Week Twenty Eight - Sydney

Trip Start Aug 26, 2003
Trip End Aug 24, 2004

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Day 187 - Tuesday 2 March

Late start and walk down to Botanical Gardens. First stop is the café where I have lovely scones with jam and cream. Nicola has milkshake. Bolstered we walk into the park. First stop is an art exhibition in a greenhouse of female nudes. In the centre of the park we spot a fruit bat, or flying fox, in a tree. Then we realize that there are thousands of them hanging from the trees like some Vampire movie. The trees are also draped in spiders webs with eight inch monsters sitting in their centre waiting for tourists to stumble into them. The Park runs right down to the harbour where we get another view of the Opera House. We cut through the Park behind the OH to 'The Rocks' which is described as a 'Disneyfied' tourist shopping area in a once run down area of the city. It is disappointing although I buy a t-shirt. By now it is five o'clock so we head up George Street to a bar recommended by Mark Stephens called 'The Establishment'. It's a bit too posh even for us so we catch a bus closer to home and go to Scruffy Murphy's for 'Tight-arse Tuesdays' where the beer and the clientele are cheap. We get a seat outside on the pavement and therefore miss the cockroach racing going on in the main bar. The winner wins a trip to Cairns. We stay later than we ought and roll the short distance home about 10.

Day 188 - Wednesday 3 March

Down into Darling Harbour late morning and try to do some shopping for Nicola. She gets some t-shirts then we get lunch in 'Wok Right In'. Sit eating it on the water side surrounded by hungry gulls. Over the other side we head into Australia's Number One Tourist Attraction - The Sydney Aquarium. It costs $24 each and we meet Kendra from our bus trip from Melbourne in the queue. Apart from the usual fare of tanks of fish there are three oceanariums moored in the harbour. The first is the newly opened seal sanctuary with an underwater walkway which gives great views of the seals wizzing up and down over the tourists. The next is the main tank with sharks, turtle and rays. The last is a reproduction of the Great Barrier Reef. After spending time in each we accidentally find ourselves in the café at the exit from the Aquarium. We are allowed back in but soon realize that we have in fact already seen everything. It is quite disappointing. We go home and wait for a call from Nicolas friend Kevin to tell us where to meet him and his partner Martine, for a drink. Kevin rings and suggests Dirty Nellies up Oxford Street. We walk up past some startling groups of homosexuals, transsexuals, bisexuals, lesbians trisexuals, transgenders etc. I fit in quite well in my shorts and facial hair. We stop for a salad in one of the cafes and, as well as the weirdos walking by, get a great view of the fruit bats flying out of the park right over our heads on their nightly sojourn. There is something tremendously appropriate here but I cant put my finger on it. We spend the night in Nellies with Kevin, Martine and two blokes, Steve and Chris from their house. We swap traveling stories until we are thrown out at midnight. Fruits, but no bats, are making their way home when we board a bus back to Liverpool Street and home.

Day 189 - Thursday 4 March

We pack up and check out of room 85 and luckily our new room 41 is ready. We move our stuff into nicer, bigger room with phone line. Go online and catch up with e-mails. McDonalds for lunch in Darling then go over to Circular Quay and get the 3 o'clock ferry upriver to Parramatta. After reading through the brochures on Parramatta en route we decide to stay on board for the 50 minute return to the city. Catch another ferry back to Darling and go for a glass of wine in 'Wharf 26'. It's very warm on the balcony. We decide to eat in our room and go to the local Spanish Deli on Liverpool Street and get tapanade, cheeses, bread and salad and sit scoffing whilst watching 'My Restaurant Rules'.

Day 190 - Friday 5 March

We are getting very lazy here in Sydney and have another long lie in. Not up and about until lunch time. Go to Paddys Market at the other end of Chinatown and walk through the 2000 or so stalls. Nothing worth buying so walk down to the AMP Tower and do the 'Sky Tour'. This is a series of virtual tours of Australia tracing the history of the continent. Not bad though a little cheesy. Next up to the observation tower and get great views over the city and surrounds as far as the Blue Mountains. It is a lovely clear day. The biggest disappointment is that the Opera House is mostly obscured by surrounding buildings which seems a bit of a shame. Walk back to room and get changed into warmer gear for the 'Super Twelves' rugby at Aussie Stadium. Tickets are $28 each. Grab a chicken wrap and fries first then couple of beers. The home team, The Waratahs are playing The Cats from somewhere in South Africa. By halftime Sydney are 30 points ahead. The ground is five sevenths full and the atmosphere is good but not as good as Landsdowne Road. The standard of play is excellent, fast and exciting. Just before halftime we realize we are in the wrong seats when a couple arrive and point it out to us. We go outside the ground for a fag and, as I am full of the cold, decide to head back home for an early night. Get bus back home and watch TV before crashing at midnight.

