World Trip HomePost Thirteen

Post Thirteen - Sydney

Opera HouseOpera House

Our first good view of the Sydney Opera House came as we crossed the harbor on the ferry. In its day, it was a building astonishingly ahead of its time, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon.

Construction started in 1956 and stretched on until 1973. The building soared over budget due to structural problems with its towering, science-fiction arches, which went through multiple redesigns. Utzon left the project in frustration midstream and, sadly, never returned to see his work completed.

It's certainly one of the more distinctive pieces of architecture I've seen on this trip, and one of the more well-placed buildings, too. It floats at the foot of the city, set against a backdrop of botanic gardens and elegant downtown Sydney. -- Karen


Sydney is a cool city. In many ways it reminds me of Seattle. The commercial center is compact, there are plenty of funky neighborhoods, and the setting on the water is stunning. While in Australia, we saw the most tourists in Sydney. Not that we saw many tourists in Australia - most of the country is practically tourist-free.

Rather then stay in the city proper we got a room at Manly Beach and took the ferry into town every day. It was nice being in a small community and Manly is pretty cool in it's own right. This is a shot of Sydney's Harbor Bridge. -- Scott


Koalas are amazing little animals, but extremely fragile. They aren't adaptable, perhaps due to Australia's long-time isolation from the rest of the animal world. Koalas could become highly specialized because they didn't have to compete with other animals.

Now they compete with humans, and it's a tough race. Most of Australia's human population lives on the coastlines, where you'll also find the eucalyptus-filled bush that koalas call home. As development spreads, entire "koala corridors" of the gum trees are destroyed. Travelling between trees--and across more and more roads--poses an obvious danger.

In addition, an individual koala circulates among a few specific trees each year, based on what its digestive system needs. It's mentally stressful and bad for its health when those trees are cut down.

To make matters more complex, koalas are highly susceptible to chlamydia (which causes blindness and sterility), conjunctivitis, and a host of other diseases. Fortunately, koala hospitals up and down the east coast nurse sick and injured koalas back to health, and they spread awareness about the plight of the animals. Thanks to their work and the public's renewed interest in preserving Australia's unique ecosystems, the koala population is on the rise again after dwindling to dangerously low levels. -- Karen

Wild AustraliaWild Australia

The wildlife in Australia amazed me. Australia is an old continent and has been separate from the rest of the world since the breakup of Gondwanaland in the Jurassic Period (195 - 136 million years ago). Likewise, its species have evolved in relative isolation and many are indigenous, existing nowhere else in the world. There are bizarre creatures like the kangaroo, the platypus, and flying foxes. The first time we saw a kangaroo we almost drove off the road. By the time we left we barely glanced at them. Then, of course, there are the myriads of spiders, snakes, and crocodiles that the locals love to regale tourists with tales of.

This is a shot of a cricket we saw while walking in the bush (Aussie word for forest). I'm sure it packs enough venom to drop an elephant in five seconds. -- Scott

Lynne and FriendsLynne and Friends

Curious to get a closer look at some Australian "wildlife", we headed out with friends Lynne and Chris and their buddy Tim to an open-air zoo outside of Sydney. We bought feed and introduced ourselves to emus, kangaroos, pink-and-grey galahs, sulphur-crested cockatoos, Tasmanian devils, and koalas.

It's always weird to go to zoos, let alone my first petting zoo. I always worry that the pens aren't big enough, that the animals don't look healthy, and that they are generally not being treated well. Koalas are especially sensitive animals, and I was torn between excitement and feeling like I was exploiting them. But curiosity won out, and I'm glad I went.

The keeper was very responsible, showing us exactly how to touch them and where (flat of the hand, very lightly, on their backs only), and he watched us like a hawk. It was pretty awe-inspiring just to stand a few feet away from them as they munched their gum leaves or slept. As you can see, Lynne was happy to meet them, too. -- Karen


We met up with friends from Seattle, Lynne and Chris in Sydney. They joined us for two weeks as we made our way up the coast of New South Wales. Chris is big into photography. I used to think I took a lot of photos (I've taken 11,000 since we started the trip). Chris had two cameras with him and was constantly taking photos. It was great because the two of us could slow down and take all the shots we wanted as Lynne and Karen walked on ahead. This is Chris in action on a cliff above a surfing beach near Sydney. -- Scott

Silent WorldSilent World

While in Sydney we visited the aquarium. We saw seals, fish of all colors, coral reefs, and an amazing walk-through shark tank. I shot this photo of a lobster (the Aussies call them 'crayfish') through the glass on the tank. With my love of macro photography, I could really get into underwater photography. But first I would need to live somewhere with warm diving (I'm a cold water wuss) and I would want an underwater digital camera. I'm used to seeing my images immediately and may never be able to go back to a traditional camera. -- Scott

The Sydney CrewThe Sydney Crew

We met up with our friends Lynne and Chris in Australia and traveled together for 10 days. Our first joint adventure was Sydney and environs, where they introduced us to their friend, Tim. It was a real treat to have Tim show us around, and he (and his kind father) rolled out the carpet for us. Tim took us hiking on the coast and in the bush, showed us some Aboriginal petroglyphs, and introduced us to a restaurant where we shared the finest meal of our Ozzie-Kiwi adventure. -- Karen

Next Up: Beach Life

Copyright 2002
Scott & Karen Semyan