If someone had said to me a year ago, “You will be visiting Australia” I would have laughed it off…..but right now, here I sit typing up new tales from Oz land as we speak! Still can’t believe I am here in Sydney Australia…just unbelievable!
Back to the Future!
Leaving Thailand was super hard and yes, as soon as I was on that plane, I did watch it disappear (well, from the aisle seat anyways!) into a nothingness black sky below (it was a night flight!)
Going back a little….the whole flying experience was a breeze. I flew with Air Asia who all in all aren’t bad, they sure are better than Orient Thai who I certainly wouldn’t recommend! Oh if you’re going to hire the in-flight entertainment, there are only about 5 Hollywood movies pre-loaded plus the battery on the 10.1 inch tablet started dropping quite rapidly so just watch that if you’re on a long haul flight so I now have to become accustomed to a new time…Australia is 9hrs ahead of the UK and 3hrs ahead of Thailand so I guess it’s like going ‘back to the future’ haha! It’s a bit of a nightmare skyping home though!
I didn’t sleep at all on the plane…I just watched a few movies and listened to a bit of Justin Timberlake and then it was pretty much time to get off! As soon as the wheels touched down, I just couldn’t believe I was in the land of Oz!!
Anything to Declare?
Before you get off the plane, you are asked to fill out an arrivals card and my word…the questions are quite funny actually for example..’Are you coming into our country with any meat, poultry or fish? Are you entering with any medicines? Are you arriving with any soil on your shoes?’ Hmm..well I ticked no for everything and then realised that my hiking boots may still have some dried mud on them? I was then thinking…do I declare or don’t I? But don’t worry..there was actually hardly anything on my boots and definitely nothing worth mentioning anyways but at the time I was fretting hah!
Then an announcement came over the speakers about illnesses…’If you are sick or have been ill abroad, you need to report it. Our Airline crew are also expected to report any sick passengers that they may have encountered’ What!! Ok, so my strange random case of scarlet fever had gone but I had a terrible cold and chesty cough…so there I was again, worrying about if I had been ‘reported’ hah! Then there was the mention of sniffer dogs being used (if they were uber suspicious I guess), blimey!
So you get off the plane and obviously have to clear immigration…no problem but then you have to get through quarantine! Oh great! My imagination was running wild again…’what if they notice I’m not 100% and pull me up on it?’ ‘What if they want a blood sample and it turns out I’m actually harboring some kind of jungle fever?’ Gulp! But it was dead easy…the chap checked my arrivals card and told me to exit via ‘Lane 8’ and that was it…I’d by-passed the quarantine and ended up in the arrivals lounge woo hoo! Then it was time for me to grab a cab straight to Mikes. All I remember thinking was 2 things 1. Goddammit it’s freezing (15 degrees – half the temperature of Thailand) and 2. So far, Sydney looked a bit like England. I got in the cab and gave the driver Mikes address and then sleepy heavy eyes got the better of me and forced me to drift off….
Possibly the Perfect City….
It was so good to finally arrive at Mikes! I hadn’t seen him in over a year and neither of us could believe I was there in Oz so it was great catching up! Sitting on the sofa I did start drifting off again so after a few hours kip, I was right as rain.
On Friday, Mike took me for a walk so I could get used to my new surroundings. It was amazing! Everything just looked perfect and even though it was cold, the sun was still shining. I could see wide roads decorated with beautiful tall palm trees, huge houses with pristine and perfect front lawns, committed joggers whooshing past leaving a scent of heavy deodrant as if to cover up their ‘sweatiness’ oh and I could also hear new bird calls which made it sound like I was in paradise! That was another thing I couldn’t wait to see / hear, Australia’s wildlife…it’s exciting (yet scary at the same time) sharing the same land as some of the most poisonous creatures on earth right?!
We walked through the nearest park again avoiding more committed joggers (and believe me, I’ve noticed there are a lot in Sydney!) and it was then just across the harbour I could see the Opera House and the Bridge. It was that moment that made me realised the Readders was definitely in Oz!!
