Thursday, June 30, 2005

Today started off really nicely, I woke up early and opened my Birthday cards, my brother, Chris went to an extra special effort as usual, he sent me some balloons (the ones you can make animals out of) but the best thing was the photo of all my friends back in Munich (who I really miss). He always does something really nice for me ;o) That made me feel pretty emotional (I am a bit of a blubberer at the best of times!) then I had the loveliest surprise, Chris and Martina phoned my mobile singing Happy birthday, well that set me off even more, not cos I was sad, but because I really miss them and I’ve spent my last 4 birthdays with my brother so this is the first on my own for a while. Anyway, so I came into work and Mum had stayed up especially to phone me this morning which was lovely, we had a nice chat, then it was back to work. My last day today, it hasn’t been so bad, just getting some loose ends tied up. The people in my team signed a card for me, I was really surprised Danuta (dragon) wrote a lovely message saying she’d miss me being around…ahhh! We were talking about my travels in a couple of weeks…they’ve all been winding me up about the dangerous animals in Queensland, brown snakes, cane toads, leeches, ticks, crocodiles etc…do I really want to go there??!!
It does feel a bit weird that this is my first Birthday in wintertime, I’m used to having lovely sunny weather…..but it’s the worst day that I’ve seen since I’ve been here, really, really windy and the rain hasn’t stopped chucking it down, I can’t actually see out of the windows it’s so bad! You can’t even put an umbrella up as it just gets blown inside out, I've seen so many broken ones on my walk here!
There are a few of us going out tonight for a meal and some drinks, I hope the weather calms down a bit before, otherwise we're all gonna get soaked!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Only 1 and a half more days of working here to go….yaay!! The woman who asked me to stay on an extra week is on leave now, and noone else has said anything, so I’m not going to mention it now, this file archiving is getting to be a nightmare…would rather leave it behind! We have just been out for lunch as Kate and myself are both leaving tomorrow, I’m feeling a bit sleepy now though as we all had a glass of wine!

Monday, June 27, 2005

I had quite a mad weekend, making up for not going out last weekend. Friday night, Sue had a spare ticket to a ball hosted by Seek, which is a big Australian recruitment consultants, so she asked me if I wanted to go along with her. I was a bit worried about what I was going to wear as I didn’t bring my ballgown on my travels ;o) but I needn’t have worried, it was more like a nightclub. We got drenched on the way there, the heavens opened, it was awful, Sue looked quite funny with her posh dress, sandals and a waterproof jacket and golfing cap on!! We ended up having a great night, the whole thing was free, the waiters were walking around filling up our wine glasses all night. Actually the waiters were lovely, they were only young, maybe 20 or so… Sue and I sounded like the 2 old women from Harry Enfield.... ‘oohh young man’ we found that most amusing! So we ended up getting pretty drunk and then going onto the after party, which again was great. I met lots of English people there, they all seem to come out here and get jobs as consultants. Anyway, I don’t know what time I got home, but it was pretty late. When I walked through the front door, it sounded like the washing machine was on in the cellar, so I went down to check and it wasn't, I couldn’t figure it out, I was turning taps, switching switches, taking out plugs (I was desperate!) didn’t know what it was, I must have woken Satomi up, so I dragged her downstairs to have a look, then I made her go into my room to show her how loud it was and told her that 'I couldn’t possibly sleep with that racket going on!!' Anyway, I had to give up in the end, and to be honest, I don’t know whether it did stop as I crashed out as soon as my head hit the pillow! I had to apologise to Satomi the next day, I told her I’d had a few drinks, she said, yes I thought so!! Oops!
The next day I couldn’t actually move from my bed all day (it was the B52 shots from the night before, they killed me!) I managed to get moving to the shop at about 5 to get some dinner …. thought it might make me feel better. I would have loved to have stayed in, but it was my last weekend living in the city for a while so I’d arranged to meet some people out, which left me no choice. I think Sue was feeling pretty much the same as me. Actually it was quite funny….she was telling me that she'd spoken to her sister in the morning when she was suffering, she told Sue to tell me I was a bad influence on her…haha, I can’t believe that, she thinks Sue’s not a party animal for some reason!! We went to the Slip Inn, which is kind of a club/bar with lots of different rooms. We were in the outside bar at first, but it started throwing it down again, so we had to move inside. The downstairs club part was called the Chinese Laundry, there were washing machines everywhere. We had a laugh and a dance and another late night.
