Published: August 8th 2007May 9th 2007
As I used to say when I was three. Here are some seriously stinky feet.
First of all to beg forgiveness:
1. The keyboard I am using is a bit finicky and so there are many a spelling error in this owing not to carelessness, but to the keyboard and I can't be bothered cleaning it all up with a bunch of extra intenet time.
2. A mild deception stated in a previous blog about our timeline. We were rushed not because of Mel (though she does fly to Perth soon) but to me. I have left to Japan, but I could not give this away as it was a surprise for my Best Friend Camille's 30th Birthday. You can see his and Denise's travelblog site here. So my deception is regretable, but quite necessay.
Bye Bye Byron
A day in Byron Bay would satiate our taste for the hippie haven which we had recently acquired, at least for the time being. You may already have divined that I'm planning on returning sometime net year to work on learning urban ecology and sustainability in this hub. I am mightily glad for it. Had I embarked on this earlier it would have been a very different and country-oriented experience, which would not
One of Her Favorite Things
Mel playing with a stranger's dog.
be exactly what I'm lookin for, but the shift in the program to an urban population is ideal for me. Plus I can work part time to earn a little moola, which is a great essential here on the ever-pricey continent. In this regard it is truly the Norway of the Southern Hemisphere.
We went to the beach and stormed around for a while. I wrote a postcard home to my family, while Mel played with a stranger's dog. I'm not sure who was panting most at the end of the event, but most probably it was me. Then we courageously took on the seaweed pools lining the shore. I'm not sure what had caused it all to wash ashore since we were lat there a week earlier, bu it made for an interesting experience. It was slippery though, as seaweed tends to be, and there were several moments when I very nearly bit it.
A trip to Byron Bay would not be complete without a trip to the homemade gelato place called In The Pink, at least not for us; this ice cream is perhaps the best value for money Australia has to offer, with plenty of
Leading off the Parade / Protest. Very entertaining and well cooridinated, not bad for people who were likely to be stoned.
creative choices. We are both lovers of sweets, and really it would be better for me if Melanie was a stronger resister than I because we don't exactly discourage each other, and I could use someone to say - Look future fatty, ease up on the sweets. But I suppose, despite what John Robbins
would say, there are worse poisons I could be using.
Nimbin's Mardi Grass Festival
Time raced by as the morning drifted by like a leaf in a windstorm, and by the middle of the afternoon we pulled off to head back to Nimbin for the Mardi Grass Festival
- the event protesting the Australian Government's policy on hemp. Its goal is to legalize hemp, although the goal of most of the party goers is to smoke it. We had a different goal - to participate in the festivities, which as a minor adjunct resulted in the consumption of some libations. When in Rome...
Okay, well I should leave Rome out of this, because had pot featured highly in Rome, the empire would not have been built. Who could have bothered unless of course Carthage had really killer Pizza, or Asia Minor had excellent
Mel's Great Photo
Leaving one more look at Sydney's skyline in B&W
sour cream and onion chips. Or Subway was founded in Egypt. Germania would certainly have been stormed for its bratwurst and Gaul for its mustard, but the ideas for attack would have lacked coordination and probably have failed quite miserably. So it's best that the pot be left to little hippie commune towns.
The event was great. There was a lot of artistic and musical talent. We went to this concert featuring a group called Wild Marmalade
that played something like what I'd call funkadelic didjeridu. It was brilliant and they had a local Aborigine elder named Ray come and dance with the tunes. It was wild and a great treat since it wa not in our plan. We had heard that there wa a rave out in the shire somewhere, but for thirty bucks, I thought I can get drunk, stoned, and dance anywhere - I don't want to pay for it. Mel was more eager given the "all night dancing" element of it all, but I was glad when it became altogether too complicated to get out to the secret spot. The concert was excellent and the atmosphere really cool.
We purchased some magic chocolate, which
Playing in the seaweed pools at Byron Bay.
was lacking in magic and rather disappointing, but as the night progressed, opportunities in the form of the kindness of strangers appeared and we went to bed giggling like chimps. Okay well that's maybe not the right image, as it conjures up something a little less civilized - children perhaps? Giggling anyway.
The next day we woke up early to grab some breakfast, since our nutella and peanut butter stores ran out, and I've been entirely unsuccessful at converting Melanie over to the glory of vegemite. It's like beer, you need to have an initial persistence before the reward - it's an acquired taste. But it got us up in time to watch the bong-toss finals and the hemp growers run. The day was fun, and I managed to get in some educational events on the uses of industrial hemp a well. We stumbled upon a cafe in the back of the main street where they served us chai, apologizing profusely that they "only had cows milk left, we're all out of soy." For Shame!!! I rather hate soy milk, even after, and perhaps especially after, forcing myself to drink it for six months. We sat on the carpets
Welcome to Nimbin Saturday night of the Mardi Grass Festival
and listened lazily to the Reggae jam being woven into the musical quilt of the day.
