The Land Down Under

Trip Start Nov 14, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Well travelpod fans it has been a while. Been too busy with work! Yes, thats right we have had to work haha. Also there has been way too much partying going on in this Backpackers Hostel which Ben reckons is more like a Young Offenders Institute. We have been in Manly, a gorgeous suburb of Sydney with a great beach and cool nightlife since we arrived in Australia 8 weeks ago. Its a great place, good bars, restaurants, and the city is only a ferry ride away so it is perfect. We have made a few pitiful attempts to leave and check out other parts of Sydney such as Bondi and Coogee but unfortunately we have been caught by the Manly trap, that just about everyone we have met here has done. Looks like we will be here for a while at least until Shippers, Lee, Acky and Amanda get here in November.
After leaving Amy in Bangkok we got what has to be the best air flight I have ever had. The plane food was amazing (seriously) and we both had at least four seats each to lie across. I have never seen so few people on a flight. However it was the worst customs experience we have had. We were interrogated for about 30 minutes and everything in our bags was checked. Even though we knew we would be OK the paranoia that some dodgy Thai bag handler had shoved vast amounts of drugs into our Backpacks wouldn't go. Then, I kid you not, the two custom officials had a knife each to open my wrapped up Asian souvenirs. They actually compared them with each others like something off Crocodile Dundee, we chuckled to ourselves and couldn't wait for the next Ozzy cliche to occur.  Then the one with the bigger knife found my wooden Ganesh and Buddha. I almost got fined $200 because I hadn't ticked that I was bringing in wood from Asia on the declaration sheet. Those two souvenirs have been more trouble than they are worth after I wasn't allowed to send them home in the post from Bangkok as it is against the law to send an image of Buddha in the post over there!!!
Anyway we got past and our first impressions of Sydney were, WOW! It was fresh, sunny, and clean. Completely different to the stifling humidity of Bangkok. It was a lot calmer and the skyscrapers reminded me of Denver or San Francisco. We took the ferry to Manly and it is here that you see the famous Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge (just a copy of the Tyne Bridge or Wear bridge only bigger) for the first time. They are quite magnificent and was one of those moments where you cant believe you are actually here. Anyway we arrived in Manly and headed straight for the Manly Backpackers where we have lived for the time we have been here. Amy arrived two days later after her excursion to Singapore and the rest I am going to subtitle because I cant be bothered to weave each paragraph into the next. 
Manly Backpackers
Well everyone in this place is up for a party. Everyone is so laid back and no one complains about noise late at night because they know that it will be them making it tomorrow night. We have all made good friends with everyone as just about everyone who comes here is keen to socialise. The ones that don't never last very long. The rooms are O.K. but for the price about 9 quid a night you just can't complain. Using the shared kitchen can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare especially at tea time as everyone scrambles for pans and oven space to make the evenings meal (possibly Spag Bol 70% of the time), which is what Ben's first ever meal made all by himself was. Thats a photo of him doing it in the kitchen. We have a TV room which some people spend far too much time in. Not liking Ozzy TV much as the amount of adverts is similar to the USA but at least they have a UK Channel and show loads of Simpsons and Family Guy. The hostel is right next to the beach too which in the summer will be awesome but right now amidst the rain and cold that Sydney is currently experiencing remains something we just have to look forward to enjoying. 
People We Have Met
 Well fortunately we have fallen in with a group of people that are a good laugh. Alot of them remind me of the gang back home. Some are too similar it is almost weird. They are mostly English, Amie, Jen, Will, Danny Fucking Jones, Ruben, Russell and a Kiwi who have all been in Oz for a while. They are good crack and always doing things. We have had a great 80s party, a Sportsday where we played rounders, bulldog and had a sack race and Mark does a weekly quiz round his flat which the Durhamers have won the last three weeks running.  Two of the girls, Emma and Hayley are form Newton Hall (Durham) would you believe and know a few people we know.
