top of page

April 2024

Australia Adventure

April 4-6  Getting There

We left from Omaha and flew to Minneapolis then Los Angeles then to Sydney. It was a long day!

After clearing the immigration and customs areas pretty quickly, we found the train to be non-functional because of flooding on the tracks due to a serious storm the day before. We waited for a train and then on the train (while a helpful, amusing, and increasingly frustrated conductor kept us informed with regular announcements—she deserved an award!). What should have been 30 minutes turned into more than an hour.


We finally got off the train and onto a tram to take us closer to the church to retrieve luggage for husband John and his colleague John S. From there we trekked to our apartment to wait for the host to arrive (he also had transportation issues because of the trains not working).

Shower and food at the city center Queen Victoria Building (QVB, which is the local name for the city center). It's a multi-block mall with 3 stories above the ground and a large, interconnected web of shops underground. Since it was Saturday, the place was mobbed!

LA airport

Subway map

A quick nap (that lasted hours since it was 11:30 pm Iowa time), and then John went grocery shopping.


Some cereal for supper before heading to the Darling Harbor bridge for fireworks, a Saturday tradition.

Walking is difficult with hip issues still causing pain. Hopefully sleep will help!

Darling Harbor with fireworks barge

April 7  Sunday

We got up for church at St. James, and John visited with several parishioners. We grabbed some home supplies from the storage room and headed back to the apartment, then shared almond pancakes and a halloumi stack at Nook jr with fresh pressed juices. From there we headed to the train and ferry to explore the bay. We walked on the Watson's Bay peninsula and saw the ocean side with its more aggressive wake. We didn't  come as prepared as we should have; it was a sunny day with no sunscreen or cap for John.

After the ferry ride back to the city we returned to St. James for Evening Prayer and found a restaurant on the water to eat supper. Walking wasn't bad until late at night, and then the fever started!


The real reason we're here: St. James, King Street. Side chapel below with electronic console, to be retired in June!

Just so everyone understands the process. The organ "looks" done.

Right: an ibis on the church railing. They are known as bin chickens.

Iconic views around the harbour.

Watson's Bay was lovely! It's touristy, but people clearly live there. Apparently it's common practice to take the ferry into the city to work. They have a clever way to pay for the ride: you tap a credit card on a pad at the beginning of the trip and again at the end. They have special cards that you can "top up" in machine, but a credit card works fine, as does a phone with a transportation setting activated in the wallet.


The photo below I believe to be a date palm.

This is the noisy Miner bird, the most aggressive of the Honeyeater family, known for stealing nests. We also saw some magpies and a couple Rainbow Lorikeets—and, of course the gulls and pigeons!

This is the view from our apartment balcony, which I got to see a lot today when I wasn't sleeping. No break in the fever today!

This is a didgeridoo, which is played by buzzing lips inside the end of the tube. I never knew about the percussion piece.


Sunset and moonset over Darling Harbour.

April 10  Wednesday

Yes, you counted that correctly: two days missed due to illness! The fever finally broke, and I got up and about a bit today. I've been doing laundry yesterday and today, and this afternoon went to the grocery store, which is a couple blocks away. I'm

not sure how I'd do living in a city center where you carry your bags of groceries home. You'd certainly never buy ahead or stock up—although there would be no place to store things in your apartment anyway!

My body clock is pretty confused by sleeping so much during the day. I'm trying to stay awake as long as possible tonight without relapsing this silly virus so that I can sleep at night.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to go out exploring for part of the day!

April 11  Thursday

This morning I woke with what I think is pinkeye! I just can't seem to catch a break! I'm following all the home remedies and throwing as much anti-bacterial and anti-viral stuff at it that I can find. Hope it's short-lived!

I spent a large part of the day launching a summer keyboard program since there seems to be interest. We'll see what actually happens.

After a nap, I headed out to purchase walking poles because I couldn't fit mine into my suitcase. Then off to a pharmacy to buy eyedrops. Then down the street to Hyde Park, which is across from St. James, where John is working. It's a beautiful collection of spaces! Weather was windy and just shy of 70 degrees, so chilly.

Ended the day at the church and walked home with John and John then helped cook a lovely beef stir-fry for dinner.

100 Market Street

Wall is made of concrete.

Fountain side and back views.


Boy imitating statue!

Ibis everywhere!

