We're Never Coming Back

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 181 - Sydney

australia We made it!

Arriving in Sydney is a bit of a landmark. Its the closest we have to coming 'home' during our trip. Sydney is the place where we plan to get a flat. To get jobs. To get sim cards and semi-permanent friends. Its here we are gonna settle, recharge our batteries for 2 months, and prepare for the onslaught of south-east asia. Its gonna be massive. I'm sure of it.

Driving there from Newcastle (2 hours away) was BEAUTIFUL. Its the first 'beautiful' drive I've done in australia (remember, I've seen a shed load of beautiful landscapes guys). But this was stunning. Rocky, craggy, forested, valleys stretching for miles. Nothing as impressive or as huge as the things we saw throughout the andes, but still - impressive and beautiful.

And the same road that comes right down the east coast takes us bang into the heart of sydney. We're getting closer. The anticipation is rising. And as yet, all we know is that we wanna drive across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. So we're following signs. The buildings getting taller, the landmark Sydney Tower drawing closer. And then I caught sight of the bridge...

The lonley planet stupidly says there is something magical about seeing the bridge and the opera house for the first time. They're idiots, whoever write that stuff. Its not magical. But it does kinda grab you by the throat a bit. As we pulled up to the toll bridge, paid our 3 dollars and started to drive across, first we see the harbour, spreading its crystal blue legs for miles, then the opera house comes into view, sparkling in the sunlight. The bridge is HUGE. The opera house is small. But together, they're picture perfect.

And before we know it, I'm changing lanes and driving down George Street, the 'Oxford Street' of Sydney. We dark around for a bit, find somewhere to park to work out what to do next, and decide to head to the world famous Bondi Beach.

So, after driving the wrong way around sydney for half an hour, and then another horrendous hour navigating the streets around Bondi (which are a mess), we eventually find the beach. Now sure, I've heard of Bondi Beach lots of times. Its world famous, right? But have you ever seen a picture of it? I mean, I had no idea what to expect. So for those who didn't know, like me, here it is...

Its not massive. And its certainly not overly special. But its a 20-minute drive (provided you know where you are going) from the city centre, and its big enough to fit truck loads of english tourists. And apparently the waves are quite fun. But we didn't come to surf or swim. we came to find a place to stay. We tried our luck at a hostel, but they said we'd need a campsite. OR, we can sleep in a carpark on the beach. Its our choice. So of course, we headed straight down to Clovelly Beach where there's a massive car park, a couple of other campervans, and after some fish and chips and an episode of Australia Idol in the fish-and-chip shop, we made our bed in the back of the van and caught some sleep, with the sound of the ocean lapping the rocks next to our van. It was special.

We had just one more night in the van to get through before we returned it on wednesday, so drove the van back to Bondi Beach for the day to catch up on some internet stuff. 2 hours laters, I went back to move the van, and of course, the stingy australian traffic police had given me a parking ticket. But guess this. It wasn't for overstaying my time. No. It wasn't for parking in a disabled bay. Nope. It was for 'parking in the opposite direction to oncoming traffic'. what? are you having a laugh. you're not allowed to park on the 'other' side of the street. what the hell is that about. $128 fine as well (that's 51 quids!). How rank is that.

Anyway, after that sam and I went to sort out our flights. We were told to change the dates of them when we arrived in sydney, and if I'm honest, I'd been a little worried about the outstanding dates of our flights. some nagging feeling in the back of my head was telling me something was wrong, but I always get that stuff. And then, there is was.

'I'm afraid you missed your flight from Melbourne to Perth 2 weeks ago, and your flight to Hong Kong leaves tomorrow'. Bugger. Its gonna cost us almost 140 quid to sort this out, and all because neither of us bothered to check the dates on the tickets and sort this out sooner. what a nightmare.

so, we leg it down to Quantus, who are part of the OneWorld people who issued our massive tickets. We're told if we beg them, they'll probably let us off because we spent so much with them in the first place. And despite the girl serving us looking like she wanted to shoot someone, without even questioning it, she just rescheduled the flights, FOR FREE, winked at us, and sent us on our way. It was beautiful. For a good half an hour I was properly depressed about that stuff. But it all worked out.

One more night down at the beach left, and this time, Sam gets propositioned by an old man dogging. I love this story. So she's hanging her legs out the van at 2am, preparing to run to the rocks to go for a wee, and some car on the other side of the car park sparks up its engine, hits the lights on and drives right up beside our van. I'm awake (nocturnal, ain't i), and hear sam say 'hello?' in a very 'what the hell are you doing?' kind of voice, to which the old dude in the car asks where she's from.

I mean, I know people go dogging in car parks loads, and strictly she shouldn't have been waiting by the side of the van, but after a brief 30 second exchange of hellos, he realises he's not getting anyway and drives off. filthy bugger. I reckon sam would have been tempted had it not been for his age though.

Anyway, day breaks, and we're up at 8am along with loads of people who've come down here to watch the sunrise. we've missed it, but the rest of them didn't, and awoken by the mass of people leaving simultaneously in their cars was enough to get us out of bed, our teeth cleaned, and the van returned to Wicked Rentals. Farewell to the little pink van that has housed us for the last week. Its been good. Not GREAT. just good. I dunno. There's good points and bad points. did we save much money - probably not. did we miss out on the social aspect of travelling - probably. But we got to drive, and that freedom is pretty hard to come by when you're travelling. And it would have been our last shot at that freedom until we get home, laden with debt and unable to afford a push-bike, let alone a car. So yeah, it was worth it.

And with that, we jumped on the subway (double-decker) and headed towards to the city centre, where our hostel awaits us right in the heart of the city...

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