Getting to Australia used to take three months on a leaky ship without hot showers, much less personal in-flight entertainment systems, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for yourself about 20.5 hours of flight time to get here. By the time you add in getting to the airport early, layovers, and baggage claim, it took more like 36 (but I had some really extreme layovers) hours. The flight to LAX was great and I had a fun seatmate who is moving back to South Korea and taught me some great strategies for Angry Birds on his iPad. In no time at all, I will be a Force in this game! It’s so fun!
After a few hours of layover in LAX, we boarded the flight to Sydney on a huge plane. Here’s a big confession: I was a little bit concerned about how well I would handle being stuck in a metal tube hurtling through the darkened heavens for 15 hours straight. Once I discovered my seat was the middle seat in the middle row, I was even more concerned. In the end, however, it actually was not that bad and I am sincerely grateful for the personal in-flight entertainment system. It helps the time to pass as well as to get me to sleep when I watch movies I know well. As another flight-softener, I brought some over the counter sleep aid, too.
In the end 15 hours is a long flight to be sure but it was easier because they are always coming around to give you food (and, yes, I have been good on my diet!) or water and I got up pretty frequently to walk around and stretch, which I recommend everyone do to avoid blood clots.
Do you know how odd it feels to touchdown on a flight and not turn on your cell phone? And how strange it is not to have sent a single text message in almost a week?? Not having a cell phone here is a really weird feeling and something you take for granted when doing normal stuff like trying to meet up with friends. Truthfully, it’s also kind of nice not to be checking all of the little alerts all of the time. Having said that, I will happily reach for my phone when we get to LA tomorrow!
Okay… so, yes, long flight blah blah blah we finally got here and WOW it was SUMMER! Sunny and 85 degrees or so! We made our way to our hotel and met two soldiers on R-n-R who were also on our shuttle. Eager to make friends, we set up a time to meet for drinks later and met up with one of Frosty’s friends. She took us to the Circular Quay (pronounced “Circular KEY” here) for lunch and looking around. So lunch was in full view of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Wow.
Following a delicious lunch (by the way, if you’re an iced tea lover in Australia, you need to be prepared to make your own), we set off to walk around the oldest area of Sydney called The Rocks. There is a weekend market all day on Saturdays and Sundays until 5 PM and it’s a lot of fun to walk around.
Here’s something about Australia that you should know before you come: it is expensive here! The exchange rate is about $1.10 American Dollars to $1 Australian Dollars. My hamburger lunch was $20 (Australian Dollars and, admittedly, in a tourist area but you get the idea). Candy bars are $2.50 (Australian Dollars) Cigarettes, by the way, are at least $15 per PACK. A bed in our hostel (shared room with four beds and bathroom) is $40 per person, per night.
After a day of shopping in the sun, combined with major jetlag, a quick nap before meeting up with our new Army friends felt like a great idea so we laid down for a quick three hour nap, which ended up lasting more like five and we slept through the meeting with our new potential friends. As it turned out, they had the same problem so we moved our meeting back a few hours and ended up with a glass of wine on George St. to toast our arrival in Sydney! Then, finally, it was time for some time in the supremely comfortable bed with free internet after a really, really long day.
Sunday dawned as a coveted dieting cheat day but cool and rainy and, like all good backpackers looking for a carb fix, it was time for breakfast at the famous Pancakes on The Rocks. You would not believe how long the lines were for this place! The food was good, but not sure it was “wait an hour” good. Wandering back to the hotel, the sounds of bagpipes and drums filled the Quay and there was a pipe and drum corps playing. Great surprise! Then it was time to switch hotels and abandon our beloved hotel and (sob!) amazing bathtub. Off we went to our hostel, luggage in tow, ejected from bathtub paradise.
Something else that is important to understand about Australia is that Australians are probably the nicest people on the planet. As we were walking, dragging our stuff, we stopped a woman to ask directions, looking warily at the million stairs. She not only offered us correct directions but also to help carry our stuff. Wow again! We politely declined but that was an exceptional offer- especially if you’d seen all of the stairs! But these kinds of things happen all the time. If you ask for an inch, they give you two miles, and do so cheerfully. I love these folks!
Once we settled into our new digs at the YHA Sydney Harbor (an AWESOME hostel that I really recommend), we set off to explore more of The Rocks and Sydney. There is a The Rocks Discovery Museum about the history of the area that we went through, then had a lovely dinner with a view of the Harbour again. It was too pretty to pass up! Here’s a night view of the Sydney Opera House at night from the terrace of our Hostel.
So that was our first few days in Sydney… more updates and photos to come. We are having a blast, but leave for home tomorrow, just about the moment when the jet lag was starting to clear. (I have been describing jet lag as feeling like my brain is running my thoughts through honey before returning information. Heaven help me if I have to do advanced math in this state!)
Make it a g’day!