A slightly belated festive update people, technical difficulties now resolved so here goes...
T'was the night before Christmas, and...we weren't feeling particularly Christmas-y as we dragged ourselves up at 4am for our flight to Sydney. Not even a chance of the now customary pre-flight pint for me either, as the bar in the airport didn't open until 10am! The flight itself was fine if a little bumpy in places but we got down in Sydney and out the other end with minimal fuss. We jumped on an airport shuttle bus courtesy of the hostel as we were staying more than 3 nights. The random Chinese driver wasn't filling us with confidence though as he seemed to have no idea what he was doing, one poor bloke actually got off 5mins into the journey after realising the driver was taking him out in completely the wrong direction! We were fine though and managed to get dropped off at our hostel without any dramas. We were too early for check in so we went across the road to a Thai resteraunt for a $102 lunch and cheeky Crimbo Eve beverage. Back at the hostel we still couldn't check in so went upstairs to the TV room, were the only ones in there and whacked on The Cable Guy just to pass the time till check in. 2pm came around and we were excited to be heading to to our room. The last private room we had in Sydney at the other hostel was great, en suite bathroom, wardrobe, fridge, TV, this one had .....a bed, oh and four walls with a a window in one of them, and curtains. That was literally it. Still, it was our own space so we weren't too disheartened. We had dinner that night back at Star Bar, $7.95 steaks and a few free drinks courtesy of the hostel. Knackered from the early get up we headed back for an early night only to run into a group of people playing drinking games in the kitchen. Would have been rude not to join in so we went and got a box of goon and obliged. Realising we were getting a bit tipsy, and with the thought of a good days drinking in front of us we dragged ourselves away and went off to bed.
Christmas Day! and the hostel was in high spirits (anyone we passed on route to the toilet prior to 10am was drunk/ hungover/ a combination of the two). We opened presents from each other and home and had a good morning playing with our presents etc. We Skyped home and exchanged the Christmas pleasantries and then set off for our Sunburnt festival day. We had imagined it as Sun, Sand, and Santa hats but the reality was somewhat different! The rain was coming in sideways as we got off the bus at Bondi beach and ran for the pavillion. Once inside we went straight for our Christmas lunch, the 'BBQ' we'd actually paid extra on our tickets for. Our BBQ' consisted of a piece of minute steak, 2 pieces of bread, potato salad, and coleslaw. Under the Trade descriptions act I'm pretty sure it didn't qualify as a BBQ, and was certainly no match for a turkey with all the trimmings. We ate the cold steak more out of necessity than anything else and headed for the bar. The sight of $8 beers (330ml size) and $8 wine (3sips size) broke our hearts, but the 12-3 Happy Hour, half price drinks poster lifted our spirits and we started to fill our boots, realising only getting drunk would rescue the day! We battled through the rain to one of the indoor spots and were transferred back in time to a year 8 school disco. We had to sit on the floor whilst a couple of piss-heads tried to dance to some god awful trance music. Even the cockroaches had turned up their toes in protest as we made friends with a group of people with similar horrified looks on their faces. As the day went on and the beer kept flowing the day actually got OK and we had a good laugh making the most of the situation.at 5 to 3 we stocked up on as many drinks as we were allowed to before Happy Hour ended and we called it a day at about 6.30pm. We bussed it back into the CBD and searched high and low for somewhere to eat as funnily enough the cold steak from 6 hours ago hadn't managed to sustain us. Trusty MacDonalds was the only lace open so we succumbed and bought a massive meal each to fill our bellies and headed of to bed. We managed a few hours of drunken sleep but were abruptly awoken at around 3-4am when the idiotic Irish in the room across the hall got in and started wrecking the hostel. We laid awake for what felt like hours listening to them throwing, smashing, screaming, spewing and generally being loud and annoying. We finally drifted off again somehow, and that ladies and gentlemen, was our Christmas, Australia style!
