Monday, October 25, 2010

Byron Bay

We started our journey to Byron by catching a train at Sydney Central Station at 4:12pm on Friday. We were expecting to be on this train for a little under twelve hours before changing trains at Casino for the bus to Byron Bay. It turned out that the journey would take a little longer than that after a lightning strike left us stranded in a siding in Sydney's northern suberbs for an hour and a half. To be honest, we were rather glad of any delay to our eventual arrival, since the bus was due to deposit us in Byron at around 6am, several hours before the reception opened in our hostel.

After a long night of not much sleep and a short coach ride to Byron Bay, we wearily trudged the last mile or so to the hostel, arriving completely knackered just before 7am. We fell asleep on a bench outside and woke up when our host, Ellie, opened up the reception a few hours later.

After eating breakfast, checking into our room and having a kip, we ventured into town to explore. On our previous trip, we avoided spending much time in Byron, having been advised that a previously idillic haven for hippies and new age types had been over-developed and turned into an expensive tourist trap. This was confirmed as we walked down a main street of bars, restaurants and overpriced clothes shops. That said, Byron is an awesome place to come on holiday, especially if you like surfing.

After finding the cheapest lunch that we could (ten dollar burger and chips), we hit the beach, which was lovely, even if the sea was rather cold.

After dipping our toes briefly in the bitterly cold Pacific, we retreated to the grassy bank next to the beach. This was lovely, until a really scary spider crawled onto my shorts. I was asleep at the time and freaked out when Hannah woke me up. Luckily, I managed to get rid of Mr Spider and calmed down again.

After that, we retreated back to the hostel and, knackered, went to be sans dinner.

On Saturday, we visited Tallow Beach, the other side of Cape Byron from Byron Bay. We had been advised that it would be dangerous to go in the sea and, as we approached the beach, a sign reiterated this advice:


The beach was lovely, if a little deserted compared to the main beach at Byron Bay. In the distance, you can see Lennox Head, which we visited last year:

There was a great view of Cape Byron Lighthouse in the distance, not that you can really tell from this picture:

On Monday, we checked out of the hostel, did a spot of shopping in town and prepared to board the coach to Brisbane.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Leaving Sydney

On Friday, our brief visit to Sydney was already almost over. We checked out of our hostel and then spent a few more hours exploring the city. We got the free tourist bus up to The Rocks, the oldest part of Sydney and the part with the most historic buildings. Historic, in this case, meaning 200 or so years old.

We checked out the exciting underside of the Harbour Bridge:

We wondered what would happen if someone needed the toilet while waiting around under the bridge. Luckily, Sydney has this covered, with toilets for gents and ladies:

We got a great view of the bridge from near the Sydney Observatory:

We walked down a quaint, picturesque old fashioned looking street:

After that it was back to the hostel for lunch, before racing to the station to catch our overnight train to Byron Bay.

Modern Art

Inspired by our visit to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, I thought I could do this "modern art" thing myself, especially after Claire bigged up my artwork and told me that I could make millions. At the gallery, I noticed that some of the paintings from the sixties were pretty simple. The artist had just drawn a simple geometric shape on a canvas. When viewing said paintings, one presumably infers meaning in some way or other. This was presumably followed by much self congratulation on the behalf of the artist. Check out this piece by yours truly:

See how the bleak simplicity reflects the artist's soul and desire to express himself. That not enough? Hmmmm.

I noticed that some of the more recent modern art features words or slogans painted onto the canvas. Presumably the artist put down words that evoked feelings or ideas that he was trying to get across or maybe it was just a stream of consciousness. Check out this piece of art that I whipped up myself in that style:

The bleakness of the painting represents the soul crushing loneliness of modern life.

Cynics may point out that poking fun at modern art, especially when you don't understand it, is actually pretty cliched. True. However, by deliberately engaging in such a cliched activity, this blog post becomes truly post-modern, thus transcending any traditional form of criticism.

