I <3 Sydney


Sydney Airport seemed like the first real arrival landing I’d experienced on my first and second overseas deployments combined. U.S. service-members have throughways. The ID card goes far. We’re kind of shuffled through, like livestock in a squeeze chute. I was happy; I’d been weighed down in body armor, weapons and ammunition from Afghanistan to Kuwait, and now I was able to lock up my gear and swap a sweat-stiffened uniform for an out-the-plastic-new t-shirt, a reliable windbreaker, and blue jeans. I shouldered a duffel bag — packed light, and when I reached Sydney after an eight-hour flight from Dubai International I was already feeling more like a real human-being. At Sydney, a customs official ruffled through the thick pages of my passport and then pressed one. I looked at the imprinted stamp — not as impressed with the design as imagined. This would be the last time I thought about customs stamps reflecting impressions of countries.
        Australia is not an abstract anomaly — just a logically-run country. Aussie culture supports, protects, and promotes active outdoor lifestyles, nutritionally sound food, and standardized healthcare that works. That’s admirable.
        Simply-put, Australia is just a healthy place to be; and if renewal of health is what you’re after–along with some great memories, then the land-down-under can help jumpstart an awareness for good living and good times that will stick with you for a lifetime.
        Two of my friends, Ira, a fellow Marine team-leader, and Lucien, a Navy medic, were smitten with Sydney alone. But I wanted to see more — at least the rest of New South Wales (even though Sydney would’ve been enough to convince me that utopian ideology can evolve into close shaves with reality).
        After checking in to unload some weight at Hotel Bondi (pronounced bon-dye) on Campbell Parade road, we walked south toward Dunningham reserve along a beach path that you know you missed if you end up in the water. There is outdoor gym equipment positioned in intervals along the path for a quick workout along the way, in some ways like Venice beach, California, but with a drove more workout stations — that are sanitarily inviting to the touch — and without the surrounding dystopian resonation echoed by lost souls.
        Coral formations platform the path, and seawater is often naturally channeled up and over your head behind the formations; it seeps out the sides of the high, slippery rock walls that bilaterally flank the path.
        At Bronte beach, calf muscles contract while walking down the steep downhill trail to get to the beach below. There’s a little thatched hut there where the sand meets a field of grass. The hut’s young attendees serve sandwiches and drinks; and Ira, Lucien and I sat for a drink, chomping turkey slices on some rustic bread, gazing at all the athletic beachgoers on a Tuesday morning and said “doesn’t anybody work around here?”
        One site that really impressed was Waverly cemetery,waverely-cemetary                a quarter-mile-long peaceable piece of land that tops the beach cliffs from Bondi Beach to Bronte. The fact that a cemetery remains protected against a tourist-drawn coastline, and for hundreds of years, never displaced for some exponentially more lucrative venture, simply reflects the loyal fiber of the locals.                                                                                                                               
                     * * * *        Now, I am walking through an alley in a historical district in inland California where windswept leaves have accumulated, cast down from sycamore tress that have tall, tattered, striking appearances; I am in the shadows of them. I remember the walking paths in the Katoomba foothillssafe_imageof New South Wales; I remember the way the paths lead down into the wild, overgrown canyons, and how it was hard to tell what time of day it was once you were inside the shadows of the eucalyptus jungles, and the way you can look straight up at Wentworth fallsP1000737from inside the basin but can’t see the top until you climb up to the other side of the canyon. 
I continue walking, and remember Australia’s prominent mark on me — beyond the in-country tattooing — and, well, the title stole my summary.
About Hudson Saffell (36 Articles)
Freelance Writer / Editor

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