Twenty-three years ago today, the Spouse and I were in Sydney, Australia, for our first of six visits to the country and continent.
We had heard about the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras and wanted to see what it was all about. With a year of planning ahead, we arranged the most fantastic journey, starting with going there first class in a Qantas 747.
First Class? Wow… how much did those tickets cost? …
Yep, we had to pay taxes and fees. But the primary ticket was free using 80,000 frequent flier miles (each) that I had earned from domestic flights where, at the time, I was flying over 100,000 miles each year on some 70 trips over 40 weeks. That was the nature of my job at the time. And that’s why we returned to Australia and New Zealand five more times.
Anyway, we left on a Tuesday and arrived on a Wednesday. We booked a room in a hotel on Oxford Street, a main drag of Sydney.
The hotel room had a balcony that overlooked Oxford Street, which was where the Mardi Gras parade traveled on Saturday, March 2. We had a great view well above the crowds of the parade. What a sight to see! (Note: to get such a nice location for a room overlooking the parade route, we called to make the reservation one year ahead of time.)
The night before the big event, we booked tickets on a “leather cruise” where we dressed in our leathers and joined about 20 other guys for a cruise on a boat through the Sydney Harbour. I don’t remember much about that cruise other than it was something interesting to do, and that we didn’t really get our money’s worth since they had an open bar we both don’t drink alcohol. But the passengers were friendly and interesting to speak with.
Back to the Mardi Gras… 100s of thousands of people showed up to watch and participate. The evening was quite pleasant — warm and dry. The participants were having so much fun. Smiles, cat-calls, hoots and hollers, clapping, singing, and just plain high-energy joy abounded.
I prepared a meal for dinner which we ate on our balcony whilst watching the parade and drank Shweppe’s lemonade, which was a carbonated drink. I loved it. (Too bad they never brought it to the U.S.)
The parade lasted about two hours, which was amazing unto itself. It began, of course, with “Dykes on Bikes”, followed by dozens of floats, marching groups, and choreographed dance routines. The dancing Marilyn Monroes were hilarious.
At the end of the parade, we followed the crowd at the end to the showground where they held a heck of a party. It was like an open street festival with games, dramatic productions, plenty of food, and a huge dance floor (with the typical bunga-bunga techno so-called “music” for dancing.) Spouse and I watched… smiled… and watched more. There is something about watching thousands of shirtless gay men sweating… (giggle.)
We stayed at the showgrounds until about 2am, but by then what with jet lag and my general nature of not being a night-owl, I was so tired, I had had enough. We walked back to the hotel, hand-in-hand.
By 10am the next morning, we were having breakfast on the hotel balcony whilst watching some guys still stumbling back from the party.
It was a very fun event and everyone was so friendly and just.plain.joyful. It was a bucket-list adventure that we can say “been there, done that” for a lifetime memory.
Life is short: if you’re going to have a bucket-list adventure, do it right!