Trip Start Oct 03, 2011
Trip End Dec 25, 2011

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What I did
The beach!

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Friday, December 9, 2011

Newcastle, just near Gateshead, former steel producing region undergoing city-centre regeneration? You know the one, where the lads all walk about topless and the girls with hardly any clothing? Sport-crazy? No, not the one in the north of England, the one in New South Wales! Less Jimmy-five-bellies, more surfer dude/dudette (actually, we learned recently Australia is the highest ranking country in the Olympics per capita - all those fit outdoor types and all). People here are known Novocastrian, not Geordies. Anyway, here are the exploits of our two nights there...

We began on the Greyhound, having caught the train down from Katoomba to Sydney and jumped on the bus from there. We thought we would have enough time in Sydney to sneak in a quick Thai meal in a fashionable restaurant in China Town, the queue outside (it was Friday night) decided otherwise. Back on the bus - which is packed full of touristy types sleeping as it goes all the way through the night to Brisbane - we set off on the 4 hour journey. Michael spends this blissfully unaware of the bus's population with his earphones in. Amy passes the time having to listen to the Ozzie guy behind us recount his art gallery/drug-fueled day out in the big city, followed by subsequent arrest. As we near Newcastle, he starts commenting on what a terrible place it is (terrible was not his choice of word) and have a daunting realisation that this will also be his stop. Happily, he was the only idiot we met in the city!

We stayed in the town's YHA, which was a grandiose building with high ceilings, leather seats in the common room and a roomy kitchen, and is a stone's throw away from the beach. When Amy awakens with a rumbling tummy and no Weetabix to fill it, we quickly head round the corner to sample the local fare. Set up for the rest of the day we head out to explore the coast. First stop is Bogey Hole - a bathing pool blasted out of the rocks by early settlers in order to avoid the crashing waves (of which there are many!). We stroll up to Newcastle beach and watch the surfers wait for waves, Amy thinks they look like seagulls from afar, bobbing up and down on the sea. We conclude that on a slow day the main activity of a surfer is waiting. We move on as the sun comes out in force through the unfortunately named Nobby's beach to, er, Nobby's head which sticks out one side of the port. At one side is the surfer and sun-worshipper's paradise, on the other, the less attractive industrial heart of Newcastle.

After all that walking we take in a well-deserved smoothie each before a spot of window shopping and exploring of the harbour. We end up in the (free!) Newcastle Regional Museum in which we are the only patrons. Amy takes an interest in the human settlement exhibits (Newcastle had a 6pm pub closing time at one stage, known as the 6 o'clock swill, to make husbands return home more soberly and wealthier than they otherwise would - it turns out it just encouraged late afternoon binging!). Michael on the other hand played with the child-friendly science experiments in the other wing.

After the museum chucked us out (it was closing time) we headed back to the hostel to cook up a storm of microwavable soup - Gordan Ramsey eat your heart out. That evening saw what will go down as the biggest Skype session of our trip as we caught up with all the goings on back home.

Tomorrow, we continue up the coast to Port Macquaries via the early(ish) morning bus.
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