overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Honeymoon in Sydney

Written by Alex Towns. Uploaded 11 January 2007.

Australia, Country 26, Diary entry 11th–22nd Nov 2006, Total distance in Australia: Unknown, Distance to date: 10,302KM

Having travelled extensively for work in our previous lives, on arrival at an airport one would automatically head for the executive lounge for comfortable seats, free drink and nibbly bits. Having rescinded my gold card some while ago, we sat patiently with the rest of cattle class for our peculiarly timed 00:30 flight. You’d be forgiven for thinking Darwin airport would be deserted at this late hour, however it was buzzing as this is in fact the busiest time for the airport and it’s when the only direct flights of the ‘day’ set off for all the other state capitals! Reading between the lines, perhaps it’s a reflection of the importance pinned on Darwin through the eyes of the rest of Australia!

Downtown Sydney

Comfortably onboard, we took off for our 4 and a half hour flight to Sydney. Now everyone knows Australia is BIG but it still tickles me to think that the most direct flight from Darwin, NT at the top, to Sydney, NSW in the bottom right, takes longer than a flight across Europe! Once up at our cruising height we were surprised to see dinner being handed out. Although it was now gone 1am and sleep was calling, still in backpacker mode there was no way we were gonna turn down a free midnight snack. Fed and watered we settled down for the normal cramped, dislocated airline seat sleep for the next few hours… we wanted to be our best for partying with Chrissie.

A ferry docks

With Sydney being an hour and a half ahead of Darwin, we landed around 06:30 and staggered to our feet like the living dead. Into the airport we stopped briefly to freshen up then sauntered down to the baggage reclaim where we found Chrissie pacing the arrivals hall. She’d wondered where we’d got to as all the other passengers had been and gone and she was starting to get anxious. Ok so we hadn’t exactly rushed and Maz had taken her normal merry time in the loos. Chrissie’s next shock was seeing the mountain of luggage and nervously asked how long we were planning on staying..?!?!? We reassured her by telling her that most of it was bits of our junk that we were kindly dumping in her cupboards so that we could make space for the arrival of Maz’s sister, Siobhan. Fortunately Chrissie had managed to borrow her friends BMW as her own little MG 2 seater convertible wouldn’t have even fit in our hand baggage let alone us!

A glimpse of the sights!

Chrissie lives in North Sydney, so being quite early for a weekend morning it was a pleasant drive from the airport through town and over the magnificent harbour bridge, catching a sneaky glimpse of the infamous Sydney Opera House on the way. We paused for a coffee revival and sat at the little pavement tables catching our breath and taking in the views of the quite streets with the vibrant Jacaranda trees in full flower. Once again it was really strange to be sat sipping our cappuccinos and lattes amongst the quiet Sydney suburbs, feet firmly back in the civilised world, where only weeks ago given the same spot on a street corner anywhere else on our travels there’d be a throng of human activity hustling and bustling and the endless stream of mopeds buzzing past, hand on horn. How different a world we were in now!

Friend or foe?

Having been shown our room, we crammed our baggage in then set off for the beach just down the road for a stroll and to catch up. We spent most of the time pondering whether the tiny wee blue jelly fish lining the beach were dangerous or not. I was convinced that they were the deadly bluebottle jelly fish, but none of the other water goers seemed particularly perturbed. However just to be sure I tiptoed around them not wanting to experience the serve sting, resulting in fainting, cramps, nausea and breathing difficulties, at least not on my first day in town. On the way home we stopped by the bottle shop to pick up some wine for the BBQ tonight. Now wine is one of those things that we’ve dearly missed throughout our adventures and becoming reacquainted with a few bottles was high on our agenda.

BBQ time at Chrissie's

All good Aussie homes have a BBQ and Chrissies is no exception. Popping round tonight to join us was James an old friend from the dive club back at Uni who’d recently moved to Sydney with his wife Lucy. With four of us from the old dive club now on one balcony it was somewhat of a bizarre reunion. Over tucker we planned the events for the next day to drive over to Bondi where they were displaying an exhibition of ‘Sculptures by the Sea’ along the cliff top walk. As the wine flowed freely, we all agreed that it wouldn’t be a morning walk!

The morning after…!

