Monday, 28 January 2013

Week 15 – Sydney arts festival, Australia

Fred's world tour
Week 15 – Sydney arts festival, Australia
5th until the 11th of January 2013
In brief:
  1. Do a 12km run with the local running club including a dip in Bronte beach.
  2. Attend a huge free outdoor Soul music concert featuring the great Sharon Jones.
  3. Walk the augmented reality trail through the national park of Middle head.
  4. Listen to the sounds of the unique Chronometer.
  5. See the huge five storey inflatable rubber duck in Darling Harbour.
  6. Take part in 'quiet volume' a Sydney festival production within the beautiful State library of New South Wales.
  7. Go to see an art exhibition … what a load of rubbish (literally)
  8. See a theatrical dance/breakdancing/parkour/skateboarding/BMX biking show!
  9. Have my second phone interview for a job.
  10. Meet up with my friend Chris and show him around Bondi
With a packed week last week what better way to relax than by waking up early, taking a bus to centennial park and joining the running club on their 12km run to Bronte beach! :-) It was challenging, especially the 6:40am wake up for a 7:30am start. The Bronte swim was perfect and the group was, once again, very cool to chat to. This week I got my bacon & egg roll before grabbing a bus back to Bondi. For this week before my friend Chris arrives from England I was tempted to fly to Melbourne and sightsee. However, I then came to learn that the Sydney arts festival starts this week. This month long festival brings, artists, performers, shows and exhibitions to Sydney. It has a variety of weird and wonderful things to go see enough to suit any palate. I spent a fair bit of time researching and reserving tickets for various events as they were all going quickly. My first taste of Sydney festival was the free outdoor Soul music concert happening at the Domain park near Mrs Macquarie's point (where I went for the fireworks). The line up of artists was good and the atmosphere was great. The headline act was the famous Sharon Jones who gave an awesome vocal performance. The evening was truly soulful.
This concert finished at 11pm and as it was a Saturday night I went to check out the Sydney night-life. I got chatting to a few people and the night flew by. We ended up in a club which brags to have Sydney's best light and sound system. Judging by the fun I had and the great music the DJ was playing, I would find it hard to dispute that claim. Sunday proved to be a gorgeous day, so I did some job applications and headed out to Circular quay. Circular quay is nestled between the Opera house and the Sydney harbour bridge. I met up with my friend Mark and we grabbed a ferry across the harbour. Its a great way to see the Sydney harbour, the bridge and the opera house. Once across the harbour we were only a short bus and a walk from the Middle head national park reserve. This is where 'Notes for walking' was happening. The Sydney festival website described it was a 'pilgrimage, magical mystery tour and adventure trek rolled into one'. The aim is to use location based augmented reality software to navigate around middle head reserve and find a set of short video notes. Basically with a special app you could point your phone's camera to an area and the digital GPS tagged content would be displayed on the terrain for you to click on. These interactive components would then play a short video on your phone filmed where we were standing and with some poetry.
We struggled to find all the markers but after sorting out the glitches off we went exploring the ruins of the old naval fortresses and the rest of this beautiful reserve. This was my first taste of an augmented reality tour and I wouldn't be against doing another one.
From there we walked west along the coast to Georges Heights Lookout where we could observe the huge cruise liner exit the harbour and from where one could listen to the electronic work Chronometer by British composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle. This was recorded in 1971 and is a piece of audio played out of speakers tied to trees, railings and bushes on a loop. You could sit on bean bags and admire the spectacular view while listening to the 'unique sounds'. I say unique because it is comprises of percussive sample recordings of Big Ben and Wells Cathedral clock!