We couldn't tay too long though, a we had a long drive south, which also meant that libations were limited to the world of Mel, as I am not one to drive with intoxicants coursing through my veins. But we waited until the parade / protest formed and ran past us. The peaceful, if colouful stream of fairies, hippies, naked people, dragon, banner bearers, children, and others marched and danced through the main street while the onlookers, both citizen and popo looked on. This weekend is really an act for the organizers, if not the bulk of the participants, of civil disobedience, as pot possession and even the growth of hemp for industrial uses is not legal outside of "scientific research," and so for all the fun and games, there were a good number of arrests. The police even have a breathalysers that can detect the ingestion of drugs such as marijuana. I had to blow at a roadside check stop on the way in, which seemed a little counter productive to be quite honest, but at least they were stopping others moving
Proof that I did get a tan whilst in Oz, and almost always with 30+ sunscreen on. Not bad, eh?
in the other direction too.
I did have a bit of a scare, when I unthinkingly put my camera in the pocket of my swimming trunks, which I was wearing on Saturday. No, I'm not stupid enough to have gone for a swim with them in tow, but I had forgotten my boardies' penchant for sand collection and when I went to turn on my camera, it made the same horrible grinding sound and the stalling that my canon made just before expiring. It did stall, but fifteen minutes of persistent begging and dogged wiping of sand granuals was the camera equivalent of CPR. It lives yet. I may not appreciate my camera at all times, but I recognize its value. In a word, it totally redeemed itself.
he one disappointment about Nimbin is the palpable sense that they espouse the hippie mentality, but are willing to gouge their tourist customers as readily as the capitalists they claim to fight against. Not that I think they shouldn't also make a good living, but one should not be, to quote my aforementioned friend Camille, "a hippie-crite."
The Legend of Hunter Valley Klaus
We set out at 3:00,
I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
...Dancin' Dancin. No Sir, no Dancin' today. That was not how we felt at the Wild Marmelaide concert. Brilliant!
following the parade to make our way to Tamworth, which I mistakenly assumed would be a little like Nashville, given that it is dubbed the "Country Music Capital of Australia," but at 9:00 when we arrived the city was desolate. It's a shame, I wanted to teach Mel to two-step, but it was not to be, so we kept driving until I was too tired to continue, and then settled down for the night on the edge of the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's premier wine growing areas.
We took our time to awake and made our way to the wine growing hub (one of them at least) of the Hunter Valley, Broke. I liked it because I could make the lame joke that we were going for broke. Which actually had three-fold meaning for us. Mel finding out, as I have, that we way under-budgeted this trip (as all travelers find in this county, much to their dismay). We thought we'd roll through the whole valley, but after a couple of decent, but rather unremarkable vineyards, we stumbled upon Glenguin Winery
, a humble looking vineyard, that seeks little attention, but has established considerable acumen among those who know
Sign of the Times
Great Hemp Bar in Nimbin
their wine. The original blends and quality were impressive enough, but the highlight of the adventure was the resident manager Klaus Hahn, who willingly shared his experiences in being tricked into going to Vietnam, his obvious pride in his children, politics, adventure and more. If he didn't have to run off to watch his son's Rugby match, he surely would have spent all aftenoon with us. He was unto himself the singular representation of True Blue Autralian hospitality, for which we are immensely grateful. We left with three bottles of wine, which we have aleady thoroughly enjoyed two.
The great thing was this was a bit of an undiscovered gem for us. Apparently, individuals don't tend to show up there, only scheduled tour buses, so we felt lucky and quite ready to leave the valley, as we knew there was nothing left for us to get out of it that would parallel our experience at Glenguin. Unfortunately our elation was short lived, as I managed quite despite my best efforts to run over a duckling as a family of ducks crossed the road in front of us. I blame them only because I don't wish to take the blame
The Bong Toss was one of the many events held at the Hemp Olympix. Winning throw - an impressive 39.1 meters.
for this minor tragedy. The worst part was having to look back at the scene, as Plato discusses at some length, quite against my will. The duckling lay quite dead (at least it was quick), but for the family, they looked mournfully back at their was-a-duckling in a way that I found more heartbreaking than the act of hitting the duck itself. Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing, but there was sadness enough for me to feel quite distraught on their behalf a well as mine.
We moved on into the unsettled afternoon, I asked forgiveness from the universe, and moved on, and soon our moods were back up in time to head to Rich and Hannah's home for the evening. Now you all know Rich and Hannah both from my Turkey and Thailand Blogs; I had time enough to visit Rich's parents a couple of times, and they were legendary in their kindness and hospitality with me (this is one of the great aspects of Australians), but for all of my time here in Oz, I had not seen Rich or Hannah. So I was excited to get the chance to visit them before I left.
