Saturday, October 31, 2009
Trying not to think about it...
Did a canopy walk in the temperate rainforest (so I guess I can cross that off my list - tho id still like to do one in the tropical rainforest). It was pretty good; only problem was the canopy was metal but made to sway in the wind & it made me feel a little ill.
Figured out the crazy tree I described earlier is the mountain ash, which is the tallest flowering plant in the world & second tallest tree (second to the California redwoods).
Saw a bunch of Soft Tree Ferns, which take 200-300 years to grow! Pictured
I didn't find the Otway black snail; its only found in the Otway mtns, nowhere else in the world. Its carnivorous & cannibalistic - drills a hole in the shell of another snail & eats it alive. Yuk.
Didn't see platypus either, again! Those elusive buggers.
Drove out to the tiny town of Princetown, population 17, where we're spending the night. It is gorgeous & seriously the middle of nowhere. Had dinner & then headed to see the 12 Apostles rock formation at sunset.
Sunset didn't deliver any vibrant colors bc of the fog but I really quite liked the moody setting; I found it fitting.
Back to our creepy hostel (actually its really nice) in this creepy town (actually quite quaint) for a hopefully un-creepy nights sleep.
I think the group is planning to watch a scary movie tonight for Halloween ("Hostel" was mentioned - hell no) but for reasons I don't think I need to explain, I'm gonna be a granny & go to bed early. :)
Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ feeling better
~ trying new things
~ not having to be alone in this one streetlamp (literally) town in the true Oz boonies on Halloween night
I'm definitely not 100% yet but I do feel better this morning. Last night I very politely asked the loud roomies to keep it down and they DID. Amazing. I did wake up bc there was a thunderstorm, but after that I actually took my earplugs out! A first!
Its a wonder what a good nights sleep can do for a person.
I'm on the bus for the first day of a 3 day trip to Adelaide now. I'm really happy that my friend Erich (Swiss - met on the bus from Sydney to Melbourne) is on this trip too. I met the best people on that bus! Let's hope my luck continues.
Although halloween exists here, its not a big deal - no adults really celebrate it. My original plan was to get something silly to wear on the bus but I wasn't feeling well. Maybe I'll find something at one of our stops today. Ill at least try to get pics of all the halloweenie stuff I come across (if any). :)
I'm leaving Melbourne at just the right time - the Melbourne Cup starts this week & all the hostel prices skyrocket. Unintentionally good planning on my part. :) I thought I'd like Melbs more than I did; it was probably partially due to getting sick, partially due to the hostel & partially bc so many people had talked it up & I'd let my expectations get high. I still enjoyed it though.
First stop: shopping. Nah. I had a tea & talked to an Italian girl & a Swiss girl. Everyone is so interested to know what LA is like. :) Second stop: Winkipop beach & Bells beach, too foggy to see much. Then we officially entered the
Great Ocean Road.
Drove thru Lorne where there are sculptures all along the beachfront. I would've liked to get out & look at them but its not in the itinerary. Stopped at Kennet River & found koalas! Forgot to take a pic with my phone - sorry readers! Camera pics will get posted later. They are just balls of fluff up in the trees; they look so cuddly!
Learned a bit about koalas. Koala babies eat their moms poop to get them slowly used to the toxins in eucalyptus. Grody. They've intentionally been exposed to chlamydia to cull them (makes them sterile), but it also causes blindness in some & therefore death by starvation, which is just mean. :( poor little lazy guys.
Apparently, we're missing out on some spectacular coastline views bc the fog still hasn't lifted. Waaa waaah.
Stopped in Apollo Bay for lunch. As soon as I learned that "flake" was shark, I had to try it. My flake & chips is pictured. It is DELICIOUS!!! Very mild with nice thick texture. I'm so surprised how much I like shark. Yummers. Hope shark doesn't return the favor in Queensland. ;)
Now we're headed into the temperate rainforest in Otway National Park. I'm hoping to see the rare Otway Black Snail & some platypus; check back in later to find out...
Friday, October 30, 2009
Then at 9am they were all up, phones ringing, talking & ragging on each other full-voice. I got no sleep, pissed me right off. I'm not THAT old; I don't know how people can be that self-absorbed & rude.
