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Photo TR: Chuck Goes Down Under with TPR


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Prologue: Critters and Countryside

G'day,

As most of you probably know, unless you've been curled up in a ball, sobbing quietly waiting for your home park to open, Theme Park Review returned from an amazing tour of Australia on April 4. For me, this was number six in a long line of TPR "official" trips, dating back to the original UK outing in 2006. One thing you have to say about Robb and Elissa is that they sure get around--and they can help you get around, too. But I think this is the first trip I've been on in which all the parks and coaster credits were new to them, as well.

 

First off, Australia is an amazing, beautiful country, with friendly people, good food (pepper kangaroo pizza, anyone?), and unusual animals (and, no, I'm not just talking about TPR members, either). I've always wanted to visit Down Under, and when TPR announced a trip for 2011, I knew I had to be on it. Good planning, good people, good times--what more do you want?

 

"How about good parks?" you may ask. We found those, too. I've noticed that many of our Aussie members tend to be a bit, well, sheepish when it comes to their local theme parks, as though they're a bit embarrassed about them. Mates, you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Although they're few in number (and coaster credits) compared to the U.S. and other countries, the Australian parks are solid, with a good mix of attractions for thrillseekers and families alike. (Heck, you even have the tallest drop tower in the world!)

 

But that's enough verbiage for now. Put on your hat, turn up the brim, and keep an eye open for cassawaries and crocs as TPR explores Australia.

 

Let's start with Aussie animals and scenery first, shall we? We'll get to the parks soon enough.

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This is a bunch of people standing in the Sydney airport. I thought it best to explain this, lest the suspense builds to such a point that you have have a "conniption," or worse.

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Well, the waiting has paid off! Here we are at our first encounter with wacky, sometimes dangerous, Australian wildlife. Featherdale is a very nice wildlife park in suburban Sydney, which gives you a chance to get up close with a variety of animals--not all of whom want to kill you.

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"Hello. I'm a koala, and I'm adorable. You know this to be true. But this is New South Wales, where it's illegal to hold me. Suffer!"

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"G'day, mate. You're lookin' a bit jetlagged there, but there's an old Aussie cure for that: touchin' a koala's bum. Yeah, one touch of that bum and those magical marsupial powers will perk you right up! Well, that and a shave, maybe."

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The koala shows off its greatest skill next to eating leaves.

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"G'day! I'm a kangaroo, and you're goin' to be seein' a lot of us roos as this and other TRs grind on. Just givin' ya fair dinkum warnin'."

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In the wild, a kangaroo would have to hunt and kill its own ice-cream cone. This is often a disturbing, bloody occurence, but not to worry--this cone was already dead.

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"Lay off my cone, man! I'll cut you! I swear to god I'll cut you!"

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"And that goes for you humans! I gotta blade, and I'm not afraid to use it!"

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And now that timeless Dr. Suess classic, "Amyzoo Strokes a Roo."

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Passing a cone can be very painful. This kangaroo is obviously exhausted from the strain.

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"Emu? What emu . . . ohcrapohcrapohcrap!"

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"First of you lot who calls me 'Bilbo Baggins' or some other Hobbit crap just because I live in a hole gets peed on. Fair warnin'. You want Hobbits? Go to New Zealand."

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"The children of the night"--in broad daylight.

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"Yeah, just stick your hand in here, and I'll show you how frickin' cute a Tasmanian devil is!"

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"Am I not superb?"

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"Er, yeah, I guess you are at that."

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"Still got my blade! Still watchin' you! Get me a freakin' cone!"

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"Wanna hear that horrible rumbling sound I make before I kill? You'd better pray that you don't!"

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"'Superb parrot,' my butt! Hell, my butt is way more superb than that little twerp."

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"You what would really be superb? You in my mouth begging for your miserable life!"

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"Ugh! Sorry, folks. That baby I just ate isn't sitting well."

 

Next stop: Scenic World

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Our next stop was a stetch of temperate rainforest in Australia's Blue Mountains--a very beautiful spot with the not-so-clever name of Scenic World. (Looks like they saved all the interesting names for the animals.)

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These are the Three Sisters. There's a rather long and involved legend behind this name. It doesn't involve Elves, Orcs, or Hobbits.

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RIP, Orphan Rocker. This is the infamous coaster that opened for about 10 or 15 minutes, then closed forever because it was, let's say,"flawed." Apparently, running a roller coaster along the edge of a 700-foot cliff didn't work out too well.

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At Scenic World, Australia's got your crotch covered.

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"What shall we call this place, mate?"

"Dunno. Sure is scenic."

"Hey, there's an idea!"

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Here is the first "Jeff Johnson Credit" of the trip: the Scenic Railway. Of Scenic World.

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Good. A plastic chain. I feel much safer now!

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The Scenic Railway is a lot of fun, if a bit unnerving.

