Sparky Travels

December 11, 2010

Leaving Melbourne

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As my time left in Melbourne dribbled away I started to formulate my plans for the next part of travels. Helen and I decided to go to Indonesia for Christmas and New Year before I jet off to South America for a few months and she returns to Melbourne to finish her Working Holiday Visa. The big event at the start of November was the Melbourne Cup AKA “the race that stops a nation”. The main reason the nation stops is because its a public holiday. We toyed with the idea of going to the races but the dreary weather put us off. Instead caught the train into town and went to the Crown Casino to drink beer, place some bets and watch the races. My luck wasn’t in as I failed to make a cent. Helen had the winner (Americain) at short odds so lost slightly less money than me. Fortunately I had 2nd placed MaLuckyDay in the office sweepstake so pocketed $25 the next day at work.

Other events during my last month were more Sunday afternoon Barbeques and heading back to some of our favourite haunts. The Perth St Olympics were an important affair during one of the BBQs with Andre and Marquino performing a clean sweep of the Bocce, Table Tennis and MiniGolf trophies.

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November was also ‘Movember, where much of Australia takes on the task of growing a moustache for charity. Lev, Rob, Zoltan and Me all did our bit for the Coles Pricing and Promotions team.

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On St Andrew’s Day I managed to acquire haggis, neeps and tatties and IrnBru to introduce Helen to the great chieftain o’ the pudding race. IMG_0431

Planning Indonesia, reducing my belongings back into a a backpack sized bag and work were the order of the last few weeks though we did manage to meet up with Fuss and Susie for sunbathing, drinking and dinner a few times. A Latino food festival in Fitzroy was good fun as was some weird hippy one-day festival in Edinburgh Gardens.

On Friday the 10th of December, after the longest week of work ever, I said goodbye to the many kind people I’d met at Coles and raced out the door. The final odds and ends tied up, we had an early night in anticipation of the early morning flight to Denpasar. Taxi to the airport, wave goodbye to Melbourne, hop on plane, prepare for relaxation.IMG_0486 (Large)

It was a bittersweet feeling to leave Melbourne (and Australia in general) since it has been a great place to live for the last 6 months with good people, a decent job and nice vibe. On the other hand I have even more exciting adventures to come, starting with Indonesia.

November 15, 2010

Great Ocean Road

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One significant trip that I had yet to cross off my list while living in Melbourne was the world famous Great Ocean Road, running west from Geelong towards Adelaide.
On the 12th of November, Helen and I hired a car and trundled off to see if it was as great as they say it is. Unfortunately the chosen weekend was forecast to be pretty wet and the rain was torrential as we left Melbourne on the Friday evening. We reached Lorne a couple of hours later where the torrent had turned to drizzle.
Lorne is a seaside village of the kind that Britain no longer has (to be precise, still has but is populated exclusively by pensioners). We stayed in the Grand Pacific Hotel and spent the evening having dinner on the esplanade and drinking in the hotel bar.
The next day we drove our Ford Focus - a step up from our usual rental transport - to Teddy’s Lookout above Lorne and to a nearby waterfall (Erskine Falls iirc). Further on around Apollo Bay we got drenched walking up to the unimpressive Mariner’s lookout and went to yet another lookout further West.
Our next non-lookout stop was Mait’s Rest it is a rest stop off the main road with a  wooden walkway leading through a fern rainforest. It was a pretty cool wee half hour pit stop on the way towards our next destination, Cape Otway Lighthouse. The lighthouse was 10km down a track lined with Eucalyptus trees. We stopped at various points on the track to look at the koalas perched in the branches. It turned out that this would be the highlight of the detour because the lighthouse and accompanying museum was pretty disappointing. The story of life as the lighthouse keeper and some of the information on shipwrecks were interesting but there wasn’t much more to it than that. The wind and rain didn’t help either.

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We spent the evening of the 13th in Port Campbell which is a small village with a couple of restaurants and hotels but not much else. Its main selling point is it’s proximity to The Twelve Apostles. The most famous sight on the G-O-R. We got there early the next morning but not early enough to avoid the first of the tour groups. The Twelve Apostles are a collection of pillars formed out of the eroding coastline and were pretty spectacular.