Anyway. Rosie left for New Zealand today :( its been nice having a group of friends here. Amys been the absolute best today; she contacted her friend Charlotte who lives here & she & I went over to C's house, sat on the couch, watched movies, napped & ate chicken noodle soup. Most people wouldn't keep some sick girl they just met company - she even offered to split a private room w me so I could afford it - she's really such a good friend. I'm going to miss her. :)
We made our own tapas shmorgasboard for dinner - olives, hummus, bread, cheese - then went to 7 apples (famous gelato place that should've been on my list) for free gelato!
Cheap & relaxing day.
Oh, by the way, apparently there IS a Luna Park in Melbourne & it DOES have the oldest wooden rollercoaster. Oops. But it didn't open til today & I was not feeling up for it. Oh well its just a rollercoaster anyway.
AND - cant believe I didn't mention this earlier - my sparrow necklace broke!! :( I've worn it every day for over a year - makes me really sad. Sigh.
Well, the jerkface roommates are gone for now so its the perfect time to try & fall asleep. Got to be on a bus to Adelaide at 6:30 in the morning... And you'd better believe I'm not going to be quiet about it! *evil grin*
Today I'm so grateful & happy for:
~ cold meds
~ a quiet couch to nap on
~ starting a new chapter of the adventure tomorrow
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Couldn't sleep too well last night - trucks were loud outside the window & my pillow just felt so uncomfortable; of course that doesn't help my health either. Once I was awake, that was it & I had to get up.
Amy had to work; Rosie & I took the tram to the botanical gardens & walked around there for a while. We were both a bit out of it so we were good company. :)
Went to the Shrine of Rememberance - more interesting than I expected. Really some neat info about WWII, including a letter of dismissal that read: "you're a Jew so in the eyes of the law you're dead" - gave me chills & brought tears to my eyes to read.
Walked thru the gardens, which were beautiful but not as exciting as the gardens in Sydney - maybe bc I've already seen some of the wildlife. There was a tree that looked like the whomping willow from Harry Potter, tho!! (Pictured)
Then we ventured into the city & stopped off at the NGV (natn'l gallery of Victoria, I think) for some art & culture. Saw some really beautiful stuff but after an hour of being followed by a group of schoolchildren (not on purpose), we were hungry & over it, so we headed to Chinatown.
We got a bit lost. Thank goodness the aussies are a friendly bunch.
By the time we got there, we were STARVING & stopped at the first restaurant we saw. It was pretty good, luckily. Chinatown itself was crap. Just a bunch of kitchsy shops & restaurants with weird unappealing food pics in the windows.
Took the tram back & both of us were REALLY looking forward to a nap. I crawled into my bunk & slept for a good hour & a half. So nice with the cool breeze thru the window & the birds singing. I love naps. :)
Felt a bit better after that. Amy, Rosie, Wilhelmina & I got dressed up (as much as a backpacker can be) for a girls night out to celebrate Rosies last night in Oz & Amy's new job. Nice dinner at a posh-feeling Italian restaurant. FYI: scallops here are NOT the same as scallops at home - not sure what they were...
Then went to the hostel bar for the over-advertised free champagne for ladies all night. Turns out by free champagne they meant free orange juice with a splash of champers. Oh well.
Met some funny Irish guys dressed as girls so they could get the free drinks. It was so hard to understand their accents, even for the brits. One of them (pictured) told me I looked like J.Lo. Ha ha! Someones got his beer goggles on. Hilarious.
Early night in & I'm glad for it. Took a tylenol cold night & my eyes are closing. Later lovelies.
Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ friends on my same wavelength
~ a nice dinner
~ learning some history
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Its been a mostly lazy & somewhat boring day today. Went shopping with Amy & DID get some vitamins & a warm sweatshirt. Had a two teas & a coffee, one busicit (cookie) & snacky beakfast/lunch foods - just walked around & sat at cafes all day. It was good tho; I needed a lazy day.
