Pedals to the Pavement

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G’Day!

Heck, it’s been a month since my dad left Australia and I am pretty sure I am still sore from all the activity. What I love about my dad is that he is a things-doer. Thus we did lots of things! All of which targeted my thighs and calves and sleeping muscles, ha. We hit the ground running (well, biking) as soon as he got here. No time for jet lag, must find the steepest hills immediately! This was followed by more hills the next day as we meandered through side streets to the Taronga Zoo with stops in Sydney Harbour National Park. And since neither of us can admit when we’re tired we just kept on biking. Downtown on an “installation art” tour with my friend Peter; to movies at Town Hall and Circular Quay; to every conceivable angle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House; and my personal favourite, down Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas in Far North Queensland. We’d never ridden on a beach before, and it was pretty darn cool. It was also pretty darn windy! Like 100 kilometres an hour winds. Con: some light exfoliating occurred. Pro: these more than zephyr winds were perfect for kite boarding. I so want to take lessons, but obviously that day was not the day to do it. My dad will just have to come back so we can try it out another time.

To space out the activity (i.e. mentally prepare for the next hill to summit) we also did heaps of sight-seeing. I must say it is great to have a guest around to remind me that Sydney is a beautiful city. (Not that I really need much reminding.) We crammed as much into each day as possible and still there were things we had to leave out. Though I think we definitely would win the “German Efficiency Badge of Honour”, assuming this is a real thing. If it isn’t I am sure a German will politely inform me of my error and make a mental note that I play fast and loose with the truth. Ha.

So yes, all the things! After watching Tosca at the Opera House we went on a backstage tour to see the mayhem that is three opera sets for three separate operas crammed into the smallest area imaginable and experience the bedlam that is the world’s tiniest orchestra pit. It was so cramped that musicians have to monitor the decibels of their instruments to make sure they don’t damage their ears. It was interesting to see that such an iconic building still hasits limitations for those who actually have to use it! Then maybe we’d catch the ferry up the Parramatta river to zip around on a segway in Sydney Olympic Park. Which, I must admit, was not lame but actually totally awesome. Or maybe we’d catch a ferry in the other direction to Watson’s Bay and serendipitously find beautiful local beaches filled with beautiful Eastern Suburbs dwellers. Honestly, those who live out there must sweat diamonds they are so bling! But good for them. Or maybe we would climb 1302 steps up and down the Harbour Bridge and then spend an hour trying to decide what movie to watch while our muscles seize up on the couch. Apparently our movie tastes are still not perfectly aligned 🙂

We did take a few mini-trips as well, out to the Blue Mountains and up to Cairns and Port Douglas in Queensland. I was glad my dad got to see the variety of landscapes here as even the Blue Mountains, which are only a few hours inland from Sydney, are noticeably different from the coast. Being one for the facts he would always look up every discernible item of interest and fill me in the following morning. Which is another reason he is a pretty rad dad. I know I wrote about the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef already but I will say it again: what a powerful and humbling reminder that nature is amazing. Truly. This trip up to Queensland was just as excellent as my trip with the Winters back in March. With the aforementioned winds we were a bit landlocked though, so we delved a bit deeper into the Daintree Rainforest. Want to know what it was like when Gondwana was being a big ol’ landmass? Then visit the Daintree, it is beautiful in its old age. The highlight of my time there was getting to see where the rainforest meets the reef in the ocean. The rainforest vegetation has adapted to the salt-water conditions and that is pretty bad-ass.

So basically, I had a fantastic time with my dad. It’s been 20 years since we took a trip just the two of us and I think we did pretty darn well. I was sad to see him go but will be so excited to hit the bike trails with him again when I get back home.

Much love to everyone,
Heather

P.S. Curtis is still alive. His job was bonkers crazy while my dad was here but he has since resurfaced to a world of normal work hours. He spent this past weekend being lovely and patient with me while we went diving for my birthday. He’s read like six books this week. He has discovered a new UK comedy panel show starring David Mitchell (how many programs is that guy on!? Not that I’m complaining…) He dressed up like John Lennon from Abbey Road for a 60s party and was very cute. He is not liking the sudden surge on our local thermometer. He is still liking Sunday night chicken dinner after dancing. He bought another fountain pen, much to my chagrin. He is pretty swell overall. He sends his love as well.

Human Friction

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It is officially nine days until my dad arrives in ‘Straya so I thought I had better post something before he and I bike and hike and sail and snorkel ourselves into a comatose state. I am pre-emptively getting a massage in preparation for sore muscles to come. This is most excellent.

I have been feeling restless lately as it has almost been a year since I’ve been away from Canada. 288 days to be precise! It’s been long enough now that the line graph inside my head entitled Sydney: a rope of sand (to draw the reader in without giving too much away, ha) has had a few peaks and valleys, and patterns that have developed as well. When I picture the July/August section of this graph I see an undulating line settled somewhere between “constantly quasi-sick from wet kid hand syndrome” and “enjoying the routine of going to things”. I guess the restlessness comes in when I think about all the places I still want to go, in Oz and in everywhere. Which is silly really, because while the “wet hand” situation is not ideal it stems from a job that is totally awesome and fulfilling. And the “going to things” is also really great! So this restlessness should not be confused with some sort of Weltschmerz-y weariness, it’s just a driving force of my current list making frenzy. Today’s list includes: doing taxes like an adult, budgeting for our Asia travels, blowing my nose a lot, making chicken soup.

As a partial side note, I have been thinking a lot about this related quote: “A successful life requires living with the tension between the fear of the unknown and the guilt of the status quo. This tension presents itself in both macro life decisions and also in choices about each moment of life.” I take this to mean a balance of the unknown and the familiar is necessary and so basically I should just enjoy the familiar and stop feeling so antsy all the time.

The familiar lately has been enjoying the creativity and innovation that Sydney has to offer. I love living in a city where people are constantly crossing paths to create new ideas with new perspectives. I was listening to a great Radiolab the other day on cities and the notion that “human friction” is what creates the feeling of a place. Well Sydney’s community is rubbing up against each other to make all kinds of cool sparks! 20 piece big bands in a basement; sci-fi themed burlesque; interactive theatre pieces in giant warehouses filled with mock crime show behind-the-scenes scenarios (this one is rather hard to explain actually); art show exhibits on abandoned military bases; concerts in dilapidated art deco venues. It’s also been really lovely to spend time with our community of friends here that have been so welcoming to the loony Canucks that kept popping up at dances and articulating all their vowels properly. Sunday jazz followed by Sunday night chicken dinners, Christmas in July parties and a super fun road rip to Canberra for a dance exchange to name a few. Oh, and discovering where you have to go to get decent Yum Cha (Dim Sum) in this joint. And where to practice archery skills with ‘tweener girls who are obviously excited for the second Hunger Games movie to come out. Keep being badass little ladies. You are so ready for a dystopian society!

Soup’s ready to eat. Curtis makes the best chicken noodle around! He is of course doing all these things as well, just feeling less antsy as his natural state is calm optimism. He says “missing everyone in all the places.”

Love!

And a few related links:

http://vimeo.com/68118976

Bingo Unit show

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vli4cgZ4URM
Sketch a Rhyme (some hip hop language included)

http://www.ted.com/talks/candy_chang_before_i_die_i_want_to.html

To redirect the restlessness

 

Winter Wonderland

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Happy Solstice everyone! It is wrecking my brain a little bit that it is

a) already June 

b) dark by 5:30 pm and

c)“winter”.

I will admit that I was incredibly arrogant in regards to this season. I scoffed when I saw scarves and peat coats being sold in stores and was cavalier about space heaters and doonas (duvets). Of course now I am writing, under the doona, with the space heater on full blast, and am seriously considering buying a warmer jumper. Lesson learned: while -45 degrees is unfathomable to Ozzies, +15 with rain is actually chilly after +46 with sun oppression. That being said, we can still bike and kayak and hike so all things considered, winter is pretty awesome.

These past few weeks we’ve been having plenty of mini weekend adventures. First up was a hiking trip to the Blue Mountains with fellow Calgarians Ian and Sarah. We chose a beautiful hike called the “Grand Canyon” where once again my Canadian “these aren’t real mountains, so it will be easy” blithe attitude was proven wrong. Down and down we went from the trailhead, and then down some more past arresting sandstone walls and waterfalls. The stone steps took us through tunnels, over mossy pools of water and along lush mist-covered plants into the heart of this World Heritage site. Eventually, with our legs screaming (The book I bought should have explicitly stated “this trail will pulverize your thighs and glutes…”) we reached Evans Lookout to see the outstanding heathlands of the Blue Mountains with its forest-filled peaks and valleys. I am constantly gobsmacked by how diverse this continent is!

