Sunday, February 28, 2010

Photo Recap: Blue Mountians, NSW Australia

all photos taken by me; please dont steal :)

Digital Nomad.

Figured it out.  That's the official name for what I want to be.

In this world recession, more and more people are taking their talents on the road (and plane and boat) and working remotely via the internet.  There are web designers working on beaches in Bali and consultants working in the Swiss Alps.  They don't buy into the fallacy that you have to be chained to a desk, or even a city, to make a living.

And neither do I.

For years, I've known I love to write and I adore travel.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I wouldn't buy a big house or produce a film, I'd set out for a world tour, and I wouldn't be able to resist writing about it.  Therefore, what could be better for me than to establish myself as a travel writer?

print by 3LambsGraphics on

You're going to see some changes to this blog; they will be slight and gradual, most likely, but I'm working on a format that will be my voice in the travel industry.  I believe everyone can travel, regardless of age or income, and I hope to encourage people to broaden their perspective by seeing the world.

You have all been an incredible support to me; thank you so much for reading & following this blog.  Please continue to stick with me (teaser: I have some really exciting news coming soon!) through these changes, and please spread the word about The Grateful Sparrow.  Anyone who wants to travel but doesn't think they can, who feels stuck in a job or life they're not happy with, who wants to make a change but is afraid - please send them my way.  If I can do it, anyone can.

Today I am so grateful and happy for:
~ starting out on a new adventure
~ your support & love
~ possibility

xo! n.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photo Recap: Sydney

...and there you have it.  Finally, some of my favorite pictures from Sydney, my first week in Australia. Stay tuned for more cities...  All pics were taken by me (except the ones of me, which were taken by a kind stranger & chatty roomie, respectively), so please, if you'd like to borrow, give credit.  Thanks!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Sometimes good things just happen.  And it's weird when you kinda put it out there wanting them to happen, but not in an obsessive way, just in thinking, "I kinda feel like a granny smith apple right now..."

...and then your friend walks out and offers you her granny smith apple.

That actually did happen to me.  Delicious, nutritious and surprising.  And recently I've been thinking how badly I need a haircut but I can't afford it so ...oh well.  Today, I bartended with a really cool guy who, afterward, needed a ride to the bus stop.  Well, it was late and rainy and I refused to drop him at the bus stop - it's not safe! - and instead took him home.  In return, he offered to give me a free haircut!  Turns out he's a hairstylist at a swanky West Hollywood salon.  Wha??

I love stuff like that.

I don't think it's pure coincidence either; I believe that the more grateful you are for whatever is already in your life, and the less attached you are to the things you want (aye there's the rub!  unattachment is the hard part, but lets start with the little stuff), the more likely you are to get the things you ask for. 

So let's try it, friends.  What are you so grateful and happy for today?

I'm so grateful & happy for:
~ the support of my lovely friends
~ serendipity
~ strangers reading & enjoying my blog!!  thank you!

xo! n.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jump for Joy!

I have just been featured as Travel Blog of the Day by Travel Blog!!!

Check it out here


Booze Wench.

I have been a busy busy bartender.  Went to Fontana, CA, where I bartended at a Nascar race and was on my feet for 33 hours in 3 days.  Exhausting.  But profitable.  And, oh my, the rednecks.  I don't like to stereotype people, but Nascar brings out a certain ...shall we say... breed of people.  The mullets.  The toothless grins.  The middle-aged men making extremely inappropriate jokes that make me thank the Lord above that there's a wide counter between us.  The women that look like teenagers from the back with their tight jeans, midriff tops and bottle blond hair, only to turn around, revealing their age in a face with all the creases and coloring of a rotten apple.  I don't mean to be nasty, there are also some really lovely people there that defy the stereotype.  People who make friendly conversation and don't egg me on with "pour some more, darlin', I'm a grown man, I can take it" when the glass is already half full of liquor.  There are some people that are so nice & generous that I just want to reach on over that bar & give them a big hug.  But it really is quite a fun place to people watch.

our bar at Nascar

It was a tiring weekend; the company put us up in a hotel but it was 4 adults in a room with 2 full-size beds, waking up at 4am to open the bar at 7, crowds 50 deep pushing toward your bar as Styx (yes, Styx live - those guys are old but I gotta admit, they sounded good) blared "come sail away..." and I had to communicate with customers via pointing.  BUT I worked with friends, which makes everything better, and we made enough for my March rent, which is a relief.

