So we’re settling into our new life in our new city quite nicely. We are making adjustments as we go and this is key, since using African thinking in an Australian city will stitch you up. Let me explain.
A couple of weeks ago we attempted a visit to the city. It’s about thirty kilometers away so we, against the advice of locals, hopped into the car and simply drove to Sydney. We figured; it was a weekend, the freeway would be clear, the city would be empty, we’d find somewhere to park and we’d hop on a ferry to a touristy beach. I mean really, how hard could it be?
Well, to put it quite bluntly, it’s was pretty bloody hard. Let me say right upfront that we never made it to a beach, nor did we make it onto a ferry.
We made it into the city without any problems, but from the moment we arrived, there was a problem. The city actually has quite a significant skyline with plenty of skyscrapers. These things block GPS signals very effectively and turn the car (and smartphone) satellite navigation systems into what are essentially very confused American women directing you around a city using smoke signals on a windy day.
So, not that awesome really.
That said, we found a parking garage, just a few blocks away from the Sydney Opera House which we thought was quite convenient – but it turns out that convenience comes at a price. The rates on display for the day were as steep as one would expect pay if one was parking at Buckingham Palace for the day and were parking in the Queen’s bay to boot. So after an illegal reverse maneuver back onto the street, we managed to escape the clutches of parking debt and quickly made our way back over the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the North Shore where we assumed we would be able to find street parking.
A good hour later we figured out that most of the bays in the city are one hour parking bays (which you pay quite dearly for). Then, in order of increasingly scarce availability, there are two, four and eight hour bays available that don’t cost quite as much as the Queen’s parking bay, but do cost an arm, a leg and a tiny sliver of your soul.
We eventually found a four hour bay very near to a ferry dock and swiped our credit card through it which, for a South African, is a pretty big leap of faith. At this point we had accepted that a trip to Bondi Beach via the ferry was out of scope but decided we’d settle for a walk around the Opera House and perhaps a bite to eat at a restaurant on the other side of the bay.
The Kirribilli dock was a stones throw away from our car and we trotted confidently down onto the dock and took a seat on the bench. Opal cards in hand, we settled down for a ten minute wait for the next ferry that would scoop us up and ‘ferry’ us across the bay to the Opera house which we could see clearly across the bay.
It wasn’t to be though. We spent the next hour and a half watching ferries diesel past us in all directions. Google searches and app downloads followed to try figure out when the next ferry was going to arrive and each time the timetable teased us with another ten minutes, another seven minutes, another two minutes. The ferries all just passed us by.
Finally, the little guys made it quite clear that they were no longer prepared to wait for a ferry and demanded food, which we as parents were then obliged to provide as soon as possible, or face the wrath of two hangry children. If you’ve been here, you know. A hangry child is as close to Mr. Hyde as one is likely to get in real life.
So we walked around until we found a street cafe and plopped down to eat. Then, tails firmly between our legs, we headed home.
We learnt some valuable lessons that day. We are essentially tourists in our bee city and as such we will, in future, always have a backpack with snacks and water on hand. We will always wear comfortable shoes. We will never take the car to the city again. We will always plan our trip in advance and we will always make sure we’re sitting at the right dock to actually be picked up by a ferry. Always.
To top it off, like drowning men, we managed to pull several other tourists into the drink with us. We convinced them that a ferry was on its way momentarily and they believed us. By the time we left, a large group of tourists had clumped together on the dock in the belief that transport was moments away, all waiting for a boat that would never come. Sorry.
Apparently, Kirribilli is where the Australian Prime Minister lives and perhaps the ferries were skipping that dock because the Prime Minister has his own boat (the Australian version of Air Force One). Perhaps we were just green tourists sitting at the wrong dock. We’ll never know.
But in hindsight, the three guys fishing off the dock when we arrived should really have given us all clues we needed to know that the probability of a ferry showing up any time soon was very slim indeed.