Sydney Central Business District (CBD) shuts down by 10pm and Sydney suburbs you would be hard pressed to find anything open after 8pm really. Well, maybe not exactly 10pm as bars and all the stuff frequented by what is now the predominant population in CBD, the South East Asians, might stay open till 11. But come 11.30, and on a weekday, there is a certain degree of calm and silence throughout Sydney CBD, running through George Street and ending an Circular Quay.

But for all its calm, Circular Quay, home to the epic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge will be buzzing with activity. The Opera bar, the Argyle at the rocks, there is always some hidden nock and cranny begging to be found there. And since my library “The Customs House” is located right there, when I get kicked out by 7, it is the obvious choice to take a stroll, grab a drink, or honestly, just sit and watch the ferries coming in and out, bobbing in the choppy sea, sort of like lego if you look from far enough.

It was one of those nights, when emotionally and mentally spent, books in hand I trudged towards the Opera house, willing myself not to kick the “Pokemon” addicts littered like loose change all over the nook and crannies of the Opera House (apparently you get the most power, points, SOMETHING here! argh!) and just sitting, contemplating life, or in my case the trial and trobulations of a Pakistan abroad.

Since there are not many street lights at the Circular Quay vicinity, it is forever masked in this ethereal darkness, the Bridge, the ferries, restaurant lights, corridor lights giving it this “glow.” It was sort of pitch dark when I noticed these 3 guys, flags in hand, Queensland road signs and totting backpack, work their way on setting up close to the ferries. On blinking and closer inspection, each member seemed to be struggling with a cartoon of Red Bull! I kid you not, a cartoon of 24/36 Red Bulls. I did a turn around and blinked twice, but yes, it was there. Shaking my head and laughing, the guys beckoned me over, but I was spent for the day and just laughed, waved a goodbye and walked towards the Station.

Some times, luck doesn’t leave me so much high and low. In the brightly lit Station, waiting for the “boonies train” I spotted another pair of strapping backpackers, Red Bull in arms, looking around for a photographer. Of course I volunteered my services. The ensuing conversation was hilarious to boot, with it transpiring that there were teams of 3 people, who had to make their way through various parts of Australia, and check points, only bartering the Red Bull cans that they had. No money, no cards, nothing. It was all down to bartering and peoples good will. It was that simple, and yet paradoxically that difficult. In retrospect, as my overly-generous brother back in Karachi angrily demanded when I told him this tale, “Why did you not give them anything!”, I blame it on my absentmindedness at that current moment in time.

They had to get to Canberra and to Melbourne and continue their journey. Right now, they were heading down to The Opera House for one of their tasks, which was an impromptu performance at the steps of the Opera house. Talking to these guys, it was just a reminder on the utter amusing irrationality of life and its diversity. All they had were the clothes on their back, backpack and one heck of a lot of Red Bull!

I promised I would write about them and post about them and so here it is! By the time this goes to print, the competition might be over, but as it stands currently, on 17th August 2016, they are at number 4, having made their way to Canberra, took part in the activities, caught a lift to Goldburn and then an overnight train to Melbourne, where they are now doing a dozen different activities. Other times they were able to barter their way on Virgin Atlantic flights to Melbourne!

And THIS in a nutshell, is the essence of what the smallest continent of the world is. What they do not have in numbers, they truly make up in heart. I may be terribly homesick and alone and out of place utterly, but I will never doubt the heart Australians have. They will always help, no matter what. And honestly, this challenge is at the very core of what it means to be Australian. To help, to laugh, to go above and beyond, or to be so laid back, that you shrug and say “why ever not” and just do it!

My train was waiting so I exchanged hugs, hurried Facebook IDs and, headed back to the boonies.