Saturday, 27 June 2009


There's a certain rhythm to hostel life - you meet people in your room, and have the following conversation:
- Where are you going?
- Where have you been?
- Where are you from (usually Germany, which the Germans say very apologetically - I think they came here to get away from each other)?
- What do you do (I hate this one, in my case it takes too long to answer and leads to lots of follow-up questions)?
I'd have gone stir crazy if I'd spent all my time on this trip in hostels, but I've had enough variety (friends, friends of friends, couchsurfers, camping) that I'm not yet sick of them. Sick of some aspects, mind - overcrowded kitchens (the word 'sorry' is constantly employed by the 20 different cooks reaching across each other), ancient literature, and casual theft of my beers from the communal fridges. Some have hardly any character (usually city centre ones like Sydney where I'm staying now), and some have rather too much. The proprietor in Deloraine, Tasmania who hadn't bothered to take down the xmas tree by late March fell the wrong side of the eccentric/scary weirdo line.

But the good ones make it all worthwhile. They're usually small, Murchison and Te Aroha in New Zealand, or St Helens in Tasmania. Another of my favourites is Katoomba in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I was there for a night between rugby games 6 years ago, and went for a proper stay last week. Lovely rambling 1930s art deco building with the most comfy hostel beds of the trip, though with a 1930s attitude to draught exclusion. The town looks tired though, funny how some parts of these new countries can feel rather old fashioned. But the blue mountains scenery is different from any I've seen, and parts are surprisingly inaccessible and unexplored given proximity to Sydney. About 15 years ago, botanists discovered Wollemi pines in one of the gorges, apparently this is the botanical equivalent of finding small dinosaurs running around.

Today's photo was the scariest of the trip to acquire; in a howling gale on Hanging Rock, one of the blue mountains' more inaccessible viewpoints. It has 300 metre vertical drops and no railings. I crawled on and crawled off, hope my readership thinks it was worthwhile.

NZ hostels are much better than their Aussie equivalents for recycling. They tend to have about 6 different rubbish bins for different classes of recyclable items, which have me crying out for a 'normal' bin for rubbish that's definitely not recyclable. The whole recycling concept has much less priority in Australian hostels, a difference which mirrors the countries as a whole, one of the reasons I prefer NZ.

Talking of hostels, I'm making a point of not seeing the horror film 'Hostel' which would apparently discourage me from staying in any of them. In the same vein, a recent aussie horror-flick called Wolf Creek is constantly referenced by travellers considering a farm-stay anywhere in the outback.

In Sydney now, hooking up again with Sandra and Eric. A major Scotland v Switzerland duel was scheduled for tonight, but Andy Murray lost his Wimbledon semi-final, so guess Scottish honour depends on my performance with the Canasta cards instead. We're going to my first rugby league match this afternoon - not planning to be tempted to the dark side permanently, but you never know.

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