Back in Sydney
It was a seven hour bus ride to cover the four or five hundred kilometres from Port Macquarie to Sydney. On the way, I got a surprise phone call. It was my friend Charles Wong (A.K.A.: “Chaz”, “Chazzie”) from university. He was in Australia for a couple weeks with his girlfriend Daphina! Wow! I was so surprised! He said he had told me before, but I was probably pretty drunk at the time (it was my goodbye party), so I didn’t remember! We made plans to meet up in Melbourne.
In Sydney, I made my way to my hostel, The Pink House, in the Kings Cross part of town. It was close to the CBD (Central Business District), but off to the side (about a twenty minute walk). The area has the reputation of being the seedy area of Sydney, and that was pretty clear when I got there. There was your random assortment of homeless people and adult establishments, but that stuff doesn’t really bother me. There were also lots of fun bars and hostels to stay at in the area, too.
My hostel was a really homey place. I ended up in a six-bed dorm. It was the only room with a balcony! Two of the people in my room were employees of the hostel. One girl was a manager — she had been sleeping in the dorms for over five years! I asked her how she could live in the dorms for so long. I’m not tired of it yet, but I’m sure that I couldn’t keep it up for that long. She said, after a while in the hostel, she found it hard to believe that she could return to a “normal life”. You grow a really thick skin and learn to deal with basically anything. Impressive. Still, I doubt I would want to live in a dorm for that long. No privacy, no way to collect stuff, new people in and out all the time… that’s tough.
That night, I went to World Bar with people from the hostel. The hostel bought everyone a free beer (how nice!). It was Thursday night and the theme was “Loaded!” I don’t know exactly what that’s supposed to mean, but it didn’t matter. The music they played was wicked awesome — lots of indie stuff — exactly the kind of stuff I love to hear the most. I danced for hours. Mostly I danced with my roommate Claire (from Montreal). It was fun to hang out with her!
In the morning, I took the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. It was a half hour ferry ride. Along the way, the ferry afforded stunning views of Sydney Harbour — including the Opera House, Harbour Bridge, downtown skyline, the eastern suburbs, and the North and South Heads at the entrance to the harbour.
Manly is a beachside suburb of Sydney located on the north side of the harbour. It’s located on a narrow piece of land between the harbour and the ocean, with beaches on both sides. The oceanside beach is lined with tall Norfolk Pine trees. It’s basically one of the prettiest little beach towns that I’ve ever seen. I walked along the beachside scenic walkway for a few hours and around the national park on North Head. There were stunning views of the beach from the high rocks there.
After Manly, I took the ferry back to Circular Quay. My next goal was the BridgeClimb — a three-and-a-half hour tour where you actually get to climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge! It was expensive, AU$179, but it was an experience that I’ll never forget. The tour operators were very professional and charismatic. I got suited up in a special suit that was designed to keep me warm as I scaled the bridge. It had a belt with a latch that connected to a cable that runs the entire length of the tour path on the bridge, so that I couldn’t fall off the bridge. I had clips and straps to hold my glasses, keys, hat, fleece, raincoat, and handkerchief. The bridge was filled with rush-hour traffic, and nothing would be allowed to fall off. It was all set up to keep me, the other people in the tour, and the traffic on the bridge safe.
The climb itself wasn’t physically difficult — a few ladders up and a lot of steps. The views from the top of the bridge were just stunning. I decided to pay the AU$40 for two photographs from the bridge. I’m sure it was worth it.
That night, I met up with Martha Lenio, a friend of my friend Justine Saccomanno from Toronto. We went to her place and made a really nice curry that we ate with her roommates. It was the first time I had (helped) make a curry from scratch, and it seemed like an easy enough process that I should try for myself some time. I need Martha to send me that recipe!
On Saturday morning I took a train to Bondi. On the way, this girl on the seat opposite mine said, from out of the blue, “Are you Canada?” I asked, “How could you tell?” Of course, it was my MEC backpack that gave me away. We talked for a while and she offered me a ride to the beach from the train station. She was going surfing with her friends that day and they would drop me off on the way. Nice! Thanks MEC, for saving me a AU$3 bus ride!
Bondi Beach is a world famous beach. The beach isn’t as pretty as Manly, but it was still pretty cool. There was a crashing surf, surfers, swimmers, joggers, and a lot of sunbathers sunning themselves on the sand. I wasn’t there to swim or whatever. I just wanted some photos, say, “I went to Bondi Beach,” and went on my way.
From Bondi, I hopped on a bus back to the CBD and walked to Darling Harbour. I was lusting after chocolate and had to visit the Lindt Chocolate Café. I got a Lindt Hot Dark Chocolate and two biscuits: one hazelnut and one pistachio. I got a free dark chocolate Lindor, too! Sweet!
With my chocolate-lust temporarily satiated (only temporarily, of course, since a chocolate-lust is never completely satisfiable), I walked across the Pyrmont bridge over Darling Harbour. I visited Darling Harbour on my first visit to Sydney about four weeks before, but it was pouring rain before. This time, the weather was warm and sunny. The views from the bridge were really nice — you could see all over Darling Harbour, including huge yachts, the skyline of the CBD, and the wicked awesome monorail.