Day 191 - Saturday 6 March

You've guessed it, another lie in. This time we justify it because tonight is the Gay Mardi Gras and the England vs Ireland Six Nations match is being shown in Scruffy Murphys at 3am. We have also decided that we have seen just about all the sights Sydney has to offer so don't feel guilty about lazing about. Furthermore, the weather has turned gray and the temperature has dropped to the low twenties. By mid afternoon it is lashing down. We head up towards the starting point of the parade at Hyde Gardens around six. Have quick Italian dinner in nice restaurant out on the pavement. It is both cold and wet now. Struggle through the crowds to try to get a vantage point. Lots of nearly nude people walking about in the rain. We get a not very good point about three rows from the barrier and peer through the umbrellas. Everyone is soaked through by the time the Dykes on Bikes start the parade. Much partying from overlooking balconies and the atmosphere is great, despite the weather. A grumpy fag berates Nicola for being in front of him and not even being GAY! We stick it out for a couple of hours but miss the last few floats. Sodden, we walk back home to get changed. Back into town to Scruffy Murphys and go upstairs and get seat four feet from the big screen. There are about 300 Irish people in the lounge and 20 English. Its only 10pm and the match doesn't start until 3am. The crack and the Scotland vs Italy match see us through to kick off. The place goes mental and the result is now history. Lots of hugging of strangers before we leave at 5am. Nicolas friend Kevin queued outside but couldn't get in. As we leave there is still a queue of 20 people waiting to get in.

Day 192 - Sunday 7 March

We spend a proper Sunday lazing around with the papers before going for pre-concert dinner in Darling at 5.30pm. Lovely steaks in 'I'm Angus' before catching the ferry to Circular Quay and walking along to the Opera House. Nice glass of Sauv Blanc in foyer only costs $7 each. At the last minute we get to our seats. Obviously too late for the drugs that everyone else has been issued with. As Gilberto Gil and his band take the stage the place goes ballistic. We have never seen such enthusiasm from any crowd. It turns out that most are Brazilian and know every song. His covers of Bob Marley songs are fine but all the Samba music sounds to me like incidental music from 'Play School'. As each musician in the eight piece band is given a solo they just try to fit as many notes in to their minute or so in the spotlight as they can. We don't give him a chance for an encore but leave before the crowds who are all dancing in the aisles. Taxi back home and watch a film before crashing at midnight.

Day 193 - Monday 8 March

We are not as sad as we thought we were going to be at leaving Sydney. We have had 10 days here and seen pretty much all there is to see. Some beach time will be nice. Taxi out to NQ Rentals, near the airport, to pick up our campervan at 10am. The manager, Bill, shows us round the van. It is very small and we are not happy. We complain and he calls the Fleet Manager. After much ado we get upgraded to The Crystal Delux for an extra $10 per day. This is much more like it and when we get an extra day free it works out at an extra ₤1 per day. The scribbled directions to get us on the road north are useless and we are soon lost. An hour later we pass the depot on our way in the right direction. Stop off after a couple of hours into shopping mall. It's our first grocery shopping in 6 months and we are like children. $220 dollars later we load up the van and head towards Port Stephens. Our plan to call through the vineyards of The Hunter Valley shelved for the time being. Book into 'One Mile Beach' Tourist Park and get powered site for $23 per night. Busy and big site. Walk over the sand dunes onto beautiful white sand beach which must be about a mile long. Back and have glass of vino from our box. Five litres of Chablis for $10. One dollar coin starts the BBQ for our steaks. Boiled potatoes and crisp tossed salad complete the meal. After watching an episode of Futurama on the Lifebook, work out how to build the bed and sleep early. The bed, however, is about four feet long which makes sleeping very difficult.

A quick note for those confused with the mixture of pounds Sterling and the Aussie Dollar - there are $2.4 to the pound.
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