Sydney – How I Danced to the Aboriginal Music and Practised Yoga in front of the Opera

Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and Oceania of about five million Sydneysiders. It remains one of the richest areas in Australia in terms of Aboriginal archaeological sites – no wonder, since indigenous Australians have inhabited the Sydney area for at least 30,000 years. Their spirit is tangible everywhere and it would be silly to try to deny that.

I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful chef who owns Mindful Cooking (www.mindfulcooking.com.au), Lina, in the Blue Mountains yoga retreat centre where I am currently staying. She invited me for a visit in her cosy apartment in the centre of Sydney, just a half hour walk from the renowned Opera.

We spent a wonderful day on the Bondi Beach, a popular beach in a Sydney suburb, located 7 km east of the Sydney central business district. I tried out the freezing cold ocean and struggled to stay swimming within the boundaries of the two flags (typical for Australia, as everywhere else there would be surfers) since the waves were extremely strong. No wonder; the Aboriginal word “Boondi“ means water breaking over rocks. The waters here are wild!

I repeatedly got the coastguards following me asking me to kindly stay within the two flags. When I said that I am trying to but the waters keep carrying me away, they APOLOGIZED! Later that afternoon a storm was about to break down over Sydney, a tough, heavy storm, almost summer-like one. The sky was grey dark and streaked by flashes. The coastguards drove their quad car along the beach RECOMMENDING the surfers to come ashore as the storm could be dangerous for them. That is Australia too!

I loved the atmosphere of the Bondi Beach, the stylish restaurant The Bucket List (a notoriously well-known meeting point), the cool graffiti street art (with no tags anywhere, but wonderful murals), the vegan markets everywhere and the overall kindness with which some stalls would offer people to use their blankets for picnics, some restaurants would have places designated for dogs where there was water and granules, and the mingling of hipsters, backpackers, barefoot boho hippies, surfers walking in their wet suits and with their boards, barefoot and travellers with neatly dressed business people and those dressed in the latest designers clothes.

Driving to Lina´s apartment, she suddenly had a wonderful idea to stop by the Centennial Park and take a little walk there. Not only did I thus get to experience the wonderful atmosphere of the Sydney parks, but I also spent some time by a massive fig tree whose energy was amazing, and eventually the spontaneous walk brought us all the way to a place where Acro Jam (acro yoga enthusiasts, if you are in Sydney, check out their Facebook profile, lots of fun and learning FOR FREE) were practising acro yoga. Shy as I can be, I would not dare disturb the wonderful picnic-like and circus-like atmosphere, but Lina realized how much I wanted to practise and just spoke with one man of the group whom she happened to know – seems to me that Lina knows a half of Sydney, there was not a single place where we would go and where nobody would run over to her to give her a hug and a warm greeting. I ended up doing some crazy things that afternoon (see my video section if you like) and the day after and basically now I would spend most of my free days (mainly Sundays) in Sydney with those people, the loving and loveable leader of the group, Duncan, the slackline instructor who amazes you with his focus and wisdom, Jeffrey, and the enigmatic and almost literary-like character as his name has predestined him to be, Tristan who gave me a special experience once driving me on his skateboard (I was sitting at the very front with my bag and he was standing and riding behind me, managing well to balance that crazy crew) through the beach promenade and The Corso (see below). There are many more people in the group, but these three souls I found an immediate connection with and I claim it so that Duncan is an angel who once came to his god and said: “You know, I would like to try it out down on the earth at some point…” And thus he came to this world…

We mostly practise on Shelly beach, which can be reached by a ferry going from Circular Quay (the train station by the Opera) and is a part of the local transport system, so on Sundays it is included in the 2.70 AUD fee for the whole day travelling. It takes less than a half hour (unless you decide to go by the much more expensive fast ferry) and brings you to the Manly Wharf from which you then walk down The Corso towards the Manly beach and then a stroll along the shore promenade (where there are public toilets and potable water fountains) brings you to this small and cute Shelly beach which I totally fell in love with as you can snorkel and swim there easily, while the surfers would be enjoying their practise on Manly or higher up from Shelly, under the cliffs that rise above the beach and where you can take a walk to admire the viewpoints overlooking Sydney beaches, sailing boats, surfers, and the buildings of the city on the horizon.

