When we woke up we were surrounded by a few other trucks and travellers, we soon discovered by the medium of text message that England had shamelessly lost against Germany 4 - 2 - glad I didn't watch it now.
James and Sean rung us up and asked us if we'd be able to meet them in Orange (Tracey had jumped out in Melbourne) which meant driving for around 600 kilometres in one day. There was nothing to see in-between Broken Hill and Orange so we decided to share the driving between the three of us.
We eventually arrived in Orange and were all pretty tired but needed a drink; we met up with James and Sean at the tourist info point before driving through a bottle store to stock up our booze reserve. We couldn't believe out luck when the friendly shop owner took a liking to us and off loaded all of his 'out of date booze' on us, we had bottles of wine, cans of rum and coke, Jim beam and coke and of course goon.
The five of us eventually located the Colour City Caravan Park, however no one was on reception - perfect a free site, however all the amenities had number locks on them. Within ten minutes I'd tricked three people in to giving me the key code to the girls, the boys and the laundry room. We parked the vans up and all made use of the hot showers, it was freezing outside, I can't believe how much the weather had changed. We walked across the frosty grass and took refuge in the kitchen area which we converted into a little common room. I poured the 'out of date' coke and rum into a large pan and added some ginger before bringing it to the boil - it soon warmed us up.
In the morning we made use of the free hot showers before blasting it out of the campsite - without paying.
We could see Wollemi National Park, Kanangra Boyd National Park and the Blue Mountain National Park in the distance; we stopped at a view point to look over the Blue Mountains and then headed to Katoomba where we stopped at another impressive but more touristy view point - Echo Point which overlooked the Three Sisters, rock formation.
The Blue Mountains gets its name from the blue mist that rises from millions of eucalyptus trees and hangs in the mountain air, tinting the sky and the range alike. In 2000 the Blue Mountains became a UNESCO World heritage Site, joining the Great Barrier Reef.
James and Sean needed to drop their van off in Sydney, so they headed towards the airport and we tried to locate Guys house after driving over the Harbour bridge and through the city (during rush hour). Guy met us next to the local police station, it was good to see my x house mate and close friend after not seeing him for a couple of years. Guy jumped in our van and helped us park the van which is a struggle in every city never mind Redfern, Sydney.
Guy introduced us to his flat mates, Anna and Shane and then gave us a quick tour of his flat which boasted a huge living area and balconies in every room. The flat was located in the nearest suburb to the city and we could see an array of skyscrapers from the living area.
Guy took us to a nearby Malaysian restaurant and we feasted like kings before heading to the FIFA screen in Darling harbour. A number of cities around the world have been given huge screens to watch the world cup on, it would have been ace to watch England win a game here however this is now a mere dream.
Sean and James met up with us with no accommodation or van so I let them stop in our van for the night and we crashed in the luxurious apartment.
8.00 Mel and I drove Guy to work and dropped Sean and James off at the airport as they were hoping to catch a flight to the North and get a tan before returning home to England. I had planned on dropping the van off at Guys work and catching the bus back into the centre however we were more or less kicked off site like a pair of unwanted gypsies. I stumbled upon a dodgy but legal parking spot near Guys house so put all our valuable stuff in Guys apartment and headed out for the day.
Mel and I caught the train to Circular key where I caught my first day light glimpse of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, the two most iconic structures in Sydney and probably Australia.
Some say that the Opera House which was completed in 1973 was inspired by the simple unpeeling of an orange segment, though Danish architectJØrn's childhood as the son of a yacht designer had something to do with the sail like shape - he certainly envisaged a building that gave the appearance to float on water. The feat of engineering required to bring to life Utzon's "sculpture", which he compared to a Gothic church and a Mayan temple made the final price tag $102 million, ten times the original estimate. The charismatic Harbour Bridge, northeast of Circular Quay, has straddled the channel dividing North and South since 1932 and is one of the largest arch bridges in the world; its construction cost weren't paid off until 1988.
Mel treated me to lunch in a restaurant overlooking the bridge and Opera House - fish and chips followed by a sticky toffee pudding.
