Friday, January 29, 2010

Jan. 27 & 28: Farewell, Airlie

My last two days in Airlie Beach were somewhat uneventful. I was feeling kinda low about leaving, and the hostel, as though to provide a suitable setting for my mood, was quiet. How thoughtful of it.

I did laundry, set the blog back to email posting, tried to eat all the rest of my food, wrote a card to thank Nicks parents (who were out of town), and packed. Man, I've accumulated some stuff.

I took my final swim in the hostel pool, floating on my back to dream up at the patches of bright sky through palm trees. That's been one of my favorite things here - blue sky through green leaves, or nighttimes diamond stars, whilst suspended, weightless, in that green salt-water pool.

With all the bon voyages lately, we've worn out the posh pub crawl, and there weren't really enough of us to do the crazy pub crawl, which no one was in the mood for anyway. We decided to have a low-key goodbye BBQ - Nick made burgers & grilled up sausages, and I made a sun-dried tomato pasta salad. We sat down by the hammocks & ate: Ian, Laura, Kate, Chris, Rémi, Nick and me. Stuffed our faces.

After eating, Nick & I got in one hammock and Ian & Laura got in another, and the stepping on each other & rocking & spilling beers & almost tipping over that ensued from such an endeavor had us giggling uncontrollably, long after we were comfortably settled. We all laid in the hammocks, swaying, looking at the stars, making shadow puppets with our feet, laughing. Laughing at nothing. Laughing in friendship. Laughing instead of saying goodbye.

I am so happy & grateful for:
~ clean clothes
~ hammocks & pools
~ time to move on

Xo! n.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Just so's ya know...

I'm about to head back out on the Austrailan road, so I'll be going back to mobile posting.  What does this mean to you, my dear reader?  For at least the next 11 or so days, we'll be back to the crappy phone pictures and lack of formatting you were (probably) so happy to have a respite from the last couple months.  Sorry!  I will hopefully be able to make use of internet cafes at least every second day.  Please bear with me & don't judge a blog post by it's cover!

xo. n!

(image from

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Proud to be a Gypsy

I am so excited to tell you all that I've had the honor of writing a guest post on another blog!!!  

This was the secret thing I was writing the other day - good surprise, huh?  Melly writes Serendipitous in the City, a blog about living in New York City (truly an adventure on its own!) and has a fantastic series of guest posts called The Gypsy Series.  Her Gypsies are women who live life on their own terms, free spirits who go for what they want, even when the task is daunting.  She stopped by my blog a few weeks ago & asked me to write my story for the series; I am so honored to be included in this inspiring group of women!  Check out my Gypsy story here:

And check out the rest of Melly's blog too; it might make you want to take a gypsy caravan out to NYC!  Also, I want to extend a warm welcome to any new readers that might've found me through Melly ~ thank you for stopping by; I'd love to hear from you!

xo! n.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jan. 26: Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!!

Woke up on Australia Day at 7:30am to the smoke alarms regular, high-pitched, incessant beep beep beep.  Not the best way to start the celebrations...

It was a bit cloudy but not really raining, just overcast enough that the hostel was pretty full of people looking for something to do, and on Australia Day, the appropriate thing to do is drink.  Beer, specifically.  VB, Toohey's, or Coopers, to be more specific.  Chris woke up and poured himself a bowl of beerflakes - cornflakes and beer.  Ga-ross.

 our VBs on the bar

I wore my new bathing suit (blue with silver stars in the southern cross formation & on the top it says, I heart OZ) and a few other people wore the green & gold football colors or Aussie flag togs (bathing suits), but no one did it up quite as well as the two resident Aussies: Nick and Chris.  Nick wore blue boardies with the flag down the side and a blue singlet (tank top) that said "Aussie" in red across the chest.  But the piece de resistance was the full-length Australian flag he had tied around his neck like a cape; wherever he walked, it billowed out behind him.  Chris was a self-proclaimed bogan in short blue shorts and a blue singlet with hand-drawn southern cross stars, and a green swim cap.  He had an Australian flag tramp stamp fake tattoo, and had put one on Nick's bicep also, so all day long he went around pointing things out like the bodybuilders on SNL.  They looked hilarious.

Chris & Nick in their Oz outfits

Nicko had to leave so he was down all day, and Nick and Chris went with him to the airport to say goodbye.  And then there were only two Niks...

Spent the day outside with a VB in an Australian stubby holder (coozie), in the pool and on the outdoor couches and behind the bar.  The guys played cricket with a child's cricket set & entertained themselves for hours, while I chatted with some Canadians.  We were in and out of the pool, having cannonball & water splashing competitions & building tall human towers.  Fun.

