Monday, 23 February 2009

Lions and Tiger (snakes) and bears- Oh my!

Yes, I am alive. I survived the wilds. But only barely. This next entry of my blog may not be suitable for young children or the faint hearted.

Well, may I exaggerate a little, but I did have brush with death (but more on that story later).

So last week I toddled away from Melbourne, not as reluctant to leave as Sydney (but then Sydney didn't put me through heatwave hell). I arrived in Launceston, apparently the 2nd largest city in Tasmania. Hmmmm, nice but that's not what I call a city. Cities in my opinion are meant to have people in them, this apparently is quite important and in Launceston I didn't see many.

The next morning, bright and early I was colllected by my 2 guides for my 6 day trek. Of the 8 fellow trekkers , I was the youngest by at least 35 years and in one case 50 apart from one other girl called Amanada. Now, I'm not age-ist, but this did take me a back slightly. That and of the remaining 6 trekkers, 5 were men with names beginning with J. Very confusing.

So it was then I thought the trek was going to be more of a gentle walk Oh well. However, I was wrong about this. These wilely old guys were fit and kept me on my toes. I won't bore you with a detailed day to day, blow for blow account of my walking, but the 6 days consisted of walking up Mountains called the Blue Tiers, walking along beaches called the Bay of fires, staying in a pub with an alcoholic pet pig and being horredously bitten by mosquitos. Oh and drinking some very fine Tasmania piot noir with Amanada.

However, not it was not all fun and games. The brush with death came on out last days trek. We were idling along a coastal, but rocky track, enjoying the trees the birds and the general ambiance of nature. I was fourth in the single file line up of our walk, when I noticed something the three before me had not. Just off the track was a large coiled up black snake. It looked right at me and raised it's head. I gave it a look back in astonishment. Despite being told about the wildlife here, I hadn't really expected to see any and my first instinct when I saw a large black snake was "why has someone left their toy rubber snake in the wood". Then as I said the snake moved and I realised, that it was of course a real snake and most likely very poisonous. I increased my pace and shouted back to my fellow trekkers (in I must say a very calm voice) that there was a large snake next to the track and then similarly calmly informed the guide.
It was then the reality of the situation hit me. This was a tiger snake, the most poisionous snake in Australia and despite not thinking I was afraid of snakes, I got an incredible fight or flight adrenaline rush and as you can probably guess, I didn't fight it. The guide had to catch up with me and tell me to slow down the pace! I wasn't the only one spooked though. Amanada who was behind me at the time of the snake spotting, ran in the other direction and by all accounts the expletives that came to her lips were not suitable for a PG audience.

Amanada, as you can guess, soon became my ally. A lovely girl who currently lives in Brisbane as a executive travel agent (who knew that was a job?) and on thelast night, once back in Launceston, she confessed it was her birthday. This demanded celebration! Champagne, greek food, red wine! Unfortunately, it then descended into beer and gin and tonics (oh and my new follwer 'Gin and Tonic' who are you- ?Maggie). The next morning, packing up my rucksack and locating the bus station was not the most pleasant experience of my life. Co-incidently, Amanada and I discovered we were both on the same bus to Hobart (the largest city in Tassie) and after arriving, scooting around the famous markets we settled down for cake and hydration to comfort ourselves from the hangovers still troubling us.

We bid our farewell that evening and I went to a small town outside Hobart for big my indulgence of the trip so far. You see it was the Oscar weekend and due to the time difference, I've never been able to watch it at home. So I decided rather than roughing it, I would check into a hotel for a couple of nights, buy junk food and watch the Oscars live. However, hotels in Hobart were expensive so I decded to stay in a motel out of the city. I was a bit dubious at first as it was reamarkably cheaper than anywhere else I had seen. However, imagine my delight when I saw the room to discover that it had a river view, a small kitchen and ensuite power shower. Pleased as punch. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Oscars despite Frost/Nixon winning nothing, at least Kate Winslet and Sean Penn got the statues they deserved.

I'm now in Hobart city centre, back in hostel accommodation for the night before heading back to Launceston for a final day trek and then journey to Sydney again to catch up with a friend.
As you know, I've mainly been hot this last, well to honest 2 months, and the cheek of it, but today it's raining. And Hobart, like Launceston is small. But unfortunately, unlike Launceston is not very nice. It feels like Alness. You know the rough part. Any small city that's got needle disposal bins at every corner can't be a haven for puppies or small children. However, I did spot an independent bookshop with a cafe so I may be forced to spent the day drinking tea and reading a book. It's a hard life, but I do need to get over my snake trauma. It was very traumatic.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Tasmania trekking I must go!

So, here I sit at the computer station in my hostel in Melbourne about to end my time here and start a new journey into the wilds. I have been staying at the Nummery (no there are no nuns) for a bit over 2 weeks home and it has become familiar like an old sweaty sock. But now it is time to trek!

