It’s Over

I’ve been back in the good ol’ US of A for  a month now and it seems both pointless and necessary to close up my journey abroad. After all, the people who read this blog know that I’m back and can ask me questions themselves, in person or over the phone. On the other hand I’m proud of how well I kept up with this blog and leaving it just open and unfinished seems an insult to it and all the time I put in.

I miss Australia. I miss the sun although I don’t miss the risk of skin cancer all the time. There’s a certain freedom to walking outdoors here that’s totally unattainable in Oz. I miss the radio. Winston-Salem’s stations are awful and if we could just get a little triple j every now and again that would be a big help. I guess I’ll just have to listen on the Internet. I miss public transportation and being able to get everywhere on foot. Now the most walking I do is on the treadmill. I miss my friends and their lovely accents.

The freedom I felt in Australia is one that I may never feel again. There were no expectations of me and nowhere I had to be. I walked and wandered and tried and failed and conquered all. There is always a drawback of course and I do not miss counting my dimes and nickels the way I literally did down under. It is nice to be at home and know there is food in the fridge. I don’t have to walk to the store and carry it all back with me. I don’t have to count out exact change and put things back when I don’t have enough money. It was stressful but now that I’ve had this little reprieve I’d gladly go back to that lifestyle if given the chance to do it all again.

My time in Australia may be over but my adventures are not. Perhaps to the dismay of my family I have no plans of stopping. This is only a brief pause in what I hope to be a lifetime of travel and adventure.

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Welcome to 2010

Only 2 years until the world ends.

But that’s a worry for another day! Happy New Year’s everyone! My New Year’s celebration turned out to be very enjoyable despite having spent the previous night on a 17 hour bus (I was previously incorrect in believing the bus ride to be only 15 hours). I arrived in Sydney relatively cheerful and energetic although a bit gross and in need of nourishment and a shower. My friend, Sara a fellow American who I met in Tasmania, welcomed me into her home and set me up with all my requirements. As soon as this was all taken care of we set off with snacks and refreshments to Observatory Hill where we joined Sara’s friends. They had been sitting on the Hill since 10 am, all so they could get a good view of the fireworks! By the time we joined them at 4 they had been in the rain and sun for 6 hours and had quite a few beverages to keep them occupied. So we spent the next 8 hours not eating enough, drinking the obviously correct amount, meeting our neighbours who were also camped out on the grass, trying desperately to find toilets without an hour long queue and of course, waiting for the fireworks. They finally came and we gladly ushered in the new year with much merriment, music and very goofy looking hats (pictures to come soon but only if no one mocks me).  The fireworks ended, too quickly of course, and we decided to it would be best to go ahead and make our way home. So did the other one and a half million people who had been watching the fireworks along Sydney’s harbour. It was absolute madness. The roads were absolute rivers of people. We couldn’t find a train station that was open (yes, if we had looked just a little bit harder I’m sure we would have found it) or the correct bus stop. When we finally found and caught the correct bus we were informed that it would not be going to destination despite the fact that it does every other day of the year. So we had to switch buses for our last leg of the journey. After a short walk from the bus station to Sara’s house and four hours of confused traveling, we finally made it home.

I spent the first day of the New Year doing absolutely nothing but sleeping, watching TV and eating frozen pizza. Damn right.

26 days ’til I’m stateside.

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In Case You Were Wondering

Approximately 4 weeks and 4 days until I’m stateside.

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December In A Flash

So Tasmania did not turn out to be a terrible mistake. I’m sure it was obvious to everyone else that this was going to be the case.

