After Christmas, me and The Westons spent a few good days doing what, it seams, Australians do best, shopping. They go completely mental for the end of year sales here. totally coockoo. But my god did I buy some awesome 'shit I don't need, with money I don't have' as Viv put it!
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
Saturday, 25 December 2010
I stepped off the bus at Rockhampton, (having pulled myself together after the traumatic departure at Airlie!), to black and rumbling skies, very ominous! A friendly looking chap was waiting holding a v. professional sign: Couchsurfing: Hollie Howitt. Must be Wayne I thought.
We got on very easily – he drove me passed all the houses with the crazy Christmas lights (turns out they really bloody go for it out here!), and then he took me back to their house. Wayne and Margot’s house is much like themselves. Old fashioned, comfortable, caring, interesting. You know exactly what you are getting, right down to the hand written sign in the bathroom ‘our guests are free to use these toiletries’. There were thunderstorms the like of which I have NEVER seen or heard before in my life. One crack of thunder was so loud, the lights all went out and i jumped up screaming and ran into their room!
At first I thought they were a little square perhaps, well, they are in their sixties. But after we all had a good giggle, [when Wayne asked how tall I was, and I replied ‘a little under 6’, and he misheard ‘I’m a little under sexed’, then I tried to correct myself my saying ‘I’m about half an inch short’, which resulted in much laughter from Margot and Wayne to retort with some reference to his manhood], I felt much more comfortable in their company.
They were very good to me indeed. They drove me around to see the horrendous flooding; they took me to the zoo where I cuddled a Koala! I cooked them a lasagne, which with the help of their lodger, Jonathan, got wolfed down! They helped me get a doctors appointment for my sore underarm (turns out I had Impetigo! 2 lots of antibiotics and $100 later and I’m fixed!), they took me to the awesome aboriginal Dreamland cultural centre, where Scott, our guide, taught us how to throw boomerangs and played us the didgeridoo. All in all they were perfect hosts....
….. just no Wendy and Phil!
I got my buss to Hervey Bay on Monday night and James, 25, aussie, collected me at 1.30am from the bus stop, bless him. Lovely good lookin ginger, with oodles of personality, very easy going and I found myself talking even more freely and rapidly than normal! His place was awesome, huge, tidy, modern. I had a double room to myself, and use of the complex pool and gym!
When he returned from work then next day he took me to a field of innocent cows, who pay not much attention to you when one is vertical, but upon laying down on the ground (following James’ instruction and an expert demonstration), the cows become incredibly curious, licking, sniffing, blowing and generally inspecting your very being! It is hilarious. And a bit scary. But clearly the best thing I’ve done in Oz so far!
After that we got icecream and walked down the long pier. Then met Sally’s friends, Krista and Nick, who are the chefs at the new, v. hip restaurant in Hervey Bay (the nicest of its kind in the sleepy little town). Krista very kindly wouldn’t let us pay for our food and drinks, and all of a sudden I looked like some kind of mover-and-shaker of the area, taking James to flashy new restaurants without having to pick up the tab!
The following night we went to the cinema, after a day of helping James do his Christmas shopping, eating Pie, running to the postoffice to catch the last post and making total fools of ourselves at the post office counter. I was quite surprised how well and naturally functioning 2 people could be after knowing each other for all of 36 hours. That night we went to the cinema to see Tron. All in all, an awesome couple of days – and I didn’t even do Fraser (Will wait for Simon who I’m sure will handle a 4x4 better than I!).
I was so excited arriving at Brisbane to meet Paul. I was really craving family, and by god they did not disappoint. Their home is so familiar even though I have never been here before. I’d forgotten how much Nicola reminds me of Sal and how Elliot IS josh and jord. Perfect evening with plenty of wine and a nice talk on the phone with Simon.
Christmas eve was a girly shopping day – me, Viv, Nicola, and her bezzie Marge, who I adore. Found a gorgeous dress. Then that evening we went to Nicola and AJ’s house for drinks (her lovely chap), along with his bro Nick (both mental kiwis), and Marge and El. Lovely night.