Yesterday I went to Sue’s, she was getting her stuff ready as she’s moving to Manly. She treated me to lunch, we went to one of the caf├ęs on the harbour at Wooloomooloo and sat outside watching the world go by, actually, I was keeping my eye out for Russell Crowe, I’ve been informed he lives there!
Apparently this is where he lives
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We liked to think this is his boat moored outside!
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Me on the jetty
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After lunch I left Sue to it, and met Dave for an hour or so for a catch up, then it was off to give Mum a quick ring and then home.
It’s still raining today, it hasn’t really stopped, but there’s not been enough to lift the dam levels. I was rudely awoken this morning by a drunken man f*ing and blinding, he must have been in the street behind the house…and he sounded like he had a very bad case of turrets syndrome, hopefully he got a good soaking!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thanks for your comment about the dragon Chris... ;o)
Actually I’m becoming quite fond of Danuta (formally known as ‘the Dragon’) once you get to know her and you don’t rub her up the wrong way, she is very pleasant. I do feel a bit sorry for her, the last 7 weeks have been very stressful for her, what with all the moving around and everything, she was just telling me that she hasn’t been sleeping well, so if she’s irritable, that is the reason…bless! Oh, and I may not be leaving next week, they’ve asked me if I can stay on until the end of July, which I can’t do because of my visa, but I did say I could do the extra week, but I’ll only do it if they’ll pay for my transport… we’re just waiting to see if the request is approved.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sue came round for a visit last night, we hadn't seen each other for a week, so we had lots to catch up on, we always have a laugh ;o)
I can't wait to finish work next Thursday, it's getting so bad, the acting Associate Director who came in about 7 weeks ago has totally transformed the office, I don't know what Alison (who she is standing in for) is going to say when she gets back next week. She's moved us all up the other end of the offices, had all the walls painted, totally moved everything about, Alison is going to have a heart attack! And her thing now is signs, she got me to make nameplates for everyone in the department (the colours matching the wall colour scheme of course, which by the way I think she's colour blind!) so I got those done, and now she's gone mad, she keeps taking me around the office showing me what signs to make...toilet signs, signs for the microwave, in and out tray signs etc etc...I tell you, she's totally obsessed!!
Anyway, enough of work, I am going to have to sort out all my stuff at home soon for my move next Friday, I’m amazed at how much I’ve accumulated already, but because of my spending spree when I first arrived here at least I won’t need to buy any more summer clothes (well I’ll try not to anyway!)
I’m quite looking forward to moving out and back to Sue and Grant’s for a couple of weeks, it’s going to be a lot more peaceful, no washing machines, hoovering, stamping on the floor and slamming doors at all hours, I can’t wait!! Actually, I have grown used to it now, it still gets me every now and then, but not as bad as before. I’ve even said to my landlord that I’d be interested in moving back in if there is still a spare room when I get back from my hols, the noise is worth overlooking cos it’s clean, right in the city and a good price, I think it would be hard to find something similar again.
Satomi and I seem to be having a competition at the moment on who has the most chocolate in our cupboard, actually she is winning by quite a lot now, I opened the fridge the other day and there was a massive chocolate swiss roll in there, I was very jealous, I wish she wouldn’t do that to me!! When she first moved in, her cupboards were full of healthy, Asian foods, I don’t know what happened, it can’t be my influence, I’m not that bad really….well apart from the chunky caramel Kit Kats and Tim tams which I’ve become addicted to! Actually I think it’s living here, there’s a big American influence with regards to food here, I’ve probably mentioned it before, there are food courts everywhere and apparently 1 in 3 of Australians are obese (something I haven’t noticed, but that’s what they say) I can definitely understand it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

June 21st – It’s the shortest day of the year here today, very strange, I just can't get used to all this back to front business…..enjoy your longest day, we have to wait until December 21st for ours!!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I actually managed to have a quiet weekend....the first one since I've been here! I haven't been able to shake off this cold, so I thought it would be a good idea to take it easy, and I've managed to save some money too. Well actually, what I've saved from my weekly budget I'm just about to go and spend, I need a suitcase to be able to move all my stuff to Grants in a couple of weeks!
