25.07.2009 22 °C
After a long sojourn in the wildernesses of the world, we have finally made it back to civilization. We are in Sydney; to be precise, in a charming beach suburb half an hour ferry north of the town centre called Manly (the ferry ride takes in views of the skyscrapers downtown, the harbour bridge and the opera house! Think the Gosport ferry with better scenery and less feeling of impending doom). Manly, where the grass is green, the sky is blue, and the men are... Manly, of course! The people of Manly are rightly proud of their locale, and in the manner of smaller town centres many of the shops are named after the district, so we have seen a Manly Grill, a Manly Croquet Club, and most amusingly of all a Manly Beauty Salon.
We are staying with the stupendously lovely Karen and Mark. We only met them for 4 days doing the salt flats tour in Bolivia and they have thrown open their beautiful flat to us; we've been here a week already! And we don't want to leave to be honest. Deep in the depths of winter here, it's a chilly 22 degrees CENTIGRADE in the sun; the sky is blue; we've hardly seen a drop of rain all during our stay here. Everyone seems to go surfing on their lunchbreak (or after work in the summer) and the kids go to school in their board shorts! The outdoor culture is so prevalent here as there are so many facilities available year-round; running, swimming, surfing, even diving is possible nearby (which we er... haven't dared due to 14 deg water). We had a lovely kayak around the placid Middle Harbour one Sunday morning, ogling the $20mm houses perched on the cliff edges. Predictably, Angi and I in the same kayak managed to go about half as fast as Karen on her own. The coastline is so splintered and fractal that there is an abundance of interesting coastal walks; we spent half a day walking and only saw a small portion of the locale. And everyone is just so bloody nice and cheerful. It's the polar opposite of moaning London.
And to top it off, the food here is great! Successive waves of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and many other -ese immigration have left a huge Asian immigrant population, which translates to excellent food. Every time we've tried a hole-in-the-wall place for a little Korean barbeque or some Szechuan hotpot the meal has been what in London we would have rated worthy of a destination restaurant. Even the pubs, fish and chip shops, and random cafes along the way seem to take a degree of care with their food that is several notches above the average in England; we are very impressed. The microbeers are also fantastic, producing a wide variety of beer types. Even some IPAs and English style beers. Walking around Manly is a real trial as we just get tugged hither and thither by all the waves of nice smells.
We've also been able to do all the organisational things that we've put off for so long. Visas, post, repairs, health stuff... it's refreshing to be in a first world country where you can actually get stuff done. Civilization is a functioning internet connection, bookshops and q-tips, I have come to decide!
p.s. we're having some problems with photos again, normal service to be resumed as soon as possible