The morning got off to a slow start and Maz needed to be literally dragged from her bed as her re-acquaintance with the wine had gone a bit better than planned! Whilst unpacking we found a small present that we’d got for a couple of friends of ours Andy & Pippa, who were getting married today back over in the UK. They were heading Oz way for their honeymoon, but with our hectic/no plans we hadn’t managed to arrange to meet up as we’d expected to be way up in the North by the time they arrived. We were just debating whether we could send their pressie to some other friends they were visiting in Melbourne, when I asked where they were flying into on their mini-tour around Australia. A quick check on the emails and we were delighted to find out that they arrived in Sydney in two days time! By some masterful stroke of luck we would be at the same place at the right time! We sent them a quick text to wish them well for their big day and to let them know we’d be joining them on the first few days of their honeymoon… they were of course delighted!

They call it art..?

The cliff top walk did nothing to stir my artistic juices, most things prompting a ‘hmm’ with a frown and a crooked neck. Only one or two things actually caught my attention the rest simply revealed how little I am acquainted with the world of modern art. Nevertheless it blew out the cobwebs and we did manage a large portion of chips which always taste better at the seaside. The rest of the day we just vegged back at Chrissies flat, cooked up another BBQ, had a wee glass of wine & watched a DVD… basically your typical Sunday chill time before work on a Monday, nothing special, but something we’d not done for what seemed like a lifetime ago. Normally we don’t even know the day of the week, so it was very strange to be experiencing this Sunday feeling once more. Slowly but surely the experiences of the developing world were washing off us as we merged with a familiar routine deep within, only now our eyes were open much wider.

Now that beats the scrap metal bits of wreck I used to collect in my backyard!

With nothing to get up for come Monday morning, we didn’t. Unfortunately for Chrissie she had to return to the world of international pharmaceuticals, so we made sure that at some stage we’d pop out to go shopping so that we had a scrummy dinner ready for when she got home. Having checked in her freezer first to find it was a frozen version of the Iranian mini-bar, i.e. totally empty except for in this instance ice instead of the jug of water we found in Iran, we staggered back from town loaded with shopping bags. After spending the day doing not very much except reading and diary writing, we were really looking forward to meeting Andy and Pippa in the morning.

We meet the newly weds + two!

Meet us outside the Opera House.. where else of course? Almost to the minute we arrived and there were the newly weds both sporting huge beaming smiles. We were all so glad that we’d managed to rendezvous and sat for a coffee to chat and plan the day ahead. Manly seemed as good a place as any to head for which gave us a ferry ride across the harbour for a water borne view of the bridge and Opera House. With all four of us vying to get a word in edgeways to an observer it must have sounded like a bizarre circular conversation. Their wedding sounded fantastic and Andy proudly showed us a selection of the wedding photos, Pippa looked radiant and we were so glad and happy for them.

Pippa & Maz Alex & Andy
After running the gauntlet of Billabong, Quiksilver and Ripcurl surf wear shops (of which I restrained myself… I will be back) we made it to the famous Manly beach to watch a few novices posing with their surf boards but promptly falling off in the waves. The strong cold wind (we’d thankfully had the forethought to bring fleeces with us from Darwin as it’s cold in Sydney at a fresh 25C – brrr!!) had us retreating to the leeside of town back near the ferry terminal where we stopped at a German Beer bar (??!?!?) for a few drinks and a light lunch and further gossip and catch up. I think it was all getting too much for Andy as after a couple of glasses of white beer he was starting to flag, he mentioned it was probably the jet lag, but we knew it was really the excitement of catching up with us :)

It's behind you..

The following day, Andy and Pips had a real treat install for us as they had very kindly booked lunch at Doyles in Watson Bay on the south side of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. After catching the fast ferry to Watson Bay we decided a wee stroll to the headland was in order before lunch to build up an appetite. As I’d not heard anything back yet from Toyota since leaving Darwin, I was getting anxious for a progress update as a lot was hinging on getting Tinfish repaired in time, to A: beat the onset of the wet which sweeps into the north and closes everything & B: we needed to be around the west coast in time to met up with Mr & Mrs Father Christmas (aka the Kelly’s) who were jetting in to meet us for Crimble. After the normal brush off that someone will call me back, I finally got hold of my ‘service advisor’. The advice was not good!

