North From Sydney


Saturday, February 28th 1987             

The shortage of staff at Kodak was creating weekend overtime and I worked another half day of work 6am to 2:30pm all of it on double time.  The money was still flowing into the bank account.

As I wanted to save time and go to the beach straight after work, I turned up at work in my beach shorts.  Nobody minded but I did get the mickey taken a bit and they had to take a photo of me too.

I went straight to the beach as planned and spent the rest of the afternoon on my own on the beach.  I walked back to Braemar via a new New Zealand ice cream parlour.

I found Terry in around 5pm.  We fixed on the idea of playing Monopoly, so Terry and I decided to go and get the set from the hostel in Kings Cross and get some beer.   Whilst we were in Kings Cross we bumped into Terry’s friend Malcolm (from London) who invited us to a party.

We went back to Malcolm’s house and met  his girl Monica and a Swedish girl they had staying with them.  We all then traipsed off to the bottle shop and got some casks of wine to take to the party.  Via train and taxi we finally made it to the house in North Bondi.

This was a real Sydney residence with local permanent residents.   The party was being hosted by people who were originally from the Isle of Man.  They were obviously doing well living in Sydney as they had a beautiful house and the party was being held outside under a big sail.

It was nice enough but we didn’t really know any one and the people there for the most part were professionals and had little in common with us travellers. I had an interesting conversation with a girl from Liverpool who was doing the census returns back in the UK.  She was having a 3-week holiday in Australia and she told me she didn’t really like it too much.

We went back to Braemar at 2am and got a pizza on the way home.

I ended up on the Braemar sofa yet again.


Sunday, 1st March 1987

I woke up late and went back to Kings Cross for an afternoon steak sandwich at the Rex.

I had a quiet night in on Sunday night.

I chatted with John, Al and Martin and we made a plan to hire a car the next weekend and drive to the north part of New South Wales coast.




Monday, 2nd March 1987

It was feeling quite autumnal now.

It was getting a bit colder and it rained hard all day

I worked all day at Kodak as usual


Tuesday, 3rd March 1987

It rained again.  I spent another long day working at Kodak.




Wednesday, 4th March 1987

It was yet another wet day but  I managed to finish a little earlier at work.

With John, Al and Liz,  I went  along to the entertainment centre where ZZ Top were playing.  We tried to get in via the back entrance.  Liz claimed to know someone in the security team who could get us in for free. It was a hopeless attempt and we all laughed at her as we were forcibly turned out onto the street.

We pub crawled home via Darlinghurst instead and returned to the hostel suitably drunk at midnight.




Thursday, 5th March 1987

It rained for the forth day in a row.

I finished a little earlier.  This was just as well as I had a hangover.


Friday, 6th March 1987

At last a sunny day.

I finished at 2:30pm, collected Martin from the hostel and went down to Budget Rent-a- Car.  We hired a pale blue Toyota Corona automatic.

We drove home, waited for John and Al to come home from work, and then loaded it up with our stuff.   At 5:30pm, with me driving, the four of us set off north.

We drove over the Harbour bridge, up along the Pacific Highway and all the way past Newcastle.   We stopped at the Raymond Terrace McDonald’s for a Big Mac before continuing on Route One.

John took over the driving as far as Tarree and Kempsey.  Then after a bit of coffee and raisin toast at the Mobil station, Al drove us north again towards our final destination of Coff’s Harbour.

It was 2am and we were  527km north of  Sydney.


Saturday, 7th March 1987

We parked the car near Surf Beach.  Martin and John headed off to the beach with their sleeping bags.  Al and I stayed in the car.  We tossed a coin for it and I got the back seat.

By the time we woke up Surf Beach was filling up with people.  At 10am we hit the little town for a suitably tropical breakfast of bacon, cheese and pineapple toasted sandwiches.

We had a look the “big banana” just 3km north of Coff’s Harbour but decided it was too touristy to linger around.  We opted to set off slowly back in the direction of Sydney over the course of the next two days.


We went first to Villa Beach just north of Nambucca heads.  It was completely deserted and it seemed to stretch for miles and miles.  There was just no one around.  We ruined the tranquil atmosphere with our ghetto blaster, beer cooler and foul language.