This afternoon I'm off to Tasmania to do a 6 day trek around the place to see lovely things and feel fit. This means I probably I won't have internet access for the next week (imagine no broadband in the mountains- how uncivilised) so I will summerize my last few days and will bid you farewell in case I meet an unexpected Tazmanian marsupial tiger that eats me up.

After my Grampian adventure (or mild walk as in more appropriate) I realised I would have to conserve my energy before going to Tasmania. I am a great believer in sleep stores- for example if one is going to a large event one weekend, the weekend before should be spent resting in prepartion so the stores can build up (it's theories like these that would have made me millions if I hadn't quit). Anyway, so the last few days have been very leisurely.

On Tuesday though, I was in a bad mood for absolutely no reason until I went to a 2nd hand bookshop, met a nice cat and bought a book about a serial killer. Ah it warmed my heart.
On Wednesday, I did not feel well. My mother has this theory that if you are unwell, if you are brave about it you will end up losing a leg, if however you moan and complain it will come to nothing. So I followed this advice. I had a lie down, took some paracetamol and drank some orange juice and moaned a lot to my dorm mates that I was convinced I was going to get tonsillitis before going to the wilderness.
On Thursday I felt better. I spent the entire day in the botanical gardens quite accidently. I mean to go for an hour, but ended up enjoying the ambience so much I stayed and then went to a little converted theatre cinema and saw a documentary about a french chap who slung a wire between the twin towers in the 1970s and walked between them for an hour. Mad chap, good film.
Yesterday, I packed. This took a long time and everything only squeezed in. I left some stuff at Maggie's so how I'm going to take that stuff too, I am uncertain. It's all the extra hiking clothes I bought in my excitement that's done it. In the evening I met up with 4 guys I had originally met in Tokyo. Absolutely lovely chaps who are all stage students (not actors, but lighting etc etc) and we had a few beers and played pool. They were the epitomey of nice Ozzie blokes, good banter and it felt very easy slipping back into our politcally incorrect humour like we shared in Japan. Two of them were then going on to see one of their brothers play in a heavy metal band. I declined this invitation.

So now you have a blow for blow account of my last few exciting days in Melbourne, I hope you are thrilled. So until I see you all again, goodbye my dears and good luck!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Celebrity Spotting

So as you can gather it has been quite hot down under. Any of you who have seen the news the last few days will be aware of the fires in the vicinity so just to reassure you (and please stop texting at 4 in the morning people), I am in the city centre of Melbourne, not the out back so I'm safe. Plus the weather has now changed- its a bit chilly and a bit rainy. But that is not a complaint. That's how hot it was.

I've a busy bee despite the heat getting organised for Tasmania on Saturday (it has involved lots of coordinating which I find taxing on my brain) plus I've been sociable. Shock.

On Thursday I did a day trip to cuddle kangaroos (well pet) and see the penguin parade at sunset. Alas due to heat, it was less of a parade than a small party of aquaintences of penguins. However, I did see some and they were cute. During this day trip I met a retired couple from Fort William who are the first Scots I've met during my travels. We had lovely chats about Fort Willy and they named lots of people who I didn't know and I nodded appropiately. Alas, my hope of meeting a travelling soul mate like I did with Luke the Brisbane boy in Berlin and then spending 4 days together having a jolly time looking at Holocaust Memorials, did not happen. But then I think I raise the bar too high, I mean how can you beat that?

Saturday was the infamous 46.6 degree day and I did nothing. I almost ceased to exist.

On Sunday the weather had seriously changed. Cold, windy and rainy, it was like being at home. However it was the St Kilda festival so I dutifully went along like a good tourist with my special tram pass and walked out with my waterproof on appreciating all the things I was meant to appreciate. It was then I had my first celebrity spot. Now it doesn't really count as she was performing, so therefore not spontaneous, but sometimes the rules have to be stretched. However, I saw the singer Kate Miller-Heidke. Who? I hear you say. Well, any Ozzies or Maggie reading this will know. She is a pop/rocky singer now, but was once an opera singer and boy does she have a set of pipes. I like her because most of her songs are little stories not just 'I love ya, yeah yeah yeah'.

So I enjoyed that and I even managed to film parts of it with a special button on my camera. With sound. I am so proud.

My second celebrity spot was entirely spontaneous and deserves mega points. I was picked up very early yesterday morning to go on a hike to the Grampian mountain range and as I chatted to the mini bus driver/tour guide at the traffic light we noticed people were filming in the park across from my hostel. It was Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister. Points.

So my hike in the Grampians I hear you say? That must have been a long drive! Ho ho ho, you jest so. There are two Grampians- one in Scotland (original and best) and another near Melbourne, unimaginatively named. This was again a day tour and much like the 'hike' in the Blue Mountains in Sydney, wasn't much of a hike. However, I did see a nice waterfall and lots of trees. Good day. I also met two Edinburgh girls and a Virginian girl. We all clicked and got on terribly well. Alas, all three were leaving the tour at the end of the day to stay in the Grampians to join another tour and not returning to Melbourne so finally after meeting some potential playmates I was deprived so cruelly. But we will always have our memories of the Grampians.

