swim between the flags. Or don't swim between the flags? I don't remember. Someone told me, mentioning flags, currents, surfers, and stupid tourists getting sucked to sea to drown.
2009-08-15 Leaving Bondi. This is George looking over the railing.
2009-08-15 Bondi is behind that far corner. This is the path we walked along, connecting a bunch of beaches.
2009-08-15 Guess what? The most American truck I could find is made in Japan.
2009-08-15 A small beach. We passed multiple beaches, however they all have white sand, people surfing, and a curve to them. So I never took pictures besides this one (IT HAS BOATS!) and Bondi.
2009-08-15 My archnemesis, Mpkin the Pumpkin bus. This bus passed us approximately four times over the course of the trip, and every time I tried to take a photo, and couldn't. Luckily the train station and the bus depot are the same building, so I captured this.
2009-08-15 The heroes of the outing from left to right: George, Ivy, my roommate Gerhard, and myself. Sydney's mass transit is primarily trains operating at metro like frequency.
This weekend I thought I would go camping, so I found the first town on the other side of the Blue Mountains on a map, which is Lethgow. Unfortunately, the town seems to shut down on the weekend, but it was still a fun trip.
2009-08-29 This is the Mitsubishi we borrowed from a fellow study abroad student who was away from the weekend. It served us well, but beyond this weekend it was a mechanical disaster.
2009-08-29 Lethgow is an old mining town, and this is the old blast furnace they used. Who doesn't like old buildings?
2009-08-29 I don't know what this big iron thing is. But if I had a spare big iron thing, I'd probably leave it here too.
2009-08-29 So they had this one sign, to make sure people who like to walk to the right of a building don't enter. If you go left, like me, you see this sign on your way out. Not that I entered, I'm a safe person.
2009-08-29 So there is several attractions around Lethgow, and one of the bigger ones is the Zig Zag railway. It is fancy because it had to zig and zag to get up the mountain. After this mind blowing fact is revealed to you, you realize that there really isn't much to see. I did get a picture of a coal-fired steam train.
2009-08-30 After the Zig Zag railway, we drove into the mountains to camp for the night. However, it is winter time, so when it got dark at six there wasn't much to do, so we got up early to see the Glow Worm Tunnel. This tunnel was made to let trains through the mountain, but the Newens oil shale mine shut down long ago. Now there are glow worms living in this tunnel, which is a lot less exciting than it sounds. They are just a bunch of little dots on the wall, which is cool, but even with a flashlight you can't see what they look like, and the tunnel floor was hazardous.
2009-08-30 Returning from the Glow Worm Tunnel.
2009-08-30 Driving back down from the glow worm hike, we stopped to take a picture at this outlook, showing how weird ironstone erodes.
2009-08-30 A road the blue Mitsubishi could not travel.
I didn't have much in the way of plans for this weekend, so we walked to the old Olympic Park. It took two hours, and was kinda fun, we saw a bunch of suburbs of Sydney. My advice if you are in Sydney: taking the train to Rhodes, eating at Ikea, then walking to the Olympic Park is a lot more fun.
2009-09-05 So I only have maybe 3 photos from this day, because almost everywhere was locked. But the track and field was open, and I like taking pictures of me winning. Gerhard is in second and Ivy took third.
2009-09-05 Totally happened.
More unique foods I purchased.
2009-09-13 While the USA sells original Doritos, they do not sell Mister Potato Crisps!
2009-09-22 Don't drink energy drinks, they are bad for you. Unless they look really cool.