Sunday, May 24, 2009
EXPLORING SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
Sydney Sunday, July 20, 2008
Had a good night’s sleep and spent most of my Sunday morning writing my journal and enjoying quiet time in my room; breakfast was tea and a banana that I’d purchased on Saturday. Called Jim…it’s 3 pm on Saturday afternoon at home and he was busy helping to set up for our annual Street Party. I also called my sister Mary in Florida to let her know that I’d arrived. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’re going to get to try text messages as my phone says I need to set it up for that?? Maybe I’ll find a store later in the week and see if they can set it up for me. I did call support services and they gave me the passcode to get into my voicemail from here. I’d love to change the ring tone but haven’t found that yet either. But, I do love having my cell phone and calls home are very easy to make; helps to keep Jim happy at home also.
About 10 am I ventured out in search of a church for Mass. Only found a Greek Orthodox Church and made a visit there. I found the Internet Shop that was advertised on the Internet when I searched before leaving home. It’s open and they will also let me connect my laptop by DSL line. So maybe I’ll get those first photos out sometime today.
While I was there checking emails, daughter Mary called but the connection was so bad we couldn’t hear each other. She called Jim and then Jim called me with her message….so nice to have a link through Jim. I’m to meet her at her hotel at 3 pm.
Went to the hotel and brought back my laptop to the Internet Shop. Spent nearly an hour getting it to work on their DSL line and after about half an hour I had to pack up and go to the train to get to Mary’s place by 3 pm. My how the day flies when you’re trying to do something! Arrived just minutes before her group returned from their overnight at the WYDSYD08 Event. Tired, dirty and ready for showers they all still stopped for introductions and a friendly hello to Mary’s Mom. I will be joining most of them tomorrow for our tour of the Blue Mountains that includes a boat ride back to Sydney. Four of them are in a room so they were delighted when Mary said we were going out to give them first chance at the shower. We walked around King’s Cross; a step above my neighborhood, but still considered one the “seedier” areas that is dominated by backpacker type hostels and hotels. But the great news is that it’s less expensive and walking distance to City Center. We both needed the ATM and then finally stopped for a late lunch; my first meal in a restaurant. Duty called and Mary had to get back to her group and her shower before organizing their dinner outing. She invited me to go along but I decided not to and headed back for the train station.
Couldn’t believe the trains…they were so crowded it reminded me of that Internet Video of several guards pushing the bodies into the trains so they could close the doors. Ninety percent of them were Pilgrims for WYDSYD08; toting their backpacks and sleeping bags from last night heading back to their lodging. Many are staying with families outside of Sydney and coming in by train for the events. All were definitely in need of a shower! I should have gotten my camera out and taken some photos! People everywhere…I didn’t realize how empty the city was yesterday as I strolled leisurely through my day! Different story today! A very spiritually moving event but also chaotic at times was the story that I got from many adults that I spoke to in the train. My daughter said it was definitely the best of the four that she has attended. The next one is scheduled to be held in Madrid in 2011; a break of three years instead of two, to give them more preparation time. I learned that from talking to a volunteer Australian as I waited for a train connection on my way home.
Back to the Internet and still haven’t managed to get that first blog done…having trouble getting the slideshow set up. Maybe tomorrow evening I’ll have some time. They closed early tonight so had to quit just when I was gaining some headway. I practiced at home but it’s just not the same; the speed was much lower I think on their DSL line.
Home for the evening; I have the portable heating going to warm up the room but mostly to help dry the socks that I washed yesterday. It was an overcast day and much cooler than yesterday; looked like rain but didn’t. Opps…as I wrote that I heard the rain outside; so carrying my umbrella all day was a good ideal! I’m sure many people got caught in the downpour. Well it’s about time for a shower and some reading. Tomorrow I need to be on the train by 7 am in order to meet Mary’s group for their 7:45 am departure on our adventure, more about that tomorrow.
