North By Southwest

Sydney is insane. Crazy, crazy busy. But that’s for later.

I wrapped up my time in Melbourne by getting absurdly drunk in the hostel bar with my new friends Katie (the bartender), Rubin (her boyfriend) and eventually Jones who might have been called something different, but I couldn’t tell through his accent.

The bar the hostel was completely dead, but I had decided I needed to meet some people and have some drinks, so I saddled up to the bar and ordered a pint of Tooheys. After I asked how to order, of course. The various sizes in Melbourne are a pot, which is about a half pint, a pint which is a pint and a jug which is a small pitcher. About two pints. I eventually started chatting with the above mentioned crew and ended up having a great time. We capped the night with a few games of pool, all of which I won, but I think my opponent Jones let me. Anyway, it was a good night.

Before going off to the bar to get hammered I booked a day tour for Phillip Island to see the fairy penguins make their daily attack on the beach. Every day, before the sun rises the smallest penguins in the world go out to sea to eat and eat and eat, and then all at once, as soon as the sun sets they come floating ashore and storm the beach to head back to their little homes and feed their young. It is without a doubt the cutest thing anywhere, ever.

On the way to see the penguins we stopped at a winery for a quick wine tasting. It was terrible. The wine just sucked to my taste. Sorry. Then we went to a wildlife park where we got to have our picture taken with a koala, feel up some wombats, romp around with some kangaroos and just generally bath in wildlife. The roos were of course the highlight, since we were allowed in their area to feed and play with them. All in all they were super cool but those fuckers have some giant claws on them and the bigger ones can get pretty aggressive when they want some chow.

We also saw a tassie (tasmanian) devil and learned about him. They are all dying from a disease that is passed via saliva and unfortunately the devils tend to swap a lot of saliva. They don’t really spin around in circles like Taz does but they really tear into their chow and are constantly biting it, each other and themselves. We also learned they can’t see for shit but can smell and hear really well. They move up to 30 kilometers a night in hunting and only eat already dead chow. The one we saw was in a pretty large cage, but certainly not 30km large so he ran in circles the entire time sniffing up a storm. I took a video of him, which I’ll post soon.

After the wildlife park we had a quick lunch and then were taken to an airport to have the option of a helicopter ride for an extra $60. It sounded cool, but I had already paid $99 for the tour and didn’t want to spend any more. Plus at least two people had to go and no one else was interested. So we headed off to a surf beach on Phillip Island to… waste time. It was a really gorgeous beach though, as you can see from the pictures.

Then it was off to Seal Rocks, where I saw no seals, and The Nobbies which were beautiful and then to the main attraction!

I won’t write pages about the penguins, but man they are cool. After they got up on the beach to their little huts they stood outside singing, trying to attract a mate. It was really pretty incredible and even though it’s a massive, massive tourist trap I totally recommend it. Skip the tour if you’ve got access to a car. It’s only $16 or something to watch the penguins. Oh, and there’s no taking pictures at all, so sorry about that.
So that was pretty much it for me in Melbourne. The morning before the penguins I wandered into a travel agency and picked up a ticket to Sydney. I was getting a little bored of Melbourne, and I figured if I am gonna suffer in a big city it might as well be THE big city.

And big it is! I grabbed a hostel in King Cross, which is east of the city center and had a free shuttle take me there. After settling in for a bit I found the entrance to the underground (subway, trains, whatever) and bought a return ticket for Town Hall, which is the main train interchange for the city lines. When I got there and walked out into the city I basically turned around and fled in terror. Probably not a good idea to have popped out right during the rush. It was completely crazy, and dark and I just wasn’t ready to face it just yet. So I wandered back to my hostel, got my laptop and here I sit, down the street catching up.

Tomorrow I’ll get down to Sydney proper and see what there is to see. I know I am definitely planning to go out of town in the next few days to the Blue Mountains and maybe go do some caving too. And I hear there’s some kind of opera thing on the harbor I should look at.

That’s it for now. I’m kinda beat for no good reason at all and am gonna call it an early night.┬á I imagine I’ll be doing plenty of walking tomorrow, and maybe some bridge climbing. There is a tour that lets you scale the Harbor Bridge and it looks pretty awesome scary. Make sure you check out the latest batch of pictures. There are some good ones in there, if I can say so myself.

