Friends, fireworks, animals and a whole new year

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On Christmas Eve, Kelly and I made the cardinal mistake of trying to rebook accommodation. For some reason I’d done a bit of research and discovered that an AirBnB in Sydney was a bit cheaper than the hostel, and given we hadn’t really spoken to many hostellers in Melbourne we thought we’d cancel our hostel and rebook the AirBnB. It turned out that what I had read as no cancellation fee on the hostel before 26/12 was actually 26/11. So with two places booked we chose the AirBnB and sucked up the 50% fee for the hostel. Stupid. Read the small print properly next time.

On the flight over we had seperate seats which was fine for 1 hour. I’ve learned how to sleep on planes, trains and buses, so I caught some Zs

Sydney on arrival seems cool, like Brighton with New Orleans style houses. The Airbnb apartment is well located in Points Pott and although small its very nice, with a massive TV, N64 and roof garden.

Tired, Kelly opts to stay in the flat for a snooze while I go for walk to investigate Mrs Maquries point, a famed location for NYE. After a walk there, I can make out the harbour through lots of trees. I’m then transfixed by a group of wild cockatoos screeching and walking along the walkway.

Once at the end I get my first glimpse of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. A massive cruise liner takes about 10 minutes to back out and turn around, finally providing me with a clear shot of the landmarks. It’s at this point Kelly, having tracked me on her app, sends word along that she knows I’m there. She missed out. You snooze you lose. We’ll be back I tell her. No harm done, the bridge isn’t going anywhere.

It’s been a week since we’ve hung out with our Kiwi Experience friends so the next day we headed to Maruoubra beach to see Sam, Alfie, Stef, Tom and Verity. Us boys head into the sea, between two red and yellow flags to avoid the surfers. The waves are powerful but fun, every time one hits me I’m thrown backwards so I learn to dive underneath them. One gets me midway down and I feel the water force back my eyelids. It’s about time I got out of here I thought.

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After a few frisbee games we all depart agreeing to meet up and queue for the NYE celebrations at Mrs Maquieries point the next morning.

Kelly and I then had to rush back on the bus to pick up food and drinks from the supermarket. We’re not allowed to take alcohol in tomorrow ‘officially’, but I’m told once inside its extortionate for what booze is on sale. Therefore channeling my best Great Escape mind I begin an operation smuggle in some gin. We purchase a can of Pringles and a 300ml bottle of water, empty out the Pringles, place the bottle now full of gin inside, then replace a small quantity of Pringles on top. Perfect I thought as long as they don’t feel the weight.

We’re up and over to the park for 9:45, gates open at 10. We start at the entrance to Mrs Maqurie’s and walk back along the line. It’s long and winds along the park paths to a field where it begins to snake on itself. There’s about 10,000 people in that queue I thought (there wasn’t, more like 4000 in actual fact).

The suns out so we begin our 3 hour queue. The others are a bit late so after an hour I start wondering where they’ve got to, nervously thinking the people behind us might kick off if we try and squeeze six people in front of them. Turns out they had the same thought as there was about ten of them. So they entered the queue further back.

When we make it inside its not even half full. The bag checkers at the gate, took a brief look inside our cool bags. Typical I thought, no need for the smuggling, nobody minds.

We wander up to the top of the point. Beach mats are strewn everywhere, reserving space for those not inside in typical German fashion. We get a spot, without a view, but close enough to run down when the fireworks start. We’re inside for about 10 hours anyway, so the best place for a picnic is paramount.

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Everyone else arrives and we spend the day blistering in the sun, laughing and playing a few drinking games to pass the time. Drinking games like 21, 2233 and ring of fire.

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There’s an early fireworks show at 9pm, which is good. I’m not sure how to setup my camera for night shots so it’s all blurs and peoples shadows.

Just before midnight I start making some phone calls back to the UK speaking in slightly inebriated tones to a few friends. When midnight finally comes everybody rushes to the water edge. Kelly maintains that we’ll get a better view of the fireworks from the path. I agree dubiously even though nobody else is there. We can see the fireworks in the sky but a fairly obscured view of the bridge so once all is done we take advantage of being clear of the crowd and make our way out, giving mum and Nessa a happy New Years call.

