It doesn’t exist. Yep. I’m disappointed too. It wasn’t like the whole reason I CAME to Australia was to find P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way. But while the legendary dentist’s office from Finding Nemo may not exist, there’s so much more in Sydney to experience than I could imagine, and it almost makes up for the fact that Pixar lied to me. I knew from the get go Sydney was THE city to go to in Australia. As a fact, I originally wanted to go to Sydney over Melbourne (don’t worry, the cost of Sydney soon made me realize I made the right choice). There was of course the Opera House, the famous Harbor Bridge, the beach, the Opera House, the actual harbor, the Opera House… maybe a cool restaurant… the Opera House… Yeah, I didn’t really know how much there was until I got there.
Sydney is slightly more populated than Melbourne, with about 4.5 million residents and a decent amount of tourists every year (I didn’t look up exact numbers), but is a lot more spread out overall. Size wise, everything is bigger: the trains are double deck, the city is massive, there’s that huge bridge, and of course, the giant Opera House. I arrived with Joseph and Lily around 9:30 at night, meeting up with Julia who got here earlier and decided to explore a bit on her own. The suburb we stayed in was fairly close to the main city; you could easily get to the train station or even walk, and the town was certainly active for a Friday night. Despite that, we didn’t go out (except myself to get milk), and our holiday officially started the next morning with a trip to Bondi Beach. Taking a train early in the morning we made it to the breakfast by 11, and I spent a whopping $6 on a single slice of toast. This was my first inclination that eating out in Sydney was a bad idea.
The beach, when we got to it, was fairly busy, but because the main season was over it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Plopping our stuff onto the sand, we eventually headed out into the water, which was a little chilly due to the season but not nearly as bad as I’m used to in the freezing waters in Maine. The water was wavy, a lot more so than expected, but it was perfect for surfers further down the beach. After some time, we went back and laid on the sand. But, the kid I am, I got bored pretty quick and decided to take a walk. Craving ice cream and something more substantial for my stomach than the toast, I spotted a cart and prepared to order. But before I did, I noticed very cleverly the trick they used to make tourists pay. The $1 ice cream I thought I would order was actually SEVEN. I was smart enough to turn the other way and find another venue, which was only four dollars but tasted absolutely terrible.
We all met off the beach again around 2:30 to grab pizza, which my stomach loved and much needed but my wallet frowned upon. At the apartment, we all changed, showered, and prepared to head to Circular Quay, the home of the Opera House and the Bridge, the most iconic tourist spot in Australia alongside Uluru. Me being casual and slow paced Jon, I ended up taking a lot longer than anticipated, and by the time I was ready everyone was anxious that we wouldn’t make it in time for the sunset. Having made it at just the right time, I stood in awe of the great Opera House. Then I realized, it not just one building. There’s a few, actually, and you really only notice in person that they aren’t connected. Again, I was lied to, by Google Images this time. Time for a photo shoot, we all ended up taking pictures of ourselves and the house. Determined to get the best picture I could, I ended up jogging all the way to the other end of the harbor, exhausting and stranding myself. I think it was worth it, but it took a good half hour to meet the others again, and by then it was dark.
We wandered around until we found a bar to hang out at (I’m of age here?) and claimed a table. Still starving, there was only one thing on the menu that could cure my hunger: chicken parmesan. And it was TWENTY-THREE DOLLARS! Whoever is reading this, if you by any chance happen to go to Sydney and plan on eating, you’re gonna need a substantial amount of money, or a lot of snacks. We had fun, talking about life and making jokes and just enjoying being in a bar in Sydney (only two of us actually drank anything alcoholic, and one was by accident). Getting back late at night, we realized we needed to plan out a trip for tomorrow before going to bed, so we all mutually agreed to stay up and work to figure something out. Well, the other three did at least. It took much persuasion to convince me to contribute, and by midnight we had a plan to go to the Figure Eight Pools.
The Figure Eight Pool hike can be summarized as such: a treacherous hike down steep cliffs, across a long beach, over many unstable rocks, to reach a pool that, surrounded by a very rough and raging sea, is only accessible at low tide. Getting there was the first issue: we had take a train to the nearest town, then an Uber to the isolated car park where the 3km hike officially starts in a deep, downhill forest. Throughout the hike I there were many times I stayed far back to take pictures and ended up separated from the group. In case you haven’t realized by now, I am TERRIBLE to travel with. I really am a bloody child and I am seriously glad my friends decided not to kill me (I’m not entirely convinced they didn’t want to at least a little). The forest cleared way to a beautiful lookout over the beach and mountain, but the pools were still not in sight. We had to make our way down the mountain, then across the beach to get the rocks. I love rock climbing, and naturally now I’m far AHEAD of my colleagues. Finally we get there, and I see it: a tiny pool or two surrounded by hundred of tourists, with winds literally strong enough to blow you back to land. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the hike, but it felt like an otherwise great movie with a horrible ending that pretty much ruined it. And now, with the tide eventually to close in on us, we had to do the entire 3km again… but in reverse. I don’t even want to talk about how long it took to get an Uber to find us.
Monday we decided to split up and go different ways. At least, I decided to. The others wanted to go to Bondi again, but I’d already been and seen everything. I might only be here once, so I might as well do stuff I hadn’t done and experienced things I really wanted to. I made my own plan to explore the city’s landmarks, which I’d now become familiar with. First was a stop to Queen Victoria’s Market for breakfast and to admire the old architecture and the great shopping center. Then to the Darling Harbor, a nice little walk to see all the boats and people gathered around for a morning jog, bike ride, walk with friends… It’s weird to think, and something I never thought about before… you’re one of near a thousand people that crosses this bridge while I was there, one of five million in Sydney, and you’re doing something completely different from everyone else, with a different reason for being here and a different view from everyone else. At the same time it’s eye-opening to how big it is in this world and how personal it is to you.
After wandering through some of the older style parts of the city, I make my way back to Circular Quay, planning to take a ferry to my next destination. The ferry is short, only about 15 minutes, but being on the water is something I almost always enjoy. Landing, I make my way to the gate of Taronga Zoo. I’ve always loved the zoo, and I’m told this is one of the best in the world. With so much to see, it certainly didn’t let me down, and although I could’ve gone to a zoo anywhere, there’s nothing quite like seeing giraffes with the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the background. I spend the day watching elephants, penguins, chimps, and all kinds of creature. By sunset, I meet back with my friends at Circular Quay, taking a ferry back to my original side (why couldn’t I just stay on my side and you come to me?) for the chance of a lifetime: to walk across the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It’s dark, but the view is incredible. Everything is so beautiful. The view of Sydney at night, the miles upon miles of wilderness experienced on that crazy hike, the baby elephant snuggling up to its mother. The sand at Bondi and the sails on the harbor.
But it’s not just Sydney. It’s life. And when you realize just how beautiful life is, you experience it like never before.