Australia 2013

Heading to Australia from San Francisco was something I was pretty nervous about just for the sheer fact I was actually travelling as far away from home as possible without a single Australian dollar in my wallet, a bank card that could bounce on any cash machine and a 13 hour flight that would be the longest flight I’d of have done until being dwarfed by the 25 hours of travelling on the way home from Aus.

I was trying to do the travelling bit on as much of a budget as possible so I turned to STA for a multi-destination flight taking me from San Francisco to Sydney (via Vancouver which seems counter-productive I know)  and then from Sydney to London (via Guangzhou) some 17 days later. I’d also embark on two domestic flights whilst being in Australia from Brisbane down to Melbourne and then Melbourne up to Sydney again.  This was to be the most travelling I’d do in such a small period of time. The only thing that could of topped this was when I had a night out in London, Mumbai, Bristol and Cardiff all within a week. It’s legitimately daunting the thought of covering that amount of miles in such a time but there are people that have done way bigger trips in smaller amount of time and there was going to be some enjoyment in between these flights so it’s not really a problem.

My flight from San Francisco to Canada with Air Canada was fairly pleasant, it was a small aircraft with only two seats on either side. Nobody was sat next to me and I simply read the newspaper and had a cuppa on this short flight. The cabin service was actually really good but that could of been due to the fact there was literally about 15 of us on the flight. The strange thing was at one point the flight attendant who had not checked me in or seen my name at any point addressed me as Mr. Ford and I had at no point heard him address any of the other passengers by name. Intriguing. After landing in Vancouver I had a fairly interrogating experience at border control and had to fill in one of those stupid immigration forms for a connecting flight (WHY!?) and then grabbed a Subway because I am naturally inclined towards awful fast food over plane food. An hour or so wait and I was boarding to head towards Sydney. A lovely commonwealth to commonwealth journey with a commonwealth passenger. Air Canada has had a pretty bad rap I feel. It was alright, I mean no B.A or Virgin but it was tolerable. The staff didn’t seem to care too much on the second flight but I guess it’s harder for them to enjoy a 13 hour flight as much as it is us. The breakfast was amazing on the plane. Some pancakes of sorts with some epic jam. Perked me right up for being in Sydney and I had three seats to myself on the whole journey so I could lie across them and get some sleep.

I walked through customs in Sydney after being randomly selected to be sniffed up by a mutt (it’s actually always me) and then headed on the over priced train down to the center of Sydney. After dropping our bags off in what can only be described as the most disgusting hostel in the world, we headed off to the harbour for a pint and 2nd breakfast. This is the moment I decided the Sydney Opera house is literally one of the best building I have ever seen. It’s gorgeous. Fortunately despite being Winter out there at the moment it was also a really really nice day. The plan was formed to meet one of our Australian mates we studied with in San Francisco and then head to his house so we could leave our suitcases there and travel light around the coast. We had a few more drinks at the harbour and then headed out towards Black Town where said friend lives, headed back out to Sydney and left out stuff at that same disgusting hostel after securing different rooms from each other leaving our stuff at massive risk to be swiped and then got ready for the night out.

We spent the night at the Ivy. It’s one of the clubs that super stuck up people go to to pretend they have more money than they have and get girls who are looking for a bit of that cash. It was actually a really nice venue, drinks were expensive and the people are the usual mugs that you see at such establishments. We head a great time laughing at the sleazy fiends trying to dig their teeth into the fake tanned ‘talent’. It was a hilarious night but due to travel me and my flat mate from SF were shattered and headed home around 2. When arriving at the hostel, I was on the top bunk above some horrendous fiend with some of the worst tattoos I’ve ever seen. He was snoring along with the rest of the people in the room as I began to drift off and think to myself how little the back packer life was for me and how I was going to have to convince the boys that we should stay in hotels from that moment onwards unless we were staying at friends.

The following morning a different plan came to light. Get a camper. We would drive to the outback to visit some friends in a Jucy camper van and then continue our journey up towards Brisbane using our newly acquired motor. We headed out in a taxi to pick the van up and drove 2 hours at a time up towards Newcastle and on to Gunnedah. Legitimate outback town and it was a great laugh. We headed to one of those local pubs and we were the only people who were new faces in there and everyone was staring at us interested and all that. We spent a few nights in Gunnedah, climbed a mountain and ended up having a Fifa tournament before heading back towards the coast to camp in Coffs Harbour. I drove for a gruelling 6.5 hours without stopping and was pretty knackered by the end of it all.  The camp site was nice, showers good and all that and we cooked loads of meat on the BBQ and had a few glasses of Goon. I slept on top of the camper in what was labeled as the penthouse although was actually a tent with a mattress built into the roof on top of it. A very pleasant sleep was had and I was awoke to the various creature noises that Australia has to offer. This camp site had a jumping pillow which is essentially a giant inflatable pillow that has no where near as much spring as an Air Track and nowhere near the safety of the bouncy castle but I still got on to a little showing off and ignored the no flips sign because you know, I know more about safety on bouncy things than whoever wrote that rule so what can you do.

