2/5/11 - 2/6/11
“One way or round trip?”
A seemingly simple question, considering I was only planning on taking the ferry into the city for the day before returning to Manly to meet up with my gracious host Alex. “Round trip.” Woops.
Before coming to Australia I had planned on spending a fair bit of time in the actual city in Sydney. However Manly was such a great town, it had been 4 nights and this would be my first and only venture into what most people think about when they think of Sydney. I was meeting up with Shaz at the Circular Quay port at 2, and I was looking forward to finally checking out the city.
It was 44 ̊C in the city, which for those of you who are more Fahrenheit inclined, is 111 ̊F. Anything not by the water was unbearable, so we decided not to stray far from the ocean at any point in the day.
Afterwards, we were picked up by a fedora clad gentlemen named Angus who knew about a party on a beach not too far away. The party would turn out to be one of the better beach parties I’ve ever been to. They had a dj, a breathtaking view of the city, and people ranging in age from 4 to 50. While lounging in a baby pool that someone had brought for a pool toy, I met a few more awesome people including a very sweet girl named Libby who had shaved her head to support her friend who was about to start chemo-therepy. Between the folks who we came with, the new people we were meeting, and the steadily increasing dance party, it was turning out to be quite the day.
Sydney City in the background
Several adult beverages and an afterparty with comped drinks/ food at a bar later, I realized that I had about an hour until the last ferry back to Manly. Although the party was still going strong, I had promised Alex I would meet her back in Manly. So, slightly reluctantly, we left the party for the night. About 30 minutes into what should have been a 15 minute drive, we were completely stopped in traffic. We were about a mile from the ferry, which left in 10 minutes. After watching the same traffic light turn from green to red three times, I bid farewell to my gracious driver Libby, and decided it was time to run for it. About half a mile in I realized that the heat never really broke even though it was night, and that running in flip flops sucks. Various yells came from the drunken townsfolk as I passed by the bars. But I barely heard them, as all I could think though was that I needed to book it because the last ferry was leaving shortly, I had no knowledge of how else to get to Manly, and I had no cell phone. Oh, and to top it off I was also out of Australian dollars.
My calves were on fire and I was drenched in sweat, but about 100 yards from the wharf I could see my ferry. Rejuvenated, I pulled my return ticket out of my pocket so that I could rush through the gates and onto my relaxing ride home. Then I hear the ferry’s horn blare. Shit. One more horn, and I hear the engines kick in. Shit. I sprint the last 50 feet, only to get a better view of my ride pulling away.
I must have looked pretty pathetic as I collapsed on the ground, muttering expletives to myself and wondering how I was gonna get home. Then I realized that Alex would be waiting for me at the other end, and I had no phone. The ferry worker, who was surprisingly sympathetic, guided me to an internet café where I Skyped Alex, who luckily had previously facebook messaged me her number. She told me that there was a bus leaving in 20 minutes that stopped in Manly, and that I would need to hustle. I left the internet café ready to run to the bus stop, when I realized I had no idea where the bus station was. I inquired the ferry worker who had helped me previously, and he quickly took me over to the train that I needed to take to get to the station. As he pointed it out, the train I needed to take was approaching. I still had no cash to get through the gates. “Just jump the freakin’ gate!” So I did, and made it as the doors of the train were closing.
The first bus came shortly after I arrived at the station, and I asked the driver if it went to Manly. After mumbling several barely comprehensible words about getting close to Manly but not actually there, a girl behind me shouted that I should not take that bus, and that the next bus was correct. Considering she did not have an Australian accent, and probably wasn’t a local, I was taking a leap of faith by trusting her, but it was all I had. She let me use her phone to call my friend Alex, who was being refreshingly pleasant during the whole process considering it was approaching 2 A.M and I had changed plans about 72 times now. I asked the security guard if the next bus went to Manly. He shrugged his shoulders, implying that I was on my own on this one. However after telling him my ferry plight, he offered to let me ride the bus for free, which saved me from needing to negotiate with the bus driver to let me use American dollars.
Staring out the window of the bus and wondering if the bus would in fact get me where I needed to go, I met a pleasant Canadian fellow who had broken his knuckle earlier from punching a wall because he missed his bus. As he and a local distracted the bus with a loud and increasingly heated argument over the intellectual fortitude of Canadians, the bus driver shouted out “next stop, Manly Beach!”
Still flushed from my previous impromptu fitness test through the streets of Sydney, I happily stepped out of the bus to see Alex approaching in her badass truck affectionately known as “The Beast.”
The 151, my chariot home
A car ride from a new friend, a sobering mile long sprint in flip flops, a missed ferry, an internet café, a kind ferry worker, a jumped train gate, a bus attempt, a well informed stranger, a comped ticket, a correct bus, and an angry drunk Canadian later, I had finally arrived at my final destination. In the end, a great reminder that things always seem to work out, and a nice warm-up for what will surely be some chaotic transit through South East Asia. Although a sometimes confused tourist, I can always rely on the kindness of strangers, and a little help from my friends.