What a difference an 8 hour plane journey makes. We arrived in Sydney at 6.30am local time, which was a little disorientating after no sleep, and headed out into the streets in search of a place to dump our stuff. First impressions were that it felt similar to New York with simple things like buying a bus ticket and navigating around the streets a lot easier than in Thailand! Sydney struck us as very clean early on as we walked through high rise buildings and green parks before arriving in the backpacker street of Kings Cross. One thing that should be mentioned at this point is the Australians love of London street names - along with Kings Cross we came across Liverpool street, Hyde Park, Haymarket, Regents Park and Oxford Street to name but a few - come on Australia, get some originality in the street name department!
After going through an all to familiar "everywhere is full" routine with the hostel search we found a place called Kanga Hostel. With prices quadruple what we were paying in Thailand we realised that youth hostels were the only way forward and Westall checked into his room with 5 others in it and Dunham made his way to a four man room on the floor below - seperated for the first time, how would we cope?! The place itself felt a lot like uni first year all over again, with a shared kitchen and lounge area, both filled with people like us lounging around. A chilled out atmosphere and a bathroom in which you could see the harbour bridge and opera house from - not too bad we thought, even though $25 did seem a bit steep. During our 3 nights in Kanga Hostel we got ourselves a weekly train pass, this was a great decision. We zipped around Sydney with ease and first stop was the postcard point, aka Sydney Opera House. Seeing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge was all a bit surreal; having seen it so often on TV's and postcards, actually being in front of it made us realise that yes, we were in Australia!
We've spent the last 5/6 days exploring all that Sydney has to offer. We checked out Bondi Beach and watched surfers catch some waves before trying to cool down in the sea; an impossible task! The current was way too strong so we just watched the surfers do their thing, promising ourselves that we would take up a couple of surfing lessons while we were here. The next day we took a ferry cruise from Circular Quay (where Sydney Opera house is) to Manly beach - I imagine California to be similar to this place. Cleanly paved streets, smooth enough for all the local skateboarders to get to the beach on, lined with restaraunts and surfing shops. Here we got some pizza, planned our next movements up the east coast and listened to a live band singing about the cost of putting his dog down (its only $23 apparently). We sampled the Kings Cross nightlife, or at least we tried to before prices of a beer forced away from the somewhat seedy street. We had planned to go to the Mardi Gras festival but us being us, we just missed it! There's always next time I suppose...
Being the 'culture vultures' (quote Tim Canterbury) that we are, we also went to see the historic 'Rocks' area of Sydney, the National Art Gallery and Museuem of Contempary Art. The Rocks was pretty cool, with its cobbled stone streets and quaint restaraunts/shops - we actually find a really nice italian restaraunt here; awesome pizzas! Our pick of the art galleries was definitely the Contemporary Musuem of Art, thanks entirely to a woman called Yayoi Kusama. She seemed to be obsessed with infinite reflections and did a load of arty things with mirrors; i'm sure she has a better of describing it but it was pretty cool so we did our best to ignore the plea for no photo taking and headed out. A quick walk along the Harbour Bridge saw us make a brief stop up the windy tower on the bridge for a view of the city. An awesome site as a shaky facebook video might go some way to testyfiying...well maybe. Take our word for it that it was a cracking view.
Having heard about a cheaper hostel called Boomerang Backpackers (nice and cliche) we made the short walk and checked in there. This was place was a lot better; bigger kitchen and a plasma TV in the lounge area - a good place to hang out in between trips. We continued to make the most of our train ticket - seeing Chinatown and the superb Botanic Gardens which overlooked the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. In the gardens they had rainforest areas - within a couple of minutes you felt as though you were in a jungle and just as quickly you were out of it again, taking in the extensive greenery, lakes and fountains all with a backdrop of shiny skyscapers. It was a pretty cool place to walk around. That evening we did what a load of the flyers in the hostel were telling us to do and went onto the rooftop terrace. We sipped on some "goon" (an Ozzy term for dirt cheap boxed wine, disgusting stuff!) and chatted with some of our roommates before heading to the 'World Bar', a crammed backpacker club but with everyone there we had a pretty cool time.
Typically, we had booked a trip to the Blue Mountains the day after this night out, thus requiring a 7am start...but lo and behold...we actually got up in time for once. And it was totally worth it. Our tour guide was possibly the best thing about the trip. He was called Jim and he seemed to be a parody of the typical potrayal of an Aussie. His laid back, jovial ways got everyone chatting though and quickly helped get rid of our tiredness/hangovers. Before we headed to the mountains we stopped off to see some Kangaroos doing their thing in the forest; Dunham did his best at being David Attenborough with his video camera and then we left to see the Blue Mountains and their 'Three Sisters'. Believe it or not the weather was overcast with a bit of drizzle here and there but this didn't hinder the breathtaking views. Awesome stuff - nothing but a spongy bed of trees flowing up and down and inbetween the valleys of mountains. Looking below the cliff to see a burnt out car was a little alarming though! We did the 998 stepped walk down past the famous 'Three Sister' mountains for more of the same cracking views. At this point we had been joined by a guy called Bertrum...seriously, that was actually his name. Now if Jim was a parody of a typical Aussie then Bert was doing his best to unknowingly mock the British! A quirky character but harmless enough. On our way back from the mountains we stopped off at Olympic Park, where the Sydney 2000 Olypmics where held and where we were going to see Coldplay the following night...Following the early start of the day before and Dunham's desire to get up at 5.45am to watch the United game we went to bed early-ish that night to get our energy levels ready for the Coldplay gig.
A United win and succesfully booking our trip up the East Coast that morning put us in buoyant mood for an afternoon of steak and chips by the beach in Bondi. Before long we were on the train to the Acer Arena, feeling very excited. And boy did we have reason to - the seats we had inside were brilliant, dead in-line with the stage on the right hand side, we could see Chris Martin & co absolutely loving the Sydney crowd. The gig was one of the best we have been to and all 2 hours of it seemed to go so quickly as they seamlessly moved through hit after hit (a huge thank you Tally!). What a gig and what way to spend the last night in Sydney!
So now here we are today on the 15th March, having arrived in Byron Bay and now finishing off this blog. Having assessed our rather poor attempts to budget bought a tent and sleeping bags before we left - we can barely afford hostels now! Still, it should be a pretty good adventure. We were surfing the waves in Byron Bay yesterday and will be again today – awesome fun. Next Saturday we head up to see the Fraser and Whitsunday Islands for a 4x4 adventure and 3 day boat cruise and everything in between - cannot wait!
Speak to you all soon,
Mark & James