Recently I have been thinking about my past travel experiences, and thought I’d do a wee series of postings about them, as apart from my photographs on Facebook, or hard copies (printed) my travel hasn’t been that well documented. I did keep a journal of my trip to Australia and NZ for this period, but it is at home somewhere. However, I think I can remember most of it.
One of my earliest solo (sort of!) travel experiences was when I was 10. It was my first time on a plane. I flew over to London on a school trip, after saving my pennies for a number of months. I was with school .. but I felt so independent and from that moment on I was hooked on travel. I do remember writing a small diary for my trip, as afterwards we made a scrapbook for our class; I must see if I can dig this out when I am home next – reflections on travel at age 10 will be an interesting read!
Prior to flying to Australia, the furthest place I had been was probably Chicago, USA in 2006. I had spent a lot of time travelling around Europe too, but that is really only a short hop across the channel!
I had always wanted to travel to the ‘land down under’ ever since my aunt moved there and was coming back talking about it, but also, I had grew up watching the likes of Home and Away and Neighbours and found it fascinating, from the landscape to the accents.
I booked my flights at the end of November, and was due to fly on the 19th of February. The day finally arrived, and I was glad to escape the Minus 1 degree weather we were having! After saying goodbye to my sister at security at Heathrow, I walked around the international departures and it finally hit me “I am flying to the other side of the world tonight” I was just brimming with excitement and nervousness.
I boarded my first flight to the Southern Hemisphere. I flew initially with British Airways to Sydney and then onto New Zealand with Qantas. My experience with British Airways was unremarkable. I was sat in the middle of a middle row, which I wasn’t overly please with, but I think I was too excited to care. I got talking to a New Zealander, who recommended a lot of places for my visit in both Sydney and New Zealand. I couldn’t wait to get there.
We had a short stop in Singapore airport for approximately 1 hour for the plane to be refuelled. I did take some photos in and around Singapore airport, but these were all lost in my recent hard drive accident. I remember landing and the feeling of humidity was intense, it almost radiated through the plane like burning sun. It was around 8pm Singapore time, so it was dark, and I didn’t see much.
One of the cool things I liked about Singapore airport (and other Asian airports – if my travel through Bangkok counts) is that they offer free internet portals. So I was able to jump on and briefly update my Facebook and say where I was.
The Singapore to Sydney flight appeared to take the longest (it was) but it seemed twice as long. I barely slept, and I found it so odd to be given breakfast when my body was saying “hey, it is bedtime”
I arrived into Sydney Airport at 7am. It was grey and overcast, but I got through customs and immigration pretty easily, and loved looking and relooking at my new passport stamp.
I briefly changed into a pair of 3/4 length shorts, flip flops and a lighter top and I was on my way.
Before going down to the metro station I popped outside to get my first glimpse of Australia. I was tired but also extremely excited.
I was able to negotiate the metro system pretty easily. I had my routes and maps all worked out before I left the UK. The hostel I booked (Sydney Harbour YHA) was a short stroll away from Circular Quay station. I bought a 3 day travel card for $20 and I was on my way. After I got off my train, I stood on the platform for a few minutes to work out where I needed to go. The train pulled away and I was greeted with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in my face. I was in awe.
Despite having a well planned route and map, I still managed to get myself lost walking the 5 minutes from the station to the hostel. I also had a suitcase with me, which was a bad mistake dragging it up and down hills jetlagged was no fun. After this point I knew my future travels would have to be completed with a rucksack.
I finally got to the hostel around 9am. Check in wasn’t until 2pm, so I found the lockers, where I paid $1 per hour and went off to find the shower. Flip, you feel so much better after a shower! The hostel was fairly new (2-3 years), and was exceptionally clean! I think a bed in a 4 bedded dorm cost me $25 Australian (with a YHA card) per night. I ended up only sharing with 1 other girl, who I barely saw or spoke to in the whole 2 nights.
For my first full day in Sydney, I was planning on going on a free walking tour, (I’m Free walking tours, run by students from the local university, take two tours per day and you can tip them if you wish – I am almost certain this still happens!) but this would have overlapped with the time I needed to be at the hostel to relock my belongings (the lockers outside rooms were only available for 3 hour stints!). So instead I took myself out on a stroll.
I sat up on a grassy hill just under the bridge, looking at the Opera House and said to myself “I am in Australia” I couldn’t quite believe it!
One of my favourite experiences was walking along the harbour front walkway towards the Opera House. There is a stage were the Opera House disappears from your view, then it suddenly appears in front of your face. At the time I was walking along with my iPod plugged into my ears, and I was listening to Coldplay Viva La Vida. One of my fondness memories of this song (when I relisten to it) is the feeling I had when I saw the Opera House for the first time.
I was initially quite surprised by the Opera House, as in pictures it appears a brilliant white colour, but up close, it is more of a creamy yellow colour, but it was beautiful all the same. I think you can get tours around it, but I was trying to save money for other things, so didn’t bother.
For the reminder of my day, I probably walked half of the city. I went to Manly beach on the Ferry, sat in Hyde Park having lunch and walking around the CBD. I was extremely jet lagged but I wanted to make the most of my time in the city.
I wasn’t overly impressed by Manly, but decided to go there over Bondi, as I knew Bondi was very touristy and everyone went there. I worked with a Psych Nurse on one of my placements as a student and he kept talking about how beautiful it was. It was quite a small wee suburb, with a few touristy shops and a beach (perhaps I didn’t explore too well)
In the evening I found a little pizza place, had a pizza and a drink, then walked up to the top of the Harbour bridge (to where the cars cross) and had a look at the city by night. It was beautiful. I love cities and the lights at night time. I could hardly believe I was there.
I got to bed after 9pm, which was an impressive run for me after all the travel (straight through from the UK).
My next venture for my final full day in Sydney was to get up at 5am to head off with Sydney Tours R Us (sounds dodgy but they were great!) to the Blue Mountains. The price for the full day was $173 Australian, which included morning tea, a lunch at a local café, a tour around the blue mountains and entry to the wildlife park, as well as transport – not bad.
The tour guide (whose name escapes me!) was amazing, giving us a really good history to Sydney as he drove around picking up various people before we headed onto the Motorway. The drive took us a long way, but we stopped off in various places including Olympic Park, where the 2000 Olympics were held. It was quite sad as apart from a few of the bigger rugby matches, the stadium is largely under used.
Our next stop on the way was at Featherdale Wildlife Park, where I got to see for the first time up close a Koala Bear, Wallabies, baby swap Wallabies and Tasmanian Devils. Although it was quite tourist focused, I still felt like I was seeing a bit of the real Australia beyond the bright lights of Sydney. I would still love to encounter some of these animals in the wild one day.