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“We peer so suspiciously at each other that we cannot see that we Canadians are standing on the mountaintop of human wealth, freedom and privilege.”
~ Pierre Elliott Trudeau

There’s a funny thing that happens when you travel through small rural communities in Australia…you’re actually, usually, mistaken for a local! I know we’d each like to think we’d stick out ; what, with our pulled-together looks, radiating charm, and big-city confidence?… but really we’re all the same.

So the locals assume you’re with them. Either that or, on the off-chance you really are that put together, they can spot the foreigner a mile away. Luckily, due to my wardrobe – or lack there of (I’ve spent months upon months wearing the same stuff and I can’t wait to burn most of them).. I don’t think I stick out much at all. Well, at least until I open my mouth. I will admit there’s something really nice about chatting to a checkout clerk and being told I have a lovely accent.

..a lovely Irish accent. Is it cold in Ireland? Right.

It’s nice not to stick out; to blend in. But then it’s always nice to be able to use your nationality as an excuse to decline unwanted solicitation. Example: While walking on any street, at anytime of day, in any part of Vietnam, one must have quick answers to questions that resemble, but are not limited to: “Where you going lady?”….”Cheap price for you?”…”You buy now?..Yes? Now? …Lady…big sizes lady…cheap for you, you buy?”  In most cases a simple direct “no thank you” doesn’t suffice. They stalk on. Shaking your head, waving your hands down to the ground; stern but passive, dead look in the eyes…this works sometimes (in Australian bars as well, but that’s another story). Now, when these street vendors and moto-drivers we speak of realize they’re not getting through with they’re promises of high quality good n’ services at dirt-cheap prices, the smart ones will pull out the big guns.

Their next question, as they follow beside you on the street: “Where you from lady?”

I can’t speak for everyone, but I grew up knowing that it’s only polite to answer when someone asks you a direct question about your native country…especially when you’re from such rad place – it’s like bragging. What’s the harm?

”Uh, Canada.”

Oh! CANADA!?! Canada: vvvvvery nnnnnice! Canada beeaaauuuutttiffffullll.” Their wide-eyed awe is hard to hide: they’ve been so very fortunate to have met someone from Europe!

The politeness continues, you can’t help but feel flattered at the reverie. ”Um, yeah…you been?”…

Oh shit. You’re in a conversation. What?!

Sneaky.

Well, after a few rounds of these blindsided attack on one’s good senses, it’s easy enough to avoid. You just make stuff up. It’s not hard. Take the name of your favourite animal or food and add -ville or Island. There you have it: a new country! Eggs Island (also in Europe). Unicornicopia is a favourite.

Oh, Unicornicopia? So verrry nicccce there….”

So it doesn’t actually work, but at least it’s amusing.

Anyway, I digress. I was going to write about Australia. I’m not going to write about Australia now though. There’s time for that. I have another couple of weeks here before I head to the Land of the Long White Cloud. I’m starting to get nostalgic for my year in Oz and I haven’t even left yet. Ridiculous.

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“There are two mistakes that one can make on the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting”

~Guatama Siddharta, The Buddha

So I’ve taken a short hiatus from writing – a small break.  I’ve not felt the overwhelming urge to share these past few weeks.

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My mind has been busy and private.  January 10th was a big day –  a very important day – and significant to so many people who read this blog.  I think I’ve needed some time to sort out exactly what this anniversary means to me; sometime to regroup and look at what I’ve (we’ve) been through.  I’ll let you know when I’ve figured it out…

There are moments I still find myself in disbelief at the chaos of the last couple of years.  I have a feeling these shock waves will strike for a long time to come. How do we get through this stuff…how have I made it?  One thing I know is that this year is extremely significant to me as it is both an end, and a beginning  Funny how that works, hey? …(it’s science).

Getting through the holidays was a triumph unto itself and frankly I  feel like a huge balloon of air has been expelled from my chest.  Definitely a lessening of pressure.  What sort of pressure? Well I’m not too sure, but the build up to that year was insurmountable.  I have made it and I’m still going.  I surprise myself sometimes.  I guess we all do.