In the middle of the park, which goes on for a couple blocks, is this sunken garden with a

lovely  mosaic fountain. However, I marveled at the leaf caught in this magnificent 3-foot diameter web! I'm glad I didn't encounter the spider! You can hear the bagpiper playing across the street.

Amazing variety of trees!

Local musicians

St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral

This avenue of fig trees and undergrowth went on for a very long block. Probably there are shade-loving blooms in the summer. When I turned around after taking the photo above, I snapped the one with palm trees with deciduous trees beyond. It turns out Hyde Park has important Aboriginal history.

IMG_8155 2.heic

The exterior of St. James, where Dobson Opus 99 is being installed. It's the oldest church in Sydney and hard to photograph because it's ringed by buildings.


  Sunrise is about 6:15 am. 

April 12  Friday

This was my first "normal" sort of day. I slept all night and stayed awake most of the day! I typically begin the day catching up on emails and texts because of the time difference between here and home. Today I signed up 6 piano students!

A walk along King Street Wharf seemed good, so I set off and walked about 2 miles, with intermittent rests. I'm trying to get through a book, so lunch and reading on the sunny balcony was nice. Then a nap! :) After that a walk to the grocery store and pharmacy. More reading and then dinner with Michael and Bev from St. James.

This afternoon I was asked to apply for the job conducting the Ames Youth Choir. It's a lot to consider—especially the 75 mile distance from home. It's a door, and it's opening. 

River Banksia, which can grow into a tree

The Wharf starts with slips for ferries and a Maritime MuSEAum with military and

tall ships displayed. One day I need to walk through them. Then some some slips for party boats—big ones! The Showboat is a dinner cruise that goes out nearly every evening. It's a paddlewheel for a nostalgic riverboat appeal.

Common mynas.

April 13  Saturday

It was off to see the city a bit today. John and I went to 350 George Street to see the first office of FM Alexander in Sydney. It was a bit hard to photograph because of sun, location, and trains, but I got a shot of the front and the back (through an alley). Turning around I saw these suspended birdcages. On the street below were brass plaques with the names of the birds represented by recordings of their calls playing (maybe from the cages?). It was a lovely feeling and a clever installation.

From there we walked around the Opera House and then into the Royal Botanical Gardens. It's a lovely harbor and a beautiful park! 

350 George St where FM Alexander, Rossi,  Robert Young, and Edith Tasca-Page had their first teaching studio in Sydney in 1901. 

Above left: sculpture on the street corner. Below: the opera house from the sidewalk. Right: an author plaque from the writers walk.

Harbor Bridge

Spider web #2!

One of several types of fig. Below they encourage roots to grow to the ground. I don't think these are both the same variety.

Succulents everywhere!

Above: prickly pear by another name here. Right: they have many types of agave. Below: a whole bed of aloe vera!

Botanical Gardens

Lucky shot of a Noisy Miner on a hibiscus.

It's hard to eat outside with all the birds. Above and far right: Dusky Moorhens, at home on water or land! Middle: Bin Hen (ibis) and pigeon. The video on the right shows how brazen they can be.

Below: birdcage installation opposite George St building

The end of the day brought an informative lecture / demonstration of the organ by the president of Dobson (AKA John Panning). It was attended by about 50 people and followed by a meet-the-organ builders reception of champaign and sandwiches. It was a good turn-out and well-received by parishioners and friends of the organ project. Comments included how much they understood about the workings of the organ—and how well John brought it all down to layman's terms.

April 14  Sunday

John and I went to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains today by train. It was a long trip, but very interesting! We walked from the train station to Echo Point and saw the Three Sisters, a rock formation in a valley opposite a ridge. It really looked like a Grand Canyon with green trees. There were lots of people!! Walking was hard, so I sat down to enjoy the scenery while John went off a bit further.

We saw Katoomba Falls from a gondola car on the way to and from Scenic World. We had Caesar salads for lunch when we arrived then took a funicular type cable car down to what used to be the coal mine. There was a nice display and a boardwalk through a rainforest. We saw a lyrebird and a yellow spotted honey eater. It was lovely—a lot of walking.

The return trip was by another gondola car that carried us to Scenic World then again to the other side where we began. From there we walked to the top of Katoomba Falls and watched the water come down the cascades, then took a bus back to town to catch the train. We almost missed it because the women's bathroom had only one stall in use. John was a bit stressed, but we made it onto the train for a 2-hour ride back to Sydney.

