Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 10th, 2009 - Sydney, Australia

Last night I managed a late night rally down to Circular Quay (pronounced “key” I gather) to get online at a Starbucks. An hour of Internet was $A3 but you got one free if you added $5 to your Starbucks card. Alix had given me one a long time ago that every once in a while I would remember was in my wallet. When I pulled it out, the barista got all excited and had to know where I got it. Apparently, the US designs are much more exciting than the ones they had.

With my free hour and just under an hour until closing, I whipped through a storm of uploading pictures, checking email, sending a few I'd queued (including setting a friend and a student of mine up on a blind date) and posting my trip reports for the first couple days. The last of it uploaded just as it was being made clear by Starbucks employees that they had actually closed 10 minutes ago.

On the walk home, I saw a pretty funny ad on the back of a bus. It was a woman with her pinky half- extended and the words “Speeding. No one thinks big of you.” I can't help but think this ad just wouldn't happen in the US.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

The next morning after breakfast we headed back towards King Wharf and Darling Harbour to check out the Sydney Wildlife World, apparently the place to go if you couldn't make it to the Taronga Zoo. Despite the fact that we'd been thinking our time in Sydney would be pretty much spent just recovering from jet lag, it turned out the time change was so large, we were actually not that far off, just a day ahead and it was turning out to be a respectable amount of time there.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

A random pamphlet had mentioned an area called Paddington as a kind of “retro-chic” neighborhood that sounded pretty nice. The concierge at the hotel said there was a market going on up there on today (Saturday) and that it was on the way to Bondi Beach (another spot a client of Ann's had said was worth seeing), so we grabbed a cab.

Paddington was definitely a hip spot with high quality crafty stuff in the market. Lots of upscale shops and classic (a little like I imagine New Orleans) houses with ornate wrought iron on the balconies. With about the usual amount of uncertainty when boarding a bus in a foreign city – aw, who am I kidding, when boarding a bus in any city – we figured out we were headed in the right direction, paid the fare and were headed to Bondi.

The beach was the picturesque half-moon of fine white sand filled with people lounging in the sun, jumping in the waves and surfing. Any excitement brought about by the occasional topless hotttie was quickly diffused by some Aussie dude in a banana hammock. Bondi has a long history of surf lifesaving clubs and the sight of the old school red and yellow bathing cap and groups of kids engaged in surf skills tests (running into the waves with surf boards, paddling out to the break, and gliding back in) was common.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

We got home in time for about 15 minutes on the bed before having to head out for our only scheduled activity in Sydney, the bridge climb. As soon as we entered the BridgeClimb facility, we could tell this was not a fly-by-night operation. Our group of 12 or so people was systematically routed through a series of preparations including a breathalyzer (under .05%), emptying of all pockets, a jumpsuit, a tethered hat or beanie if desired, straps for glasses, a harness and “latch” for the cable system, a headlamp, and a radio receiver and headset. A serious undertaking that took about 30 minutes and did inspire some confidence.

After a short “climb simulation” with practice moving your latch along the cables and past the attachment points (the apparatus rotated and somehow passed without needing to be detached), we headed out onto the bridge. Almost immediately, we were looking at a good bit of air down through the metal grated catwalk. A few sets of stairs and we were at a ladder system that wound up through three or four landings and in between the 8 lanes of traffic on the bridge to intersect with the upper arch. The arch was a gradual grade to the summit with stunning views out to the right of the Opera House, Circular Quay, and the busy ferry traffic in and out.

Set picture stops at various spots along the way (you couldn't bring your camera both because you could drop it on the cars below and so you'd buy their pictures) were complete with fixed tripods for the Canon G7's (the earlier version of the new camera I had gotten for this trip) the guides carried. In addition to the standard Opera House backdrop, a picture was taken in front of “Blinky Bill,” the flashing red beacon on a platform at the peak, a spot where before security they used to find mattresses and empty beer bottles from people coming up to spend a night with the view. We started the descent on the far arch just as the sun was setting at the far end of the harbor. Pretty spectacular view including the flying silhouettes of the large bats (flying foxes, the locals call them) we had seen hanging in the botanical gardens the day before as they flew across the bright blue and orange sky. Close to three hours after we'd arrived, we were back at the BridgeClimb headquarters exhausted and dehydrated, having bypassed the last few “bubblers” after a long time without a bathroom. Definitely a great recommendation if you ever make it to Sydney.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

After dinner (which was just in time), the final item on the Sydney agenda was taking some night pictures of the bridge and the Opera House. Using my mini flexible tripod and some long exposures, I think they turned out really nice.

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

From 2009-01-07 Australia and New Zealand

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