A Travellerspoint blog


Taronga Zoo, Cogee beach

rain 17 °C

We took a trip to Taronga Zoo on Saturday with James. Fresh air on the ferry on the way across was the order of the day having had a pretty heavy night the night before. We ended up in a bar drunkenly debating whether pheasant is a red or white meat, as you do of an evening.


Taronga zoo sits right on the opposite shore to Sydney, so great views. Yet another zoo though. It's beginning to feel like we're doing a world tour of zoos. We're already planning the next one, Steve Irwin's, in about a months time. Woohoo. Taronga was pretty good as zoos go. There were quite a few impressive exhibits, most notably the biggest crocodile I've ever seen, about 4/5m long. They also had a little section where you could chase wallabies and Kangaroos about and molest them. They didn't seem to care much. They have the same kind of laid back attitude that the people have.


This one was quite happy lying flat on it's back watching tourists go by. Jenny gets scarily excited about being at the zoo, but she was in good company with James as he likes to run about with taking pictures through the glass of everything and anything too. He was even over the safety barrier at the snow leopards cage basically trying to get in with them.


The highlight of the zoo was a talk on spiders where we sat with a bunch of 5 year olds being shown funnel webs and red backs, which are both apparently really common and in every back garden in Sydney....which is nice. The star of the talk was the little boy sitting next to us who when asked "Do you know what the most venomous spider in the world is?", answered "Yes. Spiderman." Good answer.


The Oran-utan was pretty amazing as well. It had climbed right to the top of it's post and was giving disapproving looks at all the tourists. Really weird looking creature. So weird that it kind of looked like it might be a guy in a costume. If it is then that makes my job seem not so bad.

After gawking at the animals for a good couple of hours we went back to James's, via the butcher, for a BBQ. Australians are absolutely mad for BBQ's, indeed so far as food goes over here if it can't be mashed up into sausage or burger form for the grill, then I don't think they consider it edible. There are so many different types of sausage it's unreal. We got a selection of fish snags - shrimp and chilli, swordfish and feta etc. Probably the saltiest things I've ever eaten and wouldn't be rushing to get them again. The meat out here is all really good though, and very cheap. We had Kangaroo the other night which was pretty good - tastes like steak and I'd recommend it if you can see past the fact that you're essentially eating a giant rat.

All last week the weather was really good, and the temperature got up to 27 degrees on a couple of days, so on Sunday we took a trip to Cogee beach, a couple of bays south of Bondi. There was a guy with a message from God flying about above the beach in his little plane.


Cogee basically just a scaled down version of Bondi, but nice. Was so busy. Was sunny but windy so the T-shirt wasn't off for very long. In fact we got sucked into a beer garden not long after arriving. We were pretty warm when we left there though, a few hours later.


This week's been pretty chaotic in Sydney as the George Bush circus rolled into town last night for an APEC summit (which I think is kind of like G8 for Asia Pacific Countries). They're holding the summit in Sydney's CBD, so there's a public holiday on Friday which is a bonus. The whole CBD is being shut down and they've erected a 15 foot fence to keep everyone out, which is causing quite a lot of resentment amongst the locals. They're also closing Bondi beach on the Saturday so that the WAGs can have lunch safely, which is causing some resentment amongst me, because I want to go to the beach at the weekend.

We've both totally fallen in love with Sydney over the 2 months we've been here, and that's saying really something given the circumstances - ie we both have dead-end boring jobs on minimum wage; we're eating almost exclusively own brand supermarket products and reduced-to-clear kangaroo; we're living with cockroaches and selfish, nocturnal, drum and electric guitar playing twats; we're both completely sleep deprived; and up to now we've been wearing clothes and sleeping in a bed that stinks of piss because someone at some point clearly decided that they would use their own urine as a fabric softner in the communal washing machine. We are now handwashing all our clothes. However the point is that in the face of all that we're both having an amazing time and love living here, so it's become a real possibility to come back with a more permanent plan.....maybe. Sydney's got it all, although actually living in Bondi has dispelled the stereotypical image that I had of it before coming here. I envisaged it being a haven for bronzed, good looking surfer chicks and blokes with girly hair wandering about carrying surfboards. The reality is that it is full of pasty, chicken-skinned, Guiness guzzlers. There have to be more Irish folk here than in the whole of Ireland. Bondi is pretty cool though, (the woman at my work said it's "daggie" - but she's a "flaming galla") and although the beach is nothing like I expected it is great for a beach in the city, really clean and the water is crystal clear, unlike other city beaches I've been to.........Joppa.

