Sydney

You know something? I’m sick of planes. I don’t so much mind the journey itself. But I’m weary of the journey to the airport, the interminable waiting for dropping off the bags and proceeding through security. 

I’m tired of the airlines attempts to squeeze every last penny they can out of you. 

The latest scheme I’ve noticed is to automatically assign a seat in the middle of a three, and then charge $5 to move to a window or an aisle. 

This particular flight however, was amusing for all the wrong reasons. 

I was sat a row from the back, and just as they announced the cabin doors had been sealed a woman in business dress strode up the corridor and into the toilet. 

The flight attendant knocked on the door, and said “just to let you know, you’ll need to be quick as everyone must be seated for take-off”. Five minutes later, she knocks on the door again and lets the woman know that she needs to take her seat. The woman shouts back “I can’t”; to which the attendant asks if she is OK and does she need assistance. 

The woman doesn’t reply. 

The attendant asks again if she is OK, and the woman shouts at her to go away. The attendant says that she can’t do that, but needs to know if the woman is OK, and if she isn’t then how can they help. If she is OK, then she needs to take her seat right now. 

The woman shouts that she “has a stomach ache”.

At this point most of the plane is looking backwards and listening to this unfold. 

The attendant asks if we need to delay take-off so that the woman can get off of the plane and get medical assistance.

The woman screams “just give me 10 minutes”. 

“We don’t have 10 minutes”.

“Five minutes then!!!”

“I’m sorry, you need to come out and take you seat right away, or you’ll have to leave the aircraft”.

The woman now shrieks at the top of her voice, the now immortal line  – “I’m having a poo”.

A couple of stifled laughs break out around the plane. My own amongst them. Soon no-one can hold it back any longer and the plane is engulfed in laughter. 

The flight attendant looks totally thrown* and radios down to her boss who comes to the back of the plane and knocks on the door.

“Madam it’s Brad the cabin manager, I understand that you are busy, but we need to take off right now. If you do not come out, we will have to have you removed”.

Silence…

We’ve now missed out take off time by 5 minutes. The woman has been in there for about 15 minutes. 

“Madam, did you hear me”?

Silence…

“Madam, we need you to leave the aircraft”.

Silence…

“Madam”?

“Ma…”

A desperate shout is heard – “I’m wiping it, I’m wiping it”.

The laughter doesn’t come this time. Just a stunned silence.

Brad looks around the cabin with a look I can best describe as ‘where did it all go wrong’ and shouts back – “Err, good”.

The bolt in the door is heard sliding and the woman strides over to Brad and screams at him “you are so rude, how can you be so rude, I was using the toilet”?

We’re now 20 minutes late for take off, because this stupid cow locked herself in the toilet for 30 minutes and the flight attendants who were obviously concerned for her wellbeing at the start, and then for the delay to every other passenger once they’d established she was alright are the rude ones? I don’t bloody think so.

As she walked down the aisle, someone started a sarcastic clap. More joined in as she made her way to the seat. 

The captain came over the intercom and announced that he was sorry for the delay. This was caused by “we’ll you probably all heard why”, but he’ll try to make up some of it in the air. 

When we landed in Sydney, I came in for another bout of annoyance as my debit card was declined at the train station. I paid cash, and then whilst waiting for the train called HSBC who flat out denied declining the transaction. It is starting to look like the chip in my card is only working intermittently, and so I may have to depend on cash from here on in. Knowing I have the funds doesn’t make it any less embarrassing to have my card declined in front of a large queue of people though.

Eventually I found myself in Sydney Central and looking for an ATM to see if I could get cash out. Thankfully I could.

I stepped out of the train station to blistering heat. Up in the high 30’s once again. 

I’d planned to just in a cab, but there were none to be seen. So  in the end I walked the couple of Km to my hotel. Most of it was through a large park, and in truth I was in no hurry to get anywhere – especially in that heat, so I just took it at a leisurely pace. 

It’s funny. Some in places, like Jakarta, I didn’t even want to risk taking my day bag out with me. Just taking a small amount of cash, and a hotel card in case I got lost. Now I was arriving in a city I didn’t know and going for a walk in the park with every possession I have to my name. 

When I put it that way, I don’t half sound dumb.

I didn’t do much the rest of the day. Just some much needed laundry and grabbing my tea. Then I ended up watching highlights of the Melbourne Victory match I’d been to, followed by Jaws on one of the TV channels.