From there we caught the last ferry back to circular quay and it was perfect as the sun started to set. Then next on Mark's and my agenda was to go see a rubber duck in water. Not just any rubber duck. This rubber duck is floating in Darling Harbour and is five storeys high and five storeys wide. It is the work of Florentijn Hofman from the Netherlands. Sydney festival describes it as 'Surprising, whimsical and a whole lot of fun for no apparent reason'. Again that's pretty accurate!
For dinner I went to join Tony, Daithi, Brendon and Darrel as well as some other of their friends at an Indian restaurant in Kings Cross which was nice. When I think of Kings Cross I think of the London train station but in Sydney it is a big party area with bars, restaurants and clubs to cater for everyone. It is also the home of the huge, and apparently famous Coca Cola sign.
Over the next few days before Chris arrived on Thursday I spent time relaxing, going for some runs, doing some more shopping for expedition gear and first aid kit purchases for Borneo. I also went to see some Sydney festival stuff. Monday is when I went down to the State Library of New South Wales. The oldest one in the state that was the home of Sydney Festival's 'Quiet Volume'. The bio of the event says 'The Quiet volume is a whispered, automatic performance for two people at at time. Given headphones, participants are asked to follow instructions as they sit at a table with a stack of books and a notepad. Sitting side-by-side and immersed in the written word, they respond to the private rituals and space around them. Suddenly, the conjuring magic of language and the quietest sound can become vivid and mind-blowing, even deafening. Best of all, the librarian will never know.'
Not really expecting much I was pleasantly surprised by the sounds, the instructions given, the interaction with the unknown person taking part next to you and the frantic flicking of pages. I left thinking I should pick up a book and get immersed in a fictional story although I doubt it could surpass this audio-visual treat I just experienced. From there I popped my head into the gallery upstairs before heading home.
Tuesday's treat was on Sydney's hottest day so far, but that didn't stop me from getting to the 'Waste not' exhibition by artist Song Dong at Carriageworks. This exhibition represents the process of mourning and remembrance of the artist's mother following her husband's (his father's) death. It is basically is a collection of rubbish collected by his mother over the years following her husbands death. The collection includes shoes of all sizes, plastic bags, empty toothpastes, empty bottles, tools and so much more. It was a combination of China's 'waste not' mentality and the mother trying to fill the void. The artist then took all the possessions and he now regularly puts them on display in galleries all over the world as a travelling expo! Weird and fascinating at the same time.
For Wednesday, Mark and I got tickets to the 'Concrete and bone' show at Dulwich hill skate park. The description lists it as 'an exiting confrontation between bodies and wheels set among the concrete, cracks, curves and graffiti of a skate park'. It was my favourite event so far encompassing and impressive mix of theatrical dance, amazing breakdancing, crazy parkour with a mind blowing display of skateboarding and BMX biking! We managed to get front row seats at the edge of a half pipe where several times during the show a BMX bike would be catapulted 6 foot in the air right in front of us! Very cool.
On Thursday the 10th my friend Chris arrived from England and on the Friday he was keen to explore Bondi beach and the surroundings. We did just that right after my phone interview with the heads of the emergency department at Canberra hospital. I think it went well and it ended with 'I think you will fit right in here'. Sounds promising... I'll keep you posted.
That ends week 15. For my 16th week I show Chris around Sydney, go see London's West End Dance spectacular 'Blaze' at the Sydney Opera house and fly up to Queensland for some camping at the Whitsunday islands. Take care and as always let me know if you like the blog or you have any questions by using the comment box bellow.
That's all for now, until next time.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Week 14 – Sydney new years & Wollongong, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 14 – Sydney new years & Wollongong, Australia

29th of December until the 4th of January 2013

In brief:

  1. Do my first 5km run with local running club.

  2. Go see the Freemasons DJs live in concert and get to the front of the stage.

  3. Visit the Sydney Olympic park and swim in the Olympic pool.

  4. See my first ever 20/20 cricket game in the Sydney Olympic stadium.

  5. Queue up for hours to get in the perfect spot at Mrs Macquarie's point for the world famous Sydney harbour new year's eve fireworks.

  6. Snorkel in the nearby Gordon's bay.

  7. Meet up with Sana and Dan, friends from university for lunch in Sydney's Chinatown.

  8. Visit nearby Wollongong and do the Illawarra Fly treetop walk.

  9. Explore the surrounding forests and coastline of Wollongong including a 'blowhole'.

  10. Sample the Wollongong night life with a 'retro' themed night out.

  11. Go to a real Buddhist temple and learn calligraphy.

  12. Watch a pro's polo match at the world famous Iceberg Bondi pool.

I have started to feel like a resident and less like a tourist here. I hence stumbled across a local running club that meet up at centennial park on Saturday mornings. They run together in two groups. One does a 5km loop of the park and the other a 12km run. The latter start at 7:30am and run to Bronte beach for a quick dip in a sea pool then back to the park. Once back, both groups go to get a bacon and egg roll from the park cafe. To ease myself in, I did the the 5km run first. The pace was ok for a chat as you run and then the breakfast was an amazing way to get to meet new people with similar interests. Unfortunately for me I still had a 5km run back home so I skipped the food and left it for next week when perhaps I would do the 12km run. Other than that my first day of this week consisted of going into the centre for yet more shopping for expedition gear. What is extra frustrating is that on one street several shops sell the same thing but with a huge variation in price. Sometimes half or even a third of the price so I did plenty of comparing for the best deal. Once back at Bondi I went to the fitness first ( Gym for probably my last time on Tony's free December guest pass. What was great about this gym is the size of it, the variety of equipment and the outdoor shaded workout terrace! Not only that, but the view from the terrace while you workout is fantastic. Australians really know how to do gyms (on top of several other things)!


