Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Because I need more jewelry.....

Generally when I travel, I buy something non-touristy as a reminder of my trip. Art a lot of times. Sometimes a carpet. (Ahem.) Often times it's jewelry.

Today, two rings. I couldn't decide which one. I asked if she'd give a deal on both. (She would.) I asked if she took AMEX. (She did.)

They are designed by a jeweler in Melbourne. The large one is Pietersite (it shimmers like Tigers Eye) and the smaller is a gorgeous Blood Stone.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Car Camping in Emu Park

My roadtrip adventure is going pretty well by listening to people and taking suggestions. When I was in Noosa Heads at a fabulous little curry joint (snapper penang curry, yummo) I spoke to a couple of men who highly recommended the small town of Emu Park. I was told I'd want to spend a few days there. Well I pulled into town yesterday, the hostel was full up so I went to the local caravan park. They had a social hour at five that I made in time, and I have to say that I'm bummed I don't have a week to spend in Emu Park. One of the other caravan park residents came for 2 weeks something like 6 years ago. It's that chill. The park was right along the beach, the breeze was great, and the park has lots of beautiful shade giving trees. I already miss it.
Car camping! Picture me in the backseat with a book and a cold cider. (What, you expected a Hello Kitty sleeping bag?)

Rum'ing before lunch.

When I'd hear about Australian rum, all I could think was rot gut- I mean, do they even grow sugar in Australia? (Yes, they do.) The most well known (and perhaps the tastiest) rum in Australia is Bundaberg. I was in town and decided to check out the distillery. Pictures aren't allowed during the distillery tour (the coolest pics, in my opinion, would have been the enormous American oak aging barrels- vats, really) so my pictures are limited to the tasting business at the conclusion. And I didn't take pictures of the outside of the distillery or the neighboring sugar refinery because, frankly, it just looks like a smoking, churning industrial site.
They let me serve myself. (Not really.) 
Not a big rum fan myself, I opted for the rum liqueur which is only available here on site. Fabulous on the rocks. Sort of like Kahlua but less syrupy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turtle Papparazzi

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the endangered Loggerhead Turtle do its best to propagate its species. The females only come onto shore in order to drop off eggs. They lay about 120 each time, and may lay eggs a handful of times in a season. They do not reach reproductive maturation until they are in their 30s. I wasn't able to take pictures of the actual egg laying due to disturbing the process, but these two pictures are from the mama turtle's efforts to hide the nest site.
I was part of the third group who got to watch this process that night. The park rangers didn't seem too confident after the first two groups- they even said we could hang around in the hopes of another turtle coming ashore 'if you want to' so I was feeling discouraged but I stayed the course. Lucky I stayed. A little after 10:40 my group got called. The egg laying didn't take too long but the covering of the site was done.....at a turtle's pace. Ba-da-bump. Then we watched her waddle back into the moonless ocean night.

With a name like Rainbow Beach.....

.....I thought it'd be more rainbow-y.
Although it was very beautiful. That's Fraser Island out in the distance.
Then I understood the rainbow name. This large hill alternates colors for probably 3 to 4 kilometers down the beach. (Can you spot the paragliders?)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Canberra Sculptures

(Yet another catch-up post.)
As I already mentioned, Canberra is a city of museums. And most of them are free. I was stoked to go to the National Art Gallery and, once I noticed that photography was verboten, I really just enjoyed walking the halls. Not taking pictures was grrrreat. I saw Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles, a Monet, a Lichtenstein, lots of Aboriginal art, a few Warhols and, my favorite, not one dying Christ or crying Madonna. Actually my two favorite pieces in the National Art Gallery were James Angus' A Lot of Bright Ideas (a collection of about 100 lightbulbs in which the filaments are all different shapes- mostly modern culture references) and Fiona Hall's Paradisus Terrestris (while it has an erotic element, I really liked the detail of these tiny metal sculptures).

