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So you may be asking yourselves….”what exactly has Jill been learning on this journey of self-discovery?”   Well, I now know that even if you think you’re being nice by letting an overly-helpful, partially senile old man help you with a flat tire – you should probably just take care of it yourself.   

Noosa National ParkSo Stacey and I met up last week, here in Brisbane, and we rented ourselves a Jucy Camper-van.  These are great vehicles – totally self-contained: bed, fridge, stove..we were all set.  We headed South, stopping here and there along the coast, finally to find ourselves in Byron Bay.  This is a beautiful town…gorgeous beaches, lots of surfing, cool shops to check out.  We had a swim and checked out the nightlife, and although it slowed us down the next day, we had a great time and met lots of interesting people that night. 

In the morning we continued South to a small town called Ballina.  The scenery was spectacular – lush, green, rolling hills spotted with trees full of  large, shockingly bright, purple flowers.   We ooh-ed and ahh-ed as we climbed the hills and saw the coast in the distance…. and to cap off a perfect afternoon we found a great sushi place right in the middle of the wee village.  Unexpected and Perfect.

That day we made our way back up North, past Brisbane and over to the Sunshine Coast.  Lots of driving, through rush hour, but we had some tunes and good conversation to keep us occupied.  We hit up a little town called Noosa.  This is a favourite spot of Stacey’s and I can see why!  We spent a couple of days exploring the beaches and parks. 

We headed inland to the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands and explored the many small towns in the area.  Glass House MountainsWe saw the Glass House Mountains which look beautiful, if not slightly out of place in the surrounding countyside. 

Although we had planned to camp out in the hinterlands, the ocean called to us.  We did some research and found out that even though there was a triathlon happening that weekend, there was space available at a beach-side camp ground in Mooloolaba.   Great!

As we entered the little camp ground and I made to back into our reserved spot, an older gentleman appeared out of nowhere.  He began directing me… abruptly – with no real words  (just aggressive, yet unclear, hand movements).  This relatively simple manoever  required very little driving skill, yet, somehow it took almost ten minutes.  It was hot…I had been driving for hours….I just wanted to park and head to the beach, but this man was really trying to be helpful so we continued to humour him and finally made it into the exact spot we were supposed to be in.  It, really was, a fine parking job….sigh.

Thus began our relationship with the old man.  He is a permanent resident at the park and although he’s not paid, he helps out by tidying up and directing traffic.  His wife told us that about six months ago he decided that one of the trees in the park needed pruning.  With no prompting, he climbed the tree and started to cut down the huge pine-cone-like fruit growing from the palm.  Well these fruit are, apparently, really heavy; one managed to fall on the poor guy, throwing him from said tree.  He broke his hip and was off his feet for months.  This is very sad, but I can’t help giggling to myself as I write this.  He’s trying so hard to be helpful!

The next day we realized that one of the tires was a little flat.  It was a slow leak, if anything ,so we planned to fill the tire up at the local gas station before heading out for the day.  Wouldn’t you know it:  the old man showed up again – really, as if out of nowhere, and stopped us as we were pulling out.  He pulled off the hubcap (we’re not sure why…) and started to fiddle with it.  He managed to actually break off a piece of it and then couldn’t replace it.  I got it back on and we thanked him for his ‘help’ and tried to get going.  He stopped us at the gate and told us he had a pump and would fill the tire up.  He hulled out this piece of machinery from WWI (there may have been a mouse and a wheel in there somewhere, I can’t be sure) and hooked it up to the tire.  We all stood there watching the tire deflate.  It took us a couple of minutes to convince him it wasn’t working…we unhooked the crazy generator gadget and, luckily, had enough air to make it to the gas station.  With only 6psi left – we successfully filled it up to the required 34psi and made our way inland to explore.  Drama complete.

So we had a good last few days in the area.  We made some friends, saw some crazy animals (some of them being the aforementioned new friends) and were awestruck by the beauty that surrounded us.  The Hinterlands

It was hard to give the van up yesterday, but we are flying North to the Whittsunday Coast today…off to the next leg of the adventure. 

Oh yeah….somehow the hubcap fell off and we were charged $60 by the rental company!  Maybe the laughs were worth it.

Hamelin Bay ParkSo where to start?  I think it’s been about a week since I last posted…I’ll be honest…I feel a little overwhelmed with keeping track of all that I’ve been seeing and doing.  I was kept quite busy over in Perth. Kim was in charge of all the planning and she was an exceptional hostess. 