Watson Bay

Of the list as long as your arm of niggles that I wanted them to look at, the only thing they seemed to have done was an oil change and replacing the little plastic handle that customs had snapped off when Tinfish was raided! Not what I called progress. The worse was yet to come as they suddenly delivered the bomb shell that they can’t work on automatic transmission..!!!! This was problemo number 1, the main thing that NEEDED fixing & the specific reason that I’d been in contact with them a few weeks in advance to make sure they had as much info on the fault and the spec of the car prior to our arrival in Darwin. The flashing ‘O/D off’ light was Tinfish’s way of telling us that she was sick and was all to do with our current gear selection problem, so it was absolutely paramount it was fixed otherwise the old girl wasn’t going any further!

Tip toe along the beach

The news hit me like a brick wall as my mind raced to come up with a solution or some way to work around it. Incredulously Toyota weren’t even able to tell us what the fault code flashing meant as it wasn’t in their code book for an Aussie 80 series Land Cruiser. They did find something in their 100 series codes which pointed to a solenoid problem, something I’d already come up with from surfing the web. They then came up with the same tripe that it ‘is a Japanese import and so we can’t guarantee anything’, the standard brush off even though they’d know for a month it was a Jap Cruiser. As the anger swelled I asked them if they knew of an auto transmission centre that could look at the fault and after a few phone conversations we at least had an option, but he couldn’t look at it until next week.

Surf life guards… NOT!

The guy seemed helpful enough, but he didn’t sound convinced that it would be the solenoids as they ‘never fail’, especial two of them together! My stomach lurched, but what else could we do but get it stripped down and investigated. Just to put my mind at ease he said a rebuild would cost circa AUD5,000 and take between 3 & 5 weeks. With Maz’s folks arriving in 3 weeks time way down in Perth (approx 4,500km away from Darwin), I staggered to the head land with my mind spinning, trying desperately to search for a few options, whilst at the same time not wanting to spoil our last day with Andy and Pips. Maz understood as well as I what this all meant, but for now all we could do was wait and hope!

Our walk to the head land

The walk helped to clear my mind a bit and we were definitely ready for lunch when we all tucked into a bumper portion of fish n chips with a few bottles of wine to help it all go down. Fortunately as we nursed our stomachs we casually asked when the last ferry back was… In 10mins… lucky timing! Back in town we took a stroll through the botanical gardens dodging the cockatoos and enormous flying foxes dangling from nearly every tree. On the far side was Woolloomooloo (what a name!) and Finger Wharf, the delightful hotel where Andy and Pips were staying so we ended up back there for a coffee and then as the sun was firmly over the yard arm down to the bar for a beer. The next stop on the guy’s whistle stop tour was the red centre and with an early flight the next morning, we said our fond farewells, so glad that we’d all managed to catch up and in our own way celebrate their wedding.

Entrance to Sydney Harbour

Just outside the hotel, conveniently near the bus stop, was a pie stall thoroughly recommended by all the guide books, so it seemed rude not to try the Aussie obsession with the meat pie. We were soon stood with pie in hand when who should rock up… Andy & Pips who’d had the same great idea for their tea too. A final final farewell, with pie and sauce all over our chops and we headed off into the Sydney night onboard our bus back to Chrissie’s. It was so great to see you guys and we wish you all the very best as the new Mr & Mrs Brown.

Pie selection Yum, yum
Today was spent searching for some light at the end of the tunnel for Tinfish. Toyota eventually called me back at 7pm after I’d been calling them all day. The point had to be made how livid we were and why the hell would we have left Tinfish with them and flown to Sydney if we knew they couldn’t work on the transmission!! Furthermore I stressed the folly of doing an oil change when with out the transmission the car wasn’t going anywhere! The search was also on for a 2nd hand transmission and the call went out all around Australia, from Perth, to Adelaide, to Melbourne and back to Darwin. As is customary, nothing is straight forward as Tinfish was just on the cusp of when Toyota changed the auto transmission on the 80 series. The defining difference being whether it had wires coming out of one side of the transmission or not. I was sure it was the later model, but was reluctant to commit AUD3,000 plus shipping without confirmation.

Reminds me of Play School!

