Tag Archives: Sydney

Running up that hill

Last Monday, we had our second last day of class. We had a paper and a portfolio to turn in the next day, but I managed to get 99% of it done by the time London Mike bowled in from San Andres that afternoon.

I had somehow managed to score myself a ‘job’ hosting trivia up at the Irish pub and I was due to start at 7, so I made arrangements to meet him beforehand for dinner & drinks.

I was having a post-class bevy the week before, minding my own business, when I got the gig. I got talking to the bartender who suggested I stick around for trivia that night. I mentioned that I used to host a night in Sydney, the boss overheard me & asked me, “Would you like to host ours next week?”

Sure. Why not.

He gave me a one pager which answered most of my questions. I asked him how much he’d pay me. He said he’d pay me with a dinner and all I could drink. I laughed and asked him if he knew I was Australian. We shook hands, and that was that.

London Mike and I had met in San Ignacio Belize, had met up again in Flores (in the north of Guatemala) and had kept in touch while we both studying. Sometimes when you meet people on the road, they remind you of friends back home and it instantaneously feels familiar. It’s like that with Mike, who I had nicknamed Sparkles. We were both looking forward to catching up and letting our hair down a bit.

It was a pretty international crowd at Riley’s and they got rowdier & rowdier as the night went on, but it was a fun night. Sparkles pitched in with the scoring and music round, so it was an easy night for me. I drank like drinking was a sport, and I was representing Australia. We stayed until stumps. Sparkles walked me to my door and stumbled off into the distance to his hotel.

On Tuesday, I woke up with a raging hangover the size of a Whopper burger. I only just scraped through that last day of school, and somehow managed to finish all my work.

I called Sparkles, when I knocked off. He was having a social in a nice little courtyard bar with Dave – an Aussie bloke he’d bonded with during a small bus crash up north. I met them for a beer. We later met another one of Sparkle’s mates on a rooftop bar, a young Scottish lad by the name of Cameron, who would come to make a really big impression on me in a very short space of time. We ended up in the bar where Shelby sells shots on Ladies’ Night. You can get a plate of nachos about the size of a horse’s head at Monoloco’s. I kid you not. And damn good they are, too. So we did. Many beers later and I have to say I don’t really remember much of the night.

I collected Sparkles on Wednesday morning, we went to the markets to get some stuff for dinner, and then went for a walk up to Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross). I can see it from my lil casa. It’s lit up at night, providing a nifty navigational point if you’re really drunk. I’m sure that’s not what it was designed for, but it’s come in handy a couple of times. There’s a great vista of the city from up there. It was a cracker of a day, so we decided to go back to the Sky Cafe to get the photos we missed the day before. We ambled about a bit more and then went our separate ways for a few hours.

I had him and my lovely teacher, now neighbour (just call him Stalker Phil) over for a roast dinner. Phil’s from Watford and there’s not a lot of English folk here, so I thought he might appreciate Mike’s company and a traditional English meal. I did a bloody good job of it, even if I do say so myself and we had a very civilised night.

Thursday, Sparkles and I were up at 6 to climb Pacaya, an active volcano about 1 & ½ hrs drive from here. After being dormant for a century, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been erupting continuously since then. The last time was in May last year. It rises to an elevation of 2,552m which is just slightly higher than Mt Kosciusko, NSW.

I leaned in to talk with Sparkles at one point on the bus trip in, and all I could smell was booze. I don’t think I smelt much better, truth be told.

It was a hard 1 & ½ hour hike up a pretty steep incline. I was bringing up the rear of our group, huffing & puffing and behind me were about ½ dozen caballeros – basically dudes with horses. The word translates to gentlemen in Spanish, but they were pissin’ me off by breathing down the back of my neck and asking me if I wanted a “taxi” the whole freakin way. As much as I would have loved to have jump on one, I knew I would regret it if I did. The only way you’d get me on one of those things is if I was with a particular group of friends and we were in fancy dress. You know who you are.

