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Category Archives: Australia

30+ is Never Too Old For Adventure!!!

Expectations of the Civilized World

There is a certain stigma to being over 30 in the Western “Civilized” world. You are expected to:
– Have a steady job
– Be Settled
– Be Married, preferably with children
– Have a dog and a cat
– Have a car or 2
– Have a nice house
– Be financially settled without debt

In truth most people who follow the stigma are:
– Hate their job
– Don’t feel settled, grass is always greener
– Have a rocky marriage
– Can’t stand the dog or cat
– Have a house mortgage threatening to bankrupt them
– Have student loans and car loans and fake financial security by having multiple credit cards

When People Ask Me How??

People often ask me “how I do it, how do I travel and live all over the world??”, I reply that I just “do”! 15 years ago I was still paying off $25 000 US in university fees, had a car payment, rent. I paid most of it off by working as an English Teacher in Seoul, Korea and getting to travel at the same time. Then in 2009 (6 years ago) I was working 3 part time jobs and on unemployment. But I found a way of saving, I gave up my car and used the bus, I shopped at the charity shops, I learnt to reuse things for other purposes, finally I moved back in with the folks and managed to find a great job as a vet nurse and then I saved! I didn’t buy name brands or expensive cars or felt embarrassed that I lived with the folks at 32. Heck, I paid a small rent and helped around the house. I paid off my school loans and without a car or a home loan I had no debt… which meant I could explore the world.

At Machu Pichu, Peru

At Machu Pichu, Peru

True I am not married or have kids, yes that does make things a little easier. But I have met people from all over who sell everything that society “requires” you to have and takes their kids on an amazing worldwide adventure. Experience is often the best education.

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Bathing in Thermal Mud in Rotorua, New Zealand

Creativity Makes the Difference

Another important note is that I travel creatively, I find ways to save money from couchsurfing, to work trade in hostels/ backpackers, volunteer work where accommodation is provided, eating locally, not drinking in excess and spending money that way. I spent less than $20 000 total on a year long adventure to 8 different countries from South America to Australia to Nepal.This adventure led me to to work on cruise ships for 2 years all over the world, and, ultimately, to my present job as a dive instructor with Scuba Futures in Thailand. It might look easy every time I try something new or move halfway across the world on another crazy adventure, but I promise you, if you had to watch me trying to decide to buy my air ticket you would see someone who is crazy nervous and on the verge of hyperventilating, and having an internal battle between my “responsible” side vs. my adventurous side. It is never easy to decide to change, but 9 times out of 10 it is worth it.

Working on a cruise ship - Zakynthos, Greece

Working on a cruise ship – Zakynthos, Greece

Doors are always open if you look and even if the path seems difficult and weaves away from the “required” path of 30+ year olds, it’s one hell of a fun path to follow, so give it a try and do something different.

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Working as a dive instructor, Koh Phangan, Thailand

Go ahead, follow Alice down the Rabbit Hole and see what LIFE has in store for you!

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

Kissed by a Dolphin in Jamaica

 

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Reflections of a Year Abroad…Part 1

2011 was an epic year in so many ways, good and bad. I still can’t believe that I visited 8 countries (9 if I can count Malaysian Borneo separately, I did have to go through immigration) in under 12months.

Ready to Go…

Here are a few flashbacks and memories. The titles are all linked to the first blog entry of that country with a few others scattered around. Hope you enjoy…

Peru

When plans to volunteer in Botswana fell through I felt I needed somewhere else to replace those months before heading to Australia and New Zealand. It’s not like any tickets were bought or anything, it was just something my mind had decided on, there had to be a country or two before. I was at a loss of where until a friend said “don’t you know someone in Peru?”. Why yes I did, a co worker from the Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. Fernando was our imported penguin expert for the new exhibit and all of us summer employees got on really well.

So I contacted him and it was on, Peru was destination 1. I honestly had no idea what to expert, I had never been to South America and the only Spanish I knew was hola. But ever the one to shrug off obvious adversities I booked my ticket the day after my 33rd birthday. Now only 4months and 5 days till I would leave.

Peru was amazing, and I loved every minute of it. Cusco is now one of my favorite cities, although next time I am definitely pre-dosing on the altitude tabs… Man that hit me hard.

Fernando and Me

Machu Picchu was at first unimpressive, just a ruined city in the rain… the the clouds parted and it all became clear why it was so revered as a must see, that and the thought of “what bloody crazy idiot would make his people lug thousands of stones up a mountain side that scares the living daylights out of on the bus ride…and down??”. Seriously, it was breathtaking.

Good Friends: Cathleen and Me at Macchu Picchu

Lake Titicaca, just giggle everytime I say that, was awe inspiring and I would love to go back. However, the port city of Puno was a real dump and I was glad for fellow traveler advice to avoid it as much as possible.

Lake Titicaca Local Kids

The worst thing to come from Peru : The altitude sickness that actually had me bed ridden for a day.

The best thing to come from Peru : A great new friend named Cathleen!

A reason to go back : I haven’t tried roasted guinea pig yet 🙂

Ecuador

I was almost to the point of buying tickets when my mom held out a newspaper article about volunteer travel. It had a 2 sentence blurp about Amazoonico Wildlife Refuge in Ecuador. The part that caught my eye was the minimal cost of $120/month for food and accomodation. Bonus! I dropped them a line and soon had that on the map. Or actually I couldn’t even find the town of Tena on the map, but Ecuador was right about Peru so how hard could it be.

42hours later my bus (with the locked bathroom) pulled into Quito. Have you ever experienced the need to pee so bad that you can’t… Let’s just say when I could finally see through the wall of water in my eyes, I was in love with the loos of Ecuador. At least the one in the daughter’s home of a lady I had met in Spanish class and who was kindly putting me up for a few days.

My two months at the refuge came with high highs and low lows. The first month was tough as I was the only new volunteer, all the others were girls averaging 21 and had Spanish as a common language. By now I think I could almost say my name and ask where the bathroom was. In short it soon became apparent I was back in highschool and … I still wasn’t popular. My amazing volunteer co ordinator, Sarah, took me aside and said “you can leave, or you can stay and it will change your life”. Who am I to argue with authority, I stayed and in that first month got through a good number of books and enjoyed my alone time since group time was in Spanish, which I was picking up quite well.

“Walking” a Monk Saki Monkey

The second month was much better, we had a new cycle of fresh blood, English became the common language, I was a senior volunteer (and ok I admit I love being the one who needs to teach others), and I discovered my gift for making cookies… That pretty much made me popular in high school! It was very hard to leave.

Beata Relaxing at Sunset

At the end of my time in the jungle I went to the ocean and saw blue footed boobies… again another thing that just makes me want to giggle.

The worst thing to come from Ecuador : Struggling with the volunteer dynamics that first month.

The best thing to come from Ecuador : Blue Footed Boobies!! Oh and discovering an inner strength.

A reason to return : Perhaps a chance to see the Galapogos.

Surprise Easter Visit

It turned out cheaper to fly back to the states and then to Australia rather than from Peru to Aus. So I found myself with 8days in the states. I decided to surprise my parents for Easter. Officially the best surprise I have ever pulled off. The first time they were ever speechless.

Australia

Australia and New Zealand were always on my list, part of the reason for this trip was to find a place I might want to live and since they were on the “most likely” list.

My first impression of Australia, especially after 3 months in South America, was “Oh shite!!! I can barely afford a coffee”. I was shocked at the prices and the Aussie dollar was stronger, of course that changed a few weeks after I left… I quickly worked out plans to mooch… I mean visit any friends and family I had, along with sorting work trade with hostels.

