Sydney: A Cockle Bay Crawl

31 Mar

 

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March 16, 2012

Tal, Jonny, J.J. and I were up and at ‘em before the sun was up, getting ready to drop off the required forms and documents for our visas into India and then drop off our rented Yaris at the Hertz nearby. We arrived at the Indian consulate 15 minutes before the doors opened and found one Australian woman already in line.

When the doors opened we took our numbers and waited to be called up to the counter. Tal and Jonny were called first and discovered that they needed to have printed copies of their Australian tourist visas in order to apply so Tal took another number while Jonny set out to find somewhere with internet access and a printer.

J.J. and I were called next. I had happened to glance at a part of the application that mentioned, very unclearly, something about having proof of an approved Australian visa and had printed mine out just in case. I thought J.J. had as well because we’d printed out our documents together the day before but his proof of visa was nowhere to be found so, like Jonny, off he went in search of somewhere with internet and access to a printer.

Meanwhile I was being questioned about my job in marketing. I was asked to provide a hand-written note explaining that marketing and advertising did not mean journalism and that I would not be involved in any journalistic activities while in India. Once I had done so, the woman processing my application seemed satisfied and I pulled out my Visa to pay the $112 fee. Well, they only accepted Australian Visa cards and it’s impossible to pay with a debit card at point of sale in Australia. To boot, I’ve been having 2+ months of headaches with my cash withdawls and RBC had put a $100 CDN daily limit on my card until I received a new one (ie it was impossible for me to withdraw $112 AUD). Tal had to lend me her bank card while she waited for Jonny and her new number to be called and I went and withdrew money from her account for her, Jonny and myself.

When I got back there was still no sign of J.J. or Jonny and Tal had missed a number or 2 and kept having to take a new one.

Finally Jonny came back and he and Tal presented what they thought would be proof enough of their approved Australian visa but were told they needed to provide proof that showed both the approval date and expiry date. Off they went, back to the internet and printer and to call the embassy to ask them to email them the proof of visa they needed.

At the same time J.J. had returned and was re-submitting his documents. We had heard that we may require a double or multi-entry visa in order to fly back through India after we visited Nepal (all flights to Indonesia from Nepal seem to go through India) and it was confirmed that to be safe we should both change our applications to be for a 6-month multi-entry visa as opposed to the 1-month single-entry visa we’d marked down on our forms. This change required us each to write a hand-written note requesting the change.

Finally, J.J. and I were done and J.J. left to return the rental car while I waited to let Tal and Jonny know that we’d meet J.J. once they were finished. A few minutes later Tal and Jonny came back with the correct proof of a valid Australian visa and were well on their way to having their applications processed. But first, they too had to write a hand-written note asking that their application be amended for a multi-entry visa. Only then, were we able to leave and get on with our day.

After that experience we all (well Tal, Jonny and I) needed a coffee and badly. We took our drinks and walked over to the Hyde Park to relax and people watch while we decided what to do with our first full day in Sydney. After a brief chat with our high school friend, Mike, who was living in Sydney for law school, we decided to head to the Botanical Gardens. The flowers from what we saw in the 3 minutes we were there were beautiful but we had to leave so soon after arriving because Tal and I happened to look up at the trees only to discover hundreds – literally hundreds – of enormous bats hanging upside down, not completely sleeping. Nocturnal creatures they are not, judging by the sounds they were making and the few we saw flying overhead.

We decided to head to The Rocks, a historical Sydney neighbourhood close to Sydney Harbour. The area features amazing restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, and on Fridays (it happened to be Friday) an outdoor food court of sorts where many of the local restaurants offer a few select dishes on special and cook and serve the food from an outdoor food stand. We decided to have lunch at the outdoor food market and the food was incredible. Apparently Turkish food is really popular as the line-up at the Turkish food stand was insane! None of us had the patience to wait in the hot sun and I’d already accumulated enough embarrassingly obvious back sweat through my tan maxi dress. (Note to self: tan maxi dress is only to be worn on cool days.)

