Australia - Round The World Tour 3 2004 Day 355 (165)
Saturday 26th February (2005)
Well, that very sad day, that I knew would come but was nevertheless dreading anyway, finally arrived this morning and we had to say a sad farewell to Ree-Ree and the rest of the family. Whatever feeble words I might muster here will scarcely do justice to the feeling of sadness that accompanied this moment. We’ve become so very close with everyone here in Melbourne that saying goodbye feels very much like the first time that I left my parents in England to go and live in Holland some seventeen years or so ago. I can only hope that we will see them all again at some point in the future. And even though we will steadily travel farther from this place on our route back to the other side of the planet, I will remain close to these people for the rest of my days. A last-minute turn of fate meant that we had to travel to the airport without an entourage and so forcing us to bid our farewells at the front gate. I think this was fortuitous as it staved the pain of a protracted farewell scene. Saying goodbye was painful enough as it was. Yes, I think a quick goodbye was best all around.
We came to Melbourne not to see Melbourne but to visit and spent time with family and that is exactly what we did. Much happened during the past few weeks, however, and I have been deliberately remiss in keeping my travel journals up to date so perhaps a brief re-cap is in order. Naturally, we got to know all of my Australian ‘relies’ very well. In fact, I think we blended in and integrated with the family unit to the point of becoming direct family members ourselves, which was great. Sandy also had her second ultrasound scan just recently and that revealed everything to be present and correct. The nuchal transparency (not to be confused with the ‘nuclear’ transparency as referenced by Sandy in a mass e-mailing to family and friends recently) turned out to be just about the right width and everything else was normal too. Having also reached the end of her first trimester, we can now both relax a bit more without having to second-guess whether everything is normal or not. Another nice bonus for us was a trip out into Port Philip Bay to swim with the resident seals and dolphins. That was a great day out which all three of us (myself, Sandy and Shalina) thoroughly enjoyed. Even though it was an exhausting day, I managed to subsequently scramble enough energy together to spend the next day out diving in the shallows of Rye pier and Portsea pier in search of seahorses and sea-dragons respectfully, both of which were to be found in plentiful numbers. Being pregnant, Sandy had to forego this thrill but I was at least able to bring back some nice photos of the two one-hour dives.
Oh, and one more thing I should mention whilst I’m at it. I’ve written a letter to my unborn child. I’ve started to feel a bond with this child and I wanted to commit to words all the feelings and emotions that I have started to feel towards this little wonder growing inside of Sandy. I wanted to tell her (I have a sneaky suspicion it’s a girl) all about her father, who he is today and all about the life he has led up to this point. Hopefully, sometime in the future when she is old enough to read it and understand it, she can do so and compare her Dad as he is today with the Dad she will grow up to know. In a similar vane, I’ve also started a diary, which I will update periodically from here on in.
So then, this brings me back to the regular and more familiar realm of travel journals updates, which I shall now continue with throughout the rest of the trip. It starts with what turned out to be just another flight from just another airport. This morning’s flight took us from Melbourne to Sydney. We dropped off the rental car and went through the now very familiar routine of check-ins, security checks, boarding procedures and so on. We were pretty much both on autopilot for the duration and before we knew it, we were walking out onto the street at Sydney’s domestic airport terminal, in search of where to go next. I had the forethought to call ahead to a couple of hostels in Sydney and we had a specific hostel as our intended destination in mind. We had been told that there were a couple of different shuttle bus services that would take us on a brief tour of the city before dropping us off in front of Eva’s hostel in the King’s Cross area but at AU$9 (€5,50) each, my mind instinctively launched directly back into ‘traveller’ mode again and I immediately turned my nose up at this option, secure in the knowledge that there surely must be a cheaper way into town. After a bit of wandering around the outside of the terminal building, we finally found the correct stop for the public bus. A nice bus company employee was standing there helping everybody find his or her respective buses and I asked him how much it would cost to get us into the city. He started to try to recall the correct cost of the fare but swiftly gave up on this and told me to just get on the next bus as pretty much nobody ever bothers to pay anyway. Sure enough, the next city-bound bus pulled up and thirty of more passengers, us included, stepped on and simply found a seat. Fifteen minutes later, most of us were stepping off again at the central train station in the city – a free ride just as the man said. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t. Another bus company employee that was standing there at the central station suggested we next hop onto the next King’s Cross bound train, which we did for just AU$2,10 (€1,28) each. We ultimately found our way to King’s Cross from the airport terminal building for just AU$4,20 (€2,56) for the two of us as opposed to the AU$18 (€11) it would have cost us with the shuttle service. A little more effort was required to be sure but a nice little savings nevertheless. Isn’t it amazing how quickly you can fall back into the role of budget traveller?
