A Travellerspoint blog

Stranded in Sydney (II)

With an extra few days in Australia on the cards, my $1.40 was fast running out. My cash reserves were now under a dollar, giving me a total of $2.20. This was not a problem. I could simply call the Thomas Cook cash passport hotline and reload my card over the phone. Or I could try. Apparently I had exceeded my 60 day telephone reload limit. But, it's ok for me to reload by popping down to the Guildford branch of Thomas Cook and sorting it in person. I'll get right on that. Eventually we agreed that someone could do this on my behalf. Thanks mum.

We have spent much of our additional Sydney time trying to sort out ongoing itinerary. A trip to Sydney's STA travel proved fruitless, and calling Jetstar airways themselves seemed to be working out until they decided that we were unqualified to rebook our own flights. We would have to ask our travel agents to do it. So we patiently waited for it to become daytime in the UK, and eventually received news of a flight booking.

Otherwise there has been some general wandering around. We did make the three hour journey to the Blue Mountains, but due to our slow start we only had 45 minutes there before the last bus was due to leave. Never mind, the view was lovely while it lasted. We then spent the evening in the centre of Sydney, where we were reunited with Rob's Italian friend Sara from Brisbane. It turned out to be a karaoke evening at the bar we went to, unfortunately one that was fast dying down before our electric performance of 'Wonderwall' revived the crowd and saw us joined on stage by four uninvited wannabees eager to share our moment in the spotlight. Then I was privileged to witness the world's most uncomfortable goodbye, Rob standing right in front of Sara and awkwardly waving for what seemed like hours before finally deciding it was time to walk away.

After a brief trip to the Sydney botanic gardens, where we were landed on by some cockatoos, we are now in New Zealand! Our flight to Christchurch was slightly delayed... We arrived around 2am. We did not have a hostel. With our bus pick up due at 8am, we thought we may as well go and wait at the pick up point. So what if it was only 5 degrees. I thought that maybe finding somewhere inside would be wise but Rob was determined that sleeping rough would raise our 'street cred' when we told people pn the bus. There was no dissuading him. It was a fairly uncomfortable experience that did not bring any sleep at all, although we did experience a small earthquake around 6. What fun.

Posted by tom_christmas 23:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Stranded in Sydney

As I mentioned previously we were lucky to have the help of family in Sydney - a brief break from hostels. With Christmases flying in from Singapore as well Sydney certainly wasn't short of Christmas presence. Very nice to see everyone agin. Our visit had been cunningly timed so that we might join in for two birthday dinners. Whether it be lamb shanks, homemade pie or aromatic fish curry, the food quality certainly went up a notch. No longer did we have to search for $7 meal deals. I also experienced the two best chocolate milkshakes of the trip - at Max Brenner, the specialist chocolate shop, and my absolute favourite, the Lindt shop. Very exciting.

We also managed to see plenty of Sydney. The Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach. All the classics. Lovely views from Watson's Bay - slightly marred by a man moaning about all the people taking photos. I took a photo of him. Let's see how he likes that. But there sure are plenty of cool places in Sydney. Including Manly, a place where I really felt I belonged :). We also saw Pirates of the Caribbean in 3D at the largest IMAX cinema screen in the world. Apparently. It was pretty massive, certainly brought us closer to the action! And Captain Jack invariably makes me laugh. I also had an excuse to do my Cap'n Barbosa impression.

Weather wise Sydney has not been the best destination so far. I imagine it's been warmer in England. And quite possibly less wet. There are even flash flood warnings for the next few days. At least the jeans and classic red hoody have finally got some use! And it's a nice reminder of home...

Unfortunately, our onward journey has been put in doubt by an ash cloud looming over Australia and New Zealand. We discovered that our flight was cancelled and, later this afternoon, that there had also been further earthquakes at Christchurch. Thankfully it seems like no-one in Christchurch has been badly hurt but it is still unclear when or if we will be flying there.

The delay gave us an opportunity to do a bit of surfing. I did surf once before, aged 14, at the lovely Polzeath in Cornwall. But I wasn't sure if I would have retained the technique that made me such a formidable surfer back in the day. I did manage to catch a couple of waves and despite being unsure what I was doing I seemed to occassionally, almost subconsciously, leap onto the board just fine. Slightly buoyed by a couple of successes, we headed out deeper, and realised we were drifting quite far and it was tough getting back when the waves weren't breaking and we couldn't surf our way in... After a lot of determined paddling, and despite having my board coming off my ankle and surfing to shore all by itself, I did return to dry land! Exhausted.

Not sure where the next blog will be from. The plan for the next couple of weeks may have to change. We shall see. But hey photos are up on facebook of Singapore right through to Sydney!


Posted by tom_christmas 06:01 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Bailing in Brisbane

Bunk hostel Brisbane possibly ranks among my favourites so far, a very friendly place which even allowed sleep. However, the advanced technology proved a bit much for Rob, who was seemingly baffled by the key cards we were issued to get into our room. After a while he did manage to get the door open, but his clanking around obviously amused our Italian roommate. The elevator also proved problematic - we wanted to get from floor 1 to floor 3, and Rob couldn't understand why no progress was made as he repeatedly pressed the'1' button. Again he did eventually rectify his mistake.

The Italian sisters we met in our room accompanied us on a night out, which again involved a return trip to the hostel after Rob forgot his ID for the second night running. The club contained several crazy people, and although Rob and I both had drink spilled on us by other people we still had a good time, helping this guy get some more people clapping after he had been going by himself for quite some time, and running away from some much older ladies who seemed to want to dance near us. I was mocked by a barmaid for ordering a tap water (I'm used to this from my Smirnoff Ice days but for water I felt it was unfair). On our last night I was mocked again - the budget meals at our hostel come with a free cocktail and my choice of 'Code Pink' apparently wasn't very manly. The alternatives were 'Fruit Tingle' and 'Birdee Sunrise', surely there is no manly option? Felt like I'd walked into a trap. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?

