starlady: (run)
[personal profile] starlady
One specific place from this year for[personal profile] juniperphoenix 

Well, I think I'm going to say the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. I went a hell of a lot of places this year and there are many that I could talk about as being beautiful, interesting, and awesome in their own right, but this one sticks out for reasons we shall get to shortly. One thing to say at the beginning is that I was not expecting Sydney to be anywhere near as beautiful as it is. [personal profile] unjapanologist and I kept looking at each other and going, "Is this for real?" because…it's gorgeous. The water is blue, the city is green, and given that our motel was a two minute walk from a ferry stop, we had a gorgeous view of the harbor every day. The Bridge and the Opera House are beautiful in their own right, and the Harbor makes them look even more amazing. Even now I look at my photos and I find it a little difficult to believe that it's as beautiful as they look--but it's more so. (I think October is a pretty good time for Sydney; it was warm, but not hot, and certainly not invent-a-new-color-on-the-weather-map-bats-falling-dead-from-the-sky-climate-change hot.) And I had a really excellent cream tea in one of the malls on George Street.

The Botanic Gardens are next to the Opera House, and we walked there after our tour of and lunch at the same (great, except for the flies). We never even made it Mrs. MacQuarrie's chair, because we got sidetracked by the beautiful flowers and trees and sculptures and scenery and ornamental ponds--the Gardens are right on the Harbor, so we had intermittent great views of that, too. On our way out we saw the Wollemi Pine, the so-called "Dinosaur Tree", which was also really cool--it's a Lazarus taxon and the only surviving member of its genus, as well as critically endangered.

We chilled out for a while under a cluster of trees because we saw a flock of (sulfur-crested) cockatoos. There were also bunches of ibises wandering around in the Gardens, and they were there too. Ditto crows, of course. Cockatoos and parrots are everywhere in Australia, and I love birds, so this was predictable. But one thing I noticed about people in Australia was how outright friendly they were--in Sydney and in Wollongong, people routinely went out of their way to be kind and seemingly thought nothing of it. Knowing that, I mustered my courage when a group of people showed up with a loaf of white bread and started feeding the cockatoos (who were all tagged, and presumably thus known to the Gardens), if I could have one of the extra slices of bread. The woman said yes, and so I stood up, held out my arm with the bread in my hand, and a wild cockatoo landed on my arm and ate the bread out of my hand. (After pretending, of course, that it wasn't interested, in true bird fashion. Its cooler than thou act was ruined when the branch it was perching on just above me broke under it.) I fed a wild cockatoo some bread!!!!!!! And thus my wildest Australia dreams were accomplished, though I still wouldn't mind being swarmed by a whole flock like in that one YouTube video. The wild cockatoos were quite gentle, and compared to their domestic relatives, very quiet. THEY WERE SO SWEET. PRECIOUS BABIES. PRECIOUS BABIES SOME OF WHOSE SPECIES ARE CRITICALLY ENDANGERED DUE TO HABITAT DESTRUCTION. STUPID HUMANS.

Anyway. There were signs around saying not to feed the cockatoos, but as we left the park we saw the same flock munching contentedly on the trees, and I suspect that if humans disappeared tomorrow the cockatoos would not only survive, but thrive. It was amazing. I regret nothing except not getting better shots of the gallahs in Woollongong.
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