NZ to Oz
Today was to be our last day in Christchurch and so we spent the morning packing our things and going through our hosts' laundry pile to search for socks. When we last stayed with friends I came away with the right number of socks, it's just a shame they all belonged to a five year old boy. So I was extra careful this time.
Al and Susan have been absolutely perfect hosts and it was sad to be leaving. We've put a thousand miles on their car, caused their gates to be trashed, eaten all of their food and woken them up before six most mornings. And they've not batted an eyelid. We will miss them.
We took a taxi to the airport, checked in for the flight to Sydney and then walked across the car park to The Antarctic Centre. This was quite good fun if you dig on penguins. There was even a huge walk-in refrigerator which simulated a minus 25-degree Antarctic storm. Cool.
The flight was three hours. It's odd now that all of our travels now take us closer to home. Nevertheless, we've still got a whole month left on the road and so we're determined not to let this leg of the trip feel like the last lap.
There is a two-hour time difference between Sydney and NZ so we landed at bedtime but kept the children awake for the next two hours in an attempt to get them into the right timezone. When they finally got to bed they went to sleep instantly.
So we're in Australia. Just to prove it, we're staying in a suburb called Woolloomooloo. My pronunciation made the taxi driver smile. And he was Korean.
Unless I'm hit by a boomerang, bitten by a funnel web spider, eaten by a croc or stung by a box jellyfish, more tomorrow.
June 27, 2005.
Despite the timezone change, the children woke up only just before six. They must have adjusted their watches just as the captain suggested.
The place we are staying is scruffy but central. It's difficult booking hotels over the Internet. They don't often show pictures of the mould in the grout round the bath. Still, the location almost makes up for the en suite penicillin factory.
Lottie and Ben ate about ten slices of toast at breakfast this morning. In an uncharacteristic show of gluttony the kids ate almost a whole loaf of bread. For the first time ever we looked like one of those families that unbutton their trousers before sitting down at the all you can eat buffet. We had to entice them away with the promise of a mid-morning snack.
After breakfast we set off walking. We knew that we'd be putting a few miles in on foot and had bought a cheap buggy to push Lottie in when she started to fade. I was initially sceptical of buying yet another item of luggage to deal with at airport check in, it already looks like I've won a trolley dash at BigW. Bec was right though; the extra buggy saved the day.
And so we walked from our hotel to Woolloomooloo bay, along to Farm Cove, through the Botanic Gardens to the Opera House, on to The Rocks, under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then down to Darling Harbour.
It was a fantastic walk and whilst the weather was showery, it was warm. It felt almost tropical. When we arrived in Sydney Lottie was perceptive as ever in suggesting it even smelled warm.
In the afternoon we visited the Sydney Aquarium. Although I don't like eating fish I'm big on aquaria; there's something spooky about fishes’ googly eyes that I find engaging and unsettling in equal measure. Anyway enough insight into my emotionally imbalanced state. The place was fintastic. Nearly as good as Dave's Aquarium off Tonge Moor Road.
Ben was totally in his element as we were wandering round the aquarium. I'm not sure how we didn't end up loosing him. The place was dark and crowded and it was often only the light from those embarrassingly awful flashing trainers that gave away his location.
Best of all was a wacky warehouse style play area with a two-dollar entry fee. We presented our children and four dollars and told the man on the gate we'd pick them up on Saturday.
In the evening we found a short cut and strolled home along the hard shoulder of Sydney's central motorway.
Road maps for hiking. You can't beat them.
June 28, 2005.
Singing For Our Supper
I'm very conscious that just like Viz, Oasis and Eastenders this journal isn't as good as it used to be. Lots more spelling mistakes, fewer gags, no one falling into ponds. Despite this it seems we've had almost three thousand visits to the site since we set off, so it seems you're still tuning in. So thanks for that.
We seem to have been away for a long time now. Our underwear has turned from white to grey, my one pair of shoes has almost fallen to pieces and the children have stopped asking 'are we there yet?'
On a trip like this there is an unidentifiable but critical point where you stop looking like you are on holiday and start looking like you're on benefit. We've reached that stage. There was a moment today when Bec was inside a shop and the rest of us were sat on the step outside. Ben was asleep in his waterproof suit that he's long grown out of, I was covered in dried-on chicken and sweetcorn soup, busy trying to glue my shoes back together and Lottie was chewing on an apple whilst working on her dreadlocks.
We looked bloody awful. Once she'd finished her apple Lottie even suggested that if we'd had a hat we could put it down on the floor, sing songs and buy chocolate with the proceeds. I liked her style although I would probably have kept on singing until I'd had enough for a new pair of shoes.
