I got confused when I tried to check train times and prices from Newcastle to Sydney a few weeks ago. Looking for intercity trains didn’t help, and I got caught in a loop of looking up times but being unable to book them. It turns out that although it is quite a distance, and takes 2.5 hours, it’s just a metropolitan train service; roll up on the day and go for under $9.
So I did. I stopped in Hamilton, Newcastle for lunch and sitting outside was lucky enough to meet Elizabeth. Lucky, because we have our queen, but when would I meet her, but Elizabeth is the queen of Australia. Very soft hands. She sat at my table – eating al fresco had seemed such a good idea – to ask if she could eat anything left over. I’d have bought her her own, but had only stopped on a whim, wasn’t going to eat it all so figured she could have half. Her technique, if that’s what it was, involved subvocalising, though it got louder, so either whoever she was talking to wasn’t answering back, or she had grown worried – I caught “come on, you don’t need all that”. She was right, we shook hands on what was left and I moved on.
It turned out that the train was just arriving. No idea how regular they are, but still a bonus, and after a comfortable journey I was in Sydney by 3. The highlight was around Gosford, where the tracks are right by the shore; great views of the ocean as the train rattled through.
Wake Up! hostel is just opposite Central station, as is the YHA, if you prefer. I dumped my bags, met a couple of guests who were excellently chatty, pondered for a minute and then spotted a map with walking route on the back of the hostel info. The cricket was safe at 87-3 at tea, but might turn at any moment and I decided not to watch any more – unsure whether I wanted it over, in order to see a refund on my fourth day ticket, or a fight back of some kind, to complete my tour of the grounds with more defeat-medicine.
The tour took me to the waterfront, where fairly loud music was issuing from a speaker set up. I could see CDs for sale by the speaker, but no one playing, which seemed odd. Flipping wireless, wasn’t it. After a while he stood up and strolled about with his guitar.
It was a bit loud. People everywhere, the numbers boosted by the cruise ship docked by the ferry terminal, and due to leave at 6pm, so time to hustle back, passengers. I realised that the route marked must be the same as that on the daily walking tour of Sydney the hostel offers, but didn’t let that put me off – I can always do it with commentary and youths some other day. It peeled away from the water, into arcades and the boutiques of the Queen Victoria building, then back to the harbour for a view of the opera house and harbour bridge, before heading through the botanical gardens for some peace, then through Hyde park before finding some fast food and the route back. I might have added the fast food in myself, thinking about it.
I finished with a couple of drinks in the bar downstairs with a couple of Americans who are in my room. Beats socialising only with Brits, who make up most of the guests there, though I did meet Swedish couple Martin and Martina later. French couple Claude and Claudia and German Jan and Janet were nowhere to be seen, though I did this evening meet a German who is studying farming, off to a placement North of Brisbane tomorrow and “wery worried” about energy use and the amount of things shipped round the world. Aren’t we all.
Yesterday’s travel and socialising allowed for a Monday filled only with a stroll round Darling bay and book devouring in Hyde Park. It was either 30 or 31 degrees at its peak today, the readout by the harbour couldn’t make up its mind. Either seemed pretty good to me.