Christmas and New Year 2009
24.12.2009 - 03.01.2010 28 °C
The drive to Sydney from Katoomba was actually very quick and painless! We managed not to wind up on any inner city toll roads and for some brilliant reason as we were cruising down Elizabeth Street not far from Hyde Park we spotted our Hotel!
We managed to turn around and park up close to it, have some lunch, drop all our bags at the hotel then take our trusty Hi-Top back to the Autobarn. When we arrived there we were told they couldn’t lend us a sponge to clean the outside (as you have to take it back clean) for some crappy health and safety reasons and were directed to the ‘carwash’ which was actually a valet service which would cost us $60! In the interests of not paying this, nor the $100 fine for taking it back dirty we eventually decided to go to a petrol station on Cowper Wharf Road and wash it with the squeegees they have for windscreens. Cheeky, but it worked a treat and we took it back to the ‘barn, where the first thing the manager said was ‘One of my employees saw you cleaning it with squeegees at the petrol station.’ Busted! Nonetheless, he laughed at us and didn’t even bother looking at the inside or anything! He also offered Joy a job doing admin work, so we took his card and told him we’d think on it!
Wandering back to the hotel, Richard discovered the camper keys in his pocket. So after dropping them back sheepishly (and being told in the time we’d gone he’d incurred a parking ticket! Oops!) we walked back hoping the job offer wasn’t now void!
We got to the hotel and realised it was Christmas Eve! So we went for a wander in Chinatown, stocked up with food and ate some PIZZA back at the hotel. It had been a shocking month and a half since Richard had eaten a REAL PIZZA and unfortunately for him he had accidentally picked up a gluten-free one, which when opening the box he discovered was half the size of Joy’s and seemed to be made of foam. When it was cooked it was floppy. It also cost twice the price of Joy’s. ‘Daylight (expletive) robbery’ said Richard.
Despite pizza-gate, we hit the watering holes of King’s Cross that night even though we were pooped! As we arrived at the bar and purchased a beer, an Australian Army fella bought us a drink for no particular reason apart from the fact it was Christmas and he was pissed. “Love the Poms” he said. We were starting to really like Sydney! Later when we were sitting outside a French woman with a small child came over to the bouncer looking quite distressed and asking for directions. He didn’t have a clue, saying in a thick Australian accent he wasn’t ‘from around here.’ Luckily, despite only being in Sydney a couple of hours Richard had been studying his maps and was able to give her some directions!
We called it a night at a decent(ish) hour ready for Christmas the next day! Unfortunately when we woke up it was completely overcast and it was forecast to rain in the afternoon. Eternally optimistic, we still made our way to Bondi, deciding that it was probably not too long a walk from the Surry Hills. Once again, we were mistaken and it took us about two and a half hours to get there, pretty much uphill all the way. Several buses with hordes of revelling backpackers drove past us on our way there but nonetheless, we made it! We collapsed on the grassy knoll looking over the beach and joined the ‘twats in Santa hats’ in a Christmas beverage.
Some plucky (or drunk) folk were legging it into the sea regardless of the weather but we decided to save that for another day and settled for relaxing. We had a wander round the vicinity as there was some kind of daytime club-night going on at the pavilion but we weren’t up for it as we imagined it would be costly and packed because of the intermittent showers. At about 4pm we decided to call it a day and make our way back to the city – this time on the bus. Sure enough about ten minutes into the journey it started chucking it down.
Unperturbed by our slightly drizzly Christmas, that night we decided to treat ourselves to a meal. The previous night in Chinatown we had spotted queues of people going to ‘Mamak’s’, a Malaysian restaurant on Goulburn Street and when we walked past it that night it looked like we might get a table. We spotted that they had been awarded the ‘Best Asian’ Award 2009 by the Sydney Morning Herald, which is quite an accolade and turned out to be very well deserved! We had some delicious curries which cheered us up no end!
The next few days were spent sightseeing, relaxing on the beach and being slightly lame and just chilling in the hotel in the evenings and watching CSI! Better than spending all our Asia money on beer though (see, we don’t drink all the time!) One of our favourite days was Boxing Day – still grey and drizzly but we got up early to go and watch the boats set off for the annual Sydney to Hobart (Tasmania’s Capital) boat race. We caught the bus to Milton’s Point where we got there just in time for the starting gun. We watched the boats of all different shapes and sizes set off. There were hundreds and several helicopters buzzing around overhead watching them from the air. When we were all boated out, we caught the bus half way back to try and find our way to somewhere where we could see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge – a bit of a reconnaissance mission for New Year’s Eve. We eventually wandered all the way to the Botanical Gardens and Mrs Macquarie’s Point but it was nice to walk through Darlinghurst and the posher areas of town just to be nosy.
