A Homecoming Thirty Years in the Making
Our Australian adventure had me coming back to a place I called home during the first half of 1989. It was an opportunity for me to do a lot of reflecting both on how much that long-ago trip altered the trajectory of my life, and how much has changed since.
My first adventure in Coogee and Clovelly gave me a skill that has helped me get on a wonderful path in life. The skill of making decisions that made most sense for me and not just following the norms that many others choose. Coming back to Coogee, 29 years later, gave me an opportunity to look back on some of those decisions, look back on my life and also to wallow in some fantastic memories. What a time it was in 89. A gang of free spirits all finding themselves in the same corner of the world; where days were spent telling stories, laughing a lot, sipping lager and contemplating all that life has to offer. Going back to the epicentre of many weeks of living large, if only for an hour, was important to me. A bit hard to explain why I had this warm sensation, a quiet grin and true peace of mind. Returning to Coogee felt important, like closing a circle of sorts.
Bye Bye Southeast Asia
On to the Aussie leg of our journey. We were a little sad to leave Bali as it was such a unique and happy experience for us. A lot of good memories created there. But back to a land of comforts, a land like home – no more language barriers, no more food experiments, no more monkeys roaming the streets. Australia is a lot like Canada and we were happy to be in familiar surroundings again (meaning we could read the street signs and menus.)
One unfortunate thing we had to deal with on our arrival was the theft of our credit card information. Our best guess is that this happened while we were stuck at the Bali airport overnight. Our flight was cancelled and we found ourselves sleeping on the floor in a corner of the departure area until the next morning. When I logged on the check our Visa balance, ouch, a nice collection of $200 cash withdrawals, adding up to a few thousand dollars. Serious props though to Chase bank for quickly sorting everything out and taking care of everything. The charges were all reversed within a couple weeks.
Our first stop was Cairns and it was a very pleasant stay, if a little uneventful. We had planned on taking a day cruise to the reef for some snorkelling. Baharak and I throughout this trip have to make some tough choices as our bank account isn’t self-replenishing. We knew the New Zealand camper van was going to be quite expensive so we had to make some cuts. We decided that since snorkelling was great in Bali and expensive in Australia, that we could live without it. Turns out it was dark and rainy on the day we were considering going.
Rain Rain Go Away
Oh and did it rain. Not sure if I’ve ever seen it come down like that. A good part of visiting Cairns was spent inside, staying dry. When we did get out, we went for a very nice walk through their botanical gardens. Very well kept up, stunning trees, a butterfly enclosure and all at no cost. Another bit of free entertainment was just watching the flying foxes just outside our apartment. At first, I thought they were very large birds, then Kasm tells me they’ re bats. No way! These were big enough to carry away a small child. Seeing them up close was very cool. Rounding out the Northen part of our Aussie stay was some Netflix binge watching and some walks along the boardwalk.
Sydney was the next destination, Potts Point to be exact. Our apartment there is worth noting, one of the nicest places we’ve stayed in. If available I recommend it, great location, nice spot for drinks right behind the apt. and walkable to the downtown core.
Our first day was spent walking around downtown. As mentioned, a homecoming for me. I was really looking forward to seeing the city again. The old QVB, one of my favourite places to hang around in town, hasn’t changed a bit – I imagine it hasn’t changed much in 100 years. The same can’t be said for the Darling Harbour area. I don’t know what’s happened there but it used to be a beautiful, wide open place where tons of folks would relax on the greenspace. Seems most of that green has been built on and the area doesn’t have the same appeal that it once did.
Return to Coogee
The day I was really looking forward to was my return to Coogee/Clovelly. I spent six months of my youth there, spending days upon days meeting and drinking with folks from all corners of the world. To make a very long story as short as possible, I arrived in Australia in Jan ’89 a fairly troubled young man with no sense of my future or of myself. I left the country six months later, brimming with confidence and feeling like I could do anything I chose to. So – in a way, I feel like I was born there and returning meant a lot. Kasm and Baharak were likely bored for most of the day but she knew it was important for me. To go back to the Coogee Bay Hotel and sip a schooner of VB, with the two people most important in my life meant coming full circle. We walked all the way from Potts Point to Coogee, a quite long walk but enjoyable. The weather was perfect and the stroll gave me ample time for reflection.
I lived in two places in the suburbs of Sydney, a house in Clovelly where ten crazy travellers became the very best of friends and a hostel on Beach street where I lived in a converted garage that four of us called home for a month – we named it the Swamp and had many fellow backpackers pop in for tall tales and refreshments. Both buildings no longer exist but standing on the same spots three decades later meant a lot.
Getting back to the present, our stay in Sydney was very pleasant. Baharak had an issue with her iPhone battery deciding to gain some serious weight, so much so that it burst through the casing. The good folks at the Apple store set her up with a new handset. Walking around downtown, by the Opera House and through The Rocks made up another day. Wonderful weather made for doing something we love, meandering through unexplored streets and trying new restaurants, very enjoyable.
Kasm had a great time at the Sydney Museum, checking out a vast collection of animals and dinosaurs (really, a very solid collection) and to top it off, the budding rock collector had a chance to see one of the greatest collections of gems & stones ever assembled – the Albert Chapman collection. The boy was in a glittering, rock & gem filled heaven. Even this oldster was impressed.
With all the reminiscing and reflecting done it was time to come back to the present and probably the nicest moment spent in Sydney was simply sitting with my beautiful wife, sipping some wine and chatting at a cafe, in the small street behind our apartment.
Kasm was twenty feet above us, up in the room, poking his nose down to the street below to make sure we didn’t run off on him. It’s in these brief moments, sharing a life, sharing an adventure and simply sharing some laughs and some wine that I really feel true bliss. Next stop, New Zealand and the South Island camper van expedition.