Surf's up

Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
Trip End Mar 01, 2010

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Budget and Nic's place

Flag of Australia  , New South Wales,
Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chapter 1: Rare sighting of the lesser spotted Budget

Nadine and Duncan got to Sydney airport in the morning and made their way straight to the train station to board a train to Circular Quay, where the ferries depart for Manly. On arrival at Circular Quay, they paused for a photo opportunity in front of the Sydney Bridge with all their backpacking finery on display.

The half hour ferry over to Manly was ideal for the first coffee of the day, Nadine had a cappuccino and Duncan had a long black. It was 9am on a Sunday and already very hot. Duncan wiped the sweat from his brow, "I can certainly see the attraction of moving here from London" he remarked, as they sailed past Sydney Harbour Bridge on the left, Sydney Opera House on the right and the cityscape of Sydney's central business district in the background.

Following Nic’s superior directions, the intrepid duo turned right out of the ferry terminal onto the beach and took the first left. Within two minutes (and within another two minutes of the other beach in Manly) they reached the Brown / Hearn residence. Budget buzzed them in and Duncan ran up the stairs for a passionate embrace while Nadine and Nic looked on, the musty clash of testosterone hanging strong in the air. “Welcome to Sydney”, said Nic, breaking the silence and the two fellows parted and took a look at each other. “Well you’re not as fat as you were when you left London” said Duncan, “I see you can’t afford a haircut” replied Budget.

After breakfast on the beach and a quick stroll to the key locations that Nadine and Duncan would need whilst Nic and Budget were at work (main beach, other beach) they headed down to the ferry wharf for some beers in the sun.

“So are any of these beers any good?” asked Duncan as he and Budget stood at the bar waiting to order. “This one’s pretty good” said Budget, pointing at a low-calorie beer. Duncan realised that he was going to have to ignore all further advice from Budget at this point and ordered the only full strength lager on tap. A couple of beers later, and many moments of reminiscence, the intrepid quartet headed toward a bar with its own brewery that had come up in conversation earlier that day.

The lads left the girls discussing make up and weddings and went once again to the bar. “So I see there are 5 beers on offer here” observed Duncan, “which do you fancy?” “Well I’m going for the Kolsch” replied Budget and leant over the bar to order. “Hold on a second” shouted Duncan suddenly, “I see you can order a sampling rack of all five beers for only a couple of dollars more than a single pint”. “Excellent point” concurred Budget and so they ordered a tasting rack each along with some champagne for the WAGs. “Let’s just get them sparkling wine” suggested Duncan, “they’ll only find out when they read the blog that it wasn’t champagne”. “Bonza plan” agreed Budget and so it was.

When they returned to the table with the drinks the girls were still discussing girl stuff and they slid unnoticed into their seats. “No I’d honestly love to see your wedding video” Nic was saying to Nadine. “She wouldn’t be saying that if she knew how long it was” said Duncan to Budget, “Mark was our cameraman and managed somehow to capture the entire wedding – upwards of four hours of footage!”. “No I’d quite like to see it too” said Budget in a moment of madness and so the four returned home via the bottle shop (Australian for off licence) to experience the entire happy day all over again.

Two hours later the video was still rolling “look at this bit of my speech – it’s hilarious” Duncan was saying as he replayed the bit where Mark is videoing himself. “Are we going to watch any of the other parts of the wedding or just your speech?” asked Nic and Nadine removed the remote control from Duncan to play through some of the more interesting parts of the day.

After the video had ended, Nadine and Nic went to bed and Duncan and Budget spent some hours on the beach with some beers to continue their debate about politics and world poverty.

Chapter 2: Manly Scenic Walk

The next day was predicted to hit 41 degrees and so after Nic and Budget had left for work (Nic having completed a personal training session on the beach; Budget slept through this particular training session after having worn himself out intellectually the previous evening) Nadine and Duncan headed for the beach. After some sunbathing and paddling the intrepid duo decided to take a walk which had been recommended to them by Budget and Nic. 'Yes I think it took us about 2 hours if I remember rightly’ Nic had said the previous evening. With this in mind and with a picnic packed, Nadine and Duncan set off on the MSW (Manly Scenic Walk) which traces the coastline from one end to the other. After about an hour of walking they were ready to eat and sat down with their picnic in the boiling heat just off the walkway.

Just around the corner from their lunch spot the couple came across some original Aboriginal art carved into the rock. According to placards dotted around, the drawings depicted kangaroos and boomerangs. Clearly in those days clichés or stereotypes didn’t exist.

“These pictures aren’t very good” opined Duncan. “In fact here’s a bit of graffiti that holds similar artistic merit; it says ‘Bruce woz ‘ere’”. “You’re right of course” said Nadine. “And when are we going to get to the end of this walk, we’ve been going for a while now?”.

In actual fact it was 4 hours of walking that was required to get them to the end of the MSW and they emerged at the other end sweating and thirsty.

“So which of these bus stops do you think we need to go to for our bus back to Manly?” asked Duncan. “Why don’t I just ask these locals at the bus stop” suggested Nadine, pointing at a couple of surfer dudes who were clearly foreign. “OK” agreed Duncan, too tired to point out this fact to his wife.

“Excuse me, is this where the bus leaves for Manly?” asked Nadine of the first swarthy looking curly haired fellow. “Well I ope so” he responded in a heavy French accent, “ozerwise oui are waiting at ze wrong plas too!”. He and his colleague roared with laughter at what may have been the first joke they had ever made in English. Before Duncan could make any sort of remark however the bus pulled up and they headed back to Manly in the early evening.

That night the foursome enjoyed a barbeque as is customary in Australia. Budget and Nic have the largest barbeque in the world just outside their back door and this was fired up for some exquisite culinary delights of the meat variety.

Chapter 3: Thai takeaway

Owing to the unconventional way the couple was planning to enter and exit Thailand (namely twice in fairly quick succession and across different borders) they wanted to confirm they had all the right visas in place and so headed down to the Thai Embassy in Sydney.

When they arrived in the office they were the only people there. “Please take a ticket and wait for your number to show on the screen” said the Thai man behind the desk. Duncan and Nadine looked around themselves at the empty room and took a ticket, looking rather puzzled.

“Next please” said the same man who had asked them to take the ticket. They handed over the ticket. “We need some advice on visas please” started Nadine, and explained their situation. The man considered for a moment and then took out a pen and started scribbling down a diagram with dates, arrows and borders on it. He held up the mess of scribbles to Nadine and Duncan and commenced an explanation. When he was finished, he looked at the couple. “You understand?” he quizzed. “No” they replied in unison. “OK, I tell you one more time” he said and started the same explanation again. Nadine interrupted him as he was halfway through; “LISTEN TO ME” he shouted at her through the plexiglass screen, clearly getting more agitated that these foreigners couldn’t grasp the complexities of his country’s visa system. “I EXPLAIN HOW YOU COME THROUGH INTO COUNTRY”. The pair remained silent through the identical explanation of visas as previously.

“So just to clarify” Nadine asked when he was finished, “in the worse case scenario we just need to pop over the border to a neighbouring country and we can get the visa renewed?”. The small man nodded, “but don’t go over to Burma, they kill you at that border” he added, helpfully.

As it turned out, once they had grasped the visa situation the chap at the embassy was extremely friendly and gave them a free visa for Thailand! They then headed off into Sydney to do some sightseeing – first on the list, the Sydney Tower.

“We have a special deal on at the moment” said the man at the ticket desk as they approached, “you can get entry to the viewing platform on the tower and Oztrek for just $25”. “And what’s Oztrek?” Nadine asked. “It’s a documentary about the history of Australia in a cinema where your seat moves” replied the man, enthusiastically. “Sounds rubbish” Nadine said to Duncan in German and turned to the man “so how much for just the tower?”, “$25” he replied. “Right OK, two for the special deal then please” said Duncan.

Five minutes later they were standing at the top of the tower, looking over Sydney. “Hyde Park’s not quite as big as it is in London is it?” remarked Duncan, pointing downward to a garden-sized patch of grass below them. “Good to see that there’s no view of the Sydney Opera House from up here” he continued. “I have to confess it’s not much more exciting up here than down at the bottom” agreed Nadine and so after ten minutes they headed back down and out towards the fish market, bypassing the extremely rubbish sounding Oztrek. Sightseeing completed for the day, the pair spent the rest of the afternoon eating and drinking down at the fish market before heading back to the flat for dinner.

