Sydney, Australia.

Well, I am very happy to report that both Casey and I like Sydney a lot better than the rest of Australia. It’s cleaner, has more distinctive neighborhoods, and has fantastic public transportation. (The subway system reminds me a lot of the London Underground; there are stations everywhere so it’s really convenient just to hop on a train and get to where you want to go.)Yesterday we took a 30 minute ferry ride over to Manly (a beach suburb) and went to Oceanworld and saw the “most poisonous creatures” in Australia. There were both full-grown and baby sharks, poisonous snakes, spiders–of course!, info on the different types of jellyfish that swim in the Au waters, and some serious-looking stone fish. We watched a live show about some of the aforementioned animals (reptiles, etc…) and even got to pet a tiny salt water crocodile whose skin felt like soft rubber (“Don’t stand near the edge of rivers and don’t go swimming. If you go fishing in one spot one day, make sure you change areas the next because the crocs will watch you and know that you’ve been there , and they will come back the next day in the hopes that you will return and make them some dinner!” Crikey!! Scheming crocs?). Some more advice: Check your shoes before you put them on (the Sydney funnel web spider), don’t go swimming at all off the shores of Australia (jellyfish), when bushwalking wear heavy pants and socks and lace-up shoes (snakes). We also learned that about 97% of the people who do get bitten by snakes are young males; apparently if they see a snake when they’re drunk they (rather than run like hell) charge after it with a shovel or something. Surprisingly, a snake is much faster and has much better aim than someone who’s sloshed out of his mind.

Tomorrow we head for Katoomba (which is located in the Blue Mountains). We can take the city train for $AU 11.00 (about $US 6.00) and it takes just about two hours. We’ll be spending our New Year’s Eve there; we’ve heard that Sydney gets crazy on that night and rather than search for a place to stay (almost imposssible) and walk the streets with a bunch of rowdy, uncontrollable hooligans (Ha ha!! It could be us!!) we will be breathing in the cool eucalyptus air of the mountains. At least, that is how I envision it!

Note: Casey is putting the New Zealand pictures on the website right now. Check them out–if you dare!