Published: January 23rd 2011January 14th 2011
The new Steve!!
Clean shaven and hair cut - a little less tramp like for Sydney
4th October 2010 – 6th January 2011
Hi folks. First things first, a happy belated new year to everyone. It seems like an age ago that we last blogged and Asia is a dim and distant memory. Now we can update you on what has been going on in Australia over the last 3 months.
We arrived in Sydney to be greeted at the airport by Ellie’s sister, Bexs who had arrived with Rich from Singapore a few days earlier. We were initially surprised by how chilly it was in the land where the sun always shines, or so we had been led to believe by Neighbours and Home and Away. In reality, Sydney had just had its coldest winter in years and a wet summer was expected after 10 years of drought – great timing!
We spent a few days acclimatising to the English language and lack of humidity, both of which were welcome. Within the first couple of days, we were walking around Paddy’s Market in Darling Harbour when we were propositioned by an Asian lady; “You want massage?”. The irony was not lost as this was all we had heard for a good few months
Night out in Syders October
Note the jumper and scarf needed!!
and we couldn’t help but laugh. Also we were both in need of a haircut and didn’t necessarily trust the hairdressers we had seen in Asia so off we went in separate directions. We met up an hour later both sporting new barnets, both created by Asian hairdressers – Australia truly is a multicultural society!
Bexs and Rich has a few days to find an apartment to move into and we took great pleasure in assisting them in finding their new home, and indeed ours for the following few months in Oz. The rental market in Sydney is ruthless as the demand seems to outstrip supply considerably, and the cost is so much higher than was expected. Indeed the cost of Australia in general was a surprise, but this is mainly due to the strength of the pound. A week into our stay in Sydney and we had ourselves a bedroom in Bexs and Rich’s two bed flat in Surry Hills, a lovely flat in a great location. Now we needed to find a job.
In our last night in the hostel before moving in we saw an advert asking for backpackers to ‘help bring back the milkman’.
We phoned up and were invited to an ‘interview’ the following day at their offices, which just happened to be next door to the apartment – bonus. We arrived at the interview not knowing what to expect or even what the job would entail. We were ‘interviewed’ by a cockney chap who when he was satisfied that we spoke English said to us, “you are going to be milkmen, see you tomorrow for training. You start the day after”. When we left, we looked at each other as if to say ‘what just happened?’
The job actually entailed knocking on people’s doors throughout New South Wales and convincing them to have milk, bread etc delivered directly to the door. Australia hasn’t had milkmen for about 35 years due the viability resulting from the remoteness but we were charged with the challenge of bringing the milkman back. The job allowed us to meet a load of other backpackers and it was heaps of fun.
There was a Friday night tradition of loading up the minibus with a couple of crates of lager, a bottle of Jaegermeister and a box of ‘goon’ for the journey back. Now for those of
you who are not familiar with goon, it’s a backpacker favourite drink. It cannot legally be called wine but it is along the same lines. It comes in a 5 litre bag in a box and costs about $15. The label says something along the lines of ‘may contain traces of milk, protein and fish’. The good stuff then..........
We met some great characters through work, not least Captain Canada – real name Ryan from Vancouver – and James, a Welsh lad from Pontypridd who lives one street away from where Ellie used to visit some friends and who actually has a mutual friend from back home – small world. How to describe Ryan........ think of the most extreme person imaginable from across the pond......... and multiply it by about 10........ then you’re nearly there. One Friday night, the minibus was doing the rounds picking people up after a door knocking shift, at about 9pm and there Ryan was by the side of the road wearing a massive sombrero hat, he had somehow acquired whilst working! It was only when you put it on that you understood the sheer weight of the thing – it was made of wood
and became the booby prize for the sales rep who made fewest sales on a Friday: they would have to wear it in the pub all night! Also there were other mini challenges for Friday nights. Sales reps would be paired up and whoever performed best had the pleasure on one occasion of shoving a McDonalds ice cream in the face of the loser – mature stuff. We both lost and got creamed much to the delight of onlookers.
