Having earned a day off racing by advancing through the heats in the U19 eight, we decided to have one last day of touristing adventure before the racing got hectic. Originally our plan was to go to the Koala Park. I explained this to each person I met when I was asked what we planned to do while in Sydney – every Aussie replied, “don’t go there, go to the Taronga Zoo – it is right on Sydney Harbour and it is the most beautiful Zoo in the world.” You know how there are people out there who really think they know everything, or at least they are very protective of their ideas – I am not one of those! If a local tells me to go to a certain restaurant or see a certain sight, I will scrap my idea in a heartbeat (if a local tells me to try the Kangaroo pizza…) Rarely am I disappointed and in this case the Zoo lived up to the hype plus some! The only downer was finding out that it is illegal to hold the koalas. Kelli was so disappointed, but as soon as she looked into their eyes her heart melted and there was no room for anger or disappointment. After that little disappointment as we walked into the park, things immediately turned to the positive. The 2nd exhibit was a Kangaroo and Emu pen in which you could actually pet the kangaroos. We were warned as we entered that the Emu was a little “randy” and if accosted we should ignore him… Not being a fan of birds (nevermind big randy birds) McHart fell locked into an internal debate, while the rest of us walked around petting the wallabies (small kangaroos) McHart weighed the options: pet a kangaroo vs have an unpleasant encounter with an emu. Eventually the kangaroo won out, but the tension in the air between she and the emu was thick. Glances were made, but restraint won out.
After the kangaroo and the koala, one would think it couldn’t get any better… boy would one be wrong. Next we headed off for the the seal show (featuring Lexie and Murphy) we almost didn’t make it though as we got distracted by the gorillas. The Male Gorilla was HUGE but the baby stole the show. I am sure he knew he was being watched because he was really showing off and flirting with the girls (kinda reminded me of the boys at the beach ;-) We had to pry Kelli away from the gorillas if we were to make it to the seal show in time. I am not sure of Kelli’s career ambitions, but it would not surprise me at all if she ends up working at a zoo.
The seal show was pretty amazing. When we were warned that the front few rows might get wet, McHart quickly found herself a seat halfway to the back (not sure if she was avoiding the splash or soaking in the sun). The seals were very smart and very funny. We managed to keep our phones dry and were all sad when the show ended. Meghan almost got a chance to shake one of the seals flippers… but alas there was a group of elementary school kids there and she knew when they raised their hands and did their best Arnold Horshack impression she didn’t stand a chance. (Only a few of you will get that “Welcome Back, Kotter” reference, but it was still worth putting in there).
From the seal show - on to the elephants. There we learned that elephants pout and sulk. The keeper kindly explained they are much like teenagers when it comes to their emotional state. That visit had to be brief though, we were on a schedule to make the bird show (another highly recommended exhibit). When you combine the beautiful setting, with the amazing choreography and intelligence of the birds, it definitely lived up to the billing. My favorite part was holding my ground as the Owl did a low altitude fly over. The other favorite was the approach of the Andean Condor. I didn’t get my camera out in time, but this thing was HUGE like small plane huge. Wingspan of 3 meters! The zoo trip continued with the next highlights being the Zebra butts (they wouldn’t show their faces) and the Giraffes (who had the best view of anyone in Sydney). Not everyone was excited about the reptile house, but one last visit to the koalas and a trip by the penguins brought us to the SKY Safari where we were treated to a view of the Harbour to match that of the giraffe.
We left the Zoo over 6 hours after arriving and still had a little practice to do before the day was done. So off we went to the SIRC to practice our starts and shifting to race pace. The practice was very short because we promised to be back to Pymble to meet our new families at a reasonable time. Since we were changing families we wanted to give some time for the kids to have dinner with the families. What a long and exciting and exhausting day that was!