Oz: Sydney, Newcastle and Port Macquarie
Touching down in Sydney at seven o’clock on the evening of the 5th, I felt rough. The novelty of embarking on my adventures had somewhat worn off after 24 or so hours of travel, all whilst developing what I think was some form of laryngitis. The taxi drive to our hotel in Darling Harbour where my friend was waiting perked me up no end however, as the whole forty-minute drive was filled with the driver informing me on everything Australian (shout out to Peter from Ready2Go). Seeing Lucinda’s face in the hotel reception only made me feel even better, and finally I was excited. I mean that probably wasn’t evident an hour later when I passed out mid-conversation. But it was worth it the next morning when I didn’t feel completely awful, and we set off on the grand adventure of finding a cheap breakfast. Bearing pecan twists and granny smiths we caught an Uber to Manly to drop Cindy’s suitcase for New Zealand (where she’d be travelling to after our East Coast trip) off at the family friend’s whom we stayed with when we got back to Sydney at the end of the month. Manly is awesome. It’s like an upscale Chelsea Borough with more interesting architecture and better views. Walking down to Manly Beach we experienced the quiet suburban atmosphere mixed with summer holiday hype (and rich fifteen-year-old hipsters).
It only took us that first ferry trip from Manly Wharf to Circular Quay to figure out we’d found a pretty special city. Gliding between the proportions of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge towards a complexity of glass towers standing out against a clear blue sky is quite a surreal experience, which, in hindsight, feels no less surreal the more ferries you take. But a walk through the city in searing heat is enough to bring anyone back down to earth, and we were grateful to be back in our air conditioned room later that afternoon. A quick nap to ward off the jetlag then we were off to find some dinner. The nearest food mall offered a nice array of cuisine, and we sat down to a civilised though questionably hairy ‘Chinese’ meal. We trudged back to the hotel feeling underfed and ripped off, and happily let the jetlag claim us at a distinguished nine o’clock. The next day we took a slow walk through the city, ending up in the Royal Botanic Gardens for lunch and a three hour nap. Or for Lucinda it was a three hour nap. For me it was three hours of worrying that I had tonsillitis and internet diagnosing myself, since my sore throat from the day before had progressed into high level strep, and my man voice was in full effect. We then set off for our hotel for the final time to retrieve our bags and catch our first Greyhound bus to Newcastle.
We arrived in what seemed to be an entirely deserted Newcastle late on Saturday night. The only noise in the town seemed to be coming from the hostel we were staying in, but on arrival we discovered it was filled with only mid to late twenty-year-old solo backpackers, out in Australia with the sole purpose of ‘finding themselves’. This was mildly disappointing to two nineteen-year-old gap year wankers who were looking for a month long piss up. However, the jetlag was still full power, so we headed off to bed swiftly. Waking up at an unreasonably early hour, I felt groggy and disgusting and opened my mouth only to find out I’d nearly lost my voice completely. Quite frankly, I wanted to get the fuck out of that hostel quickly and into some fresh air. Dressing quickly, skipping breakfast, we took ourselves outside ready to explore the town. Only to discover it was Sunday and there was nothing to do but go to the beach. So to the beach we went. Picking up my first latte of the trip, I felt immediately better sitting on the near empty white sandy beach in the cool morning air. And so commenced a day of sunbathing, reading, and checking out the Surf Rescue boys. A productive day all round I’d say. Back to the hostel for dinner, some short-lived socialising with the old people, and then back out to the beach for a night time walk. We were pretty shattered by the time we got back, but after a brief altercation with a cockroach we bonded with a Northern couple staying in our room. Not a lot could keep us from sleep however. Turns out a day lying on the beach really shags you out.
An early bus took us to the likes of Port Macquarie. After being shown around the hostel and hearing about the dangers of goon (a word I hadn’t heard before but was all too familiar with by the end of our trip), we took a walk around the town, which offered up some pretty views and therefore some good Instagram opportunities. We got back just in time to catch the bus up to the Koala Hospital. Although mildly depressing hearing about the koalas being infested with chlamydia and blinded by conjunctivitis, and obviously being unable to touch them, they were very cute. The walk back to the hostel was not cute however, and by the time we got there an hour later I was once again feeling slightly worse for wear. But I somehow got some shut eye in our uncomfortably small room situated directly next to the busiest intersection in town, with paper thin windows, and an hour or so later we hopped on the bus to go and see some wild kangaroos. A trip worth taking. We saw them in a herd, babies and all, and two young ones even decided to have a boxing match, their moves rivaling that of Ali (may he rest in peace). Back at the hostel we enjoyed a few beers with dinner but decided to skip out on the game of ring of fire that seemed to be taking place in the living room. Surprisingly I slept well, and we spent the next morning before catching our bus being proactive and planning our dates and stops for the month ahead. Of course that plan later went to shit but we’ll get to that.