At the beginning of the week, with everyone being at work, me, myself and I (and a Sydney guidebook) decided to catch a bus into the city itself. Wow! Sydney is amazing! Still kinda think it looks a bit like the UK but it’s bigger and cleaner (sorry UK but it is!). Sitting on the bus into the city was cool, it drove over the Bridge and just over to my left I could see the Opera House. And I tell you something else, it is such a joy to overhear peoples conversations and actually be able to understand them all haha! It really is the small things I guess!
My eyes were darting all over the place! I could see impressive buildings from modern looking sky scrapers so tall you had to crook your neck to see the top right through to older looking french architectural buildings so it’s like a ‘modern meets culture’ – a great compromise so you have a bit of both.
I ended up walking around the City centre and then Darling Harbour and then had a nose around ‘Wildlife Sydney Zoo’ oh and had my photo taken in the mouth of the worlds biggest croc haha! Catching the bus back to Mikes, I found out you can get a ‘My Multi’ travel pass…well worth doing if you’re going to be travelling around a fair bit. There are different zones 1, 2 and 3. 2 seems to suit me but for $52 I can use the trains, buses and / or ferries as much as I want for 7 days which is pretty good. A great site for transport timetables etc.. is http://www.131500.com.au
Getting around is pretty easy and within a few days, I was already beginning to know my way around too. Annoyingly I don’t have one of these iPhones with GPS or anything so I’m relying on traditional paper maps but actually, I’ve been well chuffed with my map reading skills haha! Ok, so there was one time I did get a little lost but that was the fun part…getting lost and then finding all these other places I wouldn’t have found otherwise for example, I stumbled across Paddy’s Markets! A friend did tell me (thanks Emrys) there was a huge market right in the centre and hey ho, I accidentally found it woo hoo! I also found China town too. That was funny, without realising it, I was thinking to myself…hang on a minute, there are a lot of Asian people walking about…awesome, I’m back in Thailand haha! There really is something for everyone in Sydney…bars, restaurants, markets, history, museums, parks etc…It is like a huge London I reckon! A lot of their roads are also named after places in London and they also have their own version of Hyde Park too.
Open Top Bus Tour(s)!
What a perfect way to get around Sydney! I decided to book on a sightseeing bus so I could see the highlights of Sydney but also to see if there was anything I wanted to go back to in the week…which yep, I’d spotted a Museum with a photography gallery on and also a Botanical Garden that I wanted to have a peep in. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who wishes to see the City in an afternoon. Sydney Explorer takes you around the City in 90 minutes and of course covers all the ‘must sees’ including the Opera House, the Bridge and the Rocks etc..
I actually booked onto 2 tours because they were doing a 2 for 1 deal and it was perfect because the other tour was headed out to Bondi Beach which was another place I really wanted to go. The tickets can be validated for either 24 or 48hrs and you can literally hop on or off whenever you like within your time limit. When the bus arrived at Bondi Beach I hopped off and spent a good hour just pottering about there. I’d promised my Step Bro Kyle that I’d find Bondi Skate Park and take a few shots for him too. While I was taking photos of the skaters, I suddenly heard this voice to my right. “Are you a photographer?” I looked down and saw a guy about my age sitting on a bench also watching the skaters. I also noticed he was cutting up a lemon which I thought was a bit odd but I poo pooed it. “Um, no, just taking some shots for my Step Bro” I didn’t want to get into how I was this aspiring photographer you see so turned my head and carried on taking photos.. “Thirsty?” Looking back at the man on the bench, he was now holding up a bottle and swishing it from side to side causing the brown liquid to lash around inside the bottle as if to try and tempt me with it? “Is that….Tequilla? Um, no thanks, I’m good” I point blank refused…it wasn’t even lunch time either…Oh and I mean, I wouldn’t have said yes if it was later in the day either haha! “Yep, Tequilla indeed. Ok, suit yourself!” Then this guy dabbed some salt along the line of his thumb on his right hand and yep…there he was doing tequilla slammers for his lunch! Well, I didn’t stick around so got the snaps I wanted and then headed back for my open top bus haha.