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They also form the start of a whole raft of geological formations along a stretch of spectacular coastline. One of my favourites was “London Bridge”, a precursor to the Twelve Apostles style pillars, part of it had already fallen down. There was also the Grotto, a blowhole, caverns and further rock formations that easily rivalled the better known Apostles. IMG_0257 IMG_0265

That afternoon we arrived in Port Fairy, one of the last seaside towns on the Great Ocean Road and more of a sleepy, less touristy place than the others we’d seen. After walking round town a wee bit we headed back the way we’d come to Warrnambool, the biggest ‘city’ in the region.  We’d been recommended the Shipwrecked light show at Flagstaff Hill so we booked our tickets for that and had dinner on the high street. The Shipwrecked show was really good. It started with a lantern walk through the reconstructed 19th century fishing village to a stage overlooking the harbour. An arc of water droplets was sprayed into the air and projected on that was the story of the famous Loch Ard shipwreck (starring Jack from Neighbours – the one who played soccer in England). The seating moved in time to the story and the village lit up as the events unfolded. The only two survivors of the disaster were an 18 year old deck hand and teenage girl who he saved. It all got a bit surreal when orchestral music started trumpeting and the image of a large ceramic peacock rose from the water. This was the Loch Ard Peacock which was salvaged from the wreck and is now worth $2,000,000. The show was surprisingly high quality and wouldn’t have looked out of place in Disneyland or Vegas.

The next day, we had to drive the whole of the way back to Melbourne. We only stopped off to look at some more Koalas, make friends with some birdlife and take a quick photo of Bell’s Beach, home of the World Surfing Championships. Nevertheless city centre rush hour traffic stopped us dropping the car off in time so we had to keep it for an extra day. We’d managed to pack in  lot of stuff in a long weekend and the G-O-R was well and truly ticked off the list.

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October 25, 2010

Halls Gap

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On the evening of the 22nd of October, Fuss, Susie, Helen and I finished our respective Fridays at work with an extra spring in our steps. We jumped in Fuss and Susie’s new car and hit the road. We were heading to Hall’s Gap a couple of hours drive away just over the Pyrenees, West of Melbourne, for the weekend. We drove through driving rain to our log cabin on the edge of the Grampians National Park with the car packed with booze and food. Our cabin was a very comfortable two bedroom affair with a spa bath and log fire.
A few drinks and some homemade pizzas were the main activity for that evening. The next day, with the weather having cleared considerably, we trekked up into the Grampians, bookended by a couple of stops at picturesque lookouts. The path up towards the Pinnacle went through Grand Canyon, a small ( in comparison to its namesake) crevice of volcanic rock which managed to be impressive despite the handrails and concrete steps added to help the chronically unfit tourists who ply this popular route.
A feast of steaks, potato salad and sweetcorn for dinner was inevitably followed by wine and beer accompanied by cards, charades and drinking bingo.
Our short but sweet weekend concluded with a much anticipated game of Adventure Golf. Susie showed her skills with a relatively commanding win on probably the best adventure golf course in Australia. To finish off we hit bustling Ballarat on the way home for dinner. T’was a great fun and embarrasingly cheap weekend which we would surely have replicated if my time in Australia wasn’t coming to an end.

October 18, 2010

Tas-Mania

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No sooner had we arrived in Launceston than we were in the a big gang of drinking Tasmanians. After an hour long flight from Melbourne we’d dumped our bags and hire car in the rather twee guest house in the centre of town and headed out for a quick drink before dinner.Almost instantly we got chatting to a bunch of fishermen and as the Tassie beer flowed, dinner was forgotten about. An ‘Irish’ band started up and the Friday night punters filled the Royal Oak Hotel. As soon as one group disappeared another would strike up conversation with an increasingly drunk Helen and I and we’d made many new friends by the end of the night.

We managed to get up in time for check out and cleared our heads with a walk to nearby Cataract Gorge. The jewel in Launceston’s crown, Cataract Gorge is situated a short walk from the town centre but feels like a different world. The steep sides of the gorge lead into what feels like a a mountain forest crossed with a botanic gardens.