Without the car in front of me, I was reliant on Toyota to send me some photo’s of the transmission, which they kindly did, albeit the wrong side so we were none the wiser. A couple of wreckers yards were really helpful however and one even offered to convert Tinfish to a manual! Plans were made then changed, the car had gone to the transmission specialist and I had at least one of each version of transmission somewhere in Australia ready to be shipped to Darwin. A spark of light was emerging, but we still both felt totally deflated, after all we’d been through we couldn’t believe the expedition might come to a screaming halt like this. We talked to Maz’s folks trying to come up with some vague plans. They insisted they just wanted to see us both, but I was concerned if they flew up to Darwin it would be just too dam hot and humid and they’d literally melt!

Flying foxes hanging everywhere

On top of all this, in case Tinfish made a miraculous recovery I was still working on the Motor Vehicle Registry to confirm what needed to be done to make Tinfish road legal. They were still insisting that we needed NT plates, but would do something to get around the NT residency issue. Not convinced we decided to pop into the Sydney office for their version and it came as no great surprise when they said we had to do absolutely nothing! Not for the first time have two government offices complete contradicted one another. Of course Darwin was in the Territory, almost a country within a country and Sydney was New South Wales, the two being worlds apart in their administration, so we conceded that if we needed NT plates then NT plates it would be.

Yet another perfect beach!

Whilst in town, we decided to see if an old friend from uni was about. I texted Fluff (or Marc as he’s now known) and we arranged to meet up for a coffee. I’d not seen Marc since the last time I was in Sydney about 6 years ago and when he walked in he was a mere shadow of the Marc I remembered and looking very well, bah the stress that he always put himself under. It was great to catch up and put the total of ex-surrey uni friends we’d met whilst in Sydney up to 3! With it being the coldest day for this time of year recorded in the last 100 years, we decided BBQ would be off tonight and for the first time in a while caught up with Chrissie over a huge portion of Nachos… it’s great to have an oven.

Lights, camera, action..

Spent another night on the internet surfing for some inspiration. Found a useful document which explained how the four solenoids work on a Toyota transmission and convinced myself that we were experiencing a dual solenoid failure. I don’t want to get our hopes up, but the evidence is starting to point at these pesky solenoids and not something more serious as there are zillions of moving bits, springs, gears and clutch plates that could go wrong in an auto transmission. One plan for Ma and Pa Kelly, is for us to fly to Perth and get a big enough camper van for all 4 of us. Complicated, but an option.

Pink fizz with James & Lucy

We met Jim and Lucy at the Opera House bar in the afternoon for a wee drinky of pink fizz. Not my normal drink but it worked very well sat in the sun with the Opera House one side and the bridge all on view. We then all jumped on a ferry to cross the harbour and meet up with Chrissie and a couple of her friends Elizabeth and Steve for a Thai. Lots of restaurants in Australia are BYO, which is novel and allows you to choose a couple of nice bottles of wine to go with your meal. Perhaps we chose a few too many bottles again as we all woke up feeling the worst for wear. Our tolerance to alcohol has definitely wavered during our time on the road as bizarrely as it might sound we were finding our beer budget had been getting out of hand and was becoming a significant deficit so we curtailed, preferring to rather spend our hard saved dosh on doing things. We saw this intense trip to Sydney as a drinking camp to get in training for when the Grey Nomads arrived.

Not a bad view form the bridge!

With it now being the weekend again, Chrissie was allowed out to play, so after a leisurely morning reading papers, we set out for a bit of exercise, after dragging Chrissie on to public transport which was a first for her seeing as though she’s a bit of a Princess about these things. We walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge then rummaged around The Rocks where there is a weekend market. As we mooched about sampling tit-bits on offer, we found some furniture which would look great in our new house (when we get one!) and remarkably a book in a series that I’d been looking for ever since I re-learnt to read sometime around Malaysia! After catching the ferry back across to Luna Park, we searched to see if they still had the ‘Just Married’ board that we’d previously had our picture taken with our heads poking through some 12 years ago and which we subsequently used on our wedding invites, but unfortunately it had gone.

Two little angels!

Once back at the flat, we lazed about into the evening sipping further wine and being forced to suffer some chick flick the girls were keen to watch. Tomorrow we had Chrissies friend’s BMW again, so we’d be heading out for a drive. Up early to pack a picnic for the day, we headed towards the northern beaches, stopping at a few spots in the National Parks and an obligatory walk on the beach as featured in ‘Home and Away’. We also attempted to surprise Maz’s Aunt and Uncle who live in Avalon, but unfortunately after finding the right house they weren’t in, so we heading home to experience that Sunday afternoon feeling once more.