After lunch we headed down to Sydney Harbour where we got our first good look of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a half look at the Opera House. I say a half look because the biggest cruise ship I have ever seen in real life (not to mention the largest number of retired folks) was parked all along the dock, blocking a good part of the architecture on the other side of the Harbour.

Just then, we heard from Kiera who was off work early and we walked over near the entrance to the Opera House bar to meet her for a drink on the patio. What a view of the Opera House we had – the architecture is absolutely stunning and we learned from Kiera that, not surprisingly, the build of the Opera House was very much over-budget and took longer than anticipated.

When we’d finished our drinks Kiera suggested we take the ferry over to Cockle Bay so that we could get a view of Sydney Harbour, including Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Luna Park. It was also nice to catch the ocean breeze on the boat amidst the hot Sydney sun.

The ferry wasn’t coming for another 20 minutes so we continued our pub crawl on an outdoor patio just behind the ferry docks. Obviously we missed the ferry and took the one that left 20 minutes after the one we’d planned to take. Kiera did a great job of pointing out the significance of the buildings along the harbour from the boat – it was great to have our own personal tour guide!

We pulled in to the docks at Cockle Bay and Kiera guided us to a popular pub with an outdoor patio where we were able to catch up and also make plans for Easter weekend when we’d all be reunited in Sydney. (Looks like we’ll be seeing an AFL game!) A drink or 2 later we made moves to a trendy outdoor patio called Pontoon, where we didn’t quite fit in at all. The women wore dresses made of fabrics that would not pack well in a backpack paired with 4” heels (I miss high heels) and the men came from work dressed in pressed dress pants and shirts, some even wearing ties and jackets. We, on the other hand, wore our best Quicksilver boardies and v-neck cotton t’s (the boys) and sweat-soaked cotton dresses (the girls).

By then dinner time was upon us and we left Pontoon in search of someplace to meet our Canadian high school buddy, Mike, and eat. On our way we passed a children’s playground which included a giant rope jungle gym which J.J. and Jonny felt the need to climb in a race to the top. A tip for the boys: grown men in a children’s playground when the don’t have children could be perceived by some as being a tad creepy.

We continued on and decided to eat at a tepanyaki place overlooking the Cockle Bay. Mike met us there and we had a delicious traditional tepanyaki meal of steak, chicken, seafood (for the boys), salad and soup. (Heather Richey, it brought back fond memories of your birthday at Benihana in the basement of The Royal York Hotel.)

Next it was off to one of Kiera’s former watering holes from her university days. We may well have stepped into a time warp when we walked through the door as we got 6 cocktails for $20 (3 of which were champagne – safe to say it wasn’t the good stuff) and the speakers were blaring the likes of Vengaboys and Ja-Rule. We sat on the cobblestone patio and met one of Mike’s roommates before we were on our way to make the last train back to Ryde, where Kiera and Dave live.

We arrived at the train station and had to pass a vending machine on our way to the platform. Kiera decided she wanted a package of gummy something or other, put her coins in and entered the corresponding number and letter code. The vending machine did that annoying thing where the metal spiral turns almost the full way around and traps the candy by the edge, not allowing it to fall to the bottom of the machine. The boys, being heroes, took turns body-checking the machine until the candy fell. Success!

The ride home was silly and funny, but only to us. I’m sure the other people riding the train in the wee hours were not impressed with our humour or the selfy photo shoot of Tal and Kiera attempting to make it look like they were going really, really fast. (See Tal’s wall on Facebook for the photo.)

We arrived at the train station to discover that Kiera hadn’t been kidding when she’d said we had a pretty monster hill to climb before we’d be on her street. Somehow Jonny found the energy to run while the rest of us huffed and puffed our way up the steep incline, full of tepanyaki dinner and champagne. We made it up to Kiera and Dave’s place and collapsed onto their amazingly comfortable sectional in their living room and debriefed Dave on the day (poor guy had worked a full 8 hours and then studied for the evening as he’s also in school at the moment). Shortly after, we grew sleepy and trudged off to our respective bedrooms.

Thank you, Kiera for an amazingly fun first day in Sydney and Keira and Dave for the fantastically comfortable accommodations!

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