 Me on Ian on Nick, with "Splash" (UK) officiating

We were planning a BBQ but by dinnertime everyone was too tipsy and lazy to grill, so we ordered pizzas.  I had the Aussie pizza with BBQ sauce, egg, bacon, and onions. Yum. Spent the evening watching You Tube videos, and there was a bit of drama with someone making snide comments - I didn't hear them but Nick did; there was no confrontation, it was just an awkward way to end the day.  No matter though; I'm glad I was able to celebrate Australia Day in Oz with Aussies!

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ local celebrations with locals
~ Triple J radio station
~ excuses to dress up and act silly

xo! n.

Jan. 22, 23, 24 & 25: So many goodbyes...

Spent all day Friday at Nick's house, working.  And when I say all day, I mean ALL DAY.  He and I were there for over 10 hours.  We got heaps done, though, and I actually didn't realize how long we'd been there til we were getting in the car & he told me it was 9:30pm.  Chris, Nicko, Ian, Taco and one of Chris' friends had come to help too, but they were easily distracted & although they did get a lot of yard work done, they were really slow about it & then took all the beer Nick had bought for us & left.  So that was frustrating but oh well.  Luckily, I think it was the last, or nearly the last, day anyone will have to work there; the house is starting to look livable.  We got back to the hostel, ate, and went to bed.

the last time Taco, Nicko & Chris tried to "help out" at the house

The next day was quiet.  Didn't do much; sat & read with Nikki.  Nick joined us & read terrible knock knock jokes out of the books Nikki gave him as a goodbye present.  It was her last full day here; she's going traveling after working 4 months at the hostel.  That night, we all went out on the "posh" pub crawl down the Esplanade - dinner at the food court, drinks at Capers and the Rum Bar.  It was fun, although not the same carefree attitude we'd all had the last time we were there, since we all knew it was a goodbye.

Chris & Nikki at Capers on her last night

Sunday was a sort of blip in my little paradise.  I was feeling really down.  I think that being lazy and useless has run it's course, and I'm tired of feeling like a kid who has to ask permission for everything - I can't go anywhere because I can't drive, and I don't have my own computer so I always have to borrow one in order to communicate with the world outside Airlie.  It's not that anyone begrudges me these things, people are always willing to share or give me a ride, etc, but I'm just not used to being so dependent.  At first it was nice to be disconnected, but it's gotten stale, and what put me over the edge was getting an email from my best friend & knowing she needs to talk to me but not being able to just pick up the phone and call her.  On top of that, everyone had gone down to the Sailing Club for a goodbye lunch for Nikki & I'd mistakenly not been invited & felt left out.  Ain't gonna lie, I spent half the day hiding in my dark room, feeling heaps of childish self-pity.

Eventually, when Nick got off work, he came up to see what was wrong & I told him how I was feeling.  He totally understood & said that from now on, I could have his computer all day while he's behind reception; it'll keep him from goofing off when he should be working, and give me a lifeline outside the hostel.  Good compromise; I still felt down.

Came down to the hostel where everyone was back & asking where I was, why hadn't I come to lunch, was everything ok?  It's amazing how much better it is to get out of your own head &back into the real world, where people love you.  The boys played pool & I taught everyone the American version of beer pong - they were playing it like ping pong, paddles and all, with 2 cups of beer on the table.  Silly.  Nikki's bus left at midnight & we'd all signed a t-shirt for her; when she saw it, her eyes welled up.  Nick & Chris played some music as we waited to walk her to the greyhound stop, and then when the time came, it was raining so we said our goodbyes & Chris just drove her.  I lamented, "we never got just a pretty picture of the two of us smiling & looking nice!"  And Nick said, "well that's not really the way you girls are together," which I have to concede is true.  I'm going to miss that crazy girl.

A typical picture of Nikki & me, and the closest we have to a nice smiley one - widemouth smiles!!

Next day, I slept in, had some of Nick's parents good instant coffee (yes, there is such a thing), and wrote for a while.  I can't tell you what I was writing just yet because it's a surprise!  So shhhhh...

Stopped by the house on our way to the store, and ended up staying there much longer than any of us intended.  There was really nothing for me to do, his dad hung curtians & he installed a doorknob; it's pretty amazing the house has gone from the state it was in to me being able to sit on the stairs bored because there's nothing to work on.  Awesome.  AND, all our hard work has really paid off - there has already been a couple looking at it, expressing interest to buy.  Double awesome.

