Contiki – Surf Camp – Byron Bay

Jan 17, 2011:

After a really excellent breakfast buffet at the Shoal Bay Resort & Spa, we continued towards Byron Bay.

However, we had a break at noon in Coffs Harbour, to eat something and fill up our drinks stocks. An Australian standard meal at McDonalds (Burger + chips) costs $ 9 AUD.

 

Mojos Surf Camp

In the late afternoon we arrived at Mojos surf camp “Spot X” in order to do something uniquely Australian: Surfing!

Mojos Surf Camp
Mojos Surf Camp

Yes we were warned, but it was very interesting. We should be accommodated in container like cabins for one night. Some were lucky and even had a patio door. We i.e., 2 tour mates and I got a container without a sink / toilet. Since we ,always had to , let’s say “go out”, we received a compensation. 1 Mojo Surf T-shirt and a coupon worth $ 150 AUD for photos that will be taken during our surf session ​.

Mojos Surf Camp - The Surfer's Code
Mojos Surf Camp - The Surfer's Code

Our surf session began with a brief and very funny, Introduction. Then we took our boards and went to the beautiful beach. time for dried exercise! : D
After that we went straight to the nice wet.

Unfortunately I was not really long on my board, but Australians, New Zealanders and Californians just have the home advantage. : D

 

Mojos Surf Camp - Dinner
Mojos Surf Camp - Dinner

In the evening we went to the buffet. It was cooked fresh for us. Really tasty! There’s something for everybody Here we also met Roxy Roxy “the crazy German”. She works here in the surf camp and clearly has fun doing it. 🙂

Night came and you could enjoy a starry sky.

 

 

Mojos Surf Camp
Mojos Surf Camp
Mojos Surf Camp - Beach
Mojos Surf Camp - Beach

 

Contiki Tour “Beaches and Reefs” begins

Jan 16, 2011:

Contiki begins! To be more precise, the Contiki “Beaches and Reefs” tour began exactly one months ago.

After the everyday morning things (showers, clothing,…) I went to the lobby and saw already a large group of people standing at a small table.
However, I went first to the front desk to check out. Back to the small table. There was young woman wearing a Contiki polo shirt. After another friendly “Good morning” from me, I handed her my voucher for the Contiki “Beaches and Reefs” tour. Then I had to write my insurance details and emergency contact name on a list.

Wait a few minutes and a coffee from the breakfast room later we went to the bus to let our baggage be stored.

Then we started. First, We went to the Mrs Macquaries Chair, on the way our tour guide Justine explained us, what we have to expect for the next few hours:
Group photo, then 2 hours drive, short break, continue our ride to Port Stephens.

Group photo and the straggler

Contiki Beaches & Reefs - Tour mates
Contiki Beaches & Reefs - Tour mates

We arrived at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and first we ran around a bit, while the photographer set up his equipment. Then we all did (all ?;-)) our first group photo (+ some variants) with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.
We had the choice between different sizes, and whether one wanted the “normal” or crazy version. While the photographer was preparing the prints , the tour mates including me took photos of the area. And I realized that someone was also from Germany. We quickly came in touch. A few moments later, someone came up to us and realized, oh, there are also two other german speaking people. In short: three German-speaking people including me, are on the tour.

I decided to go for the “normal” photo in the larger variant. $ 20 AUD. Yeah! but it is worth to me 🙂

Contiki Beaches & Reefs Coach
Contiki Beaches & Reefs Coach

While we are moved back to the bus, we heard , that Justine talked to someone on the phone. Someone had already missed us at the hotel.

She gave him 7 minutes, otherwise he would have to find his own way to catch up with us. A taxi came roaring up, the Texan made it and sat down next to me.

My first Australian rest stop station

After about 2 hours it was time, our first stop for 30 minutes. The first rest stop, that I visited in Australia. 😀

Dolphin Tour

Dolphin tour
Dolphin tour

The sun was already very active again. To begin the tour calmly, I opted for the Dolphin tour, as an alternative, they usually offer sand surfing. Sadly, we could see a dolphin only very briefly. Too bad. But it was still a very good opportunity to get used to the Australian sun.

Shoal Bay Resort and Spa

The Shoal Bay Resort and Spa is a real find.

Our room had a double bed, and another room with two single beds separated by a sliding door and a bathroom.
We had a room facing the back yard of the kitchen, although it was quiet, but some other tour mates were lucky enough to get a room overlooking the pool.

