Monday, December 06, 2010

All Hands Prepare to Lower Anchor in Sydney Harbour

Relying yet again on that 'ancient' alarm clock my husband invented (p.s. I didn't invent it) we were up and ready at 3am (1am East Coast Australian time) for our early morning flight from Christchurch to Sydney. We were comatose the majority of the flight but sprang to life at 8am when our plane descended into the beautiful Sydney morning and circled the Sydney Opera House. 'OMG! We are actually in Australia!! P.Sherman 45 Wallabe Way, Sydney Australia!' (sorry, I had to). We were giddy with excitement. Our adrenaline, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the most amazing introduction to Australia kept us high (and wide awake) for almost 24 hours straight.

Because we are quite possibly the luckiest people alive and have some amazing Aussie friends, we were greeted at the Sydney airport by the smiling, friendly faces of Dave and Bron. We met Dave and Bron WAY back in 2006 on our 'once-in-a-lifetime-jaunt' around Europe in the small Swiss town of Lauterbrunnen and then again in Gimmelwald and once more in Cinque Terre, Italy. These run-ins we kept having, at least in Switzerland, weren't planned, but I suppose great minds think alike. Being picked up at the airport when you're on the road is comparable to winning the travel lottery. Its like a get-out-of-jail-free card, pass Go and collect your $200 and straight on to millionaires row. There's no wandering aimlessly through the airport under the weight of your pregnant backpack searching for a cheap and (ultimately non-existent) way into the city that you nothing about to an overpriced hostel which probably is infested with bed bugs. Oh yes, we are the lucky ones. Our hosts picked us up at the gate, deposited our bags in the trunk and took us for a tour around a few Sydney neighbourhoods on our way to a delicious Sunday morning Moroccan brunch. The food and atmosphere were amazing, but it was the company that made the event. Turns out four years is a lot to catch up on. From brunch we made our way to Manly, the neighbourhood and associated beach where Dave and Bron live. They have an amazing vacation-like flat a few hundred feet from the Sydney Harbour. Their view is incredible. People come from their far away suburbs just to swim off the rocks in the clear blue waters of Bron an Dave's front yard. The paved water-front path around the Harbour passes in front of their patio, so after a few minutes rest we set out to see the sights. Although we didn't see them, Blue Penguins have established a colony on the Harbour beach a short ways down the path. We continue our stroll down the promenade, which is full of Sunday sun-seeking Sydney-ers. No one is wearing much more than their bathing suit and everyone is gorgeous, aside from a few gawking tourists (although the gawking is completely understandable). There is a surfing competition at Manly Beach and so the scene unfolds like the quintessential image of Australia. The beach is packed with unbelievably tanned people, the water has just as many people who have exchanged their towels for surf boards, the promenade is stuffed with Baywatch and friends jogging along in their bathing attire, their muscles glistening in the hot sun, and of course, us tourists wishing they were any one of the above. We walk along the path up around the beach to get the big picture. What a sight! We continue along past less occupied coastline, down to another busy beach and then up to a lookout over Manly, the jagged cliffs and the beaches along the distant coast that squeeze their way in between the rocky headlands. Gorgeous.
And then, the dreaded encounter with my first Australian creepy-crawly: a tick. I, personally had never seen a tick before. I thought it was a spider that was particularly intent on clinging to my shirt. Bron told me that it was actually a large tick and helped scrap it off my shirt before it attahed itself to my actual skin. Now, in my defense, I would like to say that all literature I have read about Australia has a very strong emphasis on all the bugs, spiders, snakes, jellyfish, sharks etc. that can kill you. This, and a touch of my overactive imagination have transformed my encounter with 'the Tick' into a much more dramatic escapade then it need be. The tourist's fear of everything in Australia surely becomes quite tiring to the people who actually live here. Most people can happily live their lives without ever seeing most of the poisonous critters that are said to inhabit the land. Especially in cosmopolitan Sydney. Either way, I am happy that 'the Tick' was my only bug encounter and even more happy that I was with Bron who could have easily removed the little bugger, if it had indeed lodged it's head into my skin. This didn't stop me from completing the most thorough of body scans everyday for the next week, however.