After stopping at the grocery store to stock up in 10 minutes before the store closed, we walked home and had a light supper.

                                                              We began the trip on George St (or light rail street) outside the Queen Victoria Building (or QVB) after which the whole of this shopping district is named. It's a 4-story mall of huge proportions with a subterranean level, too!

Clockwise from top: Katoomba Falls from the gondola car, the rim

and the valley, Katoomba Cascades, The Three Sisters. For their

Dreamtime history, check out this site.

It's really an old mining operation on the floor of the valley, so they've developed all sorts of tourism from the left-overs. There is old mining equipment littering the floor of the rainforest, along with ferns and Tarzan-like vines.

To amuse children on this rather

long walk, there is a story

(complete with a recording)

about a mouse who's been asked to dinner by a fox. The mouse declines and announces that he's going to lunch with the Gruffalo. All along the way are clues for finding

characters in the story.

At the end is the

Gruffalo. I'm not sure

what the significance of

the mushrooms is—or

the butterflies.

Above: Yellow spotted honeyeater or lesser lewin. Right: lyrebird (video by John)

Ketoomba Cascades

There were three "rides" in this Scenic World: the Scenic Railway (John's video of the docking and disembarking on far right), and two gondolas, one from point to point overlooking the valley, the other from the valley floor to the top of the ridge.

The Alexander Technique school is near the other end of Hyde Park, opposite St. James Church. This is the Veteran's Memorial.

April 15  Monday

The church end of Hyde Park.

Today I met Kri Ackers, a well-known Alexander Technique teacher who studied with Walter Carrington in England and then moved to Sydney in 1983 to train teachers here. She's still at it, though she's passed the torch on to Simon and Marietta. The lesson was delightful!

I met John and John S. at the church for lunch in the St. Martin underground mall. Next door to the church is a court house. There was a big case that day, so press was everywhere. The barristers wear robes and wigs here, though that fashion is slowly becoming optional.

At any rate, the case was about an assault and defamation. It made the New York Times.

After that I sat in Hyde Park reading and listening to a flutist who also played panpipes. I walked home, enjoyed a nice sunset, and we went to a German restaurant that has wing night on Mondays!

This guy was amplified, but nicely balanced, so it was pleasant to listen to from 20 feet away. He had a lovely collection of popular music and light classics. He was back on Tuesday when I went through.

April 16  Tuesday

Today I visited the Sydney City Alexander Technique teacher training course. I got some wonderful work from Simon and Marietta. It was lovely to watch their similar but distinctly different way of working. My head is full! My body is changed!!

After that I met John and John S. for lunch. It was a lovely salad day! From there I went back to the Australian Museum and looked around for a few hours. They have a marvelous collection of minerals, and I discovered that Australia is known for opals.There are a couple good exhibits about indigenous culture, one about the sea travel between islands. It's fascinating to imagine how they traveled without compass, using temperature changes, prevailing winds and cloud formation along with celestial signs to help with navigation. Before they began they would empty their minds so they didn't bring the confusion of the mind with them. They also had a huge exhibit about Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses II, including his coffin and part of a colossus.

It was dinner of dim sum and fried rice then an early night to bed after all the AT work!

This is the outer coffin of someone else into which the coffin at the left might have been placed for burial.

And, of course, I found a drum! This is huge—big enough to lay 3 or 4 people inside. I didn't see any slits, and I can't imagine what kinds of beaters they would use. It was the only musical instrument I saw.

April 17  Wednesday

Today I went again to the Sydney City Alexander Technique class. I decided to walk and see how my hip would do and left time to sit and rest along the way. In the end I didn't really need it. After a lesson and all the work yesterday, my use has improved enough that my hip and low back aren't pulling anymore when I walk. I still took it slowly, but was astonished that I could fold the joint without the pain/stiffness I've grown accustomed to over the last weeks! After all I've been through in the last 2 years, I shouldn't be surprised that AT works as well as it does—I just didn't expect this much this fast!


It was amazing! I'm learning so many refinements for my own use and for my teaching. I can't wait to try it on students. 

I walked to St. James to get a few more organ related brochures, since I shared mine with Kri Ackers, who loves organ music. She was doing her one-woman recycling job this morning, collecting things for resale stores she works with.

From St. James I went again to St. Martin's underground lunch place and found a bakery that had gluten free chocolate goods (!) and the fish and chips salad combo we had on Monday. The woman remembered me! It was a lot of food!!