Greens PoolsMy last couple of weeks in Western Australia were just great.  After New Years we packed into a friend’s caravan and hit the road.  We would travel ~500km southeast of Perth, cutting diagonally through the bareness of NoWheresVille, Australia, to hit the coast again and check out a little place called Denmark near the city Albany.  With absolutely no regard for its namesake – all that this small community lacks in European charm, it makes up for in abounding natural beauty.  Our hunt for waves proved fruitless, but we had fun exploring the beautiful coastline.  The water was so clear! The terraces and rocky cliffs ever expansive.  We cut across through Margaret River and found our own private beach – the kind of beach that comes to mind when you picture Australia but you’ve never been here.  No people, just sand and waves and sunshine.

We arrived back in Perth it was time to get to work.  I had located a small Christmas tree farm in the far Eastern suburbs that could use a helping hand in exchange for room and board.  Jann – the family matriarch – and I had been in touch and hit it off right away.  Claiming there was little work to be done around the property – due to the dryness and soaring temperatures – we agreed that I would do as much as I could, work-wise, and then spend the rest of my time swimming in the pool.  These are work conditions that I can feel confident in accepting.

Well my week with the family was just amazing.  I was accepted into the family with open arms.  Richard & His AlphornThis is one cool clique, and between their short bouts of conversing only in Swiss-German I was let in on their colourful history. Stories of living in Nigeria, and traveling the world kept me entertained at every meal.  We ate well, and talked well, and it was sad to leave.

This leaving stuff has to be the downside of traveling.  The connections we make as we go – this is the whole point of travel.  Scenery can be fantastic, awe-inspiring.  New cities and towns are (usually)  fun to explore. This is all fine and good,  but the relationships we create, both on the road and at home, are the core of the journey. With the freedom to pick-up -and-go comes the other side of the coin – saying goodbye…it gets old. There’s a reason we naturally settle down and get those roots in the ground.  Only a very special kind of person can keep up the transient lifestyle.

Jill 'n Kim Making the Most of the Final Days! So with only a few days left in the most remote capital city in the world– we planned a going away shindig and it was perfect. Altogether I have had the good luck and fortune to spend more than two months in Perth and the surrounds and have come to consider some of the people I have met there to be the type of friends that are life-long.  A barbeque on the beach…. guitars found their way to nearby laps….the astounding talent of my Western Australian friends was given the limelight.  Damn it – another goodbye.

The Rocks, SydneyAnd with the end comes a new beginning – this time the east coast    I touched down just in time to celebrate Australia Day in the country’s biggest city.  Old friends and new, we had a great time,  After years of practice in Canada, I feel I’m a bit of an expert at this type of celebration.  The sunshine, swimming, beer, and chaos of families running around – I felt right at home. ..

But I’m not….not yet.

Theme Songs of the Day:

There is no real pattern for this whole healing process.  At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought.  It must be one of the most reflective times in my life.  Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort.   I’m lucky to have these beautiful surrounding and people around me, to make it all a little easier.”

This is a paragraph that resonates with me.  I take it from a post I wrote back in June (Down Time) and it is still relevant.  I had just been released from the hospital and I’m sure the healing I was referring to had very little to do with my kidney.

As I get ready to fly to Vietnam, I have taken a few moments to skim through some of my older posts.   It’s interesting to see how this journey has progressed.  I have to admit: I don’t remember writing all that much of it.  Once out there, the words have done their intended duty – they have punched the healing time-card.  Looking back is something I don’t think I’ll make a habit of. ..not yet, at least.

A Taste of the Great Ocean RoadConquering My Fear!After Tonga, I had a week or so in Melbourne.  Catching up with old friends and making new ones – I kept busy and managed to meet some people heading west along the Great Ocean Road.  Beautiful!  The twelve apostles are a highlight.  We had decent weather and it was entirely too cold to swim, but we did attempt whale-watching from the shores of Warnambool.

Adelaide is probably best described as delightful and easy; a planned-city makes for straight-forward navigation.  The museum and art gallery were good hideouts during the rain.  As the weather got better I made my way north to stay with a fabulous family.  I spent time reading in front of the fire (pure luxury) and then got a chance to ride through the hills on the back of a bike!  With the promise of more French food and good conversation,Nothing Like It! I will definitely be making another stop in South Australia.  Thanks friends!

Although Perth found me in my seventh time-zone in little less than a month, arriving here feels as close to coming home as I think possible.  My plans to make a couple of small trips down south – they fell by the wayside as soon as I arrived.  It’s too easy to be in beautiful North Beach, with my friends and my pseudo-routines…albeit I am in a tent in the backyard…but its home-like…in a breezy sort of way.