I tell you what, Bondi reminded me of Cornwall! I think it’s just the laid back atmosphere and seeing all the surfers, surf shops, wacky novelty shops, bars and restaurants etc…I could have spent all day there but I had to get back.
Bit of this and a bit of that!
Well well! I’ve been mixing it all up and fitting in what I can here to make the most of the time I’ve got so I’ve been getting beached up, zoo’d up, cultured and agricultural hah!
Yep, Mike and I took a look around Sydneys Botanical Gardens and the Australian Museum displaying the photographers gallery. The gallery was amazing! It was a Wildlife Photography display and the runner ups (and the winners) photos were being shown…wow, some of the photographs were so inspiring! I found myself staring at one photo in particular for ages…it was a photograph (which was a runner up and really should have won in my opinion) of a monkey that some locals had caught (I’ve completely forgotten the country now but looked somewhere like Indonesia?) and the hunters children were holding the monkey up to the camera to show off their furry prisoner (who sadly was going to be killed and eaten). What grabbed my attention was the expression on the monkeys face, poor thing looked petrified and naturally you would be if you were abouts to be cooked up into a monkey brains soup right?! The photograph had so much depth to it…the scenario, the expressions on the kids faces who were excited and the expression on the monkeys face which was the complete opposite…it was as though he knew he was going to be eaten. I just couldn’t stop staring at it! The winner was actually a young kid from Bedford, a village not far from my Mum so that was kinda cool to see a winning pic so close to home even though it was 8,000 odd miles away hah!
After our imagination had gotten lost in the photographers gallery, we sneaked upstairs to the Dinosaurs display (I think our ticket only covered us for the photography bit you see haha!). That was awesome! My Dad would have loved it in there..of course you can imagine it was full of enormous dinosaur bones all pinned together to show you the sheer size of these monsters! You just can’t comprehend what it must have been like living in the dino’s era hey! How scary would that have been! I put my head inside the skull of a T Rex and omg, his jaws probably wouldn’t even need to chew…bet they gobbled their prey up whole hah!
August 16th i took myself off to Taronga Zoo. I knew I had to be busy that day as it would have been my Brothers 30th Birthday…so what better way to keep the mind busy by visiting another zoo! I had been recommended Taronga Zoo which was only about a 12 minute ferry ride out of Sydney and a ‘must see’. I’d also heard you could get your photo holding a cuddly Koala so it was something I had to tick off the list! One of Mikes house mates actually had the day off too that day so we both went together. It was nice to have the company actually and wonder about with someone.
Wow, this place is amazing, you have to go, it is huge! You can easily spend a whole day here wondering about plus there is a cable car ride that you can take and see the whole of Sydney below! The only thing is, you can’t actually hold a Koala here, it’s some kind of rule they have over in New South Wales but I think any other state you can hold them. I didn’t have my pic with a Koala here as it was pretty expensive and you aren’t that close to the lil bears either lol!
Over the weekend, Mike and I took a ferry over to Manly Beach. I did laugh at the name hehe…I wonder how they came up with that! Similar to Bondi with again, a very similar atmosphere..cool, calm and chilled oh and saturated with beautiful people (well, of course, define beautiful!)…what I should say is, the place is full of buff, bronzed fella’s (sorry guys, can’t report back on the gals as my eyes were too busy soaking up buffed boys hahah!) But yup, awesome day looking around and taking in the rays of Manly Beach! I actually took myself back there a few times and found there’s a lot more there than you first think. I found an art gallery, scenic walkways, Shelly Beach oh and a super haunted place called Quarantine Station! Well, it’s meant to be the most haunted place in Australia!
So after a good week with Mike, I decided to move on and stay with an old school friend who I found out also lived in Sydney! Gemma lives in Narwee which was only about 20-30 minutes up the road but it gave me the chance to catch up with her and also see a new area. Gemma’s place is awesome! They have such a gorgeous house (pool and granny annexe included) and a family of 3 beautiful girls. Of course, I’ve been staying in the granny annexe all to myself which has been a dream…makes a change from hostels and sofa surfing haha.
