I’ll admit, I’ve been lazy about blogging in part because I just wanted to enjoy the trip sans computer but mostly because now that I’m home, I want to savor every last minute of it. Finishing my posts makes things seem so final. Luckily, I have a lot to catch you up on!
Let’s see…I gave you some pictures of weeks 2 & 3 but I owe you the play by play. Here goes:
May 27th, Sydney International Airport. Sydney, Australia. 8:00am.
After a harried morning of rushing around on public transportation, Brad and I finally made it to the airport to pick up his four friends that were visiting from the states. Since two became six and we had a busy schedule ahead of us, we opted to get a rental car. Correction: minivan. We picked up our minivan and were off. Clearly we were the coolest group of 20-somethings south of the equator.
Next, we did what any good group of western travelers would do and jam-packed as many touristy destinations in to our itinerary as possible. We stopped at the Sydney Tower Eye which is a similar experience to New York’s Top of The Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center. Sydney Tower Eye offers 360 degree views from the tallest point in the city. There was a slight difference, however. Something about Sydney must attract all of the crazies because going outside on the deck was a feat of safety engineering. You had to lock up all of your possessions, suit up in a full jump-suit, then tether yourself to a railing which guided you around the deck in a single-file line. Awkward safety precautions aside, the views were awesome. (Unfortunately, no pictures allowed in our cool outfits.)
From there we made our way to the Sydney Wild Life Experience and the Sydney Aquarium and finally home to crash for the evening. There were now six of us plus Brad’s roommate crammed into a tiny little apartment. Aside from gambling on whether or not your shower would be screaming cold, it was actually pretty fun.
May 28th, Dee Why, Australia. 9:00am.
The next morning we set out in our totally rad minivan for the two-hour drive up to the Blue Mountains. Brad drove, I navigated and the “kids” in the back jokingly asked “are we there yet?” every five minutes. Once there we hiked a few short, scenic routes to see the Three Sisters, Katoomba Falls, etc. Like Mt. Tamborine, these were not the views you pictured when you thought of Australia. A part of me felt spoiled by the incredible views I had seen back in the states and Canada on various backpacking trips. But these were beautiful nonetheless.
May 29th, Sydney, Australia. Crack of dawn ‘o clock.
In an early morning stupor, the six of us made our way back to the airport – no wait – turn around, fill the rental car with gas – ok, now back to the airport. This time we were heading to Cairns to dive The Great Barrier Reef.
Ah, Cairns. If Australia had an armpit I imagine it would be called Cairns. Bedtime in the city seemed to be about 6pm. Their “boardwalk” wasn’t on water…just muck filled with landborne jetsam. And our hotel made us pay for toilet paper (more on that later!) We spent the first day in search of it’s saving grace which turned out to be a bar called The Pier Bar. They served cheap, cold beer on the marina. Nuff said.
Before we knew it, it was the next morning and we were back at the marina loading ourselves onto a dive boat. The crew served us a light breakfast (a clear sign that they knew what was coming) and had us fill out our paperwork and go through some basic training procedures. Before long, we set out on the hour and a half boat ride to the reef. It was a cold, overcast day and the waters were really rough. The gang held strong for the first 15 minutes or so of being tossed around at sea. Then, one by one (and pretty soon three by three) everyone quickly and clumsily exited the cabin to revisit their breakfast on the back deck. The crew didn’t even bat an eye. They lined up and assumed their individual duties immediately. Escort the sea-sick victim to a seat at an appropriate distance. Hand them a barf bag, then tissues, then ice-chips. Repeat. (NOW we’re having fun!!) It was a perfectly orchestrated symphony of disgustingness and if I hadn’t felt like total crap I would have laughed at it. I must admit, however, I did get the slightest bit of joy from watching Brad in his moment of weakness. It wasn’t too long before that moment that he was denying Dramamine saying “I don’t need that shit!” Tough guy 😉
Once we were suited up and in the water, though, we had nothing but fun. Brad and his friend KP are certified so they dove together. Dan and Kristen snorkeled and Evan (Brad’s old roommate/bandmate) and I did intro dives. The crew refused to believe that Evan and I were not a couple and after the instructor made us hold hands for three dozen underwater pictures we gave up and played along.
We also made a special friend, Siegfried. Siegfried is from Belgium and did an intro dive with us. He was traveling alone and was irresistably charming in the most curious of ways. He was slightly awkward and reminded me of an inquisitive, happy-go-lucky child. Or maybe it was just the accent? Either way, Evan and I wanted to take him home. Siegfried’s just need to be shared with the world. We all went out for drinks that night and recounted how amazing the trip was.
The next day was rainy and quiet. We checked out of jail – I mean our hotel – after Brad made up a clever story to avoid paying for a sixth person in a five person room. Apparently I was staying with my grandmother near Cairns. We also definitely did not steal toilet paper from the pool bathroom to avoid having to pay for extra rolls 😉 We had a late flight out and the hotel wouldn’t hold our luggage for us (surprise surprise) so we were forced to wander the rainy streets all afternoon with backpacks (and one roller bag) in tow. Luckily, Brad’s friends are fun to be around and the day wasn’t half bad. Then it was back to Sydney.
May 1st, Sydney, Australia.
We spent the next fews days finishing up our tourist duties. We took pictures in and around the Royal Botanic Gardens, drank and danced our way down Darling Harbor and toured the Sydney Opera House. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the House but we did one better. We saw an opera! Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s) has a zany, chaotic and mesmerizing rock opera production called Stop The Virgens. After the show, we walked around the city to see the various sites of VIVID, a festival that creatively lights up the buildings of downtown.
May 3rd, Sydney International Airport (AGAIN). Sydney, Australia.
We all piled ourselves into our van – an even bigger, cooler, creepier one – and headed to the airport once again. Three of Brad’s friends were heading back home to the states (Evan is staying in Australia for a few months). Steve (Brad’s current roommate) and Kelly (another Oz friend) were joining Brad and I on our trip to Bali.
Stay tuned for my next post as I recap the Indonesian experience!