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It had walking tracks, a suspension bridge, cafes lining the river and bold peacocks which run the place. In a cafe there we had some of the greatest pies we’d tasted in Australia along with some of the most luminous milkshakes ever created.IMG_4338

After lunch we hit the road to begin seeing the sights of the east coast of Tasmania, t’was a long and winding road reminiscent of the highlands. The first stop was the Bay of Fires, famed as one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in the world. It didn’t quite live up to the billing, partly due to the weather, but the sand was supremely white and the rocks a shocking orange colour (apparently the name “bay of fires” was due to the rows of Aboriginal campfires that were seen when the bay was first ‘discovered).

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That evening we reached Bicheno, a seaside village famous for its colony of blue penguins. We went on a tour at dusk and got to see them hopping up the rugged shore towards their nests. We also got to look inside some nesting boxes and see the furry beggars sitting on their eggs and tending their chicks. They were very cute and even the adult ones were tiny. Dinner in Bicheno was some of the tastiest fish I’ve had in a long time.

On Sunday morning we continued down the coast towards Freycinet National Park, stopping off at a blow hole and meeting a wallaby with joey in the car park. The main drawcard of Freycinet is Wineglass bay, another beach reputed to be the most beautiful in the world. The steep trek down to the bay was worth it but again it wasn’t the greatest beach I’ve ever seen (I guess the weather has a large effect. A beach without sun is always missing an important element).

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That evening we arrived in the capital of Tasmania, Hobart.Our Quality Inn there was top quality as were the oysters we had in a harbourside bar. Dinner was fish and chips as we continued our seafood culinary adventure. We didn’t have much time to enjoy Hobart as we wanted to see Port Arthur on Monday, our last day in Tasmania.

On the way to Port Arthur we stopped off at a number of interesting sights including the tessellated pavement (slabs that have been moulded by the sea), the Devils Kitchen an arch and blowhole.

Port Arthur is the home of the famous convict prison during the 1800s. Now a museum, it is also the site of a horrific massacre when a lone gunman went on a rampage in 1996, killing 35 tourists and staff. As a visitor attraction I found it to be quite expensive with not quite enough to see. The boat trip around the Port was good but it was a bit off having to pay extra to see the two most interesting parts (we didn’t).

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It was interesting to hear about the lives of convicts there but it pales into comparison compared to the genocide of the entire aboriginal population of Tasmania by the immigrants.We raced back towards Hobart and got to the airport just in time to find our flight was delayed. Finally we got home to Melbourne but could have happily spent another week exploring beautiful Tassie.

October 10, 2010

Spring has sprung

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As the weather turned and blossom began to appear in Melbourne, we ventured along Brighton Beach, and St Kilda Beach on sunny days. We also went out for drinks in Prahran, including a few days with Helen’s brother Padraig, visiting from New Zealand. The housmates, including english lad Fred and Peruvian Marco (3rd Mark/Marco in the house), kept ourselves busy with Tuesday bowling and a house cake baking competition. My chocolate orange cake was hard to beat.

Our September trip was to Sydney, partly to visit Helen’s sister and partly to reacquaint ourselves with the sun.It was weird to return to the city after months away. Its certainly better to be there with some money in my pocket rather than scrimping and saving every penny. I guess that’s the same anywhere though. A particular highlight, other than Helen’s niece’s repertoire of Irish curses, was Balmoral beach near Mossman. Quieter than the other more famous Sydney suburban beaches, it has a little island just offshore that is accessible by a stone bridge and a peaceful vibe. We met the recently engaged Chris and Amanda for lunch there too which was a nice bonus.

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On the 2nd of October, the weekend after our Sydney trip, we had a house outing to Parklife music festival. Held over 1 day in parkland in the centre of Melbourne, it boasted a few quality headline acts and a raft of unknown (to us at least) Aussie favourites. It just happened to be the first really warm and sunny day of spring which was perfect. With breakfast beers consumed while waiting for the Brazilians to get ready and a couple of bottles for the journey, Helen, Marco, Tuts, Andre and I hopped on the tram with the other hordes of party-goers.

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The first act we saw were The Swiss, who’d been recommended by a workmate. They were a funky electronic band who fitted perfectly with the sunny occasion. We cruised the four stages picking acts we’d heard rumours and murmurs about (Busy P,Effie) or old favourites such as Soulwax & The Dandy Warhols. As the Dandy Warhols finished their usual high quality gig, complete with mesmerising hoolahoopers, I started to suffer a splitting headache which meant I missed final acts 2ManyDjs and Groove Armada. Even so, it was great fun and well staged.

