Somebody once wrote about a “brave new world”, a new world so dazzling and exciting, so dangerous and exhilarating, These were the feelings I encountered walking into the arrivals lounge at Sydney airport. Aaaaagh, for starters every bugger was speaking in my language, I could understand people, and didn’t always want to. After living in a Korean bubble for a year, where our ears would tune out so often, they now seemed heightened. It was quite overwhelming at first. This was a multi-cultural world, a world of people from all different backgrounds, a world I undoubtedly feel at home in. And so Tiem and I slipped unnoticed through the airport into this new world, and made our way to Ali and Claire’s place. Had we taken the wrong flight? Had we just actually just landed in London? The similarities are uncanny; from the roads, to the transport, to the amount of bloody Brits living here, it feels like London, although without that edge?
It was great to see Ali and Claire, they have been lifesavers during our first two weeks as we’ve gradually got everything sorted out. After just an hour in the country, we found ourselves slap bang
Me, Claire, and Ali
Our first day in Sydney
in tourist central, Sydney Harbour. Nothing can prepare you for the strange feeling that overwhelms you on seeing the harbour for the first time, Sydney Opera House in particular. Sure it’s beautiful, an architectural dream, and the setting is wonderful, however it’s that feeling that you have literally stepped into a postcard, a post-modern environment; as you ask yourself the question, “Is this for real?”. This is also after a night flight with no sleep!
For the next two days we hunted down a camper van, soon realising that a pop-top was essential, without it you would bump your head sitting up in bed. The first van we flirted with set our high standards, it was perfect, so we paid $150 to a mechanic to give it a thorough check. It would need about $1000 worth of repairs (we figured $500 would see us alright), we made the owners a sensible offer, and the bartering begun. We would go no higher than $5000, and they wanted to hold out for $5800, they had one more prospective buyer to show to that evening and agreed if they would not pay the full whack then it was ours for $5000. This
van had been on the market for 3 weeks, and on the day we made a serious offer, another bidder entered the fray. It was a bad position to be in, but we were adamant that $5000 was our top price, sure enough we were outbid and lost the van. This hurt. The van was so perfect for us, and now our standards were set so high. The next day we dusted ourselves off and started again. We took an older van (with a lower asking price) for a spin; sure it rattled and was full of rust but it had real character. Perhaps in slight desperation we forked out another $150 for a mechanical inspection. Diagnosis: “Piece of sh*t, don’t touch with a barge pole”. Dejected once more we found a cafÃ© to sit and collect our thoughts when the phone rang. A bubbly English lass was returning a message I left that morning regarding her camper, she was based in Coogee so off we trotted. We were introduced to “Bob the Camper” and fell instantly in love with him. The van has everything and more, and has a reliable history, and previous owners. We took him for a
spin then after checking through the service history, decided that an inspection was not really needed. An offer of $5000 was made and accepted with (actual) hugs. We had a camper van.
Rather than set off up the East Coast, we decided to take the van for a test run in the Blue Mountains for a week. Sydney is a nightmare city to navigate in a vehicle, and even trying to get out proved to be a headache. Note to ourselves: BUY A MAP!!!. Eventually we found the Great Western Highway and were off. Our first night in Bob was spent in Katoomba. The run out proved unproblematic, and we enjoyed setting up for the night and cooking dinner. Every little thing done when camping is like a little puzzle; stimulating, logical, and highly rewarding. Even making a cup of tea can often take an age, but it’s always the best cuppa ever, until the next! Everything has it’s own little place, and I’m still tickled when the seating area and table, magically transforms into our bed. On top of this enjoyment we then stumbled out of bed to wonder at the Blue Mountain’s vistas, which are out of
this world. The next few days were spent moving from small town to small town, amidst this stunning landscape.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and we had stopped at a little place called Mt. Victoria, where we were enjoying the local markets and architecture. Tiem sat down in a cafÃ© and ordered some tea and scones, while I jogged back to the van to drop off some inspired local pickle purchases. I got to perhaps 3 cars away when I got a strong whiff of petrol, it was coming from Bob, dripping from his underbelly, a helpful passer-by had left a note: YOUR VAN IS LEAKING PETROL - POLICE ADVISED. It was not just leaking, but pouring from somewhere, I panicked and ran back to ruin the harmony of the tea and scone place. Foolishly we had not joined the NRMA (Aussie AA/RAC), so had to pay an emergency call out fee. The nice chap from the NRMA, said it was nothing to worry about, it was a vapour pipe, and perhaps we overfilled the tank. Nothing to f-ing worry about! I had us waiting halfway up the road, Bob could have blown! A few days later we had
another episode with the brakes (or severe lack of them). We were visiting Jenolan Caves (a wonderful afternoon out if you ever get the opportunity…), which need us to drive down a steep access road; steep roads equal lots of braking. This produced a nasty smell and cloud of smoke. Bob was in need of a service.
We returned to Sydney and booked Bob into rehab on the Thursday, hoping to have him back by Friday so we could continue our trip asap. Bob had been keeping many dark secrets from us, and needed more treatment than we expected. The entire front braking system, bearings, pads, shoes, and God knows what else was completely decimated. Bob enjoyed his rehabilitation for 6 days and was not with us again until Tuesday afternoon, his stay cost us another grand ($)!
During our time back in Sydney we visited the two beach resort towns of Manley and Bondi. Bondi is cool, cool beach, cool vibe, but I don’t know if I could have stayed much longer than the few hours we enjoyed there. Manley is pretty much the same, but with a more residential feel. However it’s the Manley ferry crossing
which makes the trip really worthwhile, as the return crossing into Sydney Harbour grants you a splendid view of the Opera House and Bridge. I feel now that Sydney can be crossed off the list, it’s time to venture north, in a new and improved Bob.
Today we did just that, and after taking almost two hours to get out of the confusion of Sydney, we arrived in Cressnock in the Hunter Valley, wine country.
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