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  • Writer's pictureKaia Colestock

Day 75: Sydney

This was our third arrival in Sydney, and the traffic was just as hectic as it was the other two times. Somehow we made it through the madness without playing bumper cars, but it did feel a lot like you were the pinball in an arcade game. We meandered our way through a maze of underground tunnels and downtown streets.

(Above) Anzac Bridge over Johnstons Bay

We settled into the north-central part of downtown in a neighborhood called Potts Point. Everything was within walking distance, including the Navy Pier, Royal Botanical Gardens, and museums.

A wide boardwalk along the harbor was scattered with sculptures and works of art. Of course we couldn't leave Sydney without checking out the Opera House. An iconic masterpiece, it towers above the Sydney Harbor. Captain Arthur Phillip landed in 1787 with the First Fleet - 11 ships that brought the first settlers, six of which were carrying convicts. Phillip was tasked with care of 1500 people. It took 250 days to arrive from England. Their first stop was Botany Bay, just south of modern-day Sydney, but it turned out to be a hellish ordeal. It was not the Garden of Eden that Captain Cook had described seven years prior (in a different season). Phillip explored further with a small boat and scrapped the original plan when he found a massive harbor just seven miles north. Cook had seen the harbor and named it, but not entered it. January 26th, the First Fleet anchored in what is now Circular Quay (a stone's throw west of the opera house). This day is now celebrated as Australia Day.

We followed a path that snaked along the water and led to to the Royal Botanical Gardens with a view of the Harbor Bridge.

We continued south to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

One poignant piece of art was a banner sewn in honor of Julia Butterfly Hill. Elias and I stopped in our tracks and stared at it. We weren't expecting a reference to California, let alone the environmental movement. The story is an incredible one. Julia lived out 738 days in a redwood tree to save a critical buffer of old-growth forest. She was able to successfully negotiate permanently protecting the trees. The book The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods chronicles the story of Julia's civil disobedience and courage. For more info on the story and book, go to:

Stitched in the political banner on the opposite site: "Julia Butterfly Hill lived for 2 years in a 600-year old redwood tree to stop it from being chopped down."

The museum was more than still life and framed works on the wall. They exhibited performance art and film as well.

(Below) A live art exhibit. People were invited to write personal messages on blank pieces of paper, fold the papers, and pin them to the woman's veil.

Later that evening, we passed a fountain downtown that looked a lot like a dandelion. Not sure if that's what they were going for, but it's what an ecologist sees.

Sydney felt like a composite of London and New York - culturally diverse, structurally old, but innovative in the business world. Space was reserved for artistry. Value was placed on food and music. Sydney was a cosmopolitan city that exceeded all expectations.

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