Published: September 14th 2009August 16th 2009
Having spend six months in SE Asia we had prepared ourselves for reverse culture shock when landing in Australia but although it was weird to arrive and not find ourselves surrounded by clamouring touts and tuk tuk/moto drivers, or be the only white faces in a crowd at the airport it wasn't the culture shock that stunned us most, it was the weather. Only a few hours before, in Hanoi airport, we had stood dripping with sweat and barely able to draw breath in the oppressive humidity and I had said that I couldn't actually conceive of weather cold enough to warrant more than light shorts, a vest top and flip flops but when we landed in Sydney even our jeans, shirts, jumpers and real shoes were not enough to shield us from the comparatively arctic 10 degrees celcius outside. We had of course expected cold weather, arriving in the Australian winter but being able to see our breath in the chilly air was such a novelty it took quite a while to wear off and we reveled in the fact that we weren't soaked through with sweat the moment we stepped outside.
Back in the UK we had arranged
a job finding service with RealGap that would also give us a week's free accomodation in Sydney Central YHA (one of the most famous and celebrated hostels in the world), plus breakfast each day and an airport pick up. After coming through the ludicrously strict quarantine check where we were stripped of all food, drinks and even my straw sun hat that I had lovingly carried around with me since Nha Trang we met the driver and were taken to check into Central YHA. Unfortunately, when we got there at around 8am we were told that our room would not be ready until midday at the earliest. Having had virtually no sleep on the flight from Singapore, and little the previous night in Hanoi this was quite a big blow so we went for our first free breakfast at the hostel cafe and then dozed off in the lounge which was actually surprisingly comfortable. When we were finally able to check into our room (which was disappointingly a double bunk door that we were to share with another couple) we caught a couple of hours sleep before having a shower and heading up to the roof for a BBQ and
beer night that the hostel was having. For only 5 Australian dollars (about 2 pound 50) we got a kangaroo steak bun and a beer. The roo was utterly delicious and we sat on the roof top, chilly in the night air but very contended as we munched our way through the bun while looking over central Sydney. We might have even got a second helping each.
The next day we decided to take a wander around downtown Sydney and spent the day pounding the streets taking in various sights such as Hyde Park, The Anzac War Memorial, Archibald Fountain and of course, The Harbour Bridge and The Sydney Opera House.
On Wednesday we went to meet the people from the job finding service WTC and spend most of the day in the office setting up bank accounts, getting Australian mobile phones, discussing short term lets for flats and of course, employment options. We also had a very helpful welcome presentation which gave us loads of useful information and tips on places that we could visit around the enormous island. All on their tours, of course. In fact, there were so many places that we instantly wanted to
go to we decided there and then that we would alter our plans and spend the rest of our trip in Oz and miss out on New Zealand and Fiji altogether. This wasn't a snap decision because Amy had been really looking forward to pretending to be in Lord of the Rings in the hills of NZ and I had been really looking forward to the island paradise of Fiji but, during the presentation I think we both realised that four months would not be enough to see everything that we really wanted to in Australia and that we'd just have to do NZ and Fiji another time. With our heads buzzing with jobs, travel and accomodation thoughts we left and debated all of our options that evening.
The next morning we paid a trip to The Furnished Property Group on Pitt Street and asked them about short term lets. They were excellent and told us that we could expect to pay about A$280 per week for a double room in a house share or about 330 AUD per week for a private studio. We decided to look at some studios and the very first one we saw was
perfect. It was on Crown Street, right in the heart of one of the cool alternative areas of Sydney Surrey Hills and only a few streets away from the glitz and glamour of George Street. We decided to take it but were told we couldn't move in until Tuesday which suited us anyway as we had free accomodation at the YHA until Monday morning. We put a deposit down on the flat and headed back to the YHA to book ourselves another night to take us up to Tuesday.
On Friday we went back to the WTC office to see a presentation on a tour run by a company called Heading Bush. We had already decided that we'd rather see more of the outback and "real Australia" than spend all of our time partying on the East Coast and the 10 day tour that Heading Bush were promoting looked perfect. We were instantly hooked and put our names down on the provisional list, gaining a big discount in the process and said that we'd confirm the dates when we knew what we were doing with jobs etc. The trip looked fantastic and the delicious free beer (Cooper's Ale, from
SA) that we were given during the presentation didn't exactly put us off booking! When we left the guy actually gave us a six pack and that evening we went home to enjoy it with a meal in the YHA cafe.
Aussie Rules Football is possibly the biggest sport in Australia, a pretty big claim considering how passionate the Aussies are about a whole host of sports, and the YHA had posters in the foyer advertising an organised trip to a Sydney Swans vs Geelong Cats game on Saturday for only A$30 each. With no other plans we couldn't really say no! Being a man, I knew most of the rules, even though I had never really seen a game - somehow knowing the rules of most random sports is a gift that most men are born with. How do I know the rules to curling for example? Anyway, after a bit of refreshing my knowledge on the internet (and watching a compilation of the sport's biggest tackles - ouch!) we met the group in the reception and all headed to the pub for a pre game beer and then we onto the train station and the stadium. The
Sydney Swans apparantely play at two different venues in the city, their old home of The Cricket Ground and the newly built ANZ Olympic Stadium. Luckily, this week they were playing at the latter, a huge venue built in 1999 to host the 2000 Olympics. Walking up the Sydney equivalent to Wembley Way, the stadium sparkling in the early evening light and Swans and Cats fans all around us was pretty cool. As the Swans were obviously our local team, and the fact that we got free Swans hats with our tickets, we decided that we were now life fans, despite the fact that they were lingering in mid table mediocracy and the Cats were second in the table and near undefeated. Undaunted we took our seats and waited for the game to begin. I won't bore you with the details but it was an utterly brilliant game with the teams trading goals and behinds (that's another way to score by the way, not anything dirty) all the way up until the final whistle. The relative lack of rules makes the game very easy to pick up quickly and after 15 minutes both Amy and I were screaming tactics and
support at the players to the amusement of the elderly Australian couple next to us who had clearly never seen Poms that worked up over a game of Aussie Rules before. The final score was 87-92 to the Cats, which was a shame as the Swans put up a fantastic battle but we enjoyed it massively nonetheless.
Sunday was my 26th birthday so to celebrate we walked up to The Rocks, an area near the harbour that was the site of the first European settlement in the in 1788. Nowadays it is a real tourist trap with various souvenir stalls and a small market but some of the buildings are quite cool so we spent a little while walking around before stopping off at a pub to have lunch. This was the first day that it had been really sunny since we arrived so we sat outside and enjoyed a lovely meal with a glass of wine before wandering around the market and stopping off at an Irish cafe for some tea and scones.
Due to the age of the area, and the fact that it was regarded as a slum until the 1900s, there are lots of
horror stories of murder and vice which have led to various ghosts being reported in The Rocks so that evening we decided to book on a ghost tour. We met our guide, plus dozens of other tourists in front of Cadman's Cottage, the oldest standing building in Sydney. From there we spend a couple of hours wandering the streets hearing various grizzly tales and reports of ghost sightings. Unfortunately we didn't see any but it was good fun and also a great way to view more of the area than just the market and the shops.
There are more photos below