Last Stop = Sydney
Sydney | Day 24
Expectation: I won't have much time in Sydney so an overnight flight from Bali would be the best way to save time (and money on a hotel room!)- plus I sleep great on flights so what could go wrong???
Reality: Six long, sleepless hours of pure flying hell. It seemed as if everyone on the plane was sick- coughing, sneezing and sniffling fought their way over the sound of the plane engines to be the main soundtrack to the flight. There weren't any TV screens, so I used my phone to stream Virgin Australia movies/TV shows except they kept cutting out and I kept getting elbowed by my fellow passenger every time we hit turbulence (which we did A LOT). Lovely.
We finally stopped in Melbourne where I had a very short amount of time (due to the delayed Bali flight) to pick up my bags, clear customs and immigration AND stand in line with the rest of the holiday crowded to check in for my next flight. Ran to the gate just as it was starting to board and managed to grab a quick smoothie before being one of the last passengers on board. At that point, I had the clumsiest 55 min flight of my life. I dropped my cell phone twice (and forced the kind lady behind me to contort her body to pick it up off the floor in a crowded plane), I dropped my kindle, I went to lean my head against the window and misjudged the distance and ended up slamming my head into the side of the plane AND I dropped my smoothie on myself so I smelled like mango coconut for the flight. The second time I dropped my phone was near the end of the flight and I looked over at the (very tall, good looking) guy next to me and at the same time we burst out laughing...yup, I was a total disaster who could barely function but at least I was amusing.
We landed and I made my way to the hostel- Bondi Beach House YHA which was in a fantastic location! It was a little older and run down than I was expecting after the place I stayed in Brisbane however while the YHA's downtown are in better shape, you really can't beat hearing the ocean from your room. I couldn't check in until 2 but I was starving and sleep deprived so I headed towards Bondi in the hopes of finding something to eat to keep me going for a few hours until I could sleep. There is a path that takes you around the coastline and has some pretty gorgeous views- again, I couldn't get over the beautiful color of the water and the golden sand.
I ended up getting sushi at Soy Japanese Restaurant while sitting at an open window overlooking the beach- decent meal and the view was perfect. Then I wandered over to the beach to check out the awesome graffitied walls and sink my feet into the sand. I didn't sit down to enjoy it as I was too worried I would take an epic nap and end up with third degree burns all over my body (I'm pale- this is a legitimate concern) so I kept walking until I finally got my room where I immediately fell onto my bed and took a 3 hour 'nap'. It was amazing.
I woke up in time to meet my friend Kurt and his friend out for dinner at Spice I Am- really yummy thai food. Then we headed over to the Opera Bar where I got my first (and only) view of the beautiful Sydney Opera house and Harbour Bridge. We popped champagne and sipped bubbles while catching up (Kurt used to live in SF). After spending so much time solo in Bali, it was nice to convo with someone and I talked Kurt's ear off. We called it a semi-early night and I headed back to the hostel to get a good night's sleep which was desperately needed.
Sydney | Day 25
I headed down to Bondi early-ish the next morning and saw more surfers than I've ever seen in my entire life- Bondi was packed! It was cool watching them all while I waited for Kurt who was biking over.
We got a quick bite to eat at the Icebergs cafe- ah-mazing banana bread. Such a cool location too with the pool right next to the ocean- big waves crash right into the pool. I also got to see an epic tramp stamp tattoo- check out the guy with the entire country of Australia inked on his lower back.
Afterwards we started walking and made it to Tamarama beach pretty quick. The current was super strong and I didn't want to be on an episode of Bondi Rescue as the ridiculous tourist who couldn't handle it so we moved on to Bronte beach which was more my speed. This was probably my favorite beach- plus it had a cool swimming pool area off to the side where again, if the waves were big, they would come crashing in. After swimming for a bit and laying out, we wandered over to the Clovelly Hotel for some pints of cinder (yummm) and snacks. Very cool little hotel with a great patio to sit out and enjoy the amazingly hot weather. Fully fueled up on snacks and cider (and sunscreen re-applied in my case) we kept walking past Gordon's Bay and ended up at Coogee Bay.
