On Thursday February 11th I spent a long day on the bus back to Devenport to catch the overnight ferry and return to Melbourne. Although I took a milligram and a half of lorazepam I still had a panic attack as soon as the bus pulled out onto the road. We were going fast and all the sensations and obsessive thoughts that come with the speed and roughness over the roads started to overwhelm me. I turned around and put my knees on the floor and tried to dig my head into the seat – I’ve always had a tendency to try to bury my head underground during a panic attack as if that will provide me some sort of protection. I was on the cusp of either screaming or asking the bus driver to stop and let me off. I moved up two seats and asked the person sitting directly behind me (whom I had met while on the trek) for some water so I could down a sleeping pill. He obliged and asked me if I was alright. I told him I was having a panic attack. He confided in me that he was on daily medication for depression and anxiety. It’s amazing how many of us are out there. I say “us” because even though I have often felt like what I experience is different than what others with anxiety and panic experience, the comfort of having the support of sufferers who can relate to what it is like to have anxiety and panic helps. After a bit I was able to relax and actually enjoy the ride through the the open and dry countryside of Tasmania. I switched busses in Hobart departing with those that I had hiked with.
The ferry ride went off without a hitch and although I was tired and ready for sleep, I watched Star Wars in the ferry’s mini theater. Not quite as good as it was the first time on the IMAX 3D screen, but still a good flick.
I arrived in Melbourne early on Friday the 12th and had a full day of laundry, going into town to exchange my tent (the mesh on the one I had bought was already wasting away), I tried to exchange the woman’s mattress I bought by mistake for a men’s without success. Grocery shopping (bought too much), then cocktails provided by Matt and KP. I hated to leave. I took one lorazepam and one antihistamine and I was out for the night on the whole train ride. Before I dozed off I started reading the book Nick Saban wrote after he won his first national championship at LSU. I finished it in a few days and it was very inspiring and helped me to think about my career goals.
I arrived in Sydney on Saturday morning of the 13th and immediately went to the hostel even though I couldn’t check in until the afternoon. I fell asleep on the couch in the community kitchen and slept for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon I took the train 30 km out to Blackstown to watch “Game 5” of the World Baseball Classic Qualifier between New Zealand and South Africa. South Africa won to advance to the final against Australia the next day.
On Sunday the 14th I went to a pub at 8:30 in the morning and watched Duke beat UVA on a last second shot. The guy took 5 steps. The media didn’t even mention it. Frustrating. Then on the train again to the final of the WBC qualifier. Australia pulled away late to advance to the World Baseball that will be held next year.
Monday the 15th was a very good day. I took a 10:30 am tour of the city then ate lunch at the Museum of Contemporary Art with great views of the harbor. After lunch I toured the art museum and also the the Rocks Discovery Museum. The Rocks was the first area settled in 1788 and the heart and soul of the city through the 1800s. I walked around the opera house and saw a little of the botanical gardens before taking a 6 pm tour of The Rocks area. Afterwards I had a drink at the Australian Hotel and another drink at Fortunes of War, a pub claiming to be the oldest pub in Sydney. There are two other pubs in the Rocks that also make the same claim.
I got a late start on Tuesday the 16th but went back to same bar as I had two days before to watch the UVA basketball team play against NC State. They struggled in the first half but pulled away in the second. I find myself still very attached to the team. I love Perrantes, and Brodgdon is just so solid. I saw former Blue Ridge student Mamadi on the tv screen celebrating at a time out with Perrantes – looks like he is fitting in.
I took the bus to Spit Bridge to do the Manly Walk. I got on an express bus and had to backtrack. Amazingly beautiful walk with hidden beaches and breathtaking views. Manly is a cool beach town. The Sydney area continues to stun me and is becoming hands down the best city that I have ever been to. I tried to return to Sydney by ferry before it got dark so I could see Sydney Harbor in the daylight, but I was too late and caught night views instead. We crossed over huge rollers between North and South Head as we were practically out on the open ocean.
On Wednesday the 17th I walked through the Botanical Gardens and then took the ferry to Cockatoo Island, the largest island in Sydney Harbor. It was only open to the public a little more than ten years ago. In its earliest days it served as a prison for convicts, and the conditions were very poor. It also served stints at different times as a girls and then a boys school. Then it became a shipbuilding and maintenance dock, and during WWII was the largest ship repair center for allied forces in the South Pacific.
I really went all today and was able to pack in a visit to Bondi Beach where I saw the biggest waves along with the bravest surfers that I have ever seen. These waves must have been over 6 meters or 20 feet high. I hear they are even bigger up the coast in Queensland. I walked the cliffs all the way from Bondi to Coogee and had fish and chips (and a kebab) for dinner and was served a beer by an exchange student from Charlottesville who attends UNC.
On Thursday the 18th, my last day in Sydney I visited the campus of Sydney University where my brother attended for a semester in 1987. In the afternoon I caught the ferry to Wharfs Bay where I walked the South Head Trail and learned of the ship wrecks between the North and South Heads before a lighthouse was installed. Like all the other coastal walks, there were hidden beaches along the way. One could feel like he were on a secluded beach far off in the Pacific but then look up and see the skyline of Sydney. What an awesome city!
Sitting on the airplane just about to take off from Sydney to Christchurch. Feeling ok, but too aware of things. Took an antihistamine, we’ll see how that goes. I really don’t think I’ll keel over or anything. I don’t even feel like going to sleep, but would like to get some zzzs in. It’s a pretty short flight. I wish I could have stayed longer in Sydney – I fell in love with this city.