I got into Sydney Airport about 7:30pm. Totally knackered, as they say. I was slightly worried about getting through customs quarantine because I had a lot to declare. More about that some other time. Luckily despite all my "yes" responses, I flew through. All he took from me were my two apples. Then it was time for the real chore: strapping on my pack, hanging my backpack from my front and somehow managing to walk with an 8 foot board packed with bubble wrap, towels and my wetsuit, hanging off my shoulder. I had to do a sort of shuffle to get anywhere. Out to the Sydney subway, the man who sold me the ticket informed me it would be o.k. to get it on the train. Just don’t hit anybody. Or if I did, make sure I hit them hard so they wouldn’t remember it was me. Aim for the head. Also, go to the back of the train so you don’t annoy anyone. I went up and down the Platform 2 escalator, because, well, I was supposed to be on Platform 1.
Getting onto the dirty train reminded me of home. I was sweaty and stinky from hauling all that stuff, which made me doubly happy there was no one on my train car. I had booked myself one bed in a two-bed share at a hostel called "The Maze". I guy I met in Dunedin had said it was a good place, but when I went online and saw it was affiliated with the Nomads Backpackers, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be my scene. I had stayed at one of those in Auckland. It was the loud, partying kind. Oh well. It was the only place I knew of and it was close to the Central Train Station. I got there and knew right away from the lobby that it was not the kind of place I was going to enjoy. No matter, it’s only one night.
The young woman at the counter was super friendly and personable. She helped me bring my board down to storage. She looked fondly at a bike down there that she said someone hauled off the street and had been sitting there for ages. She figured she was just going to take it home with her. I said it’s sad to see a bike not being ridden. This prompted her to tell me about her friend who did a bike ride down the west coast of North America, from Canada to Mexico to raise awareness for micro-credit. Awesome! I asked her if they were affiliated with Kiva (www.kiva.org, check it out!). I said I would do something like that and she gave me the info to look into it. Global Agents of Change. A small seed of a possible future journey….
I got my key and walked into my new room. Where there were two people, one male, one female, in the bottom bed together. Tiny room, smelly, with stuff everywhere. The giggled nervously. That’s the second time that’s happened to me on this trip. Both times I didn’t actually catch anyone in the act, but a little weird nonetheless. I left my heavy pack in the room and returned to reception. I asked to see if I could upgrade myself to a single room. Asking what was wrong, I told the young woman there were two naked people in my room and I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with it. She laughed. Ok, well they weren’t exactly naked but you know what I mean. She switched me into a single room and didn’t charge me extra. Awwww. Turned out to be a lucky break.
When I got back to the room they were dressing, I grabbed my pack and said over my shoulder "No worries, I am changing to another room…" I slept great in that box of a room with a window onto an alley. And since I had gained two hours on the flight over, I even slept in until 8:30am (10:30am my time).
In fact, I decided to stay another night there, though this time I am paying full price. I was going to just head straight out to Manly Beach, which is a ferry-ride north of Sydney central. But I knew it would be a real shame to not at least spend one day walking around Sydney proper. And honestly my shoulder were still sore from the trip the day before. I wasn’t looking forward to hauling all that stuff around again. First stop, internet. Google : espresso lonely planet sydney. What came up was Sappho’s Espresso: a funky, graffitied cafe in the back of a bookstore with excellent coffee, adorable staff and yummy breakfast and light lunch options. Right up my alley.
It was a bit of a walk out to Grebe, but well worth it. The cool spot and the way they transformed the concrete backyard got my mind working on my own concrete backyard back in Queens. I was talking to Rod about Earth Ships and the architect who created them somewhere out in the American southwest I believe. And the colony that grew from it, and how it all got shut down because they didn’t have the proper permits. American, short-sighted bureaucratic nightmare. Then the huge tsunami hit and he traveled to asia to put his recycled materials building skills to use. Returning to a shower of awards from the American Establishment. LOL. That’s my paraphrased remembrance of Rod’s explanation – I am not online at the moment or I would look it up. Anyways, I want to do some research on his work and maybe use some of his ideas for garden and backyard building. With permission from my landlords of course.
