Sydney part 1

Thursday 21 October 2010
This is a bit of an experiment. I’ve failed miserably at properly blogging trips in the past, because by the time I get home to my computer I’m usually exhausted and the last thing I want to do is sit down and try and bash words into shape. When I’m most inspired to write is while I’m actually having the adventures, when I’m thinking “I must remember to blog about this”. The obvious solution, of course, is a laptop, but I found travelling with a laptop on my world tour annoying and stressful. By the time I got the laptop out, found somewhere to plug it in, figured out which of the adaptors I’d need for the local powerpoints, and waited for it to power up, the urge to write had usually left me. And the rest of the time it was just a big heavy lump to carry around and worry about someone stealing. So, for this trip I’m going old school – I’ve got a pen and a notebook, which I’m going to attempt to write fully-formed entries in, which I can then type up when I get home (I’m a good enough typist that copy typing takes a *lot* less processing power than composing an entry from scratch!)
So, here I am in Sydney! Got up at the disgustingly early hour of 4 am so I could be at the airport by 5.30 to check in for a 7 am flight, so I feel like I’ve had a whole day already, and it’s only 10 am local time. The flight was uneventful – the most exciting thing was getting to go through the new automated customs process when I got to Sydney. They were directing any New Zealanders and Australians with the new chipped passports out of the normal customs queues to self-service kiosks where you insert your passport and answer a few questions on screen, then it spits out a ticket which you take to a special gate where your face is scanned and somehow magically matched to your passport photo. If you match, the gates open and a sign flashes “Welcome to Australia” (if you don’t match, a siren sounds and a red light flashes, and customs officials come scurrying – I know this because it happened to the person behind me in the queue).
I managed to catch the train into the city and discovered that the Railway Square YHA, advertised as being right next to Central Station, is actually a very long walk down a tunnel from it. My 20kg bag of books (actually, I think it was only about 17 kg – I forgot to look at the display when they weighed it at check-in) was feeling incredibly heavy by the time I reached the hostel!
I can’t check in until 1, but I was able to at least drop my bag off. Then it was off into the hustle and bustle of the big city. My plan was to wander around for a bit and get my bearings, then find somewhere peaceful to sit for a while and peruse the visitor guide I picked up at the airport to decide what to do with the day.
But then I saw a sign for the Chinese Gardens, which Lytteltonwitch and I discovered during the first Sydney convention (is it really 6 years ago???), and I knew exactly how I wanted to spend the next few hours. So, I’m sitting here in the gardens on a bench under a willow tree, with the sound of a waterfall behind me (and somewhere beyond that, the sounds of the city, but they somehow don’t fully intrude into the garden), with a book to read, and weird (to me) wildlife to watch, and I can already feel my mental batteries recharging.



Signs I’m in a foreign country: from where I am sitting I can see ibises perched in a tree, turtles sunning themselves of a rock, and huge lizards scuttling across the paths.
Signs I haven’t figured out yet that I’m not in Christchurch: I saw a brick building being demolished from the train and my first thought was “must be earthquake damage”. And when a train rumbled past overhead as I was walking down the tunnel to the hostel, I froze… (and wondered for a second why nobody else reacted!)

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