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The next weekend was a quieter affair. A new pair of sunglasses from Victoria Markets and the slightly disappointing Tim Burton exhibition on Saturday were followed by St Kilda Beach on the Sunday and the first lazy afternoon BBQ of the season. Lovely.

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July 4, 2010

Football and Milk

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On the day that we moved into our new shared house in Melbourne I started yet another new job. I had become a Milkman! Aussie Farmers employ lots of backpackers and working holiday visa casual staff. I’d met a few people around the country who said it was an ok job.

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Unfortunately its a milkman job in name only and actually involves getting dropped off by a minibus in suburbia and door-knocking to get people to sign up for a grocery delivery service. After the first 2 weeks it is commission only so I thought I’d started well with three sales on my first day. It wasn’t much fun spending evenings plodding the streets in the cold and interrupting people in their homes. At least it wasn’t selling encyclopedias and I got good chat from some people but I also gained none of the famous milkman perks. The job certainly encouraged me to search for something more secure and indoor. The main benefit was the 2pm starts which worked well for the most important event in June…

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World Cup 2010!
I had contemplated attempting to get to South Africa for the world cup but instead I find myself in a place so far from it that the games end up being on at silly o’clock in the morning. During the early group stages there were games at 9:30am, midnight and 4:30am with the best games generally being the 4:30am ones. One late game that we weren’t going to miss was Australia’s opening match of the tournament. There was a fan-zone set up for the game so Me, Helen, Fuss and Susie met at 3am to trudge up there avec bottles of ribena which smelled suspiciously of red wine. The crowd was relatively subdued from the start and became increasingly so as Germany stuck four past the hapless Aussies.

On the 17th of June I managed to find an escape from Milkman-ship with a 3 day temping role at Fairfax media, producers of the Herald Sun newspaper. It was nice to be back in a corporate environment and working 9-5 again. I’d ace’d the data entry and MS Office skills assessments at the recruitment company so more roles were being lined up for me too. Frankly, I’d have been as well giving up if I hadn’t done well in a test using a computer.

That Sunday was Helen’s birthday so we went out for a meal at a Gurkha restaurant in Prahran. It was quite nice but not a patch on the one’s back in Fleet and Farnborough. We also watched a god-awful copy of Shutter Island. The poor picture quality and sound almost ruined a very decent film and strong performance by Leonardo Dicaprio.

After finishing my data entry job at Fairfax I instantly got another placement, this time at the head office of supermarket giant Coles. Russell had worked there previously and lo-and-behold a day after I started Russell got a job there again, yay, lunch buddy. The role is as a promotions assistant in the pricing team and should last 3-4 months. Hopefully the money I make will allow me to travel a bit once I get chucked out of Australia at the end of my visa.

At the end of June, Bob and Jenni - friends from Fleet - arrived in Melbourne. They are traveling round the world and stopped off to say hello. We had them round for dinner and went out for drinks with them a couple of times. It was great to see them and they seem to be having a grand time on their trip so far.

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After having drinks with Bob and Jenni in Fitzroy on friday night, me, Helen, Marco and Tatiana watched the Brazil v Holland game in a Brazilian bar. The atmosphere was great but the result was disappointing.

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The Germany v Argentina game the next day was a cracker though. Unfortunately there are only 4 games of the world cup remaining. Why does the world cup have to end!?!

June 11, 2010

Melbourne

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I arrived in Melbourne at 8:30am after a 12hr overnight bus and met my good mate Russell in the city centre. Weet-bix were holding a Socceroos celebration so we had a free breakfast (who knew that the secret to british weetabix’s tastiness was the letter ‘a’ between weet and bix?!)and saw some Aussie ’soccer stars’. Russell and Susie showed me round the city as I stayed with them for a week. We went to Victoria markets which had food as lavish as Harrods but other goods straight out of Ingliston market. We also walked along the Beach from Brighton to St Kilda and spent a few hours in funky Fitzroy. I spent the week orientating myself with Melbourne and beginning the job hunt.