Finally made it to the store, where Nick bought me an Australian flag bikini for Australia day (tomorrow!).  I fought & fought & fought him on it, but he insisted, even sneaking it up to the counter & paying for it while I was still in the changing room. 

We got back to the hostel in time to shower & change for Nicko's last night dinner - everyone is leaving!!!  You arrive at a place thinking the people you meet are the people that are going to stick around, forgetting this isn't normal life, this is a hostel.  Nick's grown up here; it must be hard to always say goodbye.  Waiting to walk into town, the boys played guitar & I had a great conversation with Shari, a Canadian who's trying to get her partner's visa to live with her Australian boyfriend.  She is a really interesting girl - she works in PR, but she also writes a food blog!  Check it out - yummers: If I Could Taste the World

Nick & Chris probably playing very gay chick songs.  They are nerds.

We walked down to the Esplanade, where I had my favorite dish from the noodle bar - that place is so delish.  Had drinks at Capers & played pool, all the guys got wedgies (Nicko tucked his shirt into his underwear then Ian & Chris hiked their pants up to their boobs & Laura took the advantageous situation into her own hands & hiked their undies up SOOOOO high!! They were walking like crabs.  Hilarious.), then over to the Rum Bar for a Yum Yum (a drink that makes you say... "yum!") and an unwanted conversation with a really unfriendly Aussie girl.  Despite her attempts to taint us with her ickiness, it was a fun night.

I am so happy & grateful for:
~ people wanting to buy Nicks house!
~ meeting new people
~ facebook (keeping in touch with everyone I have to say goodbye to)
~ allowing myself a down day

xo! n.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jan. 21: Surprises

Nicko had said we were going to work on the house so I got up & got dressed in my paint clothes, but he seemed to have forgotten and we never went.  I honestly didn't really feel like it anyway so I wasn't fussed.  Spent the day reading and sitting in the pool and lounging in the still-quiet hostel.

There was some drama between Nick and his parents, who own the hostel.  They keep telling him to take a holiday, take me on a trip, because he works too hard (true) and needs a break.  They also want him to go on a brochure run to hostels between here & Brisbane to advertise the hostel, which could be perfect because my flight leaves from Brisbane & it could be a little road trip for us.  However, every time he's suggested he go, they've said that he can't leave because they need him here to manage the hostel.  It's very contradictory and it's really been frustrating him.  It put him in a terrible mood all day, compounded by the fact that I have to leave soon (sob!) and realized I needed to start thinking about bus schedules etc. etc.


When he got off work, he went upstairs to "have it out" with his parents.  I busied myself in the kitchen, making a dinner of risotto (kind of ended up tasting like grits! I'd been trying to describe them...) with chicken, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and black olives.  He came back down just as dinner was done, very mopey, one-word answers, thunder in his look.  I sighed and thought, ok, I'm really going to have to start thinking about when I need to catch the bus & how long I should be in Brisbane...

He sat down to eat, silent, not touching his food, and I said "talk to me."  Without looking at me, he opened his calendar to the back and pointed to a list scratched out in black pen.  It took me a few minutes to realize what I was reading, and then I shreiked!  It was a tentative itinerary for our ten-day trip down to Brisbane!!  Penned by his dad, of all people!  Then he finally smiled, in a "gotcha!" sort of way, and said he'd have to work hard this next week getting everyone trained & getting the house done, but we're leaving next Friday on the southern brochure run!  And we're hitting all the things I wanted to see but wasn't sure I'd be able to get to.  So excited.  We spent the rest of dinner looking into rental cars & hostels, and discussing what we want to see at each stop.

It was Taco's last night here, so we all went out for the usual pub crawl.  Beaches for free pitchers of beer, then Paddy's for a live band.  This time, though, we went to Evo after Paddy's to hear the new DJ, who was quite good.  We were all being silly & crazy, dancing like fools, as per usual.  The Estonian girls Taco had hooked up with were dancing like strippers & the guys at the next table were taking pictures & leering.  Um, yeah, that's what happens when you act like that.  Surprise, surprise.  Chris & I did "modern art" couch poses in Evo, and someone random had brought out a blow-up doll, which the guys were taking ridiculous pictures with.  We all stopped in Mackers for a late night snack (MacDonalds is their Taco Bell), as per usual, and Chris made a big fuss about wanting vegemite for his fries.  Ugh ga-ross.  All in all, it was a fun night out & Taco had a good send-off.

Chris & I as modern couch art

Taco having fun

Nikki & I with monocles and mustaches!

I am so happy & grateful for:
~ surprises
~ fun friends who aren't afraid to be silly
~ things to look forward to

xo! n.

