Hello once again!
I never know how to start these things…nice weather we’re having? Actually, no. The winter weather here in Melbourne is 8 times out of 10 cloudy and windy. Also, I don’t think our heaters are working, but it’s not too bad as it only gets down to the low 50’s F right now.
SO, I may or may not be in denial that next week is the LAST week of class here at Deakin. Holy cow this semester has absolutely flown by. Luckily there’s still 3 weeks or so until I am fully done with all my finals.
O.K. so time for a recap of what happened this past week. I last left you with the thrilling cliffhanger of my ballooned-up ankle and the eminent flight to Sydney. Well it turns out compression bandages and ibuprofen can get you through a lot. My friend Ethan and I had a great time in Sydney and I can assure you one weekend is not enough time to see everything there is to see! We departed Friday afternoon and after a quick flight arrived in the sunny and considerably warmer city of Sydney. We hopped in a shuttle service and arrived just after sundown at our hostel – a considerably better experience than the janky establishment where we stayed in Cairns. We were located near Darling Harbor and spent that night walking around the beautifully lit-up docks. Sydney is so much larger than Melbourne and you can really feel it. The central business district area just keeps going and tall buildings surround you everywhere you walk. After stopping in the glitzy Sydney Star casino and pretending like we were there to spend money, we dipped out for some cheap kebabs and began a lengthy walk around – primarily to take in the sights and secondarily to find a $0.50 Hungry Jacks ice cream cone.
The next day we woke up as early as I was willing (AKA much later than when Ethan was ready to go) and had a delicious breakfast at a little cafe before figuring out the entirety of Sydney’s public transport system. It actually wasn’t that bad, props to you Sydney. Like Melbourne, you can get around using a scannable card to hop on trains, buses, trams (and ferries!). We found ourselves on the upper level of a double-decker underground train and on our way to the famous Bondi beach. It was quite the sight! We found a nearby wetsuit and surfboard rental and ran in slow motion, Bay Watch style towards the waves. And by that I mean gingerly limping through the sand to cringe as the cold water splashed against my shins. This time surfing was considerably less successful than last time, but it was worth it just to sit on the board and watch the waves roll into the beach. Salty and exhausted we returned the boards and started along the Bondi to Coogee beach walk. If you ever get to Sydney I recommend this walk 10/10 just do it! Pictures are hard to do it justice.
We only got about halfway along the walk before deciding to get to Circular Quay where the famous Sydney Opera house stood basking its sails in the golden sunset. Quite possibly the most iconic structure in all of Australia, the Opera House sat elegantly across the water from the impressive Sydney Harbor Bridge. Of course the entire area was swarming with tourists, but it does live up to the hype. We stayed until the sun set and took a ferry back to Darling Harbor, watching the city lights dance on the water.
The next day Ethan woke up super early to go run in a half marathon because he’s training for a full one. I, being the lazier (and more sensible) one, slept in and woke to take a leisurely walk about the city. I enjoyed admiring the old stone edifices on buildings nestled right next to tall skyscrapers. Afterwards, we headed to the Chinese Garden of Friendship near Darling Harbor. We did this mostly for the photo opportunities and the jokes about friendship, but the garden was beautifully laid out and appears as a green oasis amidst the bustling city.
After a sleepy lunch we decided on a whim to take a ferry to the beautiful beach-y suburb of Manly. By this time the sun was beginning to set and we wanted to catch it from a more spectacular lookout rather than sitting by the beach with other tourists. North Head on Manly near the end of the small peninsula was apparently the place to be, but it was a 45 minute walk and the bike rental store was closing up. Then, in a moment of inspiration I remembered I had a smart phone and could hail an Uber. So this was actually the first time I had ever taken an Uber and after some confusion as to where the driver was, we arrived. Again, the pictures don’t really do it justice. The whole scene felt so alive as the sun turned from golden yellow to crimson and fell beyond the horizon, illuminating the underside of the clouds. From the lookout we could see the city in the distance – its lights becoming noticeable as the sky darkened. We watched for probably a good 45 minutes before it got a little chilly and we took another Uber back to Manly where I had the best fish and chips of my life.
So that was my sight-seeing weekend in Sydney. The rest of the week was considerably less exciting as I frantically tried to get reorganized – it turns out that professors set a lot of deadlines and tests towards the end of the semester. Who would have thought? Ok, that’s it for this week. My ankle is slowly deflating itself, I’m sure walking around Sydney for a weekend didn’t help it much. Talk to you soon! ❤
This week’s creature is a bit of a creepy-crawly, so arachnophobes beware. Meet the Sydney Funnel-web Spider (Atrax robustus).
Sydney Funnel-web spiders are shiny black and brown spiders with visible spinnerets on the end of their abdomen. These spiders typically are between 1.5 to 3.5 cm in length and live in New South Wales, favoring the forested upland regions. Luckily for Sydney residents, they don’t really occur in the city, the eastern suburbs, or the Botany Bay region. Funnel-web spiders get their name by burrowing into damp and cool places under logs or rocks where they wait for prey to trigger the silk trip-lines placed at the entrance to the burrow. The male is smaller in body size than the female. When threatened, they throw their hands (front legs) in the air like they just don’t care and display their fangs. Lovely. When biting, the spider delivers a full envenomation – injecting a highly potent toxin (at least to primates). Their venom contains atracotoxin, which slows sodium ion-channel inactivation. For those of you who remember biology class, this doesn’t allow sodium-ion channels in the neuron’s membrane to close and repolarize the cell, causing repetitive firing of action potentials. Think muscle seizures and ultimately circulatory failure – deaths are more common in children due to their small size. Males have a much more potent bite than females. There hasn’t been a death caused by envenomation since the anitvenom was made available in 1981. However, pressure bandages/immobilization should be used in the area of a bite until medical attention is reached.