Outside of work, we frequented the beach on numerous occasions, especially as the weather improved into summer. Being a 30 minute bus journey from Coogee Beach was unbelievable and we were very lucky. We also became regulars at Sydney Kings, the local basketball team. It was their first season back in the NBL after bankruptcy and after winning game 1 have, at the time of writing, lost the following 13 games in a row. This is in spite of the amazing Julian Khazzouh, who we have all adopted as our hero. Mainly because he is the only half decent player they seem to have. We’ll throw in a photo of the cheerleaders for the lads! One further hobby we have
Miss Lewis (Bexs)
Kids, is this your teacher?!?
discovered a love of is lawn bowls. Whilst back in the UK it is typically an old persons game, it is beloved by all ages over in Australia....... although this may be because of the cheap beer on sale. One of our finest moments was inventing a fantastic game, which we named 'Rooftop Stack'. Invented at the Rooftop Backpackers hostel (where Ryan and James live), you basically have to stack bottle tops on top of each other and whoever knocks over the stack has to drink the shot of goon - yummy!! Its very simple but managed to keep us entertained for many nights!!
At the end of October, Rich invited us to a Halloween party, held in a warehouse. We had been roped into working a Saturday event with Aussie farmers and had no time to pick up a costume so left it to Bexs and Rich to get them for us. We arrived back from a long day of being nice to people to find the boys were going as Santa and the girls as fairies!! These went down very well at the party with the boys being accosted many times asking if people could sit on
In December we managed to get down to Bondi for a round of the Aussie Iron Man competition. Essentially it is a race with 20 competitors set over 5 rounds. Each round comprises of a swim leg / surf leg / ski leg in a varying order. Each round the slowest 4 competitors are eliminated and the remainder go through. The last round is a race between the final 4 competitors - and the winner takes the maximum points in the series leaderboard. It was a pretty chilly day with some serious waves fighting against them as they entered the water so by the last few rounds we were feeling tired just watching them.
All in all, Ellie worked 4 weeks and Steve worked 6 before being nice to people hour upon hour took its toll. We had saved a bit of money and ready to go and see some more of Australia – and South Australia beckoned so we booked flights for a week long ‘holiday’. By miraculous coincidence, our flight arrived Adelaide at 8am on the morning of day 5 of the 2nd Ashes test at the Adelaide Oval......... it would be rude not
Afternoon drinkies in the sun
Why does Steve always get the gay drink......
After seeing England wrap up victory within an hour and a half, we ventured into the city centre for lunch and at about 2pm the heavens opened and the day became the wettest December day in Adelaide in history! There were flash floods in the city although not on the scale of Queensland floods which would come later on. There is very little to do in Adelaide itself we found, so we decided to get out of the rain and head to the cinema – of which there wasn’t even one in the city centre, but a taxi ride took us there to help pass the time before we picked up the rental car the following morning.
When we picked up the car we headed for the Barossa Valley, Australia’s most famous wine making region. We drove to a village called Tanunda, which is in the heart of the Barossa and went on a walk to a couple of wineries to sample some of what they had on offer. At the first place we went to, the lady could obviously sense that we knew a thing or two so cracked open the $195 bottle which she said
wasn’t on the normal tasting menu. Actually some guy had been in earlier to buy some but wanted to try it first, so we were in the right place at the right time. She did say however that we were not obliged to buy any of it – good job really, it was bloody nice though but I don’t think we could have picked it from a line up of cheaper wines. We did pick up a couple of bottles to take back to Sydney though and moved on to the next one. We had agreed that we would take a couple of bottles back but at the end of day one we already had three, with more wineries on the cards tomorrow!
The next morning we headed off to Truro with three things on the agenda: olives, cheese and wine which we sampled before buying probably too much of each but they would feature in the numerous picnics over the next few days.
