Day Two in Australia, and more experience of what it is like to get around Sydney. We waited 20 minutes for a bus and were lucky to get the last two seats. It was standing room only afterwards. It took an hour to get to Bondi Beach.
Sydney is a very big, sprawling city. Americans think of LA as the ultimate example of sprawl, at 503 square miles. By comparison, London is 607 square miles.
Sydney covers 4,775 square miles, including dozens of bays and coves formed by the Paramatta River. It’s a wonder anyone gets anywhere at all.
We waited 20 minutes for a bus, got the last two seats, then rode for an hour. I’m not complaining. Buses are a great way to see a city if you can get a window seat.
I had never heard of Bondi before planning my trip. If you’re a surfer, it’s legendary. When I’ve mentioned it, half a dozen people have said, “Oh Bondi—the famous beach!”
Bondi was populated by surfers, skateboarders, potheads, volleyball players, and graffiti artists. We took in the scene and then I said, “I’ve got the idea. We can go now.”
It was cool and stormy—not a beach day anyway—our plan was to hike from Bondi to Bronte beach.
This was the first incidence where my photos, no thanks to me, turned out spectacular.
The storm came closer, whipping our hair and scarves around our faces. Rain began to gently patter down. It was so beautiful we didn’t want to stop. “Let’s just walk around one more bend?” I kept saying.
Then the sky broke open and we made a run for it back to Bondi. There was nowhere to shelter except under the cliffs, where other tourists were already massed. So we kept on, and got soaked.
We dashed into the nearest building, which happened to be the place Heidi had wanted to eat anyway. It was the Icebergs Club, Sydney’s winter swimming club, which runs a bar and restaurant that overlook the beach.
“So what’s with the clubs?” I asked her, looking around. We had gone to the Skiff Club the previous day. This place reminded me of a cross between an old-timey American supper club and a VFW hall.
“I don’t know,” replied Heidi. “Does it seem unusual?” You often learn new things about your own country when foreigners visit.
“The only similar thing I can think of in St. Paul is the Curling Club. I think anyone can go in and watch the playing, and I think they serve cheap drinks in plastic cups.
“Maybe sports clubs like this are everywhere, and I just don’t know about them because I’m not sporty.”
You learn things about your own country by visiting others.
It was my first official day on vacation, so I had my traditional “I’m on vacation!” drink—a rum and Diet Coke. Okay, I had two. We sat and talked for a couple hours, catching up, watching the storm come and go, then we started the long journey back to the flat to get an early night. Tomorrow we would fly to Ulara, in the Red Centre.
I woke up at 3am to the sound of drunks yelling down by the point. “Fuckin’ fuck, fuckity fuck fuck!” pretty much sums up their sparkling banter. This went on for about 20 minutes. A siren started up in the distance and slowly came closer. When it got within a half mile, the loudmouths dispersed and I sunk down into a deep sleep again.
I remember this story because it was one of only three times I heard a siren in Australia. Three times! I hear sirens almost every day in St. Paul.
I withdrew some cash at Sydney airport. Every ATM, even for the same bank, gave me a different amount. Half charged no fees, half charged varying fees. I had opened a second checking account before leaving home that doesn’t charge Foreign Transaction Fees. I thought briefly about saving all my receipts and figuring out which banks or ATMs gave the best conversion rate, but I just didn’t care that much to know who ripped me off.