On Sunday morning, we woke feeling remarkably fresh and, although we'd had a longer lie, we were fed and walking before 11:00. Despite being cloudy, it was a pleasant Spring morning and so we headed for the Botanical Gardens. It was a lovely and peaceful walk along the eastern path, bordering Cowper Wharf, admiring the unusual plants and trees until we came around the headland to Mrs MacQuarie's Chair and viewpoint that afforded the dramatic views back across to the Opera house, Harbour Bridge and downtown Sydney.
The rest of day the was spent rather unproductively, lounging in the room, although it wasn't relaxing as we were never left alone and some of our dorm mates had their music on for a time. To give an honest account, we were frustrated with our almost stagnant situation and because the job market was a lot harder to crack than we had realised (and perhaps, that was arrogance or naivety on our part). Craig got an email back today to say a job he had applied for had closed to any further applicants after receiving just shy of 1400 applications. In the last post we joked about the 'highlight reel' of jobs we had applied for but there were hundreds of others we had each applied for and heard nothing back. Our main goal was to work in the hospitality / restaurant trade however, to work with alcohol at all we must have an RSA licence, which is issued on a state by state basis after completing a different course for each state. We were struggling to get an appointment to complete the verbal assessment for New South Wales (NSW), this year. We had been walking the streets handing our CV's into shops but no leads as yet. The original plan had been to work on farms which was proving just as problematic as places were advertising jobs starting the next day but it would be in the middle of the outback or on the other side of the country. Even jobs that were better dated were only ever looking for 1 person and going to the middle of the outback for a job for 1 person just wasn't practical for us. We were trying to stay positive but also realising, we couldn't live in this limbo forever.
The next morning, we woke with a renewed positive attitude and the belief we would get a job today. After breakfast, we headed to the IEP room and set ourselves up at desks and applied for every job we could possibly twist or pigeonhole our skills into. Craig got an email after an hour and a half of this, to go for an interview on Tuesday for a charity job in the city. We were buoyed by this news and then, ecstatic, as Katy got a message through to say we had both been accepted for a job picking blueberries in Coffs Harbour, 5.5 hours north of Sydney. After deliberation over lunch, we decided to accept the position in Coffs Harbour as it was a job for both of us, the cost of living would be lower and the work was until the end of February 2020, perfect!
With a weight lifted from our chests we were able to enjoy the afternoon, played some table tennis in the hostel before having dinner at 3 Wise Monkeys.
The next morning we said goodbye to room 215 and checked out at 10:00 and waited for check in to our new room at 14:00. This time was used constructively however, as we booked accommodation in Coffs Harbour for the first 2.5 weeks of us living there and transport to get us up. Once we had checked back in we went in search of some new clothes for working on the blueberry farm, this included longer sleeved t-shirts for Katy (t-shirt tans are never cool) and a new pair of headphones for Craig. When we returned to the dorm, we met both of our new roommates, Kurt (a 52 year old America college professor who had been let go from his job and had decided to go travelling) and Ross (a retired Kiwi in his late-60's who was spending 4 weeks in Sydney on holiday). With the conversation feeling strained and awkward, we left to the lounge to relax and play some table tennis (you'd think we were good by now). Before we went to dinner, we were caught by Kurt and ended up chatting for 2 hours about politics, travelling, our homes and recommendations for travelling. After a grab and go dinner we returned to the room at 21:30 only to discover the lights off and the other 2, fast asleep. This was a definite change from our previous room (as Katy said (in text), 'we were the late night rebels now!')
The next morning we did a load of laundry in preparation for leaving and, after lunch, we attended an interview. No, not one for a job, but one for an STA social media campaign with Laura, the IEP co-ordinator. We (and others) were recorded answering set questions that STA want to put together into a video to promote Australia and we will, of course, let you know if we are part of an advert somewhere!
With the rest of the day free, and our job troubles behind us, we decided to let our hair down and enjoy our final night in Sydney! We started at Jet Bar Caffe for an outdoor afternoon coffee, listening to a nearby busker and watching the world go by as we sipped on our caffeine fixes. We had identified another hidden bar to try but had to wait on it opening on 17:00 (it's 5 o'clock somewhere, right!?) so, to fill the time, we went to Reign inside the QVB for a glass of fizz - hey, we were celebrating!
After finishing our glasses we joined the 17:00 commuters and headed to the next bar. We do love our hidden bars and Old Mate's Place (Level 4, 199 Clarence Street) may have been the best and also the most hidden as you can see from the photo below.
After climbing the 4 flights of stairs, we entered a low lit library setting, with a very grand, old-style bar in the corner but we carried on, up another flight of stairs, and back into the daylight, we were here for the rooftop. The rooftop bar was amazing, tiny, but the bar was fully stocked and the views were amazing. Even better, we managed to get a table to ourselves. We enjoyed a drink in the sunshine as the sun began to sink, casting long, dramatic shadows across downtown.
On recommendation from our tour guide from the weekend, Justine, we went for Chinese food at Mr. Wong's (located up a lane, along another lane and then up a further lane) and it was one of the best we have ever had, with Craig making a strong case for it being the best (chopstick skills to be improved).
One of Katy's desires while in Sydney was to see the Harbour Bridge and Opera House all lit up at night. It was truly stunning and, in many ways, surreal to be standing at a sight that was almost familiar to us, thanks to TV and films (and Katy being here about 20 years ago).
We managed to get back to the dorm before the 21:30 lights out curfew and, after showering (so we could pack away the dried towels in the morning) headed to bed at 22:00 for an early night. Sadly, the Scary Canary, that was now directly below us, had very different ideas. At 02:45 the music finally stopped and by 03:05, most of the punters had moved on.
The alarm went off at 05:00 and after getting ready, we lugged ourselves down to the beautiful Central Railway station. Annoyingly, it was for the 06:30 bus replacement service to Taree (due to the bushfires) and then the train to Coffs Harbour. The bus, to it's credit, was well air-conditioned, comfortable and we left Sydney on time. We crossed the Harbour Bridge which was pretty special but as we left the smoke was hanging thick across Sydney this morning.
We got to Taree an hour and a half ahead of schedule which we spent sitting on the train, waiting for it to depart due to the smoke hanging over Taree. We arrived into Coffs Harbour at 16:15 although the train journey hadn't been overly pleasant. The 2 gentlemen in front of us had a smell of stale alcohol that permeated from them and the family behind us had let their 4 girls run wild around the train. Craig even had the youngest child telling him how to play a game on his phone (to be fair, she had a fair point, he wasn't doing it right). The Uber dropped us off at our Airbnb, which turned out to be a townhouse, and it was almost instantly therapeutic for both of us walking into all of that space! Over dinner, we caught up on 2 weeks of The Apprentice and then managed to drag ourselves off to an early night before we fell asleep on the sofa. We were exhausted but we were in Coffs Harbour, ready to be back at work!
Friday and Saturday were spent relaxing, lounging in and around the house and getting ourselves ready for the move back into a hostel on Sunday and, work on Monday morning.
PS, apologies for the very wordy post!