Arriving in Sydney: 3 weeks and 7,415 nautical miles from L.A.

The waters on the strait between New Zealand and the south coast of Australia are notoriously choppy, and it looks like we managed to arrive at the worst possible time. The boat was originally scheduled to stop at Eden, a popular spot on the south coast of Australia for whale watching and a place steeped in nautical history – but faced with 10 metre waves and gale force sea winds, we were forced to stay inside, batten down the hatches and try and keep our food down. All through the day the waves pounded our cabin window and on the floors above there were sounds of plates smashing, signs falling off walls and grumbles of seasickness from our fellow passengers. In the evening, as we tried to watch a film on a violently swinging projector screen, there was an announcement over the tannoy to say that we were changing course for Sydney as due to “adverse weather conditions”, it would now be impossible to anchor near Eden. We were actually pretty happy about this as we had been experiencing moderate seasickness for a couple of days now and the thought of reaching our final destination a day early (after 22 days at sea) was now very appealing. After trying our best to pack our bags, we finally went to sleep in our manically rocking cabin, rolling from one side of the bed to another and wondering where the ship would end up.

In the morning, after managing a few hours of restless sleep, we awoke to find everything eerily quiet and still. We reached for the curtains first, not quite sure what we were going to discover, to find this:

Overnight, the ship had voyaged through the rough waters to the sanctuary of Circular Quay in Sydney, where it finally became what it always promised to be, a ‘floating hotel’, with an unbeatable view. As far as first glimpses of Australia go, this one was pretty unique and certainly beat the usual nondescript tarmac welcome you receive at the airport! As we had arrived a day early, the ship was due to be docked here for 24 hours and we were allowed to stay for one last night on the boat, if we wished. Seeing as this time tomorrow we would be headed for the nearest youth hostel, we decided to make the most of the experience. To celebrate the spring sunshine, we began the morning with a game of tennis on the roof of the ship! It was probably the most surreal game I have ever experienced, given that the pint-sized court was floating in the water between the shadow of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the gleaming white sails of the Opera House. As the crowds on the Quay below began to swell, we decided it was time to rejoin the world again (after a quick breakfast looking across to the Opera House). It felt strange being able to walk straight down a flight of carpeted stairs onto Australian soil with no passport checks or scanners but somehow it also felt much more natural. By this time, Circular Quay was buzzing with its usual throng of tourists and techno-didgeridoo players, backed by thumping electronic soundtracks. Usually this is just the sort of thing I run away from at high speed, but having been in a surreal sort of ‘floating bubble’ for most of the last month, we both felt exhilarated just to be near cafés, bars, theatres and people we did not recognise once again. We bought some coffee and tea with actual milk (our first non-UHT in weeks) and walked a short distance to the botanic gardens where we sat on a hill, slowly adapting to the idea that this was the start of the next chapter of the journey, one where we would both have to find some work…

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