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Oh, I’m comfy. I really like the Outback. The only reason I’m okay with leaving this great little city: I get to head back to more great friends on the coast.

The family pet...(the dog!)

The family pet...(the dog!)

Mt. Isa has been a wonderful home-away-from-home. I can’t get over the people…not a bad one in the bunch – everyone’s got a story and I really think they’ve all acquired degrees in “Listening Skills: How to Converse Well in Any Setting”. Every person I’ve sat down with has been not only interesting, but so very interested in me as well! It’s nice to feel special…

So besides an off-day in which I suffered a headache from dawn until dusk, I have made the very most of my extra week here in Mt Isa. We went out dancing at The Irish Club, where, of all things, I was mistaken for Irish!? Now Stacey and I have discussed this in great detail. We are both mistaken for Irish at LEAST once a day. …what’s up with that laddie? Aye, it happens everywhere – all over Oz – even at The Irish Club, where you’d think they’d know their accents! Haha – I’ve actually agreed that I am Irish to a few folks (just for fun) and they nod their heads, confidingly, as though their deeply-routed suspicions are confirmed, and I am immediately acceptable and lovely – of course I usually get this response when I tell the truth about my Canadianism as well. My feeling is that Aussies are just extraordinarily accepting and they would give me a smile and a wink no matter what my nationality may be.

Mary Kathleen, North QLD

Mary Kathleen, North QLD

I had the pleasure of tagging along with Stacey and Pete to a wonderful engagement party. The event itself was more an extravaganza (set around a beautiful 25′ pool) than a traditional party. The food and drink were great, the couple looked lovely, and everyone had a great time! I was honoured, to not only be allowed to partake in the celebrations, but also welcomed with open arms. Again, the company was of the highest standard, we talked well into the night. I’m only surprised about one thing: no one ended up in the pool!

What else have I been up to? I’ve explored an abandoned uranium mine called Mary Kathleen. It’s just outside of town and just a short drive through the rolling red hills. The mine is now flooded and the water that fills it is the most inviting bright blue I’ve seen. There are only a few hidden signs on the way out there and they indicate that you will glow-in-the-dark if you decide to take a dip (I’m paraphrasing). The surrounding hillsActually, it’s quite interesting – there is still millions of dollars worth of uranium just waiting to be dug up, but it is currently illegal to mine the radioactive element in Queensland. Supposidly there is a push to change legislation. Until then, it remains a tiny blip on the map: a turn off, easily missed, and then an interesting maze-like off-road drive, to a site almost altogether forgotten. We threw rocks into the deep, taking enjoyment in the splashing, but soon stopped when we realized the rocks were shiny…is uranium shiny, we wondered?

A few other highlights – I enjoyed some great coffee with some great women at the McCafe (yes…it’s a cafe attached to McDonalds, and yes, it was good). I had a fun night-time tour of the city in which I enjoyed hearing about the more colourful details surrounding the local history. Mostly I just relaxed and got a better sense of the community. I can’t imagine not coming back… (and yes, I know that’s a double negative, thank you).

Theme songs of the Day:

Slice of Heaven – herbs, from the album Loyal …(This is a theme song from my entire month with Stacey – it’s on everywhere we go and EVERYONE gets up and dances to it).

My Baby Don’t Care – Nina Simone, from the album Little Girl Blue… (this one is for the Fairmont Gold Team, I sometimes listen to this and pretend I’m in the lounge)

Boston – Augustana, from the album Midwest Skies and Sleepless Mondays

 

Flooded Lake Moondara - from the wettest season in 10 years or so.

Flooded Lake Moondara - from the wettest season in 10 years or so.

Mt. Isa – the world’s largest city (the main street is 180km long and Mt Isa at Duskit’s city bounds encompass about the same square kilometers as Switzerland) has been a place of rest for me. Hanging out at Pete and Stacey’s has been relaxing and reviving all at the same time. It’s nice to be surrounded by all the comforts of home. We’ve been eating well and swimming in the pool…it’s been fantastic.

