Sydney signified two things to me. One, the start of our yearlong Australian adventure, and two, reuniting with one of my best friends in the world, Peter! Leigh and I lived with peter in Dundrum in 2010/2011 and when our lease was up and we moved to Harold’s Cross, Peter moved to NEW ZEALAND!!! So we went from seeing each other every single day to not seeing each other for nine months, so it’s safe to say even though I was sad to be saying goodbye to Thailand, a country that has definitely stolen my heart, I was beyond excited knowing I was seeing my best friend the next day.
The flight was about the same length as the initial London to Bangkok, about 9/ 10 hours. I didn’t sleep a wink but I did watch a lot of movies, and I’ll admit it some Kourtney and Kim Take New York. I know I have bad taste in TV, but I’ve never stooped to THAT level before, but it was perfect mindless entertainment for a long haul flight. I haven’t been tempted to download it yet, but who knows… When we got to Sydney we went through security ten times quicker than at home. I have to say it, I was a little disappointed. I was expecting to see TV crews routing for drugs at all the counters and sniffer dogs to be looking curiously at our bags, but alas no, it was smooth sailing and friendly faces. When we got outside we were glad to see that the airport had free WIFI, as my usual organisational OCD had failed and I didn’t even remember the name of our hostel let alone print off our booking confirmation. I blame the antibiotics! So we got the name and address of our hostel from our email, but before we left for the train we were stopped by some people from a newspaper who asked some questions about where we were from, what we were doing in Australia etc and took our picture. It horrifies me to know that there may well be a photo out there of me taken after 20 hours without sleep and a long haul flight. When we got to the hostel we couldn’t check in yet so we got the free shuttle bus (an awesome Sydney feature we would get great use out of most mornings that brings you from the train station/ our hostel right into the city centre/ the pier) down to the pier and had a walk around. We got our first glimpse of The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was awesome! We were definitely in Sydney now.
|Sydney Opera House|
We also had a walk around The Rocks, the oldest most historical part of the city, and went to the visitor centre where I picked up a whole forests worth of brochures excited to plan our week ahead. (Sorry trees I just love brochures!) We didn’t do much else that day; we were pretty wrecked from the trip. We had a nap, had some dinner (cheap and delicious pizza slices in a kebab shop on the recommendation of our dorm mate), walked around town a bit, and went to sleep.
I was woken up the next morning to a knock at the door. We were in a 6 bed dorm so I’m glad I heard it and got up to answer because it was PETER! Yay! It was so nice to see him I must have hugged him for a good 5 minutes in the hallway. We went down to get him checked in and found out we had been upgraded to a private three bed room with a private bathroom! It was a good start to the day.
We took Peter on the free shuttle bus down to the pier and had a wander around The Rocks again. We went to The Rocks Museum which was really interesting and I found out loads about Sydney. It was mainly all about the first settlers in Sydney and why The Rocks is such an important part of the city. We actually spent most of the day then just wandering around the city, stopping for lots of coffee and catching up. We did a little shopping and went back to the hostel where we cooked dinner and had our first taste of goon.
|Dinner in the hostel|
|Our first mugs of goon|
I’d been told all about goon before I left Ireland by everyone I know who’d been to Australia as a backpacker. It’s basically boxed “wine” (I’m not sure it’s fair on wine to class goon in the same category though) and is really cheap. I was expecting it to be disgusting but it’s actually grand. It’s about $20 for 10 litres, whereas a 6 pack of beer is about the same price, so that’ll show you why it’s so popular with broke backpackers. This brings me onto one of the big things I noticed as soon as I arrived in Sydney, it’s so damn expensive. We just arrived from Thailand so we were used to spending the equivalent of €4 for a two course meal, 50c for a beer and €4-10 on accommodation a night. Now we arrived in Sydney and a bottle of coke was $4/ €3 a bar of chocolate was $3.50/ €2.70 and you were lucky to find a meal for under 25 quid. Even by Dublin standards it was really dear. To say it made Leigh and I nervous is an understatement. We came over with a good bit of savings to get us started but knowing we would have to get work fairly soon, but with prices like these our Euros aren’t going to get us very far. We’ve taken it on the chin though and started off being quite sensible and making dinner in the hostel every night and have our free breakfast every morning. It’s a big adjustment to Thailand, but we’d been living fairly frugally in Dublin before we left, saving, so we just had to do it here.
The next day we set off early and spent to whole day exploring the city on a hop on hop off bus tour, thanks to my sister Becky. It was her leaving present to me and Leigh. All I can say is thanks so much Bex, it was the best present you could have gotten us.
|Taking in the sights|
We saw and learned so much that day and really found our feet in the huge city that is Sydney. We started out the day by getting the Bondi Beach tour bus out to Bondi to check it out. We had a bit of a wander around but as the bus was 24 hour we decided we’d do a quick visit and go back the following day and have a day at the beach.
Then we got the bus back and explored the city. We didn’t get off at a huge number of stops, but made a note of what we wanted to do on other days. For example we decided we wanted to go back and visit the botanic gardens, China Town and the Australia Museum another day. One place we did get off however was The Sydney Opera House where we spent ages walking around and taking it in and also saw some traditional aboriginal dancing which was great.
The next day we made the most of our bus ticket and got the bus to Bondi for a day at the beach. As it was a 24 hour ticket we made our own way home that evening. Our family day at the beach was great, we went swimming, played Frisbee, relaxed in the sun and walked around the coast. Perfect.