At Coffs harbour we looked to try and get an activity in like surfing or rafting and we headed to an activity shop and it said it was closed on a Tuesday. Interesting. Then we went to visit Big Bananna which was cool but pretty tame and then decided we should head up to Byron Bay that day. Back in the van we went and drove further up the coast. A phone call was made to another of the friends we’d intended to visit who we’d studied with last year and he drove down to Byron from Kingscliff to see us. Firstly though we had done something I’ve been umming and ahhing about my whole life. A Sky Dive. I’ve always been a bit nervous about the idea. I mean sure it’s a laugh but evolution says your a fool if you do it. I mean what purpose can falling 14,000ft possible serve? That said, it was an awesome laugh and I’m so glad I did it and I’m so up for doing it again. We then grabbed lunch in Hogs breath cafe and had a drink or so before then continuing up to stay at our friends family home in Kingscliff.

I fell in love with Kingscliff, it was such a chilled vibe. We would get up every day and then head down to the beach for a surf, come back and shower and all that then watch some sport and cook some nice food and all that and it really was like a holiday lifestyle. The town is gorgeous and my mates house is so nice. The balcony looked over the coast and the set up worked so well. I loved the few days we spent here. We even managed to squeeze in a game of cap shot after watching the Stat Of Origin match down the local members club. On the last day in Kingscliff we went Paddle boarding. Such a relaxing thing to do. That is until, the coast guard come past on their boat and give you a wave and say  hi, cause a ripple in the water and because I thought I was fine (they knew exactly what they were doing!) the wave took me by surprise and sent me flying. I still think my mates Dad has it on his video camera and everyone was laughing except me who was now swimming at full pace to catch up with the board and was no longer happily relaxed paddling along. Following our final day it was in the van again to drive up to Brisbane and drop our beloved mode of transport that saved us from the hostels off.

We stayed at our friends Uni house in Brisbane and how lucky were we that without planning we happened to be in Brisbane during the British and Irish Lions tour of 2013. How exciting. We also happened to fall on most of our friends exam periods which kind of sucked but we could keep ourselves occupied whilst they studied. We headed into Brisbane and I absolutely loved the city. It had such a small town feel and all the little pubs on the high street were awesome. We stopped for a schooner in one of them and there was absolutely loads of Lions players just walking around. We shouted Adam Jones’ name when we saw him and he gave us the most boss nod I’ve ever seen! We got tickets to see them play the Queensland Reds the following day and had an absolute blast at the Stadium. We got a few dodgy looks when we were deliberately letting slip our ‘C’mon Wales’ comments but ah well. All in the name of fun. The following night we headed out into Brisbane to see Tommy Trash for what must of been my 4th or 5th time in a year. He’s awesome. That was also the night I had my first proper kebab in absolutely ages and it was absolutely awesome. Although some guy did threaten to shoot us and one of the boys told the police and it turned out that lovely chap had just been released from prison for man slaughter.

Next Stop Melbourne. Melbourne was the first place in Australia where it really sank in that it was actually winter in roo land. It was absolutely baltic, we were watching TV one day and the covers had to go over my legs I’m not even kidding. We visited the city and went to a few nights out in Melbourne which was great fun. My mates house was a proper student house and it was well fun to be in. Food was good, even ate a decent roast with most of the produce coming from his farm. We even went to a place called Lentil as Anything which is essentially the most hipster/homeless place in Melbourne but actually really cool. The food was all flavoursome and you paid what ever you wanted at the end of the meal just to help out with the business. They even had a coffee waiter service which I found intriguing for somewhere that was probably just breaking even. It was one of those places that was all about being nice and ethical which I guess is nice and ethical. Good for me and good for them. When in Melbourne we also headed up to the Sky deck and need a word with the people who run it because realistically, the lied to me about having Australia’s highest operating post box. That incredible accolade actually goes to the centre point tower in Sydney which proudly boasts of being not just the tallest in Australia but the southern hemisphere. I feel cheated and lied to by one of these establishments.

After about a week in Melbourne we headed back on a tiger airways flight and headed up to Sydney to spend the last few days with the lovely gentleman who’d been guarding our suitcases for the previous two weeks and his family. Like all our friends and their families you have to love how hospitable they are. I mean Alex and I were two random British fellas who’d just so happened to fly to the other end of the world and were offered beds for the nights, whisked around by car by family members and offered meals at the table. Really some of the nicest people the Australians.

The last few days in Sydney involved going on a ferry to the harbour and heading up centre point, meeting my favourite dutch person ever at a mexican restaurant (incidentally one of my favourite cuisines ever) and a trip to the stadium to see the Roosters play against the NZ Warriors in a rugby league game. Great fun it was too. We headed to my friends families favourite eateries and enjoyed our last few days in Sydney in the most relaxed manor you could imagine. Which is exactly what I needed before heading out to Sydney airport for the 25 hour journey that I was about to embark on.

Thanks to all I spent time with in Australia (including that random Essex girl who joined us for 5 hours in the British pub on our last night out!)

Catch you soon!