Hello from SUNNY and HOT Australia!!

Hello gang!

Sorry that we haven’t been in touch so much over the last couple of weeks, but we have had limited access to the internet, and we’ve been pretty busy too.

The BIG news is that we have a new acquisition to the family… Margaret, our campervan =)

We bought the van about a week ago, from Kings Cross Car Market in Sydney. We really liked the personal approach from the guys at the dealership, and we believe that we have bought an excellent van. It is a Mitsubishi 4×4 van, previously owned by a tradesman of some sort, but never used by travellers, so although the mileage is pretty high (a given in Oz!), it hasn’t been used and abused by snotty 17-year old backpackers! The good news is that it only cost a fraction of our initial budget, so we aren’t as strapped for cash as we thought we might be…

After buying the van we started shopping (as we tend to do wherever we go!), and kitting it out ready for our travels. We bought a fridge (to keep the beers ice cold!), visited a 4wd shop, where we bought things like a winch, first aid kit, tyre repair kit, CB radio, and something called an EPIRB (which is basically an emergency beacon that will transmit our GPS location if we get into any kind of difficulty when we are in the Outback). We also paid to have the windows tinted – to keep the heat out of the van, and to make it a little darker at night – not just to make it look a little bit cool, and we are having a new stereo fitted so that we can connect our iPods to it when we are out in the back of beyond. Simon is still trying to convince Sarah that a subwoofer is essential equipment for an Outback journey…

Then we hit the road! The guys in Kings Cross had told us to take it out for a week or so, and put it through it’s paces. This would enable us to identify anything (big or small) that needed fixing before we set off on our big adventure, and they would fix it for us. We are then returning the van to them on Wednesday so that they can fix these things for us, as well as tightening something on the new engine that had been fitted before they handed it over to us.

You may, or may not, have seen photos of our van on the back of a tow truck. Yes, it broke down the other day, and we had to get towed to a local mechanic – all arranged and paid for by the guys at Kings Cross Car Market. It turned out that a cable on the accelerator pedal (???) had become loose and needed reconnecting. I have no idea what I’m talking about, but it was all fixed very quickly. We have also lost the trim from around the windscreen (hence the red tape in the photos), which resulted in a mini flood when it chucked it down with rain the other day. So, as you can see, we’re keeping the guys at the garage busy, and they’ll be working flat out tomorrow to put this right for us.

During our week-long walkabout we have visited the northern beaches (i.e. the beaches north of Sydney), places like Manly, Narrabeen and Palm Beach (of Home & Away fame), where we have generally taken it easy and kicked back with beer by the barbie at the beach! The perfect lifestyle… We also visited a wildlife sanctuary, where we met our first Koalas and Kangaroos – awesome!

Before setting off, we went to see U2 in concert at the ANZ Stadium (national stadium, think Wembley…) in Sydney. To be honest, it was the support act, Jay-Z, that attracted our interest and we even considered watching Jay-Z and leaving before U2 came on stage – they’re not really our cup of tea. Anyway, we decided to stick it out – Sarah loved their show, Simon was unimpressed – but they really weren’t too bad for a bunch of old guys! Jay-Z was awesome – as expected – and we wished that he had been playing a full show. I think we paid $80 (£50-60) for two tickets – not great seats, but not bad either – and all public transport was included in that price. Leaving the stadium and catching the train back to the city was a breeze – the UK could learn a hell of a lot from this!

We have also booked to see Plan B in Sydney at the end of January, so we are now planning on touring around the rest of NSW (Blue Mountains, Byron Bay, etc) before heading south towards Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide (and possibly Tasmania) in February.

Our plans from now until the new year are vague. We are currently staying at a place called Lane Cove River Tourist Park, which I believe may be used as the setting for Summer Bay Caravan Park in Home & Away, but we need to check that out. We are booked in here until Christmas Eve, when we hope to raid Sydney Fish Market, buying our prawns etc for Christmas Day lunch on the beach. Our latest plans for Christmas include a trip down south to a quiet beach in Jervis Bay, before returning to Sydney for the fireworks in the harbour on New Years Eve. In the new year we will upload a new video from Pickle Productions…

I am ashamed to say that we have not yet been in the sea! Surfing lessons, and a PADI scuba diving course, are high on the list of priorities for the new year – we are just researching into the best places to do these. Watch this space…

A couple of weeks ago we caught up with an old school friend of Simon’s, Chris Game, who is currently out in Sydney with his girlfriend. We went for a few beers in Sydney Harbour and are in the process of finalising plans to meet up for dinner over the next few weeks. They are working in Sydney for a while – Chris is now a professional golfer and Gemma is a make-up artist.

