A land down under

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Sunday, March 6, 2005

G'day! Upon arrival at the Sydney airport, I promptly caught the shuttle kangaroo into town. I was cramped in the pouch with several other people. I didn't ask where it put the luggage...I don't think I want to know. I had to transfer to a wombat once we got to central station so I could get out to the 'burbs. I have discovered after extensive exploration and research that they do not have [native] giraffes here. Who woulda thunk it? I got so used to riding those in Africa...now I'm going to have to adjust to riding the local wildlife on this continent.

This part of the trip was intended to be a sort of break from the tourist/travel thing I've been doing as of late. I was in Australia 5 years ago for the millenium so saw most the tourist sites then. My good friend from college, Josh, moved to Sydney in December to start his PhD so I have a free couch to crash on. Always a plus. I had several friends in the area to visit - Alison (met through Nick), Helen (from Egypt tour), Euna (from Africa) and Daniel (from La Tomatina). Josh had already been getting to know Ali's housemates (Giles, Johan, Elissa, Jo). We seemed to spend a lot of time with them in the Coogee area. The first week was spent chilling out by the beach, cookin' on the barbie, had a game of croquet and some dinners at the house. Quite nice just to relax like a normal person again. Also did a brief bit of touristy stuff seeing the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour.

Chinese New Year celebrations were taking place that first week too so we saw a bit of the festivities that go along with that.
Author's note: alcohol prices in Australia are freakin' expensive (e.g., AU$16 for a six pack of beer). They also have drive-thru bottle shops here. !?!

Josh hadn't started school yet and Giles hadn't yet found a job so they were both wanting to do something (i.e., we're all bums and kinda bored). ROADTRIP!!! We decided on going to Melbourne, renting a car and driving along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. Claire, who you may remember from such adventures as Africa overland or 22 hour truck ride to Cape Town or busin' up the South Africa coast, was in Melbourne without work and wanting to join us along with her friend, Kirsty. Giles started us off (Feb 10) by taking us through the Grand Prix circuit in Melbourne. We drove along the coast stopping at anything that seemed interesting - like seeing kangaroo on a golf course or koalas in the wild. Eventually, we made it to the Twelve Apostles, a cool series of rock formations off the coast. We stayed the night in the bustling town of Port Campbell.

The drive continued north up into the mountains called The Grampians. Not nearly as big as the mountains back home, but nice nonetheless. Driving along, the guys kept asking if I was ok being in back and if I wanted to switch - uhhh, let's see...I was in back with two cute young ladies so the answer was always "no". In the park, we went to a few viewpoints that look out over the valleys and a waterfall. We stayed in the town of Halls Gap which had a jazz festival going on. There were loads of blue-hairs there for that.

On our way out of the park, we stopped at a couple more viewpoints. The ladies left us in the town of Horsham to catch a bus back to Melbourne. We continued on with me driving from Bordertown (with its white kangaroos) through Keith (with a jeep on a pole) to Adelaide. The first night there we stayed in a hostel and went out on the town. The downtown seemed dead for a Saturday night. We kept walking and found an area that was alright, still nothing too exciting.

Giles left us in Adelaide to fly back to Sydney for job interviews. My friend, Melanie, put Josh and I up in her house for the next week. Melanie did a study abroad program back in 1991 and stayed with my family. She's now married and is expecting a son in August. Josh and I had a couple days to piddle around Adelaide then went to Kangaroo Island overnight. We did a tour that took us around the island to show us the sights. I'd been to K.I. when I was here 5 years ago so it was just a repeat for me. We saw the seals, Little Sahara sand dunes, Remarkable Rocks and a few other places. Had a day of rest in Adelaide then went on a wine tour of the Barossa Valley. I think we started sampling around 10:30am and finished at 4:30pm, but then had a beer for the bus ride back and continued on at a pub in town with others we met on the tour. Way too much alcohol in one day. Josh left Saturday morning for Sydney. I stayed with Mel a couple more days and went on a Model A car tour with her parents.

Sunday afternoon I flew out to Perth. Dan, whom I know from Portland through Mary, picked me up at the airport and gave me a couch to crash on. I explored Perth and Fremantle...didn't find a ton to do, but it is a nice city. Dan informed me that Perth has more nightclubs per capita than any other city in the world. I checked out the only happening place on a Monday night which had live music, a DJ and crab races. One of my days in Perth I did a daytrip out to Rottnest Island and rented a bike to go around. There were several beautiful beaches there.

Had an overnight flight back to Sydney, then a couple hours to vege at Josh's before catching the train north with Josh to Singleton to visit Kylie. Josh and I met her in 1996 on our cross-country roadtrip. Poor Kylie has had some tragic events in her life. She's now a widow raising a 3 year old in small town Australia. Just like small town U.S.A., there are plenty of rednecks and a slim selection of award-winning personalities. We played around with her son, Louis, and Kylie took us on a tour of the Hunter Valley wine region. Louis never cried or threw a tantrum the entire weekend so he rates as a pretty good kid in my book.

Once more back to Sydney. When wandering around cities in Australia, I really miss the architecture of Europe. Like the U.S., everything here is too recent...there's nothing really old and interesting for architecture or history. Sunday evening after arriving, we went down to the Domain to meet up with the gang and watch TropFest, a short-film festival. Most the films were quite good, but a couple didn't seem to deserve making it to the finals. Josh's b-day is Feb 28, so we weent out wit tha mates an'had 2for1 drinks ahn some biears (dinner too). This last week was spent researching where to go in New Zealand and getting a worthless visa for China. Josh and I went out 10-pin bowling with Ali and her co-workers Friday night. Went out with some of her housemates in Coogee afterwards. Saturday we went to the Lord of the Rings Exhibition...kinda cool - lots of props from the movies and making of clips. After that we met up with friends down on Oxford Street to watch the mardi gras (gay pride) parade. As you can imagine, lots of colorful and interesting people were out for that.

current song I like: "it can't come quickly enough" by Scissor Sisters
a few things I miss: root beer, Tillamook chocolate peanut butter ice cream, freedom of travel having my own car, wandering in and the smell of pine forests
favorite Aussie expression: BUGGER!

I surpassed one year of traveling while here. Geesh, it has been a while. Been to over 30 countries, Spanky's got his picture with many famous landmarks, met lots of great people and I haven't had anything stolen or had to go to the hospital (knock on wood). The money is getting considerably low so I'm going to have to figure out what to do about that. I'll be able to make it stretch further once I get to Asia. I'm attempting to cut burgers and chips (french fries) out of my diet at least for a bit. Will see how long I can go as me really likes me chips. Next up is New Zealand for a month...

"I said, 'Do you speak-a my language?'
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said,
'I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover.'"
- Land Down Under, Men at Work


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