This weekend was a whole lot of the unnexpected mixed with a whole lot of fun. On Thursday Helen and I headed into the city for our last proper day exploring Sydney, and ventured through the most beautiful bookstore ever (Kinokuniya), and then wandered down to the Sydney Aquarium and spent the afternoon staring at sharks, Dugongs (a manatee type thing), and both Dory and Nemo fish in the same tank! It was super neat to see an aquarium that was built right into the natural habitat of the harbor.
Afterwards, Helen and I wandered through Koreatown, picked up some quick spring roll snacks, and got on a train to meet up with Reece out in a suburb called Penrith. We spent the night at his parents magical home in Korrajong, and hit the road bright and early for Brisbane. It’s about a 600mile trip up the Gold Coast to Brisbane from where we were staying, so why on earth would we waste a weekend doing this? Two things: RED PANDAS and The City Shakeup.
In the Northern Hemisphere, there aren’t many zoos that do any kind of “encounters” where you’re allowed to interact with the animals, but they are plentiful in the great "Land Down Under". A few of those encounters include the chance to meet the Red Panda, my absolute *favorite* animal in the world. The Australia Zoo was founded by Steve Irwin and is known for it’s “up close” animal interactions with a variety of critters. When I was doing research before the trip, the Australia Zoo was the only place to pop up that offered a Panda visit. It just so happens that my friends The City Shakeup - a wonderful band I got the chance to get to know during Warped Tour 2014 - are also from Brisbane, so this was a wonderful chance to see old friends, and make some new adorable ones as well.
The drive was full of torrential rain, and felt a bit like the world was working against us, but after a long and tenuous 12 hours, the rain cleared up and we arrived in Brisbane in time to meet up with Shakeup boys for a delicious dinner. The next morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and got on the road for one last 60minute drive out of town to the zoo.
We got to the zoo right at 8:05am, and it was quiet and empty for the most part. At 8:14am someone from the gift shop escorted us in to fill out paperwork, and I started finally realizing that this might actually happen. I’d been worried we’d be rained out, but the clouds had broken and the zoo hadn’t turned us away - it was time for destiny. Reece is also a Red Panda lover, so the excitement levels were through the roof! We boarded a little golf cart and were taken into the back alley of the zoo, and arrived at a little gate made of fake rock. The rain let up once again and they escorted us into the enclosure, gave us a towel to cover our legs to protect us from Panda paws, and waited anxiously as the keeper began to call for Psang the Panda.
After 20 minutes of anxiously watching his tail twitch from high above us in the tree, it became pretty clear that Red Pandas are my spirit animal in more ways then one: they are friendly, they love eating, but most of all, they are entirely lazy - so much so that Psang the Panda could not be bothered to leave his snuggly leaf nest to come down and meet us.
As much as I wanted to meet him, at the end of the day, Psang was still a wild animal, and he could not be controlled, so away we went without a so much as a Panda pat or nibble. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so it may be that Psang is not the panda i’m meant to meet, or better yet, maybe this just means that I’m meant to come back to Australia someday and meet another.
We left the zoo slightly disheartened, but had an amazing brunch at a Neverland-themed cafe which quickly changed the mood of the morning, and then hit the road for an outrageous dance-party all the way back to Sydney. Our last weekend in NSW may not have gone as expected, but it was still perfect in every way. Nothing beats a good road trip with good people, and good memories made.
Today we came back to Cronulla to spend one last day eating, relaxing, laughing and watching Disney movies with the amazing Ms. Kristen. Tomorrow morning (Monday) we leave Sydney and head to Melbourne for the second part of our journey, this time through Southern Australia via the Great Ocean Road. The trouble with making friends around the globe is how little time you get to spend with them. As excited as I am to continue exploring, it's honestly pretty heartbreaking to be leaving Sydney. I don't know the next time I'll see these amazing humans so I've tried to cherish as much of this time as I could. As they say, all good things must come to an end so that more good can come, but this has been to good to be true, and will definitely be hard to top.
Check out more photos from this part of the journey below: