We left the devastated Christchurch behind us, and landed a few short hours later in Sydney. Australia is the 6th country on our tour, and we’d both admit to being a bit hesitant about crocodiles, spiders, kangaroos, snakes and all manner of other flora and fauna on that continent that seems determined to eat people.
The first thing that struck us when arrived was the relative heat in comparison with New Zealand. We found our way to central Sydney and met up with an old school friend of Chrisie’s at Circular Quay. She took us home across the harbour on the famous Manly Ferry, and the sights were impressive – The Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Heads, any number of sailing boats fighting for space against the ferries, and finally Manly itself, which occupies a beautiful peninsula between the Sydney basin and the Tasman sea.
Our first week in Oz was spent sorting out all the formalities for trying to get work, and for spending half a year on the bottom of the globe. We needed Tax File Numbers so we could get paid; We set up our first joint bank account; We registered for Medicare, the rough equivalent of the UK’s NHS; And we waited and waited for a response from lots of van rental companies to say we’d got a free van for 6 months. Despite offering a great deal in return, and receiving a lot of genuine interest, the companies were simply too busy to deliver what we were asking for.
We did manage to find some time for play too, and spent a great day looking at the water dragons, and the orb spiders around the Heads, as well as relaxing on the beach, walking round Sydney central, and trying some slightly suspect food in the Chinese Markets.
After a week we had to move from Manly, and a friend of Chrisie’s Auntie who also happened to live in Sydney kindly agreed to come and get us. Helen and Murray showed us around some of the stunning Northern beaches, then put us up, fed us, and gave us great company for probably a little longer than they bargained for. We are really grateful for the help Murray gave us with our van, and the interest they both showed in our travels.
We left our hosts and we were driving North, but when we listened to an voicemail message offering us work with OEG (the Outdoor Education Group). We turned the van around and drove South to Moss Vale, crashing with friends of ours from back home, who are currently working for OEG. A lot of our friends from BAC (Belfast Activity Centre) have ended up working there too, so there were lots of friendly faces around that we hadn’t seen in a while. It’s a great place to work; we spent a month working taking school kids out for expeditions in the bush of Belanglo State Forest, and getting our first experiences of Kangaroos, wombats, snakes, huntsman spiders and Australian teenagers.
Life hasn’t been all plain sailing though, as we discovered that the van we bought had a major oil leak, and that a previous owner had filled a crack with silicone! Luckily the Outdoor Education Group are friendly with a mechanic across the road, and he agreed to fix our van at really short notice – in fact it was done in 3 days, and friends of ours have waited 6 weeks for theirs to be looked at!
The mechanic is a guy called Daryl, who owns the Cross Roads Group Garage, Berrima Road in Moss Vale, NSW. He has been great to us, even letting us use his workshop on Easter Saturday to do some work to our van and offering us lots of advice on how to fit a dual battery system so we can run our fridge and have cold beer in the outback.
We are setting off North again soon, hopefully to get some work in the Hunter Valley wine region, then onwards and upwards to the Gold Coast.