Chapter 4: Ballet

“Do you fancy doing something cultural for a change?” asked Nadine over breakfast later that week. “Sounds like a good idea” replied Duncan and got the Sydney Opera House schedule up on the laptop. “The Australian ballet is on this week with some tickets still available” he said. “What sort of ballet?” asked Nadine. “Looks like some sort of modern thing” replied Duncan, “give me a second and I’ll look it up”. After some further googling it transpired that the ballet in question was Concord, a series of three short productions by three separate ballet directors. It sounded OK and there were some great seats available right in the centre of the stalls in row 9 so Duncan gave Nic a call to see if the other two were interested in joining in an evening of culture at great financial cost. As it turns out they were and so at 7pm that evening all four met up at the Opera House bar for some drinks before the performance.

“Do you feel underdressed?” said Duncan to Nadine looking at their flip flops, shorts and T-shirts. Nadine glanced at the tuxedos and cocktail dresses around them. “Nah” she replied. “We’re probably sitting in the cheap seats anyway so we shouldn’t look too out of place”. Duncan looked down at the tickets in his hand which were in the ‘A’ price bracket, ‘E’ being the cheapest. ‘Well I suppose the royal box would have been more expensive’ he thought to himself so technically she’s right.

With the exception of the final act (if you are going to go and see Concord I recommend leaving after the second act to avoid the pointless drivel of the final piece), the ballet was excellent and the foursome made their way back to the flat culturally satisfied.

Chapter 5: Landless serfs

On Thursday, Nadine and Duncan got up for 8am and headed down to the beach for their first surfing lesson with the Manly Surf School. They were greeted at the door by the instructor for the day “G’day guys” he said. “Now it’s going to be a pretty tough day for beginners today so I need to ask whether you’re both strong swimmers and are happy going out in a pretty rough sea”. Well the intrepid couple had dragged themselves out of bed earlier than usual to be there so they weren’t going to back down now. “Yes we’re both strong swimmers” said Duncan to the chap with long blond hair and they handed over their money.

After a minor hiccup (Duncan putting his wetsuit on back to front) they grabbed a huge yellow surfboard each and followed their group of newbie surfers down to the waterline. “Alright guys” began the instructor, “you each have the yellow surfboards as you’re all beginners. These surfboards are larger and more buoyant than a normal surfboard to help you all get up and surfing without getting dragged under the waves”. “Now because it’s a bit rough today we are going to be paddling a long way out to get the good waves. We’re going to have a quick practice at getting up on the surfboard here on the beach and when we’re out at sea I’ll tell you which waves to get and when to get up”. He looked over at Duncan and the other taller fellow next to him. “You two may have some problems standing up” he said, “so make sure you keep your legs planted nice and wide apart”. ‘Great’ thought Duncan to himself.

A couple of minutes later the group was standing in the shallow waters behind the instructor, waiting for a lull in the huge waves that were crashing onto the beach so they could paddle out to sea. “OK here comes a break”, shouted the instructor, “everybody paddle out now as fast as you can!”

The method for avoiding getting knocked off one’s board for the smaller waves was simple; just lift up the front of your body on the board and the wave just goes underneath. For larger waves this technique didn’t work and because the surfboards were so buoyant, required a different method known as the Eskimo roll. As the first huge wave advanced towards Duncan he considered his options. Having wasted enough time considering he was left with no choice but to Eskimo roll and so grabbed the edges of his board and flipped it upside down, clinging on underneath while the wave crashed over his head. Once the wave had passed over, he righted his board and clambered back on. This was clearly going to be an effort to get the board out to where the other surfers were catching their waves.

Once he had made it out past the breaking point of the waves and was sitting astride his surfboard he looked back to see Nadine getting bashed off her board by pretty much every single wave on her way out. Like an Energizer bunny she just kept on getting back on and eventually made it out to beyond where the waves were breaking. Unfortunately, Duncan was paying more attention to watching Nadine than he was to his own board and having been one of the first to make it out to where the instructor had asked them to wait, he now found himself being swept back towards the shoreline by a huge wave that had arrived unannounced and had to paddle his way back out a second time.

