28.05.2006 33 °C
Well finally made it back to Australia for a fairly whistle stop tour of the place, only really hitting the East Coast and only staying in each place for a few days but certainly was fun!
Arriving in Sydney it wasn't at all like I expected it to be, the biggest shock is not seeing any of what I was expecting of the traditional Oz stereotype. It's a very multi cultural city, far more than I was expecting. After arriving at the hotel I went for a wander around the major sites (Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Domain etc) and I think I was looking for the fat sideburned beer swilling Neighbours cast offs when all I saw was a huge Asian influence, pretty much 2/3 rds of the people were of Asian Descent and the worst bit is they were all in jogging gear running around the harbour, opera house etc making me feel very fat old, white and unhealthy! (I didn't feel so bad later on when I found out ot was the Sydney Half marathon later that weekend and everyone was in training)
Nothing like I expected it to be but then again I didnt really have that many expectations of Australia in general, preferring my travelling to expose me to different cultures, customs etc rather than a bunch of ex-Brits that just live in another place and have nothing culturally to offer than I couldn't find in Wimbledon or Fulham (sorry Skip!)
Went out to the famous Bondi Beach and took the ferry to Manly and the beaches were lovely at both but as I arrived at the start of Winter over here, not a chance I was going anywhere near that freezing water. Still nice to look at and have some fish and chips on Manly beach (so named as when the Brit who found the place saw a bunch of semi clothed Aborigines on the beach waving, he said 'ooh they look very manly, lets call this place Manly', probably done in a Kenneth Williams voice no doubt!)
Anyway 4 days in Sydney is plenty enough for a first taste and to see all the major sites (I enjoyed the Rocks, wandering around the restored waterfront best of all and the food in Chinatown awesome).
So I then headed on up to Brisbane, home of the Crocodile Hunter (and very handily my cousin Kerry who offered to put me up for a bit!!)
Now Brisbane is pretty much as I expected Sydney to be, gleaming skyscrapers and metal and glass buildings, great restaurants and bars in the town and a more laid back attitude in the suburbs.
The town centre itself is pretty nice, couple of impressive bridges, museums (ncluding one with stuffed versions of the many millions of types of animal that all want to eat or poison you in Australia). The bars/restaurants in Fortitude Valley were nice (well except the gay one I wandered into by mistake (honest!!)
Got my first taste of a T-Bone steak in about 10 years (banned in UK since Mad Cow Disease) with Kerry and her friend Colleen in the Clubhouse ($10 AUS or about 4 quid!) as well as a night at the pub quiz (came second out of about 15 teams)
Also managed to time it right that I arrived a few days before Kerry's daughter Leah's first birthday so we had a great barbie/party in the back garden in the gorgeous sunshine (Brisbane is Queensland and a lot warmer that Sydney) complete with Sausages and burgers and beer to celebrate with a load of Kerry's friends.
We also headed down to the Gold Coast and spent the day at the beach where I got fried (and this is bloody winter over there, they were whinging about how chilly it was at about 27 degrees centigrade!) Kerry's friend Eric (stereotype surfer looking dude, well his son is the world champion knee board surfer so what do you expect) then tried to kill me on his kayak, driving us head first into the breakers and telling me every 5 mins to watch out for the Tiger Sharks and Jellyfish!! I do hope he was joking, although he did look a bit nervous when he had to junmp off the kayak to free his fishing line! It was great fun, Eric also took me fishing off the Giant's Causeway (yup it's exactly the same as the one in Ireland with big stone hexagons sticking out of the sea!) where we caught a big fish (well Eric speared him with a hook and I reeled the bugger in).
All in all a wonderful day out! Kerry the lucky sod does this pretty much every weekend!! The beaches and coastline there is absolutely stunning.
Well time was running out so was time to move onto Cairns right at the North East Corner of Aus so I started off only ofr Kerry to get a call that her daughter had to come home from nursery as she had Foot and Mouth Disease (yup I thought only sheep and cows got it but apparently there's a kids version of it in Aus that's pretty common) which probably explained why she'd spent the last few days with itchy eyes, runny nose and some impressive Exorcist style puking at us with every opportunity!
Luckily it turned out just to be a virus so Leah could go back to nursery and Kerry back to work.
Anyway Cairns was a strange place, bugger all there (beaches were crap mud rather than sand) apart from half the population of 18-21 yr old England it seemed. But it seems to be a big travellers hang out, sure there is the rainforest a way inbland and access to the Great Barrier Reef but that goes all the way down to Whitsundays. Still I spent most of the time out on trips, including the snorkelling on the Reef, trying to avoid getting eaten/stung by beasties in the jungle and some white water rafting.
The snorkelling was the highlight, saw turtles, strange fish, corals etc etc, no big sharks luckily though!
Best night there was the State of Origin. I was lucky enough to be there for the first game and it's the biggest thing in Aussie sport (sort of like the FA Cup but Rugby League) was a great game 17-16 to NSW over Queensland and a great atmosphere in the bar.
So hard to do justice to Australia in the short time I was there but was a nice taster, enjoyed it more than I thought I would and would definately go again but would like to try the major bits I missed out on this time around (Perth, Melbourne, Alice Springs etc).
Anyway off to New Zealand for a bit now!