On the 24th of May, Helen arrived back from New Zealand. Fuss and Susie kindly let her stay as well. A week later we thought we’d better move out before we outstayed our welcome. We Checked into the Back of Chapel Hostel nearby in Prahran.

I managed to find some work at the Good Food & Wine show at Melbourne Exhibition Centre from the 2nd to the 7th of May. For the first two days I was helping set up the stalls for a promotions company. Along with the two Aussies we were working for there were a couple of fellow casual workers: Swedish pretty-boy and semi-pro footballer Marcus and a guy from Mauritius who’s name escapes me. The Mauritian only lasted half a day before quitting after copping some abuse from the local forklift drivers. We only noticed he’d gone when the boss got a text saying simply “sorry guys, I’m slowing you down”. The days of the show itself were spent in the stock room frantically filling showbags to cope with the demand. The bags were $10 and contained $70 worth of sample products. e.g. Angostura Bitters, aloe-vera drinks, cereal bars, lip balm, teabags, spicy broad beans and other unappetising products.
The hours were long and hectic especially on the last day where it was 2 showbags for $10. One perk of the job was that we were able to take away as much swag as we could carry home at the end of the show. We’ll never run out of spicy broad beans ever again!

While I was working at the show, Helen was trying to find us somewhere more comfortable to stay. The Back Of Chapel hostel was small and situated in a nice area but the place itself wasn’t great. Our room was tiny and cold and the place was pretty grubby. The people were friendly enough but we were tired of hostels and just wanted a place to settle. Most of the time we were there I was working late and it wasn’t ideal with the kitchen closing at 9pm.
Every day Helen and I had been checking gumtree and other websites trying to find a place to rent. Without full time jobs and no idea how long we were going to stay in Melbourne it was difficult to find a suitable place. Most 1 bedroom places were out of our budget and the majority of shared places were verging on, and in one case actually was, condemned.
Finally, on the 9th of June we found a shared house which suited and moved in the very next day. Our housemates are two couples, Dave and Crystal (English) and Marco and Tatiana (Brazilian). The house is in a private complex with a pool and gym.
The place is very homely and close to public transport. As an added bonus we are on the street parallel to Russell and Susie! Its almost worthy of singing the ‘Neighbours’ theme tune.

The Shrine War Memorial

"The Shrine" War Memorial

May 18, 2010

Sydney, the never-ending story

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An update so soon after the last one?! Something momentous must have happened in Sparky’s world travels?

Nope.

Anything to avoid filling in yet another unsuccessful job application.

I’ve now been in Australia for over 5 months. The longer than the amount of time I spent in Asia!
After returning to Sydney I settled back into Sydney Backpackers. I rewarded myself for the weekend of hard work by going to see Kick Ass at the cinema with Vince. I was a bit disappointed to be honest. Its  a highly watchable film but it wasn’t ground-breaking or especially funny. I think the genre has been pretty well covered by other films already.

I soon moved dorms back into room 45 which was where most of the other long-termers were bunked. I knew most of the faces already and it’s much nicer to hang about with people you know are going to be there for longer than a couple of nights. They were a good mix of people: Ross(Welsh), Kerry(English), Shaun(NZ), Th’shara(NZ),Danny(English). There was always someone familiar to chat to or drink some goon with which made it feel much more homely.

To fill the time in-between filling in applications I joined one of the Fitness First gyms in town. I chose the classy Platinum branch which comes with a sauna, steamroom and pool. It kept me occupied and has the advantage of allowing me access to any of the other 98 Fitness First branches in Australia.

On the 9th of May I volunteered at a Mother’s Day fun-run at the Domain park in the city centre. If I’d known it was a 6am start beforehand I may not have applied. When I got there I found out I’d been allocated to entrant registration. There were a good few thousand who chose to pay on the day, helped somewhat by the glorious weather, but we managed to keep the queues relatively small. After three hours of that I helped out at the sausage sizzle stall, cooking up bangers for the hungry runners. Three more hours and over a thousand sausages later the crowds finally disappeared. At that point I realised that so had most of the volunteers and supervisors. It’s amazing how lazy some volunteers can be, though I guess you have to credit them for turning up at all. After clearing up I grabbed some of the leftover freebies and headed for home. On the way I walked through Hyde park and handed out choc-ices to the  appreciative yet slightly bemused sunbathers I passed, ending a successful Sunday morning.