Der Pool ist chillig, rund um den Pool sind Liegen und einige Sonnenschirme. Man kann hier ebenfalls an einem kleinen Stand nicht alkoholische und alkoholische Getränke kaufen. The pool is and some sun nice, deck chairs and sun umbrellas are lying around the pool. There’s also a small stand to buy non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. For the room party  is a bottle shop only a few hundred meters away. 😉
The breakfast buffet was excellent, there is a huge selection of sweets and a coffee / hot drink machine.

 

On our first night we had actually a room party, with some other tour mates. Perfect make some new friends 🙂

Sydney, CBD, aquarium, city tour

Beep, beep , beep. 9:00 am in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. It’s my second day (15th Jan 2011) in this beauty of city. It is time to explore Sydney! After the usual morning things (showers, clothing ,…) I was at 9:37 in the lobby. I decided not to eat breakfast at the hotel because I in my opinion the price is not adequate. I took out my smart phone and looked for the nearest Starbucks Coffee House. I already knew where it is approximately, but I wanted to be sure and prefered to view the route. I went to Elizabeth Street, on the edge of the CBD. As I studied the menu, I noticed that it differs slightly from the European menu. They offer Dark Chocolate Mocha Frappuchino. Yeah!. I took also a bagel and a Australia Country Mug.

Downtown / CBD Sydney

Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Downtown you will find old houses like in New York City, but also modern skyscrapers. In addition,

Central Business District, Sydney
Central Business District, Sydney

Sydney has a monorail that runs through half the city.

I wandered through CBD just following my feeling. My destination was the harbor. On the way, I made also a short stop at an ATM. It was the first that displayed the actual transaction fee for a withdrawal.
I walked across a pedestrian bridge at Cockle Bay, in front of me I saw the Australian National Maritime Museum and an old sailing ship. Monorail above me drove to the other side. I wandered for a few more minutes and saw a covered area near the harbor edge. Here were several roofed benches and tables. From here you could see some certainly high-priced apartments with views to the bay. Nice place to live 🙂

I sat down and pulled out the Free Sydney Guide from Sydney International Airport. While leafing through, I realized that the Sydney Aquarium is pretty much praised. On his way, I had seen it from the pedestrian bridge. I decided therefore to make my way to the Sydney Aquarium, especially because it was noon now, and the sun was already very “active” .

Sydney Aquarium

Sydney Aquarium
Sydney Aquarium

The Sydney Aquarium is really quite funny, but you should particularly during the lunchtime allow some time in the wait line. I arrived there shortly after 12:00 clock more than 30 minutes in the wait line. If you need Australian money , there’s one rediATM just before the entrance . If you already have a ticket,you can skipthe wait line, because you can also buy tickets online. If you have no tickets yet, then you’ll have the choice of different packages with typically “Australian prices” . One-time access costs $ 35 AUD, an annual pass costs $ 80 AUD. There are also packages like e.g. a

Sharks, Sydney Aquarium
Sharks, Sydney Aquarium

Combined ticket for the Sydney Wildlife World. I opted for the General Admission Ticket. Tomorrow I’m already going on tour with the Contiki Beaches and Reefs Summarized it can be said that in Sydney Aquarium are many small and large aquariums with fish and turtles, as well as : Shark-Tracker, a large shark area with glass tubes, a huge “Great Barrier Reef” tank. At the end follows a large area that looks like the burger fast food chain with the big M. They offer e.g. Burger with chips (French fries) for $ 9 AUD.

Let’s take some time to do a city tour and see some other parts of Sydney. I already knew, that’s at Circular Quay is a starting point for sightseeing tours. Circular Quay is just 1.5 km from Sydney Aquarium. The tour has certainly points for Hop-on, which are closer, but I want to see more places in Sydney 🙂

City tour in Sydney

Harbour Bridge, Sydney
Harbour Bridge, Sydney

After about 30 minutes I was standing for the first time at Circular Quay in Sydney. The big red buses from city sightseeing can’t be overlooked;-)
A day ticket with unlimited hop-on hop-off costs here $ 35 AUD.
The Tour of city sightseeing tour is unfortunately only a tape recording.

