My next chapter: Australia!

It’s been a little while since I last posted an update, but never fear fan(s), I am alive and well. This one’s a fairly long post to fill you in after radio silence – so maybe grab a drink before you read on…

After my motorbike adventure round Malaysia with Liam and Owen, it was time for me to leave Asia and start the next chapter of my journey: life in Australia! My first stop was Perth: before I settled into a new living and working routine, I wanted to spend a couple of weeks seeing friends. I spent a week in Perth, largely catching up with some friends I met in Laos and Thailand. It was fab weather, so I did a fair few visits to Scarborough Beach (N.B. Much nicer than its British counterpart of the same name) and enjoyed some strolls and a picnic around King’s Park which overlooks the city centre and the quay. We also did a group visit down to Fremantle Market for various tasty treats – where I also ran into a Dutch guy I met in Yogyakarta. It’s a very small travel world. It’s a nice city, but I feel I didn’t see an awful lot of what the area has to offer – I think the main attraction to Perth is in the areas surrounding it, but without a car, it’s difficult to exploit. I’d like to head back to Western Australia to do a little road trip round that part of the state and explore properly.

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A beautiful day on Scarborough Beach

From Perth, I caught a very antisocial 2am flight over to Sydney for an action-packed week of catching up with friends old and new. I touched down, looking bleary-eyed after a no-sleep night flight, and snoozily found my way to the train station. It was a short hop into the city (I’d definitely recommend the train over a cab as it’s very quick and easy, though does cost a fairly hefty $18.50), from which I got off at Circular Quay to catch the ferry to Manly – which was to be home for the week. Here I got my first glimpse of the harbour bridge and the opera house, against a beautiful blue-skied backdrop. G’day, Sydney!

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My first view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Manly ferry was a lovely half-hour chug north-east of the city centre (many visitors take the trip for the experience as much as the destination), and I arrived at the wharf to two friendly faces: my brother Will, and Niccy – an old neighbour who emigrated about 10 years ago, and who was to be my host for the week! Will had been there a few days between visiting his friends in Melbourne and heading off to New Zealand, so it was nice to cross over with him again. We headed up to Northhead, an old military area where the open ocean meets the inlet, for a breakfast with a crazily beautiful view right across Sydney harbour. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the garden and trying to stay awake, before Niccy took us for oyster night at the local RSL (hot tip: there’s one in almost every community and they’re often a recommended place for good and affordable food and drinks). They were my first ever oysters, and I can’t say I quite understand why people pay so much to eat them, but there we are – I tried them!

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Reunited with Will and Niccy, breakfasting with an awesome view over Sydney from Northhead

The next day, Will and I met up with Haleigh – one of the American girls I’d travelled with in northern Thailand. It was great to catch up with her again as she came to the end of her travels. We did the lovely Coogee to Bondi walk – about 2 hours along the coast past various beaches, rock pools (sea water swimming pools built into the cliffs, not small puddles with crabs in them as I’d previously understood rock pools) and VERY expensive envy-inducing real estate. We ended with a quick visit to the iconic Bondi Icebergs pool complex – can confirm water was as icily cold as advertised. I dipped a toe and that was enough. After an ice cream fix, Will and I headed back, before going to meet his school friends Hannah and a Sophie for a beer and pizza at the Newtown Hotel – they do a $4 pizza special on Thursdays. They live together in Newtown, a trendy part of town south-west of the centre. If I go back and do a stint in Sydney whilst I’m here, I’d quite like to live there I think.

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Haleigh and I on a hot Coogee to Bondi walk

The following day Will left for Auckland, and I met back up with Haleigh for a wander around the Royal Botanic Gardens next to the Opera House and a stroll through the Friday food market in the Rocks (the oldest area of Sydney, overlooked by the bridge). The food market was a little limited/disappointing (probably not helped by comparison to our recent visits to many sprawling and incredibly cheap food markets across Asia), so we followed up on lunch with a search for Australia’s tastiest ice-cream outlet, Messina. We soaked up the sun and ate a lot of very good ice cream before parting ways for the weekend. I spent the evening in with Niccy, playing g&t barmaid whilst she cooked a lovely dinner.

