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March 19th 2011
Published: March 19th 2011
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Hello everyone! I’ve been in Sydney for the last few weeks, but now I’m on my way to Brisbane. The past couple of weeks have not been too eventful unless you count the earthquake in Christchurch, but that happened 5 days after I left. I was worried for a bit about some of my friends in New Zealand, but I eventually heard back from them all.

I did have a job cleaning the hostel here for accommodation for a little while before I started working at a guys place renovating his kitchen with a couple other people from the hostel. I was unfortunately only able to work for 2 days as I sprained my wrist on the second day playing soccer (I was in goal and deflected a ball with my hand). I haven’t worked since then about a week an a half ago, but I should be good by the time I get to Brisbane where I will look for other employment.

The hostel is an older building in a less than fantastic part of town (Balmain, close to Roselle Junction) but it is home for now. Because of the age of the building, it’s hard to keep the place clean (I know from experience) and I often wish I was back in some of the nice cheap clean Kiwi hostels. The washrooms can get particularly unpleasant at times and the showers have next to no pressure. However, this is all part of the backpacker lifestyle, if I was living in classy hotels I wouldn’t be backpacking now would I?

It’s hot here in Australia, hotter than New Zealand, but the sun is just as bad for burns. I’ve been to the beach a lot with some of the hostel residents for lack of anything better to do on such unpleasantly warm days. The beach we go to is called Coogee, it’s pretty long and has some strong waves which are good for body surfing (swimming out far enough so that you can ride the inside of a wave as it crests), and has a nice sheltered rock pool that is deep enough to swim in. Occasionally there are some stinging jellyfish called bluebottles, they’re not deadly or anything (unlike the box jellyfish) but apparently the sting is pretty painful.

There was a short film festival towards the end of February where they played some interesting films as well as a little live music. It was all done outdoors in the Royal Botanical Gardens at about dusk, interesting as a one time thing I think, but it was probably more fun because of all the people from the hostel that went.

Julie, one of my friends here at the hostel found a free pass for 2 to the Sydney Wildlife Exhibit and invited me to tag along. There was a lot of stuff there, starting with a large butterfly house, followed by (to my great displeasure) the spider exhibit where they sported two of Australia’s deadly spiders, the Red Back and the Funnel Web. There were also a myriad of other spiders that were not deadly, but much larger than any spider has a right to be. After that there was the snake and lizard house where they had, you guessed it, a couple of Australia’s deadly snakes, the Red Belly and some form of Viper.

There were also a lot of different kinds of animals, from the kangaroo-like mouse to larger creatures like the 13 metre slat water crocodile(apparently it only eats 1 chicken a week but we were not lucky enough to be their for the feeding day). There were also a small group (heard?) of kangaroos, they really are beautiful so I do feel a bit bad about eating having eaten kangaroo on multiple occasions, but they really are tasty. On the building’s roof, there was the koala habitat. The koala is an interesting animal, looking as if it is one of natures, ahem “special” creatures, it looks to be ready to fall out of the tree at any moment, but it can move rather quickly for a short burst if it feels like it, they lead what is called a “low energy lifestyle”. They look cute for all their outward stoned appearance, but if you look at their hands closely you’ll find that the have 2 thumbs on each! It looks strangely alien making one rethink if they’re really just cute little tree marsupials or if they’re really some kind of extraterrestrial just waiting for their opportunity to take over the land down under.

Besides the creatures in the exhibits, there are lots of animals all over the city that seem strange to me, right around dusk the sky fills with what look like giant bats, they call them Flying Foxes apparently because of their appearances up close (I assume it is fox like ). There are also a lot of what I believe are Cockatoos, big white birds that make a sound that out of every movie shot in the jungles. There are other big birds around the city as well, though I have no idea what they actually are.

Now having talked about how amazing all the Australian animals are, I will admit that I have eaten kangaroo on several occasions (the meat is cheaper than beef in many cases) and crocodile once at a Japanese place. Kangaroo meat is a red meat similar to beef but is leaner and in my opinion has a stronger and better flavour. As for the crocodile, I hate to say what everyone says, but it does taste similar to chicken. We had it breaded and deep fried (like a katsu ) and though it had a chicken like taste, it had a texture closer to that of duck (greasy and slightly more fibrous). What’s next on the menu? Who knows, but if it’s half as tasty as what I’ve had so far, then I will have no problems chowing down!

I stopped by the Sydney Opera House shortly before I left and got several pictures of the world famous building along with some of the Australia famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. I didn’t spring the $20 to go on the tour of the buildings (as in 4 buildings, 2 really small ones and 2 big ones) but I did walk around the entire area that was open to the public. You may think that the pictures look different that what you expected, that is simply because the famous pictures you always see are shot from across the harbour or from a boat on the harbour. Either way the architecture is very interesting concrete construction all covered in diagonally set 4x4 inch glossy white tiles.

I have been in Sydney now for a little over 3 weeks and I’m starting to feel like I have to get out of here. I think it’s a combination of the lack of work along with the relatively (relative to the city centre) remote hostel location. The plan now is to head up to Byron Bay with a rented camper van with Julie. We’ll giver ourselves 5 or 6 days so that we don’t have to just make a B-line there, but actually have some time to take the more scenic routes and see some of the smaller towns.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get this uploaded before I left on my road trip so you’re getting it from Brisbane! The record of the trip will be up in a day or two in Byron Bay!

PS. Sorry about the lack of pics but they will be up when I get to Byron.

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24th March 2011

Comments on Balmain Blog
March 24, 2011: Your reports from Sydney, and from New Zealand, have been very interesting. I have made a number of trips to Australia, and worked in nickel and uranium exploration in WA. Isabelle joined me on some trips. We also visited S. Aust. where I toured the world's largest copper & uranium mine called Olympic Dam. I've only been in Sydney a few times, and saw very little except the Opera House inside and out. We are facinated that Balmain is a nearby suburb and the map of the greater Sydney area is called the Balmain Map. In a year of so, we will be moving to a condo in the White Rock area, and our building is called the Balmain Building! I don't know if the name came from Australia, or some old British castle? I also visited the most northeasterly city along the Australian coast (can't remember the name) and they had glass-bottomed boat tours out to an island where there was an infinite variety of little coloured fish and all kinds of other thing we could see in the water and on the sea floor! Best regards, L.

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