(Still in Sydney!)
03.12.2011 - 06.12.2011 30 °C
Last night I managed to find a voucher for 3 days free at the massive Fitness First gym on george street so we decided to get up early and give that a bash. The bitchy gay manager on reception told us it wasnt a free pass but 3 free days when we sign up(?). He waved his hand around in the air a bit and said we could go in this once but must come back on Monday to see the sales team and sign up before another session, which ofcourse we agreed to! It was a huge gym and they had a special weekend on with lots of celebreties from the fitness world taking classes in the swanky hi-tec rooms (even the glass could be darkened at the touch of a button so you couldnt see the classes!). Jayne was like a kid in a sweet shop and decided to work out on every machine possible while I did my usual routine.
After the gym and now suitably achey from head to toe it was time to hit the local markets. Nicki had told us it was market day in certain places in Sydney on a Saturday, so this would be an ideal time to check out local wares and get amongst the real Sydney people. We found 'The Rocks' market first (an area in Sydney - not a place where they sell rocks) and were impressed by the quality of the street artist singing and the general nice vibe of the place. Starving from the gym sesh the food stalls were our first concern. Turkish, Indian, Thai, Japanese, German you name it, there was a stall for it. After careful consideration and a watchful eye to see which one gave us the largest pile of food for the least dollar, we opted for the 'Sushi Hero 2' stall (not put off by the fact it sounded like a weird computer game!). Jayne grabbed a sushi/seafood pancake the size of her head and I did the 'new menu selection' which consisted of various dumplings and strange fishy objects. It was a good choice, pretty yummy! Refueled and half baked after standing in the blazing sun we ducked into an indoor market area to escape the ferocious heat for a while. 10 fake ugg boot and 2 boomerang stalls later we found ourselves in a Didgeridoo shop.
Now these werent small suitcase sized trinkets made from drilled bamboo, these were the real deal. Some of them were 2 metres long, some $2500 and all (we were reliably informed by the owner) were precision instruments hollowed out by termites and then hand tuned by professionals and painted by artists. Wow, how could we refuse to have a play in here for a while. We made him pick various different ones and play them, wich I must confess he did very well and it was an incredibly haunting and mystical sound. Happy that we now knew all there was to know about Didgeridoo's and a Didgeridont's we left feeling like we should have maybe bought one.
A few very expensive beers later served by german wenches the draw of the Didge became impossible to resist so we rushed back to the shop and selected our finely tuned instrument.
It is tuned to a C# which is a middle-ish note and about 1.5 metres long with a small apertue, making it easier to maintain a note for a beginner. The local aboriginal artist is also quite famous in these parts so after a quick blast from me (yes I actally got a decent note!), a wet raspberry noise from Jayne and a professional 2 minute session by the owner it was ours! Look out mum, its on its way to you in the post!
Note to self, must get didgeridoo lessons and stop shopping after drinking strong beer!
Happy with our expensive new instrument and potentialy dusty ornament it was time to head out of the markets and back to the flat. As a thank you to Gav for his hospitality we stopped off at a local Woolworths yes its a big food chain here) and bought enough ingredients for spag bol to feed approx 12 people!
The meal was lush and all enjoyed it (still loads left though due to the sheer quantity cooked) we had a few drinks then headed to a rather expensive cocktail bar for some random drinks.
(Today was a bad day for the budget!)
A very lazy day planned today after all the excitement and cost of yesterday to try and recoup some money and a few braincells! We are enjoying Gavs hospitality but beginning to feel a bit like we haven't really moved anywhere for a while so decided to start planing for the rest of the trip in Aus. A very rough plan laid down so we knew where we might be each week and a Hair cut later it was getting to be the evening. Jayne's friend Scarratt offered to take us to a free beach party titled 'welcome to summer' so we hoped in his car and shot off out of town. It was a beautiful place on the beach front with 2 of their friends strumming a guitar and singing various cover versions of pop songs.
The free booze and food kept us a while before heading off to a local pub for a few more drinks as the weather had turned very cold for Aus.
I also managed to contact my friend Kirsty who lives in Brisbane and I havent seen for around 7 years. It was great to speak to her and she offered us a place to stay for a few days so the onward plan is beginning to take shape!
Woke up early to catch the train to the Blue Mountains today (so called because the eucilyptus plants emit a gas that turns the mist slightly blue!) as we decided to venture outside sydney for a day. A 2 hour train journey got us to the town of Katoomba where the mountains are within easy reach. A short walk down the main high street suprised us when it suddenly ended at a platform sticking out over the edge of a vastness off forest and mountains.
Some of the paths were closed due to a forest fire but Jayne managed to plot us a route around via a road and back onto the forest paths. A brief excursion into a tourist filled area called Scenic World for some cheesy shots of an old mine
and the steepest incline railway (52 degrees)
then we hit the proper forest trails.
The paths were not as well signposted as NZ and you felt quite alone and in the middle of no where. There were noises I had never heard before echoing around us, screeches, bird song and who knows what else! Jayne had a brief encounter with a leech stuck to her shirt sniffing for some skin which I flicked off of her after she'd finished flapping about like a demented parrot.
