You know how sometimes on those red-eye, trans-Atlantic flights, 7 hours doesn’t quite cut it? By the time you’ve had your lasagna, watched Nicholas Cage’s latest, and, finally, lulled your brain into a state somewhat resembling sleep, you’ve got to put your seat in an upright position and prepare for landing. Sleep be damned. This is not an issue on the flight from London to Sydney.
Also not an issue: The condensation of time. I leave London Friday night and arrive in Sydney Sunday morning. Just go with it. “We’re not spending much time in Saturday,” Nick says casually. Nick is the amiable British guy to my right. He and his girlfriend, Kate, will be splitting five weeks between New Zealand and Australia. They ask me how I liked London and when I hesitantly say something along the lines of, “It was cool…” they inform (as if it is a fact) me that people in England get friendlier as you climb in latitude. Interesting.
In our stout Saturday, we experience Suvarnabhumi International Airport (and what is visible of Bangkok through the windows) as hot, hazy, and lush. The sun sinks into evening as we begin the second leg of our flight, after just an hour and a half on solid ground. Qantas serves dinner, but I’m still full from breakfast. Somewhere between Thailand and Australia, in the middle of the night, I look out one of the few open windows and observe a stupendous display of lightning: It’s bouncing off the clouds and it’s orange.
Stepping into Australia is like napping on that incredible couch you used to have in that apartment you used to have: Slightly disorienting but oh-so cozy. It’s just after 7 a.m. in Sydney and I am greeted by a chatty man in passport control and a smiling customs officer. And sunshine.
After arriving too early to access my first ever hostel room, I stumble upon Darling Harbour, by which locals seem unimpressed. I think it is beautiful. I can’t believe how many fish and likely poisonous jellyfish are visible right next to the dock. By 4:28 in the afternoon, I am completely exhausted and completely enamored with Sydney.
The hostel, on the other hand, is not doing much to win my favor. The girl at the front desk gave me the wrong change for my key deposit and when I told her, she had to check the surveillance camera to see whether my claim was accurate. They don’t allow alcohol in the building. I feel like I’m back in freshman year at Rutgers. Except there are five other vagabonds in my room, I need a swipe card to use the bathroom, and I’m pretty sure the bedroom door doesn’t really lock.
With sleep-deprived eyeballs, I decide to watch Drive Thru Australia because 6:37 p.m. is clearly too early to go to bed. I don’t make it much past nine, and am wide awake at four the next morning.
The Tim Tam Chiller’s one flaw is that it doesn’t actually have any coffee in it. However, by adding a shot of espresso, it is rendered the perfect way to keep cool in summertime Sydney. Another great way to keep cool is to roam the streets and let copious amounts of wasted energy wash over you: Every shop seems to blast the A/C whilst maintaining a literal open door policy. Not that I’m complaining–I think this is the hottest week that Sydney will see all summer, and at one point, I hover in the doorway of an under-construction bar and chug a half litre of water.
In miles and miles of walking, I note that people in Sydney are damn good-looking. And they look like surfers: sun-tinted. It’s funny, though, because I don’t think the majority of them are. I’m sure there’s some kind of statistic that reveals that while 98% of Sydney residents have, at some point in time, found themselves on surfboards, only 40% of them actually surf regularly. Surf mags are also surprisingly hard to come by. And they cost $9–$14 if you get the “Air Freight” [CURRENT] issue.
The Inertia kindly published part one of Circumnavigating a few months ago. In case you didn’t see it, here it is. If you did (and enjoyed), look for part two tomorrow.
Against all logic and airline stipulations, my board and I traveled from New York to Paris, to Metz, back to Paris, to London, and to Sydney (via Bangkok) without paying a single baggage fee. Unless you count needing a bigger-than-standard taxi in Paris. And actually, the board got me some free first-class Chunnel seats.
Friends at home kept suggesting that I just ship the Penguin straight to Australia and forget about dragging it around with me, for the sake of expediency and cash flow. I insisted that taking it with me would be a “funny” thing to do—and would probably be cheaper. To those friends, I say… “Wait a second, I was right?” Okay, only half right, maybe.
The guy who checks me in at the Iceland Air counter gingerly presses a “Fragile” sticker onto the bag and says it is light enough to fly for free. The very image of hospitality. Nevermind that I will shiver through the entire flight, there will be no food served, and Icelandic sounds like a mash-up language.