I’ve finally found enough time to sit down and write about the trip thus far as I’m around the corner from Central Station waiting for my bus to Canberra. Every day I always had a lot to share, but was constantly pressed for time and rationalizing against spending my time on the internet as I’m finally in freakin’ Australia.
From the beginning, I guess?
Note: This is a recap and it’s more for me to remember everything, so it may not be all that enjoyable for anyone else to read. Haha. I’ll try to update more than once a week.
I’d be lying if I said I was excited about this trip during the planning stages. The reality of the magnitude of the trip hit me as soon as I bought the airline ticket and I realized I’m finally going. I was scared to death, and questioned myself every morning if traveling really was what I wanted to do, or if it was only what I thought I wanted to do.
Everything quickly turned around when I walked through the doors of Nashville’s “international” airport. I approached the counter of American Airlines alongside a band, which isn’t unusual for Nashville. A few minutes later, I realized it was the Newsboys, who were also making their way to Australia and were on my flight to Los Angeles. Undoubtedly, these guys were the ones who piqued my interest in Australia, and out of all the days in a year to fly to Australia, we were journeying on the same day — I viewed it as God’s way of giving my trip the thumbs up.
I also ran into Kurt, a good college buddy and now tour manager of Sanctus Real, who was also venturing down to AUS for the same Christian music festival that the Newsboys were heading to.
The flight to LA wasn’t bad, I shared a row with Jeff of the Newsboys, but we didn’t converse past the obligatory “excuse me”s and “thank you”s.
I then waited around wonderful LAX for three hours, making it my fourth time in that stupid airport. The flight to Sydney wasn’t bad at all — I watched Zombieland and slept from 7:30pm Sydney time till about 3:30am. And a short four hours later, we glided past the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and landed.
I think the hardest part of going to a new city is figuring out the best way to navigate from the airport to the city itself. At least, that’s always the most challenging part for me! After a little bit of normal confusion, I found a shuttle, and I actually met a really nice girl from New Zealand who had just flown in from Lexington, Kentucky.
I arrived at the hostel, where I met my first good travel buddy, Maria from Holland. Her sarcasm and odd meshings of English expressions reminded me a lot of my German grandmother’s English, so we became friends rather quickly.
Maria, Xenia, and I set out and saw the Opera House, and climbed up several flights of stairs to Pylon Point to look over the city from the bridge. It was a good idea, and quite a bargain, as it was only $9 as opposed to the Harbour Bridge Climb which costs a whopping $195!
We spent the day traipsing around and taking many, many photographs — mostly of ourselves with 500 different angles of the Opera House, haha.
I rode the ferry over to the Manly area and rented a bike for the day. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but within the first 5 minutes of trying to navigate down the opposite side of the road in the middle of busy Good Friday afternoon beach traffic — and realizing I hadn’t ridden a bike in 8 years — I began to think otherwise. I had flashbacks of Ashley’s vespa story and prayed my ride wouldn’t end the same.
I got lost for the better part of an hour and wanted to quit, as the town’s hills reminded me of San Francisco’s little brother. But I finally found the way to an awesome lookout point of the city from across the harbour, and that gave me the hope to press on.
I rode up to North Head and passed several signs warning me about running over a bandicoot. (I never did see one though — bummer!)
After a long, gradual uphill climb that took another hour, I made it to the main lookout area and it was spectacular. I didn’t realize Sydney’s coast had such a rugged terrain composed of cliffs.
The downhill ride back down to the beach area only took an easy 5 minutes. I returned the bike, purchased an expensive ice cream cone, and got back on the ferry to Sydney.
While on the train back to Central Station, I ran into Sophie, the girl from New Zealand in the airport shuttle, which was random.
So, my mum suggested that I try to make a few friends in Sydney before I arrive, to help show me around and the like. I remembered the concept of CouchSurfing and looked into it. This is where Jim comes into the story.
Jim had the best reviews out of everyone and had also hosted a few solo girls, so I decided if he was a creep, he would’ve already made his move on someone and gotten kicked off the site. Just to play it safe, I wanted to meet him a couple of times before staying at his place, so I sent him a text to let him know I was in town, and he called me right away and invited me to a rugby game.
As it turned out, his apartment was around the corner from my hostel and I knew exactly where it was without having to mess with a map. I met up with him and four of his good friends along with another couchsurfer, Melissa from France who’d be staying at Jim’s apartment for a week or so. Jim’s friends were great and took me under their wing, asking about Nashville and if I liked country music. I also had the best beer of my life with them — a James Boag lager from Tasmania. Out of curiousity and American naivety, I asked if they drank Foster’s and got laughed at. It’s the equivalent of Busch Light here, I gather. I also asked them if they liked Keith Urban, and they replied, “Pffft. He’s from (enter name of some hick town here).”
