We arrived in Sydney airport after a poor night’s sleep on the plane, I felt sad and anxious leaving Asia although admittedly also quite excited to be arriving in Australia, a very odd mix of emotions!
We saw two actors from The Walking Dead at the airport (Hershel and T Dog). This was one of my favourite shows until admittedly it became monotonous but due to my odd mood we decided to walk past them instead of awkwardly getting a photo.
After some confusion regarding terminals and delays (Anna and I had to go through quarantine having swam in lakes within the past 30 days) we met Mike, one of the four brothers she has in Australia, who picked us up and let us stay at his house whilst in Sydney.
After a nap, we went to the local shopping centre to pick up some amenities and I found it very weird seeing such “normal” things like Aldi and…. white people!
24 hours before this we were shopping at roadside stalls where dogs and chickens walking would be just as likely to share the isle with you as people.
That night, Bronte and her boyfriend Dan took us to a local bar where I had my first real ale since being in the UK, maybe Australia won’t be too bad at all considering there are options other than lager!
The next day started with me deciding to stop smoking, the health concerns didn’t stop me but the price of the things over here is enough to do that, there must still be some Yorkshire in my blood!
Mike drove us and two of the kids to the blue mountains which are around 2 hours outside of Sydney, in terms of travel time in Australia, 2 hours is nothing!
The mountains get their name from the blue haze released by the eucalyptus trees covering the valleys, hills and craters in this huge national park.
We had a walk down to one of the waterfalls where there were crayfish swimming in the pools and then over to a rock formation named ‘the three sisters’ with lunch sandwiched in between.
The clouds appear so far away compared with anywhere else I have been, giving a further sense of freedom and space as the sky looks huge.
On the drive back we stopped at a quaint little town, Leura, which was like stepping back a few decades in time, the post office there wouldn’t look out of place on an old western movie set.
With our money dwindling, we had to start getting productive and the next couple of days were spent obtaining an Australian bank account and tax number whilst looking for work online.
It felt strange to have important things to do after so long so as not to burn ourselves out we took a break and went to have a look at Bondi beach, we can’t be expected to jump straight into full time chores!
With Mike and Brenda insisting on us buying little to no groceries, we had also been cooking whilst here, to varying degrees of success, having again, not done this for so long. I managed to give myself food poisoning after the first meal, testing a piece of chicken prematurely and rice is proving to be a particular foe so God forbid I try cooking a poached egg yet.
A further couple of days passed with us relaxing, looking for work, playing in the pool and getting to know the family more. Strangely, despite easing into more of a routine and structure, I was finding it harder to keep track of the days until the Friday came round and we went into the city to find Joe, who had flown in from Bali for a few days.
It was hardly an emotional greeting as we had only been apart a few days so we jumped straight onto a train, then a bus and headed to Bronte beach.
There are free to use BBQ’s in the park here but no shops selling meat nearby so we jumped back on the bus we had just jumped off, went to an Aldi, picked up meat and bread and returned again on the bus to the park.
The BBQ’s are a great idea and overlook the ocean, I felt extremely Australian cooking up the meat on them, especially when I realised we had no spatula and had to use a suncream bottle to flip the burgers!
Luckily the bottle didn’t melt and the burgers tasted better for it too.
We had a little walk around the beach and rocks before heading back into the city via a pub.
This was my first real test of the non smoking experiment as we sat in a sunny beer garden. I didn’t take it very well, positively getting the hump until well after we arrived back in the city centre.
We heard that there was a good sunset at Manly Beach, a 20 or 40 minute ferry from the main harbour depending on how much you wanted to spend.
This also provided a great view of the city, including the harbour bridge and opera house.
Manly was a nice little area of the city, despite it being a little too cloudy to appreciate the sunset before a storm started rolling in.
Unfortunately we had to take shelter from the rain in a bar, its funny how well positioned I have found these to be along this trip, rarely too close but never too far!
We eventually got the ferry back, now in the dark which offered an even more impressive view of the city.
The next day, I left Anna at the house as one of Joe and my friends from home was touring with Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, a band from the UK, and had gotten us on the guest list for their gig in Sydney that evening. The sort of music it they make is not to Anna’s taste so she decided to sit it out and went for a drink with Mike, Bronte and Dan that evening.
On the way into Sydney to meet Joe, I was struck with the realisation that this would be the first night spent away from Anna in nearly 6 months, if she had realised this too, she would have likely been thrilled!
After a few beers in the sun, Joe and I went to the Metro Theatre and sure enough, we were on the list, feeling VIP with it too.
We met Will who let us stand with him behind the soundbooth for the support band, Cancer Bats.