Walking past one newsagent we saw an advert for a fully kitted out camper on sale for $4000 by a German couple. About the same amount we rented ours for plus the fact that you’d probably be able to sell it on for a similar price! Hmmm. It was nice to know the camper we rented had been fully checked over and serviced and that there were people a phone call away who would have helped if we got in any trouble (or sent out a search party to scour the desert if we didn’t return it in time) but I think if we were to do it again we would definitely buy one!
The Botanical Gardens were great to go and see – and are probably one of the few attractions in Sydney that look nicer after a bit of rain! At the end of Mrs Macquarie’s point we were rewarded with excellent views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, so we took the opportunity to get the standard touristy photos. We then walked along to the Opera House to have a gander then back through town to the hotel. The Boxing Day sales were on so it was chaos getting back on the free bus that circles the Central Business District but we eventually made it in one piece and without Joy buying any clothes.
It would bore you to death for us to recount the next 9 days in full detail but here are some highlights.
One day we decided to walk over the Harbour Bridge, just so we could say we’d done it! It was a lovely sunny day and on the other side we decided to have a look at the Luna Park, a smallish theme park a two minute walk from the bridge - free entry but you pay for any rides. It was mostly fun to look at the garish colours everywhere and watch the little shows and things put on by the people who work there – seemingly paid to make idiots of themselves in funny costumes. Not a bad job, really!
On our way back over the bridge we decided to wander through the Rocks, which is always mentioned in tourist guides etc. as it is the spot where the city of Sydney originated. Some of the old buildings are nice to look at as they’re the oldest you’ll see in the country and there are some nice looking restaurants and bars but we didn’t stick around too long as there’s not much to do for free. We decided to wander to Darling Harbour which turned out to be really close to our hotel. We wandered the full circuit, watched some street performers then headed back to the hotel.
One thing we would recommend to see in Sydney before you leave is Paddy’s Market. There are three floors and this is the place to buy anything you might need while you’re here: fruit and veg, sunglasses, hats, takeaway food, clothes, watches etc all for bargain prices. For some reason there are about 8 wig stalls on the ground floor, too, so if you suddenly require a wig on your holiday in Sydney, head to Paddy’s.
For New Year’s Eve we had decided to go to Simmons Point as we checked on GoogleMaps and it had great views of the Harbour Bridge (but not the Opera House) and you could take your own booze! We caught the bus to Balmain and found our way to Mort Park where as we wandered in there appeared a space big enough to fit two people comfortably right in front of the water, with perfect views of the bridge! We plonked ourselves down and waited.... and waited... and eventually the sun started going down and we got excited about the fireworks. They were spectacular! The photos don’t do them justice but the $5million was put to good use ($5million!!) That night we met another English couple called Ellie and Russell who had done Asia and the East Coast of Australia and were heading to Melbourne, so it was good to trade tips and experiences with them and just have some general chitchat. After the countdown Richard, Joy and Russell decided to jump into the harbour as a few people were beginning to do! We think that by enticing Russell to jump in we caused some relationship troubles between him and Ellie. It was good fun to jump in from the 10ft high dock until the Police told Richard he was being naughty and it was dangerous, etc! Luckily our beer jackets kept us nice and warm and even the scramble for the bus, the bus journey itself and the walk back to the hotel were relatively painless! Joy would also like to point out that she was first to jump in because she’s the most daring.
Over the next couple of days we finally got round to booking our Greyhound bus passes, which was pretty last minute - we’re not sure why we didn’t think about our onward travel sooner! We also toyed with getting another camper as the prices weren’t too different – until, of course, they plonked a $200 one way fee onto the price just as we were about to pay up. It turned out when we phoned up that they were sold out anyway so Greyhound it would have to be. We booked our next four nights stays at Port Macquarie, Coff’s Harbour and Byron Bay and prepared ourselves for the 5am alarm!
On the day of the journey out of Sydney we miraculously managed to wake up and get out of the hotel by 6.30. Before we made it to Port Macquarie there were a couple of minor issues. Firstly, Richard was told he was on a different bus to Joy so we both prepared for a boring 7.5 hour journey. Then when he’d queued up Richard was told by the other bus driver that he wasn’t on his list! So he went back to the first bus driver who then managed to find him on the list and finally let him on. Not the end of the world, but stressful to contend with at 7 o’clock in the morning. Secondly, when we stopped at Newcastle, Joy noticed her bag sitting on its lonesome outside the bus, so she kept her eye on it to see why it was not being loaded back into the luggage hold. It turned out that it had been labelled incorrectly to be taken off at Newcastle! Luckily, after Joy squared up to the bus driver (she didn’t really square up to him but she felt like it) it was relabelled for Port Macquarie and popped back in the luggage hold. Fair enough, the driver would have hopefully noticed the error before driving off without it but as we both said in pretty much in unison when we sat back in our seats ‘this wouldn’t have happened if we’d got a camper!’