Sydney. A gorgeous, sunny day. Last night in Manly was stormy, but I like storms. I spent much of the evening in my room. At one point, I shut off all the lights, opened the blinds on the generously sized windows onto the courtyard and just watched the lightning. Also did some fuzzy TV watching and in-focus reading.
Got up early, 7am, and went down to check the water. It was a little cool out and as usual I had to give myself a metaphorical kick in the ass to get out there. Funny how that is. The water was warm and all was well. I was happy I had suited up. As usual. The sun had probably been up about an hour and, being a Sunday (and being Manly) the ocean was full. A “Christian Surfers” competition was going on halfway down the beach, which of course adds to the crowding. I caught a few, and my right elbow began to hurt. Bad enough that paddling was difficult. So I decided to catch one more and go back in. I was only out there for about a half an hour, but it was worth it. My final wave, I took left and someone farther down took it right. It was an older guy and as we approached to meet, the whitewater was meeting as well. He gave a friendly wave and turned back left, as I turned up and over the back of the wave. I caught the whitewater of the next wave on my stomach and into shore. That part can be kind of fun, too.
Being still early, it meant I had plenty of time for a coffee before the reception even opened at the Bungalow. I was all packed and ready, so I headed over to Barefoot on Whistler Street. An adorable Staffordshire Terrier was tied up outside and I cuddled him for a while before ordering a short black. Sitting at the window drinking my coffee I flipped through the Sydney Sun-Herald and laughed when I came upon this:
The cover story of the travel section – singing the praises of visiting New York CIty, and going to BROOKLYN instead of Manhattan. Since the world, and everything in it, revolves around me and my life, it was easy to deduce that this was written for ME. Quite obviously. New York (Brooklyn!) wants me back and has employed its Sydney minions to remind me of its charms. I hear ya! I am on the next (almost) plane home.
The ferry ride back across the harbour satisfied both form and function, with a fat rainbow and stunning views of the Opera House. Dropped off my load at the Y Hotel, which was easily reached from the train. And headed off to Wildlife World on a mission to pet me a koala.
On the way I passed through Darling Harbour, which is in full festival mode for its 21st anniversary. Or is it a going-away party for me? A stage set up below the skyline presented spinning Korean women in colorful, shiny gowns. I had a three leaf-wrapped sweet rice treats – taro, coconut and banana – from one of the asian vendors and milled around a while soaking up the atmosphere and some sun. Then off to Wildlife World.
Let’s see, what did I see? Butterflies, ton of ‘em. Birds, tons as well. I liked the bushtailed possums and echidnas, which were in an enclosure together. The echidnas looks a little like a porcupine, with elegant purple and white spikes and a long skinny insect-eating nose. The bushtail is a glowing white-yellow color and moves like a cat. Bilbys are weird little rodent like marsupials. With kangaroo-ish back legs and big pointy ears. They were constantly jumping around in their enclosure, listening to insects. Australia is the only continent where nocturnal animals outnumber the day-time (?) ones. 65% are nocturnal. The koalas were fascinating. I skipped the picture with them (sorry Kerry!), but got some good ones on my own (free) camera, One of them was a real ham. The petting was in an hour so I wandered off to waste time. Kangaroos were nearby and consumed a good amount of my time. I was at first startled to see one of them sort of levitating his back legs. It was immediately obvious he was holding himself up by his tail. What a strange and awkward-seeming creature. Didn’t get a chance to see them jump or run at all, if running is what you would call what they do when they move fast. Their other speed seems to be almost Mime-slow. As if they are unsure everything is going to work out each time they place their tiny little arms on the ground, place their thick tail and lift their hind legs. Mesmerizing.
Returned to pet the koala, which was a two-finger quick rub on the butt admist a crowd of people. Oh well, I did get to see one of those sleepy creatures up close. They sleep 20-22 hours a day. Don’t judge! If your only form of fuel came from the tips of eucalyptus leaves, you might not do much either. They don’t even drink water.
The Cassowary was a very large bird with menacing strong-looking legs and talons. A strange rock-like brown bump on top of its colorful neck and head. It sort of looked like a Moa. And was continually pacing, eyeing us up close through the glass wall. The wall announced it was considered the most dangerous bird, capable of killing with those tank-like legs.
I saw fresh-water crocodiles, bats, a wide range of colorful birds. I pet a python, which I have done before. Their skin is suprisingly soft and silky, especially near the mid-section. Watching one move along one of the enclosures just seemed unreal. I get how the muscles work to make that happen, but it still looks a little sci-fi. Sort of like moonwalking forward.
Coming out of the zoo into the bright afternoon sun, the harbour was even more packed with people. Music emanating from all directions. There was a floating barge with some huge ensemble blasting away. Indonesian music, maybe? I walked back through the whole fiasco and headed out to Sappho’s, the coffee and food place I went to the first day I was here. Good to see the party, but I didn’t feel like sticking around. Plus I was starving.
So here I am. Two guys, one on guitar, one on bass, were playing some jazz in the back courtyard when I arrived. A coffee and baked eggs later, I am feeling sleepy myself. I have to get up at 5am tomorrow to catch the train to the airport. My flight is at 8am May 4th Sydney Time, 6pm May 3rd New York Time. Then I spend the next 28 hours getting to JFK, where I land at 8:40pm May 4th. I don’t like to make prophecies, but I will forecast a tired/spacey/confused/gross arrival. Good thing I had the foresight to hold onto a stash of American Cash that should cover the taxi home.
It’s only 5pm here and I am feeling spacey and sleepy. I’m not sure what to do for my final night in Syndey. All of a sudden I feel like I need to make some grand final pronouncement about my trip. But “conclusions” are bogus – how can I put in one paragraph or sentence what just took me thousands of words to describe? I refuse! If you want to know how my trip was – the posts are all here waiting for you. Or ask me when you see me. But maybe wait until I have conquered the jet lag. And maybe over a cup of coffee.
At the bookstore, I picked up “Solomon’s Song” by Bryce Courtnenay because I could see it from where I was sitting. Someone along the way had suggested it as good reading about New Zealand/Australia and Gallipoli. I was in Dunedin for ANZAC day, so I know what a big deal Gallipoli is to New Zealanders. I just wanted something else to do while having my second cup of coffee, I didn’t intend to buy it. The last thing I need for my trip home is more weight, so a 700-page paperback would not be the smartest addition. But I bought it anyways. The beginning was so good, it sucked me in. And though the New Zealand Maori history book I am reading is interesting, it doesn’t have the same emotional pull as a good historical fiction. It does get bogged down a little in “facts”. I need more of a story right now, and I think this will keep me good company on the long trip home.