Jan. 20: Wild life

Woke up early(ish) because both Sarahs (Aussie Sarah & Kiwi) were leaving & I wanted to be able to say goodbye.  Kiwi left first, and we didn't  actually say goodbye, just see you later.  Now I have to visit New Zealand!

Nicko & I walked down to the lagoon with Sarah so she could take some pictures; just like me, she remarked at how she has heaps of pictures of people doing silly things & nights out, but almost none of the actual place -- and it's such a beautiful place!!

Airlie Beach - a picture of the place!

We hiked a mysterious driveway that she's been eyeing since she got here (turns out there is absolutely nothing at the top - no haunted house, no vine-covered romantic shambles, not even a forest.  Just the backs of some average apartment buildings. Boooooring.), walked along the beach but couldn't get in the water, and they got smoothies and we sat in the grass to slurp them.  It was hot.  I knew the two of them probably wanted time alone & felt a little 3rd wheel-ish, but she had demanded I come (she said, "you have to come with us!") so there I was.

We went back to the hostel & pretty soon it was time for her to leave.  I hugged her goodbye & Nicko walked her down to the bus stop, and suddenly the hostel was quiet.  I mean quiet.  No one was around.  Staff were cleaning & industrious (good on them!) and the few guests that were around were sitting quietly reading.  The party atmosphere the two Sarahs had brought dissipated immediately as the last one walked out the door.

I took up Nick's computer & blogged.  And chatted online with my dad.  And chatted online with friends.  And facebooked.  And tried to load pictures (to no avail, sorry guys).  And I was on the computer for hours.

Once Nick was done working, I had gotten sick of staring at a computer screen, jumped in the pool, and was sitting at the bar, comforting Nicko, who was really quite down about Sarah leaving.  He was playing sad songs & being mopey, and every few minutes he'd sigh, cuss, and whinge, "why'd she have to go and leave me?"  Poor guy.

night sky, from

Nick pulled me from my barstool & onto a lounge, where we had a good talk & decided to get takeaway for dinner & eat under the stars.  We went to a fish & chips shop then drove out to his favorite secret spot - a lookout over the marina - where the stars shine clear and bright and, I'm not kidding, you can see galaxies. 

It had been a little rainy, and there were big fat cane toads everywhere; I almost stepped on two!  As we were eating, we noticed a little baby opossum creeping tentatively toward us along the fence.  We named him Barry & tried to give him a fry but he was really scared of us.  Finally, we sat stock still, making no noise, and he picked his way down and over to our table, and was sniffing just a few inches from my foot when we decided it might be dangerous for him to get any closer & we moved, scaring the bejeezus out of him, I'm sure.  He shot off to the bush & didn't show his cute little face again.

this isn't actually Barry, but it's pretty much what he looked like.

Later, talking, staring at the sky, Nick said urgently, "what is that?" and looked intensely into the very dark bush and kinda scared the crap out of me.  We were pretty alone up there & it was pretty dark outside our little picnic area; immediately my overactive imagination sprang to work, conjuring up serial killers with machetes and wild rabid dingoes.  Then he said, "is that a snake?" and my imagination said, oh yes, I'll take it from here, and filled my mind with venom-dripping fangs & giant muscular squeeze-y snake bodies.  Shudder.  He got up to take a closer look & before I could grab him to stop, I saw where he was looking and froze.  It was a tiny little, kind of adorable, baby snake sleeping in the chain-links of the fence.  Awww.  We named him Stephen and took pictures, which woke him up & he lazily stretched himself out & slithered up the links to a different spot on the fence.  Nick asked if I wanted to touch him, "you can touch him, you're with an Aussie" (haha!) but I respectfully declined.  He identified it as a children's python & said it wouldn't hurt us, and it's not that I don't trust him, but more that its a wild snake and I am a sane person.  He didn't touch it either.

Stephen the snake

We wanted to warn Barry about Stephen but he was nowhere to be found.

On the drive home, I leaned my head back and watched the trees whiz by us on either side as the glittering night sky stayed constant.  Beautiful.

Today I am so grateful & happy for:
~ getting up close & personal with friendly Australian wildlife
~ the sky full of southern hemisphere stars
~ internet

xo! n.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jan. 19: Pool party

Slept in after our fun night out.  Got up & Nick suggested we walk into town for a real brekkie.  We invited Kiwi, since she'd come all the way over here to catch up with Nick & because of his back, he hadn't really spent much time with her all week.  And besides, I like her company too.  :)

We walked down to eat at Airlie Waterfront, but they'd recently changed their menu so we changed our minds and went to Capers - great idea.  Capers is locally owned & managed and they use almost exclusively local meat and produce, as well as offsetting the carbon they do produce by planting trees.  I love it.  And the food was deeeelicious.