We're both a bit fed up with work. It's ok although spiritcrushinly boring. The people I'm working with are real friendly however I've managed to create a potentially embarrasing situation for myself. Despite trying very very very hard to ensure that people are not confused about my name - enunciating it very clearly to everyone that I meet for the first time as if they are elderly and hard of hearing - I have failed spectacularly at work. The woman downstairs calls me Karl and there's another woman in the same room as me who calls me either Kaylum or Cayleb. For some reason I didn't correct either of them on the first occasion they got it wrong, and now 4 weeks on, there's no going back, as to do so would be more embarrassing than "simply" responding to my new various names. So I'm trying to avoid them both and the situation where the one who calls me Karl, calls me that in front of someone who knows me by my given name.....or worse still she calls me Karl in front of the one who calls me Kaylum. Not sure how I would explain myself. Anywho, I'm only there for another week so the odds are in my favour given how long I've kept up the charade so far.

We're currently planning our itinerary for travelling the East Coast of Australia which starts in 6 weeks, and also are planning an excursion to dive with sharks in the interim which should be pretty exciting.....

Posted by calumfife 00:30 Archived in Australia Comments (2)


Hospital, AFL, Drinking and more data entry

sunny 19 °C

We had quite an eventful weekend last weekend, beginning with a late night trip to the local hospital late Friday night/early Saturday morning. We'd had an early night after polishing off a bottle of wine, but I woke up at 4 am to find Jenny crawling about the floor of the toilet, clutching her stomach and not looking too clever. She had a really sore stomach and said it had been getting worse for the 1/2 hour she'd already been up. Luckily for me though she'd saved the main event for me waking up - her sitting on the toilet spewing into a pan. I wasn't much help, indeed had to leave her too it and quickly empty the kitchen sink of dirty dishes as I felt like I was going to have an episode myself. I "heroically" managed to compose myself and we decided to phone an ambulance. Never done that before, so I was quite excited about it all. It wasn't quite the scene from casualty/ER that I'd expected when the paramedics arrived, rather, the guy stood with his hands in his pockets, asked a few questions, grunted at the answers, didn't seem interested at all, then told us to follow him to the ambulance. When we were in the ambulance they didn't even put the siren, nor the lights on which was disappointing.

When we got to the hospital Jenny was given some pills by a nurse and we sat next to the door and waited and waited and waited. Only when Jenny started shivering and was about to pass out did she get any attention and I'd basically had to grab a doctor as he went passed. Turns out I managed to grab probably the strangest "Doctor" (if that's what he really was) in Australia.....maybe the world. He was from Peru and had some pretty controversial medical opinions which he decided to openly share with us e.g. - "when I'm dealing with HIV/AIDS victims I like to keep the door to the room we are in open so that I'm breathing fresh air and don't catch what they've got!?!" He also said that he was convinced that one of the nurses at the hospital had "healing hands", and she could cure patients just by touching them. He said it was a shame that it was her day off otherwise she would have sorted Jenny out by touching her stomach. He went on to justify this claim by telling us a story of how this woman had sorted out a patient's severely swollen testicle just by touching it?? He didn't inspire a lot of confidence, although he was quite funny....peculiar. We were then abruptly left by him, to think about what he'd told us for the next 2-3 hours before a real doctor came and told Jenny that she had sever period pains, and we were sent home - 6 1/2 hours after arriving.

By the time we got home it was 12pm on Saturday, and we got a couple of hours sleep before heading out to the AFL game that we'd booked tickets to go see that night. Jenny felt a lot better after a lie down and was scooping the wine back by 5pm.