Then, tonight, I bartended a pre-made margarita stand in a Banana Republic & it was the easiest job I've ever done.  And I got tipped!  Tomorrow I'm bartending at a sailing club and Saturday I'm bartending a wedding.  Yay for easy, un-attached jobs!

I like bartending; everyone loves a bartender.

In other news, my friend Todd did his first public stand-up comedy performance & it was brilliant, as we all knew it would be.  Everyone else at the coffee shop was a comic; he had a fan club.  :)

Two of our friends here just got engaged & are moving back to the east coast.  It's sad, but we all knew it was their plan all along.  They had a goodbye party last night & it was really fun but also a bit depressing.  We're growing up, going our separate ways, moving on.  It's inevitable.

 saying goodbye

And I suppose it's good as well.  Change keeps us alive; everything changes & you have to change with it.  In the words of Ani Difranco: "Buildings and bridges are made to bend in the wind, to withstand the world thats what it takes. All that steel and stone are no match for the air, my friend, what doesn't bend breaks..."

So, ok, I'm bending...

Today I'm so happy and grateful for:
~ profitable temporary jobs
~ creative & talented friends
~ courage to move on

xo! n.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

love in the 21st century

I just got my brand new 13 inch Mac Book Pro, and it is beautiful.  I am in love.
Keep an eye out for some changes to the blog now that I have a high-powered awesome computer to play on...  more details to come later...

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ my new computer!
~ video chatting
~ music

xo! n.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

like a rolling stone...

Gypsy nomad home, sorted!  Just look at these adorable caravans - I could totally make either of these home & still feel free to roam:

My new home was found on!

I know, I know, I'm waaaay romanticizing that lifestyle.  But I've always loved small spaces... maybe it would work...?  :)

xo! n.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Hello again, dear friends. It has been a week since I got back to the US.  A whole week.  A week of sleeping until noon.  A week of not going to bed until 2 or 3 or 6am (and yeah, I'm doing a great job of getting un-jetlagged... insert rolled eyes here.) A week of catching up with friends and driving LA traffic and cold winter toes.  A week of slacking on my blogging duties.

I'm sorry.

It's been... dissapointing.  Waking up to an empty house instead of the riot of a hostel.  Driving streets I could navigate with my eyes closed.  Instead of the tuqouise of Australian oceans, I'm surrounded by the green of a California winter and the grey of a city plauged by too many humans.

my plane flying into California

I'm feeling that old pulse and pull of Los Angeles.  This city feels like no other.  Maybe it's the energy of a million dreams being born and carried and dying in an endless cycle, because this is the city of sleepwalkers in the land of the allmighty American dream.  Maybe it's just the smog.

The first few days back were celebrations.  My friend G was visiting from Texas - he arrived in LA the same day I did! - so there were lots of excuses to go out to bars and stay up late.  It was absolutely wonderful to see Teeter and Chick again and "hug their faces off."  I caught up with some of my other friends, constantly feeling like the annoying person who won't shut up, since every topic made me think of "this one time, in Australia..."  Yeah, I'm that girl.  But my lovely friends are good sports and insited they wanted to hear all about it.  Or they finished my sentences for me, quoting this blog.  :)

Chick, Teeter & I goofing off in our favorite local bar

It's amazing to be able to just pick up the phone and call people; I must've talked to my best friend 5 out of the 7 days I've been back.  It's also lovely to have free (well, not hourly at least) internet, and as soon as my new MacBook Pro (that's right, what what!!) arrives, I'll be able to skype and blog to my little heart's content.  I also cannot describe the joy of collapsing into my own beautiful, fluffy, cozy bed.

