Archive for February, 2009

Our apologies!

February 17, 2009

Loos for virginsSorry to all our avid viewers for the lack of posts! We’re attempting to catch up now.

For convenience, we’ve tagged ‘todays’ updates under the category "Added Feb 17" & "Added Feb 18" as we’re trying to keep the entries in chronological order… very fun.

Hope you like!

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The Great Austrlian Outback!

February 7, 2009

If you hadn’t heard, Australia is pretty damn big. We’ve heard that many visitors assume they can "Do Australia" in a week or two – nope. Like Canada there are a small number of cities separated huge distances. Unlike Canada, Australia has more than one airline from which to cover these distances. 

With this in mind, our original plan was to stick to the East Coast of Australia for the four months, leaving the West coast and the Outback for future trips, thus allowing plenty of time to take in local culture and the diverse regions that make up Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. We had planned to included in Tasmania, the southern most territory of Australia, as it has been described to us as the most beautiful landscapes in the country.

Returning from New Zealand, it occurred to us that we’d been using the word Beautiful a lot over the previous three weeks and so while Tassie is no doubt as amazing as people say, it might fall short of the sights we have just seen in New Zealand. We decided instead that we should visit the outback. There was little chance of it looking anything like we’d seen in New Zealand, and really, what’s a trip to Oz without seeing ‘The Rock’?

After a week in Melbourne in 40+ heat we thought it would be a great time to head further North (closer to the equator). Summer heat be damned.

Flying into Alice Springs on the always exciting Tiger Airways we were met on the runway with a surprisingly pleasant 46 degrees celcius.  But it was a dry heat. We spent 38 very hot hours exploring Alice Springs before picking up a campervan and heading off to see the sights.

It’s worth mentioning, we learnt that the average trip taken to the outback lasts 1.3 days. Perhaps those tourists know something we don’t (like how hot it is, or perhaps how irritating the millions of very friendly flies can get) but you really can’t see much in 1.3 days, even from the comfort of an air conditioned luxury Coach. If you go, trust us, you need to spend a week at least. Preferably in the Winter.

After our great success navigating Fraser Island, we opted for another Britz 4WD camper van.

… Oh, another piece of advice. It seems that the Maui, Britz and BackPacker Campervan companies are all the same company. Maui gets brand new vehicles, which are later passed to Britz customers, which are later passed to BackPacker customers. BackPacker customer pay less, have a smaller insurance deductable ($4500 vs. $7500!) and yet very often get Maui or Britz vehicles anyway as there are more available! If you’re booking a caravan trip, be sure to check out www.backpackercampervans.com for all your caravan needs, and please keep arms and legs inside the campervan at all times…

For those curious, you can reach Uluru (the correct name for Ayers Rock) by sunset from Alice Springs with a quick stop at Rainbow Valley if you really put your mind to it… and leave before lunch time. Fortunately our plans to stop at some creeks to swim were cut short by there being no creeks.

Did I mention the flies? In Alice Springs we had to contend with two or three buzzing around your face continuously. Outside Alice Springs, where there are, as you can imagine, fewer distractions for flies, there are hundreds and hundreds of them. A shout out to the lovely English girls at the hostel for recommending we pick up some fly screen head masks before setting out. Being both stylish and functional, these masks may have prevented us from going insane. As you can see from the photo, Sarah wore hers with pride and dignity.

Australia has come along way in the past few years with its recognition of Traditional Ownership, handing back large amounts of land to the original Aboriginal owners. Ayers Rock is now formally recognized as Uluru, a sacred site of the local people. While they still allow you to climb the rock, they ask that you don’t, which we chose to respect. Not only is it dangerous, especially when over 40 degrees, it represents another aspect of absurd white-man thinking of climbing things just because they’re there. The view 200 feet up in the outback is like looking at stars through at telescope… it looks exactly the same! The Aboriginal traditions of Dreamtime stories also separate stories for children, men and women, and many of their sacred locations are also limited to men, or women, or children. As non-members of the tribes, tourists are treated (aptly so) as Children and therefore forbidden to hear certain stories, see certain places, and interesting enough, photograph certain sites.

See, ya learn something here!

Click here are the pictures!

Melbourne, Surfing & Koalas

February 4, 2009

Sarah and I flew back to Melbourne on Jan. 27th to meet up with a friend of hers, Megan, whom she’d met volunteering at "The Lodge" in B.C. a few years ago. Megan’s a great laugh and avid surfer… we knew we were in for some fun!

Some of you may have heard that Melbourne just had a NASTY heat snap of +40 degree weather. Sarah and I landed in it.

One afternoon we headed to nearby St. Kilda beach. We hid out on a beach patio where the girls had their butts whipped at Scrabble by yours truly. [He won by 4 points! – Sarah] That night as Megan rocked out to a nearby Ani Difranco (pronounced "Ahhhhnee") Sarah and I watched "The Goonies" under the stars on the rooftop patio at St. Kilda Baths! Great movie that… didn’t realize Cory Feldman had such a filthy mouth on him.

Here’s a photo of the sunset we witnessed…

The next night we went to nearby Castlemaine to see some of her friends in a great production of "Little Shop of Horrors" where upon I enjoyed 2 hours of heated debate at the cast party with that most dangerous of creatures the "Nearly-Rich-and-therefore-Very-Self-Important Financial Guy." It wasn’t my fault though, while minding my own business looking for the toilet-tree, he specifically asked me "So how would you fix the world?" I was sure to confirm he wanted to bring me into their discussion and I even asked him to repeat the question before spewing forth a few brilliant ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and was relieved to see a few others agree that he was part of the problem. He was clearly a shit disturber but did offer us all a ride home in his very comfortable BMW… which was an adventure in itself.

The next few days were spent driving up The Great Ocean Road with Megan, who did a great job as tour guide and surf instructor. We have no photos of the surfing but DID manage to capture (photos of) a few Koalas along the road! Beginning our lessons at Barwon Heads, near Torquay, we moved up the coast and even surfed at Johanna – a rather expert location I’m lead to believe!

I’ve always held that the best experiences of traveling are the strangers you meet along the way and Mark and Stefan at Johanna was no exception! After setting up camp Megan started chatting to Mark, a fellow surfer, and soon we were on our way to his place for dinner, along with Stefan, another traveler driving around Australia in a fully insulated, fully decked out, home made 4WD aluminum bus! The five of us enjoyed some great food, fantastic wine and the kind of enlightening philosophical discussion you seem to only have with complete strangers. Weird that, isn’t it?

As instructed in every good tourism brochure we were sure not to miss the 12 Apostles (now 11 I believe…) further up the coast before returning back to a slightly cooler Melbourne.

Check out the photos!