Met up with our friends Sarah (German) & Erich (Swiss) & sneaked them into our hostels free BBQ, which ended up being pretty gross burgers & sausages on white bread - but hey, it was free. We won 2 pitchers of beer too, so that was good. we had fun with my camera's time lapse video setting & I taught them shakey-face. :)
Then we'd been talking about Phillip Island - where you can see fairy penguins, the smallest in the world, but it costs over $100 to get there - when our new friend Wilhelmina (Dutch) said she knows someone who saw them right here in St. Kilda. She called him for details & we set off.
I didn't actually think we'd see them; I mean, I was hopeful but we weren't exactly sure where we were going. Walked down to the St. Kilda pier (at the end of Fitzroy St., if you're ever here) & there were only a handful of people wandering about so we thought oh well. But we kept on. Got down to the end of the pier...
Oh my goodness - penguins everywhere. We heard their calls from inbetween the rocks & watched their short-legged hops from peak to peak. They're so tiny & loveable; about the size of a chiuauah but much cuter. I watched one waddle around the cliff as various cries called for him, resounding off the rocks, somewhat plaintitively, somewhat sounding like a squeezy toy's raspy inhale & high-pitched exhale. I rooted for him as he searched the crevicies, got into a fight with another, territorial, penguin (whose gang loudly cheered him on from the safety of the rocks), and fell beneath the pier in search of his family. Aint gonna lie, I sent up a little prayer that he'd find his way home once he'd dissappeared from my view. It was amazing to see them in the wild; They were so tiny & cute & loud. I couldn't get any pictures bc signs said flashes disoriented them (tho some people stil did it - that upset me). But I hope to never forget it. It was amazing.
We also saw a giant river rat - as big as the penguins - but he wasn't half as cute. ;) Walked back to the hostel & went to bed with visions of tiny penguins dancing in our heads. Contented sigh.
Today I'm so happy & grateful for :
~ tiny penguins
~ wonderful new friends
~ a warm sweatshirt
~ vitamin C, zinc & throat lozenges
~ taking a chance
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Met up with Sarah in Federation Square & got free goodie bags from the heart association - a water bottle & fruit, awesome. Oh yeah & on the walk there we got free canvas bags from myspace reps which are actually quite nice & handy. Gotta love free!!
We all walked down to a park, where we saw the house Captain Cook was born in (yes, way back when, someone actually transported it from England), some cute fuzzy baby ducks, a gorgeous greenhouse (Amy's pictured using the leaves as a wig), and a tree with fairies carved into it (pictured).
Then we went on a river cruise which was absolute rubbish. Melbournes not quite as pretty as Sydney from the water anyway, but this cruise took us out to the docks - there was nothing to see but some wharfs & tankers! Dissapointing.
Then up to Eureka Tower for an arial view of the city. It was ok; I'm glad it didn't cost more.
Then we split up from Sarah & caught the tram back but I guess we got on the wrong one bc we had to walk quite a ways still. Rosie went back to the hostel; Amy & I tried the shops but they were closed & then I was on my own for dinner. Took sushi back to the hostel where I ran into Rosie again & met some nice German girls.
I'm not a fan of this hostel. Its huge, everyones really young & not very friendly, its loud as hell bc there's a bar beneath us, and our roommates are smelly boys who spend all day inside on their computers. I would switch but I really like the girls I'm staying with. Ah well, its an experience. :)
Did laundry & waited for it in the common room watching American TV - friends, mad about you & king of queens - seems aussies watch a lot of our stuff.
Not much of a day, but I was in good company & that's what made it nice.
Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ recommendations from ab on what to do in Melbs
And also as I said before, its quite cooler than I expected. In the sun its really nice but the wind is cold. I tried to find a sweatshirt today but the shops were already closed - they only seem to be open 10am to 5pm. That would not fly back home! :)
Anyway. Me & Amy & Rosie (both from England, both solo travellers I met on the bus from Sydney) walked from St. Kilda, our hostels quirky neighborhood, to downtown Melbourne proper. Mistake. It was a long, boring walk along a highway & practically every other car honked or waved or shouted something. I mean really?? Have you never seen girls before? Weird.