Got some more swimming in and then we headed up to the Beach Palace Hotel for...more cider!! Hey I was on vay-cay- no judgement. Since I had not yet had an official 'shrimp on the barbie' moment- we headed back to Kurt's house for a mini Sunday night dinner. Bonnie started these Sunday night dinners way back in the day as a chance to catchup with friends, eat awesome food and (more often than not) get ridiculously drunk on a Sunday night. I wasn't actually in the mood for shrimp so we did bbq lamb and quinoa with avocado and goat cheese. I was in charge of the quinoa and it turns out when you put hot quinoa on top of avocado and goat cheese, it turns into an ugly grey/green mess...a delicious almost risotto-ish mess but still a mess. It was a fun night and after ton of delicious Aussie wine, I made my way back to my hostel where I crashed on my bed with all the lights on holding my phone like the obsessed iphone user I am. I woke up at 4am to use the bathroom and saw the biggest cockroach of my life chillin' in the hallway. Impressively (for those who know me), I kept my shit together and did not scream and run...managed to keep it together until I got back to my room where I used the trash bag to close up the gap at the bottom of the door. Then I opened all the curtains and kept the light on figuring that the cockroach wouldn't like my brightly lit room...turns out it is really hard to sleep when you know a gigantic cockroach could decide to crawl all over you so I attempted to just enjoy hearing the ocean while not sleeping from 4am on.
Sydney | Day 26
Another gorgeous day and this was the view I would be having to leave:
Very very rough. I packed everything up except for what I would be leaving behind (shower flip flops, sunscreen, Bootcamp SF t-shirt, Gap dress and food) and headed out. My flight wasn't until 4pm so my plan was to head down to the YHA hostel by the harbour and stash my bag so I could do some sightseeing before I left. Turns out that hostel was booked so instead I spent 45 mins wandering around carrying 50lbs of crap trying to figure out a plan B. I met up with Kurt (he was doing double duty as tour guide that weekend with another friend in town) a little later and he found me a different hostel in central Sydney to lock up my bag and we headed out to grab lunch.
We had lunch near the water somewhere- I have no clue where we ate because at this point, I had been up since 4, was starting to get sick and was really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. I managed to fit in some quick souvenir purchases before I needed to jump on the train to get to the airport. The Sydney airport is huge and I did some more shopping (mmm Tim Tams) before heading to the Air New Zealand lounge. The lounge. OMG the lounge. I seriously had all of 25 mins to enjoy it as they were calling for boarding my flight as I entered but in my time there I enjoyed the free wifi, food, classy bathrooms and all the wine I could drink (which was one big glass). Just look at this, how can you be anything but happy when this is what you see before getting on a flight?
Well at least I was thrilled until I got on the plane. The difference between the Air NZ plane and the United plane was like night and day. The flight attendants on United were grumpy, we didn't get our own TVs and had to watch the crappiest shows (90 mins of a science show about physics <-- my dad's dream), and they fed us 30 mins into the flight and then not again for 9 hours (minus a tiny 'sandwich')...and worst of all?? No free wine!! The food was nasty so I was happy to have brought on granola bars and Tim Tams. Oh United. I'm such a spoiled Air New Zealand flyer. But I was able to sleep on the flight a little and it got me safely to SFO so I can't complain too much. I was so grateful to be home and spending time with the fam after being away so long.
38 hours of flying
3 delayed flights
1 47lb backback stuffed to the gills
6 glasses of complementary airline wine (Air NZ is the best!)
+ way way WAY too many hours of turbulence
Equals one hell of a trip (that only took 4 months to recap <--bad blogger!)
Now I have total wanderlust and I am already planning my next trip (Machu Picchu May 2015 anyone?). I learned a lot on this trip and thought I would do a little recap of what worked and what I should have done instead.