Our other big trip lately was to Nelson Bay and Anna Bay to WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) over the long weekend. We arrived at the most beautiful 25 acre permaculture farm to meet the most fascinating farmer! Ric had useful and helpful advice on permaculture, from how to set-up systems at the macro level, down to how to collect seeds and make small, positive changes to every day living. He built a stunning home out of recycled materials and I very much respect people who live their values everyday. We learned more about aquaponics as well which was great. He did however, have a lot of ideas about many other great topics such as: the second sun in our solar system causing the Earth to heat up from its core; prophesies about women becoming telepaths and being able to read people’s “matrix grids”; explaining how he had space friends, how his friends in the CIA and other high ranking military positions told him super duper secrets and other general “facts”. Yep! I could get about 70% of the way there…but unfortunately what we really wanted was more of the “how-to” and less of the “why” Zeitgeist-y proselytizing. So, even though we did have a fun time, we bailed a night early and spent the rest of the weekend sand boarding at the Southern Hemisphere’s longest sand dunes, conveniently located 5 kms away! And thanks to that second sun, the weather was fantastic! Haha, science is whatever you want it to be! Joking aside, it was still great and I feel like it is in the nature of wwoofing to meet all kinds of cooky and nifty people. I very much look forward to our next stint.

Other than those trips out of Sydney, we’ve mostly been enjoying time within the city limits. Film festivals, kayaking in the Harbour, being chased by clowns and street sack races around Darlinghurst with a media art group, and of course dancing as usual. I started Djing here too which is fun! Curtis is getting his music together and wants to DJ soon as well, yay! Oh, and I finally got a job that I love and go to, like every day! It’s very similar to the phonemic awareness program I taught back in Calgary, it’s in a great location, and I can bike to work with the Lance Parade (what I am calling the very fit middle-aged men in spandex who commute to work with me). And I just started volunteering at the most kick-ass creative writing place ever! http://www.sydneystoryfactory.org.au/ Check it out! We work at The Martian Embassy, and if you’d like, you can purchase some Martian wee in the gift shop…for real. Curtis’ job is business as usual where business means a different thing every day which sounds a bit frustrating but over all he is still enjoying it. People still haven’t figured out his age, beard for the win!

Much love to everyone and especially dry and safe thoughts to our friends and family in Southern Alberta!

Wwof, buzz, cluck

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Why did the bee get married? Because she found her honey!

What’s a bee’s favourite novel? The Great Gatsbee!

Where do bees go on holiday? Stingapore!

Hahaha. Sweet jokes, mate. Wondering what else is the bee’s knees? (Besides puns that should be read with the appropriate nasal German accent?) Wwofing at an apiary and permaculture farm. Wwoofing: Willing Workers on Organic Farms. Buy a membership, get a book with farmers’ contact information, volunteer your time in exchange for food, a place to stay and (most awesomely) free knowledge. I spent a week south west of Sydney during the school’s term break and it was great. My host was a little crusty at first… “Zis is not a vacation, you are here to verk”…but soon he was rank ordering honeybee books I should read, movies I should watch and giving me home brew pilsners and honey mead. He said his goal in life was to inspire people through his lifestyle so that they could go home and implement small (or big) changes into their own. I find that inspiring in and of itself! Thus far it’s mostly just been reading for me, but I have tweaked my tiny garden a bit, and Curtis and I have planned the next place we want to wwof together: a permaculture farm/education centre inland from Newcastle. Hopefully in June! Excited! Anyway.

