03.05.2010 - 14.05.2010 20 °C
After another amazing Qantas flight where we were fed and given films to entertain us, we landed in Perth only to spend 25 hours getting through customs...apparently they're quite strict considering Captain Cook is one of our brothers. It was lovely to be met by Wendy, who Laura was relieved to recognise almost immediately, and be taken back to a proper house. Considering the fact that Laura had only met the Tillett family once before they were exceptionally generous and helpful telling us where to go in Perth, how to get there and generally feeding and taking care of us. What a lovely family. We stayed at Bob's house in two beds that he had built for his granddaughters. One of the beds had Laura engraved on the headboard. However, Donna had got her filthy hands on the bed first, and Laura didn't get the bed that was essentially built for her, as Donna is a bitch. It's ok though, as Laura feels like a trend has been set for Australia...she is a princess and must be looked after personally.
We spent our first day looking around the Perth. We headed up to King's Park...up a vertical hill, apparently our fave. We thought the views were lovely and decided to treat ourselves to a coffee whilst enjoying the view, but were horrified to discover that a latte cost more than a double room in Asia. Laura declared that she would rather cut her arms open and drink her own blood for hydration than pay for a drink, so wisely decided it might be best to leave it and move on. Since we couldn't do much shopping, we decided to go for a beer and food in Northbridge, a place we'd both been recommended to see. Chief Map Reader Laura found the Northbridge Centre on the map and so we headed towards it. We found it pretty quickly although as we got closer, discovered that the Northbridge Centre was actually a sofa department store, and quite an empty one at that. Deciding that sitting on a sofa and hoping that a waiter would approach us may be a lost cause, someone realised our confusion and offered to help, claiming that he was thrilled that we were English as he had just been to London and everyone there had been very helpful to him. Donna and Laura could not believe this, both country bumpkins at heart, but accepted his generous offer of help...we have discovered this is a trend in Australia, the people all seem lovely. We rarely have to hold a map for longer than a minute for someone to come up and offer to help. We found the Northbridge area in the end and were amazed at how much of it was shut as it was a weekday. In the end we opted Subway, astounded by the prices, but were slightly consoled because the Subway worker charged us only for one sandwich. Brilliant.
The next day we went to Fremantle to meet up with Ben. Laura spent much of the time waiting questioning Donna as to what she would do if Ben appeared in various guises and asking Donna to prepare her 'Ben face'. Laura questioned him in intimate detail about his life and he soon suggested that we go to the cinema possibly to escape the questioning and complaints about Australia. He told us that the key to survival in Australia is goon. He was right. We both enjoyed Iron Man 2 and headed back early for Thai with Bob as Ben had an early morning dive the next day. Thai De'lish was yummy, we both enjoyed our Tom Yum soup much to Wendy's surprise. She had been horrified at Bob's choice of restaurant.
Our last day in Perth began and ended with us being spoilt. In the morning we went for coffee and cake with Penny, Donna's grandma's cousin. Once again Donna was asked what her 'Penny face' would be. Penny has clearly maintained after 30 years in Australia her Northern charm...declaring when we met up how much of a Sherratt she still is. Laura loved her and we spent a very pleasant morning in hysterics with Penny asking with delight which members of Donna's family are still alive...she got a few wrong! When we got back to Bob's, he kept hinting that it was a good idea that we started packing and was horrified when, instead, Laura took a three hour nap and Donna finished yet another book. Somehow we managed to get it all done in half an hour and were still early for the dinner with Wendy's family. We had a delightful evening and were once again treated by being given a lift to the airport with Wendy telling us fascinating stories about their family history, leaving us both in silence. What a rarity.
Laura was convinced that Tiger Air would crash, an idea she had concocted by being told by Bob and Penny that they often cancelled flights. What an obvious conclusion to draw. Nevertheless, we survived but were horrified to arrive in a freezing cold Melbourne to collect our baggage in what can only be described as an open air shed. We made it into the centre and easily found our two first choice hostels, neither of which were open yet given how early it was. Although in normal circumstances this would be bad, in this case it allowed us our first Hungry Jack's breakfast, an addiction would follow. Having waited completely unnecessarily for 2 hours as the hostels were full which we were rudely informed by the horrible staff, one of whom had a beard...she was female, we trekked 30 miles to the other side of the city to find another hostel. The most expensive one of our lives. However, neither of us were willing to move and they let us check in immediately.
Although Melbourne was a pleasant city, it was a shame that we were so put off by the cold weather and were still getting used to how expensive Australia is. Luckily we've become very good at cheering each other up and so ended up making the most of it. We met a couple of lovely English girls in our hostel, who we spent most of our time with. Hilariously, they're both called Charlotte. They don't seem to find this funny. After a pleasant day looking around the city and Botanical gardens (of course), we went to see an Aussie rules football game, possibly the most ridiculous game in the world. Laura and brunette Charlotte confessed that they had seen very little of the game as they had been too preoccupied with a couple sitting in front of us. The guy was clearly around 20 whilst the girl could not have been more than 12. Sick. He soon clocked onto the fact that they were being discussed, not helped by Laura whipping out her camera and proceeding to take pictures of them rather than the game...very loosely disguised as her taking pictures of brunette Charlotte.
The following day we ventured down to St. Kilda, which we really liked and went for lunch on Australian Mother's Day. We stopped at a restaurant with a massive poster claiming that there was a free glass of champagne for all mothers, prompting Laura to march in declaring that we were indeed mothers and blonde Charlotte asking approximately 100 times when we would be getting our free champagne. We're pretty sure he didn't believe us, but it didn't matter as we still secured our free alcohol and a delightful meal. That evening we bid our farewells to the Charlottes as they were heading off on a night bus to Canberra. We were thrilled to have the room to ourselves as there are a lot of freaks in hostels.
