I'm now in the Blue Mountains and have discovered more free internet access (courtesy of my friends at the local library). Haven't got much time so this will just be a short one for now:
Wednesday 28th February Continued
The flight to Sydney was delayed for 30 minutes because they had catered the wrong aeroplane. Whoops. Otherwise it was an uneventful flight (I sat next to two miserable middle-aged people who didn't speak a single word to me for the whole flight) with okay food (a pretty good traditional Kiwi pie*) but less good wine than on the flight from Perth to Auckland (an ordinary Australian Shiraz/Cabernet [not a good mix] as opposed to a good NZ Pinot Noir).
On arrival there was a huge delay with the luggage (I thought that maybe they had loaded that onto the wrong plane too), but luckily it turned up eventually. I went through the Red Channel, as I had some herbs and spices that I wasn't sure if I could bring into the country or not. (Un)fortunately the customs officers were so busy with the huge queue at the green channel that I was able to walk straight through, unaccosted. I did feel a bit guilty (what if my dried oregano was harbouring some nasty disease?), but was too tired to go back and rejoin the mammoth queue.
I phoned the hostel for my free pick-up and was a bit miffed to hear that they had no record of my booking. Grrr. Luckily they phoned across to their sister hostel (just down the road) and there was space for me there. Breath collective deep sigh of relief.
They told me to get a shuttle bus, which they would then refund me for on arrival (which was nice). It would have helped if the shuttle bus driver had spoken English (I thought people from the Indian subcontinent all learnt English at school) and knew more than one street in Sydney. He had one of the passengers reading a map, while he struggled with a shot gearbox and the Sydney traffic.
It was certainly a memorable journey. The poor elderly Dutch chap on board was less than comfortable with proceedings. He didn't have a clue where he was going (other than the address), so was completely in the dark (in the dark), in a sardine-like taxi, surrounded by people speaking a language he didn't understand. Still, after much driving around the city and finally grabbing the map to find out exactly where we were/where I wanted to be, at least I ended up in approximately the right place (leaving the poor Dutch chap to fend for himself - and feeling a bit guilty in the process). Well, I say I ended up in the right place... It would have been the right place if the first hostel had honoured my booking. Grrr again. Luckily, the guy on reception was very friendly and pointed me in the right direction of hostel number deux. I was just around the corner. At approximately 9pm I had arrived.
The hostel seemed quite nice (if a bit larger than I had imagined) and the other people in my dorm were really friendly. These included 2 Dutch architecture students and a Landscape Architect from Italy. More of them later... I was zonked and so it was an early night for me.
*That's a pie made in a New Zealand style, not one made from an endangered flightless bird.
Thursday 1st March 2007
Well, it turns out that said Italian architect (Roberto) is from Trapani in Sicily (been there!) and went to university in Reggio di Calabria (been there too!). He's in the process of doing a PhD about Australian Landscape Architecture, so is on a rather cushy "field-trip", jetting around the continent. So, we've got quite a lot in common, and hence lots to talk about. The two Dutch Arcitecture students (Rob and Lissete) are on a semester-long exchange and are also really nice, interesting people. I think I've been really lucky, as the rest of the hostel seems rather more of a party-crowd (with all the wit, intelligence and intrigue that that suggests).
It was my first full day in Sydney so I spent most of it getting my bearings (on foot). In the morning I went to the Botanical Gardens, via Wooloomooloo Harbour (great name!) and then continued around to Circular Quay and The Rocks. I went into the Museum of Contemporary Art, where there was a really interesting exhibition by Paddy Bedford (a contemporary aboriginal painter), and some rather-less-interesting modern guff. The whole area is lovely, from the botanical gardens, around the quay (shitty modern architecture aside) to the rocks (interesting fragments of colonial architecture and nice higgledy-piggledy character, squat beneath the harbour bridge).
In the afternoon, I walked in the other direction, towards the suburb of Paddington. It's a lovely area of old Victorian terraces. All wrought iron verandahs and balconies. I bought tickets for a screening at the Chauvel Cinema the following evening. An art house flick called Old Joy, soundtracked by Yo La Tengo, with the band themselves doing a question and answer session afterwards. I thought it would make a nice change from the usual backpacker-type stuff. All in all, a nice afternoon's walk, around a lovely area of the city.
Well, my time is up. The library bell has just been rung (like being in an English pub)! I guess I should learn not to waffle so much, as I have only managed to do two days and am still over 2 weeks behind. Teacher's report: must try harder.
Best wishes for now,