Yes my finger is down its throat


Forcefeeding Kookaburra at Currumbin Wildlife Center

Australia ended up being a country of many new experiences:
I attempted work trade at a farm that has now become known as the Looney Farm by all of us who were there.
I saw Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus and many other strange and wonderful critters.
I saw friends I hadn’t seen in over 10yrs.
I shaved my head for charity.
I swam with manta rays.
I force fed Kookaburras.
I swam in a freezing lake.
It might have been expensive, but I have some amazing memories that are worth every penny.

Carolin and me!!


Carolin and Me on the Day I Shaved my Head for Charity

The worst thing to come from Australia: The cost.

The best thing to come from Australia: Shaving my head for charity.

A reason to come back: Friends and a little town called Coral Bay.

Tonga

I discovered this amazing organisation that spent a month on the island of Tonga every 3months running a vet clinic. I contacted them months before arriving and was super excited. Accommodation was included and there was no fee to volunteer. A great way to experience island life and do something good for the community.

This was a month of extremes, as it turned out there had been a misunderstanding and I went from being a vet nurse to designated pee/poop cleaner and coffee maker. But I had committed to a month and so I pushed through proving my skills on more than one occasion when they needed me to monitor during surgeries when no one else was available. I think one of the biggest problems was that I was there in the middle of a year long trip and to volunteer while reserving my finances, the others were there as a vacation and had money to spend.

My Favorite Puppy

At the same time I met some amazing people, locals and expats (including 4 South Africans, what are the odds) and got the chance to visit one of the outlying islands.

No Matter What, It Sure Was Pretty!

The worst thing to come from Tonga: My treatment by the other volunteers and the organisation.

The best thing to come from Tonga: Fulfilling my commitment and discovering an amazing culture.

A reason to go back: maybe for a vacation and not to volunteer.

I must admit I had a hard time finishing this post for some reason. So many things that go through my mind and writing this entry makes the journey complete. Luckily there are still many more to come.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2012 in Australia, Germany, RTW, Travel

 

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Coral Bay – Day 165 to 169

22nd June to 26th June 2011

Day 15
MANTA RAY, WHALES, SHARKS and DUGONGS! OH MY!

Today there was a chance I might be able to get out on a full day Nature Tour which included manta snorkeling. Dragging myself out of bed at 8am I checked in at reception and found out that yes the tour was going and yes they could squeeze me on free of charge. Absolutely brilliant! If I got to see a manta ray, besides being downright cool, it also meant I could rationalize spending $18 on a pair of silver earrings shaped like mantas. Woohoo

The timing was also perfect, allowing me to return just in time to do my chores of 3pm kitchen and bathroom clean and 4pm vacuum. the boat I was going on was called the “Ningaloo”, very appropriate as Coral Bay is surrounded by the Ningaloo Coral Reef. The Bayview caravan park (who also own the hostel) run it and it usually costs around $150 and includes some snacks. At the front desk I discovered a fairly hungover Sandra, French girl from the bakery, was also hoping to get on the tour.

At the dock as we loaded the boat someone yelled out that they could see “Merv”. Merv is a 400kg grouper that lives under the jetty. In truth he is now a she and is called Mervette (groupers are prone to hermaphrodism). When I first looked over the jetty I saw a huge fish, then I realised that was just her fin, she is bloody blooming massive. I am sure if whale shark groups don’t see any she could quite easily double as one. She must have been over 2m long.

Heading out into the bay we turned left and went quite close to the outer reef. Here we had our first of three snorkel spots. The coral and fish were incredible, truly spectacular. We were warned not to swim towards the white wall that were the waves crashing on the outer reef, as, if we made it through, it was a one way ticket to the African coast.

Next stop was a 20min ride to the headland where I had walked to in previous days.

To ensure that we don’t spend hours boating around the area looking for the manta rays that live there year round, the company sends up a spotter plane. They tell the tourists it is strictly to find the mantas and save time, what they fail to mention is that they also spot tiger sharks and ensure that none come closer than 200m to us snorkeling.

Separating us into 2 groups we prepared to enter the water as soon as we found the manta. Since I was in group 2 I went to the front of the boat to help spot. Suddenly I say this dark shape turn white and knew I had seen the manta doing a feeding roll. It was enormous! Group 1 jumped in and my group prepared. When it was our turn we quickly slipped into the water and swam towards the deck hand who was following the manta while the others were picked up by the boat. Swimming over we realised the manta was almost 3m long from wing tip to wing tip and was right below us. It was so majestic as it literally “flew” through the water. Without warning it suddenly flipped over backwards and appeared to be coming straight at me. But was simply starting a feeding roll. Truly spectacular!



Once I got back on the boat I just sat and thought about the magnificent creature I had the honor of swimming with.

Then it was off to do look for whales. We were lucky enough to come across a humpback with a newborn. They were beautiful. We followed them for about half an hour and then headed off for our 3rd and last snorkel spot, the shark cleaning station. Due to the location of the station the boat had to anchor a bit of a swim away, guess that just made us easier to catch if we came across a hungry shark.

At the cleaning station we saw a number of grey reef sharks and apparently a bronze whaler (bronzy). Bronzies are also known to be a little on the meaner side and that might have been why we suddenly turned around and headed back, but not before we saw “Tripod”. A turtle with only three flippers who likes to hang out at the feeding station – possible explanation to the missing flipper.

After a truly spectacular day with yummy snacks and great company we headed back to shore just in time for me to start my chores of 3pm kitchen and bathroom cleaning. That evening was burger night and I excitedly got my burger, with an egg, and settled down to enjoy. Unfortunately, due to the long day in the sun and forgetting to drink water, I was completely exhausted and headed to bed at 8pm.

Day 16

Didn’t do much today, just relaxed, still felt a bit rough from the full on day before. JP and Carole, my fellow Oompah Loompahs, were leaving today but had commissioned a total of 10 bracelets from me, so I spent most of the morning doing those. Then did my chores and read my book.

Eik and Alex had caught fish so we had a fish fry with potato wedges and zucchini, yummy yummy!

Day 17
Shaving Day!

Today is the day! Everyone keeps asking me if I am nervous, or if I want to back out or if I am going to run off to Denham with the money… I wasn’t feeling nervous, till people asked me. I had no choice now after over $1000 raised so no backing out. And running off with the money…I wouldn’t be allowed home if I did that.

A photo blog will be up next so stay tuned to this page.

Day 18

Waking up with a lot less hair than I started with is an interesting experience. It also turned out to be the crappiest day since I had arrived, grey and rainy. In fact it was more like rain with the occasional downpour. This meant bed sounded good and I didn’t move until later in the morning. Did my chores, had my hair trimmed up and so it looks more like a number 2 and then hung out with Carolin. We had a bingo night at the hostel and I won a free bag of chips, just what I wanted for the bus trip tomorrow. So much for taking photos and doing a final lap of Coral Bay.

Day 19
Red Earth Tours

Got up at 8am to a beautiful clear day with not a cloud in the sky. Go figure. Went over to say goodbye to Carolin and Sandra at the bakery and pick up a pastry and cup of coffee for breakfast. After many farewells and hugs I boarded the bus to Perth with Red Earth Tours. Today would be 7hrs of driving but first we stopped at the sign announcing you have crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn.

On to the city of Northhampton where we stayed at the Old Convent (a 100yr old convent now turned hostel). As a beautiful sunset started there were tons of birds heading into the trees to roost.


Dinner was fish and chips, after which we all sat and watched Master Chef Australia and the Mentalist. Then time for bed as there was a 6am start the next day.

I shall miss Coral Bay, it is definately a place where time seems to stop and life involves beach and beer, or cider in my case. It is filled with great people and stunning scenery. But, as much as I hate to admit it, it is time to move on and discover more adventures.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Coral Bay – Day 158 to 164

15th June to 21st June 2011

Day 8

Duties for the day:
– Scrub picnic tables
– 3pm bathroom and kitchen clean

Woke up at 6.45am, sunrise at 7am, to look with rays/skates in the shallows with Nadine, Germany. Unfortunately I seem to be missing the time they are there as there were none to be found. Spent the day at the beach and watched the sunset.