We had a great time talking & laughing & stuffing our faces.  Our coffees came with mint chocolates... mmm...  Nick and Kiwi got to catch up and reminisce.  It was really relaxed and nice.


After a sweaty, sweaty walk back to the hostel, we immediately jumped in the pool - ahhhh.  The guys set up a new pool volleyball net & we played for a while, getting into teams of Sarahs versus Niks, three each.  So funny that there are enough of us with the same name to do that!

Nick and new staff member Remi (French) had to take the bus over to get new tires & Kiwi & I went with so we could pick up food for the night's BBQ.  As the tires were being changed, we walked over to a bar with pokies & Kiwi & I had a beer while Nick played the slots & won $60 in about 2 minutes.  Nice.

Picked up the van, stopped by the bottle shop to pick up some beer, then to Coles for food to feed 15, and back to the hostel.  The bar was open, music was playing, and everyone was in the pool or hanging around outside making friends.  Kiwi & I cracked open a beer; she wanted to drink on her last night & since Nick's still off the grog, I promised I'd join her.  After one beer, we decided we were already hungry & should've bought appetizers; luckily Kate was there with a car & agreed to drive us to the IGA, where we picked up some crackers and dip & then proceeded to demolish them back at the hostel.  With a bit of help from the boys, of course.

Kiwi, Nicko, Chris, Kate and the dips... mmm...

Played the trivia quiz and - woot woot - won!!  Met two new people, Cherie (Canadian) and Alex (German) because they joined our team, and when we won, we shared the (absolutely terrible) champagne prize with anyone who was interested.  :)

Kiwi, Sarah & I made a pasta salad with beans, corn & carrots, and  when Nick announced the BBQ meats were done, we all assembled in the kitchen for another great community meal.  After eating, a movie was put on, and a bunch of us sat in the pool to watch it - Nicko & Ian even submerged plastic chairs & sat on them in the pool!  I'm too short for that; I had to sit on the steps.

After the movie, a lot of people wandered off but there were still groups lounging around.  Nick got out his guitar & started playing, and Kiwi, two Estonian girls, and I sang along.  With the confidence booster of beer, I slowly got up the nerve to sing louder & louder, and when Nick started playing Hootie & the Blowfish, I was the only one besides him who knew the song & we were singing in harmony.  I was a little embarrassed when we finished and Ian & Laura and some other people down at the grill started clapping; I know I don't have that great of a singing voice, but it was really fun.

I am so happy & grateful for:
~ having fun playing volleyball
~ impromptu sing alongs
~ BBQs with friends

xo! n.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan. 16, 17 & 18: Airlie antics

Spent Saturday keeping the invalid company.  Lounged around, lazy as can be, watching stand-up comedy on YouTube, talking, eating crisps and tim tams (Australian "biscuits" aka cookies).  We tried to internet stream my favorite movie, Almost Famous, but it came up subtitled in Japanese with the audio waaaaay off.  I went to the video store to rent it but they didn't have it!  So I rented my second favorite, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and we watched that with the shades drawn & the aircon pumping.  Went down to the hostel for breakfast and dinner, and didn't really do much else that day.  Lazy, lazy, lazy.

a lazy still from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Next day,  Kiwi, Nicko, Sarah and I went down to the Lagoon, which is a huge saltwater pool next to the beach.  In this area, the jellyfish are deadly; despite how blue and tempting it is, you really can't swim in the ocean, so everyone hangs out at the lagoon.  We sat in the shade, I wrote in my journal for a while, we talked and swam.  There was a large family in the water building human pyramids & towers of people standing on each other's shoulders; it looked like so much fun! I wanted them to adopt me!

Airlie Beach Lagoon

On the way home, we stopped at Cold Rock for some ice cream - I got cheesecake ice cream with rasberries & rocky road folded in - and I got one for Nick, his favorite, though it melted almost completely in the 5 minutes it took us to walk home.  He still appreciated it.

Nick had to work, and his back seemed to be feeling a lot better, which was good to see.  He and Chris were practicing guitar. Behind reception, they cranked up Taylor Swift & played along. If you'd turned off the sound, they'd have looked really manly & attractive, strumming intensely, but with that poppy teen-chick music blaring, I could not stop giggling at how ridiculous they looked. The music ended & they cracked up. "You guys are gay together" I said. Chris said, "your face is gay."  Touche, sir. Touche.

