After nearly missing our Bangkok - Singapore flight because our flight number & time had been changed without us being informed, I'm amazed to tell you that we did actually make it to Sydney in one piece and on time. However, that was after we endured a proper 'Home Alone' style sprint through Bangkok airport, with all of us just a little hungover & trying to run as fast as we could in flip-flops, with every item of our baggage strapped to our bodies. It was not particularly fun let me tell you - although I'm sure we must have made a very amusing sight for sore eyes!
We landed in Sydney early doors on the 15th & as soon as we clapped eyes on the grey sky & miserable drizzling rain outside, we honestly did think that we'd somehow been redirected back to Heathrow without realising! We were even more shocked when we stepped outside & all felt freezing cold...not what you expect at all when you arrive in Sydney at the start of their summer. How very typcial! Still we were finally in SYDNEY - AUSTRALIA & that was enough for us. We picked up an airport transfer (well rather he picked us up by pretending to be the transfer driver that our hostel had pre-booked for us) but I wasn't complaining, especially as I gave him a $20? note & rather than giving me just my $5 change back, he handed $45 dollars by mistake. What goes around comes around, so I benefited nicely from his cheating the rightful driver out of our fare!
About half an hour later, we were dropped outside the 'Wizard of Oz' hostel in Coogee, which was to be our home for Xmas & New Year. The miserable weather meant that everyone already staying there was zombified in front of the tv, so we shuffled in & waited while our dorm room was made up for us. We could tell straight away that every single person staying there was English or Irish...lots of Northeners. When the dorm was ready, we were pleased to find that we were the first of the new arrivals checking into that room, so we had our pick of the beds! While Jill & I quickly grabbed bottom bunks, considerate Lin did the right thing & took the top bunk above me. Luckily we'd had the forthought to book an all female dorm (you'll see why we say 'luckily' when you hear some of the stories we learnt of the goings on in the mixed dorms)! While we were unpacking, Laura & Hannah from Halifax arrived & grabbed the remaining bottom bunks. We got chatting & hit it off with the girls straight away, which is how the original 'Coogee Crew' (which grew in size as the days went by) was formed.?
Our first few days in Sydney were pretty much spent lazing around the hostel, getting to know the others & watching dvd's. The hostel had a 2 week minimum stay over the busy Xmas/New Year period, so it was nice to know that the new friends we made were staying there for the same amount of time & that we were all in the same boat - missing friends & family over the festive season. The miserable weather did not let up & so it was at least 4 days before we could start enjoying the Sydney summer on Coogee Beach. It was worth the wait though. As soon as the rain stopped, we woke up one morning to glorious sunshine & at least 28 degrees heat. We were on Coogee Beach faster than lightning & there we stayed for the next few days!
In our first week or so, we made lots of friends & there were no shortage of characters to keep us entertained! Our good friend Chris, the Scuba diving instructor (also known as 'Scuba Steve') who seemed to know everyone & everything; 'Tree Man' who is quite possibly one of the most deranged people I've ever met; Rich the Hat Man; Irish Alice with the beautiful voice who used to sing to everyone; Tone ('my name's Charlie but everyone calls me Tone') & not forgetting Nathan - 'Mr Slick', who despite his best efforts, failed miserably in impressing Jill who had great fun winding him up on a night out at our local, the Coogee Bay Hotel. By the time we'd been staying there a week, the 'Coogee Crew' was fully established & consisted of the 3 Chicks, Laura & Hannah, Sally who was in the same dorm as us, Tiffany from Watford, Scuba Steve & his mate Alex & Alan & Rob, two best friends from Ashby De La Zouche (for anyone who's read Adrian Mole - Ashby is a real place)! We all got on really well & ended up spending most of our time as a group, which was really nice for all of us. The 3 Chicks also befriended Joseph the Kiwi, who spent a few nights at the Wizard before moving into his mate's flat nearby & a funny night was spent at our other local, the Palace, with Joe & his friends Reon & Jeremy, who's accents we fell in love with!
Christmas Day 2006
After a little lie-in to sleep off the Xmas Eve festivities at the CBH we were woken to the smell of bacon & eggs being cooked on the bbq for our free xmas breakfast, courtesy of the Wizard of Oz. I never thought bbq fried eggs would taste so good & we all tucked in, enjoying the strange sensation of sitting outside in the sunshine on xmas morning! Yes, that's right, after all the rain of the past week & will it/won't it rain on xmas day wonderings, we were all very excited & relieved to see the sun shining brightly.
