Coming Into Sydney

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I left New Zealand alone as I’d booked my own flights, stopping over in Wellington. It was sort of weird to be flying into a city I already felt like I knew, kind of like coming home and yet not at all the same. Coming into Sydney, on the other hand, felt like coming into Los Angeles. Beaches, water, surf, and city as far as the eye could see. Compared with New Zealand cities, which are generally smaller than 400,000, a city of 4.5 million was particularly sprawling. I was supposed to arrive 10 minutes after the rest of the group and was a bit worried about customs because I had no return ticket for leaving Australia, but customs was a breeze. Still, there was nobody there when I arrived. I worried a little then checked their flight and saw they were delayed and not due for another 20 minutes. About an hour later, they were peeling out of the gate and PC2 was rejoined, ready for Australian adventures.

We were supposed to take a Harley tour through Sydney to our hostel, but as is our custom when arriving in a new country, it was rainy and unpleasant outside, so we simply went straight to our new home in Manly. And what a home it was. Basically a bunch of condos with shared facilities, right on Manly beach, it was easily the best accommodation we’ve had to date. It was already dinner time, so I went out with Katie, Brad, Chris, Chelsea, and Lauren to a pretty decent Thai place by the wharf, walking along the strip crossing the peninsula. Then we grabbed some groceries for the group and hung out in our little nest for the evening. Another pleasant note about Australia, or at least Sydney, was that in that little walk we saw more pretty girls than in all our time in New Zealand combined.

The next day was still rainy – and Australia is supposedly in a drought. Still, it was warm enough and scattered enough that we went to the beach for a while and played in some of the biggest waves I’ve ever seen, trying to body surf. Brad and I also found an internet café that easily beat any café we’d used up to this point. It was lightning fast, so much so that I ran out of photos I’d already captioned. We went back to the hostel to get on our bikes for the evening tour, and wouldn’t you know it, as I made my way back to the hostel the rain began. It drizzled initially but within 10 minutes of getting back, it was pouring. Still, danger or not, we were taking the Harley tour, so we loaded on our waterproof gear and hit the road. Thankfully, not literally. The tour was kind of interesting as it was in the rain, but otherwise we definitely missed out. We didn’t go into Sydney and so just toured the suburb of Manly and its various homes and freeways. Still, it was fun, but it would’ve been cool to roar across the Harbour Bridge. We stayed at home again tonight, and wound up watching the Academy Awards, which were actually pretty decent this year.

Finally, our third day in Sydney, and we were off to see the city itself. We took a ferry in the morning and checked out the opera house. Which isn’t white and painted at all, but is actually a mosaic tile that looks more yellowed unless reflecting the sun. It was surreal to be at the foot of this very foreign monument on the other side of the earth. We broke off into groups and Chris, Brad, and myself ventured around the city. We strolled through the botanical gardens seeking other views of the opera house and harbour bridge then made our way to The Rocks, an old quarter of Sydney. Though we well overshot it, stopping for lunch in the busy office district before finding ourselves at the end of Pitt St. in Chinatown. We supposedly had a pass for any transit, so we went to take the monorail back into town only to be scolded by a very angry tub when we asked her if our pass also worked for the monorail. I thanked her for being so polite, wished her a pleasant day, and we walked up to George St. to catch a bus back.

We looked around the Rocks, which weren’t all that incredible and stopped for a beer before heading to the middle of the Harbour Bridge. Brad had to get to class with his ignorant cultural professor (q: Why do we see more Canadians abroad than Americans? A: Because their country sucks.). Yup, she’s the one responsible for opening their eyes and minds to other cultures. Luckily, her students are more enlightened than she is. Anyway, Brad went back for more of that fun with her and Chris and I continued across the bridge to check out Luna Park. Which was closed but we were able to peek around because there was a wedding there. We found our way back and met up with Brad before deciding to head into Chinatown for dinner. But we hopped on the wrong bus and it took us across the harbour bridge and another into some suburb.

We debated exploring the suburb for decent and hopefully cheaper food and then some locals recommended we stroll along Darling St. to some decent restaurants. We wound up having Japanese food instead, walking about 8 blocks extra to bring our own wine in from a not-so-nearby shop. Dinner was good and reasonable and we’d certainly had an adventure to find it. This also marked the beginning of the Canadian drinking game. See, it’s considered rude to not lift a glass and drink when someone toasts, so basically you just take turns coming up with a lot of cheers. Pretty simply but potentially lethal. We got back into town and were making our way to the ferry when we passed these Scottish girls that started talking with us. We still had some time before the last ferry so we stopped and had a beer with them before escaping home, mostly unscathed. The ferry ride back was nice at night, Syndey has a beautiful skyline. We said goodbye to that skyline early the next morning, venturing to the Blue Mountains and a small Scouts’ hall near Katoomba where we would spend the next couple nights.

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