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Published: October 12th 2006
Wow, it's finally started! We just spent our first glorious day in Sydney, and boy was it jam packed with adventures already. I'll try to touch on a few of them but I'm on a shared computer in high demand and I don't have my contacts in, so I'm not sure how far I'll get.
Our ferry/bus/flights here were fairly uneventful. Passing through US customs was TERRIBLE. I felt like I was being processed for a POW camp. You just pass from one huge station to another without really knowing what you're doing at any time, and all the staff look down upon you like you're a second class citizen. Yuck. Derek was given an intense screening, which was pretty funny (for Mark and I, at least). The customs guy pretty much went over every inch of his jeans multiple times. I've decided that Air Canada is close to the worst airline possible. I always knew they were bad, but we flew United (basically the US Air Canada equivalent) and both flights were LIGHT YEARS ahead of any AC flight I've ever been on. The flight attendants were actually friendly, and happy to help! And we got hot towels. Lovely, lovely hot towels. Annnnnd they fed us! A lot! We had a 13 1/2 hour flight and we were fed a supper (despite that it was 11pm), a random huge snack in the middle of the night, and a big breakfast around 5am before landing. And that was just economy. The business and first class on that 747 were unreal. They had lazyboy style recliner chairs, and the really nice chairs actually turned in to beds!!! I don't even know what kind of amazing food they were served. Seems like it would almost be worth the $550 upgrade.
We got in a taxi at the airport, but stupidly none of us remembered to bring the address of our hostel. We thought the cab driver would be able to call dispatch and look it up. Apparantly, we were mistaken. We knew it was near the U of Sydney, so the driver just took us there and let us fend for ourselves. I should mention that "took us there" intailed taking our lives in his hands as he sped through the narrow streets of Sydney at breakneck speeds, accelerating into the back of cars that were clearly breaking, only leaving about 1 1/2 feet of clearance even at our 80k/h speeds. Anyone who's been in a car with me knows I don't take kindly to such tactics. Oh well. I'd better get used to it before SE Asia! Needless to say it was a bit of an ordeal to find the hostel for which we didn't have an address. I won't get into the details, but our adventure involved stealing a phonebook from an unattended info booth in the student union building and wandering around until we looked so lost a kindly student finally pointed us in the right direction. When we finally got to Billabong Gardens, our much anticipated hostel, we were told to come back in 2 hours to check in since it was only 8:30am. After a breakfast of gelato and iced coffee and some play time ina a sweet playground next to our hostel, we were eventually allowed to check in. The hostel is.... so so, I guess. The kitchen seems nice, the common room seems great, the staff are nice, the location seems good, and our beds are fine, but the bathrooms are.... sketchy for sure. Shoes on in the shower!!! Oh well, over all it's good. Free internet!!! I'd take that over a clean toilet any day.
We ventured to Bondi Beach today since it was a beautiful, hot day. The public transit system here is insanely confusing and the fare system is totally nuts (and expensive) so getting there was an adventure in itself. The system is so bad that they employ people all over the place to help ease the confusion. Luckily we stumbled upon one such person just as we were hopelessly confused in the middle of downtown Sydney. He showed us what to do and we were off! Bondi Beach was AMAZING. Well worth the confusion and super expensive bus fare, for sure. Jeff Ricketson, I thought of you the whole time. The waves were HUGE and there were surfers everywhere. Two waves ganged up on me at once and I was bowled over into the sea. So much for keeping my hair dry. The whole Bondi district is full of awesome surf shops with brands I've loved since I was 12, like Roxy and Billabong. Thank goodness we still have other countries to travel to, other wise I would definitely go out of control and spend way too much money. I allowed myself a purchase of a sweet pink Billabong wallet because I really needed a wallet (my money belt was way too annoying) and it was a great price.
Where did we eat for our first night in a new country? Why, McDonald's, of course!!! Hahaha, don't look at me that way! It was by far the cheapest place around, and after my wallet purchase saving money was a priority. Plus, I didn't just have any ol' quarter pounder. I had a "McOz" which initially looked like just a cheeseburger with a tomato. However, on closer inspection we found that it had beets in it! That's right, red beets, which turned the bun bright pink. I never really thought that beets and Australia were closely tied, but apparantly they are because they were a main component of the McOz. Oh, and we shared the restaurant with a bunch of pigeons which I let in by accident when I stood in the automatic doorway for a while. I don't think I was the first one to slip up on that one, though, because the pigeons seemed to know what to do.
By dinner we were crashing hard, so we caught a bus back in the direction of our hostel. That's when we had our first real conversation with a local. A very, very VERY drunk local who initially got on the bus swearing and insulting some imaginary person. I actually thought he might have suffered some kind of brain damage in the past, until I realized he was actually drinking a beer right in front of me. Then he called across the aisle to me "Oh, you're amazingly gorgeous!" Uh, thank you? Then he moved to sit behind Derek and I and totally leaned over us and kept touching us. We were very scared he was going to vomit on us at any moment. Apparantly he had won $700 on video poker that night. Lucky him. Oh, and said that Derek didn't have a Canadian accent like Mark and I. That was OK, because Derek can't understand people with accents (certainly not drunk accents) and he couldn't understand a word of what he was saying. Two rice, Marcus? Eventually, he freaked out because the bus driver wouldn't stop the bus, but we all knew what was about to happen (ahem) so the driver opened the door and that was the end of him.
After a marathon walk we finally got back to Billabong Gardens, had a much needed shower, and headed upstairs to the common room. We wanted to play Mario Kart on the N64 but a bunch of people are watching Jericho, so I guess we're out of luck. The TV is amazingly big. Like, a huge widescreen TV. Who knew? Maybe that money should have been put into bathroom renovations? Or, at least bathroom cleaning supplies.
We've decided that Sydney is just Vancouver in a parallel dimension. Many things are really the same, but some key things are really different or backwards. Driving on the left hand side of the road, massive coins for small denominations and tiny ones for $2, skinny sea gulls and huge insects. I'm sure we'll discover more parallel universe things as we go.
I can't hook up my camera here so picture updates will have to wait. They can't really fully express the beauty of Bondi beach, anyway.
Mom arrives tomorrow! Then we have to look for a new place to stay. We're also going to check out flights to the Gold Coast. Until next time!
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