After releasing my bags from their tight straps, I’m as free as them.
Except that it’s 07.00 am, I feel like death warmed up, however I have to keep myself busy for the day because my Couchsurfing hosts will be home only after 04.00 pm.
So, I have to get going anyway.
What is there to do when you arrive in Sydney? Go to the Opera House of course!
And it’s not very difficult to go there as in every subway pathways big posters show a city map with the localisation of the main touristic sites. For the Opera House apparently you have to go to Circular Quay, taking the T2 Airport, Inner West & South line. Okay, let’s go.
First slap to the face: the price of the ticket on the automaton. 17$! Just for one journey? Even converted to euros it’s a lot just for a transport ticket.
I will learn later that this prohibitive price is only for departing from the airport station. A welcome tax…
With my ticket in hand comes my first fail on the Australian ground.
Indeed, in every civilized country, to cross the secured gates of the metro, you have to insert your ticket in the machine with the magnetic tape towards the floor. Except that here, no.
After several unsuccessful attempts in this empty subway entrance, the employee at the counter shows me the good way to insert it, which is the reverse direction. Of course it works better but, while walking I was still astounded by what seemd to me such an aberration. It´s not the deal of the century of course, but still, shit!
Speaking of subway, I’m hasty. In Sydney, there is no subway but a very dense suburbian train network, forming a web around the city. It’s a bit similar to our french RER.
Trains are two-storeys and very modern. Very few people at this early morning time. Good, I have more space for my backpacks like that.
After 5 stops underground, the T2 train comes out of darkness to emerge into Sydney’s heart, along the north platforms. Here I am at Circular Quay.
I can see the sea from the train, it’s 100 meters away when you go down the raised platform where the line passes.
I arrive at a big place. Of course, same story, a bit empty considering the hour.
I notice a McDonald’s in the background on the right corner. Nice, something familiar. Let’s go later. For now, the mission is to find the Opera House.
I only had a small map with me, so I only knew that it was supposed to be close by, near the sea. Nothing more precise. No sign around, so I simply decide to get closer to the waterfront, on one side or the other, I should arrive there.
I arrive near a big quay, it’s actually a ferry terminal. Unlike the trains, their fleet is clearly outdated. The boats look like coming from the 80’s and seem very worn out.
All that makes me think about Seattle, where there is the same kind of transport hub with ferries in the network. The same seafront, the same such typical salty scent brought by the sea air of a coastal city.
Especially because of the weather I’ve got the impression of being more in the North hemisphere than in the South hemisphere. Very cloudy, the sky is of an immaculate sad white color, with some cool wind just like home. No, honestly, it wasn’t very different from my native city Le Havre. It’s a characteristic of Sydney. On a cloudy day you don’t feel like you’re on the South Pacific coast. On the other hand, on sunny days, the blue sky and the turquoise sea enlighten the places and there is no doubt that you certainly are in Australia.
But today is not one of these days.
Still no sign, I keep on walking along the right side and rapidly, once the view is more clear, I can catch sight on the left background of the Harbour Bridge across the bay. Cars and trains pass on it to reach the North side of the city, it seems to be a big artery of the latter.
Finally, after moving forward a little on the quay, a white mass appears on the background. The Opera house reveals itself.
Not the best day to look at it, because white (sky) on white is not the best combo. Its sails seem rather grey. The photo I’m showing you has been taken a few days later. It’s a bit weird to be in front of a monument you’ve seen so many times before, whether it be in pictures or in videos. After the first seconds,the effect is rather ordinary, we feel like we already know it.
The sea breeze is there. I would have liked to seat in the long coffee shop that borders the quay looking at the Opera House but the employees are just starting to prepare the opening. So I decide to walk around the monument.
It’s a bit like the joggers spot: even if it’s very early in the morning, on a week day, I see around ten of them within a few minutes. And all with a New Yorker style, men and women,with shorts and flashy sneakers. Like in every Anglo-Saxon country, you can feel that here this sport is taken very seriously.
Once on the other side, I notice that there is a park next to the Opera House. But it’s a bit too much for me and the two dead loads I’m carrying! I go the other way round hoping I can find a coffee shop open, and with wifi. But it was to much to ask for a city that barely started to wake up.
So I’m going back to Circular Quay and its McDonald’s.
In order to adapt to local time, I order a breakfast menu. Bacon, egg, potatoes and sausages for the win . And then, free Wi-Fi! That way I can get in touch with la France Libre..
Around half an hour later, the weight of my bags and tiredness cut short the will I had to explore more the city. I could leave them in an hostel for a price, but exhaustion is coming onto me.
And it’s not a good thing because it’s not even noon! I still have a lot of time to lose before 04:00 pm. I decide to kill some time in the transport going to the address of my hosts, because it’s in the western suburb of Sydney, and hoping I can find a coffee shop or anything else around to be able to collapse for a few hours.
