I had been counting down the days for months. It was the most expensive thing I had ever bought ($1,350.00 round trip flight) and the farthest I would ever have traveled from my hometown. In February of 2010, it was time for one of my greatest adventures yet… Australia! My friend Alli had moved there for a year starting that August, the ‘free bird’ she is, which gave pals Meghan, Brooke, and I the perfect excuse to loosen the purse straps and embark on the trip of a lifetime. Four best friends exploring the Land Down Under? We couldn’t wait. So we left snowy Chicago one early morning in February to board our first flight which would travel 5 hours to San Francisco, then another 15 hours to our destination across the globe. One panicked moment of confusion with the visas and an easy flight to California later, we were half-awake at 1am sprinting
through the massive airport terminals of the San Francisco airport… trying desperately to catch our pricey flight, the wheels eager to take off. About a mile of sprinting later, we made our flight by just minutes. Sigh. Water, please?
The flight itself was smooth and painless. Us three slept as though we were drugged, and when I caught my first glimpse of the Australian coast out the foggy window, my heart skipped a beat… we had arrived! We anxiously hauled our ridiculously over-sized suitcases to the train, exchanged our currency for the rainbow money the Aussies use, and stepped outside 45 minutes later to a sunny morning in the heart of Sydney. We could not contain our excitement when we saw the famed Sydney Bridge, standing tall in its glory signifying we had traveled to the other side of the world. We waited around with no cell service until finally we saw Alli running towards us… it had been months! Our obnoxious reunion ended after several minutes of screaming and jumping, and we bused it down to the legendary Bondi Beach where we would stay for the night.
We wasted no time in checking in to our dorm-style beach
bungalow, changing into swimsuits, and hitting the famous beach in epic weather. Bondi Beach seems to have two rules: 1) you cannot be any older than twenty-eight; 2) your swimsuit bottoms must be up your ass. We rented surfboards and posed as local trendy Aussies. My surfing was not as spectacular as I had
dreamed, (a bit scary in fact) – but I rode a few waves on my knee and stood up a couple of times. Good enough for me, so I guess my “Blue Crush” on Kate Bosworth in the splendid film was… ‘crushed’. Brooke unfortunately faired the worst. After mere moments in the salty ocean and one board-to-the-face later, she was back on land holding her lip together amidst gushing blood. (Let’s say it was a shark bite to add an excitement factor to this story). Alli played
nurse as she and Brooke found a local hospital for stiches while Meg and I laid out in the hot sun. We are such great friends…
Our newly tanned foursome later enjoyed the amazing rooftop views from our hostel, then showered up for a night downtown. We enjoyed a stylish dinner and burgers the size of our heads… then made our way to the streets.
Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by drunk teens and raging party goers –
crowded beyond belief amidst sparkles, rainbows, and nakedness. It was “Mardi Gras” that evening – which is the gay pride parade of Sydney – and we abidingly joined right in. We passed lines of people standing on milk cartons to watch the outrageous parade going on throughout the city – complete with S&M
shows and topless performers. We finally found a less festive bar dubbed ‘Mr. Pong’ where I brought some American talent rivaling locals in ping pong games. It wasn’t too much longer before our jet lag forced us back to the hostel for our first night of sleep in Australia.
We woke early the next morning to relocate to a second hostel in The Rocks area on the other side of town. I tried some traditional Aussie “brekkie” similar to that in London, (I noted many similarities between the UK
and Australia when there – due to obvious reasons), and got psyched for what I had been waiting for… the Sydney Bridge Climb! Call it a bit touristy or over-price, but I will vehemently disagree. We struggled with the idea of
forking over the big bucks to embark on the climb, but in the end are so pleased we experienced this moment of a lifetime. We succumbed to the undeniably dorky jumpsuits they made us wear, and were breathalyzed for high alcohol levels. Then we entered the practice gym where we rehearsed how to maneuver the contraption each of us sported on our belts which you drag along the bridge
railings the whole way up. After getting an A+ in training, we were off!
Each of us got headphones which our guide spoke in to most of the way up, telling the history of the bridge and city itself. Meanwhile, we would
follow each other through dark tunnels and up and down steep ladders just to reach the bridge entrance. We walked carefully up the MANY stairs on the top of the bridge, looking down at the cars zooming by beneath our feet. Besides our
little belts holding us on, we were completely exposed to the elements. Just us, the wind, and the beautiful cityscape. The final climb up the everlasting stairs was a surprisingly intense workout – and boy were we rewarded at the top. I will
always remember standing at the very peak of the bridge, proudly out of breath from the two hour trek, gazing out at the stunning metropolis and eminent Sydney Opera House below. The guide snapped some photos, gave us some time to take it all in, and dragged us away to begin our descent on wobbly legs.
We showered off the sweat at our nearby hostel to prepare for some sightseeing. A ferry ride down the river proved to be the best way to see the Sydney Opera House, Bridge, Luna Park, and views of the city. We ate at a trendy restaurant along the river – and then were disappointed (Brooke was particularly distraught) to see the Zoo had closed before letting us play with kangaroos and koalas. Bummer. We walked to the Opera House, the structure of which is so unique. The shapes of the roof, if all put together, would form a perfect sphere. We sipped cappuccinos and watched the sun set over the bridge we had conquered just hours before. After a memorable pregame on our hostel rooftop, we let loose and went bar-hopping. At World Bar, we took rounds of shots out of teapots– and we concluded the night dancing at a packed nightclub
to Australian tunes which would become famous in America months later.
We woke early the next morning to soak up the last of Sydney. We explored the business district and some city parks before parking on a bench with coffees and fruit in front of a pretty cathedral. There was no time to
waste as we made our way to the airport for our short flight north to Airlie Beach on the East coast. We couldn’t contain our excitement for what lay ahead; it was tropical time…
To see more pictures from Australia, go to the Photos Page or click here!