For Saturday night I stumbled across an advert for the well know Freemasons DJs from the UK. They were doing a gig in Sydney and the tickets hadn't sold out yet! So brilliant, I got myself a ticket and as I couldn't get anyone keen enough to join me I went alone. That didn't worry me though as I met lots of people at the front of the stage where I stayed pretty much all night. Freemasons came on and did an amazing DJ set and I really enjoyed myself. So much so that I lost track of time and decided that by 5am I probably should head home ;-) . What was also funny is that this night club is called 'HOME nightclub' and the event was named 'HOMEsexuals featuring the Freemasons'! As in, sexual beings in love with HOME nightclub. I thought was quite clever play on words.


The next day I had organised with my friend Mark to go visit Sydney's Olympic park where the 2000 Olympics were held. Mark showed me round this iconic sight including the real Olympic flame cauldron which has now been made into a fountain. I also saw the names of Brits that won medals immortalised in stone at its base.


We also went to see the aquatic centre and swam lengths in the pool not to mention traverse the inflatable obstacle course. Both Mark and I kicked ass on the obstacle course by the way. What was a shame was that the diving area was closed so I couldn't pretend to be Tom Daley for a moment.



Mark and I on the podium

After the swim we caught a quick bite to eat and headed to the Olympic stadium where Marks' name was on the 'thank you poles' outside the entrance. As as sign of gratitude for Mark's donation and volunteer work his name was immortalised by being engraved on these decorative poles still standing outside the stadium today! Very cool.


Mark also managed to get us tickets to see my first ever 20:20 cricket match between the Sydney Thunders and the Sydney Sixers from premium seats! It was very cool. The atmosphere was electric, the live music entertaining and the seats perfect. It was a win for the Sixers but I still left the stadium holding a cool green thunderbolt in support of the Sydney Thunders! :-)


The 31st of December 2012 was the day that I try to make my way to the best point in the harbour to observe the New Years fireworks. These fireworks are world famous so I wasn't expecting it to be easy. The queue to get into Mrs Macquarie's point was almost 2km long with people having camped out the night before to get the best spot. I made my way over about 11am and by 3pm I was inside and lying under a tree killing time. Lots and lots of time! I brought food, a book and picnic blanket. The original plan was for Tony and Daithi to come and join me but as the queues were horrendous they stayed home which was probably a wise choice. The time soon passed. There were aerial plane acrobatics, boat jet-water display, warm up fireworks at 9pm and a lit up boat parade to help keep us entertained. By this time I had packed up my picnic blanket and made my way through the crowds to the very tip of Mrs Macquarie's point! Pleased with myself I was able to appreciate the 9pm fireworks from the front row and be in the best place in the world for the midnight fireworks. They definitely didn't disappoint. It was epic! They went on for 20mins and I was so close my ribcage shook with every bang. The colours were breathtaking, the views impeccable and I managed to get great footage on my camera to remember the occasion. Once it was all finished I was pleased with myself that I had invested all the time in getting to this amazing spot. I even got chatting to some nice Columbians next to me. They had queued from 10pm the night before! I took some still pictures before being quickly ushered away from Mrs Macquarie's point. The Opera house and harbour bridge were lit up and there was a smokey haze that remained from the fireworks giving that extra nice touch to the pics. All in all a great experience.


To finish my new year in style I walked with the crowds to some bars and got a few drinks before getting my tired soul to bed. En route I sent out all my New Years wishes to my friends and family most of which were bemused by my messages because they still had 12 hours to go.

The first day of 2013 was spent recovering from the events of the last few days, relaxing in the sun, playing on Tony's Wii console and also going to Gordon's bay with Daithi for a snorkel. It is so nice to just be able to drive 10mins down the road and be snorkelling Australia's rocky shores!