Woke early Xmas morn due to the aforementioned mental kiwis, came downstairs about 6am to them still on the sauce! The little darlings had got me presents and all. Lovely boys. We all got ready then headed to Viv and Paul’s where I met my great uncle Reg and his wife Val. Reg looks so much like Pop I nearly cried. We had big cuddles and caught up, then had the most amazing aussie xmas dinner ever – lobster, prawns the size of your face, bugs, ham, chicken, pork, turkey. Not a roast tatty in sight! Got some awesome gifts, the highlight of which, is of course, that viv has managed to secure tickets, and paid half of one for me, for Big Day out, the festival at the Goldcoast, as Elliot's band are on the bill! What I didn't know was that Tool, Deftones, Iggy Pop, Andrew WK (haha), and many more awesome frickin bands are playing! Then, after a post-feed nap, we went for a swim. Yes, a swim, on Christmas day. Hilarious!
|I promise I didn't force Nick and AK to do this!|
Here for another few weeks, and very happy about it! Viv and Paul feel as instantly close as they did last year when they came over. Off now to get into our PJ’s and watch chick flicks with yet more wine!
Sunday, 19 December 2010
|The Beautiful Solway Lass in all her glory!|
|Homesick for Simon!|
|Me Snorkelling! Mmm sexy!|
|My favourite spot on the ship|
|View infront of me|
|View behind me|
|Em does Bee Horn|
|Brady does Bee Horn|
|Phil does Bee Horn|
|Brady Retard - Haha!|
Sunday started bad and got a whole heap worse, (those who don’t know me well or are a bit squeamish may want to skip the next bits!). First I tripped over a drum kit and cut my foot open, then on the way home I thought it’d be awesome to quickly pop into town and get a frame and a photo printed of all of us, along with a thank you card for W&P. This ended up taking ages, and then the photo place couldn’t print the picture for another half hour (my bus was at 11, this was at about half 9am!), so we rushed back, I tried to pack, in the mad rush I accidentally flushed my mooncup down the toilet (don’t ask), which made me cry (hungover AND hormonal), all the while my coral infection is getting so bad I am in constant agony everytime I move my right arm. Brady and I make our silly excuses and rush back to town to collect the photo, then the frame breaks, I run into the chemist at a million miles an hour and show the pharmacist my underarm (even he winces) and says I must see a Doctor but gives me some cream anyway – I forget to buy tampons. We dash home, I give W&P the shitty, broken frame, and they are of course, delighted with it (because they are beautiful people), and they take me to the bus stop.
|My super second family|
We say our goodbyes and they leave as I hobble onto the bus with a very sore foot and a weeping, blistered underarm. I am crying, and bleeding. And I have a 6 hour trip to Rockhampton.
During my journey, I get a text from Wendy saying she keeps finding little reminders of things I had left, like the cold tea in the fridge which she made me for my sunburn. Then, having completely forgotten telling her all about the word ‘lods’ between me and dad, and how it originated, I get a text simply saying “miss you lods”, I wept silently for about 3 hours.
I cannot wait for Simon to arrive so we can go back to Airlie for the biggest party ever.
Monday, 13 December 2010
So where did I leave off? Going for a day on the Islands I think….
Well I was once again v. lucky as weather dazzlingly beautiful, one of the hottest days since I arrived, must have been edging near 34 degrees C. But on the top deck of the boat the breeze kept me cool. It was pretty lush. For some reason there is bloody nobody about, I must have been one of maybe 12 passengers on a boat that could house 100. Subsequently the islands too were v quiet too – as you can tell from the view from my sun lounger – total bliss. The lunch was fantastic (didn’t opt for the $18 long island iced tea – no not a jug of the stuff – a small cocktail glass – talk about dining out on the name of your island!), and at daydream I lounged by the pool reading and listening to tunes… believe it or not – I really haven’t done much of that kinda thing, so it was nice to just laze around. Plus I was feeling super anti-social for some reason, having missed Simon’s call earlier in the morning, I was in a bit of a grumps – but where better to be grumpy than a deserted tropical paradise?!
By the evening I was over it, but as some kind of cruel punishment, I was sunburnt, (despite constant reapplication of heavy duty pommy sunscreen!). Wendy and Phil were super sweet, played me their wedding song, I cried! Ha! But it was so nice to come back to a home environment when having a down day – can’t imagine going back to some all-night-ravin hostel when you feel like that. So I opted for a v early night after some homecooked grub.
On Friday I woke feeling much more chipper – in a bid to stay out of the sun, Massimo and I went grocery shopping and cooked a great big chicken pie for dinner. Spent the evening listening to tunes, preparing for W&P’s gig at Dingo’s Pub on Saturday.
|Two Horse Town!|
We left for Dingo beach pretty early so W&P could get set up and then get ready for the evening. We picked up one of Wendy’s work colleagues, Helen, who I got on famously with. Whilst W&P had to be professional DJ’s and set-up-shop, we got shitfaced and checked out the local area (maybe a square mile with a few houses, a pub, the pub motel and a 2-pump petrol station).
