Aus Chap #3 – Summer, Bloody Summer

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#3 /  Summer, Bloody Summer /
Dec 2018 – March 2019

If there was one thing I knew about Australia before coming over, besides the killer crawlies, was that Aus is HOT. Like the sun hates you with every little sun ray of its big burning mass of energy, kinda hot.

I first arrived at the end of summer/early autumn last year and experienced an unexpected and delightfully chilly/pretty cold winter here in Sydney, so at least I can clarify that there are distinct seasons on this side of the continent and world. Phew. Yet, the looming summer made me worry. As a pale indoor-dweller who burns without at least 50+SPF on at all times, the Australian sun is a scary thought and I felt an impending doom as each month ticked closer to Dec, Jan and Feb. The peak.

It’s now March, so I can report that I made it. Thanks only to the aircon and avoiding the bone-burning sun as much as possible. Many days were around 36-38°C, a couple of times 40°+, with a daily UV index of 11 and Sydney is apparently cooler than the other main cities. Hells bells. 
On 16 January, New South Wales (Sydney’s state) “broke 14 heat records and eight January records. Conditions are so hot in the state that asphalt roads are starting to melt.” – CNN. And fish baked alive in rivers. Amy did not, because Amy stayed beneath the aircon.

But rewind to Christmas 2018:

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On a lighter note, I got to go home for Christmas! Only a short 2 week visit, but a quality one. Landing the day before Christmas eve meant having festive jet lag, but the effects are worse coming to Aus than going back to SA (gaining time), so it wasn’t too bad. Christmas was spent in the Karoo on my uncle’s beautiful farm with the family, surrounded by mountains, sheep, and chickens that roost on the stoep at night.

Flight home… on PREMIUM ECONOMY!
This was the first time flying anything other than economy class, it’s a really comfortable upgrade for sure! You get to board early, get waitered on, by name, have cotton napkins lain across your lap at meal times, greeted with champagne and most importantly… more leg and seat room! You also get proper cutlery and crockery and fancier headphones. But the extra space is definitely the biggest win because you don’t get to your destination any quicker, so it’s nice to be more comfortable at least. 
Premium-Economy.jpgMoving into apartment life:
Before Christmas away in South Africa, well more specifically the day we flew out, we moved into our new apartment. The movers brought in our hoards of stuff the morning of our 22hr trip to the homeland. Stressful much? At least we weren’t doing all the heavy lifting in the heat. We were left with boxes upon boxes and furniture stacked against walls with a looming flight to catch.

So when we arrived back in Sydney in early January we had LOTS to do (and sans aircon at the time too). Three months on and we still have a few abandoned boxes patiently waiting to be sorted… 

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^  I designed a logo for our apartment for the fun of it (details have been changed, sorry stalkers).

My birthday:
When your bday’s on a weekday, your boyfriend’s at work and your friends are in another country, you get to take yourself on a solo adventure! So into the city I went and just walked. I had a few art exhibitions to find and decided to take the scenic on-foot routes and found new malls along the way, magical book stores (Kinokuniya, wow!), buildings covered in plants and all the “Asian towns” one after the other.
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While ambling around Chippendale I found
Spice Alley and… ramen! at a little joint called Kyo-to. Done deal! Last year I was eating ramen in Tokyo on my bday, this year in Sydney. Not bad.

Australia Day, 26/01:
As a mid-January baby there has never been anything to look forward to other than my birthday that month, and definitely not school or going back to work… and being broke. However, I seem to have struck gold in Aus as there is an actual public holiday just 3 days shy of my bday! Australia Day, the day of barbies and beer is much like South Africa’s Heritage Day (of braais and boerewors), where the nation as a whole is celebrated and the national flag is even more ubiquitous than usual. Yes, many beers were had.
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Grand Pacific Drive:
To the south of Sydney city along the coast, lies the expansive
Royal National Park, the 3rd oldest in the world! The best part is that you can road trip through the park. Starting at the top or bottom for about 140km all the way down through little coastal towns like Kiama, Wollongong and Shellharbour while taking in the amazing natural Aussie views. Along the way, just outside of Scarborough is the Sea Cliff Bridge, a winding magnificent bridge snaking above the water and is often featured in TV commercials, apparently.  Grand-Pacific3

While winding further along the roads through the rather tropical forests of the national park, we took the opportunity to do one of the many hiking routes on offer. One of the shorter loop routes was “The Forest Path”, which sounded good as we would arrive back at the car by the end of the 5km.