The next morning I was up early to join a day tour of the city and its surrounding area. 

Sydney is an attractive metropolitan area, with one of the worlds best waterfronts. I was surprised just how good the bridge and opera house look in the flesh. They are both incredible and imposing structures. 

At one point we stood under the bridge, and I had such strong Deja Vu that it threw me. Then it hit me that the angle we were looking at the bridge from, was pretty much identical to when I had first approached the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. The similarity from that particular angle was uncanny. Although a few meters off to either side and that illusion is shattered as side on you can see that they are quite different.

As we crossed the bridge it occurred to me that the last bridge I’d been over was the rickety bamboo bridge when Mr. Uyen and I had taken motorbikes into the Vietnamese mountains. I don’t think that you’ll find a much bigger contrast in build quality. 

My driver and guide for the day was Michael, and his knowledge of the city seemed inexhaustible. Every street and every corner seemed to have a story to go along with it. Even if they were not all sweetness and light. But then show me a major city that doesn’t have its horror stories. 

In the morning we also drove out to Bondi Beach.

It is worth mentioning at this point, that this day was to turn into Australia’s hottest ever day based on the average temperatures all around the country. It also turned out to be Sydneys 3rd hottest day every, coming in at 43℃.

I sat on the wall at Bondi, sipping on a smoothie and suddenly realising that I could actually feel the temperature rising as I sat there – in much the same way that you feel the difference when the sun appears from behind a cloud.

That was quite disconcerting. The day before when I was watching Jaws, there would be a news flash every advert break to warn people about the next days temperature. They’d advise of things like getting your kids to stand in a bucket of ice cubes and other radical ways to keep cool. For a short while I was actually worried. Then I remembered I’d been in hotter temperatures then that. In fact I’d been in hotter in the same week!

That’s not to say that it was not hot. Because it truly was stifling.

Later on in the afternoon, I was waling along Manly Beach (sipping my crushed ice & raspberry drink this time) when I all of a sudden felt very light headed, like I was about to lift off the ground and fly away. In other words a classic sign of heat exhaustion. But unlike the Brits, Aussies aren’t stupid about things like this (mad dogs and Englishmen and all that), so there are benches out of direct sunlight and cold water drinking fountains everywhere. I just sat down for five minutes, finished my drink and then soaked my hat in the cold water. After that I was fine again. But it just goes to show that even if you are taking precautions – like lightweight light coloured clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, been drinking water all day to avoid dehydration; that the sun is so powerful here that it can get you in seconds.

After the morning tour ended I boarded a boat called The Majestic for a cruise around the harbour and down to Watsons Bay and back. 

Dinner was served on the boat. A huge buffet with a bit of everything – including beef madras and a Thai green curry. I heard people commenting on how spicy they both were, but they were the least spicy curries I can ever remember having. I guess that my tastebuds have not readjusted after so long in Asian countries!

I ate my dinner quite quickly so that I could get outside and watch Sydney go by. I was the only one out there. Others would appear for a few seconds, snap a single picture and run for the door to get back in. 

Again, it was hot but it was no worse then Malaysia or Indonesia had been. Like with the heat of the food, I’m still coming to terms with how acclimatised I have become to the hot weather. It comes as a complete surprise to me, as I am not a person that likes the heat. I mean two of my last trips have been to Germany  when it was under 8ft of snow and to Iceland in February! If had  said to me then, that I would be out in 40+ temperatures and actually finding it pleasant, I’d have laughed at you.

I really enjoyed the boat trip. It is a great way to see the Sydney skyline.

Afterwards I jumped onto another bus and this time headed North making my way up to Manly before heading back into the city and getting dropped back at my hotel. 

I got a good look around the city, but I really don’t feel like I experienced it. Ask me what I think about Sydney and I’ll say its attractive. But I could not give you any idea of what kind of vibe I got from it. It is a shame, but then I’d always known that I was just going to be doing a whistle-stop tour here. 

Like Melbourne, I had to leave something there for me to come and see some time in the future. 

*At which point I desperately wanted walk up to the flight attendant and say “maybe I can help, I’m a veterinarian.” (Sorry, a little private joke between myself and Mr. Walker, who are probably the only two people in the world that would find it amusing)

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