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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 220-227 – Australia – Sydney & the Blue Mountains

After saying our goodbyes to Colin & Julie in the morning we set off and covered the final distance stopping only for food. By 4pmish we were wandering around Fi’s cousin’s neighbourhood in search of their house. When we eventually found Raymond Terrace Evelyn, Fi’s Aunt and her mother’s twin, was there to greet us and invite us in. We shifted our stuff from the van to the house and before long Lisa (Fi’s cousin) was home followed by her boyfriend Emmett and Fi’s other cousin John. Lots of gassing followed before all except John decided to nip out for food up the road to a Turkish restaurant that I would quite happily dine at every night of the year – the food was immense. Glorious kebabs, delicious dips, Turkish bread and vegetables all washed down with bring your own wine of a calibre far above the cheap stuff we’d been surviving on thanks to our hosts. When we returned suitably stuffed from the restaurant John rigged up his laptop to the big TV and set up a Skype call to Fi’s Ma and Pa for a nice long catch up before we all hit the sack.

This was the first time for a while where we were settled and sleeping in a house – we’d been cramped up in a tiny van almost exclusively for the best part of five weeks – so the simple prospect of staying in and doing nothing was very exciting. We spent most of the Saturday doing just that while doing laundry, meeting John’s girlfriend Lisa (not confusing at all for you dear reader) who’d been working the night before and waiting to try and help bring a new couch in. In the afternoon Fi, Lisa, Evelyn and I took a wander into Newtown, the lovely suburb of Sydney in which we were based. It’s basically where all the former students move after graduating to continue the lifestyle but with the added benefit of money coming in from new found employment. There were loads of cool shops to mooch around and we had a coffee in a chocolate shop while the girls partook in the primary wares of the place. Evelyn took the opportunity to get a haircut prior to her next day departure to Burma while the rest of us hit the Courthouse for some tasty local beers.

In the evening while Evelyn prepared for her departure Fi & I were invited to join Lisa and Emmett at a friends’ birthday party. We were warned that it could easily turn into a karaoke fest – an activity we felt we’d bagged & tagged in Tokyo and had no need to revisit – but we decided to brave it. It was a great evening – the beers flowed and attempts to visit a karaoke bar were thwarted due to them being far too popular. The four of us eventually jumped in a taxi and on our way back Emmett leapt out to see if he could find a place to watch the Rugby so I decided to keep him company. The first place we tried made up some crap about being closed despite the obvious crowds inside so we wandered to another spot where – after they’d satisfied themselves that we weren’t drunk (a touch weird given the state of their clientele inside) they were happy to put the game on for us. We were the only two people in there watching and we put away a few more beers over the course of the game while casually observing what was hopefully a costume party in the background of the bar.

We returned home at some ridiculous hour that happened also to be the time the Champion’s League final kicked off but I was done so called it a night.

Evelyn left not long after I’d hit the sack but I slept really well as the new corner couch made a perfect bed when swung together. After we’d surfaced and become something like human we packed up the van for one last voyage and sped off to the Blue Mountains. This is a massive area of national parks and a conservation reserve that sits on Sydney’s doorstep and so caters for the majority of the city’s inhabitants in terms of their ‘great outdoors’ quota.

Before long we’d rolled into the planned holiday park and reunited once again with Rob & Gilly. They’d been frozen the night before so had gone wild in K-Mart that morning picking up warm clothing. We’d been lugging such clothes around since the start so dressed accordingly and set out to explore the surrounding area. We took a look around and it was nice enough but nothing particularly breathtaking – I think we were dealt a triple blow of not great weather, not really knowing where to go and a recent history of spectacular scenery that made the place less than sensational to all of us.

Not to worry! There is always wine! So we set about reminding ourselves of that.

