March this year, I was ready to set off for another adventure. This time, it was to meet up with Tom and Shang in Sydney to spend the weekend together before we embarked on our road trip up to Brisbane. 

Sydney from Above

Pam, the drama queen goes travelling

How could I leave Singapore without starring in a couple of dramas of my own?

Drama #1

When I arrived at the airport, I used the self-check-in machine to print my boarding pass. The machine ejected the first ticket, I hurriedly took it and walked to the counter to get my backpack checked in for the flight.

I handed over my passport and the ticket to the lady at the counter. She looked at it for 30 seconds and asked for my boarding pass.

"Isn't this my boarding pass?" I replied, pointing to the ticket she was holding in her hand. 

She revealed to me it was just a ticket with the flight information, not a boarding pass. Slapping myself on my forehead, I sprinted towards the machine. True enough, my boarding pass was sitting on the holder. 

I headed back to the counter to hand the lady my boarding pass. I even asked if anyone else made the same oversight as I do.

Perhaps she could feel my face red with embarrassment that she was sweet enough to assure me I was not the only one who made the rookie mistake.

Drama #2

This time, I blamed my lack and eye and brain coordination.

Passing through immigration custom, I peeped at my boarding pass; my brain registered the boarding gate as C15.

I had my eyes glued on my phone as I made my way towards gate C15. There was a line forming before the security check to the waiting area.

I was still fixing my eyes to my phone as I joined the queue without verifying on the airline and final destination on the screen. 

Upon handing over my passport and boarding pass to the lady who ran a pre-security check, she scanned my face with her eyes ensuring that I was the same person as my passport photo before proceeding with the person behind me.

Right before the security check, another woman was checking the passports and boarding passes again. Naturally, I gave it to her as I prepped myself to put my bag through the x-ray machine.

"Mdm, what's your flight number?" She asked.

"QF82" I replied confidently. It must be some standard questions they would randomly ask passengers I reasoned to myself.

"Are you sure? Do you know where is your boarding gate?"

"Not QF82 meh, the boarding gate is not here meh?"

"Mdm, this is gate C15. Your boarding gate is C13 over there." Pointing to the direction towards the C13 gate as though I am illiterate.

"OH!!!" I exclaimed loudly as my eyes caught sight of the C13 printed on my boarding pass.

A Singaporean lady who queued next to my lane overheard my whole exchange with the airport security and chucked aloud! I swear I almost died of embarrassment! At that instant, I wished the floor could swallow me up!

Before I could go to my correct boarding gate, I had to explain the whole situation to the airport security in-charge as she saw me back off from the queue about my oversight. Then, she signalled the first security check lady who let me passed to come over, letting her know that she had allowed me to slip through their security check.

Perhaps I was unintentionally trying to put our security at the airport to test. Or I was hoping to fly to London instead of Sydney.

Sydney

Shang, Tom and I finally reunited in Sydney! The last time we hung out together was in Cusco, Peru having KFC as our last meal together. This time, I insisted that we NEED to eat KFC again to celebrate the unification. I will make sure that we continue with this ritual of eating KFC together for as long as we are keeping up with our meetups. 

Shang, Tom and I in Cusco, Peru in January 2018

Cusco, Peru in January 2018.

While Shang was at work, Tom and I explored the city centre. I wish we had more time to explore because half a day is not enough. Not that it matters because the primary purpose of meeting up in Sydney was to spend quality time together as we checked off a few things on the list.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

We spent a day tasting wine in Hunter Valley and we're eager to get wasted. Fine, maybe it was just me. We also had some flavoured schnapps and did wine with chocolate pairing too.

It was so different from my first wine-tasting experience in Perth. I remembered how I would I tip the wines because I was afraid I would get tipsy. Looking back, I was approaching life with such cautious!

Time has changed. So, the question was, was I drunk by the end of the wine-tasting tour? Nope, not really. Alright, at one point I was feeling EUPHORIC that I cannot wipe the silly grin off my face. I swear it was the combination of good alcohol and having the quality time with my friends. However, I managed to sober up completely after lunch.

We chanced upon the second largest Mardi Gras after San Francisco in Sydney. It is the annual LGBTQ pride parade which attracted many people and oh boy, the city centre was vibrant with many who dressed up, ready to have fun. I was just contented to catch the Mardi Gras parade in action.

Blue Mountains

We spent a night at Katoomba where we went hiking in the Blue Mountains. What is a trip without getting into some adventures with the boys? We went for a day hike at the Grand Canyon Track with only a bottle of 500ml water and some melted chocolate bars to share between the three of us. Thankfully, we were hiking with a few other hikers; they generously shared their water and food with us. Not just that, somehow we ended up stranded on the street miles away with no public transport that would bring us back to Katoomba. We hitchhiked twice with the kindred Australians to get back to Katoomba. With that, we could catch our train back to Sydney right on time for dinner! Never a dull moment with these boys for sure!

Hiking in Grand Canyon Track

Road Trip (Sydney to Brisbane)

After bidding goodbye to Shang, Tom and I picked up our camper van and hit the road. I was super stoked about my first camper van experience because it was a new travelling style for me. Also, knowing that I am travelling with someone who had prior experiences made me feel more comfortable that at least one of us know what he is doing. LOL

We were off to a rocky start. Although we had travelled together for a fair bit and we got along most of the time, this, however, was our first self-drive adventure together. We had to adjust, accommodate and adapt to each other's behavioural quirks in the car. Fortunately, we sorted it out quicker than we thought.