Gemma’s been showing me around the sights. We all went out for a trip to Botany Bay and had a look around the places where Captain Cook first docked his boat and discovered Australia which was pretty cool.
I tell you what, their wildlife is amazing here. So far, I’ve only seen about 2 lizards (and very small ones at that) but their birds are stunning! First of all, you won’t miss out on seeing the many white Cockatoos! They are everywhere! When I first saw one, I was thinking ‘Has someone’s parrot gone missing?’ haha. And they also have beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets…again, they are like small colourful parrots! Not seen any scary snakes or red back spiders yet but there’s still time 😉 Oh and the other birds I have seen are Mynahs! I then found myself wondering about Morris and if he was still surviving out there.
So anyways, all in all Narwee is the perfect location. Gemma is right on the train line so I’ve been able to get out and about and take myself off whenever and wherever!
I’ve made many a trip into the city…The other day I walked around for hours! I walked right the way across the harbour bridge and all the way back again and up one of the turrets to get an overview of Sydney. I then walked all the way over to the Opera House for a peep inside. Actually, a french guy asked me to film him ‘free styling’ down the steps on his BMX bike, he was pretty good actually! I should have asked him if he was going to put that on You Tube!
I decided to book myself on a day tour to the blue mountains via PJ Tours. Wow, I highly recommend this place! It gives you a taste of just how breathtaking the scenary in Australia really is…but this is just the tip of it! Australia is HUGE and I don’t think you realise just how big this place is until you get here…
After a few teething problems (missed the bus the 1st day and the 2nd day I was waiting in the wrong place….mistake of the tour company I’ll have you know haha!) I finally made it 3rd time lucky haha but my word was it worth it.
It was an early start..the bus picked me up from the City at 7.25am and then drove us all to the tour office. From 8am we were then on the road to our first stop, Echo Point. Brrrrr, it was freezing over at the mountains and I’m sure the wind was trying its dam hardest to blow all of us tourists right over and down the mountainous edge…hey that brings a whole new meaning to ‘She’ll be coming down the mountain’ hey hehe. They had snow up there just 2 days ago so that gives you an idea of how cold it felt. Just be sure to take a jumper AND jacket and possibly your gloves too hah! I loved this place. We got to watch an Aborigine show oh and guess what…..I got pulled up to the front with 3 other girls haha! Was so embarrassing! Note to self, never sit at the front cos it’s bound to happen!! They taught us the female peacocks dance and played their didgeridoos at the same time. Then 2 men were pulled up to help perform the ‘male’ dance. That was fun! Afterwards we were driven to the main attraction of the Blue Mountains.
W.O.A.H! Words will not be able to express the sheer beauty of this place! The 3 Sisters rock formation was stunning, well, the whole scenic backdrop was a jaw dropping treat for the eyes. We all piled into a cable car with a glass bottom which yup, was pretty scary watching the safety of the loading platform suddenly disappear making way to the incredible drop below my trainers! I was thinking ‘Is this thing secure?’ ‘What if the glass falls out!?’ Gulp! A hoard of Japanese tourists were all hogging the view but I managed to get some shots between the mass of heads and bodies. You then all pile into another cable car which takes you down to the bottom of the mountains. Finally touching the ground, we were then left to have a wonder around the Rainforest walkway which was amazing. First thing you notice is how tall the trees are and how small you are. Old haunting looking trees eerily tower over you and peer down with their crooked branches as if to say ‘What are you doing in my neck of the woods?’ Haha. Walking around, I spotted a Lyre bird scratching at the forest floor. These birds are incredible, they mimic other bird calls as well as other (un-natural) sounds including, car alarms, chainsaws and cameras clicking! So clever! Check them out on You tube.
I also spotted a lot of rusty old mining equipment that the miners once used back in the day. I even came across an original entrance to one of the old mines which was pretty cool. Almost an hour had passed and it was time for me to make my way back up and find the coach. Now this was the best bit…to get back up to the top you had to take the old scenic railway – a 52 degree inclining train! Yup, it really was an omg moment haha!
