Yesterday was already my 100th day Down Under! Yeehaa! The weather gods decided it to be opportune to let me “celebrate” it with some typical Belgian weather: it’s been raining non-stop since the day before yesterday.. The day before that, it was 34°C and very sunny, but ever since Monday we’ve had nothing but clouds and rain in temperatures somewhere between 20 and 25°C. It would’ve been better the other way around, as this also meant the Australian national day didn’t have the most summery weather either.. This didn’t stop the festivities though.
About that jobhount I wrote about in my previous blog: it’s still going on. I’m getting more and more frustrated every day, especially in this shitty weather. Yet, I try not to care too much about it either. I am still in Australia and have decided to plan some breaks during the jobhunt as well, instead of spending every single day at the library or my hostel looking for work. Last Friday for example, I had dinner with Elena and Leni who were back in Sydney for a couple of hours after their trip along the east coast and before they would continue to New Zealand that evening. Next Saturday then will be another break, as I bought my ticket for the AFC Asian Cup final this morning. It was an expensive one, so the Socceroos better make sure they beat South-Korea and win the cup!
And so, the day before yesterday was also a day without jobhunt. Australia Day! No lack of festivities on that day, that’s for sure. Here’s a list of the things I was interested in enough to put them on my shortlist of things to do/attend/see if possible:
- 07.30u – 08.00u: ‘WugulOra Indigenous Ceremony’
- 08.00u: Aboriginal and Australian flag being raised on Harbour Bridge
- 09.00u: start of the ‘Oz Day 10k’, a race for wheelchair athletes
- 11.00u – 11.45u: ‘Ferrython’, ferry race to Harbour Bridge
- 11.00u – 12.00u: ‘Lord Mayor’s Citizenship Ceremony’ (Hyde Park)
- 12.00u: Salute to Australia (Bradfield Park, Opera House, Harbour Bridge)
- 12.05u – 12.15u: ‘Tug & Yacht Ballet’ (Opera House & Harbour Bridge)
- 12.45u: QANTAS A380 fly-over + Russian Roolettes acrobatic display
- 12.45u – 13.45u: ‘Australia Day Harbour Parade’ (Sydney Harbour)
- 13.00u – 13.45u: ‘Tall Ships Race’ from Bradley’s Head to Harbour Bridge
- 14.00u – 14.15u: ‘Red Berets Australian Army Parachute Display Team’
- Doorlopend: ‘CARnivale’ (Macquarie Street)
- Doorlopend: vintage buses driving around
- Doorlopend: little markets and music at The Rocks
- 20.15u – 20.45u: DJ Havana Brown dj-set, (Darling Harbour)
- 21.00u: Darling Harbour Fireworks (Darling Harbour)
Of course there were a lot more things to do on this day, but these were the ones I was interested in the most, on first sight. Some overlapping stuff as well, with the consequence that I decided not to go to Lord Mayor’s Citizenship Ceremony as I didn’t want to risk missing out on a good spot for the ‘attractions’ in the harbour.
Having slept longer than I wanted to/had planned, I only left my hostel at 9.30am. So I missed the aboriginal ceremony at 7.30am, though I do feel that the organization should’ve planned this event later during the day. Why not at 10.30am for example? Why not closer to the rest of the activities? An official part to raise the flags on the bridge early in the morning and then the WugulOra Ceremony later on? Or maybe just two ceremonies?
Anyway, I left around half past nine and despite the rainfall, there was already some Aussie Day atmosphere in George Street with street artists playing ‘Waltzing Mathilda‘ on a trumpet or national anthem ‘Advance Australia Fair‘ on a saxophone. A little girl of around ten years old walked around with her mom in one hand and a waving Australian flag in the other. Some adolescents had that flag as a fake tattoo on their cheeks or wore a flag on their shoulders.
I arrived at Circular Quay and had missed the start of the ‘Oz Day 10k‘ as well, but that was compensated (kind of) by the fact that I could watch the end of the ‘The Wiggles‘-show that was taking place on the stage in front of the Opera House. Some apparently very popular show for kids and they seemed to love it, no doubt about that!
I did manage to see the rest of things I had planned, so that was good. It was nice to see both the Australian flag and the Aboriginal one on Harbour Bridge. At the same time, an aircraft carrier was taking its place in the harbour, slowly but steadily. It was the first time I saw a real aircraft carrier and I kind of expected them to be bigger, but still, nice to see one!
