Day 316-322: Coffs Harbour to Sydney
Trip Start Sep 12, 2004
57Trip End Jan 05, 2006
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Bright and breezy start, looked out the window and looked perfect, no clouds, slight breeze. Checked out and wandered over to the dive centre. Got kitted up in the lovely, flattering, show-all-the-lumps-and-bumps wetsuit. About 8 diving altogether and a few dive masters around too which made me feel a little more confident. Jumped in the bus and went down to the marina. Headed out toward South Solitary Island for the first dive which was gonna be a deep one...wasn't too keen on that idea but I'd been buddied up with an instructor and another guy so felt more comfortable. Descent went ok this time, felt good, we ended up going down to 26 metres which is much deeper than I've been before...and as an Open Water Diver I'm only allowed to go down to 30. We went underneath an archway built from coral, very cool - I had trouble equalising the pressure in my ears tho so had to go up a few metres, sorted it out and went back down.
The area is known for it's Grey Nurse Sharks and they've been known to see up to 14. Think we saw about 4-5, one of them was a female who was huge so they said she must have been pregnant, she swam directly toward me for a bit, very cool. Loads of other stuff swimming around but frankly no clue what it all was, but it was an excellent dive, down for about 30 mins as I was sucking in air like crazy as usual. Back on the boat for cup-a-soup and biccies....all very nice. Moved to a new dive site for the 2nd dive. Bit shallower this time but the best dive I've ever had...all went really well and sooo much wildlife around, massive shoals of fish just hanging out around the reef, not much big stuff but just amazing to see so many of these things. Unfortunately my bloody underwater camera stopped working during the last dive, probably coz of the depth...bollocks!...so no pics :O( - must get the underwater cover for my new Sony!!
Headed back to Coffs feeling really confident about diving and looking forward to the next one, big change from when I was learning. Got back on land about half 12. Was gonna get the late bus to Newcastle in the evening, but the stingy bastards at the YHA charge $5 to use the facilities up to midnight after you've checked out, then I'd have had to pay $10 for a taxi to the bus, so thought I might as well get the afternoon bus and pay an extra $10 for another nights accom. Unfortunately the 14.10 didn't turn up until about quarter to 4, but still arrived in Newcastle late evening. Short walk to the YHA, checked in, stuff on the bed and sleep.
Went for a jog this morning to explore the sights of Newcastle, seems I've hit a run of good weather at the mo, another sunny day. Checked the map and found a route along the beach to a park...what the map didn't show was that Newcastle is on a big bastard hill! Didn't die tho, managed to still do the usual 30 mins, coming back of course was much easier. Wandered around the city for the rest of the day, much much smaller than I thought it was gonna be considering it's supposed to be Australia's 6th largest city. Main shopping street was tiny and dead, walked up to the Obelisk which is on the hill and looks out to the ocean and across the city. Also went to Nobby's Beach - cue sniggering - where I got well and truly sandblasted as the wind whipped the sand across the beach.
Nice enough place to wander around but pretty much doable in a day. In the evening I signed up for the free meal at MJ Finnegans genuine 'Oirish' bar. Bizarrely we all had to walk to the bar together in a big clump, little bit like a school trip to get fed. Of course being free the food wasn't amazing, but edible. Got chatting to 3 guys from Scotland who'd been over here for a student rugby tournament in Brisbane....now why didn't I get to hear about that, I'd have cheered them on....assisted with any physio, etc, etc....er, anyway...nice bunch of lads, they were sitting with 2 Canadian girls and German bloke - don't know any of their names but will never see them again I'm sure. We formed a team for the trivia night and came 3rd...which meant no prize whatsoever...marvellous. Hung out in the pub until closing and headed back.
Last day in Newcastle but nothing in particular planned, bummed around the city for most of the day walking to places I hadn't visited yet, another good day too. Have the hostel room to myself now as the other two moved out. Newcastle has managed to retain a large number of it's original buildings so wandered around taking piccies of buildings I liked...yes, very geeky. Had to do a 40 min round trip just to get some bloody mincemeat...no butchers in the city centre or big supermarkets...what's that all about?? In the evening cooked up a mean spag bol, was gonna go see a movie but by the time I'd done dinner it was too late and couldn't be arsed. Someone had stuck Ice Age on the DVD player in the hostel lounge so watched that and then listened to some tunes in the room...which I still have to myself, think it'll be the first time I've slept alone for months!
So the day has arrived, finally I return to Sydney after almost 4 months away. Strange feeling to think I've been travelling that long but looking forward to being back. Got the 9.45 bus, only took two and a half hours and we were arriving in the city, we drove in over the Harbour Bridge which as to be the best way to arrive, driving over the harbour with the Opera House below....put a big grin on my face. Got a taxi to the Hotel Altamont in Darlinghurst. Stumbled across this place on the Bug website, it's a hotel but they've turned a couple of rooms into dorms and they're only charging $20 a night which is v cheap for Sydney. Plus it's only a couple of streets down from where I used to live so it's handy for everything.
Checked in, it's a bit of a weird set up, turns out it used to be a suite, so you walk in and the first room has a huge king bed and the TV, off that room is what would have been the bedroom but now has 3 bunks in it and fitted wardrobes, also off the TV room is the bathroom which is pretty big, even has a bath! From the TV room you can walk onto the roof terrace and off that is a tiny kitchen/laundry room. It's a bit scuzzy in places and the layout feels weird, but for location and price it's pretty good, will give it a couple of days and see what it's like staying there before deciding how long to stick around. The room holds a total of 8, 2 in the King bed and the 3 bunks, turns out there's 7 altogether at the mo, everyone else being German!!! What's that all about - how come all the Germans know about the place??? Thought there might be some gays considering the location but there aren't, just me as usual.