The 1st km was great, walking along a road broad enough for cars, but then our route branched off into “the forest”. We were now on a narrow foot path between trees and low-hanging leaves in a rainforest… alone… in Aus-tra-liaaaa. If you were looking for spiders and snakes, this would probably be a good bet. Half way into the unknown, while spooking at any rustle or movement of leaves, we just wanted to get OUT! To be fair, it was beautiful and peaceful, but we were definitely too close to nature for our comfort.

Filled with relief, we finally made it back to the safety of the car. While driving away, however, I found a slimy, squirming leech on my leg. I totally freaked out. I don’t want to relive that experience so let’s move along. We got rid of it though. Probably our last forest adventure…

North Sydney:
I hadn’t been to the
North before, so when a varsity friend from SA was in town it was a good excuse to explore “the other side of the bridge”. This included walking over the 1,1km long Sydney Harbour Bridge to get there. You take an amble on the footpath next to the buzzing traffic while overlooking the Sydney Harbour with aerial views of the Opera House, giant docked cruise ships and the city’s skyline. A definite tourist must do, and it’s completely free. You can then catch a ferry back across the harbour for a different experience.luna.jpg

RHCP:
Another first for me… going to a big concert! And the Red Hot Chili Peppers at that too! Although, the Chili Peppers were rather tiny from where we were seated so we will probably have to consider booking the standing arena next time. RHCPTheir performance and energy was fantastic! The hour and a half commute home at 11pm on a Wednesday night, not so much.
But heyyy….oooh!


CHAPTER #4 to follow some time in the future, soonish.
Follow me on Instagram
@shmaymee in the meanwhile!

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Aus Chap #2 – Settling Down Under

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#2 /  SETTLING DOWN UNDER /
Sept – Dec 2018

I’ve been back in Aus for 3 months now since returning in September from a good time at home. During my “holiday” (well not really, as a freelancer the work travels with you) I was lucky to be home for my brother’s, gran’s and mom’s birthdays as well as my best friend’s 30th, in the space of 2 months. This time was also spent packing. Oh the joys. By the end of the lengthy process of sorting, donating, chucking out and packing I was able to edit my belongings down to just 2 [big] boxes… not including clothes.

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BOX SAGA:
After getting a good quote from U-Bag (and great service – free advertising here!), my boxes were finally picked up in PE to arrive at Sydney airport the week I was set to land. To collect my boxes myself from the freight terminal on the other side was half the price of them delivering to my door. Had I known just how much effort and inconvenience I was in for, I might have chosen differently. Getting to the airport is an effort on its own – a 40min drive in bottleneck traffic (due to roadworks) with tolls ($$$). But I thought that’d be the hardest part and I’d just grab my boxes and go. WRONG.

Having made the trip on the public holiday just after the boxes arrived (after phoning to check all was open), we were told customs was not actually open once we arrived and we would have to come back during the week. This meant I’d have to do that drive by myself, the ever nervous driver I am at the best of times.

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And so I did. The next day I journeyed back. The entire feat took 5 hours! It involved having to wear a “high-vis” orange vest while getting lost in the freight terminal area, dodging trucks and trying to find the Customs House (which has 0 signage and about a km from the Qantas office where the boxes were held, over a bridge and far away), signing customs forms (and luckily passing without inspections, so don’t expect to see me on Border Security…), returning to the freight terminal with the paperwork and another confusing wait as to where to collect my boxes. And once I finally had my damn boxes I was relieved but $270 short after having to pay for handling fees and storage (separate from the shipping costs) and still had the stress of the drive back. P.S. I (and the car) made it back in one piece in the end.

ADELAIDE:
The box saga wasn’t even the first adventure since arriving back in the country! The evening after I landed (and 4 days before the box debacle started) we set off on a 14 hour drive down to Adelaide in South Australia for the long weekend, with my jet lag in tow. The point of the trip was for my bf to tie up loose ends (having lived there for 4 years before moving to Sydney this year, just before I came to visit initially), to see his friends and for me to experience a new city, his old city.