On the Wednesday I was also fortunate enough to meet up with two of my friends from med school who had come to Sydney for the fireworks. Sana and Dan had recently got married and moved to the Gold coast to work for a year before starting specialist training back in the UK. We had a great little catch up over some tasty Chinese food in China town. I then left them to get some sightseeing done with the hope of catching up with them again in January when I go visit Queensland.


For the last two days of week 14 of my round the world trip I spend more time applying for jobs and headed to a town south of Sydney called Wollongong. I met up with my friend Mark there. 'Gong' (as the locals call it) is where Mark works so he showed me around. We checked out the beach and then headed into the mountains to walk around the lush green forests that surround the town. One of the best ways to see this is with a huge elevated walkway that allows you to walk high up in the tree canopy. is just that. The impressive metal construction also has a huge tower which takes you much higher than the tree tops and give you a great view of Wollongong and the surrounding area.


From there we headed to some walking trails and saw a big waterfall. At this point we realised that Australian park rangers, here at least, grossly overestimates the time it takes to do a walking trail. A sign that said a trail would take 3hours took us less than one hour! Made us giggle. Its the other extreme from Bolivia where a '5 minute' walk would take forty-five!

Curious by the name and also this apparent 'costal phenomenon', Mark and I headed to the 'Blowhole'. It was a great coastal rocky point to appreciate the coast in the afternoon. The Blowhole however was not that impressive. I'm sure in the right weather conditions the might be a big jet of water projected into the air from the natural hole in the rock but on this day I could’ve made a bigger splash by jumping in the water myself! :-)

From the 'amazing' blowhole we went to the pool for a quick swim, had a great fresh fish dinner and went out to sample the Wollongong nightlife at a Retro themed night. The locals definitely brought their best dance moves which was pretty entertaining to watch.

On my last day I went for an early morning 5km run along the gorgeous Wollongong coastline. I have definitely got to love these ;-) and what better way to start the day than with the world's best poached egg breakfast. I was pleasantly surprised. Our first stop today was to explore a big Buddhist temple and walk around the grounds. Bizzarely there is this huge temple here but you don't see me complaining as it was stunning and I really enjoyed the Caligraphy session. We sat in a beautifully decorated classroom and copied some chinese characters holding the special pen in the special way. It was unexpectedly quite satisfying.

We then took the coastal road back to Sydney which was very impressive and we managed to get to Sydney in time so that I could go watch a waterpolo match. It was taking place at the iconic Iceberg salt water pool in Bondi. A mixture of international level players were playing against the local club the Aussie Sharks. The 'international all stars' consisted of three times Olympic gold medallist Tamas Kasas, Olympic silver medallist Deni Fiorentini as well as other world champions. It was a great setting to watch my first pro waterpolo match. I didn't pay the fortune to watch the game pool-side but got a great view from the coastal path that runs just above it. The result was 9-8 to the Aussie sharks in case you're wondering. A lot can be said for team play in this case because the All Stars team haven't really played as a team together before which I'm sure is why they lost. Remember everyone, there is no 'I' in team! ;-)



That ends my 14th week. Next week I go on a 12km run to Bronte beach with the local running club, sample lots of the Sydney arts festival events and of course persevere with job applications. Let me know if you like the blog, feel free to comment below or send link to a friend. That's all for now, until next time.


Monday, 21 January 2013

Week 13 – Christmas in Sydney, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 13 – Christmas in Sydney, Australia

22nd until the 28th of December 2012

In brief:

  1. Feed cute little possums in a wildlife animal rescue centre.

  2. Shop for Christmas presents while listening to carols in the mall on a 32oC sunny day!

  3. Experience my first Aussie summer Christmas.

  4. Watch the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

  5. Make the most of the sales and go expedition gear shopping for Borneo.

  6. Attempt to burn all the Christmas junk that I consumed.

  7. Watch Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman sing their way through Les Miserables.

My visit to Canberra last week was great and I could have stayed longer. However, I made a promise to help out with feeding some possums at the animal rescue centre with Daithi. So after a long morning 12km run I went around the local neighbourhoods with Daithi cutting a few branches off trees and sticking them in the boot for the possums. Daithi is part of WIRES which is a charitable network of carers to rescue and support injured wildlife . They take it in turns to feed the animals at the rescue centre and also take care of an injured animal in their own homes. For example a bird injured by a dog or a cat would be picked up by a volunteer and nursed to good health until it can be released. Daithi had recently acquired a tiny chick bird after a dog found the nest. Daithi has had to feed it through a pipette every 40mins luckily he's already on holiday. With a boot full of branches and an ice-cream container made into a makeshift nest off we went to the rescue centre. We changed the possum's water, chopped up some fruit and put in the new branches for them.