On the night before we took off southward for our caravan camping trip, the housemates convinced me to watch a film called Wolf Creek…. yeah, it’s about backpackers who drive up to this canyon and then when the vehicle breaks down, a local bushman ‘helps’ them out.  It’s turns grusome and the one male backpacker manages to survive.  It’s based on a couple of real-life murderers.  Awesome!  ..actually it’s a good movie – just the timing was just ’bout ‘nough to give one nightmares.

All the more eager to get on the road (that’s sarcasm), Kim and I drove south the next day.  We intended to stop in Bunbury to hit up an exhibition footy match but were lead astray by three different locals! – really – they all seemed so helpful, but we were pointed in three entirely different directions! We circled the small city many times over and when we finally found the field we were told the game didn’t start for another nine hours.  We decided the wineries deserved our full attention, and continued on down the road. 

We stopped for petrol and while I was in line for the toilet, a young woman asked where we were headed.  She mentioned that her and her boyfriend were playing at a brewery later that same day.  I neglected to get more detail as I was side-tracked by the next stall coming available.  Too bad, but we had lots to do and see that day anyway.

Capel Vale, our first winery, was just down the road.  Jill at Capel ValeThe region is home to over a hundred wineries and everywhere we looked there were row upon row of grape vines.  It’s stunning!

Next stop – lunch at the Bootleg Brewery…and, what do you know?  Our friend from the gas station was there at the mic, guitar in hand.  We sat down for some lunch, great tunes, beer and great conversation.  Beautiful. 

We made our way to Prevelly Park to camp for the night.  We sat on the beach and drank our wine.  Ate some Irish stew and reminisced about camping many years ago.  The two of us have had some great experiences up in Tofino back in Canada.  It’s a little surreal to realize we’re camping together in Australia only a few years later.  

So we had a great time exploring the Margaret River Area.  We went through the Boranup Forest, toured through a huge cave, Mammoth Cave (no mammoths - just really big)watched the surfers from the beaches, saw the south-western most tip of the continent and swam where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.  We went into town to enjoy more live music, and saw a few more wineries as well (including a nice little organic winery that we stopped at twice!).  Boranup Forest

We chatted with some gents at the bookshop/internet cafe in Margaret River and learned they were not only brothers but one of them had written and published a book on Surfing, and the other had lived in Canada (on Saltspring Island).  Boy the locals are nice – we wanted to stay for karaoke! 

We landed ourselves back in Perth that evening and got to bed early; we needed to rest-up for Saint Patrick’s Day celebrating the next night.  We went out with a real-live Irish chap and we had a good time. 

So my last few days in Perth were spent visiting and beaching and trying to get through some of the wine we had purchased.  I really did fall for Perth. I have a feeling I will find myself back on the west coast before my return home.  The people are great, the beaches beautiful.

On the plane back to Brisbane I find myself contemplative again.  I try to watch the movie but it’s really bad so I listen to music and think about my first two weeks down-under.  Time is  quite relative when traveling.  I guess it always is.  It takes forever to wait for something and then only moments to enjoy that same something.  I’m glad my time down here hasn’t absolutely flown by – I’m trying to appreciate the now….focus on what’s happening at present.  This is a hard lesson.  I could spend my whole life trying to live in the moment. That being said, I think we need time for reflection as well…and some time to enjoy the thought of future prospects. 

Anyway, I lose myself in the stars as I cup my hands over the window.  I see the bright pinpoints of light in the sky; the stars are clear and exact.  The small dusting of light below are indications of civilization but if I look through them I can pretend they, too, are stars.  Now I’m surrounded by distant celestial bodies. No longer am I being edged into the wall by the snoring man beside me (he oozes over the armrest).  I’m now flying through space.  The lights below start to connect as the towns get bigger…they are simply other spacecraft traveling along with mine, or other galaxies as seen from the side.   My fantasy starts to crumble as the lay of the land becomes apparent – the sprawl of the city taking over.  And we land – the plane on the ground – and me, back to reality.

Theme Songs of the Day:

The first Day of My Life – Bright Eyes, from the album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac, from the album Rumours

Another sunset

Wow!  I have fallen in love…  Perth is just amazing!  We have packed so much into three days that is feels like two weeks. 

