Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sydney: Vancouver's much much sexier cousin

I find myself comparing things I see here in Sydney to things in Vancouver or Canada in general. Sydney and Vancouver share many parallels: they are both coastal, cosmopolitan, have both hosted Olympic Games, and have a young but rich history. Don't be fooled; my reminiscing about Vancouver does not mean that I am already home-sick... quite the contrary! I am discovering a beautiful new city at the other end of the world... that was also colonized by Brits and really isn't all that different. The main differences are obvious: driving on the left side of the road, the accent, the different coloured money and different shaped coins. I thought I should point out a couple of the subtle differences I have noticed.

The fashion: The shorts are shorter, the tops are lower and the heels are much much higher. I noticed that the way women generally dressed themselves on a hot summer day, or evening out, was basically an exaggeration of what you would see on a similar day or evening in Canada. Several graduation parties I crossed paths with pointed this out to me in an even more exaggerated way. There were many fashionable "schoolies" on display. During the middle of the day I also noticed this trend with professional women who work in industries like finance, or marketing, or whatever other sector that calls for sexy boardroom attire. Sometimes it really isn't that hard to adapt to the culture shock of being in a new place.

Transit: Since I've arrived in Sydney I have taken transit a few times instead of cycling. I find that the transit system is excellent here. I've gotten to where I have wanted to be on time. The air conditioning has always worked. I never felt like I was about to get stabbed or beaten and robbed of my shoes. What really tickled me was when I took my very first bus ride in Sydney. I was mildly annoyed that I would have to pay $5 for a bus fare because it was the lowest currency I had on me at the time. I got on the bus and told the driver where I was going. In a droned Australian accent he replied: "Ticket's three twenny mate". I displayed my five dollar bill and explained that it was all I had. Silently he took it from me, punched a few keys on a machine next to his steering wheel to print my ticket and then... this blew my mind... he gave me change! Yes! Change! In Sydney, you can buy a bus fare on the bus, and, as long as you don't pay with a fifty or one hundred, you don't need to worry about having exact change! Although, I suppose the driver's do have to worry about getting robbed by a starving tourist.

Anyhoo, if your attention span is like mine, you are probably struggling to read this entire post without being distracted. To accommodate for this I will stop forcing you to decipher my notes about Sydney and instead show you neat pictures! Read the caption to find out what you're looking at...

The view from where I am staying, thanks to the hospitality of friends Cath and Pat, in Coogee. This is Camille, who I sat beside on the flight from Vancouver:
View from Cath and Pat's place in Coogee

We went for a dip at Coogee Beach and it was just what we needed after being stuffed in an airplane for 15 hours.
Yup! The water is perfect!

Coogee Beach. I was pretty excited to be here after leaving -4 weather in Vancouver.
Coogee Beach


We then decided to stretch our legs by doing the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi:





Check out the lawn bowling!

This guy wanted me to take a video of him doing backflips off of a hand rail. I took some pictures for myself too:

Skate Park at Bondi:

Wildlife in the Botanic Garden:


Camille had decided to meet acquaintances of her's Julie and Nicholas and invited me along. We met up at Darling Harbour for dinner and drinks. I haven't spoken as much French as I have in the last few days in quite a long time!

I went for a bike ride the next day and check out the "must-see's":
Opera House:Brodie Elan at the Opera House.

The 100% suicide proof, no-stopping-allowed, bike lane side of the Harbour Bridge:
West side (the bike side) of the Harbour Bridge. Suicide proof, security guards included.

And then on a beautiful hot and sunny Saturday I trekked from Coogee to The Spit and hiked to Manly and then returned by ferry to Circular Quay (and saw more wildlife along the way):
More lizards!
Some amazing views along the trail.
Some sweet surf at Manly Beach!
Hot Saturday afternoon at Manly Beach
Sail boat racing!
Yacht with the Opera House
Downtown Sydney
Bridge walkers.

That was a very long post, but I had a few days of not posting to make up for. Speaking of long things, day 1 of my bike ride in Australia begins tomorrow. The first leg will be from Coogee to Wollongong via a pretty special looking route. Let's hope it's a fun as the map makes it look to be. Until next time, stay classy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Packing, Preparation and Panic

Working out of town has offered some challenges to the preparation of my trip to Australia. Although I was working far from home, the magic wonders of the Internet have allowed me to prepare many important items such as purchasing plane tickets, purchasing travel insurance, researching routes and so on. However, fantastically wondrous technology aside, there are many items that can't be done at the click of a mouse or the three-fingered swipe of a Magic Trackpad and require actual physical movement and genuine human interaction. Since I also quit my oil industry job I unfortunately no longer have the means to throw my bourgeois money at a problem to make it go away.

