This is the first in several entries on Australia. There won’t be one for everyday, just whenever a good blog entry pops into my head. I’m also going to back-date them to the day they happened.
Australia. Oz. Down Under. It’s a place everybody claims they want to go, but very few people actually do- which is a shame. I mean, aside from the cost of a plane ticket and a 24-hour plane ride, why the heck not? Even the plane ride isn’t that bad these days, what with a library of movies, music, and TV shows at your own personal beck and call through the entertainment system. Just be sure to get an aisle seat (which I did), and get up frequently… which I did, but mainly because my digestive system was busy “filing complaints,” shall we say.
I had also procured some sleep medication, because if there’s one thing I’m not good at, it’s sleeping on planes. It’s like every possible discomfort is magnified threefold, whether it’s my back digging into the armrest, or the little kid shrieking ten rows up. (Side note: a surprising number of people think it’s worth it to fly to Australia with little kids.) (Side-side note: Ear plugs are awesome.) (Side-side-side note: now back to your regularly scheduled programming.)
The sleeping pill I took is supposed to give you eight hours of sleep. It gave me 3. So 15 hours later, I landed in Sydney (25 hours after taking off from RDU), I had gotten maybe 4.5 hours of sleep. And it was 6:40 am– a full day loomed ahead.
Said day started with an hourlong wait in the customs line. They take customs VERY seriously in Australia, to the point that I had to declare the granola bars in my backpack, and they asked if I was carrying any uneaten food from the airplane (because if there’s one thing worth saving for later, it’s airline food). Still, it’s understandable: non-native animals, plants, and diseases have a long history of wreaking havoc with the ecosystem (just Google “Australia rabbits” for an example).
So once I got through customs and got my bag (which made it- a minor miracle in and of itself), I found myself in Sydney. I took the train into the city center– the Sydney subway has double-decker train cars– and found myself at the hotel with more than four hours before check-in time, still somewhat dazed from the flight. What to do? I left my bag at the hotel and decided to start walking.
The day was sunny, cloudless, thirty degrees Celsius (or in Fahrenheit, “really nice”). I headed north, toward the harbor, along the paths of Hyde Park, with incredibly old trees lining the path. These were clearly trees that had been around since Sydney was a small penal colony on a pristine, wild harbor.
The path continued, past ornate fountains and palm trees that looked like they’d been shipped straight from Miami, until I saw a pair of white sails in the distance. They disappeared as I cut West, between a pair of apartment buildings, following no particular guide except my own feet, and suddenly I found myself at the water’s edge, facing Sydney Harbour Bridge in all its gray metallic glory. I made my way down the harbor’s edge, past restaurants and shops and the few people out and about on a Sunday morning, and found the sails again– except now they’ve resolved into the shape of the Sydney Opera House, glistening white in the morning Sun.
So there I am, standing on the edge of one of the greatest harbors on Earth, Sun overhead in a blue, cloudless sky, sea breeze in my face, in full of view of two of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. I can practically feel my batteries recharging as I stand there. Jet lag? What jet lag?