That night we all went down to the beach to see if we could find the rays/skates again but once again to no avail. However, numerous folks had brought something stiff to drink and keep themselves warm… I of course, with a few other responsible parties, returned to the hostel… where we could drink in the warmth 🙂

Day 9
Lunar Eclipse!

Was first woken up by a few drunk Germans at midnight to wish Carolin (a fellow Oompah Loompah from Germany) a happy birthday, she slept through it, I told them to go to bed. Then woke up at 2am to watch the Lunar Eclipse. A fellow backpacker/part time astronomer had assured us the height of the eclipse was at 2.30am so 2am was a perfect time. Turned out the eclipse only started at 2.30am and after standing in the freezing cold at a time when even the sparrows aren’t farting, Carolin and I headed back in around 2.50am. the die hards, however, stayed put and were wonderful enough to get us some great pics.

We went snorkeling down at the jetty in the morning. Truly amazing, the coral was everywhere and tons of stunning bright fish, some quite big. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoyed being in the water, if only it wasn’t so expensive to rent snorkel gear.

Nadine and I decided to walk along the beach back to town, a good mile or so. Turned out we had to wade through a fairly rocky area first before we got anywhere near the beach, but it was good fun. After lunch my bracelet making was in high demand and I had about 3 customers.

Carolin’s birthday
For the birthday dinner we made rice with sausages and zucchini, the joy of backpacker budgets. Then we brought in a lamington (australian cake with coconut) sporting 3 candles and sang “Happy Birthday”.

Her gift was a surfer rash (not the medical kind, but a shirt surfers/swimmers wear to protect against the sun – usually quite expensive but we found it in lost and found) and she was required to get at least 26 signatures. It was great fun and with limited people at the hostel they were forced to head out to the pub. Since I had to clean the kitchen for closure in 15minutes I had to miss out but they swore they would be back in 30min… they arrived home around midnight!

Day 10

Just after midnight we said farewell to Nadine from Germany, goodbyes are never pleasant, but making friends make them worth it.

This morning Carolin started her job at the bakery and this meant half price pies for yours truly. Its all about where you encourage your friends to get jobs.

Had 2 new Oompah Loompahs join us in room 105, Carol and JP from France. Seem like a nice pair and I just enjoy listening to them chat in French. Then I borrowed Carolin’s phone to make a few calls to figure out how to get a ride back to Perth in the next week. I tried a number of companies getting prices and then, since I am planning an article about Coral Bay, seeing if they had a concession price for writers. Only 1, Red Earth, was prepared to give me a discount. So I booked a spot for $100 (usually $200) for the following sunday. It consisted of 2 days of driving, accomodation and food, pretty good considering Greyhound was almost $200 and sucked 16hrs of your life away, if they were on time.

That afternoon Luke, Australian and traveling around in a camper, Corny, Bavarian – full name Cornelious, and I decided to try get to the headland. Since it was a fair walk and Corny was feeling sick we decided to drive…and drive…stuck in sand… drive some more… almost stuck in sand… drive through locust swarm… finally turn round and drive back and realise we turned down the wrong road. Back at the hostel we grabbed lunch and walked to the normal beach instead. Somehow Luke managed to lose his car keys but we found a maintenance guy who could unlock it and also taught him to start it with a screwdriver!

The evening ended with Carolin and I having our tradition of happy hour cider and chips and a twister competition.

Day 11

Decided to do morning walk to the headland, as no one else was interested or moving at 9.30am I headed out alone. It was a beautiful and around a mile or more through soft sand that felt like walking in a snow drift.

Once you finally got there and your egs stopped cramping, it was truly breathtaking with tons of shells and no one in sight.

Heading back I literally thought my calves were going to seize up and I would be left on the beach with no one around. Luckily the numerous naked sunbathers tend to take your mind off the pain, especially the guys (which is a little scary to tell you the truth). By the time I got back all I craved was a dip in the cold bay, and it certainly refreshed me.

Back at the hostel I worked on Carolin’s necklace finishing it just in time as she showed up with my pie….mmmmmmmmmm pie (beef and cheese). Wipe off drool here!

After such a good day I learnt some devastating news. My best friend had lost her baby. She went in for her 39week scan and was told there was no heartbeat. The doctor had no medical reason to give them except for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). I was terribly upset and wished I could do something, but with the time difference I couldn’t call till the next morning. It is so unfair how life works sometimes.

Day 12

I woke up at 7am and walked up the main road (in truth the only road) to the resort where I could access wifi (at a cost) and call my folks and my friend. Luckily I was able to reach all concerned and send my sympathies and thoughts. I wished again there was something more I could do.

Duties for the day:
– clean doors again
– vacuum again
– kitchen closure…again

That night was the free movie at the resort – Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black. Carolin and I decided to, wait for it… buy a full price cider and a box of chips for the occasion. Eik and Alex joined us and we sat and watched it along with 2 kids and another couple. It was a little chilly being outside on the grass, but well worth it.

Day 13

Duties for the day:
– sweep and mop bar decking, to be started by 9am.
– 3pm kitchen and bathroom cleaning.

I woke up at 8am to get an early start on the bar decking and had it all done well before the hour was up. Carolin showed up at 9.30am and we headed out to walk to the headland. Once again we hit high tide and soft sand, I am going to have calves of a marathon runner and even possibly thigh definition by the end of this trip.

It took us just over an hour to get there followed by some shell collecting, there are so many you can actually get picky.

We attempted to go swimming but soon discovered that the headland was where 2 currents converged and within minutes it was obvious the shore was the place to be. I wouldn’t say there was panic, but some definite rapid thought processing and lots of kicking and eventually reaching the beach. Later that evening we were asked never to do that again, since along with the strong currents it is also the location of many tiger sharks (the spotter plane for the mantas, is in truth a spotter for the sharks – they just tell tourists the former). Oops!

Eik and Alex met us in their 4×4 and did some fishing. We didn’t pick up anything very big but we did get to watch another swarm of locusts fly by, so many in fact, that it looked like a dust storm arriving.

After the boys dug the car out we headed back to town and I finished up my cleaning and passed out, love afternoon naps.

In the evening I was chatting with Jody, from Ireland, who was seeking sponsorship for the big party/fundraiser on friday. He was planning on shaving his head. The money was for Red Nose day, a national fundraiser for SIDS and Kids (a group dedicated to research and support). This made some interesting thoughts pop into my head. As I was drinking a rum and coke and waiting for some friends to arrive I suddenly decided what I had to do, I was going to shave my head and raise funds in memory of my friend’s son. When I broached the subject with hostel staff they all told me to think about it but that they would sponsor me. The thinking was over when Nicky asked a guy if he would sponsor me for shaving my head and he promptly handed over $10… guess the decision was made.

For the rest of the evening I asked people to sponsor me and while they all told me I was crazy in the same breathe they said I was very brave.

Day 14
Waking up that morning I remembered my decision of the previous night, and while part me screamed the insanity of it, the only reason I could find not to do it was – vanity! And that wasn’t a good enough reason.

That morning I taught Carolin how to make a bracelet as another swarm of locusts invaded the town. there must have been millions of them, and they pooped everywhere!

Around noon I was told that Graham was finally living up to his promise in the first week and I was given a seat on his boat the Aqua Rush. It involved speed boating out of the bay, jumping waves, getting sprayed with water and also 2 snorkel stops. Adrenalin filled pure joy and the coral was nice too. We did see the biggest ray/skate I have ever seen.

