Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Freedman Down Under: Sydney to South Hampstead

This is the final instalment of Freedman Down Under... we pick up as Wifey and I cruise across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in glorious sunshine and blue skies, with the words of John Farnham ringing in our ears. The combination of the song, the view and the air conditioning made the hair stand on end.

We swung by the hostel first, to drop off our things, and were delighted to see that they had prepared a simple method of burning off the excess pounds we had piled on in the previous month. 40 degrees in the shade, and no aircon in the room - not even a decent ceiling fan, just some ancient plastic thing that may as well have been a fly taped to a stick for all the air it was pushing. Still, at least we didn't have squeaky prison bunks.

With a few hours left on the clock before returning the car, we headed out for a little orientation drive around the city. Not much to say really; the place is like London and New York combined with some serious tropics and a dash of old-fashioned English seaside sans scum and crap weather. We took in the cheapest pub lunch ever (under £3 for a mahoosive and actually very excellent steak and chips), dropped the car back, then had a leisurely stroll back to the hostel in said 40 degree heat. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that...

That evening, we contemplated a big meal out but decided it might be nice to actually cook something for ourselves for once. The hostel had a pretty decent kitchen, and a Coles was handily at the top of the road, so we rustled up a spot of spag roo, much to the amusement of some funny Taiwanese kids who had never cooked anything before, and stood nearby gawking, and pointing at onions or garlic, asking "rot is dis?" etc etc. Not that we believe in stereotypes or nuffink.

The following day, our prayers for ANY change in the weather were answered with some grey clouds and light intermittent drizzle. We headed out to Bondi Beach for a nice long jaunt down to Coogee along the fab coastal path. Bondi is nice, but does have the same faded charm as a Brighton or a Scarborough. Obviously the birds and weather are a bit hotter though.

Highlight of the trip, other than a conversation with Wifey which was just a tad Sixth Sense, was the part where we passed some interesting curved rock formations, and I immediately switched into my best Aboriginal voice and told a beautiful made-up story about how back in Dreamtime, Plonka the Whale had chased Fukuit the Shark into the bay, where they threshed about until Fukuit fled and Plonka was beached against these rocks, making the smooth curved indentation. Then we walked around the next corner and found a plaque explaining a bit about the area, and, um, telling pretty much that exact story. I think I might get a spearing on my next trip to Oz...

Stopped off for a fress at Bronte, probably my fave of the beaches, and wound up back at the hostel to freshen up and head out for the evening (after devouring a serious load of fajitas first). Although it was a Sunday, the following day was Australia Day, ie public holiday, so people were out in force. It's hard to describe just how many stunning girls were just parading around the streets of King's Cross, but think Playboy Mansion with clothes on, and you wouldn't be too far off. Wound up at the funky Goldfish bar, where we worked through a few cocktails, including one with marmalade in it, and chatted to a bevy of cuties of course, as well as checking out the cool unisex toilets. Now I know why women always go in pairs, but I am sworn to secrecy.

The following day was characterised by a steady wet mist descending, with the effect that we didn't feel like doing a whole lot. That evening we headed out for a harbour boat trip (for which read piss up and pick up) with a large group of "fellow backpackers". Obviously I am not one, but best to keep up the pretense and slum it from time to time. Keeps one grounded. A dozen cans of Tooheys later, and with a cute strawberry blonde Canadian snuggled under my bright orange umbrella, we dashed through the rain to a crazy grafitti-covered bus, on to a mad club, where pitchers of cocktail were a fiver each. Got through half a dozen jugs of that, threw myself massively into the ambience of Australia Day, especially a spot of the ol' Flo Rida, where I did a full Les Grossman (Tropic Thunder reference!).

Next day a nice early start as we had a 10am checkout to contend with. Wifey was a little woolly-headed but
I dragged myself downtown for a little mooch about nonetheless, including visits to the NSW Parliament, some other random historical buildings, and a drop of coffee on the top floor of the NSW Supreme Court, which is actually a skyscraper right next to Hyde Park (kinda mini-Central park), with cracking views across the city despite the weather.

Then off to the airport, with Wifey accidentally-on-purpose losing his Huckleberry Finn hat en route - it had reacted as straw usually does to damp, and smelled like a horse had slept on it. Usual visit to airport lounge, disappointing Qantas red wine selection masked by a G&T and the ubiquitous glass of sparkling, as well as a stack of very good cheese. Back to Melbourne, temperatures down to just high 30s, trek back to collect the car then wind up at Cool Aunt and Uncle's designer pad for leftover roo (we schlepped it from NSW, smashing all the rules about bringing food interstate), which we washed down with some excellent red brought by the Rippa, who stayed for dinner.

After a couple of days in Melbourne, and with another heatwave of 40+ approaching, we hopped in the car down the Great Ocean Road. Very pleasant, and all the more impressive for learning that large chunks of it were built by hand by a private company looking to attract tourists to the region, but as Wifey pointed out, compared to say Route 1 in the USA, this is a Good Ocean Road with occasional Greats. Highlights included the Round The Twist lighthouse and some really excellent quiche at Cape Otway, as well as the obvious lovely scenery. We got to Warrnambool at the end of the road, kipped overnight in a motel, and swung back to Melbourne the next day.

We had some really nice stops along the way - Wifey is learning the Freedman Road Trip methodology, where we potter, meander and mooch our way across various landscapes. One of them was particularly nice - a little cove hidden right down under the cliffs, complete with its own fairytale story about Tom and Eva, the only survivors of a shipwreck. Except there was no happily ever after; Tom, some lowly shiphand, didn't get to snog Eva, some rich kid, after rescuing her. In fact, they never saw each other again once they had recuperated. But then again, from the engravings of the incident, she looked like a minger anyway.

After getting back to Melbourne and having a leisurely weekend of mooching around town, not doing too much, little walks and dips at the beach, bit of fressing here and there, we took in a nice birthday dinner at Chocolate Buddha on Fed Square with Yankanaussie, whilst enjoying the atmosphere of tens of thousands of people packed onto the plaza in the balmy evening sun, enjoying the final of the Australian Open. Then some swift beers down by the riverside, and back home thoroughly contented.

Next day, final full day in Oz, mostly chilling out, then off to Neighbours Night with Wifey, Rippa and The Ringer, who actually works for Neighbours. Met the very sexy but just a tad ditzy Sky Mangel, Eastenders-a-like Steve, and the wonderful Dr Karl Kennedy, who played a set with his band, Waiting Room. Pics to follow.

Sadly that brings us to the end of Freedman Down Under. Suffice to say I cheered myself up over the next 24 hours of travel by downing obscene amounts of excellent food and drink on first Qantas to HK and then BA back to Heathrow, and making use of the lovely Arrivals Lounge for snobs like me back at T5. Then Wifey #3 and his Wifey came to collect, complete with my bright orange BP coat to wear, as it was the same tempreature in fahrenheit in London as it had been in celsius in Melbourne.

Anyway, I am now back in Blighty, and looking forward to catching up with y'all soon...

No comments: