Coogee and Tamarama beaches, evening at The Regis

Day 18 ::: Friday 22nd September, 2000

The holiday was almost over and so we had to re-confirm our flight tickets back home with Gulf Air, so the day began with a stroll down Campbell Parade to find a travel agent that could do this for us. We found one off one of the side streets (there are quite a few in fact, mostly catering for the backpacker types, of which there are plenty around Bondi). Unfortunately we found ourselves in the hands of the slowest travel agent in the southern hemisphere, but she did manage to find the telephone number for Gulf Air for us in the end. The service didn't stretch to her using the phone immediately in front of her to phone on our behalf though, or am I just getting too picky?

We stayed in Bondi for another pavement-side breakfast in the sun, where Manda surprised me with a T-shirt she sneakily got me from the Mambo shop just up the road. I had trawled through their collection many times and not decided on one (they were all good, difficult to choose!), so Manda had made the decision for me.

Winnie got another outing today, as we headed off to Coogee and Clovelly beaches by road (as opposed to the coastal walk that we had already done earlier in the holiday). It was a sunny day, so a spot of swimming was in order! We took roughly the same route that Andy had driven us before when we went to the ANA Hotel - keeping as close to the cliff's edge as the residential street plan would allow us.

Clovelly is a narrow, secluded bay that makes the swimming a tad easier than at some of the other beaches. The currents are quite weak, but the water was still pretty cold here, as I found out! The lack of waves seems to make it colder - at Tamarama where I had difficulty standing up in the water, let alone swim, I don't remember feeling cold. The benefit of swimming in Clovelly, though, is the clarity of the water - it is possible to go snorkelling here (without swallowing waves of seawater), and there are fish clearly visible around the rocky seabed.

Coogee is a very different beach - very wide and, today, very popular. I decided not to take a dip here, though, as it was starting to cool down now and I'd already had a good soak at Clovelly. Instead, we both sat on the sand and caught up with our holiday reading. By the roadside is a gelato stand that I made a beeline for a bit later (I thought it was good old fashioned ice cream). As I ordered a couple of cones, I noticed the pictures they had stuck up in the back of the stand - sharks. With very big teeth. And they were all locals, apparently.

One picture showed a shark being caught and inside its gaping mouth was another shark that it had had for lunch earlier that day. I asked where these pictures were taken, and was told that it was just beyond Wedding Cake Island. This, dear readers, is not some distant island - Wedding Cake Island is little more than a rocky outcrop not far from the shore of Coogee beach and gets its name from the amount of white surf that breaks all around it, making it appear as if there were a white 'cake' in the sea.

But surely these beaches are all shark-netted, I offered. The answer from the gelato salesman will surely not go down as the most effective form of tourism promotion I've heard: "Oh yeah, some of them are, but if they want to get through, they will." As I walked back to the beach with the rapidly melting gelato cones, I viewed the shark attack sirens dotted about in a whole new light.

Back at the flat, we found ourselves in front of the telly just in time for Neighbours! Throughout the holiday, we had managed to avoid watching this, but this being the last full week day we would have here, it had to be done!

Shortly after, Andy joined us for a meal in Bondi - a new sushi restaurant had opened along Campbell Parade (up until a few days ago, it was a café by the name of DUC, or Down Under Coffee). I opted for something that was cooked (chicken - me, that is, not the dish I chose), while the owner came round and gave us free Sake to celebrate the opening of his new business venture. We then took a walk to a massive pub called The Regis where it seems all the young locals go to.

The Regis was much like any of the 'chain' pubs in the UK, but even more so from my perspective. It was almost like being in a local, as we met up with Stratton, Chris and Simmo, three guys who used to be locals on another side of the globe. It was a very surreal experience. Stratton had also been out in Sydney for a couple of years and didn't look to be in a hurry to get back to the UK, while Chris and Simmo were relative newcomers down under.

I tried my hand at pool, playing doubles (alongside Andy) with Emmy and John, a couple who we'd been chatting too earlier. Emmy was from Hungary, but was very fluent with her English. She was also very good at pool and was soon wiping the floor with us. While we were trying to regain some dignity at the pool table, Manda was trying to hold a coherent conversation with a Filipino man who was doing the rounds and talking to everyone in the pub. If there were an award for the person most likely to fall into a bush/gutter on the way home, it was him (although I was making good ground, it has to be said).