Poms in Aus!
Countless times I have heard friends and family insist that Australia is the place for them; that they would move there in a heartbeat, and many do just that. Personally I have never really been drawn to Australia, to me it’s always been just a hot country containing an endless array of creatures that would like to kill you – and probably will. Who would want to live there?!!! Well, there had to be something going on over there that made people fall in love with it and it didn’t take long for us be totally smitten with the place, the people and even some of the creatures!
Connection (no, not WiFi)
A continuing theme running throughout our travels has been that connection and compassion is a key part of living a happy and full life. Anyone who has read The Art of Happiness will know that this theme run through the pages like blood through veins. This has become very important to Andy and I when we consider the changes we would like to make to our lives especially once (if) we return to the UK. Whilst in Australia we were lucky enough to stay with family once again following the fabulous time we had with Andy’s cousin & family in Singapore.
Our Australian family, John and Rose (and gypsy the dog) live in the hunter valley so of course we spent many a night catching up and ‘connecting’ over a bottle or two (or three or four!); or a ‘Schooner’, ‘Middy’, or ‘Pot’ for that matter (that’s around “half a pint” for you Poms; at the price of about a pint).
Keen to show us the local area John and Rose drove us around the endless vineyards; row after row of luscious green vines, which was a far cry from the arid desert landscaped we had imagined Australia to be. After spotting the ever-hilarious kangaroo jumping trough the vineyards John took us to a spot he knew the little Roo’s loved to graze once the harsh summer sun had started to fade. We were so lucky to come across a mob (yes, that’s apparently the word for a group of kangaroos – I googled it) . Andy got some smashing photos of this little joey looking less than comfortable as mum hopped around, see below.
Wonderful though Andy’s picture is, I must say that I think mine is much better. Andy thought he’d be able to get closer by blending in more with the mob, so this is his attempt at that:
The hunter valley turned out to be a great place to explore more of NSW. We headed to Newcastle to capture sunrise over the beach, watched people fill the public sea pool for their morning swim and little old men stood proudly over their remote control boats in the paddle pool (see below).
As much as I moan when Andy drags me out of bed at 3am so that he can capture these sunrises (or stars or whatever) on camera; I am thankful for the unique experience, and a picnic breakfast helps no end. Another benefit of getting up at 3am is that you have so much of the day for exploring.
We headed up to the Port Stephens area which is just breath-taking; the most beautiful white sand beaches with not another soul there. Although this is probably because the water is full of man-eating sharks & monsters on the look out for some fresh British blood; that is how it works right?). Keen to burn off some calories and get a good view we hiked up to Tomaree head. It only takes an hour but it was a really hot day, but to be honest give me the heat any day, I don’t care if I stink but please PLEASE could someone have taken away the giant spiders hanging from every tree! Maybe it was worth it, maybe, because just look at this view….
We were so blessed to spend Christmas with John, Rose, their dear friend Michelle and her daughter Cate (plus a pack of over excited dogs). It was such a blast spending it with such amazing people. We even took part in an authentic Australian Christmas tradition, watching Crocodile Dundee!!! Come on, it had to be done! We were surprised to learn that the Aussies seem to love Mick Dundee (base on a sample of 1 family) – he’s a national hero!
As you will have noticed we aren’t getting these updates published as often as we would like so, merry Christmas and happy new year (over 2 months late, sorry)!
We decided to do what thousands of other tourists do each year and head to one of Sydney’s free fireworks viewing spots for NYE. I heard like zero Australian accents, I guess they know better! Hearing that Mrs Macquarie’s chair in the botanical gardens is a prime spot; we did what anyone else with a glimmer of ambition to see the fireworks does. We started queuing at 9am!!!!
Despite the blistering heat and total lack of queuing discipline; we managed to stay in pretty high spirits all day. This was helped along by far too many overpriced glasses of wine (they don’t allow BYO alcohol, which in John’s wise words in ‘so un-australian’) and the bottle we managed to smuggle in – in Andy’s hydration bladder. Honestly I have never seen anything like it. We started the day in a queue that any self respecting British tourist would be delighted to join; however once the gates opened it was every man for himself. The crowd didn’t even know where the entrance was; we were pushing our way through to the wrong end of the field for over half an hour!!! You had to laugh, seriously, the other options were not worth thinking about.
I am pleased to say that in the end me, Andy and our hidden bottle of wine made it in! The fireworks were beautiful. Although this view (seen below) of a sea of phones cameras recording the display still haunts me; there was no kissing; no singing Auld Lang Syne at the top of your lungs; just this for 10 minutes, like it was any other day. Baffled! So: great spot, great fireworks, but you need to take your own atmosphere (which we did). Yes, by the way, I see the irony – taking a photo of people taking photos – but we had to take a photo of this; not video the whole thing.
We really enjoyed exploring Sydney over the following few days; particularly the happy hour and free nachos at a Mexican place in the super cool Rocks area!
Sydney is a wonderful place & very impressive in so many ways, but for all of its beauty, we think it is still overly touristy (says the tourist). We both had high expectations of our next destination however; Melbourne, and It did not disappoint! To use a phrase that makes Andy quickly turn to make sure no one over-heard, Melbourne has ‘great vibes!’ Like our home town Bristol it can be a little rough around the edges; but where there are cracks they have been filled with character and identity… and vibes of course; you can’t forget the vibes. More on that later!