Since my last update quite a lot has happened.
After a day trip in Nimbin (a small hippy commune type town) which involved being lectured about Chaos Theory and the Renaissance by one of the strangest men I've ever met, we headed back to Byron Bay and got on the 6pm night bus out of town.
An unusually sound nights sleep later, we rolled into Sydney and unloaded our bags off the bus.
Andy decided to go off and try to get a cab to take us to our hostel. Whilst me, Lewis and Michelle were mooching around waiting with the bags, we hear 'Oh my GOOOD!' screeched out in a high-pitched Essex accent. Within two minutes of being in a city of 4 million people, we bumped into Ally, a girl we'd met on our first day in New Zealand, subsequently bumped into about 20 times in seperate towns all over the North and South Island, and who we'd even briefly met in Fiji over three months previously. The phrase 'it's a small world' really does apply, even given the fact that we're treading in each others footsteps on a well-travelled backpacker path.
The next day (saturday) was Michelle's last day travelling. She had a 22 hour flight ahead of her, and was due to start work on the monday, so I think the poor girl must have suffered from jetlag a bit on her first day back.
Now, our plan from here was to get the train or a greyhound up to Alice Springs/Uluru etc, and see a bit of the outback. What we didn't realise was that from Sydney you have to either travel for about a day in the wrong direction down to Adelaide or up to Brisbane just to get on a track or road which will take you back in the right direction. It also costs a small fortune, which by now we couldn't really afford, so we looked into the price of flying.
Lewis by this point had decided that his time away had run it's course, and found that he could rearrange his RTW tickets so he could get a flight to go from Sydney, via Hong Kong to London for as little as eighty quid. Thursday saw the 3 of us getting the train to the International airport and only 2 of us coming back. Within the space of a few days our numbers were halved from four to two.
We spent about a week and a half in Sydney in total, where we had arranged to meet up with Erika from the Kiwi Experience bus again. Not quite as chance a meeting as with Ally - Erika and her friend Laura were staying at the same hostel as us while we were snowboarding in NZ, and were working at the Queenstown winter festival and we'd arranged to meet up at the time.
Personally I really like Sydney. Apart from the obvious architectural aspects, namely the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, which are very impressive, it just had a kind of buzz about it. The only other city I've been to since we've been away which had a similar kind of vibrance is New York, but then I was expecting it from the Big Apple, whereas I assumed Sydney would be laid back and nowhere near as cosmopolitan.
While we were in Sydney we took a ferry across to Manly, went in the Aquarium in Darling Harbour, took a walk down by the Harbour at night time (well worth it for the illuminated landmarks), and went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. I may be a philistine, but I don't see how water being pumped between four flower pots on a set of shelves from B&Q can be considered art. It struck me instead as pretentious poppycock (sorry, I don't often get the chance to use the word 'poppycock', so when the opportunity arises I have to grab it with both hands)
Me and Andy are now in Darwin, which is about twice as hot as Sydney, being at the opposite end of the nation. We spent four hours in the air today, and still landed in the same country. It really is vast. We're going to see about bringing our flights to Singapore forward by a few weeks, so we can spend more time seeing different cultures. It's been painfully and embarrassingly obvious so far, having spoken to people of indigenous Fijian, Maori and Aboriginal descent, that every single country we've visited so far has been invaded and colonised by the British in the last couple of hundred years. Hardly something to be proud of when travelling abroad.
Bring on the culture shock of Asia!
PS. Here's a photo of the Opera House, just to prove I've been there, and one of me and my buddies from back home dressed as Steve Irwin five years ago, just to prove I am the true fan I said I was.