Having wanted to go to Australia since I was 16, I was virtually peeing my pants to finally be going 16 years on! So to celebrate this fact I decided the night before my travels a complete bender was in order and completed a night of excited drinking with little sleep resulting in a hangover from hell staring straight into a 30 hour journey – clever.
I won’t lie, it was not the wisest move I have ever made but it actually turned out reasonably well as it meant I slept the entire journey, resulting in zero jet lag when I bounced off the plane two days later. I say ‘reasonably well’ as sleep deprivation did have some negative effects as I am sure you can imagine. One of which included my falling asleep instantly after boarding the flight from Shanghai to Sydney, I mean literally I got on, sat down, did my seat belt up and bam – in Z land. So when I woke some time later to find we were stationary I assumed I had slept for the full 1o.5 hours as we were on a runway, baring in mind I slept through the entire take off from Heathrow to Shanghai, so you can imagine the bemusement of the person I asked as to whether we were in Sydney to be told we had been sat on the run way for over an hour in Shanghai – DOH.
Despite mere embarrassment, I eventually landed in Sydney, some 10 hours of sleep later, to be welcomed by the warm and embracing land of Australia. I had met a girl, Hannah, in the airport as the corridors of Shanghai from arrivals to the transfer lounge are more than surreal and we ended up walking through their weirdness together. She had waited for me to get off the plane and as I bid my new friend adieu with the promise of meeting up the next day I was whisked off by an old school friend to Bronte.
My friend is a little like a drill sargent but without the status or the reasoning. So despite the fact that I desperately needed and wanted a shower I was told that I wasn’t allowed, I had 15 minutes to get changed and I could wash in the sea – for a minute I thought I had landed back in India! So I spent my 15 minutes frantically searching for beach wear, staring at my razor wondering what the etiquette is on shaving ones legs in someone elses apartment, deciding if he wouldn’t let me shower then etiquette was out of the window, to revealing my legs to be faced back with KANKLES, to staring at and rubbing my ballooned ankles that resembled nothing of my own, it appeared I smuggling my ankle bones under a mass of squishy flesh in the form of old ladies pregnant ones, to having the quickest wash going. My 15 minutes felt like a quick manic 10 seconds of a whirl wind whilst constantly being asked ‘Are you ready’! This wasn’t the relaxed start I was hoping for – thank god I had slept for 20 hours otherwise it would have been like trying to egg-on a snail in a race against a bunny on Red bull.
Alas, we headed out and we stopped at a lush restaurant just overlooking Bronte beach called Salina Cafe which served the most amazing salads. My friend opted for a lamb shank salad with feta and cous-cous and I had a grilled chicken salad. I later went back to this cafe as the food was really probably some of the best I had out there. Grilled chicken in the UK translates as manufactured plastic chicken with faked griddle marks which is as dry as eating a camels butt. However this is far from the case here at Salinas Cafe, they had cooked the chicken to perfection on what I can only assume was some kind of barbecue or griddle. Full of flavour and dare I say it…moist! I would recommend this cafe to anyone and I will certainly be back for more myself! Not the cheapest but totally worth it.
Bronte is stunning. It isn’t too big and boasts a gorgeous beach where you can surf or dive through waves or take a calmer swim in one of the sectioned off parts of the sea. We chose to swim in the main part. My friend, who is an avid sports everything, swam right off and out into the deep blue. I, however, crashed around in the waves where I spent most of my time refraining from drowning as each wave crashed me down to the sea bed and tried to rid me of my bikini bottoms meaning I was seen to be fighting the seas watery clutches whilst mooning the beach. Not the best start but I laughed it off whilst dragging myself back to the safety of my towel.
I loved Bronte and would say it was one of my favourite beaches out there. It isn’t touristy and isn’t huge so it is nice and relaxed and has some of the best views – perfect. There is actually a walk from Coogee to Bondi beach which I would recommend but do this on a day that isn’t blowing a gale otherwise it is a little less relaxing and a bit more, in my friend’s opinion terrifying, as the walk is a path along the cliff edge. Personally I thought that, even in a gale, it was a brilliant walk with some breath-taking views. Being blown around and close to the edge just makes it all that bit more fun.
