Thursday, 17 November 2011

A week of firsts

There was a moment of hesitation when I awoke on the 5th Nov.  'Will I just not go?  It'll be so much easier to stay.'
I finished packing at 4am and finally got some sleep. Scott, Ange and my nephew Angus came round to see me off and there was a tear in my eye when I thought that the next time I see Angus, he'll be walking and won't recognise me.  But they'll all be in New Zealand visiting the Kiwi rellies after New Year, so I can always nip over and visit.

I tried to make the airport farewell to mum and dad as short and painless as possible, so it was one very quick, tearful goodbye at the security gate before I went on my way.  Luckily, friends on my folks were travelling on the same flight en-route to Hong Kong, and very kindly signed me into the business class lounge.  Free cuppa, a biscuit and chat to take my mind off the thought that this was the first time away from home for longer than a month.  Thank you Campbell and Val :)

The flight to Dubai was fairly uneventful, however, flying across Baghdad I happened to open the window shutter.  I saw a flash behind me and was unsure what it was so I continued to stare out into the dark night.

Lightning storm above Baghdad
 I was witnessing my first lightning storm from above.  Highly impressive!  The tunes only added to the moment.  Bon Iver - Holocene

I arrived at Dubai airport just after midnight local time.  Campbell and Val tried to sign me into the business class lounge again, which would have been bliss, but to no avail, as we were not travelling on the same onward flight.  So I set about looking for some free food, bu the place I was informed of at Glasgow airport was closed for refurbishments.  By the time I found where I could get said free food, I had walked the length of terminal 3 almost 4 times!  Fed and watered I found a lounger and made myself comfortable and set about entertaining myself.  6 hours later it was time for the final leg to Sydney.  I slept most of the way, somewhat uncomfortably, only awakening for the vast amounts of food provided on the wonderful  Emirates airbus a380. I highly recommend it!
I landed in Sydney, greeted by spring sunshine, and waiting to collect my bags I was approached by the sniffer dog.  Being a dog in a previous life, the pup was obviously excited to see me and gave me the best Aussie welcome he could.  Luckily his keeper laughed and moved on, much to my relief!

After finding the shuttle bus to the hostel, I was on my way through the streets of Sydney central.  The driver had kindly agreed to drop an elderly lady in an area outside her normal route and proceeded to get lost, and I found myself navigating for a local!  Finally the way was found and I was checking into my room.  I found my room, found it was the wrong room and found myself back at reception!  The right room found, I said g'day to my roommates and went off to explore.  The first nights entertainment was free food and a drink in the hostel bar while getting to know my new friends.  An early night called, it had been a long day!

Day 2 the group meet for a walk of the city.  We took in most of the main tourist attractions, lead by our fantastic group leader, Katie, Bontanic gardens, Hyde park, Harbour bridge, the Opera House, Darling Harbour - I was melting by the end!  We hit Scubar at night for some pizza and drinks.  Some of us stayed later than the rest and ended up in an Irish bar dancing with some lovely Aussie boys :)

The gang

Day 3 was the harbour cruise on our private boat!  We took in all the sites from the water, stalked some celebrity abodes, had lunch at Sydney fish market, quick stop at Manly where my camera took a dip in the ocean and died (oops!), and then we ended on a lovely little beach where some of us swam, jumped of rocks, played some ball games and generally chilled out.  After 2 days of constant drinking I was feeling a little worse for wear and quickly developed a chest infection (very easy when living in hostels) and headed to bed, after my free meal of course!

Manly beach, the last picture before the Canon took a dip and died!
Day 4 - After sleeping off the last 2 days shenanigans I headed to the Travelers contact Point for a quick talk on working and travelling in Oz.  Some good hints and tips I've yet to put into practice.  Still feeling really ill, I wasn't up for another big night so we headed down to Darling Harbour for a bite to eat and some fun on THE greatest play park in the world. Fact!  I will take more pics with my new camera to show you all how amazing it is!

Day 5 was a trip to the Blue mountains which lies 2hrs west of Sydney.  I love it there and will have to spend some time there later in my trip.  We were taken into the National Park to search for kangaroos, which are apparently becoming a rarer sight in these parts, thought to be caused by dingos.  We finally found 3 eastern greys, no photos due to a dead camera, but they are huge.  We were taken on a fabulous walk and spent 11:11 11/11/11 looking out over a waterfall into Megalong valley.  Spectacular.  If only I had a camera!
It was a long walk down the valley but fairly easy.  Getting back however, involved climbing over 1000 steps.  I do not recommend doing this with a chest infection!!  Friday night and Saturday were spent in bed!

Day 7 was surfing day with Mojosurf.  These guys are awesome and got me standing up...eventually!  I think I will spend a lot of time in the ocean :)  Being the awesome surfer dudes that they were, they took us for a discounted meal that night and we chilled with some beers and pool.  If you want to learn to surf, the Mojo crew are highly recommended :)

And so ended my first week with UltimateOz.  The rest is unknown and still a bit scary, but I'm looking forward to coming adventures :)

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