Saturday, December 27, 2003

Once again I didn't get up 'till about midday, unsurprisingly, but when I did finally rouse myself I came to the swift realisation that I had spent my last 40 bucks for the next few days in one foul swoop in the pub last night... bugger!

I thought I'd better check out my van at this stage, because I was a few days behind on paying for it (they seemed quite lax when I checked it in to the car park). Upon informing the kiosk attendant that I would not be able to pay any money until Monday when the banks opened, he informed me that my van had been in the car park too long without any payment and it was due to be towed tomorrow unless I stumped up some cash... arse! I was also informed that any non-financial solution to this problem would involve some kind of confrontation with the big bastard Tongan tow guys, which didn't really appeal to me either.

Desperation being what it is, I managed to borrow $25 from one of the Yorkshire lads in my room, even though I didn't know him that well; this bought me a 24 hour reprieve on the towing of my van... phew!

Now a little relieved I went to the travel booking centre on the ground floor of the hostel and booked myself onto the Sydney Harbour bridge climb for the 4th to cheer myself up; this involves walking up the high bit of the bridge, it looks really groovy!

The weather was pretty good and for the most part of the day I meandered, socialised and the like.

Later in the afternoon I met a chap from Maidstone who was OK, but again, not a particularly articulate conversationalist (what is it with me at the moment? oh well, no rest for the wicked) and I agreed to wander down to Darling Harbour with him for a couple of drinks (only a couple); we went down to a place called the HomeBar, had a few bottles of beer and then went home. To be honest I was really tired and he was quite a boring drinking companion.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Boxing Day

It goes without saying that I didn't get up exceptionally early this morning, but when I did I took it quite easy; Coco Pops and a cup of tea for breakfast and lazing around the hostel was the order of the day. I also discovered that my Aussie bank account was down to almost nothing and my sole source of cash was the 40-odd dollars in my wallet; I called LloydsTSB in the UK to transfer some more money over, but nothing would start to happen until the 29th at the earliest.. bugger!

Having had a relaxing day reading and such like, I met up with some of my roomies (Rachel, Maureen, 2 Yorkshire lads and Anna, a kind of adopted roomie) and we all decided to go down to Scruffy Murphys as it was Maureen's last night at the hostel.

When we initially got to the pub it wasn't quite as much fun as I had originally anticipated, we somehow got plopped into the middle of a social group of people that I didn't know (but someone must have) and who, on the whole, were talking amongst themselves about personal stuff that rendered it almost impossible to join in the conversation. My roomie girls, whilst nice-ish, weren't especially intelligent or talented conversationalists (you know the type, too much effort on your part and too many uncomfortable silences on their part?), so the evening wasn't looking too hot.

But, what do you know? Who did I see wandering back from the bar? Nora!

Nora is a nice Irish girl who stayed at the Nunnery in Melbourne and she was at the pub with a bunch of other poeple that were at the Nunnery; this was looking up at a bit!

I started off chatting to Pete (punk Pete), who was pissed off because his van had been nicked on a street in Bondi and he also lost a load of valuable stuff that was inside it. I'm glad I've got my van in a 24hr car park down the road, even if it is costing me $20 a day.

I chatted with load of other people, but ended up with Andy (ex-room 3 mate) and an Irish chap called Mark who left the Nunnery before I got there, but he was a nice geezer and exceptionally pissed by this stage!

By the end of the evening I had had a really good time, taken a few photos of people, swapped a few numbers and taken part in the quaffing of a few ales.

I think I got to bed around 2am-ish. Tally Ho!

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Xmas Day!

For todays activities I had been peripherally invited to an Xmas piss up on the beach. When I say peripherally I mean that a bunch of people had paid $15 to the girl who was organising it and in return she was doing the food, now I hadn't paid any money but I was coming along none-the-less; at this point nobody actually knew (apart from the organising girl) which beach we were going to.