There is a grave yard along this walk, which in my opinion, would be quite a place to be buried.
I stayed in Kings Cross for 10 days whilst staying in Sydney. Kings Cross is basically a street of strip clubs, prostitutes, cheap bars and the homeless. It was like a closed in version of a street on crack but somewhere I had to call home. I stayed in the Jackaroo Hostel which was clean and central. It has zero windows which I didn’t like but this hostel is built-in around the train station so even if they had windows, it wouldn’t be much of a view. However this poses a problem when you leave the hostel ready for beach action and there is a grade A thunderstorm battering the streets of Sydney.
The rooms are cleaned every day by travellers, I use the term ‘cleaned’ loosely, although the bathrooms were always clean sometimes it seemed the cleaners came in the dorm in the morning donning their ‘Ghost buster’ style hoovers on their backs only to walk in the room, place the hoover head on the floor, text, chew gum for pause effect, pick the hoover back up and place down somewhere else, text, three more chews of gum for maximum effect to then walk out of the room. Sorted – woken up for absolutely no reason other to watch this random act of nothingness.
The hostels are noisy but that is to be expected. Some people work, some people party, at is to be expected not everyone is going to be happy in this scenario. However, there is noisy and then there is choosing to stand outside our dorm to have all conversations. We were unfortunately placed by the main door into the corridor which led two ways so people tended to ended up talking here before they departed. This often provided high, in flight, entertainment when listening to pure drunken nonsense. One evening we had the delight of over hearing a lad say a girl looked like a ‘tramp’. Due to her being totally inebriated she didn’t even flinch and I am sure he managed to somehow say this in some affectionate way, or at least in his head.
One huge positive from staying at the Jackaroo were the people I met. My room mates were amazing and I got on with two of the girls immensely, they cracked me up in their own little ways and I hope we will always keep in touch. On my first night they took me out and I got an insight into what I was in for.
I figured Australia would be fairly relaxed on the old dress code and as such I packed mainly maxi dresses and flipflops – however, I quickly learned that this is not the case and it was all about twee dresses and heels! Luckily I had packed one pair of killer heels.
Apparently the hostel has something on every single night but the Entertainments dude seems to like to keep all events a secret and prefers people to guess the activity or just turn up rather than promote the actual nights. Despite this, there was a decent crowd of people out due to it being someones leaving do. After a few cheeky drinks at the hostel we headed to a bar called World Bar where they served shots in teapots, something a little different. This bar was probably one of my favourites and one we went back to a few times, it isnt pretentious, everyone can sit and chat outside and its a little bit of beautiful grime. Like good old Sankys or DC10, a dim lit bar with no dressing up required, just raw and easy-going. A little gem that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a gathering place.
One thing to note in Sydney, or in fact NSW, you need ID to get in everywhere, they have a lockout system that if you are not in a club or bar by 1.30am you cannot get in anywhere and last orders is 3am. You also cannot drink in any public places. Again not as relaxed as I thought but unsurprisingly it is us Brits that have ruined it for the rest meaning now everyone has to adhere to this unfortunate curfew.
After World bar we headed to TradeMark Club which sadly reminded me of every single other rubbish club in England or seedy holiday clubs in Europe. Girls dancing in bad taste, wet t-shirt competitions, rubbish commercial music and CHEESE in abundance. It seems the girls behind the bar only serve boys so getting served is something to master. At $10 a drink it isn’t something you want to master too much but getting acknowledged shouldnt be a drama. Thankfully we didn’t stay in this cesspit long and we ended up back at World Bar chatting with all of the other backpackers from our hostel.
