Surf camp and Sydney

I was going to call this one 'Surf camp, Sydney and the crushing inevitability of returning to work'. However, I felt that had the potential to offend colleagues. Fortunately, they never read anything beyond the title, so I reckon I'm safe to stick it in here. Christmas Day was a bit odd. Everything shut at 5pm and, while Stuart went straight to bed, the rest of us wandered the streets of Brisbane in a tropical storm, searching for more Christmas spirit. Eventually, somewhat damp and dangerously close to sobering up, we found a Korean bar and drank until it was a reasonable time to phone home. Then, for want of something better to do, we drank until they wouldn't serve us any more booze. Well, technically we drank until they wouldn't serve Laura any more booze, but I don't want to name names or cause any embarassment. 🙂 Boxing day saw us up bright and early and on the Greyhound to Byron Bay. Byron is a beautiful, chilled out little surf community and one of the most popular spots on the East Coast. Sadly it was something of a casualty of our hectic itinerary, so I only got to spend half an afternoon and an evening there and hence have very little to tell you about the place. Fortunately, Stuart created his own Byron story to make up for my lack of owt interesting to say about the place. Keen to make up for his early retirement the day before, he managed to get himself banned from going within 500 metres of Cheeky Monkeys (the main backpacker party bar) ever again. In a place the size of Byron, that's pretty much banishment from the town. Not quite sure what happened, but it involved Bundaberg Rum, a lonely German mother, half an hour on the phone to someone called Bill, the New South Wales police and the narrow avoidance of a $550 on-the-spot fine. At least he had something to write home about though. The next morning we were reunited with the Oz Bus (which now sadly featured a lass who was genetically obliged to talk without pause, even if it meant repeating her entire conversational repertoire three times an hour) and heading to somewhere called Arrawarra for the first part of our three day surf camp. I wasn't keen. I'm 6'4″ and known to fall over in a strong breeze. I've also tried surfing down in Cornwall and just got the side of my face ground down a bit whilst being dragged merrily along by the longshore drift. Basically, I have a centre of gravity about three feet above my own head. However it comes as part of your ticket, so I kind of felt obliged. As is generally the case when I get all miserable and 'I don't wanna', I actually ended up loving it. The first lesson was cut kind of short by a massive electrical storm, but I'd still managed to catch some pretty good waves, albeit whilst lying down. We went through the motions of 'popping up' and 'stepping through' as well as all the safety stuff and the important things like 'look cool', 'no crap music' and, most importantly, 'no speedos'. I think i managed to stand up twice, for a grand total of about 5 seconds. I certainly looked cool though. No doubt about that. The next day we were up at 6.30 and out in the surf again. It's surprisingly tiring is this surfing lark, but I was far from the worst one there and that's the main thing. Reckon i was standing on 2 out of every 3 waves I caught, which says a hell of a lot for the instructors. After lunch we headed off to Crescent Head, where the surf school have another base. On the way we stopped at the Legends Surf Museum, which was ok, considering I have pretty much bugger all interest in surfing. The best thing about that was the guy who runs it, Scott Dillon. A bit of a pioneer and all-round surf legend, I mainly liked him for his shark stories and the fact that he managed to get the girl-who-never-shuts-up to shut the hell up for a bit. It was only two minutes, but boy were they a good two minutes. Bliss.. You do meet a lot of cool people on the Oz Bus, but, as in life as a whole, some of them just get on your tits. 😀 Anyway, Crescent Head was great, basically more of the same, but great. Sat around a camp fire in the evening, met a guy from my glorious home town of Ipswich, reminisced about its soulful beauty and many attractions for the adventurous traveller, then went away to worry about the fact that we were due to arrive in Sydney the next day, two days before new year and still hadn't managed to find anywhere to stay. Stopped just short of wandering around looking for cardboard boxes. Surf was up again the next morning, along with the presentation of a certificate that officially qualifies me as cool. It's inarguable now, it's even been signed by a guy called Wispy. Anyway, barring a 7 hour drive down to Sydney, that was pretty much it for the East Coast. It had been amazing and all over way too fast. Several people on our bus had booked their accommodation in Sydney back in April. At the very latest they'd sorted it out in November. We had a half hour lunch break in which to find ourselves somewhere for that evening. Who'd have thought I edit a travel preparation website? Half the problem is that the hostels in Sydney have created a bit of a cartel thing around the festive season. Most of them won't take bookings for anything under 4 nights, some won't for anything under 10 and we only needed 2.. We tried the big places; Wake Up!, Base, the YHAs… no dice. We'd already tried the flea pits in Kings Cross; one of them quoted us $500 each for a week. I would've laughed in their faces if I hadn't been slightly shocked at the audacity. In the end though, it was pure simplicity. We just phoned up Sydney Tourist Info and a lovely girl called Ami sorted us out rooms in a fairly swanky hotel just off George Street for about $60 a night. Ok, it was more than double what we'd been paying for hostels, but after nearly a month of sharing dorms with people who haven't been away from mother long enough to learn how to clean their own clothes, it was well appreciated. The next day was the Sydney meet up. I managed to get myself well lost and heartily sunburnt trying to find the venue. Eventually I lost myself serious man points by admitting I was walking in completely the wrong direction and getting a cab. It was worth a bit of hassle though. If you're ever in Sydney, I'd recommend the Glenmore Hotel on Cumberland Street (in The Rocks) as a great place for a few beers. Nothing too flashy, but its roof garden has fantastic views over the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Not sure who – other than myself, Grace and Heather – out of the group was there because of the wonder of gapyear and who was just merrily enjoying the weather and the cold beer, but it was a good laugh, particularly after I'd paid Gracey $10 to take a postive outlook on life for a couple of hours. The meet up culminated in myself, Grace and Laura getting ejected from the 36th floor of the Shangri-La for wearing thongs. Enjoy the image, but sadly it involved an elevator and flip-flops, rather than a swan-dive and revealing underwear. Next day was both New Year's Eve and the day we were to fly home. I know, pretty crap, huh? We did some hurried sightseeing in the morning (the Skytower is good, but OzTrek is crappy if you're interested) before taking the train to the airport and supping a last Tooheys while we watched a small plane lazily tracing love hearts in the sky. 32 hours and two nervous breakdowns later, we were back at Heathrow and wondering what the hell had happened, what day it was and which way was up… Tips for avoiding jet lag: 1. Stay up 'til bed time. 2. Don't go home, go out. If you sit down in front of the telly, you'll be powerless to stop yourself falling asleep way too early and being wide awake at 3am. 3. No gin at 5,30am 4. No sitting near children on the plane 5. No wine at 6am 6. No being tall in economy class 7. No beer at 7am. Naturally, I followed precisely none of these. I'm still not sure what year it is or who's the president. Jet lag or no though, it was back to work a day and a half later. Boo… 🙄

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