The next morning, after a Hungry Jack's breakfast, obviously, we were waiting for our bus to take us to Sydney when the Charlottes appeared. They had had a traumatic evening, failing to book their coach properly and so had not been allowed on. They were now trying to blag their way on to ours. As this was pissing the driver off, we decided to keep our heads down and pretend not to know them. Australian bus drivers are scary.
Australian travel is incredible compared to Asia. We have been treated to films, which make a long journey pass very quickly and are kept up to date with meal stops, how long to go, and information on the cities. We were astounded. We arrived in Sydney and were thrilled to discover it was warm...a new experience for Australia. Not only this, but an absolutely beautiful German man (who Laura decided was a descendant of Schindler and therefore acceptable) showed us the way to Kings Cross and our pre-booked hostel...Brado's Backpackers (apparently pronounced Braddo's). We had such a good time at this hostel and met lots of cool people, and they seem to very much understand the backpacker mentality of free being good! We were greeted by a free barbeque and had our first day in Sydney planned with a free city walk tour. Brilliant.
The city tour was a lot of fun, with Forest the tour guide insisting on taking the perfect picture in front of all the sights...which turned out really well. We went to the Botanical Gardens first. We were a bit confused as Forest had given us all bread approximately 5 hours before telling us it was to feed the birds. We thought this was ridiculous, unhappy about carrying it for some shit-bag pigeons, until he coaxed down two cockatoos from the trees who landed on him and then more flew to join them landing on our shoulders. We were impressed with Donna declaring how she could now understand how easily pirates could carry parrots on their shoulders all day. Two hundred pictures later and Donna's refused to fly away...Forest's only suggestion was that she bend down and it would walk onto her back. Good trick, but it still didn't fly away.
Having shed the bird, we then walked around to the Opera House, with Forest demanding that we must touch it...we're still not entirely convinced why, but we can now truthfully say that we have indeed touched the Sydney Opera House. We then moved on to the oldest pub in Sydney, happy to have got rid of the really annoying Swedish girls in our group for the biggest lunch ever, Donna trying calamari for the first time, exciting stuff. Our tour ended with us climbing one of the pylons of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Laura went mad because Forest didn't know how many people had died from falling off the bridge whilst it was being built, declaring that the other tour guides would know. Somehow, it was just the three of us left by the end so we went for a beer...we learnt about the ridiculous drink sizes here, and also some interesting bed bug facts. Thanks Forest. By this point we were completely comfortable with Forest and on the train journey home, Laura demanded that he mustn't hold on or move his feet without falling over as a proper tour guide would know Sydney so well that they could anticipate all bumps and turns of the tracks. He failed.
Our hostel had also organised a pizza night for the evening and we spent most of the night with Forest, drinking far too much which was illustrated perfectly by Laura's final movements of the evening. Somehow, she was incapable of understanding that there were 3 floors in our narrow hostel and that we were on the top floor. She went back to her room a few moments before Donna. She went into what she thought was our room, and finding our bags not there started declaring that someone had stolen our bags. She then went out to find Donna and Forest, quite hysterical, and got locked out of the hostel. Luckily someone was outside to let her in. Donna meanwhile had gone straight to the correct room and to bed, realising a few minutes later that Laura was not in her bed. Odd, since she should have had plenty of time to do this. Laura by this time had managed to make her way up to the third floor, thrilled to find both Donna and the bags although slightly confused by what had happened. Hilarious.
The following day we went to Manly, bumping into three boys we had met in Laos, much to all of our surprise. We went for a lovely walk on the beach, before heading back. Once there, we were persuaded to go for a birthday dinner with Forest. We were delighted as he took us to a place with the best steak in the world for only $10. It was amazing. Once again, the evening disappeared under a blur of alcohol, Donna realising it had gone too far when she turned around to find Laura in deep conversation with Luke, our bus driver for tomorrow, about the present perfect continous tense and how interesting it was. She proceeded to demand that he had to be in bed with his eyes shut at 11 because she didn't want him to be asleep any later than half past as our lives would be in his hands on the journey tomorrow. How do we get ourselves into these situations?
Thursday brought a new tour and a new guide. He had been warned by Forest to expect testing and comparisons on his tour guiding abilities. We did not disappoint. We walked from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach learning lots of facts about spiders and sharks on the way. We then came back ready for our booked River Cruise. Dressed in hoodies, jeans and flip flops we'd prepared for a delightfully peaceful evening having decided we weren't up for going out. Somehow, we ended up on a Party Boat, complete with dance floor, dancing poles, naughty police women and a lot of drunken Europeans. This supposedly relaxing cruise was three hours long and called Wanchored. We lasted approximately 5 minutes before legging it off the boat before it left. A narrow escape.
On our final day in Sydney, we went for a walk to Paddy's market and through Chinatown, before having a beer in Darling Harbour. Laura kept trying to convince Donna to go into Flight Centre and enquire how much it would change our flights to stay in Asia. Donna just about suceeded in keeping her out, the warm weather and Sydney helping a lot.
Our next stop was Byron Bay (not Brisbane like we had originally thought, thank God we were informed otherwise!) via a night bus. We were looking forward to the bus as we have so far only had positive experiences on Greyhound and so were horrified when a man we had seen at the bus stop and assumed to be homeless boarded the bus and sat opposite us. This man smelt of a combination of shit, dirt, cigarettes, BO and alcohol. Rank. Amazingly we survived the journey and arrived in Byron Bay without any other dramas.