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At the Rocks Friday market
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Looking from the Royal Botanic Gardens across to the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge

The next day was a beach day. I headed down to Balmoral beach (about 20 mins from Niccy’s in Balgowlah) with a book and lay in the sun for a few hours. It was a Saturday but the beach wasn’t rammed, so it seemed to be a good almost-secret spot frequented more by locals than by tourists. There’s also a lovely beachfront café called the Boat House (which has outlets at Palm and Shelly beaches too), where I stopped for a great coffee before I moved on. From there I headed up to MacCallum point. It’s apparently a little-known spot on your average day; a waterfront grassy walkway and a rock pool in front of some of what must be some of the most expensive real estate in Australia – as it overlooks Sydney harbour and the bridge. It must be rammed on New Years’ Eve for the fireworks. I sat on the grass for a bit soaking up the vibe, amongst others with picnics and afternoon vino.

The following day was another beach day, albeit one that got off to a lazy start. Around lunchtime I headed down to Manly beach to meet up with Fizz, a friend I worked with in London. She moved out to Aus about 3 weeks before I left, so it was great catching up with her. She’s loving it out here and has made a really good friendship group, who I also met. We sat on the beach chatting before she had to leave to play tennis, but I stayed with her friends. One of the guys offered to take me on a bit of a tour round the area, so we jumped in the car and headed up for a coffee and a walk around Northhead as the sun was setting. From there we went along to Shelly Beach, which has an amazing viewpoint all the way up along the northern beaches. As we were walking along the coastal path, there was a man swimming in the sea, which George said was brave. I asked why, to which the answer was ‘dusk is shark time. And this area is a marine reserve, so there’s a sh*tload of shark food.’ Gulp. Heed this warning, readers. I headed home for dinner and a film – in front of which Niccy fell asleep 11 minutes in.

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Catching up with Fizz on Manly Beach
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Sunset over the Northern Beaches, from the Shelly Beach viewpoint

To learn a little more about the city, the next morning I met up with Haleigh again for a walking tour round the city centre. I’m Free offer complimentary walking tours in Sydney and Melbourne every day – but you’re encouraged to leave a little ‘pay as you feel’ tip at the end based on how good you found it. There was a big group but the tour guide was really good, and we learned many fun facts about some of the key buildings in Sydney as we wandered around. Example of fun fact: The Queen Victoria statue in front of the Queen Victoria Building (a beautiful old station saved from demolition by Malaysian developers who made it into a shopping precinct) has only been there about 15 years – shipped over from Ireland after they decided they didn’t want it any more. Awkward.

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Admiring the QVB on our walking tour of Sydney’s city centre

The tour took about 2 hours, after which we went for lunch and another generous serving of Messina gelato before saying our goodbyes, as she was flying back home the next morning. I’m really glad I got to see her again a few times, and I hope we’ll get to reunite again in the not too distant future!

From gelato to gyoza, my food trail took me into the city centre in the evening to meet up with Amy, a native Sydneysider who I met in Vietnam. We went to a great little area called Spice Alley, a lane of various Asian food stalls close to Central station. We caught up over noodles and dumplings (the first Asian food I’d fancied since I left!), and she tried to convince me to stay in Sydney rather than moving to Melbourne. After we parted ways, she spent the evening sending me links to flatshares available in her area. It’s nice to be wanted, I suppose!

