Shitkanless: Sydney to Newcastle without the Shitkansen

17 January 2017
Ah, the Shitkansen, our much beloved train from Sydney to Newcastle. Where would we be without it? Without its strange smells, its majestic purple hues, its constant delays and disruptions, the ever present threat of violence to keep things from getting dull? (Stuck in Sydney, Newcastle or - gasp - the Central Coast is where we'd be). Heck, the ride has even served as a muse:

But for some of us, the Shitkansen just isn't enough. We dare to dream higher. That, or we're just sick of the damn thing. Anyway, there is a way to travel from Sydney to Newcastle entirely on public transport, without needing to avail yourself of the Shitkansen. I must warn you though, it isn't really an alternative in the sense of being just another way to get from one city to another in a reasonably straightforward fashion. No, going Shitkanless is an adventure. An odyessy. It requires time, patience, dedication. With great effort comes great reward. But it's not easy. Not all of you are going to make it. So if any of you little Betty Crockers out there think you're just going to be teaching toddlers to bake cuppy cakes, then you can leave now.

But for those of you who wish to soar with the eagles, here is how you go Shitkanless - Sydney to Newcastle, by public transport only without catching the train. All the times are current as of writing this post, for travel on weekdays. Be warned (again), some of these legs are long. Pack snacks. Bring water. Use the toilets in between trips, but don't count on having time to get food.

Ready? Here we go.

1. 5.33am Stand B Wynyard: Bus L90 to Palm Beach; arrive 6.41am

Yes, it's early. Really fucking early. You can get a coffee now, before you board, but my advice is to wait; it will give you a chance to snooze on the L90, Sydney's longest bus route at 45km, as it goes over the Bridge, through North Sydney and then on the long trek up the Northern Beaches to arrive at the northern tip of Sydney, summer playground of the rich and famous, Palm Beach. You'll have nearly an hour to kill before your next leg, so now you might as well get that coffee. I don't know if anything up there is open at this hour, but given that rich baby boomers love getting up early, I'm guessing there's an early open cafe somewhere. Just make sure you're on time for the ferry.

2. 7.30am Palm Beach Wharf Ferry to Ettalong arrive 8.00am

You'll like this bit (bring your camera!); the ferry ride across Broken Bay, at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River, to the southern end of the Central Coast. Please note this is the only leg of the trip where you can not use an Opal card; you can buy tickets on board, $11.60 for adults and $5.80 concession. Anyway, you've made it to the coast. On arrival in Ettalong, stroll down Broken Bay Road to the little strip of shops, where there are several decent cafes where you can grab a quick breakfast, although my preference is to get something from the bakery and eat it overlooking the water (I lived in Ettalong for the year preceding my recent time in Sydney; I found it quite a lovely little place, when the isolation and quiet were not sending me quite mad); there's public toilets there too.

But don't get too comfortable; make sure you're at the bus stop in front of the Memorial club/Mantra (you can't miss it, the thing is huge and I've no idea how it got planning approval) in time for your next leg.

3. 8.47am Ettalong Bus 70 to Gosford arrive 9.39am

There's not a lot to say about this leg. You'll go through the suburbs of the peninsula - Ettalong, Blackwall, Woy Woy - and then get some pretty views of Brisbane Water before swinging past the bulk retail and light industrial areas along the Central Coast Highway before arriving in Gosford.

4. 9.49am Gosford Stand 2 Bus 19 to Wyong arrive 11.26am

I apologise in advance for this leg. Wait, no I don't; I told you it wasn't going to be easy. The 97 minutes you will spend on the 19 (assuming it runs to timetable) will test the patience of the hardiest traveller. The Central Coast has many bland, uniform housing estates and the 19 visits them all, some of them multiple times, from lots of different directions. When you, at length, finally reach Wyong station, you may well be tempted just to get the train back to Sydney. Don't. You've come so far. Grab a bathroom break if you need, a drink from the vending machine, and then saddle up.

5. 11.41 Wyong Stand A Bus 12.07 to Lake Haven arrive 12.07pm

You're more than halfway through the journey now. You've got 28 minutes to kill. And there is, at Lake Haven, a dine in, all you can eat Pizza Hut - one of only five in NSW - for the measly price of $10.

It wasn't as good as I remembered; YMMV.

What you do with this knowledge is up to you. However believe me when I say you cannot miss the next leg of the journey.

6.  12.35 Lake Haven Stand 3 Bus 99 to Charlestown arrive 14.11

This bus runs only twice a day, the other departing at 7.19am; so this is why you had to get up so early, all connections have been leading to this and you can't miss it. It's another epic leg, northwards out of the Central Coast via Charmhaven and Doyalson, then on up the south eastern side of Lake Macquarie, through townships such as Catherine Hill Bay and Nords Wharf, over the entrance to Lake Macquarie at the Swansea Bridge, then up through the east lakes suburbs of Belmont and Charlestown where your humble correspondent spent her formative years.

Anyway, after all that, you'll fetch up at Charlestown, no doubt tired and cranky and hungry and wondering why the hell you ever did all this. From here, you don't have to keep a strict schedule. There's a great big boondoggle of a shopping centre (very much changed from when I lived there, which disconcerts me mightily). Take a chance to get something to eat, if you didn't over indulge at Pizza Hut.

7. Whenever you fancy, Charlestown Stand A, Bus to Newcastle

On a weekday, there's a tonne of buses from Charlestown to Newcastle; just show up and one should arrive in ten minutes or so. The 320, 350, 310 and 349 are generally the fastest; however, if you want to really round out your experience, why not take the chance to catch the Famous 100 bus? Sure the 100, connecting Newcastle and Charlestown with some of their less salubrious suburbs, takes a darn long while and you've probably had your fill of long bus journeys, but I can guarantee you'll have an experience to remember, as long as you don't receive a concussion on the trip.

You've made it to Newcastle! 

Well, you've done it. The complete Sydney to Newcastle without using the Shitkansen. Have a drink, have a meal, have another drink if you want I'm not your mother. (Unless I am your mother, and if you're reading this you're too young to be riding around on your own like this young man). Anyway, sooner or later it's time to go home. Let's just hop on the wait. If you're the type to read this, then I'm sure you're aware that the State Government closed the rail line between Newcastle and Hamilton on Boxing Day 2014. If I live long enough to see that, as with trams in Sydney, they one day regret the closure and rebuild it, I will find all the ministers in charge in their respective nursing homes and slap them silly.

Anyway, you'll have to get a shuttle bus back to Hamilton. Then, you can finally board a Shitkansen, the delays and meandering detours of which you will never complain again.

Now you're probably wondering the obvious question by now. And the answer is - not really much of a singer, though I've been known to do a mean "Oh, Sherrie" after a few hard ciders. The answer to the other question? No, I haven't done the whole journey myself. I mean, I've done all the individual legs of it, sometimes in combination, but not all in one go. But that leaves the greater honour to you, going first. Let me know how you get on.


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