Permaculture, from what I can surmise so far, is basically a system of ecological design and management that emphasizes sustainability, and in which all relevant factors of living things are considered, and where all resources are used to the maximum. The aim of permaculture (I think) is to imitate natural ecological systems, which are self sustaining. The idea is to create a living system that maintains itself, requiring as little energy input from the human managers as possible. So basically closed sustainable ecosystems are a yay, monoculture is a nay. I really like this concept, it seems very practical and pragmatic. And my bee farmer was just that. He had “systems” set up around his five acres. An aquaponics system to water his greenhouse garden, chicken runs that he would periodically rotate with a veggie garden, geese to keep the grass short (and incidentally try to murder me throughout the day) and of course, honey bees! He was, thankfully, patient enough to let me do hive inspections with him. 20 hives around his property and 20 scattered within a 40 km radius of his acreage. I now know that a) I definitely do not want 40 hives of my own b) I DO want 2-3 hives c) animal husbandry is, unsurprisingly, a real commitment so we will need to be pretty settled to do it. I also learned, unfortunately, that I am officially allergic to the outdoors. Or it makes my asthma worse, or both. I shouldn’t find physical limitations so frustrating, but I do…just like everyone else in the world with allergies no doubt. I am going to have to sort this out soon as I do in fact love mowing grass and playing with chickens, plus also breathing and the ability to sleep at night. Oh well, this is what drugs are for! I still had a fantastic time!

When I got back to Sydney, Curtis and I, along with a fellow Calgarian, managed to sneak our way onto racing sailboats for the first Sydney Harbour race of the winter season. Thanks Lisa, for organizing! We each got on a sailboat and were allowed to grind winches and other grunt jobs and it was so much fun!! Though Curtis said his boat had puppies and wine and quiche on board, so I think I was doing it wrong. We’ll have to try again soon!

If you happen to be interested in some of the bee movies I watched, here’s the trailers:

Vanishing of the Bees

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3giFDIRZIgE

More than Honey
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NT05qEJxUk

Queen of the Sun
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NT05qEJxUk

I am not sure where you could watch the full versions, but if you’re super keen this might be useful: ( Go Calgary!)
http://www.backyardbees.ca/free/external_resources

We’re buzzing along into May and it seems like it will be another busy month. Missing everyone back at home. Hope the tulips are blooming!

Love!

Foto Feed

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A few outings that didn’t quite fit into the last post. Neil Young in the Hunter Valley, Tuba Skinny epic-osity, Manly Beach and Bondi Beach hikes, Cockatoo Island.

By the by: amongst all the touring I have actually managed to get some regular work! Ironically I only had to temporarily give up on teaching, go to the “Australian Barista School” and apply at coffee shops for 48 hours to get my first casual call. 7-9 am trial at a coffee shop; 6:57 am get a call from a pre-school. Life you are not without a sense of humour. Needless to say I did an about turn, ran (well, briskly hobbled) back home to change and made it to in-my-field work just in time. Since then it’s been pretty steady shifts at said pre-school learning how to work with an adorable developmentally delayed little gal. May I just say that I have so much respect and admiration for people who do this type of vocation full-time. As well subbing in primary schools has also picked up which is going really well. Thank goodness. School’s out at the moment but will start up again in two weeks…in the meantime my tutor training for the refugee program starts this weekend; I’m pumped! Curtis has been jet-setting around Oz for his job, but should finally land at home long enough for us to have a movie date or something. Maybe we can just sit in the dark and read. He’s been working really hard in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and tiny hard to pronounce townships. He’s grown a beard to look older so co-workers don’t find out what a precocious little renaissance he is. They think he’s just a run-of-the-mill mid-30s renaissance. What a tricksy fox you are Curtis! 

Winter(s) Down Under

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Hello!

Okay okay okay. Six weeks have zoomed by without a single update. How does this happen? I reckon it’s because we haven’t been home long enough to collect ourselves in a while! So thousands of photos uploading, I am sifting through my calendar and the dust has settled. The Winters have just returned to Canada after five jam packed weeks of ‘Straylia. We had a fantastic time! Hitting up our favourite live music venues and restaurants; riding ferries around the harbour; mini-hikes in the Blues Mountains; beach walks; ping pong tournaments; Opera House symphonies; wine.

We also took a trip to the far north of Queensland around Cairns and Port Douglas. I had no idea Northern Queensland was basically Papua New Guinea! We were at the same longitude as Fiji to give you a level of tropical-ness. While small geographically, this region contains a richness of biodiversity that I will probably never see anywhere again. We started with a train ride to Kuranda, a section of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Ready to have your mind blown? The Wet Tropics is home to about a third of Australia’s mammals and contains one of the most complete living records of the major stages of evolution going back 200 million years. 200 million years! I can barely record the last six weeks properly. We’re talking old school Gondwanan flora and fauna, bad ass marsupials included, in a rainforest that covers less than 0.2% of Australia. This blows my mind at a Graham’s number level of amazement. So anyway, we tootled around the oldest rainforest in the world. It was nice…kind of cluttered. The only thing that could excite me more is the largest living organism in the world: The Great Barrier Reef! Two record breakers side-by-side, I wonder if they duke it out for “most awesome”?

