(and what a warm welcome its been !)
29.11.2011 - 02.12.2011 32 °C
Woke up in the strange campsite to the sound of the austrian hippy biker (who offered us camomile tea the night before) firing up his harley at 6am. Got dressed and had a brief chat with a couple over breakfast whos daughter had her back broken in the Christchurch earthquake. Just another normal morning when your travelling!!
Hector looked sad as we packed him up once more and made sure all our stuff was back in our rucksacks and any food items had been disposed of before trying to enter Australia. It was a short drive to Christchurch and we saw more devastated buildings and damage from the earthquake as we navigated our way around diversions and into Escape Rental HQ.
Krispy (the main dude at Escape) called us a cab and we left with a tear in our eye as we watched Hector fade into the horizon, never to be seen by us again.
The flight was a relatively short one (3.5 hours) and we landed in Sydney at a reasonable time in the afternoon. The trains were simpe to work out (a bit like london tubes) only I was suprised to see that they were double deckers!!
Arriving at the lodge we were amazed to find out we had our own sink, fridge and breakfast included which were luxuries we were not accustomed to. The night was spent figuring out what the hell to do in Sydney and trying to contact a guy called Gav on the couch surfing website for a free nights stay the following evening.
DAY 1 - Australia!!
Awoke late in the morning to the sound of Jayne coming in from a run. It was a hot night but comfortable in our lovely little private room.
We managed to get the lodge to let us leave our bags for free while we explored the burbs of Sydney and made our way to Sydney Harbour Bridge and the famous Opera House for multiple Photo ops !
Several cheap Tshirts and skirts later we returned to the lodge to collect our bags before heading off to the random blokes house we contacted on couch surfing website for hopefully a bed for the night. It was easy to find his apartment and as we entered the lifts wondering what would be waiting for us they sprang open to reveal a guy in naval uniform greeting us with a big smile and handshake. He seemed like a nice guy and once invited into his apartment we realised we had landed on our feet. It was a large 3 bed apartment, very modern and clean and with a great view of the sydney opera house and tower.
He showed us the pool, sauna, our own bedroom and the well kitted out kitchen. OMG what a change from dodgy dorms!
Gav showed us around part of Sydney and we had a beer in a local pub before he bought us more dominoes pizza than we could hold and headed back to the apartment for a few drinks.
Gav is an awesomely friendly guy and a real rare find! He made us feel like we were visiting a close friend instead of a stranger in his house. A few vodkas later I shaved off my beard to various degrees including my favourite, the dirty biker !!...
It was then time for several sauna and pool sessions on the roof terrace with 2 other Nordick couch surfers and a 19 year old, blonde, 6 foot german called Lara.
What an awesome first night couch surfing! He also sorted us out with free tickets to the Sydney zoo and a tour around his naval frigate! MINT!!
A thumping vodka hangover awoke me at 9am. Jayne was off swimming at the local 50 meter pool so I waited for her to get back before getting up and ready to go to Sydney Zoo with the gold passes that Gav had arranged for us. It was a short ferry ride to the other side of the harbour to get to the zoo and then a quick hop on the gondola took us over the whole zoo to the entrance.
It was a roasting hot day and we made our way around pretty much all of the zoo trying to catch all the keeper talks and shows on offer. We saw the Sea Lion show (which was very funny)..
the girraffe talk..
and a penguin talk.
There was loads to see and the big cats and chimps entertained us for quite some time, although the lion did seem to look at me with hungry eyes!...
There was even a walk around an Australian outback which allowed us to get right next to Kangaroos with no barriers between us and them where an Emu kept picking on the Kangaroo!
And of course, we stared at the apparently stoned Koala bears hanging around in a nearby tree..
The day got so hot towards the end it was obvious a storm was brewing. The heat and the pressure was beginning to give us a headache so we decided to leave the zoo and head back to the apartment (we were pretty much the last people still there anyway).
As we headed for the exit there was the customary forced route through a soveneir shop selling stuffed animals of every shape and size and giant rubber spiders. The best bit though was right at the end of the shop was a window into a seal enclosure and a very curious seal sat and watched us as we got nearer and then swam around and interacted with us for a while.