We met up with Lloydy and visited Cockatoo Island to view an art exhibition which was housed in an industrial ship yard. The free ferry sailed under the Harbour Bridge and to Cockatoo Island which is the largest island inSydney Harbour and is located at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers, Cockatoo Island is a former imperial prison, industrial school, reformatory and gaol. It was also the site of one of Australia's biggest shipyards during the twentieth century with the first of its two dry docks built by convicts and completed in 1857.
The exhibition was pretty abstract and one of the weirdest I've visited however it was enjoyable and gave us great views of the bridge, opera house and the city.
In the evening Guy cooked for us and we had a DVD night, it was nice to sit on a soft couch and relax with a glass of wine.
Mel and I checked the van, making sure no dodgy abos had broken into it, we then caught the train over the Harbour Bridge and jumped off at Milsons Point. The weather was beautiful so we decided to walk across the harbour bridge and back towards the Opera House. We strolled around the botanic gardens where we spotted hundred of fruit bats, moor hens, ibis's and cockatoos which were so tame we placed them on our shoulders like a couple of pirates.
In the opera house we looked to see what was on at the weekend but nothing really took our fancy, however it was nice just to visit the bar, shop and foyer.
In the evening Guy took us to a tasty noodle bar where the 7 of us ate like kings (again). The group was made up of Guy, Anna (his house mate), Lloydy, Clause (Guys pal), Paul (Guys pal who I've met before) and Mel and me, the group of us got along well and carried on drinking in a nearby pub that served Guinness.
Mel and I had a huge highly recommended breakfast in Guilias which was located near Redfern train station - sausage, egg and cheese roll, followed by pancakes with maple syrup followed by a cake washed down with a hot chocolate. We did a bit of shopping down George Street and then walked back to Darling Harbour to visit the Chinese friendship garden, it was hard to believe that we were in a city as we were surrounded by water features and pagodas. We drank Chinese tea before making our way back to Guys pad via china town where we ate a lamb kebab and a bit more shopping - Chanel bag for Mel.
Later in the evening Mel and I went to the IMAX theatre which boasts the biggest IMAX screen in the world. We watched Avatar in 3D which was unbelievable; I've never been so engrossed in a film before.
Mel and I slept in the van which I had moved outside the flat, it turns out that after 20.00 on a Friday you can park vehicles directly outside the apartment for the weekend - perfect. Guy cooked us a superb breakfast and we spent the whole day lazing around the apartment.
In the evening we caught a train to New Town and ate in a Thai restaurant which had an open front so we could people watch from our seats and the food was delicious. Later that evening Guy went out to a rave which had been booked for weeks, Lloyd, Mel and I just kicked back in the apartment - it was like being back at home. We ended up watching the Germany vs Argentina game which finished Germany 4 - Argentina 0, Germany are looking like machines in this world cup, bloody crouts.
Mel and I woke up in the van and exchanged cards, it was our first anniversary together, I can't believe I only met her a year ago it seems like a life sentence (only joking Mel), it's been the best year of my life and to celebrate day one of year two we headed back to Guilias for a waffle and maple syrup breakfast.
Mel and I caught the train to Coogee and spent a few hours walking from Coogee to Bondi beach. The walk was beautiful, the path was mainly man made but at certain points we walked onto the rocks and as close as we dared to the cliff edge. The views were incredible and it's not surprising that the walk gets its fair share of tourists, no matter what month it is. We could see Bondi in the distance but it still seemed like ages away, we kept on plodding along over taking the elderly who seemed to be holding us up and a large number of joggers who must use the scenic path as a running track.
When we eventually arrived on Bondi after watching the surfers at Bronte beach we treated ourselves to fish and chips followed by a glass of Gluvine in a swanky bar. We strolled up and down the front and watched a group of skateboarders perform all kinds of tricks in a deep manmade bowl before catching the bus to Bondi Junction; from here we could catch a train back to Guys in Redfern.
On the train we both fell asleep and woke up in Redfern making a desperate attempt to exit the train before the doors shut on us; we just made it. After a sleep in the van we went back up to Guys apartment and said our goodbyes to him, however he is visiting the UK for Christmas so we'll catch up then.
