Ignoring all advice from our parents, we jumped in a car with a stranger.
That morning we had the last slices of bread, finished off the milk with some very milky coffee, grabbed our bags that we’d packed the night before (how organised), debated who’s turn it was to carry the butter/pasta left over from this week and headed for the wharf. Catching the ferry is a much better mode of transport than the trains or buses. You get to see the iconic buildings up close and avoid stopping every 10m down the same street. …another bonus is some volume in your hair from the wind if you sit out on the front or back of the boat! For $5.24 you get to travel in style, so we opt for this nearly every time, especially if we’re laden with luggage. Minimal walking and minimal hassle. We caught the first ferry from Rose Bay wharf to Circular Quay, then waited 45 minutes for the next ferry to Balmain Wharf. Somehow, probably by stroke of luck, we got charged for only 1 ferry – against the knowledge of the ticket man that we asked for confirmation of our journey.
Upon arrival at our destination we had a 25 minute walk to our next accommodation. We started, up hill, along Thames St and onwards to Macdonalds St (Adam mistakenly took me saying Macdonalds as a request for a big mac – not quite). A steep incline is hard enough when you’re luggage free, but we were hankered down with at least 18kg of stuff (each), we felt the burn. Finding ourselves on the correct street, with time to spare, we stopped for lunch at a cute coffee shop that offered a free coffee with every bacon and egg roll. Sold! Having battled through the hoards of cafés and restaurants on Darling St. we finally settled on one with a front window so that we could sit out and watch the world go by. We arrived at the house still an hour early so propped our bags against the wall outside the apartment and got our phones out searching for wifi. After a couple of minutes an older guy approached us, from inside the fence, and asked if we were lost. To be fair, we were out of place. Whilst walking through Balmain we were noticed by all those locals – you couldn’t miss us. Walking by a bus stop caused all those in line to stop and have a gawp. With a backpack double my size, and Adam’s bag rivalling it, it felt like we were the most tourist-esque people they’ve seen for a while. Either that or they were impressed with the amount of sweat we were dripping whilst being able to avoid succumbing to gravity as we climbed the hill. Anyway, it turned out that Paul, the man who approached us, was the gardener for the place where we are staying. He opened up the gate, walked us around to the laundry room to suggest leaving our bags there, but with no lock on the door we didn’t want to risk it. Instead, without a second thought, he offered us a ride back into the centre of Balmain where there was a library in which we could sit down, use wifi and wait. After reorganising his estate car of gardening tools we popped the back seat up for me, and cleared the front seat for Adam – our bags were pearched on top of me in the back. A comforting shield in some ways just incase this trip didn’t end up with us safely at the library.
Paul was a sweetheart. He told us about how his parents lived as gypsies and took him and his 7 brothers and sisters out of Sydney when they were younger. He showed us where his older brother went to school and described how one day they all had a day off due to a man suffering from a fatal fall from a chimney. He showed us the old jail, which has now been renovated and used as an art gallery sometimes. He pulled over to show us the oldest building in town. It was built not too long after the first settlers arrived and before any common currency had yet been established. In return for building the cottage, the aboriginal people received payment from the white settlers – a keg of rum!! Paul then showed us the pub in which the AU Labour party first met and formed, before dropping us right outside the door of the library. How kind. He was elated that I was from Bristol (he even knew Bristol had recently been rated as the best city in the UK) as one of his sons now lives there. We made it back to the house for 3pm and settled in quickly with our new English housemate – cuppas were on the go nearly instantly.
It has worked out that Natalie and Will have flown to Sydney and are staying with Will’s uncle, a whole 6 minutes walk away from where we are staying this week! A little by chance, and logistics of where was cheapest to stay we have found ourselves once again half way across the world and close enough to be neighbours. We have also learnt since last week that the secluded cute little beach we found near Watsons bay is known as Kutti beach which is very unknown to the masses and usually only visited by locals and the owners of houses nearby. These house owners are not shy of a penny or two, we also learnt that their homes can go for as much as $15 million at auction (we’ll start saving now).
Wednesday came and we met up with Natalie and Will, for Will’s first trip into the centre of Sydney – so of course we had to get the ferry to circular quay for the best views on entering the CBD. We walked the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, walked around The Rocks shops and cafés and had lunch where the portions were generous for $10. We walked around the Opera House, by which time the sun was now blazing and we were glad we put sunscreen on early even though it was quite overcast before we left the house. Adam and Will found the only football game being played for miles, positioned just adjacent to the Harbour Bridge, one team was wearing Liverpool shirts so we had reason to stick around and watch for a short while. We had a stroll around the Botanic Gardens and came across some 10 day old Moorhen’s and a duckling, the wings couldn’t even count as wings they were so scrawny and featherless, they were running around the park like crazy. We also me a very friendly Sacred Ibis who’s beak is not as dangerous as it looks! After a long day of walking we retreated back to the ferry and hopped on it back home before returning to the house and cooking our $2.15 Jamie Oliver bargain burgers that we grabbed at Woolworths in the reduced section. Who says Australia is expensive?
After our exciting city adventures, the start of the Easter weekend has been quite wet and windy. Luckily, our week has been spent in Balmain, where Darling Street is a hub of cafés and boutiques. The town is home to more pubs per square foot than any other in the rest of Australia – though we haven’t made the most of this so far! We have, however, spent time with Will’s kind Auntie and Uncle who invited us over for dinner on Good Friday evening. After a cold (still 19 degrees celsius) and wet day we called in at around 4pm to see what Nat and Will had been up to – then we didn’t leave until gone 11:30pm. 1 curry, 2 helpings of plum pudding, many beers (plus several shots of rum and brandy) and we had a great evening! A rainy day here is not detrimental. We use the time, mostly productively, in planning the future of our trip. Our next movements, flights, accommodation, journeys. We have been up and down Darling Street sampling a few cafés, spending a little too long in the bookshops and then leaving without making a purchase.
We’re currently looking to go further north. We’ll travel as far as we can before the money runs out and then we’ll need to find jobs! Into which city we’ll arrive we’re unsure, Cairns vs. Brisbane or a coastal road trip – lots of planning needs to be done!