I made it. And it was totally worth it. Even though, we didn’t have the clearest day, it was simply stunning in a very surreal way. It was like standing on another planet. Volcanic ash is like rough, rocky black sand. There was a remarkable amount of tenacious greenery growing. Smoke billowed from natural potholes. We climbed into a big one and it was like stepping into a natural sauna in the cloudy chill cloaking the mountain. We toasted marshmallows, and breathed in the sharp crisp air.

I had an afternoon kip, and later that night, met up with Phil, Sparkles and Cameron and a few others at Gaia – a gorgeous hookah bar with lush cushions and beautiful decor. We had a few drinks and easy conversation, while an awesome local band played. Albeit too loudly. But hey, it’s Latin America – they don’t do ambience here.

Friday afternoon, Sparkles, Cameron and I had a very cultural afternoon. We stopped into La Merced, which is a building I’ve walked past nearly every day. It used to be an old monastery, which was built in the 1700s. Outside, there are all these intricate white religious carvings, niched into the happy yellow walls. Inside is surprisingly massive and the courtyard features the largest water fountain in Antigua. From the top terrace, you’ll get a great view of Volcán de Fuego, which you can see almost everywhere from this pretty little city. But not like this.

We then walked up to a place called Casa Santa Domingo, a glorious old hotel which is situated in the stupidly beautiful grounds of another monastery. We wondered around for a while, oohing and ahhing at the gardens and the statues
and the art and the relics and the pretty Scarlet Macaws, which are kinda like rainbow lorikeets but bigger and brighter.

From there, we got a ride in a fancy golf cart to a place called El Tenedor del Cerro (which translates to “the fork on the hill”). It’s essentially a wedding reception venue / high-end restaurant, but the reason we went there is because the place offers what has to be the best views of the city, and all throughout the grounds is this eclectic collection of completely unexpected weird-arse large-scale sculpture by lauded local artists. We spent a good couple of hours there, taking photos and fooling around.

We missed the return shuttle so I flagged down a fancy car to hitch a ride back down the hill. The wife of the Guatemalan driver was an American lady, all decked out in jewels. I asked her for her story and she told us she had been living here on-and for some 30 odd years. Her mother was a missionary who took in 58 orphans and gave them a home. She told us she was still in contact with many of them. Amazing story right there in a 15 min drive. Awesome stuff.

We parted ways for a bit of downtime. The boys had to pack as they were both leaving the next day. Cameron back home to pick up his studies back in Scotland. And Sparkles was headed for Honduras. We met up one last time at Monoloco with all their mates. Many beers and many silly photos later, I bid my farewell to them both rather unceremoniously, given how much I had enjoyed their company. It’s very likely Sparkles & I will be able to link up again in Nicaragua. and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cameron rocks up on my doorstep one day.

I’ve spent the last two days just chilling out, mucking around on my new netbook, listening to music, watching movies, cooking meals and drinking wine. I did venture out yesterday afternoon for a tasty Asian meal and a poke around a contemporary artist’s workshop, but apart from that – it’s been
pretty quiet since the boys left town. Which has been fine by me…

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Dirty Boulevard

The streets are orderly but that’s about the only thing about NYC that is. Chaos Theory lives here. And She’s not even trying to hide her crazy. In fact, She and the whole goddam city is gunna shake it all about.

I spent my first day walking around laughing at all the nutbags, only to resemble one myself. I swear I was standing next to Woody Allen on a street corner, who was urging the pedestrian lights to turn white with an emphatic Brooklyn accent, “oh-Kay, oh-Kay!”

So, here are a few random observations about this vivacious city, which had me at hello.

You can appear in an interactive billboard ad in Times Square. However, there would be zero brand recall due to the bigger, brighter, more badass billboards that are EVERYWHERE.

There’s a lot of booty in NYC. Some of it – good, some of it – frankly alarming. And you can buy jeans that in that shape.

There are more delis than you can poke a pickle at. There are more pharmacies than you can poke a Panadol at. And what’s more, you can buy a 6 pack with your Zanax. (crib note: I find it disconcerting that my iPad knew that’s what I wanted to spell.)

New Yorkers are super polite, super friendly and super helpful. Expect to be blessed by pretty much everyone around you if you sneeze.