The next day we went for brunch, on Becky’s recommendation, to Pancakes On The Rocks. I am so glad I took big sis’s advice, it was amazing. Me and Leigh shared a gourmet pizza and the Devil’s Delight pancake, which was a concoction of chocolate and strawberries and ice-cream and deliciousness. I’m drooling now thinking about it.
Then we walked around The Rocks weekend market which was lovely. They had loads of cool stalls with local art and traditional crafts. After sufficient mooching around the market (one of my favourite activities in market mooching!) we walked over Sydney Harbour Bridge. We decided to walk it rather than climb it as the climb is daylight robbery in my opinion. It costs about $300 and you can’t even bring your camera. I just couldn’t justify it; it didn’t seem worth it to me.
After that we walked to and around the Botanical Gardens which were beautiful. We saw so many trees, flowers and, randomly, loads of weddings taking place. I can’t argue with them it was a beautiful venue for a wedding but we saw 4 take place in our two hours there. After the 3rd I started to think it was a little uninspired. We also saw loads of really cool birds (there were trees filled with multi coloured parrots, way cooler than the magpies of Dublin!), and a few trees filled with sleeping bats. They looked like something from a Tim Burton movie, very cool.
So after our day of walking (we did so much walking in Sydney!!!) we had dinner and goon in the hostel and went out to a pub. We hadn’t been out together in 9 months so we were all excited and got nice and merry.
We had a bit of a lie in the next morning and then headed along to The Australia Museum, which was brilliant and I would recommend a visit to anyone with a few days in Sydney. They have a really cool dinosaur gallery which made the 6 year old geek in me very happy as well as loads of really cool displays on the animal’s native to Australia. There is also a load to be seen on Indigenous Australia which was great, and an impressive gallery of minerals which, I have to admit, was a little lost on me. Rocks aren’t my thing. We decided to take it easy that night and check out the cinema, but it was insanely expensive at $25 a ticket so we decided to give it a miss. Instead we made the most of our private room complete with flat screen TV and we hooked up my laptop to it and watched “Friends With Benefits” in bed together like one big happy family! J
The next day it was ZOO DAY! I’d been looking forward to visiting Taronga Zoo since we booked our flights to Sydney, I’d heard how good a zoo it was, and also that it had one of the best views of the city (another reason to skip the bridge climb). It didn’t disappoint. It was incredible, the views were spectacular, there were so many animals, and it was huge. My favourite part was the Australian Walkabout area where you got to walk around the habitat with kangaroos, wallabies and an emu. As soon as we walked in a herd (/troop/ court..?) of kangaroos went jumping right past us which was really cool. It surprised me how big they were. The emu walked past ominously a few times, taller than me, looking so evil. I’m telling you someone needs to make a movie in which the villain in an emu. So sinister. There was also a wallaby with a joey poking it head out which was really cool to see.Other favourites of the day were the tiger cubs, the koalas, the aviaries filled with the most beautiful birds and the elephants.
Leigh and I also bought our bus tickets for the next part of our trip that day after the zoo. We got a six month hop on hop off Greyhound ticket from Sydney to Cairns, so we have six months to travel the East Coast. We’ll be stopping somewhere soon enough to work so having the six months to do the trip it leaves us with plenty of flexibility.
The next day was Peter’s second last day in Australia so he wanted another day at the beach as the weather was so much warmer than New Zealand, and he hadn’t gotten to go the beach in ages because it was cold. So my Lonely Planet told me that Clovelly beach was the best place to go snorkelling in and around Sydney and we also wanted to check out Coogee as we’d heard it was a nice beach. They were close enough to each other with a nice coastal walk in between so off we went. It was another stormer of a day (we were so lucky with the weather all week, 27 degrees and sunny most days). We had a nice chill out on the beach and a swim and headed off to get some lunch. We found the most amazing, and affordable burrito bar where we filled up on a delicious Mexican feast and then headed off on our walk to Clovelly. It was a gorgeous walk there, passing another few beaches on the way and stopping off at some “baths” along the way. It was this gorgeous little alcove enclosed by rocks you could swim in. When we got there the snorkelling didn’t disappoint. I saw loads of fish (some trevally, wrasses and gropers I recognised from diving, and some others I didn’t) right off the pier, way more than I expected in the busy suburb right outside central Sydney. I even saw Bluey the famous groper fish mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide. He was HUGE! Definitely the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, I’d say roughly the size of a fat 8 year old, and I was swimming right beside him. It was so exciting!!!
We got the bus home, showered, changes and went out for our last supper together (tear L ). We got some great burgers and a few beers at a local bar. It was a really nice evening, followed by the arduous task of packing and we hit the hay for the last time in Sydney.
We checked out bright and early the following morning and headed out for our final day exploring the city. Our bus and Peter’s flight didn’t leave until that evening so we had most of the day to spend together, so we headed off to Darling Harbour, via China Town and the Chinese Garden of friendship. China town was awesome, a really cool place to walk around, and has the very cool “Paddy’s Market” which is great for a rare bargain in Sydney. We spent most of the day walking around, messing about, and enjoying the sun shine. Darling Harbour is a lovely part of the city, with loads of bars and restaurants overlooking the water. It also has The Welcome Wall, which is a part of the Maritime Museum and contains thousands of names of people that have emigrated to Australia.
Then it was back to the hostel we went to collect our bags and say bye bye to Peter. It was so good to spend the week together but I’d love to be able to have him join us for longer on our trip. After the sad goodbyes he got the train to the airport and Leigh and I got onto a 7 hour bust trip to our next stop… Port MacQuarie.