After a relaxing sightseeing tour, I ate a pizza at Pizzahut and then I continued my the way to Potts Point, because tomorrow starts my Contiki Beaches and Reefs tour.

Explore Sydney!

Jan 14, 2011:

My first day in Australia, it was already after 3 clock in the afternoon. I decided to visit first Sydney’s most famous landmark. The Sydney Opera House!

Thanks to Google Maps on my smartphone, I already knew that the walk to the Opera House only takes about 25 minutes. So I got on the way to the Sydney Royal Botanic Garden.

Sydney Opera House (dodgy weather)
Sydney Opera House (dodgy weather)

The moment I entered, it was clear that I have a new favorite city. A city park in the middle of skyscrapers is pretty cool, a city park which is also on the waterfront is even better. The Sydney Opera House is located , as commonly known, on the waterfront and directly accessible from the Botanic Garden. A few minutes later I was already on the edge of the Botanic Garden. I took the road to the Open Air Theatre, also located there. However, I passed by a crowd of people waiting for an

Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Open Air Cinema presentation , and then I arrived already at waterfront. It was already possible to see the Sydney Opera House . Here I also made the first Picture Post from Sydney city for my “Maik Ter World Live” service (a website for friends and relatives to show, where I am currently in Australia).

Unfortunately the weather was somewhat cloudy, it was still T-shirt weather, in perhaps the best city in the world. I went on to the Sydney Opera House.

However, I spent some time at the Sydney Opera House and then made ​​my way back. Thereby I met two girls in my age, with Australian accent, they asked me if I could take a photo of them. Sure! Incidentally, the two also had a camera from the Sony Cybershot series. (I currently use a Sony HX5V myself, see equipment). Sony’s small cameras seem to be very popular in Australia.

My way lead me to the hotel this time directly through the Botanic Garden, ie not down along the waterfront, but by the green areas. Similar to the English Garden in Munich, many couples picnicking, sunning here (Did I mention that I am single? 🙁 ).

In the background: the beautiful skyline of Sydney CBD (Central Business District) . I came back to one of the main roads. Surprisingly I noticed that a church / small cathedral is in the middle of this nice city , directy at a main road.

Alcohol free zone, Kings Cross, Sydney
Alcohol free zone, Kings Cross, Sydney

Around half past six in the evening I was again in Kings Cross. I discovered an interesting sign (look right). I already read in Contiki’s official forum that various tour mates were in the same hotel and would eventually have some fun in the neighborhood at night. I decided, however, for a chilling night in a king size bed. Although I had no jet lag (I’m always jet-lag-free), but I noticed that I had to refuel some energy. The mentioned tour mates arrived a few days before.

Arrival in Sydney, Shuttle, Holiday Inn Potts Point – part 3

Jan 14, 2011:

As I wrote in a previous post of this travelogue, I have managed to reach the shuttle company. My first Australian telephone conversation. Yeah! 🙂

Shuttle to hotel

The lady at the other end of the line said in a slightly surprising voice that they had been expecting me this morning, and that the driver had not found me. (Note: It was now shortly after 12:00 clock). I pointed out that Customs / Immigration took about 1.5 hours. She promised that a driver will come within the next 30 minutes to pick me up. However, I would have to go to the shuttle pickup point. afterwards , her directions to shuttle Point 34 were a bit confusing.  For the pickup points in the 30s range you have to go out of the arrival hall, when you see the Vodafone store, you have to go straight ahead, past the Optus store, then you see a Meetingpoint. There you can see an exit on the left side. As soon as you are outdoors, you should go further to the right and follow the footpath. Sometime you can see a series of long single parking spaces. Right next to each place is a sign with the number of pick-up point.

I handed my voucher to the driver and gave him again the name of the hotel. He put my trolley in the trunk and the journey began.
The ride to the hotel was relatively unspectacular, the driver did not speak a word. We went on bypass roads, highways, freeways and a few wide main streets.

Holiday Inn – Potts Point

The ride from Sydney International Airport to the Holiday Inn Potts Point took about 45 minutes. We arrived, the driver drop off my trolley and drove away again. Incidentally, even without a word. I wished him a pleasant day anyway. 🙂

At the reception I was greeted by a young lady. When I gave her my voucher, she noted happily that everything is already paid. However, I have to deposit an amount of $ 75 AUD on my credit card for optional expenses. (Note to the uninformed: the amount is not debited, but only blocked, which is also common for car rental reservations)

She handed me my room key, told me my room number and wished me a pleasant stay.

