June 22 (Dominique Marshall)
Today we all went to the Wild World Tropical Zoo where we saw lots of cute animals! Some of which are: crocodiles, peacocks, eagles, cassawaries (an ancient, prehistoric bird in the emu/ostrich family), koalas, cockatoos, red pandas, emus, dingoes, turtles, wombats, reptiles (snakes, lizards, and geckos), wallabies, etc.
The highlights of the trip were definitely when we got our picture taken with the koala bear, when we saw the crocodile show, and when we went to the bird show. We also got to pet a snake and do other fun and exciting things! I am sure that we all had a wonderful time.
After we left the zoo, we went down to Palm Cove, one of the best beaches in Cairns. We ate lunch there and enjoyed the beach. A few hours later we all gathered on the beach for a friendly game of Cricket. Brad, our Australian tour guide, led the pack by teaching us the rules and giving us some helpful tips about the game. After packing up, we went back to the hotel and went "downtown." Some of us swam in the lagoon, while others did some last minute shopping and ate dinner. We are all looking forward to visiting the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow!
June 21 (Vanessa Pineros)
Today was a contrast to the lights and sounds of the city of Sydney. We began with a tour of Kuranda. The Kuranda Scenic Railway took us through some of the oldest rainforest in the world. Every time we tried to take pictures of the magnificent views, another patch of different kinds of trees would get in the way.
We also went through 15 hand-carved tunnels and across the Stony Creek Bridge which gave us a great view of Cairns. The old-fashioned train stoped at the Barron Falls where we took many more pictures that will never do the beautiful landscape justice. At Kuranda, we had lunch at the Banjo café where some of our party tried a Kangaroo burger. The taste verdict: salty, gamy beef (not chicken, surprisingly enough).
The options in the town were a butterfly observatory, bird watching, and more market shopping (one person asked that her credit card be taken away after this). We bought everything from opals to racing wood kangaroos. The ride back was amazing. We rode the skyrail above the canopy of the Barron Gorge National Park which are part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. We stoped twice to see a great view of waterfalls and the different vegetation in the rainforest. Labelled maps helped us make sense of the surrounding wonders throughout the day.
After the slightly frightening gondolas, we went back to the hotel for some rest. Some of the group decided to go to the Tjapuka aboriginal night show (apparently the thing to do while here). We saw dances for the gods, fire songs and dances, and an entertaining show. The show followed a dinner of chicken, beef, pork, fish, pasta, potatoes, bread, salads, and soup and consisted of tribal dances, kangaroo hunting, digeridoo playing, and audience members making fire. After the large dessert selection, we all tried to play digeridoos ourselves with little success.
Some of the girls who had experience with wind instruments were able to make a sound but none of us could vary the sounds like the natives. He told us we needed a lot more practice. All in all, a pretty exciting day of cultural and nature experiences.
June 20 (Ruth Kmak, Kelly Ostler, and Carrie Johnson)
We woke this morning in Sydney "at the crack of a sparrow's fart". We were quite rooted and the team rather buggered from our five days in Sydney. No worries. We jumped in the coach, "gave way" as we merged, and proceeded to "overtake" many cars (on the right, of course) on our way to the airport.
Today is our transfer day between Sydney and Cairns. After we barely made it through check-in since ALL of our bags were over the 20 kilo limit (no worries), we boarded our flight to Cairns. On board, we reminisced about our past 5 days in Sydney. Bloody hell, we sure experienced a lot!
Sydney is an incredible city. It is beautiful and clean, the people quite friendly and polite. When we arrived, we felt upside down and backwards: we drove, walked, took the stairs and escalators on the left (when we remembered), minded the gap and our heads, threw our "rubbish" in the can and recycled like fiends. We rarely "mucked up". No worries.
During our stay in the Sydney area, we enjoyed opal hunting, listened to the buskers perform on the street, avoided the kerb krawlers, walked in the Royal Botanic Gardens and saw LARGE bats and cockatoos, toured the Sydney 2000 Olympic Complex and softball pitch, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge (where we really could have used our "jumpers" due to the strong wind), caught a rip on Manly Beach (some of us actually bit it or nose dived - no worries), viewed "Grand" at the Sydney Opera House (although some of us were quite knacked following surf school), karaoked to the theme song from "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo" (No worries - Skippy always saves the day!), and got up close and personal with kangaroos and wallabies - Marshall, our favourite wallabie, shared our barbie with us.
Oh yes, and we did actually play some softball. Although the sports of choice in Australia are rugby, cricket (which appears to be "running bases" - though with a lot of extra people and everyone dressed to the 9's withe white jumpers and trousers) and our personal favourite - lawn bowling, the Olympic Softball Complex at Blacktown is a fantastic softball pitch. The extra-spacious dugouts, grandstands, and changing rooms would look fantastic right there next to the Ratner Athletics Center! We have won our first three games, but more importantly, our team has had the opportunity to sit down at two delicious barbies (with shrimp, chicken and veggie skewers, potatoes, salads, "poppers" fruit boxes, servettes, and REAL plates) and socialize with the opposing teams -- a great time to exchange stories and information about softball on two different continents. We all ate until chockered. No worries. Notably, we finished our third win with our first ever truly international international tie breaker.
Couple additional notes:
- We have experienced the Aussie "club" scene and many of the girls suffered from "gravel rash" when we made them leave just when things (like the snow bunny competition) started to heat up. No worries.