Speaking of gay, that night, the guys told the girls we could pick the movie (it's always some dude action movie!) and we got really excited but then they went back on their word & ended up playing the new James Bond movie - grrr.  Nick convinced Nicko & Chris to let us watch TV in the "gentlemen's club" and a total chick flick was on - yay!  The funny thing is, once all the girls were hanging out in there watching the girly movie, all the guys slowly filtered in & watched it too.  They should've just let us play what we wanted to begin with.  :)

The next day was more chilling out, hanging by the pool.  I got to talk to Chick & Todd on skype and I gave them the skype tour of the hostel & they got to "meet" everyone.  It was really fun talking to them; it made me miss home.

Nikki, Sarah, me, Kiwi Sarah making silly faces

Both Sarahs were leaving Wednesday, so we decided to go out Monday night instead of Tuesday so that they could recover on Tuesday.  A big group of us went to Paddy's for some crazy dancing - Nikki, Sarah, Kiwi, Kate and I danced like different animals and made silly faces and were just generally being nerds - and then to Mama Africa's for real dancing.  It was a really fun night out with really fun people.

I am so grateful and happy for:
~ silliness
~ favorite movies
~ friends cooking dinner for all of us
~ ice cream on a hot day!

xo! n.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jan. 15: certifiable

Dragged my lazy butt out of bed at 6:30am and met Ian, Laura, Nicko, Sarah, and Kiwi Sarah at the top of the drive to be picked up for a boat trip!

We sailed out on the catamaran Illusions to Blue Pearl Bay for a day of diving & snorkling. It was really rainy on the 2 hour trip there. We didn't mind too much; we sat outside anyway, laughing at the weird Spanish music the skipper was playing & singing "I'm on a boat" and "puke in my mouth" (silly parody snl songs). There was a large hairy old guy in a budgie smuggler (speedo) & we called him puke in my mouth because no one wanted to see what he was smuggling, but no one could look away. It was like a hairy naked car crash.

we found a real-life Nemo!

Since I've been here, I've asked every boat I've dived on if they could get me officially certified - my instructor in CA wasn't able to take me on my final dive so I'm scuba certified but I have to dive with an instructor. I only need one of those instructors to agree to do the final skills test & sign off on the paperwork to give me my PADI open water certification; everyone had said no... until today. The instructor agreed to test me on my dive, which made me very happy - and very nervous.

We suited up (those uber-flattering stinger suits again) and hit the water. It was a big group of divers this time & tho I was paired with Kiwi, who's a dive master, we were right behind the instructor so she could keep an eye on me.

Right away, my mask was flooded. I tried clearing it, tightening it, pushing back my hair; no matter what I did, it immediately filled back up with water. Terrible way to begin! The instructor & Kiwi kept telling me to clear it but it did no good - finally I had to trade masks, underwater, with my instructor. It was embarrasing but I'm proud of myself for keeping my cool. Thanks, Buck, for the solid training in mask removal!

the instructor trading masks with me, surrounded by a school of fish

Even though I was much more comfortable with the new mask, I was really flustered & that combined with the fact that I was over-weighted & had to put some air in my bcd (I'm really paranoid about shooting up to the surface), made me swim erratically. I kept sinking & bumping into coral, and then that would freak me out so, like a complete doofus, I'd ball up to try to avoid killing the reef, and then I'd spin into an awkward position & look like an idiot trying to swim out of it. This happened more than once. Worst diving I've ever done; so embarrassing.

It didn't help that we were swimming in really narrow passageways & my tank knocked me on the back of the head every time I dove headfirst. I felt like the most uncoordinated person alive & was cussing into my regulator.

FINALLY, I calmed myself down & started to swim like a normal, sane person. And it started to get fun.

one of the coral shelves

We swam through underwater arches (I did the second one perfectly - apparently, most of the other more experienced divers didn't even try) and down between thick banks of coral. Saw clownfish (we found nemo!) guarding anenomes and little worms poking out of their holes. We swam through lots of schools of fish; they were just swimming past, surrounding us like we weren't even there. The visibility wasn't great but it was a beautiful dive.

Despite my improvements, I was still embarrassed & really worried that the instructor wouldn't approve me for my certification. Kiwi told me it really wasn't that bad but I just thought she was being nice. Tried to brush it off & hung out on the beach with the other 4 who snorkeled.  Later, back on the boat, the instructor did sign off on my paperwork; I am now officially PADI open water scuba certified!!!!  Yahoo!!