One of my room mates, who drinks like a fish, took a turn for the worst but not enough that she didn’t realise it and we headed on back to the hostel stopping for food on the way, with my roomy wobbling around trying to not bounce off walls and lampposts. We stopped at the end of the road, as you are not supposed to take food into the hostel, where she promptly dropped her kebab all over the floor. She took one look at me, shrugged and scooped the entire contents back up and shoved it all straight in her mouth, 10 second rule executed without hesitation and I am pretty sure within record breaking time. Hilarious and thank god the streets of Sydney are cleaner than the royal jewels. From here on in I knew I was going to like this girl.
It would seem that my roomy was not on her own, Kings Cross is home to the masses that are out to get absolutely mullered in any which way possible despite the curfews and pushed curbing. Regardless of the states efforts, Kings Cross sucks people into its boozy bossom and spits them out with complete amnesia. People sit around the next day shaking their head in their hands, in fear of it falling off, at any notion of their whereabouts from the night before. A vortex that sucks people in and refuses to release them until the drink that wipes their memory has been consumed. Maybe this is a place where people get abducted by aliens, it wouldnt be noticed, people are not conscious of their own doings let alone if friends disappear off into the night.
One night I came home from the aftermath that is ‘free wine friday’ or ‘FWF’ to those who resided in the hostel. A night where free wine is dished out from 9pm-mighnight. An attempt of getting people in the hostel mixing but really all it does it get them mixing their drinks. They call wine over there ‘Goon’. This is wine that has fish eggs in, apparently, although most seem to think it’s called ‘Goon’ if it comes in a box. My suspicion, however, it is appropriately named due to peoples behaviour once they have consumed the ‘Goon’.
My room mate subjected herself to this drink and when I returned home from a night out to join the fun, I found her propping herself up by standing like the hunchback of Notre dame, all lop sided and stooped over whilst trying to get the attention of a potential suitor. This, I am sorry to say, was not going well for her….. so I tried to interject and pulled her to one side asking how she was and did she need some water. I got a bunch of noises as the answer, none of which were coherent, but clear to understand she was scoffing at this idea.
As I stood back, watching her pull faces at her attraction, I mused over how to tempt her into eating, drinking water and sobering the fuck up, as she had more chance of being entered for a Scottish gurning competition than getting her desired kiss, the state she was in. Whilst I was musing she approached me and enquired, through slurs, noises and charades, as to how she should behave in front of this guy, the only response I could muster was ‘much, much cooler’. To this she snorted and minced back over to him like a wounded crab with the weight of a whale on one shoulder. It was comical but I had to do something to save her from further embarrassment of being sucked into the ‘Goon’ behaviour.
I figured water is the best way, so I told her to stay where she was and that I was getting her some ‘de-goon’ magic potion to which she let out a ‘god mum’ groan’ and pulled some more faces. Upon my return she was gone, I searched everywhere and she was no where to be seen. So off I went to the bars and clubs in case some miracle had happened and she had actually managed to get in one of them. This, as I expected, wasn’t the case. I finally found her back at the hostel hugging the front door in some hope that it would succumb to her begging of it to open, with no bag, no key and no passport. I let her in and tucked her into bed, motherly duties done, I went and invested strongly in Jack Daniels until the small hours of the morning.
I ended up in a pub called O’Mallys, yes the obligatory Irish pub that you always get no matter the holiday destination. It was near lock out time and I needed to get in somewhere quick. It ended up being a blinder of a night and I was singing Zombie, by the Cranberries by 3am at the top of my lungs texting my brother telling him how much I loved him. A single moment of euphoria which took me back to being a teenager dancing around drunk on Scrumpy Jack in Cornwall, with my brother in the BoomBoom room in Holywell bay, where we spent many a summer.
Despite my night of swilling until near the sun rising, due to a friendly lock in, my hangover thankfully never appeared or rather I fear it may have been sucked into my room mates hangover from hell, during her snoring, which she suffered until 7pm the following night. I bet Florence Nightingale never suffered hangovers either.