Standard room at Holiday Inn – Potts Point

My “superior room” was on the 7th floor towards the entrance of the “entertainment district”. This means that even on the 7th floor it ‘s not completely quiet when the room is oriented toward the “entertainment district” “Kings Cross”. The room was equipped with a double and a great selection of pillows. Opposite the bed was a flat screen TV and a small desk next to it. Unfortunately, the window can’t be opened, but of course it has an air conditioning / ventilation (audible). The bathroom was well lit. It is equipped with a bath / shower combination with standard curtain (so no glass wall).

Internet at Holiday Inn – Potts Point

In-room internet access via standard Ethernet and WLAN / Wi-Fi connection is available. However, it costs up to $ 29 AUD per day (setup fee and then calculated by used bandwidth).

I unpacked my suitcase partially and then went to the door. It’s time to explore Sydney!

Arrival at Sydney Airport, Vodafone, Essentials, Subway – part 2

Jan 14, 2011:

As you’ve already read in a previous post, my shuttle was not there (any longer). Of course I had the phone number of the shuttle service, but because of the expensive call rates in Australia with an European SIM card I shifted the call. Let’s buy an Australian SIM card!

Prepaid phones/SIM card at airport

Vodafone and Optus have both stores at the Sydney International Terminal International airport in the arrival hall.
I decided to go for Vodafone, although I know that they do not have the best network in Australia. I decided to choose the “Flexi Cap” prepaid offer. It has the advantage that I can use the credit flexibly. For $ 49 AUD I got the following features: $ 350 AUD credit for calls to Vodafone Australia network, 3 GB data volume, and $ 350 AUD for all other expenses (“Flexible Credit”). The credit expires after 30 days. The tariffs change frequently, now has the Flexi Cap offer more inclusive services. To activate a Vodafone Australia SIM you have to call the number and enter the code from the activation voucher. After the call, the activation can take “up to 2 hours,” as the employee in the Vodafone store said to me

So, at first late breakfast / lunch. What works the same everywhere in the world? E.g. ordering at Subway restaurants. Let’s go to the departure level! On the departure level, there is next to the check-in area a large variety of food stores and shops (including Australian Post Office).
The way was quickly found, first a few meters along an long hallway and then an escalator. I was standing in the departure hall. After a series of check-in desks is the beginning of the food court. My trained eye saw immediately a Hungry Jack and a Subway next to it.

Essentials for Australia

When you are in Australia, you should I buy some essentials, as soon as you arrive. E.g. Australian sun cream. For Australia, a sunscreen with SPF 30 or 50 is recommended, and I mean according the Australian standard. A European sun screen with SPF 30 protection in Australia is not sufficient. Furthermore, it’is also recommended to buy a hat that protects the head and neck from UV rays adequately.
Both can be purchased at the International Terminal departure level both shops are at the rear right corner . 😉
In addition to a pharmacy and some Clothes stores, there is also a branch of Australia Post. I already have a SIM card for my phone, but I want to go online with my netbook.
As my netbook also supports the network of the reliable Australian mobile operator Telstra , I bought at the Australia Post a Telstra sim starter kit. You get Starter kits at Telstra stores, supermarkets and at Australia Post for $ 2 AUD. The employee informed me that starter kits come with no credit and must be activated later. I replied that I will add funds to the account online by credit card.

Free Internet Terminals at Sydney Airport – International Terminal

In the arrival hall as well in departure Hall are free internet terminals from the mobile operator “Yes Optus”, which you can use without registration. … if they are working.
I went to the Arrival Hall, because I first saw a terminal there and wanted to activate my sim card. The Internet terminals are very rustic computer with an Ubuntu installation and auto login (for the IT geeks among you). After several minutes, the browser will run on the Internet terminal. Enter the address and let’s go? No way! Even after 2 minutes of loading time the site wasn’t visible. Then the computer restarted automatically. Apparently I was’nt the only one . My “neighbors” of the other Internet terminals already cursed inwardly. There were also internet terminals in the Departure Hall …
So back to the Departure Hall! Here I had finally found a working internet terminal. First I checked e-mails … (Note: already more than 85 unread e-mails arrived). The free internet terminals are a really good thing, in Europe frequently you have to pay a fee. disadvantages have the two terminals but: Due to a not so powerful hardware equipment reacts very slow the Internet. In addition, the computer automatically restarts after X minutes of non-use.

