Wednesday, April 9, 2014

a word on crossing the international date line + day three

The past few days have been pretty busy, personally and professionally. I’ve helped a friend move, Kev and I have gone into Manhattan for an overnight, I’ve been working – I haven’t had much time to write up the trip to Australia. Plus, I realized on Monday why my second blog post about the trip felt off to me. It was a wee bit inaccurate. Yes, I went to the Royal Botanic Gardens, but the bulk of my explorations there were actually conducted on the subsequent day – the day I am about to describe.

What confused me were the time/date stamps on my pictures. I’d forgotten to adjust the settings on the magic lumix, which thought it was eastern standard time. Pictures taken on the afternoon of Wednesday the 19th, for instance, were showing up on my laptop as having been taken fifteen hours earlier, on Tuesday evening. I’d noticed an oddity in the sorting of the photos when writing, but hadn’t quite nailed down the reason until Monday morning, at which point I got all geeky and, god help me, assembled an Excel table, and noodled around with Excel’s limitations in manipulating dates and times*. Hilarity ensued.


But let’s face it, you go through a wormhole when you cross that date line. To wit, the only picture I have on any device (phone, magic lumix, or mighty nikon) that’s dated March 16 – the day we were en route – is this one from my phone, showing the time in various time zones.

This is my only proof that this day even existed, since we departed NYC/Los Angeles on the 15th and arrived in Sydney on the 17th.

AT ANY RATE. Are we ready to resume? Yes, we are. We are in Sydney.

It’s Wednesday, March 19th. I have another day entirely to myself. I spent it the same way I spent Tuesday the 18th: on foot for miles on end, just looking around.

I walked straight from the Potts Point neighborhood of our hotel to Darling Harbour, another of Sydney’s numerous nooks and crannies. Just at the end of the harbor is Tumbalong Park, and the Chinese Friendship Garden, which I would have loved to see, but not to the tune of ten bucks. I wandered through Tumbalong instead.




A series of connected, descending reflecting pools.


Murals obscure some heavy-duty construction equipment. It was impossible to see what was going on. Although I did notice, that’s fake graffiti.


The wide walkway was in shade, as you can see, but the overall impression was of sun, sun, sun. Restaurant after restaurant, all with outdoor seating, and all with at least a third of their tables filled by 10:20 in the morning, are off stage right along this walkway.


I came to where the A4 funnels traffic in and out of Sydney’s western neighborhoods/neighbors, and came to the harbor proper.


All this screamed of Civic Infrastructure and Private Developers. It reminded me of wandering around Orlando, Florida, in the wake of huge conventions amid throngs of fellow geeks (back in the ‘90’s when I was a paid geek). All that brick. All those banners. There was an IMAX theater, the aquarium, and across the way, the pinnacle of western civ, a Hard Rock Café. It was moderately cool, but I was now officially ready for Nature or Something Approximate Thereto. I headed back across town, scooping up a wrap from a sandwich shop along the way. I ate half of it among office workers on break in a pocket park. I ate the other half in a charming little pavilion presiding over the rose gardens of the Royal Botanic Gardens, where I was accosted by an Australian White Ibis. They play a pigeon-like role in the downtown area, whereas I’m used to Ibis in tranquil tidal wetlands. So it was that this fellow had no trouble taking advantage of me.


It was after this divine lunch that I went apeshit with the macro lens on the roses and day lilies, mistakenly reported as having occurred on the previous day. But I did check out this whole succulent garden area.


After this, I wandered home by a different route, finding myself dealing with topography along the way.


At this point, I was ready to sit down and put my legs up. I noticed zero jet lag: my tiredness was simply from being on my feet, generally moving, all day. A glass of white wine back at the hotel, sorting through the day’s photos, put things to rights. Kevin was soon back from his long day of meeting various colleagues, and we enjoyed some tea in the hotel’s outdoor café. We were due to fly to Brisbane that very evening. This entailed being picked up by an airport taxi minivan, which made several stops throughout Sydney to pick up for folks on the way to the airport. By the time we were disgorged onto the curb at the domestic terminal, we had bathed in the chatter of several languages not even recognizable to me among our fellow passengers.

Domestic flights in Australia are like Throwback Thursday: you’re not asked for ID. They don’t care about liquids in your luggage. Shoes don’t get x-rayed. They really use the phrase “no worries”. We boarded around eight for the hour and a half flight north to Brisbane, which is in a different state (Queensland, instead of New South Wales) and time zone (an hour behind). Upon our arrival, we found we’d missed by minutes the last train into the city, so we hailed a cab and were deposited not long after at our hotel near the river in the business district. It was late, and we crashed.

Brisbane is situated along a river that is in the fun, wiggly part of its run, near where it yields to Moreton Bay a miles away. It’s just north of the most eastern point of the continent – to the northeast is the Coral Sea, and to the southeast, the Tasman Sea. None of this is apparent from the city center. Instead, the river dominates. It is not uncommon for commuters to travel by motorized catamaran, which is what Kevin did for his day of meetings.

I, on the other hand – see if you can guess what I did. Yep. Walked around. At this time of year (just heading into autumn), not much was in bloom. But there were banyans and black jacks.


Banyan. These just go on and on. Is there any doubt of sentience here, or is that just me?


Good lord.


This is Heritiera actinophylla, aka Black Booyong or Black Jack. As if the roots weren’t enough, it has leaves like rhododendron or magnolia – deep dark green, glossy, palmate, yummy.


Dear readers, I must confess that I was pooped by now. Much bench-sitting occurred. I contemplated the Brisbane River as it rounded a deep turn at the base of the park. Eventually, I heaved myself up and headed upriver. I crossed Victoria Bridge and headed to an impressive array of public facilities on the opposite river front: a performing arts space, a museum/science center, an art museum, the state library, and a contemporary art museum, all in a row, each with outdoor seating and café space.


I soaked up culture indoors and out.


View across to central business district. It is the nature of these panoramic shots that they distort things – that river is straight, not curving away from you. Anyway. You get the idea. My favorite kind of puffy clouds blue sky day.


I had one last stop for my day, over there on the other side of the river, a few blocks in. The world’s most recently constructed old-school Gothic cathedral – St. John’s. Completed just a couple of years ago. The newest stained glass windows feature equations from quantum physics.

At the end of our one day in Brisbane, Kevin and I took it easy. We ate at the outdoor café (sense a theme here?) of our hotel’s restaurant. We wandered around afterwards in search of a place to change money. We found one. While he was inside conducting the transaction, I stayed outside to commit minor vandalism in the form of removing the unnecessary accent in the sign outside (Bureau dé Change). I was neither seen nor arrested, and the remainder of the evening passed without incident.

Up next: the awesomeness that is Byron Bay, wildlife sighting, and waves waves waves.

*You can subtract one date from another, or one time from another, but you can’t (in one go, without a bunch of intermediate steps I was too lazy to do) do both at the same time.

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