Waiting for the train, I noticed a sign which explained you could adjust your seat to a whoppingly terrifying 64 degree angle…Now this I had to try lol! The railway line looked horrendously steep and it got me thinking how on earth does it work? Then without fail my trustee ol’ imagination started to kick in again…’So, what happens if the brakes fail, would the train suddenly whoosh straight back down leaving your stomach at the top…like a lift that’s suddenly lost all its power?’ Gulp. Then I could see it slowly descending the side of the mountain to come and claim its victims, oh I mean, pick us tourists up haha. The doors opened upwards all futuristic like…exactly in the same fashion as the car from back to the future (Delorean I think it’s called?) So I slid in and like a big kid I was already fiddling with the seats angles haha. Waiting for the train to start, you just can’t help but sit a moment and take the impressive views in. The train then started to make its sharp climb back up to the top and oh my word..I was trying to film the event but I kidd you not, the train felt as though it was getting steeper the further it went up the mountain lol…so much in fact that the invisible hands of gravity came right into my carriage and yanked me forward! Yep, ladies and gents, I slipped right off my seat haha. It was awesome though and the views just leave you speechless. At the top, I grabbed a hot choccy to warm my cold (now also blue) hands and then found the coach. Next stop was a quaint little sleepy town called Leura where we were to grab some lunch.
Leura is such a sweet little place! It seems pretty untouched and by that I mean there were no big chain stores or fast food restaurants. Apparently MacDonalds tried to open a store here but the people of Leura objected (and good for them standing up to these giants I say). But Maccy D’s got the huff about it and took them to court and the result…they lost! So there will never be a Maccers in Leura or in fact Katoomba haha.
The houses are so pretty here, they all seem to have an American countryside meets Aussie outback style… Pristine and quirky wooden houses complete with the white pickett fence 🙂
After some munch and a nose about, it was time for our next stop… Featherdale Wildlife Park! This is another place I recommend you take a trip here if you can. This place is ideal for kids too as it’s very hands on (also perfect for me hah!). You get to feed the Kangaroos, have your photo with a Kookaburra sitting on your arm oh and not forgetting the cuddly Koala’s! That was so cute. You can’t hold the Koalas but here you are allowed to touch them and stand close to have your photos with them. Then it was back on the coach and time to take a drive over to our River Cruise. We actually passed the Stadium where the Sydney Olympics were held too (back in 2000) so that was another sight ticked off.
Arriving at Holmbush, we boarded our Captain Cook Cruise boat to take us all back to Circular Quay where the trip would finish. I went and sat on the top deck and got right up to the front (of course) and watched in wait for Sydneys harbour to appear in view. The sun was beginning to set and covered everything with beautiful gold, orange and pink shades, it was just stunning. The couples all rushed up to the top deck at this point to take in the romance of it all which then kinda made me feel like a billy no mates haha. Before long, the sun had disappeared now giving the moon it’s chance to shine. I then watched in a stunned silence as the bridge and harbour came into view…seeing it all at night time is a MUST. It’s funny isn’t it how night time can show you a completely different scene. Passing the bridge and the Opera House all lit up was just spectacular. I’m so glad I went on this day trip. Pulling in to our stop, I couldn’t help but feel a little homesick. I just wished my Mum, Dad and Bro could have seen these wonderful sights that I’d witnessed today.
Off to the Valley…
Remember I went to the Similan Islands back in April (in Thailand) and got stranded on the live-a-board boat during a huge storm? Well, a lovely family who I met on the boat said I could come and stay with them if I ever came to Oz so…….that’s where I am right this very second, in their wonderful home!! The Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley just have to be the most beautiful places I’ve been lucky enough to see in Oz so far. As soon as I arrived at Lynne and Robs home, I was just lost for words! Now I really am in the true Australia…right in the outback or infact…the bush!
Their house is just gorgeous! They are situated on a slight hill and literally surrounded by trees, hills more trees oh and a mountain in the distance! Straight away Lynne showed me around. I think I was just in some kind of stunned silence hah! Oh and guess what….there was a Wombat in the garden, I just couldn’t believe it! So of course, I was snapping away and getting piccies of him munching the lawn. There were also Kookaburra’s everywhere…it was almost like they all wanted to come and stare at me being the new person on the block, it was so surreal.