Over the next few days I visited various beaches. First stop Bondi which I was not entirely impressed with. The girls had watched Bondi Rescue so were interested in watching them filming but I cared less for this and was more interested in where the hype for this place had been drawn from. It was a big beach – but other than that I lacked the desire to love this place. It was commercial and not real enough for me. I was a tourist there but I wasnt looking for the tourist experience. The only thing I liked about Bondi was the Graffiti which was spilled out over the walls as you headed down to the beach. Some of this was dedicated to people that had died or to protest about Sharkes being killed. Some of it completely unrelated to the sea / beach but absolutely beautiful. Some of my favourites are below.
Manly, is by far, my favourite beach. Not commercial, where the locals go, good surf, nice restaurants and peacefully beautiful. To get to Manly you have to take a ferry which cost $14-18 bucks depending on whether you take the fast ferry or not.
It is a tad commercial along the Corso which is full of shops and take aways but once you get to the front you can find some lovely restaurants and the beach is somewhere I felt very at home and relaxed. It wasn’t everyone’s favourite and there must be a reason so many love Bondi, other than being proverbial sheep of course, but for me this was my special place.
I went for surf lessons on Manly Beach with Manly Surf School. I received a call on the morning of my lesson to inform me that the swell was rather large and that they had closed the beach the day before and they wanted to postpone my lesson. This wasn’t an option for me so they agreed that if I ‘hot footed’ it down to Manly for 11am that someone would take me out. That someone was the lovely Brendan.
When I got to Manly the surf was epic. I had to literally drag my jaw behind me walking to the surf shack as I had never seen anything quite like it and I wasn’t sure whether to be totally psyched or be crapping my pants. To be honest I think had I not had to get to the place in such a rush I would have been ten times more nervous than I was.
I seemed fine until I had to get into my wetsuit, it was like trying to fight with a wet tight fisted wallet, but once in I was pretty snug. I jumped down to the shack and felt like a whale on a BBQ, I literally felt like I was going to pass out from the pure heat that seemed to be generated from within my wetsuit. The guys assured me this was all normal and it was the adrenalin so I peeled off the top of my wet suit in the hope of releasing some heat. Having worn hoodies for much of the trip I was alarmed at how much I was perspiring but this was my body in fight or flight mode, gearing up, pumping blood and adrenalin around my body as fast as the hamsters could run. As my own personal alarm seemed to be going off another loud alarm started to siren and I realised this was the shark alarm – I was beginning to think maybe today wasn’t my day to surf but I wasnt going to let that little fish stop me.
So off we went watching surfers land on their heads crashing into waves as we walked by. Not the best advert for a learner but I thought ‘what the hell, the Welsh dont do things by half’. Brendan showed me on the beach how I would need to stand up and I had a go, that was it, one go before he zipped me up and we headed into the sea. I can honestly say I would have been less nervous had he been unzipping me out of a dress than I him zipping me up into a wetsuit. To late to back out now.
It was one of the best things I did whilst I was in Australia. Since I was a kid my mum used to take us to Cornwall and the surf festival used to be on down in Newquay, so from an early age my brother and I were subjected to the great sea, and despite my nearly drowning in Bronte, I love it.
I managed to stand up for a few seconds first time which gave me a little confidence that it wasnt to be an impossible lesson with me showing off my ‘falling down’ skills.
The hardest part I found was trying to get the board back out, you learn on such a monstrosity that it isn’t the most delicate of things to maneuver. You are supposed to have one hand in the middle of the board and the other at the tail but my arms some how didn’t quite seem long enough to achieve this stance and so I battled slightly at first wishing I had longer arms or legs when the water would suddenly go deep due to the bigger waves coming in. I think Brendan took it upon himself to help me a little with this as I started getting on the board earlier and he would push me out – this nearly resulted in my kicking him in the face but we managed to dodge the near knocking out of the teacher – phew!
There was some pain endured when being pushed out over waves as I seemed to separate from the board and come crashing back down on my ribs, often knocking an ‘ouuff’ out of me.
