Monday, October 29, 2007

full circle

So, back in Sydney. Back in Manly. The sun is shining and everything is familiar and comnforting and beautiful.

Back at Manly backpackers - a new lick of paint, a few things moved around but still the same old place. Music cranked up on weekend days. Lively, lovely people. Full of Poms and some of the old crew - Paul and Michelle, Jimbo and Ash, Russ, Lindon and Tall Guy...

The bus journey was hell - 14 hours long overnight and very little sleep but good company in the form of a Scotsman I met on the Nimbin trip and an Irish girl. We drove in from the north, down the freeway until there it was - the harbour stretching out infront of us. Small boats bobbing along, ferries chugging back and forth, Tthe Opera House winking away in the sunshine. The bridge stood proudly over it all and I felt full of emotion and fondness and awe. It felt like a triumphant return.

Back on the ferry to Manly - that trip I did everyday with Danielle and we took together last February as we headed south for a new adventure. How much had happened since. How many things I have seen and how much distance I have covered, these were turning over in my mind as I came 'home'.

Because Manly is just a beautiful place - a stunning beach, lovely wharf, great shops and trendy cafes, average but fun nightlife and a real community feel. There was the Honolulu Grill where Steven took me for lunch on the day I arrived and there were the volleyball nets where we used to sit and sunbathe at the weekends. In the distance is Shelley Beach - host to many, many barbecues - not least that on Christmas Day with Danielle and her family and our close friends.

If this post is self-indulgent - screw it. I've had an amazing time in New Zealand. I've seen penguins and dugongs, watched whales breach in two different oceans, swam with whalesharks and seen countless kangeroos, emus, kookaburras, snakes, spiders and lorikeets.

I've eaten bushtucker and learned about aboriginal art, life, culture. I've climbed to the top of an amazing waterfall (Jim Jim) and slept in a swag in the outback.

I've flown over the desert and barrier reef, and helicoptered over the amazing Bungle Bungles. I've flown a plane and ridden a chopper in 1770. I've dived one of the world's best wreck dives (SS Yongala) and scuba-ed on the Great Barrier Reef.

I've tasted amazing wines at Margaret River and average ones at Hunter Valley. I've cooked snags on a stone in a campfire in the Blue Mountains and worked in the rat race at Darling Harbour.

I've waited tables, poured pints, made beds, worked in a strip club, pandered to doctors and production managed magazines for a massive company.

I've made lifelong friends and met people from all over.

And now it is over.


This weekend I've met up with Steve again, drank red wine with him,smoked a shisha with him and joined him and John for a 4.5km run at 7am along the soft sands at Manly followed by breakfast at the Honolulu grill.

I don't ever want to leave. But I really do. I have four weeks in New Zealand to come and then home to see all my family and friends for Christmas. It's not such a bad life...

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Friday, October 26, 2007

city living to the hippy life...

Ok ok, a long time between posts I know. Settle down - it's because my life has been fairly routine of late.

Well, if you can call strip clubs, trashing hotel bedrooms, visiting the marjuana capital of Australia, dressing up in army gear and spending an inordinate amount of time sleeping routine...

I arrived in Brisbane full of the joys of the coast and it was a shock to be back in a big city again. Not since Melbourne, or Perth at a push, have I had such a choice of shops, bars, restaurants and felt the vibe of city living.

It was repelling in its dirty busy-ness, its distance from the beach and cost of living there. BUt I was drawn in by the compulsion to return to that kind of 'real' life where people go to work and spend more than $3 on dinner.

But Brisbane was a stranger experience than I imagined. I was delighted to find old Manly friends Wolsy, Frenchie and Sheep at Brisbane City Backpackers. The big orange building was a great place to meet people and I met a wicked crowd of people. I decided to stay and wait until my friend Fiona (Perth and Darwin) arrived.