But at the same time, I am restless and lonely.  I'm used to being surrounded by new people, constantly learning about other cultures, and although it's nice to be with people who just know me, my friends have jobs and lives that keep them busy.  I have no teddy bear boy to squeeze.  And after four months of living out of a backpack, my room in our small apartment feels overly decadent.  I've cleaned out my drawers and closet, giving two suitcases full of clothes, shoes and bags to a women's shelter.  I'm planning on purging my things similarly.  All the stuff I used to take comfort in - just in case I ever need it someday - now feels suffocating.

Queensland from the air...

There's a dichotomy within me.  I am that gypsy, the adventerous traveller who always has one eye on the horizon and will never be happy for long in one place.  I crave more travel, new experiences, stretching my legs and my self.  I am also a homebody, an American, who values stability and fantisizes about a home that's all her own, wrapping herself up in quilts and being content with a front door and a dog to warm her feet.  I want the comfort of a paycheck and framed photos on the walls, with the excitement of a new sky beyond the window and the freedom to pick up and leave.

I don't know how to marry the two; I don't know what I want.  And therein lies the problem.

As much as I love my friends here, I'm pretty sure I don't want to stay in LA.  Denver and Austin and Hobart and Christchurch are calling.  I could go back to Australia and possibly travel New Zealand and Asia.  I could jump in the car and see my country, making a road trip hit list of the people I love most and hopefully getting back to my regional theatre roots.  Both sound ridiculously and romatically appealing.  But either way, how do I afford it?  And how do I appease the nagging need for a home?  What is my next step forward...? 

Ah indecision, you old dog, you.

I am so grateful and happy for:
~ facebook chat
~ valentine's day cupcakes with old friends
~ ruthless purging
~ freedom

xo! n.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feb. 7: not goodbye

I know I am behind. I know I owe you a recount of the last week. I want to tell you how we got lost on the drive to Noosa, how we drove into a herd of cows & got the truck bogged in Rainbow Beach. I want to tell you about our crappy hostel & amazing dinner in Noosa. About staying with Nicks sister, brother-in-law and baby Jackson, and their beautiful home in Brisbane. I want to tell you about getting drunk with Nicks old friends, the makeshift DJing & wasted-day hangover that ensued. I want to tell you how rain obliterated the city, and how we spent our last night in luxury.

But not now.

Now, I am on the plane back to LA and my face is puffy from crying.

Nick & I had a "fancy" brekkie with mimosas (the waitress asked us what we were celebrating & we said, well, its not exactly a celebration...) and window-shopped Brissie. Then we went back to the hotel, buried ourselves in the back couch of the lobby, and desperately tried to finish the book. We barely made it. It was really good and really sad. I had to stop more than once because I was crying too hard to see the words. Nick didn't laugh, he only said, "oh bub" and held my hand.

I don't really want to talk about the airport. I don't really want to talk about sitting there, holding hands, the weight of a thousand words unsaid, of a thousand questions & possible futures. I don't want to think about the longest hug, letting the entire line go past, the entire plane fill up as I cried into his neck & tried to breathe away the knots in my stomach.

I will tell you that the flight was uneventful, I watched 3 movies & even managed to get a little sleep. The time passed quickly, dream-like. Arriving in LA feels really strange. I breezed through customs at LAX & stepped outside into ...winter. Its winter. Only hours ago I was sweating in a sundress, and now my flip-flops & woven neon anklet seem ridiculously out of place.  I don't think I was ready, or mentally prepared, to come back. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to see friends & family, but ...I don't know doesn't feel like I'm coming home. This city does have a strange pull for me; there's a part of me that loves LA. Its the first place I chose to live, as an adult, without buffer of school or family. It will always have a piece of me, but its not home. I don't know where home is yet.  I don't feel like the adventures over & I don't feel like the Australia chapter is over.

