June 5, 2008

Sydney: Getting by With a Little Help From Our Friends

Before I arrived here, I had two images of Australia: the Sydney Opera House and the Outback. So when Jared and I finally clamped eyes on the iconic Opera House, a shiver went down my spine. It was one of those surreal travel moments when I couldn't help thinking, "this really is the Sydney Opera House. I have made it to Australia." We took the above photo while walking across Sydney's other famous landmark, the Harbour Bridge. We couldn't spend $200 to climb the bridge, but fortunately crossing it on foot was free.

We spent most of our nine days in Sydney buying a car to drive up the East Coast of Australia. Between browsing, test driving, having the car inspected, and buying a roof box, we had days of car-related errands to run. We had heard so much about the King's Cross Car Market, where backpackers sell their vans and wagons at the end of their trips, but I found I could smell the desperation amongst the sellers. Some had been sitting in that gloomy parking garage for two weeks trying to sell their cars. We found our car on Gumtree and bought it from our new friend Dominik. (By the way, can anyone read his German blog?) Our new car (Jared's first) is a 1993 Holden Berlina station wagon with just over 160,000 miles. It came with gadgets to keep us from hitting kangaroos, but no cup holders. Go figure. So far the car seems to be working out for us.

Sydney is a great city, but Jared and I both prefer smaller Melbourne. In Sydney we really felt the stresses of being in a big city--packed commuter trains and high prices. It reminded us a bit of being back in New York City, but not in a good way. At least Sydney has some fantastic beaches to take the big city edge off. We made a mandatory stop at world famous Bondi Beach, but found that we liked the relaxed vibe of Coogee Beach better. Unfortunately it was a bit too cold to go swimming at either beach. Looking back, I wish we'd had time to do the clifftop walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach.

We did manage to do a bit more sightseeing before leaving town. The World Press Photo exhibit had us awestruck for two hours. For our New York friends, don't miss the exhibit when it stops at the U.N. building from June 27 to July 17. We meandered around The Rocks, Sydney's quaint historic district, filled with cafes and pubs. At the Museum of Contemporary Art, we met some of Sydney's underground self-publishers at a zine fair. We didn't get to take a harbour ferry to Manly Beach, so now we have a reason to go back to Sydney.

One thing I will never forget about Sydney is the bats. They might as well call the Botanical Garden the Bat-anical Garden. As we watched cockatoos flying amongst the trees, we saw something else hanging from the branches. Hanging upside down asleep, with their wings folded, they were the size of cats. And there were THOUSANDS of them. And they were MASSIVE. When they awoke and started flying, the bats were nearly a meter wide from wing to wing. All these bats live in the middle of downtown Sydney, only a short walk from the Opera House.

Our stay in Sydney would not have been possible without the hospitality of our friends. A huge thank you goes out to the entire Cohen family, and Julia, Ryan and Clementine. Jared's old friend Craig introduced us to his Aussie relatives the Cohens. We met Julia back in December when we toured the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. Her roommates Ryan and Clementine had never met us, but they welcomed us like old friends. We hope we can return the favor someday.

Jared and I are currently driving up the East Coast of New South Wales in our station wagon. But that is another post for another day. Until then, take a look at our photos from Sydney.

1 comment:

Jennifer Trevizo and Fiorenzo Capossela said...

I love your guys' blog. I'm a chic from Chicago and have bounced around quite a bit with my beau too. I am inspired by your "globe-stomping" and am impressed with the Aussie pics.

How cool was it to see the international "fork-in-the-road"? It makes it seem all worth it and all relative, doesn't it? Have an awesome rest of your adventure... hitting up Italy by chance?