A free tour of Sydney

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Sonia & Cols

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, September 2, 2010

We woke early doors and Erica finally managed to straighten her hair, we had our free breako of proper tea, cereal and toast (wholemeal and white) with apricot jam and peanut butter. We are going to be huge in no time.

Rories warnings about unreasonable check out times was spot on and we had to be out by 10am. Well we had a few hours before we needed to be at the airport so we headed off to the 'free walking tour of Sydney', we found about it on trip advisor as it was one of the things to do. In theory it’s free but they rely on tips to keep it going.

We started off at City hall and St Andrews church where a local drunk joined the group and started shouting "I’ll show you the real f’in Australia it’s all drink and drugs mate, follow me to the real Australia". This was not too much of a surprise as even I was shocked by the number of people in the pubs at 09:30 in the morning obviously going in for the morning beer. Next we went to the Queen Elizabeth shopping centre and statue (plus her talking dog) which had been shipped in from Ireland only a couple of years before. We then saw the Hilton hotel the scene of Australia’s (or Sydney’s at least) only ever terrorist attack.

We headed across to Hyde park and saw the Cathedral (the most modern in the world apparently then went on to the Hyde barracks (where the convicts from the UK were sent when it was still just a convicts colony). We saw the Rum Hospital, so called because the British government refused to fund building a hospital in a convict colony so the local major (or position of authority) gave rum licenses to 3 business men on the basis they built a hospital. We saw the botanical gardens and walked up and down the famous streets including the one where the Matrix and the latest Spiderman were filmed. We saw the golden bucket tower and were told we could save the $25 dollar entrance fee by going to a bar the level below and buying a small beer for about $10 each (that’s about 6.50!!). We saw the main shopping streets and the statue of a wild boar which gives you good luck if you rub its nose and drop money into the box or well or whatever it was. It probably summarises the Aussie sense of humour the fact that the nose is gold where it is rubbed, the rest of the statue is black, except its penis which is also gold as that has by all accounts been rubbed as many times as the nose.

We saw the statue celebrating 200 years since the formation of Australia of a man reading a newspaper which was pretty awesome as well. We then saw the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour bridge before we had to do an early dart and run back to pick up the bags and get to the airport for our Jetstar flight to Cairns. We really liked what we saw of Sydney and it was a great way to spend the morning. Whilst some may say the early dart was to avoid the tip and try and get a very interesting and informative guided tour of the city for nothing. Well despite Erica wanting us to do a runner as she found the fact I gave her $5 (about 3) for both of us more humiliating than giving nothing (the guide kept telling us the next cheapest tour is $13 per hour per person and it would be nice if tips are equivalent). In my eyes it’s better to have $5 than everyone shooting off early or paying nothing. So here comes our recompense. In the way of an advert...... Go on Sydney’s free walking tour by meeting a guide outside city hall at 10:00ishin a green t-shirt and give them a tip of more than $5. That’s it we have now contributed plenty I no longer feel guilty.

We really like Sydney despite only having about 5 waking hours there. Whilst the expense is a killer (and I don’t want to go on about it too much but it is a major factor for us) a lot of the buildings even though not old are very grand, and perhaps the most surprising thing is the size, the way Sydney is perceived is that it is a huge cosmopolitan city and I expected it to be bigger than London. Again we have only visited the central area but it feels a lot smaller than Manchester for example. I’ve no doubt in terms of people it is a lot bigger but that is the way it feels. We have no guide books for Oz and obviously free internet wifi appears to be limited to Mcdonalds and Starbucks.... well looks like we will be eating unhealthily every day. How can you get a KFC with free wifi for the price of 2 apples!!!!

For our flight we were told we needed a print out of our invoice to get on the plane, so we patrolled the internet cafe and were fortunate enough to have someone get up and leave with credit still left on their computer so quickly logged into our e-mail and printed the page for about 15 cents.

We have been taken aback by the cost of everything in Sydney a bloody meat pie (which for any self respecting Northerner) should cost no more than say 80p cost $8 or about 5.50 from a pie shop. Struth!!!! (as they say on Neighbours or Home and Away). A single sandwich is about $6 or 4 and a bottle of water about $3.50 for a large one.

We got to the airport after another $15 each (aaarrrrrgggggghhhh although we found out that you can get a bus for $8 but even that is still steep) and were highly amused by a bloke who appeared to be flying somewhere with only a surf board, an ironed shirt on a hanger and a DSLR camera, how very odd and boarded our flight to Cairns. No shopping in the airport surprisingly, although I did buy something today, when in a chemist looking for ‘leave in conditioner’ and some kind of hair oil for hair loss I found some out of date Centrum vitamin tablets they went from over $30 to $3 for a 2.5 month supply for two people. Well that’s it vitamins and minerals sorted. Its boiled rice and gin for the next month then. Poor Lady E, poor poor girl.

After about 3 hours we landed in Cairns and stood next to the baggage arrival hall was Col who had arranged to meet us at the airport. As soon as we had the bags we were in a 4x4 driven by Sonja heading for beers in town. Our first Aussie pub, and a pint of bees knees. We had a look around the tourist night market and did a little free wine tasting at the market as well. Cairns is really nice and quite low level in terms of heigh of the buildings which even in the city centre most are only 2 storey. We got back to Sonja and Cols which maybe 20 minutes out of the centre. On route we did our first beer shop which applying the advice from Rorie and Emer, backed up by Col the only was to buy beer is by the case. We got a case of beer from a huge cold room so that even the cases are cold. Back at Sonja and Cols these were put in the beer fridge. Yes a separate outdoor fridge which has nothing but drinks and ice in it.

Time passed so quickly that after lots of beers, bourbon and bottles of reed wine being knocked back we only managed to get the barby on at about 11pm and we had gorgeous stakes, jackets and salad and red wine. Its not difficult to figure out what people miss from home when travelling on a budget in SE Asia. The chatting continued well into the night and only vague memories are left between us all of the escapades of the night. We were jumping off the deck into the pool at about 2:30am.

Also of note was the night sky, the starts were absolutely incredible, just so many and so bright it was so stunning aided by the very low light pollution. Anyway a full and tiring day and cant remember bed.
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