New Year's Eve at Sydney!
A week ago, my new boss asked me if I was going to the harbour on New Year’s Eve. I suddenly woke up to the fact that we were in Sydney, the first part of the world to see 2009, and the city which offers the world famous Harbour Bridge fireworks display! With last minute scrambling we found all the ticketed events on and around the harbour were sold out. Anyway, neither that nor the fact that 1.5 million people attend this event and we would have to brave the crowds at the free vantage points, deter us from experiencing the spectacle live.
Armed with sunglasses, caps and a huge bottle of water, a few friends, hubby and I set off as early as 2:00pm to get hold of a good spot. The Town Hall station and all the roads to the harbour had become an ocean of people. After plodding along in the queue, we finally reached the Opera House area. Families had already parked themselves in every visible inch of space, with blankets, foldable chairs, large picnic hampers, umbrellas, radios, playing cards, guitars and some had even pitched their camping tents! We found a fast disappearing spot between three families and a flight of stairs and quickly pitched ourselves for 9 hour wait to 2009. The afternoon summer sun shone away fiercely with Vitamin D and UV rays fighting for supremacy to get under our skins! We did not feel the wait, as we watched various people and their antics. A boisterous college crowd from Taiwan waving their flag and yelling non-stop;school girls deciding which party tops to wear just before the fireworks; wild looking guys sporting pink hair and scary tattoos; girls dancing away while waiting in the queue to the ladies room; a family of 3 generations that stuck shiny pink stars all over each others faces in all seriousness; good old desi families from north, south, east and west carrying huge umbrellas and picnic hampers. On the terrace of the Opera house – elite folks waved even while sweating it out in their formal evening dresses and tuxedos. Every boat or helicopter that went by would trigger a cheer from the crowd. The Security group had happily hogged the best spot on a flight of stairs.. and not to forget, the small old wrinkled man nearby, who had secured a place right in the front, had a beer and then happily slept soundly throughout the entire din till midnight!
As the evening set in, there were aerial shows with the entire crowd trying to guess what was being spelt out across the sky as each smoke alphabet appeared. Smoke trails of advertisers spanned the sky. The sun finally set and at last there was some respite with a small ocean breeze. Coloured projections on either sides of the Sydney Bridge began welcoming the crowd to Sydney in multiple languages. At 9 PM, there was a count down and then the horizon burst into a riot of multicolored fireworks. The mini Family Fireworks had begun. As each flare sailed up and bloomed in the sky the crowds cheered, hooted and whistled in appreciation. This brief display only whetted the appetite for more. As the last fire balls died out we noticed an illuminated whale making its way slowly around the dark waters. We then saw another large fish, and was that a rose? And then suddenly a ghost ship too! Watching these mystical giant creatures slowly moving around was a dream-like and surreal experience. This was the Harbour of Light Parade where over 55 illuminated ships, charters and ferries made their way around a 15km circuit on Sydney Harbour. When these boats came closer to us, the crowds waved and cheered enthusiastically, and were fully reciprocated by several people partying on these boats!
As the time went by, folks began getting restless. Just 45 minutes to go for midnight, 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes ….30 seconds …and then the count down projections on either side of the bridge began. TEN…NINE… EIGHT …. the crowd counted along ….SEVEN SIX …FIVE… …almost time…. FOUR…THREE… 1.5 million people chanting in unison…TWO …ONE .... all was quiet for a second, and then the sky erupted on all sides. Stunning explosions, myriads of color, dazzling flairs, and sparkling bouquets sailed across the sky. The Sydney Harbour Bridge came alive, with a central digital display, and choreographed fireworks, not only above, but also horizontally across the bridge. All eyes were riveted to the spectacular semicircle. Fire fountains and balls of light criss-crossed each other creating amazing patterns. There was even a giant golden water fall from the bridge into the ocean. The illuminated boats stood still to watch the extravaganza, and added to the magic. At the grand finale the whole sky was filled with light, fireworks went off from the tops of the tall buildings lining the harbour, and all the ships simultaneously blew their horns, competing with the roar from the enthralled crowds. Cries of 'Happy New Year' rent the air, as strangers and friends greeted each other. As per the news, the show involved 5,000kgs of fireworks with about 11,000 shells, 10,000 shooting comets and 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects!
A walk back with the joyous crowds, a train ride, and two hours later we were home, tired and ecstatic; and filled with positive emotions that a year that begins this way, can only get better and better.
Photos by Loga, Aby and me. Thanks a ton Loga and Aby!