As I boarded the plane, Nick said two things: "remember what you've realized here; don't let yourself go back to settling" and "whatever happens, we both know this is the right step to take. We don't take wrong steps" and he smiled that crooked smile.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ a fantastic road trip
~ great books
~ understanding
~ getting safely to LA

xo! n.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy...

I am over the moon!  

I just (well, a few days ago, but I'm a bit behind) received my very first blog award!!! Courtney, over at the lovely blog Just A Little Mishap, passed on two awards rolled into one, and asked me to name seven things that I love (slash) seven things about myself.  So here goes...

1.  I love peanut butter.  I will put it on just about anything, and often I just eat it with a spoon.  When my friend AB was in Amsterdam, she saw little one-serving packets of pb & they reminded her of me so she sent them to me in a package along with a framed photo.  When I got it, the glass of the frame had shattered, sliced open the pb & everything in the package was a sticky mess.  I salvaged the photo, but not the pb, and that made me sad.
2.  Sometimes I argue just to be argumentative.  But don't you dare point it out when I'm doing it, because I will argue with you.

3.  I love throwing parties, especially when costumes are involved.  I used to be the kid in middle school who hosted themed sleepovers, I'm now the girl (one of a trifecta of party-throwing divas) in my neighborhood who hosts costumed cocktail parties, and I'm sure I'll be the grown-up woman who hosts dress-up dinner parties.

4.  I love afternoon naps with the windows open.

5.  I talk out loud to myself quite a bit when I'm alone.

6.  I love music.  I love discovering new music, sharing it with people who might like it, and knowing about the artists.  I am happier with a soundtrack.

7.  When I was little, I wanted to be either a librarian or an archeologist.  An archeologist so I could dig in the dirt & imagine other lives.  A librarian so I could read all the books.  Did I not realise libraries are free and open to the public...?

And now it's time to pass this lovely honor onto some fellow bloggers -- drum roll please...

Zen Momma at Stalking Sunsets

xo! n.

Feb. 1: Fraser Island muddin'

Woke up early & checked out of the hostel, storing our bags in the truck & climbing on the bus to the ferry to our day trip on Fraser Island.  I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy head, probably from the drying air con in the room; it was a chilly rainy morning & I was grouchy and whinging.  I probably spent the next two hours (and quite a bit more of the day) with my head on Nick's shoulder, sniffling.

The boat to Fraser was a small drive-on ferry with just a little sitting area up top.  We, smartly, sat against the back wall, next to the door so that the cold wind & pricking rain didn't blow in on us as it did on the main seating area in front of us.  After a false start & then turning back around, which confused all of us, the ferry finally took off in the choppy grey water for a 45 minute trip.  Nick spent the time as my pillow, and we both were entertained by the fluffy white cat that had curled itself up under a chair, and the little French girl who, tentative and thrilled, petted and poked it.

the ferry - lifejackets along the ceiling

Arriving on Fraser Island, we boarded a big-wheeled bus in the rain.  Our driver, Jayson, was cheerful, saying he'd only worked here 3 months and had never seen or driven in weather this bad!  He made the trip, but more on that as we go along.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.  It is partially covered by rainforest, which grows directly out of the sand.  Now, take a minute to think about what happens when you dump a whole lot of water on a whole mess of sand...

That's right.  Mud.

The island was mud.  It was slurpy, gooey sand with bath-sized pockets of mud placed directly in the path of our bus' tires.  It was deceptively dry looking sand, treacherously soft, trying to grab at our wheels.  It was dangerous, sticky and slippery, and Jayson loved it.  He conquered it.

Hard to tell how wet it is...