By the end of the 2hrs I could just barely finish my chores before I collapsed into bed. This was proving to be an intense week for a wide range of emotions and experiences.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Coral Bay – Day 151 to 157

8th of June to 14th of June 2011

Coral Bay – week 1
Day 1

Arrived at 11.30pm, went to bed.

Day 2

For some obscure reason I woke up at 6am, managed to lay in bed till 6.30am then decided to get up and head to the beach to check it out.
After looking at the local map to orient myself I left the front door of the hostel and turned left heading over the sand dunes that would obviously lead me to the pristine beach I had seen in the pictures. As the kitchen had been closed I had been unable to get a cup of coffee (thats my excuse and I am sticking to it), and so, when somewhere in the far reaches of my mind the fact that I was walking towards sunrise on the west coast of Australia looking for the beach seemed strangely wrong, I didn’t react. After about 15min of walking, cresting the final sand dune and I came across… a road??? I turned around very confused only to see the ocean behind me towards the west, where it should be,
since the sun rises in the east, even in Australia.

Mentally kicking myself in the rear I headed in the correct direction and was speechless when I finally walked onto the beach. There wasn’t a breath of wind, the bay was completely still, the water was a shocking
turquoise blue and there were fish everywhere in the shallows, I waded in upto my ankles and was suprised to see at least 4 stingrays sitting right in front of me. Flashbacks of my friend getting stung in Ecuador and the crocodile hunter made me retreat fairly quickly. But I had no need to worry as these rays are used to tourists and usually get out of the way when people intrude on their personal space.

Back at the hostel the kitchen had opened and I made myself a quick mug of coffee, sugarless as I had not had the chance to buy some. Then I reported to reception to complete check in and get my duties for the day as Oompah Loompah designation 23. The deal with hostel was in return for 2hrs of cleaning I received free accommodation. Not a bad deal if you ask me. My chore for the day was cleaning one of the empty rooms. This involved a whole list of things including: cleaning the skirting boards, air conditioner filters, windows, wiping down mattresses, vacuuming and more. It felt strangely good to do house cleaning…. maybe I have been on the road too long????

Liezy and Kazuki decided to head to Exmouth. Kazuki to see his friend and Liezy to do a whale shark tour. The whale sharks had started
early and had already moved up north. I called Greyhound for Kazuki to see about the mix up of his ticket and listened to the lady talk for over 10minutes without saying much of anything. Then we made them a sign and they headed out to hitch hike the 2 hr trip north.

Later that morning Jason and I helped out a family, mom and 2 kids, unpack her car and watch the kids while she got herself sorted.
She seemed to be in a complete tizz and completely disorganized. She turned out to be a hairdresser and when I expressed interest
she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for watching the kids while she went to solicit haircuts, she would split her earnings with me 50/50 and give me a free haircut. Sounded excellent! Jason also helped and after watching the kids for about 2hrs we found ourself earning $50 each. Pretty sweet. The kids however were a handful, ADHD personified, possibly something to do with the amount of junk food she fed them to keep them still. She asked us to do the same thing in the morning, but when morning came she was no where to be seen.

Day 3

Gabriel (France), the long term Oompah Loompah, moved into the long termer’s room, which meant I could move down to the bottom bunk.
Which was fantastic as the bunks didn’t have ladders and I could barely reach the rungs at the end of the bed. It also meant I could finally get some serious cleaning done in the room, it was pretty close to disgusting, having had all boys in the room for the past few weeks.

My duties for the day included: vacuuming the hostel – managed to kill not one, but 2 vacuums! Scrub the picnic tables – excellent
for arm muscles. And close the kitchen at 10pm.

Spent most of my day walking around the town and heading to the beach. It was just superb and took my breath away every time I went for a walk. I went to get a wifi card from the resort and attempted to get some of my blog entries done. But being in the middle of nowhere meant that internet just barely worked and none of the blog entries would load photos, so was forced to write them in notepad and upload them all at once. Internet cost $3 for 30 minutes at the hostel or $10 for 100 minutes to use the wifi at the resort.

One of the staff asked if I was interested in picking up some work and if I was to head over to Reef Cafe and ask for Johnny. He wasn’t there but I spoke to him over the phone and he said he would stop by the hostel the next night and chat to me about everything.

Closing the kitchen that night I had a couple who had just arrived ask if they could quickly make dinner, I said sure and scored a burrito out of it in the process. EXCELLENT!!!

Day 4

Duties for the day:
– Vacuum again, one had been taped together and I managed not to kill it again.
– Morning kitchen clean at 10.30am
– Clean outside of level 1 windows, removing screens. Rather amusing as I couldn’t reach the top of the windows and the screens were not very easy to remove, there was a lot of colorful language used.

Liezy got back that day and said she had had a great trip and seen some beautiful whale sharks. Part of me wishes I had gone too, but $365 was just out of my budget.

When locals come to the hostel bar they need to be signed in by someone staying there. When I was asked I cheekily said, “depends do you have a fishing rod to loan me?”. Graham replied “no, but I have a tour boat and you can get on for free”. DEAL!!! In the end I spent the whole evening with the guys and attempted to say no to the beers bought for me, around 5 in total… I think.

Day 5

Duties for the day:
– 3pm Kitchen and Bathroom clean
– Clean chairs in bar and reception
I had tried to see if the little gift shop would sell some of my bracelets, unfortunately the owner said no. But the girl who I chatted to was very interested and so I headed down to the market area to let her choose colors and designs. Well I was fitting her anklet a lady in the store asked if I would make one for her too. I said sure and we sat and chatted well I put it together. By the end of an hour and a half I had earned $25 and a cup of coffee. I decided not to hunt down Johnny about the job and just start selling bracelets, turned out to be a good move.

Day 6

Duties for the day:
– Kitchen close at 10pm
– Scrub wooden picnic tables
– Wipe outside of doors, this one is the equivalent of doing 50 squats and it hurt the next day.
Orders for bracelets and necklaces have started pouring in and I am making an average of 3 or more a day. Giving me enough money for food and the occasional treat. Have started a habit of buying an apple and a chocolate bar, much to the amusement of the shop staff.

Day 7

Duties for the day:
– Vacuum the hostel
– 3 pm kitchen and bathroom clean
Has been very windy the last few days and not that pleasant on the beach. Mostly hung around the hostel and then headed down to see the sunset, which is always beautiful and often spectacular.

Then a bunch of us headed to happy hour at the pub. Carolin and I started our tradition of sharing a box of chips and having a half price pint of cider.

Back at the hostel the first of the giant jenga competitions began and there were times you feared for your health and well being when the tower threatened to collapse.

All in all a good first week and I can’t wait for the next.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Perth – Day 146 to 151

3rd of June to 8th of June 2011

Perth

Deb and her family live in the suburb of Mandurah, about an hour train ride from Perth itself. I spent the first day with the family
at the estuary, and was welcomed to the area by a pod of dolphins that frequent the area, a good start if I say so myself.

Day 2 I headed into Perth and spent some time at the library before meeting some couchsurfers who were interested in heading up to Coral Bay in the next week. I was hoping to meet some folks who would want to do the trip in 2 days and rent a car or something. I had great potential with the kiwi girl who had a friend and wanted to go up for 4 days, meaning they could take the car back with them. Another girl, from Belgium, wanted to take her time going up and spend at least 3-4days on the road, which meant it would end up costing more than the Greyhound bus. We all exchanged numbers and went for lunch. That evening I heard from the kiwi saying her friend only wanted to go the
following weekend, so that option was out. I called Liezy, Belgium, and we decided to keep our ears and eyes open for others and try do the trip together, she had decided 2 days would be ok.