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Adelaide is great from what I experienced during our short stay. Smaller and less overwhelming than Sydney, with great pub streets and a much younger chilled out vibe. There is lots of street art around, pretty parks and a tram system. On Sunday we did a brief tour of Hahndorf, the little German village just outside the city hidden among the green hills, before the hectic 14 hour drive back up to New South Wales. The long drive home is inland so it’s basically dry flat stretches of roads dotted with kangaroo corpses. Because there wasn’t much else to do, we played Count-the-Kangaroos and came to an average of 3.6 dead kangaroos/1 km over the particularly bad stretch. #funfact

Fairlight Place:
About a month after I’d unpacked my boxes and finally had some of my home comforts up around the house, we found out we’d be moving the next month. And so the spring cleaning, chucking out and packing began once again. Back into boxes. Back into limbo. Shed

Because we had to be out of the house a few weeks before we could move into our new place, we had to make a plan by living in a Quest hotel apartment while our stuff was moved into storage. Having room service everyday has been pretty sweet though. 

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01/12 – BLUE MOUNTAINS:
I’ve really been wanting to do a Blue Mountains trip, so one Saturday morning we decided to make it happen. The drive was about an hour and a half, and once you finally exit the city the scenery becomes wonderful as you drive past flowers and mountains and pass many little towns boasting antiques and art stores. We’ve already decided to come back soon and stop at these treasures as well as find the Jenolan Caves and explore more. But for our first trip to the Blue Mountains we decided to go the tourist route and pay for an entrance to Scenic World ($43). Blue-Mountains.jpg

This gave us an all-day pass to ride the Skyway and Cableway (basically cable cars), the Railway (the steepest passenger railway in the world at a 52° incline) and then access to all the walkways around the park. We decided to just choose one of many paths to hike after catching the Skyway high above the mountains over to the other side of the cliff. We ended up heading down into fern-covered subtropical forest paths with waterfalls and rivers (and very few tourists). As someone who isn’t such a fan of the sun, this was perfect as it was all in the shade and cooler than being at the top of the mountains. Of course, when you go down, you have to go up again… and tackle a lot of stairs. We were also able to get many shots of the iconic Three Sisters rock formations at various angles throughout the walk. We shall be back soon for more!

For now, we are getting ready to fly home to SA for the short Christmas break and back to move into the new apartment to start 2019. 

 

 

Aus Chap #1 – Sydney Saunter

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(
Aus Chap. = ‘Australian Chapter’ [of my life; of this journal; or Aus Chap = my bf.)

#1 /  SYDNEY SAUNTER /
May – Aug 2018

This blog post has been sitting in my drafts with a title, a few edited pictures and a blinking cursor since early-May. At the time of titling it, I was living out my two-month plan to visit my boyfriend in Sydney (from the end of March) with a flight scheduled home for late May. However, the title should rather stand as “Sydney Snowball” as things escalated pretty quickly since then to me pushing the flight back to July, applying for a long-term visa and booking a one way ticket back from South Africa in September.

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So that’s the low down if you’ve been sceptically following my seemingly never-ending holiday Down Under on Instagram (and now in SA, as it’s already August and I’ve delayed this post by a whole country…). Maybe you were thinking that I seemed way too comfortable and had
surely overstayed that flimsy 3-month tourist visa, and wtf…bought a car there?! Yip, yip and yip. (I’m on a bridging visa now btw – if any authorities are reading this).

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But to start from the beginning, this was my first time going to Australia. I left SA end of  March just a month after returning from my year in Korea to experience a new country, making it my forth country to be in for 2018 (Korea, Japan, SA and now Aus). 

^ at the time of that post, it was A$1=R9.08. Today (25/08) it’s R10.45. 😦

Coins
^ The coin proportions feel so off. Cents vs dollars.

During my stay, however, no one offered me shrimp on the barbie, I hadn’t noticed kangaroo steak on any menu, I’d seen ONE man dressed like Crocodile Dundee (in the mall, and very out of place) and yes, a lot of people do say ‘mate’. And ‘fair dinkum’. And go to the ‘dunny’ to pee.