We went to meet James at the Opera bar. This is literally right next to the Opera House. Really spectacular location - even managed yet another sneaky photo of the opera house pretending to take one of Jenny. The bar is probably the most expensive in Australia however, at $7 for the cheapest bottle of beer.

From here we went and hooked up with Niki and Russel before taking the 20 minute train ride out to the Telstra Stadium (where most of the Olympics were held). We arrived at the ground about 5pm, a good 3 hours before kick off. The intention - for the girls certainly - was to don a pink poncho and go stand on the pitch before the game in support of a breast cancer charity. That didn't quite happen. Instead, we all just stood in a car park and ate kebabs and drank a few tinnies. We had however paid double the ticket price, half going to the charity, so we felt we'd done our bit and weren't just being tight and shunning it.


The game was between the Sydney Swans and St Kilda (Melbourne). It was really good. Lot better than I'd expected, and I've decided AFL is far superior to rugby. Far more exciting, fast paced and skilfull. It's obvioulsy nowhere near as good as football, but it's kind of a cross between football and rugby.


I was well impressed. It was helped by the fact it was quite a big game for the Swans, they won, the stadium was amazing - absolutely giant - there were 60,000+ there all wearing colours..........and they sold beer and wine in the ground.

So even though we were all pretty well oiled before the game, there was no escape inside the ground, and we were all well on the way by the time we left. Joining in with the locals behind us shouting at the referees.


Was really good laugh and would definitely go back.

We headed back into town and had a few light refreshments. Niki had to pour Russel into a cab, as all the fun and games pulling faces at the camera had taken its toll on him.


We headed back to James's for a few more and for Jenny to take some interesting pictures of the harbour before we called it a night and Jenny poured me into a taxi where we took some even more interesting photos.
Bit of a mess

Other than that we've had a quite week. I've got a new job that is just as boring as all the others that I've had. Working in a massive private dental centre. The office is in a scyscraper and they have a whole floor with 10 dental chairs on it, if you were scared of the dentist this would be a living nightmare of a place. I'm not doing any dentistry myself just office junior crap. So so boring. Although we do have a radio.........that's tuned into Sydney's top Easy Listening station. Having been there for a week I'd rather they just turned it off, because if I have to listen to "tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree" one more time I'll be forced to take matters into my own hands.

Speaking of music, in the loosest sense of the word, Pop Idol has just started on TV out here. The only reason I mention that is because I worked with a guy doing data entry who a week later appeared on the show and has got down to the last 24 which is quite impressive.

Posted by calumfife 17:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

More Syndey + Manly

sunny 23 °C

Been through a series of rubbish jobs now, and am currently unemployed, but have something lined up in a few days. All been data entry drivel. Very dull. One was slightly less dull and involved phoning up major investment companies and asking them various strange questions to put info into a database for a client, whose identity my boss didn't know (allegedly)?? And I was told if anyone I phoned asked what it the info was for, I was just to make something up. All very dodgy. Other than working not been doing much. Jenny did a little estate agent's montage of photos of the flat:


Still enjoying living there, other than the cockroaches, which are everywhere. Every morning they appear, scuttling about the walls, ceiling and toilet. I'm sure they are crawling about the bed and over our faces in the night, but there's not a lot you can do to stop them. It's not a hygiene issue, rather we are on the outskirst of the city, where things like that live. Trying not to imagine what other things might be eating the cockroaches and lurking in our garden.

Unfotunately the guy in the room next to us has recently invested in a drum kit, which he enjoys practising every night. Last night at 11.30pm. Jenny was not amused. He is absolutley useless, and can only make very basic rhythmic bangs like a small child might manage.


There was a massive boat show the other weekend in Darling Harbour, which Jenny dragged me along to. Don't like boats. Having said that some of the yachts were pretty swanky. You had to take your shoes off before getting on them to snoop around. Some of them were invitation only. Needless to say we weren't invited on any of those ones. Should have gone to a fancy dress shop before going here and bought a Captains outfit. There seemed to be a lot of people who had been and done that. Lots of Captain Birdseye lookalikes strolling about the place. We went to Manly the other day, on the ferry. It's on the North shore, 30 mins across the water from Sydeny. Ferry ride is pretty spectacular as it leaves from Circular quay between the harbour bridge and the opera house, so you get amazing view of both.