But all was not lost in the art department as Canberra has bunches of sculptures just laying about. Mostly they're in the sculpture park but scattered around central Canberra are lots of other sculptures too.
Some Rodin.
This was a piece dedicated to the Lost Generation- the Aboriginal children that were taken from their families and relocated to orphanages or to live with white Australian families.
The back of the sculpture is covered in stories such as these.

Canberra: Australian War Memorial

Canberra is a city of museums. Good ones. Most of them free. Hands down, my favorite was the Australian War Memorial. It's a memorial and a museum, and one that you could literally spend all day walking around. They cover all conflicts in which Australia has been involved- to include the current conflicts. Of course, World War I was pivotal to Australia and Australian identity, and it warrants perhaps the greatest amount of displays. I could not take enough nor post enough pictures to give a good idea of just how phenomenal this memorial is- here's just a few.
This reflecting pool has an eternal flame at the far end.
This wall is just World War I casualties. It's a very long wall. World War II is on the other side of the reflecting pool. It seems to have just as many names.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The wreath that is mostly cropped out was laid by President Obama; I was trailing him by about 15 minutes.
In the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there are stained glass windows on all four walls depicting servicemembers in various uniforms, and at the bottom of each figure is a quality that is revered.
Australia, apparently, reveres "coolness" in their troops. It made me laugh and didn't seem too out of character in this country.
I visited the war memorial on November 17th and, like I said, was only about 15 minutes behind the POTUS.
Elaborate/field rigged deception. Dripping water into the canteens would allow these rifles to fire long after the Australian soldiers had left their beachfront battle sites in Turkey.

My Second WWOOFing Gig: Tilba Tilba

(Another catch up post from earlier this month.)

I WWOOFed in Tilba Tilba (about 100 km SE of Canberra as the crow flies) from November 8th to the 15th. Just a week. Not long enough, I can tell you. The daily tasks were mostly grounds maintenance. The downside to the work were leaches, and the love of roses by my host, Tanmaya. I'd never seen so many varied types of thorns. But they saw me.

The landscape around the place was absolutely stunning as the pictures show. The pace of life around the house was ideal- work up till lunch, have time to eat and get cleaned up then either nap or lay in the sun or read or sit around the living room and talk about whatever comes to mind.

I really enjoyed my time in Tilba Tilba, and cannot thank Tanmaya and Roger enough. I only WWOOFed two spots in Australia but my experience leads to me wholeheartedly recommend it as a way to see and experience a place- getting to know people and seeing life in a different light.
Roger built the gate that leads to the house.
With all the plants around the house, this is about the clearest shot you can get of the house. 
I'm posting this picture because I simply adored the little shrub on the right- the one that looks grassy. In fact, it FELT grassy. Like grass on limbs.
View off the back porch. 
Tanny's love is roses but I was captivated by this beautiful little flower. 
Hi Roger! Hi Tanny!

Friday, November 25, 2011

One of the coolest houses I've ever experienced.

(Again, a catch-up post from my time in Tilba Tilba, NSW.)

On my last night at my second WWOOFing gig, me and the guys were invited to dinner at a friend's house. Aggie is an expat Welshman who has mostly called Australia home since the 70s I do believe. His home and property are the epitome of reduce/reuse/recycle. He's mostly self sufficient, providing almost all his own food, he's got elaborate solar energy systems, he's working on an electric car, he does all his own construction (with help when available) and is handy at carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, gardening, etc. I'm telling you, this property is the height of ingenuity. And dinner was damn good too. We had an Indian dish along with mulberries and ice cream for dessert.
The front of the house. The house is assembled from two caravans (campers) as well as other construction. 
The main living area. A caravan is to the left and immediately in front. The floor is made of eucalypt trees and concrete. As I quizzed Aggie about how he made it, he laughed and said he does not recommend it. He's done it 3 times. The wood shrinks. The concrete cracks.  
Aggie's sister, Salima. (I hope I got her name right.) She's also an expat living in Oz- just down the road.
Just part of Aggie's gardens. 
He's even got a bunker. And yes, he's mixed all the concrete and poured it himself, along with friends. He's ready for any bushfire, or worse.
Aggie inside the bunker talking concrete with my fellow WWOOFer JC- who's got some concrete experience in France.

