After Sunday morning in Brisbane, I went back to the airport to catch a flight to Sydney so I could give my friend a week to study for his mid-terms which went down on Saturday, and so I could see a different part of Australia.
Speaking as an American, accustomed to American airports, airport access is VERY different here. *NB: this is all for domestic flights, I’ll find out if international flights are any different at the end of the week.*
1) I downloaded my boarding pass to my phone from my friend’s apartment.
2) I arrived at the airport and went through security (no checked baggage) without having to show EITHER my boarding pass or ID.
3) I was at my gate in about 5 minutes from arriving at the airport.
4) There is no order to boarding. It just starts half an hour before departure and everyone lines up.
5) I boarded the plane just by having the boarding pass on my phone scanned. At no point did I have to show ID.
This is TOTALLY MIND BLOWING compared to what were used to in American airports. I mean, you can keep your shoes on going through security and they’re still using the metal detectors instead of those fancy spinning x-ray machines (although, word in the news is that those fancy ones are useless). On the way back, I arrived at the airport within an hour of my planes DEPARTURE and was at the gate with 5-10 minutes to spare before BOARDING, and that time I hadn’t downloaded my boarding pass before arriving, I had to get it from one of those little machines where, again, I DIDN’T HAVE TO SHOW ANY ID. Sure makes life easier…
Ok, on to actually interesting things about Sydney!
Got in Sunday night, acquired the Opal transport card – another tap-on/tap-off card like Brisbane has – so I could ride trains and buses with ease, and tried to figure how in the heck to actually get from where I was to some place I wanted to go, namely any hotel downtown. Getting from the airport to central station is actually fairly easy, but, as in Brisbane, it is an astoundingly expensive trip compared to any other public transport distance. (The 15 minute train trip between the airport and central cost 3-4x my hour plus train trip from downtown to Windsor station near the Blue Mountains later.) Once downtown, it is the classic challenge to navigate the city after dark with only tourist maps (which are fairly consistently useless) and a lack of street signs. But, eventually, with the help of land marks and intersections, I placed myself in Chinatown and found a place to treat myself and spend the night. Ventured back out to walk around, see what was going on (Chinatown is always a good place to go – great food, often slightly lower prices, awesome sights), and get some food – sushi night, treat yo’self! Then, it was back to my room for a good night’s sleep on a REAL BED – what a luxury!
Monday morning was supposed to a pleasant self-guided (and I use that term loosely) tour of Sydney, but unfortunately I stepped outside to a gray, cool, drizzly day. Not too bad at first, but as the rain picked up, I sought shelter and spent an hour or two trying to understand the bits of the public transportation system I would need to use in the near future. Eventually I mustered up the courage to revisit the outdoors, thankfully precipitation-free, and made my way down to the Royal Botanic Gardens and harbor to walk around and see the iconic Sydney Opera House. It would have been better on a sunny day, but the variety of birds around the gardens was just delightful, as were the bountiful plant species. Then it was off to the trains to catch a ride out of town to the agreed upon meeting station to get me to this Intentional Community in the Colo Valley of the Blue Mountains.
What. An. Experience. I probably should have been more prepared for what the community is, but I hadn’t really bothered to think about what it would be based on how it was described on the Couchsurfing website. Anyway, it is a developing community on a parcel of land including four little peaks and three valleys. They have a couple caravans, some tents, and are building a series of structures as housing, lounges, and a kitchen, with the eventual plan of creating a whole community capable of hosting festivals. It’s a big vision. Luckily, the man who owns the land is “vision holder” who can hold this incredible vision and feels very capable with his ability to manifest everything he truly wants from the universe. [Side bar: manifesting has a lot of potential. I started manifesting opportunities to teach yoga when I get back to the states and when I got back to wifi, I had an e-mail from a friend with a full time yoga instructor opportunity! Coincidence, maybe, but cool.] Living in the community while I was there was the owner’s dad (a rather old, rather German world traveler), the owner’s French-Canadian honey, an English 21 year old who came to Australia and ran out of money too quick, and three dogs – Kiara, Lila, and Puppyong, of which Kiara was super awesome. Their neighbors swung by once to chat and on Thursday night a couple of French kids showed up just for the night (which was a little weird, but they had previously planned on staying longer and changed their mind).
The typical day wouldn’t start until about 10a with breakfast, which was super weird for me. I’d be up around 6:30 or 7 and would have to wander around, listen to podcasts, stretch… do something for a few hours until the owner was awake so that the current lounge area was available for public use, because they slept right next to the kitchen/lounge area. After breakfast, we would get to work on whatever project we were working on. My project for the first three days was paneling a wall in their newest building (their new bedroom and office) with timber boards that were about 10cm wide. The frame of the wall was already built (and not 100% consistent), so I had to cut a board, drill it onto the wall, and then measure for the next board, making the process more complicated than I would have thought it should be. Simple, engaging, hands on work out in the forest was a nice change from Mysore where it was just practice and chill in the city. Mostly being in the forest surrounded by cool, wet green was the nice change. We would work until lunch time, which could come any time from noon to three, and then get back to work until it was too dark to do whatever we were doing. Because lunch was typically the large meal of the day, evening would be very relaxed, some drinks for those who drank, maybe a little more to eat, and we would take turns reading out loud from The Clan of the Cave Bear. The first book of the Earth’s Children series, we follow the life of Ayla, an early Homo sapien who lost her family in an earth quake 40,000 years ago. In Cave Bear, Ayla loses her family, runs away from the traumatizing site, and eventually, starved, injured, and very tired, is found by a clan of Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals). In addition to seeing the differences between H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis, there are lengthy, expressive, and enjoyable passages on the flora, fauna, and environment, as well as how the Neanderthals live. We also hear much from the medicine woman and spiritual leader of the clan (the two members who take Ayla in most readily), about using plants to heal ailments and how they function spiritually. Cool story.
Like I said, getting out in the forest was wonderful. On Friday morning, because the French couple was with us and the opportunity presented itself, I made biscuits for everybody – a cheddar and green onion batch and a sweet raisin and 5-spice batch. They were yummy. Love baking everywhere! Other yummy things we made were tortilla pizzas and an egg and potato casserole. Lots of cheese was used. Lots of cheese.
Saturday was my time to leave. I climbed the hills in the morning to look at the trees and caves and paintings. Then, after breakfast, we spent some time learning about some spine physiology and did a little acro yoga play. It was great fun! Then we were off to the train station to get me back to the airport by a couple buses and a train. And, like I mentioned, getting on to the plane was astoundingly easy. Back in Brisbane, I met back up with my friend, hit up the West End Markets for dinner, again (because it’s amazing, and that was it for the week! I’ll be in Chiang Mai next time you hear from me. Thanks for reading.