Lets just start this by saying I understand how busy Sydney is at this time of year. In exchange, I also know you have to expect to pay through the nose to stay. However, that additional payment is an expectation to get the same level of service you would normally get despite its business.
So, Surfside Backpackers at Coogee Beach really has no excuse for the sheer fiasco its been providing for its guests.
First off, I booked to stay in a 8 bed female dorm with attached bathroom. What the site didn’t mention was that said room had 2 additional rooms attached with 4 beds each, who also shared said bathroom and the small living area. So in reality its an 18 bed dorm. On top of which, they overbooked the room, so 2 girls – who had paid just as much as everyone else – ended up having to sleep on couches! Far too much luggage and people throughout the room. Especially when we all share the same toilet.
Secondly, I accept that they lost 2 members of staff out of the blue, but the room was ridiculously dirty. The table was a mess, the floor hadn’t been swept and the bathroom was in chaos after 20 women had used it. To the cleaners credit, she did her best, but its not enough – not when the girls in the room had to actually do the majority of cleaning themselves.
Thirdly, paid internet is very much a thing in Australia. I accept that – but Surfside charges through the NOSE. It’s $2 for 30 minutes, when most are on Global Gossip and have it $4 for 24 hours. Very expensive and annoying…especially when the Wi-Fi is only accessible in the reception area too (and hasn’t been working at all the last day or so)
Finally, mostly a small niggling point, but a point all the same. If you’re going to advertise Christmas and New Years events on your website as an enticement to stay, you need to PROVIDE THEM. NYE and NYD were supposed to have free pancake breakfasts in the morning. Not only were they not provided, but on New Years Day, the reception didn’t open until about 11 – not good for the several people checking out who were needing to get their deposit back.
(a good chunk of my bedroom are planning on going up en mass to try and get a discount on our rooms because its just gotten stupid now).
However, I digress, this is not what this post is about. In reality, its about the whole reason for coming to Sydney. New Years Eve.
Although I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted to be here, I really hadn’t given it much thought as to what I’d actually do. Honestly figured that since it was such an infamously famous night it would be relatively easy to find things to do. The morning was set aside for trying to hunt down an Apple store to fix my iPod, which sadly didn’t pan out (took forever to find and had no appointments available), and testing out the buses in Sydney.
I HATE public transport in Sydney – it is by far the worst transport system I’ve endured in Australia. Not only did I struggle to find the right stations, but the buses themselves seem to change at random. Ended up losing about 2 hours thanks to getting on the wrong bus routes. As such, by the time I made it back to the hostel, most people had already left to get good seats. With no clue where they’d all be heading (and no real desire to spend all day sitting on concrete), I ended up napping for a few hours before trying my luck on the buses again.
With some luck (and directions from helpful tourists), I made it to Circular Quay, and got my first glimpse of Sydney’s icons – the opera house and the bridge.
I always thought the opera house was whiter than it is. Time’s ages us all I guess – least it hasn’t turned green.
There are hoards of people milling around, some going to the opera house, others going to the ferries. I’d been doing some minor surfing online and it appeared Darling Harbour would be a good place to try out, so hopped on board a ferry…which gave me an added bonus of some awesome opera house/bridge scenery.
Darling Harbour is on the same side of the river as the Circular Quay, but is much further down and out of site of the bridge and opera house. Already people were starting to gather, so I grabbed a seat.
…However, after 30 minutes I’m starting to realise how busy it is – and I really wanted to see the fireworks over Sydney Bridge. If I stay here, I might get a better view of the earlier show, but there’s no chance of me getting to the main event. So I stand up, stretch, and head back towards the ferries.
Using the New Years app, I finally select Blue Reserve Point as my final stop, as it provides a view of both the bridge and the opera house, while also being free. By this point it’s close to 6, and finding a spot – even for just one person – is getting very difficult. Manage to have some success though – with a view on a hill only slightly mired by a lamp post.
With several hours still to wait, I grab one of the books accumulated from Beerwah’s second hand bookstore, and settle down to wait (book started out great…then diminished into meh. Starting to wonder if me struggling to write plots to my own stories is causing me to keep nitpicking published novels. Its been forever since I actually enjoyed one).
Sydney go to great lengths to keep people entertained while they wait. About every hour something is happening on the water. Most I hear happens around Darling Harbour, but for us, we mostly saw boats lit up with lights, and an aerial display by a daring pilot. At 9pm, the first leg of fireworks began.
This display is mostly so people with small children can enjoy the fireworks but get the kids to bed before New Years – and also entertains the poor souls who have been waiting since 7 this morning. Its a small scale performance compared to the big one coming, but still impressive as most cities main event.
As it got darker, more people got restless. We had the police escort one guy out of our section for smuggling alcohol, and the rest of his group decided to start singing 90’s songs for the last half hour. It was a little anti-climactic on Blue Point sadly, as there is no large countdown or announcement. Just an awful lot of people looking at watches and trying to guestimate when 10 seconds are left. It eventually turned into a large choked up yell that turned into screams when the fireworks began.
I have been wondering why Sydney is so well known for its New Years when I’d actually found very little to do (Chiang Mai was so much better), but credit where credit is due, the fireworks display is spectacular. Lasts about 12 minutes, coming from at least 3 different locations, accumulating in a giant waterfall of white sparkles coming from the bridge.
Pretty spectacular – and well worth seeing…though think once was enough, will not be coming back to Sydney again for New Years. Once the dark fell again, decided to wait for the ferry that would come at 1:05 to take me back to Circular Quay…turning out to be a major mistake as the 1:05 ferry took us around a dozen stops…then came BACK to Blue Point to be up the 2:05 lot. I could have walked to the train station and bus…hell, I could have walked back ENTIRELY, in the time it took me to get back. Thankfully the buses were free and relatively well signposted, so I at least didn’t have to pay. Got back about 3am, and crashed quite happily on my foam mattress to sleep till the afternoon.
Happy New Years everyone!