The good stuff first- here are things I was happy I did or brought with me:
1. A Notebook: before I left, I took a little Moleskin notebook and sectioned it off into different categories (Auckland, Wellington, etc). In the front, I wrote down all my flight info and emergency numbers. In each section I wrote down my hotel/hostel address and reservation numbers along with any tips I got for good restaurants or things to do. For the remaining pages I used them to keep notes of things I didn't want to forget (for the posts) and lists (money spent on gifts, minutes on cell phone, etc). It was so easy to pull that out to confirm flight numbers/times and hostel addresses rather than hoping I had free wifi somewhere.
2. Earplugs: hostels are LOUD and disposable earplugs are a lifesaver- they're easy to loose so bring extra.
3. Head lamp: yes my trip was more 'outdoors-y' than others but this came in handy especially when everyone else was asleep and I needed to find something in the dark.
4. Travel pillow: LIFESAVER!! Hostel pillows are horrible and flat- this thing saved me. Plus when it was rolled up it was the perfect size to lean against on the bus- kind of like those neck pillows.
5. Micro towels: I ended up brining two- one large for showering and one extra large as my beach towel.
6. Cheap shower flip flops: hostel showers can be disgusting- you will want to leave these in the last hostel before going home.
7. S carabiner: probably the last minute purchase that was the most useful- so handy! I used it to hang: stuff off my bag, stuff off hostel beds to dry, etc.
8. First aid kit: no need to get crazy but a few band aids, disinfectant, and any other medication you prefer when you're sick (for me it was Advil Cold and Sinus and Airbourne). Yes you can always buy stuff when you get there but when you're not feeling well its always nice to have instant comfort.
9. My iphone: I loaded it up with music for my trip and made sure to get an international plan so I could text/call home. I also upgraded to the larger storage capacity and used it as my primary camera for the trip. In addition to taking pictures of the gorgeous scenery, I used the screen shot option to take pictures of maps while I had wifi so I wouldn't be wandering around lost later. I also took pics of pages from guidebooks before I left (usually of recommended food spots) so that I wasn't lugging around heavy books. Luckily my phone survived and made it home with me (I was really scared I would loose it or drop it).
10. United kit: my dad flies with United a lot and got one of these awesome amenities packets. It came with a mini tooth brush/toothpaste, mini lotion (ugh dry planes), socks, pen (for filling out those declaration forms), ear plugs and eyemask (key for plane sleeping). Easy and quick to throw in my carry on for each flight without needing to think about it.
11. Dry shampoo: where have you been all my life?!? I went longer than I normally would without showering- that's what the ocean is for right?
12. Compression bags: even though I will do my best to never pack as much stuff as I did (therefore needing the bags), they were really helpful in sorting stuff within my backpack and made it easy to get to the things I needed without having to spread all my stuff out on a hostel floor.
13. Emailed my itinerary: super basic but I combined all my info for the trip and emailed it to my family so they knew where I would be and so that I would have an online reference in one email. I made sure to include phone numbers and addresses of my hotels/hostels as well as my important info just for me (travel insurance phone number and ID, number for my bank). Just like my notebook, it made it super easy to find info when I needed it.
And the things I wished I had done:
1. Check the weather in all the locations I was going to be visiting otherwise you end up with loads of tanks/shorts when you really need pants/hoodies. Despite warnings from others, I kept thinking about how hot it would be in Bali/Australia and figured that New Zealand would be the same. Not the case on the South Island (uh yea the fact that it is WAY closer to the south pole might have been a clue)! I ended up buying a fleece in Wellington and I was so glad I did.
2. Pick out all the clothes I wanted to bring- and then cut that in half. Learn from my mistake: you will not wear it all, you will not want to carry it all, you will regret packing so much when your backpack weighs 47 pounds (no joke) and you will end up wearing the same things over and over again. Plus its easy to find places to do laundry.
3. Bought a sleepsack: hostel sheets are nasty.