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Australia: The Beginning

March 27, 2010

Of course it wouldn’t be a trip for me if I didn’t face some kind of problem. My journey to Australia took quite a bit longer than it was supposed to (sound familiar?). My flight left Cleveland at 7:43am EST. I arrived in Chicago about a little later and had a five hour layover until my flight to LAX. In LAX I was supposed to have a 6-7 hour layover, with my flight to Sydney leaving at 10:20pm PST.

Oscar and the kangaroo outside Wildlife World in Darling Harbour.

My flight was supposed to start boarding at 9:15, so around 9:00 I made my way over to the gate. This is when I first saw “Delayed” up next to the flight. I was baffled as it must have just changed, since I had been religiously checking the flight status all day. The flight representatives announce that the flight was delayed due to a mechanical problem with the plane and they had no idea how long it would be. After sitting there over an hour they finally announced that the problem couldn’t be fixed and our flight would not be until the next day. At first they told us it might only be little earlier than 10pm the next day, which would really just mean we’d get into Sydney at 3, 4, or 5am instead of 6:45!

Thankfully I was in business class, which meant I could go to the Red Carpet Club to get my accommodation for the night sorted out. Still there was a ridiculous line and a lot of angry people. At least, though, they told us that our flight would depart at 11am the next day, allowing us to still arrive in Sydney on Thursday, just 12-13 hours late. Eventually I got a voucher for a room at the airport Marriott, including $15 toward a meal, and I headed to join the masses waiting for the hotel shuttle bus, then the crazy line at the hotel check-in. It was nearly 12:30am by the time I made it into my hotel room (which was pretty much the furthest you could possibly get from the lobby!) I pushed myself to walk back to the lobby with my laptop just to let people know what had happened, as we had canceled my phone plan starting the 24th, which meant it stopped working pretty much exactly when they announced the fate of my flight and I was unable to text or call anyone.

Still I managed to get five or six hours of sleep, but I decided to wake up as early as possible to grab breakfast and head to the airport before the masses lined up to get the shuttle and build up the security line. I knew I could relax in the lounge and get on the internet so it was no big deal.

By 10am everyone was back and waiting anxiously at the gate for our supposed 10:15 boarding time. They kept telling us ten more minutes until boarding, until finally at about 10:40 they told us the caterers were still loading the food on the plane and it would be just ten more minutes — for real this time. Thankfully this was true, and at 10:50 I was finally getting on the plane and heading up to my wonderful second floor business seat. A lot of people had canceled their flights, I think, because when I’d looked at the seating plan online when booking the flight that floor had been almost full, but in the end it was practically empty. In fact, the seat next to me and the two seats across the aisle were all empty.

Living it up in United Business Class!

I also picked one of United’s new backward facing seats, which was interesting. I could hardly tell at first that I was facing backward, except that when I looked out the window I could see into the jets on the wings! And of course at take-off and landing you can certainly feel the difference. Otherwise the seats were very, very nice. They just updated the 747’s business class so everything was new and comfortable, with seats that reclined full into a flat bed! I definitely needed that after the past couple days. I managed to watch most of 2012 and Precious in between sleeping. Of course we got dinner for lunch and a strange mix of breakfast and lunch for dinner, but they were obviously doing all they could with the delay. In fact, they also distributed official apology letters and “Friendship Kits” which were basically papers we were to fill out with our contact information so they can apparently send us some kind of gift certificate.

We finally arrived to Sydney at 8pm. This proved pretty frustrating for just about everyone, I think. For one, many of the people on the plane were continuing on to Melbourne. Our plane was supposed to go on to Melbourne itself, but the crew said they weren’t sure if it would or if the people would be booked onto a different plane, but they would let them know once we were in the air. They never did, and upon landing they announced that all those people were going to be put up in accommodation again and would be able to fly to Melbourne the next day! I was so glad Sydney was my final destination.

