22.11.2011 - 06.12.2011 15 °C
After rolling over the boarder on the Greyhound into New South Wales, first up was Byron Bay, A chilled out, hippyfied, surfing playground with coffee shops everywhere. We missed out Surfers Paradise before leaving Queensland as we would have landed there right in the middle of schoolies season, riot police and all!!! Apparently the kids who have just left school go away for two weeks en mass, get pissed, cause havoc & generally annoy the locals! The police were on hand with horses and riot gear to keep things in order, seemed a bit heavy handed but according to some locals the little blighters can get a bit rowdy. Aquarius was our hostel which had it's own bar, pool area and free evening meals! The night we arrived was the culmination of movember so there was karaoke arranged and all the boys were sporting their best efforts, Some good, some bad & some ugly, the girls tried to join in by drawing a fake tash with eyeliner, Sian just looked like a French
We had our surf lesson booked for the morning after so didn't get too carried away with the drinking even though happy hour was nice & cheap'ish! We woke up to a grey & drizzly morning, not ideal for surfing but our tutor seemed to think that there would be less wind & it would make it a bit easier for us, we'll see. Only a small group of four, so we would get enough pointers & help from the tutor. We were the only newbies as the two other girls had had at least one other lesson previously. When we arrived at Lennox head the weather was a little brighter but it was definitely windy. We went over the moves and practiced on the sand before we were let loose in the rough sea with the added challenge of a side current! One of the girls told us that her other lesson conditions were a lot easier than this, nothing like jumping in at the deep end then. With the help of the guide we were getting our balance together and getting halfway to standing before falling off. All the pushing, lifting and fighting the current was serious exercise so we were given a short break. When we went back in to the froth Sian got straight on the board and managed to catch a good wave, stand and ride it in to shore without the tutor. That feat wasn't repeated, not for lack of trying though! Meurig managed to stand a few times but it didn't help that we both went to catch the same wave and Sian's board clonked him on the head. After a tiring 3 hours session we took nice dip in the tea tree lake and headed back to Byron in time for lunch, or a massive amount of cake and coffee, nice & healthy.
The next day was a lot more chilled out and was spent mostly on the beach and taking advantage of the free BBQ at the hostel ! We walked down the beach and headed up to the lighthouse up on Cape Byron, which is the most easterly point of Australia, the views from there were stunning. A walk back along the Captain Cook trail took us back Byron beach for sunset with a few kite surfers doing there stuff. Byron Bay was a great little place and wished that we had spend more time there, could have also worked longer perfecting our surfing skills!
We left Byron to head a little further down the coast to Coffs Harbour. It was mainly a quick stop off to break up the journey down to Sydney and we had been told that the YHA there was nice. Our stop over was just enough time to use the pool, check out the beach, & tale a stroll up the river into town. The YHA was in the jetty area so not close to town but a nice 45 mins walk. The place wasn't a massive draw for tourists mainly a decent place to stop and avoid a near 24 hours bus ride down to Sydney. So after our stop over we jumped onto the night bus to our last destination along our Greyhound east coast trip. Unfortunately the bus was late picking up and turned up at 2am, and then 10 minutes down the road the driver had to take his scheduled pit stop, but as we started up again the bus's head lights didn’t. As a result we didn’t go anywhere until the sun rise!! Fantastic!
We stayed in the Glebe area of Sydney for the first few days in the YHA with our new free membership cards, hello discounts. The area is close to the uni and has loads of nice picturesque terrace houses with cafes, bakery's and restaurants spotted down the main road. We headed down town on the bus for a look and got to the harbour front to see the bridge and the opera house as it got dark, the bridge was definitely impressive not sure about the beige opera house, quite a 70's concrete design! We thought it was suppose to be white! The next couple of day's were spent wandering around the city centre, checking out the Sydney museum, climbing up the bridge tower to get a birds eye view, checked out the free bridge museum, walked over, under and around it, and then through the old refurbished dock's area the Rock's, nice and posh. We went to the Aquarium on Darling Harbour in the hope of seeing a platypus, but had to be content with some penguins, sharks and Dugongs. With a trip to Sydney harbour not complete without jumping on and off the famous green and yellow passenger boats streaming across one end to the other.
After getting a taste of Sydney city centre we head out east for a couple of nights to the infamous
Bondi Beach. The weather up until now had been quite disappointing not what you expect from a Sydney summer but as we rocked up at our Bondi YHA the sun came out to welcome us, great timing for the Hostel BBQ that night. First things firsts, head on down to the beach and chill out with the hundreds of sunbathers watching the surfing and volleyball on a glorious Saturday. After soaking up some beach atmosphere we lunch on some fish and chips on the grass bank with the seagulls and walk the beach with a massive, thick 99 ice cream with sprinkles, sickly.com. To the south we took a coastal walk heading down towards Coogee beach, walking between the rocky coast and some very nice prime sea view houses. Some great little bays on the way, beaches and cliffs buzzing with people making the most of the good weekend weather before the sun disappears. Next stop Sydney centre again just for a night & our dorm was in the city centre train station YHA within an old train coach, the only down side being the location right next rail tracks. That day we had arranged to catch up with Brad and Mark from the welsh pub in Wellington for some drinks and BBQ at Marks house in San Souci, not far from Botany bay. It was a great laugh catching up and meeting their family and friends and Mark got out his turbo charged BBQ, well in the garage because of the rain.
Inland is Katoomba, a smallish town right up in the Blue mountains, a two hour train ride from Sydney. We had been warned that the climate definitely changes up there so we packed some warm things and headed off. Katoomba is a tourist highlight mainly because of the spectacular views nearby of the three sisters and the blue mountains national park all around. We only had a day to spend up there so we made the most of the walking tracks, viewpoints, and the many steps down to the valley floor! They seriously felt like they went on and on but I suppose we were quite high up! Luckily we didn't have to climb up a never ending staircase at the other end of the valley as they had the worlds most vertical train ride back up to the top, no wonder the carriage was engulfed in cages! Katoomba town is full of very enticing coffee shops and bakeries so after a hard afternoon walking around we finished off with coffee and cake, well deserved. Turns out we picked the right day to go walking in the area because the next morning was pretty wet and cold, time to head back to sunny Sydney I think. Ye right!!
So back in the city once more and the last day on the east cost, so time to tick off a few things we had missed earlier. First things first though, Foooooood and off we trotted to the food hall in Paddy's market, fairly similar to the ones in Asia just a little more modern and cleaner but loads on offer. Meurig definitely indulged in a huge plate of Chinese offerings and Sian had Sushi, Cardiff could do with one of these! Manly was the next destination on the north side of the harbour and a great place for a surf apparently, not many out that day. Unfortunately the weather had followed us from Katoomba and Manly beach was a little grey and cloudy so it was only a pit stop for us and a quick walk through town before jumping back on the ferry into town. Sydney ferries had been voted one of the best companies in Australia to work for and it's surprising how many people use them, I suppose it's a long way round by road from some of the coves around the harbour. The ferries are also a very lazy way of seeing the sights along the river so we jumped on the next ferry inland past the Olympic park until the boat turned round & headed back downstream, and eventually back under harbour bridge. To finish off the last day in Sydney we had a few drinks and some snacks in the out door bar right next to the opera house on the waterfront.