Thursday December 2nd 1999, Newtown, Sydney
I arrived in the evening; Chrissie (my niece) collected me from the airport, speeding me to her charming Victoriana style two story house in Newtown, a suburb near to the city. A plethora of antique and bric-a-brac shops, trendy type restaurants and boutiques nestle amongst the suppliers of household necessities along its main thoroughfare, King Street. We turn into a tree-lined street off the Ďbottomí end of this main route into the city. I find the corrugated iron roofs of the houses quite unique, they're cleverly moulded to curl daintily over verandas decorated with lacy wrought iron edges. Very attractive, and very functional given the diverse weather in a city that experiences summer temperatures over 30°C. The airport is quite close, judging by the occasional overwhelming whine of engines as planes jockey to land, seemingly brushing tree-tops and buildings a few hundred metres away. House rules include no indoor smoking, and the cats come first! In the small rear tiled yard, exotic plants in big pots cram every available space.  A cream painted wall hides the property to the left, while the neighbour to the right is invisible behind a 2m fence sporting a prolific yellow creeper. Beneath this, potted ferns and succulents peep out from amongst pink and white Busy-Lizzie. A huge Monstera (Swiss cheese plant) fills the far right corner, a tall Ficus beside it, the size of a small tree. The warm evening air carries the pungent scent of Frangipani, a strong, heady perfume from tiny white and yellow blossoms. A big round table and four benches take up one third of the yard area, illuminated by a spotlight over the back door. This is the summer dining table and smoking zone.
We go out to look at the city at night - I will never forget the first sight of the bridge as we crossed it, how the surreal uplighting resembled a scene in Metropolis (the movie). Darling Harbour looked lovely, sparkling lights reflecting in the water, and the view of the city from Luna Park was just fantastic. The harbour is really a fabulous scene at night.
Chris took me to meet Ron & Lou, dear friends, for the first of many glasses of wine. It was good to learn about the city, what to see and do, from Sydneysiders. Better than any guide book.

Friday December 3rd 1999, Circular Key, Sydney Harbour - 1300 hrs
Itís hot - I love it! The world renowned bridge is opposite me, huge in its meccano style. You canít help looking at the structure, it totally dominates the scene. People mill about in tourist ecstasy, taking photos of each other with the bridge in the background, and all languages can be heard within fifty metres. I watch clear water lapping at yellow and green ferry boats; nearby a big pearl white catamaran bobs up and down on the waves. This is unmistakably Sydney, and it is beautiful. The bluest sky paints the sea with azure light, sparkling as the tide swells. In both directionsa along Circular Quay takes the visitor along Writer's Walk where all the great Australian authors are honoured with a plaque set into the stones commemorating them and their work. There was Germaine Greer, Clive James, and Barry Humphries, amongst many others whose names are etched in literary history.
My teeth ache gently but determined to ignore the pain, I soldier on carrying a generous supply of pain killers. Had to try a pie for breakfast - the fame of Aussie Pies has stretched across the world to tempt me into Shakespeareís Pie Shop where the fillings are more diverse than any Iíve seen before (I had scrumptious Thai Broccoli and Potato).

Sydney Botanical Gardens 1615 hrs
After two hours of wandering Iíve seen more trees than you could shake a stick at. Huge towering gums of various types - I didnít know there were so many - festooned with Flying Foxes, (big fruit bats) wrapped in leather-like wings akin to vampires encased in coffins waiting for dark when they will awaken to feed. Occasionally one stirs and shakes its wings, re-wrapping the black membrane around itself again. I wonder at their upside down existence. Strange birds wander the paths of this fabulous garden, white Sacred Ibis, poke their long curling beaks into the grass, searching for titbits. In the pools, Eels undulate along the walls; they escape the sea by climbing the nearby harbour wall to take up residence in the gardensí ponds. I think this is the best park of its kind, given to the people for their enjoyment, thereís even a sign asking you to walk on the grass and touch the flowers! Try that in London, and see the reaction, he-he. Separated from the harbour by a pale limestone wall, what were once the Governor's gardens now provide a spectacular view over the north eastern shore. Joggers weave through groups of tourists while other Sydneysiders eat their packed lunches on the grass in brilliant sunshine.
Time to make my way back to base for tonight's Christmas dinner. This will enable us all to enjoy the seasonal meal together. Kathryn and Mary, (Chrissie's house mates) will also be out of town on Christmas Day. A lively evening ensued. Everyone wearing paper hats, pulling crackers, tucking into turkey and stuffing, in Meditteranean temperatures, was to say the least, different me. I drank too much (as you do on thse occasions), enjoying the friendly banter at the table.

Saturday 4th December St Peterís railway station 12.25 hrs
Sydney - a city moving so far ahead of itself that the Sunday papers come out on Saturday!
This station is like something from the 1950ís, with bright red benches and rubbish bins, diverse small trees growing right on the platforms, and flowers in big stone boxes. The train arrives, a modern two-tiered affair clad in shiny steel. I stare out of the window at other stations full of people moving somewhere else. The threat of rain hangs overhead but Iíve got a brolly with me to ensure lots of sunshine!

Darling Harbour 1425 hrs
I rode the ferry to this modern harbour full of expensive restaurants and tourist attractions with its spectacular water sculptures (no other way to describe them) and monorail snaking its way across to the maritime museum. I walked all around the harbour, admiring the buildings, boarding the monorail to ride around the few stops on its circuitous journey in and out of Market Street, Chionatown, and right past some poor folksí front windows!
Returning to Newtown around 5 p.m., jet-lag catches up with me and I lie down for a quick nap, waking at 8 to find the house deserted. Mary has gone to see Kathryn off at the airport for her five week trip to Scotland. I  take up residence in her room, swiftly installing my clothes in her wardrobe.  I called Ron, who came over to introduce me to the local pub, at the top of the road from the house. Iím astounded to see the gaming room, full of one-armed bandits being stuffed with coins by bored looking men and women. Then I see the cash dispensing machine, actually inside the bar - a terrible temptation to both drinkers and gamblers! As I move through Australia I will see these Pokies everywhere, I feel the devastation they cause is tantamount to government dealing in drugs. The state governments  provide licences then collect hefty revenues, casting a dark shadow on this bright and vibrant society.