After some time, I tried again to call with my phone. I dialed the number of the shuttle company. It rang … So, the SIM card works well without the Internet activation, it just takes some time.

Arrival in Sydney, border control, australian money, baggage checks – part 1

Jan 14, 2011:
We were again around 8 hours in the air. The pilot of the Boeing 747-400 landed the plane butter-softly on the runway, you could feel hardly anything. The weather was a bit gray at 22 °C. The captain announced, that it’s going to be even more beautiful and we had to reckon with 30 °C.
I relaxingly pulled out my backpack from under the seat and moved toward the aisle. After several minutes I could move towards the exit in the aircraft. After I left the gangway, I went first to a restroom. Incidentally, they advertise proudly there, that the toilets flush with recycled water 😉

Free Sydney Guide book and Duty-Free

After some meters you landed in an elongated area of “duty free” items. Before it, there was a shelf: Free “Sydney Guide books”! Everybody can take a free travel guide book for Sydney. In addition to to English there are also Japanese and other languages. Of course I took an English copy.

Wait lines at border, customs and immigration

Directly behind the duty free shopping area then the Border Control (“Immigration”). I decided to go directly to the Border Control. First I had to find the right wait line. There are wait lines for flight personnel, the default wait line, an express line, and another, but apparently you need for it a special electronic passport .

Border control / Immigration desk

At the end of the wait line they distributed people by hand on different counter.
With a friendly “Good morning” and my charming smile, I greeted the lady at the counter and handed her my passport, my ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) confirmation, as well as the “Incoming passenger card”, which I already filled out during flight. She looked at my passport and compared the photo with me. Then she looked at the “Incoming passenger card” and entered something into her computer. As a next step, she asked me what kind of medicine I have with me. If you’ve read my previous post, you know that I have stated that I checked “medicine” at the incoming passenger card. I told her that I only have “standard travel medicine against headache and those stuff” with me. I told her that I was not sure if I had to declare”standard travel medicine”, therefore I ticked it on the incoming passenger card for safety’s sake. She said that would be a good thing, because Australia is very strict about it. She wrote a letter on the card, then she put a stamp in my passport and wished me a nice day.

Baggage

Immediately after the border control, I saw lots of baggage belts. A few moments later I saw a variety of flat screens, and on them were flight numbers, baggage carousels and related numbers. I walked straight to the correct baggage claim and saw my bag in less than 30 seconds. “That’s fast!” was my first thought.

Australian money / ATM at Sydney International Airport

I looked around and saw an ATM with the label “Travelex”. The name “Travelex”, I already knew the famous traveller checks, as an alternative to cash.
It’s time for the inaugural use of my new Mastercard Gold abroad!

A few moments later, the most beautiful money in the world came from the machine.
Okay, maybe not the most beautiful, but it is very unique. It feels like plastic (not like paper) and has a small “window” (transparent surface) on the bill. All bills are extremely colorful and each face of it has a face of celebrity. The bigger the bill, the higher the value. Easy to understand.
The system works completely different with coins , more about that later …

Import baggage check

to the next wait line! I moved with my trolley and my backpack from the luggage belt in direction to the import baggage wait line. At half way I was approached by a woman, I think she had a British accent. She asked me if I could raise her two heavy bags on the baggage car. Of course I helped her. Then I continue my way to the next wait line. 10 minutes later we arrived in a room with several exits and numbers of 1-10. An employee of the airport took my “incoming passenger card” and pointed to one of the exits. Yippee! Another wait line. After a few minutes I hit a fork in the queue at an employee of airport. She also took the “incoming pasgener card”. She asked me what kind of medicine I carry. I gave her the same answer, then she wrote something on the card and showed me the way to the next wait line. Yippie! Let’s wait a bit! : D More minutes went by, another employee took the “Incoming passenger card” (which she kept), then my luggage was got scanned. After a few meters I left the security area and arrived at the arrival hall. So it took me over an hour from plane to the arrivals area. Is the ordered hotel shuttle still there? … you can imagine the answer.

Where’s my  shuttle driver?! Alone at Sydney International Airport

I “scanned” all the  name badges. My driver was already gone. Great…

What happened next? You can read it in the next post.