Saturday, January 27, 2007

Australia Day

Friday was Australia Day and it celebrates the union of all the states into one sovereign nation. I have no idea if that is true or not because a very drunk guy told me that's what Aussie Day was and I'm too lazy to look up the correct definition on Wikipedia. In this instance, a local drunk's knowledge is all I need.

Australia Day is a national holiday similar to the Fourth of July. Plenty of flags, BBQs, and everyone gets off from work. Since Aussie Day was on a Friday, everyone had a three day weekend. The festivities started on Thursday with everyone getting shitfaced, including us.

I woke up hungover on Friday and wandered into Brandon's room where his two French femme roomies were busy getting ready for the day. We went to an internet cafe a few blocks from Hyde Park and checked email while I verified Ali's address in Glebe. Ali and I worked together for PokerStars in Las Vegas during the summer and I got to hang out with her in Melbourne. She invited us to a BBQ and Australia Day celebration and thanks to Google Maps, I figured out how to get to her house.

We had several hours to kill and wandered down by Darling Harbor. The area was packed with tourists and locals with plenty of kids running around and folks with temporary tattoos of the Australia flag on their cheeks or arms. We took photos of the harbor before we spotted a ferry. People were lined up in front of the Maritime Museum getting on the boat.

"Let's go," mentioned Brandon as he got in line.

"Where's it go?" I asked.

"I have no idea," he answered.

And that's one of the cool things about traveling in a place you've never been. The most exciting moments usually happen when you don't plan anything and go where the day and moment takes you. Brandon is an adventurous guy and is fun to travel with because he's willing to do things off the beaten path which are not included in guide books. There was a boat about to leave the Darling Harbor so we hopped on. It ended up being one of the coolest things we did in Sydney.

The ferry stopped at a few wharfs and ports and eventually went underneath the Sydney Harbor bridge where we could see people climbing the bridge. It costs $200 to do that which is a ridiculous price but there were dozens of people doing it. Eventually the ferry passed the famous Sydney Opera House before docking at Circular Quay, which is the Grand Central Station of ferries.

We still had some time to kill and hopped on a ferry back to Darling Harbor. Since it was Aussie Day, there terminal was packed with people. Perhaps we don't quite understand the system, but Brandon and I thought the ferry lines were a chaotic mess. We ended up getting on an express ferry to the Aquarium which was close to where we needed to go. Since the harbor was jammed with yachts, boats, and passenger ferries, we had to wait several moments before we docked.

We walked from the Aquarium to Glebe and picked up a bottle of wine at a bottle shop, which is the local version of a liquor store. Small bottles of SoCo were $30 and AlCantHang could consume that inside of an hour. We found Ali and Saram's house even though we thought we got lost. Glebe is one of the oldest sections of Sydney and lots of university students live in the area.

Ali was getting the food prepped while her husband Saram was showing us his new toy... a Wii system. Throughout the afternoon and evening, plenty of golf, tennis, and bowling would go down.

I met a ton of people and tried my best to remember everyone's name. They came from all walks of life and like most Aussie's I met, they were happy to meet Americans willing to come down under and travel in their amazing country. I chuckled when I heard a few AC/DC songs blast out of the stereo. AC/DC at a BBQ on Australia Day while drinking like a fish... that kinda summed up my afternoon.

I drank a lot of beer and the food was amazing. Lizzie worked the BBQ and there was plenty of lamb, steaks, and sausages. We sat out in the backyard and before the night was over, I was bitten a few times by either spiders or mosquitoes. The backyard was surrounded by gum trees with the eucalyptus leaves that koala bears eat.

We got very banged up after drinking for 8-9 hours straight and experiencing an authentic Aussie BBQ on Australia Day. Jules and Graham first introduced me to Aussie BBQ in Melbourne and I got to see one on a larger scale.

We headed back to the hostel and played some more Chinese Poker while the hot German girl with the white shorts and no underwear was hanging out and folding up her laundry as the bats continued to fly around. I think the German girl sent Brandon on tilt, because he didn't play very well. I was still lit up after he crashed and hung out talking to one guy from England, the chain smoking French girl, and an Aussie backpacker who has been traveling the world for two years. I must have passed out around 4am. My roommate, the Kiwi bartender, finally came home at 7:30 and woke me up. Of course when I went to take a piss I noticed all the bug bites. I was brutally attacked in my room. I passed out with my short off and must have been divebombed by the same skeeter a dozen times. Combined with the bug bites from Ali's backyard, little red bites peppered my entire legs and torso. I even had bites on my toes.

The hostel was a cheap alternative ($25/night) for lodging and getting to meet other travelers is always an enlightening experience, but after the bites I was ready to get out and pay a few extra bucks for a nicer shower and a room that was bug free.

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