Taronga

17-Feb-2013 17:29, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 55.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
16-Feb-2013 22:19, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 4.0, 200.0mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
The Taronga zoo in Sydney, Australia is a one of a kind zoo with lots of fun for young children. Now, I have been to many zoos and most of them have been let-downs. When it comes to aquariums, America excels but zoos haven’t in my opinion. Of course, I haven’t been to all zoos, the San Diego zoo comes to mind. The Taronga zoo is situated or designed as a hill. You take the ferry from across the water at one of the harbors – Circular Quay or Darling harbor. The ride is about 20 minutes and it was a spectacular morning with the Sun shining bright and crisp and the air lacking humidity. The breeze added to the cool as we stepped onto the ferry. We had finished breakfast and there was a large group of us going to the zoo. Initially we had booked for the Bridge climb, but Rama wasn’t up to it that day. Teradata’s Soaring in Sydney conference was a four-day event with a lot of us making the winner’s circle. I was part of the Consulting Excellence winners and the entire week was like a paid vacation. The flight from home was long with a six-hour to San Francisco and after a four-hour layover, it was a direct 14 hour flight to Sydney. Most of the ride was smooth, but there was some unnerving turbulence on and off. Leaving behind our son, going to a distant place over thousands of Pacific ocean added to the unsettlement. It was the first time we were crossing the equator and the steward did say there is usually turbulence while crossing the centre line.

18-Feb-2013 11:24, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 4.0, 200.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
18-Feb-2013 10:56, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
 
Landing in Sydney, the line for immigration was looong – it took us almost 45 minutes to get to the agent. The official was pretty cool – after seeing inquisitive immigration officers in Canada, EU, UK, getting into Australia was a snap. I did notice the officer had to skim a lot of pages off my passport to find a blank one. That might have added to his comfort level and he didn’t ask any questions. TD had arranged a few shuttles for us folks and the drive to Sydney harbor was an easy one Sunday morning. The weather was humid but we only got off at the hotel. We got a nice suite on the 10th floor and I recall mentioning that if we added a kitchen and another small room for our son, the place would have been sufficient for us. Then I thought about guests and bathrooms for our son and the guests and I decided, we will end up with a large living space anyway. So there went the thought.

18-Feb-2013 10:04, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
18-Feb-2013 07:08, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 38.0mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 800
 
We slept through part of the afternoon and stepped out. The hotel was very close to the harbor and within 5 minutes we were seeing a lot of activity and downtown and people. Sydney’s public transport system was evident as we  crossed the Circular Quay rail and bus transit stations. We wanted to get lunch and had googled an Indian restaurant. This one sits right near the harbor, the primest of location. As we went in, a middle-aged Indian lady came in an welcomed us. She left us the menu and then virtually disappeared. The group of people who had come before us had their order taken after we were about five minutes in the restaurant. I waited and we didn’t even get a glass of water. We had decided what we wanted, but after 15 minutes of waiting decided to walk out.  No wonder this one had poor reviews of service.

17-Feb-2013 18:25, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 28.0mm, 6 sec, ISO 800
16-Feb-2013 22:52, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.005 sec, ISO 200
 
We spent the rest of the next 90 minutes walking along the harbor. The Sunday afternoon had a lot of crowd enjoying the restaurants on the water side. It was great to see the famed Opera House. My camera was clicking away and before long I had taken over 100 shots! I found the 70-200 a bit too tight sometimes and the 17-55mm came in handy. Little was I to realize that I would get some of the sharpest photos of the Opera house with the landscape friendly lens. We didn’t have an appetite really speaking, so we settled for some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The long journey and the sun picking up started to tell and we headed back to the hotel.

The dinner was arranged at one of the restaurants on the Rocks. The Rocks apparently is the birthplace of Sydney. With over 800 guests, the event was crowded and we managed to find some vegetarian food finally. After a long 42 hours stretch with little sleep, I was eager to get back to the room and catch some sleep. But a 16-hour time zone difference meant that the sleep was still going to be limited.

18-Feb-2013 08:06, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 55.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 125
18-Feb-2013 17:02, Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XS, 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 200
 
The next day was when we started to the zoo. The Taronga zoo is almost 100 years old (founded in 1906) and sits on a hill. Once you get off the ferry, you make your way to the top on a gondola. Then you walk down the pathways with diversions to get back to the water level. All said and done, we walked for about 4 hours. It was a delight to see the zoo. It is well designed and one of the most animal friendly places I have been to. The Kangaroos were just way too lazy that morning and we didn’t get to see it hop even a bit. Same case with the tiger – it was asleep. Did see some activity with the chimps. The bird show was excellent and the tropic kind of setting for some exotic parakeets gave me the opportunity to use my new lens. It turned out to be a disappointment as the setting was way too dark for a F4 lens. In the end, the highlight of the visit was seeing the Kaolas. It is hard to distinguish them from stuffed animals you find in stores – there were so immobile at first. Then we got to see some movement and strange resting positions. The crocodile was just stunning as it made its way to us without even stirring up the water – incredible given the fact that it was over 10 feet long! The reptile pits were another astounding display of creepiness that one can imagine. Another highlight were the giraffes. Getting photos of the Giraffes soaring over the Sydney skyline was certainly one of the best shots I have gotten so far. In the end, I ended up liking the visit to the zoo as much as a kid would like!

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