Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mellow in the best of ways

 Have you ever had a day where everything goes spectacularly right? I just have and let me tell you it can equally be as much of a mind fuck as the day that goes entirely wrong. These rare occasions seem to come around just when you need them giving you a well needed boost and spring in your step.  Lumbering about gets tiresome and an unexpected refresher from the everyday comes as a well needed surprise.

I had booked a cruse about a month and a half ago for whale watching outside of Sydney, the weather at the start of the week had predicted the Saturday of departure as beautifully sunny, clear and warm; however as the day crept closer so did the clouds and that sunny glorious forecast turned treacherous. My weather app displayed pictures of ominous clouds before turning into emoticons of lightening, exactly what I most dreaded seeing. I’ve never been on a boat in the open ocean, I have no idea if I’d get sea sick on a good day; boat in a storm is a disaster waiting to happen.

At the time of this specific word its Saturday night, let me take you back to Friday 2 am….

I wake up to the sound to a downpour, my hand out of habit jumps to grab my ipod. In a bit of a haze I check the weather report again seeing nothing but endless rain in the forecast, I'm never one to believe the weather app on Apple however as they are wrong about 50% of the time but the pouring rain wasn't doing anything to ease my mind. I felt like turning off my alarm and sleeping in, I decided against it I didn't really have to be up particularly early anyways. I went back to sleep awakening periodically throughout the early morning glancing at the clouds hoping at one point in waking up they’d be gone.

Now whales don’t care about the rain but I did, I of course would not be leaving home without my camera. I had the protection on that covered with my waterproof backpack but my notebooks and laptop couldn’t be risked. I had planned on visiting the Opera bar after the cruse for what I expected would be a well needed drink and some blogging, I'm becoming a huge fan of leaving the house for my writing I find myself to be far more productive with a beer and change of scenery, but that now seemed unlikely.

I made my way out of bed quickly seeing a text from my host mom asking if i’d like a ride to the shopping complex at Hornsby to catch an earlier and closer train. I had 30 minutes. It was still raining and I was beginning to wonder if I should try and reschedule the trip. I figured it was too late and despite no longer being excited I packed my things and got ready to go in the laziest way possible by throwing on leggings, boots and a hoodie.

I arrived at the train station unsurprised to see a sign for track work on my line I looked around, no listing for trains headed to the city. It cant be, I followed the signs for buses estimating in my mind the amount of time it would take to get there, prospects didn't look too good. I walked up to the first neon vest I saw and asked if I needed to grab a bus to get to central, the man responded by pointing in the direction of the stop then graciously added it’d be much quicker to catch the Gordon line instead since with the buses you’d have to switch in Epping. I stared at him utterly confused but pretended to understand nodding and stroking my chin, yes yes; I thanked him and started walking back to the track signs. I noticed one sign had changed with the departure of the train before, Gordon something something 2 mins, I didn't have time to read it because my eyes flashed to 2 mins and my legs propelled me towards the gate. Where is Gordon? Is it going North or South? I have no idea what I’m doing but there is a train there so here I go. I jumped through the doors with a few seconds to save, I glance at the list of stops seeing a dozen I didn’t recognise. Just as I was considering jumping out to look at the sign outside (smart idea right?) the doors shut. The train started inching forward in the general city direction, good, then North Sydney flashes past on the screen and the city stops follow. Thank goodness I had asked that guy and just went for it, often when I get too confused my mind shuts down and I stall making bad calls. A bus would have been an enormous waste of time and likely would have caused me missing the boat I needed all the time I could get, I still didn't really know where I was going in Darling Harbor to board.

The track work couldn't have been better I ended up getting there earlier than expected at a stop even closer to my destination giving me time for coffee and proper map examining trying to figure out where I was. I wandered around walking unsurely in the correct direction, there were no signs of any sort but the instructions were so self explanatory I doubted them. I noticed small groups of equally as confused looking people arriving around where the paper said I should be and figured I must be doing something right. Made it with about 30 mins to spare, I snapped a few photos looking to kill time.

Off in the distance soon after I began taking photos I saw a bit of blue creep through the clouds, could it be? I watched the spot grow as the mass of grey began to clear, would this be a sunny day after all? I had only been making jokes the night before with my host mom how i’d be fine with rain as long as it was enough to cancel soccer and stop in time for the boat ride.

Time dragged and people shuffled from one leg to the other staring off into the water and talking to each other, this was one of those occasions where being a lone traveler weighs a bit heavy; I'm a social person when I’m forced to be when I'm not I couldn't be bothered with small talk. I spent a bit of time in a line not my own before moving over to the correct ramp. It was a pretty small boat considering the amount of people on it, comfortable but when the time came for whales I knew it'd be a mashing of folks on all sides. As we pulled away from the dock the sky was looking promising and only improving each minute. I felt lucky hoping that it wasn't just a fluke with a storm hiding just beyond my zone of sight or worse out at sea. We pulled out of Darling Harbor and took the familiar scenic city scape path under the Harbor Bridge and past the Opera House, pristine skies. I had been on the boat to Manly multiple times and had seen these views enough not to be immersed completely in them but found myself in awe inspired at the fortuitous turn of weather.

