Kelly and I both set our alarms for last Thursday so we would wake in time to be ready for our early morning ride to the airport. The morning was gloomy, cloudy and wet, which matched my mood. We got ready and I tried not to focus on the impending farewells.
I hate saying goodbye to Tasmania. I cry each time I leave the island. At the end of my exchange year, there were fifteen people at the airport to see me off. I cried deep, wracking sobs for the entire flight to Melbourne. I stopped crying once we landed and pulled myself together so I could transfer to my flight to Sydney. As soon as I was on the plane, I proceeded to weep for the next flight as well. When I visited Tasmania in 1996, I cried when I left but only during take-off and the first half of my flight to Sydney.
Thursday morning we said goodbye to Rae at the house because she was spending the day babysitting her grandchildren. I cried at the house and most of the way to the airport. I started crying again when Malcolm said goodbye to us at the airport before he left for a meeting. Jill, a Kingston Rotarian, was dropping her son-in-law at the airport so she waited with us until we were able to board our flight. Once we were settled on the plane, I cried a third time as we taxied down the runway.
I’m pretty certain most people don’t cry when they leave Tasmania. But as much as I want to ignore the everyday difficulties created by my disability, the fact is I may not be able to travel here again. That thought breaks my heart. Then I remember I’ve had that same thought twice before in my life, and twice before I was wrong. None of us can predict the future.
Leaving Tasmania last week was made easier because instead of coming straight home, Kelly and I had planned two days in Sydney with some of my friends. As an exchange student, my closest friend was Ulla. We were in a few of the same classes at school and spent much of our free time together. Ulla now lives in Brisbane and as soon as I knew I would be returning to Australia, I made plans to see her.
Ulla was waiting for us at the gate when we got off the plane. I was instantly transported back twenty five years. People talk about having friendships where you can go for years and not see someone but pick up where you left off as soon as you see them again. Ulla and I have that friendship. We haven’t seen one another in nineteen years, yet as soon as we hugged each other we were exactly where we had been before.
The sky was a brilliant blue, and the weather was warm. I started shedding layers as soon as we got on the train. Traveling from the airport into the city is very easy, although the day we arrived one of the elevators in the domestic terminal station was out of order. As a result, we had to take the train in the opposite direction to the international terminal station and then transfer over to the train we really wanted. If you use a wheelchair and cannot pop a wheelie to cross the gap, you will need to use the bridge plate to board the train. Transit staff were timely with the plate and accommodating at every station. There are several accessible spaces on each train.
We found our hotel, the Amora Jamison, and dropped our bags in our room before heading out to lunch. If you need a wheelchair accessible hotel in Sydney, room 502 is very nice. The bathroom is HUGE – one of the largest I have ever seen in a hotel. There is plenty of room next to and in front of the toilet. I don’t use a hoist lift, but if you did, you would have ample space in this room. The pedestal sink is at a usable height, and the faucets can easily be operated with a closed fist for those with reduced dexterity. The only drawback is the lack of counter space. There is a wheeled shelf which you can position wherever it is most convenient for you. The bench in the roll-in shower is a bit low, but that is a minor draw back to what is a very comfortable room. The staff were willing to remove one of the armchairs so we had more floor space near the bed. We even had a nice view of the Menzies clock and Wynyard Park.
Ulla’s boyfriend, Carlos, met us and we walked down to Circular Quay for lunch. Kelly and I both love people watching and you can definitely spend some time sitting along the water doing this. But, we had a destination in mind! So, we continued to follow the Sydney Writer’s Walk towards the Sydney Opera House. The Writer’s Walk is series of plaques set into the walkway around Circular Quay. They feature excerpts of the author’s writing and a brief biography. Some of the plaques are out of date, as they were installed in the 1990’s and indicate some authors are still alive. But for someone who regularly looks down as she rolls along, it was fun to have something to read along the way.
The Opera House is situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour. When you walk to the Opera House, you can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge to your left. Last Thursday, both the Opera House and bridge were gleaming in the sunshine.
You can take tours of the Opera House, which Ulla and I did the last time we visited in 1996. We were fortunate to hear the Sydney Symphony rehearsing Tchaikovsky during our tour. Last week we just walked around the building, taking in the sunshine and the lovely blue sky and water. From the walkway we could see people in the Royal Botanic Gardens and curiously watched as a Cadbury egg display was erected across the street (we never did figure out what exactly was happening there).
There were boats and kayaks out on the water. Ferries went by with regularity while we played tourist and snapped many photos. I have a photo of Ulla and I at the Opera House on my wall. We took another one last week which I’m sure will find its way into a frame as well.
Carlos made us stage a group selfie, which took more time than it probably required, and the end result has become one of my favorite memories of the day. I laugh each time it comes up in my random photo screen saver on my computer at home.
Since all four of us had very early mornings, we decided to take a rest before dinner. Kelly and I took advantage of the hotel WiFi to contact home and share some updates. I eagerly sought out updates from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Usually, I take a day off from work to watch early tournament games with my friend Theresa. I love the close games and the excitement of upsets. I like them better when I manage to pick the winners, which doesn’t happen too often. This year I appear to be doing fairly well!
Another friend from my Tasmanian school days, Andrew, lives in Sydney and joined us for dinner. We walked to The Rocks and found an Italian restaurant with an available courtyard table. We laughed and reminisced, wondering what became of so and so, and playing “where do you think they are now” over dinner.
As Kelly and I collapsed in bed, I reflected on all of the amazing events of the past two weeks. I was able to see everyone I wanted to see, and met so many new friends. We explored beautiful areas, and captured some great photos. I can honestly say I have no regrets about my time in Tasmania, other than I wish I could have stayed longer.
** This post is brought to you by Carole. Carole shares my love of nature and knows how important it is for everyone to be able to access natural spaces. Carole – thank you for making it possible for me to experience this adventure. I appreciate your support!