Chapter 14: Powderfingerland

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Flag of Australia  ,
Thursday, December 4, 2003

I made a dangerous discovery in Dunedin. Apparently in this part of the world it's possible to buy large quantities of codeine-enhanced ibuprofen (sp?) over-the-counter without anyone batting an eye. My favorite drug (Advil) on dreamy overkill!!! It comes complete with warnings about how you shouldn't operate heavy machinery or drive while taking it (not an issue), so I hope it's not addictive...

On my second night in Dunedin I met a great guy from Boston named Riley who had just finished up a study-abroad session in Melbourne. We hung out for most of that night (watching, erm, "Ghostbusters II"), and conveniently he was booked on Magic the next morning as well. Good thing, because it was a busload of new people for me, and all of them were either old or boring. Really - whenever Riley & I stopped talking it was dead-silent. The drive to Christchurch was full of silly stops ("see the world's steepest street!"; "marvel at the big round boulders on the beach!"; "Timaru!"), and one awesome giant fish statue.

Christchurch, however, was not a disappointment. Like all the major New Zealand cities, it's way cool for its size yet remains easily walkable. It's beautiful too: there are parks and exquisitely-crafted cathedrals and museums around every corner. I also was reunited with a number of friends who I'd met all over New Zealand, so it was a great way to end my stay in the country.

Saturday night, of course, was a bit of a bender. At 12:30am, after downing a cask of wine and a 6-pack, Riley, Peter (a UK friend from Queenstown), and I decided to check out the local nightlife. Since they were drunk, I dragged them out to Christchurch's one gay bar ("Ministry") without too much argument. Even though it was half-empty, I was impressed with the effort: the decor, lights, music, and atmosphere were all ultra-modern. We stayed an hour or so - long enough for my ego to get its periodically necessary boost - and then moved on to "The Loaded Hog" and "Shooters." By 3:30 I'd lost most sense of time and space, but I have to hand it to Christchurch - the streets were still packed with party-goers! Definitely a good night out!

Sunday was a low-key one, then, and I spent most of it chilling in the sun in the gorgeous botanical gardens. Met up with a bunch of friends from the road (Jane, Sabina, Phil, and Monika) for a Japanese dinner, and then said some sad "goodbye"s. Monday I explored all of Christchurch on foot, and ran into MORE old friends (Denise & Andrea from Switzerland) randomly on the street. We made plans to have dinner the next night with Conny and Herbert (also Swiss; I'd hung out with all four of them up in the Northland weeks before), and then I met Jane at an incredible seafood/veggie restaurant/brewery called Dux de Lux for dinner.

Tuesday I did lots of research online for the Australia segment of my journey, and then I had a fun night out with my Swiss friends (Dux de Lux again, which I will sorely miss). Hopefully I'll make it to Switzerland next summer before I run out of money, because they promised me fondue! Wednesday was my last day in New Zealand, which made me a little melancholy. I checked out of the fab Christchurch YHA, took the $5 bus to the airport, and then did the usual routine: stand in line, present documents, sit and eat, stand in line, present documents, browse duty-free, stand in line, present documents, board plane. I hope I make it back to New Zealand someday, as the people, the refreshing lack of attitude, the stunning scenery, and the ease of living combined to make it one of my favorite places in the world.

The flight only lasted 4 hours, they passed out plenty of free wine, and Ian McKellan hosted an uber-geeky audio "LOTR" special on Channel 8, so I was in good spirits by the time we landed in Australia at 6pm. The view out the window as we descended was ominous (deeply grey clouds swirling for miles), the landscape was bleak and boundless, and the trees looked slightly... odd... so it was a memorable landing which added to Australia's mystique. The Melbourne airport was the easiest ever... I think I was on the Skybus only 15 minutes after stepping off the plane! (That handily made up for the fact that they couldn't find a bridge operator to let us off the plane for 10 minutes after we got to the gate.)

I got dropped off at Spencer St. Station in downtown Melbourne, walked 20 minutes to the sterile Queensberry Hill YHA in North Melbourne, went to check in, and discovered that they had no record of me in their system even though I'd booked 2 nights and paid online last week. Great. Luckily they did have a bed available, so I was told to settle in and then sort it out with the manager in the morning. Easy enough, except that little things kept going wrong (broken printer, scalding shower, no pillowcase, annoying phone system, rain, faulty laundry), and I had a headache, so by the time I went to bed I hated Australia. Or at least the Queensberry Hill YHA.

Morning makes everything better, of course, so today I sorted out my life and then went on a fun romp through downtown and the Victoria Market. I booked myself into a cooler section of the city for Fri, Sat, & Sun nights, started making arrangements to meet up with friends-of-friends this weekend, figured out the problem at the YHA (a computer issue on their end), signed up for a 3-day bus tour through Canberra & the Blue Mountains to Sydney that starts Monday, and found a theater that's showing the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake tonight. So all is well with the world, despite my impending 30-ness. Thanks for the continued e-mails, and I hope you're doing great too. Later,

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