After brekkie, Laura who had received a huge parcel of pressies from home a few days earlier could not wait any longer, so all the girls headed back to our dorm for the pressie opening. The 3 chicks had all bought some little gifts for each other, so we all got involved. I got a lovely Billabong handbag, a tiny little flip-flop keyring, a makeup bag, 'The Time Travellers Wife' - a book that I'd been wanting to read for ages and some lovely earrings. I'd obviously been a good girl that year & my little female Santas had spoiled me! We had a right laugh watching Laura open her millions for pressies & all wondering how the hell she was going to fit them all into her already bursting backpack!
Freshly showered, we loaded up our food bags with the bbq/picnic grub that the other girls had all lovingly prepared for us all the day before & headed on down to Coogee Beach (via the bottle shop of course). The beach was absolutely heaving. Everywhere you looked there were boardies & bikinis worn with Santa hats! It was a very strange feeing, knowing that in a few hours all of our friends & family would be waking up on their xmas morning in cold, grey England but with our new group of friends all with in the same boat, we all just enjoyed the very surreal feeling of being on a beach, having a bbq in late December! Xmas dinner was fantastic. BBQ tuna steak & prawns, potato & pasta salad, bread, cheese etc - all delicious. We had a great afternoon, listening to music, drinking ciders in the sunshine & munching lots of food. Perfect! When the sun went in, we headed on back to the hostel & spent the rest of the night watching tv, playing poker & munching our way through a huge cheese board! What xmas day is all about I reckon. And as soon as we knew everyone would be up, we made some calls to wish family & friends a happy xmas too.
New Year's Eve 2006
After a lot of deliberating over the best way to spend our first NYE in Sydney, we decided that what we really wanted to do was see the fireworks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge & then maybe go to a club afterwards. I had been tempted to pay $85 for a ticket to Pacha at the world-famous Home nightclub on Darling Harbour, as it seemed that parctically everyone from our hostel was going there, but I decided that it would be a waste of such a memorable night & that I really wanted to spend it with my fellow travelling chicks.
We had also been invited by the other Coogee Crew girls to join them in the Botanical Gardens - at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, which offers the best vantage point in the whole of Sydney for both the Opera House & Harbour Bridge. But as soon as we found out that they were planning to get there for 9.30am & then stay there until the midnight fireworks ended, we thought better of it! So after a bottle shop run where we stocked up on Magners & vodka, we spent a lovely chilled day at the hostel with some of our new friends, enjoying some drinks & looking forward to the big night ahead. Our friend Joseph the Kiwi was at a bit of a loose end because his friends were out of town so we invited him to join us & throughout the day gathered up a few more stragglers who also hadn't got round to deciding where they wanted to go.
We all headed into town at about 6pm & were amazed to see how crowded Circular Quay was so early on. We decided to go for some drinks at a nearby bar that was really lively & playing good music & must were having such a good time chatting to randoms (everyone was in really high spirits) that before we knew it, it was 11pm & we realised that we'd better try & get into the crowds if we wanted to have any hope of seeing the fireworks. There were so many people, it felt like the whole of Sydney were crowded onto the quay & there was a fantastic party atmosphere all around so it was hard not to feel really excited.
Finally the countdown began & then suddenly the sky lit-up with every colour of the rainbow. I think it's fair to say that no-one pulls off a firework display like the Aussies. Up until then, I'd always been pretty impressed with the 5th Nov displays over in Carshalton Park or on Midsummer Common in Cambridge, but this was in a totally different league! Not only did they seem to last forever but with so many different shapes, formations & colours decorating the sky it really was a stunning display. And the sight of the Sydney Opera House & Harbour Bridge directly in front of us was the icing on the cake! As they started building up to the huge finish - the famous coathanger lighting up, text messages started coming through from family & friends back home who were watching the fireworks on the news & wanted to wish us a happy NYE - several hours ahead of theirs!
To avoid being trampled by the hordes trying to exit the quay, we found a safety spot & waited for the other girls to escape from the Botanical Gardens. By the time we found everyone, it was gone 1am & a bit too late to get into a club. So we took a vote & opted to head back to Coogee for some warm clothes before heading down to the beach to watch the sunrise. Despite the cold, the beach was really busy with groups who had the same idea as us & before we knew it, just as the first glimpse of the sun started to rise, the entire population of the Wizard of Oz hostel had joined us on the beach! It was a beautiful sunrise & we all agreed that it was a NYE we'd never forget & the best thing about it was that we spent it in a way that was so very different to how we would have celebrated it back home.