Melbourne and The Dandenongs

It takes a little while to get used to this lifestyle, but I’m getting there. You have to get used to wearing the same shirt a few times and maybe not always smelling your best. You get used to being a little grossed out by the bathrooms you have to use, and then being a little less grossed out and then eventually accepting it. I’m getting there, with much thanks to the place I am staying, which is pretty bad ­čÖé

Anyway! It’s been a fun few days. I guess it was Saturday that I moved up to Melbourne, and I didn’t do a whole lot that day. Wandered around town, and checked out some of the sights. Ended up in bed pretty early. I did find an Internet cafe where I could hook up my laptop, so that was great. It’s nice to be able to check my email and do downloads with my laptop and such.

Sunday morning I got up fairly early and did a little shopping. I had to get some decent shoes that would last me this trip. I had been wearing my trusty Converse All Stars, which while stylish, are not great for putting down the miles. Err, kilometers. I finally ended up paying way too much for a pair of Merrell Chameleons, which are good for city walking and some light hiking. They were expensive but my feet have been worshiping me since, so that’s great.

With good shoes I was ready to get out of the city a bit. I caught a train to Upper Ferntree Gully, which is about an hour east of the city. It’s at the base of the Dandenong Mountains and I had read about some excellent hiking. I’m not exactly Mr. Hiking but I intend to be before I come home.

I found a visitors center that gave me a map and an idea and before long I was making my way up the mountain. There was a pretty steep grade on the path I chose and I was quickly out of breath; and then I got to the steps.

There is a feature called the 1000 steps memorial walk that is basically just that. 1000 concrete steps running up the side of the mountain to commemorate what the Aussie troops had to go through to defend something or the other from someone. It was grueling, for me at least. Plenty of other people were cruising right up, but I wasn’t the only one taking breaks every 50 steps or so. Along the way I saw some beautiful fern trees and some really cool red and blue parrot looking birds munching away on them. I eventually made it to the top, and it was a really good feeling, but man I was hurting.

The path back down might have been even worse. I didn’t have to stop to take breather breaks but there were no flat spots and my thighs were killing me by the end.

When I got back to my hostel I had intended to go to the free BBQ in the bar (Roo meat!) but instead I laid down for a few minutes and just slept and slept and slept. Completely worn out. I’ll have to eat a joey some other time.

Today I’ve been taking it slow and getting some errands done. I did laundry, which was much needed, mailed some stuff back home that I didn’t want to carry any more, am updating pictures and this blog and catching up on email. I had planned to try to get out to Phillip Island on my own, instead of with a tour, but mailing the package off and all this has taken longer than expected so I might do that tomorrow. I’m in no hurry.

And that’s all for now. I’m settling into a pace of life where I can just fuck off for a day and not worry about it. It’s hard. I feel like if I don’t go somewhere or see something every day I’m wasting time, but I’ve got months and months ahead of me and I can’t be a tourist for all of it. Somewhere in there I’ve got to just sit back and live. So that’s what I am doing.

I expect I’ll be moving on in a few days. Melbourne wasn’t all that interesting to me to begin with. I was only coming here to meet a friend who ended up not being available, but I’m having a nice time and I’m not bored yet. Next up, I am not sure. I may go down to Tasmania or up to Sydney. I missed a chance at a shared ride to Sydney this morning cause I forgot to check the bulletin board when I moved into Bakpak, so that was a bummer. Someone with a car was looking to share fuel costs up to Sydney and maybe beyond. I’d like to do something like that eventually. Sounds like a fun way to travel and get to know some new people.

Bye for now!

Seattle, Los Angeles and Melbourne

Wow, it’s been a hell of a few days. I’ve finally found a place to settle in and do some typing so I’ll catch you up!

Tuesday was my last day in Seattle, and it was great. After catching an early ferry from Friday Harbor to Anacortes I drove back to Seattle and met up with my friend J to see what was going on. He was busy for a while do I decided to take some time and finally wander around Seattle. I headed over to the Pike Place Market, which is where they throw fish around when you buy them and sampled the mini donut shop on the advice of J. Yummy, greasy little donuts. So good. I didn’t get to see any flying fish but I did see a bewildering array of really, really fresh seafood. Neat place.

After that I just started walking northish and eventually decided to go to the Space Needle since it was visible. I walked quite a ways but eventually got there. It was… high. I’m so bad at tourist attractions, but there are some things you have to do if you are in a certain place. But really, it was a really high building and you could see all of Seattle form it. Check out the pictures.

