AU ABROAD

Larry and Johnny's 36 hour blogging & tweeting adventure for Tourism NSW.

When I was approached by Tourism NSW to take on the duty of “Music and Culture Ambassador” for the blog-o-sphere, I don’t think I hesitated a second. Those that follow the website will probably notice that travelling for music is something I love to do. From heading to SXSW in Austin, CMW in Toronto and the WAMis in Perth - I’ll take any excuse to jump on a plane and see the world. Little did I know, however, that saying yes to this particular endeavour would see me jumping OUT of a plane... but more on that later.

I guess I should start this article by trying to explain what this whole exercise was about. Many of you probably saw my tweets over the weekend, being led on an adventure around NSW by tweets from Channel [V]’s Danny Clayton. And indeed, this is what was happening – followed by a film crew, I awaited tweets from Danny that told us where to go next, taking us from Dee Why on the Northern Beaches to Shoal Bay, over to Newcastle, in to the Hunter Valley, before heading back to Sydney... all in the space of 36 hours. Our trusty companion for the journey was Doris, a Vee Dub Kombi Van; something straight out of Little Miss Sunshine. Thankfully we never had to push her.

In the driver’s seat was the AU review’s photo editor Johnny Au, allowing yours truly to tweet away during the trip. So what was the purpose? Well, it’s to promote Tourism NSW’s new youth focus and its @NSWtips twitter feed, all the while showing just how manny amazing activities are on offer at our own doorstep: all you have to is to jump in your car and enjoy... and I’m sure that much the same could be said for the state you live in! Though, if it doesn’t, feel free to come give NSW a visit.

We kicked things off bright and early on Saturday morning, picking up our Kombi van from Dee Why (http://veedubexperience.com/). We were first sent off to Box Beach in Shoal Bay up the coast from Sydney. Here, I met with Pro Body Boarder (#5 on the World Tour), Australia's Dallas Singer. I was presented with a wetsuit straight out of the 80s, a board, some flippers, and away we went.

In spite of the cool breeze, the sun was out and I couldn't have hit the waves on a more beautiful day, given the time of year. You certainly spend more time waiting for waves than you do riding them, but I'm happy to say that I caught a few and only managed to stack it once. I have a feeling you'll be seeing me back out there over the summer!

With the exercise portion of the day done and dusted, it was time for some beer tasting at Murray's Brewery in Port Stevens. I had the opportunity to taste six absolutely delicious beers, including the Whale Ale, Punch & Judy's (a full flavoured 3.9% beer... highly recommended for the full license drivers out there) and more.

I settled on the Icon 7.5% Ale to enjoy with my delicious pizza. Om nom nom indeed.

With the day surprisingly falling away from us, we drove to Newcastle as the sun set, arriving just in time for the Winter in Heat Festival, where I met with Dangerboy, who taught me to fire twirl! I thankfully didn't burn myself, though I doubt I'll be passing any carnival auditions anytime soon.

After we checked into the Carrington Hotel (a lovely little establishment), we made our way to Lizotte's, a music venue you enjoy while you wine and dine. Kind of like the Basement or the Vanguard for those of you in Sydney.

Performing tonight was Lachlan Doley's project Organ in Rock, who school us on the history of the Hammond Organ in music. From The Doors to Procol Harem, Crowded House and The Beatles, the instrument has popped up just about everywhere. And this night of covers, led by the talented Doley (best known from The Hands and Powderfinger, as well as playing with Jimmy Barnes), was a wonderful way to end a very long day. I had a chance to interview Lachlan before the show, and this will appear on the website soon.

After a short but well needed rest, I received a tweet from Danny inviting me to the Hunter Valley. We jumped in the van and made tracks. En route, it was revealed that I would be jumping from a plane. "I was afraid of this", I replied. Indeed, at Just Jump Skydiving in the Hunter, I did just that. I jumped from a height of 14,000 feet, and fell 10,000 feet in just about a minute. It's the highest freefall in Australia. I guess if you're going to sky dive for the first time, you may as well start at the top...

It was an unbelievable experience, something I'm glad I can tick off the bucket list. It's hard to describe, as I'm sure anyone who's done it would agree. In the first few moments, your body goes into something like a state of shock: you really have no idea what's going on. Once you come to terms with the fact you're hurdling towards the earth (in the words of Woody "falling, with style"), it's an absolute rush. The wind pouring past your face, you scream as you reach something like 240km/hour, the ground slowly getting closer... but looking like a postcard...

I couldn't recommend the experience highly enough. As I hit the ground (with style), I was glad to discover that the rest of the day would be spent wining and dining in Wine Country. We made our way to Tempus Two Winery where I partook in a wine cocktail making course at Goldfish...

...enjoyed some ribs at Goldfish and smelly cheese at the aptly named Smelly Cheese Shop (tasty, though after falling through the sky, my stomach wasn't exactly the happiest it had ever been)...

...and participated in a Wellington Barrel Race, where I teamed up with staff members from the Winery, and proceeded to beat the other team in two straight rounds.

It was a great victory. A great way to end a fantastic weekend.

So what do I take away from all this? Well, the next time I travel to Newcastle for a gig, I'll definitely be making a few more pit stops along the way. There's just so much you can get up to in a weekend! So the next time YOU have a free weekend, get out there and see the country! The only true way to enjoy life is to LIVE IT.

All photos, barring the in flight Skydiving shot, by Johnny Au

Check out the full gallery HERE.