The plane ride  over was pretty uneventful.  I had a bit of cry on the plane – something about being at 15,000 ft…. it gets me every time.  I guess I needed the release, that and it’s been my first alone time since landing.  I realize I constantly carry the conflicting emotions of sad, and very, overwhelmingly happy emotions.  Where do I go from there? How can I hope to reach these strong levels of emotion again in my lifetime?   Will I become more numb as I go?  Will I find new levels of both happy and sad?  I guess it will change.  I will continue to experience life and, hopefully, find new layers of depth; grow older and wiser….

I have the feeling that I have, through the events of the last year and a half, become very attuned to what’s happening around me.  I am maybe more sensitive, more empathetic…but in the same breath, I am seeing my life from the outside a little more. 

I’m excited to travel, meet new people, connect, experience.  I think my challenge will be to figure out how to personally invest in these events and interactions.  Don’t get me wrong, when I am talking with someone, I am fully present.  I feel like I may be looking through a third person’s eyes.   I may be taking refuge in the safety  of an ‘outside’ self as a way of self-preservation…  I want to connect but I don’t think I have much of myself left to give.  The parts that remain must be kept for myself. 

I have loved and lost in a VERY extreme way.  I am searching for emotions to counter-act my past experiences, no small feat…all this, without giving myself over in any substantial way. 

mmhhh….that was a bit of a tangent.

On an entirely different note: my computer has a virus, and until I can clean it up, I have limited time on the Internet.  This isn’t so bad is it?  A major drawback is that I can’t post pictures…but I will get that sorted in the next week or so and then I will have some visuals to check out.

So what have we done in Perth so far?  What haven’twe done??  I arrived at around noon on Tuesday.  My friend Kim and I hopped in the van and headed north to her place.  WE stopped and one of the countless beaches here on the west coast and I had my first swim in the Indian Ocean.  From there we met up with her friend Jenny and drove up the coast to Yanchep National Park.  Wrapped around a beautiful lake, this park is home to kangaroos, koalas and birds.  We watched as the lazy koalas slept in the trees above us. 

We headed back towards the city and stopped at, of all places, the cemetary.  Someone in the know had told us to check it out, as there are quite a few kangaroos there and you can actually get pretty close.  We saw eight of the grazing on the grass.  I hoped along beside them (yes, there ARE pictures).   Wow!

We watched the sunset at a beach near Kim and Stu’s house.  Amazing

The next day we headed south to a small city called Freemantle.  We toured the shops and cafes and then went on a tour through the prison.  It was horrifying but fascinating as well.  The prison was actually used up until 1991 when they were permanently closed down.  At the time of closure they still used buckets for latrines.  Something else that we all found amazing is that punishment by whipping  was still legal until 1993.  It was simply an over-site (the last person that had the experience of the cat o’ nine tails was in 1943).  When Western Australia abolished corporal punishment in ’93 they realized that the ‘whipping legislature’ had never been removed.  Quite the over-site.

After the gruesome but educational tour, we headed to a local microbrewery called Little Creatures.  The venue is an old wearhouse that has been converted to a funky bistro/brewhouse (much like the Canoe Club in Victoria).   All us roomates had a great time chatting and eating and then we headed over to Clancy’s Fish Club where we watched the Battle of the Bands: West Coast Blues and Roots.  It was a fun night.

The next day found us at the beach.  We spent a few hours surfing and then headed home for naps.  That evening Kim had a surprise for me:  she had tickets for Cirque du Soleil: Dralion...!!!  AWESOME!

We dressed up and headed into the blue and yellow tent.  The show was phenomenal.  I believe we both shed a tear of joy at the end of the performance.  It was beautiful and funny and awe-inspiring – I’ve never seen anything like it. 

It’s hard to belive I haven’t even been here four full days.   The next adventure begins tomorrow as the two of us head South towards Margaret River.  We will hit some wineries…beaches….anything and everything, camping along the way….why not?  We should all be so lucky to hit anything and everything along the way – that’s what life is all about!


Theme Songs for the day:

OH! OH! OH! Trouble –  An Angle, from the album…I’m not sure…

Where is My Mind – Pixies, from the album Surfer Rosa *(and if you haven’t been lucky enough to listen to this song but sort of recognize it – it’s the closing-credit song from Fight Club)

FortressPinback, from the Album Summer in Abaddon

I’m sitting on the deck enjoying the heat and the noises of very tropical-sounding birds. Somehow the five hours of sleep I’ve had in the last fifty-odd hours is sustaining me. I think I may be surviving on the excitement and novelty of being somewhere new. It’s so warm!! I can see a wild baby turkey as I write this.