Had a great day yesterday, Dave and I went to the zoo, we had such a good laugh, it was like being a kid again! To get to the zoo, the best way is to get the ferry over from Circular Quay. It's amazing to see the zoo as you approach it as it's set out on a hill by the waterfront. When you get there, you can get on a gondola which takes you to the top of the zoo and then you work your way down again, the view from up there is great, being on a gondola reminded me of going snowboarding in Austria, except of course there was no snow.
View from the gondola (I only remembered to take a pic near the top, so it's not the best)....
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The first animals we saw at the top were the koalas, I absolutely love koalas, I get really excited whenever I see one, they're just so cute, there was a chance to get into the pen and touch them, but there was a big queue and as I'd patted one just a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go and see the rest of the animals. It's such a great zoo, it's set in 28 hectares of landscaped gardens and exhibits (so my guide book tells me) and like I said the view is fantastic, I'm sure you don't get many zoos like this across the world! As I said before we had such a laugh, we were just talking in all sorts of stupid accents, I like Dave, he's very intelligent, and he really makes me laugh too, I must say I am a bit of a ditz when I'm with him, not much chance of an intelligent conversation with me!!
Dave is going to kill me for putting this one up...
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and me being silly too.....
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We saw so many different types of animals, there really are some bizarre ones in Australia. I was quite chuffed cos I finally saw a wombat, quite a big animal, I was a bit disapointed as the elephants weren't there, they'd been taken to Dubbo zoo, but we saw the usual giraffes, tigers, lions, bears, mountain goats (there is a funny story there, but I think you probably had to be there to laugh, so I won't tell it) crocodiles etc. I'm getting better when it comes to going in the reptile house now, some of you may not know but I've got a massive phobia of snakes, it really took a lot for me to go in there, at first it was ok, I was quite calm side shuffling against the far wall so I wasn't so close, but then I saw a python or something very big when I didn't expect it, which just freaked me out, so I had to run out of there, but that's quite a good step forward for me.
Towards the end of the zoo there was a bird show just about to start, so we sat down to watch. It was really impressive, I've never seen a bird show like that, the birds were really well trained, there were owls, eagles, cockatoos and many more in the show, they were flying from keeper to keeper directly above the audience. They even put a glove on a little girl's hand and an eagle came and landed on it, she was really brave, I would have screamed and run a mile probably!! I still find it weird that in Australia they have cockatoos in the wild, and they're the most amazing colours. At the end the guy was giving a small talk about caring for the environment and not dropping litter on the floor, while he was talking, he dropped some paper on the floor, and a little bird came along, picked it up with his beak and then put it in the bin, it was really funny!
We eventually made it down to the bottom and while we were waiting for the ferry, Dave bought me a baby koala which was really sweet ;o)
Me and a very large koala
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It was quite a long day actually, we'd been walking around for 4hrs, I was really tired when I got home so I just crashed and watched a couple of films.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I was made an honorary guy last night….Dave invited a few of us over to his place to watch the State of Origin rugby league game between New South Wales (*Cockroaches) and Queensland (Cane toads….nice nicknames eh!?). The State of Origin series is one of Australians biggest sporting events and this year was the 25th year. The game was played here in Sydney at the stadium in the Olympic park, there were 82,000 people there. I had to laugh, there was a whole stand of NSW supporters all looking exactly the same…. blue clothes, painted blue faces, blue curly wigs, they looked like a cross between the Smurfs and one of Harry Enfield's Scousers!! The State of Origin is an annual competition, the 2 states play 3 games against each other, and the winner is the best out of 3. Last nights match was exciting because it was the second game and Queensland had won the first one, so we (I keep saying 'we', that’s how at home I feel here!) had to win last nights game. Even if Queensland would have won the first 2 games, the third game is still played. Anyway, NSW won 32 – 22 with the help of Andrew Johns, who Dave says is a god, he’d been out of action for 7 weeks with a broken jaw, but he was definitely the man of the match by all accounts. It was a good match, the best bit was when the cameras were in the changing rooms at half time ;o) sorry…..anyway, it was so different from watching a soccer match (I have to say soccer now, it’s very confusing here as they call rugby league ‘footy’ and football ‘soccer’, so half the time I don’t know what sport people are talking about!) The cameras get right in on the action, they don't pan out like they do in soccer, they shoot reverse angles and all sorts, and because everything was really close up I couldn’t tell which end of the pitch each team was supposed to be running up to score….but you don’t really need to know, as Dave kindly pointed out, whichever way they are running with the ball is a good indication! Sometimes I really should think before I open my mouth!! They also have a video referee, so sometimes you have to wait for the decision before you know whether they’ve scored a try, they should try that with soccer, I’m sure it’d stop a lot of arguments, and would stop the poor ref getting shouted at!!!