Waiting to meet Sarah (from Switzerland, also a solo traveler on the bus with us) at Flinders St. station, we found an adorable cake shop & stopped in for a tiny cupcake & coffee (pictured).
Monday, October 26, 2009
Amy has an old friend living here & she was kind enough to give the three of us a driving tour of the neighborhood. Saw the beach & some sights of the area.
Then we walked one of the main roads of st. Kilda, lined with shops & cafes, had dinner & got cakes from one of the many devilishly tempting bakeries. Mmmm.
Then to the supermarket for the weeks provisions of bread & cheese, and back to the hostel. They'd given us drink vouchers at check-in, so we went to the bar for some live music & beer.
I sat watching all the awkward early 20-ers trying to hook up, to be noticed by the opposite sex. Showing off & posing & self-concious. It made me feel old but in a good way. In an i-know-who-i-am-and-youre-still-figuring-it-out sort of way. I was there & I'm happy to not be. Best of luck, kids.
Of course, its still always nice to be mistaken for 23 (yup, a guy we met guessed that - and he wasn't being nice bc he said it to amy, I wasn't even listening.) :)
And now its time for bed. Tomorrow, I explore. Goodnight.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
So happy to see blue skies again. The farmland is starting to look a bit more Australian to me, not as American-ish. There are some crazy trees with long long skinny skinny pale trunks with branches only growing at the top, reaching up, and bushy leaves on the very top of the branches, like a tree toupee. The houses all have either clay tile or tin roofs; the tin roof ones look older, a bit rusty, vaguely victorian & very Australian.
I'm talking with so many different nationalities that I find myself thinking in an accent or using words & phrases I wouldn't normally use. So if you notice it in my writing, I'm not trying to be pretentious, I'm just easily influenced. ;)
We went to Wilsons Promontory Natn'l park for a bushwalk & wildlife watching. Ventured out to a grassy meadow where we frightened some pink & grey galah birds & came across a mob of kangaroos! (yes it is actually called a mob) there were SO many! Saw a joey climb into the mom's pouch with just his little feet sticking out. Watched them graze & hop & argue; there were a few does teaching their joeys what to eat & one buck laying in the shade. The pics here are awful but I got some really good ones on my camera. It was so so neat.
Our guide showed us the deadly red back spider; I took a picture & then I felt all creepy-crawly. Ick.
Saw cockatoos, emus, wombat holes (but no wombat - they're shy) and brilliant red & blue birds. Saw grass trees, which grow something ridiculous like 3cm every 50 years. Saw streams stained the color of an English cuppa (as in, "would you like a cuppa n a biscuit, luv?") from the tea trees along their edges. Saw eucalyptus trees that had been burned black & looked like they were wearing leafy coats bc of all the new shoots sprouting.
The Australian bush actually needs fire to survive. Some of the plants seeds won't burst unless under extreme temperatures. In California, we rage against wildfires, but here they're an essential part of life. I think the human experience can be likened to the eucalyptus tree; we're often put through very painful challenges but without them we wouldn't grow. The blossoms are worth the fire.
Ok that's my deep thought for the day. :)
We hiked up to the top of the promontory, overlooking Bass Strait which is the body of water between Australia & Tazmania. Amy, Sarah, Rosie & I accidentally walked past the lookout & up to these huge rocks at the very top of the cliff - oh my - the view was spectacular. All around us were green mountains, white beach, the robin-blue sky & turquoise water. And not another human in sight. Unreal.
Hiked down to Squeaky Beach, named as such because it's silica sand & it actually does squeak as you walk in it! On the way down we took some fun pictures in the rocks & shoo'd seagulls & watched the crashing waves draw closer.
The beach itself is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Sand as white and reflective as snow, water in three different shades of bright, gem-like blue, mountains & boulders rising out of the frothy waves. The forest giving way to dunes & hugging this cove of blue & white - water meets sand & sky. Deserted save us and the seagulls. I can't do it justice & really my photos don't either. I hope to never forget it. I just stared as if in a dream, ear to ear silly grin, thinking "I'm actually here." amazing.
