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Sydney in the Masses

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 25 June 2008 | Views [800]

Australia is a bout of freedom—contemplative exploration amidst leisurely activities of reading, writing, studying, more exploring, dreaming, and the likes of a dynamic introspective lifestyle suited for a Seeker. It is holiday. It is an escapade, retreating from a reckless society to return to the Walden Pond of humanity’s roots.

For reasons unknown, the freedom to write and express left my fingertips nine months ago. Inspiration traveled elsewhere. My imagination through words silenced and a deep need to expunge the depths of human thought found dormancy. Amidst this emptying space, vast like a quick dispersing stadium crowd, love continued to prevail yet in new form. And now as the pen proceeds from where it left off months past, I begin to feel the pain of its absence. I know this form of expression to be a place of comfort where everything is wholly possible, unrepressed by the heavy surrounding influences that often prove to be as fragile as thinning ice. No one hears my scribbling pen, and few read its conjoined letters with their spacious pauses.

This present journey awakens this innate expression, and no longer coalesces with the frugal, materially deprived nature of my prior travels. On the contrary, it is a welcomed vacation filled with intensity and growth, equal to as if it were not. Now, the nature of adventure and joy flows freely; no more stringent cords, no more restraints tied too tight ‘round a head submerged in the waters of fear and discipline.

Introducing two into the equation of travel exacerbates life’s progress and purpose. It opens the heart ever wider as one person’s deck of cards morphs into the complexities of two in one hand. Mix this game with the natural elements of soul—compassion, generosity and forgiveness—and you have a kindly table of free spirits. It is warmth in every physical sense. There is a body next to yours, skin on skin, breath on breath. I start you off in Australia’s first city (and be it the largest), the economic powerhouse of Sydney.

Captain Cook’s Discovery

From hours seated still and restless, to the exploration of new surroundings. Off the plane, Sydney appears massive. It is stunning in either clear yellow rays of sun or shades of gray cloudy skies. It is clean and manageable for any city with a population of 4.7 million (Here's a tip: spread all the Aussie’s out across the continent at equal distance from one another and each will have one square-kilometer to themselves.).

Albeit, a city is a city—fast and furious with grumbling machineries between fearless vehicles reeling towards the common J-walker. Sidewalks are laced with speedy business folk operating with caffeinated nitrous boosters. Flocks of tourists prevail, from the near East to the farther West, toting maps and film. Charter buses hide the tinted faces of forgotten invisible explorers, and the churning waters of the harbor shuttle ferries of curious thinkers outside the box. But most pleasantly does Sydney embrace its cleanliness; lungs full of fresh air for the many runners navigating the boardwalks. The Royal Botanical Gardens thrive in rich green coats of seasonal foliage. It is beautiful. The smiling faces. A people of diversity. Sunday pubs featuring live strings of local musicians. Indeed, the 2000 Olympic Games have done well, real well, enough so to honor the city with the compliment of hosting the most successful Olympic Games of the modern era. China has a hard act to follow, with or without the protective facemasks.

Thence my traveling adventurer, Laura, and I enjoyed our first early morning. It was a Sunday. The streets were silent. The churches busy doing what they do best. Pubs were loud with activity. However, to our Seattleite-dismay, the coffee shops were dark, gated shut. But we prevailed, changed our course of action, and promptly found our way from the concentrated residential district of Kings Cross to Sydney Harbor. There, the Opera House posed like a celestial ship at water’s edge. From a distance, we saw the spacecraft encircled with miniature creatures staring at its cosmic sails and gawking at the grounded hull. We did away with the common oddities, found an AU$6 latte (about the same in US dollars and infinitely better tasting), and boarded a 10am ferry from Circular Quay. Falling mist coated our caps as if we hadn’t left home to fly across the international dateline and into another hemisphere. Slowly, we motored east to Taronga Zoo.

