We made it to Sydney! Since Australia is where we are going to be spending the next year-ish, this part of the blog is going to be not so much day-by-day play-by-play posts, and more so general impressions, stories, observations/insights (if we have any haha) and such. Or that’s the plan anyways, who knows. Maybe I’ll have lots of things to say everyday. In that case you’ll probably basically be reading my stream of consciousness, so good luck with that.
Anyways, after a couple of months in Asia, several things were very exciting upon arrival in Sydney:
1) Everyone speaking a language we understand
2) SIDEWALKS (you don’t know how much you miss sidewalks until they’re not there)
3) Drinkable tap water
4) Always getting a toilet that you could sit down on
5) English TV and news (Chris loves his news)
6) Currency conversion that Chris could understand, i.e. basically no conversion (4 weeks in Indonesia and still he got confused trying to convert from Rupiah to Canadian, and all you really had to do was move the decimal 4 spots to the left)
7) Being able to pay with credit card, and use PayWave
8) Soft drinks coming in “normal” sizes again (when you order a bottle of Coke in Asia you often get the glass kind, and when you order a can you often get the small cans, and neither is enough fluid for Chris)
One thing was very NOT exciting:
1) Price of food and accommodation literally quadrupled, ergo we were staying at a hostel for the same price we had stayed at a 4 star resort in Indonesia
Due to a bit of a last minute accommodation panic (we had failed to realize we were arriving in Sydney on both a long weekend and school holidays) plus some car buying hiccups (see below), we ended up staying at a hostel for the first few days, then two different apartments off AirBnB for the next couple weeks. Our plan was to get all set up in Australia and ready for road-tripping/camping (Chris’s priority), as well as do a bit of sightseeing (my priority).
The former consisted of setting up a bank account, getting phones, and buying a car and camping gear. The latter was a bit of pick-and-choose sightseeing around Sydney (as things are expensive, we couldn’t do everything), in addition to wandering around the city and listening to everyone speak Australian (i.e. add an -ie to the end of everything, according to Chris). Apparently the casual greeting here is “How you going?” which confused me the first ten times some one said it to me (How am I going where? What?). But turns out that’s what Aussies say instead of “How’s it going?” or “How you doing?”. Minor differences are bewildering sometimes.
Sydney is quite the city – it actually reminds me of Vancouver in a lot of ways. Namely, that it’s a big, multicultural coastal city that’s VERY EXPENSIVE. To be fair, the sticker shock was partially due to the fact that we had been in Southeast Asia for the last few months, but still most things were notably more expensive than in Canada. At least the prices all have the tax built in, and our dollar is doing slightly better. Sydney is also one of those very modern, trendy cities where active living is a big thing. Downtown was a bustling place where everyone was striding around in suits, going from work to fancy coffee shops, fusion restaurants, designer stores and yoga classes. I quite liked it but Chris obviously hated everyone immediately. I told him he just needs to get a $100 haircut and some loafers and he would fit right in.
Buying our Car
We had tried to be proactive about buying a car to avoid getting stuck in expensive Sydney, so Chris had been communicating back and forth with a sales rep from Traveller’s Autobarn for approximately 2 months prior to us arriving. Unfortunately, when we dropped in to take a look at the car (and also to ask about payment as the bank would be closed on the day we were supposed to pick up the car – Labour Day), we realized that they had forgotten that we needed an automatic, not a manual (as neither of us can drive one, and learning how to drive a manual while also driving on the left for the first time seemed like a bad idea). Turns out that meant Traveller’s Autobarn had to go on a hunt for another car as they didn’t have any automatic 4WDs in stock. They helpfully agreed to cover some of our accommodation costs while they tried to find something else. After some more back and forth, we went to their warehouse and the mechanics to see two potential vehicles. Unfortunately neither was the Prado we had been originally gunning for, but with the cheaper price and mindful of our ever dwindling funds for staying in Sydney we purchased a 1999 Mitsubishi Pajero. They also said they would try to get a set of roof racks or maybe a bracket for a jerry can on the back but that didn’t materialize in the end.
However, even though the buying process was basically a nightmare (even on the day we were going to pick up the car the second time we suddenly found out we had to urgently run to the bank to get a cheque as the method of payment because otherwise we would have had to wait even longer) the car seems to be pretty good and I have fallen in love with it. BUT, we have learned that it pays to do a more thorough check of a car and not rely on the salesperson, as we found out that the antenna doesn’t retract (but something under the hood tries to every time you turn off the car) and one of the flood lights on the front of the bull bar is burnt out. So far the mechanical stuff seems good though. The reason why we purchased from Traveller’s Autobarn was for their after sales support (roadside assistance, etc.) so hopefully that works out (or we don’t need their help – which would be ok too!).
The car came outfitted with a bed in the back, so after hitting up various camping stores (Chris’s literal favourite activity I think), we were ready for a road trip!