There was also an aviary with three baby kookaburras who were simply beautiful and make the most unusual calling sound:


After feeding the possums we went to where the bird Daithi is caring for was found. Daihi explained that sometimes if you go back to where the chick was found within 4days the parents would still be around and may 'take it back'. After an hour of trying there was no joy so back home we went. Later that week the chick started to refuse feeds and gently passed away. From the way he was moving around the box it looked like the dog had broken its leg and severely damaged its wing so it might have not survived long anyway. Daithi gave it the best chance.

With the run up to Christmas we went out to dinner with some of my hosts' friends and I did some Christmas shopping for the Kris Kringle we were having at the house on the 25th. It had a 10 dollar maximum and we had to get three gifts each. On Christmas day itself my hosts went to a family lunch but then would return in the evening. That left me to go for a run to Bondi beach, get a picture with the beach Christmas tree and talk to the volunteer lifeguards working on Christmas day. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day but that didn't detract from anything. There was even a cute infant dressed in a Santa costume at the base of the tree on the beach!


After a small lunch I was keen to go for a Christmas swim on Bondi beach as I heard that normally there would be thousands of people on the beach in their swimwear and Santa hats. Unfortunately after the cloudy skies of the morning came a thunderstorm bringing with it lots of rain and lightning. Halfway to the beach I decided to turn back as it seemed to be getting worse. Oh well. So much for that Christmas day swim! That evening was great. I did miss being with my family as this was the first time in my whole life that I was without them on Christmas day. My hosts made me feel part of their family and I had a great day regardless. The food was impeccable, the conversations entertaining and the presents comical. What more could one want in Australia?... well, a sunny day would've been nice too. Despite the rain I still got to cook some ‘shrimp on the barby’ on Christmas day!


Boxing day was completely different in terms of weather. The sun was out, the breeze was gently blowing and it all made for the perfect day to go out and watch the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. This is a race that happens every year starting on boxing day in Sydney and arrives into Hobart, Tazmania a few days later. Its 1,170km long trip and the record is 1day, 18hours and 23min set by Wild oats XI. Wild oats is evidentially the biggest and faster craft but there are plenty of smaller ones that take up to 7days to get there. I go to the south head of Watsons Bay about 1hour before race time. The walk towards the very tip was beautiful with the clean sandy beaches of Watsons bay and camp cove having the striking Sydney down-town skyline as a backdrop. Once at the tip I managed to get a great spot with view of all the boats 'warming up' near the start line.


At 12am the starting gun went off and the boats tacked across the start line. Soon the colourful jibs were up and flying. The chaotic swarm of spectator boats were following the action from outside the designated raceboat channel which simply added to this seaborne spectacle. This race is not only world famous for its long distance and technical difficulty but for the armada of boats of all sizes that take to the seas on this one day a year. Truly impressive.


With no hope of getting a bus away from the south head I laid on the fortress wall and relaxed watching the boats get smaller and smaller as they got further away. I then made my way along the coastal path south towards Bondi. The path here is on the top of the beautiful high cliffs. I does have multiple information boards giving counselling advice and phone numbers for those that feel they want to commit suicide. Unfortunately this area is know for this. There are messages written on the rock with words such as 'goodbye' and 'sorry' from people that have previously jumped off!


I then managed to catch a bus back. Nothing could be nicer on Boxing day than eating left over Christmas food and enjoying a good film. The next few days of this week I spent trying to not eat more chocolate and failing miserably. I also went shopping for Borneo expedition gear in the January Sales and I attempted to compensate for the overeating by going to the gym or running. I also met up with my new friend Mark for food and go see 'Les Miserables' film with my buddy Simon. Watching Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman sing their way through a film and being in a cinema where 80% of the people cried was quite the experience! :-)

Once again a brilliant week that just flew by. Next week I go see the Freemasons DJs group, visit the Sydney Olympic park, see my first ever 20/20 cricket game, attempt to watch the Sydney harbour fireworks from a good spot and visit the town of Wollongong.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Week 12 – Sydney and Canberra, Australia

