Monday, 29 January 2007

Red sky at night, the Sheppard's a happy man

Bats flying about behind us at dusk at another free Sydney concert. Free is good, you can't go wrong with something that hasn't cost anything in the first place

From left to right: Kate; Ryan; Spencer; a hobo that wouldn't leave us alone; and MEEE

Nick rides a boar in Sydney. As you do.

Ummm, I didn't take many photos over the last few days so this statue of a man with an umbrella gets in for no particular reason

Hey hey avid readers. Sitting comfortably? Good.

On Saturday when we woke up in order to check out of our hostel before 10am we were still drunk. After a lot of hard work at the usually simple task of getting dressed and getting all our stuff together, we dragged ourselves downstairs. We planned to just extend our stay at the hostel by a night- seeing as still being drunk at 9am is not a state to be walking about looking for a new hostel, and both of us were expecting a hangover to kick in anytime soon. But when we asked to extend our stay by a night, we were told we still had a night left. Even in our fragile state we knew that this was wrong but managed to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the lie, blaming the booze for making us think we had to check out on this day. We then proceeded to go back to bed for a good few hours.

The reason for such early-morning inebriation? The day before was Australia Day, the 26th January. With our public holiday drinking buddies, Una and Eugene, we enjoyed a fine night of celebrating whatever it is Australia day serves to celebrate. Probably the marriage of Kylie and Jason in Neighbours, back when the permed mullet was de rigeur.

Anyway, by choosing a poor vantage point for the Oz day fireworks we could only see small crappy ones being launched from nearby skyscraper rooftops. This we made up for by stroking the tops of passing jellyfish in the Yarra River. Nick was offered a couple of drinks to touch a condom floating by, but from somewhere he mustered the dignity to pass up such an opportunity. We then frequented a number of bars before being ushered out of our hostel's bar at about 3am, having put in a good shift of chatting utter balls to strangers of varying nationalities. Whenever I talk to Germans I have a strange compulsion to try and talk German myself, or rather prove how little I actually remember from GCSE lessons.

So now we are looking for a place to live and work in Melbourne for a couple of months. This is proving to be the trickiest part of our travels so far, i.e. we have not just been able to completely blag it. If I don't find somewhere in the next couple of days I think I'll just soak all my clothes with a bottle of rum and turn up on the doorstep of a free 'drying out' clinic looking destitute.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

More manliness per pound

A montage of all things Manly

Nick likes to wear iconic buildings like a hat

Name the building

Sydney skyline at sunset

Be a tiger for the camera

Rad, gnarly, awesome and other such surfer talk

So, on Tuesday, I caught the ferry to Manly. Now, some cynical folk might accuse me of going to manly only to repeatedly perform the same cheap visual gag. That would be a half truth. For while there was undoubtedly that part of me that wished to see how far such a blatant source of hilarity could be taken, it's also meant to be a pretty nice part of Sydney to see.

However, one word of warning: please do not injure yourself whilst laughing at my attempted facial hair.

Last Sunday, we went to a massive Brazilian Jazz concert put on for free in the centre of Sydney as a part of the Sydney Festival. How can you go wrong when something is free? Especially when there are loads of bats flying about overhead.

As you will have noticed there is a picture of me with a surfboard above. Yep, yesterday I learnt to surf. Well, I say learnt to surf but it's going to take practice before I can stay standing on the damn board for more than about 5 seconds. Surfing is harder than it looks. A lot harder. It looks so easy, yet it actually requires exertion of every part of your body. If it wasn't so fun I'd have thought I was getting exercise. Shudder.

The guys teaching us couldn't have been any more surfer stereotypes if they were trying. When we were finished, they handed out questionnaires to do with what we thought of the course and our instructors. When asking us to fill them in, they also asked us to bear in mind how we thought they would cope in the real world, not one where they hang out with a bunch of backpackers on a beach all day, teaching them to surf. They had a point.

Tomorrow or Monday we are off back to Melbourne, in search of jobs (urgh) and a flat to base ourselves in for a couple of months while we work. Not sure what I'll do yet, it'll be easiest to get bar work I guess, but I might be equally swayed by something I've never done before, e.g. gardening perhaps. Nick's just going to hang around on street corners, plying his trade.

Everyone knows who Harold Bishop from Neighbours is don't they? Well, I was talking to a Scottish guy the other day who said he went on the Neighbours set tour in Melbourne. At the end of the tour there was a Q&A with some of the "stars". One guy asks (he must have spent all day coming up with this one) the guy who plays Harold why he is so fat now. Completely unruffled, he answers: "Because every time I shagged your mum she gave me a cookie". Harold Bishop 1, other guy 0.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Sydney Harbour

This is just a quick video we did today, thought you might like it. At the start, I have the stern look of a gangsta rapper, this is because I was concentrating on the camera, not because I've started wearing bling and rapping about 'da hood'. Just so you know.

The quality of any videos won't be up to much because they come from my camera which is for photos, not videos. But you get the idea, which is that it was a sunny day in Sydney and we wanted to be a couple of smug bastards. Or in my case, just stare the camera down menacingly...

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Don't forget to take a towel

Fruit bats hanging in the trees at Sydney Botanical Gardens. Called Flying Foxes by the locals because they're bloody huge

The Blue Mountains. Mmm... scenic.