The King’s Cross area of Sydney is by all accounts a bit of a shady one and is just a stone’s through from the city’s red-light district. Be that as it may, it’s a popular part of town for travellers and is riddled with hostels. A brief stroll from the train station was all that was needed before we stumbled into ours, where we checked in and made ourselves comfortable. It’s a very nice place, seems clean and well run and has very nice security. The security of a given hostel seems to be something that features prominently in all the guidebook descriptions so I guess that must at least be an indication of the nature of this part of town. We aren’t bothered. It’s our home for another few days before we move onto the next. After checking in and familiarising ourselves with our new surroundings, we made up the bed and relaxed for a few minutes as we climbed down from the rigors of another day’s worth of aircraft, bus, train and flatfoot travelling.
Down in the reception area, there is a notice board with all sorts of bits and pieces left there by various hostel guests. Amongst the notices for cars and campers for sale and requests for lifts to different parts of the country, there was a strip of discount coupons. One of these was a 15% discount coupon for dinner at the Hard Rock Café here in town. Once again, the budget traveller in me thrust his was forward and I grabbed the coupon. A delicious steak dinner seemed like a nice way to polish off what was an arduous day of travelling after all and the 15% discount would be a nice bonus to boot. So, with coupon in hand, we figured out where the Hard Rock Café was located and made our way there on foot, where we soon tucked into a huge T-bone dinner complete with buffalo wings for starters and even a huge bowl of chocolate brownie with ice-cream for desert – delicious. After applying the discount coupon, we made it out of there with a final tally on the bill of just about AU$70 (€42,70). Well, it’s good to spoil yourself every now and then after all.
We’ve allotted ourselves three nights in Sydney altogether so we should have ample time to see those sights we are particularly interested in. Still with the theme of somewhat spoiling ourselves, I booked us two tickets to see the Lion King on stage right here in Sydney for tomorrow’s matinee showing. I’ve wanted to see this for a while now but with the London performances being sold out weeks in advance all the time, I never got the chance to do so before we started this trip. Tomorrow will afford us the chance to rectify that.
So, with tummies full to bursting point and now the Lion King stage show induced Cheshire grins on our faces, we waddled back to home base with a bit of a detour through the red-light district – just to look mind. In fact, the whole area was bustling with lots of hubbub – as well as the odd pavement princess staking out her turf. It was quite interesting actually. Oh well, I supposed you have to see it once in your life.
Both our mobile phones were rendered useless just yesterday due to the expiration of our last remaining trace of phone credit. With just a few days left here in Australia, we didn’t really think it was worth the effort to put more credit onto them and were planning to get new SIM cards in New Zealand anyway. After being plastered to the pay phone in the restaurant for half an hour whilst on hold to buy the theatre tickets, however, I decided to bite the bullet after all and re-charged Sandy’s phone with another AU$20 (€12,20). Sandy and I have been averaging AU$30 (€18,30) and AU$50 (€30,50) per month respectively since we arrived here in Australia so another AU$20 (€12,50) didn’t seem like too much of a big deal. We’ll send Sandy’s Australia SIM card back to Ree-Ree just before we depart for New Zealand so it won’t go to waste.
And so that brings me to the end of yet another day of travel on the road. What with our thoughts starting to turn more and more towards the future and our new lives as a three-member family, I can’t help but feel that we have now started to enter the final stages of this overall trip. We still have another couple of months of travel ahead of us with lots of new adventures to be had but for the first time since we started out, it’s almost as if I can sense the end of the trip is now in our sights. That makes me sad but excited at the same time.