Fred's world tour
Week 12 – Sydney and Canberra, Australia
15th until the 21st of December 2012
In brief:
  1. More beautiful runs, gym and chillaxing.
  2. Attend a traditional Australian family birthday barbecue in Australia's semi-outback.
  3. Travel to Canberra the Nation's Capital.
  4. See Australia's oldest bonsai trees.
  5. Visit the inside and stand on the roof of Australia's parliament house.
  6. Trek up to the Telstra tower for a perfect view of Canberra in the setting sun.
  7. Visit Australia’s best galleries and museums.
  8. Listen to the sounds of one of the world's biggest instruments, the National Carillon.
  9. Watch an art-house film at the National film and Sound Archive of Australia.
  10. See the light and video show spectacle at the War memorial museum.
  11. Learn about Australia's origins and see the architecturally splendid National Museum.
It feels like the last two weeks have absolutely flown by and I've loved every minute. Well... having said that... calling lots of hospitals and making multiple applications without being too fruitful has been quite tough. Regardless, while the job search continues I enjoy more beautiful runs along the coast and also to local parks like Waverley or Centennial park. I spend time with my hosts, cool down in the waters of Bondi beach and get some vitamin D by chilling in the morning sun.
This week I also got invited to accompany my hosts to a birthday party in the countryside. It was for Rosie's birthday who is Tony's brother's wife. It was a 2hour drive due north-west towards a place called Campbell town along route 5! The party was at a farm house and because Tony has a big Italian family it was a pretty big gathering. I got the opportunity to chat to a fair few people, try my best Italian to talk to Tony's relatives and sampled the food at this authentic Australian 'barby' with an Italian twist. The food was plentiful and the desserts magnificent. This was my first taste of the Australian outback and because its comparatively not too far from Sydney apparently it can't be called the 'outback'. So... as I couldn't really see many other houses nearby and it was pretty hot I'm going to refer to this place as the 'semi-outback' :-)
However amazing the last two weeks have been by simply living in one place, my tourist cap was starting to get sad. So off I planned a trip to the Nation's capital, Canberra. It was a three and a half hours away from Sydney on a wi-fi bus so I couldn’t complain. Canberra is Australia's capital city and its in the state called the Australian Capital Territory (funnily enough). It is actually a purpose built city. In 1901 when the colonies were federated and became states there was a strong rivalry between Sydney and Melboune as to which one should be the capital. It was then decided to build a new place halfway between both cities and by 1927 Canberra took over from Melbourne as the capital city. Canberra is strategically planned to make the most of the hilly wilderness. Its clearly divided in zones centred around an artificial lake. Famous for its political assembly and cultural richness. There are more museums, galleries, sights, activities, shopping and night-life than you can shake a stick at. Absolutely perfect for a tourist but has the reputation of being dull by the locals. At first glance I can't imagine why (not sarcastic by the way). On my arrival I headed straight for the youth hostel passing the shopping and bars area and was hugely impressed. There were lots of activities for adults and the kids. They even had rides on camel which I thought was strange.
At the hostel I checked in, read the guidebook a bit more and planned a route. With sun cream on, sunglasses, hat and a bottle of water off I went into the mid-day heat. It was pretty hot but I was on a mission. My first stop was the Commonwealth park on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The artificial lake was the vision of Burley Griffin that wanted to turn the most undesirable place in Australia into the vibrant city it is today. Within this park there was a Bonsai garden which was serene and housed the oldest beautifully shaped bonsai trees in Australia. From there I toured the shores of the lake and was shocked to see people running and cycling in the mid-day heat here but good on them. I passed the Captain cook memorial and crossed the road to the government zone where I saw the world's embassies in one place. Each architecturally designed by their respective countries which is rare I believe. I particularly like the Papa New Guinea embassy.
I then walked to capital hill to the hugely impressive parliament house. Set to look like it was built within a grassy hill. You can even walk on the slopping grass sides. Almost like a modern day hobbit house from Lord of the Ring :-) After a few pictures outside I managed to join the last guided tour. The really entertaining guide took us round the house of representatives and the senate. He showed us some interesting decorative ancient tapestry and gave us interesting information about the objects in the different places. For example, did you know the two highly decorated boxes either side of the centre table in the house of representatives were traditionally used to deliver the results of the discussion to the king for his approval? Now completely obsolete obviously because the monarchy has no power in the house of representatives. Also did you know on their coat of arms there is a kangaroo and an emu? It turns out that this is because both can't walk backwards. Interesting. This place also holds one of the four surviving copies of the 1297 Magna Carta which is a 700yr old manuscript that is the 'foundation stone of constitutional and parliamentary government'. This manuscript basically details in writing that 'no one in society is above the law; not the king nor his subjects, not the government nor the governed'. (ref 1)