The swimming was fantastic at first, but I got caught in a bit of a undercurrent and felt myself being dragged out to sea.  It wasn’t an nice feeling at all and I panicked a bit and swallowed a bit of water.  Slowly, with a bit of effort, I made it to the shore.  It put me off swimming in the sea for the rest of the day.


I sat on the beach sunbathing and when I turned on the radio I heard the sad news of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster in Belgium.

We finally packed up at 4pm and I drove us to Crescent Head for wonderful views of the beaches either side.

Heading south from Crescent Head we decided to take a left turning and, instead of heading along the main road, we headed along the coast road towards Port Macquarrie along a long peninsular.  The question was whether the little ferry marked on the map at the end of the peninsular was operating or not.  We carried on regardless.


The road turned into a track and then eventually became almost impassable without a 4 wheel drive.  It was all getting a bit exciting.  We had been careless with our navigation.

We had quite a lot of laughs, some of them nervous laughs, as we bobbed along through holes, puddles and god knows what else.  The fuel gauge was getting close to hitting E too.  We soldiered on knowing that we had past the point of no return.


The little Toyota survived looking totally filthy but with nothing more than a broken number plate, we emerged at Settlement and we found to our great relief that the little Settlement Ferry was working.  It was just 30 cents a crossing.


The sun was setting as we boarded the ferry. It was nothing more than a little platform with space for about 4 cars.  It was chain driven and it took no time at all to reach Port Macquarie on the other side.




It was 8pm by now and although Port Macquarie was quite a nice place, I was feeling a little bad after my earlier swimming experience.  I felt a bit sick. I had probably taken in more water than I thought.  I lay on the back seat whilst the others went for Pizza.

I felt a bit better when they came back and we carried on driving for about an hour until we got to Diamond Head National Park.  Almost by accident we emerged at a great spot overlooking the beach.  We carted our sleeping bags to the beach and under a wonderfully clear sky with an amazingly vivid star system we fell asleep.



Sunday, 8th May 1987

At least the others slept.  I struggled in my little sheet sleeping bag.  It got cold during the night and it took me quite a while to finally drift off.  I had only just nodded off when the sun rose.

We found a car wash for the car. We decided there was little to be done about the broken number plate.

We packed up and headed further south through Kempsey to Foster. We found a hotel there for a steak sandwich and then carried on until we got to Elizabeth Beach.  The sun was strong and it was relatively hot.  We stayed sunbathing on Elizabeth Beach until 4pm.

We packed up and, with me driving, visited Seal Rocks, a fishing village, and then opted for the road to Tea Gardens.  Tea Gardens turned out to be in the middle of a prawn fishing festival.  We dined in a pub there on excellent Fish and Chips before heading further south to Newcastle.  At Newcastle we stopped for coffee and I used a drive through McDonald’s for the first time in my life.

We had a bit of a childish game of I-spy on the way down the Pacific Highway to break the monotony.  We arrived back at 11pm and couldn’t be bothered to take the car back. We  just parked it outside the hostel and went to bed.

It felt strange getting back to our little room which had remained untouched whilst the 4 of us had been living the life up north.


Monday, 9th March 1987  

At 5am Martin and I got back in the car and negotiated the dark streets of Darlinghurst to get it back to Budget on time.  I left Martin to return it when they opened at 6am and made my way to Kodak.

It was a hard day even though it was only until 2:30pm.

I looked forward to getting home and catching up with some sleep but I found I had forgotten my key.  I had to wait until Martin, Al and John came back at 6pm to get into the bed.

The good news was that nobody at Budget had questioned the broken number plate.

We went to the Rex to celebrate with a steak sandwich. I didn’t stay long I wanted an early night.


Tuesday, 10th March 1987

Another 2:30pm finish at Kodak.

It was John’s birthday. We had a takeaway Chinese in the hostel with wine.  We then took ourselves off to the Double Bay twin cinema  for a viewing of the film Platooon.  We all found a little bit disappointing.




Friday, 13th March 1987

After no overtime on Wednesday or Thursday they finally hit us with it on Friday.  I worked till 7:30pm and didn’t have the energy for anything else once I got back to the Hostel.


Saturday, 14th March 1987

A long lie in until way past twelve.

In the evening John and Al accompanied me to the Wentworth at Bondi junction and we met Jez and Terry.  We got a take out of a twelve pack, some pizzas and headed back to Braemar to watch videos.

The three of us caught the train back to Kings Cross.


