Today, we did errands and wandered about. I wasn't able to get on the flight schedule until Monday for training/checkride. Saturday we're going in to Sydney to meet up with my travel buddy's family. We're meeting at a rugby club Chinese restaurant for lunch. I am learning that 'club' here Australia means 'large place with facilities and restaurants inside it' because the way you have to join a club in Utah to drink, you have to join a club in Australia to use the pokies. Pokies, I've learned, are 'poker machines' with the ubiquitous Strayan 'ies' on the end of it (which also gives us words like 'truckies' and 'barbies' and so forth). We may visit the Taronga Zoo whilst in the City, if we have time. My travel buddy has explained solemnly that if it is available, I must pay for 'The Koala Experience' in which they place a soporific koala into my lap. Mostly because, he explains, every single person he has seen do this has ended up covered in koala urine, and it would amuse him greatly if I were to have this experience.
Today, after hitting shopping centers fruitlessly looking for a fish knife (he and I are both becoming suspicious that some form of blade-limit law has gone into effect here, because nobody seems to be selling decent survival knives) we went to the Australian Botanical Gardens. These have very few flowers in them and are mostly an outdoor laboratory collection with swathes of what in the U.S. would be 'woods' and here is 'the bush.' Lightly improved (with helpful signs explaining what forms of poisonous flora and fauna may be found in their environs), they offer walking paths as well as labelled instances of trees and shrubs and vines and grasses ("wait a while grass", which I'm told has thousands of little fishhook thorns on it, so named because if you pull away you'll just lose skin, so you'll have to wait a while while you pick out the thorns one by one by one).
I have discovered that Australians are very literal namers. 'Headache vine' is named this because it is known among the Aborigines to cure headache if chewed. As my friend explained "Mate, we just have no imagination about these things. There's a reef, right, it's big, and acts as a barrier to the coast. Maybe you've heard of it. Also there is a range of mountains that divides the southeast coast from the outback to the west and north - it's called, guess what, the Great Dividing Range. We have Red Kangaroos, Brown Kangaroos and Grey Kangaroos. One guess why. And so forth."
Whilst at the Botanical Gardens, just after walking through the Seed Vault facility tour, we came out into the shade of a large old tree. "That's a red gum tree." We looked up at it. "Oh, and yep. That there? That's a kookaburra." Sitting, naturally, in the old gum tree.
The birds are completely alien and completely familiar. There are ravens and pigeons, sure- but there are also mynahs and lyre birds and magpies and hookbills - the latter of which are of course all parrots, but here act like pigeons. Sitting in Mawson Park in the middle of old Campbelltown, we were visited by several large cockatoos, a pair of magpies, pigeons, a mynah, and several others I couldn't identify. Oh, and some ravens. The bird calls are all unfamiliar; the flora is different enough that walking through the bush feels noticeably odd.
On the way back, we stopped at the 'other' shopping center near Cambelltown, which it turns out (Macarthur) is a big American-style mall, albeit with Australian-style meat markets and fruit vendors in one wing.
Dinner was Laksa and noodles. Taking it easy right now, sleep is almost on schedule. Trying to stay up until 9pm tonight; I got up at 4am, but got intermittent sleep until 7 this morning.