J talked to his wife and she suggested BBQing for my last day in town, so after getting a call while at the top of the Space Needle I took a cab back to the office and we set out to Bainbridge for dinner. As we went over he regaled me with stories of how he was going to cook the best steak ever. This is the Santa Maria style Tri-Tip and it more than lived up to all the hype. With a dry rub and then grilling for around an hour it turned into one of the tastiest steak sandwiches I’ve ever had, and that’s saying something.

After a little American Idol with J’s family I hit the sack early for my very early start in the morning.

Wednesday brought a early morning crossing back to Seattle, a short drive to Sea-Tac and a (longer than I expected) flight to Los Angeles. I was there to meet S, from the same company that I talked about before, and to spend the day with him touring the city. We had a great time. We visited Venice Beach and while walking past muscle beach saw Lou Ferrigno working out a bit in front of some cameras. Not sure what he was filming. S took it all in stride, but I was pretty surprised ­čÖé

We then had lunch at an English pub up the street and headed towards Beverly Hills and all that goes with it. We took a quick tour of some of the stars houses and then headed to Hollywood. Since I was only in town for about 7 hours before I had to fly off to Australia it was a whirl wind tour, but we saw a lot in only a few hours. In Hollywood we saw some of the big studios, and thanks to a back road that S remembered I got some pictures of the back lots of Universal. We saw Gate 2 of Warner Brothers which I immediately recognized from a million different movies and the arches at Paramount. All fun stuff. We wrapped it up with a cruise up Mulholland Drive  to the Los Angeles overlook which was very cool.

S dropped me off at LAX and it was time to check in for the longest flight of my life! Security was a total nightmare due to some idiocy on the part of the screeners. I had gotten all the way to the front of the line and then they opened up a new line and asked me to move to it. When I get in they found that the X-Ray machine wasn’t working so they moved us to a different new line. The guy that was moving us around then disappeared and we waited. After a few minutes a girl walked up, looked at us and said “This line isn’t open.” I said “We were just told to move here” and she said “Well I don’t know why” and walked away. Eventually I just pushed my way into the line I had originally started in and got through. So lame.

Anyway, the flight was about 13 hours and I managed to sleep for most of it. I had an aisle seat and the whole thing wasn’t too bad at all. I landed in Auckland, NZ and then immediately got on the second leg of the flight taking me to Melbourne, and it felt like it took forever. Beforehand, though, I met Sam and Hannah who told me loads of great places to check out in Australia, so that was nice.

And finally… I was in Australia! So far, to be honest, Melbourne could be Any City, USA with accents. This is why I hate visiting cities. They are all the same, really. Except for some differently shaped buildings it’s hard to tell you’ve gone anywhere.

When I landed I booked a room at the Base Backpackers in St. Kilda which seemed like an easy choice. I basically just wanted a place to lay down, spread out my gear and figure out a plan. Base worked for that, but it was too expensive and too trendy. I spent some time just laying around, then had dinner and then came back and completely passed out till 5am this morning. I really needed the sleep, even though I slept on the plane.

So my goal for today was to move up to downtown Melbourne, learn the transportation system, find a new place to live and try to get rid of some extra gear I don’t want to carry any more. All a success, so far. It sounds like boring little stuff, but if you’ve never been homeless in a completely foreign city you’d be surprised at how nice it is just to get the basics figured out. For me, at least.

I’ve moved into The Hotel Bakpak in Melbourne, which is right in the thick of it and it’s very nice. Smaller than last night, but cheaper (75 AUD/night for a private room) and much more to my liking. It’s still a little trendy, but it’s much more accessible. Plus I found an Internet shop around the corner that I can use my laptop at to finally upload some pictures.

So, that’s it so far. A boring start to an exciting adventure, I admit, but you have to walk before you go to Port Phillip and see dozens of fairy penguins and die from cuteness. Or something.

For the rest of today I will probably just wander around the city and get my bearings. Not sure what the plan is tomorrow, but I’d like to get out to the Dandenong Mountains and maybe do some hiking or go to Port Phillips to see the aforementioned┬á penguins.

Touchdown!

Briefly —

Tuesday: I spent Tuesday exploring Seattle more in depth.

Wednesday: I flew to LA and got a whirlwind tour of the city from my friend Steve and then hopped on my flight to Australia.

Thursday: I left Thursday somewhere in the Pacific.

Friday: It’s Friday afternoon and I’m in the Internet cafe of Base Backpackers in Melbourne, AU just catching up. I have pictures and stories to post but no time at the moment.

So, I’m officially on my trip ­čÖé