Hi there to one and all from sunny Australia.
As you know, we landed here last Tuesday having spent 2 months living in a small Hi-Ace camper van in NZ. It had started to turn cold and wet in NZ so we were looking forward to sun, sun, sun here in Oz - well apparently the stories are not all true and sometimes it rains in Sydney and sometimes it is chilly. We have experienced an amount of both but in the main it has been lovely weather. Mid Autumn weather on a good day is easily on a par with the best the Uk has to offer.
One thing Zoe didn't to mention in the last instalment was the trouble we had with trying to rearrange the dates of the remaining flights that make up our trip. We had tried the Cathay Pacific and Quantas offices in Auckland and they were useless and would have charged us a load of cash for the privilege of their less than capable services. We tried phoning up Quantas and managed to change the date for a single flight and that took an hour to do. Our last resort was to ask at the Quantas desk at the airport, so we got there two hours early to see if we could accomplish anything. It took 15 minutes to change 4 flights and we were charged nothing! The reason I have included this paragraph is that if any of you are in the same situation in the future then a trip to the airport to speak direct to the airline might save you a heap of hassle.
Anyway, we were met at the airport by Jarvie and he chauffeured us back to his apartment in Neutral Bay on the north side of the harbour where we were greeted by his girlfriend Gemma and a delicious fillet of beef for dinner. If there is a better way to be introduced to a country I can't think of it! Unfortunately the timing of our arrival in Oz coincided with Jarvie being busy has hell at work (he has recently been promoted to the role of "Charlie Big Bananas") and Gemma having to attend a conference/seminar in Melbourne from Weds to Sun. This meant that we would not get to spend as much time with them as we would have liked but you just have to get on and play the hand you're dealt, so we did.
Their apartment is 5 minutes walk from the ferry stop at Kurraba Point in Neutral Bay so on Wednesday morning we crossed the harbour under a grey sky and ventured into the city. What a city it is to! The skyline which we had seen illuminated the previous evening is just as magnificent in the day time rivalling Manhatten, Hong Kong and Hinckley I'd say. The day was spent wandering round checking the sights and starting to make plans for the rest of our time in Oz. We visited a backpackers travel agent to get some ideas for how to see the sights of the East Coast, constructed a vague itinerary and picked up a load of leaflets to peruse before booking anything. We also visited the Indian Embassy to see about arranging our visas for the last leg of the trip and we found out the department that does this work had moved to another building and that we were too late in the day anyway. Tired and shell shocked (imagine swapping a country with a population of 4 million for a city with that number of people!) we got the ferry back across the harbour.
Our agenda for Thursday meant going back into the city again. We visited the Indian visa building and submitted our visa applications. Processing time for these is 10 days minimum so we will collectct our passports and visas when we pass back through Sydney at the end of May. From here we headed into the Botanical Gardens for a walk around. The gardens are pleasant enough even for non-gardener like me and it was nice strolling about taking in the ambiance. The ambiance took a turn for the worse at about midday and it started pissing down which was rather disappointing so we headed to a café for lunch. Things went from bad to worse when I managed to upend my plate and tip my chicken and leek pie all over myself and the floor - I couldn't even invoke the 3 second rule and pick it up again as within half a second there were 2 pigeons already fighting over the sorry remains on the floor. Thankfully, the waiter saw the aftermath and assumed the birds had knocked the pie on the floor so he replaced it FOC. Result! After lunch we headed into the city to meet up with Nic and Jay (our English friends form NZ), we had a beer and they gave us a heads up about what's good to do in Sydney. When they left to pack for their flight the next day we strolled back to the apartment over the Harbour Bridge stopping to walk round the Rocks area of the city.