Sunday 5th December 1000 hrs Newtown
Waking early I check the e-mail to find my friend Kay is driving up from Melbourne, offering me a ride to Byron Bay where Iím due at a New Yearís Eve party with a posse of friends from around the world. Today perhaps I will visit Taronga zoo, Iím told everyone goes to the beach on Sunday and I never did like packed beaches.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon 1400 hrs
I write whilst gazing down from an observation point onto a spectacular water ballet involving all manner of craft. Dominating the scene, HMS Bounty (from the movie of the same name) glides along on its daily luncheon voyage around the harbour, sails full of warm summer wind. This waterway to the world is very busy today, ferries zigzag across the water, blaring a warning to graceful yachts and smaller pleasure craft to move aside, fast! The bridgeís massive black arch towers above me and I see people climbing to the top, looking like grey suited fleas on the back of a big meccano set. I see what all the fuss is about as I walk across the bridge, the ďMV BataviaĒ is sailing to itsí berth in Darling Harbour where it will moor for the summer season, taking part in the Tall Ships Race next year.  The reconstructed sailing vessel passed right beneath me, almost brushing the bridge span with its topsail. A big crowd came out to see her, and cameras clicked wildly as she approached.

Cremorne Point 1715 hrs
This is a lovely green area skirting the northern shore opposite the Botanical Gardens; I bought food to enjoy a little picnic here beside clear blue water; (I even managed to climb down onto the rocks to dangle my sore feet). Nearby, a bathing pool built right onto the rocks tempts me into its cool depths and, I really wish Iíd brought my Ďswimmersí on this scorcher of a day. People swim and sunbathe, children laugh and scream and the ferries cruise by; I read and write in the shade of an Acacia tree. What a pleasant time to be alive.  The golden sun begins to redden and slide toward the horizon, time to make my way back to home base.

Monday 6th December, Darling Harbour Ferry 1140 hrs
My awakening was rude thanks to Axle, the black male cat who likes to rule the roost. The other feline resident, a plump white tortoiseshell female called Rat-cat, lives upstairs in Chrissieís bedroom, coming and going from the branches of a tall tree with the aid of a small gangplank, provided for her sole use. Axle is a bully at times, poor Ratty is terrified of him, hiding out in the wardrobe when alone indoors; she never ventures further than the upper landing.
The sky is dulled by a blanket of grey cloud - is it possible there will be rain? How can that be? Everyone knows It doesnít rain in Australia; well, it never rains on ĎNeighboursí! Itís 22 degrees, too warm for a coat but the blustery wind calls for some covering, and the visit to the beach is postponed for today. Instead I buy fruit and make my way to Sydney Aquarium, feeling itís better to be indoors on a day like this. I am getting accustomed to the double-decker metro trains, wondering if the design was copied by the Dutch for their mainline trains, or if Australia copied the European version; either way they get you where youíre going. At Darling Harbour, I spent three hours in the best aquarium Iíve ever seen, which displays fabulous reef creatures of many coloured hues, deep sea sharks, rays, turtles, smaller fish and crustacea, all contained in one massive tank under which you can walk via a glass tunnel. Wow, what a place!

Chinese Garden of Friendship, 1600 hrs
Iíve come to the quiet serenity of the Lotus Pool, sharing my sandwich lunch with a shoal of brightly coloured carp, three terrapin, seven ducks and a pretty crested bird Iím not familiar with. I just threw a bit of tomato to a water dragon, creeping about amongst the bushes; my friend TT would love this chap, he relishes my tomato offering, devouring it greedily.  The sun has appeared briefly, then gone again, most confusing this on and off weather they have. This oasis of calm in the centre of busy city life is just fabulous, exquisitely laid out, full of huge rocks and gorgeous trees, a perfect place to relax - except for the growl of traffic!

Tuesday 7th December
I caught the 10.30 ferry to Manly, a delightful beach resort on the northern shores. Ocean Beach is flanked by a line of huge, dark Norfolk Pines, which cast long shadows across the sand as the afternoon wears on. I spent most of the time moving into the sunshine to perfect my tan. Around 3 p.m., a strong on-shore breeze almost blew me off the beach, which is when I gave up to walk back to the ferry. Passing a beachfront bar, I saw  a glass of sparkling wine being poured and the sight made my mouth water. Goaded on by Stevo (who thinks heís a comedian) and his pretty girlfriend, I ordered a glass of champagne and sat to extol the delights of life in Holland while waiting for another ferry to leave without me. A second glass appeared and I was feeling no pain by then. Fortunately the couple had to leave to collect their son from school and I was free to resume my journey to the ferry, a little more light in the head than when I arrived.
Chrissie took me to eat in an African restaurant on King Street, followed by a chocolate nightmare of a place (I resist the temptation to indulge myself but its not easy) before we return home and I wobble to bed, tanned and tired.

Wednesday 8th December Taronga Zoo 1320 Hrs
The hot start to the day sent me by ferry over here but the temperature cooled as the sky clouded over. Nice zoo, spacious enough (except for the lonely elephant swaying crazily in his Ďenclosureí) and the bored-looking gorillas. Zoos are a problem for me but as habitats are eroded by man, there seems to be little choice for these creatures but to be displayed for our amusement and the education of the young, a large party of whom wereshouting their way around the place. My good deed for the day was finding a wallet on the ground and turning it in to the staff, and when shortly afterwards a young woman came along obviously searching the picnic area where I was having lunch, I was able to reassure her the wallet was waiting at the cash desk. The expression on her face was worthwhile. I ate bread, olives, Feta, and tomatoes to the accompaniment of exotic birdsong. I thought the red pandas were great, as were the otters and reptiles. I was shocked to see a Siberian Tiger pacing up and down in front of a glass wall, and a pair of lion cubs gambolling over each other in play. I don't like to see big cats in captivity. A leopard looks totally bored behind his glass barrier and as for the giraffes, well, what life do they have in this environment?  I walked myself silly, coming to regret not storing my bag in one of the lockers when I had the opportunity. Itís the mandatory bottle of water you have to carry round here that weighs so much.

Thursday 9th December Bondi Beach 1445 hrs
And the rain came down on Sydney. The pattering of raindrops woke me at four this morning, pulling me from slumber to close the bedroom window.  Blessing myself for bringing my umbrella, I headed into town to browse Paddyís Markets, an indoor collection of stalls full of mostly Asian junk and cheap clothes, in the centre of the city.  I bought a backpack for $7 and a three-legged frog (good fueng shui) for $8 before jumping a train to the most famous beach in Australia - Bondi. Rain continued intermittantly as I strolled along the esplanade, separated from the sand by a broad swathe of green, being sprinkled even as the rain fell (what a way to waste water!)  Ate Thai fish cakes and a massive portion of chips on the beach, staring at  daft people trying to get upright on surfboards with little surf to ride. Surfing in the rain? Thereís a song there somewhere....
I missed the start of a tremendous thunderstorm when I boarded the bus back to town. The route took me through Kingís Cross along Darlinghurst Road, Oxford Street and through Paddington. A nice gay man in the seat next to me gave me a Ďtourí, pointing out landmarks along the way, but as we approached Sydney the rain was so heavy you couldnít see out of the windows at all. Funny to think of Paddington as the posh area of town, it was sleaze alley in London when I went to school there years ago!
Back in Newtown my friend Kay called, heís in town at a friendís and will come over tomorrow at noon.  I e-mailed everyone, and dozed a little (good old jet-lag!)