- Pop vs. Coke vs. soda = none of the above! Aussies say soft drink!
- Coffee is strong, beer is good, wine is tasty, breakfasts are ample (buffets not good for our team), seafood is awesome, desserts divine, and there is a McOz at "Mackers" - along with deli sandwiches and a grilled tomato and cheese sandwich (don't forget the tomato sauce for your fries).
- Sweet chili and sour cream chips are the ultimate potato chip.
We are thrilled to be in Cairns for the second half of our tour. It is a balmy 28 degrees (celsius) in WINTER and we are surrounded by clear blue water and beautiful lush tree covered mountains. Rainforests, aboriginal culture experiences, and the Great Barrier Reef (and one more softball game) await us in the next few days.
After a relaxing morning start, the group headed out to Waratah Park, a wildlife perserve. This was the area where "Skippy" was orginally filmed, a trashy Austrialian TV show from the 60's. The park is home to numerous kangaroos and wallabies. A frisky wallabie named Marshall made the day. Since he was raised in captivity, Marshall had no problem being friendly with everyone.
After leaving the park, our coach driver showed us several episodes of Skippy. A little over an hour later, we all arrived at the Olympic Ballpark to begin our double-header. We started off the evening playing a team called North Shore. We got off to a good start with two runs early in the game, however, one of their top pitchers slammed a two-run homer to tie up the game. We came back and scored another run late in the game to seal the win.
The next game we played a team from Manly and similar to the first game, we started off strong with two runs, they tied us up, and we earned another run in the bottom of the seventh inning. To top the evening off, we watched another episode of Skippy on our way back to the hotel, where we packed up our things for Cairns the next day!
We started out the day going to the market down by Sydney Harbor. We all then took a Ferry over to Manly Beach. After shopping around for a while, we finally got to start our surfing lessons! We then struggled into our wetsuits, which we looked dead sexy in!
We had to walk down the beach to the "small" waves which were about four miles away dragging HUGE LONG surf boards, because the longer they are the easier they are to surf on. But not so easy for us. Not only did we have trouble surfing, paddling out to the waves proved to be a task in itself. We got plowed over by and taken under by the waves, but it was a good time anyway.
We went home to shower and clean up and got some delicious McDonald's for dinner. Then we headed over to the Opera House and saw a dance performance called Grand. It was amazing, but it was hard to stay awake because we were so tired from getting beat up by the waves all day. We headed home and passed out, it was another great day in Australia!
June 17 (Nancy Bugajski, Rachel Cohen)
Today we conquered the Sydney Harbour bridge climb! It was "the climb of my life!" Check it out at www.bridgeclimb.com.
Yes, we wore those power ranger outer space-looking cool jumpsuits. After an agonizing 1,337 steps, we overlooked Sydney's finest points like the Opera House, clock tower, Fort Denison, and our fields. There were moments when if we weren't attached to the bridge, we definitely would have been blown off.
Later on that day we suffered through Sydney's rush hour to travel to our first international softball game. We beat Cumberland, a young team with a great pitcher, 4-2. We were honored to play in the Sydney Stadium, home of the 2000 Olympic Games where U.S. took the gold.
The dugouts were bigger than a Max P. dorm room. After our win and pictures on the field the opposing team hosted a "barby". We feasted on chicken, emu, and rissel and talked about the language differences like jumper=sweatshirt/hoodie, trackies=sweatpants, and poppers=juice box.
We sadly said goodbye to our new Australian friends and departed back to the Holiday Inn on our freezing bus.
June 16 (Kate Rhodes, Petra Wade)
The day started out early, and we immediately headed off to practice. We were lucky enough to play in the Olympic Softball Complex and even see the USA's Gold Medal plaque.
Grabbing lunch en route, we enjoyed a luxurious meal from Subway after traveling 8,000 miles; it was truly an Australian delicacy. Next, we headed to Telstra Stadium, the site of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. We took a tour and saw the locker room, media rooms, hospitality suites, and even had the chance to stand on the 2000 Sydney Olympic medal podium.
Then we headed back to the hotel to primp for our evening of dinner and dancing at Fed Cafe. It was certainly the perfect ending to our second day down under.
June 15 (Randi Leppla, Kara Thaw)
We departed Chicago at 6:30 Monday night. After losing an entire day to the International Date Line, we arrived in Oz at 6:30 on Wednesday morning. Customs took awhile, of course, mainly due to beef jerky and Triscuits. However, the airport security was kind enough to clean all of our cleats. Foreign soil is dangerous, don't you know?
An hour and a half and three missing bags later, we arrived at the Holiday Inn at Pott's Point after an entertaining drive from our Aussie "coach" driver. Around 11:00 am, we set off for Sydney Harbor to wander around the Opera House and surrounding area. We ate lunch at little cafes or roof top pubs overlooking the harbor.
The historic Rocks Area not only had these quaint restaurants, but some interesting shops and jewelry stores with beautiful opals harvested from different areas in Australia. After shopping and gelatto, we took the ferry to Darling Harbor, which gave us beautiful close up views of Sydney Harbor and other areas of the bay. After walking through Darling Harbor, we took the Monorail to Downtown Sydney. Not only did we see many restaurants, shops and busy Australians, but also saw the first building constructed in Sydney - a light tan building with columns and a clock.
Exhausted from the flight and hungry, we boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel to enjoy our welcome dinner and get some much needed rest. Going to bed at 7:00 PM is completely normal, after all.