Sydney, NSW: Part 5.0

I got back into Australia on St. Patrick’s Day; It would’ve been Laura’s 26th birthday. My brother was in town on business, so I headed for the Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks area of the city to drop off my stuff before meeting him at a pub. He was in town for a week, so before I headed to NZ I thought I’d spend some time with him. We met up at a bar near King’s Wharf, in Darling Harbour. Sadly, they didn’t have any Guiness there, neither on tap nor in bottles. I really wanted to do a Irish Car Bomb (a shot of half Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, half Baileys Irish Cream dropped into a half-pint of Guiness) in memory of Laura — it was her favorite — but these Aussies were really testing me. Dash, Angela and I finally found an Irish pub. They HAD to have Guiness.

“You probably don’t want to go in there and ask for an ‘Irish Car Bomb'”, my brother said as we were walking towards the pub. “Why not??” “Because you might end up offending him if he’s Irish. Just explain what’s in it and let him call it whatever he wants.” Hm. Didn’t think of it that way, good point.

Turns out the guy didn’t know what an Irish Car Bomb was, so the explanation was necessary anyway. My brother and I did one — it was his first — then another since he actually liked it. After a couple drinks we headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

There’s No Pollution In This Major Waterway, Right?
Angela had organized a Sunday out on the harbor for the 75th Anniversary of the Sydney Harbor Bridge (also known as “The Coathanger”). That day, the city had closed the bridge to traffic and opened it up to pedestrians who wanted to walk across it (walking across the harbor bridge is something every Aussie takes great pride in).

We met up with her, some of her friends, and Dash’s friend Matt. Everyone had brought either food or booze, and we immediately tore into both. We comfortably cruised around the harbor on the large cat and made our way towards Manly. Just off the Manly port, we stopped so that Matt, my brother and I could dive off the boat and have a swim.

The skipper took the boat to another part of the harbor and we jumped off again and climbed some rocks.

We took turns diving off the boat, until the captain decided that we had had enough … to drink, that is. While we were swimming around, one of Ange’s friends lost control of his cellphone and it went sliding off the boat and into the harbor. I did a reconnaissance dive down to see if I could find it, but gave up when it felt like my head was in a vice.

We made our way back to the bridge and anchored just beside it for the fireworks. The light show was mediocre at best, a significant disappointment compared to the one I saw during New Year’s.

A little grainy, but you know what it is, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. I like to think they blurry version is how I was seeing it that night.

After the boat trip, we all found a pub and enjoyed a few drinks before retreating to our hotel.

An action shot — me looking at one of the most recognizable buildings in the world. Note the earphones, it is not required to listen to the building, only to take many pictures of it.

And So On, And So Forth
The rest of the time in Sydney was basically spent finding different places to drink. We got together with my brother’s friend Matt and explored some bars and restaurants near Coogee beach, as well as wandering around The Rocks, home to some of the best restaurants in the city. While he worked at the Sydney Yahoo office, I walked around the city as usual and planned my trip to New Zealand.

My brother leans on the wall between the beach and the boardwalk at Coogee.

Angela (center), her friends and the Gopinath boys at a pub in the Rocks.

One night, Matt booked a table at a Brazilian-style steakhouse for what would become an onslaught of meat. The idea is simple: they serve meat. Meaning, they bring plates of meat around to each table and as long as a small painted wooden block has the ‘green side’ facing up, you get a few pieces of whatever is on the plate. When you’ve had enough, flip the block so they know that you are a girly-man who can’t handle his carne. Many times Matt, my brother and I considered flipping the block, but we powered through and ate a small herd. We switched to a fruit diet the next day to compensate for the dip in animal population. By the way, the food was fantastic.

Post-animal feast, note the healthy meaty glow seeping out of all of us.

Drinks at Coogee Beach hotel with Matt and Friends. My brother shows us how close he is to falling over.

The Festival Gets A D-, The Baklava Gets An A+
A few days after the boat trip was the Greek festival at Darling Harbor. Angela, my brother and I walked from stall to stall looking at the typical wares found at most international festivals. One newcomer, however, was a Greek dating service that was recruiting socially inept Spartans.

This picture of shade-seeking Aussies made me laugh: it reminded me of cattle herds on a farm gather around the sole tree.

My goal was simple: good, Greek food. If it was anything like Houston’s annual Greek festival, the food, drink and atmosphere would be spectacular. I’ll attribute some of the sucky-ness of Sydney’s attempt to the fact that we got there at the opening on the first day. Most of the activities and events occurred that night or on the following days. However, the quality and price of the food were inexcusable. Ange got a bowl of octopus which was deplorable, and my brother and I tackled the souvlaki, which, though tasty, was grossly overpriced. The saving grace was this elderly, grandmother-looking person slinging baklava and other desserts. It was crispy, yet gooey, and perfectly sweet. It was also a fraction of the price at any shop or restaurant in town (and Sydney has a surprising number of places that sell the delicacy).

On Sunday the 25th I left Sydney for Christchurch, New Zealand. It was great to see my brother and live in the lap of luxury for a while, but after nearly 3 weeks of being away from backpacking, I had an intense desire to get back on the road. I realized then that I hadn’t actually traveled alone in about 2 – 3 months. Since Tasmania, I had Steffen with me every step of the way. It was at the same time daunting and exciting, and I was eager to get on that plane.

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