So the boys were happy that NSW won the game, the final match is in July in Brisbane, so fingers crossed. As you know I have not much of a clue about rugby, (this was only my second game!) but I’m learning more now with Dave’s help and I’m determined to know all the rules before I leave here!
* Cockroaches – because they are plentiful in NSW, and Cane toads for the same reason in Queensland. Apparently Queenslanders boil up the skin of the cane toads in a pot and drink the water….the toad poison trips them out...how lovely!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

After I wrote my blog on Sunday, I got a text from Aaron (I met him on the bus on my way back from Grant’s a couple of months ago…he’s been travelling from Cairns and got back last week) he wanted to know if I was interested in going to Bondi to meet up with him and his friends. I must admit I was in 2 minds as I’d just got used to the idea of staying in, but then I thought why not, I’ve got the day off tomorrow. So I phoned Sue to see if she wanted to come, she was the same as me, she’d just got used to the idea of staying in and finally watching Love Actually…anyway she ended up missing it again….I wonder if she’ll ever get round to seeing it!!I’d never been out at night in Bondi, so I was quite looking forward to it…we hopped on the bus, it’s only about 20 minutes away. I could remember that Aaron had a shaved head, but that was about it…I mean I’d only met him once! So when we got there, typical there were loads of bald men there, so I got a bit confused!! Anyway, I phoned him and he came to get us, I did actually recognise him when I saw him…luckily! The bar we went to was really cool…it seems to be the place where all the beautiful people go. Downstairs it was more like a club, and the music was really good, trouble was it was a bit loud to be able to speak, so we were practically shouting at each other (I’m a bit husky today!) Aaron was telling us about his travels, it was funny listening to his stories….. he’s a real Essex boy, so he’s quite a character! Obviously I was interested in the places he recommended cos I’m going to be doing the same route next month…..it sounds like a great trip. We’re going to meet up soon so he can tell me more about it…somewhere where we can hear each other speak!
Needless to say, yesterday I was feeling pretty tired, so I just took the opportunity to get my washing and ironing done. Jason had lent me his dvd player, so I watched a couple of dvds too, it was actually really nice to just relax.. At about 5pm I really needed to get some fresh air, so I walked to the phone box to phone my brother, was nice to speak to him again, I must say I can’t wait until I move into Grants so that my family can phone me and I don’t have to walk to the phone box everytime…I bet I’ve saved them a fortune on phone calls!!
Back to work today, I really don’t have anything to do again…I’m just sat here waiting for something to do, trouble is it’s a hive of activity everyones moving their stuff, I keep asking if they need any help, but they just say no, don’t worry. Oh well… only 2 weeks and 2 days left to go!!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Friday night was good fun. I met Dave for a 'coffee' (yes, you know my coffees usually end up being something a bit stronger!) after work, we had a couple of drinks and a chat, was nice to see him again as it'd been a couple of weeks since the last time. Then it was onto Sue's for a 'quiet night in'. I hadn't been to her place before, and I must say when I was outside it, I thought wow this is posh, and inside didn't disapoint either, it was absolutely lovely, she's got the biggest window with a fantastic view of the city, I was very jealous! but then again she pays nearly as much in a week as I do in a month! She had got lots of nibbles ready which was really sweet. We were planning on watching Big Brother and then Love Actually, but we never actually got round to any of them, well we caught the end of Big Brother and then put the dvd on to watch the film, but we were gassing too much to watch it...actually I felt a bit bad, I didn't realise she hadn't seen the film before, and she had no idea what was going on when we eventually stopped talking for a minute!!
