Through the middle

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Country two on the backpack list: Australia. Yes, again. Fourteen months living in the joint and we barely cracked the surface! However, I reckon we saw a lot of variety this time around, even in our few short weeks. The trip seemed to naturally break into three main themes, which are as follows:

All I do is eat cheese and avoid road kill now

We flew from New Zealand into Hobart, Tasmania which was actually the worst (self-inflicted) flight layover experience. To save some cash we slept overnight on the cold, hard benches of the McDonalds in the Auckland International Airport. The experience wasn’t really sleeping; it was more pushing your face into stale hamburger smell while listening to constant announcements and loud (cranky) children at forever am. Bleariness made the five hour drive from Hobart to Launceston, our first stop in Tasmania, a bit dodgy but once we got there all was well.

Tasmania was connected to the rest of Australia via a land bridge until about 10 000 years ago when the rising sea levels separated the two land masses. Thus Tasmania feels Australian but is also quite unique. It’s given its name to the devil and the (now extinct) tiger; it’s been the destination of boat loads of prisoners; it’s only a six hour drive from one end to the other; and we thought it was beautiful. In certain places Tasmania is wet with ancient rainforest. In others it’s jagged with buttongrass-filled heathland and mountains. Either way, the landscapes are always wild….and full of wildlife.

Incidentally, most of the wildlife we saw was dead on the highway. Devils, wallabies, pademelons, wombats, kangaroos, and I’m not sure why! We did enjoy driving through the rural areas though, which most of Tas is. From Launceston we went to Cradle Mountain National Park, and after a night spent in a pub hotel, we arrived back in the capital city of Hobart. This is where the “eat all the cheese” began. Tasmania is known for its fantastic food and drink! Wine tasting, beer tasting, whisky tasting, cheese and spreads were all enjoyed as much as possible. Basically, that’s where all our time went in Hobart, with the exception of MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. I’m not really sure how to describe our experience there. It is a weird and wonderful place. If you gave one thousand art monkeys one thoussand art supplies you might come close to the bizarreness. These art supplies would include computerized nozzles to make “rain paintings” of the daily news or perhaps test tubes and pumps to create a room-sized digestive system (that poops twice a day…yes, really). The themes are clearly sex and death but I will say; besides being shocking I did find the whole thing entertaining and educational.

To wrap up the cheese-specific food awesomeness we spent a few days in Melbourne on our way to Adelaide. It was really lovely to pass through one more time and say hello/goodbye to some great pals. This trip we didn’t even leave Brunswick Street as all the hipster smugness and hipster nonsense cafes and restos you could possibly need are there. Melbourne, you are tied for number one in my heart with Sydney.

All I do is drink water and sweat now (part 1)

From Melbourne we rented our last car for this trip, most likely, and drove the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. I wouldn’t say it was “great” mind you, I would say it was “perfectly fine”. Most likely I would have enjoyed it more had it not been freezing cold and pissing rain. Alas. It was a nice drive though, and it was neat to see the gradual change of scenery from Victoria through to South Australia.

And then things got quite hot. We took the overnight Greyhound bus from Adelaide and arrived in a little town called Coober Pedy at 5am. At 5am it was 29 degrees Celsius. This is why 60% of the residents of Coober Pedy live underground with new homes being dug out all the time. Home owners hire opal miners to dig out their houses and besides the fact that they are underground, they are surprisingly normal minus the whole no windows thing. Our hostel was underground and I was so grateful for the reprieve from the heat…and the ten billion flies. Flies, heat, and warning signs for open abandoned opal mines aside, it was a neat little town. It was effectively only opal shops and churches, but close by you can see the world’s largest manmade structure: The Dingo Fence. It’s longer than even the Great Wall of China! Apparently it does keep the dingos away from farmland, but feral camels not so much. For more on camels in the desert, you should watch the movie Tracks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-DiOyxCQQI
I plan on reading the book as well, as it’s based on a true story of a woman who is far more badarsed than I will ever be. Also she doesn’t seem to get dehydrated and icky as easily, which is a helpful trait in the desert. I’m such a feather weight.

I’m going to leave part 2 of the desert and my final theme for the next post as this is feeling long.

G’day for now!

Also, Curtis’ freckle “tan” is looking rather dapper. He never seems to get dehydrated. I think he’s a camel, but I’m too scared to ask.

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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! 

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 🙂