Our first stop was the rainforest, and we got to see it in its element - - raining.  Since I hadn't been feeling well, I'd grabbed my water-resistant jacket, and I was glad I did because we took two steps out of the bus and my shorts were dripping rain & my flip-flops were covered in mud.  Nick, without a raincoat, was soaked through.  We trickled and sloshed our way through the trees, following a clear, silent, sandy-bottom stream.  It was actually kind of fun walking in the rain, but I couldn't really look up because raindrops got in my eyes, and when I looked down, renegade raindrops squeezed themselves in my collar and shivered down my back.  Nick could look anywhere he wanted; he had no chance of keeping anything dry, and he loved it.  He kept saying he's so glad he didn't come on a sunny day.  Every time Jayson stopped us to explain an interesting tree or tell us something about the island, the rain poured harder.  No, it didn't just feel that way because we'd stopped moving, this rain was tricky.

We filed back into the bus, raindrops turned to goosebumps by the air con, laughing at how ridiculously wet we were.  Then the real fun began.  The roads on Fraser are sand, and they're only large enough for one vehicle - especially when that vehicle is a bus.  We were flying along, half the time without windshield wipers, through the rain, tree branches slapping us hi-fives and muddy potholes bouncing us like a carnival ride.  I can't explain the pothole bumps except to say that if we hadn't been wearing our seatbelts, there were more than a few times we would've hit the ceiling.  I'm not exaggerating.  And Nick and I were sitting over the wheel; there were some older ladies in the back, probably in their 60's, who were bouncing the worst.  They were giggling like schoolgirls.

Nick & I, back on the bus, soaking (he's pointing at the raindrops on his cheek)

Next stop was the resort for an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Jayson suggested a Bundy & coke to warm us up, and that's exactly what Nick & I, and the other Aussie couple on board, did.  The food was good & thawed us out.  We realised the weather was probably not getting any better, which worried us a bit since our plan had been to drive that night, after our Fraser Island day, down to Noosa for a kayaking everglades tour the next morning.  Nick called the Noosa company, hoping to not be charged for late cancellation, and found that the tour was already cancelled because of weather anyway, since there were 33 knot winds!  I am really glad I don't have to paddle a kayak in that kind of storm.  They hadn't called us because they'd written Nick's number down wrong, so it's a good thing we called.  We called Next Backpackers & got ourselves another night's stay so we didn't have to drive, and it was all sorted.

Speaking of storms, the Aussie couple on the bus told us that they saw that Airlie Beach had been destroyed by a cyclone on the news -- what!!?  They said the new marina - which is directly in front of Nick's hostel - was demolished.  We thought, surely someone would've called us... but Nick's phone had no signal.  When we finally did have signal, he had seven missed calls from his dad!  With worry on his face, he stepped out to call back, and with worry on my mind, I waited to hear.  He returned with good, although odd news - everything was fine, the worst the storm did was wash two boats onto the rocks, and his dad was calling with questions about the computers.  Relief.  Apparently it isn't only the American news that exaggerates...

A bit warmer, we got back on the bus and Jayson drove us down onto the beach.  He chased the surf, kicking up loose sand and splashing through puddles so deep they had a current of their own.  It was fascinating to just look out the front window, seeing the obstacles he saw, and watching him manually shift and rev to get around or plow through them.  Nick was more than impressed, and cheered him on every time he got us through an especially sticky situation.  A few times, he drove headfirst into a puddle so deep, and with so much speed, that water burst in underneath and around the door, and splashed everyone in the first five rows.  It was like a theme park ride!
The ocean through the streaked bus window

Our next stop was Eli Creek, the largest fresh water creek on the island, which, as Nick noticed, interestingly has conflicting currents in itself, without reaching the ocean.  We walked the boardwalk in the rain to the end, and then, noticing the signs that encouraged swimming, thought, we're wet anyway, and took off our shoes & waded our way back down the creek.  It has a nice current and apparently on a sunny day, you're meant to float down the creek.  it was not a sunny day; we waded up to our waists.  The sand was soft & mushy between our toes, the water was cold, and the surrounding vegetation was bright and beautifully wet.