Aaah, Noosa Heads

I tried to check in to the nice hostel. The one that's in the historic building. I did. I really did.

But the only room they had was a double and it was 80 bucks. And, frankly, that's outta my (self imposed) budget. So I went to the other hostel. The dodgy one. The party hostel. The one that makes you want to holler "SPRING BREAK, WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" And it's attached to the "hottest club in Noosa Heads." Greeeeeat.
Oh, yes, my hostel has a wet t-shirt contest AND a wet jock contest. Alas, that's on Monday and I won't be here, or I would sooooo be there. (Observer, folks.)
To top it off, I did not realize that my 8-man dorm room was coed until I walked in to find a shirtless, vagabondish German manboy texting his chicas while his hot water swilling countryladies took leisurely 30 minute showers thus denying me the chance to see the town's Christmas tree lighting.
But here's the tree. A normal deciduous tree in drag as an evergreen.
Personally, I prefer the routine palm tree decoration.
But the night was young and I headed 'downtown' which meant at the second or third roundabout. I went into a jazzy, breezy, Hawaii-ish resto called Rococo's. I sat down, ordered a gin and tonic and went to pay when the gentleman next to me told the bartender, by name, that my drink was on him. Nice! A distinguished Scottish man, eerily reminiscent of a paunchy Tommy Lee Jones but one who speaks in a dialect I cannot understand. He proceeded to order a couple of bottles of champagne. Long story short, this man was obliterated, told me AT LEAST 115 times that he was "very real" and proceeded to shake my hand a lot, turning into kissing my hand, and eventually licking my knuckles. When he licked my ear, I decided it was best that I skidaddle.

So now I am back at SPRING BREAK WOOOOOO hostel and loving their unlimited wifi. I hope there are no weird German shenanigans in the room tonight.

EDIT (26NOV): The two German girls left. The German manboy is actually Swiss. There are two Canadian brothers, and two Brit girls. There is no air conditioning. But no German shenanigans so all is good.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gold Coasting on Thanksgiving

After the Hunter Valley, I headed towards Coffs Harbor. The ladies at Wyndham Estates recommended a little town called Bellingen, as it's artsy. So that's where I spent the night- in a funky little hostel with lots of friendly people. There was "jazz on the veranda" at the local pub, and it's the type of town where every other shop is an art or craft place. I could have stayed here a couple of days but the rain was making me antsy. So off I went toward Byron Bay- a place that, I believe, every single person I've ever spoken to about this trip has recommended.

First, my gps took me on a "creative" (i.e. unnecessary) side trip off the Pacific Highway. I didn't mind it so much because it was really quite beautiful. The only hairy bit was this fallen tree- and in order to get around it, I had to take some back roads. They were red dirt. And owing to the days of rain, they were mud. And all I'm thinking is about flash floods and massive mud flows and I'm in a Corolla. Luckily, nothing bad happened. The gps has been reprimanded.
But later in the day, the route was taking me more along the coast. I was glimpsing some scenery and had to stop for pictures, even if I couldn't necessarily enjoy the Gold Coast beaches as planned. This beach is just south of Byron Bay. It's called 7 mile Beach, I believe.
I did pop into Byron Bay. Another funky little town- and because of the rain the tourist situation was not out of hand. I had a light bite and a cider then I walked along the beach and picked up a few pretty shells.

My bed down plan was to stay in another RV park but because it's a very touristy area, the prices were chapping my ass. (40 bucks to park my car and use no electricity?!) So I drove to Coolangatta and checked out a hostel. Unimpressed. My car was parked on a quiet street and I figured what the heck. So I made up the backseat, popped open my bottle of port and ate some Tasty Cheese (a type they have here). A strange Thanksgiving dinner to be sure.

Today, Brisbane and on to Noosa Heads- where I am staying in a real bed, no matter what.