Upside Down: Down Under in Sydney

Friday 6th December
Landing in Sydney my feelings this time were different to three years ago. Back then it had felt slightly overwhelming landing in a city that was so far away from the UK especially as it had been my first trip alone outside of Europe, and a very long flight. This time I almost felt like I’d arrived back home (don’t worry I am coming back!)

The hostel was in the centre of the city opposite the Central station so looking very much like a tourist wearing my “Mind the Gap” t shirt from my work colleagues I arrived at Central station. I stepped off the train and somewhat ironically misjudged the gap and as my bag toppled over the weight caused me to do the same. As it was rush over I was courteous so as I fell I did so to one side so the commuter behind only had to step over my leg not my crumpled body. Everyone on the opposite platform had seen and as i hung my head in shame I scuttled off in search of the exit. I did however also find the situation totally hilarious and wished someone had been there. Instead I made do with sharing it with Victoria knowing as she was awake and at work she’d find it as funny as me.

After checking in I went in search of the local 7/11 to get a new sim card for my 3 year old “old school” Samsung. Sadly when I got back and tried to charge the phone It wouldn’t do so and I realised I needed a new “old school” phone. I headed towards one of the shopping centres and found a shop selling electrical goods where I got a Nokia phone I later realised allowed me to play snake. I tried to register the simcard but had a bit of an issue as even though I’d opted for prepaid they still wanted an Australian address which is difficult when you’re living life as a Nomad.

Saturday 7th December
I’d arranged to meet up with Victoria for lunch and so after a morning relaxing in the lounge watching the cricket (not really relaxing towards the end as Australia began to annihilate our attack) I made my way to Chatswood.

I was filled with excitement at seeing one of my most dependable friends again. Partly because the plans and discussions had been in place for so many months it was a bit hard to believe we were finally together again. Where to get lunch was an easy decision though it had to be Mexican, Pizza or Indian for us and as Victoria had a recommendation we headed off to get a burrito. It was a short but sweet catch up as we watched my Canyon Swing and Bungy videos but Sunday was to be longer as we’d arranged a day out to Bondi beach and we also had a Jack Johnson concert on Tuesday to look forward to.

After saying goodbye I went in search of some cheap new shorts as one of my pairs had reached the end of the line in New Zealand thanks to the weather at the Bay of Islands. It took longer than planned but eventually I made a decision and returned back to the hostel.

That evening I was going to Sina’s for a leaving party in Waterloo and contacted Timo and Mitch to see if they were going as well. I checked to see how to get there by public transport and after getting some of the Montrith Cider I’d taken a fancy to in New Zealand I headed to the bus stop. I was checking the bus timetable when to my horror I saw the one i needed speeding towards the stop but despite signalling it was to close and I had to watch it sail by. The next one was 30 minutes away and little did I know I could have got another number.

Eventually I arrived but wasn’t totally sure where the building was. Luckily there was a McDonald’s so I was able to use a bit of WiFi to confirm my location and the address. The apartment was next door however getting in was like Fort Knox and even after Sina had called down to me from her balcony I still had another security doors to pass.

Mitch arrived a bit later and it was good to see them both again as well as to meet some new faces however unfortunately Timo didn’t make it after his BBQ. The balcony had been set up for a DJ and as the music pumped out and the hours ticked by curtains seemed to twitch as the neighbours looked to see what was going on.

I made sure I got the final bus back towards the city as I wanted to feel fairly fresh for my day at the beach the next day.

Sunday 8th December
Despite going to bed late I woke early and attempts to get back to sleep failed so I got ready and completed a couple more internet chores before making my way to the station. I’d arranged to meet Victoria at Bondi Junction and after I’d heard her shout my name we caught the bus to the beach.

We chilled In the sun just chatting, relaxing and just generally enjoying each others company for a few hours. Luckily Victoria had found us a good spot so after a sudden wave swamped an area in front of us we remained dry whilst those in front had to scramble to pick everything up. It seems I’m still learning about the sun and even though I put on sun cream and reapplied it I still managed to burn the top of my feet where my sandal straps must have rubbed the cream off.

After leaving the beach we went to get a particularly yummy ice cream and then made our way back to the bus stop. Victoria had kindly agreed to take and store my winter clothes that I had needed for the Transmongolian but the bag was a bit more bulky than I think both of us had expected. We therefore caught the train together to where her car was parked and I then made my way back to Central Sydney.

I didn’t really enjoy life at the hostel over the first few days because I missed the buzz of the tours and as I was staying in the centre it didn’t really feel I was on holiday. Don’t get me wrong, Sydney is lovely but the CBD is a CBD and having come from a city I feel I’ve come to Australia for a different lifestyle. Victoria suggested I find a hostel in Bondi with the added benefit that she could come and visit. It was a brilliant idea but that’s why I know I can rely on her to give advice I might not have even considered.

I have missed all of you back home at various points, not a home sickness as such, more just that events happen that I’d like to share instantly but that the time difference makes it totally in practical to do so but I’m glad for Whatsapp and Facebook.

Once I was back at the hostel I was able to finally have a Skype conversation with Caroline someone else I can rely on for support however as is often the way most of the conversation was spent in hysterical laughter. This caused me to receive a few weird looks from those in the hostel because it hadn’t been possible to find a private space. The highlight was when she found Santos the Camel the gift I’d got her from Egypt and he performed a little dance for his ‘daddy’.