I think this was due to the unusual tied opposed to this happens on every day lessons but the pain was totally worth it and I will be getting lessons again now I am back home. Two big lessons learnt: 1. Never ever forget to put sun cream on your feet – they are now the brownist part of my body having been burnt into a swollen heep of lead. 2. Wear either no make up or water proof mascara when learning to surf. I looked like a drowned, pissed person by the time I returned to the changing rooms. Mascara down my face, eyes all red and bloodshot an hair like I have been savaged my several bushes. I looked like the girl who cries at the end of a party. Not a look I try to go for often.
Coogee, pronounced ‘Cudgee’ like how you would coo to a baby ‘cudgee coo’, I got corrected on this many times and my roomies took great pleasure in my mispronunciation of everything, for me was similar to Bondi but quieter, or so I thought. I got there and promtly fell into a deep sleep with one or two other people asleep around me but woke up to 100’s of people around me some of within touching distance. Some people like this but I perfer a bit of solitude and well personal space being acknowledged and executed.
On the walk from Coogee to Bondi you will also come across Tamarama and Clovelly. Clovelly is a small beach which looks like it was made to launch boats from originally and Tamarama is the other side of a small cliff to Bronte which is nice but has less refreshment facilities.
As is apparent from this blog, much of my time was spent at the beach when the weather permitted, however I also managed to see many other sights that Sydney has to offer and some of which I will be writing separate blogs for.
The Botanical and Chinese gardens are both worth a visit and in the centre you can also find Hyde Park, not quite the same size as the one we house in London, but pleasant all the same. Lots of people from the hostel opted to go to these parks over the beach – all part of city life I suppose.
Sydney Opera House is a spectacle to behold and the bar there is definitely worth a visit. It is HUGE so there is no waiter service but it is a lovely setting for dinner or a few drinks with friends, with the Harbour bridge all lit up in the backdrop. We stopped there for both dinner and wine before venturing to Argyle in The Rocks, which is a club I can more than get on board with. Classy, big, varied and most of all they sold ballet pumps in a vending machine – genius! The $10 drinks are more than worth the venue if you fancy escaping back packers paradise for a night.
They held a competition in Sydney for someone to design the Sydney Opera House. Jørn Oberg Utzon won this competition. However he never saw the Opera House finished as there was a dispute over it not being built to his specification so he left before the building was complete. He was invited back to see the finished article but he had unfortunately passed away. Sad that he never got to see his beautiful idea built and open to the public.
Another place for nice bars is Darling Harbour / Kings Wharf. There are a wealth of nice bars and restaurants there. I went to a bar called Bungalow 8, which confused me sounding like a residential address, but the bar is lovely but you pay the price for this luxury. It is somewhere to go if you have a little more money to spend or again want out of ‘hostel city’ and actually want to meet locals.
China Town is like any other China Town I have been to expect there is more street food, street stalls and all things to the acquired taste with items such as intestine soup featured on the menu.
You can walk across the Harbour Bridge or you can walk over the top of it for a price. Personally, being not great with heights, I didn’t want to pay £100 to walk across this metal structure with the legs of a terrified 90 year old. I doubt I would have made it three steps let alone all the way. To be honest, I would prefer to have a booty call from Freddy Crugar than be subjected to this.
However, if like me, you are scared of heights and also don’t want to pay out £100 there are turrets either side of the bridge that you can pay $10 to walk up and get equally a nice view.
I liked Sydney and can see why people would live there but for me, a county bumpkin, this was a little bit of a concrete jungle. I enjoyed being in the city and it was unbelievably clean but I didn’t like the fact that the only way to not see buildings was to look up. I much preferred the suburbs and Manly, a little less built up and a little more personal. I found some people to be quite rude in the city but then I guess people don’t have time for manners in the rat race.
I will definitely be returning to Australia I really enjoy their way of life, work to live and enjoy life, not live to work. I am sure I will revisit Sydney but my next pins are going to be Noosa, Nimba and Byron Bay – hippy central.