Western Australia is a place that is close to my heart.  I think it’s interesting to look back on my last visit here, five months in the past.  I was at a very, noticeably different place.  As I gently peruse my current headspace, I can see the lengths at which I’ve travelled to get here…time zones notwithstanding.

The Twelve Apostles

THE DAINTREE FOREST

THE DAINTREE FOREST

The Daintree Forest is the oldest rain forest in the world: 175 million years – that’s pretty old!  This is incredible and humbling.  As I write, I’m sitting in the shade of trees and vines similar to the ones dinosaurs walked under! How ultimately inspiring…

I find myself in Wet Tropical North Queensland in a place called Tribulation Bay and I have more-or-less spanned the entire East Coast in two weeks.  This in no small feat! We are staying in a beautiful hostel consisting of A-frames and huts that follow a windy path down to the beach.  It’s a tropical paradise.

Upon arrival we are told not to feed the wild cassowaries – cool!  These are such prehistoric-looking birds; it’s not hard to imagine them as late-edition dinosaurs….sort of like crocodiles…turtles….Mick Jagger….

Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation

Originally the plan to head north was going to be an individual adventure, but due to beautiful timing, an intriguing acquaintance from the past would take up residence as my next travel companion.   Aisha and I met briefly (and unremarkably – we don’t remember each other much at all) in Edinburgh years ago.  We were reunited in Brisbane through our mutual friend Alice.  Alice is amazing, and therefore her friends are amazing too!  This was bound to be fun!

Ahh, fun.

Some of our highlights:

  • Cairns: Arriving at 1am in the morning to a nightclub that posed as a hostel, and meeting our roommates who had been in the city for nine days yet hadn’t been to the esplanade (the waterfront – four blocks form said hostel)….keep in mind: we’re smack-dab on the great barrier reef…
    After one of them told us his entire life story he proceeded to kiss a small jade Buddha while whispering softly:  “I LOVE you.”  He then passed out…
    …we switched hostels early the next morning.

    The Great Barrier Reef

    The Great Barrier Reef

  • Sailing on the boat out to the Great Barrier Reef we were deafened by Enya’s ‘Orinoco Flow’… not only as we left port, but also on our return….sail away, sail away… we figure they were trying to create atmosphere?
    …As I climbed aboard the catamaran after scuba diving, I was greeted by loud and frantic jazz; this was  surely a bonus.
  • White wine on the white sand beaches that surround Cape Tribulation… played a game of pool amongst the leafy rainforest.
  • Looking for crocodiles on the Daintree River as the old-school pulley boat brought us over to the world heritage site.  We held conflicting feelings of relief and disappointment when we didn’t spot any.

    Magnetic Sunset

    Magnetic Sunset

  • Townsville locals showed us amazing hospitality.  We had some great laughs, and they shared with us their idea of a good time (a story to be shared over beer).
  • Magnetic Island proved, once again, that it is truly magnetic.  Sunny beaches and tramping through the national park land that makes up ¾ of the island was complemented by blatant  and unwavering sunshine.
  • We found ourselves looking forward to arriving “home” after only two weeks.  This was a pleasant surprise….we had had enough time away to appreciate Brisbane and all of its comforts.
  • The two of us filled our two weeks so full of good times that I have found inspiration enough to write page upon page about the adventures.… for practical purposes I must limit myself; posting only a bulleted list – cool!!
Jill and Aisha

Jill and Aisha

There is absolutely nothing unremarkable about the experiences Aisha and I shared on this adventure into the tropics.  We met some interesting people and saw some unforgettable sights.   Aisha and I had so much to talk about; the awesome scenery was simply a backdrop.

Good conversation makes the world go ‘round!

I had the pleasure of bonding with another friend who has been through huge change recently.  Geez, there are a lot of us out there!?  Life is truly jam-packed with change…maybe we can look at it as transformation instead?

The old forest we visited holds a beautiful history.  Amongst a landscape that has existed for 175 million years there is the deception of a sense of permanence – but we all know that the notion of permanence is simply that: a notion.