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Dinner in Spice Alley

The following day was my last in Sydney. Niccy’s husband Stu had been away at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast with the shooting team he coaches, but he got back in time for us to cross over for just the one day. The weather was drizzly for the first time since I’d arrived which was a shame, but I was still keen to get out and about. Niccy & Stu took me on a bit of a driving tour of the northern beaches, going from Manly up past Freshwater, Curl Curl, Dee Why, Collaroy and Mona Vale, to a place called Church Point which overlooks the Pittwater. We stopped here for a very tasty breakfast overlooking Scotland Island (weirdly at the local food store/post office!) at before continuing up the peninsula the other side of the Pittwater, to Palm Beach, where Home and Away is filmed. We spotted a few of the actors at a filming truck – not that I know what any of the characters look like…

We headed back to Manly and I spent the rest of the day packing ready to leave at a very ripe 5am the next morning. Niccy & Stu very kindly offered to give me a lift to save me a convoluted train journey, so we peeled ourselves out of bed and headed to the airport for the third stop on my Australian tour, and my new home: Melbourne!

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A striking sunset from the Manly ferry on my last night in Sydney

I arrived early morning, got a bus into the city, and checked into the hostel which was to be home for over a month. The Nunnery is a good hostel by Australian standards (which for hostels I’m led to believe leave a bit to be desired for the price); really sociable but also fit for the majority of the long-term inhabitants who work full time. There are free soup nights, free bbq nights, movie nights and bar crawls, so any activities to bring people together – which I found really useful as someone brand new to the city and country, planning to stay a while. It’s in Fitzroy, which is a great area for food, coffee, drinking and vintage shopping. My time up in my first few weeks was mainly spent job-hunting so I haven’t done all that much exploring yet, but a few weeks ago, I started working at an in-house marketing agency. First step to settling in sorted, and more importantly, my first income for 7 months. Phew.

When I haven’t been fine-tuning my CV and speaking to recruiters, I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee, eating a lot of food, and being sociable. I’ve caught up with a few people I met on my travels (some native Melbournians, a Swede, some Canadians and a German who happens to be living in the same hostel) and have been getting to know the people in my hostel. I’ve got a really lovely group here, a few of us in quite similar situations in terms of having just travelled and recently arrived in Aus looking for work.

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A sunny walk along north Melbourne’s Merri Creek

A couple of weeks ago, I had a very special visitor: Dad, who had managed to tag a Melbourne detour onto a business trip to Singapore. The weather was biblically bad – gale force winds and horizontal rain – but we braved it to get out and about. We went to a great little comedy show at the Kings of Comedy on our first evening, and the following day, we had breakfast at Bowery to Williamsburg with Niccy (who was in town for a few days with friends – great timing!). Next, we went to the very interesting Immigration Museum (which currently has on a great Gandhi exhibition I’d highly recommend), to South Melbourne market for some tea and baked treats, and to St Kilda for a windy wander along the beach. On our last day, we went for coffee atPrahran Market, enjoyed the bustle of Chapel Street and explored the food of Grenville St before going to a performance at the Stonnington Jazz Festival. This was only on for the week, but if you’re heading to Melbourne definitely look into any special events going on whilst you’re here, as there are numerous food, arts and culture festivals throughout the year.

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Dad and I braving terrible weather to explore Melbourne

The latest update is my new digs. After 7 months of sharing my living, cooking, washing and general breathing space with other people, and particularly now I’m working full time again, I was ready for a room of my own. Last week, I moved into a flat share with two lovely others in Richmond, where I’ll be for a couple of months. I’ve had some glorious nights’ sleep and am getting back into the swing of cooking!

So, as I settle further into life again as a less-nomadic human, I’ll be writing a little less regularly. However, I hope to go on some weekend adventures, so I’ll pop up some updates whenever I can on those!

Until next time,

Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today this month: 50+, including one fellow Brit who’s become a close friend. About a week into knowing each other, we realised we’d both met and travelled with the same Aussie couple at different points on our Asian adventures. Will the backpacker world ever stop being this small?!
Interaction was: the catalyst for a joint dumpling-based backpacker reunion. Top notch.

One Woman and her Backpack x

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3 thoughts on “My next chapter: Australia!

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