Tag Archives: 2007

The Manly Trap

I’ll apologise now.  This post has an awful lot of photographs.  You see, The Manly Trap was sprung and it had well and truly caught me.

Continuing on from the last post, I was feeling pretty low.  I didn’t know what to do next.  ‘Pretty low’ might be an understatement.  I missed my friends from home hugely and wondered if the greatest adventure of my life was just really a big mistake?

Trying to keep positive, I figured I wasn’t completely comfortable in the middle of Sydney and began to formulate a plan.  What I needed was some blue juice.  So … I’d head out to Manly for a couple of weeks, surf a bit and figure out what to do next.  But what actually happened next was that I’d end up staying in Manly for nearly 3 months and only leave when I ran out of money!

I’d had lunch with a friend (Jar-Marie) who I’d come to know as she’d been living in England with her ex-boyfriend (one of my best friends) for the previous year.  She was local to Manly and recommended I check out a backpackers hostel as a good place to crash – The Boardriders Backpackers. So, I packed my bags and found a bed.  I thought maybe I’d stay a few weeks, find a room in a house, get a part time job, stay until New Year and then head up the coast.

I found a small community of people though in the hostel … travellers who’d stepped off the plane in Sydney, headed over the water and had reached the same place I did and never left.  We called it “The Manly Trap”.

Manly is a beautiful little town about a 30 minute ferry ride from Sydney CBD.  It has bars, shops, restaurants, a good surfing beach and an abundance of coastal walks and smaller beaches close by.  It’s a party town, a holiday destination and perfect for the 20 somethings looking for fun.

Over the days, weeks and months I gradually grew into the group.  Some people left of course and new people joined, but a core crew of us always remained and we formed a close knit relationship. The photos displayed will give you a small idea, but it was a hugely fun time for me.  Days were spent surfing, hiking or simply relaxing on the beach and nights were spent watching movies or heading out to the bars on our infamous party nights.  Any thought of work flew out of the window.

When I eventually (and inevitably) ran out of money I figured I couldn’t stay any longer.  If I wasn’t careful, I’d never leave (unless it was to return home to England, tail between my legs).  One day in early February I packed my bags to head north to Brisbane.  A new city and new challenge was needed.  I didn’t find it easy though … saying goodbye to my new family and friends to once again head out alone was sad.  I was better prepared for the future though and felt far more capable.

In late October 2008, at the end of my time, I flew back into Sydney from Alice Springs.  I decided there was only one place I could spend my last days in the country and that was back at the Boardriders.  Although I was glad to be there again, it was different.  A few good friends remained; Rich, Danny, Mel and Mike …  they had never left and I wondered if they’d ever wanted to?  It wasn’t the same for me however – my time had passed.

Whilst there I slowly became aware of the new community at the hostel – different faces, but the same characters doing the same things that we’d all been doing 12 months previously. I recognised the friendships and dynamics on show and I wondered… you see…I knew now what was happening.  The Manly Trap had sprung; would any of them ever escape?

*The Sleazeriders will ride forever*

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Sydney & The Hunter Valley

I’ve been in a reflective mood recently.  For fun, I decided back in January that I’d start posting a “Throwback Thursday” image on Instagram every week of my travels back in 2007/2008 in Australia.  This mini project has finally given me the kick I need to share the images and stories I took at that time.  If you happen to follow my Flickr account you’ll see I’ve been uploading like mad over the past few weeks and months. The intention is to now also run with a flurry of posts here – 2 a month – until I’m up to date.

Each picture tells a story though and viewing them brings back memories and feelings, some of which I had long forgotten.  In November it’ll be 10 years since I left England. 10 whole years. A decade.  I’m so aware of time slipping through my fingertips … and beginning to feel my age.

When I left the hometown village I didn’t realise that it would never be quite the same again. My friends are now mostly married with children, the people I met on my travels are very much the same.  As for me, I’m just stuttering along not knowing quite where I’m going or what to do next.

I guess that’s what has made me so reflective.  I genuinely believed that going away would change me for the better, that somehow I would have an epiphany and life would be mapped out and straightforward ever more.  How wrong I was.

~ ~ ~

Sydney November 2007

After a whirlwind stop in Bangkok we touched down in Sydney airport.  We’d heard tales of people being stuck at passport control for hours, but for us immigration was a breeze and we waltzed through.  The first few days were spent adjusting to the time difference and acclimatising ourselves in the city.  Days consisted of exploration and nights of beer drinking. We had a jet boat tour of Sydney harbour and I took a course in hospitality skills so that I’d be qualified to do bar work there (this didn’t come in helpful , once!). This was an exciting time. I still remember my first sight of Sydney Opera House.  I was seeing something with my own eyes I’d previously only dreamed of.  For a small time country boy this was some occasion. The first week was over before I knew it.

Fractures were beginning to appear however and I wasn’t feeling as happy in myself as I should have been.  I felt increasingly lonely and was struggling to form a bond with the people I’d travelled over with.

