Sydney, Australia, three times farther from home than I had ever been on the east coast in Boston, and boy did it get off to a rough start. Not only did my bags get lost between LAX and SYD (A on the map below), my phone didn’t work internationally so I had no way of telling my uncle who was waiting for over an hour to pick me up that I was dealing with the Quantas baggage claim desk.
On the bright side, once I dealt with Qantas and told them where to send my bags when they arrived, I blew through customs without any baggage to slow me down. On the other side, I was met by my uncle and two Aussie cousins who had waited patiently for me to arrive (I think my uncle had placated them with a box of donuts). They were in the middle of a summer vacation that starts in December and runs into February, so we went straight to the vacation home they were renting in Palm Beach (B) with friends and another one of my uncles and his family. (click on the map below to see it full size)
We spent a week there fishing, sailing, and generally messing about. After that, I moved down to my uncle’s place in St. Ives (C) and started to look for housing of my own. I spent a week searching and eventually happened upon a house in Bondi beach (D) where 26 other backpackers and travelers were effectively shacking up. Some people were living 5 and 6 to a room, but I lucked out and had my own room. Anyways, I lived with the crazy kids below for three months and had an absolute blast. (In this photo: 4 Frogs, 3 Swedes, 3 Germans, 2 Swiss, 1 Irish, 1 Pommy, 1 Canadian, 1 Brazilian, 1 South African, 1 Peruvian, and 1 Yank)
For those unfamiliar with Bondi beach, it is like paradise.. well, a very crowded paradise. I lived about a five minute walk from the beach and had a fantastic time. The backpackers partied every night, but I had to pick and choose my days since I was working full time at a private equity shop in downtown Sydney. We had two full moon parties out on the point (circled below) and the view there at night, with the moon reflecting on the massive rolling waves as they crashed into the point as you look back at the amazing architecture around the beach, was just amazing. I tried several times to capture it in a picture, but night landscape shots don’t do it justice (plus I’m working with a four year old point and shoot.. I really need to upgrade).
Living 5 minutes from Bondi Beach
Seeing as I spent about 45-50 hours a week there, I should point out where I worked (E). It was a great internship, I certainly learned a lot about private equity, and I met outstanding people who I plan to keep in touch with for a long time to come. The Sydney CBD (for my American friends, that means “Central Business District”) was a pretty happening place. Circular Quay (pronounced “key”) has some amazing sites, and of course the Sydney Opera House. I went there on my last day of work with my working mates and caught an outstanding view of a (double!) rainbow over the Opera House.
Sydney Opera House (Double!) Rainbow
Also, one of the popular places to go in the CBD, I went to The Ivy several times with work and Bondi mates. I would say you have to make a stop there at least once if you spend any time in Sydney.
The farthest west I went from Sydney was to the Blue Mountains (F). About a two hour drive from Bondi, the views were reminiscent of Yosemite, though not quite a 360 degree view like you can get from Half Dome. The most famous part of the Blue Mountains are the Three Sisters (pictured below). There is a jungle below the ridge and you take a 75 degree roller coaster/elevator to get down and see all of the mining equipment left over from the early 1900s. We covered the whole bottom area in an hour and a half and then took a gondola ride back to the top, capturing this view on the way back up.
The Three Sisters
Also about two hours out from Bondi is Sydney Skydivers in Picton, NSW. I spent many days there getting my skydiving license and completed just enough jumps on my last day to meet the license requirements to apply for one from the Australian Parachute Federation. In total, I got in 13 jumps while I was there, 10 in Sydney and 3 in Brisbane (discussed in my Brisbane Area Travels post). I can’t wait to get back to the U.S. where I can start jumping again (there aren’t any dropzones here in India.. though I’m not sure I would trust them if there were).
My final highlight in the southwestern part of the great country that is Australia came when I went to a cricket match when Australia played England (H). It was just after the ashes, and was a one-dayer (50/50, 50 overs each) and went on for a solid 8 freaking hours. I went in knowing almost nothing about the game, and left with enough knowledge to hold intelligible conversation with mates at work, thanks to the two english blokes I went to the game with. Australia beat England on the last over, so my friends weren’t to thrilled, but I enjoyed the match and the unending flow of half strength beer that was served.
Sydney was good to me, and I hope to go back in the near future.