What a fantastic day. And we'll be in Melbourne this evening. I'm ready to get off this little rumbly bus & have some more city adventures. Stay tuned...
Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ seeing wildlife in the wild
~ this Oz tour - I would never have seen these things on my own
~ squeaky beach
~ really cool new friends
~ the chewing, staring, peeing cows that streak past the bus window & keep me entertained
When it WAS brekky time (after 45 mins curled back up under the blanket), I ate pancakes & then decided I'd try vegemite.
It tastes like something you're not supposed to eat, like it should have the mr. yuck poison symbol on it. Its salty & strong with a very beer-ish aftertaste. And coffee wouldn't wash it away; I had to eat some peanut butter toast to get the taste out of my mouth. *shudder*
I really like the people on this trip - I get on really well with the 4 other girls: 2 Brits Rosie & Amy, Swiss Sondra, and German Sarah. They're all traveling solo & they're all about my age. Perfect! I think they're staying in Melbourne for a bit too so that will be fun.
Then we took a ski lift up Kosciusko Mtn, the tallest in the continent. We couldn't go up to the very top bc the trail was snowed in, but we did walk halfway up the peak & had hot chocolate at the highest restaurant in Oz.
It was beautiful. Got into a snowball-throwing competition with a giant Barvarian guy & lost miserably. Sank in the snow up to mid-calf. It was fun.
I never expected to see snow here! Thanks chick, again, for your thermals. :) it is SO cold right now & raining for the first time since I've been here. It worries me bc I definitely am not wearing enough layers & didn't pack much in the way of cool or wet weather clothes & it will probably be very cold at night in the red center too. Think I might need to buy a fleece & squeeze it into my bag somehow. :(
Now that we're off the mtn, its pretty rainy & miserable. We have to resort to "plan C" for the day bc we can't do the regular bus itineraries in this rain. Can't see much out the windows but its all farmland anyway & just more of what I saw under blue skies yesterday. It feels like the bus is gonna rattle apart on these dirt roads.
Drove past the famous Snowy River. Got out in the rain to search for platypus but no luck. Went on a rainforest walk, which was beautiful, but between the incessant mosquitoes & the ever-worsening rain, it was hard to enjoy it. Sigh.
Finally got to lakes entrance & the sun came out. Really, sun, really?!!? Now???? Saw black swans on 9 mile beach & then the rain started pouring & it was back to the hostel we went. Had a great time hanging out with the Germans & Swiss; learned a German drinking song amongst all the wine (including my box o wine, which they call "coon".) Now its time to fall asleep to the soothing sound of rain.
Today I'm so happy & grateful for:
~ experiencing different weather here
~ free blankets
~ trying new things
Saturday, October 24, 2009
On the way up the mountain, we saw 5 emus (the emu & kangaroo are national emblems bc they can't walk backwards. I love that!) and a dead wombat, which did not look real; it looked like a child-sized teddy bear someone had discarded out of their car window.
Snow Mountain's real adventures begin tomorrow - today we just checked into the hotel & had dinner at the barvarian-themed (which the Barvarians said was spot-on) bar/restaurant. And our tour guide fed us shots of butterscotch schnapps. And I talked politics with an older British couple (who've been more places in the US than I have) and had a great night getting to know my group.
Before I forget, I have to tell teeter: in Germany, they mix beer with sprite & it tastes sweet. I think you'd like it... :)
Today I am so happy & grateful for :
~ a bus tour where I can meet other solo travelers
~ seeing wildlife
~ a nice room with a nice bathroom & cool roommates
There are 2 Swiss, 2 German, 2 Barvarian, 2 Austrian, 2 French, 4 English, and my little American self on this bus. The Beach Boys are providing the soundtrack to this drive, which strikes me as funny. :)
We just stopped in a tiny town for coffee & now the rolling hills of Bundanoon & Woolagong (not making this up people) are streaking green past my window on our way to the nations capital, Canberra. If you didn't notice the species of trees, you could easily think you were driving through northern California.
We just stopped at the fine wool capital of the world to see a giant concrete merino sheep with giant concrete, um... How do I say this tastefully... udders...? Wink. Hilarious.
