Do you come from a land down under?

Had I discovered Australia soon enough, I could well have been tempted, but the thought of leaving your nearest and dearest about 11,000 miles away and taking 24 hours to get here, perhaps ought to be sufficiently off-putting. The flight via Abu Dhabi was fine. Well, as fine as sitting in economy can be, considering the delightful travel stockings still permitted your ankles to ooze out of your shoes and your bum refusing to release its muscles (what muscles?) and allow normal feeling to be resumed. However, the taxi drive from the airport was speedy and greeting Sydney felt like a homecoming as, once again, I was the kid who had all the sweets.

My friends hadn’t enjoyed the Aussie experience before and were magnificent about the joys of jet lag. It is such a bitch! Although we arrived late evening after a minimum amount of sleep on the flight, we all felt the wonders of stomachs being in a different time zone to your head and sleep being a reluctant bed fellow – even in a luxury hotel with sublime mattresses. If I am not selling it well, forgive me. I am feeling better now, ready to eat at approximately the appropriate time but still somewhat keen to kip in my cornflakes. Carolyn and Ann remain stoically determined to overcome all sleeping/sleepless issues and we are living it up in Sydney.

Yesterday, for our first day at large, we settled to sightseeing the old fashioned way – on foot. Ann is a very keen walker whereas Carolyn and I are fit enough to do it but not quite ‘enthusiasts’. But with great abandon we set off to check out Circular Quay and make sure that the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House were where I left them last. We admired the berth of a Celebrity cruise ship (presumably where ours will arrive on Thursday) and wandered off around the waterfront in search of breakfast. We first happened upon a Sunday market at The Rocks, found refreshment in an Irish hostelry and proceeded to climb heaven knows how many steps to reach the Harbour Bridge, whereupon we walked across it. This activity is not to be confused with the ‘Bridge climb’ which I did on a previous visit and which Ann has now booked to do on Tuesday, but is the free opportunity to pose on top of Sydney’s magnificent Harbour and think how wonderful life is and how lucky we are for the opportunity. Well, something like that. More walking followed, back around The Rocks, sustained by an Aussie beer, lunch, another loop around Circular Quay and at this point I gave in, let the jet lag in and went back to the hotel for a snooze. We did get to see Roger Federer win the Aussie Open in real time. Fabulous tennis.

Yesterday, I wore out my legs but today we took the easy way via a sightseeing trip on board The Big Bus. It is far too far to walk to Bondi Beach and at least we got to cover the rest of the city in relative comfort from the top of an open bus. Ah, did I mention it was hot and sunny? The last time Carolyn and I did an open topped bus tour was in New York when we got soaking wet; today, we got rather warm and a bit pink!! We hopped on and off the bus, as per recommendations, and particularly wanted to see the rollers and the surfers at Bondi. The surf was less dramatic than I had previously seen but the young and beautiful people appeared untroubled and still turned up, their surf boards being the “must have” accessory. Even without waves, the skatepark exercised balance and agility.  It’s been a truly wonderful day and, Sydney, you capture my heart every time!!

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes

Disappointed… no-one has yet greeted us with “G’day” or called us “Sheilas”. We have, however, discovered that our “How are you doing?” is replaced here by “How are you going?” As Ann would say about the Aussies (and the Americans!), “We gave them English and look what they did to it?!” Part of the commentary on the bus tour today also reminded us that about 20% of Australians are direct descendants from our transported convicts. #justsaying

Kath began with Men at Work’s “Down Under” – we’re not from this land down under and not at work! The song begins…

“Traveling in a fried-out combie
On a hippie trail, head full of zombie
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She took me in and gave me breakfast
And she said
Do you come from a land down under?”

Visions from childhood of being upside down and falling off the planet down here are long gone. However, my usually excellent sense of direction, it seems, is merely based on the Sun as I am struggling with remembering that, at noon, the Sun is at due North rather than South. I’ll adjust, I’m sure.

As it’s my first visit to the Southern Hemisphere, I was prepared for most things. We flew from wet Manchester and landed half a world away effectively spending a day of our lives in the air. Having some inkling of how to deal best with time zone adjustment and jet lag, having failing to sleep at all on the plane, I wanted to stay up until ‘normal’ bedtime and begin the next day as if it was the usual. It has, for me, seemed to have worked. So, off we went.

Yesterday was a bit of ‘pottering’, aka walking over 10k steps and several flights of stairs, together with the Sydney Harbour Bridge (just the pavement walkway!). A beer and an ice cream helped the unaccustomed heat.

Today, we decided to do the Big Bus Tour and memories of New York’s torrential rain downpour was replaced by early gentle sunbeams which became red hot lasers by 4.30 pm as two of us ultimately began to sizzle and fry. Flaming pink is not a good look for the skin. And,… hmm, it’s tender!

The bus tour was good but the recorded commentary, although informative, was punctuated between segments with music. Regrettably, there were four tracks cycled over… and over… and over! We’ll come to Ann’s and Kath’s ‘favourite’ in a moment but Down Under (Men at Work), It’s a long way to the top (AC/DC) and Treaty (Yothu Yindi) exemplified Australian music. Kylie and Olivia Newton-John were mentioned in the commentary but not in the repetitious tape which was added to by the “unofficial national anthem” (according to Wikipedia!) of Waltzing Matilda which rapidly became for us Piggin’ Waltzing Matilda and we were resolute in resisting the singer’s “All together now..” for the repeated final verse. Nope!

I was concerned at the outset that ‘Waltzing Matilda’ wasn’t a waltz but in 4/4 time but that was the least of the issues!

Of course, this bush ballad wasn’t intended as other than about a sheep stealing itinerant who was chased, fearing capture and imprisonment, committed suicide and his ghost still haunts the area. Uplifting, eh?

The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot (waltzing, derived from the German auf der Walz) with one’s belongings in a “matilda” (swag) slung over one’s back.

A final note was a pleasant sign I spotted for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation and simply said, “Literacy is freedom” and one of my two favourite punctuation signs (interrobang) is used as the logo for the State Library.

Sydney is a truly impressive, vibrant and laid-back city. The next few days look promising!

Ann’s absent answers

Why, if I don’t enjoy flying, do I prefer sitting in a window seat?

Why, when I try to settle down to sleep on a long flight does the Captain turn on the ‘Seatbelt’ sign and turbulence commence?

Why, does an urban area have roadworks in proportion to the size of its population?

Why, when a great photo opportunity presents itself does a large structure appear a split second later?

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