The intrepid beginners now were waiting, taking it in turns for the instructor to grab the back of their board and release them when a decent wave came along – also shouting when the right time to stand up was. Duncan moved over to the instructor for his turn. He was just getting himself settled on the board when the instructor pushed him and shouted “get up, get up!”. Duncan thought to himself ‘well this is a bit sudden surely he doesn’t mean immediately’ so waited a bit and clambered to his feet. He was standing for about 2 seconds and then fell over into a wave. “Paddle back out as quick as you can before you get hit by those waves coming in!” shouted the instructor and so Duncan aimed his board back out to sea and moved his weary arms one after the other until he was back where he had started.

On his second attempt he followed the instructor’s orders exactly and stood up almost immediately after his surfboard caught the wave. Bizarrely, he remained standing all the way into the beach and wooped triumphantly to nobody in particular. He then looked at the waves crashing onto the shoreline and made the executive decision to give up at what was clearly going to be the pinnacle of his surfing career so he sat on his board on the beach and squinted out to sea to try and locate Nadine.

Shortly before the end of the lesson, something that looked a bit like a drowned ginger cat turned up dragging a board and coughed up some salt water at Duncan’s feet. Nadine hadn’t managed to stand up just yet and so was keen to return in a couple of days to perfect her technique, which can be seen here.

Chapter 6:  Bondi Bonding

Way back in the early 21st Century, Duncan started university in London. After having met Timmy Mallet at Southampton University a few weeks after his course had started it was clear that he would need to change universities. Despite the short tenancy, there is still one cheery fellow who Duncan keeps in touch with; Mike, normally referred to as Imperial Mike. It was Imperial Mike who Budget, Nadine and Duncan met at Bondi Beach on Nadine and Duncan’s penultimate day in Sydney.

“I can’t feel my fingers” complained Duncan as he, Nadine and Budget waited for Mike to appear, who was making a phone call for work. “Well maybe you should have brought other clothes rather than those shorts and T-shirt you’re wearing” suggested Nadine. “I didn’t expect it to be this cold” retorted Duncan, “it’s been boiling hot every other day in Sydney”. After a couple more minutes the trio were all getting cold and rudely gave up waiting for Mike, instead heading straight over to the Iceberg where they’d arranged to get lunch. “Just before we get to the club I need to explain how we get in” said Budget. “The Iceberg is only open to members (who need to go swimming in its outdoor pools every Sunday to maintain their memberships) or tourists so remember to put your UK address when we get to the reception and not give me away as a resident”. “OK” answered Duncan and Nadine and together they headed for the entrance.

“Hi guys where are you from?” asked the man at reception at the Iceberg. “London” replied Duncan and the chap handed them all a form to fill in. “Hmm, address” wondered Nadine out loud, “should we put your Australian address Budget?”. Budget gave her a pointed look. “Oh right yes sorry I forgot” said Nadine and filled in her UK address on the form.

Mike actually turned up shortly afterward and joined the trio where they were sitting overlooking a rather grey looking Bondi Beach and a few hardy individuals swimming in the sea water pools of the Iceberg. There was actually a lot of humorous dialogue and a tour of Mike’s house but unfortunately my mind has drawn a blank on the detail so all I have to remember the happy day is the below photo.

Chapter 7: Merry Christmas everybody

“Let’s sort out a thank you present for Budget and Nic on the way back from Bondi” suggested Duncan. “There’s a nice looking set of barbeque implements in the hardware store that I thought we could get them”. “OK” agreed Nadine and so they headed straight for the hardware store when they got back to Manly from Bondi Beach. Unfortunately, it turned out that the shop in question had decided to shut 10 minutes earlier than usual and so the intrepid duo couldn’t get the desired BBQ set. After some further perusal of shops in Manly it was clear they weren’t going to find a BBQ set and so headed to Aldi as a last resort. Whilst perusing the many sets of screwdrivers and other pointless wares for which Aldi is famed Nadine came across a fibre-optic Christmas tree. She pulled it out for inspection. “Excellent”, expostulated Duncan. “Thank you gift problem solved” and so they purchased a huge Christmas sack for the tree and dragged it back to Budget and Nic’s place. The two looked a little bemused when the sack was opened, being as it was late November, but put up the tree anyway and everyone felt very festy.

The next day, Nadine and Duncan left for the airport at 6am after a bleary eyed goodbye from Budget and Nic. They hauled their rucksacks onto the ferry and after a short hop on the train made it to the airport just in time to jump on the plane up to Brisbane to pick up their campervan for the road trip up North.

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