After this it was getting late so museums were closing I hopped on a bus to the university and walked the empty campus streets to the base of Black mountain. This mountain is 812m tall and at the top it has the Telstra communications tower, restaurant and viewing platform. With no means of public transport off I walked just in time to catch the setting sun over Canberra. The not so densely laid out city around the lake can easily be admired from there. The sunset was pristine. A long walk back to the hostel ended with a meal cooked by me and a chat to fellow travellers at the hostel. This was then promptly followed by a well deserved sleep.
My second day in Canberra started with and early breakfast and a visit to the old parliament house, which is basically the same layout at the 'new' parliament house only smaller and with a lot more history to it. Unfortunately the guide was not as entertaining as yesterday and in fact overran by 30minutes which didn't help my ambitions schedule for the day. Nevertheless worth the visit if only for the million dollar interactive display exhibit at the back!
My next stop was the National Portrait Gallery, I was probably more impressed by buildings architecture and the bus-sized painting of the queen during her jubilee than the other face paintings/photos. Each one to their own, but taking pictures of people from around the world and displaying them doesn’t really constitute art in my book. I might need to be educated on that one. All I know is that the coffee shop did make an amazing cured beef and mustard baguette!
Once I satisfied my belly I was off across the walkway to the National Gallery of Australia. This was an overwhelming mix of artefacts, paintings, sculptures and outdoor exhibits that made one wish there was more time in the day to see it all. Even before going in I was impressed by the sphere flying in mid-air (actually it was suspended between the High Court of Australia and the Gallery). The outdoor 'skyspace, within without' by James Turrell made for a placid and tranquil start to my visit. I won't try to describe it. Its probably better you check out the pictures or google it.
Once inside I made my way around the highlights including the Aboriginal memorial, the sacred bull Nandi vehicle of shiva statue (11th - 12th century), the Arthur Streeton painting 'Golden summer, Eaglemont' (1889) and my first Claude Monet painting 'Waterlilies' (1914-1917) The spectacle didn't finish there. The gardens has Rodin replicas dotted around, a miniaturised version of Antony Gormley's Angel of the North which stands in full size at Gateshead in England and other astonishing works. One pleasant surprise in the garden were the bells that I could hear across the water which was coming from the National Carillon. One of the world's biggest musical instruments. It comprises of 55 bronze bells and was a gift from the British government to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation's capital. I supposedly missed the recital yesterday so it was nice to be able to appreciate the loud and polyphonic sounds of this huge towering instrument.
From the Carillon on Aspen island to the oldest remaining cottage of the Blundells. The Bundells were family that worked on these lands for generations when it was farm land and not the metropolis you see today. The house still stands as one of the only ones in the area which enables us to appreciate how they lived in those days.
With time almost out for my second day I managed to get a seat at the film theatre of the National film and Sound Archive of Australia. They were playing the art-house documentary of a Japanese film maker who followed a family after the Tohoku earthquake that brought a tsunami and that caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant on the 11th of March 2011. There was a Japanese film-maker introducing the film and then they played the film. What is really good about all the things I went to see today is that they have all been free including this film. Well there was a small fee of $2 for the old parliament house.
On my last day I woke up fairly early to meet a friend of a friend for breakfast and then quickly made my way to the Australian War Memorial museum. On the hour they have a spectacular display of lights, video and sounds around real war machines. They had a Lancaster bomber, world war one fighter planes and a Japanese mini-sub that exploded in Sydney harbour  The museum also educated me about the wars that occurred over on this side of the world something that I hadn't learnt much about at school. The memorial part of the museum was pretty impressive too.
The war museum also had a brilliant temporary exhibit called 'Rememberme: the lost diggers of Vignacourt'which tells the story of a photographer that took pictures ofsoldiers passing through the village of Vignacourt during world warone. This French village was near the front line and gave passing soldiersthe opportunity to send a photo-postcard back home. Unfortunatelynone can be identified by name as this was never recorded. Most onshow were Australians.'