Went to the parliament house - surprisingly art deco inside. It was designed by a man from Chicago. Huh. The capital city is known for politics, pot (legal to grow), prostitution (legal), porn (the van nuys of Oz), & pyrotechnics (legal twice a year). Its a wonder the government here functions!
Stopped for lunch at a mall - malls are the same everywhere - complete with early Christmas decorations.
Saw the city from above & then drove by all the embassy buildings. Before he said a word, I knew which was ours - it's red brick with a white fence & basically looks like every colonial-style house in Alexandria, VA. Classically "American". :)
Apparently, aussies rather like Americans bc we helped them in WWII when the brits wouldn't. The Anzac memorial rd made me think of my brother. If - I mean when - you go to Australia, buddy, be sure to spend a day in Canberra at the military museum; it sounds like something you'd enjoy.
As we drive up into the Snowy Mountains through what's left of the Great Dividing Mountain range (one of the oldest in the world, now only boulders- pictured) for our overnight stop in Threadbo, I'm reading the book of Australian short stories my mom gave me. I had to leave behind in Sydney the two novels I was so excited to read, in order to lighten my backpack. Sigh. So I will have to library those books once I get back. (yes, I did just give library a verb form. Sue me.)
Oh no! I just missed a wallaby sighting! Time to put down the phone for some intense window-watching. Stay tuned for the mountains...
Friday, October 23, 2009
We took the ferry out to
Manly Beach - gorgeous ride on a gorgeous day. I like that area; its a little touristy but lovely & not too crowded. I can't get over how blue the water is! Three shades of turqouise!
We successfully avoided the beached jellyfish that were dotting the sand like slimy blue seashells and sat on the beach & talked (so nice to have someone to talk to!) and then had a nice outdoor lunch - tried a fish I've never heard of. Walked around & enjoyed the sunshine.
Took the ferry back & then took the train over the Harbour bridge (we were geeking out over the view while everyone else read their newspapers) to Luna Park. That's where I was told the oldest wooden rollercoaster was... But I was told wrong. Its the oldest wooden Carousel - 100 years old! It was beautiful but not as exciting as an old rollercoaster (death wish? Nah) and cost $10 to ride so I just took a picture. I'm still crossing "ride the oldest wooden rollercoaster at Luna Park" off my wanderlist tho bc really its N/A.
I'm still glad we went there though, because Luna Park is a really cool old 1920s looking place. I know you've seen pictures of the entrance; its a huge sorta girly, frighteningly manly face through whose mouth you have to walk to get into the park. I wish I'd taken a pic with my phone but alas. You'll have to wait to see it dear readers.
Then back over the bridge (again, geeking out) & walked the Quay down to the opera house to see if there was anything cheap we could see um like immediately. The Taming of the Shrew was playing for $55 (all female cast; I got really excited) but it'd just started. The box office lady said I could still see God of Carnage, but the cheapest ticket was $80. I was about to say oh well & walk away to hide my tears, when she said, "wait, how old are you?" Turns out they have an under-30 discount; I got the ticket for $30!
That's a $50 discount. What!!
I mean, excuse me, I'd have to be an idiot to turn that down. And the show was amazing - great acting, brilliant direction, funny & moving & beautiful to watch.
I won't tell you the plot, but I will say: the entire show, the back wall was reflective tiles, not quite mirrors, that let thru cracks of light & on which the actors shadows loomed. With the very last line, "what do we know," and a projected image of a child slamming down a wooden weapon, the tiles shattered & the stage went black. It was such a powerful moment. My heart jumped to my throat & my eyes welled up unexpectedly. It was really beautiful.
So I saw a show at the opera house!! What a high!
Then on the way back to the hostel, we got Indian food, had a couple beers & manifested good things. I'm going to miss chatty roomie (she's not that chatty; she's very cool) but I'm excited to start the next stage of my trip tomorrow.
Thanks, Sydney, you've been lovely.
Today I am so grateful & happy for:
~ recovering from a nasty morning
~ asking for what I want (& getting it)
~ a great new friend
~ a pretty perfect last day in Sydney