We (being Amanda and I only) are now in Cairns (pronounced like Cannes in France, don’t know why…). It is tropical here – warm, humid and beautiful after the cool temps down in Sydney. I’m starting to feel human again.
Things were crazy when the WYD events kicked into high gear so I thought I would take a moment (actually, I have 26 minutes left on my card) to fill you in on those events, especially since that was the main point of the trip.
On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning we had catechesis at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church. We had bishops from London, Christchurch and Los Angeles speak to us. They were all great and some really thought provoking things to say. I especially enjoyed the bishop from LA. The people at the parish were great and really took care of me and Spencer (the kid that was staying at the same home as me) as we were dropped off each morning at 7:00 due to our host’s responsibilities at another parish.
Thursday afternoon was the Papal welcome which I think I actually gave a run down on last week. Friday was Stations of the Cross which is a huge WYD event. We totally missed them in Cologne due to the congestion in the city and our location where we were staying. They did them throughout Sydney and you were assigned a place to watch. There were live stations at about 6 different locations and the rest you were able to see on a big screen tv. We were at the final location where the majority of the stations took place. They were beautifully done (although, they did use a little artistic license as Jesus boated from one location to the next at one point, don’t think that’s how the story goes….) and the back drops were spectacular making it a truly moving experience. After Stations we made our way back to the place we were staying as one of the hosts had invited us over for chicken kebabs (a popular dish) on the barbie. She was a great host. I was supposed to stay with her until there was a slight change of plans. Either way, she put on a great spread for everyone and kept Spencer and I until our host came and picked us up at 1:00 in the morning. She had stayed for a big concert they were having after the Stations.
On Saturday we did the walk. They had four to chose from, depending on how far you wanted to walk. About half of us chose the 4 km walk (the shortest), the rest of our group did the 9 km which had them start on the north end of the bridge. The bridge was closed to traffic all morning to allow the pilgrims to cross. They really enjoyed it. There were also 15 km and 20 km walks for the truly adventurous. The walk was well handled – it was well marked and had first aid and bathroom stations along the way. It was a beautiful afternoon to spend laying around Randwick Race Course. We were quite surprised to find they had laid plastic flooring down – this was to protect the track areas but also padded us from the ground which was really nice. The site lines were great and much like anything in America there were concessions and merchandise for sale all day. The merchandise was hot this time as it was for sale everywhere. By Monday almost everyone was wearing some type of WYD gear.
As I mentioned it was cold, but not unreasonable, it stayed cloudly which helped keep a little heat in the air. Outside of the group of Africans they randomly broke out in song througout the entire night, everyone was quiet and we actually got some sleep which was great. The mass was beautiful and, again, everyone was quiet and actually partook in the mass which was great to see.
We heard on the news last night they estimate about 220,000 pilgrims came into Sydney last week. On Monday, we went to mass at Mt. Carmel and said good-bye to our friends and hosts there before heading over to the airport. We got the group checked in at the international terminal and then headed over to the domestic terminal to catch our flight up to Cairms.
We grabbed some dinner at the hotel. Of note, they gave us the key (it’s an actual key) on a huge keychain. You have to stick the keychain into a slot on the wall to get the electricity to turn on in the unit. It’s their way of conserving because you can’t leave any lights on when you leave – once you take that key out all the lights go off. They are very aware of conservation here. Sorry, another toilet story…. Most of their toilets allow you to chose a half flush or whole flush depending on what’s needed at the time. Also, our taxi from the airport to the hotel was a Prius!!
We enjoyed watching tv, sleeping in comfortable beds and taking showers for as long as we wanted. We’re headed off in search of koalas today – keep your fingers crossed. Tomorrow we will be snorkling the Great Barrier Reef so say a prayer that we don’t become shark bait….
The hotel has an internet station that we are able to use so I should be able to keep posting for another couple of days. Have a good one!