Then I bought a book, which I hope to turn into an Orff musical next year. I saw a couple magpies in Hyde Park on my walk home from class.

Australian magpie

There's a pedestrian walkway as wide as a street coming down from St. Martin's area, so I snapped some of the impressive buildings.

Above left and left are a hotel with detail above the main entrance. 

Above is the Bank of Australia building. I love the kangaroo and ostrich (emu?) above the door!

I discovered the Gruffalo is a familiar story

(from the Katoomba rainforest), and Etta and her shadow story about personal space will be coming to an Orff Ensemble as soon as I can create one.

April 18  Thursday

Today was the day of museums—and to learn about Aborigine culture. I started by catching up on laundry and adding photos to this page (it's hard to do it at night because I'm sleep from all the walking).

I walked along the Cockle Bay Wharf in the morning, took a rest and then met John and John S. for lunch at St. Martin station. From there I walked to the Museum of Sydney to see Aborigine exhibits. They had a wonderful film about the early history of the colony, but the anti-native spirit was as bad as it was in America. The government in New South Wales has made an effort to acknowledge the native nations, and the Welcome to Country tradition is evident in museum exhibits, but also in the local landscape. I bought a book about Songlines (the same as Dreaming), which tell the history of everything in the land and features. It's the way Elders pass on information about the past to generations of the future.

It rained as I left the Museum of Sydney and walked to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It's a large building with four floors. The third floor is an exhibit of Nicholas Mangan called "A World Undone". I believe every 5th grade boy needs to see this exhibit because it was masterfully filled with art based on nature, electricity, termite hills—many specimens that don't immediately make one think of art. But if a young man realized this can be art, what could the imagination conceive? It was hard to take photos that would do justice to the exhibits.

Above: From the first floor exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art. I was struck by how similar it looks to Native American ceremonial garb. This is life-size!

Below: outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.


The other astonishing exhibit was this installation by Joan Brassil: core samples containing various crystals. They were set to vibrate by a computer stimulus so that they sang randomly as you walked through the exhibit. I imagine the museum guards probably got used to the sound, but she likened them to the ringing of tuning forks. It was quite an experience!


Two views of the harbor: Left from inside the museum through windows with yellow film. Right from the walk outside the museum. Top right: lots of entertainment on the walk outside the museum. Too bad I didn't catch her dance. There was also a juggler who was making a big show of balancing a unicycle on his chin. I admit I had great plenty of that show!

April 19  Friday

Today it was back to the Alexander Technique training course. I had some questions. There were several people there that day, including a new local teacher. It was wonderful to chat with everyone! I got some tips for our vacation time in Kiama and bought some books about Walter and Dylis Carrington. Simon and Marietta are working on transcripts of more of Walter's talks to his students. Hopefully it will become a book one day, but at this point, they are working through the process. All in all a wonderful experience!!

Before I attended the class I gave a friends and family lesson via Skype to a student in California. It was a first lesson and went OK. This will be an interesting process.

I went to lunch with John and John S. and planned to stop at the Enterprise car rental place to verify the car because they didn't send a confirmation email. Luckily John got a phone call from them just as I was walking to the train, so it saved me a trip.

After doing laundry so we have clean clothes for our vacation week, I walked up to the Barangeroo area on the north side of the city center. It's named for a powerful Cammeraygal woman who lived in the area at the time of early colonial settlement. She was a key figure in local Aboriginal culture and community, and remains so today. There is a reserve there up on a hill—a park really— with trees and views of the harbour and bridge. I noticed that the Aborigine flag  on the top of the bridge is higher than the Australian state flag.

The photo on top is an iconic pair of buildings that mark the beginning of the Barangaroo section of town. The photo below is a lovely flower outside a restaurant on King St. Wharf. To the left you can see that the Aborigine flag is higher than the state flag. The phot below is the bridge on the other end of the harbour.

One interesting custom they have in Australia is "Welcome to Country". There is no definite article. "Country" is the Aboriginal term for place and includes the people, the spaces and the history—past, present, and future. There are acknowledgements in tourism materials of which nation's land is represented, and often these blurbs are printed on buildings or plaques around the city.

We finished the day with dinner at a wonderful Oaxacan restaurant with Don (who is working with John S. next week) and Tommy (who is flying home as they conclude their vacation). Blending modern culture with Aboriginal history and culture is taken very seriously here.

