We arrived in the land of Oz in the early hours of Thursday morning after a suprisingly easy Quantas-inspired flight from Singapore. How Quantas got voted as the world's worst international airline in a recent survey seems ridiculous to us! We arrived at Maze - a cheap backpackers hostel in the centre of Sydney at 5.30am (cost 12pound per night and not even ensuite! Bare in mind that our 4* hotel in KL cost merely 4pound more!). Having had no sleep on the plane, we lazed it up the whole day, sleeping from around 6am to 5pm! Later that day, J went to meet Emma at the airport, which he proclaims was glorious! Whilst J went to pick up Emma, Dan met up with Nick, Nick and Craig at Darling Harbour and after a quick Wagamuma's we left for World Bar - a cool place that served random cocktails in teapots...!
The next day was exceptionally good! After an early start, we headed to Sydney Harbour where we caught our first glimpse of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Just wow! We then walked across the bridge, stopping off to climb the viewing pylon and take in the history of the bridge. It's hard to describe the beauty of the Opera House set against the impressive Sydney skyline and glamorous harbour, surrounded by dazzling waters (but you could say that I just had a go!). Lunch was a steak and a beer overlooking the harbour - lovely! We then embarked upon a Captain Cook cruise along the harbour. While Emma and J made the most of the beautiful views on the top deck, Dan opted to demonstrate a great 'Michael impression' and make full use of the free tea and cakes! The tour gave us a great introduction to the history of the harbour and surrounding areas and after sailing back into the sunset, we moved to the Opera House to begin a 1hr guided tour. The tour was really informative, showing us around all 5 of the impressive theatres (particularly the unbelievable concert hall) and explaining numerous snazzy facts... did you know that the concert hall has the biggest organ in the world, consisting of thousands of pipes that took 2 years to tune!?
That evening we decided to go out for a $5 meal with two friendly fellas from Dan's dorm at Maze, aptly named Borat (an Italian who could speak barely any English and who walked around the room in his pants) and Jesus (a 6ft 5" blonde English builder from Brighton who had his hair in a timeless ponytail)! Back at the hostel, Jamie joined a German gash to play Dan and Borat at pool, Germany losing on penalties after an arduous extra time period.
Satruday we busted a lukewarm cappucino from McCafe and headed towards the Sydney tower. After an interesting attempt at bigging up Australia via painfully cheesy comedy in the "OzTrek", we got the lift up to the top of the tower. Not quite as quick as the KL tower or legendary Singapore lift up 70storeys, we were nonetheless met at the top by Sydney's awesome skyline, where we were treated to sea, skyscrapers and the 2000 Olympic Site - our next destination. We boarded the underground onto triple decker trains at a station that looked uncannily like Harrow & Wealdstone and arrived at the park in good time. By sheer chance, a lovely and extremely knowledgable Ossie lady told us that we could not do a tour of the Telstra Dome as there was a rugby match at the stadium that evening - Wales vs. the Quantas Wallabies in an international world cup warm up fixture. Naturally we purchased tickets and eagerly awaited kick off! Before the game we walked around the huge olympic site, breaking into the 10,000 seater tennis arena to have a look and played mini-golf at the golf centre. However, for an olympic venue, this was a thoroughly disappointing course and even Dan (who won by 14 strokes) agreed that he'd seen better in the backstreets of Edgeware. We grabbed a bite to eat at one of the many stalls around the stadium selling food and got into the mood by watching some good live music before kick-off. The match itself was incredible... Wales led 14-0 against the run of play and even managed to regain the lead by 23-22 with 0 seconds remaining, only to f*** it up Welsh style by giving the ball away and then conceding a try in stoppage time to the arrogant Ossies. We all felt sick at the loss, but it was an amazing match and a great evening. Emma's evening got even better after meeting the boys at Side bar, where she triumphantly beat Jamie at pool.