Theme Songs of the Day:

Ageless Beauty – The Stars, from the album Set Yourself on Fire (the acoustic version is my favourite, but I couldn’t find a good copy of it)

Creature Fear – Bon Iver, from the album For Emma, Forever Ago

Not Bad!

Not Bad!

After a short recovery and a few extra days rest in Melbourne, Matt, my current travel cohort and partner-in-crime, and I decided it was time to head to Sydney.   Although cheap domestic flights beckoned us, we felt the call of the road and rented a car instead.  What a great idea!  An ugly, but zippy little compact we dubbed Glow Bug transported us eastward.

The trip across Victoria was complemented by good coffee and fantastic conversation.   What better way to share stories and laughs than with the open road spread out before you?  Having always been a big fan of road trips, I simply love facing outward, in the same direction, with my travel companion(s).  Listening to great tunes just sweetens the deal. 

On this day It was sunny, and although it takes the better part of an hour to actually leave the sprawling suburbs of the city, we were greeted by beautiful, bright rolling hills (they call them mountains here).

Our next few days would consist of casually driving through impressive scenery dotted with forest, ocean, rivers, and hills (mountain ranges?!?).  We explored little fishing villages along the coast and made various attempts at catching dinner along the way.  The fish we caught were too big to take in the small compact so we settled with eating at pubs and joined the locals in their favourite past-time (Eden, a small town along the border in NSW, claims to be “a drinking town with a fishing problem”).  

Old Tom - The Amazing Killer whale of Twofold Bay

Old Tom - The Amazing Killer whale of Twofold Bay

We gasped in the beauty of Lakes Entrance, a small town tucked into the east corner of the state of Victoria.  In Eden, farther north over the border, we sought out the Killer Whale Museum (and aforementioned pub).  It was here we got the chance to see Old Tom, the famous Orca that used to assist the whalers in Twofold Bay in their hunt for baleen whales.  He would herd the baleens into the bay and lead the whalers to the catch.  If the whalers proved too slow, he would actually grasp the ropes of the whaling boat and tug them!  After Old Tom passed away, the orcas never returned and soon the whaling industry collapsed.  A great story and local legend.

Eden, NSW

Eden, NSW

In Bermagui, probably my favourite stop on this part of my journey, we spent the entire afternoon fishing (I was more of a support network: singing loudly, if intermittently, to attract fish – and keeping an eye on the fairy penguins as they efficiently stole our catch from around the break-water).   

There is a place I get to when I’m traveling extensively for any amount of time.  I inherently recognize this place, and the timing can seem quite random, but it’s at this pinnacle moment that I actually see myself as a Traveler

In the UK, back in ’99 this moment came about very quickly.  I knew I had a year abroad; I was a Traveler from the moment I received my visa.  It was reaffirmed when, mere hours after we landed in Glasgow, as we were getting ready to go to bed – a bunch of mad Dutchmen swung into the hostel and stole us away to a rocking seventies club.  We danced all night (assisted by the ever-so-helpful jet-lag and a wee pint or two).  The next day we caught a ride with our new friends to Edinburgh.  We would end up living the better part of six months over the following year there. 

It was one of the most relaxed times in my life…I was living each moment by the seat of my pants (albeit in tandem with my friend Racheal, whom I was attached to at the hip).  We settled for a while in Edinburgh, but really, I (or we, at the time) could have picked up at any moment and, on a whim, made our way to Spain or Finland or India, had we the funds.

Maybe it was easy to see myself as a Traveler right away back then because I didn’t feel I was leaving much behind.  At nineteen I had my job, school, and a haphazard social life, but I was very much ready for crazy change.  I knew I would find it as soon as I hopped on the plane. 

The Wombat is Smiling!

The Wombat is Smiling!

On this trip in Australia, with so much of a life left behind (or put on hold at least), I realized this pinnacle moment as I sat in the car on a road trip through the beautiful countryside of NSW.  With a like-minded friend beside me, we watched the scenery pass and we smiled.  It was a moment shared, yet also something very private.  I knew – I felt in my soul, that I was not a vacationer or a guest anymore; I was a self-defined Traveler.

I realized I had survived, have survived, something huge and all-encompassing.  I am coming out the other side – I can make that cumbersome hook-turn we discussed back in Melbourne –I’ve got the skills.  

I appreciate that I had the chance to see so much beauty so far off the beaten track.  The knowledge that it’s my track… I’m choosing which way to turn… this is precious.  I am strong.  I belong wherever I am.   

 Theme Songs of the Day:

Guaranteed – Eddie Vedder, from the soundtrack Into the Wild

One Crowded Hour – Auggie March, from the album Moo, You Bloody Choir

I’m Good, I’m Gone– Lykke Li, from the album Youth Novel (Alex D, this one’s for you)

Ramble On – Led Zeppelin, from the album Led Zeppelin II

Eden  - So many pelicans!

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.”
– Hippocrates

The Dragon that greets patrons of Soul Mama, a vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne

The Dragon that greets patrons of Soul Mama, a vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne

Melbourne is in the running for one of my favourite cities in the country.  It’s beautiful and culturally-varied.  I couldn’t help but notice that people are pretty darn friendly there as well (including my hosts, who were personally responsible for me enjoying a deliciously diverse menu and eating the very best I have in months – thank you Lynch family).

Not only are the cafes and restaurants dynamic and never-ending, but the city’s hospitals ain’t so bad either.  Actually that implies I’ve seen more than one, but really, one hospital tends to fill the quota, wouldn’t you think?

I wasn’t really, seriously sick, but my kidneys had decided to let themselves be known to me.  I had to get it all sorted out by spending the night hooked up to an IV.   The medical system here is very similar to Canada, and because I was in noticeable pain they got me through administration quite quickly – and then doled out morphine with similar speed.  I felt very well taken care of (thanks morphine!) and in general I’m quite okay with hospitals; comfortable enough with how it all works and what to expect…   I know I’m an expert because I was able to get the gown on with only minimal assistance and a short question and answer period….

It was the first time I had been in any sort of medical facility since Kevin’s illness and it was emotionally hard for me.  It brought back so many memories.  Being in the fevered-pain I was in, not having all my defenses intact, it got a little tough there for a while.  As the pain slowly subsided and I knew I wouldn’t have to stay a second night, I actually started to delve into the memories of our journey through the medical system these past couple of years.   What a journey it was.

View from St. Kilda Pier

View from St. Kilda Pier

The tests and the appointments.  The chemotherapy, radiation, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-convulsants.  The CT scans and MRIs and ECGs.  We had appointments everyday for a while there.  Ambulance rides, stretchers, wheelchairs, walkers.  We had handle bars and poles and railings, so much equipment for normal, everyday activities.   Physiotherapists, nurses, oncologists, GPs, home-care and finally hospice.    There were a minimum of six hospitals that we became all too familiar with.  We were proficient in a field that no one should even have to think about.

This is a sad trip down memory lane.  I’m sorry if it’s hard for some of you to read.  These are the thoughts that I explored while lying in that hospital bed, and when I faced some of it head-on again, it became a little easier to deal with.

There is no real pattern for this whole healing process.  At every turn I find a new way to address a feeling or thought.  It must be one of the most reflective times in my life.  Learning new, honest and organic ways to sift through my emotions is an art-form that takes time and effort.   I’m lucky to have both these beautiful surrounding, and the amazing people around me;  it makes it all a little easier.

I know that my body needed the rest (and the medicine) and when I felt well enough to be discharged I was able to head back to a very comfortable home where I was made to feel welcome and at ease.  This was invaluable, and really, if I had to be sick, I’m glad I was where I was.  A little down-time has refreshed me in new ways.

Willows Beach, April 2008

The Bedfords call this Home

The Bedfords call this Home

I know there is an absolute abundance of vivid, descriptive words that could be used to attempt an accurate portrayal of the Bedford’s property in Loongana, Tasmania. Now I just need to figure out where to start?  Wondrous, natural, fantastic?  All good, but not painting the entire picture.  I’m not sure I can do it justice, but this 70 acres of land is beautiful and worth the journey.  It’s less than an hour’s drive from Ulverstone which lies on the North shore of Tasmania, West of Launceston.    

Matt, my American-Aussie travel companion, had found the Bedford’s on Couchsurfing.org. After some correspondence with Peter, the man of the house, we had been invited to stay a couple of nights.  As we got comfortable, we knew that we would end up staying the remainder of our trip in and about the area.  What a welcoming, comfortable piece of paradise.

