As we left our au pair family we were sad to go but we also couldn’t help but be excited for the next leg of adventures ahead! The van was no more. Unfortunately after it’s massive breakdown and the cost being too high to fix it up we had to sell it. We were so sad to say goodbye as it had been not just a source of transport but a home to us, somewhere we felt safe, knowing no matter what happened we had a roof over our heads. It is not all doom and gloom though as we now have… THE FALCON! Yes, we bought a Ford Falcon car to continue our road tripping dreams. It is much less glamorous but so much smoother to drive and with our camping equipment in the back we are still ready to pull up anywhere.
Our first long drive in the Falcon was going to be a big one! Tocumwal to Sydney was a 710km drive and took around 8-9 hours! We did stop along the way. Joey had lined up some interesting places from a humongous ram statue to a tiny one of a Dog on a Tucker Box in honour of the dogs that would guard their master’s valuables if their bullock teams, that serviced the area, got stuck. And lets not forget the H.M.S Otway, a reconstructed submarine about as far away from the coast as you can get but erected there in honour of it’s captain who completed daring missions and even had the town, Holbrook, named after him.
It had been a hot day and even with the aircon blasting we were feeling tired and frazzled by the time we pulled up at our destination just outside the city of Sydney. We would be staying with my best friend’s family Janet and David, and their sons Taylor and Harry. When I travelled to Australia eight years ago with my friend Elle we had stayed with them then and their kindness and hospitality had not changed! We immediately sat down to a meal by the pool and a rapid fire catch up session. It felt so relaxing and their kindness just kept coming as they offered to keep an eye on the car while we stayed in the city for a couple of nights and then even offered for us to stay again on our return. The cherry on the top was getting to have a cooling nighttime dip in the pool before bed.
The next morning Janet and Taylor took us for a drive around the local area. They were fortunate enough to live right on the edge of national parkland so we wound up and down hills, getting glimpses of the sea through the thick trees. Again the landscape is changing for us, the humidity picking up, and more greenery with dense trees. It was a joy to see the ocean too as our trip has been severely lacking beach time so far. We were also passing some magnificent beachside houses and we marvelled at how the car ports had better views over the sea than most homes do!
They took us to Avalon Beach and Palm Beach, which is used for filming in Home and Away. The weather being on the verge of turning we didn’t stop long at the beaches and instead headed into the city to catch the Sunday markets at The Rocks. This was also where we drove over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and caught our first glimpse at the Opera House. We enjoyed some great burgers for lunch, wandered through the markets and drove back in time for an afternoon at the cinema just as the rain came down.
Unfortunately the rain was not short lived and in fact looked set to haunt us over the next week or two up the East Coast. The following day we visited a nearby mall, got in some retail therapy and some terrible cheap haircuts and the day after that we caught the Manly ferry into the city, staying in Wake Up! Sydney hostel for a couple of nights.
Once we were checked in we went to see the Botanical Gardens and walked through Hyde Park to see the Anzac Day Memorial. The calming effect of walking through the gardens seemed to make us a little too calm and no sooner had we found a nice spot to overlook the Opera House than we found ourselves dozing on the grass.
The girls we were sharing our hostel dorm with seemed to have much more energy than us! We couldn’t help but feel old as they played drinking games and talked about bar hopping and we got ready to go out for some sophisticated cocktails. Sometimes we are definitely not stereotypical backpackers! We had drinks at Zephyr Sky bar overlooking Darling Harbour and we didn’t care what kind of backpackers we were, we had a great time! Slightly less of a great time was being woken up by the girls giggling at 4am. Hostel life!
Our second day in the big city turned out to be lovely and sunny so we took advantage by heading to Bondi Beach. It somehow seemed much smaller in reality than what we had seen on Bondi Beach Rescue. I loved the murals on the walls along the beachside and watching the surfers catching waves. There is a great walk from Bondi to Coogee beach so we set off, getting to see rockpools, stunning coastline and other smaller beaches along the way. Lack of sleep plus tiny hangover plus heat plus time constraints meant we didn’t manage to complete the walk.
Another treat from being in the city was going to the cinema and since we couldnt get tickets to an outdoor one in the Botanical Gardens, Joey tracked down a library themed VIP experience nearby. We sat in reclining leather chairs, bookshelves all around us, drinks and popcorn being delivered to our table – it was bliss! We went to see 1917, which I was sceptical whether I would like as I’m not usually a fan of war films but actually found to be spectacular! Reluctant to go straight back to the dorm we ventured over to the Opera Bar for a drink by the harbour, only having to duck inside once to avoid the rain.
With the rain on and off all day we didn’t do much exploring on our way back to the ferry, or get to see much of Manly as planned, instead hiding out in a restaurant until Janet could pick us up. We told them all of the fun things we got up to in the city and spent the evening feeling cosy watching T.V.
The rain only got worse the following day and so other than popping out to a favourite local cafe for lunch we hid out having a full on movie day and watching the water in the pool slowly rising. The news was warning about flash floods and where we had been looking forward to Byron Bay we were now hearing residents were knee deep in the water. Just when we were looking forward to some beachtime it seemed our plans were being sabotaged. We werent going to let it stop us though and set out the next day, planning on spending a couple of nights in Coff’s Harboour hoping to wait out the worst of the rain, and continue to Byron Bay after that.
Sydney was just as pretty a city as I remembered but what made our time there so nice was having Janet, David and their family to make us feel so welcome in their home and show us what they love about Sydney so much.