Nothing can take that away.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Too darn hot 2.

One of the main differences about the weather pattern I have noticed here is not, in fact, the amazing levels of sunshine, but also the peak temperature of the day. On a sunny day in Scotland, the warmest you get is say 12, 1pm, the lunching hour for civilised people. You can dine in a small roadside cafe gently sunning your face safe in the knowledge that come nightfall the temperature will have cooled. You can have your evening meal and sleep soundly in your bed at night not too over heated.

Not so in Australia. On a hot day the temperature beings to climb at 10am then continues to rise higher and higher. By lunchtime, you are too hot to eat, shunning all but sugary carbonated drinks. You might think, 'ah by evening it will be cool. I shall eat a large meal then and be satisfied'. This is not the case. Often peak heat occurs about 6pm. There is no escape in the day. Then at night it contiues on at 30+. Its too hot even to think about having a beer.

I thought I'd had my share with the 4 day heat wave last week. But it is now 1pm, 40 degrees and set to climb to 44 before night fall.

I am not amused. And not at all cool.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Melting Melbourne

I'm terribly sorry about my performance as a blogger the last few days. My last entry was poor at best, so so soryy, but it wasn't my fault. It was 'The Heat'. I give it a name because I never felt heat like it.

I arrived in Melbourne last Wednesday to the first day of a 4 day over 40 degree heat wave, the hottest to hit the city since, like, I dunno, ever. I don't know, dear reader, if you've ever been outside in 45 degree dry heat before, but I hadn't. When the wind blew, rather that a relief, it felt like hot sandpaper on my skin and my eye balls were going to evaporate. So in short, not nice and it rendered me incapable of doing anything vaguely worhwhile. Not even in the evennings could I adventure around the city as it was still 35 plus (nighttime was not a pleasurable experience). So for my first couple of days here, I merely rose in the morning read my book inside the hostel, when for a swim then in the evening either watched the tennis (Australian Open) or went to the cinema (so it wasn't all bad). I saw Benjamin Button- over rated, if it beats any of the other films esp Milk to the Oscar, I will be most displeased- and the Class, a documentary style film about a teacher in a rough school in Paris. It was so realistic there were times I wanted to shout at the screen to tell those bloody kids to shut-up. Why anyone is a teacher i don't know (hi mum).

Anyway, finally on Sunday, the weather broke- a chilly 30 degrees and I was able to go outside for more than a 5 minute period without melting. A nice chap called James that I briefly met in Madrid last year had remembered I was coming to Melbourne and had invited me to lunch with some of his friends. However, he had forgotten it was Chinese New Year and we ate in Chinatown (as he is Chinese, I felt his absent mindedness rather hap-hazard) and during our meal we got punced upon by a dragon- man than on tryingto leave, we were trapped inthe establishment by what seemed like a thousand fire crackers going off at the restaurant door.
We made it out relatively unscathed, although rather deaf. James proved to be a very nice chap (to be honest I barely remebered meeting him in Spain, how bad of me), but for some reason I was struck by a sudden case of nerves during the meal and talked even more crap than usual so don't think I made a terribly good impression. Oh well.

Yesterday, I had an unexpected good time shopping for clothes for going hiking in Tasmania. Did I mention I'm doing a 7 day trek? I am a fool. However, as I have barely any appropriate clothing, I made a list and went to it. I thought it would be a horrid experience trawling throught hiking shops, but maybe its because I've banned myself from 'pleaaure shopping' (I re-evaluated my budget and realised I'm drastically over spending so I now have a daily allowance that I can ony break for essentials), but it was terribly good fun and I got lots of very pretty walking clothes. I never would have known there was such variety in walking gear! However, it was quite pricey, so I have decided that I will trek lots in New Zealand to justify the spend.

Right, I'm typed out out and don't have much else to report. My new hostel is very nice- activity evenings etc, but I'm not really clicking with anyone like I did in Sydney. I think its the prospect of having an entire week with constant company in Tasmania quite soon that is making me enjoy some quality alone time. That and there does seem to be a high proportion of rather odd (but harmless- I hope) people here. There is one lady, she must be at least 60 (and time has not been kind) who keeps trying to tell anyone who will listen that her husband is Chinese and she makes paper lanturns for the Chinese museum and another African sounding chap that keeps accusing people of being on drugs and narrating the events occuring in a room when he enters. However, at present I don't share a dorm with any of these oddities so I just smile at their antics and dive out of the kitchen on their approach.

I need to be careful around odd people as they seem to gravitate toward me like bees to honey. I'm not sure why, prehaps it's because I'm too polite to ignore them or maybe, as the mad German from Sydney said, I have a good aura. That must be it.