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Not to mention "scenic."

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Now how steep is that track?

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Fifty-two degrees worth of steep! And that "Natural Tunnel" is pretty damn dark! There was a coal mine here, and they used to haul out the coal via this railway.

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Here's our guide, Robert, in action, telling us about the temperate rainforest we're about to tour. He and the bus driver has some interesting political conversations, too (it was the day before Election Day in Australia).

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Here, we see KT rehearsing for her performance in the upcoming Australian Outback Spectacular.

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Yes, this is the life for a man--astride his faithful horse, hauling a big load of crap.

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There's something very Knott's Berry Farm-like about this scene.

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"Intamin Cable: The Early Years."

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"Lord, what are those crazy Yanks about now?"

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Did I mention this area was very scenic? I think that's why they call it "Scenic World." Just a hunch.

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Why do I keep looking for Tarzan to come swinging by? He's in Africa, and this is Australia. I should be looking for Crocodile Dundee or Lord Humongous.

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Back up via the Intamin Cableway.

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The poor Orphan Rocker train does look very lonely down there.

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It'll take a big crew with a lot of machetes to clear that track. It's nearly as overgrown as Disneyland's Peoplemover and probably stands a better chance of running again. ;)

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Vaya con dios, Orphan Rocker! By the way, this ride was named for the park's Orphan Rock formation--the gondola runs right by it.

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Scenic World--What a great place! This trip is off to a great start. Next up will be Sydney and Luna Park.

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Awesome report, beautiful and hysterical! Definitely eager to visit Australia someday.

 

Koalas and kangaroos alone make that continent completely righteous.

 

And bless you for the Lord Humongous reference. (They Ayatollah of RockNRollah!)

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Thanks for the kind words, everyone. It's always good to know that people enjoy my nonsense from time to time.

 

Let's see, where were we . . . oh, that's right . . .

 

Chapter 1--The Big Creepy Face Strikes!: Luna Park Sydney

 

So, with the critters, countryside, and culture out of the way (at least for the moment), it was time for the first park of TPR's Australia Tour 2011: Luna Park Sydney. Located in the shadow of the famous Harbour Bridge, Luna Park has an interesting history. I won't repeat it all here, but the park has seen its fair share of highs and lows, deaths and rebirths. The current version dates back to 2004, but the park was originally opened in 1935 by some folks who were inspired by Coney Island's Luna Park in Brooklyn.

 

Luna Park Sydney is a nice little seaside park, making up in quirkiness what it lacks in big "attractions." There aren't too many wooden Wild Mouse coasters left in the world, and Australia has two of them (here and at Aussie World). Luna's Wild Mouse is located on a rooftop overlooking the harbor, which enhances the ride quite a bit. As you'd expect, there's a great "out-of-control" feeling to this ride, and it's actually registered as an Australian landmark. Even though the Wild Mouse has been disassembled and moved around a bit, it's now the only "permanent" roller coaster in New South Wales. The park once boasted a wooden scenic railway, the Big Dipper, which was demolished in 1981, and an Arrow "loopscrew," which was removed because of noise complaints from a nearby apartment complex. (That ride runs at another Aussie park--Dreamworld.)

 

But for my money, tha park's main attraction is its oldtime funhouse, the aptly (if not originally) named Coney Island Funnyland. This monument to chaos and mayhem opened in 1935 and has all the standard stuff you'd find in similar facilities in Europe (and once in the U.S.), such as spinning barrels, wooden slides, a mirror maze, and a "Joy Wheel."

 

What it unfortunately lacks is a permanent dark ride. The park's old Ghost Train was destroyed in a tragic fire in the late 1970s.

 

But that's enough background. Let's have a look at Luna Park Sydney.

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Hmm--what have we here?

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Damn! I could've used this stuff yesterday after I touched that koala's bum! "Old Aussie cure" for jetlag, my eye!

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Vegemite does not come in a tube.

In fact, it's not very good as a food.

But in a tight spot,

More often than not,

It might serve well as a lube.

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Time for goofy shots in front of local landmarks--in this case, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I'll be on top of this thing tomorrow.

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Yes, Sydney, like many large cities, is full of architectural marvels . . .

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. . . and absolute horrors!

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That's it . . . concentrate on the nice boat and skyline . . . and the creepy, horrible thing will go away . . .

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All kidding aside, Luna Park is a nice place, and they gave us a very enjoyable tour before the park opened to the public. (A bit rainy that day, but that was alright.)

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Sigh! You just don't see these in the U.S. anymore. This reminded me of the old funhouse at Santa Cruz when I was a kid.

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OK, who wants to bet that this guy's pants are hiked all the way up to his nipples under that shirt?

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Yes, you slide right through all nine levels of Hell and into a pit full of lava, scorpions, and rattlesnakes, which will sting, bite, and eat your face for eternity! That's hilarious!