My mum and the rest of the family had gone to my dads for his 60th birthday so we’d arranged to speak on viber but it wasn’t due to be until midnight Australian time. All the people in my room had gone to sleep and whilst I tried to read a book to stay awake I crashed out waking up an hour late. Luckily a quick whatsapp message meant we were soon able to speak however unfortunately the lounge was locked and even though I tried to talk quietly I knew how much sound had travelled over the floor and standing in the corridor didn’t feel very personal. It was great to speak to them both, especially as I was sad I couldn’t be there to celebrate in person but it really does show how instant communication can be. I’ll be doing the same for the work Christmas party 😉

Monday 9th December
This was the first day of chores and there really isn’t much to say except that I travelled through Lewisham and Croydon to reach Rhodes where I took my camera to Nikon. I didn’t have any of the warranty information and even though it was registered the systems were down so they couldn’t find me. It has felt on this trip that companies need to do more to help those travelling and or become more economically friendly so information is available electronically and not just on paper. I already have a travel wallet full of various documents and if I had more I’d have no room for the actual items they’d be covering.

I was also able to finally register the sim card (with more assistance from Victoria) and then spoke to the company who confirmed they only needed the address I’d used if I needed a replacement sim sent to me. I made the call because I didn’t want any more address issues especially as the moneycorp fiasco had finally been resolved.

After this I made my way in to the city so I could pick up my Bruno Mars ticket I’d brought all the way back in May and then back to the hostel where I had the joy of doing 3 loads of laundry. I could have probably done less but I didn’t want to over load the machine.

After that was finally done and I had clothes to last me until I’m back in Bondi me and one of my room mates, a guy called Marcus from Canberra went in search of food and beer. Leaving the lift I randomly mentioned this to girl called Trish from America who had been on the search for water but decided to join us instead.

We went to the Scubar next door to the hostel which was a fairly classic back packers joint. But $7 for a jug of beer and $10 for all you could eat pizza seemed fair. They also had crab racing for $1 ‘a great Australian tradition’ according to the guy with the mic but this was quite clearly rubbish as was the sign saying the bar was “world famous”. Anyway as I’m here for a while I entered because the prizes were free tours.

We had to name our crabs and I wished Caroline was there with me as I knew she’d think of something hilarious. Mr Crabs seemed cliché as did the possibility of making the host say ‘I have Crabs’ though of course both those names were used. I settled for Crabastian the Lobster. Sadly for me Crabastian decided to sleep and when it did decide to move it barely even left the circle. Darth Vader won but I reckon he’d used his Sith powers and the race was fixed.

After the ‘free’ pizza ended at 10.00 and as the music became louder and more intolerable we left to find a off licence and a pack of cards. I brought a can of the red gum Bunderburg coke and rum i’d enjoyed so much on my first visit 3 years ago. We played a couple of different card games and then I decided to call it a night. It had however been nice to finally share some company in the hostel.

Tuesday 10th December
I started the day in my customary way by planning on having a shower to wake up however there was a major problem. Some building work had started in the bathroom on my floor the previous morning and I realised I’d left my shower gel and shampoo in there and of course it had now vanished.

Shortly after i received a message from Victoria confirming the meeting time and place for our Jack Johnson gig later that evening. This gave me time to finish off my jobs one of which involved uploading over 1500 pictures that I’d taken over the past couple of months. I’d been putting this off since Moscow when I’d missed the first opportunity and since then the number had escalated.

This took more than 3 hours and in future I shall make more effort to do the uploads on a more regular basis as it was almost unmanageable especially as I was having to decide which ones not to include at the same time.

After that was done I did the other big task I’d been putting off. Establishing how much money I’d spent to date and more importantly what was left. New Zealand had been more of a black hole than I had anticipated but I seemed to have balanced that by spending less in the previous stages. I also reminded myself I won’t be doing anymore bungy jumps or canyon swings whilst a fair chunk of my accommodation and trips are already paid for.

Finally because the start next morning was a 6.30 am pick up I decided to ensure that I was packed for the next day and because I’d brought some new t shirts and an extra pair of shorts the bag was tighter to pack than I expected. Marcus saw me struggling and suggested I try rolling everything up. I was sceptical at first but it was an inspired idea and I realise I’m probably the only ‘back packer’ that wasn’t aware of this technique.

Leaving the hostel I got a message from Victoria to say she’d left work early and my ticket would be at the booth. Picking up the ticket I made my way to the seat and quickly realised they were pretty damn perfect. Central to the stage and only 6 rows from the front. The sun was just starting to set which made the setting absolutely perfect for an evening gig. The harbour bridge and the Opera House both looked as fantastic as I remembered when I did my ‘bridge climb’ and I look forward to being reunited with my Nikon so I can try and capture a sunset scene.

The gig itself was equally impressive as the location and Jack Johnson was in superb form and appeared to enjoy a bit of a chat with those in the front rows who called out various requests. He also performed with a number of guests and whilst I didn’t recognise every song I shall certainly be making a effort to look them up. The experience totally contrasted with the wet concert I’d experienced with my dad and uncle only a couple of months ago in Hyde Park.

Despite the fact it was getting dark it still felt early when Jack Johnson departed the stage for his encore but looking at my watch realised it had been nearly 2 hours of non stop guitar playing and singing. I had a feeling that at least one of the songs in the encore would be “Upside Down” as that was the song that had encouraged my mum to buy one of his albums. He performed it with a couple from Hawaii and in some ways it sounded better live than on the album.

Once it was over I walked with Victoria to the train station so we could say a temporary goodbye as the next day i would be embarking on a journey ending in Melbourne before flying over to Tasmania. I realise it’s a busy time of year but it was lovely to see a familiar face, especially someone I shared a number of adventures with in London. I look forward to seeing the rest of you that live “Down Under” over the next 4 months. Just send me a text on 0422525117 or a Facebook message.

Earlier in the day I received some very sad news from my manager Kelly that one of my colleagues is very unwell and my thoughts and prayers at this time are with her.

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