When I arrive in Sydney, I’m happy to see that both my bags have also arrived. The host of the AirBnB which I’ve booked has listed options to get from the airport to his place which include: taxi (approximately AUD$50), train and bus combo, and airport shuttle. In order to save some money on a taxi, I choose the airport shuttle option. Also, as the mobile WiFi SIM card I bought in the airport on the way to Lord Howe doesn’t seem to be working, Google Maps could be a challenge, and I have no desire to drag my luggage around a neighborhood hoping to stumble upon my accommodations. I walk over to the transportation desk and ask about the airport shuttles. The lady there calls a couple of the companies which tell her that, due to the area I’m going to, a shuttle must be reserved 24-36 hours in advance. Fabulous! I ask her about taxis and she says it will cost AUD$70-$80. I choose the unlisted option of taking the train into the city and catching a taxi from there, which still allows me to be dropped off at the exact address, but cuts down on the massive taxi fare.
I arrive at my AirBnB and head over to ring the buzzer for the apartment where I find a note saying that the buzzer isn’t working and telling me to call a phone number. That would be fine if I’d had a chance to purchase an Australian phone SIM card. Luckily, I’ve asked the taxi driver to hang around to be sure I’m in the right place. The taxi driver calls the number and Gil, the host asks if the front door is open. I confirm that it’s been propped open and he tells me to walk up to his apartment. I thank the driver, grab a couple of my bags and drag them up the stairs to the third-floor (crap, no elevator). Gil stands there with the door open leaning on a cane. Alrighty then, I guess I’ll be bringing up the rest of my stuff on my own.
Once I’ve dragged my life up the stairs, Gil shows me to my room. It’s a single bed and a desk. The bed has no linens on it and Gil tells me it’s so I can choose my linens (um, there don’t seem to be any 1,000-thread count sheets so, well, I’m open). I grab some linens as well as a duvet-cover which I fight with to shove the duvet in. (Yes, I’ve seen the video with the trick of how to do this easily, but the video showing how to fold fitted sheets never worked for me so I didn’t pay too much attention.)
Gil shows me the shower and begins explaining that I should use the squeegy in the corner in order to push the water down the drain in the center of the room once I’m finished. Clearly puzzled, I look at him and realize that there’s no door or shower curtain so this is the solution when the water shoots all over the room. The toilet room is next door and is smaller than a dining room table. The sink is so tiny that, when I brush my teeth, the water drips onto the floor. There’s no soap, only a bottle of toilet-bowl cleaner sitting in the sink. Oh, but there is a sheet of paper taped next to the toilet from the website Hebrew for Christians which instructs on the correct pronunciation of the Hebrew alphabet (Gil is Israeli).I come to chat with Gil for a bit. His AirBnB ad says he’s at work from 9:00 – 5:00. This is not quite true as he quit his job two-months ago because “the building was shaking.” He’s just had foot surgery and is “doing stuff on my computer” for work. When I ask about the WiFi ID and password he tells me the ID is “Mr Spooky.” Yup, that makes sense.
I head into my bedroom, sign onto the “Mr Spooky” network, and spend most of the night searching for a “not-so-spooky” place to stay. I know I might not get my money refunded for this place but, through this journey I’ve learned to pay attention to my instincts and, my instincts make me wonder if there might be cut-up body-parts in the freezer.
I find, what seems like a decent AirBnB listing and make contact. The hosts are a couple (I’ve had good luck with family hosts) and they get back with me right away and say they’d be happy to host me last minute. I sleep for three-hours due to my fear of joining the cut-up body-parts. In the morning, Mat, one of the owners of my new AirBnB offers to come get my luggage on his way to a meeting outside of the city. I knock on Gil’s door and let him know that this isn’t the right place for me and that I’ll be moving out. I tell him I’d appreciate a refund but will leave it up to him. (I ultimately pay for two-nights and am refunded for the other two).
A few minutes later, Mat collects my luggage and hands me the keys. I take a bus over to the apartment and am happy, as the room is pleasant and comfortable, and I even have my own bathroom. As I don’t have the WiFi code, I can’t do a lot of work. I’m exhausted but too wound-up to sleep so I catch a bus to the CBD (Central Business District, or Downtown) and begin to explore Sydney.
A few lessons learned from this experience – First, note that I had very limited WiFi when I reserved this in Lord Howe. Always look at the photos in the listing; don’t reserve without photos of the bathroom. For me, if I don’t have the whole place to myself, I’ll try to stick with families or couples as my hosts. I always try to get a private bathroom, but they can be few and far-between in Sydney. Still, it’s important to me. Also, trust your gut; if it doesn’t feel right, better to lose a bit of money than your life.
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