Down under in Sydney
I arrived in Australia exhausted from the near non-sleep I got at Christchurch airport. After checking into my hotel, I decided to go for a short walk which turned into a 5 hour walk. I first took the path set along the harbour which takes you to the Royal Botanic Garden, The Sydney Opera House and The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Last year I was told by an Australian that her country had overtaken the United States for the highest obesity rate in the world. You wouldn’t have known it walking along this path. I saw hundreds of people running, dozens doing sit-ups and push-ups, and many swimming laps in a local outdoor pool – all in the high heat of noon. I guess this is what Sydneysiders do during their lunch break. Sydney has to be the most vain city I’ve ever visited, but I guess people want to look good when they go to the beach so it’s understandable!
Sydney is a very attractive city, led by the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Although the city has many different architectural styles, the city still had a cohesive feel. Skyscrapers and grand old buildings dominate the CBD . The Opera House is indeed an architectural tour-de-force and integrates well into its environment, mirroring the sails by the harbour.
I was a bit nervous about staying in Australia since I was warned that their hostels are disgusting. However, I lucked out in Sydney. Not only was the hostel nice and clean, I met some really cool people. I had two nice roommates, one Taiwanese and one Hong Konger, and befriended a very sweet French girl. My Taiwanese friend was perhaps the most effervescent person I’ve ever met. She just learned English in the last 6 months, but you can tell that she has a razor-sharp wit and a very strong personality. She told me a sad and funny story. When she was in New Zealand, people would yell “Go back to your country” from their cars. One time, she ran after the car and screamed “Fuck you!” and the car cowardly sped off. I couldn’t hang out with her much during the day because she worked at the hostel as a cleaner, but she would cook the most delicious dinners. She ate like 300 pound man but she was probably just over 100 pounds! My Hong Konger friend was more reserved but hilarious, too. I enjoyed meeting her because she was so socially aware and actually acted on her social consciousness by working for her city council and volunteering. She really loved kids and plans to have five, bless her.
My roommates invited me to the (in)famous Bondi Beach. The beach was beautiful: the water was blue, the sand was golden, and the beach was clean. It was surprisingly crowded for a weekday. Surfers were riding the waves, sun tanners were revelling in the sun and tourists were snapping away with their cameras.
I revisited the beach another day with my French friend, and we did the walk to Coogee beach, the latter being much filthier (I found many shards of glass!). We were both exhausted that day and found the stairs hard to climb which was especially embarrassing because there weren’t many.
When I was in NZ, I often heard that Auckland was the Little Sydney. But in reality, there is no comparison between the two cities. Sydney has MUCH more to do. It was fun exploring its neighbourhoods: The Rocks, Bondi, Paddington, Manly, Chinatown, King’s Cross. I actually went out at night a few times which was great since I could finally justify carrying my dresses and mini-heels.
The tour was run by a fairly young guy who was super nice but somewhat lacked professionalism. He blasted his music on the rides over and back, and masqueraded his lack of knowledge with sarcasm and humour. The morning weather was really poor (cold and wet) but the mountains looked especially blue. We did a nice walk through the rainforest. And, we walked down to a waterfall where the stairs were especially brutal. Geez, the stairs were steep: they were large and we must have descended 20 or 30 storeys only to climb back up.
I was planning to go to Adelaide and do Kangaroo Island but once I looked up prices, I decided not to go. It was extremely expensive and additionally, I would have had to pay for transportation to and from Adelaide. I decided to spend more time in Sydney and Melbourne. In retrospect, I probably should have visited another city in between.
On my last day, I had a picnic at the Royal Botanic Gardens surrounded by wedding ceremonies . On the walk back to the hostel, my friends and I witnessed a disturbing scene. A man was at the top masturbating in full view. We got a bit freaked out and I wasn’t sure if I should call the police lest he would do that in front of a little kid.
I was sad to leave Sydney after meeting so many nice people. Usually the same dialogue occurs between backpackers: Where are you from? How long are you traveling for? Are you working? Which countries have you visited and will visit? What did you do back home? And occasionally they will ask, What is your name? It can get tedious and repetitive at times.
But sometimes you meet people with whom you have things to say beyond the standard backpacker talk. You know that if you were in the same country you would be close friends. I’ve met great people from all over the world. The hardest part of travelling is meeting great people and having to say goodbye. You know there is a chance that you will never see each other, and you may lose touch down the line. You have to believe that it’s just nice to have met these people and that you have gained from the encounter, otherwise there is no point to talking to anyone.