We drove north from Cairns along wending coastal highway to Port Douglas. Look out one way and you see pristine beach-lined ocean, look out the other and the fields of sugar cane are thick and hearty. Look behind you to see the Tablelands, remnants of recent volcano eruptions covered in fertile, tropical green. We arrived at our hotel and discovered that Curtis scored us the most luxurious place ever! Off-season travel for the win! (Though I felt very uncomfortable with the multiple rooms, and walls, and seating areas. I have grown accustomed to watching Curtis sleep and eat and brush his teeth inches away from me. What is he doing in that other room I wonder??? I had better go check it out and sit as close to him as humanly possible.) After a wonderful dinner, delicious wine, and hours of bat watching we are ready for our trip to the Reef. The trip we chose took us out to the outer edge of the Reef, just a few kilometres from the continental shelf. These agincourt ribbons are supposed to be great for snorkeling and that they were. I can’t really describe how it feels to swim over thousands upon thousands of coral poylps. It is surreal. This great BBC doco gives you a better inkling:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0198pww/episodes/guide

I just watched it for the third time! When you watch it though, try to picture all of us wearing full head-to-finger tips-to-toe wet suits. Off-season travel means you are snorkeling in jellyfish land. Those gelatinous umbrellas will kill ya’! Seriously though, everything in the ocean wants you dead. Why you gotta be so scary yet beautiful? Discomfort of being in an endless body of murder water aside, this was one of the most special and stunning places I have ever been and am grateful I had the chance to see it.

Before you know it, we’ve flown through Easter dinner with as many Canadians as possible and it is the Winters’ last weekend here! Naturally they have more family connections than me on every continent (I joke, but it is probably true) so we spent our last weekend all together in the Kangaroo Valley in a funky beach house right on Jervis Bay. It was lovely. Food, more food, beach, kangaroos with joeys, sand castles at the beach. It was a wonderful way to end their trip, and it is so nice to have a family contingent close by. Now I have kids to push my arts and crafts onto! I need to buy crayons 🙂

Up next: WWOFing at an apiary, diving school in May, sailing classes.

We miss you, we love you!

Xo H & C.

Year of the Snake

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Happy Chinese New Year! What an appropriate year for us to be in Australia. It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months to the day that Curtis and I met up in Sydney, but the calendar says it is so! Time is flying! At first I didn’t think we had done that much until we started making a list and it turns out I was mistaken. At this time the calmer vermilion turkey reminded me that we don’t have to manically run around absorbing culture and sights like I sometimes feel I need to….thank you for that. So! With a reasonable, enjoyable pace to our steps, here’s some whats and wheres.