As soon as I’d been shown my room, Lynne and I went off for a walk to meet the neighbour Ross. And when I say walk, it’s literally through the bush! It was so cool. Lynne spotted a Wallaby just hopping off in the distance and again, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It’s just another world here having all this wonderful wildlife in their garden! Well walking on through the bush we got totally lost and Lynne was getting worried because it was dusk at this point and as soon as dusk hits, it really doesn’t take long for the darkness to fall. So picture that…it’s getting dark, neither of us have mobiles on us and we’ve no idea where we’re headed! I was secretly trying not to panic and hoped that Lynne would soon recognise a rock or tree that took us the right way again. We were clambering up and over thick branches, climbing huge rocks, getting our feet stuck in wet boggy patches but then thankfully we could see a clearing and went for it. Phew, we found a path which actually led back to Lynnes house. “I think we’ll go back to the house and then drive us to the neighbours haha” I let out a nervous but very relieved laugh and looked forward to a very much needed glass of wine from one of the bottles we were taking with us!
Well, oh my word! The neighbours house came into view and it literally felt as though I’d stepped onto the set of a movie! It was like a huge wooden cabin! The car headlights shone onto the front of the house and revealed a man bent down on one knee and vigorously prodding a burning log fire…wow, I really have landed in the outback hey! After the initial meet and greet, we all sat round the fire and had a ‘sausage sizzler’ with a few glasses of vino, gobble gobble! Rob (Lynnes husband) then joined us and we all sat around chatting away about life in general lol. One thing I noticed is just how clear the sky at night is here, that’s because there is so much light pollution in Sydney so the stars are so much brighter here. Rob was pointing out what star was what and I’m hoping I can remember them all for when I go to Ayes Rock (I’ll be camping out under the stars you see…that’s for my next blog ;))
Ross then showed me around his home. It was truly amazing but what made it even more special was the fact he built it all by hand himself! The only way I can describe this place is like so…think huge log cabin (or a lumberjacks house) in the middle of nowhere…wooden floors, huge open kitchen, open fire (rug included!) a small cabin (or shed) to the side of the house….wow! I think this huge wooden house had everything apart from a Bear or Deers head proudly hanging on the wall from above the fire haha!
Ross is such a fascinating man! I would love to spend more time chatting to him. I thought he must have been a builder having built this fine structure himself but no! He is actually a bug scientist…yep you heard me right…a bug scientist (ok, I forget the correct term now) but I was in my element! So there I was, outside with wonderful people munching a sausage sizzler, enjoying a few glasses of hunter valley wine and talking to my version of David Attenborough!! We were chatting about spiders, snakes and anything bug related. I said to Ross how I wished I could have been like David Attenborough and he said why not….it’s never too late!
In the morning at Lynnes house, I was enjoying munching my brekkie sitting outside and still not quite believing that I was actually here! Suddenly, 2 brightly coloured parrots landed on the bird table! Wow! Cor that makes a change from sparrows or blue tits hey! It really is amazing how you can be in the city one minute and then in the middle of nowhere the next day. I absolutely love it here and I’m so glad I decided to come to Hunter Valley. I reckon I can safely say I am more of a country gal than a city gal ya know!
So….what’s next on the Readders adventures? I’m only here for a few days as I will soon be flying out to Alice Springs to meet another tour group. Now this is something I can’t wait for…I will be camping out under the stars at Ayres Rock and hiking around the Kings Canyon woo hoo! It’s just for 2 nights but I reckon it’s one of those must see and do adventures. I also can’t wait to meet the other people on the tour because having done previous gap adventure tours, the people are always fun and like minded individuals.
So, I’ll give your eyes a break for now and I will tell you all about my Red Rock adventure for another time. I’d better do it before my Ozzie trip ends because the next chapter will be all about adventure number 3…..yep, Bali baby!!