Apart from our brief spell as down and outs we revisited The Rocks, we escaped from the rain in downtown malls, we dropped by the Sydney Observatory, we got the digital camera fixed and visited the Sydney Museum. We wished, today, that we had attached an odometer to the buggy at the start of the trip. Or an engine.
In the evening we ate at the world famous Café de Wheels pie cart. Allegedly it is world famous and is a big draw for visitors to Sydney. Still, it's just a pie cart, and you have to sit on the pavement to eat your purchases. So for the second time today we ended up huddled together on the pavement. Nevertheless, the pies and the view were superb.
Once the children were in bed I set off in search of an Internet café. There is a lack of unencrypted wireless networks for me to log into around here. Unlike New Zealand the networks are present, but unlike North America they're better protected.
We still have to arrange a campervan for the next leg of our trip and I wanted to compare prices. It seems that campervan world has now moved from winter to shoulder season and the rates have doubled. I still think we will hire one; we'll just not be able to afford the fuel to drive it anywhere.
Maybe we will have to put that hat down and start singing after all. Swing low, sweet chariot...
June 29, 2005.
Rain Rain Go Away
During the night it poured down. I lay in bed listening to raindrops bounce off the windows thinking 'this can't go on much longer'. How wrong I was.
Over breakfast we watched the television news that told of flooding all over New South Wales. One area not too far away had experienced nearly four hundred millimetres of rain overnight.
Well the rain continued throughout the day. It was atrocious. We sat it out in the hotel room and phoned a few campervan rental places and then decided that we couldn't keep Ben contained any longer and that we would have to go out.
It was the sort of rain that gets under your eyelids and runs down the back of your pants. The wind was howling and the trees were shaking their heads at us. Luckily the temperatures were mild so it wasn't unlike being in the shower. We got well and truly PWT.
We caught a bus into town. The windows were steamed up and everyone was dripping and glum. Part of the problem is that no one in Sydney owns a coat. It's evidently not like this much of the time. They all rely on umbrellas that were too busy inverting themselves in the wind today to keep anybody dry. Umbrella carcasses were scattered all over the place.
Once we were downtown we visited the Singapore Air ticket office to change our flight out of Australia from Perth to Cairns. We've decided to abandon the west coast; too much to see over here on the east. The whole process took over an hour, during which we all got bored and cranky.
In the afternoon we walked down to Darling harbour and visited the Maritime Museum. Whilst none of us are big on nautical memorabilia, it was close by, dry and free.
On the way home we took the monorail. This runs through the centre of town and usually affords great views of the downtown area. The trouble was that the windows were so steamed up there was no view at all.
We ate dinner back in our hotel room this evening where I made pasta slop. I didn't make enough and what little I made ended up stuck to the carpet.
Today hasn't been the finest day of the trip. Still, we held it together pretty well in the circumstances.
It is winter after all.
June 30, 2005.
Today was to be our last full day in Sydney. Thankfully we woke to a much drier day, when the sun came up there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Thanks to all of those who sent commiserations and prozac following yesterday's entry.
Bec had been collecting dollar coins all week and I was beginning to suspect she'd developed a slot machine habit. It turned out last night that they were for the hotel laundromat. Clean clothes. Jackpot!
So with blue skies and fresh gussets we all set out with a spring in our step this morning. We were headed out to Manly beach via a ferry from Circular Quays. As usual we were on foot and walked down to the quayside through the Botanic Gardens. The place is fantastic, parrots flying overhead, hundreds of huge bats hanging from the trees and heaps of great looking botanic stuff.
There was an Australian rainforest section which you could walk through: lots of tall ferns, a dense canopy and the lure of the bush tucker challenge. Lottie, Ben and I walked through this section leaving Bec with the buggy outside. The track through the forest was narrow meaning we had to walk single file. At about half way I stopped to do a headcount and realised we were missing a small boy. We retraced our steps and discovered Ben had fallen off the track head first into the rainforest. All we could see was a short pair of legs flapping in the ferns. We retrieved him without too much bother, but Lottie was laughing so much I nearly had to resuscitate her. I then had to pick the grub larvae out of his hair before we met back up with Bec. Turns out they taste like chicken.
The ferry ride over to Manly took about twenty minutes. We were conscious of Lottie's declaration last time she stepped off a boat, but she climbed aboard without hesitation. This time despite appearing a little pallid there was no barfing, which was a bonus.
Manly was a good venue. We ate a half decent lunch, browsed the largely surf oriented shops and then hit the beach. Sand pies, sand flies, sand in the eyes. By now we all know the drill and no one deviated from the script.
In the late afternoon we retraced our steps and ended up back at the Café de Wheels pie cart for dinner where we took our usual table.
Tomorrow we fly up to Cairns and pick up a campervan. Tune in for a truckload of chemical toilet shenanigans tomorrow.
July 01, 2005.