Finally, here is a picture of the Sydney CBD, drawn entirely from memory by an autistic savant with a photographic memory:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Day In Sydney

We arrived in Sydney in the early hours of Thursday morning, utterly deprived of sleep after a night on the train. After checking into the YHA, we noticed that we could see another YHA out of the window. Sure enough, there are two YHA hostels next to Sydney Central station. Getting between them isn't too tricky, as Google Maps demonstrates:

Despite having been to Sydney several times previously, we decided to go sightseeing. This time, we headed for the Royal Botanic Gardens. On the way, we found some great views of the city, which Hannah is keen to show off here:

On the way, we headed to Wolloomaloo in seach of a coffee to wake us up. This being New South Wales, it is only fitting that the first person we met should be from South Wales, specifically a guy from Neath who had spotted my Wales shirt. He pointed us in the direction of coffee and also advised us to stay away from scary back streets in King's Cross.

We stumbled upon the Art Gallery of New South Wales. This turned out to be full of art of various kinds, most of which sadly appeared to be Aboriginal art (on which I am not keen) and modern art (on which I am even less keen). We weren't permitted to take pictures of the artwork, alas, but here is my attempt at copying one of the more "clever" pieces of modern art:

My two faviourite pieces of art turned out to be by local schoolchildren, which probably says something about my level of art-appreciation.

After exiting the gallery, we finally made it to the Royal Botanic Gardens. These clever signs let us know that we had arrived:

There were many awesome plants in evidence, such as this one:

I'm not sure exactly what this one was but it was a bit like Mum's Flaming Red Hot Poker plant, only larger:

There were many eucalyptus trees such as this one, which didn't seem to have much bark on it. Presumably that's normal.

We then headed for Mrs Macquarie's Point, a peninsular from which excellent views of the harbour bridge and the opera house can be found. We discovered Mrs Macquarie's Chair, a seat which was hand carved out of some highly geological rocks by convicts in 1810 so that the governor's wife had somewhere to sit and watch ships sail into the harbour:

Upon reaching the head of Mrs Macquaries's Point, we enjoyed impressive views:

On the way back, we got some great views of the city, too:

That was enough for one morning. We headed back to the hostel for lunch and a kip.

Tomorrow, we'll be heading to Byron Bay, on our way up to Brisbane.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


During our stay in Melbourne, we stayed with Ross and Sally, who Hannah had already met in Melbourne before I arrived and who had agreed to put first Hannah and then me up in their house. Ross and Sally took great care of us, for which we are hugely grateful. I spent most of the time slowly getting over my jetlag. We did once venture into central Melbourne. Here's a picture of Hannah giving the place some serious repect:

On Wednesday, we said goodbye to Ross and Sally and went to Southern Cross Station to catch the overnight train to Sydney. We had initially planned to take as many overnight trains as possible, using our Country Link Backtracker Pass tm, through which we have unlimited use of various trains and buses between Melbourne and Brisbane for the duration of our stay. At $300 for three months, this pass seemed to be awesome value.

Awesome value or not, it did involve us committing to spend the night on a train between Melbourne and Sydney. On the positive side, we did save ourselves the cost of a night's accomodation. On the negative side, we didn't sleep much. The seats in a railway carriage turn out to be even less comfortable than those in an airliner. Still, we arrived in one piece and made plans to explore Sydney for a day before heading north towards Brisbane.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bon Voyage

I departed from Blighty on Friday, Kieran very kindly giving me a lift to the airport. The flight was largely uneventful, despite a few slight tribulations en route. The first was an overweight neighbour on the plane who spoke no English and who kept invading my space (and that of her neighbour on the other side). The second was a drunk Englishman who dropped his rubbish all over the aisle and rocked about so violently that the guy in the seat behind asked if he could move seats to get away from him. The third was a confusing experience in the transit lounge at Hong Kong airport. This involved us getting off the plane, in order for it to be refuelled and cleaned, and then being set loose in the airport without specific instructions on what to do next. It eventually transpired that we had to go through security (twice) and then re-board the plane. I'm sure that the contents of my bag enjoyed being taken off the plane, x-rayed repeatedly and then taken back on to the plane.

The flight over with, I arrived in Melbourne to meet Hannah who had made a "Chris" sign for me, in case I wasn't sure who I was meeting. For me, the Australian part of our travels was about to begin.