Here’s what we’ve been up to…
We arrived in the morning on Sunday and took the train up to the city center. After asking around a bit we learned that the majority of backpackers are in a section of town called Kings Cross, so we meandered over there and stopped into a few to check them out. After our feet got tired from carrying the packs we settled on Blue Parrot backpacker but we could’ve chosen from over 20 just in this neighborhood. We chose well as their was a cool French guy named Julian, who played a mean guitar staying there as well. The weather was (and is for the most part) impeccable. Dropping off the backpack had to be the greatest feeling ever and after a much needed shower we pounded the pavement, something we would be doing a lot of in Sydney, to check out the town.
We immediately headed north through the Royal Botanic Gardens, a beautiful park full of native Australian plants and trees that runs directly into the Sydney Opera House. Being probably the most infamous landmark to define Sydney, we spent a little time walking around and even tried to catch a peek inside. It was, unfortunately, on lockdown and the only way to truly get past the concessions in the lobby was to shell out at least $100 for a ticket. No thanks, but the architecture sure is amazing. Nestled next to the equally impressive Sydney Harbour Bridge, I quickly realized why Sydney is such a world-class city. Simply put, it’s stunning.
Tons of Sydneysiders (as they call themselves) were out and about at the cafes strewn across the park, drinking wine and eating seafood. EVERYONE is dressed to impress and I have never seen a city with so many tanned, toned and flat-out beautiful people. Thank goodness I at least showered before entering the “foo-foo parade.” Watching all of these people made Erin and I miss our lifestyle in San Francisco where we could go to the greatest restaurants and drink great wine just like the locals here.
On our walk back home through the Botanical Gardens, we noticed what I initially thought were large birds flying overhead. Upon closer inspection, it turns out they were giant bats! I’ve never seen anything like this as I’m only used to (rarely) seeing tiny fruit-bats. These things could swallow a whole watermelon! We were spooked a bit so quickened our pace out of there before the sunset.
The hostel had two “free-food” cabinets so in the spirit of El Cheapos, we raided and plundered, scoring some pasta, and added our own ingredients to make some mac ‘n cheese con canned tuna for dinner. Delish! We also made a cold pasta salad (like Ze Germans we saw the previous day) to have with us on our adventures.
The next day we slept in a bit and got a late start. It was raining pretty much all day and after some indecision due to the weather we headed to the museum and checked out an old (1920’s and 30’s) German photographer named August Sander. I liked it so much that I thought I would maybe name my first son Sander, but then realized that Sander van den Brand would lead to most people saying the name like they had marbles in their mouth. Bad idea.
We stopped back into a travel place in our neighborhood to book our bus tickets, and Fraser and Whitsunday Island trips after we leave Sydney. After a bit of haggling we landed a free Canoe trip in Noosa and a bunch of 1/2 off vouchers for hostels up the entire East Coast, including Byron Bay, Surfer’s Paradise, Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Airlie Beach and finally, Cairns (pronounced Cans.)
The sun is up, the sky is blue… After a short train and bus ride, Bondi Beach, hands down the most famous of Sydney’s beaches, appeared before our eyes in all its glory. It was a Tuesday, so it wasn’t too crowded but I was surprised to still see so many (beautiful) people kickin’ it on the beach. Apparently, everyone is still on school holiday. Tons of surfer’s were in the water which tempted me greatly, but I decided to sit this one out as the waves were pretty choppy and a bit bigger than I’m used to. Surrounded by big, multi-million dollar homes on the north and south ends, lying on the white sand beach all day reminded of how great this trip has been so far and how many amazing adventures we have ahead of us.
We needed to splurge a little bit since our diet has consisted mainly of cheese, crackers, pasta, peanut butter and cheap (slimy) lunchmeat, so we had some Thai food for dinner. A bit of a scare as the chicken satay skewers were darn-near bloody in the center but we learned that was “due to the marinade.” Didn’t get sick so I guess they were either telling the truth or I have a stomach made of cast-iron. Woohoo!
Erin scored us a stay at another hospitalityclub.com member for the evening so we hopped a ferry to Manly Beach, only to be reminded yet again, how simply breathtaking and stunning Sydney is. Being on a ferry in the harbour is an unforgettable experience. We were unable to land the primo seats in the back on the way out of the city but we got the front seats on the way back in.
Manly Beach is only a 15 minute ferry ride Northeast of the city and after docking it was a short walk across town to the beach. We set up shop and watched a bunch of young guys playing beach Cricket. Cricket is basically their version of baseball but Test Matches (games) can take up to a week to complete! The pitcher is called a bowler and when the batter hits the ball, he “hooks” it. I sat there for a good hour and a half watching and still couldn’t figure out how it worked and would wait until later in the evening to ask our hosts, David and Lisa, a little more about the game before asking to “hook the crap out of some bowled balls.” So, the beach was just as amazing as Bondi as far as natural beauty goes, but I think the ferry trip made it my favorite Sydney beach.
A ferry, bus, and 35 minute train ride later we arrived at our host’s suburban home where they graciously picked us up from the station and took us back to their house. We had brought some food to cook but Lisa already had a salad prepared as well as David’s world famous Pumpkin Soup. We pitched in the lamb we had purchased, they cracked a bottle of Grenache and we all sat down for a nice dinner.
They had done an around-the-world trip just two years prior, so the conversation was geared mostly around the similarities and differences between our trips. They gave us tips and advice, showed us pictures of some of their favorite spots and shared their knowledge on the intricacies of the hospitality club networks. Since we were having little success getting accepted on couchsurfing.com, they suggested it may be because we were Americans. Apparently, American traveller’s have been abusing the system for some time now and the rest of the world is just plain sick of it. They said they would give us a good review which will hopefully up our chances in the future. Oh, and of course we talked politics. This hopefully will continue as we get to talk to more locals. A big thanks to Lisa and David for putting us up for the night and providing transportation to and from the train and ferry stations.
Last Day in Sydney
We took the ferry back into the City and spent a bit over 2 hours trying to locate a spot to leave our backpacks for the day. It was aggravating but finally we found a spot that would store them until 8 p.m. for $5 each. Our bus leaves tonight at 10:30 p.m. for a 12-hour overnight ride to Byron Bay. During the day we walked around Darling Harbour, the Rocks and also crossed the Harbour Bridge. Another sunny day but my feet are killing me. We’re both already looking forward to the $4 massages that await us in Thailand.
Off to more beaches, some 4×4’ing around sand-dunes, sailing on a catamaran around some islands, a canoe trip, and my much anticipated Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef!