We arrived in Sydney on Thursday and caught up with my aunt and uncle that night. We had to break the news to them we would be leaving Australia as soon as we could sell the van. They were quite disappointed because they really wanted us to love Australia as much as they love it, and they wanted us to see as much of it as possible, but they understood how expensive it was to travel there. On Saturday we would be celebrating my uncle’s 50th birthday party and there would be 100 people attending. There were people flying in from all around Australia for the party so we weren’t able to stay with my aunt and uncle but my uncle’s parents were kind enough to take us in. We had a blast staying with them for 5 days. They are in their “golden” years but nothing is slowing them down. They are very entertaining to talk to as it’s wonderful to hear their stories from when they are younger, but they are also very easy to live with. They never made us to feel like we were in the way and made us feel very much at home.
Friday, before the party, we arrived at the banquet hall to help decorate. We blew up at least 500 balloons, but in the end it was worth it because it really changed the way the hall looked. Saturday night was a like a wedding! It was amazing to see so many people come out for my uncle’s birthday. It was a night of great food, speeches and of course dancing. My aunt and uncle love to dance so no one was getting away without bustin’ a move. The next day we all stayed in bed most of the day. It was a very relaxing day at my uncle’s parents house as we didn’t feel the pressure to get out of bed at all as they also stayed in bed or napped on the couch while watching TV.
On Monday we spent the day at King’s Cross trying to sell our car. King’s Cross is where everyone goes to sell their camper vans. The only trick is you can only park for 1 hour before you have to move your car, so every so often you see a whole bunch of vans cruising around looking for a parking spot. You know parking control has come by when everyone all of a sudden gets into their vans and starts moving them around. It’s also easier that way because then you’re really only swapping spots with someone else. The parking control guys are pretty cool as they said as long as we move to another spot, they don’t mind us hanging around there. The business owners are a different story. They hate backpackers and we had them threaten us with getting towed, telling us we’re not allowed to sell our car on the street (not true, all we were doing was parking and hanging out for sale signs on our windows which is not illegal) and even going so far as to take pictures of us, although we’re not sure what that was supposed to achieve. Standing around at King’s Cross felt like a waste of time. Since it was low season, there weren’t that many backpackers looking to buy vans, and those who were, were looking at spending no more than $2000. The only benefit we had was that we had a very nice & clean van and everyone who saw it said we would have no problem selling it. The only problem no one was willing to spend the money!
We moved back in with my aunt and uncle on Tuesday. Our goal was to sell our car as fast as possible and leave Australia as it was costing us a small fortune to stay there. Andrew had made some contacts while we were in Sydney last time and on Wednesday he was back at work. On Thursday I went to Adecco to see if they had any temporary jobs and I was at work on Friday morning. The following week we were still concentrating on selling the car while working. Andrew had posted the car online and although we had a few people interested and make offers, they all ultimately fell through. This was taking a serious toll on Andrew. He was so worried the car wouldn’t sell he wasn’t sleeping at night and then he had to be up early for work. I was actually quite worried about him and tried to calm his fears by telling him I was confident the car would sell, which I was. In the end I was right because the car sold that week and it was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders. We were able to start planning our trip to New Zealand. We booked our flight to Auckland, but right after that the Volcano in South America erupted and the ash cloud had disrupted flights in the southern hemisphere. The day before our flight, we received a call that our flight was cancelled. We started making inquiries and found out Air New Zealand was flying below the ash cloud and were able to book a flight to Auckland for the next day for only $100 more.
That night we said goodbye to my uncle, as he was working the next day and wouldn’t see us before our flight. It was an emotional goodbye as we had grown quite close to them over the 5 months we had spent in Australia. The next day my aunt drove us to the airport and we said goodbye. We know that wasn’t the last time we will see each other. We checked in without any problems, we said goodbye to Australia and we were off to New Zealand to see my friend Tara.
Overall we spent 5 months in Australia and it’s hard to capture everything that happened during that time in along with what we thought of Australia. If I had to summarize our experience in Australia I would say it’s very similar to Canada in the culture as well as some of the scenery. We only saw ¼ of what we wanted to see in Australia, so it’s hard to say we have a complete picture. Of course the beaches are stunning and it would be hard to compare them with any other part of the world, but once we got away from the coast, the scenery really was similar to Canada. We found the public facilities to be very tourist oriented. The free swimming pools/lagoons, free (clean) public toilets, free showers and free BBQ’s are what make the travel experience very easy and enjoyable. Underwater the marine life was stunning. Although we had already seen a lot of the marine life in other parts of the world, the size is what’s really stunning. Because the Great Barrier Reef is a protected marine park, the fish are able to grow to their full size and they are huge. It’s a very surreal experience swimming with such large fish. The main part we struggled with was the cost of everything. Although a lot of the high costs of food were associated with the floods Australia had experienced this summer, other costs were completely unrelated to the floods. It’s easy to justify some of the costs with the fact that Australia is a large island and thus everything that is not made here needs to be imported from very far away, it does make it very difficult to travel on a budget. A quirky “phenomenon” we witnessed was people walking barefoot…EVERYWHERE! One of the grossest was public bathrooms. And in all types of weather. It was hard to watch during the days when it was only 15 degrees Celsius outside and raining, but particularly hard when it was 15 degrees and raining and the person with no shoes on was a 5 year old and her parents were wearing nice warm UGGS. Which brings me to my last point…UGGS are cheaper than in Canada but not cheap enough for me to buy them and lug them around New Zealand, Asia and wherever else we might go. $180 is still a lot to pay for shoes I can get for the same price in the U.S.
I am thrilled to have visited Australia and fulfill my lifelong dream and I know I will be back as there’s still a lot more to see. But more than that, visiting Australia allowed me to meet family I didn’t know that well before, but also to learn a lot about my family history. So I guess you can say I discovered a lot more than just Australia.