The ride was quick upon the heavy vessel as we observed the harbor’s curvaceous features. Along the shoreline the land swung in and out as the schoolyard’s skipping rope. Instead of girls giggling and frolicking with the odd timid boy bemused with blushing cheeks, the hillsides were serene; ornately stacked with housing as colorful as a preserved Dutch colony. Oranges, yellows and pinks abound on the staccato. Tall palms and pines rose from their foundations. Fronds and needles sailed wildly with the winds that blew off the salt from where we drifted. This all added to the fullness of the land, yet it was unmistakable: A storm was hurrying in from the southwest and proved forceful the remainder of the day…make those three days.

Zoo Logics of Travel

At the zoo life was abundant. Animals moved with play. Lions yawned. They stirred lazily from restive sleep and showed off their sleek muscles in captivity. Koalas stripped eucalyptus boughs, seals performed their acrobatic feats, and gorillas beat their chests and chased loved ones who attempted to steal their enormous salads. All the while, an orangutan draped a canvas sack over its head to shield its long orange locks from the rains and stretched its lanky arms high above in the tangle of ropes. The shy platypus remained out of sight.

Each species appeared happy—well fed and cared for—which enlivened our spirits under a dampening sky of dreary clouds. The land of the Pacific Northwest continued to follow us deeper into the Land of Oz.

Four nights of stay carried us northward to our anticipated departure. We saw much of Sydney, as any highly-caffeinated traveler. There was the Australian Museum, the Business District, Darling Harbor, Chinatown, the Gardens and the Domain, and last but not least the signatory Opera House. There were long days of walking, exploring the streets as if Captain Cook arrived some years later from centuries lost at sea.

We meandered Sydney’s verdure via its public spaces. We became comatose with our feet up next to a schooner of local beer. And to make matters more adventuresome, nights were relentless. Day after day, night after night, we were exhausted as sleep came early to our minds, which continued to linger in a time change seventeen hours behind schedule. Unfortunately, the backpacking hostel scene did not aid with much relief.

It was classic, the typical hostel scene found world round, whether it be Europe, India or Thailand. Late hours of pub crawls with freshly strewn collage graduates clambering down narrow halls. There were the raucous cheerleaders of the groups encouraging shouts for quicker, deeper chugs. Heads back, throats open. The cans of beer soon crumbled. The glass bottles clanked and shattered. The songs sung from more glorious days. Ah yes! Days of youthful unconsciousness. How the body copes with societal sufferings!

Take for example our final morning. At 7am Laura and I crept down the hallway’s abandoned stairs to the hostel’s derelict commons. There we found an unfamiliar gent slumped over on the couch. To find our seats before the computers we flicked on the light and then mindfully extinguished it not to disturb the slumbering beast. He was faded, passed out. Yet in ten minutes he rose with clear ambiguity, and just as he rounded the corner out the doorway I caught sight of his features. Unbeknown to him, black marker scribbled his facial features, smearing his cheek and forehead, all thanks to his faceless mates. Moments later we heard a loud and deep groan emerge from the bathroom as he took a hazy glimpse at the morning’s mirror.

In Mass & Gone

Such were the sounds beyond our den’s refuge, stretching the hours of night into a long eternal restlessness. And as usual for any beckoning traveler in search of culture and life beyond one’s doors, where we found relief was out upon the streets talking to a local Israeli man who ran the health food shop Healthy Nuts or beneath the star-studded skies as thousands upon thousands of flying foxes (giant fruit bats) departed their upside down perches in the Royal Gardens for a twilight flight to an unknown distant cave (think of Birds, but with bats!). And after a final day of café hopping with our books and coffee before sandwiches and beer, we were ready for the next city to pick apart. Yet it would not come in the form of Sydney filled with the masses, nor would it come as a town. From Sydney north towards the warmer equatorial line, twenty-four hours of train and bus took us to the remote settlement of Helga and Claus. There, we were to become farmers, horticultural apprentices among many other things.

Tags: australia, sydney

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