Our next destination was Hahndorf, a pretty ‘German’ town which is teaming with cellar doors. We found ourselves lodgings in a slightly weird, Dirty Dancing inspired lodge and then headed to the cellar doors
for yet more tasting and buying!! With seven bottles of wine filling our bags we decided we probably had enough wine and the next day headed to Cape Jervis to catch a very choppy ferry to Kangaroo Island.
By the time we arrived at our guesthouse on KI we were in desperate need of some grub so asked the woman we rented the room from where we could find the nearest shop. Now, with it being so late (around 7pm) all the shops were closed for the day but she said we could go the ‘local' pub (a mere half hour drive away!?!) and get something there. It was a really lovely pub but we did find ourselves a little out of place as everyone seemed to know each other!
Our first full day and we stocked up with supplies at one of the only supermarkets on the island in the main town of Penneshaw. It was then time for a picnic at American River where we found a lovely spot in a nature reserve overlooking a pelican bay. The picnic was sadly cut short by the unbelievable winds so the remainder of our wine, cheese, bread and olives
(very civilised eh!!) was eaten in the car! Our next stop was Seal Bay which is where a rare breed of endangered Aussie seals rest on their days off and our last stop of the day was a really beautiful beach to the south of the island before we headed back to our guesthouse for the evening.
The next day we drove the long and dusty, dirt track to the most westerly point of the island, Cape Borda, which is home not only to a lighthouse but also a completely eccentric tour guide. We had decided to go to the 12.30 tour as we had been told that a cannon is fired at the end of it, so after an interesting tour and a look inside the lighthouse (where we found out that it is the only real lighthouse in South Australia), we were not disappointed when the tour guide came out with safety glasses and ear protectors on and some sort of fuse in his hand!!
Off the cannon went and then so did we to the Flinders Chase National Park, to the south of the island, which would turn out to be a truly breathtakingly beautiful
place. First stop was Remarkable Rocks, a set of rocks that have been naturally weathered by the elements and describing these would not do them justice so we have put on a photo. Next it was on to Admirals Arch which is truly fantastic and allowed us to get up close to another colony of Seals, this time New Zealand fur seals. As the name suggests, Kangaroo Island is home to many kangaroos. So far we had seen 8 road-kill roo’s, but not a single living roo and this was getting depressing. Kangaroo’s are nocturnal creatures so we decided that we would not be going to bed until we had seen at least 9! Luckily, a nature walk in the national park enabled us to get really close to the animals and by jove we saw hundreds of them!! As we drove back to our guesthouse, we encountered many many more roo’s and narrowly avoided running over a few as they jumped in front of the car with gay abandon! This would be our last night in Kangaroo Island as it was back to Sydney via Adelaide airport the next day.
After a few days of rest and recovery
in Sydney, we had our works Christmas party, a four hour cruise of the harbour on a boat loaded with booze. It was very good and we got to see some beautiful views of Sydney from the water but with that much booze it was also very messy, with boat owners not so happy by the time they offloaded us – not a minute too soon for them!!
The following week was Christmas week so it was full of shopping, drinking and general celebrating, with a Sydney Kings Basketball game on the 23rd and Carols by the Christmas Tree and fireworks at Darling Harbour on Christmas Eve. We even managed to have some mulled wine (made by Bexs) which was delicious but kind of strange drinking it in the heat of Syders.
Christmas morning we were made a delicious eggs Benedict brunch (Bexs again!) and opened some pressie’s and then, as the weather was scorching hot, we filled our eskies with beer, cider and sparkly wine and headed to Coogee beach – how cliché!! We met up with Ryan and James and also Rich’s mates Tom and Kat who are a very cool Kiwi couple. A few drinkies,
some wave riding and lots of merriment later we headed back to the flat for a traditional Christmas day dinner – roast beef with all the trimmings and some prawns to top it off!