Sydney Monday, July 21st
Went to bed before 9 pm last night; awake by 4 am and up at 5:30; I was off to the train station by 6:15 am. Daylight had broken and store keepers were setting up for the day. The trains were less frequent at that hour of the morning so it too a bit longer to make the journey to Mary’s hotel in King’s Cross from Newtown. On the train I met several volunteers for WYD; one of the gave me a “volunteer pin”. But I arrived there about 7:15; more than early enough for our days adventure with 32 of the 50 pilgrims that make up Mary’s group. I gave Mary the “volunteer pin” and she was delighted as she’s collecting pins by trading with the pilgrims. This was very unique and she is the only one in her group that has a “volunteer pin”. The group is composed of three groups: Mary’s from San Francisco, another from Reno and one from Sacramento plus three priests; all under her direction plus a tour guide provided by the company that coordinated their travel plans.
Our first stop today was at the Featherdale Wildlife Park where we saw many different birds and animals that are native to Australia. We were able to pet the Wallaby, Emus, Koalas and Kangaroos. Lots of fun and an up close experience with domesticated animals that are very different from those that we see at home.
By 10 am we were back on the highway heading for the Blue Mountains Park. There we visited several “lookouts”, in the USA we’d call them “Vista Points”, where we could see the views that are very reminiscent of the Grand Canyon but with lots of green below the canyon walls. We arrived at the Scenic World Park and started our hour long trek down the canyon on steep paths with metal staircases over the steepest parts in the path. It rained on our way up so everything was wet and a bit slippery as well as muddy. As we descended into the canyon we entered into the Rain Forest and finally found the base of a beautiful waterfall; had the weather been warmer it would have been fun to stand under the water….but it was COLD today and we were all bundled up for warmth. At the bottom of the trail we boarded a tram that uses the rails set up for the coal cars many years ago. After a brief and very steep ride we were back at the top in less than five minutes. It was 2 pm by now so everyone purchased sandwiches to eat on the bus.
Down the mountain we went, passing vista after vista until we reached the bottom and headed back into the city of Sydney and the 2000 Olympic Stadium Park. We had a half hour to inspect the grounds before enjoying a spot of tea with scones. Our bus driver had called his boss and asked if she could surprise us. All day we’d been teasing the driver about when we were getting our tea and crumpets! Not normally provided and totally unexpected; the owner showed up at the Olympic Stadium and set up a table and served us all and even provided home baked scones with our treat! Needless to say….the driver did very well with the tips at the end of the ride.
A short drive took us to the Ferry Boat Landing in the Olympic Park and we enjoyed a sunset ferry boat ride back to Circular Quay; arriving just after dusk. The photo opportunities of the Harbor Bridge and Opera House from the water were spectacular!
The rest of the group was waiting for us at the dock as planned. We were to have a Mass and then they would all enjoy dinner together on the green picnic style.
Minor problem, two of the priest had been out and about all day and the third one, who was to bring the “Mass Kit” had stayed home with the flu bug/cold that is almost at epidemic stages in the city; an existing problem that was compounded by the arrival of thousands of young people! About one third of Mary’s group either has had or have the bugs…lots of coughing and sneezing! He didn’t arrive and we were in a quandary.
We were busy making alternative plans for the wine and bread for Mass…we had already purchased some pita bread and just about to purchase a bottle of wine when Father Brian appeared with the “Mass Kit”. Soon we were up on a grassy knoll in the park having Mass. Mary had spread her scarf on the ground for the altar, a choir was organized and readers assigned. We had people strolling by us; some stopped and joined our group. A complete Mass was held with three priests presiding; a very moving experience even with the sound of the trains that were passing frequently just beside our make shift church.
After Mass I said goodbye to the group and headed for my bus home. Tonight I had the correct change and the bus driver turned out to be a very nice lady. Tomorrow I need to be a Mary’s with all my luggage by 9:30 am. It will be the farewell Mass as most of the group heads for the airport and home. A few are staying to visit other cities in Australia. Mary and I will transfer to a new hotel, another hostel down the street from her present hotel for our last two nights in Sydney. We’ll be together for the rest of the trip.
Time to turn out the lights…it’s nearly 11 pm.