As I was walking away from Barangaroo I noticed a film playing in a recess beneath a rock formation at the entrance to what looks like it will one day be a train station (there are gates and fences already built, but they were jack hammering the wall when I walked through). The photo below is a still from that video, which portrayed a young woman's coming of age ritual. It began in modern time but ended in the past. It was a moving —and expensive—example of how they blend the cultures.

Above: still from film showing ritual of young girl's coming of age ritual that began in the present time and morphed into the past.

Left:  The Welcome to Country that accompanied the film.

April 20  Saturday

John picked up our little blue Skoda this morning, and we drove south to see the Symbio Animal Park. It was a cold, windy, rainy day, but the animals were interesting. We petted and fed kangaroos and saw local birds and wildlife. I love zoos, so even though it wasn't great weather, it was a lovely stop!


Right: koala, which moves a lot like a sloth

Below: long-necked turtle


Below right: meerkat who loves to dig holes

Left: video credit John Panning

Above: Red panda that moved like a combination of a fox and bear

Below: Tasmanian devil that bears no resemblance to the Loony Tunes cartoon character.

Fresh water crocodile

We drove down to Shellharbour Village and had lunch at Moons Fresh Sushi where I had a big bowl of warm soup and John had sushi/sashimi. Then we checked into our motel and drove to Port Kembla Hill 60 (a gun emplacement from  World War II) to see the Five Islands amid a windy surf.

After trying to see a lighthouse at Flagstaff Point in Wollongong but being stymied by roads closed for a triathlon, we drove down to Kiama to see the blowhole. It's a sea cave with an open top, and the surf surges into it and shoots water up to 25 feet in the air, drenching bystanders. We didn't see anything quite that dramatic (though the tide was coming in and there was a great wind and large waves), but we did get wet—and covered with salty foam spray. 


Left to right: The hole, the blow, the light.

We finished the night with fish dinners at the Ocean Beach Hotel.

April 21  Sunday

Fitzroy Falls

Top of

Left and middle: Twin Falls. Right: John's video of Grotto and falls.

Another Sunday of Easter!

We got a late start after eating breakfast in our room and walking to the local IGA to buy some things for a picnic lunch. We drove west to Morton National Park to see waterfalls. There were several, as well as Macquarie Pass.

The Illawarra Escarpment is also known as the Southern Highlands in this part of the world. It's pretty incredible to see from both the top and bottom. From the top looking down it's like the Grand Canyon with trees, though the rock color isn't as vivid. From the bottom it's a rainforest, humid and lush with ferns and palms—and vines hanging from trees of all sorts. We took a hike at each elevation. Both were easy in places and treacherous in others. I made it all the way to the end of the lower loop and got to see the Cascades Falls, but I didn't get down the slippery rocks to see the Grotto above one of the last waterfalls on the top loop. However, John shared a video.

Aboriginal history

Twin Falls


The rainforest floor has moss and lichens of various colors, ferns and small palms, and large trees. The one above is likely a turpentine tree, and the trunk diameter requires at least 2 people's arms to encircle the bottom.

Rainforest Floor

These vines (on the right) grow everywhere, often winding around the trunks of trees. The one on the left and below is one amazing example! I didn't photograph the connecting part, but it's one large structure.

The reason for the hike: Cascade Falls. Definitely worth the effort!

The drive through the rural countryside reminded us a bit of Wisconsin, with it's rolling hills and cattle. However, there were large country estates, complete with hedges and gates and formal driveways. However, the typical small town pride prevailed in Robertson, where they apparently grow really good potatoes.

And when you stop to take a photo, the cattle stop to watch you. The ones on the left actually came over to the inner fence to see what was going on. Their voices, however, didn't sound particularly calm, so I don't think they were actually happy to see me.

April 22  Monday

Let's talk about lyrebirds. They are about the size of a pheasant with long tail feathers. When the males display, the feathers look like the musical instrument. Yesterday we saw one fly past us into a tree then soar past me close enough to touch. They spend most of their time on the ground scratching in the underbrush, probably eating bugs. They are amazing birds! Today we saw at least half a dozen. A Google search suggests they are reclusive, but our experience hasn't borne that out. They have let us get pretty close to photograph them and just ignored us.

The lyre, a Greek musical instrument

We started a bit earlier this morning after breakfast in our room. We got lunch groceries last night, so we headed off for Carrington Waterfalls in Budderoo National Park in upper Kangaroo Valley. It was one of our favorites!