After a lot of hanging around and fannying about (it's tough to get 30-odd backpackers co-ordinated) we all trooped off to the bus station up on Elizabeth St. I found out that we weren't going to Bondi as it was probably going to be horrifically crowded, but were going instead to a place a few miles North of Bondi called Shark Bay!

When we arrived, somebody plotted us at an opportune spot by the beach and everybody tucked into the food and beer, the food was lovely and the beer wasn't all that bad too; someone had a CD player hooked up to some small speakers, so we even had Xmas tunes!

I had a merry old time, met loads of people that I had never met before, swam in the sea (the right side of the Shark nets); the temperature was sunny and over 35 degrees, so altogether I think I had the most unique Xmas day ever!

By the end of the afternoon people started to drift off and I ended up on the bus with the last of the stragglers. We were all drunk, but moreso some girl called Leigh (owner of aforementioned CD player), she was trashed and kept playing the first 30 seconds of the same Xmas tune over and over again on the bus, I think the Aussies thought we were weird, but we didn't care!

Back in Sydney, I don't have a full recollection of the night's events; I do recall having a McDonalds (euch), as you do when you are drunk, I recall Leigh walking into a lamp post and falling down in the street and I also recall having another drink-fest in the hostel lounge again; perhaps we went somewhere in between, I don't recall.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

This morning I was awoken by Emma and 2 other guys moving out of our room, then soon after 2 different guys moved in; they weren't new to the hostel but they were just moving rooms.

I had a few things to do so I skipped having a shower, I thought I'd have one later; I had brekkie, put some washing on and stuff like that. I encountered Rich in the kitchen, apparently he might be getting a job working at a new juice bar that is opening up, so he has postponed his trip back home for now... I don't know what he's going to do! We agreed to meet up at 4:30pm later as we are going up to Dave's flat in Darling harbour for a couple of beers before the cruise tonight.

After that I wandered down to the Internet café, and here I am... again!

Well, later on I met up with all the guys outside the front of the hostel and we all wandered over to Dave's apartment which is about a 5 minute walk away. By now the weather was seriously hot so everyone was just hanging around in shorts and drinking beer in the apartment. The apartment is really cool, it has a roof garden and a pool and stuff, the only thing is that it's a 2 bed apartment and the owner is renting it out to 8 guys - beds everywhere!

A few more people turned up at the apartment and then we all wandered down to Darling Harbour where we were catching the cruise from. When we got there the boat wasn't around, so we had a couple more beers in one of the bars by the harbour; when it did actually turn up it wasn't quite as snazzy as we had envisaged (there are some really swanky looking boats floating around Sydney harbour), something like a series of old school halls... but floating.

Anyway, we all got on (500 people I think?), the deal was for free food and drink so it goes without saying that I didn't eat all that much but I drank as much as I could, which by the end of the evening turned out to be not as much as I had expected!

As we were pulling out into the harbour I got some amazingly scenic photos of Sydney city at sunset. Other than that it was a really fun evening, nobody was sick (as far as I was aware) and I kept chatting to new people all the time, which was a bit annoying; this is because when you have had a few drinks all areas of the boat looked the same, so you chat to someone for 30 mins, decide to go and grab another beer with a cheery "I'll be back in 5!" and then, beer at the ready, you totally forget where you were standing... then... meet someone else and repeat cycle! I don't think I was the only person suffering from this form of navigational lamaise!

By the time the cruise finished I had successfully managed to lose almost everyone that I knew on the boat, so I decided, given that I was feeling quite drunk already, to go back to the hostel. Once there I met up with 2 lovely young English girls with whom I had become earlier acquainted; before I knew it more people started piling into the lounge, cheap wine flowed, silly conversation filled the air and drunken antics ensued... all in all it was a jolly spiffing evening and I don't recall what time I got to bed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

This morning the weather was looking quite cloudy, but the temperature was OK.

I didn't get up until about 10:30am and agreed to meet up with Emma after I had had a shower. By the time I got out of the shower and got ready she was nowhere to be found, so I decided to go and get some chores out of the way like food shopping.

I also paid for a satellite phone over the phone. The story with this is that since my trip to Tassie I have discovered that mobile phone coverage is Aus is pretty non-existant in a lot of places and I wasn't entirely happy with that idea given that I could be in the middle of nowhere at any point during my travels. So I made investigations with the local radio shop in Melbourne, option 1 was a proper all-singing, all-dancing radio system for $3000 (I nearly fell out of the phone booth) or an emergency only pager for about $400 (as in serious emergencies only, otherwise you will really piss someone off). So given that option 1 was way too expensive and option 2 was extremely limited, I decided to investigate satellite phones; after a little research I discovered that the best satellite network is Globalstar and it covers about 70% of the world, including 100% of Australia! I rang up my local Globalstar dealer, who told me that on the lowest use plan it would cost $15 a month rental and about $2.50 a minute in call charges, which I thought was OK for emergencies; the catch? The handset was going to cost $2000!!! (I nearly fell out of the phonebox again!) So, being the ingenuitive chap that I am, I went straight onto Ebay Australia, located the handset that I was after up for auction (2nd hand, but I was quite lucky, they are not very common) and ended up winning the handset for $405, result! They are sending the phone to me from Darwin, it should be at my hostel in a couple of days time.

After this I had some breakie and managed to hook up with Emma again.

We decided to get the bus to Bondi Beach, possibly with the intent of walking from Bondi to Coogee (it's meant to be a nice walk); and here starts a somewhat entertaining outing.

First of all we jumped on the 380 bus, it goes to Bondi Beach and they run about 30 seconds apart (bloody amazing); we were on the bus for about 10 minutes when there was a startlingly loud crashing, crunching kind of noise. A construction truck had smashed into the back of our bus whilst it was parked at the bus stop, luckily nobody was injured, but we had to swap buses as the whole rear-right quarter of the bus was trashed! Cool!

The journey to Bondi took a little while, incident free. By the time we turned up the weather hadn't really improved, it was mild, but still cloudy, so we decided to knock the walk on the head. Instead we ambled along the beach watching the multitude of surfers that were strutting their stuff (or trying to), which was entertaining. Then we got chatting to some kooky looking guy with a boogy board (he wasn't particularly good) who told us that one of the lifeguards (they whizz around the beach on little quad bikes) was the 2nd best boogy boarder in the world (woo)! So, Emma and myself tracked this chap down (Bo Day) who was hanging in the lifeguard tower, we had a chat with him (about boogy boarding and rips and stuff) and got to hang out on the tower, ace!

By now it had gone lunch and we were thinking about food, but neither of us were really that hungry, so we decided to take a wander a little further where there were some rocks. It was good fun clambering over the rocks, the sea was quite energetic; we saw fish and crabs and these really weird green things that looked like green seaweed podules, but every now and then they squirted out a small jet of water!

By now we were starting to feel a little peckish, so we had fish and chips at a seafront restaurant and a smoothie type thing from a smoothie type place which was quite nice.

The afternoon was drawing to a close by now, so we got the bus back (incident free); Emma went for a lay down and I did a few things that I had to sort out. Then I saw Emma again in the room, we had a chat and then I wandered across to the Internet café and here I am!

Well, shortly after that I bumped into Rich, Dave, Mikie and a bunch of other guys. Matt (Shorty) had a free $100 bar tab ticket for a bar up the road but he was going to the cinema first with a few other people, so Rich, Mikie and myself went to the Pavilion Hotel (bar) and had a few beers; it was quite funny, there was this Welsh girl there, she was completely trashed and kept falling over and chatting to any bloke in sight.

Anyway, after that we met up with the guys who had come out of the cinema and wandered down to the hotel that Shorty had the $100 bar tab ticket for. We were denied entrance because they wanted ID and they would only accept passports, but we all had driving licenses on us. So we blew that idea out (we had walked for about 30 minutes to get to the place) and wandered back to the hostel via a McDonalds.