Rich made a simple,
The Planton of the Festival
A poor lyrical play on the Phantom of the Opera, but whit it lacks in metaphor, it makes up in gusto.
but sumptuous meal that I will try, likely in vain, to replicate when I get home. Oh the combination of high quality sausage and fresh veggies was nearly enough to bring a backpacker to tears. We finished the evening by introducing Mel to the hilarity of Team America: World Police, and playing Buzz
, wherein you hero came out swinging, was thoroughly pummeled, then made a last ditch effort to win before losing on the last question, to your recent favorite Spaniard. "You'll rue the day you crossed me Melanie!" Thoroughly full and drunk on chocolate and a fine tasting Victorian port, we all needed to sleep, and Melanie and I had to awake very early indeed, the earliest time yet, in order to beat Sydney's crushing rush hour traffic. THANKS RICH AND HANNA! WE HAD A GREAT EVENING!
The morning passed without considerable consequence. We did find ourselves a bit lost, as the outlet we had planned turned out to be a pass-holders toll only, which we were not. It's apparently not an exclusive club, but not one we were invited to join.
On my last night here, we cracked our bottle of Shiraz, blended with Tannat (which
Chilling with some chai tea listening to some Jewish-born Reggae. It was a brilliant way to wake up in the morning.
is purportedly unique in the world of wines) with a dinner of Indian food, as a treat - I have been without it for months on end. But as previous blogs have demonstrated, there are a number of things once considered essential that I can do without for months at a time.
We went out to meet this mystery friend of Mel's - she didn't know exactly who had called her, but heard where to meet. It turned out to be Martin, this great Scottish fellow from Melbourne who kept getting his rice stolen. Of all the things. We had many beers and I was feeling pretty "special" by the end of it. Mel, after only a beer, managed to fall off her chair in slow motion - the kind of fall that one almost prevents in several different places, but just can't overwhelm the force of gravity - and fell headlong into the barman who was collecting glasses. It was very funny and Mel was very embarrassed. But it worked out for the best, because she surely would have bashed her head on the chairs in front of the barman had he not been there to break her
Green Vs Blue
Facing off against the BLue Line. Last Year things got messy apparently.
Ah, I will miss her.
A Very Brief Set of Highlights for Australia
Must Sees (that you might not otherwise get to)
1. Kings Canyon (close to Alice Springs)
2. Tasmania (many backpackers miss out on this amazing not-so-little Isle)
3. The Ningaloo Reef (Snorkel at Turquoise Bay)
4. Lake MacKenzie on Fraser Island- Stunning, really
5. Glenguin Winery
6. The Southern Highlands, NSW
7. The Shark Bay Safari's Big Bay Day with Leon, Resident Encyclopedia
8. Little Creatures brewery, Fremantle
Rules for Traveling in Australia
1. Even though you think you do, you don't have enough money saved up
2. Everything is much further away than you think it is
3. The sun is surprisingly menacing, wear sunscreen all the time
4. You can get drunk every night in much more cheaply in most other countries - go see stuff
5. It can and will get cold in this sunburnt land - often when you least expect it
Favorite Capital Cities in which I spent a reasonable amount of time in to be able to judge them worthy or not (in order)
1. Canberra (it's shocking, I know - but Mel agrees. Yet
West Coast Chuck
I've now seen a Chuck Norris van on both sides of the country. This one was so sweet!
another reason I like her)
2. Brisbane (Very nice, lots of free things to see and do)
3. Melbourne (Great and lively town)
4. Sydney (Very pretty, but not much but drinking to do at night)
5. Adelaide (Nice enough and good because I had a friend, but not my style)
Perth and Hobart were too short of stays to be a fair judge
Darwin was not visited.
All of them 8/8 (Can you name them?)
Most Memorable night out
Canberra (November - See: Chicken Fighting in the Porn Capital of Australia)
Most Painful Night Out
Denham (April - See: Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef)
Favorite New Person in Australia
Things I Most Appreciate About Australians
1. Their sense of fairness. An Aussie will always buy his round
2. Their politically incorrect humour
3. Their genuine hospitality
People Who Let Me Crash At Their House
1. Jeff and Dianne
5. Denise and Graham
6. Hannah and Rich
What I Missed and Will Do Next Time
1. Kakadu National Park
2. Great Barrier Reef
3. The Whitsundays
4. The rest of Tasmania
Puff the Magic Dragon
What More Need I Say.
6. South Western Curl
7. Side Trip to Vanuatu
There are more photos below