THe forest was much more dense than NZ and felt way more alive, in fact it was hard to see the path sometimes and if you could easily lose sight of the other person in seconds.
We actually did get a little lost at one point and having not seen a single other person for about 2 hours were wondering if we would ever find our way out before dark. This was a tad scary as the area is famous for eating tourists and this is no place to be unprepared after nightfall!
It became apparent that we must be heading in the right direction out of the basin as we were confronted by a never ending series of steep steps/ladders.
A brief encounter with a couple of lost looking Japanese people where I asked them the way to civilisation and they looked blankly at me, eventually led us out and to a picnic area by a road. It had started raining and as we walked along the road a nice local woman stopped and asked if we needed a ride to town. We gratefully accepted and once I had taught her how to demist her own car (?) she drove us to town and deposited us right near the station just in time for the train back to Sydney.
A very eventful, slightly scary and tiring day outside of Sydney made us realise what we had been missing and so more planning was on the cards to get us moving again.
Jayne decided to go on a trip to Hunter Valley for another Wine Tasting experience while I decided to catch up on the blog, make some more plans and save some dollar. I'll get her to explain her day.
Jayne - Well the alarm went off at 6am which was a shocker after 2 months of lazing around til 8/9am each morning. But anyway, I managed to get myself down to the Central Harbour just in time to jump on my little tour bus which consisted of 9 avid wine-drinkers. It turned out to be a real mix of cultures - a Texas girl, originally from Taiwan who designs jewellery and follows her rich husband around the world, a couple from Christchurch - the guy is a crash investigater currently on a research programme in Sydney, a lovely older couple from Italy who spoke very little English, a Brazilian phsycologist, a proffessor of Chemical Engineering from Vancouver and a couple of Polish ladies - who just 'like drinking wine' - which was my excuse too!
After a 2 hour drive to Hunter Valley -the home of 150 wineries, we arrived at our first winery - a small affair who grow their grapes onsite then send off to a larger winery to be fermented and bottled. Anyway, tried 6 or 7 of their wines without much drama, none of them nice enough to spend $30 on a bottle but an informative tasting. The larger wineries based in the area are Rosemount Estate and Wolfblass.
These are the 'big ones' and they export all over the world. They are in fact both owned by Fosters and they gather mass-produced grapes grown all over the South of Oz, not just Hunter Valley. Some of the boutique wineries will take the best of the grapes juice (the 1st squeeze) for themselves and sell the rest on to the big producers. And for the reeeeally cheap wines that find their way onto Tesco's shelves - you are getting the last squeeze where they wring the grape to death and produce juice that no-one else wants. Oh, and if the wine has been 'oaked' the price of a good French oak barrel adds around £1.50 onto the price of your bottle of wine. There's your wine lessons for the day.
The second Cellar door was called Iron Gate and is a small boutique winery set up by an English multi-millionaire who sold his international engineering company and decided to spend his fortune growing wine. He brought in the best equipment from Italy, the most expensive Oak barrels from France and after the first sip of the first wine I thought I had accidently been sick in my mouth. By the last wine (there were 7 to endure) it felt like I had been shot in the throat. It was truely horrendous. I fessed up to not liking them and he reminded me that 'not everyone has the same pallet' - I'm not sure I have now either, not after drinking that blimin stuff anyway! The Italian man next to me had run out of faces to make - so we left - none of us brought a bottle.
We then had a brief stop for lunch and a cheese tasting during which, myself, the Italian bloke and Miss Dallas all ran off to the cellar door next to the cheesery to sneak a couple more free wines in! After being being frog-marched back to the van by a highly un-amused driver/guide we set off for the last winery - Savanaah. This one was a hit with everyone, especially the sparkling Sav and weirdly the Muscat (uber sweet and mixed with Brandy) which tasted like Christmas in a glass. Or maybe we were just all pretty drunk by then. One of the Polish ladies wobbled towards the door telling us that her head was heavy and her body was light. Time to go.
Great fun day - I learnt a lot more about wine making/growing/drinking which was the aim and I had a laugh doing it.
Arrived back to Gav's apartment - a strange German man let me in. Apparantly he lives here to now - that's couchsurfing for you!! :-)
Chris - Seems like she had a good time! I ended up being invited to have a tour around Gavs Ship which is a royal Australian Frigate. It was pretty awesome seeing the anti-aircraft missiles, torpedo tubes, 50 cal machine guns and even the engine room etc. (much more manly than wine tasting!)
Gav went through explaining how it all worked and what all the different radars do and I even got to stand on the bridge. I didn't take a camera as I assumed that wasn't the done thing but Gav told me as soon as I got there that if I wanted to take pictures I could. DOH!
After the tour I finished planning the next few days and booked some accommodation in Byron Bay so that we now HAVE to move out of Gavs.
I've had a fantastic time in Sydney and at Gavs but we really need to start heading north to see more of Aus.