That’s it, it’s over with. We got through it. We made it, 2020, what a fucking year! Seeing as the most unprecedented year I shall hopefully ever have to live is over, I thought it worthy of a blog post to capture this unique moment in history. Also, it’s been a good few months since I posted one and I know you are all dying to find out exactly what “adventures” I’ve had in the past 5 months or so. Spoiler alert, it’s not many as you might have guessed. It’s a bit of a longer one and jumps around a little bit too if I’m honest. But strap yourself in and give it a read. Besides everyone at home is locked down for a 3rd time anyway so it’s not like you’ve got much else to be doing.
Before starting to write this blog, I took a read over the past few blogs I had written back in April & August, just to understand my perspective on all this throughout 2020. You soon get the impression from reading them that I didn’t think 2020 would quite turn out to be the year it has been. I don’t think any of us in our wildest dreams thought it would ever really get like this for so long. It’s funny, I wrote about how I was hopeful of coming home for Christmas or heading to Thailand in the new year to do my divemaster amongst other things. All of which couldn’t be any further from reality right now. Therefore, I’m not going to make too many bold claims or predictions in this blog as quite simply, what’s the point while things are still so up in the air. I do have great hope for 2021, at least by the back end I’m optimistic there shall be some light at the end of what has probably been a pretty dark tunnel for many. I guess that’s already a prediction, literally a sentence after I said I wouldn’t be making any. But we all need hope and something to cling onto in our worst moments & I still have many that I’m clinging onto happening one day. There is still a mountain of things I’ve yet to tick off my bucket list, places to see, experiences to have & I know one day I will have them. The question of when I don’t know, but I will, and I think that’s what I’ve been clinging onto most throughout this whole period. It could be months, it could be years, but this will all end and think how bloody good it will be when it does. And when that moment arrives all that hope that kept us all going for so long will become reality again!
I’m lucky in the sense that ultimately my 2020 by most people’s standards has been a good year. However, like everyone’s it’s still tainted by things we missed out on and what should have been. The end of 2020 marked more than 2 years away from home and my 3rd Christmas away. Reunions which should have been and gone by now put on hold to a later date. And while if I did sit and dwell on this, I know I would get sad and upset, but their time will come, and it shall be all the more rewarding for it. While yes, it’s a little sad in certain aspects, in the grand scheme of things my year has been good. Which is why I’m happy & upbeat, compared to what I imagine plenty of people have had to endure this year I’ve really nothing to complain about and hence I don’t. I just try to make the best out of all this. I owe it to those who would love to be in my shoes. Australia, where I have spent the entire pandemic, has dealt with the virus as effectively as anyone on the planet, other than interstate travel not being possible & a few outbreaks and restrictions here and there. By and large it’s been a pretty normal year. To put it in perspective for those of you back home in the UK – In Aus we have had far less confirmed cases of the disease ( 28,500 at the time of writing) than total deaths for the UK, which sadly now sits at over 80,000. Only 909 people have died of the virus here, and while even one is sadly one too many and someone’s loved one. It hopefully paints a picture of how different things here are. I can’t even really comprehend what it must be like at home & while I keep up to date with the news and speak to family and friends. I do certainly feel I’ve dodged by far the worst of this, even if it does mean I’ve effectively been trapped in Sydney. Which I can tell you there are far worse places to see out a global pandemic. So, while a great deal of my time since the last blog has been spent doing not a great deal. I have been able to get up to a few things which I will run you through now.
The only real notable trip I’ve had over the past few months was a weekend away with my Irish friend Caoimhe in the Blue Mountains. We hired a car for the weekend and booked a few nights in an Air BnB and made the most of a weekend back in October. The Blue Mountains are about an hour and a half inland from the CDB of Sydney and were probably the last real thing of note I had left to tick off the Sydney bucket list. We set off early from work and arrived in the blue mountains just before sunset. Upon exiting the car, I was shocked at how cold it was, I knew due to the attitude and the effect of the adiabatic lapse rate (3rd year physical chemistry coming in handy after all) it would be cooler. But I was still shocked to feel science in action. I guess due to leaving a very mild sea level Sydney and then exiting to a very breezy Blue Mountains, the contrast was stark. Anyway, enough of the nerd stuff and knowing that every 1km rise in altitude equates to a 10 °C decrease in temperature…. right moving on. After a quick shop at the local Woolies (yes, they have those in Aus, but they are more like a Tesco than the old Woolies back home). We darted off to a sunset point called Lincoln’s rock. We just made it in time for sunset but being quite underdressed and with it blowing a gale, it was freezing, so quickly caught the sunset but didn’t hang around too long. We knew we would return the next night, so just wanted to scope it out quickly. We then headed to the Air BnB which was situated in Lawson, about 10 – 20 minute’s drive away from the main attractions of the Blue Mountains but a great base for the weekend regardless. The place was called Blueberry Cottage, and pretty much everything inside or outside was blue, kind of reminded me of home, but instead of being green, it was blue (you’ll only get that if you’ve ever been to my parent’s house haha).
