Well I'm here. Been here for a while actually but this time the trip did not start out so well. So it's taken me a little while to get the idea to write.

In case you don't realise, the photo above is the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the Sydney Opera House. Both on one photo.

I left home on the 18th March and arrived here on the 20th, from door to door a total 50 hours travelling. First I drove to Tarbes (where there is unlimited time free car parking!), caught a plane to Paris, took a bus to transfer from the airport of Paris Orly to Paris Charles de Gaulle. Then a flight to London, then another to Bangkok, then finally to Sydney, and a taxi to Eleanor's.

After I checked emails we scrutinised adverts for vans, and found a camping car for $3,500. We arranged a rendez-vous, it was being sold by 2 English girls who had bought it 2 months previously to make a tour of Australia. It was old but seemed in a good state for the price, I bought it for $2,900. (The $AUS is a little less in value than the $US, about 0.5 and 0.6 - so you are looking at $2,700 US, 1350, or 1700).

I'm here for 6 weeks and plan to spend 4 or 5 weeks exploring New South Wales.

We went off to a magnificent dinner at a friends but I soon crashed out, and went back home to sleep. They said, it can take a week to work out the time difference of 10 hours.

In the morning I started checking the paperwork for the van and I realised it was registered in another state, West Australia, we were in New South Wales. As I checked through on the Internet I realised this could cause problems. To re register in NSW it would need a mechanical check to show it conformed to the requirements, and since it was 24 years old with almost 400,000 km 'on the clock', it was not at all certain it would pass. Not to mention that once Western Australia were advised it had been sold out of State it was illegal to drive it. I rang the girls to ask them to hold off sending the transfer papers but they had been posted.

I don't know if these 2 honest seeming girls realised the potential problems, or they just weren't for telling me!

I passed the next few days in an unpleasant daze. I was sleeping fitfully, still not caught up with the time difference, I was worried about the van, and I had a swollen throat, I could barely swallow, and when I did it hurt like crazy. My legs were like jelly as a result of the bug or whatever I had caught.

I did manage to get out a little, I saw the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera house, photo above, here, below, is a little of the City quay. It was Easter weekend, everywhere was full of people.

I took one of the famous walks, Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach. Eleanor lives less than 100 metres from Coogee Beach. The following photo is Bondi Beach, just as it started to rain!

Easter Monday a couple of good things happened. After all, it could only get better!

First I had a meeting with a professor who had helped with Eleanor's initial application to the University, I actually intended just to thank him, but instead he

came up with lots of ideas, suggestions for the solution of my van problem, for the route for my planned trip, and also more ideas to help Eleanor along with her career.

The other good thing, my sister has a friend in Western Australia, I received an email to say that they would be happy for me to consider my address in Australia to be at their home.

I started sleeping better.

We had a couple of things to do on the Tuesday after the Easter holiday so I decided to start my tour on Wednesday morning.

Some 10 years ago I received an email, in error, that was intended for another dbarker with a similar email address to my own. It was sent by Yumi Uejima, a Japanese lady, we have kept in occasional contact ever since. Well, she is now married, with a small baby, and living near Sydney. So I emailed, and we arranged to meet.

On the way to meet her I stopped in a small town, Windsor, with a pleasant little shopping precinct.

Now, I had expected that maybe we would swap a beer, a coffee, whatever, with Yumi and her husband Steve, but no, that was not to be.

He had booked a restaurant. And what a restaurant!

It was superb! An Italian restaurant, with prices out of this world, and quality to match. I don't often get to eat that well, even in France. That was a super meal Steve. Many thanks indeed.

And of course, it was good to meet Yumi, after all these years.........

Now when you buy a backpackers van in Australia you get all the trimmings included. I had already offloaded to Eleanor's a fishing rod, 2 sets of scuba gear, a tent, 2 sets of individual mosquito nets, a groundsheet, a 20 litre water container, plastic plates, and lots of other stuff. One thing I kept was the book listing free camp sites. So that's where I went, to the free site down the road. It was next to a football field, there were toilets, and that's about it, but heck, it was free.

I met Yumi the 26th March. Today is the 4th April. I'm behind with my reports. But I'm still here! Way hey!

I wonder if I'll ever catch up....................

Best regards

David Barker
Currently in Australia, exploring New South Wales

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