- Dateline: Kiama, New South Wales. 22 March 2017
The big ol’ 787 set us down gently in Sydney, at around 8AM, shortly after a deluge rainstorm and a 14+ hour flight from LA. We were stiff and sore, barely able to ambulate to the Vodafone store to get our Australian sim cards. My doubly replaced left knee was particularly ticked off. Then about a 5 mile hike to the bus pickup zone. Ok, only about 1/4 mile. As it was Sunday, the local transport authorities deemed it a proper day to shut down the normally-convenient airport trains to town and put everyone on buses. It seemed like chaos. Even the locals were a bit embarrassed. People frustrated hauling and pulling luggage criss-crossing paths everywhere.
Traffic moved with no particular pattern. And at a painfully slow pace. Amazing to watch how things move in a totally unplanned city. Sometimes grassroots heuristic development is, well, unfortunate to experience. But it happens. Eventually we made it down to Circular Quay (the place for everything Sydney) and wandered around in the near-stifling humidity.
Seabreezes near the harbour bridge made it a bit more tolerable.
Our host Julie (a friend of a friend) was most kind and generous. Typical for born-and-bred Ozzies. Bad on us: we forgot to take a photo with Julie.
Sydney is not just another “big and crowded city”; although it certainly is big and crowded. Very crowded. The harbor experience is a lifetime “must do.” The main harbor has been well maintained to not only keep its beauty, but also maximize tourist magnetization attraction. Most industrial harbour usage has long-since moved to other ports, like New Castle. A ferry ride and hike over to Manly Beach and Shelly Beach avoids some tourist crowds and is still most lovely.
The daily in-and-out of massive cruise ships at the Quay adds to the tourist traffic. It was shocking to us, at first, to see such huge ships in the harbour quay, disturbing the view. But after 3 days with 3 different ships in port, I guess you get used to it.
Some things we expected. Be sure to look right when crossing streets as pedestrians. Winston Churchill famously got clocked in New York during WW1 by failing to look left — barely avoiding major injury and surviving to lead England and the free world against fascism a few decades later.
At the rail station you are reminded to “Mind the Gap.” Leaving a rail station look for the “Way Out” sign — not the “Exit”. Low passageways are marked “Mind your Head.” Sloped walkways are marked “Keep a firm hold of your pram and apply the brakes”, with a cute icon of a baby carriage.
Sidewalk etiquette is predominantly to move as you’d drive: on the left. But in high pedestrian traffic areas, particularly with so many foreigners (especially from all over the Asian continent) it gets confusing.
Out on the street, a “Yield Sign” with classic international triangle shape carries the words “Give Way.”
Like Germany, bathroom light switches are surprisingly found — most frequently — on the outside of the room. Perfect for pranksters. Unlike Germany, the toilet paper is — ahem — often underwhelming; prone to untimely breakthroughs. Best be careful there.
Since I wandered into this topic. The rest rooms are not labeled “WC” as we expected. Simply “toilets”. And, in Manly Beach we saw a sign informing dog owners that they are “required by law to remove their dog faeces from this park.” Two surprises here. One: who knew it could be spelled other than “feces?” (In the US most parks just call it “poop” now). Second: people don’t have dog faeces, do they? Shouldn’t the word “dog” be replaced by “dog’s”? Anyhow. …
Beer selection in Australia, so far (except at a micro-brewery) is also underwhelming. I’m a spoiled American. But at least it is also very expensive here. I’d say two to three times what we are used to. Sin Taxes are evidently very popular in Australia — except maybe to the sinners.
Also unexpected is that electrical outlets, more often than not, need to be turned ON. Each side of each outlet pair usually has a tiny switch. Why? Who knows? Also, down position is ON; this allows you to see the little dot which shows the outlet is hot and activated.
Mostly this is a very clean country. What a very pleasant surprise. Even in Sydney, which is shockingly dense with people and buildings and continuing to be exceedingly developed, there was almost no litter –, even in rail stations, on ferries and on sidewalks. We’d say it’s even cleaner than Germany. Signs everywhere remind you to “Don’t be a tosser.” Which is quite funny if you follow non-American English. It’s almost as crass as “Don’t be a wanker”. But that wouldn’t fit, would it?
Train ride from Sydney to Wollongong today. From the map we were expecting a ride along the coast, with beaches and ships to see. Au contraire. We were stunned by the rugged beauty of the many steep hills and valley walls, mostly covered in wild vegetation.
In Wolly we “hired” a car. In an impressive thunder and lightning storm. Audrey drove us to Kiama — about 45 minutes partly through the rain and in rush hour — quite well. Her first experience driving on the left. Bravo Audrey. She is still predominantly our chauffeur, as I prefer not to drive since the head injury and the random piercing headaches that pop up unannounced.
Until next Travel Ramble.
Joe Girard (c) 2017
Post writing note: our son in Perth, Western Australia, informs that many appliances are not required to be sold with on/off switches. Hence the switch on each outlet. Weird.