We then (still as a group) headed to The Hunter Valley for a wine tasting tour and few days out of the city.  I realised at this point that as much as I liked the people I’d flown over with, that I was going to have to find my own way from here on.  We were too different and this eventually culminated in a bit of an alcohol fuelled argument with one of the others.  Nevertheless, in those few days I met a couple of new people who I got on with brilliantly and who lifted my spirits considerably (Mark and Alice).  Though sadly I would only see Alice again once more when back in Sydney, Mark and I remained close and I even got to visit him in Melbourne nearly a year later.

When we returned from The Hunter Valley I knew my future wasn’t in Sydney itself.  I needed to get out and find some blue juice therapy.  I didn’t go far though.  I found what I needed just over the water in Manly.  That’s where I will pick up in the next blog post.

People often ask if you’re a Sydney or Melbourne person;  I will always pick Sydney, I did love it, but it’s a city of contrast for me.  Of excitement and discovery, yet of loneliness and unhappiness entwined.

Bangkok Adventures …

November 2007.   That was the start of my year long adventure.  In hindsight it wasn’t as adventurous as many other travelers, yet to me it was a step into the unknown.

A group of 10 of us met at Heathrow with our final destination being Australia for a years working holiday. I’d wanted to do this for about 7 or 8 years and couldn’t believe the day to leave had finally come.  The flight I plumped for (I had a choice) included a stopover in Bangkok in order to break up the journey.  We were there for 2 nights and managed to pack a fair few things in. Of course, now, I would do it a completely different way.  Bangkok would have been only the start of an Asian adventure.  I’d have traveled there for weeks, maybe months, gone to a full moon party, visited the islands … but hey, why worry about the things you didn’t do?  I hope to have a chance to go back one day and put that right.

So, to keep you entertained we may as well roll with a story from the short time I was there:

On the final night, after having had a traditional Thai meal and watched a local dance we headed to Khao San Road to sample some nightlife. Arriving here for the first time is truly a scene straight out of the beginning to “The Beach”. Touts, tourists and backpackers everywhere. As soon as we got out of our Tuk Tuk  we were approached by countless touts, and subsequently had to turn away several offers of trips to Ping Pong shows and Go Go Bars in preference of finding somewhere to get a drink and soak up the atmosphere properly.

After a couple of drinks with the full crowd of us, Mike (“I’m from the Wirral. D’ya know it?”), Fraser (“I like the blondes”)  and I got itchy feet and left the others to go exploring and find another bar. Having found one (and fended off the interests of a couple of girls from Vietnam to boot) we got stuck into a few beverages.  Unfortunately we seemed to seriously underestimate the strength of the local drink and by midnight it was game over for Fraser who headed back to the hotel. Mike and I had decided we did want to see a ping pong show after all and grabbed a local Tuk Tuk driver. He said it was too late to see a show (too late?!) but he’d take us to some other place where there would be lots of girls. We really should have just said no. We were frighteningly naive.

A short while later we pulled up in a quiet street and were ushered into a near empty bar. At this point I think we both knew something was up but weren’t quite sure what. The proprietor of the bar came over with two fresh, cold beers and introduced himself. Feeling a bit heartless, I thought it would be funny to somewhat drop Mike in it and made my excuses to head to the toilet to leave him to fend off the owner alone.  As I rounded the corner to the toilets I found a room of approximately 20-25 girls all with numbers on them waving at me. I stood open mouthed for a second …We had been taken to one of those bars.

I quickly returned to a wide eyed Mike gesturing that we should leave as quickly as possible.  I didn’t need to worry as for Mike the penny had already dropped; our friendly host had been taking him through the prices!  We made our excuses and scarpered. I still have no idea if we paid for those beers or not! We found the Tuk Tuk driver outside who seemed surprised to see us again so quickly and we told him off. I’m not sure “Bad Tuk Tuk driver!” whilst gesticulating at him is much of a telling off but there we go.  He shrugged and pointed out a local club we could head to instead.  Rather intrepidly (after the earlier experience) we gave it a go, and to our surprise found a huge dance club full of young local Thai people. It was a fantastic atmosphere and we had an absolute blast. I did lose Mike a couple of times but always found him again (usually interlocked with a Thai girl in the middle of the dance floor!). We eventually made it back to the hotel at about 7 am and had to sneak past our tour guide who was having breakfast in the restuarant! We got up to our room and discovered a half naked Fraser hadn’t even made it to bed. He’d spent the night sleeping on the bathroom floor!

We had about 30 minutes to be ready before we were due to leave for our Grand Palace tour. That’s definitely enough time for a power nap right? Isn’t it? Well, it turns out that no, it isn’t. We woke at 11:30 am having missed the trip and “probably the best bit of  our few days in Bangkok” according to our travel mates.

Still … what a night!

The only thing that puzzled me and Mike, was that the girls swore blind they had called the phone in our room to make sure we were ready for the tour.  And a Thai girl had answered.  Fraser … have you told us everything?