We also ventured across to the middle of the Harbour Bridge one night as you get really good photos of the opera house from there. I think I'm becoming a bit obsessed by the opera house. It's very strange, but I feel compelled to take millions of photos of it every time we go past it. Jenny near enough has to wrestle the camera away from me.


Manly is a kind of upmarket version of Bondi beach. Very nice. Lots of very plush appartments and people walking their rat-like dogs with coats along the promenade.


We have tickets to an AFL game on Saturday night, at the Telstra stadium which I think is the Olympic stadium, which should be a laugh. The fans are supposed to be pretty mental, there has just been a strike by the train drivers, who refuse to take one set of fans anywhere because the other week they were caught with molotov cocktails on with them!? They're not the team that we're going to watch though, and it should be a tame affair, as there is a Breast Cancer Awareness gig before the game.

Anyway better go. Seeing as I have a day off I'm going to maybe make a trip to the beach, as it's very nice and warm outside. Roll on Summer, because if this is what winter's like, summer must be amazing.

Posted by calumfife 10:41 Archived in Australia Comments (0)


Work and Jagermeister

sunny 15 °C

Managed to find a job really quickly. A crap one. In fact the worst job I've ever had. And that's saying something, given I spent a summer working in a well known bookies in Niddrie, scared for my life. Got a job doing data entry, so I'm basically turning into a robot. Sit all day in front of a computer screen typing people's driver license details into a computer, so that they can be issued with a fine for not paying tolls. You could teach a monkey to do it, and it would probably be a lot more enthusiastic about it than I am. Jenny's landed herself a similarly boring job in a hospital. They both pay ok although it's difficult to make any money out here, as the Government robs 30% through tax, and it's compulsory to pay 9% of your wage into a pension!

The folk at my work are all dead friendly. Also the guy who seems to be running the show is quite funny (peculiar). He's a bit of a David Brent - quite a bit older than everyone else, but acts hip by wearing sunglasses indoors, and a leather jacket and shiny shirts. He also likes to add the word "...meister" to the end of everyone's name. Seems like a nice enough guy though. Even more impressive than finding the job so quickly was that I managed to find a work outfit for less than AUS$100 (40 quid). Shirt, tie, trousers, and shoes. Transpires that I may have to invest in another pair of shoes though. The ones I bought are called "Ned" shoes. Didn't see this printed on the side of the box otherwise I'd have left them well alone. After wearing them only once they have begun to smell like garlic bread. They smell even when I've got them on my feet. It's rank. Not even odour eaters or specifically designed spray seems to help.

We had to wait longer than expected for our little studio appartment to be finished, surprise surprise. But it's all kitted out now and we've both settled in, and are quite enjoying living there. The only issue is the cockroaches. Lots and lots of them scuttling about the place. Think they're attracted to the smell of garlic. Not seen any venomous insects yet which is a bonus, long may that continue. Doing plenty of shaking of clothes and checking of shoes before puting them on.

We went out on a bit of a heavy one at the weekend with James. He knows a guy who is head of promotions for Jagermeister, and we got ourselves VIP passes to a trendy club in Kings Cross. Was really good night although all the drinks were really really expensive, apart from Jagermeister.....which was free. Me and James got a bit over involved in the free shots and the Jagerbombs (a shot of it in a glass of red bull). I also managed to persuade the bar staff to give me full glasses of it, which resulted in Jenny having to help me home. We also had a wee argument in a shop on the way home which ended up with Jenny helping me into a display by shoving me. Ended up destroying it, and on the floor. All good fun, although we can never go back there because the owner didn't find it very funny. Spent the next day crawling about on the floor beside the toilet so lesson learnt, I'm never drinking Jagermeister again.

Anyway, better get back to work. Counting down the days already. Only 10 weeks to endure then back on the road. Roll on October. Not least because the weather is crap here at the moment. Pretty cold, although it is the middle of their winter, so 15 degrees isn't too bad. Supposed to warm up soon. Can't wait to get to the beach.