I then took a bus across town to the National Museum of Australia. The Lonely planet called this place a 'big abstract Australian storybook using creativity, controversy, humour and self-contradiction' (ref 2). I would say that is a pretty accurate description of what I saw. One moment I was seeing how they preserve and restore museum pieces and then the next I'm watching videos on all the killing of rabbits that plagued the landscape after introduction from Europe. I posed next a real Olympic relay torch and cauldron from the Sydney 2000 olympics, sat in a huge digger scoop and finished by staring at the marvellously odd architecture that houses this museum. My day then finished by a bus ride back to Sydney and an early night to prepare for the weekend's events. All in all it was an amazing week.
Next week I feed possums in a rescue centre, experience my first Aussie summer Christmas, see the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and shop for lots of Borneo expedition gear in the sales.
  2. Lonely Planet – Australia. 16th edition, Nov 2011

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Week 10 and 11 – Sydney, Australia

Fred's world tour

Week 10 and 11 – Sydney, Australia

1st until the 14th of December 2012

In brief:

  1. Recharge the backpacker 'batteries'.

  2. Run along the iconic Bondi beach.

  3. Return to the gym for some long overdue fitness improvements.

  4. See a musical show at the Sydney opera house.

  5. Get settled into Australia and frantically job hunt.

  6. Have my first ever phone interview for a job.

  7. Swim in the idyllic setting of an Australian salt water pool.

  8. Run and explore the coastal path from Bondi beach to Coogee.

I had a perfect farewell to Latin America with a big party in Santiago on Friday night and on Saturday the 1st of December 2012 I was off to Sydney. At the airport I stocked up with some traditional Pisco for my Australian hosts Tony and Daithi. Then, 14 hours later I landed! Tony, who is a friend of my friend John, came to pick me up from the airport which was really great of him. Tony, Daithi and their dog Joey had kindly offered me a room in their beautiful house in Bondi. I had the grand tour of the area including the stunning coastal path from Tamarama beach to Bondi beach. It weaves the unique rock formations and hugs the cliff all the way. Its filled with keen runners and outdoor gym equipment along the route. This epitomises the perceived Australian culture of healthy living, exercise and high quality of life. Of course the weather helps with this situation. My hosts naturally still had work during the week so I would explore on my own the surrounding area and join them for dinner in the evenings.


The next two weeks I spent recharging my batteries. It was nice to be able to stay in the same place for a longer period of time and not have to worry about packing up or booking the next night's accommodation. I absolutely loved running along the coast to the iconic Bondi and exploring the surrounding area. I relaxed, in their garden, walked their dog and made the most of Tony's free guest gym membership he had managed to get for me. I went out to dinner events; Daithi's sister's birthday party, met up with some other of John's friends and overall had a great time. One of the highlights of my first week was going with my hosts and their friends to the Sydney opera house for a musical. It was such a beautiful location I was permanently in awe of the place. Its hard to appreciate the grandiose of the white tiled sail-shaped roof of the Sydney opera house. The show was funny, entertaining and in some parts flamboyantly weird! It all made for a great first experience of the opera house.



However nice this all was I couldn't forget why I was actually here. The plan initially was to work December and January but unfortunately I was let down by my work agency that I have been in contact with since January. I wasted no time in getting on the internet and phoning hospitals in New South Wales (the state). I received plenty of rejections and realistically I wouldn't be able to work because I hadn't registered with AHPRA the registering medical organisation. The problem for me was that I couldn't register without a job offer that my agency promised me. So currently no one would consider me for work until May after I return from Borneo. Not only that but AHPRA registration process can reportedly take six to ten weeks. In light of this information my focus changed from trying to get a job for December to lining something up for May and in doing that I managed to get a phone interview plus secure an offer for work in Tamworth subject to a reference check. As my first two years of employment have all been application based I've never had to do a medical job interview let alone over the phone. Despite the nerves it all went well. All I needed to do now was wait but in the mean time I still continued my search for jobs which I then expanded to include Queensland just in case this Tamworth offer falls through last minute.

You can see how the quality of life in Australia is higher. Not only are there these coastal runs which are incredible. There are also abundant salt water pools along the coast which is like being in the sea but with the ability to do lane swimming and have a few more commodities close by. One such pool is the Andrew 'Boy' Charlton pool in Woolloomooloo bay or the Bondi Iceberg pool in Bondi. A perfect location to enjoy the afternoon. Over the last two weeks I enjoyed going to the gym, eating in or out with my hosts and challenged my self with longer morning runs along the coast. My last day of week 11 I ran to Cogee beach and back. What a great last two weeks. Completely different to the last 9 weeks in Latin America and yet equally as amazing.


Next week I attend a true Australian lunch party out in the countryside (almost the outback), continue applying for jobs and visit the nation's capital territory of Canberra.