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Published: February 29th 2016
We were returning to Sydney one last time to fly onwards from there. We flew back from Cairns on another Virgin plane and the flight path took us out over the Barrier Reef. It was lovely to see it from the air. The plane took off at 11.25 am and the flight took about 3 hours to cover the 1500 miles or so of the journey that we had taken about a month to travel in the opposite direction.
We were only staying in Sydney one night, before moving on. Steve had dithered about whether to stay in what he described as a 'box room' at a conveniently situated airport hotel or whether to take the more expensive, but better provisioned, option of a Sydney central hotel. In the end the city centre option won the day. Our outbound flight was an early evening one and we thought there'd be more things to occupy us in Sydney than at the airport. So, the Megaboom Hotel it was. I had some reservations - it sounded like a Club 18-30s affair to me and I kept calling it the MegaBoomBoom but Steve was drawn to it by name alone. As it turned
out it was absolutely fine - brand new, modern and clean with an entrance so small it was literally just the width of a door which led onto a corridor with a lift which took us to reception on the first floor(?!). Space is in short supply at street level in Sydney but the hotel blossomed once we got above that level and looked just like any other - it was a bit like the Tardis. The hotel was also completely alcohol free (never come across that before!) so there was no bar, no mini-bar and no trying to smuggle any in covered in plain brown bags! Not that we tried - we just wanted a good night's sleep before moving on.
During our time in Sydney on this visit we realised that there was little we wanted to see that we hadn't already and that was reassuring. We always take the view that it's impossible to see everything and there's a balance to be had between seeing the sights and enjoying and savouring the experience. We were still applying my stipulation of this being a 'leisurely' trip and if we wanted to take some time off to chill
out, we did. Still, there's nothing worse than leaving a place you know you'll never return to (because, you know, distance/age/small world) wishing you'd seen something in particular. We spent some time back in Darling Harbour and even ducked back into the library when it started to rain (some things never change!). At least we knew our way around in terms of where to go for the things we needed.
During our last night in Australia, about 1am, the fire alarm in the hotel went off and we had to evacuate the building. We realised how full the hotel was as we gathered on the street outside in various states of undress whilst two fire engines and associated crew came to establish that someone had been smoking in their room. They weren't very popular with the firemen, the staff or the rest of their fellow guests. We'd have slept better at the airport hotel! Nevertheless, as a city to visit and as a hub for our journey through Australia Sydney did us proud and I will always have special memories of it.
And Australia as a whole? Well, here's just some of MY general observations, in no particular
* Strewth, it's big! We spent two months there and I felt we covered lots of ground in that time but we still never went anywhere near anything west of centre. Nevertheless, we managed to see and visit much more than many Australians who had lived there all their lives had, but isn't that always the case in your own country;
* It's super-clean and well-maintained;
* It closes early;
* It seems very safe;
* People are very health-conscious and seem to have a complete aversion to gluten;
* If you should feel a bit under the weather, worry not because there is a chemist/pharmacy on every corner - you have to wonder how much ill health/hypochondria there really is to sustain the industry;
* Every city/town/one-street hamlet has an 'adult shop' of some description - I suppose you have to spend your time doing something when everything else has closed;
* Denture clinics are also abundant - maybe those criminal deportees left a legacy of dreadful British teeth?;
* Sharps disposal bins were located in just about every public ladies' toilets I visited. There's either a lot of
diabetics in the country or there's a significant drug problem. Strangely, this seems to only affect the females as Steve said he never saw any sharps boxes in the gents. Whatever, Australia is providing for a safe environment;
* The traffic lights change from red to green with no amber in between and the normally laid-back Australians get a bit tetchy if you're not ready to move from complete standstill to go, go, go immediately. The tooting of horns at traffic lights was a constant background noise;
* Greyhound buses are a wonderful mode of transport in Australia;
* Motel accommodation was as good, if not better and certainly more spacious, as hotel accommodation with a slightly more 'homely' feel;
* Shopping trolleys are left, randomly, miles away from supermarkets. No, these are not left there as a result of mischief but are there for anyone to use to carry, for example, their BBQ ingredients down to the prom or their dog to the beach or their child back to the car whereupon they become available for the next person in need of a trolley to use! What a good idea;
* TV news reporting
seems far from impartial; links between a programme and the commercial breaks just happen, suddenly, with no regard to plotline and the exciting final 30 seconds often take place after a commercial break; sometimes it seems that there is so little news to report that they make the best of what they've got, eg 'a small boy was NEARLY run over today ....';
* Australians are really friendly and have an irreverent sense of humour just up my street. (In case you're wondering about the photo - I once used the word 'tosser' without really understanding the subtext, much to a friend's astonished delight. J - the photo's for you!);
* There are some strange licensing rules;
* Christmas isn't a big thing in Australia but it closes anyway;
* Backpacker accommodation is available everywhere, from the most upmarket locations to the most remote. It also usually has a prime spot;
* 'Two beers please' anywhere else in the world will get you a lager-type drink. Not in Australia, where pale ale is the drink of choice and even the lagers have a hop-py, beer-y taste!
* Australia doesn't do lemonade as we know it (yes, I do drink something other than beer!). There's plenty of Sprite and plenty of something that calls itself lemonade but really isn't;
* the kangaroos are very shy.
Did I like Australia? Yes, very much and we had some great fun, saw some wonderful scenery and wildlife and met some interesting people. The weather was disappointing from our point of view, though I know the Australians wanted the rain. I found it to be very British in presentation and outlook and many Australians we met were proud to be able to trace their family history back to those early British settlers. They could trace their family history back further than I can take mine! In those terms it was an 'easy' country for us to visit and explore as there was nothing to challenge in terms of accepted practices and social norms. On the downside, there was nothing 'different' about it to excite and/or amaze us, apart from in the Red Centre. We were able to experience and enjoy the wonderful scenery and the often elusive wildlife in a comfortable environment. Just speaking the same language was a big bonus!
We had arranged a shuttle bus transfer to the airport from the Megaboom and we left Australia on a Qantas flight at 6.45 pm to continue our travels.
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