Come Saturday morning we were up before dark I think around 5 am, as we wanted to try and catch the sunrise at a spot called Elysian Rock Lockout. You don’t get a direct view of the sunrise, but the way the light is cast across the valley before you is magnificent, and being the only souls around made it so peaceful, even if again it was pretty chilly. Having enjoyed the sunrise and a few of the other vantage points, we headed back to the cottage for some breakfast.
After which we then went for a morning hike around the nearby South Lawson Waterfall Circuit. It was about a 2 hour round trip to the car park and back in a little loop and along the way you stopped off at about 4 small waterfalls. By this time the sun had fully come out and finally, the chill had left the air and it turned out to be a beautiful day. The first waterfall was only like 10 minutes from the car park and then the rest spread out evenly every 20/30 mins. The most notable event of the hike was after the first waterfall on the way to the next, we passed two girls in their late teens, who said they had turned around and came back as there was a bee’s nest blocking the path and all the bee were very angry. Probably one of my biggest fears, certainly as a child was bees and wasps. I’ve learned to love the bee’s more now, but I still hate wasps. So instantly I was thrilled with the news. We asked them how far up the track and decided to proceed on with caution to check it out for ourselves to see if we could go further or had to turn back. As we made our way down the track, I could certainly hear the familiar buzz, of a flying insect, so I was careful walking along, but couldn’t see a nest or swarm. Next thing I knew I took one more step and there was a massive swoosh of flying buzzing things around me. I legged it forward but soon realised after shitting myself that they were, in fact, just flies that had gathered around a piece of dog poo hahaha. We still trekked on with caution but after another 5 minutes or so, we determined the girls had mistaken the swarm of flies for bees. Thankfully we hadn’t been so stupid and were able to complete the charming walk.
After fitting in a sunrise and morning hike all before about 11 am we weren’t finished yet, we then made our way to Wentworth Falls. Which no prizes for guessing was another waterfall. And although you can catch a glimpse of the waterfall not too far from the main car park the real benefit is again selecting a few of the hiking trails to navigate your way down to the bottom of the falls. However, be warned it’s not for the faint-hearted and is quite the descent (followed by an ascent to get back). Anyway, we took it on and spent another good few hours hiking around the trails taking in the wonderful views along the way as well as making it down to the foot of the falls. There isn’t too much more to write here about this so I shall just let the photos do the talking.
By this point, we were pretty hiked out and hungry so on the way back to the cottage, stopped in Wentworth Falls for a bite to eat and ice cream before taking a power nap that afternoon back at the Air BnB. That evening we again headed for Lincoln’s rock for sunset & stayed much longer this time, soaking in the stunning view with a blanket at the ready, but the temperature was much warmer this time around. Again, not much to mention, better to just let the photos do the talking, it’s a fantastic spot for sunset. As is always the case, having been lucky to catch quite a few sunsets the past couple of years, the sunset only gets better and better, the longer you wait after the sun has disappeared from view. You almost want to wait till it’s pretty much dark. That part between the sun dipping below the horizon and it becoming dark is by far the best part of the sunset, colours wise anyway. Although I still love the physical process of seeing the sun drop below the horizon and being reminded that we are on this tiny planet in the vast array of the universe (more nerd stuff). After sunset, we headed for dinner at the Station Bar in Katoomba, which was lovely, before again crashing into bed early. According to my Fitbit, I had racked up 22km, 30,000 steps and over 225 floors. Quite the day.