Excuses aside, the fact of the matter is that I leave for Australia in a few days and I am still not packed! Not only do I need to pack, but I have left a few issues unresolved and I must take these issues into consideration. I will save you from explaining the endless and boring logistical details... except for one. Bicycle configuration is a pretty important subject when you plan to take a 6000 km bike ride. I do have a proper touring bike (thanks to Andrew at Brodie!) and I have a general idea of how my new bike racks and panniers will be installed. I know what to pack, and have an idea of how I want to pack it. My tent packs well on my bike with the help of a couple of bungee cords. What has me a little worried is that I haven't done any shakedown rides to ensure that all the pieces will work WELL together. I will simply have to hit the ground running... or rolling to be more appropriate... and adapt to any challenges. That's what I'll have to do instead of being properly prepared... Once I have my bike unpacked and assembled in Sydney I will post pictures of it. To give you an idea of how my bike will look once it is ready to hit the road, here are some other touring bikes that I used for inspiration:

The "This is a knife" bike

... of course you'll need to occasionally sharpen your knife.

The Mule

For the Great Barrier Reef, the Scuba Bike

Some people have asked me why I chose to tour Australia. Well here is my answer:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Any blog starting involving Chuck Norris has to be awesome!

First off: "What is Riding on the Wrong Side (ROTWS)?" Like many other bloggers, I chose to start a blog since it is the best way to share whatever I have to say in a totally unedited and unrevised manner to the entire planet. More specifically, to those with computers, internet access and who can read English. However, I hope to pique interest in readers since I will be writing about, and posting photos from, my bicycle tour of Australia's east coast. I am embarking on a solo 6,000 km trip that will be unsupported. The fact that I have never undertaken anything even close to the scope of this trip should hint that there will be some interesting stories to come, all at my expense of course. I will be bringing a fair amount of fancy camera equipment to document this prolonged ramble. I will post photos linked from my Flickr page. I will show off my camera gear in a post later on for all you camera nerds out there. The same goes for my bike and the bike nerds.

You may be asking yourself: "Why should I take time out of my day to read another verbose, ho-hum, self-absorbed blog?" Well if you understand sarcasm at all, then you have already figured out the answer to that question. This trip is not intended to raise money for a charity, or to write some arsty emo blog about how the sand between my toes makes me think of happy childhood memories. No! This trip is for my own personal benefit and is sponsored only by ME!

I hope to provide you with some laughs by way of my misadventures (leg cramps, heat exhaustion, getting lost, snake bite flats, actual snake bites, etc). However, I will also get to laugh at your expense since I will imagine all of you as a generic reader who will be reading this from your work stations in some cubicle farm during the breaks between the multiple daily occurrences when one of your eight supervisors comes by to ask about an e-mail you sent them that they have since printed out and are now holding... or perhaps your employer frowns upon blog websites because they are a detriment to the company's overall productivity and are therefore blocked. In this case you will have to catch up on my pedal powered perils at home either in the morning before work, or in the evening after work. Either way, it will most likely be completely dark and cold outside since I expect most you will be reading from Canada. The joke is on me for the next few days because I am writing this to you from my office desk near Fort McMurray where I have been working a twelve hour night shift for the past few weeks.

I have been working in Alberta's oil sands for the past 7 months now. Although I've had to sacrifice my social life and much of my sanity, it hasn't been all bad. After all, I got exactly what I came here for: a magnificently inflated pay cheque! When I first started this job I thought: "Great! I can finally realize my dream of owning a house in Vancouver!". A few months passed after I began my new job and I eventually came to the realization that owning a house would be a massive responsibility. I have always been proud of the fact that I have become a master of avoiding responsibility. Being a home owner is such a massive responsibility that I can only imagine fathering a child would be greater. I would have to stick to my mantra of avoiding responsibility for the time being since the thought of being a home owner created excessive anxiety. I had to reconsider how I would spend all of my bourgeois, capitalist oil money. After much personal reflection, I devised a plan that would have me quit my job, fly to the other end of the planet, ride a bike around and basically live as some type of a cycling vagabond miscreant... with a fancy camera and a credit card. If I were a movie character I would be a mix of:

Chuck Norris as Maj. Scott McCoy on his dirt bike in Delta Force

Kevin Bacon as Jack Casey in Quicksilver

and Christopher McCandless a.k.a Alexander Supertramp (Into the Wild)

... except I won't have missiles on my handlebars (unfortunately) I won't be chased through a large city by a murderous drug dealer (hopefully) and although I will be tramping across a vast country, much like Chris McCandless did, I certainly don't plan on dying of starvation, stranded in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. That wasn't the best reference because unlike the first two protagonists I referenced, I will always be wearing my helmet while riding my bike!

There will be more posts to come about the prep before my departure for Sydney on Monday the 22nd. Until then, take care of yourself, and each other.