Fun Runners

Fun Runners

In other news, I got down to the last four in a 2 month contract Excel/C programming job. I didn’t  get it, but at least its progress of sorts. I did work for 4 hours on the 14th of May at Sydney Homes Exhibition. I was preparing and folding stock at the Miracle Shammy stall. Another one to add to my CV!
The next day I had an induction for an office relocation firm. Its just casual work but anything will do at he moment. That evening I went to Chiswick, where Helen’s sister Olivia had offered to put me up for a couple of nights. It was nice to see her again and escape the hostel for some homely-ness. By the way, if someone offers you the chance to watch the movie ‘2012′, punch them full in the face and run away. It’s awful.

I returned to the hostel for one last night on the 17th of May. The next day I boarded the 8pm bus to Melbourne. I was sad to say goodbye to everyone in room 45 but I was really looking forward to seeing school friends Fuss and Susie in Melbourne and seeing a new city.

Btw, I found this shop in Sydney city centre…

Jizz shop

Jizz shop

April 26, 2010

Carney times

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While leaving the hostel one day I spotted a job posted on the board at reception.  Someone was looking for people to work the first 14 days of April. I’d had no luck with agency or direct applications so had a convenient 14 day gap in my calendar and a real need of money. I phoned the number and got an interview for the Monday. After a short interview informal interview at the site of the upcoming Royal Easter Show I was given the job. Mark Abrahams is now master of balloon bust.

My first day working on a showground stall at the huge Sydney Royal Easter Show was aptly the first of April. I was the April fool doing a 13hr shift standing at a ‘Balloon Busting’ game stall trying to entice punters to “have a game mate”. In between there was the endless task of blowing up balloons and re-stocking the prizes. The game is simple:

  • Throw the darts at the wall of balloons
  • Burst a balloon
  • Look at the number underneath it
  • See what prize you win
  • Add up your numbers for bigger and better prizes

2 darts for $5 or 5 for $10 and some low numbers under most of the balloons ensured high scores took time and money to reach. Even so, everyone went home with a prize of some sort. The owners and permanent staff were all very welcoming and there were four backpackers working the stall. Vince (England), Rebecca(German) , Nadia (Swiss) had all responded tot he same advert. The girls were quiet and not particularly good at the job but Vince was a good laugh. The girls would finish early and then me or Vince would stay late to help Chris close up the stalls.

Sometimes I would be helping the two mad old ladies on the ‘Pluck a Duck’ stall, a pair of sweetie-wives with microwave cooking tips and a comical hatred for each other. The days didn’t exactly fly by, though I did get into a rhythm and was surprised that by the end I’d done 163 hrs. In 14 straight days of working and no drinking. The wad of cash at the end including paid breaks made it all worth while. I got the last train from Olympic Park to the hostel for the final time on the 14th and looked forward to some time off.

I continued to stay at Sydney Backpackers till the 18th of April. By now I had checked in (using the 4 nights for 3 introductory offer) & out many times and been in almost every dorm room on every floor. I did a bit more unsuccessful job hunting and caught up on everything I’d neglected for the last 2 weeks.

On Saturday 17th April I met Grandma, Uncle Martin & Auntie Janis, cousin Michelle, Rebecca and Jack at Sydney Opera House.  My Gran is 89 and has come on a month long trip to London, Singapore, Australia and L.A with my Uncle and Aunt. Impressive!  It was great to see everyone at such a picturesque location though I dumbly forgot to get photos.

I checked out of the hostel again and after dumping my stuff in Michelle’s car we went on a walk round Darling Harbour. A scenic ferry to Circular Quay brought us to the Rocks markets which have some decent stuff for sale. A bite to eat there, ferry back and then a 2hr drive up to Metford finished the day.

I stayed at Michelle and Craig’s until the 22nd of April. In that time we went to Tea Gardens (where I lost my sunglasses in the ocean) just North of Nelson Bay and out to dinner at Hunter River in Maitland. The house was packed to the rafters with Abrahams’ for these days and I’m amazed that everyone - not least Michelle and Craig - managed to stay sane.

