After a hellish 12 hour coach journey from Byron Bay, Kim and I arrived in the big city just as darkness was closing in. Tears filled my eyes as we drove over the Harbour Bridge and saw the Opera House all lit up. I did not expect to get quite so emotional at the sight of Sydney but it suddenly dawned on me how far I had come on my trip. All my life I had seen pictures of the Opera House and never for a second thought I'd get to see it one day least of all by myself.
We were dropped off at the Oz Experience office in the centre of town with no clue of the whereabouts of our hostel - Elephant Backpackers. Fortunately, a couple on the same bus were going to the same hostel and kindly rung them up to find out where the hostel was. Originally, we were told that the hostel was in a central location close to the main train station but it was infact a train ride away from the main train station. So off we popped to get on a train to from Central Station to St James' Place with our huge backpacks weighing us down. The train rolled up the platform and to my absolute surprise was a double decker. I could not believe my eyes however the other three looked at me like I'd never heard of the internet. So obviously when we climbed on we had to sit on the top deck! Then when walking through the station at the other side we saw an upmarket homeless man.. he had a double bed, duvet, television and a steak cooking on a grill. I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
After many fustrating phone calls to the hostel and walking up and down the same street, we arrived at the hostel. The hostel was disgusting, dirty and delapadated plus to top things off they did not have the room that we originally booked. We were allocated a 6 bed girls dorm, we opened the broken door to find the biggest bomb site ever, shoes, clothes, flip flops strewn everywhere. To top it off, we both had top bunks.
However, we are women of the world now, solo travellers dealing with every situation head on with a smile on our face. Therefore, we went out for tea gorged on ridiculously large pizza's and wine! I do believe there isn't a problem a glass of wine/cup of tea can't solve. The problem with going travelling is that you can't get a decent cup of tea anywhere! At the restaurant we vowed that we would spend as little time as possible in the hostel only sleeping and showering there.
That night we attempted to shower, however, only one shower was working for over 50 girls and only one toilet. I went to sleep, the hostel can't bother me if i'm asleep. Wrong. Every time the girl underneath me moved I got rocked like I was in an Earthquake. Hence, no sleep was had to me that week.
The next morning we were up nice and early to get on the hop on/hop off open top bus for a tour around the city. We managed to get around most of Sydney (including Bondi Beach) and had a great day. We went to the Fish Market and marvelled at the interesting creatures. We also went up the Sydney Tower to gain an amazing 360degree view over the whole city.
The next day we were picked up to go on our trip to the Blue Mountains. It took a little while to get there as we stopped first at the Olympic Stadium (which I must say I just really didn't get) and then a Lake where we had some snacks. I have found as I travel round the world that people turn into blood thirsty mad men when they see biscuits. I have been shoved out of the way whilst people race to get a hobnob (or that country's version). I must admit I was the same when we stopped for snacks, I was determined to get a biscuit!
We did a walk around a section of the Blue Mountains and the scenery was just stunning. I did expect them to be bluer and snowier nevertheless they were still outstanding. One thing that has always amazed me about Australia is that you can be walking through a dry desert like environement then suddenly find yourself in a Rainforest. After a walk through the mountains we ended up in a cave set into the mountain. As we sat inside, rain was dripping off the mouth of the cave illuminating the vast green all around me. This was one of the times travelling where I was really in awe of nature and its beauty.
Following the walk, we went to Scenic World, set in the world heritage protected site of the Blue Mountains. Here, we went on the steepest incline railway in the world (which was actually pretty frightening) and a 270metre high skyway (glorified cable car). We then had a walk around the rainforest and the mine industry which was once there. It was a really nice place and was really interesting seeing the Blue Mountains from a different view. Unfortunately, due to me being somewhat slow sometimes we nearly missed the coach back and the tour guide had to come looking for us.
That evening, after the Blue Mountains trip, we went out for a meal at a local backpackers and I said bye to Steve and Aron for the last time. It really started to feel like the end of Australia and it made me sad. For over a month I had got used to seeing similar people and learning a new culture and very soon this was all about to change.
The next day, Kim and I had a walk around the city and spent a whilst sun bathing in the beautiful Botanic Gardens (which have now become my favourite place in any country). After reading our books and chilling out, we took a walk to Mrs Macquaries Chair and watched the sun begin to set over the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I was in awe, just stunning.
That was my last night with Kim and I was scared stiff. Since the beginning of Australia, Kim had been my rock and my surrogate Mother. She looked after me, listened to me and made me laugh. I did not know how I was going to cope all by myself although I was excited at the prospect of learning how to. After all, the purpose of my trip was to find my own identity and independence.
Early the next day, Kim left me for her trip to Canberra (and then on to Melbourne to find work). I woke up and decided to head off to the Aquarium. It was the most amazing aquarium I have ever been to, I look like such a geek with my walking shoes, cagoul and backpack on ha ha! I saw creatures that I have never before seen and when in doubt I just asked members of staff loads of questions. I even got to see a Platypus close up. After the aquarium, I had a walk around the shops then decided to really accept my independence by watching a film (Horrible Bosses) all by myself. I did not even feel like a loser sat in the cinema on my own and felt somewhat liberated.
That evening, I set off on the train (yes a double decker one) to stay with relatives in their home town of Woy Woy which is an hour north of Sydney. I was so excited to be able to see family but also to have a proper shower and to stay in a nice bed, oh and home cooked meals. I was picked up by Duncan (my Uncle's brother) and his two little girls, who weren't so little anymore. That night I had a lovely homecooked meal and enjoyed catching up with relatives I had not seen in around 3 years.
The next day, I chilled out in the morning before going to watch the girls, Iona and Heather, go horse riding. That evening, Leah and Duncan (plus the girls) took me out for a beautiful meal at a nearby restaurant, it was such a treat! I even had a starter. After that, we went to a pub and met some of their Ex-Pat friends and it felt like being in the English countryside.
The next day, we went on a really nice walk that ended up at a secluded beach with forest surrounding us and the blue sea in front of us. I would love to live somewhere with something so beautiful on my doorstep.
Over the next evening and day I just chilled out and didn't really do a whole lot. I really enjoyed just reading my book and having nothing I had to do or anywhere I had to be.
However, the last day I was there I took a walk around the local area seeing the birds that inhabit Woy Woy and just how amazing Australia can be. Then had a walk around a stereotypical Australian town centre. I loved staying at Duncan and Leah's, it was a nice way to break up the trip!
Australia, overall, was definately not what I expected. I had expected but I'm not sure what I really expected in the beginning. I met some lovely people that I hope I see again sometime, especially Kim. From whale watching to riding motorbikes, I really got the bug for travelling and experiencing new things. Most of all, it got me used to being away from home and coping with difficult situations whilst keeping a smile on my face.
The next day, I set off to the place I had most anticipated, New Zealand.