Thoughts from Places — Sydney Harbour

19 October, 2014

I want to see he sun go down.
From St Kilda Esplanade…
I’d give you all of Sydney Harbour - all that land; and all that water.
For that one sweet promenade

In the popular, international, imagination, the two manmade structures that universally represent Australia are the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. I haven’t seen them since I was 10, so one of the most surprising parts of my trip was stepping off the train at Circular Quay to find that they were on the opposite sides of the quay. It seems that even tourist ads get things right sometimes.

So, we headed down to the ferry terminal and, wondering where to go from there, decided to follow the other young people who were dressed in costume. They soon led us to a giant mass of costumed people hanging out, laughing, shouting, talking, singing and generally waiting together on the Commissioners Steps.

Once the boat arrived and we piled on, I ended up hanging out on the viewing deck at the bow, watching the world go by. People came and went and I had a chat with many of them. I think it goes without saying that I wasn’t expecting to talk about the historical Swiss Military that night, but surprises are what makes life interesting.

We journeyed under the bridge and back a couple of times, and on each lap I found something new and fascinating, from the noise of the traffic far ahead, to the structure holding up the bridge deck, but most fascinating of all were the seagulls that even at midnight, were circling ceaselessly above the bridge, the electric lights transforming the night into their day.

The serenity that I was enjoying as we slowly looped the harbour was interrupted towards the end of the voyage, when the scarcely utilised bow area became the drunk-support area. While slightly annoyed at the interruption, I was happy to see that every one of those inebriates, whether they were from Sydney or from halfway across the world, had a crowd of people around them looking out for them and trying to get them back on their feet by the time we returned to the quay.

There’s a reasonably old Paul Kelly song called “From St Kilda to Kings Cross” about a Melbournian who removes to Sydney, but can’t wait to return to his beloved St Kilda. I’d been thinking about this song for most of the night, comparing the landmarks of my hometown to those of Sydney and what they might say about those cities.

But as we were arriving back at that same water where Governor Phillip trimmed his sails a mere 226 years ago, and we were slaughtering Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody - and even moreso as I disembarked and I saw again friends I’ve made from both sides of the border, some of whom I somehow hadn’t seen since the star of the night (and even one girl I hadn’t seen since February;) it occurred to me that, despite the geographic rivalry between us, the bonds of friendship that our organisation had instilled in all of us meant that I was still, in some measure, home.