So, my first quest to the Southern Hemisphere started as many of my international journeys unfortunately tend to, with a trip to the doctors. On the 14.5 hour direct flight, I immediately came down with a case of tonsilitis, which, being my third bout of the summer, means I most likely will have to get my tonsils removed within the coming year. Regardless, my spirits were high and I didn’t let it get me down. My father and I arrived at Sydney International and immediatley boarded the train for downtown. As we arrived we contacted our friends Julie and Javier, who told us to take Ferry number 3 across the bay to Manly, the town where they live and would be waiting for us.
We boarded the ferry and were treated to quite the unexpectedly amazing ride. As the ferry pushed across the bay, spectacular views of Sydney unfolded before us. The scenery was almost too picturesque, with Sydney Opera House resounding in an idyllic beauty worthy of any respectable postcard.
The atmosphere is cool and temperate, but looks tropical, almost like paradise. We met two travelers, most likely in their mid-twenties on the seats next to us, who were from Portland and Seattle. They gave us some tips on what to enjoy in the coming days.
As the ferry docked and we unloaded, we were immediately greated by Julie, Javier and their ten yearl old daughter Lulu. Javier is a PhD in Archaeology from Berkeley who is now teaching at the University of Sydney. Julie is a tour guide at a historical garden here. We know them because Julie and my mother used to dance together at Mills. Javier is from Madrid and Julie from the California. They met in France while they were both living there. Javier only spoke Spanish and French, while Julie spoke French and English. They conversed in French and eventually learned eachothers native languages, becoming tri-lingual. Pretty impressive if you ask me. Javier has always still had a thick Spanish accent, which makes it extremely interesting to listen to him. Julie seems to be picking up a bit of an Aussie accent which is also very fun to hear. Lulu is one of the most delightful ten year olds I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. She talks a mile a minute with all the charisma in the world and regails us with stories constantly, not leaving out a single detail.
They greated us enthusiastically and we walked into downtown Manly. Manly, which is in the state of New South Wales, is the most beautiful little beach town imaginable. Most everything is within walking distance or accesible by ferry. Javier and Julie don’t even need a car. The first thing we did was sit down at a cafe in the main square for coffee and conversation. As soon as this was done, Lulu walked to school and Javier took me to the doctors. Within 20 minutes I had met with a doctor, been assessed, and gotten the Penicillin I needed.
We then settled into their flat. Javier, Julie and Lulu live on the 2nd floor of a building right near the harbor. Their flat looks just as I would hope a PhD Archaeologist’s would. The place is decorated with artifacts and antiques all over the walls, with shelves overflowing with books. Their is little to no technology aside from the computer which Javier must have for research and writing. The whole place framed in rich molding and big windows overlooking the courtyard.
As soon as we had showered and had tea, we went for a walk along the coast. It seemed like every turn created us with amazing beaches, sandy, wind weathered coastal buildings and amazingly rich vegetation. The birds here are marvelous and I was surprised to learn that large cockatiels reside all over.
In fact, we were greated by several on our walk. We hiked up a hill, through old remnants of artillery stations from WWII and through brush and grasses taller than us. We arrived at the edge of epic cliffs and sat on the edge for a while as we watched seaplanes overhead and sailboats below. From our vantage point we could see all the ins and outs of the rocky coastline, dotted with cliff houses and sun kissed beaches.
We kept walking along the coast, stopping to watch surfers and rock jumpers.
Eventually we made our way back into the main parts of town to pick Lulu up from school. We got back to their flat and talked of our plans for the upcoming week and my energy quickly faded. I got to my bed and sleep hit me like a freight train. I slept for around 13 hours. I guess I’m making up for not sleeping much for the last 3 months.
We spent much of the next day exploring Manly and relaxing on the beach. On our way their we went to the post office with Javier to send in his complete and final copy, ready for publishing of his first full book. His colleagues around the world are calling it one of the most important archaeological findings in recent history and will solidify his place as a respected scholar of the ancient civ of that region. His book is about the Elamite culture which pre-dated Iran and Persia and most likely influenced those cultures immensely. Javier spent months in Iran after the revolution cataloguing artifacts that were excavated from elite Elamite tombs.
After sending his book to the publishers in Belgium we made our way to Little Manly Beach and ate a fulfilling and tasty lunch of salmon, fennel, dates, macademia nuts and olives. The beach was too beautiful too describe and much more Meditteranean than I had expected.
We ended the day in celebration of Javier’s 6 years of writing and research, by going to a local pub which brewed in-house one of the tastiest Hefeweizens I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. Cheers to that. Now we’re off to Sydney proper to explore the city a bit. More to come.