I am giddy with excitement. Masks are required in the Sydney airport, and seriously, if they weren’t, there’s no doubt I would have gotten some strange looks. As I got off the plane and walked through immigration, customs, and towards the train, I couldn’t help myself but randomly smile. I was doing it! I was literally on the other side of the world…all by myself! At one point as I was heading towards the train, I felt a tear fall. I am so proud of myself.
To be clear, I am only in Australia for 36 hours. I am heading to Bali and had the option of getting on another 6.5-hour flight, after an already exhausting 24 hours, or spending the night in Sydney. I opted for a long layover, which I’ve never been able to do before. My flight landed around 7 am and I knew it was going to rain in the afternoon, so I decided to head straight into the city with my bag in tote so I could see a few things before the rain came. I would rest in the afternoon when the weather was not so great.
I paid for my train ticket and as soon as I crossed the entry point, a young man working for the metro system asked if I needed help on the train. I really didn’t think I did (my brother was just in Australia and told me it was 100% accessible). But here I was, all alone for the first time, so I said, “Sure.” Guys, this is totally unlike me to accept someone’s help. I am learning. I am growing. None the less, he got a ramp out of a closet and we waited for the next train to pull up. It arrived and it was absolutely accessible, just a small gap – maybe 3 inches – to get into the train. I let him put the ramp down since he was so kind to get it out, but now I at least know that it is totally fine for the next time.
It was about a 30-minute train ride from the airport to Circular Quay, which is a wharf in the heart of the city. From here, I was able to see the Sydney Opera House and grab some photos. Just a few blocks away is a neighborhood called The Rocks. It’s a quaint street with cafes and restaurants lining it, all available for outside seating. I stopped for a coffee and avocado toast. When I asked for a black coffee, the waiter simply said, “Ok, you want a long black pour.” No Americano here. No black coffee here. Just long black pour. Oh, I also had a bunch of water here. I didn’t get up to go to the bathroom once on my 15-hour flight! I was, and probably still am, quite dehydrated.
From The Rocks, I headed over to see the Botanical Gardens. It was up a medium sized hill, which normally would not be much of an issue for me, especially since the sidewalks were all in great condition. However, I was carrying my 20-pound backpack on my front side, so I moved slowly, to say the least. Of course, I made it, I always do, and I appreciated that anyone who walked by me did so gracefully and didn’t assume I needed help. I’m sure I fit in from an appearance standpoint. After all, it’s a very white population with light hair and light eyes.
One of the most common pieces of advice for solo female travelers is to walk like you know what you are doing, where you are going, and to be full of confidence. Of course, I have no idea where I’m going. I have no idea what I’m doing. But you better believe I walked – well, wheeled – the city like I owned it.
As I suspected, it started pouring down rain around noon. My hotel was a 20-minute walk from the train station, which I had planned to do, but given the sudden downpour, I attempted to order an Uber. The first driver could not find me on the corner of a very busy intersection and eventually cancelled my ride. I decided to move a few blocks away, further from the busy corner. I was attempting to stay under coverings near the buildings, but it really was not working. I was soaked, literally dripping in rain water, by the time I was able to successfully get into a car. Twenty minutes or so later I had made it to my hotel.
I had to wait about an hour before my room was ready, so I found an outlet in the lobby and started charging my very dead phone. Once in the room, I pulled my things out of my bag and laid them out to dry. They were also drenched in rain water. When I plugged in my power converter to get my computer recharged, it did nothing. The USB outlets worked, but the power block for my Mac was doing nothing. Crap, I thought. I only have one converter. I was incredibly exhausted at this point and figured that as long as my phone was charging, I would deal with the rest later. Lo and behold, I did get it working after a few hours of sleep. It’s now 1 am and I realize I’ve got some serious jetlag to overcome.
So, in my very short time in Sydney, I learned that it is not a cheap place. The metro was expensive; my hotel is expensive; food is expensive. But it’s a modern place, much like The States. I will most certainly be back to Australia, there’s no doubt about that. After all, I still need to see some kangaroos and dive The Great Barrier Reef. But my 36 hours gave me a great taste for a beautiful country, and a nice place to rest my head before I head to Bali. Eeekk!