While hanging out under the grey sky on the beach, we all sat in the surf and on the rocks, relaxing. Sarah found a piece of coral that looked like... um... a male body part. Cracked us up. Ian & Laura borrowed my camera to take silly underwater pictures. We made friends with a little Australian boy, about 5 years old, who threw coral & lost shoes. It drizzled & we took the raft back to the boat.

Me and Aussie Sarah snorkeling

Had lunch as we motored to the next spot. Sitting on the bow, as soon as the boat started moving, our food flew off our plates! We giggled as we slid around the boat collecting lettuce & pasta. Oops.

The boat moored and we swam out to the reef, which was a lot further than it looked; Laura reckons she got a cramp & nearly drowned.  We all goofed off, snorkling, taking silly underwater pictures, diving under to scare clams into clamping closed their neon-colored "mouths."  The time passed very quickly & before we knew it, the dinghy was speeding by with the instructor yelling at us to start swimming back to the boat.  On our way back, still snorkeling & goofing off, we suddenly saw a turtle!!!  It was just hanging out in a little bed of coral, relaxing, coolly regarding us with big black heavy-lidded eyes.  We were soooo excited; it held us up for a good long while & then we really had to book it on the swim back to the boat.  Exhausting.

our turtle mate

The boat ride back was REALLY choppy; the stormy weather had created large swells & the boat was just plowing through them, jarring us with every wave & causing the empty dive tanks to clang against the metal bars around them and giving everyone on board a headache.  I was feeling really sick so I sat at the back of the boat staring at the horizon, but with the smell of petrol and the noise of the tanks, things were not improving.  I took a chance and moved to the bow, where although I was getting slammed by the massive waves, I immediately felt better and it was actually really fun to sit in the sea spray.

I ended up sitting next to puke in my mouth man, who, I'm embarrassed to say, was actually a very nice Italian & we had a very nice conversation.  I think he tried to ask me out though; I had to drop the "boyfriend" bomb a couple times.  I did feel a little bad about us making fun of him, but his friendliness did not detract from the fact that there was just waaaay too much on display.  Yikes.

We got back to the hostel & discovered that Nick had had a terrible day.  He couldn't come with us on the boat because he'd committed to playing golf, even though he'd told them the day before that rain was forecasted.  Well, golf got rained out, like he thought it would, but they called it off too late for him to make the boat, so to vent his frustrations, he & Chris played basketball.  All was going well until CRACK! he threw his back out & had to go to the emergency room.  Dang.

I came back to a very grumpy, bed-ridden, in pain boy.  Poor guy.

The girls and I had already made plans to go out for a girls night that night; I felt bad leaving him but he told me he wanted me to go.  I think he wanted to sulk alone - I know I would've.

Sarah, Sarah, Nikki, Nikki, Kate, Kate at Airlie Beach Waterfront

Girls night in Airlie Beach!  Six of us went out & it was pretty hilarious: two Nikkis, two Kates, two Sarahs.  Not kidding.  We had dinner in the food court & then went to a couple nice restaurants for drinks.  We had total girl bonding time, talking about things we can't talk about with the boys around.  It was great.  At the end of the night, we were playing shakeyface (!) and walking home singing "I would walk 500 miles..." and clucking like chickens.  Don't ask me why.  It was hilarious at the time.  Great night.

I am so happy and grateful for:
~ being an official scuba diver, finally!
~ new fun girl friends
~ seeing a turtle
~ Nick didn't hurt himself too badly & just needs to rest
~ fun adventures

xo! n.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jan. 13 & 14: hello sunshine

A whole lot more of nothin' much. Two Sarahs arrived Wednesday, unrelated, Nicko's Aussie girl & a British girl who used to work here 2 years ago & came to surprise Nick. They're both cool; its nice to have some more fun girls around.

Talked with UK Sarah (I'm going to call her Kiwi bc she's lived in New Zealand for 2 years & wants to make it her permanent home) for a while about theater; she's done some amdram & though she's more of a dancer than an actor, it was a good conversation. It reminded me what I really love about live theater.

She also showed me pictures of where she lives - absolutely gorgeous. Stunning mountians with waterfalls into cold lakes; exactly how you'd picture New Zealand.

Sarah's photo of where she lives - Millford Sound

Someone overfilled the pool so it was our duty to splash it out. Cannonballs, flips, wrestling & jumping onto blow-up alligators ("crikey, she's a beaut!"), watergun fights and various other irresponsible activities occurred under the guise of helping out. Hee hee... It was fun.

The newspaper came out with our pictures in it from the other night out - we're famous! Nick cut them out & put them up at reception, labeling each staff member by what they do. Chris & I, being the only ones pictured who aren't staff, were labeled as hostel slut & travel expert, respectively. Chris is pretty proud of his title (ha ha), and I could get used to the title "travel expert" but I think I need to live up to it.

