Sydney, first day


After another 9-hour red-eye flight, I arrived in Sydney around 11am January 18th. I'm now 16 hours ahead of Toronto.

My instructions from the place I had arranged to stay were to phone them and they'd arrange for a shuttle to come pick me up. Since I'd removed my Rogers SIM card from my Blackberry and turned it off (the better to avoid very expensive roaming charges!), my only choice was to find a pay phone to call.

Now Lonely Planet is pretty disparaging about Australia's pay phones, saying that now that the ubiquity of cell-phones makes them largely obsolete, they've fallen into advanced states of disrepair. In a bank of four that I came upon:

  • The first said it had a coin in it and would only take a credit card, but it didn't
  • The second seemed clear, but my credit card wouldn't slide in—the track was blocked
  • The third didn't recognize my card (Mastercard with chip)
  • The fourth said there was an error in my card. When I switched to my debit card, it proceeded to dial the number I wanted dialled. This took several attempts, as the push buttons would sometimes record two or more pushes. I managed to get through to my accommodations four times, only to have the phone automatically hang up after the guy answered and identified himself. I'd imagine this cost me Aus$0.50 each time.

So I gave up, and took a cab, which cost Aus$50.

Spent the rest of the day sort of relaxing, trying to stay awake till bedtime tonight, the better to avert jet-lag. However, it turned out the amenities at my accommodation—the Original Backpackers Lodge, On Victoria Street in Potts Point—were just as spartan for backpackers paying Aus$18/night to stay in a dorm as for those willing to fork out $95 for a private room with bath: no shampoo, no soap, no hair dryer, no air conditioning, etc.

So, of necessity, much of my relaxation consisted of traipsing around Sydney looking for soap. Turns out I didn't know as much about how to buy soap in Australia as I had imagined. Also arranged for an Oz SIM card for my cell-phone, and an international adapter for Oz hydro outlets.

Also, it turns out Sydney is one of those places that looks easy on a map, but isn't in practice. You try to take a street that looks like a straightaway to another street, only to find out there's a jog in it, and it's exceedingly unclear which one of the jogs you"re supposed to take. I asked directions twice, and twice got bad advice.

Later in the day, I sat down with an old reprobate at the sidewalk pub at Hotel William (on William Street), had a pint of draft, and listened to lots of advice on where to go and what to avoid (Bondi Beach, too many tourists, everybody goes there, Manly Beach is where you should go). I'll begin taking his advice tomorrow.


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