7.30 I got out of the van and moved it further down the road to prevent getting a ticket, we then used Guys flat to freshen up and extend the van contract. Mel and I were going to rent a Juicy car once Lloydy goes home for his sister's wedding (L flies back on the 12th) , however Travel Wheels price matched Juicy enabling Mel and I to travel round in a much larger vehicle.
We had no bread or nothing worth cooking up so I had eight Weetabix before hitting the road, however we were all still starving, it wasn't long before we spotted the colonel staring down at us from the highway; we pulled into the KFC and demolished what seemed to be their entire supply of finger lickin chicken.
After the feast we made slow progress fighting our way out of the city, it seems that every city we visit we arrive and leave at the wrong time and manage to hit rush hour every time, still we weren't in a rush so we tuned into a local radio station and kicked back.
We spotted a sign saying 830km to Melbourne, I had no idea it was so far, we made good progress on the Hume Highway stopping only once for fuel. 21.30 And I'd been driving for hours; we had another 400km until Melbourne so pulled into a lay-by right next to the noisy Hume, where we spotted a fox. We were the only people in the lay-by and although it had cold water it didn't have toilets, so it was bush wees all round. It had been raining so a fire was also out of the question so we all decided to have an early night, Mel and I watched the first half of Toy Story 3 which was surprisingly good.
400km to Melbourne and back on the road again, the scenery was more like the Lake District now with cows grazing on lush green hills broken up by the large puddles caused by the overnight rain. Apparently the UK is currently having better weather than Melboune at the moment and maybe enforcing another hose pipe ban - every time the UK get a week of sun panic seems to kick in.
13.00 We passed from New South Wales into Victoria and stopped off for fuel again - $1.20 compared to $1.50+ in the outback, back at home this converts back to 75p per litre, I'm not sure what the fuel price is at home but it's guaranteed to be far more expensive than it is here.
We arrived in Melbourne just in time for rush hour - perfect, we rung Selina who is a friend of Guys but went to University with us all, however her phone was off so we killed time by drinking in a pub on Brunswick Street, $9 for a pint of Guinness. Lloydy messaged Selina from a nearby internet cafe and gave us her address which we were already quite close to. We parked by her house in Fitzroy and knocked on the door; I kind of remember Selina from Uni but didn't recognise her at first which made the introduction a little awkward, however she was lovely and gave us the guided tour of her charming house and introduced us to her house mates.
In the evening Lloyd, Mel and I walked towards the city down Brunswick Street and ate in Pizza Art, which was quite a dark and grubby studenty type place with quirky artefacts dotted around. The place was packed because of their famous $4 pizzas which were the best I've tasted in years. After a few pints of White Sheep Ale and a pizza each we caught the tram back to the van, you're supposed to pay for the tram when you first get on it however Selina advised us not to - so we didn't.
After a disturbed sleep next to the road we ended up lying in until eleven trying to catch up on the sleep we lost during the night. Once up, Lloydy took us around the city as he had lived in Melbourne for a year in 2007/8. Melbourne is Australia's second largest city, with a population of over four million, around half a million less than Sydney. Rivalry between the two cities is on an almost childish level, from cricket to business the two are arch enemies when it comes to competition. Sydney is Australia's financial hub however Melbournians never tire of pointing out, they have incredible good fortune to inhabit what is often described as "one of the world's most liveable cities", and while Melbourne may lack a truly stunning natural setting or in-your-face sights, its subtle charms grow on everyone.
Mel and I loved the city from the start, quirky shops and coffee joints as well as interesting buildings and classy bars: we visited Eureka tower, Federation Square and some of the shopping districts. We visited the huge, yellow and brown Flinders Street Station which is the city's main suburban railway station and is the gateway for over 1,000,000+ people who pass through it every day.
Our next stop was the MCG, east of Birrarung in Yarra Park. Melbourne Cricket Ground is a huge sports stadium and can house up to 100,000 people. Mel and I bought tickets for Saturdays AFL game; $45 each would give us a chance to watch Aussie Rules football in a derby match between Hawthorn Hawks and Geelong Cats.