The flight over was a pleasant surprise. I have never been upgraded before, but if I only have the one shot at improved airline comfort, the 14.5 hour flight to Auckland was the prize to land. I was moved from an isle seat at the back of the plane to a “premiere economy” seat against the bulkhead at the front of the aircraft. SO much leg-room!! Post DessertThe food was good too – prawns and such, cheese, port…champagne to start. Fantastic. Thank you, Air New Zealand – really it was quite the experience and I feel a guilty indulgence at having traveled like a rock star…or at least a Canadian rock star…

Upon arriving in Brisbane, my good friend Alice welcomed me. There’s nothing better than having someone you love meet you at the airport! It’s been seven years since we’ve seen each other, but Alice has had a way of being around during pinnacle moments in my life. We first lived together in Edinburgh, ten years ago. Alice was the only ‘local’ who lived in the flat with us and we became fast friends. We traveled a bit through the area surrounding the city and endured one of the most disastrous camping trips I’ve ever been through. It was an ordeal – but we laughed the entire time.

Years later, Kevin and I took our first trip abroad together and Alice’s house was one of our stopping points. I got to show him my former playing ground, and Alice and Kevin had a chance to get to know each other. That was the trip Kevin proposed to me on – Alice was in on the surprise. Very devious!

Our last meeting was later that same year when she came to Victoria to visit us. Since then we have been keeping in touch intermittently. Coincidently, Alice wrote an invite for me to come visit anytime, just a day after the tickets to Australia had been booked. “Oh that would be great – you’ll never guess – I AM coming to Australia …where exactly do you live?” Aha- Brisbane, wow that’s where I’m flying in!

From the deckSo we trekked through the city, making our way to her place – a beautiful little flat in a nook off of a cul-de-sac. Up on a hill, we can see the city through the leaves of the frangipani. It’s so green. It’s warm, and the bag is heavy, and the jeans are exchanged for a skirt, and the beer is cracked. Ahhhh…..

Friends come over and we chat and have some food and soon enough it’s time to head to the West End… We’re going to see the Chocolate Strings, a very fun and talented local band, at a pub called Lock n’ Load. The West End is a super-casual, café-culture area in a small strip just south west of the Central Business District. Live music plays at a few different venues and the atmosphere is busy but relaxed. The bar is packed and the music is just great. The band has actually outgrown the venue and people are dancing on the sidewalk outside. What a rad first night.

We get home in the early hours of morn’ and, after struggling with the math, I realize I’ve been up for exactly 48 hours. Sleep comes easy. I am so happy to be here.

Theme Songs for the Day:

Massive Nights – The Hold Steady, from the album Boys and Girls in America

A.M. 180 – Grandaddy, from the album Under the Western Free Way

Later –

The day was good. Although it would have been just fine to hang out in the yard and work on Alice’s friend’s bike, we actually managed to walk into town and maintain some amount of productivity. We walked for hours – I saw just how ‘interesting’ Brisbane is…it’s not necessarily the prettiest of cities, although there are some little gems. Alice explained that Brisbane had a huge developmental boom in the late 80’s. It so happens that the city held Expo ’88 (yes, they were the city that followed Vancouver). “Queensland shows the worls: Regionalism and Modernity.” The massive amounts of concrete are a testament to this era.

Slurpees were our main form of sustenance as we made our way over the Goodwill Bridge, through the Botanic Gardens… we walked down through the main shopping area and, as it was Saturday, it was jam-packed. It had started out cloudy but was pure sunshine within the hour.

A view from The Goodwill Bridge

A view from The Goodwill Bridge

We walked down to the man-made beach that sits beside Brisbane River in the South Bank area. It’s a little weird that chlorinated water sits on the graduated sand ‘beach’ – but all the people that swarmed the area seemed happy. It’s like a big water park for the whole family.

As we strolled the market we realized how terribly tired we really were. Movies were in order…and popcorn (it’s just SO good – top five foods for sure). A successful day. Tomorrow – the beach.