There are various things happening on the beach, from BBQs and picnics to slackline walking, juggling, yoga practising, hiking up the cliffs and just chilling out. Tourists who make it all the way there to discover more than just the Opera House mingle with the locals and the place has got amazing luxuriant vibes. For me, it is one of the greatest thrills in Sydney and I love The Corso with all the street artists too and the promenade (accessible also for wheelchairs) where there are always dozens of friendly and harmless bearded dragon lizards basking in the sun on the rocks along the pavement who seem happy to be taken pictures of.

But then, of course, the city centre is also beautiful. My favourite walk is going through Hyde Park, passing the Sydney Tower Eye, stopping in the Art Gallery of New South Wales to let art speak to me and to get a tea and continuing down to Mrs. Macquaries Rd. and Woolloomoolloo Bay, along the army bases and Waldorf Woolloomooloo Waters Apartments (yes, it is those of which the Australian star Russell Crowe owns several – and actually recently has sold two of them to Sam Barnett) and then up the Botanic gardens and to the Opera House (where I once practised my headstands for fun to the great thrill of some Chinese tourists who forgot about taking pictures of the architectonical gem and instead were filming me as I found out later when they clapped their hands at the end of my practice).

When Prince Harry and his wife were in Sydney and the Invictus Games were happening at the same time (an international adaptive multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports) the place got packed, but – surprisingly, crowds of tourists can usually only be encountered around the Opera, otherwise the metropole does not seem to be too active and busy. Its laid-back, calm and calming atmosphere is ubiquitous and pervasive. I love sitting on the roof of the Museum of Sydney or the State Library of NSW (where there are always cool exhibitions going on), drinking the Young Henrys Cloudy Cider (produced in Newtown Sydney), watching the sailing boats under the Harbour Bridge. It gives me great feeling of peace and tranquillity.

What I also like to do is just walking around the shops near the Opera (My favourite, of course, is the corner Ugg shop, where I have recently bout a pair of winter shoes in sales – the price dropped down from 450 AUD to 120!) and watching the Aboriginal street artists perform. I got acquainted with several of them by now. And it all happened thanks to Lina again… this shining woman with Moroccan roots has had some miraculous effects on my life…

When she was showing me around Sydney we got to the Circular Quay Wharf area where there are many Aboriginal people performing (mostly didgeridoo playing, sometimes with “urban black” reproduced music added as well as chants). One of them was dressed and painted all over in the traditional way. His music spoke directly to my heart and all of a sudden I found myself dancing with my eyes closed. I don´t know how long it lasted for but then the music stopped and I felt as if in a dream. Lina and I left some money for the artist and were heading off when he called out at me: “Thank you for your energy.” It felt like a blessing to me.

Another time I walked back to listen to his music and he recognized me and said he remembered me dancing and my energy. I left a contact for me and we will see how far he and his people will allow me to go in discovering their culture and spirit…

I feel a funny strange connection to those people who even came to my visions and dreams a few times before and after arriving to this country. They are mostly assimilated and integrated into the Australian society by now, most of them went to Australians schools, often, they have English names. But when you want to talk to them about the past, they become uneasy, solemn and detached. There was too much blood shed and the truth is I often feel the heaviness and sadness of the history laid upon the country, especially in some areas of the Blue Mountains; not so much in Sydney as the energy is diluted by all the tourists coming and leaving…

I could speak about Sydney for long, since this town has really become close to me, but I will just finish off by mentioning two “must-see” places: the hipster-like Newton (where you, among else, find the wonderful Lentils´- Lentil As Anything – a unique pay-as-you-feel vegan restaurant „committed to feeding and connecting the community, and encouraging environmental sustainability“) with its many art shops and cool cafés and the bohemian Chippendale where you should give a try to The Lansdowne Hotel. It’s a neon-lit three-storey art deco hotel on the corner of Broadway and City Road, overlooking Victoria Park, which is always open when everything else is closed. It’s smeared and coarse, and the clientele are oscillating in between artistic and scruffy, and it has been beloved by every University of Sydney (situated nearby) student and every eccentric for well over a hundred years (it opened in 1932). There are bands playing (often for free) even on Sunday evenings when most other places would be respecting the “family day” and the city nightlife would otherwise have a deadened atmosphere.

Another cool area is Glebe, nestled between two universities, a home to an eclectic community of students, academics, activists and new-agers. You’ll hear them discussing everything from chakras to Che Guevara in its casual eateries, bookstores and pocket-sized bars, the favourite of which for me would be the B.E.D. Bar which has got beers and wines for 6 AUD, great live music and amazing chamber-like atmosphere and where, once upon a time, I sang my beloved Stand by me during a memorable jazz and blues open jam night…

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