Sunrise at the Open-cut

Sunrise at the Open-cut

One of the highlights of my trip into the outback has included a personalized tour of the mine. Mt Isa is home of the largest mineral mining operation in the world – producing copper, silver, zinc and lead.  Pete has worked at the mines for eight years or so – he knows his stuff. We got up early and trekked off to work with him before sunrise. We had a couple of hours before the planned explosion later that morning, so we went on rounds and checked the whole above-ground portion of the mine for safety hazards. I assure you, I was not in charge of anything important (or, really, anything at all), but we looked quite official with our fluorescent orange shirts and hard hats; air masks hanging from our necks. Worried I may be mistaken for someone who could be counted on in an emergency, I made sure to wear a permanent look of confusion on my face….it was pre-coffee, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to look perplexed and out of place.

We passed huge dump trucks that have wheels twice the height of a person and cost $50,000-$70,000 each! The mine was bustling and it was not quite 6:00am. The detonation was meant to be medium-sized and we took our spots on the opposite side of the pit. I was nominated to set the detonation (being foreign and thus an awesome scapegoat lest thing go horribly awry). It took me two tries! I tell you: it’s hard to press both buttons simultaneously! Actually, due to either a bit of faulty wiring or debris landing on the second half of the detonation site, only the first half the explosion went off. It was still an impressive show and I can only imagine what it sounded like – and felt like – to the hundreds of workers underground.

So, besides the odd experimenting with explosives, this is the most down time I’ve had in months…maybe in years. Yup, definitely years. It’s nice to read again, and watch movies, and just lounge. I feel a little unfocused but that’s not such a bad thing. I’ve started to try to figure out what I’m going to do with my next few months. As of the end of the week I have very little planned. This is a big country – where do I go next? Maybe flight prices will be a determining factor?

The world is my oyster…raw, goopy, good with hot sauce, and brimming with the possibilities of a hidden pearl or two


Note – between the time I wrote this and started to post it (a matter of hours), I’ve decided to stay on another week. I’m not just claiming to love the Isa – I really do! The people here are exceptionally friendly and welcoming. I’ve already been offered a selection of places to stay if Stacey and Pete kick me out! (this actually may happen, as i could easily decide to stay indefinitely…haha…er, just kidding Stace…).
Theme Songs for the Day:
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Ice Cream – Muscles, from the album Guns Babes Lemonade
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Re: Your Brains – Jonathan Coultan, from the album Thing a Week III
Kamploops?...not Toronto or Montreal....only Vancovuer and Kamploops!  How random!?!

Kamloops?...not Toronto or Montreal....only Vancouver and Kamloops! How random!?!


Magnetic from TownsvilleSo Magnetic Island was named for the fact that the island itself, interfered Captain James Cook’s compass as he drew close to shore. Although it was found that the island does not have any magnetic properties, strictly speaking, it does manage to draw thousands of visitors each year. I haven’t been gone from the beautiful island more than a few days and I already want to go back!
Stacey, Pete and I had a great night in Townsville after meeting up in Airlie Beach and driving North. We enjoyed snacks on the 12th story deck of our hotel, a margarita or two, and late-night pizza after dancing to some smooth 80’s hits. I like Townsville! It’s considered the largest city in the tropical North and the whole of the waterfront has been converted from Mangroves to a beautiful park, beach and walkway.
The next day we would be heading over to Magnetic Island. This was to be a guaranteed highlight of traveling with Stacey and Pete. They not only met there more than ten years ago, Pete lived there for two years, and we were going to meet up with a few of their old friends. It was sunny and we caught the half-hour car ferry over.

