Australia has been lurking in the Pacific Ocean on the outskirts of where we have traveled for nearly two years and finally, even though neither of us has ever had a yearning to go there, we decided it couldn't be ignored any longer. We fly to Sydney which, as pretty much everyone says, is a great city. Modern but a good amount of older Victorian buildings. Water is all around and the pleasant harbour fronts and and parks make for interesting walks. And walk we did - covering all the main points of interest - National Gallery, Observatory, Bridge, botanic gardens, Regents Park, The Rocks, St Mary's and, of course, the Opera House. This, however, we do in style by going to see the Sydney Symphony Orchestra play various pieces including Janacek's sinfonietta (Rachel and I have both just finished reading Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 - a surreal book in which the piece is frequently mentioned and had therefore intrigued us). Such a thrill to be in the Opera House, in Australia sipping bubbly and feeling sophisticated as opposed to our normal grungy selves. We even went out for a posh meal!!
Another day we catch the double-decker train from central station and go to a town (can't remember its name) that sits on the edge of canyon. There is a an impressive drop to the floor which is covered in trees and alive with parrots, cockatoos, budgies and we walk along the precipice for several miles looking to the distance and the Blue Mountains. So called because of their colour which is attained by being surrounded by forests of eucalyptus trees that give off an oil that creates a bluish mist.
We had no specific plans for Australia and when we woke on our 5 day we decide to see if we can get a camper van relocation. This are campers that need returning to their original location and can be hired for just a $1 a day. 30 minutes later we are furiously packing in order to get to the depot as we have a 5 day relocation to Adelaide. These deals are something of a double edged sword. On the one hand you have transport and a place to live so you can enjoy athe country with a degree of freedom. On the other hand, there are fairly short delivery times so travelling just under 2,000kms in a short time is a bit of a schlep! Even so we set off (this time in a much smaller beast than those of NZ) down the South coast to follow the Great Ocean road to Melbourne then on to Adelaide. This part of the country is fairly well farmed so although there are patches of scrub and national reserves more often than not we are driving through fields of crops or more common - cows or sheep. These field stretch on to the horizon in every direction and unlike the stunning scenery in NZ (which I would argue to be Australia's richer and more interesting cousin) they are fairly dull. The principal point of interest on the roads is the overwhelming amount of large road kill that litters the hard shoulder. We have never see so many carcasses - rabbits, wombats and dozens of kangaroos. Occasionally we see a live Roo bouncing along which gives us hope that at least some get across the fairly empty roads. Did you know that a big kangaroo can weigh 300lbs, stand 6ft tall and can jump nearly 10ft in the air. Couple that with the evidence we used to see in Skippy of them operating radios and flying planes and it's a surprise that they don,t rule the land given that there are millions of them. We travel along through various towns of little interest plagued by a strong wind and showers lots of the time. occasionally the sun does come out and instead of shivering we can enjoy the one thing synonymous with Oz. The great coast road runs from Melbourne towards Adelaide and is quite nice. There are some pretty views and some cool limestone and sandstone stacks in the sea to break the journey but time was forever pressing. We do a lighting tour of Melbourne which is heralded as the culture city in Oz. It probably is but we were not there long enough to sample more than a quick lunch and walk around the main area
around the impressive Victorian station. There seemed to be lots going on due to a charity festival but that aside it is a pleasant and friendly city and certainly one I would go back to to explore more thoroughly. Our final night in the van is spent on the edge of a quarry lake and to kill a little time we spend an hour in the small towns one horse saloon and chat to Dave, a stockman on a large dairy farm and the publican, a large racist with a ridiculous moustache. It is really surprising how rascist a lot of Kiwis and Aussies are! The temperature is 0 degrees and since we ditched are warm charity clothes in NZ we are freezing and I end up wearing a scarf and hat in bed to keep warm. We deliver the van in adelaide the following morning and have three days to spend there in a warm comfy bed before flying out. We could have done a workaway stint on Magnetic island and followed the beautiful peoples trail on the Gold Coast. We could have got a relocation to Perth and were even considering driving through the middle from south to north. But, in truth, we had had enough of Australia with its it's intimidating distances and high prices and didn't really want to waste more time before getting ourselves back to Japan to look for a job. Whilst here, however, we had a nice time. Another vibrant and interesting city. Not as in your face as Melbourne or Sydney. A bit more laid back with less high rises and some great walks through
extensive parklands. Certainly the highlight was a fun evening we spent with two women we had met in Kerrala in India a couple of weeks after leaving England in 2012. We had spent an afternoon with them exploring the backwaters and had swapped details and kept in touch. It was therefore great to hook up again after so long and swap a few memories. We finished the evening with a tram ride back to the city and a weird confrontation with a drunk and high Aussie dressed as a shiek who was alternately the king of Scotland, the queens cousin and in special ops and wanted to kill all the Arabs and torture them in various ways. Plainly mad and a bit scary but entertaining nonetheless. So goodbye Oz. Next stop Osaka