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Sydney ‘ferry’cious

13 Oct. My 2nd day in a 3rd country. My 1st day in its biggest city, Sydney. Madhan drops me at the Brisbane airport on time. My 1st experience with self check-in. I only get an aisle seat. The flights takes off sharp at 7am. It is a very quick flight and we are circling Sydney in an hour. The view of the big city and its many suburbs from the top is amazing and I wished I had a window seat. Madhan and Sudar had given me a basic overview of the city. I did not read much about Australia and left everything to their good knowledge. I have to meet my Bschool senior Ab in Sydney. A communication gap made him think I have been to Sydney before and his last mail (which I checked in the free internet kiosk at Auckland airport) directed me to take the train to Martin Place. I thought he trusted me to make my way around Sydney. Sudar had armed me with a mobile phone and an Australian debit card and so I had nothing to worry. I did not think twice before buying the “DayTripper”, a pass for 15AUD which includes all day train, bus and ferry travel in the city and also offers discounts to some of the attractions.. By hindsight, I am so glad that I bought it. The Daytripper brochure has a good map of all the three networks. I call up Ab and promise to meet him by 10am. I take help to use the barcoded ticket and get onto the platform. I observe it is neat. I note on the maps the last points of the rail network I shall use for the day. CityRail is quite complex and there are as many as 8 networks from Central. I figure out that I need to take 2 trains to Martin Place. As the train stops at Circular Quay station, I catch my first glimpse of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

When I get down at the station and walk down the street, I feel small by the huge skyscrapers. Martin Place is the most coveted place in Sydney CBD and Macquarie Bank is at 1, Martin Place (the best address). After a few calls, we trace each other and grab a coffee (my first in many months) at StarBucks. Ab shows me the foolishness of my plans and suggests I walk to Circular Quay and maybe visit the zoo in the afternoon. His suggestion is God-sent. We decide to catch up for lunch. I keep walking down George Street (the central road of the CBD) and reach Circular Quay, the point of departure for all ferries. Some aborigines perform by the Quay. I see notices about the Ashes display at one of the museums. If I have time… I am so excited on seeing the ferries and take the Watson’s Bay one. That is my first ferry. 10.30am Sydney is quite hot (33). I sit on the deck, seeing the magnificent Harbour Bridge and the Opera House up close, little knowing that I will end up seeing them as many as seven times. But I am going ahead of the story. There are so many bays on this 50minute return ferry ride and I don’t get down at Watsons Bay preferring to take the ferry back to the Quay. I start to love the ferry rides.

I ask one of the ferry attendants to tell me when the next ferry leaves. I don’t want to waste any time. If only there are ferries every 10 minutes!! I fumble around with the map before deciding to go down the Parramatta river, probably the longest ferry ride. Of course, the DayTripper ensures that every trip I make adds value. 11.45am My destination is the Sydney Olympic Park. My estimates go wrong and the ferry takes longer, which will make me miss my lunch date. But it is so pleasant to sit back and relax, seeing Darling Harbour for the first time and all the other Sydney delights on offer. There are heaps of bridges on the journey. I speak to an Aussie Ian, who stays in the Athlete’s apartments near the Olympic Park. He offers me a ride to save me the trouble of walking or waiting for the bus. He drops me by the Olympic Boulevard. My lucky name is Ian (remember the wild Kiwi walk). But my luck runs out then. I think of rushing to the bus station because he told me there are no trains (which turned out to be wrong) from the Park. It is so hot and I walk around the Showground in the hot sun. I see the Brickpit and walk to the railway station, hoping to catch a bus there. It has taken me half an hour. I am relieved to hear that trains run from the station. I don’t see the Telstra Stadium, but am happy to go back and meet Ab for lunch.

I catch a glimpse of the Hockey Centre from the train. Ab and I grab a quick bite at Hungry Jack’s (the Australian BurgerKing). I take a bus to the Quay and take a 15minute ferry to the Taronga Zoo, celebrating its 90th birthday (Ab’s recommendation). 2.50pm I am happy that my student card gets me a good discount here. I see the local animals first, the koala, the kangaroo, some colourful birds and the nightlife. The Asian part is the best attraction, but don’t we have them all in India? I hope. I spend about 45 minutes in the zoo, before I walk back to the entrance to catch the bus to the ferry. The bus just leaves as I walk out. I walk first and later run behind the bus. I am the last guy to board the 4pm ferry. It sounds just perfect. Too bad there are ferries every half hour only. I could have just walked the other way in the zoo to reach the ferry, instead of wasting my energy. Every ferry ride is so romantic and of course each goes past the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, enabling me to soak magnificent views of them. I speak to an Italian, who recommends me the Manly beach. I am so determined to ride as many ferries as I can. I have travelled much more for the paltry 15$ I paid.

It is 4.15pm. The next ferry to Manly Beach is at 4.30. It is a 30minute ride. This ferry goes into the ocean, away from the city. So I get to see spectacular scenery, North Head and South Head (the headlands to Sydney Harbour). Manly is supposedly the best beach resort in Sydney. I also notice that the Manly ferries are the most crowded. I walk to the Manly beach. The crowd has already left. The surf is indeed splendid and I have a quick walk by the beach. I walk for 5 minutes on the Cabbage Tree Bay walk to Shelley Beach before I turn back so I can catch the ferry. I wished I could spend more time on the beautiful Manly beach. But I am so short of time. I am only in Sydney for 2 days and 1 night, to be precise. Now that I have seen Manly, I can skip the iconic Bondi beach. The return ferry is at 6pm. Dusk time brings out all the lights of the Opera House and make them glow in the backdrop of all the Sydney lights. It is a veritable feast for the senses. I don’t know how to make my camera capture it properly. So I end up enjoying the visual treat. An evening ferry ride is simply the best way to finish the day.

But well, the night has just started and Sydney does not sleep at all. Ab and I go back home for a quick rest. Ab and his friends expected me to cook and make them happy. Somehow, I cannot think of cooking this trip (as if I cook great). They tell me I should see the Aquarium and the Sydney Tower. I should have seen Bondi and the SCG (Sydney Cricket Ground). We rest for 3 hours before the busy i-bankers and I walk to Darling Harbour to experience the great night life Sydney has to offer. 9.30 The night walk by the Harbour is very enchanting. Darling Harbour is pretty. How we wish we had partners to spend all these exciting times! They take me to the city casino. One of them gets lucky and the others are not. The casino has warnings saying that gambling is addictive and it can provide counseling helplines for severe cases. Just like the statutory warnings on cigar packs! A casino is so artificial and does not attract me much. I guess, I will hate Vegas. We sip bitters. A building glows in pink, signalling the fight against breast cancer. The night lights are majestic, showing the significance of the biggest city in Australasia. But I am not much of a night creature. It is 12 when we come back home. We wind up with a plate of egg bhurjee and it is almost 1am when I sleep soundly.

To sum up, out of the 6 ferry rides on offer, I do 4.5. It has been a fabulous ferrycious day. All the ferry rides are so pleasant. Thanks to them, I will never forget the twin marvels of Sydney Harbour. Remember to get a DayTripper pass when you are there.

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