Back at the apartment the other guests made us pancakes with every filling imaginable. My favourite was chocolate chunks, cream, maple syrup and blue berrys! Proper NOM! Now full of batter and sweet treats Jayne decided to retire for the night while I had a searing sauna session and then enjoyed the cool rain on the terrace roof as I stared at the night lights of Sydney.
Another lazy morning as we dragged ourselves up and wondered what Sydney would hold for us today. We waved goodbye to our Viking friends and sat in Gavs flat wondering how we got to be in such a nice place all on our own in the middle of Sydney!?
A day on Bondi Beach was on the cards so we bought some pre paid bus cards and headed on over to the world famous beach. It was a stunning beach to be fair. Soft golden sands, clear blue waters and wicked surf.
We sunbathed for a few hours and then after a call from Gav to tell us we had HIS keys and he couldnt get in, decided time to head back.
A quick stop in a shop to buy more sun cream and I laughed as Jayne said 'A' at the end of her first sentence without thinking about it. Incase you are not aware of the local speach differences they say 'A' after most sentences as a way of confirming things. ie 'Its bloody hot over here, A?' or 'lets head this way, A?' or as Jayne said, ' Lets just buy this one, A?'. did make me laugh !!
Got back to the flat an hour late to let Gav in, I was well embarressed but Gav was cool as a cucumber and said its not the end of the world as I fumbled for the keys and let him back into his own apartment!
Jayne contacted an old college friend called Mark Scarrat and he suggested we come to a magazine launch that was happening in a few hours in a local warehouse, so we said what the heck and got ready. I then realised that I only had cargo pants and Tshirts so asked Gav to borrow an iron to make them look as good as poss. He showed me the iron and board and then started to bring his entire wardrobe out for me to try on, including shirts, jeans and shoes! I found a selection that matched and fitted and after ironing it we headed off out.
The launch party was in a funky sort of warehouse place and they had a free bar with wine, beer, whisky, cocktails and free food that kept being dished out (cheesecakes, spring rolls, sandwiches etc). The live band got better as the night got on too and we got more and more hammered!
At this point I looked at myself and wondered how I managed to arrive on the other side of the world in Sydney at a free magazine launch party, drinking free cocktails and eating free food with someone elses clothes on with a free apartment to go back to!? Weird how things can work out for the best if you take chances!! (take note all you people thinking your not sure about travelling and leaving your mundain routines behind !!)
The party was good fun and with all the drinks flying around we were struggling to carry them all!
We got quite wobbly so we left with Scarratt to find a local gay bar for a bit more of a 'lively' atmosphere! Several more drinks here it was time to head back to Gavs apartment where we had been upgraded to the large spare room and we met his sister and the new Estonian couch surfers.
More drinks and a few drunken conversations later we retired for the night, thinking how lucky we have been so far in Sydney and how staying here a few more nights might work out for the best!! ;-)
Another morning with a fuzzy head!! The nights in Sydney have been great but the mornings... ouch!...
It was time to go on our champaigne and castles cruise around Sydney harbour so after a hearty breakfast we made our way to the Quay to catch our boat. It wasn't the kind of boat we had expected. It was more of a ferry than a tall wooden ship, but we thought 'hey ho', after all it was cheap so lets see what happens.
It took us across the bay and had to pick up another guide on the way. The only problem was he was on another ship so they had to manouver very close to each other and he jumped from one to the other, interesting start we thought!
The open bar which had seemed so appealing when we booked it seemed much less so this morning after our long heavy night (The swaying of the ship didnt help either!) but we tried our best to knock back a few glasses on our way to Goat Island.
Goat Island was once a place where criminals were held (kind of a mini Alcatraz) and the guides walked us round showing many interesting sights and explaining some history of the island and its colourful inhabitants.
There was also a great view of the whole Harbour from the island
Back on the boat after a Barby lunch there were more drinks and informative chats before we arrived back at the quay.
An american friend we had met in Fiji called Niki was having her leaving Aus party on the other side of the bridge so a nice stroll across
got us to a small grassed area where we sat and ate pizza with Nikki and her friends whilst watching the sun go down over the bridge and the opera house.
The sun went down and the wind got colder so it was back to the flat via a ferry this time to sit on the roof terrace and drink a glass of wine before an early night.