Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To Sydney

As I had booked an overnight bus to Sydney, I had plenty of time left in Melbourne to take a final tour of interesting places. The only problem was that I was experiencing what I would call a ‘bad stomach day’. This happens about once a year and the last one had been in San Francisco the previous year. It basically means that I have a sort of hangover, but rather than in my head, it’s my stomach that causes the problem; I can’t eat anything without getting sick and the only thing that my stomach will accept is water. I realised that it was one of those days when I had a donut for breakfast and couldn’t even finish it. Consequently, I took it easy the whole day and made for the bus station well in time for the bus.

At the Greyhound station, I walked up to the bay where my bus was supposed to leave and found that it was not there yet. After waiting for about 10 minutes, I decided to go for a walk and headed for the exit again, lugging both my back packs along. It was near the lockers that I met a girl who saw my bags and asked if I wanted to use her locker. She told me that she was taking the bus to Brisbane and it was about to leave and she thought it a waste of money to leave her locker unused with 20 hours of usage still left. We went over to her locker and she pulled out 4 huge bags and a suitcase. When I asked her why she was carying so much stuff around, I got an unsuspected answer: She was moving to Brisbane.

The concept of using an inter-state Greyhoundbus to move house was new to me, and to be honest, I must say I thought it was a brilliant idea. In a country as small as Holland, you can easily rent a van or car for a day and move all your stuff to the other side of the country and be back in your place of origin to return your van in time for dinner. A friend of mine moved from Enschede, on the German border, to Rotterdam, near the coast in the South West of the country, a couple of years ago and managed to clear his entire relocation within one working day. In a country as huge as Australia, this is impossible. The bustrip to Brisbane would take approximately 20 hours, which means that if you rented a van in Sydney, loaded it up first thing in the morning and then headed for Brisbane, it would still take you an entire day to get to Brisbane. You would arrive in Sydney exhausted from the long drive, even with driving duties shared between 2 or 3 drivers and then would still have to unload the van, get a night’s rest and then drive the thing back to Sydney. In total this would be a 3 day operation even in the most positive planning, and not even taking into account time spent in traffic jams, on rest breaks and for meals. The cost would be considerable. By moving to Brisbane on a bus, you can do the whole thing in one day. You don’t have to ensure the bus is returned to it’s origin, you don’t have to worry about fuel costs, getting a group of drivers together or other logistic problems. Just buy a ticket, which would probably cost somewhere around $80,- and get on the bus. Greyhound buses don’t have a maximum luggage allowance, provided that you don’t claim the entire cargo deck for yourself. Good planning, I must say. I said goodbye to the girl (I never got here name) put my back pack in the locker and tried to kill the remaining half hour by walking around, buying a bottle of water for the trip and generally feeling wrecked.

Greyhound bus to Sydney

Half an hour later, we boarded our bus. I won’t bore you any further with the details of the overnight bus trip because basically, there wasn’t much to tell you about. I got on the bus in Melbourne when it was starting to get dark and I got off in Sydney 13 hours later at around breakfast time. I spent most of the route between Melbourne and Canberra sleeping, which was made possible by a half empty bus, giving me a double seat to lay down in. In Canberra the bus was filled to the final seat, which meant the end of my luxury sleeping arrangement and spending the final 4 hours in a limbo between being asleep and being awake.

We got to Sydney Airport at around 8.30 in the morning. After unloading some people there, we made for the city centre and, while I was waking up, I saw something that made me realise I was still dreaming. On the intersection just outside the airport, one of the busiest parts on the Australian road system, a guy was pushing an airport luggage trolley with 3 or 4 bags and a surfboard on it, while riding a skateboard. Yes, you’ve read that correctly, he was driving a skateboard through a six lane traffic intersection in the morning rush hour. I cleared the sleep out of my eyes, just to make sure that he was really there, and found, to my surprise that he really was and that I had not been dreaming. Welcome to Sydney.

The bus dropped us off at Central Station and my first hostel was a 5 minute walk from there. I say my first hostel, because I had actually booked a different one from the Sunday on, because I was not exactly sure when I would be arriving in Sydney. When I decided to arrive on the Friday, I found that the hostel I had booked already, would only take booking for a minimum of 3 nights and as I only needed to, I booked 2 night in a place called the BIG hostel for my first 2 nights. The first thing that struck me, is that it wasn’t big at all. It only had 2 or 3 floors and about 20 dorms. Second of all, it seemed that it had gotten stuck somewhere in the early 1990’s. They still used actual keys to open doors, rather than swipe cards and only had 1 (yes, one) computer for access to the internet. The place had narrow hallways that were constantly blocked with plastic crates and big bags of dirty laundry(fire hazard). As I was only staying there for 2 nights and I found a bottom bunk in my dorm, I decided not to make too much of a hassle of it because I was in Sydney to see the city and not the inside of my hostel. When I arrived at the check in desk, I was told that it was too early to check in and I could come back in 2 hours time. If I wanted, I could sit in the lounge and watch tv. It was turning into a beautiful day, so the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a lounge and watch Friends reruns. My stomach had improved remarkably overnight (as it always does by the way) and I walked into the city.

I was close to the Darling harbour area, so I decided to check it out. When I walked across the bridge that gives acces to this area, I was immediately struck by how incredibly beautiful Sydney is. The harbour was fantastic and with the rising sun giving the water a silver shine, it looked like it had been transported from a fairy tale. I walked around for a bit and decided to go for a drink.

Now tell me this does not look beautiful..

493. The Watershed.

This place looked to be just opening for business (it was, after all, only 10.30 in the morning) so I walked in, checked the beers on offer and ordered a James Squire Sundown Lager. The girl behind the bar informed me that someone was still working on the lines, so they had no draft beer for the moment. I then opted for a James Squire pilsner in a bottle and while the girl was opening the bottle, a colleague came out to inform her that the lines were working again. She put away the bottle, got a glass and started pouring a beer, only to find that the lines weren’t working after all, so I was back at the bottle. I took a seat in the sunshine, got out my guidbook and enjoyed my first impressions of Sydney. Life is so much nicer if you can start the day by sitting in the sunshine, having breakfast outside, which in my case consisted of beer. After some 20 minutes, the bar girl walked up to me, carrying a glass of the draft beer I had originally ordered and put it down on the table with the compliments of the house. Sydney started a rapid ascent in my list of excellent cities. I finished my second beer and had to resist the urge to order another one and enjoy the sunshine for some more. I knew that if I had a third beer, I would want a forth and eventually would end up spending the entire day on the waterfront at Darling Harbour. I had to check in to my hostel first and I planned to get my feet on the ground in central Sydney.

So that’s what I did.

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