Friday 10 December Newtown Station
Uurgh!! Just made a near-fatal error in ordering a mushroom pie from the bakery, realising too late that itís a meat and mushroom pie! I must be more careful from now on when ordering food. Iím taking the train to Olympic Park, scene of the coming games.
The Olympic site is some place, beautifully designed. The pool is already in use, and some of the other facilities are open too. Iím particularly impressed by a water feature, an arch of water jets coloured pink; I see another one coloured blue in the distance. Words of wisdom from the great and the good are etched in the steps leading down to this water tunnel, and I can hear music drifting through the PA slung high around the street lamps. A veritable paradise this clinical, modern, white sports city, eerily silent without patrons to fill its gleaming walkways. Iím one of just three passengers on the train back into town, but in September this place will throng with visitors from all over the world.

Back at base
Kay was late but in the meantime my friend Jenny called which was wonderful, I havenít seen her since we went to the Voov Experience in Hamburg together. Spent the afternoon chatting with Kay in the back garden. When the girls came home we all went to yet another nearby Thai restaurant. It seems all the restaurants are BYO, even some licensed places will allow you to bring your own wine, but nobody likes you to bring a cask of wine with you.

Saturday December 11th
Kay left for a trip to the Blue Mountains with some friends, I am booked on a pub crawl at 1300hrs, not sure if Iím ready for this but I told Jenny to meet me at the first pub so I should go. It's something of a Sydney tradition, this pub crawling. Every year the party is held in a different area of the city, and you can join or leave at whatever time you wish, passing by numerous hostelries on the way. It's a great way to meet people they tell me. Of course when you've had one or three it's difficult to remember the people you have met!

Newtown 1845 hrs - After the pub crawl
What a day! Went to the first eight pubs of a possible twenty-one, lunch for about thirty people was provided at a lovely pub in Surrey Hills, this year's chosen area of venues. Interesting group of people, all fairly big drinkers by my standards. Unfortunately I have sharp pains in my shoulder and arm, have to try to see a chiropractor on Monday. Just sitting in the back yard now, listening to evening sounds: the neighbour putting out his recycling box full of paper glass and plastic bottles, the song of a pretty bird as it clings to the branch of a palm tree over my head, yellow beaked Mynah birds swoop over the rooftops, calling out to each other, and a brilliantly hued lorikeet cackles from a gum tree. A lovely Sydney evening.

Sunday 12th December
Today Chris and I are touring the northern beaches, a long way up the coast, where the well-heeled residents live, legal beagles, surgeons and top lawyers who commute for two hours into the city to work, for the most part. Passing through places named Avalon, Nareem, Palm and Whale beaches, we stop to sit on the sand awhile before buying fish and chips to munch by the beautiful, clear sea. We passed by the Newport Arms, a huge pub with masses of garden, a famous watering hole and singles pick-up point overlooking an azure bay. Quite delightful.

Today was Lou & Ronís wedding anniversary, so we drove over with champagne for the occasion, returning to the house at around 2130 to eat, altrhough I was already being eaten alive by the worst mosquitoes Iíve ever met - the Oz types are lethal!

Monday 13th December
I went to see one of the best chiropractorís Iíve ever consulted - a full 45 minutes of cracking, massage and advice on how to improve my back troubles. I feel great now! Kay wants to leave for Byron Bay on Thursday but I would rather wait another week. I took him to a garage to get his van inspected; then to the Rocks, (originally the worst part of the city, now an expensive tourist shopping area) and on to the Botanical gardens, finally walking him over to the NRMA for free maps. I sense a feeling of impatience from Kay, as if he were only tolerating me for his own ends. He certainly has made himself comfortable at Chrissieís, using the place like a free hotel.
Chris & I were again out for dinner, with the Ďgirlsí. Met Fran, saw her lovely little house in Marrickville, the next suburb, all wood flooring and white stucco walls. We ate in a Malay Restaurant on Enmore Road, not far from King Street, and had cakes for dessert at the theatre cafe. Wicked women, they flaunted their sweet cakes before me but I resisted temptation again!

Tuesday 14 December
Called the chiropractor for an appointment. Had a great session of cracking, massage, manipulation and advice on my problems, he even showed me a range of exercises to improve my back!  Met Jenny at noon in Kings Cross, grabbed a bottle of champagne and seafood salad to take to Hyde Park, to get wellied under a huge spreading oak tree. We rode along a very very long walkway to find the car park toilets, far under the green swathe of The Domain, what a laugh!  I decided to introduce Jenny to the peace of the Chinese Garden where she fell asleep on a rock; after spending the night up a tree with Kay Iím not surprised she was tired! I left her at Town Hall station promising to call tomorrow.  I gouged in front of the TV all evening. Oz TV is so like the American model, all adverts and no substance. I got sick of constant ad breaks in movies; the closer you get to the action, they increase in , becoming longer. You lose interest eventually.

Wednesday 15 December
A somewhat frustrating day tied to Kay by the invisible thread of a single set of keys. We tip-toe around one another politely, as if scared to touch one another. The ache in my jaw has risen considerably, now kept at bay by regular intakes of pain killers, hope I'm OK later, I eat at Chrissie's office Christmas party tonight.

Circular Quay 1850 hrs - Waiting for the ferry
Back in familiar watery territory. The place swells with two tides - one aquatic, one human, each a constant ebb and flow as Sydney goes home. Even at this hour, the sun still brightens the northern shore; gleaming towers of polished eyes stare at the Opera House, which in the evening light, resembles a pale orange with its segments displayed to the sky.
Dinner was fun in the noisiest restaurant in Sydney, a fashionable Thai place in Balmain with no soft wall coverings and wooden floors, echoing every clatter and conversation. As the BYO flowed, the volume of conversation to almost deafening level. On the calm, quiet of the pavement, I shook my head to remove the people sounds from my ears.

Thursday 16th December
Kay is keen to leave tomorrow, wanting to get to Byron Bay prior to its rumoured closure before New Year. I grudgingly agree to accompany him, but first must get my tooth dealt with. A local lady dentist treated it with a nerve dressing which serves to calm the pain, although I must return in early January to have a root canal done - uurgh! I felt so brave going to sort it out alone, very out of character for me, but having lost three teeth just before my trip began, Iím quite accustomed to the dentistís chair now. Jenny had arrived upon my return to the house, apparently invited by Kay.
I cooked dinner for Chrissie and a friend of hers Janice. Ron popped in later for a glass of Shiraz. Itís amazing how much wine is being drunk here, I canít stop guzzling the stuff. It helps me to fall asleep at a reasonable hour though.