  • The Village Bizarre was exactly what you would imagine it to be; as long as you imagined it as streets with roving poets, silent dance parties, free straight razor shaves, invitation only sideshows and of course, a secret bar only accessible by following the white rabbit tracks. It is a testament to a city when you find several streets blocked off to celebrate the wacky, weird and and wonderful; Heather and I have found a city that is right for us. (Curtis wrote something finally! We’re all very proud.)
  • We managed to find a great place to live! We now have our regular deli, fish shop, butcher and coffee place that knows exactly how I like to consume my caffeine dependency. Everyone has been bonhomous and we even have two almost-pals in our building. Way to successfully interact socially with others, us! And with our new wheels we have enjoyed many bike rides around the narrow Europeanesque streets of Kirribilli; especially at dusk when the harbour is alight, the 1930’s amusement park is alive and the “secret garden” we so enjoy is deserted.
  • I love this 46 degree heat!” said no one, ever. We’ve finally adjusted to the humidity and climate in general but still seem to end up going out at night a lot more than the day. We are not very good at sight-seeing actually! But we are good at going to quirky things that we like. Improv shows in tucked away boho venues, outdoor movies in parks with bats flying above, bike rides across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to eat dessert in the Rocks, night time pyrotechnics on a giant man-made fire organ. Yeah, that one was particularly amazing! They literally played a giant pirate ship of scrap metal with propane torches. The torches would suck the oxygen out of the pipes and “play” a pitched note. Minds were blown. Video example here: http://tinyurl.com/a59plu7
  • Dancing! Live jazz! Beautiful early 20th century buildings in which to enjoy them. I am finally un-crippled enough that I am allowing myself to get excited about swing dancing again. It’s been a year and a half since my running injury and while I’m only at about 60% it’s enough that I can manage a proper swing out! This is quite exhilarating! Curtis and I have met some lovely dancers here as well and they are doing a fabulous job of inviting us to everything swing. We’re both loving the new dancing partners and constant dirty brass and plunky piano.
  • Meeting up with friends and family, new and old. We’re so grateful for our community so while meeting new people is great, it’s nice to have a familiar face or two along the way that we can just be ourselves with and enjoy the sights.
  • The Blue Mountains are not actually mountains, Australia is mistaken. Sorry mates!They are beautiful cliffs and rugged valleys though, with heaps of oil bearing eucalyptus trees. The trees emit droplets of oil which scatter short-wave length rays of light, hence the blue. Not violet mind you, (http://xkcd.com/1145/) ha. We’re planning on going back there soon to do another day hike. It’s so easy to get out there by transit, woot!
  • Shoebox projects. What we do instead of sight-seeing when we are being terrible tourists! Deciding to live in another city as opposed to traveling around means that we can put our roots into the ground, just a little. I mean the “ground” of our studio is concrete, so we can’t go too crazy, but we’ve been working on a few fun activities.

               1) Herb Garden which should do well in this magical land of sun.

               2) Ukuleles. Blue and Orange, matching calluses, how adorable.

               3) This: http://www.petapixel.com/2012/12/31/diy-make-a-waxed-canvas-camera-bag-on-the-cheap/

               4) Bike maintenance classes for accident-lovers (I may have lost some skin on the road.) 

              Up next: beer brewing in the courtyard and diving classes.

Meanwhile in the land of work: Curtis and his behemoth brain are rocking it. He is enjoying his new job for the most part and has even been able to see some actual outback on business trips. He says it’s been a steep learning curve, but he can solve rubix cubes so I am pretty confident that he will master everything immediately. As for me, I just got hired onto the New South Wales Public School board as a casual (substitute) teacher. School just started last week so I haven’t received any calls yet but spent this week working on making some packages that I can take to schools in person. Hopefully this improves my chances of getting actual work! It’s a little overwhelming having to navigate a brand new system, but since I made the decision to try it’s tough to be grouchy about it for too long. Overall, things are great and we’re feeling settled…and we miss you all.

Stay warm up there in Canadia, much love.

Tip Top Holidays

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G’day mates and happy new year! I hope everyone is having a great start to their new year. So far it is shaping up to be an adventuresome one for Curtis and I. In light of all the 2012 year end lists I have been catching up on (top songs, albums, books, news stories, Q interviews, TED talks….), here are a few of our “top” moments thus far:

Gold Coast

5. Successfully renting a car; driving a car; not dying in a car as we constantly shoulder check the wrong way and wash our windshield while meaning to signal.

4. Spending Christmas on a white sandy beach in Coolangatta, on the south side of the Gold Coast. Curtis celebrating under a beach umbrella, me under the watchful gaze of the Australian sun. Either way, sun screen now has its own column in the monthly budget.

3. “Roll on, deep and dark blue ocean, roll.” I wonder if Lord Byron ever experienced Cape Byron for himself, seeing as Byron Bay was named after his grandfather. As the most easterly point of mainland Australia, rolling ocean is certainly all that you see from the lighthouse. To reach the summit however, we wended past countless surfers, a surprising number of brush turkeys (yes, turkeys!) and lush ferns in Cape Byron Conservation Park. (And a fun brain nugget about Lord Byron: his daughter, Ada Lovelace, is thought to be the first computer programmer….Stephen Fry told me that today! QI is a fantastic show FYI.)

