Workaway The Second
When things didn’t work out as anticipated at the farm, we started looking for another Workaway arrangement in Melbourne. What we found was a whole lot of nothing! We knew we couldn’t afford to stay in Melbourne for more than a week without a Workaway, so we came up with plan B…or maybe it was plan C, D, E…? I’m not really sure. When we arrived in Australia, we didn’t think we were going to end up in Sydney; we had been told by so many people that they preferred Melbourne and many people even told us not to bother with Sydney. However, Sydney had a number of good Workaway options to offer so, we started contacting hosts and looking into our transportation options.
We actually started contacting potential hosts before leaving the farm, only two weeks before we were planning to arrive in Sydney. For context, we had spent 3 months contacting hosts and working out details for our arrangement in Tasmania. At this point in our travels, not knowing where we were going to stay in two weeks time was incredibly stressful for me…remember, I’m practiced in being a compulsive planner. However, from the beginning, getting better at going with the flow has been one of my intentions for this trip; I reminded myself of this daily and did my best to breathe and work through my increasing anxiety until we finally secured a Workaway…2 days before arriving in Sydney.
We had decided on transportation from Melbourne to Sydney prior to securing our Workaway. At this point, we had seen the money flow through our fingers much more quickly than we were comfortable with. We were only 3 weeks into our travels and knew if we didn’t reign in the spending we might find ourselves cutting our trip short once the money ran out. Thus, our top priority was making the trip budget friendly. We decided on an overnight bus with Firefly. Overnight buses, trains, planes, etc. are great on a trip like this because you kill two birds with one stone; save yourself paying for one night of accommodation while also getting from point A to point B. However, this is one overnight trip that we would not do again, nor would we recommend it to anyone else! If you know Mark, you probably know that he can sleep ANYWHERE. When we go on road trips, he does the driving because if he is in the passenger seat, he will 100%, without a doubt pass the eff out within minutes!! On this 12 hour, overnight bus trip though, neither of us slept more than a couple minutes at a time. The seats were terribly cramped and uncomfortable; they curved up on either side of your hip, and the flat portion was not wide enough to accommodate any more than a child’s pelvis. This seat design is a biomechanical nightmare and of course, did amazing things for our S.I. joints!
We arrived to Sydney sleep deprived and hobbling like a couple of 80 year olds in need of hip replacements. We were so immensely grateful when we finally made it to our accommodation (the Airbnb property where we were to be responsible for cleaning). We met one of the long term tenants, Asad, who operated as the “house manager” since our host (and the property owner), Natalie, did not live onsite.
We communicated with Natalie only through WhatsApp, which was fine with us because we found her to be quite rude; the one time she did stop by the property she walked right by us in the kitchen as if we were not even there, no hello, no introduction, nothing. On the other hand, we found our time with Asad to be quite entertaining and due to the man crush he had on Mark, he was very chill and easy to deal with from a “work” perspective! From looking at him, you would never know it, but his personality was Bro to the core. During our time there, he was “working hard” towards the Bro body and he spent a lot of time talking to us about the benefits of eating avocado pits and protein powders (which he spent $600 on while we were there). I could’ve told him that adding a daily protein shake and workout to a diet consisting of KFC, Pizza Hut, and microwave meals was not going to help him accomplish his goals, but he wouldn’t have listened anyway so I just listened to his musings on how to “do fitness” with amusement. Asad’s man crush hit peak levels when he brought home a fruit rack and Mark said, “no problem” when asked if he was handy enough to assemble it. To give you a mental picture of what we were working with, think of the most basic “assembly required” thing you could possibly pick up; stick these two poles together, put a screw here, hang a basket there, done. Asad was blown away with how quickly and easily Mark had assembled this thing and started inquiring about how he became so handy. I’m not sure Asad actually learnt anything about us during the two weeks we lived as roommates (he was far too interested in himself to take the time to be interested in anyone else) but there was something about his combination of overconfidence and complete ignorance that we found amusing, rather than annoying.
Overall, this was a much more enjoyable Workaway than our first. We enjoyed our stay at the Airbnb and even got to know some of the guests quite well, including a very kind, energetic, and friendly Australian woman named Kylie. The drawback for us in the arrangement was that we weren’t able to form a relationship with our host, she clearly saw us as “the help” and treated us as such. The work was easy and we were able to arrange our own schedule; some days we cleaned for 3-4 hours, some days we did no cleaning and took the train into Sydney to explore. We were staying in a suburb of Sydney and the CBD was over an hour away by train and/or bus. Thus, we didn’t get as much time to explore Sydney even though we were there for more than twice the time we were in Melbourne. However, we did get a feel for the city and found it to be more fast paced, high energy, and overall felt far less laid back than Melbourne. Despite spending a lot of our time out in the suburbs, we do have a couple of things we would recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to visit this bustling city.
I’m Free Walking Tour
The same company who does free walking tours in Melbourne also runs them in Sydney (at 10:30 and 14:30). We lucked out and got a super energetic guide who had just graduated from theatre school. As he was telling us the history of Sydney (which is quite interesting since it was the sight where the convicts were settled when they were moved from Britain), he was playing characters, and putting on a very entertaining show. As with the tour in Melbourne, we recommend you do this early in your trip since the guides will give you their tips, tricks and recommendations for exploring the city they know so well.