Boxing Day then, and a break from the customary piss-up at the Dogs. We had no idea what we wanted to do today but the posters in the hostel for a day of party/ drinking games caught our eye, so we went down to reception to see what was happening. Not one member of staff in the place seemed to have any idea (a) what the games were, or (b) what time they were starting. Not filled with great confidence we quickly scrapped that idea and headed out for a wander instead. Lovely sunny day today which was bloody typical as we could have done with exactly this type of weather we could have done with yesterday. Instead, we got it today and thrust into a million people rushing around like headless chickens in the boxing day sales. After finding a cheap asian cafe doing $7.50 cooked breakfasts (our first since leaving home), we decided to join them and had a bit of an afternoon shopping, buying some new togs with me Mam's Christmas money. We stuck to the cheaper shops (Oz versions of Primark/ Matalan) and picked up a few bargains each. Just about ready for a break in the shopping we happened to pass the eVent cinema and noticed the billboards advertising the opening of 'The Hobbit'. I'd been desperate to see it although Zoe wasn't that keen, so exacting my revenge for having to sit through 2 and a half hours of vampires and wolves, we went and bought two tickets for later that afternoon. A little more shopping and then we went to settle in for the film. After spending 3 and a bit hours with dwarves, elves, orcs and hobbits we went for a curry as Zoe had been craving one for the past couple of days & scoffed our way through butter chicken, mango chicken, beef korma, lamb rogan josh rice & naan's. We bought some beers and a few bottles of wine and decided against joining the animals in the communal room and chilled out with a few drinks in our room listening to music.
The morning after boxing day without a hangover was a new one on me, and we had another lovely sunny day, nice without being too hot that you couldn't do anything, so we had a nice little walk through Chinatown down to Darling harbour in the morning. Obvioulsy on a smaller scale than Sydney harbour, it was really pretty down there with plenty of people milling about. Zoe had to go barefoot as she was developing mahusive blisters on her feet on account of her new pumps she had decided to break in over Christmas. With the shops in Chinatown still offering post-Christmas sales we ended up adding to our wardrobes with another couple of purchases. In the afternoon the last couple of days started to catch up with us and the tiredness kicked in so we rented 'Ted' from one of the little green DVD rental boxes and watched it up in the TV/ DVD room in the hostel after spending almost 4hours downstairs on the archaic computers trying to upload our Great Barrier Reef photos. That night it was time to get back on it and went for a freebie night out on account of the beer vouchers from the hostel with Kerry and Issy & Cato. We only hit 2 bars but had sunk enough free drinks to be just a little bit tipsy by the time we went to bed not long after midnight.
The 28th was a bit of an action-packed busy day for us. We started the morning with another stroll down to Darling harbour to get our combo ticket for the aquarium, Madame Tussauds, and the Sydney eye tower. The whole thing only cost us $65 which was pretty good value bearing in mind each individual attraction was circa $30 entry. We had originally intended to go the aquarium today and save the other attractions for later but the queue for it was massive so we gave it a miss for now and went to Tussauds instead. The place itself was pretty crammed as there were a load of people in there, and the layout was completely different to what i had expected. Instead of just rows of mannequins, all the characters were sort of grouped together in different areas with sort of interactive scenes with props that you could don for photos. We spent about an hour in there, working our way through and taking a few photos in although the various scenes with the characters. Working our way back through the city, we decided to go up the eye tower too as the weather was so nice we reckoned we'd get pretty good views from the top. Before we went up we watched a 4D video promoting the eye tower and Sydney in general. We had the obligatory cardboard 3D specs on, and the cinema pumped in smells and sprayed us with water etc at moments throughout the film to enhance the experience. After the film we got the lift up the tower to 250m above sea level (40s in the lift). We walked all the way around the viewing platform and took plenty of photos, even managing to spot Shark Island, our vantage point for the NYE fireworks. We just sat on the viewing platforms for a while just taking in the views for a while before we set of back down. On the way out we bought a photo-shopped photo of us, taken before we went up which appears to put us on the edge of the platform at night with cityscape lit up behind us. Back at the hostel we knocked up some Southern fried chicken fillets with jackets and beans, before watching Ice Age 4 (another rental) and then getting a train out to Lesbiville (OK, so it's really called Newtown but to all intents and purposes it's Lesbiville). There we met our favourite Irish Lesbian Christine (from our Asia trip) and went straight to the Newtown Hotel for it's Happy Hour which came complete with $4 drinks, a shoot 'em up safari game (which i was sh1t at), and a drag queen running a raffle to win his, 'ahem', meat package. After a few drinks there we went across the road to the Carlton hotel for $10 burgers, more $4 drinks, and a built in bookies where we spent an hour or so betting on the greyhound racing. First race up we decided to put $1 each on a chosen dog. We all picked one and Zoe's won (the favourite, Majestic Lee, at 2/1), Christine's ran home in second, and my rank outsider squeezed over the line in 3rd. We picked up our winnings and i nearly died when i saw the return on an all ways Trifecta on our combination of dogs. The $600+ win would have bagged us $300ish in winnings if i'd had the brains the back it. Anyway, let's not dwell on that particular bit! We picked up 1 more winner over the course of the evening, the aptly named 'Leeful Shot' before we called it a night and got a train back to the hostel, after watching some increasingly desperate blokes chucking as much as $250 at dogs per race!