Eli Creek - not my picture - my camera battery died at this point. :(

On the way back to the bus, we saw a Fraser Island Dingo - this is the only place in the world where Dingoes are full-blooded & not interbred with domesticated dogs.  He was skinny, ginger, and uninterested in us, like a scrappy runaway child.

not my picture - dingo

More crazy beach driving, until we reached the S.S. Maheno - a monstrous metal shipwreck, sinking in the sand & surf.  It was so very cool, and if the rain hadn't been so punishing at that point, or if I'd had a waterproof camera (working), I'd have taken so many artistic shots.  As it was, I shielded my phone from the storm and managed one quick picture of the rusty skeleton, window holes like eyes, eerily clouded by the rolling sea behind them.

Nick and the shipwreck

Then we drove up to Rainbow Sands, mountainous sand dunes in layers of color - predominately red, orange, yellow, brown.  They were beautiful, but by this point it was raining quite hard and I was sick of being cold and wet, so I didn't get out of the bus.  Took a picture through the window and rested my head back on Nick's sopping shoulder.

Rainbow Sands

At this point, the bus had to turn around and make it back along the beach.  It wasn't as exciting this time; we all stayed quiet and let Jayson concentrate on splashing surf, climbing coffee rocks, spitting sand and avoiding the self-drive 4x4s whose headlights occasionally beamed through the grey.

We made it off the beach and back into the dense forest.  Apparently, a 4x4 with a trailer had gotten bogged - easy to do in these conditions - and Jayson had to make sure the path was clear or we could get stuck with them.  It was.  We ascended the island to Lake McKenzie, which is a slightly acidic lake with a coffee rock bottom and silica sand beaches.  Even under the grey sky, it was absolutely gorgeous.  Pure white sand leading to a half-ring of brilliant turquoise blue that suddenly drops off into the deepest navy.  
The sand out to the bi-colored lake

As much as I wanted to swim, and as wet as I was, my core was still dry, my jacket having done a respectable job, and I was already shivering.  Nick, soaked through from the very beginning, didn't even hesitated - he and a few other passengers, ran full-speed into the water, while I waded in behind them, up to my shorts.  It was so warm!  It was like bathwater, and Nick said it got warmer the deeper you went.  Because of the pH balance of the water, you don't feel light, the way you do in a pool or ocean, you feel like your actual body weight, and you don't float.  What a strange feeling.  I splashed my face with a handful of the lake, and it was sweet and so so fresh tasting on my lips.  We only had about 15 minutes there because the rain had set us back a bit, but on a nicer day I could've spent hours there.  It is an incredibly beautiful place and there was no one there.

The guys in the lake

Back to the bus for some great info about the Aboriginals from the island, and back to the ferry for a tired trip back to the mainland.  Jayson was also our bus driver back to the hostel, and he and Nick chatted the whole drive back.  Good guy; his attitude about the weather, his skill and adventurous spirit, made the crazy weather fun.  By the end of it, I felt less like I was on a holiday and more like I was on an expedition & Jayson was the only person who could lead us to safety.  If you ever do an Explore Fraser bus trip, I hope you get him as your guide.

Muddy and achy, we slopped back to the hostel, showered, went to the very locals-only, unfriendly pub next door for dinner, and then sat in the movie room of the hostel and watched "Almost Famous."  That's my favorite movie and it, along with cookies, chocolate & tea, certainly put me in a good mood.  

Today I am so grateful and happy for:
~ making the best of a less than ideal situation
~ the beauty of Fraser Island (even visible through the storm)
~ not having to drive after our tour
~ good attitudes

xo! n.

Jan 31: rain, rain go away...

Back on the road. Made the drive down to Hervey Bay, stopping on the way in Bundaburg - the rum capital of Australia - not to drink, just to drop off brochures at hostels. It was a drizzly day and most of the hostels were pretty nasty, working hostels (backpackers stay there when they're doing farm work), but one, Cellblock, was pretty cool. It was built from an old police station & jail, actual cells have been made into rooms, and they've even left the old barbed wire & security cameras up. Too creepy for me, but a neat idea.

