Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Suburban Walls of Sydney

April 17th

The suburban walls of Sydney.

I had 80 km to go till the Harbor Bridge and Opera House. The first 50 km on the highway went without any drama. Towards the end the traffic piled up, and I was tickled that I was passing cars on the way into the city. However, gridlock quickly piled up, and I was detoured off the highway to the suburb of Liverpool. Unfortunately, I have had the following impressions of the city suburbs:

In the city and in the country cyclists are recognized and, I have found that if polite and law abiding, are generally respected by both city and country drivers. In the 5000 km of cycling on this trip, the only places I have gotten dirty looks, heckling and close calls has been in the burbs. I don't know what it is about this eco-tone of civilization that buffers the city from the country, but it seems to breed some malice towards those inclined to ride bikes. This is perhaps because the burbs were built at a time when gas and cars were cheap, and thus the infrastructure was created only to accommodate cars. However, this does not explain the heckling.

I dodged traffic, changed two flats, generally made up my mind to be patient and took it as safely and as easily as I could, mainly riding the curb. My round-about route did take me through one of the industrial parks of Sydney where I stopped for lunch. It was a large complex with a deli and large portions. Having only eaten spartanly since breakfast, I was eager for a large meal and a respite from dogging traffic. It gave me both.

My trip through industry proved the final hump into the city. Half an hour later, I was in sight of the magnificent harbor and soon after that the Harbor Bridge. I took it slow, still quite aware I did not want to make it this far only to become a tragic asterisk in the back pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney, as I was now quite aware, was a sprawling city. As I approached the CBD, it was clear that, despite the masses of people and housing that now covered the every inch of the harbor, when this colony was first established ease of docking and defense were first on the city father's minds. From the base of the bridge and the old quarter of town called the "Rocks," the sandstone cliffs upon which the city was built are still quite visible. I rode under the Harbor Bridge; a smile appeared that grew broader as I realized where I was. Above me the pylons of the bridge stood like massive sentinels. Around the west pylon and directly in front of me was the Circular Quay. Across the water was the iconic Sydney Opera House; its sail-shaped edifice doing its best to shine in the waning cloudy sun.

I rolled casually along The Rocks, looking for a bar to fit my celebratory mood. I settled on one that made up for its lack of personality with its grand view. I had Coopers and shot the breeze with the bartender. He asked me if I had been biking. An obvious question from the way I looked, so I told him - nothing flashy, just the start and finish point. I walked to a seat with a fine view and sat down with my beer and studied the pale golden liquid with the Opera House in the background. It had not yet settled in, but I was slowly starting to grasp the distance I had covered. What was here in Sydney was pretty much what I expected. I thought back to before the start of my trip when Melbourne and Sydney were really the only two places I could visualize. Now, roughly three and a half months later, I had filled in a fair amount of the blanks with some pretty rich memories. I drained my beer and ordered another. It tasted just as good as the first. It was getting late, and I was staying at one of the two YHA's in town. Anthony’s place was across the harbor, and I had some business in the city that I wanted to take care of first thing the next day. With a regretful last swig, I set the empty glass down. The bartender came around, picked up the glass, and sat another full one in front of me. "We talked it over and figured your effort deserved a beer." I laughed and thanked him.

Hell, my effort did deserve a beer.

No comments: