Sydney: sure beats Melbourne

I’ve been a little bit longer than usual with this update, but I figured I could give myself some time off for Christmas and New Year’s. This blog post is coming at you from Sydney’s Bondi Beach, where it’s 30 degrees and sunny, and I’m winding down from some well-deserved beachtime with a smoothie. It’s a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget…

I’ve been in Sydney for a week after spending the holidays back in Adelaide with Kelvin, Lia and their families. Aussie Xmas is a great way to celebrate. It’s essentially three days of continuous eating, drinking and laughing, where the only thing working hard is the¬†barbecue. It’s like a giant summer party with a decorated tree and presents. Waking up on Christmas Day to kangaroos grazing outside, cutting down the tree (and getting terribly stung by a bull ant), tossing a frisbee while wearing a wifebeater and flipflops, passing out on the couch at eleven: I feel I’ve covered the basics. The main thing I take away from it was the incredible friendliness and hospitality of everyone, really making me feel welcome and included. It sure made up for missing Christmas back home.

I came to Sydney last week Sunday and have been in the good care of Rachael, who I’d met in South America (check her blog here). She made it her duty to show me cool spots and great eats all over the city. Within forty minutes of landing I was having a drink besides the Opera House, looking out over Harbour Bridge. In the following days we covered a lot of ground and I was introduced to Sydney’s quirky, cool neighborhoods, sometimes no more than a few blocks across but markedly different. We also managed to catch up on some culture by visiting the amazing Annie Leibovitz photography exhibit. In the future expect a lot more photos cropped in squares.

It’s impossible to overstate the incredible beauty of this city. The ocean inlet is massive, winding its way inland a good thirty kilometers and leaving pristine coves, beaches, and spectacular vistas in its wake. The Harbour Bridge rises majestically above the water, all stone and iron. It bookends downtown superbly, besides the Opera House, with skyscrapers behind it and low houses rising steeply on the hills across. It’s barely possible to imagine a prettier cityscape. Even if it feels a little ominous with all the bats flying around. Nobody ever tells you about those, but there’s masses of bats swooping through the air here.

Rach also took me to her hometown of Newcastle, famous for (among others) having nicer beaches than Sydney, the country’s biggest KFC, a variety of floods and earthquakes, and the most annoying man in Australia who walks into bars with a cat on a leash yelling “Sid Halleluja, kill the cat!”. Unfortunately I did not run into him, but I did have icecream with Nerds in it so I was very pleased.

For the weekend, we moved from the suburbs to the beachside town of Bondi Beach. On cue, the sun came out and I’ve been getting some serious beach chilling done. I also ticked off some more boxes on the Australian to-do list: I saw a man get rescued and treated for a jellyfish sting, I had my picture taken with an Aboriginal, and I heard 25,000 Australians sing ‘Waltzin’ Matilda’. And on my chair was a poisonous spider whose bite eats away at your flesh.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading for Hong Kong, but not before I do a wrap-up of my time here in Australia. Two updates in two days, I’m making up for lost time. Here’s some photos.

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