We haven’t yet mastered the art of living on a budget (surprise, surprise!!), and quite enjoy eating out for breakfast most days, and buying fresh meat and fish from local shops for the barbie in the evening. Plus, when we do buy a loaf of bread, with the intention of opting for the cheaper option of Vegemite sambo’s, we tend to feed most of it to the local wildlife!! At least we are no longer paying for hotel/hostel accommodation – 3 nights at this camp site costs the same as one night at O’Malley’s in Kings Cross!

We have uploaded some new photos to our Flickr account, and you can click here to view our photostream. As ever, comments and feedback are encouraged and welcomed.

Everyone take care in the snow back in the UK. If it makes you feel any better, have a read of this! Thankfully, we are not, and will not be, caught up in any of this!

If we don’t get another chance to blog before Christmas, we both want to send our best wishes and festive greetings to you all, and we will speak to you again in 2011!

Lots of love, xx

P.S. In other news, Simon popped his last pill yesterday and feels like a new man! This way of life sure is good for us both =)

Greetings from Port Stephens.

Hello all,

We hope you are well. We are still enjoying our time in Sydney.

Last time we left you, we were dashing to catch a ferry to the north side of Sydney Harbour for our bbq with Liz and her partner, Lee. You may recall that the weather had been a bit ropey, so the sea was very choppy – much to Sarah’s disgust! We had a great time at their beautiful home, which has fantastic views of the harbour. We had our first experience of eating kangaroo, which is very much like venison, and we munched away whilst listening to the kookaburras, and watching the bats flying around once the sun had gone down. Liz works in one of the tallest buildings in the city, and has offered a trip to the top floor so that we can enjoy the view. Now we just need to wait for the sun to come out again… Liz and Lee were excellent hosts and we look forward to spending more time with them.

After our short stay in Kings Cross, we enjoyed three nights at the YHA in Glebe. It is a quiet suburb, with some lovely cafes and restaurants. Sarah highly recommends the porridge at the Egg & Soldier, which was our favourite breakfast haunt. I, on the other hand, can recommend ‘The Breakfast Of Champions’! The hostel was nice, although the shared bathroom came as a bit of a surprise… As the weather was bad during our stay in Glebe, we spent most of our time chilling out indoors, and under canopies outside the cafes.

Whilst in Glebe, we did a tour of Sydney Fish Market, which is the biggest fish market in the southern hemisphere, and the second largest in the world, after Tokyo. So that we were able to experience the auction-side of the market, we had to be at the market by 7am, so the early start was a bit of a shock! Sarah did not enjoy walking around the ‘abattoir’, looking at dead bodies – let alone eating them. However, Simon had a great time, and tucked into fish and chips for breakfast at 8.30!

We arrived in Port Stephens yesterday (Friday), following a 4-hour journey north of Sydney on train and bus. We are staying at Samurai Beach Bungalows YHA and it is beautiful! We have a private bungalow, with bathroom, for the next 5 days, and we share the communal bush kitchen (think I’m A Celebrity…) with the Germans! The hostel is located in the centre of Koala Corridor so we are hoping to catch our first glimpse of our furry friends. Apparently it’s illegal to touch koalas in New South Wales (NSW), so we will have to wait to hold one until we move out of NSW in the new year. Port Stephens is a region that is well known for the whales and dolphins that live in it’s blue waters, as well as the enormous sand dunes. We are planning to spend some time spotting the sea life, as well as surfing on the sand dunes. It would also be nice to dip our toes in the sea, as we have not yet done so and we have been here two weeks!!

Next week we are returning to Sydney, and to O’Malleys at Kings Cross. We spoke to our campervan man a couple of days ago and he explained that we should be able to view it when we return from Port Stephens. All being well, we should be driving it away by the following week. Again, watch this space…

We are receiving your comments and messages through this blog, and we are responding to you guys – we just don’t know if our responses come straight to you, or if they are posted in the general comments section… We aren’t ignoring you all!

Due to popular demand (!!), we have uploaded some photos to our poms-down-under Flickr account, which you can access by clicking here. Feel free to leave comments, either here on the blog, or on the Flickr page. We are working on the next release from Pickle Productions, and will post the link on here once it is complete.