Friday 17th December - 1310 hrs Off Pacific Highway
Journeying north began around 11 am with rain peppering the windscreen, dampening the air and making the inside of Kayís van smell like a dirty laundry bag. He smokes a lot too (canít complain when its his van can I?). Weíve stopped for tea, listening to birdsong. The two-lane national highway is not too busy and the scenery of NSW is really lovely as we move through one national park after another, me dozing with the motion. Stopping at one of the many small towns off the highway, we stock up with provisions at Woolworth's of all places, here in Australia a gigantic supermarket. I raid the cash machine and weíre off!

2200 hrs Dee Why Forest, NSW
What awful weather - at times drizzle, at times hard driving rain. We detoured to find a place to rest but find it impossible to park overlooking the ocean, as Kay wishes. A logging track takes us into thick forest in utter darkness, almost crossing a rock-filled stream. I balked at this possibility, we could find ourselves stranded if the rain continues. We park amongst towering gum trees, listening to the sound of the rain and occasional bird call. Itís impossible to erect my little tent so we are forced to share the vanís narrow interior, neither of us getting a comfortable nightís sleep. The seemingly obligatory mosquito made itself known, trying to get into my sleeping bag.

Saturday December 18th - 1000 hrs Coffís Harbor
The pain in the shoulder woke me early.  We ate breakfast at Nambucca Heads where a covered picnic table on the roadside provided shelter from the constant drizzle. A nice guy stopped to chat, his sleeping baby slung on his back. I watch parrots searching the grass for food, hearing the unmistakable cackle of a Kookaburra, high on a branch above.
Mid-afternoon was when Byron Bay appeared on the horizon. A seemingly very affluent place, Byron is reminiscent of coastal California towns. The well-heeled alternative Australians live in this special place on the continent where ley lines are reputed to criss-cross the countryside. Everywhere in the town, shops offer crystals, aromatherapy oils, tarot readings and the like.  Apparently this is the spot every east coast Aussie heads for the New Yearís celebrations although I canít understand why, given the expensive shops and overpriced accommodation.  At the Arts Factory, a famed backpackers hang-out, there is officially no room at the inn, but I did find a small spot which would have taken my little tent comfortably. However, as it poured with rain and the campsite resembled a quagmire, I decline the chance to erect it.
We move off up to Mullumbimby to find our friend Jo, and meet up with Alistair and Tania, two friends from Goa, at another house in the small country town. After much discussion we are reluctantly permitted to park  on the grass verge for the night outside the house, the house already being full of visitors. Nobody is interested in me putting up the tent so I expect Iíll sleep in the van again.
Driving over to Joís parentsí house, Kay has a hard time avoiding we find she resides in the massive three-car garage of a veritable ranch of a bungalow. There is no poverty on this property, or on any of the other luxurious homes we passed to reach it. Two familiar German faces are here also waiting for the hostess to return, and Kay falls immediately into his mother tongue. Mark and Dave, two more acquaintances from India, are also living in the garage, one half of which has been arranged like a bed-sit. When she returns, Jo is full of joy at seeing old friends again and a small party ensues with much smoking and beering, and much chagrin for her father who appears at the house door periodically to glare in our direction and mumble about hippies in his garage. We had hoped to be able to camp on a field next to their home but itís obvious we are unwelcome. At 10.15 p.m. Kay and I decide to return to Al & Taniaís van, where we are given a lovely meal cooked on their camping stove. I retired to sleep, almost achieving it before Kay came crashing into the van, half drunk. Oh well, I did manage to drop off quite soundly, exhaustion helping me find the land of nod.

Sunday 19th December Mullumbimby - 0930 hrs
I repacked my clothes early this morning, in already hot sunshine, a welcome break in the grey blanket of cloud. Iím determined to get somewhere to sleep and have my eye on the little spot at the Arts Factory. Also, thoughts of the Barrier Reef are in my head, maybe I could get a bus up there today, returning in a week or so, I really want to see the azure blue and white sands IĎve seen on the telly!

Byron Bay market 1310 hrs
Returning to the Arts Factory, I began to erect my tent in the tiny space, when a blonde surfer type collecting garbage orders me to stop, there is no more room, he says, despite this small damp patch of grass that remains tucked between two tents. I reluctantly repack my tent and leave. I felt much better after setting up on another campsite, Belongil Fields, 2 km west of town. I now sit under a spreading gum tree, at what might be termed as Australiaís answer to Anjuna market in Goa, full of stalls selling hippie wares and services. many of the goods originated in India. Incense, wind chimes, massage, tarot readings, vegetarian and natural food stalls, all teeming with people searching for that special Christmas present. Iím being careful now I am paying Ďrentí and must fend for myself in the wilds of New South Wales!
With my newly acquired Ďeskyí (cold box) I am set up nicely. Kay gave me an old tarpaulin with which to cover the tent, all I need now is a gas stove. Well, perhaps not; the campsite provides wood to fuel their barbecue hotplates, Iíll just improvise a little. I could sure use a pot to boil water...

Monday December 20th Byron Main Beach 1355 hrs
My neighbour John, a rugged, silver-haired Queenslander who reminded me of God in DaVinci's Sistine Chapel ceiling, made the day's first fire. I had tea and boiled egg on toast for breakfast, very civilised. The site has showers, a laundry, a shop - everything you would need really for a holiday in the sun. Itís very beautiful hereabouts but I am disappointed at the lack of recycling facilities or public transport in the area. Hitchhiking is the only way to travel it would seem, it was suggested to me that I buy a car but I am somewhat sceptical. I got a ride into town from a local after only 5 minutes.  At one of the many cafes I booked an hour on the internet, then searched for a pedicurist to aid my painful in-growing toenail. Meandering along the beach, lost in the blue of the sea, I forgot the internet, then the beauty clinic decided they were not the people to do the job, I must go to a doctor. Back to the drawing board!
This afternoonI hitched out to Mullumbimby to join others protesting against thelocal council's cancellation of the New Yearís Millenniyum party. I found Matt, an acquaintance from Goa, who almost talked to me into buying his old panel van for only A$800 (about £330 sterling, Dfl.1200). A pile of junk without door handles, (entry via the back doors) it looked a bit like a Ford Taunus station wagon with panels rather than windows. Iím positive I can do better. The hippie crowd gathered, resplendent in fluoro colours, tassels, beads and other paraphernalia, to dance to the drummers who beat a hypnotic rhythm. Outside of the council offices, we cheered every member who walked the gauntlet to take part in the meeting, whilst inside, a legal beagle plead our case. Maybe we unknowingly danced a rain dance, a dark cloud passed overhead, sprinkling its load onto dread-locked heads. Amazingly the ploy worked, an official came out to tell us we could have our party but would we please go make noise somewhere else so that they could carry on with the dayís business?
Slowly the company of multi-coloured people drifted off and I found myself sitting next to Jo in Mattís van on the way to her house with Al and his girlfriend in the back. Thatís when the policeman saw us, or should I say, saw Matt without his seat belt, and pulled us over. Matt has an attitude about seat belts, flatly refuses to wear them, so he gained a pink ticket and a fine will be levied for $200, this did little to lift his already dicey mood. After a couple of hours at Joís place he reluctantly brought us home for $10 petrol money, eagerly pocketed. He needed it too, it was about 25 Km to Byron!