Topless and Pink
First stop: Tropical Topless – a moke rental place, owned by Rob, a friend of Stacey and Pete’s. Rob has been in business for nine years or so, and he’s got about 40 cars in his fleet. He’s kind and friendly and fits in really well on Magnetic. These vehicles are perfect for cruising the island – small, fuel efficient, and, well…. topless! There is about 13km of road from one end of the island to the other, so it’s a bit far to walk, but you definitely don’t need anything too big. The Townsville/ Magnetic Island area claims 320 days of nice weather per year, so topless is the way to go 😉

After an introduction and a catch up, we head to our hotel… I guess it’s more like little townhouses or maybe condos – something inbetween. A nice little place with a kitchen and a salt-water pool. We chilled for a bit and then headed over to some friends of Stacey and Pete. Although we were all feeling a little drained we managed to find ourselves at a full-moon party. This is a monthly staple at the Base X Backpackers and there are hundereds of people at every party. The thing I couldn’t get over: it WASN”T a full moon. No one seemed to care, but it was hard not to think of the whole thing as a mony-grab. Luckily we had free tickets (thanks Rob) so we didn’t have to think of the swindle as we danced.

Didn’t stay too long there, but I’m glad I got to see what it was all about. It’s actually a full moon tonight, as I write this, and we are heading to a dinner party, so we’ll make sure we toast the moon, in all its glory.

All-in-all we spent three nights and four days on the island. We had planned for less but couldn’t tear ourselves away. Stacey and Pete caught up with friends and I made some new ones. We had managed to come down with colds so we relaxed a lot. Stacey and I had had ours a few days (I couldn’t dive in the Whitsundays because I couldn’t equalize) and Pete was just starting to feel the wrath. We snorkeled and swam and hiked and picnic-ed. On our last night we had a bbq on the beach. Food tastes better outside, that’s a scientific fact.

The ferry boat rideI think I will try my best to get back to Maggie Island. It’s so laid-back and friendly. After only a couple of days it already felt a bit like home.

Speaking of home, I found out while I was on the island that the boys back home managed to take the cup. The Boozehounds won their division!! You guys rock! I’m so proud of you all and I’m celebrating with you in spirit. I know you guys won the cup for Rusty and he would be so proud – I know he is.

I really miss home, but I know that I would still feel that overwhelming-sense-of-loss if I was back in Victoria – maybe more so, as I would be surrounded by reminders of all that we’ve been through; the life we created.  I don’t think anything can fill the gap, but it’s nice to be able to explore and find the good in new places and new people.  I’m lucky to have a wonderful community and family to come home to; it would be an entirely different journey without the security of home… I just have to have some time to get used to home without its main component.

Theme Songs of the Day:

Wave of Mutilation (the slow version) – The Pixies, from the album Complete ‘B’ Sides
I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles, from the album Please Please Me
Liar – Built to Spill, from the album You in Reverse

Stacey and Jill

Airlie BeachStacey and I arrived in Airlie Beach and checked into a fully-stocked cabin in an RV Park. Pure luxury – all the amenities we could need…Tim Tams in the fridge. It was important for us to be comfortable, as we were still feeling Jucy-Van withdrawals.

We thought we should explore the town that evening and as we were getting ready to go out, we turned on the TV. I am proud to have watched a grand total of maybe five hours of television since arriving on the continent four weeks ago. The part I’m a little less proud of…: the entirety of my exposure to Australian television has been So You think You Can Dance: Australia. Crikey…! Well at least I can blame friends for ‘making’ me watch the first three episodes (thanks Alice, Megan, Cat…); I happen to be in Brisbane on three different occasions when it just happened to be on. Stacey got hooked during two of those occasions, so we not only watched the entire episode that night in Airlie Beach…we guffawed with the audience when Timomatic was voted off. Poor guy.
Anyway, we tore ourselves away from the riveting show (we waited until it was done) and had a fun night out. We were told later that it’s an unwritten rule that people get to A.B. and stay up late dancing and then have to get on their sailboat tour the next day. I like to think I already had my sea-legs on. I was swaying before we left shore! Ha, no, no, it wasn’t so bad…
The Condor