2. Hinterland. A word I would use to describe everything slightly inland from the coast line, somewhere between ocean and outback. More specifically, the Gold Coast Hinterland is crammed full with thick forested valley and rural vineyards. It was too much to see in one day, so we chose to explore the World Heritage listed Border Ranges National Park. Once upon a time this was part of the rainforest-clad super-continent Gondwana. Today it still grows Antarctic Beech trees, Red Cedar and anything with a frond. It was stunning and easily the greenest place either of us had ever been! Unfortunately we got caught under a funnel-cloud looking storm and left sooner than we wanted. But I guess that’s a good excuse to go back.

1. Snorkeling! In the warm azure Coral Sea! Sea turtles, sting rays, lustrous coral, tropical fish, even a leopard shark. We’re looking into diving classes so we can be ready for the Great Barrier Reef….even though the ocean still kind of terrifies me. It doesn’t mess around!

Melbourne

8. I was hoping our train ride from Sydney to Melbourne would have been a little more “Murder on the Orient Express”. Not that I wanted someone to get murdered mind you! I was just hoping for people in hats, drinking English Breakfast tea, or at the very least a fastidious man with an ultra-waxed moustache. Alas, Poirot was not on our train. We did get fresh scones and cream though, and hours of excellent audio docs.

7. Oh, the architecture! Melbourne is a fantastic mix of ornate Victorian design, corrugated tin roofing, industrial brick buildings plastered with posters and contemporary design with organic shapes. Not to mention some of the best graffiti I have seen. No ugly, poorly spelled tags here! Just entire brick alley-ways filled with beautiful larrikin designs. It is very apparent that this is a city brimming with culture and ideas.

6. We experienced a few days of the “heat wave” so prevalent in Aussie news. Let me tell you, if an Australian thinks it’s hot outside then it really really is. So, since Mr. Golden Sun was acting more like Mr. Oppressive Death Star we spent a few afternoons in air conditioned museums. All of which were really neat! The Immigration Museum brought light to Australia’s somewhat dark past which eerily mirrored Canada’s immigrant history. The Melbourne museum had innovative psychology and evolution exhibits (!!!), so that was pretty much a day right there. Science is okay.

5. Victoria Square Market: how many pairs of Uggs does one need? Or cell phone cases? Magic kits? City blocks worth, obviously. A fun market though. We ate candy right after it was made in front of us! There’s a talent I would like to have.

4. Head down to the St. Kilda pier at sunset and you’re guaranteed to find a rookery of penguins. (Curtis insisted I use this ridiculous collective noun. Seriously, rookery? I would probably like it more if it sounded bad ass like these: http://wondermark.com/566/) Anyway, so there’s a “rookery’ which is really neat as they swim into the break water every night at dusk to attend to their penguin business. Dusting, egg sitting, business suit dry cleaning…etc. Just be wary of the Penguin Patrol Volunteers who will yell at you for, anything really.

3. Apparently Melbourne has to make up for its lack of Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge by being the foodie mecca of Australia. We got more “you have to go here” suggestions then we could make it to and still our satiated tummies couldn’t agree more.

2. For serious cinephiles the best place to find yourself in 45 degree heat is the Australian Centre for Moving Images (ACMI). Pop yourself into a 360 degree “bullet time” camera room, make your own flip book, have your mind expand while watching a twenty four frame per second zeotrope. Then head downstairs to consider our culture’s mass media saturation before watching a full length film about Wonder Woman. Totally rad.

1. Hawksley Workman is the man. Northcote Social Club is the place. Best concert we have been to in a while is the result. And we only had to travel across continents and a few oceans to hear one of our favourite Canadian artists. (Did I mention I’m seeing Neil Young with Crazy Horse in a vineyard in March?! Australia is the place for Canadian musical icons I guess! Well, our Canadian musical icons anyway.)

Our top list for Sydney is on its way, but we’re posting some photos anyway 🙂

Oz Mania

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Just a quick hello from Curtis and I. We’ve been in Sydney for two weeks now and things are going well! We have a place leased in Kirribilli that we move into on January 9th. (Right here: http://tinyurl.com/cot2zkq) It is a glorified shoebox, but it’s furnished and we are a stone’s throw from the Harbour Bridge and many other fun things! So that is fancy. Plus we are close to transit and Curtis’ work and hopefully my work too. Exciting times!

Anyhow, we will blog properly after Christmas, but we wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday and a happy new year. Here’s a few teaser photos of our time in Sydney so far.

Love and merriness!