Road Trip up to Brisbane

GPS was arguably the best investment for the road trip as it was worth every penny. The biggest takeaway from our previous self-drive day trip in Melbourne was that one should always invest in a GPS because we ended up getting so frustrated with each other! Let's face it, I am bad at navigating the map on the phone while someone is driving, and Tom has no patience behind the wheels. With the GPS onboard, I could sit back and enjoy my ride, while Tom could drive knowing where he was going exactly. It was a double win!

Do not underestimate my role as a co-driver. My responsibility includes seeking amazing coffee places; locating supermarkets and Dan Murphys (the liquor store) to stock up on groceries and beers; finding decent campsites to park; controlling the music playlist and last but not least, making sure my driver was well-feed with snacks. I dare say that I did a good job as a co-driver as long as I need not navigate.

Coffee breaks during the road trip

The daily pleasure.

We made our way up north with no concrete plan, stopping at random places along the way. We pulled over at towns with names that caught our eyes such as Toronto, Newcastle, Casino and Miami for the cheap thrills and coffee breaks. For the entire week, the only "important" decisions we needed to make were what's for dinner and whether we can find a decent campsite to stay overnight.

We arrived in Brisbane just right on time to enjoy a meal at my cousin's. I also revisited some places in Brisbane before it was time for me to return home.

Kangeroo Meal

Kangeroo meat, as requested by me. 🙂

Statistics:

Travelling Date: 1 March - 11 March 2019

Where I travelled:

Country: Australia

Cities/Towns: Sydney, Katoomba, Watagan National Park, Kendall, Lawerence, Byron Bay, Austinville and Brisbane

Sydney + Road Trip to Brisbane overview

Expenses

Transportation: S$1,250.64
Insurance: S$47.60
Accommodation: S$55.11
Communication: S$19.80
Food: S$355.26
Personal/ Miscellaneous: S$35.21
Tours/ Activities: S$128.93

Transportation took up the main bulk of my expenses because our camper van was our mode of transport as well as our accommodation at night.

Crashed at Shang's place helped to save a few nights of accommodations. I only paid for one night of hostel and a couple of paid campsites along the way. Besides, I lived off Tom's Woolsworth gift cards for most of our groceries.

With that, I made it under S$1,900.

Highlight

We stood outside a French restaurant named The Rooster at the outskirt Katoomba's town centre. We were starring at the menu debating for about 10 to 15 minutes if we should part with AUD50 each to indulge in French cuisine.

There were a pair of mother and daughter diners who saw our hesitant that they gave us their instant food review which helped to inch us closer to the door.

The thing with Shang is that he has the natural charm to positively convince people that we ended up walking into the restaurant. The place was posh, posher than any of our regular hangout. Even the server was a French.

I joked that he would foot the bill if we dislike the food.

Bouillabaisse at The Rooster

Bouillabaisse

Lucky for us, the food was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! The seafood was fresh and tasty; it was the best meal I had eaten the entire holiday. We each paired our food with a glass of wine. And damn, we were leading the baller life.

Lowlight

We were camping at a free campsite in a national park on our first night with no cell reception. When the night came rolling in and playing card game under the red light became too straining for the eyes, we decided to call it an early night and head off to sleep.

We kept our doors shut to prevent mosquitos, snakes, spiders or God knows any other wildlife in Australia from getting in.

Road Trip up to Brisbane

The camper van that took us from Sydney to Brisbane.

I woke up in the middle of the night sweating because I felt stuff with little ventilation. Tried my best not to move around too much because I knew any movement means creating more heat in the environment. The thought of meditation flashed across my mind, but my brain was acting like a rebellious child who refused to take any order. I was slowly dying inside - by the seconds.

In the end, I resorted to getting out of the vehicle and sat on the camping chair that we set up earlier. With the fresh and cooling air, I was finally breathing fine again!

Through the darkness, my sense of hearing became sharper. I could hear the occasional rustling of leaves and dried leaves on the ground. I was secretly pleased that we had the wit to place the chairs on a concrete ground as it would allow me to spot any dangerous wildlife easily.

Starred into the complete darkness, I saw the occasional stars (when the clouds were not blocking them) through the canopy trees and tried to fall asleep. I stayed on the chair until daybreak and met with a mama and kiddo wallabies who came visiting.

Morning on our road trip

The morning after

Conclusion

It was one of the most epic adventures of my life. Now, I can finally say that I have checked off going on a road trip on a camper van.

It was not an easy task for the 3 of us to get together. After all, we were no longer the three carefree travellers who bonded in South America. I don't know when, but all I know is that when we reunite again no doubt more adventures will follow!

Reunion in Sydney

Here is a little video I made for the trip. Enjoy!

Pamela Loh

Pamela, born and raised in Singapore. She is a dreamer, explorer, traveller and local tour guide.

A perfect day for Pam would be being on the road, having beers and endless of great conversations that shape a wider perspective.

Come say hi!

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