Matt and our host Peter looking down on Leven Canyon

Matt and our host Peter looking down on Leven Canyon

The property is more or less self-contained and self-sufficient.  The Bedfords have spent years building the property from the ground up.  A great descriptive word for this family: industrious!  A gorgeous (secret) waterfall and small river supply hydro power.  There are gardens, chickens, some miniature horses, a small lake with trout, a tree fort, and my personal favourite: the outdoor, fire heated bathtub. 

This is a real treat – you actually light a fire below the tub and must be careful to add cold water on a frequent basis in order not to be slowly simmered!  Can it get any better?  It’s cold enough for frost in the mornings, so a hot bath outside is a virtual heaven.  Even better?  Our last night there, as the hand-picked hazelnuts roasted on the bonfire, I sipped homemade honey mead in the tub, and the others stood around chatting and throwing vegetables in to make the stock perfect (mmmhhh, Jill soup? – yeah, I might not remember the night with complete accuracy, the honey mead packed a powerful punch). 

They sure are friendly in Penguin!

They sure are friendly in Penguin!

Although the entire first day was spent on the property, by the second day it was time to explore a bit further out.  A trip into Ulverstone was highlighted by a coffee at Smiley’s.  The scones and jam, and friendly atmosphere made allowance for the atrocious attempt at a Canadian accent (although I was flattered Smiley tried, and it came across in a lovely Irish lilt with ‘eh’ planted at the end of each sentence).  

Fresh fish for sushi

Fresh fish for sushi

We took the van West to a small town called Penguin on the quest for fresh fish.  Penguin is charming (sort of like Qualicum for you Vancouver Islanders) but contrary to popular belief (and logic) contains no penguins.  Oh, and no fresh fish….sigh (one might bring the other, no?).  We continued on to Burnie and our fresh-fish-success meant sushi night at the Bedfords. Yum!

The river running through the Canyon

The river running through the Canyon

Hiking through Leven Canyon, biking, late-night wildlife excursions in the Ute, eating way too much, drinking, sharing stories, just a lot of hanging out…this was the bulk of how I spent my time in Tasmania.  This is how everyone should spend their time in Tasmania! 

It’s always so nice to get off the beaten track a bit.  It feels real and wholesome and valuable.  Tasmania is a lot like home, more so than any place I’ve been so far in Australia.  I think the vague familiarity and the vast differences are intriguing and were a little unexpected.  I felt very at ease in this little state (yes, it’s approximately the size of Ireland, but it’s all relative, isn’t it?).  The landscape was inspiring, and the company was pretty great – no two-headed people to be seen… although, you know, we never did make it right around the island…

        …                                                                                              

Theme Songs of the Day:

Brainy – The National, form the album Boxer

Messages – Xavier Rudd, from the album

Gone Away From Me – Ray LaMontagne, from the album Till the Sun Turns Black

Sunset in Tasmania

Beautiful AND close to the Cadbury factory!

Beautiful AND close to the Cadbury factory!

Mainland Aussies have one of two answers when you ask them if they’ve been to Tasmania…..”Oh, yes, it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!” or, alternatively: “What, why would you want to go there?”…  Let’s just say, there is a bit of a stigma associated with the state.  It’s ‘common knowledge’ that Tassies are inbred and tend to spout two heads.  Now, I’m no expert, but the Tasmanians that I met were perfectly lovely and very friendly, no extra appendages to be seen – and the state itself WAS absolutely beautiful.

We arrived in Hobart and after picking up our deluxe camper van, and made our way into the city for some food.  Research (reading the in-flight magazine on the way over) had lead us to seek out Chodra, a beautiful little tea house owned by the former basest of the Violent Femmes.  What a beautiful introduction to the least-visited-state in Australia (only 2% of visitors to the country make it over). 

We found a beautiful spot to camp and the next day the only thing that inspired us to get up was the fact that we were mere minutes from the Cadbury chocolate factory!  YUM!!  We drank hot chocolate, watched a movie and then spent $50 on chocolate….but only paid $20!!!  Wow, I LOVE Tasmania!

Cliffs at Devil's Kitchen

Cliffs at Devil's Kitchen

They look smarter when they're stuffed!

They look smarter when they're stuffed!

