A Travellerspoint blog

So long, farewell, auf wiedersein, goodbye!

Goodbye Melbourne

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We hold our hands up high and admit that we are bad people. After Melbourne has given us so much over the past year, we just left her without so much as a backward glance. It didn’t start out like this. We had decided that for our last meal we would return to the Elbow Room (Nudge Nudge) for a cuisine sensation. Whilst we sadly had to get a hour long bus in due to losing Yvonne (The most traumatic day of our lives), it was well worth it. The place was exactly the way we remembered it, if not better. We went for the herb bread for a starter which just burst with flavour. We had the exact same meals as we had last time, which were still as incredible and we treated ourselves to desert. We made the perfect choice for our last meal.

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Once we’d gotten back to the house, after a few skypes to the family we cracked on with our jobs. We only had a few left so we thought we’d be done in no time at all. However for some reason they took longer and longer and before we knew it is was 4am, we still hadn’t slept and our airport taxi was at the door. We could only quickly glance around the house before we left so unfortunately we didn’t even say a proper goodbye. The house has been absolutely fantastic for us and has been special in so many ways. It’s been the place of so much fun and laughter, we’ve had Carro, Rach’s parents and Alex’s friends all stay with us. Most importantly it was our first home together and a house that in all likelihood we’ll never be able to see again.

Driving through the streets of Beaumaris and Melbourne brought all the memories flooding back of all the good times we’ve had living here and it really has been home for us. It truly is a special place in the world and if we weren’t so exhausted there’s a chance we may cry. However here we are, writing this in Melbourne airport with bloodshot eyes eating Hungry Jacks (Australia's Burger King) at 5am. A terrible way to leave Australia but we are incredibly excited to be heading to our next stop; New Zealand!

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Follow the Scout motto: Be prepared. It’s not fun packing up and cleaning your house at 4am.
  • You can collect a whole mass of junk on your travels. Be picky about what you send home, postage is expensive!
  • Melbourne. We love you.

Posted by rexontheroad 05:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Pretendy surfing on Bondi

Bondi, the boys in blue and Sydney’s famous green

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Our penultimate day was mostly taken up with trying to see and surf the famous Bondi Beach. If you’ve ever seen a beach advertised in Oz it’s more than likely that it’s Bondi. This is one of the most used stretches of sand in Australia due to its proximity to Sydney. Thankfully, arriving a short bus ride after leaving the city, we stepped onto the beachfront to find most of the sun-seeking Sydneysiders finding alternative pleasure indoors with only a hardy few bikini clad girls populating the windswept beach. Forgoing the sunbathing we met up with our host and decided on a short walk across the sand before retreating to the shelter of a cafe and a decent hot chocolate to plan our next move.

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Stomachs freshly warmed with the ingested chocolat chaud we headed to one of the surprisingly few board hire shops in Bondi. After walking up to the counter and getting along merrily with the process of hire when the shop assistant turned to us as though remembering something and informed us that we would need to leave an insurance deposit of either our passports or a credit card. We don’t carry our passports around for fear of loss and would never advise that anyone carry their passports around or leave them for a deposit, not big and definitely not clever. As for the credit card thankfully we haven’t yet succumbed to that form of plastic cash. She did however suggest an easy alternative; that we leave $400 as a cash deposit. Each. Errrr no. Thus rejected we hung our heads and as a poor substitute dipped our feet in the sea and pretended to surf.

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Make believe over we headed back to the city and the interesting police museum. The police museums that we have been in so far have been some of the most interesting and best put together and so we were looking forward to this museum visit with anticipation. And whilst it was not the best offering it was not misplaced anticipation. Due to bad timing we did have to run around the museum and that was sad as there was so much to see and do. There was so much information packed into such a small space from the old court-room to the room full of murder weapons it was an engaging, if sometimes grisly, experience. We do however wish that it had followed Brisbane’s lead and put in some more stories about individual interesting crimes as opposed to a, at times, general outlook on the formation and history of Sydney’s police.