I had seen them before but that evening they were probably the loudest band I had ever seen as they thrashed around the stage playing their thrash inspired hardcore.
Frank Carter in various bands has always been one of my favourite musicians to see live, he acts as mad as he looks and spends as much time in the crowd as he does on stage which always makes for a good show and this was no different.
I was so glad to get a proper fix of live music, finally!
After the gig we were invited onto the stage to have a beer with Will and we met the lead singer of Cancer Bats which all made for a cool experience.
Heading towards a bar afterwards and having been completely sobered up by the gig, I was confronted by a bouncer who asked what I was after, considering the type of establishment he was stood outside of, I responded with the obvious answer, “a beer?”.
We were turned away for being too drunk. I am not sure how sober you would need to be to enter, nor what the correct answer to his question would have been as I am unsure as to how many other services a bar could provide.
It was probably for the best as it undoubtedly went someway towards the lack of hangover I felt the next morning. My throat was still a little sore though as with the beers, came a lapse of epic proportions with the amount of cigarettes smoked that night. Time to start again!
Having returned, that evening we all sat down to watch a reality TV program we are quite embarrassed about getting addicted to but unreservedly started to love since arriving here “Married at First Sight”, the premise clear from the name.
Mike, an ex rugby player, is also hooked although he won’t like to admit it publicly, though that’s what I am here for!
We had booked flights for the following Monday to Brisbane. They were only a few pounds more expensive than the train and takes just one and a half hours as opposed to fifteen!
I met up with Celso at some point this week (the days all merging into one) and it was good to catch up after having spent a few months in Asia with him and we took his dog, Alaska for a long walk.
On Valentine’s Day, Anna and I decided to stop lazing about after a couple of relaxed days and to go into the city to have a look around the botanical gardens, harbour and to go for some lunch.
We couldn’t go out for dinner that night however as we had a TV date with ‘Married at First Sight’ (what have I become?!?).
After another quiet day, we met up with Chris, Anna’s cousin from Canada and drove back out to the Blue Mountains with Mike to go on a slightly longer trek than our first time, seeing a huge (monitor?) lizard crawling up a tree just a few feet from us.
We realised how full Mike and Brenda’s place was that night as it accomodated those two, Mike’s Mum, Anna and I, Chris, the three kids and Dan all into the one four bedroom house!
The impressive Hughes family hospitality doesn’t change on either side of the world!
The next morning, after a long queue for the shower, Anna, Chris, Mike and I took Mike’s favourite toy, his Toyota Land Cruiser, to Stockton Beach where you can drive 4x4s on sand dunes.
After letting the tyre pressure down upon arrival we set off before getting stuck after a couple of minutes, more air needing to be let out.
After Mike had his fun, it was Anna’s turn, nervously (understandable as her first driving in six months was to be sending a large Toyota over and through soft sand) she set off. To my annoyance she was pretty good at it from the off.
Then it was my turn, over confident and cocky, I couldn’t even get it over the first dune until my third attempt!
I was getting the hang of it before turning a tight corner where the car seemed to be on a sideways 30 degree angle and then landing into a pile of soft sand.
We were well and truly stuck!
Mike’s face lit up as he had recently spent some money on gear for this exact purpose, including a winch, which he finally got to play with. He (half) joked that the money Brenda wanted to spend on a new sofa, did infact end up on this.
We had to start by digging a hole and burying a tyre infront of the car, then we attached the winch rope to it before burying the tyre, this turned out to be pretty hard work under the strong midday sun.
I didn’t believe this would work but alas it did as the vehicle, powered by the winch lurched out of the sand.
Chris went next, taking to it all quite naturally despite a couple of occasions even Mike thought we may tip over!
Mike had one more go before we returned to Castle Hill, grinning like a schoolboy, no wonder he takes every guest who visits him here!
It was so much fun!
That evening we were joined by Rob, another of Anna’s brothers who somehow fit into the already full house and we went for a nice meal followed by some very late drinks on the balcony back at the house.
The next morning everybody was a little worse for wear so not much was achieved except for the demolition of a few boxes of KFC and a float in the pool.
On the Sunday, our last day before heading up to Brisbane, Anna, Mike, Zach and I went on a nice bike round around the Olympic park despite the temperature being in the mid 30s and that night we went to watch the local football team, who Dan plays for. The quality was not far below the “professional” game we went to watch in Bali.
We were sad to leave the next day as we had been made to feel so at home here which really helped with the transition back to into reality! It was really nice to spend time with some of Anna’s family that we don’t see as often, I can’t believe there are still so many of them on top of the group just in the UK!!
Mike dropped us off at the airport around lunchtime before we boarded our flight to Brisbane where we would likely spend the next few months.