Saturday morning I felt just a little bit rough as we'd managed to polish off 2 bottles of wine between us the night before ! I had to drag myself out of bed cos I'd arranged to meet Dave for Yum Cha (which I'll explain in a mo) at 12. His kids were here, so there was a big group of us invited out. It was really sweet to see him with his kids, they don't live in Sydney, and it's obvious he really misses them, Sophie his little girl is defintely the apple of his eye ;o) Anyway, back to Yum Cha, this is a very new concept to me, I've never heard of it before, (it's chinese food, but you probably knew that) it's very very popular out here cos of the big Asian community, apparently the restaurant we went to is one of the best in the city. Basically, the place is heaving, Saturday lunchtime is the time to go, you have to fight to get to your table, it's like an obstacle course with all the trolleys going around getting in your way. Our table was full, I met a few new people who were really nice. There was about 12 of us in the end, the waitresses just walk around with a trolley of food and you basically grab whatever you like the look of, there are all sorts of foods, tofu, octopus, pork dumpling, suckling pig, chicken feet (blurgh)...yes, not the best for a vegetarian. All the food goes in the middle of the table, and everyone just eats what they want..quite a messy business I have to say. I felt a bit of a lightweight though, as I was feeling a bit delicate I didn't actually eat anything there, it all looked really slimy, I did try some coconut dessert though, and it was like eating slime, the taste was nice, but the texture wasn't...but at least I tried it. I had a really nice afternoon, we were there for a couple of hours, that's what it's like, I was told yum cha roughly translates as talk food, and that's just what it is, the more people the better and you can just keep eating and talking for hours. Some of them decided they wanted to take me to a Vegan Yum cha restaurant, so we'll be doing that in a couple of weeks...I'll make sure I'm feeling 100% next time ;o)
Yum Cha
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After that I made the mistake of going to the shops, and Iwas a bit naughty and bought myself a top and some trousers...well there was 20% off and I haven't been shopping for over a month....I was getting withdrawl symptoms, feel a bit guilty now....oh well! and it was raining too, typical for our long weekend!! Actually, it's a really good thing, they are having really big problems here due to lack of rain, the main reservoir is dangerously low, there are all sorts of water bans and rules on using water, it's quite scary really, we think that water is always going to be there, it's not until you live somewhere with this climate that you realise how we do take it for granted.
Last night I met with Sue and her friend Deborah, who she met through work. Deborah was on about going to one of these singles parties, so we thought we'd go along for the laugh! It was at a hotel and it looked pretty good when we arrived, they had bars and music outside, it reminded me of a couple of places I used to go to back in Munich. There was such a variety of people there, and all sorts of ages....there were loads of old men there eyeing up all the woman! I actually didn't really feel comfortable all night, the men were blatently obvious when they checking us out, it felt like a cattle market, not really my scene, I guess it was good, because everyone was there for the same thing, but when you're not really looking for someone then it's not the best place to be, and you can't use the 'sorry, I've got a boyfriend excuse' Anyway, we did have fun, it wasn't all that bad, but I probably wouldn't go to one again!
Today I didn't get up til late, I saw the sun shining through my window and thought I'd better get out there and enjoy the day. I took a walk down to Darling Harbour where they were having a Jazz Festival. It was really buzzing down there and the music was really good. I stopped for a while for a sit in the sun and a listen and that's been my day really. It's funny sometimes my phone doesn't stop ringing, but other times it doesn't make a sound at all....today has been one of those days, but it's quite nice to have a bit of time to yourself sometimes. Anyway, I might go back down the harbour again in a bit as they are having fireworks and I think Dave and his kids will be there, but to be honest I could do with going back to bed! I should be out partying cos we've got the day off tomorrow, and everyone will be celebrating the Queens birthday...oh well.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Well, another month has passed me by, it’s now been 4 months since I left UK, where does the time go??!
