Day 4 – Wednesday, December 12, 2007 – Athletes, Animals, Art and Aimless Conversation
Location: Olympic Park, Blue Mountains and Bondi Beach, NSW, Australia
Ilyusha and I woke up early and went out for caffeinated beverage and breakfast bunnage at his favourite little spot on Glebe Point Rd. The exotic fruit scones were heavenly and the hot chocolate came in a neat sippy cup which is very useful for klutzes like me who manage to spill just about everything.
The van to take me to on OzTrek showed up at the Glebe Village Backpackers about 5 minutes late, but the driver, Michael immediately started passing around shortbread and gingerbread cookies in order to make sure we were all well-nourished for the upcoming nature walks. He reminded me very much of the excellent bus driver we had in Florence in 2005, named Iago. I quickly struck up conversation with the family speaking French next to me whom were from Nouvelle Caledonie – which I had never heard of before. You meet so many interesting people when abroad!
First stop was the Olympic Park. Sydney’s Olympic Park was paid for 2 years before the Olympics began (doesn’t that make every Montrealer cringe?) and cost only 10% of what the Bejing Olympics are costing. There was an interesting display about different scandals associated with the construction, the length of winning jumps and other events. I wasn’t half as bored as I expected to be.
Second stop, Euroka (unsure of the spelling there) where we encountered kangaroos, cockatoos and other flora and fauna on a brief walk through the brush. There were no snakes, unfortunately, but there was a valley where the cicadas were so loud it was deafening. I kept hoping that the joey an American tourist was too close to would get up and kick her, but, alas, I was not so lucky.
Third stop, Wentworth Falls where the fog was thick and we could see nothing from the look-out. However, Michael suggested that we walk down to a lower look-out point twenty minutes down the trail and see if the fog would clear in the meantime. It did and I got some very valuable exercise.
Fourth stop, lunch in Leura, but I had brought a lunch of half a peanut butter, apple and date sandwich (saved from the day before), a nectarine and a granola bar. Although it was drizzling by now, I set off to wander the streets of this sweet little village and found a nice little park with a great view into the unkempt, lush backyards of the residents. I am a peeping-tom. I got stuck in some pretty heavy rainfall and had to wait it out under a large tree.
Fifth stop, Victoria Falls and Three Sisters look-out, but the fog never cleared around the Three Sisters. We drove away with the intention of coming back and headed off to the Grosse Valley. We had better luck out there and got a lovely view of the different valleys before heading back to Three Sisters.
We now had a few options: walk down thirty minutes of stairs to a platform, hope the fog would clear, and take the scenic railway back up to the look-out; take the monorail down to the rainforest, walk around for twenty minutes and take the monorail back up; sit in the café and hope the fog would clear. I took the cheapest option and the one that resulted in the least wetness (it was still drizzling), and as the fog never cleared for any of us, it wasn’t an unwise move. I never saw the Three Sisters though.
I slept on the way back to Sydney. When I got off the bus I was accosted by some very sweet looking backpackers (which made me feel a bit better about being unable to work up the nerve to talk to the three Swedes on the bus), but had to walk by as I was due to meet Ilya.
We had originally planned a harbour cruise and it was nice in Sydney, but Michael had told us all that the New South Wales Art Gallery (read Museum) was open until nine on Wednesdays and has free admittance to the permanent collections. Ilya seemed to agree that this was not only a cheaper, but also a more interesting option. We enjoyed ourselves perusing European and contemporary art, without meandering into the aboriginal section, and I was rather upset that there was no guide to their permanent European collection. It was quite good. There Rodins were impressive and there was some nice examples of different styles, though few masters. The building was beautiful and furthered my desire to one day compile a guidebook to the floors of museums across the world.
After the museum, Ilya and I headed out to Bondi to meet his friend Ben who owns a bar out there. We met, went to the Bondi Hotel for a drink, decided as there was no food being served there anymore it would a bad idea to drink on empty stomachs, and left for falafel. I have never had such expensive falafel, nor falafel with so many different ingredients: chilli, coleslaws, corn, yummy! We bought wine, went to Ben’s apartment and spent the night there talking. Well, Ben and I did, Ilya was lost around 2am and had crashed in the alcove. It was nice to meet another native of this lovely place. I got a crash course in Australian politics and we talked about conspiracy theories and other pseudo-intellectual nonsense. It was fun.
Day 5 – Thursday, December 13, 2007 –Irrational Fears, Walks and Jazz Music
Location: Bondi Beach, The Rocks, Surry Hills, NSW, Australia
We woke up around 9:30am badly in need of our toothbrushes and left Ben to sleep until he had to go to work. The walk to the rail station was a good half-hour in the sun and I am a tad sunburnt on the cheeks now. We stopped in Bondi Junction Shopping Centre to buy me flipflops at targets and pick up some much needed smoothies for breakfast. We hopped on the train and then walked home from Town Hall through Darling Harbour. I’d only gotten four hours of sleep, so we decided that I needed an hour nap.
At 3 we were showered, rested and ready to go. Our original plan had been to go to the zoo, but the zoo closes at 5pm, so this was no longer feasible. We decided to take the ferry to Luna Park instead and ride the ferris wheel. We got off at the wrong stop, I panicked and acted like usual, miserable self for about 15 minutes, but we got back on a ferry that ended up dropping us off at Luna Park anyways (there were other ferries in between and a general inability on our part to read the schedules) and we rode the Ferris wheel which provided a great view of the bridge and harbour.
Ilya apparently no longer likes me because when we were stopped at the top, I asked how long he thought it would take if I jumped before there was a nifty kersplatt. Hehe. We walked across the Harbour bridge to get back to the city and I kept up the mockery of his fear of heights. A security officer heard me and I got a pretty severe, but jolly, scolding about talking about jumping off the bridge. I like being teased…
We rocked through the Rocks, which feel a little like Montreal below Ste. Catherine Street, and got on a bus to Surry Hills. We walked up to the top of the hills in Moore Park which I imagine Surry Hills are named after and had another great view of the skyline, the mountains in the opposite direction and Fox Studios (LOL). I saw people playing cricket.
We used the guidebook as a restaurant finder for the first time and had Indian food at Maya Tandoori on Cleveland. It was EXCELLENT. A cafeteria-style restaurant with lots of choices that were cheap and tasty. I was so full from the special of the day that I could not sample the extensive dessert selection (but oh how I wanted to), so we decided to purchase two samosas and an almond burfi for me for the beach on Friday.
After dinner we headed out to White Horse, a trendier jazz bar on Bourke street. Though the guitar, bass, drum and piano quartet did not play any of their own compositions while we were there, their covers of some of my favourite pieces (like It Don’t Mean a Thing If We Ain’t Got That Swing). I was, unfortunately, falling asleep by 10:30 though. We took a taxi back to the flat and konked out. I was still clothed again.
Ilya is still having problems with my snoring. However, he has told me to stop snoring at least twice when I was wide awake and not even in bed. Last night (I found my earplugs and the birds make a lot of noise so I was wearing them), he took to shaking my bed by grabbing its foot when I would start to snore. He did this once when I wasn’t in the bed… I am amused and wondering how many times I am being awakened for no reason…
We slept a good twelve hours and are currently prepping to head out to Bondi Beach where Ben is supposedly to meet us again. I only have four more days left… sniff.