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They gave us a preopening tour of the funhouse. I think "The Devil's Slide" is the one on the far left, but I'm not sure.

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So many ways to die! Or at least suffer debilitating injury.

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Look--it's the Australian Outback Spectacular!

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I like how the "fun" house isn't afraid to tackle important social issues, like domestic violence. I think we're all a little wiser for having seen this mural.

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I know I was moved.

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Woodchopping--not as popular at amusement parks as it used to be, which is a shame.

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I think whoever hung this is working at Kings Dominion now.

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Yep--reasonably sure of it

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Ladies and gentlemen, the irrepressible Miles.

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We'll see the funhouse in action later--time for Wild Mouse ERT (and filming).

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Geeky shot of the transfer track.

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Why do they even have those wristbands?

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The facade on the left was the entrance to the park's scenic railway--and later to the Arrow "loopscrew."

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TPR behind the scenes! More Luna Park to come.

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Here's a bit more of our enjoyable (sometimes moist) visit to Luna Park. My thanks to the park staff and Robb and Elissa for a great "official" start to the tour!

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Yes, it's always best to sit when one drinks coffee.

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"HELP ME!"

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The car looks a little evil here, like some mechanic's nightmare from the 1950s.

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Someone needs to revive the wooden Wild Mouse in the States.

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They really are insane fun. . .

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. . . especially when you put them on a rooftop--over water.

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Yep--reminds me a bit of the old mouse that used to be at Santa Cruz (where the log flume is now), but it's not quite as terrifying.

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Meanwhile, back at the funhouse . . .

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"'Allo, dearie! I got me a lovely pair a' kitties, I do!"

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As you can see here, a rift has opened in the space-time continuum, which is conducting this slider straight to Hell!

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"Daddy, please don't cause a rift in space-time!"

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"Here is the Joy Wheel!"

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"I dont think you're happy enough, thats right!

I'll teach you to be happy!

I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!"

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"Happy happy joy joy!"

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"Well, blow me down! They're violakin' me copyrikes! Whar's me spinach?"

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"Spinach? Ugh! How can you eat that garbage, Popeye?"

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"Lo-o-o-o-o-k into my eyezzz . . . You will do my bidding!"

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I think this may have been "The Whirler," but I'm not sure.

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Luna Park is pretty heavily into marketing its "brand."

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This is possibly the strangest ride-related shirt I've ever seen; naturally, I had to buy it.

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Luna Belle is one of the more "interesting" park mascots I've ever encountered.

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"Forget Luna Belle! Meet us behind the funhouse at midnight, and we'll rock your world!"

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Here's a bit of the lunch they served us at The Deck, the park's restaurant. Crikey, it was good!

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Thanks for a great day, Luna Park.

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We'll be visiting your cousin in Melbourne soon. How about a little amble around Sydney next?

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And now, some random Sydney stuff. I liked this city quite a bit.

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Later that afternoon, some of us went for a ramble around Sydney.

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OK, I'm never leaving this shop.

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Dulce de leche on the left, pistachio on the right.

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Sydney reminded me of New York--with some touches of London and Tokyo.

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The Sydney Monorail says "g'day," Scott.

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Election Day in Australia.

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This dude followed us all over town--leave us alone! (But first tell us where we can find this "out of control prostitution" and "Mardi Grad Anarchy.")

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When there is no more room in Hell, the Burger King shall walk the Earth as Hungry Jack. It's in the Bible.

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Let's look for some typical "big city street people," shall we? Street artist, check.

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Guy selling stuff that "fell off a truck," check.

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Crazy Jesus person, check.

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Brain-eating zombies, check . . . hey!

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Such a retiring, demure little undead corpse.

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Clown zombies! Two nightmares for the price of one! And they're eating crisps! OH MY GOD!

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Not even zombies are dumb enough to eat at Hungry Jack's.

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"Zombies running rampant? We are not amused!"

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I thought we were going to lose Robb here for moment.

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But here's where we really lost him.

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Glad to see you loved Sydney, I'm not going to lie I love the city, I think its beautiful! Did you guys take a walk through the Strand arcade and Queen Victoria Building, they have some great history in them! Also did you go up the Sydney Tower and one you thing you should have definitely done was go to Martin Place were channel 7 has their news studios, if you had of gone in the morning during Sunrise you could have gotten on TV!!

But really awesome to see you loved it here and loved the people, I've got a friend from America who's not sure to come out or not because she thinks Aussie's wouldn't be friendly to American's.

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I think whoever hung this is working at Kings Dominion now.

...

Yep--reasonably sure of it

 

HAHA! I'm still wondering how that employee even did that and how in the world he/she didn't notice when raising the flag/walking away looking at it...

 

But anyways, nice reference and a very good trip report so far!

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