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Old 28th September 2009, 08:00   #1
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Default Myself and Karen off to Nelson's Bay

Hi all,

As a continuation of my HK trip, I am now in Sydney, staying at the Central Business district. During the weekend, I decided to go to nelson's bay. Nelson's bay is 223 KM north of Sydney, beyond New castle in New South Wales. The place was suggested to be by one of my colleagues. The weather was a waning sandstorm that has taken the Aussie coast by surprise- first time since 1940s.

So, the first thing to sort was accommodation- There was nothing available in most places, as the plan was last minute. I was dejected, and just before giving up, called the tourist information office. They found me something in All Seasons Salamander shores, in Salamander bay, about ten min drive to Nelson's Bay for $238 including Champagne, strawberries and breakfast. Now with that sorted, the next thing was - ahem the car.. ofcourse- I wanted a Mitsubishi Lancer, unfortunately the excess on the insurance was 300$, so had to settle in for a Toyota Corolla. I had the route sorted and the plan was made.

- Drive to my hotel, stop for changing, picking up snacks and clothes, at 6 30 pm
- Drive out of Sydney towards destination by 7 15 pm and hope to reach the destination by around 10 30 pm.

Now for a few pictures of the route(managed to capture these on the way back, after which I will post the next couple of days in Nelson's Bay and Salamander shores.

How would driving be in Australia?
How would driving be within the busy CBD in sydney on a Fri evening?
How would driving me on the route?
More importantly.. where is Karen?

- More to follow..

.. Prasad
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Old 28th September 2009, 11:32   #2
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Default Driving in Australia- first day experiences

Hi all,

Thought I will post the second part of the thread which would cover the following
- Driving in Sydney
- Drive to Nelson's Bay

Now to answer Who is Karen- Karen was the voice navigator in my GPS.

Car rental

As I mentioned earlier, I had to settle for the Toyota Corolla sedan. THe car rental at Bayswater in Sydney was a good enough experience- you have to pay for your rental only through a credit card, cant pay cash here. A 3 day rental for a Corolla sedan costed me 195$ inclduing GPS for 3 days and excess protection top cover that would bring down any excess if there was an accident to 10$.

Driving in Sydney CBD

Having hired the car, I had to execute the plan- go to my apart hotel to pick up stuff, and drive out to Salamander shores, Salamander Bay.

My Hotel was at Kent Street. I set the GPS to 361 Kent Street, and off I drove. Having driven for a few years in England and for quite a bit in India, I did not expect to have a shaky experience in the city. Tried adjusting the driving position quite a few times, but something did not feel right. To add to the woes, it was Friday evening traffic in Sydney. people were trying to go out of town and I was trying to find my way to the Hotel. At this point in time, I must mention that I had not planned the route, was completely reliant on the GPS and Karen was simply not fast enough, within the city. She was calculating and recalculating but was unable to give me the route on time. For example, I would be on the left lane when she would say turn right in ten metres, or when I was on the right lane, turn left on to George Street, in 5 metres. Somehow, after a nervy few moments, I was able to manouvre my way to 361 kent street. There wasn't adequate parking outside of the hotel. I somehow managed to squeeze my car in between two cars standing on teh street, got a pay and display ticket, and went into my hotel.

Went, packed sweets that were in the fridge, banana crisps and water, got into the car, and started looking for the postcode in the GPS. Lo! there was no option in the GPS to enter postcodes, so entered the road name where the Hotel in Salamander Bay was located (Soldier's point road, Soldier's point). After my initial experiences with Karen, I was a bit nervous about depending on her throughout the trip. So, I say to myself "I need a map".

The route
Nelson's bay is about 220 km north of Sydney, in NSW. The drive is mainly on pacific highway, (more on this later) and then through Hunter Valley (of vineyards fame) and is expected to take about two and a half hours of driving

The drive to pacific highway

The drive to pacific highway was a less exciting one. After an initial struggle, through the CBD and wading through the traffic in Sydney, I somehow entered darling harbour road and from there on, Karen was able to show me the way to Pacific highway. The drive on pacific highway was through a toll road for about a 150 km.

The first photo flash

Though I had read about driving in Australia, and having driven in England before, besides the fact that driving here was similar, I was not sure on speed limits on different roads. They seemed to be ever changing. So I decided to stick to 40 in city spaces where there was no speed limit indicated, and if the traffic was a bit slow, reduce, and if i find myself slow, then step on a bit.

While I tried doing this, I saw a powerful flash near one of the toll gates where I was entering, doing close to 60. Results of this will be known in the next few weeks, when I get my credit card statement

On the Pacific Highway

The pacific highway (1) as it is called, is part of Australia's national highway route and links Sydney to Brisbane in Queensland. From Sydney, the Pacific Highway starts at the northern end of the harbour bridge and goes upto Wahroonga, one of Sydney's suburbs. From Wahroonga, to near Newcastle, the Pacific Highway is actually the Sydney- Newcastle freeway and is known as F3. I hit the pacific highway at about 19 40pm. I was late by half an hour, I thought alright. I should be ok.

The road is a toll road, where you can actually buy an e pass for easy access through the toll gates. There is an epass section and the tollgate will automatically open if it senses an epass. This is something that we could look at using in India.

Stop for toast and drinks

By now I was so used to Karen, about the need for a map. I decided to take a break along one of the fuel exits, at about 21 10. I realise that the uneasiness of the drive still existed. Do not know what is wrong yet.

I had enough fuel in the tank. So did not bother about refuelling. Instead, I headed out to the near by convenience store for some coffee. I bought a bottle of redbull (4$) and realised I needed the map. I bought a map of NSW,- $9.50

I asked a few localites about the directions and ensured I was in the right direction, and also realised that I was about 2 hours away from Salamander bay. I also asked the shopkeeper where I was, and she said something like- "Caltag on F3"

As I head back to the car, the uneasiness still persisted. I entered the car, and instinctively moved the seat back by about half an inch, and tilted the steering wheel a bit.

Drive from Caltag on F3
I suddenly realise that the uneasiness is gone, the zip and the urge to drive is back. Gosh, I was actually in an uncomfortable driving position, and had actually been driving in that position for about two hours or so. Lesson learnt was that , ensure that your driving position is spot on, I had not realised that an inch in seating position would make such a big difference.

It is now that I truly started to enjoy the drive, started thinking that the Corolla's suspension was a bit hard, played a bit with the manual gearshift in the car etc.,

Now on the car itself, the power delivered by the corolla was alright, but what I missed sorely in the Toyota Corolla Ascent was the cruise control. or the lack of it. Speed cameras exist everywhere in Australian highways, and I had made two resolutions

- Ofcourse never to drink and drive, alcohol limit notwithstanding
- Will not cross the speed limits to the best of my knowledge.

To stick to 110, was not an easy task, as the car would take you past this speed, without you realising it. So I would say, in such cars, cruise control is an absolute must have.

So after my first break, finding Nelson's bay and Salamander bay from there on was not a hard task. By the time I checked into the Hotel, it was quarter to eleven. So it had taken me nearly 3 45 minutes all up, including driving out of Sydney, which I thought was not bad for a Friday evening.

I do not have any pictures for this leg of the journey as the journey was made in the dark, and all I had was my poor camera on teh HTC touch. I will be adding a few pictures for tomorrow, when I describe the hotel, Nelson's bay and Salamander bay in detail.

Many Thanks,
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