When we left Bangkok for Sydney Australia we expected a heat wave as the temperatures had been in the 40 + region and massive forest fires were sweeping around Melbourne. Needless to say when we arrived the skies clouded over and it began to rain...and for the next 4 days it was very similar. We found a new web site called Wotif.com and were able to stay at the De Vere hotel Potts Point for the same cost as a hostel would be. This is quite a trendy area but saying that it'sright next door to the Kings Cross area which is well known for its red light area. However we did find one great place called the Bourbon bar which had a very happy couple of hours every evening and top quality steaks for ony $10 each. We did the the grand tour including the Sydney Opera house Darling harbour and even walked over the Harbour bridge we caught the ferry to Manley for a day out. While we were in Sydney though there were 2 shark attacks one in the harbour itself, the other at Bondi beach which we had just left 1 1/2 hour before both lived but sustained big injuries. I managed to get a great deal on a new Canon camera at of all places called " TEDS cameras " as our little Sony camera is starting to wear out....Well thats my story anyway...
After Sydney we flew up to Brisbane on a Virgin Blue flight expecting fine weather as you expect on the sunshine coast !!! Only to find once again more grey skies and rain. We stayed in our first youth hostel which wasnt that great as the previous occupier must have had very very smelly feet, it was so bad we had to get some air freshener from reception. We were only staying one night fortunately and after our brief tour of the city we moved on down to Surfers Paradise. We stayed in a hotel right opposite the beach itself and at last the sun came out and we could reach for the sun cream. Surfers was very busy over comercialised sky scrapers and modern appartments spinning up every where. It was so different from my last visit there back in 1987 and I thought the place had been spoilt by it all. Again another flying city visit and so after two days we were off to a small place called Bangalow to do our first help exchange.
After much nagging, Ted eventually agreed to do a Help Exchange where in return for bed and board, you do 4 hours help for the host. I made contact with Clare who lives in Bangalow with her daughter and was very keen on a young couple in their forties!!! going to help out. Clare picked us up from Byron Bay in her Volkswagon Beetle and our next great adventure began. Bangalow is a well to do , sleepy small picturesque town 15 minutes from Byron. Clare designed her eco friendly house herself and we were very pleased with our lovely bedroom and bathroom. We were made to feel very welcome and given the run of the house. After a lovely dinner and an early night, we were ready to start our chores the following morning. Ted started the mowing and I started the weeding. We stayed with Clare for 5 nights , helping out with the gardening, some general maintenance jobs and a little housework. In return, Clare cooked us lovely healthy dinners and entertained us with her conversation. One day she dropped us in Byron Bay so that we could do the well known lighthouse walk, another day she took us to the farmers Market and to spend the day in Byron Bay , which is a lovely town with good shops and restaurants and a great beach. Ted and I had our hair cut in the same barbers shop. Fortunately my barber also had his own mobile ladies hairdressing business and I got the best haircut so far in our travels for only 18 Aussie dollars. It was great to be in a home again. We did find Australia quite expensive so it also helped put our budget back on track. Clare is someone we will always remember. She is a very open person and we had heard her life story by the second day. She is also a person who likes to work on herself with self development courses and has done several meditation and assertiveness courses. On our last night her new boyfriend Peter joined us for dinner and alot of the evening they spent telling us about the next course they were attending " Sacred Sexuality"!!!
We flew from there to Melbourne for our last week in Australia and really did it in style staying in a great 4* hotel with pool etc. proper flashpacker style...By now the weather had picked up again and it was lovely and sunny. We did a Melbourne City Tour and Melbourne really is a great city. On our walk around the city, we bumped into Richard Branson who was on a promotional visit. We headed to St Kilda beach for dinner and on the tram, we bumped into Carmel from Ramsay Street, only known to those of you who have watched the TV series Neighbours. Ted didn't believe me that she was famous and we followed her into a bar only to find that Dr Karl Kennedy's band were playing live and that Paul Robinson would be doing a 20 minute stint singing too.....There's nothing I like better than schmoozing with the Aussie Soap Stars! Back at our hotel, we found that over a 100 volunteer fire fighters had checked in, come from far and wide to help fight the forest fires. We spent a great evening chatting to them and also went to a concert put on to raise money for those who lost their homes in the fires.
For our last few days, we rented a car and headed down the Great Ocean Road. The coastline is spectacular. We stayed in Apollo Bay and watched the surfers. Ted decided to have a go in the skateboarding park , borrowing a young guys board. It went well for the first 2 minutes until he went flying down a hill, literally ,ripping his jumper and cutting his elbow and hand.....He won't make a champion skateboarder!! We saw the Twelve Apostles on the way to Port Campbell and took the inland route back to Melbourne. This area is prime Kangaroo spotting territory and we were on kangaroo watch but no sightings...Are we the only 2 people not to see a kangaroo whilst in Australia? We did see a couple of dead ones on the roadside but prefer to forget that...On the inland journey back, we got to appreciate the vastness of Australia, driving for miles and miles without seeing other cars or signs of life.
After 3 short weeks our time in Australia was over with only a part of the East Coast explored....It was time to head for New Zealand.