I’m not sure whether I would call it ironic or not, but it isn’t just that there happens to be a city named Newcastle in Australia, as well as England, it is that the Newcastle in Australia is not only on a river, but it is also a major port, and the mineral that this port ships happens to be coal. Maybe that is why they decided to give this city the name, because it reminded the original settlers of where they came from. Well, that probably isn’t always the case, because I grew up in a suburb in South Australia called Salisbury, and Salisbury doesn’t boast a cathedral that challenged the architectural beliefs of the day, and it certainly doesn’t have a bunch of stones that people still scratch their heads as to how it was built. As for Newcastle and its coal, well, I’m not even sure they knew that there was coal in them hills when the city was founded.
Anyway, I had just finished by first semester back at university, and had something like four weeks to kill. Well, that meant that it was a perfect time to go on a holiday, and actually do something that I hadn’t done before – travel from Sydney to Brisbane. Well, I’ve done that before but I hadn’t made multiple stops along the way, and I hadn’t done it by train either. Well, I could’ve done it by train, but the thing is that it is long, boring, and rather uncomfortable, and it would have been much easier just to fly. Yet, if I had flown it meant that I wouldn’t have been able to explore the inbetween.
So, my first stop on my trek, after leaving Sydney, was Newcastle. Look, I didn’t get to see as much of this place as I would have liked, namely because it was a bit of a rush, but the last time I was in Newcastle I basically stayed for something like two hours and then continued on. This time I was going to actually stay a little longer. The problem was that the city happened to be cut in two by a tram line that they were laying down. Well, there used to be a railway line that pretty much separated the city from the foreshore, but back in the day, the foreshore was little more than a harbour, whereas now it has been transformed into something more modern (though you still look out over the harbor onto what is basically a heavy industrial area).
Anyway, I could have taken the express train to Newcastle, but you have to pre-book tickets and it can be a real headache at times, so instead I decided to just catch one of the intercity trains, which is a little slower, but it does eventually get you there. Well, it does take something like three hours (ignoring the delays when some teenager presses the emergency stop for fun), and it dropped me off much closer to my hotel, which was a good thing considering that my bag decided to break (which was a real annoyance, especially since I had only just purchased it).
Now Newcastle is actually a city, and a pretty big one at that, which is why it has two lines running out of its main interchange, and also why they are now laying down a tram line (though I suspect the tram line is also designed to open up the waterfront, despite the fact that the water front has massive ships plying through it every so often). Personally, when I first passed through here there wasn’t all that much. It was a rather run down city that had seen better times. Well, it appears that this is changing particularly since the price of real estate in Sydney has gone through the roof. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be all that amenable to a six hour round commute to work every day.
I ended up staying at a lovely pub in the suburb that borders the city centre. Actually, for pub accommodation this place was pretty awesome. Okay, the bathrooms were shared, but that didn’t really phase me all that much, especially since it appeared that I was the only person staying here at the time. The rooms were nothing short of amazing, particularly compared to the roach motel I spent three nights at previously. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it certainly wasn’t the Grand Hyatt, and I have to give the manager credit for sorting out the double booking so I didn’t have to go and look for another place to stay (which would have made a huge dent in my bank account).
So, the first day I spent wandering around Hamilton, which honestly doesn’t really boast all that much, particularly considering that it does happen to be a suburb. However, the next morning, after passing on breakfast at a truly awesome cafe only to end up going to a subpar one because I was famished, I headed into Newcastle city. Well, the tram works were particularly annoying, and I was pretty much going to skip writing about my adventure here because of it, but I ended up changing my mind. It just means that I am going to have to come back once they have completed it, and once I have finished my university studies, to get a much better feel for the place.
However, one thing that I wanted to do was to go to Nobby’s Beach. Well, it’s a beach, and pretty much has everything you would expect a beach to have, including a fortress overlooking it. Well, not all beaches have the fortress, but this one did. Unfortunately it was closed when I was here, so it gave me another excuse to come back. Actually, the Newcastle Museum was also closed, and I passed on the Art Gallery, so there are a few reasons for me to come back in the future (even if it is just to go for a ride on the tram).
As for Nobby’s Beach, well, a number of years ago there was a massive storm off the New South Wales coast, though that isn’t really a rare occurrence. However, this particular storm decided to wash something up onto a beach. You are probably thinking something along the lines of the Prime Minister that Australia lost, but no, it wasn’t him, it was actually a ship, and a pretty big ship at that. No, it wasn’t a long lost Spanish galleon full of doubloons, it was a modern ship full of grain that was trying to get into the harbour, but unfortunately missed it by about half a kilometer and ended up on the beach instead. Anyway the Pasha Bulka (as it was known as) was a pretty big news item for a number of weeks, namely because nobody had any idea how they were going to actually get it off the beach. They finally succeeded, and everybody went back to their daily lives, and only people like me remember the incident.
My next journey was to Stockton, a small suburb on the otherside of the harbour. Why did I want to go to Stockton. Well, beats me. Maybe I just wanted to go and have a couple of beers at the pubs there. Maybe I was bored and simply wanted to go on a ferry ride. Who knows (but me of course). Anyway, there is a ferry that will take you across, and the thing is that when you get there you suddenly find yourself in what could easily be described as a small country town. You wouldn’t think that there was a major city, and a major harbour, nearby. Well, I visited two of the three pubs there (namely because the other one was a little too far for me to walk to), and I jumped on the ferry and headed back. Well, not quite, because when I decided I wanted to go back it was the time that the ferry operators decided that they would have their lunch, so I found myself waiting longer that usual for them to come and get me. However, the view of Newcastle from Stockton is actually pretty cool, and it gives you a much better impression of the city that dodging the tram works does.
Well, I found myself back on the otherside of the river, at Queens Wharf which, as you can probably guess, is a wharf. Well, yes and no because I suspect it has been done up somewhat in the vein of rebranding the waterfront. It was pretty cool, and they even had a pub, though the annoying thing was that there were no restrooms, but you probably don’t want to know about that (unless of course you are actually there and looking for some restrooms – just use the pub). Oh, and the thing with the pub was that a number of days later I emptied my Kattenkabinet bag and discovered a beer coaster in it with a phone number on the back. It left me baffled, wandering whether some strange woman had slipped it in there while my back was turned. Well, I actually collect beer coasters, so I suspect that it is just some advertising for the pub. Still, it did baffle me for a while, though I didn’t bother making the phone call.
Anyway, it was time to head back to the hotel, or the pub actually, though I did go and check out an old convict lumber yard. You find these convict sites all over the place, and yeah, it was just another historical monument. However, before I left I did go and grab an amazing burger at a burger joint on the waterfront, and then found myself in one of those grunge bars that I absolutely loved, but that is a story for another time because now, I have some computer programming to do.