The previous night I experienced another interesting drink - the Italian girls had brought back a chocolate vodka drink that tasted like chocolate milkshake :). Quite glad I haven't found this in England or I may have ended up having too much of it... They also had lollipops and Rob had cards for magic tricks. A cracking party by any standards. Unfortunately none of us knew any tricks, alhtough Rob managed to successfully fool people with the trick that Joey performs on friends - don't worry if you haven't seen it... It happens too fast for the naked eye to see anyway...

In the daytime we didn't really do anything - braved the 45 minute walk to the 'fake beach' along the main river only to find that it was closed for maintennance. Oh dear. We were largely restrained by budgets - my card balance has unfortunatley dwindled through Australia from $500 to $1.40. Although I do still have some cash.

Have now been reunited with the Australian branch of the Christmas family tree in Sydney :). And soon to be reunited with the Singapore contingent, with a couple of birthdays to celebrate, we have a good few days coming up!

Posted by tom_christmas 05:32 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cruising in Cairns

In Cairns we stayed in a hostel called Shenannigans. Our room, an 8 bed boys' dorm, smelled phenomenal. Reminiscent of a rugby changing room post-match, perhaps with a bit of gone-off food thrown in. Lovely. Our room-mates tended to return to the room between 3 and 6am, fairly noisily, and then re-emerge mid-afternoon. Showering certainly wasn't on the agenda. An interesting bunch. Unfortunately, as a light sleeper, their late returns meant that my own sleep was constantly interrupted. And it didn't help that the hostel bar often played loud music till 2am. So I just had to give up on the concept of sleep and go out myself.

Clubbing isn't necessarily my favourite thing, but I had a good time dancing away in Cairns. One night I was again compared to Ryan from the OC. I was happy about this. The same girls also thought I looked older than Rob. He isn't happy about this. Another night we were privileged enough to meet 'Psycho Kid', who definitely makes me look old, and thinks that he is the coolest guy in the world. For no good reason he screamed agressively in his girlfriend's face, then tried to look really cool while she cried, then tried to win her back with a strip tease on the dance floor. Much to her discredit, he was successful. Then he was even more pleased with himself. I don't like him. Psycho kid, if you're out there, take a good look at yourself. Maybe start with the man in the mirror. Another night we attempted to follow a 'party bus' which was touring the city's clubs, and we managed to track to three locations but eventually lost interest. It's tiring chasing after buses.

There is also a nice coastline walk called the esplanade which we explored, while practising our Australian accents. Rob got several funny looks as he talked loudly of wombats, didjeri-doos and friends named Bruce. Then we witnessed an apparently ownerless, very fat dalmation running up and down the esplanade repeatedly. Crazy animal. We also headed to a wildlife park where we could hold koalas. Very nice animals. And their hygeine levels certainly outdid the guys in our room.

The standout part of our time in Cairns was the Reef Experience scuba/snorkel trip on the Great Barrier Reef. My first scuba dive - it was a bit strange being able to breath underwater, but seeing all the fish was amazing! In the afternoon we went snorkelling on an even cooler reef :). Earlier in the trip JC had revealed a shocking secret - he has NEVER seen a shark in the wild. He said this as if this left him very much in the minority - and now he sort of is. I was swimiming alone after Rob had briefly returned to the boat, and turned to see a shark! YES! It was smaller than me so I happily chased after it to secure a photo. Can't upload it at this hostel though! But this sighting totally made my day. And it turned out Rob had seen it as well on his way back to the boat!

Three nights in Brisbane coming up, hoping that it's easier to sleep at this hostel!

Posted by tom_christmas 08:52 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Jesting in Japan

May as well give Japan it's own entry. India and Indonesia both got them and they were a bit average.

We got up at 4.15 so that we could catch our flight to Tokyo. At the airport we said goodbye to JC (looking resplendent in a beige suit and white trainers) and proceeded to fly out of Thailand. We hope that JC is enjoying his return to Mumbai airport. It's an exciting place.

We knew that we had a few hours in Japan before our flight to Cairns and had planned a trip around Tokyo. It would appear that the airport is approximately one hour and 25 pounds away from Tokyo. This was an inconvenience. We had to settle for a trip to nearby Narita city instead, 10 minutes and fairly cheap...

Japan was surprisingly cold. So much so in fact that walking around in a t-shirt became unbearable. But here's the dilemma - my main bag was still at the airport and I had no other clothes in my hand luggage. Fortunately, my bright orange beach towel could double up as a handy cape. Highly innovative move. I may have looked ridiculous, but I maintained a serious expression which seemed to deter passers by from laughing at me. Most of the time. Perhaps they thought it was a new western trend. Who knows, I may have even started a new fashion in Asia. Found a nice little restaurant and ordered what was quite possibly the best fried rice I've had in all of Asia, and I've had a lot of fried rice of late (it tends to be the cheapest thing on the menu).

As if the day couldn't get any better, we found a shop selling Pokemon cards at the airport. I'd completely forgotten how exciting Pokemon cards were. We were also privileged enough to see Superman (or a very small child dressed as Superman) attacking people at the airport. Then a fairly sleepless overnight flight and a 5.30 arrival in Cairns. Turns out our hostel didn't plan on opening till 8. Oh well. It's all good now.


Posted by tom_christmas 15:49 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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