Oscar and I at Mrs. Macquerie's Point

Oscar and I had purposely booked five nights in a specific hostel because that meant they would provide us with a shuttle from the airport for free. Well, at 8:30 at night that shuttle, and in fact all shuttles from the airport apparently, were no longer running. I was NOT happy to hear this! My options were taxi or train. Normally I would take the train, but at night with so much luggage and no real idea of where I was going, that just didn’t seem like a good option for me. So I was forced to take a taxi, which put me out $55 right away! No fun.

But finally, at 9pm, I finally arrived at Chilli Blue hostel. Our first night Oscar and I opted to stay in a private room so we could relax a bit. The room was tiny, barely fitting all our bags, but it was nice to just unwind a bit. The next morning we moved into a six bed dorm, costing only $15AUD, the cheapest we could find in Sydney for sure! While I have stayed in hundreds of hostels, I must say it’s a bit different when you have so much luggage — what a pain! There were only top bunks left, which means we have really no floor space to call our own, and have to stuff our suitcases up next to the door where they feel like a huge obstacle.  And again, the room is so unbelievably hot! The one small fan doesn’t at all reach the top bunks, and it’s really hard to be in the room and keep your eyes open!

Oscar at the Opera House

But we were up bright and early all the past few days (mostly because we fell asleep so early from the heat) with much to do. Friday we focused mostly on seeing the city and relaxing a bit. We walked from our hostel in Kings Cross/Potts Point, though the Botanical Gardens, to Mrs. Macquerie’s Chair, by the Opera House, around Circular Quay, and up to Darling Harbor, then back through the city, browsing through stores and such. It was a beautiful day, but again ridiculously hot! The sun was beating down, and I was really just not prepared for such intense heat. Coming from cold wintry Ohio to “autumn” in Sydney, which was hotter than even a normal summer day in Ohio, was insane. It was a good day, but by the end of it we were absolutely exhausted.

Yesterday we decided to walk around more inside the city and to call around to some apartments and take care of some other essentials. First we had to get SIM cards. I was able to get one, but apparently Oscar’s iPhone isn’t unlocked like his mobile providers at home told him it would be, so he has to take care of that.

We called around to some of the apartments we’d found, many of them not answering or already gone. We were able to make an appointment to see one. The location was great, but when we finally were able to get into it (after some confusion) we weren’t sure it was for us. It was an OK size, but they were going to squeeze five people into it, including one person having a “room” in the “sunroom” which was a mattress-sized glass-enclosed room off the main living area. It also wasn’t furnished, and when we were looking at it they were in the process of trying to vacuum/steam clean the disgusting-looking carpet (apparently the old couple that had lived there died in the apartment a couple days ago). So we’re thinking we’ll keep looking.

Wedges! Yum!

Other than that we did some shopping — Oscar looking at suits and both of us picking up some basics like towels and groceries. I was eager to go back to an old place I used to eat at all the time when I lived in Sydney a couple years ago. We walked all the way out there only to find they don’t serve food anymore! Needless to say I was very sad about that. We did get some wedges at Darling Harbour, though, which was probably my most-missed food from Australia!

By the end of the day my feet were absolutely wrecked. The first day walking around I had worn shoes and my feet were all roughed up from them, so I decided to switch to flip flops yesterday. Well, I guess it’s been too long since I’ve walked much in flip flops, and my feet are absolutely destroyed now. They were swollen to almost twice their size last night, covered in blisters and cuts. I am sure it is a combination of the heat, the walking, and the shoes. This happened to me in my first week in Thailand a couple years ago too, but for now it hurts even to walk!

So today we are staying in for the morning, getting some things done, looking at apartments and jobs, trying to get some resumes sent out. It’s still harder to really focus and get work done being in a hostel, I think we want to focus slightly more on finding an apartment if possible. I would feel much more prepared going into interviews if I have a little bit of space and quiet to prepare in!

Hungry for more about the city? Check out my reviews and tips for Eating Out in Sydney.


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