I liked it. I got a job cleaning hostel bedrooms. Not too taxing you might think - bit of hoovering, making beds in private rooms and dusting. Ha. My first day I realised I was alone doing this and spent the next eight hours biting my tongue. It was a long, long day and the pay? abysmal. A week's accommodation ($145) plus about $220 cash for long days, six days a week. Oh and half price drinks at the bar. I gave it up after that first day...

Fiona arrived and was installed by a rich friend in a plush appartment in the city centre. The two-bed place had a pool, spa, gym, lovely lounge and kitchen - we were in our element for the week we had it. Going back to a backpackers has never been so hard.

I went for a job working in the bar at an upmarket strip club and took it. Pretty good pay and tips and a few weeks later, a clearer understanding of men (or should that be pigs?) and more easily able to distinguish a fake boob from the real McCoy.

On my last weekend, Fiona and I were taken to Surfers Paradise by a friend. It was Indy weekend and the place had a huge buzz. Thousands had descended on the Gold Coast town for the race weekend and we were lucky enough to be there.

Our friend, lets call him Eric, had vouchers for a couple of rooms in Jupiters Conrad Casino at Broadbeach - one had views over to the towers of the city and the other had ocean views. It was pretty nice. We ordered room service, drank vintage Moet and dressed up for an evening at the Team Australia party (they had plenty to celebrate as they were in pole position for the big race).

The three of us set off in a stretch limo to meet Eric's friends at the Marriott. There, a small gathering of girls and boys were drinking Moet and having it constantly brought up by room service. They ordered pizza, we ordered Dom Perignon and drank it on the balcony overlooking the city and later watched them do lines of coke in the bathroom - it seemed rather rock and roll.

A few hours later we dragged Eric and two of his friends out. We jumped in another limo (a larger one this time) and headed to find the party. It all seemed a bit much effort - we couldn't see it - and so we ended up heading to Hollywood Showgirls - a very nice Gentleman's club.

The boys ordered more Dom Perignon at the request of Fiona (a lady with fine taste in champagne) and I settled back to watch the very "interesting" stageshows on the catwalk.

Lets just say when we left the club it was daylight. We walked to the beach and then headed back to the casino.

However, here drama and chaos ensused. Eric was annoyed I had not spent time with him and had come back annoyed and worried where I was. Fiona was calming him when I was out of the room when he apparently gave her a slap round the face. He denied it when I walked in - she was screaming at him and overturned some tables, smashed a few things, called him a lot of names, laughed at him and stormed out. I ran after her and we legged it out with a few bottles from the minibar to a cab to the station and a very giggly trainride home.

After a dodgy breakfast, we slept alot that day.

And so, on Tuesday, I headed for Byron Bay. What a contrast - the beach on the doorstep, surfy shops and cool boutiques and everything rather expensive but all rather fun.

There is a terrible backpackers nightclub here - very like the Woolshed in Cairns and Downunder Bar in Brisbane - called Cheeky Monkeys. So I have obviously been there a few times and danced on the tables.

Swedish Jenny arrived on Tuesday evening and so we have caught up on two months worth of gossip.

Yesterday, we went to Nimbim. Around 20 years ago, police in NSW town of Newcastle drove all the hardcore druggies out of the city and they came to Nimbin - an inland town.

Police were beside themselves in Nimbin and came down hard even on the people selling their weed and hash cookies. Eventually, the locals told the police they would drive the druggies out - but only if they were allowed leeway to sell and consume their marjuana. The police agreed, the heroin users were pushed out and a hippy vibe prevails.

Walk around the musuem and be offered cookies, cake, weed, pipes etc etc. Walk down the street and be confronted by old women selling their wares. Walk into souvenir shops for your bongs, pipes, rizzlas of every shape, size, flavour...

Smoke a joint at the bar of the hotel, sign up to legalise cannabis for medical reasons at any number of shops and browse the selection of herbal remedies at Happy High Herbs... that's Nimbin. It's all highly illegal of course and an interesting social experiment. I wonder how long it will last...

And so this evening I complete my circle and arrive back in Sydney (well, ok techincally tomorrow I get there). A 13.5 hr busride. can't wait...

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Friday, October 05, 2007


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