After I experienced a temporary shift in my financial situation I headed out to explore Tassie with enthusiasm. First I spent some time on the east coast seeing some great spots as the Bay of Fires, Wineglass Bay and Port Arthur. In case you weren’t aware, Bay of Fires was named 2008’s second best beach in the world. Some beach in Jamaica was the first. Of course the Bay of Fires beach is missing one key thing–warmth. It’s a great place to admire but I was not exactly itching to dip my toes in. Wineglass Bay gave me the same feeling unfortunately but I did enjoy the hike down to the beach there and the scenery was spectacular. However I do love a good story and Port Arthur was certainly the place for it. Port Arthur is the most well-preserved of the old prison systems in Australia. It was a place where England sent its repeat offenders, its worst of the worst. Once they arrived there was little hope of escaping. Port Arthur is on a peninsula and has swimming was not a popular pastime back in the day, there was little chance of using the water to get to safety. Also it was rumored that the guards put raw meat in the water to attract sharks. If the convicts were to hope to escape by land then they would have to pass Eaglehawk Neck. Here were vicious dogs chained throughout the land so an escapee would have to pass these unscathed and without them alerting the guards with their barking. It was unlikely. In the few hours I spent at Port Arthur I was able to hear a few of the terrible stories. Some were of the ways people chose to escape (murder-suicide pacts) and others were of the Silent Prison. Men placed in the Silent Prison had offended so bad that they truly needed to reflect on their deeds. They would reflect by spending months in total silence or even total darkness. These men never escaped the Silent Prison nor were they sent back to the main population but in fact only onward to the Mental Asylum. Despite all this Port Arthur has become a beautiful place. Where buildings have burned down green gardens replace them. In the warm glow of the sun everything seems peaceful.

On the west coast there are more opportunities to hear of terrible tales. But you can watch the movie “Van Diemen’s Land”, a recent release in Oz, to catch all the gory details (hint: it involves cannibalism among escaped prisoners). I spent my time on the west coast under enormous clouds of rain. That’s why I have no pictures to share I’m afraid. Despite this I did some good hikes (yes, in the rain) to the Montezuma Falls which towers at 90 meters high. I also spent a totally inadequate amount of time at the gorgeous Cradle Mountain National Park. One day it would be great to do the Overland Track, a hike that is a minimum 6 days and covers some incredible World Heritage area.

After a few days in Launceston (a pleasant town with very little to see outside the Cataract Gorge) I got a little scared about the idea of spending Christmas on my own. Looking back my panic was really unneccessary and I probably would have had a great time. But what’s done is done and the short of the story is I cancelled the rest of my plans in Tassie and caught the first plane to the mainland. I was fortunate enough to catch a quick brekky with Naomi before she flew off to Vietnam for her Christmas holidays. I spent my Christmas with the Ellis family in an old gold mining town called Ballarat. The Ellis family is that of my friend Jo’s. It was a pleasant and very laid back holiday involving presents on Christmas Eve. Santa found me all the way in Australia (I couldn’t believe it! He’s so good.) and brought me a new pair of jim jams (pajamas for another not hip to the lingo) and a pair of earrings. After a few Christmas Eve shots (you think I’m kidding but I think this is a tradition that should carry over to our family– Bosworths? paying attention?) we slept soundly, waking up early to go Mr. Ellis’s parents’ for lunch. There everyone fought over a chance to play with Sam’s new yoyo. Sam is Jo’s 23-year-old brother by the way. His 6-year-old cousin got to pick out his gift and Sam definitely lucked out. I did get a pretty cool calendar though.

But all good things must come to an end. After a nice long weekend at the Ellis household it was time to move on. Now I am on my way to Sydney to celebrate New Years Eve. Never mind the 15 hour bus ride in the meantime.

Merry Christmas everyone! And a Happy New Year!!

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Tasmania: Terrific Adventure or Perhaps a Mistake?

Only a few days after Anita’s departure I decided to make my way to Hobart, Tasmania. I had gotten it into my head that I would stay here for the remainder of my time in Australia, find employment and save lots of money. So far, Hobart is a very beautiful city. It is on the waterfront but surrounded by green hills. It’s a small city of only 200,000 people but is certainly big enough to provide a person with anything they could ask for– especially history! Tasmania is full of history (mainly of the convict persuasion). Most of the streets are lined with historic or older buildings.

Unfortunately Hobart has what may be considered the worst weather in Australia. In any given day it is sunny, rainy, windy, cold and perfect temperature. There is no proper way to dress or prepare. And of course I only have one jumper (sweater) and one pair of jeans. Guess what I’ve worn every day?! So I haven’t yet decided what to do about staying or going mainly because I don’t really know where to go. But I’ll keep you updated! Wish me luck!