Tuesday 21st December
Hitched a ride into town with Jim, a second hand car salesman who gave me his card and put me on to another bloke in town who might have a vehicle for me. At the beach I met up with young Jason, another pal from India, who was meeting Kay. I left them to chat, feeling somewhat uncomfortable being with my former friend. On the way back to the site I visited with Al and the gang, and learned where in the bush tomorrow night's full moon party will be held.
Along the Esplanade is a good place to find an old car, I inspected a couple before finding one at $800, just my price range. Another guy, also interested, called the owner to learn it was not really fit to travel in big time; I appreciated the honesty, at home Iíd have been sold a crock of shit.
Back at the campsite I chatted with three young boys from Melbourne, skate boarders, keen to go party tomorrow, which is good news for me - Iíll get a ride! It would seem thatís what the Melbournians do best, ride. When Peter wanted to go to the toilet, he got into his car to drive the 50 metres to the shower block! They tell me everyone in Melbourne has wheels on their legs but I think they might be exaggerating just a little....

Wednesday 22nd December
Early out of bed to grey, wet beginnings. Old John buggered up my fire this morning when Iíd got it going so well, too. Iím leaving it to him from now on, the miserable sod. I am told that Queenslanders are a bunch of arrogant rednecks with scarce a thought for the environment, latest news is they are bulldozing trees apace before a new law forbidding such destruction. I know exactly what they mean having met old John, his concern is solely for himself and you better not get too close or heíll shoot you.
In town I got a map of the area and bought a $3 swimsuit from the Op Shop, the Oz charity shop. At the Peter Pan internet cafe I sent mail, and received an invitation to their Christmas party held at the Black Milk bar. Iíll stroll down later on to see what the score is.

2200 hrs Belongil Fields
OK so things didnít work out. Peter and Andy from the Melbourne crew cried off, pleading illness, so I hitched into town. Got my free drink and meal at the Black Milk, but the place was chock full with young backpackers (you can say the same about the whole of Byron) and when Jason arrived, we left together for the Arts Factory for a smoke. I made the fatal error of asking a question of the blonde guy who runs the place. He recognised me as a non-resident and ordered me to leave! I was so embarrassed - he actually stood around watching to ensure I left the premises, despite my being in the company of people staying there. Iíve never felt so humiliated as I left, vowing never to return.

Thursday 23rd December
Not the best of days, rain and cold always depress me. Went to find the car dealer, discovering he had moved into the other side of town; when I got there there was nothing under $2000. What a waste of time.  Sent some mail, shopped for my neigbour Sharon, and hitched back. I had a good laugh moving between Sharonís place and my other neighbours, three French Canadians. Iíve been invited to eat with a big posse of English boys and girls tomorrow, should be quite a laugh.

Friday December 24th
Canít believe its Christmas Eve and the temperature is 28º with cloying humidity. Thatís what you get for living in a rainforest although there is precious little forest left, just lots of rain! Today I shopped early for  Xmas fare (Barramundi and 2 litres of wine), returning to Byron to find Kev,(an oil rig diver with hollow legs) Damien,(camp roustabout and weed supplier) Mike (nice guy from Tweed Heads with a lovely dog - Max) and Tony (Damienís hanger-on) having fun at the Beach Pub, I join the throng, soon deep in conversation with Cory, an American who tells us he's just bought a castle, and a girlie that recognises me from the TV show in UK last March. Kev and I, a little worse for wear, go get his Christmas shopping, taxiing everything back through a torrential downpour. To my annoyance I discovered my suitcase had leaked, soaking all my clothes, so I spent the evening by the barbecue drying them out. Iím beginning to get fed up with this rain!

Saturday 25th December - Merry Christmas!
Woke up to brilliant sunshine. Cooked breakfast before visiting Kevís camp for Buckís Fizz, where I met  Bill who once owned an Amsterdam coffee shop, and knew my best pal, of all people. I spent the afternoon tanning my buns on the beach, losing my way on the return trip and having to return to the campsite via some poor blokeís lounge! The UK crowd were all too drunk to eat, so I prepared my own Christmas meal, chatting with some nice Poms over the BBQ. The evening was a somewhat liquid affair, most of it down my throat!

Sunday 26th December
You wouldnít know it was Christmas in Byron, itís business as usual.  I sent email, got prawns for tonightís meal and spent the afternoon drinking with Kev, Bill & Peter, (another UK maniac). The weather was warm and dry, thank goodness. The Melbourne boys kept me company for dinner, and when we heard some kick-ass music from way across the field, we just had to investigate.  A posse of Gold Coast boys, wild as wallabies, had arrived, making loads of noise (thatís why they were far away from everyone else). My, they were pretty though....

Monday 27th December
Well todayís weather is another matter entirely. Sheets of rain fell, prompting me to wish for another tarp. I was stuck in the tent for a long time, unable even to read a book. Eventually the storm abated, Kev and I cadged a ride into town with Canadian Erik to mail - message from Tim & Kerry, who will be in Mulumbimbie Thursday, great - Iíll meet them there. Had a drink in the Great Northern Hotel in town until Kev was too knackered to carry on, after being up all night. I made a quick decision and booked myself on the coach to Sydney leaving next Sunday, also went to book with Jimís Alternative Tours to Nimbin, the hippie enclave in the most beautiful countryside. I look forward to a day of interesting sights.
The rain kept everyone quiet this evening, I supped soup and sat in Mikeís van to stay dry. The Gold Coast gang were letting off fireworks to entertain the site until quite late.

Tuesday 28th December
The tarpaulin protection blew off my tent in the night, the wind was so strong. I re-rigged the camp  this morning, managing to make a fried egg sandwich before the rain returned. Kev and I hitched into town for lunch at the Northern Star and some shopping. More and more people have arrived for the new year celebrations, the site has more than enough yobbos to populate a football field now. I tried to  go to sleep early but some clown was playing loud music until very late. At least it stopped raining!

