On the way back from Cairns, flights got backed up - supposedly from Typhoon Nuri - which resulted in a 12-hour layover in Sydney last Saturday.
It was a two-way thing.
Ugh. A 12-hour layover added to an already long travel itinerary.
Cool. A 12-hour layover in a wonderful city!
So Qantas escorted us back through Customs (checking us back into the country), gave us a voucher for cabfare - and off to Circular Quay we went. A winter's afternoon in Sydney - spent along Sydney Cove.
The cab dropped us off right down at Circular Quay - right at Sydney Cove, which as far as I could tell - was a great spot to be dropped off. From this point you could hop on a ferry to just about anywhere in the harbour - and boy did we find a great place for lunch. All within earshot of some live indigenous music.
I hate seeing Gustav head towards the Lousiana coast. I'm mad at myself for contacting a friend and colleague only last night regarding lab space - to see if he needed room in an ultralow temp freezer for anything. He could have fedexed it to us last week. I did offer work space, if it comes to that - in the weeks and months following the storm if he needs it. I hope it doesn't come to that.
We only (perhaps foolishly) walked by Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art -- I think this bonus day caught us so off-guard that we didn't actually think we do anything, if that makes any sense at all. Later, I read that one of the main exhibits was 'The 2008 Biennale of Sydney: Revolutions - Forms that Turn' - and I'm guessing it would have been fascinating to see. As for the signs in front of the museum - ugh.
'Tis the season. Yep, the tropics might give us a busy few weeks - right now we're keeping an eye on Hanna, with several computer models having her going further north of Charleston, while two models have her going much further south. We're pretty much in the middle of the two divergent tracks. I guess that means we pay attention, right?
The Sydney Harbour bridge was quite beautiful - with a hotel at her base that I must say would be a fun place to stay for a weekend. The park at the base was nice too. You could walk the bridge - the top evidently has a walk way and I think I read that it takes a few hours to walk the whole bridge. You could also take the stairs up at the end of the bridge - and there was a nice lookout there too. (If you look closely at the image below - or click on it to enlarge it - you'll see folks in the upper right-hand corner walking - as well as one of the lookout locations).
The garden is a mess. I desperately need to mow grass - we had quite a bit of rain while I was gone - and there are quite a number of small branches down from the live oaks - we must have had some wind too. During this time of year it's a bit hard to be motivated in the garden - the humidity is high, storms linger out in the Atlantic - tall grass and a few branches seem trivial in the big picture. Instead I think about where I'll need to take the boat if Hanna gets closer and stronger, and if the Airstream can weather a storm. The Airstream can handle wind - but not a tidal surge - it'd end up floating down Highway 17 somewhere, or drifting out in the marshes. Or better yet, just turning upside down and landing a few yards away.
Now these guys had spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge...and this was the only sailboat I spotted on the water all afternoon. (And I'd have like to hop aboard. I need to go for a sail).
Okay, so I'll mow the grass. I'll ignore the less-than-motivating tropical season - and mow the grass. And I'll also find out if the stuff that I have in storage (stuff=most of my possessions) are covered for flood damage. All in the name of 'storm preparation'. Maybe I'll also stock up on wine. It couldn't hurt.
Yes, it really is a beautiful structure. We've all seen images of it so often, and I thought that might dim my view of it - but it didn't. It was stunning. It also backs up to the Royal Botanic Gardens (which, surprisingly, I did not visit - because I honestly didn't know they were there until the cab drive back to the airport). If I had known, I would have loved to have visited the Centre for Plant Conservation & Research, which I've read a bit about since my return. Their big story is that of the Wollemi Pine - or 'dinosaur tree'. Here's the official australian site and here is a link to some photos of this tree. You can even purchase them now for planting in the US. A bit of a background (from Wikipedia - do read the whole story there, it's a very interesting one!):
Wollemia is a genus of coniferous tree in the family Araucariaceae. The Australian species Wollemia nobilis is the sole species in the genus Wollemia and was discovered in 1994 in a remote series of narrow, steep-sided sandstone gorges near Lithgow in temperate rainforest wilderness area of the Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, 150 kilometres-west of Sydney.
In both the botanical and popular literature, the tree has been almost universally dubbed the Wollemi Pine, although it is not a true pine (genus Pinus) nor a member of the pine family (Pinaceae), but rather is related to Kauri and Araucaria in the family Araucariaceae. The oldest fossil of the Wollemi tree has been dated to 200 million years ago
(Too cool. It is related to the Kauri pine - an image of which I showed here).
Would it be...tempting fate to say that it wouldn't surprise me at all if a hurricane came our way this year? It's been such a tumultuous year - that I almost expect it. I almost feel guilty saying that, with Gustav bearing down on Lousiana, and the Atlantic filling up with storms. I think I'd almost just shrug my shoulders and say 'well, yeah...' - but perhaps I also need to improve my attitude a bit, don't ya think? So I'll pause for a moment...
...and go through my INBOX and dig up my first graduate student, R, and his email that contains the 'go away hurricane' song that he used to sing as a kid in Puerto Rico. So, with all credit to R:
Santa Maria, Libranos de todo mal
Amparanos Senora, de ese terrible animal
Temporal, Temporal, Alla viene el Temporal
Temporal, Temporal, Alla viene el Temporal
Que sear de mi Borinquen, Cuando llegue el Temporal
Que sera de mi Bohio cuando venga el Temporal
(I know, I'll ask R for a translation and get back with you.)
I'm just showing you this image - of the Observer Hotel - because I liked it. And because my good friend from graduate school, Bill, used to always say that we scientists were 'trained observers' each time we did something blatantly...stupid. So in honor of Bill, and all of the stupid things we've done - I'd love to stay in that hotel one day. It was constructed in 1848 - and (no surprise) seems to have it's own resident ghost. More reason to stay, don't you think? As for Bill, I owe him one this trip. I had fedexed my two poster presentations to my hotel in Cairns, and they didn't arrive by the time I had to leave Monday morning for my oral presentation (and one of the poster presentations was that same afternoon). So he said he'd walk me to a printers after my morning session - and on the way there in INSISTED that we stop off at his hotel to drop off his computer bag - so I groaned and we stopped - and there, in the front of his hotel, was a fedex truck with both my posters inside. Yep, that was a relief (and yes, lessons learned).
So it's just strange to think that outer bands of Gustav are crossing our shoreline today. Mostly bringing just wind, a few really quick showers. These storms are huge, and Gustav isn't all that big a storm (in terms of size). But here it is, reaching us.
Several hours were spent at the Market at The Rocks. What a nice market - only open on Saturdays and Sundays I believe - and right across from a near-perfect Irish Pub, The Mercantile. My friend and I both felt it was perfectly reasonable for Qantas to reimburse us for the shopping we had done during the afternoon - since if we had not been delayed, we wouldn't have had the opportunity - but not surprisingly, we didn't get a chance to ask (nor would we have - but it was a good running joke to justify the splurges, like the beautiful pashmina scarves...). So yes - you got it - me, the consumate non-shopper, chose shopping over going to the Art Museum or touring the Opera House. And I had a blast doing it. Shopping and an irish pub - maybe it was the combination? Anyway, after a few beers and a few packages - it was time to head back to the airport and a 14 hour flight to LAX. In an almost full plane. In LAX, it took almost four and a half hours to get processed back into the country, fill out the form for a lost piece of luggage (the posters!) and rebook flights to the east coast. No wonder I'm still tired.
So, really, now it's time to mow grass. And make a plan. I've avoided it long enough here I do believe.