11. Newcastle

My time in the Blue Mountains came to an end. After a week of bushwalking I was a little exhausted but a week by Newcastle beach should do the trick, just 4hrs on the train to get there.

My trip to Newcastle turned out to be a lot more stressful than it should have been. From Katoomba I had to return to Sydney before catching another train to Newcastle. Knowing this, I left a couple of hours in Sydney so I could organise a flat for Christmas and pick up my ATM card from the bank. The first task went really well, I now have somewhere to stay in Brisbane which is very close to my volunteer placement at Lone Pine. Also it means I'm not spending the festive period on the street which is a plus too. However, the quick stop at the bank turns out to be a very long stop. First, I couldn't find them and once I finally located the branch they couldn't find me. After a long time searching on their system I was informed my card had been sent to another branch.

By this time I was cutting it quite close for catching my train to Newcastle so decided not to start searching for the second bank but to collect my backpack from its holding place and return to central station. By the time I had picked up Zippy I was already rushing and rather hot and bothered so carrying a pack that weighs half my own weight, up hill in sunny Sydney did not help. After reaching my bus stop to see my bus pull away I knew I had missed my train. I waited the 10mins for the next bus and continued in the hope the train had been delayed. It hadn't. I looked at the board and it was gone.

However, with amazing luck there was a CityRail train that had been delayed which, though my ticket wasn't valid for it, was headed to Newcastle. I enquired and a helpful little man at the Countrylink office (the trains I can travel on with my shiny pass) reminded me I was given a CityRail Daytripper ticket with my rail pass. These tickets are supposed to be for unlimited travel on one day so you can go sight seeing but I can't afford to buy a ticket so it'd do. Thankfully I hadn't used it and so managed to get a train after all. I was hot and sweaty, stressed, hungry and a little sunburnt and now travelling on an all stops commuter train that took twice as long as the express with the comfy seats (one in particular with my name on a little tab above it) but I was on my way.

Having missed lunch in the rush I looked forward to the free dinners put on by the hostel, only upon arrival I was informed both that I was too late for dinner and that the closest food shops had closed half an hour previous. So toast for tea. This was not the end of my bad day when at 2am the fire alarm goes of and we have to vacate the building. Turns out other people who were slightly intoxicated had decided they were also in the mood for toast. After a few more hours sleep and a trip to a very expensive shop for milk I find that my much anticipated breakfast had been stolen. Some time in the night, I'm guessing around the time the drunks were toasting the kitchen, my food had been nicked from my shelf. My bad day had now turned into a duo and continued as I went to sign up for the free evening meals as directed by various posters throughout the hostel. "Free meals are only Tuesday to Thursday" I am informed by the girl at reception. I arrived Thursday night and leave Tuesday morning. I'm really rather annoyed by this as I paid extra for this hostel because it advertised free meals EVERY night and being a YHA I expected better standards - the kitchen is tiny and has no plates, there are only 2 plug sockets under someones bed for 5 people in a room to share and none elsewhere in the hostel and only 2 computers work out of a room of 12.

Koala mat Blackbutt Reserve
Later in the week I'm given wrong information and bus times for getting to Blackbutt Reserve; a wildlife park I tried to volunteer at but my placement feel through, and then the bus driver gave me wrong directions on how to get back from the park so I got lost for a few hours in the park grounds

On Saturday I got locked in Christchurch Cathedral which was fun. It was only for 15 maybe 20mins but churches are creepy places when there's no escape.

Christchurch Cathedral

On Sunday night my roommate discovers she has unknowingly had a friend in the shower - a giant cockroach and in the morning I wake up with several large bits on my back. Unlikely to be bed bugs as I have slept several nights in the bed already so I decide this may be my first mozzie bites.

Now its Monday and I'm deciding whether the all you can eat pizza for $7 is worth it. Though I'll will be glad to see the back of this hostel I did enjoy Newcastle. Didn't see everything though, as today was a thunderstorm day. I made a friend of my roommate Ellie from Sheffield and it turned out I had followed a German girl who I had been in Katoomba with.

Anzac Hill
One night a group of us head out to a free open air cinema showing Blindside, a film about a young deprived black boy's journey as hes raised by a nice white family and turns out to be really good at American football. Only an American among us was able to follow the sport bit while the rest of us enjoy the story. So that was a nice night. Newcastle is on a lovely bit of coast with several beaches and there's a big Aldi so if nothing else I'm sold on the place itself.

Tomorrow I'm going a bit more remote and staying in Anna Bay, Port Stephens so have to buy food here to take with me as its 5km to the nearest food store and there's not a lot of transport. I'm told I'm staying in a patch of rainforest on the coast. Sounds good, but then so did this hostel......

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