Nic and Jay had told us about a series of walks that are mapped out around the harbour area so Friday morning we set out west to see where we would end up. The sky was blue and the sun was blazing down, a far cry from the grim weather of the previous 2 days. The coastline around the harbour is beautiful and the wildlife is plentiful - many spiders, cockatoos, a kookaburra and a whole zoo full of other animals but we elected not to go in there. Just after lunch we were walking away from the remains of the WW2 hill top fortifications on our way up the coast and we encountered our first real nutter of the Oz portion of the trip. He said he would take us to the beach and when I asked what is at the beach he got real offended telling me that for Aussies "the beach is like a temple, it is life itself because we suuuuurrrrrrrffffff maaaaannnnn!" Anyway, we managed to get rid of him and headed to the beach our own way. Turns out we went the wrong way and a local had to let us through their garden and out the back gate to get on the correct track again. We should have gone with the nutter! The beach was ace and the water so inviting that I stripped to my boxers and went for a swim within the netted off "Shark safe" swimming area, STREWTH! Apart from the nutter catching up with us again the remainder of the walk passed without incident and we were back at the apartment just as night fell at about 6pm.
Having passed the Opera house at least once on each day that we had been in Sydney we opted to go on a tour of the place on Saturday morning. The weather was much the same as Friday and we were off to look around one of the most iconic buildings on the planet. The building is amazing and I'm sure that a tour round the place could be an amazing experience. Unfortunately for me, the tour we went on did not fit that description. Zoe had a good time and found it interesting but the complete lack of charisma exhibited by the tour guide detracted from my experience. After the tour we returned to the Botanical Gardens to see what we had missed on Thursday when rain stopped play. It was nice to complete the picture and we saw flocks of cockatoos, ibis birds, bats snoozing and giant eels in the ponds.
When Jarvie called us to say he was back from work we went back to the apartment and packed up our stuff to go to Manly Beach. I'm sure you know what's coming so I won't keep you in suspense - the heavens opened and it poured down. Turns out the weather was setting in for the remainder of the afternoon and evening so we headed to his mate's apartment in Manly and we passed the rest of the day there.
As I'm sure all of you know, Sydney is the heartland of the NRL (National Rugby League) and so we wanted to catch a game while we were here. Sunday had 2 choices and we opted for the geographically closer game (Tigers vs. Bulldogs) which was being played at the Olympic stadium near Paramatta. KO was scheduled for 3pm so on the way there we went to Bondi Beach (where I bought my 3rd pair of flip flops and Zoe her 4th for this trip - fingers crossed these ones will go the distance). Bondi is a mecca for surfers and there were a good few out enjoying the waves left over from Saturday night's storm. From the beach we went to the Deus Café. This is a place started by the guys who created the Quicksilver clothing company and their primary business is purchasing new Japanese commuter type motorbikes and retro-ising them into 70's style café racers. They then hang an enormous price tag on them and stick them in the showroom. We checked out the bikes and then had lunch in the adjoining café before heading off to the game.
By this time the weather was beautiful again, the match was a corker and Zoe, Jarvie and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Gemma called to say she was back from Melbourne so we went and picked her up and headed out for beer and pizza for tea! Jarvie and I rounded the day off with MotoGP from Jerez and it was a race well worth staying up for!
With only 2 days remaining of our time in Sydney, Zoe and I realised we had a good few things still to do. Went back to the backpackers travel agent on Monday to sort out our trip down the coast. With this done we went to the Maritime Museum and Zoe was going to cruise over to the Art Gallery afterwards while I went for a swim. Unfortunately, the Maritime stuff kept us so engrossed that before we knew it the time was 5pm and the place was closing. Swimming and art gallerying remained not done.
This is our last day in Sydney until we return here at the end of the month. Zoe has gone to see the Art Gallery and I am here typing for all my worth. We head into the city later to get the train to the airport. On the way stopping to collect our tickets from the backpackers travel agent. Tonight we will be in Cairns and the start of our Aussie adventure. I'll not tell you any details, you can find out what we have been up to when we have done it and the next issue of the blog is published.
See you all in October, take care and stay lucky!