After our trip to the Blue Mountains we went back to Sydney for one more cheeky night out. This time we wanted to do it completely on the cheap, which meant no hostels! We payed $3 for a shower at a swimming pool in Parramatta and then looked for somewhere to leave the van. We drove around until we found Merrylands, possibly one of the dodgiest suburbs in Sydney! But it would have to do. We parked up in one of the nicer streets, packed a few ciders into my handbag, and got the train into the CBD.
Once there, we went straight to the Darling Harbour and to a bar called Pontoon. The place had caught my eye a few days ago when I saw meals advertised for just $9! At 8pm there was already a bouncer on the door so I had to hide my ciders in a bush before he would let me in. Once in we got $9 burgers right off the grill with chips, and even splashed out on a beer. Who says Sydney’s expensive!
After 4 days in Sydney Chris and I were looking forward to getting away from all the people and traffic by escaping to the Blue Mountains.
We drove for 2 hours along the Great Western Highway before arriving at Katoomba, the chief town in the Blue Mountain area. I suppose I should have realised that, being so close to Sydney, the Blue Mountains wouldn’t have that isolated, middle of nowhere feel to it. But still, I was a bit surprised by the amount of work and money that must have gone into this huge motorway. As we turned off, it was hard to imagine we were right next to a national park.
I love my campervan, and I love travelling this way. But shortly after buying our van Chris and I found it wasn’t the most secure. It seems any key, when inserted only halfway, can open the drivers door. And once I accidently started and drove the van with the wrong key. We tried a different lock barrel in the door but it was a dodgy lock too, maybe it’s an ‘old van thing’…
But as Chris pointed out, if someone really wants into our van a locked door won’t stop them, they’ll just smash the window the way they did with our car in New Zealand. I’ll never forget that day at Cape Reinga. We’d been away on an amazing two day hike. It was pissing down with rain but we arrived back at our car in high spirits, only to see broken glass all over the ground along with some of our discarded belongings. I felt sick.
So obviously sometimes it’s hard to relax when leaving the camper, especially after splashing out on two new surfboards. Everything in the world that I own and care about is in that van! And with the surfboards up on the roof racks it pretty much advertises ‘backpackers’. Continue reading →
Oh my god it’s such a cliché. Lets go to Australia! Lets buy some surfboards! Lets learn how to surf! Well apparently I am that cliché. Although I have to defend myself a wee bit. I didn’t arrive in Australia and suddenly decide I’d take up surfing. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to do for years.
Back home in Northern Ireland there’s some pretty great surf beaches. And growing up, I’d usually take an annual trip up to the North Coast with a couple of mates to mess around in the ocean. We’d rent boards and maybe even get a lesson. But the problem is, you don’t learn how to surf in a day! So I’ve never really progressed.
I’ve been saying for years I want to be able to surf. And by that I don’t mean clumsily climbing to my feet on a broken wave. I want to be able to do it properly, at least to an intermediate level. I suppose I’ve just never really had the time. I was at school, then uni, and then doing ski seasons in New Zealand. But now here I am, in Australia, travelling, unemployed, thousands of beaches ahead of me, not a care in the world. Continue reading →
Unlike the rest of our trip, Chris and I decided to actually do a bit of planning for Sydney. I just didn’t want the stress and hassle of driving through the congested city, looking for sneaky places to sleep at night in the camper, or trying to find a shower.
So weeks in advance, we booked to stay in a twin private room at the Maze Backpackers, a hostel on Pitt Street. It was only $30 each per night for our own room and we were so central, I thought it was definitely worth it.
We entered Sydney on a Friday night and drove around for a while looking for somewhere suitable to leave the van. Eventually we found a fairly busy street with free parking near the Ashfield railway station, only 20 minutes from Central Station. I wouldn’t necessarily advise this approach to anyone! Leaving your van on a Sydney street for 4 days probably isn’t the best of ideas…. But we were taking everything we cared about to the hostel and had a steering lock to try put thieves off. We slept in the van that night and then set off to the hostel the next morning. Walking away I just prayed it would be alright.
I can’t remember the last time I had a really good night out. Spending 6 months working on a dairy didn’t present too many chances. There was only the one small pub down the road from me, and I thought it was better to stay away and save the cash rather than wasting it drinking beers in a place that had no entertainment and was long overdue a make over!
So when I arrived in Sydney I was pretty excited to let loose a bit and see what the city had to offer. Walking through the CBD there’s absolutely no shortage of clubs, bars and pubs. I started my night out going to a few bars, making use of the ‘free drinks’ vouchers my hostel gave me. But I’d been in the first bar for all of one minute when I knew I’d be downing my free drink and getting out asap.
As I stood in a ridiculously long line waiting to get served at the bar my patience was seriously running thin. Getting hot and flustered, being shoved left and right, waiting tediously while the people in front ordered as many drinks as they could carry to avoid going back anytime soon. The girls around me dressed to the nines with their noses in the air, looking around to see which guys are watching. Shit music blasting from a crappy sound system, drowned out by people shouting to each other, trying to be heard.
Driving steeply downhill from the Snowy Mountains and heading towards the East Coast, it felt good. The air was quickly becoming milder and I decided I was pretty much over winter, I couldn’t wait for spring!
We hit the East Coast for the first time at a little beach town called Tathra. Reaching the peak of a hill I could see the long curving bay below, surrounded by trees with cliffs in the distance. I felt excited to see the sea again and everything had a more sub tropical feel. Chris and I got out and went for a walk along the beach, the sand was golden and the water looked pretty inviting, still too cold though.
11 Days ago Chris and I were still in Blighty, NSW. Being our last weekend there, it was pretty busy and non-stop. We cleaned our wee farm house top to bottom, squeezed all our belongings into our campervan, and said our goodbyes to friends, work colleagues, the dogs, cats, and cows. And after 6 months of working and living in the same place, just like that, we were gone. To be honest I was too excited about the thought of travelling again to feel too sad about leaving! And it didn’t take long to used to campervan living again. Once I got used to the colder living conditions, it was like I’d never stopped!
Travelling by campervan can be great. You’re free to explore and go where you want when you want, you have a portable bed and kitchen with you at all times, and overall it can be a lot of fun.
But travelling by campervan can also be hard, especially if you’re determined to freedom camp. I’m coming to the end of my first week back on the road, and although it’s been awesome, it’s not always been easy.
For the past 6 months I’ve been working on a dairy farm in a little rural place called Blighty in NSW. Since leaving Northern Ireland in January 2012 this is the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place, and to be honest it’s not the most exciting of locations.
But for once it hasn’t been about travelling, but instead, about working. It’s been a chance to really build up the funds, and for the first time in my life, I actually have some proper money saved! Which is probably a good idea considering I’ll be travelling around Australia for the next few months with no plans of getting a job for a very long time!
So now the count down is seriously on. Less than 1 week to go, only 4 more shifts left at work. To say I’m excited is an understatement! I can’t wait to say goodbye to the mundane, day-to-day routine that many jobs bring. No more alarms going off at 3am, no more living for the weekend, those days are soon to be over.
Instead, Chris and I will be living out of our campervan, just taking each day as it comes, unsure of what will be around the next corner. I can’t actually wait! The feeling I have right now, it takes me back to when I was in Northern Ireland, waiting to go to New Zealand for the first time. The anticipation of not knowing what’s coming next, not knowing what I’ll see, the experiences I’ll have, or the people I’ll meet along the way. Continue reading →