Our blissful nights sleep as we approached the 29th was abruptly ended at 5am when the nutty Irish again stumbled in pissed and set about trashing the hostel, finally b*****ing off when Zoe asked them to stop banging about just after 7am! We woke up later with Zoe starting to develop a sore throat and a bit of the lurgey (not quite man flu just yet though) and after breakfast set out on a trip to Rose bay, a 'dry run' for our ferry crossing to Shark Island for NYE. a 5mins walk to the bus station and a 30mins ride to the bay and we'd cracked it, no problem. We walked around the bay a little to the back of the island, realising that if we could get a good spot on the side of the island we would have a pretty much unobscured view of the harbour bridge and opera house. Felling pretty chuffed with ourselves, and excited at the prospect of spending NYE here, we set off back into central Sydney and the pharmacy to get some tablets to combat the dreaded lurgey. We got showered and changed and went back out to Star Bar for another night on the freebie drinks tokens from the hostel, this time joined by Cookey & Tim and Mike (from Surfer's Paradise). After dinner and freebies in Star Bar we made our way to Maloney's and rinsed the tokens in there, added a couple of cheap jugs whilst the girls finished their wine and then moved on the Shark Hotel. Zoe was originally denied entry because she was wearing flip flops so we walked back to the hostel so she could get her heels. We limped back to Shark (on account of a heels & blisters combination) and Zoe almost got knocked back for a second time, the bouncer on a power trip questioning the amount of drinks she'd had. We finally made it in and most of the girls in there were wearing....flip flops. Brilliant. We decided against kicking off and instead rinsed out free drinks tokens and hit the dance floor. The girls stayed up there pretty much all night whilst the lads got an impromptu pool round robin going before joining in the dancing. As the free drinks token ran out we called it a night and made the short walk home around the corner and into bed.
We were a bit delicate on the morning of the 30th to say the least, clearly feeling the effects of the night before and quickly decided to have a quiet (and dry) day so as to recharge the old batteries in preparation for NYE. We only got as far as Coles (to fill up the hamper with nibbles for NYE) and the TV room today, and spent the night up there watching a sort of British comedy golden moments countdown thingy complete with episodes of Black Adder, Absolutely Fabulous and the Vicar of Dibley, before 'Movie Night' and an Irish invasion. We stayed mainly because of the free pop and crisps and watched 'The Strangers' before getting tucked in at 11.30pm ready for a big day tomorrow...
...so that takes us to the last day of what has been an amazing year and the small matter of some fireworks down in Sydney Harbour. We were both like kids on Christmas Eve, willing the time away to go get the bus/ ferry and get over to the island. We made up our hamper - cream cheese, ham, & salami baguettes; crackers & cheese; mint thins; sour sweets; kettle chips; oh and wine and beer! With that tucked away chilling in the fridge ww went up to Maloney's for lunch and then settled in the TV/ DVD room and watched Stand by Me to pass the time. After showering and changing, and filling our cool bag with frozen bottles of water to keep everything cool we set off up the the bus stop and...PANIC! The massive sign on the bus stop explaining our service would run from somewhere else because of road closures on NYE scared us just a little bit, but we managed to find the new stop just a couple of streets away and we made it on the the first bus passing still on schedule, and made it to the bay in plenty of time. We sat and chilled in the shade for a bit before queueing to get on the ferry. They crammed us in like the proverbial sardines in a tin for the short 10mins trip across to the island, everyone crowding round the doors for a quick exit to stake a claim for the best viewing spot. I took the bags and Zoe prepared herself for a quick getaway, armed with our blanket to claim our spot. As she ran, I casually strolled from the ferry with the bags whilst Zoe legged it to get a spot. I'd only taken 4/5 strides when i Zoe Zoe stood there, hands on hips, admiring the space around her, only metres from where the ferry had docked, at the bottom of the island. I must admit, I was wondering why the hell she'd stopped where she had whilst everyone else was madly rushing past her, heading up the island. As it turned out however, she'd picked the perfect spot, right at the edge of a little ledge that dropped down to the little rocky beached part of the island, with a small hedgerow at the lip of it. It would be physically impossible for anyone to get in front of us, thus giving us a perfectly obstructed view of the harbour, bridge, opera house, and CBD skyline in the backdrop. It was a little before 7pm and the sun was just setting behind the cityscape, silhouetting the scenery and casting a gorgeous shimmer across the boat filled harbour. I opened a beer as we exchanged introductions with those immediately around us, and then laid back on the grass and took in the view and began to get excited. After ringing home, we began to steadily work through the beers and wine, watching the sun set, and counting down to the 9pm fireworks eating chilli feta crackers. The 9pm fireworks were pretty impressive in themselves, lasting around 10mins. We filmed and photographed them, trying to configure the camera to the best settings for the main event. The atmosphere built, and the alcohol flowed as we all counted down to the big moment, and it was time for the big countdown before we knew it. We had a little romantic moment as 2013 hit, and then sat in absolute awe at the fireworks which boomed and fizzed and crackled for the best part of half an hour. We managed to get plenty of good photos of them and videoed a large chunk of them too, which I'm sure will be replayed on every NYE for the foreseeable future. We had to get the ferry back and wait for a bus to take us back into central Sydney but everyone and their Grandma was trying to do the same, and the first 3 busses we waited for were too full to get on, and in any case were were way down the line anyway. Realising we would be stood there a good long while, we accepted our fate and joined the throng of people walking home. We'd been going a good hour and a half when by chance a bus stopped and we managed to dive on at the back and rode the last few miles home, finally getting into bed just after 3.30am.
New Years day we didn't rouse until well after 11am, and the first thing we did (after ringing and Skyping home) was look back through last nights photos, and re-watch the fireworks on video, still not quite believing that we had actually been there and seen in the new year in Sydney harbour! We made some breakfast (beans & egg on toast) and set about the chores - a good tidy up and some washing. Whilst the washing was on we had a nice walk around Hyde Park and took some touristy photos of central Sydney. We had a nice dinner of Pork steaks, boiled tatties, veg & rosemary gravy. We had a quiet night just watching tele upstairs in the TV room before packing the bags in preparation for tomorrow's check out and had an early night.
After checking our of Maze and dropping our bags at Base, we did a last food shop and made a big fry-up before flopping in front of the TV to kill time until our 2pm check-in. We kicked up a fuss when told we were in separate rooms at check in with no possibility of moving either of us because there was no availability. After complaining to the manager we checked in to the same room and got showered and changed before getting a train out to St Leonards for a night with Cookey & Tim at the house they had been staying at. Zoe had her legs epilated by Cookey while us boys gathered supplies. We were joined by Joel & dave, 2 lads they had met travelling and had a good old BBQ complete with Kanga Bangers (Kangaroo sausages to the unaware) and plenty of booze, and spent the night playing drinking games before catching the last train home, getting to bed at a fairly reasonable 12.30am.
January 3rd saw our last full day in Oz and we made the most of it by getting up at 8.30am and heading down to the aquarium, and were the first in the queue when it opened at 9am. We had a brilliant morning in there, took a load of photos and went through all the interactive exhibits, where you could walk through the glass tunnels which ran through some of the aquariums. After the aquarium we went back to the hostel to make some dinner and then got a bus out to Bondi beach where we set off on the 5.5km walk along the coastland clifftop to Coogee beach. The walk took us around 2 and a half hours and past half a dozen other smaller beaches in small bays/ coves along the way. The sun was really hot but because of the breeze from the sea we didn't really realise we were catching it until we awoke red the next morning! We spent our last night with Annie Thomas, and had a few drinks and $10 chicken burgers down in Surry Hills before walking back and setting the alarm ready to check out of Base, Sydney, & Australia the next morning.
January 4th brought an end to our Australian adventure and heralded the start of our New Zealand journey. After a morning killing time and a last goodbye with Christine we got the train out to the airport. Upon asking for two tickets to the airport, the attendant had asked us if we wanted 'domestic' or 'international' (the two separate airports are pretty much sided by side in Sydney). Before i could open my mouth, Zoe had already answered his query with a quick as a flash, New Zealand! As the train pulled out of Sydney we got one last look out across the harbour at the bridge and opera house before our thoughts began to turn to our imminent arrival in New Zealand, but that's a story for another day.
That should bring you fully up to date with our Australian adventure and first Christmas down under.
Hope all is well back home.
Lee & Zoe x x x