Sunday, 15th March 1987

Liz came round early and annoyed us again.

In the morning we went to Paddy’s market with her and traipsed once more through the tacky bric a brac and other shit they had there.

In the afternoon I went running out towards the Opera House with Al jogging alongside me.  I was surprised how unfit he was.

I spent the evening making cassette tapes to listen to during my trip to New Zealand.


Monday, 16th March 1987

Al’s alarm clock failed to go off.  I woke too late to get the train to work.  I hailed a cab on the street outside and as the ride only took 10 minutes, I just made it in time to start at 6am.

It was a long 13 and a half hour day.

When I got back we tried in vain to mend the alarm clock.

We ended up borrowing one from someone else.


Friday, 20th March 1987

After a week of overtime I finally finished at Kodak for good at 2:30pm.

The manager made a little speech and I bid my co-workers good luck and good bye.

I had planned to meet Terry, Jez, Al and John at the hostel and go to Braemar with them in the evening.  Only Terry turned up. We waited for the others but no one ever turned up.

In the end I went back to Braemar with Terry on our own. Finally around 11pm Jez got back telling us that the Al and John had got stuck with the cheap drinks at the MLC centre.  They had ended up being sick on the railway tracks at Martin Place.

Not wanting to encounter the end of that mess at the hostel, I stayed at Braemar on the sofa again.

Martin (French Canadian) left for Queensland leaving us with a spare bed in the Hostel for a few days.


Saturday, 21st  March 1987

I went back to Kings Cross for a hair appointment with Mitch.  I had decided to have my highlights put back in. Dressed in tight leopard skin shorts and leather boots, Mitch was very proud of being gay.  He told me a lot of interesting stuff about the history of  the Mardi Gras and how they plan it all.

John and Al popped by and they were in hysterics to see me with my skull cap on having the highlights done.  I emerged a few hours later semi-blond once more.

In the afternoon I bought some music cassettes at a George Street store and then I took myself off on a train to Stanmore.

I had been invited to a barbeque at my co-worker Lucas’ house.  It was an honour.  I was told that he had never really invited anyone else from work before.  I arrived just as the party was getting going.   He was right on the flight path for the airport, so as the planes flew overhead, the sausages, rissoles and kebabs sizzled on the barbecue.

I don’t know what the occasion was.  He may have told me, but his wife’s nine brothers were all there.  Lucas was 61 and his wife, Jody, was 40.   The children were running around and it was lovely to be in a family atmosphere again.  It was actually the first time I had met a complete Australian family.  It was  the first time I had been in a family environment since I had left America nine months before.

We had a nice long chat about my time at Kodak and my plans for the rest of my visit in Australia. When it was all over at 1am Lucas drove me back to Kings Cross with his 11 year old Jacob in the car.

I couldn’t have planned a better end to my last week in Sydney.


Sunday, 22nd March 1987

Thankfully it was another sunny warm autumn day.

John, Al and myself walked all the way to Paddington, just for a change, to catch the bus to Bondi Beach.  We called in at a fruit shop and chanced to meet an English girl, a PE teacher from Kensington on a tourist visa, going the same way.  She tagged along with us for most of the rest of the day.

We spent the time on the beach and fell asleep until 4pm.  We got up and went straight into the Bondi Tram Hotel for a can of Fosters and a hot dog to toast my last ever time on Bondi Beach.

We went back via Braemar, picked up Jez and then went for pizza at La Pizza.

We went back to Braemar and drunk a whole case of Victoria Bitter between us before returning to Kings Cross.



Monday, 23rd March 1987

I spent the whole day packing.  I divided my stuff into 3 groups.  I would take some to New Zealand, store most with Al and John and send some of the rest home to the UK.

I finished the first volume of my diary by drawing a little map of Sydney and adding information about the people I had met in Sydney.   I put it in the box of things to send home.

In the evening we went to the New Tai Yuen for another meal.  Terry, Jez, Al and John toasted my impending trip and then presented me with a pair of joke glasses with a large plastic penis coming out of the nose.  It wasn’t something that I thought would come in useful, but it was the thought that counted.

We returned to the hostel and scared a poor Israeli guy who was just moving in to take Martin’s old bed.

I fell asleep quickly without giving too much thought to the fact that my time living in Sydney had effectively come to an end.

1987 – New Zealand “Hitcher’s Paradise”