Lots of driving, lots of reading, lots of rain.

Arrived in Hervey Bay by early afternoon. Checked into the clean, brand new Next Hostel. Took a walk around the quiet seaside town & saw all the hostels. Had a terrible lunch - waited 30 minutes for our coffees & then 20 more for food; Nicks order was wrong & mine was cold & stale. We had to say something; we got the food off our bill which was good because we didn't eat it. Walked a bit further & filled our bellies with ice cream instead.

Goofy from sugar, we went to the grocery store to get food for tea, and everything was funny.  I could not stop laughing - I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe, so hard that I snorted!!  No one will get this besides Nick but, the onion is real!!

Went back to the hostel where we had a beer with the manager, M, and he & Nick talked shop while I feigned interest in the tennis match on TV. I cooked a late Indian curry dinner (delish) & we went to bed early to prepare for our early morning.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ free non-scary accommodation
~ safe driving (despite only having one windshield wiper)
~ ice cream cones

xo! n.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jan. 30: Nick & Niks day of adventure

Nick woke me up with a cup of coffee under my nose. He'd gotten up at 6:30 to go for a jog & was making us bacon & eggs. The smell goaded my eyes open & pulled me, zombie-like, to the kitchen. Mmmm...

We had some time to kill after breakfast, so we borrowed the hostels free boogie boards & walked to the beach. The sand was incredibly hot; I jumped, cartoon-style ("ah ow oh!") until reaching the cool wet sand ("sssss" the sound of my feet steaming). The water was refreshing & warmer than we expected, but there were absolutely no waves. We lounged on the boogie boards, rocking on what little current there was, dragging our toes in the visible white sand.

Nick made a video playing at the stereotypical Aussie adventurer: "I reckon we're wave chasing, mate. Blimey, she's a beaut!" and turning the camera to reveal a bathtub-sized wave. It was pretty funny.

Unfortunately, at that moment his brand new smashproof, waterproof, advertised-as-indestructable camera decided to fill with water. Water sloshed around the screen and later, when nick opened up the battery slot, about half a cup poured out. So that kinda fouled the mood.

Walked back to the hostel where we met up with one of the owners, D, who had offered to take us up in his single prop plane. He drove us out to a field posing as a landing strip, with three child-sized airplanes adding to the rouse. Nick & I looked at each other, both screwing on confident smiles to reassure the other, yet behind them, we oozed trepidation.

the actual plane, Nick standing under the wing

The Skyhawk plane had seats for 3 people, upholstered in peeling 70's brown. The gears & dials in the cockpit were identifiable by stick-on tags made by a handheld label-maker: altitude, speed, GPS. Someone had written on the door, above the handle, "open --> locked" in black marker. On the fold-down sunshade above the pilot's seat was taped a sheet of typed up instructions with the heading, "flying in the event of door loss." I swear I am not making any of this up.

the cockpit & the door

It did not inspire confidence.

BUT, as D was a family friend and, as I whispered to Nick, he wouldn't put himself in danger, we climbed up and strapped ourselves in.  The plane wheeled around and sped down the grassy, potholed landing strip, his adorable family waving us on as the tires left the ground and the sky roughly took hold of the wings.  We were in the air, bouncing around with every cat's paw bat of the wind and unable to hear much of anything since D's headset was on the fritz.

He tested us with the first hard bank, turning so the right wing was practically 90 degrees from the ground.  I guess we took it well, because a few minutes later, he told me to hold my camera flat on my palm & started climbing up.  Nick said at that moment, he knew something bad was coming, but I was oblivious --  until suddenly he cut the engine and we plummeted in a nosedive.  My camera hit the ceiling, as did Nick's backpack, that had been resting innocently next to his feet.  I screamed (Nick managed to maintain his manliness and only a low yelp escaped him) and then nervously, uncontrollably laughed as adrenalin surged through me, causing my hands - which I just realised were clutching the seat & the door frame, respectively - to shake.