I skyped with my Side Work gang; it was their first production meeting since our show closed in September. It was so good to see everyone & even though I had some problems with the sound, I had a fantastic time talking to them. Nick made fun of me because I was talking & laughing so loud. I can't help it, I was excited. :)

I am so happy & grateful for:
~ skype! And people caring enough about me to want to talk to me
~ playing like kids
~ comfy sundresses

Xo! n.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jan. 12: exploring the Cape

Woke up to find that Nick had done my laundry for me! AND he'd planned a fun day out! How very nice.

We took the convertible & drove out to Cape Hillsborough, a nature (naahture, as he & I like to say it, ha ha) reserve. Once again, we drove through those beautiful cane fields bordered by tree-covered mountains, and passed from sunny skys to rain to sun again.

At the cape, we hiked up to the lookouts through dense forest. It was damp & humid, and the mozzies were out in force; I am now covered in bites. Oh well. Nick pointed out little lizards, dangerous vines, and the trees that aboriginals used to make boomerangs. There was absolutely no one else around; it was quiet & still, and the views were beautiful. Bright & deep shades of blue water with the shadows of clouds passing over & the white caps of waves intermittent.

the view from Cape Hillsborough of Alexander Point Island & the rocky sandbar we crossed

We hiked back down to the beach & since it was low tide, we walked the rocky sandbar out to Alexander Point Island. It was hot, we couldn't get in the water bc of jellyfish, and the island was just sand & trees, so we sat on the rocks for a bit, admiring the view, and then headed back.

Picking our way over the ankle-twisting rocks, we took our time & peered into tidal pools, looking for little creatures & fun shells.

We walked back along the beach instead of venturing back into the mozzie-infested trees. Dug our toes in the soft sand & let the surf wash over our feet. There were really cool huge rocks along the beach crawling with little red-claw crabs and lizards darting up every which-way & into every crevice. Ocean or rain water had created little pools in the rocks & we noticed barnacles, anenomes, and other creatures poking their heads out of various shapes of shells. The rocks were like little universes of their own & the 5 year old in me wanted to shrink down & explore them.

All along the beach were tiny balls of sand; Nick explained that the sand crabs roll them up & eat the nutrients out of them. Obviously, they were placed randomly but we kept seeing pictures in them, like staring at clouds. Nick was really on a roll, seeing something in each cluster we passed; I called him the crab ball whisperer.

the crab balls!

On the way back, we tried to stop at a cute little, very Aussie tea house, but it was closed - everything seems to be closed on Tuesdays! - so we stopped in a nothing-much town & had takeaway burgers from a convenience shop.  They were classic Aussie burgers - beef patty (called mince), lettuce, beetroot, pineapple, bacon (not like our bacon, really a slab of ham), mayo & cheese.  I could not keep that burger together to save my life; it spilled all over my pants and smeared across my face & hands.  Nick, to whom these burgers are nothing new, ate the entire thing without any more than a bit of sauce on the side of his mouth, and watched me, laughing.  I whinged, "I'm a mess!" and he said "yup" and pulled me close for a hug anyway.

The little park (& signpost of the town, apparently) where we ate our sloppy burgers

Got back to the hostel, read for a bit, overheard some girls classifying types of backpackers (the "boardshort bachelor" the "wet t-shirt bikini babe" the "daddy's credit card packer"), then showered & dressed for dinner.

Nick's parents are taking a couple weeks off of alcohol so they planned a big blowout dinner party with their best friends & invited me too. The food was amazing (my first time eating oysters - the adults were very childish, giggling at what effects they might have) and the company was enjoyable.  One of the couples are multi-millionaires, I learned later, but you would never guess it.  Very down-to-earth people, most of their conversation was around the cattle station they own in the northern territory.  One of the other men, when he found out I'm American, surprised me by extolling the virtues of America & how much he loves my country.  Travelling, I'm used to encountering the opposite, but I've noticed that the few people who've seen more than just America's big cities tend to have really good things to say about it.  It's mostly the people who've never been & who get their information from movies & TV & the news that have the worst things to say about us.  Interesting. 

All in all, it was a beautiful day & a lovely evening.

Today I am so grateful & happy for:
~ day trips from Airlie & the weather being good
~ convertible tops
~ learning new things every day

xo! n.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Great Barrier Reef

These are some of my favorite pictures from snorkling & scuba diving the reef.  Yes, they're all mine - either I took them or my friend T did.  Enjoy!





Related Posts with Thumbnails