After walking round the city for a few hours we were exhausted so decided to have a power nap in the van before going to Selina's house for a BBQ. If someone in Australia invites you to a bbq you should always attend and us being a group of homeless hobos we were looking forward to a civilised night. There were quite a group of us there and two of the lads (Jake and Tim) played the guitar so before consuming copious amounts of alcohol, I drove them round to their house to pick up a few instruments, including a bass guitar, ukulele and a resonate guitar. Goon, gourmet sausages and guitars = good night.
Everyone had poorly heads as we didn't get to bed until around 5.00am, we knocked on Selina's door at around 13.00 hoping that someone would let us in for a shower; it turns out that everyone was in and had all pulled sickies.
After hot showers we felt slightly better and braved it in to the city, I skyped home and had a lengthy conversation with both my mum and dad which was nice. After the skype session we bumped into Lloydy on Brunswick Street, the three of us had $4 pizza and an early night.
Before bed we have to use a nearby public toilet or a bush next to the van, and then we all brush our teeth in the van leaving a white stain on the road beneath the van. Locals stare at us like we are nuisance gypsies but until we get moved on by the police we are here to stay.
I woke up pretty early so decided to nip to the nearby supermarket for some breakfast before heading into the city with Mel. We headed to the Eureka tower where we watched an annoying street stuntman for about half an hour and then proceeded into the tower where we paid a $10 entrance fee which allowed us to ride the rapid lift (9m per sec) up to the viewing deck. The tower gave us stunning panoramic views of the city and is apparently the highest viewing deck in the lower hemisphere of Australia at an impressive 285 metres.
Our next stop was back to Federation square where all the arty farty things seem to be located, Mel and I visited a Tim Burton exhibition which housed his private collection of work including sketches and paintings as well as props and models from some of his movies such as batman's car and Edward scissor hands suit and hand.
After a really tough day of viewing the cities attractions we recuperated in the Belgium beer cafe, I had a leffe and Mel had the cherry Belle Vue.
In the evening Mel treated me to a Thai curry (BYOB), we drank a couple of bottles of sparkling wine and ate the set menu for two which was delicious, we were so full that we were halftempted to catch a taxi 200m back to our van but decided to brave it and walk.
Because of another disturbed nights sleep because of the wind we had a bit of a lie in before heading into the city. 13.00 Mel and I had printed out our AFL (Australian Football League) tickets and made our way to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for what would be our first and probably last live game of Aussie rules football. We were both pretty excited as we followed the huge crowds of supporters across the Yarra River and towards the huge grounds. Mel decided to support the Hawthorn Hawks and I supported the Geelong Cats, we didn't know which team was the favourite to win it but had decided that the loser would buy the first expensive round of Belgium beer in the Belgium beer cafe after the game. We made our way to our seats which were located directly behind one of the goals, we'd only been sat down for about ten minutes when a huge horn sounded the game was underway. The eighteen a side brawl looked a little like Gaelic football, and the fact that players aren't sent off for misconduct ensured a lively, skilful, gladiatorial and adrenalin fuelled game, in fact it was by far the most exciting sporting event I've ever been to. The fourth quarter horn sounded and it was anyone's game however my team (Geelong) won by 3 points (83-85, 6 points per goal) and the crowd of 70,000 erupted into a sound of cheers and boos.
After the game we followed the crowd back across the bridge, there was no trouble and the game had an almost family feel to it - nothing like a UK game which often results in street fights and yobs of male supporters causing trouble later on in the evening. We headed to the Belgium beer cafe where Mel bought me a Leffe, we ended up getting a bit silly and decided to carry on drinking in the expensive establishment; I had a St Bernardus, Judas and another Leffe and Mel had a few Strassen ciders, we also had a some cheese to compliment the strong trappist ales and cider and staggered back to our tram stop on Collins Rd after a few hours of indulgence.
The tram was running slightly late because another tram had plummeted into a taxi; however I wasn't going to complain - it's not like we to pay for our ride home.
On our way home we stopped off for yet another pizza at Pizza Art (Bimbos) and decided to walk back to the van for hopefully a better night's sleep after an unbelievable day.