A few minutes later, he nosedived again.  I still was completely unprepared.  Again, I screamed & that weird vibrating laugh took over me; again, Nick managed to not scream, but I think his fingerprints are probably still imbedded in the back shoulder of my seat.

I will say, although I was shaken, it was an absolutely brilliant view.  Water coasted under us in varying gorgeous shades of blue and, even at that height, was still clear enough to see the sandbars and depth beneath.  Acres of undeveloped land, trees, bush.  Snaking rivers, a few with tiny ant-sized fishing boats navigating their curves.  The small bright community of 1770 scattered along the beachfront like thrown jellybeans.  At one point, he flew the plane down low on the beach, so low that we thought he might land in the surf, but we stayed just above the sand, watching the tide roll in and roll out through the blur of propellers.  It was beautiful.

We were in the air for about an hour.  He didn't pull any more funny business - thank goodness because I didn't fare quite as well with it as I thought I would - but I was completely ready to be back on the ground by the end of it.  Life's lesson learned: I will never be a pilot.  At least not a pilot of a tiny prop plane.

But I am supremely grateful for his generosity; he took time out of his day & took us up there for free, and it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We stopped off for a pub lunch with D and then back to the hostel where we collapsed, exhausted.  Adrenalin has a funny way of providing you with, then depleting you of, energy.  I dozed on the bed for about 10 minutes; Nick lay on the floor, under the fan, taking advantage of the breeze.

Then it was time for our next big adventure:  Scooter Roo.  It's a motorbike tour of 1770, but the fun of it is that they're scooter engines affixed to bodies made to look like Harley-Davidson bikes.  The guide is straight out of a pot-smoking, boot wearing biker gang, skinny & tough, like old leather, with a handlebar moustache, bandanna-covered skull and tight jeans.  Really nice guy, though; loves his job.  There was a large group of us going out, about 23, and a lot of us (girls especially, me included) were nervous about it, but after the first couple minutes, I realised it was easier than riding a bicycle.  And SO fun!

Regrettably, I forgot my camera so we couldn't take any pictures of us riding.  :(  This is from their website.

The bike tour was three hours in total - fantastic - and although we rode on a few main streets and at first had to stay in a line, we soon went off onto back, forested, streets and were allowed to pass each other, climbing up to 90 km per hour (50 mph).  I now understand the appeal of a bike: the wind in your hair, whipping around your skin, like an exfoliating bath of air.  We stopped a few times to look at kangaroos, and then rode down to the beach, where we dismounted, walking like bikers, and enjoyed some sweet chilli & sour cream wedges on the rocks during a pale sunset.

Riding back, I passed the slow people in front of me & the rest of the group was invisibly far ahead; I screamed down a stretch of road at 80km, feeling the freedom of the road.  Glorious.  Caught up to the front group of speed demons (in which Nick was, of course, maintaining his leader status - he loves to drive fast) and we all cruised in a pack; it felt like we really were a biker gang.  A biker gang of ragtag backpackers and some pretty girly girls, but a gang nonetheless.

I don't know how it's possible, since we were on bikes, the wind rushing into our ears, the entire time, but somehow Nick knew everyone on the Scooter Roo tour by the end of it.  As we left, he was calling out goodbyes to everyone by name, asking if the girls who were scared or had fallen off were ok, wishing people good trips to their next destination, which he also knew.  I just shook my head.  The boy's got talent.

That night, back at the hostel, Nick and I spread our adventurous legs out in a hammock, munching on salty & sweet snacks and reading out loud from our book.  Took some time to chat with the other owner of the hostel, G, and a few fellow travellers, but mainly just relaxed in the low light & the swinging breeze.

Today I am so happy & grateful for:
~ saying yes to new experiences
~ the generosity of D & Scooter Roo to give us free trips
~ beautiful places

xo! n.
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