Wednesday 29th December
The shower queue grows longer by the hour, full of new campers here to enjoy Byron Bay. The locals say itís always the same, packed with people here to get drunk and revel for a few hours on December 31st. Nobody can work out why; this is just a seaside town in New South Wales where it rains most of the time, so whatís the attraction? I note with contempt that the site has raised its prices considerably, even the shop has put its prices up, I canít believe it!  Things are not much better in town, the rates for internet use have doubled in some places, petrol prices are up too. How can they get away with it?
I was plagued by children riding their bicycles around me as I sat at a table in the covered barbecue area by the showers; when their mother asked if they were being a nuisance, I jokingly said they were a bit of a pain in the neck, she replied: ĒYeah, well they have the right because they live here, and you donít.Ē I was shocked at such a racist remark, but minutes later, watching her threaten her kids with violence and screaming at them to ďget in the f-ing car!Ē I realise thereís just no communicating with this type of person and I decided to leave the scene. Unfortunately, the camp site continues to fill with similar types. However, I must mention the arrival of a trio of young surfer boys who came into the enclave last night, nice friendly lads with a great sense of humour, not at all like the rest of the nearby inhabitants.

Nimbin Town 1500 hrs
I enjoyed a freshly made custard tart while sitting under a tree in the centre of this unique village, watching the locals at play. A motley crew of hippies, drunks, and tourists mix on the one main street of this alternative hamlet nestling in a magnificent green valley, 25 km from Byron Bay. Out of interest, I peruse the local estate agents, seeing properties for as little as A$ 60,000 for a share to A$350,000 for 25 acres and a palace. I hate to think about the level of property taxes out here, where growing and smoking weed is tolerated, and residents complete clandestine transactions down side alleys. The tiny police station ignores the locals, concentrating on catching real criminals, like rustlers and burglars. On the way up here, Jim drove the 30 seat bus into the Whia Whia forest to magnificent Minyon Falls, sprinkling treetops far below with a crystal clear, slightly brackish tasting water. Majestic cliffs shaped by volcanic hands drop hundreds of metres  to the craterís floor, far below.  The 2.5 metre deep plunge pool was the main attraction as Jim encouraged everyone to jump into the cold water. Not me, Iím far too cowardly for that!  Instead, I sat on a large rock in mid-stream, feet in the cool water, smoking languidly. I almost lost my shoes in the process, caught scant inches from the edge by the quick reactions of a handsome Israeli man. Climbing up to the lookout, itís sad to see initials carved on some of the trees, their paper coats peeled back to reveal honey gold trunks, stretching to touch the sky.

Back to the bus and a chance meeting with this lace monitor lizard in the car park.  Searching for a free meal from a tourist's picnic basket, it almost scared the poor woman to death!

Tea Tree Lake 1730 hrs
Boy do Aussies like to get wet! Again I regret the lack of my swimmers as the party plunge into a warm tea tree stained lake, renowned for its healing properties. This lake was once held sacred by the local Aboriginal tribe. Jim says another sacred lake exists nearby, rumoured to be even more beautiful, from which the outside world is excluded, used only for spiritual ceremonies. I donít blame them for keeping it to themselves, as I see the canoes and windsurfers gliding over the water's glittering surface. I sympathise with the plight of the indigenous people of Australia the more I see and hear. Apartheid appears to be alive and well, the Aboriginals are owners of some of the worse tracts of land, where next to nothing grows. The lush coastal forest lands are state owned, with lots cleared and periodically sold off for housing or farming. The only Aboriginals I have yet seen, sit at the beach drinking from brown-bagged bottles, or drumming all day.

Watego Beach 1845 hrs
Jim brought us to Byron Bay lighthouse to view Cape Byron from above, peppered with clambering mountain goats clinging precariously over its sheer cliffs. After ten minutes of wandering around the lighthouse, he drove down the winding road to this little cove, overlooked by the most expensive homes in the area. Huge ranch-style houses cling to the steep slope, their windows staring glassily out at the ocean sunrise.
Back at the camp ground I share dinner with the new neighbours, the three surf jockeys from Ďup north.í We laugh the evening away, sharing a barbecue and a goon (I call it a bladder), a cask of wine, available in various types and quantities of two, or four litres. Iíve come to like Semillon, the grape grown in Perth, the best. There are many varieties of Aus white, amongst which are Chablis, Riesling, Semillon and of course, Chardonnay, all grown in different regions and cheap as chips (as the Aussies say). This explains the copious amounts I am drinking every day lately, itís like giving a donkey sugar!

Thursday 30th December
I took an early ride into Byron with the surfers, off to their first waves of the day. Bought shopping, returned to the site to wash clothes, borrow a sewing kit and head for Belongil beach to sew fluoro beads and feathers on my new bush hat in preparation for tomorrow night's party. The beach was very hot, I was fiorced to move into shade to save my buns from peeling! No beach umbrellas, shops, or guards mar the view of a huge expanse of fine, milk white sand, stretching to the horizon in both directions - north and south.  Fabulous. To reach the beach required a two kilometre trudge through a housing estate, crossing the single track railway line, skirting the golf resort, and crossing the shallow delta of Belongil Creek to the windy expanse of the shore. The Coral Sea was cold.
Hitched a ride at 1630 getting to Mulumbimbie quite quickly with a nice family in a four wheel drive. It was much hotter than Byron, lacking the on-shore breeze that cools the town so well. Along the one main street I met up with Craig, Grant, Heidi, Jonno and Brett, all friends I was last with in Pushkar, Northern India!  What a surprise! Shortly afterwards I saw Kerry and Tim with their parents, just arrived from Brisbane. It was such a nice reunion. Two more new friends, Adam and Clare, were waiting for them also and we all spent a fun couple of hours in the local pub until the late hour forced them to search for nearby camping grounds and me to put out my thumb again, beginning a journey into hell.
I caught a ride up to the highway where a guy had his thumb out, claiming to have been there over half an hour. I decided to walk on and see if I could get a ride alone. Big mistake. Two-lane Pacific Highway is not a road you should hitch-hike, thereís no kerb, pavement, nor hard shoulder for much of its length. I got a very nasty shock when some redneck idiot rolled down the passenger window to throw an empty can at me!  It bounced harmlessly off my backpack, but frightened me to tears. I stumbled along, being strafed by massive trucks screaming along at ridiculous speeds,  limping on one broken shoe, praying for a ride. I removed my coat for drivers to see I was a female, prompting a couple to pull over.

Friday 31st December - Party Time!
Walked into Byron to fix my sandal strap, e-mail, and hit Byron main beach for a couple of hours before returning to hang out on the site all day, mostly with the big posse lving under a huge awning, Chris and his gang from up north, the boys with a freezer for an esky!