Today was our final day and it’s been sad to have to say goodbye to such a wonderful city. We spent the morning and a large chunk of the afternoon wandering the beautiful boulevards of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Whilst it was a truly incredible place we did however feel that it wasn’t on the same level as the gardens in Melbourne feeling more like a park than a tended to garden. Don’t however let this put you off as it is still an amazing place to see and spend the morning. There is one part of it that is definitely superior to Melbourne’s offering though in that it holds the Government House – the governor’s house through the ages. The only way you can get inside is by booking in advance one of the tours leaving every half hour and lasting about an hour. The tour was okay although not greatly informative and was also spoiled a little by various idiot tourists who; didn’t understand which tour they were booked on, didn’t understand food couldn’t be brought in, didn’t understand no mobile phones and who worst of all continued to take pictures of the place even though they’d been asked not to for security reasons. Bah humbug!

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After the tour we headed off to explore the relatively non-existent Chinatown and so passed through to Darling Harbour where we saw a Nepalese festival, a pretty amazing streetdancing act, a beautiful fountain and a big ass submarine. Darling Harbour really does seem like the place to be. Sadly though we couldn’t be there for long as we had to head off to catch our train. It was a sad moment saying goodbye to our lovely host, the amazing apartment and the stunning city. Au revoir my love!

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you’re going surfing at Bondi be prepared for the exorbitant deposit fees or take your own board.
  • Check out Government House in the Royal Botanic Gardens for a nice free tour. It is an exception to the rule though, only being open Friday to Sunday.
  • Watch out for other tourists – they may be stupid. And obviously in ways that we would never be! (That last bit was sarcasm just in case you didn’t catch that).

Posted by rexontheroad 19:47 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Attack of the Sydney seagulls

Modern art, convicts and a traumatising event

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It’s mainly Rachael writing the blog today as Alex is rocking back and forth in his chair, trying to come to terms with what happened to him this morning. There we were sitting by Circular quay enjoying the sun and our McMuffins, that we’d decided to treat ourselves with. Alex has had bad experiences with Australian birds as they seem to have some kind of radar for whenever he has food and lo and behold along came some seagulls to pester us. Alex is normally a knight in shining armour and will chase them away and he did so on this occasion. He hadn’t, however, prepared for a rear attack and was taken off guard when a seagull launched itself at the back of his head and swooped for his McMuffin. A piece of his egg escaped and was pounced on by the seagull. A bewildered and heartbroken Alex turned round to me and wailed, “He took my egg!!!!!”

After he had recovered enough we took the ferry across to Cockatoo Island for something a bit different. Not many tourists have heard of or been to the island across the harbour. It’s only because of a few select Sydneysiders that we’d even found out about it. The once industrial island had also been home to a number of convicts so we expected a morning of glorious historical tales. How wrong we were. At the moment there’s an event going on called the Sydney Bienniale and has led to a number of modern art exhibitions being displayed in a range of different locations across Sydney. Cockatoo Island was one of them and a free ferry service was trawling back and forth so we took advantage of it. Scattered throughout old industrial buildings were selections of modern art, ranging from light displays, talking furniture and sculptures. As we’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Rach isn’t the greatest of modern art fans and Alex was forced to once again agree when we came across rocks just thrown on the floor which was described as showing the individual and the emotion....it’s just rocks! We left after a few hours to go back to the mainland and try out a museum.

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The museum of choice was Hyde Parks Barracks, the location where convicts would be housed on their arrival in Sydney. Unfortunately by the time we made it across there was only two hours before close so we only really saw a few rooms. The rooms we did see however were fascinating. One in particular concentrated on the experience of the convicts and showed us what type of crimes they could be exiled for, the food they ate, the occupations they took up and what life was like for them in the barracks. On the very top floor they’d set out dorm rooms with hammocks as they would have been in the day but unfortunately this was the point at which we were thrown out.