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Time To Say Goodbye

So Anita and I had to say goodbye to Western Australia and flew back to Melbourne once again to have a little relaxation and shopping (obviously) before Anita would have to be shipped back to Canada.

The reoccurring event of the days has to be St. Ali’s. St. Ali’s is a wonderful cafe in South Melbourne that (according to Anita and a few awards) serves great coffee and fantastic food! So we visited St. Ali’s twice while in Melbourne again and were never disappointed. Another highlight of our last few days would have to be the Queen Victoria Night Markets. These only go on during the summer months and they are filled with crafts, international foods, live music and sangria! There couldn’t be a more perfect combination. Naomi and Adam were kind enough to meet us there and accompany us around the markets. This was also a very exciting event because Anita bought me two hats! I’m very sunsmart now. Over the three days in Melbourne that Anita was present I’m afraid we didn’t have too many cultural activities but there was a lot of shopping and she did get to see St. Kilda and Chapel Street, two excellent areas.

And so, Friday morning, it was time to say goodbye. We woke up bright and early so that Anita could take a tram to take a bus to take a plane to Canada. I went with her to the Southern Cross station to make sure she got on the bus okay and while I was not as openly upset as I thought I would be, I was certainly distressed to see her leave. It has been a wonderful month traveling with Anita and I’m sorry to see her go. The difference between traveling alone and traveling with a friend, especially one like Anita, is so incredibly large. I count myself lucky that she was able to come at all and accompany me if only for a little while.

Anita, I hope it won’t be long til I see you again!

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The Wild Wild West

Our trip to Western Australia started off nice and easy. After Carol-Ann picked us up from the airport we had a quiet dinner catching up over way too much Italian food. Anita and I spent our first day in Perth walking around the CBD and nearby areas, as well as lounging by the river for a bit. On Saturday, things started to pick up.

We caught a bit of a late ferry to Rottnest Island where we were spending the afternoon riding bikes around and getting very sore butts. We picnicked, swam in the chilly water and took an excessive amount of both band photos and photos of quokkas (rat meets tiny kangaroo). Upon our return to Perth  I was invited to a birthday party by a former Mingenew coworker, Niamh. I warned my companions that this was an Irish party and therefore anything could happen but we went anyways and we had a great time. The best way to describe this party is the fridge. The residents of this household had taken a refrigerator, laid it down on its back and filled it with ice making it essentially a giant cooler. They crammed it full of ice and beer and took it dancing on it when no one was thirsty. At one point; however, I did notice two people (perhaps they were sunburned?) had decided to lay inside the fridge on top of all the beers. The partygoers found this to be entertaining but not necessarily astonishing. I think this paints a pretty clear picture.

The next day Carol-Ann threw a beach barbeque in honor of her visiting guests which gave us a chance to meet some of her friends. It took us quite a while to find this barbeque as our host did not actually know where it was.  When we finally got there and got everyone organized we had a yummy feast with a good view. Barbeque= Success!

But then the adventure got really exciting. Anita and I were embarking on an exploration of the west coast from Perth to Exmouth. We hopped on a 7 day tour which turned out to be absolutely amazing. If anyone wants to do a tour in Oz I highly recommend Western Exposure. Our very first day started off with a way around the Pinnacles which are limestone formations that seem to rise from this very yellow, golden sand. It has a very otherworldly feel to the area. Next we pumped things up a bit by sandboarding! We climbed a tall dune and sat on top of these little wooden boards and attempted to fly down (that’s what it seemed like). The first attempt was done by Anita who was thrown off face first into the sand. After her little sand snack, she got right back up to do it again! I was also throw off although I fell in more of a roll down the hill sort of way. I still had a nice bit of grit in my mouth but less of a whiplash than Anita. Overall it was fantastic!

