It wasn’t quite the hell hole hostel of Perth but 10 nights in Elizabeth hostel on Elizabeth Street had taken it out of my roomies. The hostel had been fine. But the clientele? Sheesh. Any British fans smugly shaking their heads at the behaviour of the basest of the locals in Bay 13 over the four days at the Test Match would’ve checked their chuntering had they had to spend any time with their erstwhile countrymen in our hostel. The Brits abroad at their beastliest; the chunder in the bathroom sinks, the football skirmishes in the wee small hours, the suicide bids, the lurid, loud phone calls, Lord Wineyhands himself witnessed in human form.

It was a relief to get out. At least until it was revealed the onward journey to Sydney, as they probably suspected by now, wouldn’t be as straightforward as just flying. Oh no. A twelve hour overnight bus journey lay in wait. I could feel their eyes bore or glaze or moisten or maybe all three.

After some reassuring pre-journey beers, we got a taxi to Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to board ‘Tunza Fun’, our alarmingly named interstate chariot. I expected the worst.

But, what’s this? Leg room. Blissful legroom. And air conditioning. Sweet air conditioning. And quite terrific views of the Victorian capital’s cityscape. Then the great Victorian countryside, though dust bitten and arid rather than green and pleasant, all the same a welcome tonic for the three city-strangled farmers sat beside me. The rolling fields and jutting mountains of the Alpine National Park with the sun, pinked and melted over the scene like jam slowly stirred into rice pudding made for better viewing than the in-journey movie, Young Guns, a hitherto unseen ‘classic’ of my youth.

The Cafe Haven in Albury. A truck stop of rubbery, ropey tucker, fair dinkum good ol’ boys, novelty tattoo magazines and the least likely setting, so you’d have thought, for the early heats of Miss World.
Buses pulled up to allow legions of beautiful girls to disembark and shimmer their way into this most plain-Jane of venues. Then more. Each continent demurely represented, waiting patiently for their chips and chicken schnitties as the men folk gasped and gathered round disbelievingly. The starting snarl of the coaches’s engines brought about an involuntary Benny Hill scene as the ladies clambered aboard to continue their journey to the members enclosure of an awaiting glam fest in a Sydney New Year.

I was quietly pleased with how it was all going and settled into a soft sleep. I awoke with a start as our driver, a naturalised South African, swerved attempting a stupid manoeuvre on the narrow road. It reminded me of something I’d seen a little too much of recently. South African virtuosos? Hot-headedness? Either the recent brush with death or the memories of the WACA or the MCG curtailed any further deep sleep.

Avril Lavigne or some other such screaming, soporific songstress on the bus’s radio greets our arrival in Sydney as we glide through the deserted streets. A short hop from the bus stop and we reach our final digs.

Once again I’m in the dock. Perth and its sweaty Northbridge bunker was horrific. The plane journey to Melbourne was similarly unpleasant. The Melbourne accommodation faired badly too.
The driver’s nonsensical overtaking notwithstanding, the coach journey, I estimate, was a success. Reasonably. I reckon a good report here at the Sydney Hostel and I’ll just about get way with it.

Location-wise it’s ideal; there’s a kebab shop next door for the ever-hungry Shaw Dog. The showers are the best of the tour reckons James. And there’s a window. Plus A/C.

Oh, A/C. In sure-to-be-stifling Sydney, where the mugginess and heat abounds like asphyxiating crowds of shoppers. A/C, you wonderful thing, you. We’ve finally reached the promised land.

That’s it. I’ve done it! I’ve gained the lads’ confidence. They’ll invite me back to organise another tour abroad.

Then the hostel manager asks me about payment and my bubble is about to burst. Again.

In another hemisphere I can hear the throats of my friends beginning to clear for the opening of that cruelest of songs.