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East Coast!

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We left Alice Springs and headed to Sydney to start our East Coast trip! We had gotten used to the remoteness of the outback so it was a huge change when we arrived in the city. A shuttle bus picked up a
crowd of backpackers and brought us to our respective hostels. We were very impressed with our hostel in the centre of the city, called Big on Elizabeth St. I arranged to meet Niamh and Aidan for dinner and
drinks that evening. We got Indian which I hadn't had since I'd left Ireland so really enjoyed it and we went on for a couple of drinks. Was nice to get a bit of advice on what to do on my first day in Sydney and to get my bearings. That night I woke up at 5:30am and couldn't get back to sleep! I reckon the excitement was taking over so I got up at 7:30am and got ready to get out there and to explore the city. Mel had spent 12 days in Sydney at Christmas time so she had already seen the main tourist attractions and sites. We thought it was best that we do our own thing as we wanted to see and do different things.

I walked down George St, one of Sydney's main streets, towards the quays. I got a real feel for the city as the place was bustling with people doing their everyday routine, making their way to work. I took note of where the JPM office was and searched for it so that I wouldn't have a problem looking for it when I come back next month to work. I eventually found it and walked into the reception area on the ground floor. It probably wasn't the best idea as I was in shorts, t-shirt, and flip flops! I left the building and kept walking towards the quays and could see a huge bridge creeping from behind the tall was Sydney Harbour Bridge! It felt so surreal to be standing in front of only other sightings of it being on TV with fireworks on New Year's Eve. In the corner of my eye to my right I could see some other spectacular site...Sydney Opera House. I was so snap happy and took a zillion photos at different angles! I took a stroll around The Rocks area, a place where convicts landed. This was a very pretty area of Sydney with nice cafes, restaurants, pubs and small lane ways. I then took a stroll through the Botanic Gardens and bought myself a Hop-on Hop-off bus ticket which proved to be useful as it took me around the city, giving details of the major sites and so gave me an idea of how to plan my few days in the city.

Had dinner in Niamh and Aidan's while Mel met Angela, an old Cadbury colleague from the Dublin office. We went on to a pub that had crab craic ever! You buy a crab and a bowl of crabs are
dunked on the bar and they race each other to the edge of the bar. If you're in the top six, you need to beat your opponents by doing something crazy like eating "chocolate salty balls"....profiteroles covered in chocolate and salt! Or else, eat a sh!t load of crackers and then trying to whistle into the microphone which is rock hard when your mouth is all dry from munching on crackers. Also, hoola hoop competitions on top of bar and six-pack competitions to win a 6-pack of beer! Aidan is a pro at these games and won for a second time, having already taken part two weeks previous to that :)

Hopped on the bus on Thurs morn to get to Bondi Beach. Was impressed by the beach with it's huge waves and plenty of surfers showing off their skills! I was expecting it to be very commercial and tacky but was pleasantly surprised by its beauty. The sky was clearing up so thought that walking the Harbour Bridge would be a good idea and a good opportunity to take pics of the Opera House with a cloudless sky in the background. This was a very short walk, 30 minutes return. Walked to Darling Harbour and paid a visit to the Aquarium where the crocs, sharks, and rays made me quite nervous! That evening we decided to do dinner backpacker style and got the free pizza "Cheap Skate Thursdays" deal at The Three Wise Monkeys pub on the corner of George St. and Liverpool St.

Friday was a miserable day weather-wise so was a day for a museum. We
went to The Powerhouse Museum to check out the "80's Are Back" section
which we had heard a lot of people talking about. Seeing computers,
and computer games from back then made me feel quite old as I could
remember using them not too long ago! Also made you realise how much
technology has evolved in such a short space of time! Toys like My
Little Pony, CareBears, Cabbage Patch Dolls made me reminisce. There
were also points where you could look at and listen to parts of
Neighbours when Kylie starred in it and Aussie 80's TV adverts. There
was a bedroom done up 80's style, with walls plastered with posters
and a giant Rubix cube. Michael Jackson's famous black sequined jacket
and white glove were also on display. Got tapas with Niamh on
Liverpool St. and myself and Mel met up with an old college friend
Jenn, and Loreto from Tassie, and her housemates on the rooftop of a
bar at The Rocks. It started to rain again so we went to the posh
Shangrie-La Hotel for another drink!

Saturday was a beautiful day so I caught the ferry to Manly Beach. The
beach was packed and thought Bondi was nicer...had to remember that it
was a scorcher of a day and a Saturday so was naturally going to be
overcrowded. That evening we had dinner with Lorraine, Sam, Lexie, and
Grace and went to The Mercantile pub at The Rocks and met Niamh and

Sunday was our last day in Sydney and also a hangover day so we walked
to Darling Harbour and watched some kids doing street dancing and an
aborigine playing the didgeridoo. We walked to Hyde Park and lazed
there for a while before going to P.J. O'Brien's for a roast. Was
deeply disappointed with the roast....what did I expect for 10 AUD?!
We had to kill time before hopping on the greyhound bus to go to Byron
Bay. This was a 13 hour overnight bus journey which was quite painful
as kept waking up every hour. Had swollen feet for 3 days after!!
Eventually got there at 8:30am and we couldn't get to our dorms before
1pm so we fell asleep on the couches until then! We walked to The
Lighthouse, Australia's most easterly point, and walked along the edge
of the cliff face before walking on the beach to get back to the
centre. We formed a team called "The Incredibles" to play a game of
trivia in the hostel bar and won!! We got a 50 quid bar tab which only
got us one drink each and a surf lesson which we realised was only for
one person so we had to raffle it off! We caught up with Joanne, one
of the girl's from our dorm and the guy she was seeing, Rupert, and a
Manchester lad, Jon. We all went to CocoMangos together for a bit of
dancing. Was really good fun, was having a great night and didn't want
to go home so myself and Jon went to Cheeky Monkeys which is notorious
for its Table Dancing :)

