So when I left us last we were at the Beach House, still in Queensland. We’d survived a run in with a cockroach and even had a go at surfing, establishing it was not the sport for me. Happily though, Mark and Hazel also have paddle boards so in our last couple of days staying at Moffat Beach we had a go taking these out in the water. And it may be my sport! It requires a small amount of balance, but no real skill and is quite slow paced – I loved it. (In fact, since being in Sydney I’ve also had the chance to practise and may have even bought a board… details to come later!)
One of the things that has been so different about Australia has obviously been the weather. It’s not hot and sunny all the time as you always imagine, and when we were staying at the beach there was one particularly epic storm/cyclone which lasted about 15 minutes, before the blue skies were out again. In that time though several trees blew down, next door’s furniture smashed through their window and something flew off the roof of our apartment block and through the roof of an apartment next door. It’s so unexpected when it happens, but also so welcome because it’s usually got very muggy before the storm breaks, so all your clothes are sticking to you. It is completely different in every way to British weather and it’s been a strange adjustment.
Another thing I’ve found unexpected has been the insects – generally the lack of them. We’ve had only one spider in the house in the past couple of months, and I’ve not even really seen any outside – just the occasional web. What’s more annoying are the flies in the daytime (which just seem to make a constant beeline for your face!) and the cockroaches at night – Jimi and I went to the cinema a couple of weeks ago in a Westfield mall, which is half indoors, half outdoors, and as we left at 10pm there were cockroaches EVERYWHERE. When we were at the beach in Queensland we saw one cane toad after the storm, sitting in the garden – we left it be, but they are poisonous to pets and overrun in the north, so people often try and kill them if they see them. The cane toads are only in Queensland, but New South Wales (where Sydney is) has hundreds of rabbits instead. Both got introduced by humans and then destroyed whole ecosystems, and hilariously there is an actual fence that runs the border of Queensland and New South Wales to keep the rabbits out.
Before we left the Sunshine Coast, Hazel also took Jimi and I on a rainforest walk, which was gorgeous – we saw heaps of lizards and had a swim in an outdoor rockpool.
There is a mountain range called the Glasshouse Mountains near the Sunshine Coast so the beaches are broken up by stretches of volcanic rock, formed thousands of years ago. We walked down to the rocky part of Moffat Beach to look in the rock pools, and though we didn’t find many fish or crabs, the rocks themselves were beautiful, threaded through with strips of colour and completely smoothed by centuries of the ocean.
Our last adventure while up at the coat was something of an Aussie institution: a sausage sizzle. As far as I can make out it’s just eating sausages cooked on a BBQ, along with fried onions and folded up in fresh white bread. In Australia there are lots of public BBQs around that are free to use in parks, by the beach etc – everything is geared to outside living and they are all maintained by the council. We had a delicious one by the beach not too far from Hazel and Mark’s place and Jimi was in charge of the cooking (and when we got to Sydney I bought him some tongs so we can continue the institution!)
(Side note: it was the super moon while we were staying at the beach, and we got a great view of the giant moon going down over the ocean – see below!)
We spent the last couple of days of our stay in Brisbane, with our final night’s dinner trip to The Breakfast Creek Hotel – something of a local institution. It’s a pub, but with lots of different areas of seating both inside and out, hundreds of fairy lights and an old-style Spanish kitchen, famous for its steak served with jacket potatoes and coleslaw. We all ordered that and some wine, and bought some souvenir stubbies (beer holders) to begin our collection.
The next morning we waved goodbye to Mark early on as he was heading off to have shoulder surgery, and spent our final few hours packing again, as well as trying to copy down all of Hazels recipes in an attempt to be able to recreate the amazing meals we’d been eating. Packing was no fun yet again – our stuff seemed to have continued to grow. We’d actually had to buy another suitcase from Gumtree to fit everything in (true story) so showed up to the airport significantly laden down with FIVE full size cases. Luckily after some reshuffling at the check in desk we were allowed to board (with ‘heavy’ labels on every single bag, a record!) and said a big farewell to Hazel before boarding our flight.
The flight to Sydney only takes about an hour, so we were there before we knew it. The best moment was when we looked out the window to catch our first iconic view of the Opera House and the Harboyr Bridge – we’d made it! (Side note: Jimi claimed he’d seen his new school from the plane and though sceptical, it turned out in hindsight he was right – his school is noisily enough right on the flight path!)
Finally arriving in Sydney after having travelling for a whole month first (it was exactly 31 days since we’d left the UK) was surreal. We’d made it! Thank god for our pink folder of planning as I don’t know what we’d have done without it. As soon as we landed and made it through arrivals we were greeted at the bottom of the escalator by Lewis and Emily! It felt like we’d just seen them, even though they’ve been here a year and a half now, and we immediately felt like they’d never left. After the next exciting instalment of ‘stuff-everything-in-the-car’ we set off for their house in Frenchs Forest, a suburb towards the north of the city, near the Northern Beaches. It was dark out so hard to get our bearings, but as the airport is south of the harbour, we got to drive over the bridge that night which was impressive!
Lewis and Emily’s house is lovely – in a quiet residential street, it’s set back from the road with a garage and downstairs space largely being used as a workshop, and upstairs a veranda leading through to the house. There are three bedrooms, a big lounge/dining room that flows into the kitchen and outdoors a large pool! Those first few days there was a deck being laid in the garden, but we arrived just in time as that was finished the following week, which has left the garden looking amazing. That first night we had a BBQ, and then took our stuff through to the room we’d be staying in. We didn’t stay up too late as Emily had work the next day, and Lewis had a breakfast meeting in town.
We went in with Lewis the next morning, and he drove to Redfern (near where Emily works) to leave the car, before catching the train two stops into the city. Lewis left us on our own to explore, so Jimi and I set off for the Opera House. The weather was gorgeous, and walking up to the bridge felt like we were on a film set – it’s so iconic and it reminded me of New York, in that as soon as you are there it has the feeling of somewhere you’ve visited before. That morning also got off to a great start as Jimi and I were given $100 by agreeing to be filmed for some infomercial for a cash back company (article here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3963180/Cashrewards-tried-away-16-000-cash-pinned-board-Sydney.html) – I’m glad we stopped as apparently barely anyone did! We used the money to treat ourselves to breakfast at the Opera House cafe – avocado on toast, and Jimi had three (yes three…) coffees.
When Lewis was done he came and joined us and we went for a walk through the botanical gardens all up to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair – a sandstone rock cut into the shape of a bench, which was hand carved by convicts in 1810 for Governor Macquarie’s wife Elizabeth (it was her favourite spot!) We strolled around The Rocks (the area of the city near the harbour) before stopping for lunch at a rooftop pub near the bridge, where we sat outside in the sun. That afternoon, after retrieving the car, we drove to Bronte, and walked along the coast from there to Bondi Beach (past Tamarama Beach). The views were spectacular and we saw hundreds of very impressive surfers from the path (as well as lot of cute dogs, and some women wearing the tiniest bikinis you can imagine…) We had a drink at the Bondi RSL Club which overlooks the beach, before the return walk. (We ended up doing about 27,000 steps that day – so much walking!)
Emily was now done at work so we met her for dinner in Bondi, and ate at the China Diner – one of their favourite restaurants, which had incredible sticky ribs (SWOON) before dessert of an ice cream at one of the best parlours in the city, where they have specials every week.Mine was some kind of cream cheese, boysenberry delight and it was AMAZING. In fact I am now craving one as I write this…
More soon, but at least we are finally in Sydney now!!