South of Sydney to Brisbane

Decorative train station

Decorative train station

So, where was I? Ah, yes – Down at Ves’s.

Well, I had a great chill-out and then an early start on the Tuesday morning. Mike drove me through to the train station where I paid the princely sum of $22 (£10) for a ticket from there all the way to Maitland. The journey required four trains and a total time of around six hours.

Had I turned up on the day at a train station in the UK to do a journey of the same length I’d have expected to pay more than ten times that price. Will someone kindly explain why our trains are so expensive? They run on the same technology and so forth as the Aussie ones.

I stopped off in Sydney for lunch, ending up with a chicken schnitzel sandwich from a random stall in the nearby Asian mall. It was OK for $8 and one of the cheaper lunch options I could find.

The train I took up to Hamilton (which went through Cardiff… that’s two UK countries they’ve ripped off) was jam-packed with OAPs. It turns out it’s Seniors’ Week in Sydney and there’d be some kind of performance for them. As a result, there wasn’t a seat to spare on the double-decker train especially with a lot of schoolchildren getting on partway up. I stood for around three-quarters of the journey, and I’m glad to say there were very few non-OAPs in the seats.

Finally, I got to Maitland where Marge and her daughter picked me up. I was originally planning to stay with another friend, but she had come with with a bad dose of ‘flu and didn’t want to pass it on. Get well soon, Carol!

More nice painting

More nice painting

Marge and Rod volunteered (or were volunteered when Ves rang them) to fill the breach for which I’m very grateful. Again, I just chilled out – I’m doing a lot of this at the moment – and tried to fix their PC. Sadly, I didn’t have enough spare parts, but at least we know what needs done.

In the morning, Marge drove me to the freeway where I held up my shiny new Brisbane sign and waited.

And waited.

Until two ladies in a ute picked me up and drove me about 30km. Every little helps, I suppose. My next lift was better, taking me further up to the Big Rock diner. I remembered passing by this place a couple of years back when I was hitching to Byron Bay from Sydney. It was built by two guys who used to star in a TV series, but who fell out afterwards. I just used it to buy an overpriced Coke and a Mars Bar then stuck my thumb out again.

My third lift – a salesman called Patrick – took me quite a distance up to a small township called Kew where I had a decent lunch from the 24 hour garage (“Far Kew” – Really good steak pies!

I waited well over an hour for my next lift, a chap who’d had a bad day trying to get some work in Newcastle. He took me as far as Kempsey where at least I knew I could get some food. By now it was two hours before sunset and I was pretty much resigning myself to grabbing some dinner at sundown and finding a place to camp.

Then… the lucky lift.

Not a flabby ex-wrestler

Not a flabby ex-wrestler

Just as the sun was starting to disappear, a huge truck pulled up and the driver informed me that he was just getting a KFC and then heading all the way to Brisbane. Joy! Now, I’m paranoid so I’m not going to mention his company or name as he would get into trouble if someone found out he’d picked up a hitcher. Needless to say I was incredibly grateful and we made it to the Brisbane CBD at around 1am (remembering that the clocks go back an hour at the Queensland border as they don’t do Daylight Savings).

He dropped me near his work, swapped his truck for a car and drove me to the Roma Street train station where I sat and waited a couple of hours for the first train to the station near Belinda and Albert’s. Which, once I was on board, I fell asleep on. And missed my stop.

Thankfully, they live near the end of the line so I only had to backtrack two stations. I staggered into the McD’s near them and used the free wi-fi there for a couple of hours until B&A woke up. Nice to know – every single McD’s in Australia is now wired for free wi-fi. Now, why won’t the UK follow suit? Don’t worry – that’s rhetorical. I don’t really have any hope that they ever will.

So now I’m sat in B&A’s front room with daytime TV on the screen and itchy eyes.

I think I’m off for a lie down.

