Swagman #9 – Short Days, Long Nights and the United Nations of Quarryman’s – Sydney, Australia

Swagman #9 – Short Days, Long Nights and the United Nations of Quarryman’s
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

It’s been so long that I’ve written that this may be just a rambling entry,
a mad typing session that must fit within the half hour limit I have on this
internet cafe computer. Luckily for me my life has been almost consumed by a
six day work week, so there is not a lot to write about.

About a month ago I got myself a cheap mattress, so Joe and I are no longer
sleeping side-by-side, fighting over blankets and who is snoring louder. Our
landlord is still up to no good. We now believe he is either involved with
the government or the mafia. He is very secretive in his office, never
allows us to come in to talk to him, and often when I go to use the toilet
there is a shred of a hand-written note that he tore up and tried to flush.
When Joe asked him if he was an accountant his answer was “Something like
that, yeah.”

My job is extremely fun and a little less insane than the previous one. The
staff is great, although we are all bad influences on each other. We close
at midnight, yet somehow I never seem to get home until 5 or 6am. I then
sleep until 2, and have to be back at work at 4. The owners don’t mind if we
stay at the pub after everything is locked up at closing and drink, and we often
have a mini United Nations of English, Irish, Scottish, Aussie, Kiwi,
Canadian and me the token American sitting around a table laughing and
encouraging each other. I’ve discovered that I have a thick American accent,
since many people have trouble understanding what I am saying. We also have
a reputation of being loud, so I am used to a certain volume of voices and
often have to strain to hear what patrons are asking for when they order.

Joe has decided to fly up to Cairns and then travel down the coast back to
Sydney before he leaves for New Zealand. He leaves on Saturday the 20th so
we have been roaming Sydney seeing as much as we can. The Aquarium was a lot
of fun, but unfortunately the penguin and Great Barrier Reef exhibits where
closed for a private function and no one decided to let us know when we
bought our tickets. The visit was worth it for the underwater tunnels
though. You descend a series of ramps until you are at the bottom of a large
swim tank that is full of sharks and sting rays. As you stand there safe in
a hard shell cocoon the sharks just swim around and look menacing, right
over your head. The sting rays, some the size of quilts, glide above like
magic carpets. The Aquarium also had a tiny display on what I believe is the
most fascinating creature on earth, the box jellyfish. Although the specimen
in the aquarium is dead, and to be frank looks a lot like a condom, it is
generally agreed that it is the most deadly creature on the planet. And in
Australia, a land that breeds some of the nastiest insects and reptiles,
this one leads the charge.

Found mostly on the north coast, the box jellyfish is small with long
tenticles. Brushing against one is like stepping out in front of a moving
train. Lonely Planet describes the effects of a jellyfish encounter quite
colorfully – Someone who is stung by a box jellyfish may run from the water
screaming, with whip-like welts on their body. In Bill Bryson’s book ‘In A
Sunburnt Country
‘ (titled ‘Down Under’ here in Oz) Bryson tells the story of
a young traveler who, despite posted warnings of the box jellyfish, went
swimming alone on the north coast. After being stung he followed the Lonely
Planet description of the running and the screams, and then collapsed on the
sand. Medics arrived and pumped some morphine into him, but even in his
sleep he was still screaming from the pain. I mean, come on. Some of the
creatures here are smaller than a baby’s hand and pack enough venom to kill
a horse.

We also visited the Maritime Museum, which allowed us to climb aboard an
Aussie battleship and a submarine. Inside was a gallery that the United
States had given as a gift to Australia on their bicentennial. It seemed
like a very nice gesture, but as we walked around we realized it was really
just a large exhibit on the power of the US military during WWII.
Impressive, but that’s kind of like giving someone a large framed picture of
yourself for their birthday.

With the constant cycle of work, which often has me running around, I
recently discovered that I have lost roughly 15 pounds since I left New York
over two months ago, going from 185 to about 170. “Impossible,” Joe replied
when I told him. “You’re fatter than ever.” No one but a brother can put
things so simply. With Joe leaving in two weeks, I can now see the end of my
Sydney stay as well. I will finish out the month of September at
Quarryman’s, maybe even a week or two in October, and then I will begin to
make my way up the coast. I have my eyes on areas off the coast though.

What’s amazing is that despite the fact that I have been in Sydney for two
months I have not met very many Aussies. The city is full of backpackers,
mostly from England and Ireland, and the east coast of Australia is the
undisputed backpacker trail. It’s a bit ironic to travel around the world to
a country and not encounter anyone from that country. But of course there is
a reason that the east coast is so well traveled, and I need to see
everything along the way.

So basically it’s two months down, one to go, and a promise that the next
entry will be more coherent.