Another theme song for the evening:

Burn One Down – Ben Harper, from the album Fight For Your Mind

It’s been a nice, easy start to my travels.  Although I haven’t left the country, my only possessions are the ones on my back, so I think it’s fair to consider the traveling officially begun?  I have been living ‘elsewhere’ in my mind for a long while now, so it’s nice that my physical presence can finally catch up!

The city of Vancouver is beautiful and busy and each street is a contrast in terms.  Outside the high-end stores, the high-end shoppers dodge (and ignore) the homeless.  It’s SO busy and bustling but it starts raining and everyone disappears.  Luckily there are enough Starbucks to find shelter in.  The area outside the Art Museum is quite a thoroughfare during the average weekday, but 5:00 pm rolls ‘round, and the steps swarm with kids and homeless and hippies..  is there something artful about this….is it human art?

…I would think it may be considered installation art.

I have been doing a lot of walking in the last few days.  I consider myself somewhat of a local of Vancouver; the majority of the family is here and we did a lot of visiting growing up.  Canuck games and concerts bring me over periodically as well.  This past summer/fall – Kevin’s treatments took place here every two weeks.  I can now navigate through downtown (in a car) without wanting to impale someone with my bare fist.  I like to think that summer traffic at rush-hour taught me patience.

Anyway, I am now trying to see the city through the eyes of someone who hasn’t been here before. It’s hard to do, but not impossible.  The best part of pedestrian-style transport:  You have time to look up.  The clouds and sky seen from below, looking up between the buildings, are awesome.  The mountains in the background, with their dusting of snow, peep through the buildings…this is an incredible sight.  If I were not from here I would be awestruck.

Cupcakes from Cupcakes...the other beautiful aspect of Vancouver: the food!

Cupcakes from Cupcakes...the other beautiful aspect of Vancouver: the food!

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So I am on the plane soon – less than 24 hours….  I am finally doing it.  Thank you to everyone who helped me get here.  We did a lot in just under three weeks!  I admit I still have a few things to do before I head to the airport, but what a reward I have to look forward to.  The next time I write I will be in Australia.

Theme songs of the day:

The Canadian Dream – Sam Roberts, from the album We Were Born in a Flame

California Dreaming The Mamas and the Papas, from the Album If you Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

If Venice Is Sinking – Spirit of the West, from the album Faithlift

So I’m heading over to Vancouver after spending the night in Nanaimo, with good friends. On the ferry, I watch the gulls fly around the boat; riding the wind. There’s a thin layer of white snow on the beach. The water looks COLD.  I won’t be back this way for a while and I’m realizing how beautiful it really is.  Cold and cloudy and beautiful.

Shades of Blue

I love that the house I grew up in can be seen from the boat, although it’s harder to distinguish when all the roofs are white!  I spent twelve years of my life watching these ferries come and go, from the hills surrounding the bay.  I get a special, nostalgic, feeling upon seeing Mnt. Benson, Gabriola Island, downtown in the distance…Harmac (the pulp-mill).  Anyone who knows Nanaimo knows the wonders of that special Harmac smell… how else would we know the weather is changing?

“Welcome aboard BC Ferries…our sailing time will be one hour and thirty-five minutes…”

Sky Mountain Sea

The cat has been safely stowed at a friend’s place. He adjusted well after a long, loud car ride (meeeeoooowwwwwww). He was mildly sedated and very comfortable; maybe a little too comfortable.  It was pretty funny to watch. His back legs stopped working properly and he actually rolled off the couch at one point. He spent the night stumbling around, exploring his new surroundings. He’s quite the little traveler himself! I’m so glad he will be taken care of while I’m gone.

The loose ends are tied up in a bow and I am, officially, on the road.  No car…and, one of the biggest indicators of freedom: no keys!  When was the last time you left anywhere without keys?

Looking outside at the mountains and water and sky – they are all shades of blue.  My leaving the island has many shades as well… blue in nature, but hints of bright white too.

Saying goodbye to friends is bittersweet. Aren’t we actually lucky, in a way, when it’s painful to say goodbye? The pain could be seen as indicative of the strength of the friendship. It’s sad but happy too.  We will all see each other again soon, and we will have so much to talk about.

Theme songs for the day:

In the Flesh? – Pink Floyd, from the album The Wall

Boa Sorte (Good Luck)– Vanessa da Matta & Ben Harper, (Deeplick Remix)

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