As usual there was signage about Aboriginal history in this region, but it was also a sawmill area where they took eucalyptus (known here as eucalypt) to build homes. The mill closed in the 1980s.

From there we drove to the Minnamurra Falls Rainforest Centre and climbed a long, steep trail to see the falls. Along the way we saw many lyrebirds and lots of interesting trees. 

Two types of parasitic plants were growing on many trees. The one on the left and right are the same thing and often host a lyrebird nest. We saw one working in the one on the left.

The trail to Minnamurra Falls was often about a 45 degree incline and long! The falls was lovely, and the descent went much quicker. We ate lunch at the visitors' center picnic area.

After lunch we drove through the countryside to Kiama to check in on the blowholes. There was an amusing scene of cattle grazing with palm trees!

Above: an explanation of how blowholes work

Left: Kiama small blowhole

Right: Kiama blowhole (the large one)

Below: The light by the light of

the nearly full moon

One of the most exciting occurrences today happened when we were at an overlook point outside Kiama. Walking through a grassy field I spied what looked like a deer lying in the sun—except they don't have deer here. It was a rather large kangaroo. We walked  closer, and when the sunny spot disappeared, he got up and hopped off. Amazing!! These photos and videos are Johns!

April 23  Tuesday

Today we drove back to Sydney via the Garawarra State Conservation Area and the Royal National State Park. That means that instead of a motorway (their name for a freeway) we took 2-lane switch backs up and down the escarpment. It was infinitely more interesting and certainly more scenic than the suburbs. There is so much space filled with housing here!

But first we stopped at Flagstaff Point in Wollongong to see light house #2. John collects waterfalls, and it could be said that I collect lighthouses!

We walked along and then drove over the Sea Cliff Bridge, a serpentine bridge along the coast between Clifton and Coalcliff, not far north of Wollongong, one of the larger cities on the South Coast.

We stopped for a late lunch in Sutherland, once we got back to the southern suburbs. We returned the car and started the process of setting up in the Ultimo hotel, which is near Chinatown and across the street from Paddy's Market, a covered series of vendor stalls that dates back to the 1830s, though updated enough to take credit cards!

Lighthouse at Flagstaff Point

Australian pelicans are the size of a small child, so perching on top of a light pole is no small feat.

We met Peter Jewkes—organist, organ builder and consultant for the St. James project—for dinner on the water near Mosman Bay. It required a ferry ride, though he drove us to the train station so we could take a train over the harbour bridge to get home, since the ferries don't run often in the evening.

Close-up of Luna Park, under the Harbour Bridge

April 24  Wednesday

Today we walked! First to the light rail to meet the Dobson guys to get a key for their apartment so we could get our other luggage (and do some laundry). They were on an extended break because of the Wednesday concert series at the church: first the rehearsal in the morning, then lunch, then the concert—about 4 hours of non-work time.

While the laundry ran its course, we walked to the National Maritime MuSEAum at Darling Harbour. There was a building with displays that covered history, technology and art related to sea culture. There was an extensive exhibit about diving and sea creature photography. There were also ships to board and tour: a couple military vessels, a submarine, and two tall ships. One of them was a replica of a spice trade ship from the Dutch East Indies Company.  We also saw a destroyer called The Vampire.

Above and right: James Craig, a cargo

ship (was considered a wreck for 40 years

then refurbished)

Below: figurehead from front of the ship

(photo by John)

Above upper and lower: Duyfken (little dove)

Replica of Dutch East Indies Company spice ship. Very small ship. Sleeps about 12: captain and merchant in the back under cover, crew slept on the deck, spices stored in the hold below.

Left and above: Light house #3 

(above photo credit John)


Right: Fresnel lens from Tasman Lighthouse (would that be #4?)

Below: submarine (photo by John)

After laundry and museum, we stopped for a quick supper at an Irish Pub, then took a light rain to our hotel with suitcases in tow. After stowing them in the room, we took a train to Redfern Community Center to sing with a cross-cultural choir called Barayagal, led by Yuwaalaraay historian and musician Nardi Simpson, described as one of the most exciting Australian composers of her generation, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. She has also written a novel, Song of the Crocodile.