I go back to Circular Quay station, still line T2, direction Guildford this time, for an approximately 35 minutes journey, and that’s way too long when you’re nodding off. On top of the little rool of the train that’s rocking you, the sky has got the bad idea of revealing itself, letting a big sun shining, making the atmosphere inside the train – although air-conditioned – even more soporific. In short, an atmosphere for a nap.
I fight off valiantly each time my head falls. To the point where a shooting headache appears, signal that my body can’t stand it anymore and needs to rest. Except that, I’m still far from there…
Going out of the train, the atmosphere looks like a no man’s land. The typical remote north-american residential neighbourhood: houses and a few lost corner shops. Like mini restaurant, mimi coffee shop, hairdresser, in streets that almost have any souls. The kind of neighbourhood where you need a vehicle or you can’t do anything.
After a few minutes wandering, classic Mosby, I understand that I took the wrong exit at the train station. I go up Calliope street, a vicious false flat of 100 meters. The housing estates I see are all small blocks of 2 or 3 storeys. Most of the time not in a very good shape. Oh well, it’s not Bagdag yet, let me reassure you.
On my way, I also see a lot of rubbish, chairs, furniture and other ornaments that lie around along the street. So, for the charming environment we’ll have to come back.
I arrive at the number of my hosts’ house to see a small house estate made of bricks.
Ok cool, now that I’ve located the place I just have to find a place to sleep… or actually wait patiently. And this will not be possible at the entrance of the building since the only side available to seat is covered with ants.
Despite my red eyes and dark rings around them, I manage to have a cappuccino in the first – and only – coffee shop in front of the train station. A coffee shop of 10 m², without Wi-Fi, where one table was already taken by Chinese people in suits in the middle of a business meeting. I need to find a better place.
I finally walk in a street more alive than the others, with small shops and eastern grocery shops, as this part of the neighboorhood has a large muslim community. I stop in a kind of lounge coffee-restaurant and order sort of a homemade croque-monsieur. With no egg. And no meat. Yes, a vegan croque-monsieur. Fortunately the BBQ sauce helped me eat it all.
In spite of the big screen, of internet, I… Yes, that’s it, I’m bored shitless. Anyway, my eyes are so tired that I can’t do more than a 10 minutes session at a time.
The clock finally chimes 03.00 pm. I have to move, I can’t stand it anymore. I go again to the house of my hosts, having the intention of waiting there the 60 minutes left.
Once there I found out that there is a non-secured Wi-Fi connection available around. Bingo! To kill time I check my e-mails, it will only be the 10.000th time today.
But then comes the tragedy.
Dramatic turn of events!
I receive a mail from Katy, my host, aksing if we can post-pone the meeting at 06.00 pm because she has more work than expected.
Ten tons fall on my shoulders. From the 50 minutes I had before my liberating nap that was within reach, they add 120 more.
Bitterness overwhelms me, and embarrassment.
Because even if she’s telling me that she still can come at the agreed time, I don’t think I can ask her to leave her workplace if she still has work to do. That’s what I answered her and because I don’t have much battery left I’ll leave it there.
In which mess did I get myself into?
How to kill time again when you’ve already reached your limits.
On a bench in a nearby park I meditate on this big fiasco. And above all I draw the conclusion that I can’t stay here in a state of constant anticipation.
So I think I could take the train and lose my time being rocked. And the line at Circular Quay makes a loop it’s encouraging. Except that it’s peak time, people leaving the office, and the price of the ticket is two times more expensive. 14 $. And if it goes wrong, 14 $ again to go back.
A mess. A real one.
I decide to seat on a bench in the station, hoping that the noise of the trains will keep me awake. Not a chance. I keep taking micro-naps of 10 seconds depsite all my good will. I try a bench outside the station, likewise, my body is giving up. However with my two backpacks full of stuff it’s really not the good time.
If I’m going to collapse, I might as well do it in the hall I’m supposed to go in.
Once again I’m walking on Calliope street and this time, I enter in the small path to stop in front of the entrance. Seated on the ground, leaning on my elbows behind a window, I feel myself leaving. But fortunately, some neighbors will come back home in the meantime, forcing myself to stay awake and jabber a few english words with difficulties, as if I had 3 grams of alcohol in my blood. Staying awake frustrates my brain, giving me a headache more and more intense.
But after all these difficulties, after hitting rock bottom, you always bounce back.
Despite the unsteady battery of my iPhone, I try an express connection, in case I’ve missed an e-mail. And, Katy had answered me, and she will finally be here on time. Which is, actually, in a few miuntes.
What a relief!
My liberating nap starts to be within reach again.
Katy will soon be here, and I’d find again the energy to keep a good face, being presentable and friendly. We go up the stairs to the second floor, and she rapidly show me the apartment. As tidy as a shared Erasmus apartment, but I have no time for that.
Above all, I remember that I have a room for myself.
I put in an appearance for a few more minutes, forcing myself to chat with her, but very fast I’m out without noise or clamour.
04:20 pm I jump in my bed, put an alarm at 07:30 pm, and can finally offer to my body what it’s been craving for a all day, and more urgently since a few hours.
I fell asleep instantly, after this arrival of the most tiresome and… extraordinary.