Monday, September 29, 2008

Winter in Sydney

It's the end of winter and start of spring here in Sydney, which I find odd, backwards, confusing, and lovely. I've suffered through enough winters in Ohio, Maine, and Chicago to truly appreciate a chance to escape the frigid season.

Though one can find Australians decked out in puffy winter coats, hats, gloves, and ugg boots, 
Bob and I are walking around in t-shirts wondering why they're geared up for a blizzard when flowers are blooming all around. I admit it's a bit chilly, and can get a tad breezy, but I feel if these people were
transfered to Chicago in January they would die in frozen shock. 

But the point of this entry was to say, Bob and I like winter in Sydney.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bodacious Byron

Byron Bay is what I was looking for.  If Surfers Paradise was a trashy blond, Byron Bay would be its' sandy-haired down-to earth cousin. Byron has great beaches, good surfing, hiking trails, a relaxed little town, and a wide variety of fancy and organic foods. It's vegan hippie heaven. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spearfishing is like ... totally prohibited.

After escaping Surfers Paradise I took quick retreat in nearby Burleigh Head National Park. There spearfishing is, apparently, totally prohibited. I was more amused by the sign than I probably should have been. 

The park was a nice escape from the build up on the Gold Coast. I foolishly  headed up a trail in flip flops, but by the time 

I realized that was a mistake I didn't want to trudge back down the cliff to the parking lot. So by the end of the hike I had some very bad blisters. Just a note. If you're in Australia and someone compliments your thongs - they are talking about your flip flops.  

After resting my feet I drove near the Queensland/New South Wales border. A lot of surfers appeared to be watching without dismay, what appeared to be a sinking ship in the ocean. I wondered why nobody was doing anything, and then realized that the boat was just built to sit low in the water. It gathers sand from the beach nearby, and then schleps it up to the Gold Coast. 

So...that's about all that was going on there... I need a nap. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Run! Run Away! Run to where the people have souls!!!

Picture this - sun, sand, a beautifully calm yet fine wave producing blue ocean, and a gentle breeze cooling you off as agile surfers walk by with their boards. Sounds nice, sounds perfect, sounds...maybe like paradise? Well if that's all that Surfers Paradise on Queensland's famed "Gold Coast" had, it would be paradise. 


Surfers Paradise is a charmless strip of skyscrapers, cheap shops and cheap entertainment. The moment I drove into town I felt a strong desire to make a U-turn. The place seemed overrun with rich bleach blond people who looked at me with apparent disgust. I found this ungrounded because I had in fact showered that morning. 

I felt so superficially below these people that I wouldn't have been surprised if one overly wealthy blond toothpick of a woman said,  "You there, peasant! Come hither and bear me round in my sedan chair so I may searcheth for my beefy pool boy." 

So, to be frank, I wasn't a fan of the place. In search of something positive in town I stopped at a visitors' centre and asked the info lady, 

"So . . .what should I do in Surfers Paradise?" 

And the info lady replied "Surfers Paradise? used to be lovely. Now a days it's ... well ..." She hunched over the desk, looked both ways, and whispered "It's ticky tacky." 

So there you have it. Now where can I make a U-turn? 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ko, Ko, KOALA!

Don't worry, I didn't injure any wildlife. I just figured this was the most realistic koala I'd see in Australia so I might as well take a picture.This is my third time in Australia. I have kept my eyes to the trees in search of koalas each time. I've gone to national parks that claim they are as plentiful as fanny packs on tourists. I have gone on day hikes, dawn hikes, night hikes, and called out what I can only imagine would be the irresistible koala call of, "Ko! Ko! Koala!" 

And maybe not so surprisingly, that never worked. On this coastal excursion, I drove through "koala territory." Nevertheless, no koalas were spotted. I'm sure I've passed by hundreds of the suckers and never noticed them. Koalas do sleep about 20 hours a day. They are also the same freaking color as the trees and barely move, so spotting them is no easy task. I think the tourism bureau should spray-paint their koalas bright orange, solely for the purpose of making them more noticeable to tourists. However, realizing that probably wouldn't be the best for the koalas, I should probably keep that opinion to myself. 

Around the small town of Lismore, I drove my rental car up a narrow and twisty country road and pulled off by a small sign for the Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve. The faded sign claimed Tucki Tucki to be the home of many a koala. I laughed at that, but figured it'd still be good to have a nice  koala- 

less walk. Well after walking downhill I turned the corner-and there was a fuzzy gray butt!!! I walked round the tree and sure enough, it was a real wild koala! I was so excited. Apparently the koala didn't share my excitement because the lazy thing just kept sleeping. After taking some fuzzy pictures, I let it sleep in peace. 


So I was more fortunate than many travelers in seeing a koala. But if you do travel here,  I'd keep my eyes out for some fuzzy orange balls moving 

through the trees... 

P.S. As a disclaimer, I would never spray-paint a koala and I don't recommend it. Koalas can bite your finger off so you don't want to get close 

enough to paint one! 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Chugga Chugga Whoo Whoo!

A picture of the destination always helps to forget the means of the journey. I took an 11 hour train ride up the North Coast of New South Wales. I 

believe there are several undeniable train versions of Murphy's Law. Such as, no matter how clean and brand spanking new the train is, it will always have an offensive odor. I like to imagine that the train's cleaning staff come on board, carrying their box of scented air fresheners and say, 

" Okay Mick, we've got 4 air fresheners left." 

"4 left ... what scents are they Barry?" 

"Well, we have vomit, dirty diaper, wet poodle, and lavender." 

"Hmm....well lets chuck out lavender. Put wet carpet and old people in car D, then lets hang the vomit and wet poodle ones right over seat 57." 

I sat in seat 57. Thankfully the journey itself was through beautiful rolling hills and costal towns. As sunset was approaching I looked out my window to see a kangaroo and joey wandering about. Pleasantly surprised, I was then amazed to see a whole mob of kangaroos hopping along fields highlighted by the setting golden sun. I was mesmerized by this beautifully iconic Australian scene. How peacef-BOING! ...peacefu-BOING! I mean how peaceful it wa-BOING! BOING! BOING! BOING! 

My reverie was ruined by the obnoxious sound effects provided by two garish teenage girls sitting in front of me. Also distracting were the loud belches-which had been going on for NINE HOURS-by the middle aged European couple sitting behind me. Adding to that the smokey grizzled man hacking up a lung to my right and the teenage couple making out across the aisle - I vowed that next time I would drive.