Long black and baked eggs with tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, toast and a side salad of arugula. Amazingly yummy.
On the way out I stopped in another bookstore next door and read through the Lonely Planet New York City guide. It made me excited to go home. Lucky me, the next stop in my travels is NEW YORK CITY! I miss it. I miss the people. I don’t necessarily miss working, but I even miss my coworkers.
On this trip I have been sort of hating on the cities. The main reason though is not the cities themselves. It’s that budget hostel accommodation in cities is generally more crowded, loud, dirty and unpleasantly flourescently lit. The Maze had a middle-aged man nodding out on a bench in the lounge while god-awful techno music blasted. The young guy who was booking me for another night had to stop in the middle and go change it, saying it was too early for that. At least the people working there are sweet. It’s the saving grace. I have done a little research into other places to stay – looked at a Sydney Travel Guide in that same bookstore. I think the Y Hotel will be better, and I am booked there for the night before I leave. A little pricier, but with that maybe a less boozy crowd. I am hoping. And the backpacker accommodation is sex-segregated with four single beds per room and includes a light breakfast. Ok!
After breakfast I walked back north towards the tourist areas. This brought me through a neat little neighborhood that had more of a Brooklyn feel to it. The row houses all had these super ornate, painted-over ironwork fences on the second-story porches. It didn’t look like a particularly rich part of town, giving it that slightly grungier and lived-in feel that I like. I thought, I could live here. I walked up towards Darling Harbour, past the exhibition center and through Tumbalong Park. Then I spent the next three hours in the aquarium. I have mixed feelings about such places, as I always feel sadness for the animals caged there. But my curiosity and desire to see all these animals obviously outweighs my moral dilemma. Plus they do keep some endangered species alive, which is at least one positive function. And I would hope that the education and wonder it instills would move people to be more aware of the environment and our effect on it. So many fish I can’t even begin to name. The cowfish have really neat, colorful patterns. Rockfish. Seahorses. The Weedy Sea Dragon, which won the prize for most bizarre, alien-looking creature there:
Dugongs, which are whalelike creatures that sailors mistook for mermaids. Sharks: black-tipped and white-tipped reef sharks, grey nurse sharks, which look fearsome but aren’t. Gigantic rays and turtles. An animal called the ray shark, which, as you might expect, looks like a mix between a ray and a shark. Also strange. Jellyfish bathed in beautiful red and blue light. A crocodile. Blue penguins which are incredibly playful. Catfish. A whole wing that was a reproduction of the Great Barrier Reef. I was so exhausted from looking by the time I left that I had to save my pass to Wildlife World for another day.
I walked up towards The Rocks. And around the coastline there until I came upon the Harbour Bridge and view of the Sydney Opera House. The sky was overcast and moody. Which made for some nice pictures. It’s Australian Fashion Week apparently, so there were lots of people dressed creatively streaming into the building directly opposite the Opera House. I walked up some stairs looking for a public toilet past a skinny lady in a bathing suit preening in a practice coy manner for a few cameras. That wins the prize for strangest human behavior. I find modeling so weird. Fascinatingly so.
It poured briefly than let up to a wet night with an especially intense orange setting light. A full rainbow with its faint twin arced the eastern sky. I munched on some bread and coconut chocolate, but hadn’t gotten lunch. I passed by a juice counter and was drawn in by the "Morning After" – carrot, celery, apple. ginger and some energy supplement. Basically the drink that Rod makes at Villa Rustica. So I order a large and floated down George Street on a vitamin buzz. Stopping to snap pictures and wander around.
Which leads us to where I am now. SItting at the internet shop Global Gossip. Offline but plugged into the wall. Thinking dinner was probably appropriate at some point I asked the oracle Google to point me in the right direction. First I typed in "vegetarian restaurant sydney" but right before sending it I added "bohemian". The answer came: Govinda’s in Darlinghurst. Vegetarian buffet and a movie in a meditation/yoga centre. Perfect! I will be going to see "Milk" tonight after filling myself with vegetarian indian food. Life is good.