Strictly: Sydney and Stuff – Part #2

I spent quite a lot of time in Sydney and, as I was by myself I actually found wandering around all day quite lonely. Meeting people in Australian hostels isn’t as easy as you would expect it to be, the majority of people I met were either travelling in groups, or were in Australia on a working holiday and therefore weren’t always that friendly. Rather than just moping about by myself for a week the simplest solution to my loneliness problem seemed to be booking myself onto some day tours so that I could see some of the country outside the city and meet people at the same time. My first trip was to the blue mountains, a couple of hours outside Sydney. Most people who do the Blue Mountains unguided take the train to Katoomba and walk the track out to the Three Sisters, then take the scenic railway onto the forest floor. That was my initial plan, but as I ended up on a tour we went a bit more off the beaten track and did a few bush walks before visiting the Three Sisters at the end. In hindsight I was pretty glad I did the tour, I would’ve liked to do the railway but, by the time we got to the Three Sisters, it was absolutely packed with tourists, in stark contrast to the rest of our day where we’d seen a handful of people at the most.

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A rare photo in front of the Three Sisters without any other tourists pushing me out of the way

My second tour was to the Hunter Valley wine region, a couple of hours in the opposite direction, to try some local wines. As you can imagine I got pretty tipsy at one point (but what do you expect when you do two full wine tastings before lunch) but definitely appreciated some of the wines… the ones I remember at least!  You’ll all be pleased to know that I did meet people on both of my tours, and they were probably my favourite two days in Sydney, it was really nice to just get out of the city and do something a bit different.

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Although, even in the city you can do something different if you hunt around for it enough. In Sydney, after deciding that $200+ for the bridge climb was too much, I embarked on a journey to try and walk across the Harbour Bridge. First stop was the ferry out to Luna Park, a mildly terrifying 50s style fair which, it turns out, is also in Melbourne, and features a frankly haunting clown face as its entrance gate. I think that wandering around the weird time warp of Luna Park was as interesting as walking across the bridge, although the views weren’t quite as good. In Melbourne I’d heard that wandering along the river down to the docks is a beautiful walk which I very much wanted to do, but unfortunately I’ve managed to injure the tendons in the back of my foot, so my walking future looks murky and I couldn’t bring myself to do the walk. I instead had to make do with the views when I visited the Shrine of Remembrance, an imposing war memorial to all the ANZAC forces who have served throughout the 20th century. To be fair they were very impressive views.

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Once Sydney was done I hopped on the Greyhound bus to Melbourne. The whole journey was an eye-watering eleven hours so I figured it made sense to have a break in Canberra, 3 hours in, and then do the run to Melbourne overnight. My plan for Canberra was simple, get off the coach, store my bags, spend a couple of hours exploring the city and then get back to the bus station in plenty of time to leave. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. It turns out that I hadn’t really thought about the time I would be getting to Canberra (4pm) and had just presumed I could store my bags indefinitely. Unfortunately I could only store them until 6, meaning I would have to spend 5 hours sat in the uncomfortable bus terminal waiting for my coach. So I did what any sensible human would do in that situation, I took my bag and went to the cinema because, it turns out, it’s perfectly ok to take huge backpacks to the movies and just leave them at the back. So my trip to Canberra was a bit of a fail, but at least I saw a good movie.

I think I must’ve covered the majority of my time in Sydney and Melbourne by now, and nothing else really springs to mind, meaning I’ve probably talked about all the exciting things already. So I will end on two surprising observations I’ve made in both cities. The first is that the cheapest food, by far, is Asian food, so you can imagine what I’ve eaten pretty much everyday. I’ve actually been surprised by the international make up of both cities, Melbourne in particular seems to be a massive cultural melting pot and has dedicated Chinese, Greek, Italian and Spanish quarters. Impressive for a city that really isn’t that big. The second is that a lot of public toilets have bins specifically for needles. Now I don’t know if there’s a massive, hidden drug problem in Australia but I have been more than a little disconcerted to see so many bins just for dirty needles.

And here ends my time in Sydney and Melbourne. Nothing too drastic or ridiculous has happened to me yet, but I’m off to the Outback now so I don’t think it’ll stay that way for long!

Leah Out X

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