(Aus Chap. = ‘Australian Chapter’ [of my life; of this journal; or Aus Chap = my bf.)
#1 / SYDNEY SAUNTER /
May – Aug 2018
This blog post has been sitting in my drafts with a title, a few edited pictures and a blinking cursor since early-May. At the time of titling it, I was living out my two-month plan to visit my boyfriend in Sydney (from the end of March) with a flight scheduled home for late May. However, the title should rather stand as “Sydney Snowball” as things escalated pretty quickly since then to me pushing the flight back to July, applying for a long-term visa and booking a one way ticket back from South Africa in September.
So that’s the low down if you’ve been sceptically following my seemingly never-ending holiday Down Under on Instagram (and now in SA, as it’s already August and I’ve delayed this post by a whole country…). Maybe you were thinking that I seemed way too comfortable and had surely overstayed that flimsy 3-month tourist visa, and wtf…bought a car there?! Yip, yip and yip. (I’m on a bridging visa now btw – if any authorities are reading this).
But to start from the beginning, this was my first time going to Australia. I left SA end of March just a month after returning from my year in Korea to experience a new country, making it my forth country to be in for 2018 (Korea, Japan, SA and now Aus).
^ at the time of that post, it was A$1=R9.08. Today (25/08) it’s R10.45. 😦
^ The coin proportions feel so off. Cents vs dollars.
During my stay, however, no one offered me shrimp on the barbie, I hadn’t noticed kangaroo steak on any menu, I’d seen ONE man dressed like Crocodile Dundee (in the mall, and very out of place) and yes, a lot of people do say ‘mate’. And ‘fair dinkum’. And go to the ‘dunny’ to pee.
Ah, Vegemite! This stuff has been around for 95 years, and I didn’t know it was such a thing in Aus thing till I got there. I’ve tried it, but Bovril all the way for me, thanks. Although the smoothie bar, Boost Juice recently released a Vegemite Smoothie . It also has banana, chocolate and yoghurt and other good stuff in it too though, so all good – I guess I’ll have to give it a go.
What’s Sydney without its iconic Opera House? Ok, quite a lot from what I’ve since found out but it’s obviously top of the list of the first things to see when you get there. Although it’s an impressive building, I was actually more impressed by its location at Circular Quay, with its flurry of ferries and the magnificent Harbour Bridge stretching across in the background. The Royal Botanic Gardens are right there too, offering a scenic and peaceful meander through the beautifully kept gardens right next to the water. I have yet to find Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which apparently is at the point that offers some of the best views of the harbour.
I arrived in Australia in March with a stronger idea of what the outback might look like than the cities, and when imaging Sydney I just saw the Opera House and Bondi Beach. Klaar. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the architecture (particularly in the CBD, older areas) is beautifully Victorian and Edwardian styled (and many more).
The first time walking in the city while passing statues, parks, old-style detailed buildings and lampposts I felt like I could be in London. This style fades out the further you go from the city centre unfortunately, but it’s beautiful and impressive every time I go into the city.
ZOO ZOO KANGAROO:It took me over a month after I arrived to finally see a kangaroo for the first time ever. A MONTH! And we had to go to the zoo to do so. Guess they don’t roam the streets like expected (this is a joke). The Taronga Zoo is across the harbour from the Opera House, so you can catch a ferry to the other side, which I really enjoyed. This also allows for the zoo, in particular the giraffes (not just because of their long necks), to have an impressive view of the Opera House, the bridge and the city skyline from across the water. I also got to see some koalas, wombats, echidnas and Tasmanian Devils for the first time.
P.s. Almost R500 for a day ticket into the zoo…
I find figuring out an unfamiliar country’s public transport system rather exciting, but also a bit overwhelming and frustrating. In Sydney, the trains (which are double decker) are really reliable/on time, but I’ve found the buses can be a bit hit or easily missed. And not quite cheap either.
One weekend we decided to take a road trip south of Sydney along the coast in a general direction and see where we ended up. We stumbling upon quiet and beautiful viewpoints above the ocean, whale watching points (the whales were on winter break though), a blow hole in the rocks and small holiday towns with quirky shops and paths along the water’s edge with pelicans and stingrays. On the return trip just before taking the road home, we found a detour along a “Tourist Drive Route 9”. And suddenly we were snaking along a narrow road among green rolling hills and farm lands filled with cows while the sun slowly began to retreat on our spontaneous day out of the city.
VIVID SYDNEY: the light show
This is a yearly festival that lights up the city (in and around the Circular Quay area and a few places beyond) with light installations, music and food events. This extends to The Rocks which is the historic and touristy precinct with restaurants, bars and shops in the old buildings along cobbled roads and through old archways. Very English feeling.
Particularly impressive (as well as the many tall buildings being lit up with moving colourful displays) is the whole of the Opera House’s exterior painted in light and moving images that change designs often. You can get a great view of it from the other side of the quay. Despite the rain on the night we chose to go, we saw a lot and enjoyed it. Because we live far south, we had booked a hotel a short walk from the main event so we could enjoy the festivities till late. And by late, we found out is only 11pm when bars start closing. 11pm. During a festival period in the main part of a huge city…?
Living in the spread out suburbs means that running simple errands or going to the mall takes double the time and planning when you don’t have a car and need to rely on the bus which comes once an hour. And so, after much scouring on car sites online and used-dealerships in person, my little baby was found hidden among many cars. I’ve had a car crush on the Fiat 500 since 2011 when I first saw it in a series I was watching at the time. And now she’s miiiiine 😀
FYI: I can drive with my SA license as long as it’s current and has no suspensions etc.
CHAPTER #2 to follow once I return/move to Sydney at the end of September and get some adventures going.