Male to female ratio in pubs, bars, clubs, parties, etc: much better than in Sydney. If you’re outnumbered in Sydney, you are in a gay bar. Or at the Commercial at Liverpool, near Campbelltown. If you are in the Commercial at Liverpool, and are still alive, you need to leave NOW.

Toilets and paper towels are for the most part very confusing.

If you so much as look sideways at a man, he will shower you in compliments. (The following must be read in any variation of a New York accent): “You got a gorgeous smile, sweetheart!”; “mmmhmm, nice ass’ girrrl”, etc etc.

All homeless people have got a story.

You can’t get a decent feed midtown. The coffee all over town is mostly rubbish, average at best. And they want to intravenously fill you with that shit.

Bartenders know their trade.

So, I managed to cram quite a bit in, in just one week:

Sunk beers with a Sergeant from the NYPD.
Had brekky with Naomi in a proper diner.
Walked the streets. Yes, almost all of them.
Cruised around Chelsea Markets. Saw a free short film in a pop up cinema.
Strolled around Central Park with Lea, we visited Strawberry Fields.
Did the Met (later i did the MoMa – my kind of museum).
That night, Charlotte took us to a warehouse party in Brooklyn.
Saw the Statue of Liberty (she’s purdy). On Statten Island, we fell into in a tiny jazz jam in someone’s house.
Saw the WTC site.
Got a massage in Chinatown.
Had an appletini in a salsa bar.
Bummed around Brooklyn. It’s gritty urban colorful cool. Had an amazing wood smoked salmon BLT.
I made my own muppet in the toy store where Tom Hanks danced on the floor piano in Big. I’ve named her Sassy and she’s staying with Angie while I travel.
I had emergency root canal.
Did the Top of the Rock, and then
last night Angie & Dave took me to some cool lil digs around the Lower East Side & surrounds. I was shuffle board queen in a studenty jazz bar, where you can get a $1 massage (!) On Naomi’s recommendation we went to a place that specializes in Mac&Cheese. We then rung a phone to get into an old prohibition bar called PDT. Gorgeous cocktails, lots of stuffed animals. And a no phone rule. Dave’s Old Fashioned had a bacon smoked ice cube.
Today I’ve been dodging the rain in Greenwich where Bob Dylan & Kerouac hung out…and finally I’ve found a decent cup of cawfee.

So, yes I’ve fallen in love. With a whole goddamn city. New York – I’ll see you soon x

PS, I’m now on the flight to San Francisco from New Jersey. Can I just say, I love the joisoy accyent.

20 May

Free Falling

I have always been jealous of birds… When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a pilot. My dad organized a joy flight in a Cesna at Camden, not far from where i was born.

Takeoff took my breath away… I remember our pilot letting me take the controls. We circled, climbing the skies. My little heart soared and sank again when he informed me I’d better be good at maths if I wanted to fly.

A few years later I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. A simple parable about the power of spreading our wings, that really spoke to me on a very personal level.

When I was 21, I learned how to skydive & jumped out of a plane. Free falling would have to be the ultimate in utter abandonment. Your heart throbs in your throat, your head, your eyes.

You lose all sense of time & space. Your body, your self. The sky spins in all directions. I’d compare it to love or the first time I took ecstasy but it’s not even close.

For my 40th birthday I’d put hangliding on my wish-list. My workmates came good. After a few cancellations, the planets aligned and I ended up going last Friday. The conditions were perfect. It was a cracking day.

One step, two steps, jog, jog, run (screeeeeeem) – the ground snaps away fast from under your feet. And it’s just you, your pilot and essentially a big big kite. Instead of the sky spinning, it starts spanning.

Opening up. Your lungs expand. You breathe in deep and ex-hhhale. Mouth open wide, eyes open wide. Stretched across the sky like a Slessor poem. Or like the Sydney skyline I just left behind.

I’ve always been jealous of birds. Now I have no reason to be. Today, I am as free as they. I might not be piloting the plane I write this on, but I am certainly spreading my wings.

12 May