Time to get ready for the doof (in Australia, trance parties are known as doofs! a synonym for the thumping beat coming out of the PA - doof, doof, doof, doof.....) Worried about rumours of camp thieves, I stored my passport and traveller's cheques under the mattress in Mike's van for safekeeping, better than the tent at any rate.
I left the camp site at 1930 hrs intending to hitch up to Coorabell (sounds like a cow to me) where the Millenniyum bash was to be held. At the gate, one guy was already busy hitching so I thought Iíd hang with him. Soon, two others arrived carrying a flyer showing a bus to the party down the road at the petrol station. Terrific, transport laid on only 100 metres from my tent, canít be bad!  I climbed aboard  and we sped off into the night, just in time to dodge the deluge that fell ten minutes later. The bus twisted its way up and down mountains before dumping his load at the end of a dark country lane. Promising to return Sunday at 13.30 the bus drove off, leaving us in near total darkness and drizzle. It felt like ten minutes of slipping along in darkness to get to the gate. Along the way, I recognised Mattís van, poking my head into the window. He asks: ďPatsi, do you have a ticket?Ē I reply, ďNot yet.Ē ďDo you want one cheap? Oh, what the heck, here you go,Ē and he handed me a ticket! I couldn't believe my good karma, continuing on down the dark lane to where Greg checked my ticket, with Jo seated in a booth, selling more. Along with about 800 others, I was ushered into a large sloping field, and the gig was on!
The field had been decorated very well with various light sculptures, three dance floors catered to different styles of music, a chai shop and food tent were set up, and some awnings erected as chill-out zones, sheltering the revellers from persistent drizzle. I already had wet feet, and wore a thin plastic Mac to cover my clothes. I found Eric and Vanya, then more Amsterdam Elves, until Iím almost completely surrounded by old friends. I got so far out of my head I was on the way back by the time the fireworks began, a full 30 minutes of display, perfectly timed with the music. Fire jugglers, acrobats, more fire juggling, and fireworks, oh, it was superb. The show continued through the night, periodically setting off another display somewhere in the field. What a party! Despite the damp we all had a simply splendid time Happy Millenniyum everybody!

Saturday 1st January 2000
The sunshine broke through the grey blanket around noon, by which time many were flagging. I left at about 12.30, exhausted, and wanting my bed. Waiting at the end of the lane for the bus to arrive, I see policemen taking down the numbers of people badly parked at the junction, then they start up the lane with vehicles parked perfectly well on the grass verge. Whoa!  What a way to greet the new millennium, by serving parking tickets on everybody, well thatís just typical pig behaviour by all accounts. Theyíve some of the worst police here, akin to American cops with their hard-nosed attitudes and inherent power trips. On a new yearís morning too, I pointed this out to one of them but thought better of being too belligerent as I had grass in pocket.
Waiting became a drag after 25 minutes, the people waiting with me decided they would walk to the main road; a bad move, I thought. the bus would come, we need just wait. Herd instinct got the better of me and I tagged along with about ten others to the main road. After half an hour of walking along deserted country lanes the bus passes me, heading for the pick-up point. See, I said it was a mistake... Too far away to walk back, it took two lifts to get me to the Byron road and a push of a girlís car to get it going for the last stretch. At last I returned to the site, tired but happy.
After a shower I grab few hoursí sleep in the tent, arising to find Mikeís van was missing from its customary parking place. From the evidence of the tickets I got the idea he had booked out and left, perhaps unaware of the passport and cheques under his mattress! Oh no, is this going to be the Great Australian Rip-off? After checking with the office who have no clue as to his whereabouts, I panicked anew but Sharon (bless) convinced me I had nothing to sorry about and if I did there was no reason to upset myself unnecessarily. She was right; I decided to join Chrisís gang for an evening of drinking to drown my sorrows under their big canopy. Later on it transpired that 1 January is Qld Johnís birthday, and the French Canadians bought him cake and a bottle of champagne, which of course, I had to try. When I stumbled into my tent about 10 pm, I was extremely drunk.
I put on the headphones to block out the camp noise, lay back, and remember saying to myself ďI must remember to put out the candle....Ē before drifting into oblivion.
At 2315 I awoke, silence in my ears and a strange flickering light in the tent. I looked down to see the nylon zip of my sleeping bag on fire in four places, the naked headphone wires, stripped of their plastic coat, and the candle, still burning brightly. Instant reaction - stamp out the flame, right? Only I used my left arm to do it, having nothing else available at the time. The searing pain of melted nylon solidifying on your skin is intense! I managed to get out of the tent, dragging the ruined sleeping bag with me, screaming in pain, racing towards the neighbouring Canadians' camp. I must have gone into shock as they tried to calm me and put burn cream on the burns. Wrong! Always run the skin under cold water for 20 minutes to form a blister, then add burn cream. Thatís what should have happened. The pain worsened and I asked Erik to run me down to the hospital, my arm thrust out of the window in cold air cool, as he raced down the esplanade to Byronís emergency room. Wake up, Happy New Year, can you fix up our friend please? The nurses must have thought we were mad but they calmed me down with my very own tank of nitrous oxide (very obliging staff) and a bowl of cold water to soothe the burned arm. Dressing me professionally, handing me two tablets, the nurse announced that I am to stay the night, covered me with a blanket, leaving me to fade out on a trolley in the ER.

Sunday 2nd January 2000
Leaving day. Have to pack the tent up and get into town... oh no, where am I? Memories dawn as I watch the nurses wheel in a woman on a gurney, closing the curtains to obscure their work. I stretch, find the bathroom and wash with one hand, yawning at myself in the mirror. Permitted to leave, I walked out into early rainfall (what else?) making my way to the coach office.
At the bus company's office the first millennium bug appeared, with one computer unable to process stuff and the other going slower than a snail. I explain that the ticket might be in Tweed Heads by now, and with a mildly sympathetic but thereís nothing she can do smile, the girl says sorry, but maybe it would be better to return in a couple of hours. "Please donít worry madam, the computer has the names of all booked passengers, you will be on the bus at 6 p.m. tonight." Fine.
The first stroke of luck hit me on the road to Belongil, when a gorgeous guy in a red Porche stopped to give me a lift. Wow, I wish Iíd been going to Brisbane! Walking to my camping spot from the road, I note Mikeís van parked where it has been for a week, next door but one to me. Retrieving the wallet gratefully I berate myself for being so foolish and quick to assume the worst. He had been at a friendís all yesterday, arriving back after midnight, thinking I was asleep when he got back.
Packing took a while and needed help from others but eventually all was ready, under the tarp. Traffic on the Byron road was simply awful so I walked into the town to check email. At the beach I stand in the surf and chat with a nice lady who hasnít lost her Welsh accent, looking like a pair of women on a Blackpool postcard, with skirts held up around our knees, paddling in the sea.
Shopping in the supermarket I meet Craig, then Heidi and the rest of their group. We sit for a coffee, I take a photo or two for the friendsí wall at home, and we walk together to the market which I had no idea was on today. I find Juud, Laurance, Janeen, Caddy and other friendly faces sitting outside on the grass. My mood lifted considerably when surrounded by loving friends, I was soon laughing off the nightsí events. Time ticks by, too soon I must leave to get my baggage. Promising to meet in Melbourne, we part.
Walking back to the camp site I see Chris and the boys on their way into Byron, waving their goodbyes from the back of their big Ute. Iím disappointed they didnít wait for me to return, and try to find an alternative porter, I canít even carry my coat, let alone the case and esky! Kev, bless his cotton socks, helps me to the road where we call a cab. I hug him one last time then off into the new again, heading for Sydney.
The bus journey took longer than necessary, lengthened by the lateness of the departure from Byron (almost an hour) and the fact that the drivers wait around for 3 hours some place north of the city before continuing. Also, stopping for refreshments in the middle of the movie wasnít the best of arrangements. We stop at the same lake side beauty spot where Kay and I rested and he checked his mail on the way up. In the restaurant, creepy-crawlies abound, even over the table I am sitting at. Uurgh! I hate things that crawl around...