A couple of people went out again, but I sat in the hostel lounge with a bunch of people and drank wine; Tom was trashed and kept throwing wine everywhere (inadvertantly), it was good fun! I got to bed at about 2:30am.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Yesterday I was considering maybe doing a few more things in Canberra, like visiting the museum or something, but generally these things take quite a long time and I wanted to get on the road to Sydney, so that is what I did!

The road to Sydney was quite easy, the weather was good, but all in all my journey was fairly uneventful.

Before going to Sydney, I stopped firstly in Paramatta to try and find myself a new car stereo as the lack of music in the van was driving me crazy! After a lot of fannying around (in extreme heat) I eventually bought a Sony radio/cassette unit that was on sale for $118 (usual price $250) and a tape to CD/MP3 converter so that I could plug my MP3 player into it. I installed it myself (still in extreme heat), which was quite easy, but it still woudn't work, so I took my van back to the shop and they figured out that I had blown a couple of fuses (or the thief had shorted them when he cut the wires stealing my old stereo) so they replaced them for me and it worked; this was quite good of them as they did it for free under no obligation at all!

Then I drove on into Sydney itself, I parked up in a car park just around the corner from the hostel I was booked into (Footprints, in the middle of town on Pitt Street); the car park was very convenient but is costing on average, $20 a day.

I checked into the hostel and shifted all my stuff into my room; the hostel is very big, it has 13 floors and slow, unreliable lifts.

I then went across the road to the Internet café just to check email and stuff and bumped into Rich. He was at a bit of a loose end and we were both hungry, so we decided to go and grab a bite to eat (and a couple of jars) at Scruffy Murphy's, an Irish pub around the corner; $5 for steak and mash isn't bad! I also discovered that Rich was trying to book a flight home as he had almost completely run out of money and was feeling quite dejected; luckily he can come back at any time for as long as he likes, since he has a Kiwi passport. I later discovered that he actually owes the hostel quite a lot of money for rent and he is planning to do a runner, the trouble is the hostel have his British passport as security, so I don't know what he's going to do!

Later on I encountered a lovely Austrian girl outside the hostel, she was very pleasant and we went out for a quick drink together. For some unknown reason she particularly wanted a pint of Guinness and the only place you can get decent Guinness in Aus is at Irish pubs, so Scruffy Murphy's it was again! She was flying out the next day, which was a shame.

I didn't have a late one with the Austrian girl (I think her name was Jenny), so Rich and myself decided to grab a box of wine from the bottle shop and chill out in the hostel, which is exactly what we did, in between a few games of pool.

By the end of the evening Rich had crashed in the lounge and was asleep, so I made my way to bed.

When I got into my room I became acquainted with 2 of my dorm mates, a couple of girls, one whose name I don't recall and sweet young girl called Emma. Emma and myself agreed to go down to the beach or something tomorrow.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


Whilst standing on the top observation deck today I was thinking how serene and peaceful heights are; admittedly, artificial heights like buildings aren’t as good as sitting up on the edge of a mountain, but the effect is similar. I understand now why Buddhist monks in Tibet build their monasteries high up on mountains.

I also thought it's a shame that I can't really relate my experiences to you fully; what I mean is, it’s all good and well telling people about what I’m doing and seeing, or even taking photos, but nothing can convey it properly or how it makes you feel.

The feeling of peace and isolation at the top of Marion’s Lookout in Tassie, the breathtaking view of miles perfectly blue ocean or the power of seeing the 12 Apostles in a raging storm on the Great Ocean Road, getting within a couple of feet of wild Kangaroos; it’s all totally amazing!
Age, what is that all about?

Genes, what are they all about?

Well, somewhere down the line I seem to have acquired something that gives me a youthful appearance and I don’t really know where I got it from! One thing is for sure; it is definitely no result of a pious and sober youth, that’s for sure!

Estimates on my age from people I meet are generally around the 23-25 mark, I have had guesses as low as 21 and (only) as high as 28; my coup d’etat though was being asked for ID whilst buying alcohol from a bottle shop recently!

To be honest it was novel at first, but now I am so used to people saying “no, you’re not 31, wow, you totally don’t look it!” it’s getting a bit dull!

But better young than old, so thanks to whomever for my genetic make up!
The next morning, as you might imagine, I didn’t really get up too early, something like 11am in fact.

I was really hungry, so I wandered out into the shopping area, which is right by the hostel; I found a nice little café and ordered cream cheese and salmon on warm English muffins with a flat white (and water, you get water free everywhere in Victoria).

Oddly enough, Canberra CBD isn’t called Canberra CBD; it is generally referred to as “Civic”, that’s it…odd.

I decided today to do some cultural stuff, so drawing on my previous experience, having visited various European cities I sought out the open top sightseeing bus and booked myself on it (these sightseeing buses may look tacky, but no matter which city you are in they are absolutely the best way to get quickly acquainted with the important stuff).

The weather was markedly improved from yesterday and had turned quite sunny, so trekking round Canberra on the top deck of this bus was quite pleasant; the recorded commentary was read by a chap with a stiff English accent which I thought was a bit funny.

When the bus arrived back at Civic I got off and wandered back to the hostel, I decided to grab my Lonely Planet and raincoat, in case the weather turned. Firstly I trundled down the road to have a proper look at ANZAC Parade, this is a long road with the ANZAC war memorial at the end of it, after this I went and saw a big spouting jet of water in the lake that I’m sure was supposed to commemorate something! Then I strolled over the bridge (the bridge spans Lake Burley Griffin, this is a big lake in the middle of Canberra and is named after the original architect of the city) and down to the parliamentary area. I went to the old parliament building (in 1988 they switched from the existing building, which was getting too small, to a brand new one) and got a guided tour, it was quite interesting and looked very English; I discovered that the big old chair (I think the leader of the house sits in it) in the Senate (House of Lords equivalent) was a gift from England and when our big old chair got burnt in the war, Australia donated a new old chair back to us!

After this I went on to the new, or current parliament building. By comparison it was incredibly modern and funky looking, a strangely harmonic combination of glass, steel, marble and wood! As the afternoon was getting on I didn’t manage to get on an official tour, but I wandered around nonetheless and saw the Senate and House of Representatives (House of Commons equivalent) areas. I also perused the roof (the lift to the roof was awesomely slow, I guess that’s politicians for you); the building is on a hill called Capital Hill, but when the building was constructed they chopped off the hill, built the parliament building and then kind of replonked the hill back on top of it. The result being a building that looks like it is half in the hill.

The new parliament building is also only about 500 yards away from the old one.

By now I had spent quite a lot of the day walking (it was about 5:15pm) so I waited for the open top bus to come along and pick me up (the open top bus ticket is valid for 24 hours) and drop me back at Civic.

On my way back to the hostel I realised that I was feeling quite hungry since I hadn’t eaten since this morning. I whimsically popped into a place called Hog’s Breath, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds; it’s actually a chain of places in Australia that are a bit like TGI Friday’s in the UK. I had a nice steak meal and plenty to drink (coke), as by now I was also really thirsty.

On the way back to the hostel I was thinking that I might go and visit the Telstra Tower; this is a telecom tower that is situated on top of the local mountain, it has a viewing area, café, restaurant, etc. So, after checking the route, off I went; by now it was spitting with rain a little bit but I wasn’t too bothered. Once there it didn’t seem quite as high as either the AMP Tower in Sydney or Mount Wellington in Hobart, but it was still quite nice, although a little bit cloudy.

After this I scooted back the hostel with the intent of having a relaxing night and a sober and perhaps an early night.