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Published: March 30th 2010
Past and Present
An araucaria cookii dwarfs the monument to the man it was named after. Both appear miniscule compared to the tanker offshore where the Endeavour once moored, bringing with it the first Europeans to set foot on this continent
Gangs of cockatoos fill the air. Rainbow lorikeets cavort amongst the trees. But in the distance, planes take off and land from six to midnight. An assortment of cranes across the bay mar the view of Sydney Tower and the city and an oil tanker lies where the Endeavour once anchored. Much has changed since Captain James Cook first arrived here 240 years ago.
Me? I came here back in 1991. Nine months of hell. A sulphur-crested cockatoo has just landed on the araucaria that shades me. It stares. It glares. It shrieks. Just as I mention its presence to my travel buddy Rune, it lifts its tail and craps a mere metre from my feet then flies away.
A seemingly perfect upper middle-class suburban existence flawed by the Anglo-Saxon school system. Geeks and goons. Nerds and jocks. Seen on TV and played out in real life at Castle Hill High School. Nineteen years later, given school takes on a more serene appearance. Sure, it was a Sunday. I'll give you that. But with age came change, both physical and mental. Today these pugilistic hoons bother me no more. The opposition is exposed and the dread is gone
A City Hidden
Cranes block the view from Captain Cook's landing spot on Botany Bay across to Jackson Bay where modern Sydney is centred
revealing bogans in a bogan land. Six cockatoos have landed in the tree above me. I'm waiting for the shit to fall.
Today the only thing with which this city can bother me are the roads. More precisely, the road signs. A two hour circumnavigation of Jackson Bay and the Paramatta River turns out to be futile. A Herculean effort to avoid toll roads turns into a panoramic tour of the inner City suburbs and a return to where we started from. Two sulphurs have landed around ten metres from me and proceed to eat the grass. As I enter the van to get my camera, a police helicopter scares them away.
Negative - this country abandoned toll booths years ago. If we wish to avoid a fine from the tunnel operator and a hefty service charge from our camper rental company then an expensive international phone call and disclosure of credit card details will be in order. The umpteenth vehicle has stopped next to our van. It seems the brew served in the cafe on the opposite side of the street has its following.
There is a long-standing debate which is better -
Action Day and Night
Take offs and landings over Botany Bay. Nowadays, planes carry visitors to and from this continent
Sydney or Melbourne. For most, the answer is clear. One may have a famous bridge, opera house and more picturesque bays, but for those in the know, Melbourne comes tops. Damn, Cintra is smooth. The Portuguese do know how to brew a nice beer. O sabor do conquista - the taste of conquest.
It really doesn't matter though. If you have a family, there's no better place to live sans Vancouver. If you follow international polls that is. From a bachelor's point of view the country is expensive, boring and over-rated. An elderly Aussie couple pulls up and we strike up a conversation. Friendly, knowledgeable and cultured people. Rare non-bogans. We discover the husband worked with a Norwegian at the refinery down the beach but that was years ago. They reminisce how much the neighbourhood has changed. Now he and his wife are retired and come down to the park for a walk on the weekends. As I watch them stroll into the distance towards the monument to Captain Cook I reminisce how much this country has changed since I was last here let alone since his landing.
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