I gave up my room on Monday, so I'll be moving out beginning of July…and just as I was starting to feel settled! I’m must admit, I’m a bit nervous about heading off travelling on my own again, I’ve just got used to having lots of friends here in Sydney, but I’ve done it before, so I’m sure it’ll be fine, and as I’ll be staying in hostels this time, I’m sure I’ll meet people in no time. I’m definitely not going to fit everything in my rucksack tho, I’ve accumulated so much since I’ve been here, luckily I can leave my spare bits at Sue and Grant’s.
I’ve been busy trying to plan my route back to Sydney from Cairns, I’ve got so many different leaflets and magazines to get my ideas from, I could start up my own backpacking travel agency! I’m sooo excited though, I can’t wait to see more of Oz....that weekend away has really given me the taste for travelling again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I've been feeling a bit poorly the last couple of days, but I managed to drag myself into work...well, otherwise I won't get paid! I don't think the airconditioning helps, once one person gets ill, then everyone does. It's been quite busy as we've been preparing to move desks, I got my PC etc moved today and it wasn't too painful, the easiest office move I've ever done, and I didn't have to organise it either which is what I've been used to. I'm now sat opposite the Dragon, luckily for me!! actually, she is ok, she still moans all the time, but I just think it's funny now!
I booked my flight to Cairns today, wohooo, another holiday to look forward to, can't wait. I think I'll take 4 or 5 weeks off....sorry, not trying to make you jealous ;o)
We have a long weekend coming up, for the Queen's birthday believe it or not....I can't get over that they have it as a public holiday here and not back in the UK....very strange, so I've got a lot of things planned, hopefully I'll be feeling 100% by then.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Here's a few photos from the weekend.....

First wine tasting at Reg Drayton winery

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Me and Vegemite

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Randy the kangaroo tucking into the ice cream cone

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The gorgeous Gumdrop

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Also, my first Sydney photos are now online, if you haven't already seen them, see the link on the right...

Monday, June 06, 2005

After a very busy week, I was really looking forward to getting out of the city, going to Hunter Valley and doing something different, it was definitely worth the wait, I ended up having a fantastic weekend...so this will probably be a long entry today…so much to tell!!
Sue and I met early on Saturday morning and walked to the bus station together. After buying a few bits and pieces for our breakfast the coach was about ready to go. I was a bit surprised as it was a big coach, but there were only about 12 people on it. On the bus we met the owner (Mike) of the place we would be staying at, he’d been in Sydney to watch the rugby, so we got talking to him for a bit, then everyone started falling asleep….apart from Sue and I, who were chatting all the way there! Actually he thought it was really funny, he couldn’t wait to see us when we’d been drinking, he thought it couldn’t get any worse than how we were on the bus….we were obviously talking and laughing a lot!! We kept looking out the windows so we didn't miss anything, it was mostly trees, but in some parts, there was some really lovely scenery, lots and lots of trees and a couple of lakes and rivers. It took us about 2.5 hours to get there. We were staying in Cessnock which has a population of 22,000, it’s a lovely town, the houses were really pretty. It ended up being 8 of us from the coach that were staying at the lodge, we all paid up, then got shown to our rooms, which were very basic, just a bunk bed in there, but it was clean, actually it was absolutely freezing in there so we didn’t hang around long. We had about an hour before our wine tour, so we had a look around, the lodge was nice, there were probably about 12 rooms there and a big communal kitchen and lounge. We introduced ourselves to all the other people that had just arrived, there was a couple from London Toni and Ben, 2 other English lads Ram and Will, a Frenchman, Matthew and a Dutch guy called Tom, they all seemed really nice and we had a laugh, so I thought, this is going to be a good weekend.