On Sunday we opted for more the driving tour as opposed to walking. We drove to the very back of the blue mountains, pretty much regional NSW, and a lookout just outside Lithgow. I also wanted to drive through Lithgow, as due to my work I know regional NSW like the back of my hand now, Lithgow being one such town we service so I was curious to see it in the flesh. Upon driving through Lithgow, I was also pulled over by the police for a random breathalyser test at 11 am. Thankfully the 4 pints I’d had for breakfast had digested, obviously, I’m joking, the result was all clear and we carried on our way back the Blue Mountains. On the drive, which I must add I loved being behind the wheel just cruising around the empty roads. You could see the devastating effect of last summers bush fires which desecrated massive parts of the Australian bush. Just miles and miles of black charred trees as far as the eyes could see, even in this ever so small sample, it was harshly evident just how horrendous and devastating those fires had been. Not only for the communities that lived there but the ecosystem too. Both of which were still only just starting to recover, 8 months after the fires themselves.
On the drive back we stopped at a few more lookouts, the first being Govetts leap, which I thought looked like a green Grand Canyon (although I’ve only ever seen photos of the Grand Canyon). We then moved onto Evans Lookout, which was round the canyon from Govetts. We then contemplated doing the Grand Canyon Walking track, right next door, so clearly, I’m not the only one that thinks it looked like the Grand Canyon. However, it was a 2-hour hike and we weren’t really prepared / short of time. So decided against it, although I did give 3 ladies who had just completed the walk a lift back to there car which was at the other end of the circuit really, saving them another good 30 minutes walk or so. Costs nothing to be kind. Last but not least we then made it to probably the most famous attraction and lookouts of the whole Blue Mountains, the 3 Sister’s Lookout. Which don’t get me wrong again lovely view, but far too touristy, so we didn’t stay long and set off for the return 2-hour ride home. All in all a fantastic weekend out the city, in the fresh air stretching the legs with great company.
Probably a funny story more than anything else, but I also became a model for a day. Although I mean once you’ve been a model once, it means you’re a model for life, at least so I’m told… Before I dive into the details of the story – for anyone who has been following my Instagram since I set off travelling you will likely know I’ve become a bit of a fan of the old Speedo’s, Budgy Smugglers, tighty whities, whatever you call them, yes I now wear them. I’m not really sure how or why if anything a few years ago I would have said no chance. Then I brought a funky pair while travelling Asia, as more of a laugh/joke to wear on boat parties as opposed to a fashion statement. But I guess being in Australia for coming up to 2 years I’ve fully embraced the culture and for whatever reason, I’m now a wearer and own several pairs. Whether this is just a flash in the pan moment, or I shall be embarrassing my future children on family holidays for years to come, who knows. But anyhow there’s some background. Roll forward to mid-November and I get a message from a friend of mine in Sydney, saying someone she knows who works in PR is looking for a guy to do a photoshoot in Budgy Smugglers (this is an actual brand in Aus) and instantly thought, Calum’s the guy. I certainly was the guy, thinking how great a story this is going to be for years to come haha. The shoot was organised by Deliveroo & Betty’s Burger to advertise their new beach delivery service for summer. The only problem was it was a Friday morning and I had work (plus a pretty big meeting at work). I wasn’t going to let this stop me though, I wiggled my way out of my work commitments and there I was on my way to Coogee Beach for my model shoot. On the way there I’m shitting myself thinking “what have I got myself into here, I hope the other people I’m with aren’t professional models & the other guy isn’t some fitness model or something”. Thankfully it was with 3 other ordinary people just like me all there for a bit of a laugh and the free swimwear & $100 voucher for our troubles. The rest is history, as they say, there I was in bright pink Budgy Smugglers for 2 two hours modelling on the beach. I even made the Aus Deliveroo official Instagram account. It was actually such a laugh & thankfully my 3 fellow models were equally as novice as me – check out my portfolio below hahaha. Sydney seems to appreciate my looks though. Having first been offered a role in porn, literally hours after arriving in Sydney, an offer I had to sadly refuse. To now staring in a photoshoot on the beach. Maybe a career change is in order. Somehow, I very much doubt it.
That’s pretty much all he wrote. My Monday to Fridays are still spent working for the same company I have been all along in Sydney & life really is as normal as it could have been. Not too many adventures or exploring has been done, but the city itself has been great to live in and I’ve certainly come to love the Australian lifestyle and the city itself. The move to a new home back in May 100% helped and highlights how a small change can make a big difference. I’ve no idea what the future holds and while I do have so upcoming plans, I won’t state them now for fear that they shall change. Regardless I shall be sure to update you when we get to that point in time. Thanks for following the journey for the last 2 years. I can assure you there is still far more to come as I’m certainly not done with exploring the world yet, just biding my time, waiting for the chance again. Stay safe out there everyone, look out for one another and keep clinging to those thoughts of what you will do when all this is said and done.
Be kind 2021 – until next time everyone.