Monday 3rd January - Newtown
Oh how good it is to sleep in a proper bed again! Arrived at 0700 but was reluctant to knock everyone out of bed too early after discovering today is a public holiday. Got my Christmas gifts from Chris, a lovely book on Australia, and a cat book. I repacked my luggage and watched videos all day.

Tuesday 4th January
Today I called Gabby, a Sydneysider internet friend, who came to collect me and take me car hunting around the backpacker hostels of Kingís Cross. There was nothing really available but I have an appointment to view a car tomorrow. Gabby drove out of town south towards Wollongong, through the State National Park and beyond. We called in at the bowling club where her father plays, to watch water dragons in the gardens, then ate lunch by a river. Thatís when Gab got the two tiny leeches on her ankle, making me peel them off pretty damn smartish. I attract mosquitoes - Gabby attracts leeches, nothing weird about that. Dipped my feet in another of those swimming rock pools, this one along the coast, and had a thoroughly lovely time today.

Wednesday 5th December Cafe Amsterdam, Kingís Cross 11.30 hrs
Just got through looking round the backpacker car market where some nice vans and cars are displayed. Nothing however, under $1700, a bit over the price I can afford really. Iíve a Nissan to look at for $1400 which might be more reasonable.

Newtown 1400 hrs - Walzing With Matilda

Nice old car, slow but sound. A Nissan Datsun 280C it is, a model Iíve never seen in Europe, 6 cylinder and relative luxury for a 1978 car. I might have got the price down below $1250 but I guess its OK considering I should be able to recoup my losses at the end of the trip. Off to get petrol and coolant, then out of town for a spin!

I took a ride down the Princeís Highway to test the old girlís mettle. Sheís a bit hungry on the gas but probably better on a longer run. I made curry; Fran, Chrissieís friend came over to eat, and Lou and Ron arrived later. Ron says the carís great and no problem selling it after my trip. My mind is full of possibilities, of selling it in WA and taking the train back via Uluru for example, hmmm.... Now thereís a thought.

Thursday 6th January Newtown 2050 hrs
Today I went out to the Blue Mountains, they are beautiful, so majestic, so BIG. Coming from a lowland country I ache to see mountains now and again but I havenít seen any to compare with these since my last trip to Switzerland. They are very blue thanks to the blue gums that cover them.  I had a little picnic at Pulpit Rock or at least the lookout opposite the famous rock formation. At Evans Lookout the ice cream van played the exact same version of ĎGreensleevesí as they play on countless housing estates at home to attract customers! The car goes well, she plods along apace but drinks much fuel. On the return trip I stopped at the hospital (silly move) to sit for over an hour to get a clean bandage on my burn wounds, after a long wait I left with the dressings to apply myself, at home. Looks like the health service here is the same as in Europe - underfunded.

Friday 7th January
Motored down the Pacific Highway a little further south this time, to visit the Nan Tien Temple, the largest Bhuddist temple in the southern hemisphere. Wow, itís a lovely place; immaculate gardens laid out on a hillside next to the highway (a bit noisy when you get near the wall). You spy the pagoda first, itís unmistakable shape resembling a series of pretty coloured cakes piled on top of each other. A pagoda is actually a temple for the dead, guarding the spirits of the ancestors, each tier in fact a gallery of brass plaques containing the names of the dear departed. There are three rooms - a place for contemplative prayer, a larger teaching room and the central offerings chamber at the pagoda's base. I lit incense and paid my respects to the dead while asking Buddha to bless my journey. Throughout the gardens there are signs to discourage unwanted wandering -íSnakes in this areaí appears before each bed of exotic plants; this is a superb method of stopping visitors walking where theyíre not welcome, it certainly kept me off the grass!
Returned to Newtown to move house, so to speak. Kathryn comes home today so itís back to the futon on Chrissieís bedroom floor for me.  Tonight I was out to dinner alone with Ron and Lou, as Chris has an appointment elsewhere. We had fish but it didnít taste anything like the fish I am used to at home, for example the snapper was not so nice; why does Australian fish taste different from the fish in the northern hemisphere?

Saturday 8th January
Off to the movies with Belinda, another of Chrisís friends this morning. Yes, I said morning but weíre going to catch the 12.30 show, weird time to see a film if you ask me. At the Mall we are offered ten different choices of food for breakfast; you pick your own flavour, consuming your food in one central eating area, a great American idea lacking in Europe. Unfortunately the only versions Iíve so far seen involve Macdonaldís, Pizzaland and Burger King, not much in the way of choice there, really.
The movie was great - ĎSnowfalls on Cedars,í a dreamy drama with beautiful blue misty photography. We emerged into afternoon sunlight, driving to Belindaís divine house with its two levels and long garden, to indulge ourselves with delicious cake.
In the evening, Piet invited us all to a BBQ gathering in his minuscule back garden, another lovely little house tucked away in Erskineville. Or was it Marrickville or even Enmore? Theyíre each delightful in the style of properties along their quiet side streets. Kathryn and I walked back to Newtown, which was a mere 10 minutes away.

Sunday 9th January
Lunch at Sydneyís famed fish markets, watching pelicans feeding on the quayside for the tourists as they dine on copious amounts of seafood and chips. Nearby live Isabel and Tim, in yet another little gem of a place tucked off the main streets a stoneís throw from the harbour. On Sunday the markets are packed with weekend fish lovers dining on anything the Pacific Ocean provides, and some weird looking unknown beasts were on display. I tried Whiting, finding it delicious.
Lazed about during the afternoon with the weekend newspapers, which easily rival the weight of many main Sunday papers, available here in Sydney on Saturdays. Lots of supplements to these publications, with tons of advertising. It oils the wheels of commerce, advertising; some might think thereís too much of it in Australia, I know I do. Not to mention the amount of wood they consume, these newspapers. For the afternoon I busied myself making Moussaka for dinner, which went down a treat.

Monday 10th January
Disaster struck in the shape of my back tooth which began to throb again overnight. Consulted a local medical centre who prescribed me anti-biotics for the infection. Hope that holds it until April when I can see my own dentist at home. I have decided tomorrow is moving day, Iíve a long trip to make and must be about my travelling!

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