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It doesn’t seem to matter where I am on New Year’s day the same thing happens. We get up late, slightly hungover, but basically on a sofa day. Having just returned from NZ we watch all Lord of the rings movies in one block, and order a pizza.

With the New Year celebrations out of the way we engage in a tourist day by walking to the Opera House to get our tour tickets for later that evening. The Opera is smaller than I Imagined, but the bridge is bigger and both make for great photos opportunities. We missed out of seeing La Boheme where only a few very obstructed view seats remained, which was a bit of a shame.

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Our walk continues round Circular Quay to the bottom of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a picnic and then try to find the entrance to the Pylon. We have to walk back on ourselves and up the bridge.

Inside we get to walk up the decorative Pylon tower at the south side of the bridge. It’s a bit of a museum as well as a viewpoint so we learn about the 1932 opening it’s 7 year build.

We wanted to head to the Opera House early for our tour but we get there 40 mins early so have a well earned Prosecco at the Opera Bar.

On the tour our guide is good, he used to be a Sydney radio personality, so he’s engaging and has good knowledge. We wander round seeing the crew in one of the main theatres setup La Boheme and the cast warm up for a Beatles tribute performance in the other. It’s really a wonderful story of architecture and design, and an impressive building, or a shell of a building with another building inside in fact.

Sunday is Star Wars day down at the IMAX in Darling Harbour. So as we were nearby, it would be rude not to go and see some Platypus in the Sea World. Our tickets also included a visit to the Wild Life Zoo next door so it would be a morning of animals.

Platypus are brilliant creatures, much smaller than I imagined being only about the size of a small cat. The ones we saw were swimming around constantly in the dark, happily exploring for food or whatever might peak it’s interest. They seemed to be the happiest creatures around so I was happy too. My first sighting of a Monotreme was married with my second in the Wild Life Zoo, an Echida, that being a kind of hedgehog like mammal that also lays eggs.

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Kelly was captivated when we entered an underwater viewing tank, to see Dugongs. Better known as Sea Cows, the one we saw up close was playing around with a foam traffic cone, cute and adorable, it lives on a diet of lettuce.

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Time was approaching for the start of a new Star Wars saga in my life so we met up with Kelly’s former work mates Jose and his girlfriend Hayley. Hayley had just finished watching Return of the Jedi for the first time so she was somewhat clued up. Jose and I were bouncing off the walls with expectant excitement. We were not let down. Apart from the cinema claiming to be the biggest IMAX in the world, the film was epic and a true schooling for Mr Lucas in how to restart a new franchise.

Afterwards we head to the Lord Nelson pub for some brewery beers, and Jose explains (as another Spurs fan) how to watch football over here. So I wake up at 3am for football and can only stream the second half of the Everton match. Where nothing happens. Maybe I’ll stick to reading the occasional result the next day I think.

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Not content with one day of animals we head to Tarunga zoo that day by ferry. The heavens open and we are drenched thoroughly whilst watching elephants play football. In a kangaroo enclosure we get up close to the cowering marsupials who are sheltering from the rain. We got to see a whole lot of animals, but it was slightly ruined by the rain, which also shorted out the screen on my camera. I’m shooting blind from now on I thought.

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The next 24 hours we spent in bars saying goodbye. Firstly we’d arranged to meet all the Kiwi Experience people in the evening. On our last day we made our way over to the Norfolk Hotel in Redfern to meet Kelly’s work friends Jose and Nikki, plus her baby daughter for an all-day sit down. Becs came and net us in the evening after her work finished. Luckily the drink of choice was schooners of beer so not all that much to consume, plus they had a good few craft beers on tap.

Tomorrow we are heading out onto the open road, renting a campervan where our friendship will really be put to the test. I’m really looking forward to driving Australia though to see what the countryside has to offer.

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