Hey Mates! (Translation: Hello)
The last few days have been interesting; From our 30 hours of flight to seeing the Sydney Opera house it has been an amazing adventure. Having done a bit of solo traveling already, I have gotten over the anxiety that seems to overwhelm some people when traveling, either alone or not. It all started when I got dropped off in Pearson, some three hours before my departure time. I breezed through baggage drop-off and only had to wait 3 minutes to clear customs and security only to wait two and half hours at the gate for boarding. I still do not understand why they tell you to be there three hours early, I mean every time I have gone on a flight, I arrived the recommended number of hours early but I always end up waiting about 90% of that time at my gate. Some people would claim that it is “just in case” but I say that is bullshit (pardon my French). They just want you to wait there for two hours looking for something to do because, ultimately, you are going to buy something and that something is going to be ridiculously overpriced. Even those “Duty free” shops are expensive; so expensive, in fact, that it would probably be cheaper to go out of the airport and pay the damn fees to bring it on the airplane with you. Let’s not get into the shit they try to sell you on the plane. Enough of that, let’s get on with the story.
Finally, they started boarding the plane. I was in row 16-Aisle. It is not my favorite seat in the world, but at least it isn’t in the middle. So, I am in line to get on the plane, Eric and Meghan are already boarding, and the attendant informs me that I cannot board without a VISA to enter Australia. After arguing for 5 minutes and holding up the line, she finally asks me to wait until everyone boards, then she will deal with me. After about 15 minutes and another 10 minutes of explaining/arguing, the other attendant walks over and clears me in 10 seconds flat. I guess the first attendant just didn’t know how to do her job. Oh, and another interesting point is that the seat that I had originally had booked (23C) does not exist! There is 23A, and a 23B (Eric and Meghan’s Seats) but no 23C. It actually worked out in the end, I got all of row 16ABC to myself. It is nice to have several empty seats, one for me, another one for me and the last one for my stuff. Another interesting note is that where 23 C should be is actually the toilet (smelly one too), so being moved to 16 is yet another bonus. Needless to say, I did not complain about my seat, nor did I invite Meghan and Eric to join me (not because I am an ass, but because I didn’t go visit them until there was like an hour left in the flight.) The flight itself was pretty uneventful, that is until landing. Upon landing I noticed that there was another airplane almost exactly parallel to us, but about 1 km to my left. It was really neat, yet scary to see another plane landing right next to yours. The scary part, however, was when there are skyscrapers, on either side, that are currently higher then you are. We landed in LAX and made our way to another terminal for our next flight.
Traveling at 800 km/h never felt so slow. Our 14.5 hour flight felt like, well, forever. The most exciting thing was when we boarded the plane and all the attendants were older men, and they were speaking Australian (Hiya Mate!)…..(14 hours later)….we landed. After waiting 3 hours to leave the airport (we had to wait to get through quarantine) we made our way to the hostel, resisting the temptation to crawl into bed, and got set up. We headed out around 12:00PM (noon) Sydney time and walked towards the harbor. A beautiful city Sydney is, that is as long as you stay away from our Hostel. We made our way to the Sydney Opera House and the Botanical gardens. Both were utterly fantastic. However the opera house seemed a little smaller then I thought it was, at least in pictures. It looked fantastic and is as beautiful as they say it is. The botanical gardens were really nice as well. They had palm trees everywhere and some really old-growth that I thought would be way too old for this city. There was this one section that had all kinds of exotic species but I swear that one of the plants they had there is strikingly similar to ones that we pull out of our lawns back home (the big leaved prickly ones). As we were making our way back to the hostel, it started to rain, then rain really hard, then hail, then rain harder, and then it stopped, all in about 10 minutes. Thank god for quick dry clothing. We met up with Ken, an old Queen’s solar car member that I worked with in 2005, and he took us out to dinner and showed us around a bit. He also brought a few of the team members from the UNSW solar car team that were really nice and we chatted about the upcoming race. It appears that we are in better shape than they are. That night we went to bed early as we had been awake for like 36 hours.
Today (Saturday) we went towards to harbor again, but this time we had the Aquarium and wildlife museum in mind. The aquarium was crazy, they had 1000’s of fish and you could walk through tunnels and be completely surrounded by them. They had one (huge) tank that was filled with 100+ sharks, turtles, and other large fish. The wildlife museum (zoo) was equally cool. Seeing the animals that occupy this land was incredible. They are so different then back home, most only walk on two legs, even the mammals and reptiles. We also had the opportunity to meet the most deadly snake, spider and shark in the world all in one zoo and all from Australia. Yes Lili, I saw a wombat and it was lying on its back sleeping. It was kind of cute, but mostly ugly. After lunch we headed to the naval museum and boarded the HMS Vampire (a destroyer) and a submarine. Both were equally cool. Included with our entrance was a tour of a 19th century cargo boat. It doesn’t sound interesting, but you would be amazed. It was a sailed ship with three masts and it was about 200-300 ft long. It is hard to describe, but I have pictures.
Anyway, that is enough from me.
Thanks for reading,