The next day, we got picked up by The Grasshoppers Bus for our day
trip to Nimbin. The driver was mental but in a good way. He said he
didn't care what we did on the bus and turned up the music really loud
to create a bit of atmosphere...he played the likes of Bob Marley and
Pink Floyd which were really fitting. Thought it was a fantastic bus
drive, really good fun :) For those of you not in the know, people go
to Nimbin for 1 reason only, hash is still sold here, it is illegal
but the police turn a blind eye.  We eventually got to the town and
were free to do what we wanted for an hour and a half. We visited the
museum which had references to weed and how something so natural
shouldn't be illegal and that we should all have the freedom of
choice. There were old hippy vans on display, newspapers articles,
plants, and plenty of spiderswebs with spiders!! We walked to the
other side of the street and found a lady dressed in black. We tried
the local produce, which was baked into a cookie and waited 40 minutes
like the bus driver had advised. We didn't feel any different so took
another half a cookie. Just before we left Mel met a guy from
Killybegs, it really is a small world ! We got back on the bus to be
driven out to the place where we were going to have our BBQ. We were
so disappointed and felt like we had gotten ripped off! Then I noticed
Mel was acting a little differently. Anybody who knows Mel knows how
efficient and organised she is. We had our lunch and people were
cleaning up after themselves. Normally Mel is first in line to clean
up but I noticed she was slumped on the picnic bench and was staring
into the distance. Her eyes were pink and watery...I asked her if she
was ok and she replied saying she felt tired but really relaxed and
that there was a tingling sensation from the top of her head all the
way to her toes and she felt like she was floating. I told the driver
this and he was cracking up laughing. I was giving out thinking I got
ripped off but all of a sudden I was laughing uncontrollably and
sniggering at nothing and knew that it had kicked in. We got back on
the bus and wanted to talk to Mel but she was basically telling me to
shut up as I was "ruining her buzz" and disturbing her relaxed mood. I
felt like we were on a rollercoaster on the bus and told Mel to hold
on tight to the seat in front of us. Roads were winding so we were
exaggerating swaying from side to side. Mel was totally on my wave
length at this stage and told me to raise my feet when we were going
downhill because we were "free falling"!! I fell asleep for part of
the way home and random crazy thoughts were going round in my head.
Also got a bit paranoid as nobody else seemed to be feeling the
same....the reason being that most of them bought their hash to use
that night! We got off the bus and decided to sleep it off...we
thought we'd nap for 30 minutes but it was 3 and half hours later when
we woke up!! We missed dinner so went straight to Cheeky Monkeys.

The following day, we spent the day on the beach as the sun was out!
Jon introduced me to other English and Irish that night as the hostel
had organised a Games Night. Jon left as he had to catch a bus to
Sydney. We played Bingo and Limbo. Thought that I would be quite good
at Limbo but got knocked out after the 4th round...old age isn't doing
anything for my back.
Next day we left Byron Bay to head to Brisbane. Would have liked to stay longer in Byron as was enjoying the whole beach scene and the relaxed atmosphere. We passed The Gold Coast and Surfer's Paradise and got to Tin Billy's Backpackers and checked in. We went to a couple of travel agancies to get quotes for Fraser Island and Whitsundays packages. We compared both prices and what was included and decided to go with Tribal Travel's offer. We went to the bar connected to the hostel and got talking to a girl  from Barcelona, Xenia, who works with El in Google, again...small world!! We stayed for the Burlesque Show which had more nudity than we had expected. We should have known since we were practically the only girls in the bar! At one point, the girl in the show jumped onto our table and started crawling towards us and was staring at us with her crazy eyes!!
The next day we booked our Fraser Island and Whitsundays trips and went on a free tour of Brisbane which was guided by Ryan. He walked us around the city and gave descriptions and stories for every spot we stopped at. It was a nice place but didn't get the same feel for it as i did for Melbourne and Sydney. We watched Pulp Fiction that night, in an old theatre which shows cult films. Tickets were only $5 and it was BYO. Brilliant idea!
Following day was Saturday and got up early to meet Xenia to watch the Paddy's Parade. There were loads of green jerseys floating around the place and I felt a wee bit homesick! Parade wasn't great, only lasted 15 a coffee with Xenia before heading back to the hostel. I nicknamed Brisbane as Breezy Brissie as most crossroads have a gale blowing through it! Got ready to go out that night and called into Murphy's Irish Pub which was the start of the advertised pub crawl. We quickly left this place as it was really messy...everyone was hammered and screaming and it was packed. We went to O'Malley's instead and met Mel's friend Molly from Melbourne. People here were more civilised than in the other place but was still good fun. There was a band playing Irish music and most people were doing jigs. The 6 nations match against Wales started at 12:30am and Mel stayed til 3am to watch it !
Next Mel will fill you in on Noosa Heads, Rainbow Beach/Fraser Island, 1770 part of the trip!


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And The East Coast Begins!!

Sydney, Byron, Brisbane, Australia