I didn’t really feel anything when I awoke on my last day in India. I thought I would wake up and cry, maybe nausea or no appetite, but instead I took a long warm shower and ran my ass to the amazing buffet breakfast at Blooms Rooms, a hotel next door to Zostel in Pahar Ganj, Delhi (with REAL coffee). I had three hundred rupees left for my last few hours in the country. I had spent the remaining rupees I had on an awesome pizza lunch with Herag the day before and taking a taxi back from dropping him at the airport at 11pm as the metro had closed. Two hundred of my remaining rupees went to breakfast and the other hundred went to the airport express metro ride. Budgeting at its finest.
After baggage check-in and immigration, I sat for a coffee (of course) and to get some writing done in the main area of the airport near a bunch of last minute “I forgot to get something for uncle Bill!” gift shops. In a really cool and calm souvenir shop, that looked super high class, a sitar and tabla began to sing out. It sounded so beautiful. I lifted my head from my computer and focused my ears to see if I could recognize the song. It was Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. I began to giggle. Then I began to tear. That cheesy song made me cry! I sat up and let the past 6-months of Gajner flash before me. Damn. I thought I was going to escape without tears and reminiscent thoughts that would make me grow miserable just in time for my 12-hour flight.
Immigration in Sydney was a breeze. They didn’t even ask about my visa. She actually didn’t ask me a single question…she didn’t even acknowledge my “good morning!” An advantage of being from a commonwealth country, I guess. I grabbed my backpack, went through the long ass quarantine line, where they inspected my shoes (Australian’s are serious about bringing unknown soil and silliness into the country) and soon I was out in the Australian winter, 10-degree weather. My body is still in shock. The last time I felt 10-degree weather or below was in early January when it was snowing in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. I’m actually sitting inside Central, a mall downtown Sydney, with a coffee next to me and still my fingers are slightly aching and tensing up from the cold air in the open space of the atrium.
Before leaving India, I was in contact with a sweet Spanish girl, scratch that, Basque girl (from the Basque region IN Spain – do not confuse the two!) named Carla. I found her through Couchsurfing.com. I’ve never couch surfed in my life and simply could not give up an opportunity to do so in one of Australia’s most expensive cities. So here I was, following the very minimal directions she had given me in order to find her apartment. I boarded a train from the airport over to central station, right in the centre of the city. From there, the apartment is actually walking distance but with two backpacks and two hours of sleep, I decided to cab it. When I walked out of the station, there were zero cabs in sight. Huh? No cabs? How is that even possible? If I was in India, there would have been at least 10 rickshaw drivers grabbing at my bags and already half way to their auto while I’ll running and yelling behind them “kitne kilometers ji? 50 rupees!” but nope, I was alone, standing on the curb of a major city with no cabs in sight. A black and yellow car started to pass me before I realized it was a taxi. Right, black and yellow are the typical cab colours. Duh, Jazzmine. He pulled over and I told him the address I was looking for. He nodded for me to get in the car. I probably looked extremely confused as I waited for him to give me a price. “So…how much does it cost?” “It’s a metered taxi, mame.” I giggled with embarrassment and got into the back of the cab. We maybe drove two kilometres and it cost me ten Australian dollars. “10 dollars?!” I exclaimed without even thinking. He turned to look at me with a puzzled look on his face. Before he could even open his mouth I replied to myself, “duh, Jazzmine. Sorry sir. Here you go,” handing over exact change, trying not to look him in the eye. He smiled, “have a nice day.” I smiled back quickly and threw my heavy bags out of the cab.
Carla greeted me in a unicorn onsie, having just woken up on a cold city morning, along with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, as all Europeans do (sometimes two kisses, sometimes one – you never really know which to expect unless you study the amount of kisses given per country. Not joking). Then more hugs and kisses came as her roommates Cristian, from Argentina, and Greg, an Armenian from Greece, soon ascended the stairs to get ready for the camping trip we would be going on that day. We quickly loaded all our bags, grabbed the tents and ran back to central station with only 15 minutes to purchase our tickets and board the train. Along the way I met Alex, a French student obtaining his masters here in Sydney, and a hilarious Slovakian named Soňa. Together the six of us would be camping in the Blue Mountains, a beautiful region outside of the city with heeps of trails to trek and lookouts to visit.
The day started out slow. After an hour aboard the train, we reached Glenbrook station. We walked up to the small town to grab a coffee and prepare for the evening, which included purchasing groceries, drinks (of course) and random metal objects that we could use as our BBQ. The walk up the mountain was quite long but enjoyable with good company and good tunes bumping as we strolled along. It was such a gorgeous day and a great workout for me since all Herag and I did in my last two weeks of India included eating and sitting around enjoying the views of exotic India (plus it rained for basically two weeks straight). After two hours of mostly uphill climbs, short breath and worked ass muscles, we made it to the most beautiful lookout just in time for sunset (which happens at the early hour of 5 o’clock here). Us girls set up the tents while the boys gathered firewood. As the night grew colder, our fire warmed our hands and feet. I even threw on a onesie to match Carla, except I was the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I don’t know which is cooler. We spent the evening cooking, drinking, eating and chatting, while looking out at the lights of the city below, the fog rising over the valley like a hovercraft and up at the stars as they lit up the night sky and milky way. It was so clear it looked like you could reach out and touch a star. No smoggy Delhi air trying to erase the beauty above us.
After 12-hours of sleep, much needed sleep after the 12-hour flight and 2-hours of uphill climb, I awoke to the boys already hanging out by the fire with breakfast ready. The sun was warm and I could finally escape the onsie, which was the only thing keeping me warm during the below zero night in the mountains. We let the day escape us as we sat around looking out at the beautiful mountains and forest, relaxing under the subtle, Monday afternoon sun. An older, Aussie gentleman out for a stroll in the mountains joined us for lunch and a chat as he turned out to be the coolest old hippy we’ve ever met. His name was Peter and he was the cutest thing I’d ever seen with his sandwich in hand and tourist-styled hat, with the two strings tied under his chin. Although he left before we started packing up for our return home, he ended up returning to exchange contact information with us all, having found a cool connection with all us free spirited young 20 and 30-somethings. I guess he saw a little piece of his young, hippy “peace and love” self in all of us. He offered us a ride down to the train station, which we all happily accepted while silently complaining about our sore bodies.
The city of Sydney is quite diverse. It actually reminds me a lot of Toronto. I see why so many North Americans come here to live and work; it’s a safe option that feels likes home (sorry if I offend anyone). Coming from India, I feel very out of place. Everyone has a very specific style here with long hair, even the men (manbuns, of course), ripped jeans or shorts with flip-flops (thongs) and the same army green coloured coats or Stüssy sweaters. They are all looking me up and down through their Ray Bans as I parade around the streets in rolled up jeans, pink and grey Nike’s, a knit sweater and red Wal-Mart rain jacket. No makeup, my Jansport backpack packed to the brim and a bottle of water. No style needed, just trying to keep warm in this winter down under.
I spent the next morning planning a bit of my trip. My next destination is Melbourne, via train, followed by a flight to Brisbane, where I’ll be staying with my fourth grade teacher. How cool, right?! We’ve actually always stayed in contact. We were even email “pen pals” for a while when she left Canada and moved to Thailand. Now, it’s 2015 so we’re Facebook friends and she’s moved around quite a bit, having now settled in Stralia. I simply cannot wait to meet her husband and children, and chickens and dogs too apparently!
Cristian brought me along with two of his friends later that afternoon, Thomas from France and Helena from Uruguay, to Newtown, a small suburb just three stops from Central. Thomas and Helena met in France when she was doing an exchange program. They obviously fell in love, as most do when they visit France, and arranged to meet here in Australia. Although it took six months for her to get a visa, she’s finally here and will study acting while abroad for two years. They are both such sweet people and have the most amazing light blues eyes. I already envy the beauty of their future children. It seems like a lot of people have come to Australia to find or meet their love from abroad. Even Carla is dying of anxiety as she waits for an American love to come that she met while travelling through South East Asia. It’s funny because I don’t see Australia as a place to find love. Everyone is drunk, partying and living a YOLO life. Not exactly husband material to me. Yet, no matter where you are, love is something we all seek, no?
Newtown is an adorable once-upon-a-time town and filled with outstanding street art. Coldplay actually filmed their video for Sky Full of Stars on one of the town’s stunning corners with a huge mural of Martin Luther King Jr. with the “I have a dream” line written below, followed by an abstract illustration of the Australian native flag. Our long walk ended with me ingesting the sweetest white-hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life at Max Brenner. It was incredible but with a price - extreme stomachache from sugar overdose. The next day I cruised along Darling Harbour with Carla and Greg in the beautiful, above 10-degree sunshine. It was yet, unfortunately, another unhealthy day which included a cupcake and pizza but I did walk my ass around the city for hours seeing the harbour, infamous opera house, Manly Beach, Kings Cross and basically all of lively Sydney... clearly overdoing it though on what I was missing food wise in India.
My last day in the city included a beautiful walk from Coogee to Bondi, all along the Pacific Ocean. The sun was warm and the air was humid and salty, instantly clearing my filthy sinuses after six months in polluted India. While the sun set, lighting up the entire sky in shades of orange, pink and purple, I took my last few deep inhales of the ocean air for the next week or so (while stuffing my face with crackers and brie). Apparently Melbourne is even colder than Sydney at this time and of course, it is further away from the coast. Why oh why?! I have no jacket, no boots, no gloves and no scarf. How did I fly across the world and still get Canadian weather?
After my goodbyes to these three very loving and caring individuals, I thought back to Peter, mister old school “peace and love” man from the Blue Mountains. Imagine if everyone was as giving as Carla, Cris and Greg? Opening their home to strangers, providing them with warmth and a shelter over their head, being personal tour guides, offering food AND wine?! At some point during our camping trip we got into a discussion on karma and why it’s so important. You don’t just do good things for others so you can have good things happen to you in return, you do them to better this world. That’s why karma exists. It’s to put more peace and love into our world, which sadly lacks them. I'll never forget these three... and their addiction to Cocoa Puffs and Kangaroo sausages.
I finish this post via train to Melbourne. An overnight, 10-hour ride in a seat... A SEAT! I suddenly miss those thin, blue mattresses in sleeper class where the fan hardly reaches you and your sweat sticks to the material of the mattress, making it extremely uncomfortable every time you sit up. Now I sit with heat blasting, because it’s freaking freezing outside, with a sweater on, typing and wondering when the chai man is going to come by.
Jazzmine, you are clearly not in India anymore.