So at 12pm, we all jumped on the mini bus and set off for the wine tour. The guide was an Ozzy guy that worked at the lodge, he was a typical Australian, when we first arrived he had a massive sun-hat on, it was a shame it didn’t have the corks hanging down, he would have looked great! So he was giving us a talk about where he was going to take us on the tour, I must admit at one point I stopped listening cos I saw my first real life Kangaroo in the wild, so I was pretty excited about that. Anyway, he told us he was going to take us to the smaller family run wineries as they were a bit more personal and friendlier than the big firms, like Lindemans and Rosemount Estate. Our first stop was Reg Drayton wines, we all sat outside on the terrace around a big table, and our wine tasting began. We drank all sorts, whites, reds, fortified wines, dessert wines, I must admit I started to feel a bit tipsy, and we still had 3 more wineries to go to! The owner gave us a talk about all the different wines and how they make them, it was really very interesting. Now in Australia because of the lack of cork trees and the expense of buying cork, they are all starting to use screw top wine bottles (which I found a bit strange because in England or Germany that is not usual) but apparently the wine can keep with a screw top for even longer than a cork, and obviously there is less risk of corking the wine. In Australia as you probably know you can take bottles of wine to a restaurant, and they charge you corkage to open it, one of the lads asked if they’d start charging screwage instead..which we all found highly amusing…(remember we’d been drinking!) The next stop was the Iron Gate winery, which was beautiful, unfortunately we had to stand inside to taste the wines. We had lots of different wines to taste and the girl taught us a new technique called ‘fluffing’ which again we found hilarious…wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, anyway, it involved putting the palm of your hand on the top of the wine glass and shaking it which releases more of the flavour, Will loved this so he started doing this with every glass, even the reds, but what was really funny was that whenever he did it, he couldn’t’ keep his hips still, so it was like him doing this mad dance, very amusing!
After all this wine Gordy (our guide) decided we’d better get some food inside us, so he took us to the Hunter Valley Gardens for lunch.
By this time I still hadn’t tasted a wine that I really loved, so I was hoping our next stop would be the place to buy some. This place, The Hanging Tree, didn’t disappoint, it was absolutely beautiful there. It’s a really small winery that is only open to the public at weekends, the setting was stunning, there was an old shack on the front which was the building they used to use years ago (very Little House on the Prairie’esque) with a couple of horses roaming around, then out the back there was a pond with loads of ducks, and flowers. The inside was full of old antique furniture, it’s so hard to describe it. The owner was a lovely lady, we sat out on the veranda and she brought us out wine trays and tasting cards and left us to it. All 3 of the white wines I really enjoyed, so I couldn’t decide which one to buy, in the end I bought the limited edition Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, or SSB as they call it in the wine trade (these Ozzies shorten everything!) typical as it wasn’t the cheapest wine, but I thought I would treat myself. After that it was to the Smelly Cheese shop for some cheese tasting. The first couple were really nice, marinated feta cheese and some sort of Lebanese cheese, but the others were not to my liking...gorgonzola, which had the same texture of margarine, yuk…and some blue veined cheese, which I’m not a big fan of. While we were there, Sue and I decided to buy a cheaper bottle of wine for the evening, as we wanted to save our good wine for a nice dinner. Next stop was champagne tasting, can’t remember what that place was called! We had some lovely champagnes there and we all chipped in and bought some Pink blush for later. We were supposed to have a chocolate tasting after, but the owner was a bit funny and decided not to let us, this was really annoying cos I’d looked forward to that all day. The shop smelt gorgeous, they had a big chocolate fountain which they used to dip strawberries and marshmallows in, mmmm, I ended up just buying a small peanut butter praline, even that cost me $2, I could have bought 2 mars bars for that!!
So it was time to go back to the lodge as it was 5pm. Everyone got back and relaxed for a bit, we opened our wine and had a chat, then Gordy and Mike lit up the pizza oven and the fire in the garden. We all wrapped up and went outside to sit by the fire…..bear in mind it was pretty cold at this point. After an hour we were told we could make our pizzas, what a great idea that was, they gave us the base, and we all put on our toppings and in the oven they went, I tell you that was the best pizza I’d had in ages (well apart from Dave’s last week!) So we had a couple of hours outside having a laugh, actually a girl had turned up later on, and she comes from Poole, which is just up the road from where I used to live in UK, small world! Next it was pub time which was only a 5 minute walk up the road, it was a bit misty and very dark, so we all stuck together. I had a bit of a funny moment…I was walking up the road, happily chatting away to Toni, and the next minute I’d gone crashing into one of those waist high posts by the side of the road…luckily for me it bent down and pinged back up again, apparently it nearly caught poor Tom who was walking behind me, so this had us all doubled over with laughter for about 5 minutes, Sue said it looked like a cartoon from the back!! We finally made it to the pub, had a few games of pool, a bit of a dance, it was karaoke night, I tried to persuade the others to sing, but they weren’t having any of it, only the owner Mike sung, he loves it, he was up there every other song! At about 12 most of us decided that we needed to get back as it’d been a really long day, so we walked back and went straight to bed…. strangely the room was actually warmer than it was earlier.