We spent the night in Kalbarri where we woke up early to hike Nambung National Park. It was a mere 40C or 104F that day. No big deal. The swarms of flies trying to drink the sweat off our faces made it a lot more fun. But on our return to Kalbarri we had an unexpected surprise. There was a beached whale calf in the bay. Apparently it was a sick calf traveling with its mother down towards Antarctica. Sharks, discovering it was sick, separated it from its mother and drove into the bay where it died on the beach. It was very sad but also very dangerous as the calf needed to be moved before the sharks came into the bay, where humans like to swim, to feed on the carcass. So upon hearing the calf could not be saved we moved on to our next destination, Monkey Mia.

Monkey Mia is one of the few places in the world where people can feed wild dolphins. Despite the fact that only an hour away is a spot where the world’s oldest living organisms grow, people choose to flock from all over the world to Monkey Mia instead. Our tour group did both. We stopped to see the stromatolites, the organism from which all other organisms grew, and the world’s largest shell beach before going to the Monkey Mia resort. Along with about 200 other people, we got up very early the next morning for our chance to feed the dolphins or perhaps just see others do it. Only a few dolphins are chosen to be fed and they can only be given a small amount as to not mess with their natural habits. So out of 200 people only about 12 were going to get to actually put a defrosted fish inside a happily waiting dolphin’s mouth. I was one of those people! And I’m not going to lie, it was pretty cool. Unfortunately people are no longer allowed to touch the dolphins but I still appreciated being so close to one. Don’t worry, Anita has many pictures.

Next stop: Coral Bay! Here and in Exmouth’s Turquoise Bay we got to go snorkelling several times. At one point Anita and I swam on either side of a turtle for several minutes which is quite a special and uncommon experience. Turtles swim to swim the way large birds fly, just drifting along an invisible current using only a few flaps of their arms to keep their momentum or visit the surface for air. It was beautiful. Unfortunately coral injuries sometimes occur and while we were swimming Anita’s mask filled with water. She panicked as she started to choke and swam herself right into coral. Luckily her wounds did not get infected nor did she get coral poisoning so it was only the coral that will not recover. There was also a few members of our group who actually damaged the coral not because of an accident but by standing on it. They were lucky that the coral did not slice both their fins and their feet; however, the coral takes decades to grow and therefore will not be alright. Word to the wise: Avoid touching coral both for the coral’s sake and your own.

Our tour started winding down after leaving Exmouth. The last bit of excitement was visiting the Hutt River Province, an area that seceded from Australia. The HRP is a principality ruled by Prince Leonard with Princess Shirley and their children at his side. Prince Leonard was one a top physicist for NASA before returning to Australia some 40 or so years ago. Two things happened to make Prince Leonard decide to become his own country.

1. A law was passed that stated to be an Australian citizen this person must be born after January 1st, 1949. Obviously this is a stupid law but it is in place here. Many people suddenly had no citizenship.

2. Another law was passed stated Australian farmers could only grow 100 acres of wheat. Prince Leonard has 13,500 acres of wheat so this essentially put him out of business.

Prince Leonard decided to secede. Although he is not recognized by most nations, especially the Australian government, his secession was legal making his country legitimate. Since then things have changed so no one else can follow his footsteps. Prince Leonard is obviously a very intelligent man both in his speciality, mathematics, and in outsmarting his own government!

So our little group made the rest of our journey back to Perth but luckily the party was not over. Anita, Carol-Ann and I began the preparations for…fake Thanksgiving! This was certainly Anita and I’s greatest accomplishment while she was here. Successfully we cooked 1 turkey, 2 chickens and made goat cheese & garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, salad, corn, gravy and rolls. Carol-Ann made a very delicious apple crumble that finished off our feast perfectly. Much thanks to everyone who gave us helpful suggestions! Thanks Anita’s mom, Mama, Caroline and of course Carol-Ann who provided us with all we needed –including guests!

(Don’t worry, Americans, I reenacted how Thanksgiving came to be so the Australians knew what it was all about.)

Sadly, the next morning we had to wake Carol-Ann up at dawn to drive us to the airport and fly back to Melbourne.

Goodbye WA!

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