I arrived in Sydney in the spring. It was the 11th of September and, after Indonesia, it was damn cold though admittedly in a fresh, burgeoning sort of way. Blossom was everywhere and the days held the promise for warmth, whilst the evenings held a cold bite.
I spent a pleasant few days wandering around Sydney and doing all the sightseeing including the Opera House, Bondi Beach and some coastal walks including a very, very cold swim at one of the coastal pools. Luckily, one of my best friends, Zack, was living in Sydney at the time and we spent a pleasant few afternoons on the beaches and in the bars whilst he educated me on the local wildlife – mainly the sheer number of flies and the ibis, affectionately known as bin chickens.
A particular highlight for me was a whale watching tour which I got on a ridiculously good Groupon deal. For only $48, I spent a good 3 hours out on the Southern Ocean looking for migrating humpback whales, who were heading south for the warm summer months. Despite leaving the city in 28-degree humidity (and with about 20 seasickness pills in my system), outside the harbour, the wind was whipping from the south and it quickly plummeted to a damn chilly 10 degrees or so. Along with a few other boats, we got lucky with a mother and calf who were more than willing to put on an acrobatic show for us all. It made getting soaked to the skin absolutely worth it to watch these colossal animals frolic in the slate grey waves.
I still had no plan more concrete than “find a car”, a responsibility which I ignored for a good few days. I decided to rent rather than buy a car for several reasons. One, it was going to be a hell of a lot easier to get rid of it at the end of my six weeks – I just had to give it back, rather than find someone to buy it. Second, my funds were not endless and whilst the price of a 6-week rental made me bite my tongue, it was cheaper than a decent car. Third, I wanted the easy get-out clause of it not being my fault or responsibility if it all went wrong!
The staff in my hostel helped me find the best deal which happened to be from Travellers Autobarn. Despite clearly being used to poor backpackers, even they were taken aback when I told them I’d be doing the drive by myself. For the car, I opted for a supposedly reliable Ford station wagon. Partly because I’d never driven a camper and didn’t want to learn in a strange country but also because the station wagon was the cheapest by over $1000!
Ok, so! I had a car! I had a date to pick it up! And I knew where I was headed first (sort of)! I took a quick peek at the forecast for the Blue Mountains on the day I was to pick up my car. Ah. Not only was it going to be pouring with rain for a solid week, but the temperature was going to drop to below freezing. This was suboptimal. Whilst I had planned for colder conditions than Indonesia, I hadn’t anticipated it being that cold…
I had a quick think. I could survive those temperatures. Some well spent time in the Amy Reserves as a student had taught me that you can survive in low temperatures with some hot food and a good sleeping bag, but my clothing was going to be a little inadequate. By some mysterious twist of serendipity, there were three camping shops within 50m of my hostel and I managed to procure a full set of very attractive thermal underwear, which would function as my pyjamas for the foreseeable future.
The day I picked up my car dawned as disgusting as the weather app had predicted and I trudged through the subway, a bus and a very wet walk to the pickup location. After paying up (eep) and a food shop that consisted of milk powder (?) and a lot of canned goods, I was on my way…