Dingo Beach lies about 40km north of Airlie and is described as “a small isolated coastal community” – there are no resorts, no backpackers, no mobile phone network…. They don’t even have a mains water supply! The road to dingo beach is 28km long with nothing else at the end of it – so the only people who venture here are those who have planned a visit with a stopover in the motel, the locals, or some very very lost people! We were the former.
|Look at them pasty pins!|
The night was wonderful, filled with drinking, laughing, singing, dancing. A group of bikers where on their 21st national HOG ralley – Harleys in tow! And were stopping off on their way through. What a lovely bunch of chaps – hell raisers they were not! One bloke in particular latched on to me, Johnny. Exactly twice my age, and a good 5 inches taller than me and half my width, wearing the shortest shorts you have ever seen – with the best John Clease pair of pins – like knobbly flamingo's legs, with silly walk to boot! But a great dancer! We chatted and chatted. We debated about the aboriginals having independence (he thought they were incapable of it but wished the aussi government would let them get on with their own rubbish because they were below civilization, I questioned why they should have to conform to a society that is relatively very new and brought about by European settlers after some 60,000 years of them doing just fine by themselves), we debated about how the English feel superior to the Welsh, Irish, Scottish (he wasn’t a fan of us brits and thought we should release our grip on GB domination!), but he was very open to being challenged – and really listened to my arguemtns. It was brilliant.
Of course eventually he asked about my man situation, to which I explained all about Simon. He was very sweet, much more paternal than predatory. He told me he was requesting a mushy love song, and that we were going to have a slow mushy dance together, and before I could contest, his long gangly legs had wiggled him over to Wendy to request it.
“You are going to pretend I am Simon, and I am going to pretend you are Annie, my wife. And that way we are just doing each other a favor”
“But Simon doesn’t dance!” I objected
“He does to this fuckin’ song, so shut-up and dance!”
What a total gentleman. It sounds a bit sleazy, but all I can say is, if you are female, you will know yourself, that two men can say the exact same thing to you, but there is something in the tone, or the nature of how they say it, that signifies their intention – and that is what determines if it’s seedy. I can tell you now; Johnny had the purest of intentions, was clearly a loving husband to this Annie, and was the best company I could have asked for the whole evening!
We woke with v. cloudy heads early the next morning in the motel room the owners had provided us (at no cost!). After a group shot, we packed up the car, said our goodbyes to the wonderful locals, and jumped ship.
|Me 'n' Johnny|
A big Baker family gathering had been planned for the Sunday lunchtime – none of us were in a fit state to attend – but we did, and it was lovely to meet Wendy’s daughter, and phil’s sons and daughters in law and grandson. The meal was fab – but poor Wendy really did feel poorly (and I’m certain it wasn’t all self inflicted!), so we departed early. Wendy was in more and more pain until Phil decided to take her to A&E that evening. I was asleep by the time they got back, Wendy morphine up the eyeballs! But I’m glad to say she is well on the mend now.
Wendy’s son Bradey came home on Monday and it was great to meet him. Wendy made a delicious curry and we had a nice family meal and an early night as Massimo was leaving early to catch a flight.
There were tears in eyes as Massimo said goodbye this morning.
Me and Bradey dropped Wendy to work. Now I’m preparing to go on my voyage on the Solway Lass – 6 hours and counting! I look forward to telling my tales from the sea very soon! Until then – catch ya later!
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
|The beautiful view from half way up the trail|
So, I decide on a bit of a whim, to try out this walking track called Coral Beach. Well it turns out the aussies like to use the term ‘track’ pretty loosely. I got the bus all the way down to Shute Harbor, and walk up the steep stairs to a road that I think leads to the track, but my map skills being what they are, I hailed a passing car and asked the woman driving:
Me: “Am I on the right road for the coral beach walking track?"
Woman: “you’re going alone are you?”
Me: “erm, yeah”
Woman: “What shoes are you wearing?
Me: *cue to do the vertical splits to display my sensible walking shoes through the window of the 4x4*
Woman: “Ok, *hesitation*, well yes, you are on the right road love, but this time of year, y’know, just make
sure you walk with heavy steps and carry a stick, look out for snakes.... and..., does someone know where you are?”
Me: *cue to text wendy to tell her where I am* “yeah I’ll be fine, thanks very much”
Woman: *looking gravely* Bye love.