Although our eventual destination was the far north of the island, we decided to head south and check out Port Arthur.  The drive was awe-inspiring with valleys, and hills dotted with sheep and the odd cow (the cows weren’t all that odd, just their frequency, but, again, I’m no expert).  Port Arthur looked very interesting, but we saw it only from the parking lot.  It was cold and wet and late in the day…and a little pricy to boot.  Instead we went to check out the infamous Tassie devils.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing these funny little creatures, I would seriously suggest checking them out (Youtube has a couple of good clips).  They run around in a happy daze and it’s as though they forget what they’re doing every minute or so…”oh, sh!t, what was I gonna do…mmmhhh?  Maybe I’ll go this way – yeah, that’s good – oh wait…er where was I going?”  I didn’t get to see them eat, supposedly quite the site: they start spinning and get exceedingly aggressive, but I like my first impression of them:  funny and dumb; the big toothy grins complete the picture.

The next day we made the trek north.  The gently sloping hills through the heart of rural Tasmania are reminiscent of Ireland, although due to a fairly dry season they weren’t quite as emerald green.  Launceston, the second biggest city in the state, was charming and offered free internet at the library (the city takes a two-star jump when one can find access to the web…it’s a gift).  A long-time friend from Scotland was in town and we had a nice catch-up over a quick lunch.  The sun shone brightly as we continued North West and the light from the sunset gave off that flattering orange glow that makes everything clear as day but better.  We would be driving through the bush in the dark.

The colour palette of the trip: green and blue

The colour palette of the trip: green and blue

After a little detour 16km past the house, on a dirt road, we finally made it to our destination.  Luckily those extra kilometers had allowed us the chance to see possums, wombats, Tasmanian devils and a great, stoic bird called the tawny frogmouth.  Did I mention: I love Tasmania? 

Anyway, we eventually made our way to our host’s and he greeted us with a glass of wine and a smile.  We stayed up until 5am getting to know each other.  What a fascinating man – we were in for an unbelievable next few days! …

 

Theme Songs of the Day:

Putting on the Ritz – Taco, from the album After Eight

True Affection – The Blow, from the album Paper Television

Sunshine During Rain

Sunshine During Rain

Ah, the break has been good.  In slowing my writing down for a bit, I have had to adapt and learn to organize my thoughts in a different way; reassess, I guess.

I will never regret the two years that I have been writing with some sort of regularity.  I think it has saved me more often than not.  I also know it brings clarity to large portions of the past that I would otherwise see in a blur (or forget entirely).  “Oh, right – we DID go to Whistler in June…oh, yeah….THAT’S  how we spent October.”  You know, things like that…more important events and thoughts as well, but you get the idea.

I think this may be a bit of a turning point for me.  I’m not sure where exactly I’m turning from, and in which direction I’m now faced, but there’s some kind of crazy road sign associated with it, I’m sure.

Only in Melbourne

Only in Melbourne

Actually the Melbourne hook-turn comes to mind as a very suitable analogy.  Here in Melbourne there is an insane, yet perfectly legal and common maneuver whereby you pull into the far lane to make a right hand turn (keep in mind we drive on the left over here, and to turn right means to cross oncoming traffic).  So you’re driving along and realize you need to go right at the next intersection.  You must pull into the left lane, turn your blinker on and wait for a gap in traffic traveling in both directions! What!?!  You should really only attempt this crazy turn when you’re comfortable.  It feels SO strange…a little exhilarating…different…

… yeah, a good analogy I’d say.

West Coast Eagles lost!

West Coast Eagles lost!

So as one may assume, I have landed myself in Melbourne, a lovely city, indeed.  It was a sad affair to leave Perth, but I had a great last couple of days there, before heading south.  On my last night, Kim and I managed to snag Footy tickets (thanks Sean!)!  Now this is a truly Aussie passion and I can see why: a riled up crowd full of supporters for both teams, fit men running up and down a huge field…running, tackling, kicking (and that’s not including what’s happening in the stands!), over-priced-beer-drinking… Yup – they’ve got everything a good hockey game has, with the exception of ice and Luongo.

I won’t pretend to understand the rules, but it was great to watch – and the atmosphere was electric.  We made friends with the people sitting next to us and managed to make our way to the club bar for a celebratory pint or two.  Good times!

