Friday, December 15, 2006

Hello from Sydney, Again

Well I'm finally back in Sydney. As I explained in my last post it's been a busy enough few weeks and I haven't had time to blog. I think that's a good thing cause, lets face it, I spent too much time on the internet before I started this trip. Now don't worry, I'm not stopping blogging and as for this holiday I will write blog posts that describe where I've been and what I've seen (I also have a personal journal that I can use when writing my blog) but with such a limited amount of time I'd rather spend the day experiencing the holiday than in an internet cafe :-). However I will summarize what I've been up to for the last few weeks.

After I left Cairns I traveled by bus to Alice Springs. This was a big, full size, four wheel drive bus that travelled through the outback and the Simpson Desert. This was my first experience of the "real" Australia, or at least the Australia I had in my mind when I left Ireland. Scrubby bush, rocky deserts, a shortage of water, lots of sun. The east coast was fun but this was more of an adventure, as burst tires and on the fly bus repairs testified.

After 3 days we got to Alice Springs. I only had one day in Alice and to be honest I was bloody glad I only had one. Sure there were some nice people off the bus that I spent time with, but Alice Springs itself was a total disappointment. Someone seems to have systematically gone through the town and removed anything with character, replacing it with another shop catering for the needs of travellers and backpackers. To me it seemed like a sad town that was past it's prime and had lost whatever had once made it special. It does host a Royal Flying Doctors Service which I did a tour of, that was the highlight. It also hosts the worst maintained hostel I've seen in Australia. The toilets were not cleaned for the two nights of my stay and they were already covered in s**t before I got there and the pool looked like it may well have been refilled with the slops from the bar.

After two nights I was delighted to get on the first Adventure Tours bus tour down to Adelaide. This was probably the best bus I was on in the whole 3 months. 6 days and a great crowd. The bus was full, 24 people, which was initially worried me but with in a couple of hours we were playing cards down the center aisle and generally settling into 6 days together. This trip took me through Uluru, Kings Canyon, Coober Peedy and lots of other great places. The real Red Center of Australia. It was bloody hot, 45C in the shade and 62C in the sun. A bottle of water frozen solid at the start of the day was liquid within an hour and like warm tea within 2. Sleeping in swags in the open air. Swimming in pools as dust devils hit the area and sent chairs and bottles flying. Drinking and sleeping in buildings under ground. But it was great fun. I've pretty much made a point of not mentioning names on my blog, what goes on the Oz Bus stays on the Oz Bus and I am bound to forget to mention someone and be in trouble, but I was asked specially to give a big shout out to everyone on my blog so here goes. Big hello to the swag Germans, Cathi, Linda and Ina. Dutchie, Duchess, Frenchie and Dingo whose pool playing skills passed several hours. Heather (Roxy girl) and all the Catherines. Richard for being my eyes after I was "struck blind" for a couple of hours when a trainee driver joined the bus and was faced with a bus that had a "blind" passenger, a "deaf" one and several who couple who "couldn't speak English". Though I suspect he twigged to the joke when the real driver doubled over laughing. And Helen from England, who really likes the number 4 on the Irish team, so if anyone has his email pass it to to her. I'm sure I've forgotten people so please forgive me, I've been trying to remember who was on what buses. I was really sad to move on and leave all of you behind.

I only got to spend 2 days in Adelaide and fortunately got out of town just before the Ashes arrived. 5 of us continued on the 3 day trip to Melbourne joined by 19 others. This was a pretty sedate bus for me. I was in pretty serious pain as I limped around the sights of the Great Ocean Road. I picked up blisters walking too fast around Uluru and they got a bit infected. A couple of soaks in detol did the trick but I was really looking forward to sitting on my ass for a while in Melbourne.

Melbourne was a city I had been looking forward to all trip as lots of people were telling me that it was a much nicer city than Sydney. It was not a disappointment, but I still think my favourite is Sydney. The good thing was that after 2 days of cricket fans several of the group we had left in Adelaide took an unplanned overnight bus to Melbourne and a car and we all got to meet up again. St Kilda is a really beautiful part of town and I spent two days out there. Victoria Markets, museums and a nice city center passed the rest of the time.

After a week in Melbourne I got on the next bus, my last, to Sydney. I really didn't want to take this bus since no one I knew was travelling on the same bus and the day I left was the birthday of one of the others and I had wanted to be there. Two weeks on a bus can make for good friends. Still perhaps it was the fact that I was not looking forward to it that made this bus special but it was. For starters it was the first bus in two months that was not full. With only 15 of us on the bus and some people travelling together I managed to get a row of seats to myself. The joy of stretching out across the bus and sleeping for a couple of hours after an early start! Many of the others on the bus thought I was German for the first day. Fair hair, glasses and I had apparently picked up a German accent during my time with all the Germans and Dutch on the Alice Springs to Melbourne journey. I'm told it's mostly gone, but every now and then I still say something that sounds German. This bus was a little more divided than others with 7 or so of us hanging out together 4 in another group and 4 kind of travelling in between. Still the 7 I was with were up for a laugh. No names, as is my standard, (and I think some of you don't want names and deeds mentioned on the internet ;-)) but you all know who you are :-)

Sydney is where I am now. Its was my starting point in Australia and my finish point. It's a lot busier now than it was back in October but it is Christmas shopping season. As is pretty standard on my visits to Sydney the weather hasn't been great but I still love this city. The seven of us from the bus are still together, all our hostels were close together and mobiles are great. I also really enjoyed being here with people who had not been here before (here I'll once again break my no names rule but she deserves a mention) and especially Adriana from Italy who when I pointed out the Harbour Bridge to her she responded with "The what? I've never heard of it! Why is it famous? What happened there?". I have to admit she had a point and I was lost for a reason why it was a great bridge beyond "look at it".

Ok, so that pretty much summarizes the last month or so, I've lost track of exactly how long. My time in Oz finishes on Sunday. I fly to Singapore for three nights and then I get home to Ireland on the 22nd. No more hostels and dorms once I leave Sydney. I've booked a hotel in Singapore, ah the simple luxuries in life like a bed that isn't a bunk or being able to turn on the light when getting back late.

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