I woke up the next day in fine form around 10AM, having slept well, and went to make myself breakfast in the hostel kitchen.
A cheerful Irish girl named Elizabeth made me breakfast, on account of a series of strange circumstances that had involved missed breakfast and provided ingredients the previous morning. Over breakfast I chatted with her and a very sweet young Korean who had moved to Sydney on a work Visa with an eye towards waitressing, improving her English, and traveling around the country.
In the end, I scrapped my intentions for the Wildlife Expo and Maritime museum, and went along with them on a Ferry ride to Manly. We took our time on the walk, enjoying the sites and the company of fellow travelers.
Sydney is built along a river leading to the Sea, and Manly is the tiny seaside town at the mouth of that river where white men first landed in the Sydney area in 1788, and now has a beautiful European seaside feel, but with a much better beach and a good surf.
We walked down to Circular Quay, the main ferry port, and caught a ferry around 1PM. Elizabeth was quite the talker, while Niki was the sort of somber Asian girl that is eternally listening to what everyone else says and about once an hour asking a random question.
So it was that I spent the day in the company of a shadow of the east I'd so recently explored, and a chattering Irish lilt that told stories of travels to India and Turkey and the adventures of living in London as a teacher.
Our ferry provided us the best possible views of the Opera house as we pushed away, and we got a few fantastic photographs on the way out of the city. Elizabeth commented on how pretty and surreal it was, like "it'd bi'n maed by aliens!"
Manly is really just a far-flung suburb of Sydney at this point, and the ferry ride was less than an hour. We arrived in high spirits and wandered down to the beach, where a dozen men in wet suits were practising their surfing skills and a few women and children wandered the sandy shoreline. We sat for a time and chatted, and took a few pictures along the way.
The architecture of Manly is actually quite pretty, and when we'd done with the beach we wandered back through the small town and found a place that made pies and coffee. I had English Breakfast Tea (courtesy of Elizabeth) and a wonderful Pumpkin and Feta and Coriander pie with a flaky crust and an incredible flavour. It was really yummy and I would love to figure out how to make it when I get home.
Around four we caught a ferry back to Syndey, taking more pictures along the way. Niki is at the very beginning of a year's work here in Australia, and desperately concerned about improving her English, and so I pestered her a bit and we taught her a few new words on the ride back, while Elizabeth would randomly derail the conversation to topics like music, politics, interesting places she wanted to go, or the adventures of her gay friends.
When we returned, we walked out to the end of the point where the opera house is located. As we approached, Elizabeth's mind changed like the wind in Manila.
"Y'know I rather think it's really ugly!"
I laughed at her. "not two hours ago you said it was pretty!"
But she insisted that the tile roof and modern feel of it looked horrendous up close and the view of the city from in front of the opera house was better than the view if you turned around and looked at the building itself. I laughed at her and told her I thought it looked pretty, and I walked around it hunting for one of those photographs that will someday make a really great desktop background (yes, it's an odd way of thinking about photography, I realize, but the results are often remarkable).
She and Niki stayed and chatted at the corner while I hiked the 300 meter square around the building, and on my return we walked up to the entrance so that Elizabeth could check the prices to satiate her curiosity. As we climbed the steps she looked at the glass entrance. "Well, now that's quite nice! It's like sem soart of noo chaurch!"
I laughed and shook my head. The fickleness of most women knows no bounds, of course, and I should be used to it by now.
We walked to a nearby train station in downtown, and Niki caught a train to visit a Korean friend of hers. Elizabeth and I went back to the Hostel so that she could pick up her bags, and she was off to visit a friend of her own, and I settled in for a very entertaining evening.
As it turns out there's a local dance bar that does a big celebration on Friday nights, and so our hostel does barbeque around 7PM ($5 AU, for a beer and a plate of fantastically good food and seconds if you want them) and then everyone hangs out in the courtyard for three hours and then heads out at 10PM to the club. This helps quiet down the hostel and keeps people from partying in the courtyard and keeping everybody awake.
There is some sort of prize for the most brightly dressed person, so after the barbeque had been finished and the drinking was properly kicked off, people started disappearing and showing back up in neon dresses or sequined skirts. Several people were wearing glowsticks as jewelry, and a couple of guys disappeared and came back with reflective safety vests. One of them was sporting a neon afro and bright yellow arm warmers. It looked like some sort of rave-slash-carnival.
Through all this quasi-drunken revelry I am sitting in the kitchen area, finishing writing this and shaking my head. The club scene has never really been my thing, but if I knew a few more of this garrulous, lighthearted crowd I'd probably go along to watch the train wreck that I'm confident this evening will turn into.
Truth is though, that I know it would be just another deafening club full of people wasting time shouting small talk in the sides of each other's heads like seals with ear fetishes and trying to make a great time out of developing hearing loss and getting slowly pissed on crappy drinks. Admittedly there will probably be loads of attractive, scantily clad women out tonight, and while a little girl watching sounds like (frustrating) fun, I am going to pass on that as well, and read a bit instead, then turn in early.
Egads, I'm a grumpy old man at twenty six.