Australasia | Australia | New South Wales | Sydney – G’day Oz!
The arrivals hall at Sydney International Airport has several huge backlit images by Australian photographers on display. One shows a wide angle view of a country road stretching to infinity with the text whispering, superimposed on top several times. Its an evocative photograph, quiet and expansive, and it gives me a good feeling in my first moments here in Australia.
The airport has a standby hotel booking counter and they get me into the Travel Lodge hotel in downtown Sydney something that neither I nor the several travel agents in New Zealand that I contacted could do, and they do it for less money. I ride into town on the bike path, and get out to explore Liverpool Street after dark. So far, not a single person has said Gday mate!
The next day, I get out and do some exploring around Sydney, taking the monorail around town, walking across the Harbour Bridge and checking out the historic neighbourhood called the Rocks and the very famous Sydney Opera House. The opera house is actually three main structures: the opera house, a restaurant, and the concert hall. It really is a great architectural structure, covered in tiles and outstanding in its design. The very lively bars and restaurants that are housed both within and below it make it a beautiful summer evening place to relax whether you are going to a show or just hanging out. Flying foxes reside in the surrounding trees and can be seen flying throughout the city at night.
Saturday is the big Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in Sydney. People come from throughout the world to enjoy the debauchery and carnival atmosphere of the nighttime parade. It is raining and I mean it is raining buckets, but it doesnt dampen the crowds spirit and the dancers in the parade are absolutely fabulous! The energy is celebratory, the music loud, and the colours vibrant and bold. Streets are closed and it is one big Party my friends! The big official Mardi Gras party is at Fox Studios where over 30,000 people will dance till well past dawn. Im in my bed by 6:30 a.m.
Sunday is spent doing a few touristy things on this last full day in Sydney. I start by visiting the Sydney war memorial, then wandering around the New South Wales Art Gallery. There is an interesting exhibit of aboriginal art, a special exhibit of Man Ray photography and Rayographs, a truly impressive presentation called Art Express 2004 featuring young high school artists, and various other collections of art from throughout the world. Its a big place and children are enjoying some of the more whimsical pieces, such as a weird plastic form with eyes and a mouth that makes smart comments, winks, and talks with a slightly nasty attitude, or the hanging fruit bat clothes line. A few lucky people will get a postcard from the gallery shop theyre the first small batch that I will be sending. And yes, I even have the UK World Surface address, so you guys that are making it happen are somewhere on the long, long list.
Continuing on, I walk around the Sydney harbour to the Royal Botanical Gardens, enjoying the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos feeding on the expansive lawns. From there, its another stop at the Sydney Opera House to get a photo with just a little blue sky, before boarding the Naberdeen Ferry for Manley Beach. The trip takes about thirty minutes, and soon, Im relaxing on the beach watching the surfers ride wave after wave. I could easily spend a week in Manley, or maybe even forever, but I have a plane to catch in the morning, so I head back downtown and catch the train to Central Station.
Im really impressed with Sydney as a city. Its harbourfront is beautiful, transit makes it reasonably easy to get around, and it has lots going on. The rush hour traffic is horrible and its a little bit expensive, but those are minor flaws that come with any big city. Ill overnight here in another week. Tomorrow I’ll fly up north to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforest, and the Outback.