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It was still daylight when we emerged so we thought it would be a good opportunity to have a wander through Darling Harbour. Rach’s parents had stayed in that area when they came to Aus and had absolutely loved it so we thought it may be worth a peek. It certainly was. It’s very cosmopolitan but the harbour itself seems so peaceful even though it’s surrounded by trendy bars, a Chinese garden and various museums and attractions. We’d only been standing on the bridge for a few minutes when the heavens opened and descended on us. Bearing in mind this was the first time it had rained for the entire of August we didn’t mind so much and walked back to the apartment. Our host was at work so we had the place to ourselves so we unwound, watched some TV (it’s been so long since we’ve seen My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding!) and stuffed ourselves with doughnuts. We’d forgotten how nice it is to just completely and utterly relax. It was exactly what we needed.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Modern art is not art if it’s just a pile of rocks. At least pile them in a unique way, not just scattered on the floor.
  • If you’ve only got a short amount of time in a museum do a quick run around first and see which parts are actually the parts you’re interested. Don’t waste time on boring bits.
  • The temptation whilst backpacking is to be on the go all the time, make sure that you make some time for some relaxation. If you’re staying in dorms all the time, it might be worth treating yourself to a private room every once in a while just to get away from the noise and the people and de-stress.

Posted by rexontheroad 21:36 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Staying in a Sydney penthouse

Walsh bay, Susannah’s place and some opera house

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So we’re staying in a $5,000,000 apartment tonight. Yep that’s a five with six zeros after it, you read that right. We’re staying in a place called Walsh Bay which is very central (literally a two minute walk from the Harbour Bridge) and have had the most luck we have ever had. Not only are we staying in a really nice place but the person that we’re staying with happens to be one of the nicest people we’ve met, still taking us on for couch surfing even after she had her bike stolen.

After chatting to our host for a while over lunch, we headed out to the bridge and had a walk along its span between the pylons. It really was quite magnificent although the view was somewhat spoiled by the high fences and barbed wire that stopped those people who have tendencies to jump off tall structures. There are two tours on the bridge that we debated doing, one is the bridge climb whereby you scale one of the massive arcs to the very pinnacle of the bridge, the other being slightly less impressive but having significantly less of an impact on a bank account, was a climb up one of the four pylons. Apparently the views from both are pretty much the same except that for the bridge climb you pay an extra $185 for the privilege. We however settled on neither, satisfied with the views from the bridge footpath itself.

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Our next stop off was located deep in the warren of back passages and narrow laneways that makes up the Rocks and so we delved into a very important slice of Sydney’s history. This is the area that was first landed upon and colonised in the name of Great Britain and the area where all the convicts were shipped ashore and the concept of modern Australia was born. In the very heart of the Rocks there are four of the oldest houses in all of Sydney (and by extension Australia) now taken over by Susannah Place Museum. This excellent museum is dedicated to the lives of those who lived in these buildings since they were built and aims to preserve a glimpse into the past for future generations of tourists and Australians alike. You could only enter the houses during a guided tour, but this is incredibly cheap for the amount of detail and attention you receive with each tour having a maximum of ten people. Each room represents a different era and is lovingly preserved using, where possible, the original artefacts and decorations. It is a truly absorbing museum and really helps one to connect with the history of the place.

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Just down the road from Susannah Place is the Rocks Discovery Museum, a free museum that offers a look at the general history of the region as well as some interesting stories concerning the people who lived there. Unfortunately we got there at four and so had to rush around before it closed, but it does provide a particularly fascinating look at how the Aboriginal people lived in the area before the white settlers arrived and even looks at the integration between the two different cultures. There were also sections on; crime, which was apparently rife, and notable persons of the area. It was a really well put together museum especially considering that it was completely free.

To round off the day we decided to pay a visit to the most famous of landmarks; the Sydney Opera House. We got there just as the sun was starting its journey beneath the waves of the harbour. We had thought previously that the Opera House didn’t look as impressive as pictures had led us to believe but as we approached and as its truly imposing bulk rose up in front of us we stared up at the smooth and powerful lines that it cut through the darkening sky. This impression lasted until we got even closer and realised to our astonishment that the famous sails are made of thickened bathroom tiles. It’s so strange, a bit like idolising Natalie Portman’s beautiful lines and flawless skin and then getting a bit closer and realising that it’s actually made up of small wrinkles covered in makeup. Disappointing to say the least.

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After our disappointment we were looking for something new that would properly round off the evening and stumbled across the Museum of Contemporary Art. As it is a Thursday, and everything is open late on a Thursday in Australia (that being the perfect day for it, obviously), it was still open and so wandered in, or at least Alex did, dragging the kicking, screaming, modern art-hating horror that was Rach. And in all fairness Rach probably had the place sussed a lot more than Alex. There were some good individual pieces however as a whole the gallery seemed to be full of pretty poor modern art, things that had required no effort or thought only to be backed up by some quite frankly preposterous, pretentious drivel.

So drained of the will to live we headed back to our sumptuous apartment to help prepare a dinner for us and our host.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • If you want a view from the top of the bridge don’t spend $200, spend $15 instead and head for one of the pylons. Same view - $185 less, go figure.
  • Opera House seemed to a bathroom tile jobbie and although we would never suggest avoiding such a popular landmark,unless you want your illusions shattered maybe stand a little further back than we did.

Posted by rexontheroad 22:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sydney’s wet T-shirt competition

Nips you could hang coats off, cockroaches and free tours

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We’ve now been in Sydney for one and a half days and had a pretty awesome time. We arrived at the hostel just as the light was fading. We didn’t think this was the cleanest of hostels, however it was probably one of the best we’ve stayed in terms of communal atmosphere. The staff were great and knew almost everyone by name and it wasn’t long before we were being shepherded down the stairs onto the street for a night out with free club entry and a free drink simply for staying at the hostel. Being a little tired we’d agreed that we’d stay for the free drink and head on back to our beds. How wrong we were to be.

It all started when four random guys and four girls were pulled up on the small stage and told to pair up. The girl then had to give the guys a sexy lap dance. Then the real kicker the guys had to do the same back! It was really very funny at this stage and all the guys whipped off their tops in a bid to impress the jury – the audience. The winning couple got a little carried away with the girl revealing her leopard print knickers due to the thoughtlessly small skirt that she wore (not that Alex was complaining). A wet T-shirt contest followed on after a little while. They’d obviously struggled to find girls to compete as there were multiple requests made for competitors over the sound system. The five competitors that they did find, however, were awesome! We’d bagged some stage front positions with Rach’s eyes at boob level. There was even one Brazilian girl who gave Rach a bit of a motorboat special. The night was a good one and aside from the entertainment the club was the most club-like club that we’d been clubbing in. (Club.)

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The following morning we got up and unfortunately Alex was suffering from a horrendous bout of the man-flu and so had to put his little head straight back down for a nap. At lunch we set off (Alex coughing and sneezing all the way) to get to the meeting place of a free tour of Sydney. When Rach’s parents had been in Sydney in March they’d been on the tour and highly recommended it. The tour began at 2.30pm outside the Town Hall. Ross was our guide and he was wonderful. He led us gaily through the wide streets and narrow back passages and tunnels of Sydney, stopping frequently to regale us with interesting historical facts and anecdotes. It lasted three hours and we took in most of the major sights of Sydney’s CBD and The Rocks. Just as a brief summary we covered cathedrals, fountains, rum houses, film sets, parliament buildings, post offices, the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

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We enjoyed it so much that there was another tour run by Ross at 6pm covering just The Rocks and its history, which we tagged along to. He was incredibly entertaining and informative and his tour was free. We couldn’t recommend it more as on top of this they also provide you with an excellent small guide to Sydney listing all the free things to do including transport, museums and cheap eats. Check out their website here.

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So far our experience in Sydney has been pretty cheap as we’ve only had to spend money on the hostel room (comes with free breakfast and wifi too). Actually that’s a bit of a lie; we did give Ross a tip after the tour although we could have gotten away without giving anything if we’d been that cold hearted.

Rex’s Rules of the Road

  • Check out the free tour here. It’s a really great tour run by people who care about the city. Rach even gave it 5/5 in her review.
  • If you’re looking for a cheap hostel in Sydney, expect a slight decrease in the quality of your lodgings. It is Australia’s most expensive city after all. Brados Backpackers was one of many similar hostels, check out Rach's review here.
  • A good night out on a Tuesday is at the Piano Room in Kings Cross. Even if you have to pay entry it’s worth it for the great music, $5 drinks and semi-naked girls.

Posted by rexontheroad 22:15 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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