Had a really good sleep, but still woke up pretty early, but we’d booked a horse ride, so we had to be up anyway. We all cooked breakfast together, some of the guys were looking worse for wear, they’d been up drinking and ended up in the sauna till 4am.
After we’d cleared up, Sue and I walked over to the horses, I was actually really nervous as I’d only ever ridden a horse once before, and that was when I was about 10. My horse was quite a small one, I thought I might actually crush her! Her name was Vegemite and she definitely had a mind of her own yesterday, Vanessa (their owner) taught me how to steer and the basics. I was a nervous wreck…. Vegemite kept deciding to just wander off to see the other horses on the way, so Vanessa ended up leading us for the first hour or so. After that I got a bit more confident and asked if I could ride without being led. The weather was perfect for it, we walked through all different pastures, and we saw a mob of kangaroos, behind the trees, there must have been at least 20 of them, that was amazing seeing them, I tried to take pictures, but my camera zoom didn’t get close enough unfortunately. We rode through one pasture and there were 2 random cows that must have jumped over the fence, so Vanessa told Sue and I to go through to the next field while she tried to round them up and back into the next field. Unfortunately the cows went a big mad and one of them started running straight towards me and Vegemite, I was so scared I thought it would run right into us, but she turned at the last minute, Vegemite didn’t even flinch!! So my legs were like jelly after that and I was shaking quite a bit. There were a few hairy moments, mad cows, horses and dogs on the way that kept running up to us, but on the whole I really enjoyed the ride, although I was quite relieved to get off…. mind you that was a feat in itself, I think my legs had moulded to the shape of the horse and I was stuck there for a few minutes, Vanessa’s husband had to push me off. Actually he took a photo of us, and Vegemite and I look like right midget s compared to Sue and Blue!! I was in agony when I got off, I literally couldn’t walk, my knees, my legs and my bum were killing, well, we were on the horses for 2.5 hours! our plan was to jump on the bikes and ride to the zoo after, but I couldn’t have done that, so Mike gave us a lift in the end.
The zoo was a small family run zoo, we had a really enjoyable afternoon there, we fed and touched Randy the kangaroo, he was a friendly chap….we had ice cream cones filled with his food, which he ate out of our hands, but in the end he only wanted to eat the ice cream cone. There were lots of other kangaroos there, but they were all lying down looking very relaxed. We saw albino wallabies, they looked a bit like large rats, there were lots of really unusual birds, again they were only interested in eating the ice cream cones…monkeys, deer, emus, ostriches, and the best bit was Gumdrop the koala. She was soooo gorgeous, the owner took us into her pen so we could touch her and have our photos taken with her, she looked just like a cuddly toy, sitting on her branch looking cute. They have such thick fur, she was 6 yrs old and was actually quite big, apparently they sleep for 20 hours a day, it takes all this time to digest their food, so basically they don’t do much!!
Sue had her picture taken with some sort of python round her neck, I wasn’t going anywhere near that! I did however touch a shingle back lizard, very strange looking thing, the scales were really hard like the nails on your fingers. We helped the owners wife feed the wallabies with bread and lettuce and we learnt quite a lot about all the different animals, then it was time to leave to make sure we got back for the coach back.
We arrived back in Sydney at 7pm, by this time I was feeling exhausted and my throat was feeling a bit sore, so I went home did my washing…my clothes stunk of horses! and had an early night.
The whole weekend was so great, it was so much better than going to a hotel where you never really meet anyone, I’m so glad I found this travel deal…the owners made sure we had the best time and the people we met were great, the weather was fantastic….what more could you ask for. I’m feeling very stiff today though, my back is hurting now too…maybe I'll give the gym a miss tonight!!
I hope you managed to read this through till the end, it’s a bit long eh!!