Monday was a public holiday so Deb and I went into Perth and spent the day wandering around and catching up. She is Scottish and I met her at the Ben Nevis hostel in 2000 when I was traveling in the area, we have stayed in contact since and have been able to meet up once since then. Its crazy how random meetings can mean lasting friendships.

While in Perth I made a few contacts with possible travel buddies but by the end of the day none of them had worked out. I called Liezy and we both decided if we had heard nothing by the next morning that we would most likely take the bus.

Tuesday I was supposed to head to Rottnest Island with some of the folks I had met at a hostel yesterday, but woke up with a killer
headache and decided to just hang around the house and catch up with my blog. Deb went to pick up her client, she works with disabled people, and then came back to pick me up. Her client for the day had decided he wanted to go to the beach and have coffee and it would be cool to have
someone new to go with. The beach was stunning and made me feel much better. I called a couple more people to see what was happening, but to no avail, it appeared the Greyhound was the way forward… for 15.5hrs, again I hate long bus rides. I also spoke with the girls who were going to Rottnest Island, turns out the cheap ticket was only available online, and when they showed up they were told it would cost $69, so they decided to spend the day in Fremantle. We headed that way for lunch and I met up with the girls as they explored op shops, 2nd hand stores. I managed to find a skirt for $1 that was brand new with a broken zip, a smart casual shirt, half price for $4 and a good book for $2 (my most exciting purchase).

When we got home around 5pm I went to book my ticket, I was told I had till 6pm to get the special $160 ticket, apparently they were in
Brisbane and that was 6pm east coast time, so my ticket ended up costing $191… ouch! I was set to leave at 7.35am in the morning, which meant I had to get up at 5.30am to catch the 6am train to Perth by 7am.

The bus ride

When I got to the train/bus station I had been told to go to over the phone, you would think I would have been suspicious considering they failed to mention the ticket price conditions, I discovered Greyhound had done it again and I was on the wrong side of town. I frantically tried to catch a cab, none available and rush hour. I called Liezy who was at the bus station, and asked if she could find someone who had a taxi number. I called and the taxi finally showed up 15min later giving me just 10min to get across town. The driver waS from Pakistan and we had a great talk about life and travel and such. He was very sweet and calmed me down. I arrived paid my $17 taxi fee (there goes food money for the day, glad Deb had given me stuff to eat) and ran to the bus arriving at precisely 7.35am. The bus hadn’t even been loaded yet.

We met a very confused Japanese guy by the name of Kazuki, who had a ticket to Exmouth. He was told by the driver that that service had been cancelled a week ago and they would not be able to drop him off anywhere there. You could see the attempt to comprehend what they were telling him, but the fear to truly understand that he would not be able to get to his destination. We told him to come with us to Coral Bay, 2hrs from Exmouth, and that we would figure it out in the morning. I called the hostel to let them know we were coming and that we had picked up a stray.

The bus ride was very long and very tiring, but our drivers were amusing and Liezy and I had managed to get the very front seats. About 5hrs into the 15 Liezy was able to move to a free seat and we both got some shut eye. The 2 drivers took turns every 3 or so hours driving or napping in the back. They would have to do a total of almost 60hrs before arriving at their destination of Broome, get a few hours sleep and then turn around and do it again. Call me crazy but that
just sounds like they are pushing the limits.

At the outpost of Overlander, the turn off for Monkey Mia, we were treated to a beautiful sunset. We also met a guy named Jason, Aussie,
who was heading up the coast from Perth to try get work on the boats and get a direction in his life. Then the last 3 hrs were started. We were running 40min late so would only arrive in Coral Bay after 11.30pm. On this last section you had to be very careful of stray cows
and bouncing kangaroos. the kangaroos apparently don’t have an iris and so are blinded in the headlights and have a nasty habit of jumping the
wrong way. We didn’t see any cows, but on the last loop off the highway towards Coral Bay we found the mob of kangaroos and I merrily started counting them. It involved something like this:
1,2,3……9,10,11 THUMP!, 10…..
I counted a total of 16 minus the one we hit making 15. The driver slowed down dimmed the lights but at the very last minute the roo jumped smack in front of the bus and there was nothing the driver could do without risking rolling the bus. Later when I got out I checked the front and there was no damage or sign that we had hit anything, the driver assured me being hit by a Greyhound killed them instantly… good to know.

I went into my room to discover it appeared full, but it was the guy on the bottom bunk who had all his stuff everywhere, he cleared it off and I attempted to climb into the top bunk, there was no ladder, and promptly fell asleep. Did I mention I hate long bus rides.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Melbourne…again – day 143 to 146

Return to Melbourne
Flying back into Melbourne, my friend Wendy met me at the bus station. Wendy had “surfed” my couch almost 3yrs ago and we had stayed in contact (never know when the favor might be returned). She had just moved to Melbourne from Brisbane (literally the day before) and her work had put her up in an apartment where I was able to make use of the fold out couch. Its not what you know its who you know.

The next day I went downtown while Wendy went apartment hunting. Meeting up with James (my friend from the looney farm – see Boorowa blog entry) we hung out at the library and messaged each other from across the room as we checked our email. Then we went in search of food, I hate to admit it but I turned to the dark side and had KFC… At 6pm Ari (the 3rd member of the Looney Farm Escapees) joined us and we headed out to meet a fellow *couch surfer (see definition below). Ai is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to Melbourne and he loves showing people all the hidden spots in his city. He gets so excited sometimes that it is hard to keep up with him.

We had a great night out with happy hour wine, good cheap asian food and ending with delectable deserts in Lygon Street. A great night was had by all.

Thursday Wendy and I explored the Victorian Markets on the free tourist shuttle, walked through the downtown area to the next shuttle stop and caught it to the botanical gardens. The gardens were fantastic but I must say not as diverse as I had hoped.

They have an excellent program where you can take a walk through the gardens with an Aborigine and learn about the values of the plants. Unfortunately you had to book and pay in advance so I was unable to take advantage of this great opportunity.

Then it was off to meet James and pick up some of my stuff I had left in his safe keeping and finally off to meet 2 more couch surfing friends and pick up my big backpack I had left in their safekeeping during my time in Tasmania. We went out for Vietnamese food and then they were kind enough to drop me off saving me the train fair and the hassle of carrying my bag.

Friday morning at the crack of dawn Wendy had to leave for a flight to Canberra for a meeting, I was only leaving that afternoon, but was able to stay in the apartment till I had to set out. After doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, making breakfast, lunch and some sandwiches for dinner on the plane. My plane was leaving at 5.15pm and arriving at 7.15pm in Perth. For some reason my mind had decided that meant I only needed the 3.45pm shuttle which would get me there at 4.30pm. Around 1.30pm I realised that I should never become a math instructor and starting, well, shitting myself, as the next shuttle only left at 2.45pm and would not get me there with the required 2hr leeway. I hurriedly repacked the bag and finally headed out to catch a tram to Southern Cross Station where I had to get a bus to Avalon airport (almost an hour out of the city). I got there at 2pm and had a 45min, nerve racking wait. But we got there in perfect timing (turns out that was the preferred shuttle for that flight so had no need to worry). Got checked in, was actually 2kg over the 15kg limit with my big bag so just removed a few things and stuffed them in the little bag bringing me in at 14.5kg. A close call of nearly having to pay $20. The guy checking in at the station next to me had only carry ons which meant he should have checked in online and printed his boarding pass, it also meant checking in at the counter cost him an extra $30. Ouch! Got to love cheap airlines… The flight was uneventful and I had a whole row to stretch out.

My good friend, Deb (met in Scotland over 11yrs ago), met me at the airport and we headed to her house. I do love travel where you get a chance to meet up with old friends after many years.

