Australian Adventure (Sunday, June 16, 2013)

40 Days Down Under (Day 3)

Sunday, June 16, 2013
This morning after Kris made his customary coffee from the awesome hotel Nescafe machine, we decided to hit up The Rocks area again for breakfast. (When asked what his favorite thing was about our city Sydney stay, Kris's response was "the botanic gardens...and the coffee. That coffee maker definitely ranks up there."

We decided to break our fast at Pancakes on the Rocks where I got the amazingly delicious banana pancakes topped with none other than caramel and ice cream of course! Seriously...what self respecting person doesn't want ice cream on their pancakes? (Naturally, since he isn't really self-respecting, Kris chose to get a pound of butter on his pancakes instead.) It wasn't regular old ice cream either - it coated those pancakes in a yummy layer of awesome. Highly recommend.

Up for an adventure the likes only the locals usually take, we headed to the Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Cockatoo Island.

The whipping wind was a tad chilly, but it was worth standing outside to see the opera house, bridge, and Luna Park from the deck. We even got a first glance at Cockatoo Island from the boat.

Luna Park

Luna Park


Once ashore, we rented a headset for the audio tour and checked out the Cockatoo Island camping area.

The things I learned...
Cockatoo Island has had multiple functions over the years. It was once a convict island with terrible accommodations, then a girl's school reformatory, a prison again, next a quarry and shipbuilding facility, before finally becoming one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites and a place visitors are allowed.

The quarters for the prisoners when Cockatoo was a convict island were less than satisfactory or necessarily humane. The prisoners would be locked up at night in tight rooms with little fresh air and no proper commodes. They had to live out their evenings in their (and their neighbor's) squaller and feces. And, since this was the 1800s, there weren't proper showers for anyone. I'm not sure how they bathed, but the audio tour made sure to emphasize that the waters surrounding the island were shark infested. Could they bathe in the ocean if fearful of losing limb or life?

The girls sent to the island after the prison initially shut down were anywhere from the age of five to fifteen and were mostly orphans with a few petty gamblers mixed in for good measure. The girls had to sleep in the same quarters the convicts had just vacated, albeit they were in metal beds instead of wooden crates and didn't have as many people to compete with for space. Unfortunately, those running the school were strict and locked the girls in from 8pm-6am each night. They would also brutally use the parts of the prison initially set up as solitary confinement to torment the girls for up to two weeks at a time. (Many of the convicts actually met their deaths in solitary confinement, although they were competing with the elements and only being fed bread and water for weeks on end.)

It was interesting to explore the various old buildings in differing states of repair. The docks, old machinery, remaining prison quarters, and old offices all offered a different story and perspective on an odd piece of Australian life.


It was also fun to traverse the tunnels and discover toys left behind.

One of the highlights for me were all of the ghost signs left behind and the missing fire extinguishers. They really aren't fond of fire extinguishers anymore.


All, in all, it was a beautiful day with gorgeous skies. It is difficult to believe that this is considered winter here. I'd love winters like this. Heck, I'd like summers like this too. Sometimes we just sat on a bench to soak it all up. Kids rode bikes down below, and the harbor looked gorgeous.



After messing with some seagulls, we headed back to the CBD in the afternoon and grabbed some quick sandwiches at the CQ Cafe. I got a very tasty turkey, brie, cranberry toasted sandwich. Kris got a marinated veggie mozzarella sandwich on focaccia.

We headed back over to the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens to explore a few sections we'd missed before and went to the Art Gallery of NSW. On the way, we saw a cluster of wild cockatoos. None on Cockatoo Island, but there was a plethora in the city limits.
Cockatoo in a tree

Love the wild cockatoos

The greenhouse pyramid in the Sydney Botanic Gardens are filled

There are several museums and items in Sydney that have free admission. I highly recommend the botanic gardens and the Art Gallery of NSW.

While the Art Gallery had the traditional "stuffy" art sections, we spent time exploring the non-traditional art wings. We tend to gravitate toward the modern, contemporary art scene, and the museum did not disappoint.

We spent several hours exploring. One of the coolest exhibits was an old German basement. It was dark, cramped, and filled with trick doors and dead ends.

We also really liked the creepy clown exhibit. You should have heard the soundtrack playing in the room of the clowns.


Sometimes art is just really astounding.

Across the street from the Art Gallery we witnessed people literally getting up on their soap boxes and yelling about their political views. It was the strangest assembly ever. One guy was elevated above the rest giving them a protesting speech while others yelled back corroborating statements or heckles and jeers. There were several people there and this just appeared to be something they did.

Then, on the way back out for dinner, we stumbled upon discarded signs protesting the current United States involvement in Libya. We also saw where they are showing the films for the Sydney Film Festival...red carpet and all.

We wound up going to a huge pedestrian area and into a five floor shopping mall. We grabbed dinner from the very nice food court. Our dinner of choice...hot dogs from the Snag Stand. I got the Wagyu beef dog topped with mashed potatoes. Kris got the Chillidog (which he later proclaimed to be spicy).

Another good day.


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