We cruised past a huge cluster of sailboats, a race was scheduled for that day and amongst the hordes of bobbing boats I wondered how they could get into anything resembling order. We turned towards the Manly cliffs, gateway to the open ocean, I had never journeyed past them and was surprised to almost immediately go past a fur seal regulating ins temperature in the brisk waters. It was waving fins in the air floating leisurely so non chalant about being alone this far out in the water, I know they're marine life and all but its hard to imagine considering they're the preferred meal of so many predators… Its pretty amazing to see that this close outside of such a populated harbor marine life is just floating about relaxing in the waves, you forget growing up with New Jersey beaches things actually live in the water. Apparently according to the man with the mic on the ship the waves this day was one of the calmest of the year, for that I was thankful and now positive I would have been sea sick otherwise. Birds flew about and sat on the surface bobbing up and down with the current, it may have been calm but it still was powerful. Off in the distance clouds were sitting like a wall above the water, the sign of the EAC (East Australian Current, dude). People had now crowded outside onto the front of the boat, myself included staring out into the waves looking for anything living. The ocean is so tremulous that really telling anything from a distance is a task, I now have significantly less hope for survival if I ever get lost at sea. 

Eyes scanned the horizon, someone yelled out every time they saw something that resembled what they thought a whale would look like. For about 40 mins we stood there squinting against the bright blue. Finally someone with far sharper eyes than myself called it right, a water plume rose above the surface and a faint glimmer of silver breached the waves in an arch, the first of the sightings. By this point I was trying to distract myself from the sickness feelings I either had or imagined I had; I propped my leg up on a box and pretending I was a captain of an old fashioned ship looking for land after being at sea for ages. When I saw the plume and wanted to point and yell, “therrr she blows!” I didn't to my eternal regret, maybe next time. 

We had found a group of 5 humpback whales, a competition pod according to the mic guy. This sent a noticeable wave of excitement throughout the crowd as if we were possibly about to witness some aqua WWE. We didn’t, and a good thing for that if you ask me, from what I understand whales fight nasty using the barnacles under their chins to scrape each others eyes out, vicious stuff that. We followed them for quite a while and they even decided to come close to the boat for a minute or two. There was no leaps, no fights and no ramming of the boat it was however amazing in every way to see these beauties of the deep. I’ve always felt very bad the only whale I’ve seen is an Orca at Sea World, Florida... I was always pretty obsessed with Free Willy.

It ended up taking so long to find the whales we had to head back after what felt like a short amount of time, it was a lot longer than it felt however the 4 hours passing like nothing. On the ride back to the city the storm I had been taunted with raged north of Sydney a fair distance from the the boat, it could have even possibly been over Brooklyn but distance was hard to gauge from that far out. The rain looked thick and I was once again reminded how lucky we were to have gotten this unbelievable day.

I was getting dizzy, I held strong eager not to make sea sickness part of my life and luckily got back in to the harbor before I felt any worse. With in the hour I was wobbly and back on land never prouder to have not been sick and attempting to walk in the least drunk looking manner possible.

My plans to get a few drinks at the Opera Bar were thwarted by lack of seating, a common problem and my indifference to actually finding a place to set up writing camp. I had wanted Indian food specifically Vindaloo and a spicy one at that so I decided to set off an find that instead. I quickly grew tired of looking , I don't think my heart was really in the actual finding of a restaurant I instead stopped in Woolworths to get Siracha to slather on something at home. Alas the scourge of my shopping here no siracha to be found. I walked defeated towards the train stain outside, there was nothing going direct to my stop i’d have to get off at Hornsby and switch if I wanted to leave anytime soon. Fine I can go to Coles and try again for my precious red spicy sauce. I was beat and tempted to sleep but I kept up with music and thoughts of going to the atm and getting what I need at the shops.