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Victoria to New South Wales

The hostest with the mostest

The hostest with the mostest

A fair bit to cover as it’s been five days since my last update but I’ll try to rattle through everything. First of all, I have to give a huge thanks to everyone in Melbourne – Amy, her sister and housemate for putting me up the first night on short notice; Shelly, Reina, Julia and Henry for the other nights; and Ben for being great company as usual.

So I set off from Shelly’s place at around 5:30 on Thursday morning. The tram systam starts very early so I caught that down to Parliament station and then a train to Fawkner station. This was all within Zone 1 so only cost a little over $3 and got me out on the old Sydney Road. Here, I stopped by a large bus stop and stuck out the old cardboard sign.

After I was moved on by the police (they were very nice – simply telling me that the building on the corner was a police station so nobody would stop there… and that I’d have better luck a couple of hundred metres up the road) I was picked up by a very nice chap in a recovery truck. He had two dogs – one which just wouldn’t stop licking me, and a very cute little white thing that sat up and begged constantly.

He left me where the M1 split in two and after half an hour or so, a Vietnam war veteran (navy) gave me a lift about 200km up the road. From there I got a lift to a junction near a truck stop and after quite a wait my luck finally turned for the better.

Wow. Blue.

Wow. Blue.

The chap that picked me up (Benny, if I remember correctly) was only going as far as the Wagga Wagga turnoff. However, his mates behind me were heading as far east as Moss Vale. This is very close to where Vesna lives and a long drive – around 4 hours. However, there was a delay. One of the chaps was buying a boat the next day and needed to withdraw cash from a bank. The nearest was in Wagga Wagga itself, something they only twigged after we’d been heading east for 45 minutes.

This meant doubling back. Along country roads. On a strict time limit as the bank would shut soon. While the guys necked suds (as did I – they gave me three beers while we were travelling). Needless to say, I don’t think I’ve been on any more of a white knuckle ride than this drive. The good news is that they made it in time to get the cash.

Quite late on, and after a couple of pit-stops, we arrived at Moss Vale where the guys dropped off one very grateful hitch-hiker. A truck driver took me to the outskirts of town and then Ves very kindly drove out to get me. I was “close” to her place. In Aussie terms, this meant only about an hour each way.

Their pastry is fresher

Their pastry is fresher

After a sleep that I really needed, I was up in Sydney the next day. I got up by train as the service is frequent and cheap enough that hitching just wasn’t really needed. I’d only popped up to see Sarah and Alan and I met them in the evening at Darling Harbour.

We sat for a good couple of hours in the Strike Bowling Bar on the Harbour front and just chatted away. I had a really good time putting real faces and bodies to people I’d chatted to online as is usually the case and I thank them for taking the time to pop into Sydney. Hopefully, I’ll catch up with them again on another visit!

Afterwards, I just kicked around at the bar. I’d not booked a hostel and was toying with just crashing at a train station. I got talking to the two bouncers who were on duty – a British Indian guy (Jeff) and another from Vanuatu (Kalo). Their work ethic put just about everyone else I’ve ever known to shame with each having at least two jobs.

There was no trouble all night, and the guys were more than happy to talk away as they welcomed patrons in and wished them well as they left. I was tempted with one invite from a group who were heading off to a club somewhere, but I didn’t fancy forking out $30 to listen to music I hate at ear-splitting volume. Music I like at ear-splitting volume is fine.

Classic cinema

Classic cinema

Instead, I loafed and found myself helping close up the club. I got myself a couple of free drinks, shared a burger and chips and was dropped off a few train stations down the line south of Sydney. I crashed on a bench, but this saved me a few bucks on the fare back to Vesna’s in the morning.

Saturday and Sunday were a complete chill-out. Marg, Rod, Chris and Janine came over for a barbequeue on the former, and the kids returned from their cousin’s on the Sunday. The rest of the time we justy kicked back and chilled. I finished two books – something I’ve not done in such a time frame since I was in India with Hans.