It was a fascinating experience! We sang songs of Country and history, which she composed. There were about 35 people at the rehearsal, and she used an additive, creative (much like Orff) approach to teaching words, tunes, and parts, layering them as she went to create fantastic musical experiences. The very capable accompanist was a jazz keyboardist Kevin Hunt, who is connected with the Sydney Conservatory and a djembe player, electric guitarist, flutist and clarinetist. They were a wonderful combo!!


Most people seemed to be there because they valued the Aboriginal cross-cultural connection, though they could obviously sing and loved to make music together. It was an awesome experience! We sang a song about local birds, which I asked her permission to use with a children's ensemble. It would be an incredible experience for the kids!

Mural in Redfern   

The Pemulwuy Project is the redevelopment of the land known as “the Block” in Redfern, owned by the Aboriginal Housing Company Ltd. We are redeveloping the land into a mixed used site which includes affordable housing for 62 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, a gymnasium, commercial and retail space, a gallery, student accommodation, and a childcare centre. View our Video Gallery to watch our videos on the Pemulwuy Project and read our News section for the latest updates on the project.

find out more

Above: one of several bagpipe bands (photo by John)

Right: This group is not very well timed with their marching and arm moves, either because they are still in training, or because it was the end of the parade and they were tired.

April 25  Thursday

Today was ANZAC Day in Australia. Wikipedia says Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served". ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and it commemorates a 1915 decision to join forces to capture the Gallipoli peninsula.


Many streets in the country are named for the day, and there are even ANZAC biscuits, a kind of oatmeal cookie without nuts or fruit. There is a March (a parade) with bands, military forces, veterans, and high school kids in military training clubs. It was a long parade!


The festival began with a "dawn service" that began about 4:30 am, though the sun rises about 6:30 am now. There was a fly-over about 9:30. When the early festivities are over, everyone descends on pubs and restaurants to have reunion parties that may or may not last the rest of the day.

The bands were great! There were small ones, large ones, young and old ones, even whole bands made up of bagpipes. It made me want to learn to play. The cantor can't be that different from the recorder!!


The most remarkable thing was the arm swinging of the military folks. Those poor shoulders!! Ever the Alexander Technique Teacher, I guess!

Above: the main building with multiple vendors and restaurants

Above right: a stand-alone vendor

Left: Pelicans hoping for a handout. They are about 4 feet tall.

Right: Moreton Bay bugs, like crayfish. We had some for dinner on Tuesday.

The next stop was the Sydney Fish Market, one of the largest in the world. They sell fresh fish to take home and have several restaurants.

We made a stop in Chinatown, which is

close to our hotel. Actually we're in the

middle of it; the official space is a

pedestrian mall with restaurants and a few shops. We stood in line for Emperor's cream puffs, which were like waffle batter filled with pastry cream, served hot. John was intrigued by the elaborate neon sign. I was more intrigued with the mural on the building beyond the end of the lane.

This is the name negotiated by Aboriginal council and Taronga Zoo. Nura means "empty camp" as in after a slaughter. Diya means "light". Together they mean "This Country" and depict the unique habitat of the Australia walk where native animals have free range to interact with humans who walk the path through the exhibit.

April 26  Friday

Today we went to Taronga Zoo, a short ferry trip across the harbour. It's one of the best I've been to for habitat and connection to people. They had several "walks" set apart by fences and double door systems, but once you were inside, there was a path through the area for people to stay on, but the animals could move freely. Most of them were sleeping (in the middle of the day), but it was clear they had travelled around the enclosure. It was quite large enough to provide a habitat for the animals. We walked through one with 2 different sizes of kangaroos, emu, turkeys and other birds. We walked through 2 aviaries that really replicated the jungle and Blue Mountain habitats they set out to create—and the birds were everywhere, sometimes brushing a chin or cheek as they flew.


We didn't see the African savannah or rainforest trails, but we saw a platypus, lemurs, and a capybarus (think overgrown guinea pig the size of an actual small pig—they can hold their breath for 5 minutes underwater and often sleep like crocodiles because their noses, eyes, and ears are on the top of the head)! And the views of the harbour were wonderful!

Emu                                                                Kangaroo

There were lots of koalas, mostly sleeping!     Lunch with ibis AND turkeys (and 

                                                                              pigeons, too).

Pelicans displaying, almost as if they were trained. The one in the water would swim across with wings raised then fly to the other side and repeat the process.

Lemurs and an echidna, which I also saw in daylight.

After a ferry ride and light rail ride back to our hotel, we changed for dinner at a nice French bistro and then went to a concert at the Opera House. Sibelius under the baton of Osmo Vänskä, whom we have seen many times at Orchestra Hall in the Twin Cities for New Year's Eve.

