Here I was at the tender age of 18 and still relatively naive, about to embark on my first big adventure.
I’d booked flights only to Australia, I was armed with my Lonely planet guide, a 20KG backpack with sleeping bag and I was waiting with anticipation, excitement and nerves to board my Malaysian Airways flight to Sydney with a brief 12 hour stop over in Kuala Lumpar.
I had your typical fears of things that might bite in Australia, having listened to all the hype and horror stories. However, I have always had a be prepared mentality about me so I read up on all the things that might kill me. Oh yes, my research was done using Lonely Planet’s Healthy Travel Guide for Australia, NZ & the Pacific.
You always hear about the Funnel web and the red back spiders, but there is always one that is failed to be mentioned… The White-Tailed spider. At that point in time it was advised, if you were bitten by this spider, the venom rots your flesh and you may need amputation. The good news is current research now shows this is an extreme reaction. If only I’d known this back then, but we will get to that.
My 24 hour travel to Australia was pretty interesting, for the first part it was smooth with a little bit of turbulence. However, arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport and waiting for the connection was excruciating and the jet lag was setting in fast. I was not allowed to leave the airport and there were some weird and wonderful gifts that would give even the best of us with arachnophobia a cardiac. In frames, they had real dead spiders the size of dinner plates if not bigger. I was certainly naive to the existence of such sizeable spiders and that they had them in this part of the world. I was now starting to get very nervous.
I finally boarded the plane for the final 7 hours to Sydney and touch down was around 9am. During the flight, I had the Korean Olympic team climb over me, further depriving me of valuable sleep. My first three hours in Sydney, I came across 3 girls I would be sharing a dorm with from a town not far from my home back in the UK. My silent thoughts were, “I have flown 13,000 miles to find this???”
Needless to say, this was the starting point for my adventure.
Sydney was as expected, a cosmopolitan metropolis with so many attractions. You will never really get board in Sydney. After a good amount of rest, I headed off to the famous Sydney Harbour and from there, began to workout what I wanted to do first. I was only in Sydney for around 4 days so this needed some serious cramming in. I started by booking tickets at the Sydney Opera House to experience my first ever opera – The Gondoliers. I then headed for the harbour and took a boat out to Taronga.
As I sailed across the harbour with a boatful of strangers, we were guided to look at a house which was apparently Barry Gibbs (Those of you old enough, will know this was one of the Bee Gees). We finally reached Taronga and I made my way over to the Zoo. There I experienced spider panic with other tourists. I had my first encounter of conservation in action when two tigers decided to get rather amorous much to the quizzical questions of a child next to me asking his parents what the tigers were doing and their rather embarrassed expressions whilst trying to figure out the best way to tell a 5 year old about the birds and the bees, much to my amusement.
The following day, I headed over to Darling Harbour via Monorail. The Monorail has since ceased operation, so you can probably guess how long ago my travel was. Once I reached Darling Harbour, I headed into the Sydney Aquarium where I had my first experience of fearful walking on glass, whereby you think you are walking on water, only you’re not and have a mild panic attack.
I didn’t bother with Bondi beach as at that point in time there was a big issue with hypodermic needles being left on the beach by drug users, so instead I took a helicopter flight around the harbour at night. Unfortunately I lost the film roll of that flight but, I can honestly say, it is an amazing experience. I was staying in YHA hostels throughout my trip and during this period, I did a long walk around the botanical gardens, took a trip to the Blue Mountains and trekked some of them. I also took in the show I’d booked at Sydney Opera House and tried crocodile in garlic sauce. I then flew onto Melbourne and I will cover that experience in my next blog.