Today, Mike (Ves’s partner) took me over to Huskisson where I wandered around for a few hours while he was at work. It’s a lovely little seaside place with some beautiful beaches, a cute little cinema and an awesome bakery. Try their cheese and bacon sausage roll if you’re passing through.

So I’ve had a great couple of days here, thanks in no small part to my excellent hosts. Ves and Mike (and Emma and James) – thank you very much indeed! My next stop will be Newcastle tomorrow. Marg and Rod have offered to put me up for the night to break up my trip to Brisbane into manageable slices.

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A decorated birthday cake


Today marks the third year I’ve been traveling. Eek. On March 14th 2006 I headed for Heathrow and boarded a 1-way flight to Bangkok.

The intervening years have been interesting to say the least, but one constant has been my folks back home. Despite whinging constantly about how I need to come home and get my “damn stuff out of the cellar so we can insulate it” they’ve been utterly awesome.

Proper blog posts will resume tomorrow, most likely. In the meantime, I’m enjoying some beers and a barbie with Ves, Mike, Rod, Marg and some others who’re heading over in a bit. Traditions here are the same as the UK – it’s been nice and hot all day and the rain clouds are rolling in as I type…

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Gold Coast paaaaarty

I booked a trip around Kangaroo Island (near Adelaide) through Adventure Travel Bugs for which I received unlimited free internet. I made full use of it for three hours catching up with some of you lot!

After a quick lunch courtesy of some donated bread – I’d dumped what was left of my loaf in the “free food” bin and someone took it all – I wrote up a new hitching sign and started walking towards the highway. A fifteen minute wait and I was picked up by an all-American surf dude called Osea who’d had to pop back down to Bris from Surfer’s Paradise to pick up some stuff he’d left behind.

Seeing as he had time to kill, he even went as far as driving me around 15km north of where he was staying to drop me off somewhere easier for me to be picked up by the folks I was meeting. This was above and beyond so resulted in me picking up the tab for a Hungry Jack’s. Not bad overall, though – Sydney to Brisbane (taking into account tomorrow’s ride) for $6.35.

A short wile later, Donna – yet another Aussie resident (she’s really a Kiwi who’s snuck in somehow) I met online – picked me up and drove me to the motel our group were staying in. Beer was drunk, more people arrived and we made our way out for dinner and a night clubbing. I gained an hour as well. This is bizarre when you’ve travelled north, not west, but Queensland doesn’t have daylight savings like the rest of Oz (WA is “trialling” it for three years).

Lighthouses, leopard sharks and lizards

Dive day today, but first I wanted to make a trip to the Byron Lighthouse and the most Easterly point of the Australian mainland. It’s roughly a two-hour trek if you stop to take pictures and go off down all the little trails to the viewing platforms – well worth the effort.

Just past the lighthouse (opened in 1901, part of a “string” of lighthouses across NSW and housing the most powerful light in Oz) I looked down into the clear blue sea and watched a pod of around ten dolphins play in the surf. Unreal.

At the hostel I had time to get lunch and changed before going to the dive shop. I’d heard good things about the Julian Rocks Marine Reserve and it didn’t disappoint. The boat ride out (on a twin engine dingy) was rough but exciting and the sea was amazingly clear once we were down – visibility topping 25m. I was buddied with a girl from Californis called Julia, the dive guide was called Julian (I think from France) and we were at the Julian Rocks. Go figure.

Highlight of the dive was getting stupidly close to sharks – leopard sharks. Unlike their namesake (with which they do share a similar skin pattern), these creatures really aren’t interested in eating people so it’s safe to swim by them as they snooze on the seabed. We also saw a turtle roughly 1.5m from top to toe as well as the usual variety of colourful and not-so-colourful fishies.

As we showered off on the shore, someone spotted a Goana (excuse my spelling – I’ve not looked it up), a large lizard. Snout to tail I’d put it at around 1.5m and it didn’t look happy. This could have been due to the bush turkey which was following it around and pecking at its tail. Still, I got close enough to it to get some good snaps.