*Couch Surfing is an online community connecting people from around the world who have the common interest of travel and cultural exchange. Members “surf” on fellow members couches for a set number of days at no cost, except maybe a beer or 2 for the host.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Tasmania Days 133 – 143

The management wishes to apologize for the delay in this post, the availability and quality of internet is not what it should be in a first world country

May 21st to 31st 2011

Hobart
Having to wake up at sparrow’s fart and trying not to make the hostel bed creak (which is nigh impossible, as breathing makes it creak), walking to the train station in the dark and catching the shuttle to the airport is always a fun way to start your day. But it’s what you put up with when you are heading off on another great adventure. This time the destination is Tasmania, another far off place I always hoped to visit.

Getting to the airport I walked the mile from the shuttle drop off point to the Tiger Airlines terminal. Tiger air is the type of low budget airline that charges for everything short of using the loo. But it also means you get things like return flights for under $150. Since I only had a carry on and had checked in online I went straight to security where they weighed my bag but didn’t check identification. Then I went through the scanner and managed to get my whole tube of toothpaste through no problem and again no one confirmed my identity. Finally we boarded the plane after a few gate changes and were on our way to Tazzie.

My friend, Rachel (who I worked with in Korea), was able to meet me at the airport. Got to love having friends all over the world. the plan was to spend the weekend in Hobart helping her get her house ready to be rented and then heading up North to the tiny town of Forth, about 15min north of Devonport. Window washing, paint touch ups, wall touch ups were all par for the course and well worth the free ride and accommodation.

Mona Museum
The Mona Museum is a must see in Hobart. Its owned by someone who is ridiculously wealthy and comprises of his personal art collection. Presently it is free to the public, but there is talk of charging an entry fee in the near future. Located in the middle of a vineyard (renowned for its wine) and in a very snazzy building with all the latest gadgets, it is a sensory overload.

I started on the ground level which is 3 floors down into the bedrock. The walls are all the natural rock and the sounds and sites from various art pieces are truly overwhelming. There is definate emphasis on grotesque modern art, but there are some amazing Egyptian pieces and some funky interesting things to check out.

I spent over an hour in the museum, managed to get lost on more than one occasion and eventually ended up in the cafe with my exorbitantly priced coffee and cake (but hey the museum was free so I figured it evened out). As I left the rest of Hobart had apparently showed up and the line was almost wrapping the property. Then I wandered around the grounds and to my great pleasure I found bean bags scattered around the lawn and so promptly collapsed in one and waited to be picked up by Rachel. I enjoyed around an hour in the sun, and am not ashamed to admit that I woke myself up snoring at least 3 times, it was just that good.

Moving North
After finishing a few more things at Rachel’s house and meeting the new tenants we headed North towards the tiny town of Forth, literally a blip of houses a corner store. I got to spend the next 5 days doing not much of anything. Rachel and her roommate worked during the day, so I would write my blog, read my book and cuddle up with Pippa the dog for the day. When the girls returned I made dinner. An excellent relationship to all concerned.

On Monday Rach and I drove to the town of Penguin, where we had an icecream, a photo with the giant Penguin and then drove home, not seeing any penguins, but we did see a stunning rainbow.

After Penguin, we went down to the beach and saw some black macaws.

Return to Hobart
On Saturday I decided I should probably think of seeing something while I was in this beautiful and unique section of Australia and headed to Hobart with the plan of exploring and hopefully getting on a tour.

Rach drove me to Devonport and I caught the Redline bus to Hobart. I checked into the Central Hostel and went to explore Salamanca Market down at the waterfront, a great farmer’s market that is only on Saturdays. Also met up with a Brazilian friend I had met in Melbourne, Leandro, for lunch.

Saturday through Monday I spent my time exploring the city and hanging out at the waterfront. Due to the sterile vibe at the Central Backpackers I moved to the Pickled Frog (and its bright green building) on Sunday and was welcomed with a fireplace a bar and a great backpacker vibe.

Monday I decided to call one of the tour groups that had been recommended and see if I could get on for a discount, in exchange for writing an article (which I still have to do asap). I managed to get a full day tour to Mt. Fields for $80 vs $120. Not to bad and just able to squeeze it in before I left on Tuesday evening.

Tours Tasmania – Mt. Fields Tour
Jeremy picked me up bright and early at 8am on a very brisk Tuesday morning. The tour ended up being only me and a girl from Thailand, but it made it more personal and allowed us extra time here and there. Driving out of Hobart, we headed to Mt. Fields National Park. Along the way Jeremy frequently explained interesting information about the history of Tasmania, how hopps is grown (Tasmania is the main area for growing hopps) and the different ways they are used to make beer etc.

We made a brief breakfast stop. Then we hopped back on the little white bus and headed to the park. The information center was closed due to winter hours, so we headed out on the trail planning to check in when we got back. There are a number of interesting little critters that can be seen in the park, including quolls, wallabies and pademelons. We were lucky enough to see pademelons (small kangaroo like marsupial) within 10 steps of walking into the trees. Then we saw another and another until they almost became boring…almost. They are super cute and were very relaxed with us around, often just standing and staring at us as if they were posing for photos.

We walked along till we came to some falls, Jeremy, an excellent photographer, gave us some great tips on shooting moving water and using manual modes.

I have not had to use these skills since so I fear I might have forgotten them already. We came across an old tree that had been cut down for safety reasons and its size just blew your mind.

Up numerous stairs to a stunning view of the canopy and what is named Horseshoe falls, some perilous posing on a tree stump in the middle of the river.

Down again we got back in the van and drove up Mt. Fields through 4 very distinct ecosystems: eucalypt forest, temperate, sub alpine, alpine. It was almost as if someone had drawn a line in the sand as to which trees could grow where, the most instantaneous changes I have ever seen. At the top we got a view of the alpine with heather fields and small lump like plants that are actually hundreds of years old and very delicate, dying if stepped on.

Heading to a lake, we walked around and came across wallabies. In fact there was a youngster that we nearly tripped over as he was sitting just off the path.

Jeremy showed us wombat scat (poo), the only known animal to poop square due to the hard plate that runs down its back. I would hate to be a constipated wombat!

The lake had a thin layer of ice over it and was truly spectacular. As we walked through very unique plant systems we reached a grove of Pandanni plants, a type of palm of sorts that can grow to a very old age.

Back in the truck we drove back down the mountain and went on a short “tall tree” loop walk, with some of the tallest eucalypt trees in the area. The tallest being over 79m tall, you can barely see the top and you definately feel small and insignificant when you stand next to it.

Next we drove to a wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately due to financial issues we were to be the sanctuary’s last group of visitors. Here I got to see Tasmanian Devils, Golden Possums, Spotted Quolls, wombat and most exciting wild platypusses (platypusi?). The 2 females and 1 male live in the river below the sanctuary and it was very exciting to see them, unfortunately they were so far away and it was getting dark so I was unable to get a photo.

On the way back to Hobart we saw a kookaburra on the telephone lines, so another one to cross off my list. So far I have seen in the wild:
kangaroo, koala, pademelon, wallaby, platypus and kookaburra. Up on Mt. Wellington we nearly froze, the wind was so icy that you soon lost
feeling in your nose and the fear of frostbite came to mind. We explored the rocks and took some amazing sunset pictures.

A great day all around and a company I would highly recommend.

With near perfect timing Jeremy dropped me off at the bus station and I had just enough time to pop back to the hostel and grab a coffee before my airport shuttle arrived. I think the next time I visit Tasmania I will do it in the summer and rent a car. But for now it was a great trip with a great friend and new friends made. What more could you ask for.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel

 

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Melbourne – Days 124 – 133 – Friends, Pub crawl and work

May 12th to 21st 2011

Arriving Melbourne Southern Cross Station
After I finished shaking with anger over the text message the looney farmer had sent me (please refer to previous post), I waited for my now delayed train. I chatted a bit with an older couple waiting for their daughter, they were from the Boorowa area and were upset at the experience I had had, they said it was a pity I didn’t come to their farm as they had clydesdales and many other animals… They did ask for Mr. Looney’s name and said they knew of the family and might report it to the council. That made me feel better, especially when they disagreed on his assertion that you had to pay gas money and large amounts of it.

