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Diary 22

9 Dec.

Dropped in past J.W.Grieve to pay for their services and they didn't have the carnet back from Customs.
"The boat only sailed yesterday".
"Yes - but I have to be at the airport at lunchtime, I'm leaving NZ"
"Give me half an hour"
"OK - I'll go get breakfast across the road"

45 minutes later I'm on the way to the airport with the documents.
J.W.Grieve charged less than they quoted.
The only shipping people who charged less than they quoted.

By 11:30 the hire car is dropped off and I'm checking in for my 13:45 flight to Sydney.
It left at 16:20.

Something like three hours later I'm in Sydney airport heading for the 'Things to declare' exit.
There was a traffic jam at the entrance to customs, not because of too many people but because a family with four trolleys stopped blocking the gateway. I can understand why they stopped. On top of the mothers luggage was a baby seat with a tiny child strapped in. The seat fell off the luggage and the kid face planted the floor from a height of about a meter.
What I don't understand is how the mother could have put the seat in such an obviously precarious position.

Anyway - I was sent to talk to one customs officer.
"I believe I have too much alcohol so I should pay duty on the excess"
"What do you have"
"Two bottles of spirits and four bottles of wine"
"Are you travelling with someone else"
She scribbled something on the card "You are now - get out of here"

The next person I had to go see was the 'animal' person.
"I have some possum fur products"
"No worries" and pointed over her shoulder to the exit.

Well that was easier than I expected.

Thirty minutes later (after the taxi got lost twice) and I'm at Mike Ovens's place with a beer.
Mike used to live in the UK and I worked with him in Basingstoke.

10 Dec.

Mike is an early bird so by 7am we are at the beach for a walk.

Lovely beach, stunning weather and many distracting bikinis.

Spent most of the day helping Mike to trace a problem with his swimming pool filter then in the evening went to a friends 50th birthday party. Quite a few folks at the party were physiotherapists or dancers including a troop of cheerleaders.
Free beer and attractive fit women.
All in all a good evening.

11 Dec.

Lazy Sunday.

Pretty much did nothing.

"We should be showing you around - we're crap hosts"
"No worries - I've spent six months looking at stuff but what I've done very little of is hang out with friends"

We headed down to Cronulla for some fish and chips only to find road blocks, heavy police presence and loads of blokes with Australian flags looking for 'Lebs' to 'bash'.
The riots.
It seems that some of the Lebanese guys from neighbouring areas have been coming to the beach and harassing the girls and the resentment has been growing. Last Wednesday a bunch of then told a lifeguard "Keep off our beach" before beating him up.
This was the last straw and the local white guys issued a challenge "Meet us at the beach Sunday"
I believe it's in the news at home.

12 Dec.


Quite pretty as cities go.
And hot.
Mid to high twenties.

Wandered round the botanical gardens to the opera house then along to the harbour bridge.
Climbed one of the towers (but didn't do the bridge walk to the top of the bridge - I'm not too good with heights).

Then had a lovely lunch in the Rocks area and wandered through the central business district then back to Mike and Karen's for evening.

13 Dec.

Picked up a hire car first thing, drove back to Mike and Karen's to pick up my luggage and headed inland.

My plan was to head north till I hit the M4 motorway and head into the blue mountains.
Quite how I ended up heading south on the M5 I'm not sure, but as soon as I realized I cut across country and picked up the correct road.

The blue mountains and stunning (and again hot).

Stopped to look at the falls at Wentworth Falls, then Echo Point at Katoomba, then hit 'Scenic World'
At Scenic World there are a number of rides.
A cable car, with glass floor, takes you across the valley and back then the 'Scenic Railway', a funicular, drops you down into the valley for a 2.2km boardwalk through the bush before another cable car takes you from the valley floor back to the visitors centre. Tickets for all three, A$28, about £11.
If this was in the UK it would be at least £40.

I thought about staying in Katoomba but it was wall to wall tourists so I headed for Lithgow for the night.
16:00 and I'm knackered.
Probably dehydration.
An early night I think.

14 Dec.

Continued east.
This is a big country.
I'm not even a third of the way through one state.

Got to Bathurst and saw a sign for Mount Panorama so I headed for the race circuit.
I figured that there might be somewhere that I could get a good view of the track so I was somewhat taken aback, having followed the signs for 'pit straight' to find myself driving along the pit straight.
I wasn't entirely sure I was allowed to drive the circuit until I spotted 'two way traffic' signs and 60kmh speed limit signs.
It's a public road with houses on it.
It looks steep on the TV but it's steeper in real life.

Back at the entrance I spent an hour or so in the National Racing Museum before doing another couple of laps of the track, one in each direction.

After lunch I booked into a motel and hit the cinema.
The new Harry Potter is OK but I was very disappointed with the new King Kong.

15 Dec.

Final full day on holiday.
Well final full day before I go home.

Drove gently back to Sydney.

I have too much cash left over so I did a little shopping.
Bits and pieces that I was planning to buy when I got home.
Save a little time.

Got back to Mike & Karen's around 4pm.

I fly out mid afternoon tomorrow and I drop the hire car at the airport 1pm.

It's a little strange contemplating going home.
I'm ready to go (apart from the 24 hours on an aeroplane).

16 Dec.

Dropped the car off and checked in.
"You are way over weight"
"I can't be - I've had the same luggage for the entire trip"
"Well you're over and it will cost you A$150"
"I don't have any cash"
"You'll have to go to an ATM"
There had just been a power failure and all the ATMs were down - I hit a currency exchange place and took the money out on a credit card and headed back to the check in desk.
The woman asked to see my paper tickets.
"I have an e-ticket"
"Not according to this"
"Well I do and I've been thinking - I checked my allowance on the e-mail and it said two bags and nothing about weight"
"Have you been to the US"
"That explains that"
She went off to talk to a colleague
"We have no record of you going to the states"
"But I flew with you - and why have you labelled by bags for Belfast"
She'd got my name wrong and thought I was someone else. The weight allowances are different depending where you fly to and because I'd been through the US I was actually OK, but now I had an extra bunch of cash.

Late take off because the power out had messed with the baggage conveyors.
Seven hours to Singapore and a cigarette outside in 35 degree heat and 100% humidity.
Twelve hours to London.