So with this woman’s words of warning still ringing in my ears, I approach the entrance to the trail and am reminded of a quote from Bill Bryson’s Down Under:
In fact, Australia has more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else: sharks, crocodiles, the ten most deadly poisonous snakes on the planet, fluffy yet toxic caterpillars, seashells that actually attack you, and the unbelievable box jellyfish (don't ask). The dangerous riptides of the sea and the sun-baked wastes of the outback both lie in wait for the unwary. It's one tough country.
I approach the metal box which contains leaflets about the walk, and observe the large sign, with a brief account of the walk, and some safety guidelines:
Ensure you have enough water – Check! Infact I bought 2 bottles – clever me! I’m made for this!
Wear sturdy walking shoes – Tadaaa! I am on a roll! Already shown off my millets hikers once today!
Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen – Always do – I am P20’d up to the max.
Wear insect repellant – Cue me to whip out the Deet Simon gave me (which is handily in my rucksack) and spray liberally.
Wear suitable clothing, long sleeved shirt and trousers and a wide brimmed hat. – Oh. Shit. I’m wearing my denim hotpants and bikini top and all I thought to bring was my graduation shortsleeved T-shirt.
Well, it will have to do. I never saw Steve Irwin (God rest his soul), wearing long trousers and full length sleeves! ...Come to think of it, I never saw him don a bikini either, but sod it, I’m here now.
Heeding the wise aussie ladies words, I immediately find myself a good stick, The one I like is a little long so I snap it with the sort of bushwalking expertise I imagine a native to have. Like all good hikers, I am immediately chuffed with what I am sure is the best walking stick ever. It is perfect in length, rock solid unlike a lot of the sodden deadwood about, and even has a spike at the bottom to skewer murderous creatures, and a nodule of wood at the top to stop my hand slipping down.
So armed with a stick (what the fuck am I supposed to use the stick for again?), I proceed along the, not so much track, as vague clearing of rainforest. Stomping loudly to scare the snakes. Maybe 3 meters in, I walk through my first (of what would become many many) spiders webs. Letting out an audible yelp and frantically spitting, wiping and shaking myself free of the silk-like stuff, I quickly devise a second use for the stick.
This involves on my first step (left foot), raising the stick above my head in a wielding manor and bringing it down diagonally across me (right foot), to stomp loudly on the ground to keep scaring the snakes. Thus clearing webs that obstruct my path, whilst still threatening all the things that are lying in wake to kill me. Be careful not to wield with too much vigor though, or you will simply bash the low-hanging branches and foliage, disturbing many creatures that may kill you. It’s a tough technique to master. But after 20 minutes I’d mastered it.
I was now proficient in what I am sure is an often used method to avoid death-in-the-bush. Although from a distance, to the untrained eye, perhaps I looked more like a crazed sweaty girl, brandishing a stick, spitting and yelping my way along a sort-of track.
I came to a clearing which turned out to be coral beach itself, with an encouraging sign indicating the continuing trail along the cost to the viewing platform (and also a picture of a crocodile in a red triangle – not sure what that meant). I was so proud I’d made it through the jungle I took a photo of myself (with stick) on the beach, then continued to find the ultimate Beak Look-out.
I wasn’t even disheartened by the solitary flipflop, lying on the shingle, not another human in sight, looking forlorn like the palimpsest of a former amateur bush-walker. (I did let out another of my audible yelps when a locust the size of a rat bounced and sporadically flew around me).
|Made it to Beak Lookout!|
I hiked with gusto up and up and up until I saw ahead of me the wooden steps up to the beautiful Beak Look-out. What a site. I was pouring with sweat, gasping for water, and shaking with adrenaline. I sat and contemplated the beautiful view, and thought of the irony of wearing a T-shirt displaying the year, which, had I died in some horrific bush-accident, would be a mocking emblem of the year of my death. An epitaph that I unknowingly chose when I grabbed a top out of my backpack to take with me. (although it would probably be inside a snake, so the poetic symbol would be lost on you all!)
|Not-so-lucky: One who didn't make it!|
When I emerged at the little tin box where I had taken my leaflet, the very start of the trail, I breathed a sigh of relief and pride. I grabbed my biro, jotted a note for future hikers, and slid the leaflet back in the box, leaving my stick propped against it for the next bikini-clad novice!
Tomorrow see’s me on a 2 island luxury tour with full use of the spa and bar facilities on daydream and long island. I think I deserve a bit of Whitsunday R&R!