Wind blown, but what a view!

Chrissie was kind enough to lend us her MG today, so we zipped around Sydney, mainly to Toyota garages and 4x4 shops doing chores. Got some dinner in and Jim invited us over for beers in the evening. When Chrissie got home, she’d raided the canteen at work (apparently she frequently hangs around at the end of the day near the trash cans hoping for a hand out) and had come up trumps with some nice looking sweet n sour chicken. It then transpired that beers also meant BBQ, so we had in fact dinners coming at us from every angle! Had another great night enjoying the company and banter before actually walking the couple of km’s home, laughing and giggling all the way.

On to the Northern beaches

Eventually some good news about Tinfish… they had diagnosed the fault and it was indeed two solenoids that had failed. He couldn’t say how this had happened but suggested the car might be overloaded (as he could only just get it off the ground on his 4T lift) and it might have been due to the transmission overheating. This was the unavoidable truth, persistent uphill’s really gets Tinfish’s goat and she’d frequently sulk by flashing the ATF warning light… which basically means the Auto Transmission Fluid is getting too hot. We always pull over and allow her to cool, but repetitive overheating like this is not good for the ATF and obviously not for the solenoids either. We had fortunately installed an additional ATF cooler, which must have helped get us this far, God knows what would have happened without it.

This tree is taken

The chap suggested however to be safe and as he already had it all in pieces, that we should change all four as the other two were probably suffering too. Now being somewhat qualified electronically (I have a degree in it after all) I know the basis of a solenoid… a simple electronic switch, which consists of a coil that when turned ‘on’ magnetises which then moves a metal rod appropriately to open or close a gate, all normally package in something not much bigger then a matchbox. My brief moment of relief soon faded when told the cost of these simple devices were AUD300 each..!! Gulp!! Still, better than the AUD3-5,000 that we were trying to get ourselves psyched up about, the sweetener to this bitter pill however was it could be ready by tomorrow… fantastic – let there be light!

Picnic time

With Chrissie’s MG to play with again today, neither of us could be bothered to work on website stuff, so with the roof down we headed off to Dee Why beach for a cruise. We stretched our legs on the rocky outcrops revealed when the tide is out and sat for awhile watching the sea pounding against the shore. We both love being by the sea and this protected, tranquil cove was ideal for just letting our rollercoaster emotions of the last week ebb away. On the way home we took a small detour into the suburbs to get a little feel of what life might be like in Sydney. Up until this point our vague plans have been to stop in Sydney for awhile at the end of the trip and see what turns up. Re-orbiting after such an adventure we know will be extremely hard, but our time in Sydney did actually go some way to comforting us that it will be possible, albeit the greatest challenge of the whole adventure! Maz even found a house we both liked, but at over a million dollars perhaps it’s a little out of our current price range :)

Home n Away

Back at Chrissies for our final night, it was celebration time. As chance would have it she’d just been to the bottle shop to get the champers for her works Christmas bash and with such a large order a couple of free bottles were thrown needing a good home. So our last BBQ was accompanied by some luvly fizz, although we started off being good and only put one bottle in to chill. This later became 2, 3, 4, etc until it was time for my bed and having warned Maz that she’d already screamed past her stop button, I left the girls to their girly chat. I’ve no idea when they drag themselves to bed, but I didn’t remember being woken up by Chrissie leaving for work at 8am and come midday it was obvious that she’d shared the same bad prawn as Maz and had called in sick!

Here comes trouble..

With little left to do but pack (most of our stuff into Chrissie’s cupboards) we worked out the bus and train needed to get to the airport as we only had the 2 seater MG, although Chrissie drove Maz & our luggage to the bus stop whilst I diligently walked on behind! Overall we’d spent 12 nights in Sydney which had been a real break for us (although not our livers) so a huge thank you to Chrissie for all her hospitality. We were now fully revived and looking forward to reuniting with a fit and healthy Tinfish raring to transport us around this enormous and incredible country called Australia.

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from Taimur Mirza
Could get all the selonoids for under 10 quids here..... what a ripoff
15 Jan 2007 @ 07:57:33

Comment from Simon Grandidge
17 Jan 2007 @ 13:34:22