The Australian continent is a unique land, full of contrasts. Home to some of the most visually striking landscapes in the world, today Australia is a modern, democratic nation. Australia is often referred to as ‘the lucky country’. The title of Donald Horne’s 1964 book The Lucky Country was intended to be ironic, but it has since often been used without irony to describe the nation’s good fortune, including the weather, beaches, friendly people and relaxed lifestyle. The Wharton Australia Trek, led by Penny Metchev (WG 18), allowed Wharton students to travel to the Land Down Under for two weeks over Winter Break, and have a glimpse at why it is considered the Luck Country.
- Visiting Sydney’s most iconic beaches, including Bondi Beach
The trek participants stayed in a house on the hills overlooking Bronte Beach and the Pacific Ocean. On the first day, the group walked 2.5 miles along the coastal cliffs, passing by Tamarama Beach, to reach the world-famous Bondi Beach. At Bondi, the group visited the Bondi Icebergs Club, an internationally recognized ocean pool and clubhouse with sweeping views of the beach. Later in the week, the group also did their first surfing lesson at Bondi.
- Seeing up close Australia’s unique animals at Taronga Zoo
The group visited Taronga Zoo, which is in the heart of Sydney city. Some of the uniquely Australian creatures we saw included: the koala, kangaroo, emu, quokka, echidna, platypus, wallaby, cassowary, Tasmanian devil and wombat.
- Enjoying a ferry ride on Sydney Harbour
The group took a ferry along Sydney Harbour and passed the famous landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Surrounded by hundreds of miles of shoreline, national parks and historic sites, Sydney Harbour is the gateway to the rest of Sydney.
- Walking around Sydney City with a private guide
The group enjoyed a private walking tour from a knowledgeable, local guide. She shared with us Sydney’s colonial history, and its evolution into a thriving, cosmopolitan city. Key highlights from the tour included visiting: The Rocks District, The “Rum” Hospital, St Mary’s Cathedral, Customs House, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Queen Victoria Building, Martin Place, Hyde Park, Circular Quay, Town Hall, Sydney’s oldest cemetery, St Andrew’s Cathedral and Australia Square.
- Celebrating New Year Eve on Sydney Harbour
Over 30 MBA students celebrated New Year’s Eve at the Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel. Grounded on the sandy shoreline of Watson’s Bay beach, the open-air venue is known for its views of the Harbour, exclusive events and luxury hotel. The MBAs were one of the first to ring in 2018, as fireworks lit up the midnight sky.
- Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef, located in northeastern Australia, is the world’s largest coral reef. The 1,400-mile-long ecosystem comprises of thousands of reefs and hundreds of islands. It’s home to countless species of colorful fish, turtles, dolphins and sharks. The group took a catamaran to Moore Reef, which is located an hour off the coast of Cairns. The group spent the day snorkeling on the reef, immersing ourselves in the natural beauty beneath us.
- Exploring the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforest in the world, thought to be 165 million years old. Cape Tribulation is a coastal headland found between the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. It is where the ‘two UNESCO World Heritage sites meet’. People who enter the Daintree Rainforest often describe it as “a travel back in time.” The group spent the day exploring the Daintree Rainforest with a local guide, who pointed out that some of the towering trees and plants in the rainforest had been standing from the time the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
- Discovering Melbourne’s hipster bar and restaurant scene
Melbourne has been awarded “Most Livable City” status for five years running by The Economist. Its famous hidden alleyways, street graffiti art, superb coffee and foodie offerings, bike culture, artsy vibe, and, of course, density of well-groomed beards make it Australia’s most hipster city as well. A walking tour was planned for our first day in Melbourne but was quickly cancelled, when we learned we would experience the hottest day in two years with temperatures rising to 107F. Instead the group decided to keep cool and hydrated by exploring Melbourne’s alleyway bars and rooftops. We also ate at an array of restaurants, including Melbourne’s famous Asian-fusion Chin Chin restaurant.
- Indulging in a wine tasting and private cellar tour at Yering Station Winery
Yering Station is located in the heart of the Yarra Valley wine region and is considered the regions oldest winery with its establishment in 1838. Today Yering Station attracts tourists and wine enthusiasts from around the world. The group did a wine tasting, where they sampled from Yering Station’s 2015 Reserve Collection – one of the winery’s best seasons in which only 4,000 Reserve bottles were produced. They also did a private tour around the winery complex, which included going down into the cellar – a tour usually not open to the public.
Penny Metchev (WG 18) – The Australia Trek from the perspective of Organizer
Some of my Australian friends asked me, “What made you want to lead such a trip?” I answered that I wanted to show our country to my fellow MBA classmates and continue the tradition of the Wharton Australia Trek. For me, it was important to balance the time the group spent visiting famous landmarks, exploring Australia’s natural beauty, relaxing in the Summer sunshine and learning about Australia’s history and culture. I also wanted to make the trip as flexible as possible by allowing participants to opt in and out of activities – as well as making it easy for non-Trek participants to join us. The trip took months of planning, and I consulted my family and friends in Australia, as well as fellow Australian Wharton classmates and alumni, to make sure the itinerary would showcase the best of what Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne had to offer.
The trip ended up being a rewarding experience for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead it. I enjoyed seeing my home country from the perspective of international visitors. I appreciated everyone’s positive attitude, curiosity, and respect for the country and people. It led me to an even greater appreciation of my upbringing and the sacrifices my parents had made (as immigrants from Bulgaria) to offer me a life in Australia. My favorite memory from the trip was my parents hosting over 30 MBAs for a daytime Summer BBQ on New Year’s Eve. My father grilled on the BBQ lamb cutlets and steaks Australian-style, which was served with Bulgarian-style salad and cured meats, and some of his homemade, organic wine. I am a firm believer that the best way to share one’s culture is by sharing a meal together. It was a pleasure and honor for my family to host so many of my classmates.
The Australia Trek was my opportunity to give back to the Wharton community, but I think I received a lot more as a result. To everyone who visited Australia – thank you again for visiting and making my break so memorable!