During the International Congress of Speleology last summer I managed to fit in some site-seeing in Sydney. The congress was held in Penrith which was about an hour away from Sydney. Fortunately there were several different options for getting there that all proved to be quite practical, especially since the opal card I purchased originally to get to my hotel was accepted on the trains, buses and ferries that I took whilst traveling back and forth.
I particularly enjoyed the route I took from Parramatta since it involved taking a ferry downriver. This not only got me directly to the waterfront pretty quickly, it also allowed me to see another town.
In Sydney itself my two favorite destinations were the waterfront and the tower which afforded a fantastic view of the city.
I was a little worried when we first reached the top of the tower as the view was obscured by smoke from nearby fires but it wasn’t too long before the breeze blew it away to reveal the magnificent view. We also got to see the highest mailbox in the southern hemisphere:)
The waterfront is of course home to Sydneys world famous opera house. and so the opportunity for some great pictures exist there. The views are especially great from one of the harbor ferries. We also had a good view of the people participating in the trek across the bridge.
There’s so much to see and do in Sydney I wish I had more time there. For now though here’s a shot of a koala and a kangaroo I took, since you know, Australia 🙂
When looking for a way to escape the weather in the central valley we have two choices the mountains or the coast since the mountains have a tendency to be covered in white stuff in winter my parents and I opted for a drive to the coast. The two main routes towards the coast from Bakersfield are the I5 (referred to as the grapevine) which goes South to L.A or hwy58 which goes west towards Morro bay. Since we weren’t in a hurry though we chose another rout and took the 166 through Cuyama. This is a slow route but is scenic and avoids some of the more extreme elevation changes the other routes go through. We’d picked a beautiful day and the sun was out while plenty of people enjoyed the ocean. There were plenty of flowers in bloom and the birds were singing.
We passed by the Monarch Butterfly grove but since it was crowded and we’d been their previously we didn’t stop though we did admire the clouds of butterflies as we went by. We stopped at Dinosaur park so I could capture a few Ingress portals while we enjoyed the scenery.
The park has an interesting history of being the location of one of the largest sea caves in California, as well as the site where someone attempted to build a life size brontosaurus. Unfortunately the cave collapsed and the brontosaur was never completed. There is a very nice park there now and we enjoyed walking through it.
Eventually we moved on had some lunch then found access to a nice cove to do a little tide pooling.
It was a pleasant day and while the drive home was long it was worth it.
Part of the International Congress of Speleology is the Wednesday field trips, these could be geology field trips, general site seeing, recreation or I was happy to see for this year a trip to a wonderful cave system not to far from where the congress was being held. Part of signing up was choosing which cave outings we wanted to participate in. My first choice was easy enough since they list a photography trip, but what to put for my second? Options include bush walk, history walk, fossil tour, and whats this music tour?
Hmm OK, lets see what a cave music tour is. So I put myself down for that. I’m so glad I did. It turned out to be a cello performance in one of the cave chambers that had fantastic acoustics. A really unique experience.
The trip to the cave though was a fascinating one. We stopped at a lookout spot and witnessed a beautiful rainbow among some wonderful mountains.
Then as we drove down into the area where the cave is located we came across a kangaroo in the road. We were in a fairly wide road and there were cliffs on both sides of the road so the poor critter took off down the road to get away from us. As it came around a corner it spotted a way off the road but got a little excited perhaps and combined with the road being wet from recent rain, whoops down it went. Never thought of kangaroos being clumsy but the bus stopped and we waited while it got up and headed off the side of the road finally.
The cave has an unusual entrance in that you actually pass through the entrance on the road(the larger buses barely fit the narrower part) in order to get to the parking area.
We had some great tours through the caves. I got to take some pictures, really enjoyed the cello concert. He played a piece he wrote where he made the cello sound like a didgeridoo as well as the more usual classical pieces. Lunch was great and it really was a fun outing.
Following my stay in Cairns I flew to Sydney and arrived at the airport at the same time as several others from the Chillagoe trip. Barbel who had also decided to fly to the Congress from Cairns and I wound up taking the same train to Penrith where the congress was being held. Fortunately I had read up about Opal cards before arriving in Australia and knew we would need one of these to take the train. These cards turned out to be very handy as they could be used not only for travel on trains but on the ferries and buses in the area. The train trip to Penrith was fairly simple we only had to change trains once. Arriving in Penrith we were surprised to see an old style steam train rush into the station. We both turned to each other and exclaimed ‘The Hogwarts train?” Sadly I didn’t get a photo of it as I was encumbered with my luggage at the time. I returned to the station on another occasion when they were running and old electric train and got some pictures though it was not nearly as impressive.
The station at Penrith was undergoing some remodeling and we exited on the wrong side which delayed our getting a taxi for awhile but eventually we realized our mistake and once we got to the other side of the station we quickly found a taxi which dropped us off at our respective hotels. I was staying at a hotel that was a ten or fifteen minute walk from the conference center but it didn’t take me long to figure out the bus system which made the trip just a few minutes long.
Luckily the hotel had pretty good sound proofing since I was greeted daily by the sound of dozens of lorikeets, parrots and cockatoos that lived in the trees out front. I stopped to take a few pictures most mornings on my way to the congress.
The congress itself was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the talks and presentations. I did miss the 3D stuff that had been shown at the prior ICS’s I attended and hope that future ones will have more displays along those lines. I was also a little disappointed that the photo salon was a continually playing slide show which made it a little difficult to focus on a particular image and decide which would make a good candidate for a particular category for the cavers choice award. The obstacle course was particularly imaginative and the sump simulation provided for some good entertainment.
It was a great week and I really enjoyed myself. Especially the field trips on wednesday but I’ll write about that in another post.
As I previously wrote I chose to fly to Cairns primarily because It allowed me to visit the Barrier Reef and join the caving trip to Chillagoe, but as it turned out, Cairns was a pretty neat destination on its own.
I had chosen to save a few bucks by staying at a backpackers hostel and consider myself fortunate to have chosen one that was not on one of the blocks crammed with nightclubs etc. so I was able to get some sleep though like with all hostels there was a fair bit of noise at night. I picked Caravella on Esplanade, the pictures on the website were a little misleading though. The bay is not really visible from the hotel and consists of a tidal flat so most of the time your looking at mud not picturesque water. It was a great opportunity for bird watching though and the boardwalk the ran along the shore makes a great place for a stroll.
The unplanned shopping trip I had to make due to my bag being delayed gave me a chance to walk around town and see what was there. I spotted a large colony of flying foxes roosting in the trees near the city library.
These are amazing to watch not only because of their huge size but their social behavior and the way they interact is very interesting. Just watch where you step.
Perhaps to make up for the fact you can’t swim in the bay they have one of the largest public pools I’ve ever seen over looking the waterfront.
I went for a walk out towards the edge of town and founf the botanical gardens which was a great spot to spend some time and photograph Australian bush turkeys, flowers, interesting plants and butterflies.
Then it was back to walking along the Esplanade to find a restaurant for dinner. I really enjoyed Cairns and of course its proximity to the Barrier Reef!