Sibelius really loved Wagner, so there's lots of angst, but the hero was victorious in the last movement!

Colorful birday: Electus parrot and male regent bowerbird, which flew so close its wings touched my chin.

Left: Cargo ship entering Sydney Harbour.

Never get tired of this view! This time from the balcony of the Opera House.

The view from the nosebleed section—not a bad seat in the house!

Left: All the concrete is functional support for the building. Apparently when it was designed they had no idea how it would be built—or paid for. It was

                             very controversial but has become a symbol of the city.

As we left we had a good chuckle at the names of their vehicles!

April 27  Saturday

After a quick in-room breakfast we took the bus to the Flour & Stone Bakery for a lamington. It's a 2-inch cube of cake cut and filled with fruit jam then drenched in chocolate sauce and covered with coconut. Dense cake and not too sweet. WOW! Worth the calories—and worth the gluten! I've already found a recipe!


We walked to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It's housed in two buildings and has an amazing collection of old and new work with Aboriginal work interspersed with other work as it fits the theme. Many amazing exhibits!

Above: Lamington, a popular sweet treat on Australia Day (or any day). We found some recipes. It shouldn't be hard to make gluten free!

Left: The train station. Sydney has both a train system (sometimes underground) and a light rail system (mostly on streets) as well as a bus system. All of them have a "tap on / tap off" system that can be used with a special card, a credit card, or a smart phone. It's a pretty sweet system!

Below: Part of the exhibit by Louise Bourgeois. I was reminded that we have one of these at the Sculpture Park in Des Moines. There are 6 in the world. Another one is in Tokyo.

Above: Aboriginal art interspersed with Western classics.

Below: Part of the exhibit by Louise Bourgeois. I was reminded that we have one of these at the Sculpture Park in Des Moines. There are 6 in the world. Another one is in Tokyo. Her work is somewhat disturbing, but she believes she transforms nasty things into good work: hate into love. That's what makes her tick, according to an interview on this site.

Below: We really could smell this before we ever saw it. Amazing idea!! I thought the restaurant was serving curry. See the description to the right.

We walked into Wooloomaloo to catch another bus for a long ride across the harbour bridge to Wendy's Secret Garden. It's a lovely space filled with stairs and narrow paths and lots of lovely plantings. Some of them probably bloom in other seasons, but there are many shady leafy plants. It's extensive and mounted on the side of a hill, down from Clark Park. It's definitely worth the trip, but don't run out of daylight!

We stopped at a nearby Asian restaurant for some simple fare: scallops and veggies. Yum!!

While waiting for the train home we ate our rocky road bar with raspberries and rose (Turkish delight, that is). Yikes! Sugar bomb!!

Right: Whimsical outdoor sculpture on the terrace of the Art Gallery.

Left: Some lingering blooms in the Secret Garden.

Bottom: Luna Park rides under the Harbour Bridge.

By this point in the trip I would drop into bed at night and sleep most of the night. Figuring out when to sleep was challenging on the other side of the world! And all the walking was exhausting! It took me a week to recover once I got home!

April 28  Sunday

This morning we went to church at Christ Church St. Laurence, just around the block from our hotel. It's very high church with incense and bells! A long choral service, but the choir was lovely, and the organ postlude was good. The man handing out hymnals recognized John as the organ guy from St. James.

We came home and changed into beach clothes, grabbed a granola bar, and headed for the light rail then ferry to Manly Beach. It is a touristy town with two beaches on an isthmus at the edge of the actual harbour and right across from Watson's Bay. Interesting bookend to our trip, which began with a visit to Watson's Bay, the other peninsula framing the border with the bay and the ocean! We had a fish and chips lunch of grilled dori, walked on the beach and watched the surfers, then treated ourselves to gelato and headed back on the ferry.

We walked up to Observatory Hill to see the view of Luna Park and the Harbour Bridge then walked back down to Lord Nelson Hotel, the oldest hotel in Sydney. It was a quaint old part of town with old stone and brick buildings, winding lanes, and historic plaques telling what happened and where historic sites used to be. It was a delightful change from the hustle and bustle of the city center!

We had dinner with John S. and Don, who worked last week and will work one more week together before John S. returns home. It was a nice way to wind down our trip. Now for the packing and traveling.

bottom of page