Boxing day was International day at Randwick Races, which meant we could get in for free with our British passports – yay! After our lack of success at the Hong Kong Races earlier on in the year we had managed to back both the 1st and 2nd place winners in the Melbourne Cup in November so we were convinced our luck had to be changing!! That wasn’t to be the case unfortunately and we had no big wins but it was a great way to spend Boxing Day.
The next couple of days were spent chilling out before Steve’s parents (Helen and David) arrived late on the 30th December.
The morning of the 31st we went to Circular Quay where we started with Helen and David taking a tour of the Opera House (we decided not to join them as we had been on a tour during a free open day when we first arrived). It was then on to the Manly Ferry
for a trip to the beach and some lunch. We had toyed with the idea of going to Circular Quay for the evening celebrations where we would be able to see the Sydney fireworks with the Harbour Bridge as a backdrop. However, people had began setting up camp by 9am and by the time we arrived back from Manly at around 3pm the place was packed so we decided it would be much more fun to go to Coogee beach where we could enjoy some drinks and watch the 9.30pm fireworks show. It turned into a fab celebration with Bexs, Rich, Helen, David, Tom, Kat and two of Tom and Kat’s mates, with everyone bringing loads of food and drink. After the fireworks we had to get on a bus back to the city where we enjoyed more drinks at the flat and watched the Sydney celebrations on the TV. Unfortunately, we managed to miss the 12 o’ clock countdown as Ellie and Bexs had put a delay on the TV, trying to re-watch the Jersey Boys performance. It wasn’t until we heard the noise of the fireworks coming from the harbour that we realised so we quickly got our
‘Happy New Years’ in before watching the rest of the fireworks.
New Years day and we were all feeling a bit fragile so decided a nice relaxing day of bowls followed by a dip in the sea would be just what the doctor ordered! We also moved to a very posh, city centre apartment-hotel that Steve’s parents had booked for the remainder of their stay in Syders. It had a fantastic view over the CBD and parts of the harbour.
Early the next day the six of us headed out to the Hunter Valley on a wine tour where we visited 5 cellar doors and between the six of us, finished the day with copious amounts of wine.
For Steve, the next few days would be dominated by cricket, not so much for Ellie!! Day one of the cricket we both attended with Bexs and Rich and large amounts of food in preparation for the long day ahead. The day didn’t start so well for Ellie who, when climbing the steps two at a time, managed to rip her denim skirt. At first there was only a small tear but this very quickly grew into a very
large tear which left her flashing her pants to anyone nearby. Luckily, Rich had a cricket top with him which was so long it doubled up almost as a dress on Ellie so her dignity was somewhat saved. The morning session was pretty slow and then the rain started in the afternoon so it wasn’t a great introduction to cricket for Ellie and Bexs, but the atmosphere in the SCG and the Barmy Army songs definitely lightened the day.
Day two and Steve, Rich, Helen and David were treated to a much better day of cricket, with Ellie and Bexs left to go shopping, cinema and lunch out. By day three, all the girls had had enough cricket so we left the boys, plus Kiwi Tom, all wearing delightful Hawaiian shirts to enjoy another cracking day of England showing the Aussie’s how to play cricket. The girls had a relaxing morning by the pool followed by lunch in Darling Harbour – how posh!! A friend of Ellie's from West Berkshire Council (where she worked before we left) called Clive had come to Syders to watch the cricket so that evening was spent catching up with all things Blighty and
maybe a bit of planning (how sad!!). It was lovely to se someone from home though he did bring news about the dyer state of planning jobs back home so we're not sure if we wanna come back now!!
The time had come for everyone to depart Sydney, Bexs and Rich to head back to Blighty for a wedding, and the rest of us would be heading to Port Douglas, just to the north of Cairns, where Helen and David would spend the next leg of their holiday and we would start our travelling.
Another update will be coming your way at the end of the Oz!!
S & E xx
There are more photos below