The plane touched down on December 31, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. 22 hours on a plane is a really, really long time. Plus, I’d given up a whole day by crossing the international dateline. Still, it didn’t seem real. I couldn’t believe that I had finally arrived in my dream destination, just in time for the huge New Year’s Eve celebration.
I’ll admit, I checked into my hotel and took a nap first – and it was hard to resist getting to the Harbor. I knew, however, that I’d probably never make it if I kept running on empty.
Once I woke up, I walked the four blocks to the place where music (and fireworks, on NYE) floats – Sydney Harbor. It was only noon on a very hot, humid day, but crowds had already started to gather and stake out a prime location for the fireworks display that would take place on that evening. New Year’s Eve banners flapped from light posts, traffic signs flashed directions to parking and entrances to the viewing locations, and I snapped photos like a person possessed.
I had decided not to fight the crowds and to grab my front-row seat on a harbor cruise. When it came time to board, I ran on board like a bride-to-be at a half-off wedding gown sale, and staked my claim on the best viewing spot I could get. I’d also arranged in advance – I’d booked this trip a year earlier – with the captain to be allowed on the boat’s bow with my camera and tripod when the fireworks action started.
The theme for Sydney’s New Year’s 2006 celebration was “Heart” and as we passed under the Harbor Bridge just after sunset, I got a glimpse of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, decorated with lights in the shape of a heart, and the lights were “beating” to underscore the theme. It made my own heart skip a beat from the anticipation. Just under the bridge was the Opera House, decked out in its party duds. It glowed purple and blue and white, and seemed to pulse in its own right.
All of the boats in the Harbor participated in a parade, decorated with the theme in mind. As midnight approached, each boat found its spot facing the Bridge, so the effect made the water look like a Christmas tree with heart-shaped ornaments in its reflection.
The boat captain started the countdown, and I joined in with him. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. Then, the heart that was beating in me stood still, while the heart that was beating on the bridge did the same – only for a moment. Then, like it had been given new life, it burst into bright lights from the fireworks that originated on each side of the bridge and met in the middle. For the next 10 minutes it sounded like a war zone, as we watched the display that our host city had prepared for us.
It died down for a while, but one of the boat hands said to me, in that soothing Aussie accent, “Mate, that bridge? She’s not even warmed up yet.”
I then watched another fifteen minutes, and after it was all over I joined in with a resounding “Woot!” with the crowd of thousands as we all reacted with a heart-felt round of applause.
That night followed me around Australia for the next two weeks of my country tour, and I was pleasantly surprised to see when I circled back to Sydney that the bridge still bore the heart decor. It was there when I climbed to the tippy-top of it to get the best view of Sydney I’d seen. There couldn’t have been a more perfect theme for my Sydney New Years experience, as my heart fills with joy every year at this time when I remember.