The crowds started gathering around Circular Quay and around 11.30am, there were also more and more vessels to be seen in the harbour. The ‘Ferrython’ was going into its final! Kind of funny to see all these ferry’s racing eachother, but I absolutely don’t remember which one won the competition in the end..
Fifteen minutes later one of my favorite actors talked to us. Russell Crowe (well, probably a recorded tape) explained how a couple of seconds later the aircraft carrier was going to signal that Sydney’s mayor was ready to receive the salute to Australia, after which 21 gun shots would be fired. After that, the ‘New South Wales Public School Choir’ would sing the Australian National Anthem. And so it happened.
Apparently, that signal was the only reason the aircraft carrier was there and why the number of gun shots was twenty-one is something I still have to look up. The bad weather didn’t stop the Aussies from standing there with pride though, while the flags on the bridge waved just as proudly. I was expecting just the national anthem after the gun shots, but there were two songs instead… ‘Advance Australia Fair’, the official anthem, was sung first, but was followed by ‘I am, you are, we are Australian’. I didn’t expect this, but once again I was happy to hear it. If my hearing doesn’t fail me, I also got the impression that that second song got more applause than the first one.. More and more I keep thinking ‘I am Australian’ is the real national anthem for the Aussies. It sure as hell feels like it.
After this official salute, it was time for some tug boats and yachts to steel the show in their ballet. I was curious to see this and it turned out to be quite original. The vessels “danced” to Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ and were then followed by the ‘Harbour Parade’: a parade of smaller vessels that were dressed up for the occasion, wearing Aussie flags or having a kangaroo on the prow for example.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of the air display between 12.45pm and 2.15pm. I only saw part of the Russian Roulettes show, didn’t see the QANTAS A380 flying over at all and suppose the ‘Red Berets’ and their chutes were cancelled because of the weather. By the way, thanks to whoever forgot his umbrella in my hostel, I used it well!
In the meantime, a certain Darren Percival (apparently the winner of ‘The Voice Australia’) went through the Harbour on a floating stage to sing some songs. Passing us, he was singing Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a wonderful world’ and said that he was happy to finally be performing in the Opera House. I wouldn’t exactly call a stage on the Harbour water “in the Opera House”, but whatever floats his boat, right? (see what I did there?)
At that time, I was already looking forward to the next event on the shortlist: the Tall Ships Race! This turned out to be a lot less then I expected.. I was expecting at least some fifteen tall ships, but there were only four. Too bad. The most modern one was the first one to cross the Harbour Bridge finish line of course, but after having taken some pictures of the most beautiful three-masters, I moved on. To The Rocks!
There was a very nice and cosy atmosphere going on in The Rocks. People having a drink and chatting on one of the many terraces, music in the streets, little markets. Thanks to the weather it also wasn’t too crowded, which was nice. After this, I walked back to the other side of Circular Quay, heading towards Macquarie Street for the ‘CARnivale’, a display of old automobile beauty. Oldtimers everywhere. The youngest vehicles were made in the eighties, the eldest ones were more than a century old. ‘Normal’ cars, some racing cars, old firetrucks, motorcycles, all in all more than 700 of them!
Passing these veteran cars, I arrived at Hyde Park where most of the festivities were coming to an end. I saw some of the vintage buses that were leaving at a bus stop near the park, took a picture of course, but walked on to my hostel to let my legs rest for a minute, eat something and recharge my camera and phone.
In the evening, I went to Darling Harbour of course. I had never heard of DJ Havana Brown before, but judging by the crowd present for her DJ-set, she must be very popular. She was announced as “an international superstar” as well, so there must have been something about it/her.. Anyway, after fifteen minutes or so, I walked on to Cockle Bay Wharf for the fireworks.
The wind wasn’t blowing in the right direction, so the smoke from the fireworks made the view a little bit less spectacular than it could’ve been, but it was another very nice display nonetheless. Seven minutes of fireworks, the Australian National Anthem once again and then five more minutes of fireworks. Nice!
This entire day was a very welcome break between the days of jobhunting. Yet, I do hope that if I get to celebrate ‘Australia Day’ again (maybe next year?) there will be a clear blue sky and a lot of sunshine and that I won’t be walking around alone like I did now. At least, the Aussies know how to celebrate their national day. Maybe we should start doing so in Belgium as well. In Belgium we only have the ‘The Deum’ service in Brussels Cathedral, the army and police parade and besides that, we’re already happy to just have a day off. As far as I’m aware of, the festivities also only take place in/around our capital city. So why not do more? Why not have some more concerts and firework displays in all the big cities we have? Even in the rain, it’s fun!..