The next day we explored the area further. I’d been recommended to visit the Scenic Railway which had attained the accolade of ‘steepest in the world’ and been described as a rollercoaster. It was certainly the first time I’d been on a rollercoaster that travels that slowly along a single angle albeit a steep one. Here’s a tip for you – skip it. At the bottom we walked around for a bit generally uninspired but still as usual enjoying each other’s company. From there we hit the road for the last few kilometres in the little van before passing it back to the Apollo Demons and being given a lift by the generous Scott with whom Rob & Gilly were staying all the way back to Raymond Terrace. That evening Jon whipped up a feast for us before the exertions of the day got the better of us.

The next day we spent in, working on the blog and doing more Laundry. We nipped out for a case of lager to stick in the fridge for everyone and whipped up my own unique brand of Mexican food for everyone.

Well rested we went out into the city the next day and caught the ferry with Rob & Gilly to Manly Bay (which puts you in the perfect position to rattle off tons of photos of the bridge and the opera house) before taking a wander around there. It was a nice day out and I imagine it’d be a great place to head to as a break from the hustle-bustle of Sydney life but as none of us were yet tired of the city I think the atmosphere was lost on us for the most part.

On our return we popped in to Customs House and took a look at some of the exhibits within before saying our goodbyes to Rob & Gilly and heading back to meet Lisa as she finished work. She was heading over to a spot for a run that promised to be a good place for some sunset photos so we tagged along with her and her friend from work. Seemingly half of Sydney walks their dog there. A few snaps later we were back in the car and within half an hour exactly where a group of likeminded friends should always aim to be – in the pub.

We returned home – look at that, I’m calling it home! Well that’s how comfortable we were made to feel. We returned home and Emmett had called in on his way home from work to pick up a curry which we all wolfed down before watching the State of Origin rugby game.

Despite the miserable weather the next day we joined Rob & Gilly again for a walking tour around the city proper. It was free (you tip accordingly at the end) and if ever you’re in a new city I recommend looking them up as they’re usually a great way to get to grips with the key landmarks. Afterwards we scoffed some more Turkish food (theme food of Sydney) and after a little more wandering had some coffee and cake – afternoon tea if you will! Following some more research we jumped on a bus and hit up a few photo exhibitions which were both really cool – one was outside in the shells of old buildings. Not content with having squeezed this much in we went back into town and grabbed a few drinks at one of the reddest places I’ve ever been – The Loft. We were hopelessly under-dressed but no-one really seemed to care so we enjoyed our drinks and then parted for the evening.

The next day we pottered about in the morning – I got a haircut while Fi posted some stuff home – before heading back into the city to meet Rob, Gilly, Scott & Hannah at the Contempory Art Museum. We arrived a little later than them and they’d already seen the Clock exhibition so we all went for lunch at a Chinese restaurant before Scott & Hannah left and we returned to see Clock and rest of museum. The place was brilliant as was Clock – it’s a 24 hour real time film using snippets from the history of cinema and in each minute the scenes used show the precise time at least once. It’s insanely engrossing – given the time I’d be interested to see how long I could sit through.

After we’d done there we went home to change and drop our cameras off before returning to town to see the Vivid light festival. Huge projections were emblazoned across major buildings including the opera house and Customs House, the latter being one of the most amazingly intricate animations using every crevice of the building facade to accentuate the video. It was incredible and we’d normally have been all over such an event with our cameras but we were lining up a rendezvous with Lisa and Emmett for a last night out in Sydney so sacrificed photos in favour of good times. After wandering amongst both the big and small exhibits for a few hours we said our goodbyes to Rob & Gilly (who were exhausted and hadn’t been home all day) and then met Lisa, John & Emmett for drinks. It was quickly unanimously decided that central was not the place to be so we hopped on a bus and went to Newtown to enjoy a few drinks around the cool bars there. It was another great evening.

The next morning the whole house went out for Yum Cha – a popular recovery brunch in this part of the world involving heaps of Chinese food. From there it was back, pack and to the airport for our flight to Melbourne.

While the tales above may not highlight it I really, really enjoyed Sydney. Of all the places we’ve visited on this trip I think it would be the easiest for me to settle in and work for a while. I’ve no doubt my impression of the place is heavily influenced by the people who made our time there so much fun so a big thank you to each and every one of you – you know who you are.