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Ah, Vegemite! This stuff has been around for 95 years, and I didn’t know it was such a thing in Aus thing till I got there. I’ve tried it, but Bovril all the way for me, thanks. Although the smoothie bar, Boost Juice recently released a Vegemite Smoothie . It also has banana, chocolate and yoghurt and other good stuff in it too though, so all good – I guess I’ll have to give it a go.

TOURISTY THINGS:Sydney-Opera-House

What’s Sydney without its iconic Opera House? Ok, quite a lot from what I’ve since found out but it’s obviously top of the list of the first things to see when you get there. Although it’s an impressive building, I was actually more impressed by its location at Circular Quay, with its flurry of ferries and the magnificent Harbour Bridge stretching across in the background. The Royal Botanic Gardens are right there too, offering a scenic and peaceful meander through the beautifully kept gardens right next to the water. I have yet to find Mrs Macquarie’s Chair which apparently is at the point that offers some of the best views of the harbour.

I arrived in Australia in March with a stronger idea of what the outback might look like than the cities, and when imaging Sydney I just saw the Opera House and Bondi Beach. Klaar. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the architecture (particularly in the CBD, older areas) is beautifully Victorian and Edwardian styled (and many more).

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The first time walking in the city while passing statues, parks, old-style detailed buildings and lampposts I felt like I could be in London. This style fades out the further you go from the city centre unfortunately, but it’s beautiful and impressive every time I go into the city.

ZOO ZOO KANGAROO:ZooIt took me over a month after I arrived to finally see a kangaroo for the first time ever. A MONTH! And we had to go to the zoo to do so. Guess they don’t roam the streets like expected (this is a joke). The Taronga Zoo is across the harbour from the Opera House, so you can catch a ferry to the other side, which I really enjoyed. This also allows for the zoo, in particular the giraffes (not just because of their long necks), to have an impressive view of the Opera House, the bridge and the city skyline from across the water. I also got to see some koalas, wombats, echidnas and Tasmanian Devils for the first time.
P.s. Almost R500 for a day ticket into the zoo…

PUBLIC TRANSPORT:

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I find figuring out an unfamiliar country’s public transport system rather exciting, but also a bit overwhelming and frustrating. In Sydney, the trains (which are double decker) are really reliable/on time, but I’ve found the buses can be a bit hit or easily missed. And not quite cheap either. 

ROADTRIPPIN’:COastal

One weekend we decided to take a road trip south of Sydney along the coast in a general direction and see where we ended up. We stumbling upon quiet and beautiful viewpoints above the ocean, whale watching points (the whales were on winter break though), a blow hole in the rocks and small holiday towns with quirky shops and paths along the water’s edge with pelicans and stingrays. On the return trip just before taking the road home, we found a detour along a “Tourist Drive Route 9”. And suddenly we were snaking along a narrow road among green rolling hills and farm lands filled with cows while the sun slowly began to retreat on our spontaneous day out of the city.

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VIVID SYDNEY: the light show
This is a yearly festival that lights up the city (in and around the Circular Quay area and a few places beyond) with light installations, music and food events. This extends to The Rocks which is the historic and touristy precinct with restaurants, bars and shops in the old buildings along cobbled roads and through old archways. Very English feeling.

vivid.jpgParticularly impressive (as well as the many tall buildings being lit up with moving colourful displays) is the whole of the Opera House’s exterior painted in light and moving images that change designs often. You can get a great view of it from the other side of the quay. Despite the rain on the night we chose to go, we saw a lot and enjoyed it. Because we live far south, we had booked a hotel a short walk from the main event so we could enjoy the festivities till late. And by late, we found out is only 11pm when bars start closing. 11pm. During a festival period in the main part of a huge city…?

INCREASED MOBILITY:
Living in the spread out suburbs means that running simple errands or going to the mall takes double the time and planning when you don’t have a car and need to rely on the bus which comes once an hour. And so, after much scouring on car sites online and used-dealerships in person, my little baby was found hidden among many cars. I’ve had a car crush on the Fiat 500 since 2011 when I first saw it in a series I was watching at the time. And now she’s miiiiine 😀
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FYI: I can drive with my SA license as long as it’s current and has no suspensions etc. 

CHAPTER #2 to follow once I return/move to Sydney at the end of September and get some adventures going.