Finally the train pulled in. Turned out I though I was waiting for the 1pm train, but apparently I can’t read and in my desperate attempt to escape I had booked on the 1am train and was now getting on the 12.30pm train. Luckily it wasn’t a problem, sounds like it happens quite often. As I sat in an empty seat I asked the lady in front of me if the dining car served coffee and how much it might be. She immediately brushed that notion aside gave me a small packet of cappucino mix, her travel mug and told me to go get free hot water. When I returned she gave me some choc powder to sprinkle on top…now this is the Aussie hospitality I have heard about.

After a 6hr journey we pulled into a very impressive looking train station, Southern Cross, the ceiling was made of all these wavy poles and look very…well, architectual. I sent my mate, Erin, a message to let her know I had arrived and settled down in a corner to charge my phone and read. Since Erin was doing classes it would be about 2hrs before she could meet me. Once she arrived I picked up a week long transport pass ($31) that could be used on bus/train/tram, I love a city with a decent transport system. We headed back to her house that she shared with 4 other grad students, all in various stages of finals and thesis’. My bed was the futon in the kitchen/dining area, and I must say it was the most comfortable bed I had slept in in weeks!

Tourist Bus and Pub Crawl
The following morning I headed out with Erin and she showed me the main drag of the city centre before she had to head to classes. I was planning on spending the day on the free tourist bus with another couchsurfing member, and then doing some work on the computer at the library. Sarah (Belgium) met me at the tourist info centre (must be one of the most impressive ones I have seen) and we headed off to the tourist bus stop. The tourist bus is a free service that goes around the city to the main attractions. We decided to get some lunch in Chinatown before heading out and made our way to a Korean Restaurant I had seen earlier. I got some bibimbap (veggies and rice) and she had some egg soup. I had almost forgotten how much I missed Korean food.

We picked the bus up and headed to the Victoria Markets. These are under cover markets where you can pick up anything from $1 tourist trinkets, to $200 Uggs or maybe even a didgeridoo. It was great fun walking around. Then we went and had some of the richest and most delicious coffee in the world, and at $6 it better be good. Max Brenner’s coffee shops are about as intense as you can get. For my mocha I had a choice of dark, milk or white chocolate and by the end of it all I can say is that I was suffering from an intense coffee buzz and a chocolate hangover.

The best part is the "hug mug" where you have to cup your hands around it to drink and makes the drinking experience even better

Sarah had to head out to go to another meeting and I had had another girl from couchsurfing call and ask to meet. So around 1pm I headed to the library, assuming I had about 20min to check internet and such before Abi arrived. At 4pm she finally strolled over and by then the last tourist bus had already left. (This habit would continue for 2 other outings we met up for). We hung out at the library for a bit longer and then headed over to find the first bar where the couchsurfing bar crawl was meant to be. While we waited we picked up a bowl of chips. Finally people started arriving and as I had put my number down as first pub contact, so did the calls of people trying to find us. It turned into quite the event and by the 2nd bar we had over 30 people. Everyone was great and I made a couple of new friends. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay too late and had to go meet Erin at work so we could head home.

Buddhist Day Fest
Saturday I decided to wander around at the festival for Buddha’s Birthday, this used to be one of my favorite festivals while living in Korea. Again I met up with a girl from couchsurfing and we explored the festival picking up stamps to complete an activity at the festival. I wrote a wish on a “lotus” flower, explored a book fair and “bathed the little Buddha statue”.

Around 5pm I got a call from Abi again asking if I was going to the festival, I told her the fest ended at 5pm and she whined “why didn’t anyone tell me?” she asked if I had been. I was there at 11am like my post said I would be… some people are just clueless.

Great Ocean Road
One of the most beautiful things to see and do on the Southern Coast of Australia is the Great Ocean Road. So when a post appeared on Couchsurfing for those interested in a road trip it sounded great and for a change I planned to sit back and enjoy the ride…or so I thought. I showed up Sunday morning at 8.30am as planned and shortly after 3 of the others showed up. The final 3, Abi and friends, didn’t show up till 9.15am. They were the ones who were supposed to have organised the van, they hadn’t. They had wanted to rent from a place called “Rent-a-Bomb”, which thankfully had no vans. We went to budget to rent a van and it turned out I was the only one with a credit card and along with 2 others the only one with a valid drivers license. I am so useless at going with the flow, think I should just organise things from now on… Dammit!

Even though it took 5 hrs to get to the 12 apostles and it was almost dark when we finally got there and another 4hrs home on the highway, it all worked out well, the views were spectacular, the weather was clear and sunny, I saw koala bears (which were actually rather boring lumps of fur that just sit around all day) and I didn’t kill any of the others, although it came close on occasion.

Remainder of the week
For the rest of the week I managed to pick up some cash work through couchsurfing. $20/hr for data entry on Mon and Tues. Wednesday I explored the op shops (2nd hand shops) and then managed to pick up work for Thursday and a bit on Friday morning. Meaning that I had managed to cover my flight to Tasmania, the one to Perth and should also be able to cover the one to the Gold Coast…woohoo. Not to mention, as crazy as it sounds, it was good to do some work again. Added to that some good friends made and it was a very good week indeed.

Here are some pics from a rather spectacular drive:









 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Boorowa…or there abouts – Days 118 – 124 – Welcome to the Looney Farm!!

May 6th to 12th 2011

Answering the ad…
Well, as I mentioned before, I had answered this ad for farm work. I had done it mainly to experience some country life, maybe meet a few cool people and horse riding has always been a love of mine. So this ad seemed like a great opportunity. I had called up and spoken to, what seemed to be, a very down to earth guy named Ross. He said that the work was mainly a few minor house renovations and some basic farm work. Sounded perfect, I expected to meet other like minded travelers, most likely share meals with the family, feed chickens clean out horse stalls and maybe paint some window frames… The truth was so far from that fantasy you have no idea.

Arriving at the house
Since there was no way to get to Boorowa town on public transport I had to go into the town of Yass, meaning Ross had to come pick me up. We had agreed that I would buy him some wine as compensation, so $20 and 3 bottles later we headed to the farm. The drive was beautiful and Ross seemed like a good bloke and easy to chat to, although he did most of the chatting.

As we pulled into the farm he started explaining how this wasn’t his farm, it was his brother’s and since his sister-in-law didn’t approve of strangers on the farm I must never answer the phone or give the number out… I began to hear a distant ringing of warning bells. He also explained that the house was under a bit of renovation. Turns out his previous profession of marketing meant he was an excellent bullshitter.

The English pair, James and Ari, had got lunch prepared and we headed up the hill to have a bbq, beef patties and bread with some wine. The view was spectacular and the company was great, so I figured it would just be a great adventure…another understatement.

My First 3hrs of Work
I wasn’t even assigned a room when Ross decided to put me to work, which was fine with me but really surprised James and Ari. The chores of choice were fixing out riggers to fencing around baby trees to run an electric line through, thereby protecting the trees from the cattle (which I was yet to see). Then he had me mow a massive lawn, he decided it was too small for the sit on mower, it looked big enough to me. Once that was all done it was time to head in, figure out where I was supposed to sleep and try get warm. I was placed, temporarily, in his brother’s bedroom. It turned out we had no kitchen, only an electric skilled, kettle and microwave, dishes had to be done in the bathroom, the only finished room in the house. The bathroom was rather impressive but with slate floors and below freezing temps at night it made it very difficult to shower or brush teeth or anything without shoes or socks at the least.

