• US: East/South
• New Zealand
• US: West/North
• Folly Cove
We didn't have enough time this trip for a full blown walkabout, so we resigned ourselves to a week kicking around Sydney before we headed off to Thailand.
Backpacks and Those Elusive Baloney Sandwiches
Since we began planning our trip, we had this romantic notion of roughing it around the world, bent over under the weight of our backpacks with nothing to sate us but baloney sandwiches (we would learn to order "baloney" in 15 different languages).
However, we were lucky to have so many accomodating friends to stay with in the States and New Zealand, that we had to keep reminding ourselves that "as soon as we get to Australia, it's gonna be backpacks and baloney sandwiches the rest of the way, because we're backpackers, by god!"
So, upon landing in Sydney, we headed straight to King's Cross, a seedy backpacker's haven where the streets are lined with crowded hostels, strip clubs and $3 Thai restaurants. We checked in at The Virgin Backpackers where US$50 got us a grungy closet with a bunkbed (called "The Vaseline Room") and two free drink vouchers to the local pubs. However, as he checked us in, "Dingo" the half-man half- dog desk clerk took one look at Dana in her new Lady Fay Wardrobe, and began suggesting places "that might suit us better." (He also informed us that we could get $5 haircuts from the German girl staying in The Vibrator Room down the hall.)
The Vaseline Room proved to be a slippery situation, and we found ourselves the next morning, tails between our legs, backpacking into the front door of a hotel, feeling like the backpacker failures that we were.
We spent the next few days exploring Sydney: Jazz concerts in the Domain (a lot like concerts in Central Park), strolling the Botanical Gardens at sunset with enormous screeching fruit bats clouding the red sky, sipping drinks by the Opera House and cuddling koalas in the park. We found ourselves halfway around the world feeling a bit like we were sitting on the Boston waterfront.
Blue Bottles and Breast Plates
We decided that if we weren't going to cut it as backpackers, we might as well have a go at being explorers — beginning with the quest to find an actual Australian in Sydney. We failed. But we did find some remarkable Kiwis.
We spent a couple days with our new friends, Louise and John, whom we met on a wet patch of grass in New Zealand. Both Louise and John — and their kiwi friends — are an inspiring lot. John is a superb mechanic, chef, and jazz drummer. Louise crafts silver jewelry and does set and costume design for films, including The Matrix sequels (we could tell you, but we'd have to kill you). MOST importantly in Will's estimation, Louise created the breast plate for Xena — the warrior princess herself.
Louise took us on a whirlwind tour of the South Sydney beaches, where Dana got intimate with the Blue Bottle Jellyfish. These tiny little jellyfish terrorize the Australian beaches in the summer. However, where the presence of poisonous sea life would close a beach in the U.S., we simply heard the following announcement in Australia: "Attention everyone in the water, we have reports of a school of blue bottles heading towards shore. Please return to the beach if you do not care to be stung." Dana was immediately stung and we headed for the nearest ice chest. About 50% of the swimmers stayed in the water, leading us to believe that we'd finally found some Australians in Sydney.
We said goodbye to Sydney over sunset pizza and beer on Bondi beach. In true Kiwi style, John and Lou then kindly drove us to the airport for our next stop: Thailand. We waved goodbye vowing to return to Australia for an extended stay on our next trip around the world.