Three nights ago, my friends threw me a surprise 22nd birthday party. After one of my housemates and I went up to Newcastle for a weekend getaway from the Sydney, we returned on the evening of the 25th of April. I was really tired since we camped out and it was extremely cold and rainy, and since it was another spontaneous road-trip decision, we were under-prepared. Therefore, not much sleep. So, I just wanted to go to bed since my actual birthday was tomorrow anyway, and I could plan a night out then. However, my Uni friend Luke insisted that I come over for homemade pizza at his apartment situated in the Sydney University Village. I told him I was too tired, but my housemate and Luke (separately) were insisting that I go. Deciding that a nice dinner was too good to give up, and also feeling a bit guilty if Luke went through the preparations, I said okay.
Strangely, my housemates were all gathered in the living room. I asked where they were going, and each of the 3 different couples said they were going out to 3 different restaurants for dinner. Since I was so tired, I thought nothing of it. I hopped in the shower quickly to get ready, and by the time I was done, they had all left the house. No big deal.
Upon arriving at Luke’s apartment complex, we walk past his apartment and he points and says “That’s where I live, but we won’t be going there. We have to go to the main lounge area where they have the ovens.” I thought that was a bit strange, but it IS true that none of the apartments have ovens because of safety. But they do have stovetops. When I walk in, all of my housemates who had left had sparklers ready and some of my other friends were there too! So exciting! Apparently, my housemate had to plan via SMS with Luke while we were gone over the weekend, but it all came together in the end.
A simple evening with some snacks, music, and drinks, of course. Other random U-Villagers showed up right before midnight and the whole group sang Happy Birthday at midnight. What a fun night. Unfortunately, we were having a blast that we didn’t leave the complex until 2 AM, when a lot of bars/clubs have lockout periods, and you cannot get in. But, by this point, I was exhausted. Regardless, spending time with my international housemates and Sydney friends was just as special as spending it with my best friends back in Seattle.
Rewind to three days before the party (sorry for the reverse chronological order), and one of my housemates from Germany and I decided to road-trip the short distance to a city called Newcastle. I must say, and it might offend some Australians, that it should be called Old-castle, or Dead-castle. Everything closed at 3PM on Saturday for no apparent reason, maybe just closing early all the time? Yes, there are a ton of beaches within 5 kms of the city centre, but the roads/alleys/beaches even were all empty. It was like one of those country films where tumbleweed blows across the frame. The one department store that I went into (equivalent of a Nordstrom) had no customer service reps in sight, and it was so empty, quiet, and honestly – DEPRESSING. Maybe we just went on a bad day. The city center itself has a lot of empty, run-down buildings. But the beaches along the way from Sydney to Newcastle were AMAZING. My favorite would be the Norah Lighthouse, where the beach was warm from the sun, and the lighthouse guided the boats along the coast as they headed towards Newcastle. There were tons of amazing shells, and I could sit for hours
collecting funky ones for art projects. My housemate borrowed a truck from work, and the tent fit in the bed of the truck, so it wouldn’t be too cold or wet in the morning! Perfect dimensions. The coast never gets old – even beach after beach, I am not tired of soaking in the warm sun, the bluest water, the smell of salt water, and the crashing of waves. We started noticing that flip-flops and shoes were randomly left on every beach that we visited – so, we might start a photo collection of “Lost Treasures Found on Beaches.” It was cool to go hunting to see if we could find shoes, or a necklace, or other random possessions.
But, I can say that if you are short on traveling time, you wouldn’t be disappointed if you skipped Newcastle. Sorry Newcastle, maybe next time.