A View from Federation Square

A View from Federation Square

The flight to Melbourne was straight forward, and wouldn’t you know, I happen to be sharing the plane with Matt Gresham, the musician I had seen a couple of weeks earlier in the city (One of his songs was features in my ‘theme songs of the day’ last post).  We had a little chat, and I got to tell him what a great performer he is.  Good times!

I had a total of three days in Melbourne and my tour guide did the city a great service by introducing me to the wonderful cultural diversity that oozes off the pavement here.  There are so many restaurants and cafes and galleries; little nooks to get lost in.  The streets are littered with pieces of orange and red and yellow; it’s just at that point in the season where the balance has been tipped: there are more leaves on the ground than in the trees.   Everyone looks good, somewhere to go, a hurried but casual pace.   This is how I imagined it to be.

It flows upside-down...crystal clear on the bottom

It flows upside-down...crystal clear on the bottom

My tour guide, and host, Matt, is a friend I met in Hawaii many months ago.  He has recently moved back to Australia to travel around a bit and, as his family lives in Melbourne, he thought that a good place to start.  We have kept in touch and the plan is to stay in the city a few days – then we head down to Tasmania for a week of exploring.  What fun.

An adventure awaits… but then, when doesn’t it?

Theme songs of the Day:

Rose PicklesThe Custom Kings, from the album At Sea

Number One – The Custom Kings, from the album At Sea

Olive Picking on the Side of the Road

Olive Picking on the Side of the Road

I’ve been having a tough time finding the inspiration to write and I’m not exactly sure why.  Coming back to Perth has given me a sense of well-being that only a few other cities ever have.

I haven’t stopped writing altogether, but the last couple of weeks have proved a difficult lesson in sharing.  I’m not able to write for anyone  else but me right now….as I say that…mmhh…maybe I can write a little….you know, now that I’m here…

Why not, eh?

One of the reasons I may be having trouble finding any sort of motivation is that I have just celebrated my thirtieth birthday.  It was a little bitter-sweet to be entirely honest.  Birthdays have always been a priority for Kevin and I.  As most of you know, we always planned bbqs, parties, camping trips…fun-filled events –  for both of our bdays – it’s always just been an excuse to celebrate.  Although it’s exciting to be in another country for the ‘big day’, in my heart I am somewhere in between here and home.  I don’t know how to explain it…another reason not to write.  I’m only able to write around the idea of my feelings.  I can’t quite figure it out in my own head, so how do I type it up into a neat little paragraph (or a slightly larger paragraph, in the instance)?

Maybe another excuse for the lack of written word – I’m relaxing a bit.  I feel like the shock might be wearing off a little bit.  I’m seeing things a little more clearly;  I am getting outside everyday and I’m spending more time by myself than I have in years. 

Just a nibble

Just a nibble

Getting used to the alone thing.  I guess we’ve all had to do this at one time or another;  a break-up or what have you.  There’s something special about eating alone at a restaurant. 

With my many hours of quiet time, I am re-learning that everyone is extraordinarily complex.  I knew this before, but it has really hit home during this trip.  We all have these amazing experiences.   Listening to people’s stories and hearing how they work; what goes on in their minds.  What music they like, how they get on with their families, why they are where they are…its all so fascinating.

Maybe focusing on other people allows me perspective that I don’t get when I turn inside-out.  I am saddest when looking deep into my own heart, but when I get a tiny glimpse of what lays in others’ hearts, I can see, reflected, all that I am going through and all that I’ve been through…just from farther out.  I like this perspective best: no magnifying glass necessary.

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

Anyway, my time in this city has been wonderful.  We’ve been enjoying some great live music.  I have a bike.. it’s blue and it’s awesome: a birthday gift from a friend.  I have ridden it almost everyday since I got it last week.  What a great feeling: riding along the water and looking out into the plain of blue that is the Indian Ocean.  

Kim and I have found time to go to the aquarium (AQWA) and the zoo.  I am currently a walking encyclopedia of flora and fauna.  There are some CRAZY animals out there.  My favourite it the Leafy Seadragon.  These are absolutely beautiful creatures.  They bob gracefully through the water and you would never know they even existed, as they blend in so well with common sea kelp. 

Beautiful, unassuming, and complex…. just like us.

Theme Songs of the Day:

We Are Not CriminalsMatt Gresham (…we saw him live and he has SO much energy!)

Paper AeroplaneAngus & Julia Stone, from the album Chocolates and Cigarettes

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