If we had ended our first day in Australia with late afternoon sushi and ice cream under the shade of a big tree near the beach, it would have been a perfectly glorious start to our adventure. What we did next I could not have dreamt up even in my most rose-coloured dreams of what we would be doing our first day in Sydney. I almost don't want to tell you and save you the insane amount of jealousy. But, I will, of course. So. Dave and Bron have a friend through church that has a 40-foot sailing yacht that she very generously shares with a group of interested yachters. Luckily for us, Dave and Bron are experienced sailors and have arranged for us to meet the boat as it was coming home from a weekend out in open water. AND: Take us for a sunset/dinner sail around the Sydney Harbour!!! Can you believe it? We almost couldn't. What an amazing experience! 'Rampage', our yacht-du-jour was born in 1973 and, in her day, she was a speedy 'little' thing winning the Sydney-Hobart race in the mid-seventies. This is a big deal. With the fixings of a delicious picnic dinner we set off into the deep blue waters of the Sydney Harbour. Our very capable Captain Dave was patient with our nautical bumbling and we sailed down towards the City, Opera House and the Harbour Bridge with the late sun glistening on the water and bathing the City in gold. It was such a fantastic evening, I kept pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming the whole thing up. We (we?) devoured our first Tim Tams (signature Aussie cookie comprised of 2 chocolate buiscuits stuck together with chocolate cream. The whole cookie is then covered in chocolate. Yum!) while the sun set. The blood red, deep orange, magnificent blue of the evening sky, along with our Tim Tams made for the perfect ending of the perfect day. Or so we thought. We sailed back to the dock in fading light. By the time us ladies were dropped off at the wharf and the men had moored and rowed to shore, night had fallen. Turns out this is the perfect time for phospohrescne! I had only seen phosphorescence on TV, and never expected to see it in real life. We gathered stones and sticks and handfuls of sand and took turns throwing the objects into the ocean to watch the water's neon blue reaction. We giggled like school kids the whole time. It reminded me of the glow worms in NZ. How can natural make such unnatural colours? Spectacular. If this weren't a fantastic enough way to end the day, we then spotted big white pelicans on the beach and string rays in the shallow water!
In 24 short hours we had come to expect a lot of Sydney. Our expectations were well exceeded again when our friend Sophie met us on the well worn steps of the Town Hall the next afternoon. Sophie lives steps from Bondi Beach, another of Sydney's iconic beaches. We immediately donned our 'cozzies' (Aussie speak for bathing suits) and headed down to Bondi for a swim. The water was chilly, or, perhaps 'refreshing' but 100% worth it! 'We are swimming in Australia!' Jonathan was less enthusiastic. Sharks and such.
We met Sophie, the nicest, funniest, cutest girl in all of Bondi (and that's saying something) in 2008 in Slovenia. We were staying at a hostel in atmospheric Ljubljana. Sophie was traveling before she planned on settling down for a year or so working in Scotland. It's like an Aussie right of passage-traveling and working abroad for a period of time. She was friendly and charming. Soon, along with another new friend Daniel from the far away town of Virgil,Ontario, we were out on the town braving Slovenian 'pizza' and wandering through amazing underground caves. We have very fond memories of our time with Sophie in Europe and were really excited to be able to catch up with her again.
After our dip we headed to a great waterfront restaurant for a bottle of Australian wine and Spanish Tapas. The food was amazing. If our dining experience over the last two days is an accurate representation of how fantastic the food in this city is, I have no idea how there aren't more fat people prancing around in these bikinis. We chatted and sipped and chatted and sipped our way through a relaxed, social meal. Just the way tapas is meant to be enjoyed. Great food and even better company. The next morning, Sophie sent us on our way with delicious home made cookies. A woman after my own heart.
We would like to thank Dave, Bron and Sophie again for being such fantastic hosts. We appreciate everything you have done for us and can't imagine Sydney without you. If we are half as good hosts as you, we will have very lucky guests.
Without furthur ado.....Darwin.

p.s. this post is dedicated to our dear patient Laura


Parentals said...

It's about time.... finally hearing about Australia and you'll soon be leaving there. How can it get any better....sailing in Sydney!! You can come home now.

Laura said...

that's me! i'm the patient one!! and i am rewarded with two posts in only a few days!!! you guys are the best.

Anonymous said...

Ted would be jealous I'm sure

Dad P

Bron said...

Ahhhh what a great day that was!
Miss you guys- its great to see the rest of your Australia trip went well, and you have inspired us to see the west coast!
There was phosphoresence at our beach tonight! I thought of you.
Love Bron