There are also a few hostel long timers such as Dutch Joost who only likes to have a pancake and a smoke, Big Luke who's mate was just shot in Melbourne by a hells angel and survived (seriously) it made the news all over Australia and Holland. French Mustapha who is a really nice lad and cooks us some superb Morrocan Dishes. There is Walker, a Celtic fan who recently had my life by setting the screen savers on all the computers to pictures of monkeys in sunderland shirts and Anthony who has been shouting something dutch at all the dutch people only for Luke to recently teach him what it really meant -something to harsh for me to even say. God knows who taught him it? Also there was Canadian Peter and vey English Tom who were a right laugh and could come up with some sort of game using any piece of equipment available. Oh yeah and of course there was crazy, loud, dirty, Laura who Amy got on with like a house on fire and James who just wouldn't shut up. I worked with him twice and I had to tell him to be quiet for half an hour on several occasions. He had my head in bits. Oh I must mention the three Brazilians that Ben is going to live with. They are great fun. and always cooking strange concoctions - sheep head and black rice, stuff like that. Anyway there are too many to mention, people come and go all the time and it normally means Robin, the Swedish entertainment manager and goon-aholic (Goon being the cheap boxed wine everyone drinks) organising a welcome party or a leaving party. We haven't met too many Ozzys here because the Hostel Policy is to not let them stay in the hostel as any Austrailian wanting to stay in a hostel is probably going to be a nutcase. About right I would say.
One random was meeting a lad in Manly that we suffered the never ending boat ride from Laos to Thailand with. Just bumped into him in the street. Its mental, kind of expected it in South East Asia as everyone kept heading to the same places but not here.
Work :(
Of course the world is made up of the rich and poor. Luckily for us we live in one of the richest countries in the world and having a British Passport is priceless. It means we can earn money in Europe and piss off round Asia for six months without having to work and never having to cook a meal. However Australia is also a rich country which unfortunatley means the price of a beer and accomodation dictates that you will have to, at some point start getting up early everyday and doing a bit of graft. So far we have just done cash in hand work which is in its abundance. Everyday the work board in the hostel gets new people looking for labourers, tele-sales people and outgoing individuals who want to sell facias and guttering. Its pretty good money too and you obviously don't have to pay any tax which you get back at the end of your stay anyway. Our first job was working for a wanker from Manchester as a Removal man. The job was hard but quite good as you never stop and you really dont need to join a gym. He was a cock though and although his pay was really good ($200 a day/ about 80 quid) we ended up looking for other work. Ben put it perfectly -  "I haven't come to Australia to take greif off a Manc bastard". Then I started Labouring on a building site with big Todd and Yankee Paulie who never stops rolling fags and drinks all day. It was great fun and Ben does it now as I went for a job with more money doing Landscaping, which is solid and the threat of spiders killing you meant I made a bad move. We are going down Paulies beach house next weekend for a wrecker which shoud be fun. I have also worked for a bloke who must have been struck off his normal job, got really bored and turned his own house into a building site. Swedish Robin and I ended up digging his neighbours garden to enstall a drainage pipe. Honestly this would have been on Rogue Traders or even Crime Stoppers. As we dug we just looked at each other thinking "I hope the neighbours don't get back from work". They did, just as we finished and the Cowboy they unfortuanatley live next door managaed to talk his way around the fact that their garden had now become part of his building site. With the threat of us being deported if ever caught we decided it was best not to work for him again. Then I ended up painting a family's house. I reckon I would make a good interior designer, they were well impressed with my work. Laurence Lellelwyn-Bowen watch out. Anyway, since then I have applied for several jobs more in keeping with my career goals however I have just landed a very cushty number working in the Backpackers behind reception. Only part time though for now so we will see. Ben has continued to work as a labourer and has a few things in the pipeline regarding his printing trade. Amy started off working in Zinc, a restaurant on the beach front with the boss from hell. She must have the highest staff turn over in the world and dosn't realise that backpackers are never going to take any shit whatsoever when they come here to work. For the last 6 weeks however Amy has been working for Amnesty International. She is one of those people that you see and pretend you have a bus to catch before she stops you. She is trying to sign people up to contribute $25 a month to Amnesty and guess what? She has worked her socks off and turns out  she is incredibly good at it.  She is smashing the targets has already had two promotions, and they have flown her to Adelaide and Cairns for a week at a time and gets the flights and accomodation for free. She is enjoying it and becoming the hippy, freedom fighter that has always been inside her. The one downside to it is that while trying to get to sleep every night I get to here the about the atrositicies of civil war in the Sudan and about some woman set to get stoned to death in Nigeria. So all is good regarding work and making money. It is alot easier than we thought it would be. 
