When I switched hostels on Wednesday the 27th of December, I moved across the street to the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) at Railway Square, literally across the street from Wakeup!. Unfortunately, all the 10- and 8-share dorms were taken, and I had to take a 4-share, in the shape of a railway car.
Seriously, I was sleeping in a railway car. The dorm was pretty small, but very clean, and the building had good security. Soon after, one of my new dormmates joined me, his name was Phil from Brisbane by way of Brasil (Rio). He was in Sydney with his mate Brad for the New Year’s celebrations.
They had just been screwed over by a small hostel downtown, called City Central Backpacker’s. Several months ago, they had booked — and paid for — a room there for the whole week they’d be in Sydney, but when they arrived, the receptionist told them that the reservation wasn’t valid and they didn’t have a room. But they paid for the room! A fair argument, but the people at the hostel wouldn’t refund their money or give them a room. Brad got pretty angry and encouraged the receptionist when she threatened to call the cops. When the cops arrived and heard the story, they sided with the boys, but said there was nothing they could do.
Fortunately, the two of them managed to arrange accomodation for all the nights they were in Sydney save for two, the 30th and 31st of Dec. They figured they wouldn’t be getting or needing much sleep on New Year’s Eve, so that left only the night before.
After they had sorted out a place to stay, we headed to the pub (Three Wise Monkeys) for a few drinks. Phil left early, but Brad and I stayed and met Louise and Martina from Scotland.
The next night, Andy said he was heading to a a birthday party at an Irish pub near Bondi Junction called … the Cock ‘N Bull. Me and the boys were a little hazy on the directions and ended up walking the wrong direction twice. We were also a little hesitant at asking for directions, and no, not because of that macho cliche, but because neither of us wanted to go up to someone and say we were looking for a Cock N’ Bull.
We finally found it and after walking in, also found it to be packed beyond belief. It was like that children’s puzzle where there’s one tile place empty and you have to shift the other tiles around to come up with the picture of a flower or Disneyland or whatever. The one empty spot was halfway outside the door, and after tons of forceful shifting, we made it to the bar. The C&B was connected to another pub next door and we made our way there to enjoy our drinks ($5 Carlton Draughts). We chatted with Andy, his girl Paula, and the Irishmen. After a couple rounds we didn’t really find it our scene so I took off with the boys, and headed where? Three Wise Monkeys, ‘course.
The next day, Brad and Phil were headed to Manly to find a some Brasilian girls they met on Bondi Beach the day before, who promised them a place to crash on the 30th. Since I hadn’t been and hadn’t even ridden the ferry, I tagged along. It was a miserable day, threatening rain by the afternoon, so the ferry was actually quite windy, cold and less awe-inspiring. We walked up Manly’s main street and stopped by a Fish & Chips joint for some food. A friend of Phil’s from school, Charlotte, was also in Sydney/Manly for some traveling and met us at the restaurant, and she brought her friend Naseem. The five of us walked along the street, sat by the beach for a bit and continued down the promenade … when it started raining. We ducked under the shop awnings and started making our way back to the ferry. On the way back we also stopped at a Australiana souvenir store and tried out a Didjeridoo! I think given some time I could actually play it well, it’s not that hard of an instrument. Charlotte, Naseem and I hopped on the ferry back to Sydney, but the boys, strapped for a bed, despite the rain, decided to find the girls’ house.
That night, Phil stayed in, but Brad and I headed to the Cross (King’s Cross, to the uninitiated) to meet Charlotte and Naseem. As we stepped on the train, the girls called and said they didn’t much feel like going out. What? Yeah, right. Brad, with his uncanny ability to guilt trip anybody, managed to convince the girls to come out to World Bar. We had a few drinks there, then moved to Empire, just down the street.
The best part of King’s Cross are the numerous prostitutes and pimps that line the streets. And these aren’t pimps, they’re marketers. They’ll follow you down the street a few meters, saying “Come on, mate, you gotta see these girls inside, they’re beautiful”, or “Hey mates, how’d you like to spend the evening with some beautiful women?” The girls themselvs were pretty quiet, but noticeably present.
After empire Brad and I walked the girls home, through rat-infested streets, to their hostel. On the way back, we stopped by for a late-night pie.
Sidebar: If there’s one piece of food that’s uniqely Australian, other than Vegemite (more on that later … trust me), it’s a meat pie. According to Brad, the best meat pies have a tender, flaky crust that not only crumbles in your mouth as you bite through the moist layers, but would also give a soft crunch to let you know that you’re actually biting into something. But no, the heart of the meat pie is, deservedly, in the filling. Most vendors get the filling wrong by making it too runny, too watery. A good pie filling has to be thick and chunky, like a good stew. A filling that leaks out onto your hands after the first bite is nothing close to a pie to be enjoyed. Brad made my mouth flood with tales of meat pies with thick steak fillings accompanied by onions, peas, cheese and sometiimes a whole egg on top instead of the top crust.
The pie Brad and I got from the Cross was mediocre at best. The crust was enjoyable, quite tender and good, but the filling was just too watery, ending up on either our hands or the paper sleeve in which the pie came.
Another favorite of Brad and mine’s was a Snickers. Or, as I misheard him call it, a Sniggee. From then on, after a late night at the bar, it would either be a late-night pie, or Sniggee Time.
The next night we met the girls for dinner in Chinatown, and after a couple drinks with Andy at the Cheers Bar, called it a night.
This time for real, stay tuned for New Year’s, a whole entry devoted to it, in fact.