Posted by calumfife 11:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Australia - Sydney

sunny -17 °C
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

The flight to Australia was a little traumatic, seeing as I'm not so fond of flying. It was a very long time up in the air. A few drinks on the plane settled the nerves though. Relaxed to the point that I fell asleep half way through some crap film, and began singing along to the music at the end in my sleep. We stopped off in Auckland, New Zealand and had to get off then reboard the plane, so I can add New Zealand to the list of countries visited, even though we were only there for an hour. It was peeing with rain when we landed in Sydney, and we overheard that the plane that landed after us was hit by lightning on its way down.

We've come crashing back to reality so far as prices are concerned here. The hostels are ridiculously expensive and not even that nice. We are staying in the Kings Cross area of Sydney, which is an interesting mix of backpackers, strippers, hookers, beggars and mental cases. It'll have to do for the next few days though.

For the first few days we were here we did most of the touristy things (well the cheap or free ones anyway). We went to the botanical gardens which were very cool so far as botanical gardens go. Wasn't really interested in the plants, although enjoyed the Queensland Bottle tree.


The highlight of this place is the fruit bats, or flying foxes as they're called here. There were loads of them hanging about in the trees.


They're not the most friendly animals, screaming away at each other and biting their sleeping neighbours for no apparent reason. They're really big though and it was great watching them flying about in the daylight. Needless to say Jenny was running about in the trees, with the camera getting very excited about all of this, had to almost physically drag her away. There were also parrots and cockatoos all over the park as well.


The path through the botanics goes right out to a point that overlooks the Opera house and bridge. Get such a good view from here. The Opera House is pretty spectacular, although looked like it could do with a lick of paint.


It was a bit dirty looking, kind of beige coloured as opposed to white. It's an amazing building though, on the outside. We never went inside because they were going to charge some ridiculous price for that, but you can see bits of the inside. It's a bit dated looking as well, reminded me a bit of the Brunton Hall in Musselburgh (bad memories - a place I had to be dragged to, to do music competitions as a child) all the 1960's style wooden walls.


We also took a trip to the Sydney fish market which was interesting, especially the giant crabs that were the size of my head near enough.


It's a huge market selling all kinds of seafood. You can also try just about anything in the restaurants in the place too. Jenny had baby octopus, although she only liked eating the tentacles.


Luckily there was a few giant pelicans roaming about the car park waiting to be fed the other bits. They were quite funny, literally lurking about outside the market waiting patiently to be fed, and posing with all the tourists sidling nervously up to them for a photo.


Sydney's a really vibrant city that we both really like. And we know a couple of people who stay here already which is helpful. Went out for a few drinks with a guy James we met whilst travelling in Costa Rica, a couple of nights back. He's moving here, and so is Sarah his girlfriend hopefully, for the next wee while. Also Russell who's a pal of mine from Uni days, who helpfully took pitty on us both the other night and shouted us dinner. So, having hummed and hawed about whether we were going to head North to Brisbane to settle for a few months to work, the main draw there being the better weather, we decided to stay here. We're planning to stay here for the next 2-3 months to work which is a pretty depressing thing to have to consider, as I have particularly enjoyed being a waster for the past 6 months or so. Accordingly we've been forced into doing grown up stuff over the past few days looking for a more permanent place to stay here. We have now found somewhere, after going to see quite a few really dodgy places. Jenny's contribution to the flat hunting exercise was on occasion spectacularly poor and as a result I'm seriously considering buying her a hearing aid. One property she arranged for us to see we ended up on a road that sounded 'similar' to the road we were supposed to be viewing a property on, although a 'similar' road is clearly not very useful when it's on the other side of the city from the actual street - and on another occasion we ended up at the correct address but were confronted with 75 buttons on the intercom to choose from, with no idea which one to press and no phone number to contact the owner.

We did however manage to find a place to stay yesterday, although we had to use our imagination a little, as the room hasn't quite been completed yet?! We are assured that it will be finished on Wednesday when we can move in. We hope. It should be really good though, self contained with ensuite and own kitchenette. It's well located in Bondi 10 minutes from the city and the beach which is nice.

Going to start job hunting tomorrow, can't wait.......

Posted by calumfife 09:59 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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