We have been to Sydney a couple of times now but rarely leave Manly. We have been up the tower, been to the observatory, aquarium and wildlife centre and had a good old wander around. There is still alot to see though. We went to see Wales unluckily loose to the Wallabies in the Rugby and we went to the State of Origin, a rugby league game between New South Wales and Queensland, the biggest game on the sports calender. It wasn't very good and the atmosphere dosent even compare to that of a footy match in England. Ben has got himself a surf board and has been having a few lessons with Nathan the very funny night manager. We went to see the Dalai Lama who was talking about peace, it was boring and we didn't find the enlightenment we were hoping for. However we did meet up with Kerry, the girl we travelled around Vietnam and Laos with. Also, we have just said goodbye to Alice and her friend Martina who we shared some good times with in the islands of Thailand. Praise Facebook, its making this trip even better. We noticed that Sarah Weightman was living here on facebook, a lass form back home and we met her and her boyfriend Ian in Bondi for a drink. We have since been out for Amy's birthday and we got wasted. Which is a problem here in Oz. They have Responsible Drinking Laws which means you cant get in to bars if you appear 'intoxicated'. So when the bouncer asks "how much have you had to drink?", you have to not sluur your words and  resist the natural urge to answer "not fucking enough" or "whats it got to do with you?" and say "just two scooners of beer mate". Its a pain in the arse. You cannot go out and get drunk. It ruined our 80s party. We had a great party in the hostel all dressed up like something form Breakfast Club or a Corey Haim Fan Club Meeting and when we went to the nightclub, one by one we all got kicked out. None of us were there causing bother or acting particularly drunk. Its strange and nothing like drinking in LoveShack. I honestly cannot see Acky and Shipley getting into any bars in Australia when they get here haha. We haven't managed to get out to Sydney for a night out yet beacuse Manly is so conveinient and decent enough but I am sure it wont be long. We did see the Freestylers at Sounds on Sunday which was similar to the Manor Born but obviously people can't lose themselves like they do in England. We have also been playing footy most Sundays. We play Brazilaians versus the Rest of the World and it is currently 2-1 to the cheeky Brazilians. They never wear any shoes so you are never sure how hard you should go in with the tackle. However once we get 2-0 down we tend not to hold back. Great stuff. 
Comparisons to England
Well there are so many British and Irish here that the crack is very simialar to back home. The TV is British/American and of course Neighbours. It is much more multiculural here which is good. I have worked for Armeinians and South Africans and really enjoyed learning about their counties. However with multi-culturalism you get racism which was aparrent when we saw a couple of comedians. They were crap and Amy and Ben had a run in with a nasty biggot who hated English. Fair enough but the contradictory nonsene he was coming out with was ridiculous. How can people in Australia be racist or predjudce towards foreigners when everyone of them originates from somewhere else in the world??? Apart from that the Australians are very freindly and great fun. I have enjoyed listening to some of them talk about surfing and the waves like it means everything to them. It is completely alien to me however I heard Ben say the words "sweet" and "that sucks" the other day and apparently I described someting as being "awesome" so maybe we are changing into surfers? Food is all the same, only cheaper. However you get more choice, another benefit of having a very multi-cultural society. They love pies here oddly enough and it seems like they are trying to convince everyone that it is their national dish. I keep trying to explain, "pies have been around possibly 100 times longer than this country" but they seem to let this minor detail fly over their heads. The pub culture is not the same here. Obviously there isn't the binge drinking we in the UK are so proud of as once you get to the bar, fumble your change and sluur your order, you get kicked out. The 'going to the local' to see everyone dosn't seem to happen either. Apparently it did 20 years ago and probably still does in the smaller towns and countryside. So that is something we are kind of missing. I did spend the afternoon in a pub after labouring with Toddy and Paulie. It was interesting because the crack was the same, Paulie's missus giving him grief on the phone for being at the pub and Toddy giving Paulie greif for talking to his missus while we wee at the pub, while me and the Roofer discussed footy. Only it was Rugby League not Football. Its the little difference but basically the same. 
I have just got a surf board so stay tuned to see how that goes and a job in a bar, also ther is our boys weekend away to look forward to, getting a flat, and of course the summer where everyday will be surfing and BBQ's on the beach. Should be fun and of course we are really looking forward to seeing Jill, Lee, Shipley, Acky and Amanda. Then at new Year Kev and Laura and hopefully Kris and Tanya at some point. Anyone else fancy it???
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