First job of the afternoon was to get down to Fitness First and sign up again. Cheeky buggers now charge fortnightly, which of course means you pay slightly more a month, plus they charged me a $60 admin fee....to do bugger all really, but there ya go, they wouldn't budge and I need to get back into the gym, of course not working I can't really justify it but hey, it's my health and wellbeing so it's very very important. Wandered around the city a bit, not a lot has changed tho a few buildings which were almost finished are now done, new shops and stuff, etc....Went to a net cafe I used to use and the credit I'd left in the account was still there, excellent. Applied for about 5 jobs while online, also spoke to the agency that gave me the last job so got the ball rolling on the job hunt. While online a bloke that I met ages ago in The Stonewall started chatting, Jason, local bloke, remembered him even tho it was a brief chat we had last time. Arranged to meet up for a drink.
Got in touch with Carlos too who now has a boyfriend of 9 weeks which he's very excited about. Invited me along to join him and the boyf for ten pin bowling out at Randwick. The boyfriend is called Carl....Carlos and Carl....honestly! Really nice bloke, they met at City Gym where Carlos was working, walking around flexing his muscles, obviously done the trick anyway. Had 3 games...Carlos won them all, bastard. Then we headed back to Victoria St near me to have some food at the Tropicana, of course being a poor traveller I really shouldn't have been going bowling and eating out but very important to be sociable. After C&C buggered off I met up with Jason and went for a drink to the Green Park which is just at the end of the road I'm staying on. Sat and chatted for a couple of hours before heading back.
Went to the gym this morning, jogged there, done the treadmill thing, cycled, then spent over an hour on the weight machines. Wasn't too difficult but I know I'll pay for it in a day or two....but that's a good thing. Didn't hear anything back from the job apps yet, will have to chase next week. Late afternoon I caught up with Jason again, getting on really well, don't think it will amount to more than friendship but we'll see how it goes. He's not working at the mo, does various stuff like cheffing and running bars but hasn't done anything for a few weeks, now thinking about setting up his own cafe. Hung out round his for a couple of hours before heading back to get some stuff in for dinner.
Wanted to watch Big Brother tonight but discovered that the TV doesn't have channel Ten which was most distressing....so ended up watching it round Jason's, always good to know someone with a decent telly! Went out for a couple of drinks after but he headed home around midnight, I headed out for my first night on Oxford for a while, didn't stay out too long, had a drink each in The Oxford, Midnight Shift and Manacle.....good night out.
Had a little lye in, doing bugger all most of the morning....must do some washing, but the weather's too good to be stuck in doing that. Two people moved out this morning so only 5 of us, hope it'll stay that way for a little while, tho would be nice to have some non-Germans. They all seem friendly enough, tho I haven't really been in enough to get to know them that well. One bloke has been staying there two months!!! Don't think I could do that, would be nice to find my own room soon, trouble is many people won't be interested in having a room mate who's only gonna be here for a couple of months, of course if I get a job then I could definitely start looking for something...oh well, will have to wait and see what happens.
Went out for a read of the papers in the afternoon, chilling in the sun in Hyde Park. Got in touch with Sven in the afternoon, the German guy I've bumped into a couple of times, he's going to the Three Monkeys on George St tonight so gonna join him for that. Caught up on washing in the evening which actually made me late, finally got my arse out to the bar at about 9.30. Sven had got chatting to an English bloke who's also living in Coogee, nice to have an English bloke to speak to. We stayed in the Monkeys for a few hours, there was a live band on and they were pretty good. As usual the conversation turned to women and shags, and finally I told Sven that I was gay....and as usual there was no problem, really should do it sooner!
After the Monkeys we went to C Bar but pretty quiet, Sven and ? were gonna head back to Coogee so I went up Oxford St stopping off at the Shift and Oxford but no much happening so headed back.
Had a fantastic lazy arse morning laying on the sofa watching Simpsons and Will & Grace, no one else around so had the TV to myself so just laid there till lunchtime. Popped round Jason's in the afternoon to say ello, he's only just round the corner. He was off to help a mate move house, I jumped on the bus and headed to Bondi for a wander. Killed a few hours there laying in the sun.....tho not on the beach, all that sand everywhere and not quite hot enough for that. Read the papers as usual and had a cup of tea...as usual.
Jason very kindly offered to cook me dinner tonight, how sweet! So got round his about 7 and hung out there for the rest of the night eating and watching movies....saw Connie and Carla which was funny in places, and for some reason the 30th Anniversary Edition of Jaws was on telly and we say the last half hour of that.
So what now....
Well now that the main travels are over my life is likely to become increasingly dull, pretty much all I'm doing in Sydney is job hunting and catching up with friends. I'll probably keep the weekly updates going just so you know how the job hunt is going, but expect them to get smaller and less detailed so you don't need to put aside half a day to read it and I probably won't tell you what I had for lunch - "Hurrah!" I hear you cry. You're not getting rid of me altogether of course but it'll just be travelpod lite from now on.
Oh, and if you want to send anything in the post....say, er, birthday cards or something like that (16TH AUGUST!!!!!) then you can get me at this address until I have a permanent one:
c/- Poste Restante