Returning to Sydney, I stopped off at the Sydney Backpacker’s Hostel again for one night on the 22nd before catching a train with Vince to Clarendon (North West of Sydney) for a weekend stint at the Hawkesbury Show.

Our free accommodation for the long weekend was comical. One of the stockrooms in the back of the Balloon Bust trailer had been emptied and a couple of mattresses put on the shelves. This 6′ x 6′ x 6′ box was our home for the next four nights. The kitchen was a microwave in the corner and the camp toilets were 500m away through the showground.

We help set up on the Thursday and then worked the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the show before leaving on Monday morning. What little spare time we had was spent chilling with Vince in our box. When I say chilling, I really mean it. The nights were cold and with no blankets or insulation we were frozen from around 4am. Over the weekend we managed to watch some movies on my laptop… Superbad (funny), Gran Torino(awesome), Watchmen(cool) and some episodes of Skins.

There were no shops around so dinner consisted of whatever we could get at the petrol station which could be cooked in the microwave. Egg-fried noodles with tuna and vegetables was our most impressive culinary feat but normally it was super-noodles or macaroni cheese sachets.

We caught the said our goodbye’s on Monday morning and caught the train back to Sydney. The people we worked with were really good to us and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again if our paths cross in Australia …. though only if I’m really desperate for money.

March 30, 2010

Sydney Update

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Wow! Two whole months since an update. I’m trying to work out what I’ve been up to. Here goes…

Back in now familiar Sydney I stayed at Chris and Amanda’s till the 16th of February. Again it was good to be back in a friendly homely place and to see Chris and Amanda. The main activity of note was the Chinese New Year festivities in Belmore Park on the weekend of the 13th. Me and Helen attended many events and dined on dim sums and other tasty world foods. The quality of entertainment in the park was variable; Impressive martial Arts and mask switching displays shared the stage with amateur community efforts while a couple of dj’s kept things going between acts. The intermittent rain didn’t dampen our spirits.

I left Chris and Amanda’s on the 16th, catching the 3hr train up to Metford NSW to see my cousin’s Michelle and Craig and their
kids, Rebecca and Jack. It was really nice to be with family for the week. On the first night we went out for an absolute cracker of a buffet at the local bowling club. Unlike every UK bowling club I’ve seen - which are generally a postage stamp of grass shackled to a shed-like member’s club - this one had a half dozen floodlight greens, dining for hundreds, numerous bars, pokey rooms and TAB betting. I had use of a car while here so went on a couple of drives to the picturesque seaside village of Nelson’s Bay and into the distinctly un-geordie Newcastle (2nd biggest city in NSW). Michelle looked after me Craig made some tasty dinners over the week and granted me access to the beer fridge even though my presence coincided with Hibs losing 3 times and Hearts winning twice under Jim Jefferies. :-)

March was spent in something of a routine. During weekdays I dwelt at Sydney Backpacker’s Hostel near town hall; A functional hostel, centrally located with free wifi. Most of the patrons are job hunting and the rooftop area is a good place to relax. During my time there I tried hard to get a job. Numerous agencies were contacted and jobs applied to, but to no avail. My skills don’t match the contracting IT marketplace too well but there are a fair number of jobs about. I had a phone interview with Google but it wasn’t the kind of role I’d be suited to or really want to do even if it was with such a reputable employer. I was in a different 16-bed dorm each week and met a good few people including a gang of Irish, some German Aircon salesmen, american junkie, germans, scots, english, welsh and dutch.

During the weekends Helen and I stayed with Helen’s sister and husband in Epping. Olivia and Colin were very welcoming to the scottish interloper. We spent the time there boozing, babysitting, making tasty meals and watching the wire, american idol and rugby. Colin and Olivia granted me access to the beer fridge even though my presence coincided with Ireland losing to Scotland in the 6 Nations. :-)

After a sojourn to the maze hostel on the 26th-27th of March, Helen prepared to escape for a well earned trip New Zealand. But not before we managed to finish season 3 of The Wire. Thanks to Nick for randomly putting the first 3 series of the show onto my birthday-hard-drive. I settled into another new dorm in the hostel.

Oh, I also managed to find a job…

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