This company has a second tour in Sydney as well (at 6pm), which focuses on The Rocks neighbourhood. This tour is shorter, but very interesting and definitely worth checking out.
The Rocks Market
This is a market that runs in the heart of The Rocks neighbourhood every weekend. On Friday (9:00-15:00), is the Foodie Market, where you can stuff your face with a variety of street food. We weren’t able to make it out to the Friday market but based on our experience at the weekend market and what we were told by locals, the Friday Foodie Market is worth visiting. On Saturday and Sunday (10:00-22:00) , you can wander through a large, open air market, shopping for a wide variety of local goods including clothing, art, food, and much more. There are also a few food stands, which we enjoyed immensely! I got a nice veggie bowl with Halloumi cheese and I was tempted to go back for another helping of just the yam wedges and Halloumi.
Manly to Spit Bridge Costal Walk
This was my favourite thing we did in Sydney! We started at Spit Bridge and made our way to Manly beach. I’m glad we went this direction rather than starting at Manly but depending on preference, you may want to do the opposite; I’ll give you my thoughts so you can decide for yourself.
This is a 10km hike (1-way). You can do a 20km round trip if you want, though it’s not necessary since you can get to and from both sides by public transportation. The portion of the hike near to Spit Bridge is very scenic; you get beautiful views of the coast as you walk amongst the bushes, trees, and idyllic cliffs. The portion near Manly beach, while you still see the coastal views, the environment moves to a much more urban feel and you’ll find yourself walking down the side of the road and amongst more residential areas. We were happy to have started in the more scenic portion because early in in our hike, we spent a lot of time stopping for photos, or to just appreciate the view. By the time we were nearing the end of the 10km, we were getting hungry and were content to move more quickly through what we felt to be the less scenic portion of the hike. If you’d be disappointed to see the best part first, I’d recommend starting at Manly Beach.
Whichever side you start on, be sure to take a trip on the Manly Beach ferry, which will take you between Sydney Harbour and Manly Beach. The ferry makes its way around the Sydney Opera House to give you a better view than you can get from land. The ferry is the priciest of all the public transportation in Sydney. However, if you take the standard rather than the express ferry it’s cheaper, and if you go on Sunday it’s cheaper still.
Bondi to Coogee Costal Walk
Overall, I found this walk to be disappointing in comparison to the Manly to Spit walk. Though the walk is along the coast, it’s got a more urban feel as you’re often walking along the road of a residential neighbourhood. It is still a beautiful walk that’s worth doing, but I personally would recommend doing this one before the Manly to Spit walk. The area near Coogee Beach had some really stunning landscape, and Bondi Beach has some really cool murals and if you’re wanting to take it from a hike to a full on workout, stop in at Clovelly Beach Outdoor Gym, which is situated between the two beaches.
We lucked out on our hike as there was an event running along this costal walk called Sculptures by the Sea. Near to Bondi Beach was an exhibition of sculptures set up along the coast. This outdoor art exhibit featured over 100 sculptures spread out over about 1-2km of the 6km walk. It really was spectacular and if you’re in Sydney around the time of this event, we highly recommend going to see it!
This was one of Mark’s favourite things we did while in Sydney. I personally had a terrible time since I was horribly sea sick for 2-3 hours of the 4 hour event. Now, I am known for getting motion sickness. However, boats are usually my safe zone, so I wasn’t anticipating it. I did take some ginger based antinauseants but they did not help and I would send Mark to do this one on his own next time. That being said, if you’re not prone to sea sickness, this will be a memorable experience for you!
The company we went through was incredible! Our guide, Biggles had an impressive amount of passion and knowledge about whales, sea life and the costal waters of Sydney. The company is conscientious of the impact it’s having on the wild animals they’re taking you out to see. Biggles informed us early that if we didn’t see a whale fully breach, it would be a good day on the sea since, in quiet waters, a whale jumping in response to the boat’s approach is a sign that it’s been stressed by the noise or disturbance the boat has created. The guide’s goal instead was to make the whales feel comfortable enough to get curious so they’d want to come near to the boat to explore. We booked through bookme which allowed us to save a few bucks.
Explore Outside the CBD
There’s loads to see and do in the CBD. However, one of our favourite days was spent exploring the neighbourhoods of Eveleigh and Redfern (near the Redfern train station). We went on Saturday morning to the Carriageworks Farmers’ Market in Eveleigh. We grabbed some coffee, sampled some incredible local products, and went home with a mouthwatering loaf of gluten-free olive rosemary sourdough bread. As we wandered among the streets of the neighbourhood, we heard some music and, by following it, found ourselves being invited into the studio of an artist named Micha Nussinov. He was preparing for an exhibition that was opening in two days and when he saw us peeking in the window, invited us in, showed us around and told us all about his works. He makes his art entirely out of discarded and re-purposed materials, which we really appreciated. This private tour of his exhibition is such a fond memory from our time in Sydney and we’re so thankful to him for the generosity he showed in taking time out of his busy day! We’d heard about a Gelato place called Ciccone & Sons from a number of different people and as we were leaving the studio, Micha mentioned it as well. While they didn’t have nutella, we certainly were not disappointed with the mouthwatering, small-batch gelato they offer.
Overall, we enjoyed our time in Sydney, would recommend it as a place a visit, and would even go back ourselves. Based on our first experience of these two cities, in the ongoing feud between Sydney and Melbourne, our vote goes to Melbourne.