Doing and seeing

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Holy Hannah! It is December 20th already! Only a few days to go until the Summer Solstice (and Christmas!) here in the Southern Hemisphere so I suppose I should update the ol’ blog. I managed to travel to five more areas in New Zealand before hopping over the Tasman Sea to find a certain red-haired gentleman. It’s amazing how a few hundred kilometres can make such a world of difference!

The Coromandel Peninsula is where this decidedly more Huck Finn-y portion of my journey began. White sandy beaches, craggy bays and untamed bush made for splendid isolation. Mind you, isolation isn’t quite as delightful when the bus drops you off in a field of cows with no ocean in sight. Not to knock the Naked Bus coach line too much, but let’s just say they make up for their lack of washrooms with their friendly customer service. It sounded like this:

“Get Out.”

“What here? With the cows?”

“The campground is just down the road.”

“How far? You can’t drive a little further? I just don’t see anything…at all.”

“Not my problem. Get out.”

Thank you sir for your chummy cajoling. Anyhow, once I did find out where I was going (only 1.5 kilometres down the “road”) I was met with beautiful Pohutukawa lined cliffs and soaring Kauri trees. Hot Water Beach was incredible! An underground river of geothermic (up to 64 degrees Celcius…hot indeed) water flows to the surface of the Pacific Ocean and for two hours on either side of the low tide you can dig your own personal hot pool. Cue Dark Side of the Moon’s “Dig that hole, forget the sun/ And when at last the work is done/ Don’t sit down, it’s time to dig another one.” Wise words Pink Floyd, wise words. Digging holes in the sand and then sitting in them, wine in hand, is awesome. I also made the uphill trek by bike to Cathedral Cove, where this scene from the Chronicles of Narnia was filmed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39xnFVV4IpQ

Breath taking! Just like everything else in this beautiful country. Well, pretty much.

I did not love Tauranga, my next stop after the Coromandel. When I got off the bus in a crusty industrial area I found a lot of drunk hostel people, and….that’s about it. So not amazing overall, though the beach at Mount Maunganui was full of shells and surfers and plenty of beach volleyball which was fun. The Bay of Plenty has plenty to offer I am sure, I just seemed to miss it somehow. I’ll have to get a mulligan for another time!

Arriving in Taupo after beer pong and slimy floors was a welcome change. This vibrant town was small, but was full of things to do! It is situated on Lake Taupo, the second largest freshwater lake in the Oceania. With a surface area of over 600 square kilometres it sits in the caldera of yet another North Island volcano. Those volcanos certainly know how to erupt and leave beautiful landscapes thousands of years later! Some even know how to erupt days before my arriving in Taupo thus closing the close by Tongariro National Park. The National Park is one of three UNESCO sites in New Zealand, and I would have loved to hike the Tongariro Crossing, had it not been covered in a giant ash plume and lava. No big deal though, I spent my time here kayaking to Maori rock carvings on the lake, off-road biking and finding apiaries. And when my ankle said to me “You are pushing your luck on these bananas steep trails young lady” I would walk around town and find the amazing graffiti art from the yearly graffiti competition. What a fantastic use of public space! New Zealand in general rocks the Casbah for its innovative use of public space.

Napier city. Art deco, art deco, art deco. Parapets, lightning bolts, greyhounds, geometric shapes, garish greens and pinks, awesome. For someone who loves the post-Great Depression era for its design, fashion and music this is the place to go. (Check out http://www.artdeconapier.com/ for a more in depth description).

Hawke’s Bay. Wine, wine wine, wine. I now know exactly how little I know about these delicious grapes, but I had so much fun touring around vineyards all day! Who knew there was so much finesse to this industry? My super local host did, and I will try my best to remember everything I learned, over a glass of Bordeaux Blend.

“It’s true you can’t live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch-or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.” I couldn’t agree more. Someone told me before I came to Wellington that you can be whoever you want to be in this city. The person you want to be probably wears thick rim glasses and hangs out in places like “Meow” or “Hummingbird”. The person you want to be can spend all day at Te Papa museum or Cuba Street and rides the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens. The person you want to be is impervious to rain and wind and compensates for said weather by being creative and welcoming. Yes, this city is amazing and was a fantastic end to my trek around New Zealand. Farewell for now Aotearoa, land of the long white cloud. I’ll be back soon!

(Merry Christmas everyone!!!)