Big cities in South Eastern Australia

Trip Start Nov 07, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Chez Erika and Ben!

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Sunday, March 28, 2010

Following a bit of a bleary-eyed early morning start in Perth, a 3 hour flight and three timezones meant we arrived in Melbourne late afternoon. 
Our only regret with Melbourne is that we didn't have enough time - great city! The arts and cultural scenes are really big and walking around there seemed to be something going on everywhere. Just at the time we were there, they had 3 major festivals covering food, fashion and film.
We were offered to stay with our friends Erika and Ben so under their guidance we got to pack a lot in during our 3 nights there including a drive on the Formula 1 circuit which was being set up at the time. And BBQ'd Kangaroo bangers! Thanks very much for the great hospitality again guys!
One thing we thought was cool was that in the city centre back alleyways the authorities have worked with graffiti artists to arrange where they can and can't paint so there are some really cool pieces including an original Banksy. 

We barely scratched the surface but really thought that if we lived in Australia - it would be in Melbourne as it has a real European feel to us.
To make our next move north towards Sydney we decided to try out a campervan relocation idea that we'd heard of from a few different people. Basically this is where you help a rental company move a camper van from one city to another. Good thing about this: costs $5 per day and the fuel is paid for. Bad thing about this: you can't choose the model, and therefore risk having to look like a caravaner ;-)
We found one that was going to Sydney so signed up for it. We would have had three days from the time we found it but decided to delay by a day and take two. It worked out pretty well - it was a brand new 4 berth motorhome with full kitchen, shower, toilet, TV, DVD, microwave...firmly in caravan territory!
This being Australia and the abundance of space means that the big city suburbs sprawl for 10's of kms. We took a couple of hours to escape and once ending back at Erika and Ben's place by accident so as Gaby pointed out one of us could have stayed in bed (I wonder who?). It wasn't long before we were out on the open road and it was plain sailing. Sailing being what you do with a motorhome that big - nimble it isn't. Gaby has now figured out why the Dutch block up the roads in Switzerland!

There is a direct road between Melbourne and Sydney but we decided to go the scenic coastal route which was really nice, passing through lots of small towns, national parks and great countryside. One the first day we stopped driving at 9pm at a place called Bermagui - unfortunately way past the time that that caravan parks close. We weren't sure about "wild caravaning" (yeah!) in Australia so flagged down a police car and asked them where we could go. They turned out to be really helpful and told us to follow them to a carpark where we could stay for the night. We only realised the next day how nice they'd been - the carpark overlooked the ocean and we woke up to an incredible sunrise and an artificial swimming pool below us that had been carved out of the rocks so it filled up at high tide but was protected from the open ocean. As we headed off just before 7am a group of 60-somethings turned up in what looked like their nightgowns and went down for a swim! (We'd considered swimming for a few milli-seconds but had decided it was too cold!! wimps...)
Passing again through national parks and alongside the Blue Mountains we arrived in Sydney. Still finding Australia pretty expensive we'd opted for the second cheapest option we could find - a room (well, more of a cupboard) in a backpackers hostel. The cheapest option being a shared dorm room - no thanks! To be fair, our cupboard had everything we needed - a bed and an inch of standing room. None of that natural-light nonsense - we're supposed to be nocturnal staying here anyway - and all for a bargain price of $85 (55 / 85 CHF). Hmmm. A particularly nice touch was the loudspeaker in the room that couldn't be turned off which allowed the guys behind the reception regular and direct access to the depths of our heads with announcements of that evening's 'banging' entertainment involving cheap booze, dressing up, and drinking games. One night we were treated to the result: a crying drunk teenager outside our room on the phone to her (ex)boyfriend in the UK who could have had her if only he hadn't slept with her sister, apparently. Shit happens eh?
All cynicism aside, it was actually fine - we were centrally located, and we weren't there to spend time in the room! 
We spent the first day getting around as many tourist attractions as we could including the opera house, the brilliant harbour & bridge etc. Sydney is another cool city. A bit more of a New York to Melbourne's Paris, so bigger and louder, but for a major city to be based around such a huge natural harbour is fantastic

We decided to get a bit of exercise (all this driving around + western food beginning to take its toll) so ran around the botanical gardens near the harbours edge on a couple of early mornings and combined it with getting a few pics of the opera house which is a simply amazing building. 
We caught up for beers with friends Gareth and Ed (good to see you guys!) from London on one evening in Darling Harbour which again is a great eating / drinking venue and with the guarantee of good weather can hardly be beaten. On our last day we decided to visit a few of the Sydney suburbs  - one in particular: Wooloomooloo has to be mentioned for the the impressive number of "o's" in its name!
Another thing we ticked off the list was a trip to Manly on the ferry (now that's a scenic commute) and then a quick lunch with another friend, Paul, from London in North Sydney, but after 5 nights we had to start moving north again. This time living out the back of a Toyota Corolla and sleeping in a 2 man tent, so quite the upgrade...
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