Monday, January 2, 2012

Jan 2 2012 - Thoughts on a trip to Australia

On the ferry on the way to Manly Beach
A day after celebrating the New Year in Sydney and getting a pretty full night's sleep, we took the ferry to Manly Beach. It's so neat being able to call people in The States from the beach to wish them a happy 2012 and hear their countdown, already having done our own countdown a day earlier and knowing how it will turn out :) And if we wanted, we totally could've flown back to California to experience TWO new years!

Standing room only in the ferry
The ferry and the beach were a complete mob scene, but an extraordinarily well organized one. The line to get on the ferry was around the block, and we were about to give up almost immediately, but then it started moving quickly and most people went to the end instead of butting in. On the boat, we were able to get a seat in the outdoor bow section, gladly getting sprayed a few times in the heat of the summer.

Great crowd on New Years Day
The Sydney beach scene was pretty crazy. You are allowed to swim only between the yellow/red checkered flags that are a few meters apart. Outside of that, the incoming waves and outgoing riptide are too dangerous and the lifeguard, in this case the Manly Council Lifeguard Service, aren’t watching. Even within that protected area, swimming is a full-contact sport, jumping over or diving under the super powerful waves that come in constantly, and avoiding the body surfers and their boogie boards.

Maybe a short nap before swimming...
While carefully swimming (alternating between standing in shallow water and jumping above 2 meter high waves) between the red/yellow safety flags, up popped a Court Jester out of nowhere. He was wearing a red and yellow striped beanie cap, identically uniformed shirt, funny old-timey sunglasses, and his face was painted white with zinc sunblock. He asked if everyone was ok - I was stunned for a moment and wondered if it was a weird costume contest or a candid camera trick - but moments later regained my composure and let him know everything was ok. Keeping the waters baffled for all Australians.

Manly has a wonderful foot wash... but
for some reason the fountains have randomly
changing heights so you're sure to get soaked
Australians use the word heaps, well, heaps. "Save Heaps" some holiday sale signage displayed. "That was heaps of fun" and "I've had heaps of those" I've often heard. It's a curious word that is completely understandable, but I'd never before found myself in a situation where I needed to use it. It seems to be analogous to "a ton". Perhaps Australia's connection to both the U.S. and U.K. make "a ton" confusing as you don't know if you like something a metric ton or a conventional ton. I like Australia one metric heap.

Darling Harbour on our last day
Sunday night our friend John took us out to dinner and I tried two more Australian beers. Redback, started as a small batch Western Australian brewery in 1989, is an easy drinking beer similar to Anchor Steam. It's named after a poisonous black spider with a red stripe on its back that hangs out under outhouse seats, waiting to sting unsuspecting preoccupied patrons. It certainly tastes better than it sounds!

A closer view...
I also tried Carlton Black, mass-produced but entirely decent Dark Ale style beer. I would say it's the instant coffee of dark beers: available everywhere, dark and strong aroma, but it's not going to change your day. Ironically, due to recent mergers, both beers (along with about 95% of beers we saw this trip) are produced by SABMiller group. Since we're on the subject of Australian alcohol, we did try a good sampling of Australian wines (mostly Shiraz). We went in knowing a good bit about West Coast U.S. Appellations/varietals, but on a short visit we were unable to figure out how to map it to Australian wine-growing regions. Next trip, we'll certainly do more formal wine touring/tasting. If anybody has any Australian wine advice, please let me know, I'd love to get a head start on the research :)  I wonder if there's a shortage of natural cork in Australia -- 95% of wines we saw, including the really nice-nice ones, had screwtops. Maybe they save it for the exports!

Somebody's not happy about leaving Australia
John told us that voting in Australia is mandatory - not voting will get you fined. This dramatically changes the landscape of democracy as people with little interest or on the fence will probably vote moderate - and campaigns have to devote a considerable portion of their resources to the apathetic.

At the Sydney Int'l Airport observatory deck
Nobody asked, but I'll tell you anyway: we did have a Vegemite sandwich on the OceanQuest reef ship. Their kitchen was stocked with the infamous Australian vegetable extract, and we spread a thin layer on bread, which I think is all you need to officially call yourselves Australians. We even brought some back with us, so invite yourself on over, we'll just smile and give you a vegemite sandwich...

Olga has posted her thought on the trip as well


ivden said...

I worked at Susquehanna with an Aussie who swore by Vegemite. She wouldn't return from a visit home without a batch. Sounds like a cross between a rock and a salad!

I love your explanation of the slang usage "heap" vs. "ton." Well, thanks a heap. Oh, that's right .. I use that expression. Am I the only one left in the U.S. who does?

Dave said...

We can bring you some Vegemite to try. It looks like apple butter but tastes like brine.

When you use Heap in a sentence, are you discussing memory allocation? ;)

Dave V. said...

Did you meet a man from Brussells that was six-foot-four and full of muscles? Oh, and I think your "foot wash" may have actually been made for artistic purposes, but I gather you're making a joke ;)

Glad to hear your NYE was funtastic! Miss you guys!

Dave said...

You can't see it in the picture, but 10 other people and a dog were using the footwash too... you really think it was art?? :)

Karen the first said...

I think the term "heap" is common to us oldsters. I'm not sure I've used it lately but I'm definitely familiar with it. I think it was frequently used in Westerns like "You're in a heap of trouble mister."