The game was okay; the Brisbane team got spanked by Sydney, which was good for the home crowd but not good for the crowd I was with as they all hailed from Queensland.
Maria and I decided to hit up Paddy’s Market near Chinatown and see what all the fuss was about. Lots of vendors, lots of fake Prada and Jimmy Choo purses, lots of cheap Australia flags, sweatshirts, hats, mugs, stickers, keychains, flip flops — and also, lots of wigs and hair extension vendors.
I met up with Jim and his gang once again for lunch, which was yum-cha. I’d never experienced it before — it’s an Asian meal where you sit at a table and the “waiters” push carts with varying dishes around and offer you a dish when they come by. The guy with the bean curd wasn’t too popular.
I met up with Maria again and we sauntered to King’s Cross, Sydney’s red light district. Maybe it was because it was the middle of the day, and maybe it was because she’s from Amsterdam and I’ve been to Borbon Street several times, but we really weren’t impressed or shocked by it. But I did get a cup of water (I hope it was water, anyway) thrown on me by a passing car as I was helping out a guy by filming the Sydney segment of his video blog.
April 4th – Easter
This was a sad day because it meant checking out of the hostel and leaving Maria who I’d gotten quite attached to. I moved all my stuff over to Jim and Sam’s, and chatted with Jim for awhile. He let me try Vegemite — the stuff is QUITE nasty. I then journeyed with him to the fish market.
The fish market was packed with folks of varying Asian descents, all hustling and pushing their way past just for seafood. I imagine being on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is quite similar.
I saw ENOURMOUS king crabs and giant prawns, a live mussels vending machine, and after all of the smells.
Jim then dropped me off at Bondi beach, the most famous beach in Sydney where most tourists flock, and I took one look at the small strip of beach with disappointment, and opted for the cliff walk from Bondi to Bronte. It was scenic, and I stopped to take a picture every 100 feet (or, erhm… 35 meters).
I then navigated back to the city and attempted to visit the Royal Botannical Gardens, but got chased out by a guy on a golf cart since it was closing. So I met up at a quiet pub with Melissa, Raquel (crazy Brazilian ;), Jim, Sam, their coworker Ashley, and 3 German backpackers.
We then went to another pub where a guy was playing guitar and singing Johnny Cash. My comrades were amused, shouting, “Heyyyyy, Nashville!” All the while, I was thinking: I’m so glad I traveled 10,000 miles to hang out in an Australian honkytonk…
We did stay out kinda late. But it was a good time.
This day was significant because it was the first time I crossed the street looking in the correct directions naturally, haha. All the museums and libraries were still closed for Easter, so my plans were left pretty open. Jim ended up taking me on a guided tour of South Head, and although a self-admitted non-botanist, he taught me a few things about Australian plants.
We had fish and chips for lunch, which was pretty good, but not as good as the fish’n’chips I had in London. Not going to tell anyone here that, though!
Jim then dropped me off at the Royal Botannical Gardens so I could give it another shot. They’re beautiful, and expand over a good bit of land. There are quite a few good places to look out on the harbor.
I then wandered over to the Central Business District, used free internet at the 3-story Apple store, chatted with Gunner, and looked up filming locations for the Matrix since I’m a complete nerd. I did end up finding a couple.
Monday evening was pretty quiet as the days of walking around for miles and miles had begun to take its toll. I successfully peeled a prawn with the head, antennae, legs, and everything else still attached without getting too freaked out. Jim whipped up an excellent meal of prawns, scallops, and white rice, and I napped for a solid 2 hours afterwards.
Jim and Sam had to work today, so I couldn’t leave my stuff at their place and had to pack it up. I journeyed with all of my belongings down to Cornulla where I took a cheap surfing lesson! The teacher was really good — experienced, patient, encouraging. It was awesome. I actually stood up for one wave and rode it in, which was all I wanted to accomplish. It was frustrating though, to understand the mechanics but not be able to execute it. Clearly I’ll have to come back to polish my skills.
I also saw a bunch of cockatus conducting a meeting in a park, and I heard a kookaburra but couldn’t find it.
I also finally used a toilet where the water went down in a circle and it DID go counter-clockwise. Haha.
So, to summarize:
Still no kangaroos, koalas or platypuses (platypii?) yet.
I’ve met a few Americans, but mostly people from other countries. I’ve learned that American entertainment serves as entertainment for the rest of the world. TV, movies, music…everything. Taylor Swift’s “Fifteen” music video came on in the hostel and that was truly a weird feeling: Traveling thousands of miles away to escape work, but still being connected to it.
I give my first CouchSurfing experience an A+. Jim was an incredible host — extremely, extremely hospitable, and always telling me to call if I needed any help. Hopefully he’ll make it back to the US someday and I can return the favor.
On to Canberra!