The Condor

We boarded the beautiful Condor, a well-traveled and highly adorned tall ship that reached her peak, racing-wise, in the 80’s. We met our crew: Aaron, Ange, and Adele, and the 27 other 18-35 year-olds we would be bunking with for the next two nights and days. After the administrative/rule stuff was dealt with, the sails were hoisted and we set off at a mad pace towards our first destination: Whitsunday Island’s Whitehaven Beach. This is a beautiful mass of white sand; swirls of light blue and white that spans over seven kilometers. We would would anchor there for the night. Unfortunately the mad pace to get there was more of a saunter as the sails billowed in an ‘S’ shaped – we failed to catch the non-existent wind. It was still beautiful as we slowly motored our way through the many islands (there are said to be over 70 of them). The lazy sunset suited the atmosphere of the boat and the feelings of the passengers. We ate our chicken dinner, and we all got to know each other a little better. Whitehaven

It was a long, hot and muggy night. The Irish boys were drinking goon until 3:00am and attempting to mimic all the bird sounds they had heard in their many months of travel. They were surprisingly talented, much to the chagrin of the 20 odd people listening below…. I would be surprised if anyone got any sleep before 2am.

I have to admit that although I make every attempt to avoid thinking myself a victim, I really felt hard-done-by with my particular bunk. It was a coffin! Stacey and I were ‘lucky’ to get a double bed. This meant that some one (by chance, a really charming bloke that was quite disgusted with the whole arrangement and made every attempt at making it easier on us) slept above the person against the wall (me)….less than two feet above… when I turned on my side, my hips would move the mesh of his hammock (and apparently give him a relaxing massage – but that’s for another blog). It was already stuffy in the cabin and the human sandwich that was me just couldn’t handle it. I crept onto the cool, dewy deck above, and managed to sleep a few. It was hard, and actually a bit cold with the sopping sheet that was my blanket, but the view was unbeatable!

The stars: wow. With very little interfering light and only a sliver of a moon, the stars were very clear and bright. All the constellations are upside down and Orion lies on his side down here in the Southern Hemisphere. The second night of the trip, with some forethought and the necessity of avoiding the dungeon below, I saved myself some pain and asked for a mat to sleep on. As I was falling asleep I finally found something I have been trying to locate for the last month or so: The Big Dipper. It’s here, it’s just turned upside down and only visible along the horizon for part of the night. It’s also really faint, so definitely not the superstar it is up North. I felt comforted by seeing a little speck of home and was able to sleep soundly the second night.The Boat

Anyway, we spent the next full day swimming and checking out Whitehaven Beach. We weren’t able to sail that day either, but as Aaron, our captain, pointed out: we got blue skies and calm water and intensely warm sunshine, so it was a bit of a trade-off. He said this after blaming us passengers for not doing the ‘wind-making dance’ well enough.A brief moment caught on film

On our way to one of the other bays we saw dolphins. They played in the wake of passing boats and provided much entertainment. We spent some time snorkeling and swimming and then watched the sunset from a small island made of sand. The second night was a little tamer (everyone had run out of booze) so it was a little more relaxed. We had to get up early to take advantage of being anchored in Blue Pearl Bay – also dubbed The Fish Tank. There are SO many fish. They swim around you like you’re the good looking one! The visibility wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t matter because they are all so close to you. Sweet!

The Lovely Crew

The Lovely Crew

So that was our sailing trip through the Whitsundays. I would highly recommend it if you get the chance to get out this way. The boat was beautiful, the staff was really laid-back, but still professional, and the scenery was outstanding. My one suggestion: just ask for the sleeping mat right off the bat and save yourself the feeling of slowly drowning in a too-hot, stinky-foot-stew. Mmmhh….

Theme Songs of the Day:

Neopolitan Dreams – Lisa Mitchell, from the album Welcome to the Afternoon [note* this one’s for you Kim & Jenny]

Only Love Can Break Your Heart – Neil Young, from the album After the Gold Rush

Hospitla Beds – Cold War Kids, from the album Robbers and Cowards

Absinthe Party – Minus the Bear, from the album Highly Refined Pirates

Another Sunset, oh my

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