The Three Sisters

Us in a train that travels at 52 degrees up a massive incline

Mark Williams: Backpacker, fop AND Wildlife photographer

A section of Wentworth Falls

Some dashing young fellow

Oooo, let's be all creative with the camera

Over the last couple of weeks I reckon I've been to the beach more times than in the last couple of years back home. So you'd be right to assume life's been tough recently. Laying about on a beach takes it out of you. And as if it weren't already easy enough to just jump on a bus and head to the beach, we have just moved to a hostel that looks out on to Bondi Beach. Although being the connoisseurs of all that is warm and sandy that we are, I prefer one that is round the corner from Bondi, called Tammarramma. Why, only today I have been body-boarding there, swallowing gallons of water every time a wave pulls me under instead of letting me glide gracefully over the top of it.

On weds, we a couple of hours West out of Sydney to a small town called Katoomba. There we saw the Blue Mountains. Very impressive. They are called the blue mountains because of the vast forest of gum trees below that release eucalyptus into the air and give it a distinctive blue haze. (See, contrary to the beliefs of many, I so sometimes pay attention to this stuff). Anyway, Katoomba is most visited because people want to see a rock formation called the Three Sisters. Them's the picture above of three big rocks next to each other. There's an old aboriginal story behind their name which is so good i can't be bothered to type it. Ask me in a pub some time and I'll regale you with it.

On Thursday, I trekked off to Wentworth falls, a 300m waterfall near Katoomba; a free train ride if you hop on and off without paying. (Not that I'd ever do something so dishonest...) Anyway, I had already walked a fair distance and was on an undercliff pathway that went further down into the falls. I was debating whether or not to go any further when two black and white parrots swooped past me in the direction i had been headed. So, like some cheesy adventure story, I took this as a sign to go on. Which was a pretty damn good decision when I got down to near the bottom of the falls and was paddling about in a large rock pool. On the way there I even met an Israeli guy we'd had dinner with the night before and his Korean friend. It was like the United Nations of waterfall exploring. I'm sure if George Bush and Bin Laden just took a trip to some scenic waterfalls together and messed about there for a bit, so much more could be resolved. Having said that, maybe it'd be better if Bush just chucked himself off the edge of the falls. Splat, job done, everybody's happy.

While the surrounding area's of Katoomba were impressive, the town itself had just a hint of backwater town/ my mother's my sister about it. The receptionist in the hostel we stayed at reminded me more than a little of the banjo playing hillbilly child at the start of Deliverance. I also saw a bearded woman. Not in a show or anything, it's OK if you put them in cages, just at a bus stop. All that was needed to complete the 'Deliverance' experience was a fat hillbilly telling me I have "a pretty mouth".

Also, we still haven't seen a Kangaroo. Our theory is that they are a fraud, a myth created by the Australian government in order to get people to visit Australia. The ones you see on TV are really men in Kangaroo suits. I mean come on, I've seen a bearded lady before I've seen one damn Kangaroo in a country that's meant to have millions of 'em. Suspicious? Yes. Don't believe the lies.

Oh yeah, and now i've set up a way to upload videos so check this out. The slight groan you hear at the end is the Korean guy going under the fall, nothing untoward, I know I spent a couple of weeks in Sydney's gay district but i'm still a pillar of heterosexuality. Nick on the other hand; it's touch and go sometimes...

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

It's all gone a bit gay

Fireworks launched from Sydney Harbour Bridge
We thought it was our friend but it proved to be our downfall

Whilst we were still respectable on NYE 2006

Rudolph's corpse

Regal? Maybe.

Happy New Year from Sydney! Was everyone's new year full of festive joy? Good. Ours began by getting to Sydney harbour about 5pm. From where we were sat, the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge were both in view so you could say we had a good spot. And more importantly, it was one of the minority of places that let you bring your own booze. So, naturally we started on the cheap box-wine at about 5.30. When I say cheap box wine, let me give you some perspective of just how cheap. About $14 for 4 litres, which is less than 6 pounds. Needless to say it gives you a distinctly fuzzy hangover the next day, but that is probably because the boxes usually mention that either fish or milk is involved in the making of the wine and therefore may still contain traces. How is fish or milk involved in wine making?!? I don't know, nor do I really want to.

So, after some pretty amazing fireworks, we decided to wander back to Kate's flat (where we're staying) with a plan to go on to a party. However, by about 3am we had all passed out in one way or another. My experience was that I woke up at about 6am still fully clothed, curled up in the foetal position on the floor. Our friends said that Nick fell asleep half way through sending someone a text message. Rock on.

Darlington, where Kate's flat is, is the heart of Sydney's gay scene. In the Lonely Planet guide, out of 11 gay nightspots in Sydney, 8 of them are around here. Also, we are sharing a sofa bed. On the wall by the sofa bed we are watched over by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall sharing a warm embrace from a 'Brokeback Mountain' calendar. But it gets better. The first night we were here, I was knackered from a long coach journey so didn't go out. But the message I received from Nick at 2.24 that night was as follows: " I'm at a gay club. There are lots of men with their shirts off. My destiny is complete".

To wrap up, whilst we were still in Melbourne, we went to the biggest casino in the southern hemisphere. One of our mates won $200. I did not. We went to a club that was hidden down an alley next to brilliantly named ACDC Lane. I've bought a couple of festival tickets for February, one called Good Vibrations will be headlined by Jurassic 5 and the Beastie Boys (sweet). The other is called Laneways Festival and is held in an alley.

Keep enjoying the sunshine people