That night he made us chicken stir fry but added a variety of herbs, rosemary, oregano and cloves amongst them (how conflicting can you get). As there was no heat in the house and the temperature had dropped below 0 C, James, Ari and I huddled around the fire.

My first night
Ross had given me extra blankets, making a total of 2 thin ones and a sheet, I managed to scrounge up something else as well. When I went to bed I noticed gaps to the outside where the floor met the walls… I went to bed wearing socks, pajama pants, a turtle neck shirt, my jumper, my alpaca sweater, gloves and my big wooly hat and I still barely slept from all the shivering. In the morning I discovered that mice had chewed a hole in my bag where I had had a piece of chocolate. When I told Ross, he said “Oh well, teach you to keep food in your bag”. He had failed to mention the rampant mouse explosion in the area (so bad it had made the news), and to be sure to take any food out of my bag, not to mention the feces left all over the corners and such. Just think positive, just think positive…

Boorowa Races
Today was the biggest event of the year for Boorowa, the horse races. The plan was to do some work in the morning, then get dressed up and head for a day at the races. Since his brother and sister-in-law were coming down from Sydney we had to hide our bags in his room, we would be sleeping somewhere else that night and we had no choice but to go to the races. At the last moment as we left he mentioned there might be a small fee to get in. Turned out to be $15 each, he also made us buy our own food for the day, he was kind enough to donate a bottle of wine, which he promptly opened at 11.30am and drank. Leaving us none… Oh deary maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

The races were great fun, and the whole town showed up dressed to the nines. Ari managed to win 2 of her bets, I came second in all of mine and it seemed as if James came last. My favorite horse was Al’s Mission, she had made direct eye contact when she walked past, and even though she didn’t win she was still a beauty.

Ross was very explicit in his instructions that we pretend we didn’t know him, and that we were not to say where we were staying. Yet he went around introducing us as the backpackers working on his brother’s farm and then would say, but don’t tell him ok. The 3 of us were beginning to come to the agreement that this guy was on the verge of a breakdown or something (he had just spent the last 5mths nursing his father who was dying of cancer, so you can’t blame him, but we didn’t ask to be involved). Around 3pm I decided to stop drinking in case I might have to drive the lot of us back. Please note, the last time I drove a stick was in Alaska 6yrs ago, and before that was learning to drive in South Africa 15yrs ago. So I was not too impressed with the fact that I might have to drive us in a stick shift double cab truck, on unknown roads through kangaroo country… Turned out I was right to stop drinking. When we tried to get details from him as to when and how and what if we got stopped he just brushed us off and said “no worries you are with me”. The truth is we were seriously beginning to worry. Just as we were leaving James bought me a coffee as designated driver. Barely away from the horse grounds Ross started drinking it.

Off to Young
We made it back to the farm safe and sound to pick up a few things, we had to spend the night at his father’s farm in case his brother came to the farm. As we headed out, Ross decided to drive as we were going on back roads. Then he suddenly said “I have an idea, lets go to Young, I will rent a room for all of us and we can go to the pubs listen to music, what do you think!” This was not so much a question as a statement, so we just nodded and went with it. So there we were, trapped in the car with a looney, inebriated guy heading to a town named Young. Turned out the town was dead, no live music, almost no people out… so we all ended up back at the motel by 9pm. What a roller coaster of a day.

The next day we spent the whole morning avoiding Ross until it was time to go to his father’s farm to spend the rest of the day in hiding. Sundays were meant to be our day off to do what we liked but it appeared that was not to be so. After doing a big shop for food, something we were not involved in, he never ever even asked if we were allergic to anything, we headed out of Young. Once we got there we had a quick bbq and then Ross went off to nap and we were left to our own devices and ultimately ended up discussing our situation. We all decided to figure out a way to get out of here as soon as possible.

Finally it was time to leave and we headed back to The Farm. On the way we saw my first wild kangaroos. There is a chance we saw one the night before but it might have been a bouncing fence post…who knows for sure.

When the cat’s away the mice will…plan their escape
Turned out the following day Ross decided to go into town and so left me in charge. I had just woken up and hadn’t even had my coffee when he told me he was showing me what had to be done. The list was as follows:
Sweep the porch
Clean out the fireplace
Paint a gate
Finish the electric fence outriggers
Catch the horses and put them in the paddock

As soon as he was out of sight the 3 of us did a little happy dance. We got all our work done had some tea and then headed out to deal with the horses. James and Ari had been there for a week and hadn’t even seen the horses yet and for some reason Ross felt that me having taken a horse riding class made me an expert. The plan was for James and Ari to have riding lessons from Ross, but at present none of us were trusting his mental stability let alone teaching skills. As it turned out the horses had been out to pasture for months and were not overly enthused about being brought into the paddock, so that made all of us doubt we wanted to ride. Apparently there had been 2 German girls who had spent 5 days twice a day grooming and working with them. It was most likely they were hiding from Ross, because these horses had not been worked in ages.

That evening karma gave us a gift, Ross was spending the night away!!! Woohoo!!! We also managed to convince him to let us drive into Boorowa so we check the internet and get some phone reception the next day. That night we also all moved into the same room and combined blankets. This meant that Ari and I shared a bed and James was on a mattress on the floor. It was way warmer in there.

So come Tuesday we jumped in the truck, before he could possibly come back and stop us and headed off back to the real world. There was serious consideration of just driving till we hit a bus station to get us out of there. In a local cafe we managed to figure out a cover story and get bus tickets.
James and Ari were saying they had picked up paid work back in the previous place they had been and were leaving Friday.
I was concerned about my friend who had a high risk pregnancy (a bit of a harsh one but not completely false as a number of my friends are pregnant and I was concerned about my own health). I would leave on Thursday.

We spent the next 2 days trying not to go crazy, or to stab him to death at night. All of us agreed we would rather be with a serial killer, at least you know how that episode is supposed to go. Instead of with a guy who was slowly losing his grip on reality.

Thats how its done in Australia
On the appointed day of my departure, trying hard not to do a little jig, I said goodbye to my new friends with secret plans to meet in Melbourne the following week. Ross had decided to go into Young again, which was about 30min in the wrong direction from where I had to go. As we pulled in he turned to me and said “You ok to put in for gas then?” Its weird how sometimes you are so shocked at the actions of people you don’t know quite what to say and so I just nodded. But when I told him that all I could contribute was around $5 he went off and demanded $20. Then he said “this is Australia, if you want to make it here you are going to have to learn to do things like put in for gas, so do you want to use your card or do I need to take you to an ATM”. I managed to scrape $19 together and didn’t talk to him for the rest of the drive to Harden where I had a 3hr wait till my train.

While I was waiting I was obliged to receive the following text message from Mr. Looney himself:
“Kath hi. We have had over 2000 travellers thru the farm over the years.
ur prescence although helpful was overall one of negativity and pessimistic.
U were shown care and provided with good food etc. Ur whinging about the
cold was appalling. That’s travelling. its not always great u take the ups and
downs and look at the positives. ur sulking when asked to contribute to the fuel
was childish. My advice be more optimistic and greatful for the help given
instead of whinging like a child..”

After my hands stopped shaking enough from sheer rage I managed to send this back:
“My advice to you is not to lie to backpackers or your sister-in-law. You never
mentioned staying in a freezing construction site and only told me about mice after
they ruined my bag. You should have offered something for that!!”

But lets look at the positives shall we:
– I got this hilarious blog entry
– 2 fantastic new friends
– I got into Melbourne at the right time to pick up a week of cash work
– It gave me the time to spend 10 days in Tasmania

So once you all stop laughing I hope you will join me tomorrow for my week in Melbourne.

Here are some pics from the week on the Looney Farm, it wasn’t all bad:

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Australia, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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