I walked past Darling Harbour, the Sydney Fish Market and on towards Glebe. Glebe is a neighbourhood of Sydney that reminds me of The Annex in Toronto. Lots of bookshops and ethnic restaurants. I saw a Polish restaurant called, “Na Zdrowie,” (it means “To your health” — its what you say for toasts, or after someone sneezes) but it was closed. I guess it was only open for dinner. I shopped for some books and continued my walk. I walked past Victoria Park and the University of Sydney, then back to the CBD.
That night was an event in Sydney called “Mardi Gras.” I had no idea this Mardi Gras thing was going on in Sydney. When I got to the hostel on Thursday, people asked me, “Are you here for Mardi Gras on Saturday?” I said, “Mardi Gras? That was like a month ago dude! You know, pancake day!” Apparently, in Sydney, Mardi Gras is the gay pride parade! It’s a huge event. I was completely surprised! I was in Sydney to go to a music Festival on Sunday, not to a gay pride parade on Saturday. But, it was a huge event, so I had to see it.
After dinner, my roommate Claire, Becky, and her husband (who’s name I can’t remember right now, sorry), walked to Oxford Street to see the parade. Later on, we met up with out other roommates Amena and Joe. They had found point pink wigs and were all dressed up for Mardi Gras. The parade was like four hours long. People were drinking on the street the whole time. We found a really good place, on some steps, to watch the parade from. After the parade, chaos reigned on the streets. There was garbage everywhere! People brought milk crates to stand on so they could see the parade. After the parade, it seemed like they just left them behind. There were crowds of people reveling in the streets. No looting or burning cars, though. Still, it was the craziest street party I’d ever seen.
My last day in Sydney was the real reason I was there — the St. Jerome’s Laneway Music Festival. It was an indie rock music festival — a big selection of Aussie Indie bands. In particular, though, I was there to see some of my favourite Canadian Indie bands: Broken Social Scene, Stars, and Feist. Seeing all three of these bands in one place was a really special experience. Seeing them in Sydney was the icing on the cake!
I wanted to buy tickets months before, but I wasn’t sure how exactly to do it. I figured, “Music Festival? It’ll be like ten thousand people! I’ll just buy scalped tickets when I get there. No problem!” Little did I know, the festival only had about three thousand tickets available — and they were sold out! Small venue! It was located in Macquarie Place, right in the middle of the Sydney CBD — only a couple blocks south of Circular Quay.
The gates for the festival opened at 11:30 AM. I showed up around noon and walked around looking for someone scalping tickets. There weren’t any scalpers. Scalping is illegal in Australia and there aren’t as many of them as there are in Canada. Since it was such a small venue, there wasn’t much chance that any would be showing up, either. Eeep.
I stood around for like an hour, chatting with people and asking them, “Do you know anyone selling tickets?” By luck, I eventually found someone who had an extra ticket they didn’t need anymore. SO LUCKY! They didn’t even rip me off!
It was the smallest venue that I had ever seen Broken Social Scene and Feist. I had to make sure that I got close and stayed there. For dinner, I took a few cereal bars with me. I didn’t drink a lot of water (good thing the weather wasn’t hot and we got to stand in the shade) so I didn’t have to go pee. Once I got to my place in the crowd, I resolved not to move any farther for six hours. Sitting down wasn’t an option, either. Sometimes, you just have to make sacrifices to get what you want — a great view of your favourite bands!
I was wearing my Broken Social Scene T-Shirt that I had got when I saw them play in Toronto back in December. They weren’t selling the same shirt at the merch booth in Sydney. People asked me, “Where did you get that shirt!?” I proudly told them that I got it in Toronto. People gave me props!
Soon, I was known as the Canadian Superfan. I talked with a lot of Aussies that day. There were a lot of fans there. People spoke very highly of the Canadian music scene and how the best bands in the world were definitely coming from Canada these days. I felt so proud to be Canadian!
It was a really good festival. I had seen Stars, Broken Social Scene, and Feist several times before, but they were still as good as always. Broken Social Scene always makes everyone dance and feel good. After BSS finished up, I had supreme feeling of bliss. I shouted out loud, “This is the best! It’s March! I’m wearing a t-shirt! I’m outside! And I just saw Broken Social Scene! LIFE IS GOOD!” The legend of the Canadian Superfan was born!
Surprisingly, even given her huge popularity, Feist wasn’t even the last band. There was one guy after her — this Australian one-man band called Gotye. I was very impressed with the guy. He projected cool videos from his Macintosh laptop, played the drums for some songs, the keyboard for other songs, and the piano for some other songs. The laptop played the backing music. He was really good. I definitely need to pick up his stuff.
My plan to stand in one place for six hours straight was successful. I didn’t have to pee once, and, though my feet were a bit sore, I was no worse for the wear. People around me generally came and went, and I talked with a lot of them. I got the phone numbers and emails for a couple people that I’ll probably visit when I get back to Australia later this year. I was invited to a Power Outage party by some girls from the University of Wollongong, south of Sydney. I’ll have to try and make sure I get there, Miriam! Though it might be a few months…
The festival was my last night in Sydney. In the morning, I packed up, headed to the airport, and boarded a plane to Melbourne!