The next day (Sunday), we started and ended the Ugg boot hunt... LONG! We had a nice walk around Paddy's market and the various shopping centres around the city. That evening we went back to the Opera House to see "Circus Oz". This was great fun in the world's most famous theatre! Monday morning forced us to get up bare early to go on a day trip to the Blue Mountains, a beautiful region a couple of hours west from Sydney. Well, we were supposed to get up early - Dan proceeded to sleep through his alarm, causing the guide (a.k.a Santa Claus) to get very vexed! Our first stop took us to see Kangaroos and later we walked through the rainforest and took in the limestone cliffs and waterfalls amongst the great scenery. We even took the steepest railway in the world to the top of one section - we were literally hoisted up a sheer vertical drop to the top of the mountain in a matter of 30seconds!
Tuesday morning, we left Emma at the hostel and went to meet one of our Aussie mates from RSY, Fee, for coffee. Seeing as we'd met u with one Aussie RSY girl, we thought we ought to catcfh up with the other one so that afternoon we headed over to Bondi Beach to meet up with Chantal. Bondi is kind of the Jewish (rich) part of Sydney so Ems was delighted to find some kosher meat! We grabbed a Dominoes Fat b****** Bonanza on the way home (2 large pizzas, garlic bread, bottle of coke and chocolate brownies) before going to meet the boys in Oxford Street, the gay capital of Sydney. After a typical clubbing night of aimless walking and indecision, we called it a night and went back to the hostel. Emma and J got up early the next morning to go to the Australia Museum and after a few hours met up with Dan and Daniel Pike, who had arrived in Oz the day before. We all went out for lunch and headed to the botanical gardens, a token gesture to pretend we care about Sydney's plants. That evening we went to Darling Harbour to the IMAX cinema to see a 3D version of a deep sea documentary - very cool! That evening J and Emma bode farewell to the beautiful Maze hostel and to Sydney and boarded the 12hr Greyhound up the coast to Byron Bay. Dan decided to stay in Sydney for an extra day with Dan Pike and went to meet Fee for a cultural day of siteseeing (including a photography exhibition at the Sydney library) and an amazing view of the sunset from the top of an apartment overlooking the harbour.
Byron is a really cool, laid back, almost outdated but definately worth a visit. We stayed at the Arts Factory and met up immediately with Nick, Nick and Craig, almost immediately making our way down to the beach. On Friday everyone went to the beach and built sandcastles/holes. Ems actually found water after a 3hour dig in a hole that was taller than her! For dinner we all made pasta in the hostel's kitchen (a seriously economical way of eating)! That night we discovered Goon - a seriously unpleasant drink! Basically a cheap box of wine rumoured to contain fish spawn...
The next morning, Jamie and Emma went diving together for the first time and they have said it was really nice to dive togethere despite the freezing water and small, dodgy dingy! As it was Nick Myers' birthday, we went out that night to a club on the beach which randomly refused to sell shots after 10pm and then to a rave at CocoMangas club. Sunday was the day of our day-trip to Nimbin! Now if we thought Byron was outdated and hippy-like, this place was something out of the 1930's. Every shop either sells, promotes or makes marijuana or related products, the streets were filled with smokers and dodgy sales people trying to flog you any kind of illegal substance they had in their inconspicuous sports bags! After our shopping trip we got back on the bus which took us to a true hippie's house. Now this guy was the epitome of "hippie" - he was an American, who came to Oz to plant hundreds of trees which now surround his hut where he lives. Intruiging...! A tree-full of maccadamia nuts later, we headed back to the hostel for some pasta and scrabble.
On Monday morning we met up with the boys and got our stuff ready to leave for Surfer's Paradise. After a short journey we arrived to a suiprisingly built-up, upmarket town compared to Byron. We stayed at Cheers, a seemingly ok hostel in a good location. Yet, both Emma and Dan got infested with bed bugs, with one conveniently attaching itself to Dan's balls one morning. Lovely...! The next morning, Jamie and Emma went for a private surf lesson with Chris. Jamie managed to pick it up relatively quickly and Emma was obviously standing up on her first go! Back at Cheers, Dan and Dan had once again bumped into Zach, Chris and Sammy (Habs boys who we also saw in Thailand)! We all went out clubbing to 'The Bedroom' that night - with free vouchers which gave us free drinks all night. The next day everyone hoped to go to the waterpark, but the weather prevented us. Instead we used our time proactively - sleeping and doing very little apart from busting it to Subway for lunch and the beach in the rain.