Landing down under.

Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
Trip End Oct 01, 2006

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Flag of Australia  ,
Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Alright, after a couple of e-mails, I suppose I better tell the bits about the land down under. Maybe I will tell you that I was kidnapped by aborigines and forced to shave my head and sing in a Midnight Oil tribute band. Or how the guy next to me in the water had his leg bitten off by a great white shark (or a Great White tribute band's lead singer?!?!). Perhaps I will relate how I wandered into the outback and almost starved until I began to survive by eating indigenous plants, wallabies, and poisonous snakes, or how I cut the tail off of the stingray that killed Steve Irwin, and made a fortune selling bronze copies of the stinger made from the lost-wax method of early metal-age Wales.
Why don't I tell these tales then? Well only for one reason, and one reason alone: They Simply Are Not True. Many things have happened, and though most of them actually did happen to me, nothing much happened in my days at Sydney.
I was lucky enough, through a friend of a friend to have a place to stay, a nice apartment on the 7th floor overlooking freshwater beach (that's just up from Manly, for those of you that know what that means).
The biggest news in Australia was that the famous Croc Hunter was killed in a freak accident, of which I'm sure all you Yanks have heard all the details. As Bill Maher said, though, it is not a "freak accident" when a stingray STINGS you. After all, they do not call it a "Hug-ray." But all in all I guess the man was a pretty passionate enviornmentalist, especially here in the land of the kangaroo (whose meat is quite tasty by the way, as well as cheap, I ate a lot of it), and where logging and mining interests have been running unchecked for years. He fought for pristine forests, and untouched outback lands, and was instrumental in helping get public support for such legislation. A good bloke all round. Godspeed, croc hunter.
Also aussie racing legend Peter Brock was killed in a crash on a routine run in a race of vintage cars for charity. A professional driver for 40 years or so, this crash was met with similar surprise by his fans. I really don't know much about Brock, seemed like a nice enough sort, but auto racing is the province of mouth-breathing rednecks, and to me, it's like watching paint dry. Except when there is a crash, of course, then it gets exciting. After all, what do people watch it for? For the crashes. Then when one of the drivers dies in a crash and everyone is upset? That's like being upset when a wild-animal wrangler gets killed by one of the very animals he is too close to. . Oh. . oops. .
Perhaps Steve Irwin needed a fast driver to make it to the pearly gates on time. One man who polluted the enviornment and became famous for it, and another who tried to save it, and became famous for it. Perhaps they are brawling somewhere on the "other side." Who knows such things. In the interim, they have gone to wherever dead people go, and life itself is for the living.

So, as I said, not much transpired in the Sydney area, I did not travel anywhere, it rained for a whole week straight with gale-force winds, and then cleared up for the last days I was there into beautiful days, perfect for reading on the beach, or long walks.
Really, I enjoyed having a sort of loose routine for the first time in quite a while. Cooking my own meals, writing, learning and writing new songs on guitar, and all that kind of good stuff was long overdue. So I took a sort of vacation from my vacation.
At some other point, perhaps, I will have the money and motivation to attack Australia, but it would be nice to do so in the true spring, not in the vacillating weather patterns at the end of winter.
On many days, I took the half-hour ferry ride from Manly to Sydney, a nice experience in itself, at least on a sunny day. One gets some nice views of the city, especially the opera house and bridge on the way to circular quay, the main ferry depot. Walked around the city quite a bit, and, of course, saw the inside of a few pubs.
One afternoon, getting ready to go back across the harbor, I walked into a bottle shop for some tobacco (expensive as shit in australia), and there was a man in the shop talking to the cashier. There was something familiar about him, and looking closer I impulsively laid my hand heavily on his shoulder. It was my old friend Paul, who I hung out with quite a bit in Palolem!!(That's in India, for those of you who didn't do their blog-reading homework, or were sick that day).
At first Paul didn't recognize me without a big shock of blonde hair sticking out of the top of my head, but in a split second he did. So good to see a friendly face in a big city, this works the same anywhere you go. And the probablities of such chance meetings I have ceased to try and calculate, as it seems to happen quite a bit, at least in my life.
So a quarter of a world away since last meeting, the next night we went out for a number of relatively cheap aussie drafts, and caught up. I had just missed him in Himachal Pradesh, he had left for a trek before I made my attempt on Leh.
Paul had been home for a bit since then, and apparently we ran into each other just after he had stepped off of the plane. Wonder of wonders. A good night, and a hearty farewell was the result of that, he was off to the north and I was off to New Zealand. Walking back to the ferry with a nice warm feeling inside--a combination of beer and friendship. A good man, that Paul, and I feel somehow certain that we will meet again, perhaps in some odd corner of the world, or at one or the other's home territory. That is, as long as neither of us becomes a wild animal wrangler or race car driver.

In Sydney, I got the chance to:
Walk through a submarine and sit in the navigator's seat of a destroyer
Try at least 10 different australian beers
Cook my own meals, healthy and delicious
Sit on the beach, and recharge my tan
Talk to locals, play pool with them
Eat 5 dollar sushi lunchboxes
Almost get a part in a student movie
Play lots of guitar
Write profusely
Watch many sunsets and sunrises
Watch plenty of Australian television (which is infinitely better than that American crap)
Catch up on e-mails and business stuff
Wash my clothes
Read books, newspapers and magazines in the sun
Sleep a peaceful night or two
Practice a reasonably bad (phonetically spelled) "eematoyshin Awstroyleein Aksint. . "
Generally chill out and do maintenance, not only in the material sense, but also to excercise eat healthy, and rest, which was exactly what I needed. An excellent re-entry into western "civilization," complete with a bunch of white people who speak English (at least after a fashion, that is).
Sometimes the best travel on can do is just sitting still for a while.

I am indebted to my hostess, Christine, whom, by the way, I have never even met in person. She will be back soon from a Nepalese excursion to everest base camp and other exotic and difficult locations. Now, Christine is a real adventurer, in condition and gutsy, doing physically demanding trips, not just riding around on a motorcycle or some such thing like others you might know of.
Hopefully she will visit Boston when she comes back to the states, as she is from a small town in Connecticut. We'll let her in even though she may be a yankees **ugh** fan. . Somehow or other people from small towns in Connecticut are all over the damn place. Perhaps it is like the line from the famous springsteen song: "we gotta get out while we're young. . ."

Stay tuned for Kiwiland news. I'm just now in Christchurch, and am going to join three Brazilians for a car journey to Picton, where the ferry to the north island leaves from. Then it is Wellington to Aukland by thumb. . A lot of ground to cover in a short time. Hope I don't see any Orcs on the way. .
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playblues on

Dude, what's been going on with you since you got to AU??? I for one am getting a bit worried that you have been taken hostage by a group of aborigines while you were relieving your inflamed bowels in the bushes of the outback. They don't take kindly to that kind of thing, I'm sure. Keep us posted if you can, if you can't......good luck with all that, 'might'.

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