I’m a few hours away from departing Sydney on a Greyhound up to Newcastle Beach and as I sit here in the Hostel Lounge finishing off my perishable food I feel compelled to write a bit of a summary of my interesting experiences at the Sydney Railway Square YHA.
As previously mentioned, it’s built into an old railway parcel shed at the central railway station and as such actually sits about 4 feet from some of the tracks of that station. I got one of the inner rooms and not one of the carriage rooms that sits on old tracks. I can’t say I’m too sad either after walking out there and seeing that these basically only have a thin glass privacy wall between them and the train yard. Numerous times while in the showers (where the vent windows open in a similar space) I’ve heard railway station announcements as clearly as if they were broadcast by the hostel PA. My favourite one has to be: “Attention: Sir, please remove yourself from the tracks… yes you, there is a train coming.”
I suspect the train/announcer noise issue is one of the reasons for the confusing surplus of people up and about stupidly early every morning here. The fact that this is a fairly high end and quite pleasant hostel, centrally located yet still cheap compared to any real hotel here in Sydney also makes for what seems like a much higher proportion of older guests. Many of these folks are of the advanced age where they’re up at 6:30 no matter what and are eating their early bird special dinners at 4pm. To these factors we can probably add that fact that the location of the hostel (and the other central YHA) offers a very fast and convenient airport transfer location which probably adds to the early morning traffic catching flights.
My roommates… The aforementioned twit who seemed to refuse to convert to Sydney time left the next day, but since then I’ve had a revolving door of weirdos. First up was the Aging Pirate, a 50 something Yorkshire man with a seemingly endless array of Jimmy Buffett-esque shirts, grizzled whiskers, and a very odd hat. This guy never seemed to leave the hostel for more than two hours. He kept a bottle of rum next to his bed whenever he was in the room but I never once saw him drink anything out of it. The most normal of my roomies was a Japanese kid who didn’t speak much English but was definitely the friendliest of the bunch. It was a little odd though as he brought up the nuclear crisis multiple times, each time speaking as if it was something I probably hadn’t heard about yet. Each time I assured him that I’d been following the news, both in New Zealand and here in Sydney and yes, wasn’t it terrible and scary etc etc… But sure enough, the next time he’d do the same thing. The guy that spent longest in the room was Czech and spoke basically zero English. We’d say hello and whatnot or talk about who should use the plug, but that was about it. He was also a person with a rather bizarre morning ritual that seemed to involve him getting up, opening his locker, taking out every bag, zipping and unzipping each one at least 5 times then putting everything back in his locker. He’d then disappear for a roughly 45 minute shower/toilet session before returning and doing the whole process in reverse. After the third morning of this I was getting pretty ready to post something online along the lines of “PACK ALL YOUR TOILETRIES IN ONE POCKET AND HAVE THEM WITH YOUR TOWEL ETC BEFORE BED” online and ask for a Czech translation. Then last night there’s a knock at the door and the front desk guy is there with a Sydney cop to talk to him. It seemed like it was a “maybe he witnessed something” type conversation, since they didn’t drag him away, and when he came back in he tried to explain but couldn’t figure out the words. At the very least it made the last night a little more exciting wondering if I’d be suddenly stabbed in my sleep.
Weird as my roommates were some of the other hostel residents were absolutely a cut above them. Case in point, the loud old Aussie who just ran through the common room here yelling out at full volume to multiple people he recognized. He’s a short somewhat shrivelled looking dude who could play the grizzled old prospector in any old western. With his backwards hat, age inappropriate sunglasses/shirt and mug that clearly contains something with more octane than coffee he’s quite a character. Still, I still have to stop myself from laughing as I imagine him yelling” GOLD GOLD GOLD!” each time he passes. Speaking of drunks, we also have two girls who are the spitting image of Courtney Love circa Kurt’s death including looks, fashion and hair. This impression was only reinforced when a Hole song came on the stereo and both of them sang along for long sections, I had to take a trip to the “restroom” to laugh when that happened since I was sitting at the same table. Though being in a bigger hostel like this tends to make it harder to meet people, it does make for some interesting people watching.
Probably my favourite thing that happened while I was here was the guy sitting out in the small pool area the other night who got locked out. Because this little pool is on a tiny deck overlooking the parking lot, the doors in and out are locked at 10pm sharp (as are most of the other alternative ways in and out of the building so that everyone has to file past reception to come in.) I’m not sure if the person locking the doors just didn’t notice this guy sitting in the corner with his laptop or if they just lock automatically but when he got up to leave at about 10:30, he couldn’t get back into the building. He looked so forelorn out there, but eventually hopped over the fence and managed to land without breaking his laptop, coming back in to the common area past reception to some applause.
Except for the plug issue this has overall been a good hostel and I’ve been reasonably impressed with the YHA brand in general so far. Hopefully this keeps up as I’m booked into another of their locations this evening. Tonight’s supposedly has bungalows not far from the beach, so here’s hoping it’s as nice as it sounds, unfortunately I had the option of taking a 7am(need to be up at 5) bus or the 6PM one I decided on (much nicer) which means I’ll be getting in quite late.