Hornsby was shockingly closed up at 8:00 on a Saturday night most stores save a few restaurants, ice cream shop and the grocery/liquor store had the gates down. That's always one thing that surprises me having left the USA stores actually close at a reasonable hour, had I been employed in my usual choice of shit jobs I’d be very happy for it. I waltzed into the store and stared at the signs looking for sauces. No siracha, I could have sworn I bought it here once, shit. I went to international foods nope but wait! Vindaloo whoop whoop, it was bought and for that I may one day be sorry but not yet. I figured for this celebratory feast i should grab a good drink as well. Red wine is my go to because its delicious but mainly because its cheap. I looked around pondering like a wine connoisseur, hmmm interesting I thought as I mentally red X’ed anything over 10 bucks. I eventually settled or Yellow Tail Sangria, I think I may have really might have been getting a bit delirious because I got really excited. I left hoping a train would arrive to take me home asap, 55 mins was the closest train. Shit, I was hungry and so excited to get home. I saw a Vietnamese restaurant right across the street and figured if anything I could get a few rice paper rolls to hold me over. I stood watching two women blatantly ignore me for a few minutes, got all the time in the world I though smiling. When finally one approached me and listened to my apparently uninterpretable accent I managed to get my order in after floating in a sea of what’s? 10 mins down I thought, I walked to the platform and started eating. A train stopped going towards central the next was headed towards Gosford. Gosford I thought, the familiar north or south question hit me. It left in 20 mins and as the sign changed I saw Hawkesby River flash by and found my journey cut by 20 minutes.

We so easily see the days where everything just goes wrong so its a nice change of pace to notice one where everything happens for the best consistently. I got home cooked up my tasty feast that if you ask me could have been spicier, drank my sangria and watched my first ever episode of Geordie Shore, its the worst.

I woke up on Sunday unsure of the time, it really didn't even matter anyways. I got out of bed pining for that first cup of coffee. I had a ton of photo editing to get through from the day before, I had gotten a bit trigger happy with all the excitement. I curled back up into bed with my hot joe and jumped onto the mac scanning the editing and photo choices. About 25% of the work was done for me from last night, not too shabby. I spent a few hours working as the photo life generally goes and debated returning to Sydney for the Aroma Festival a gathering of coffee and chocolate alike, very tempting indeed. Laziness threatened my day as I ate my breakfast, I had excuses galore for sitting on my ass all day, I could write my blog post I thought. My writing self and I are good friends, we tolerate each other most times and can agree on certain times to actually sit down and work but I'm so easily distracted at home therefore I’ve found public transportation and comfortable chairs outside the house to be a good place to work. After a bit of back and forth I figured i’d be trapped in the house all week anyways might as well escape while I can. I got dressed with an hour to go before the train dragging my feet the whole way somewhat unsure of why exactly I was so opposed to leaving the house. I needed energy, energy only a coffee festival could supply. 

A bit of eye candy for you, I dont like too many words either.

Leaving from the home station cut down on confusion as the train went straight to the city with less stops. I spent that time writing and working on my unfinished tasks from The Artists Way a book I highly recommend to the struggling creative. As we pulled into Central I promptly went down the wrong stairs going in a circle before ending up on the same platform directly across where I had just arrived. The inner city train filled up as it generally does and I was off to Circular Quay, which I pronounced kway for way too long, it actually sounds like key… As I walked off the train I was engulfed in a thick mass of humanity a free for all of sporadic movement. One thing i’ve found out about Aus is there seems to be no proper walking direction, city streets are just a giant game of frogger with other people. I figured drive on the left walk on the left however people who think that sensibly are the minority, I've seen too many old people get knocked into one old guy in particular even hit a middle age woman back when she crashed into him.

I tried to escape the station as quickly as possible hating every moment of forced interaction and could have ran spinning into the open spaces like the sound of music. I saw the tents of the coffee festival and walked over excited to get a cup of something special.

The coffee was aromatic, the chocolate mouth watering and the lines enormous. I couldn't be bothered to wait for any of it. Sydney throws a great many cultural and culinary festivals but they are always packed to the brim. It was a mouse step at a time to get anywhere. I crawled the entire thing taking in all the different tents, mainly tourist goods. Not wanting to just walk through and take no part of the festivities I entered the Rocks pop up bar. The Rocks Brewery needs a shout out because they make a pretty fine Porter, I would have tried more if I had gotten there earlier however downing beers in an hour would have left me in a bad spot. They are some of the first people i’ve seen to admit to being the relatives of convicts which I find very admirable. The convict history overly denied, I don't believe there should be any shame in that history many were the victim of hard times, resorting to petty crime and punished severely by British policy. I bet they're a cool bunch of brewers.

I walked over to the Opera Bar ready to set up for some writing, work time by the water very serene. No seats were available so I wandered eventually just going to the bar figuring i’d find something. I felt an urge to order onion rings but decided to hold off until I was really hungry. I had my drink in hand and spied an open table. I dashed in that direction but it was swooped upon by a woman before I could get to it. I made a unintentional crushed face and quickly spun full circle looking for another. The woman who took the seat smiled and waved me over asking if I’d like to share it, it was only her and her husband. I made a few polite no, that's alrights before accepting her offer. I took out my notebook and explained I was writing a blog and made brief small talk, she was a very friendly Australian as they all seem to be; her and her husband were off to the West Coast in a few weeks funny enough. I wrote and we chatted on and off, her husband did a motorcycle trip across the USA, very easy rider like i’d imagine. They ordered onion rings and insisted I have some, it was a great day.