I’ve focused mostly on posting interesting images on this trip rather than blogging about what I’ve been doing. In part that’s just because I don’t really like to write that much so I’d rather just let the photos tell the story. But a photo without context may not say much. Often that’s fine, but I know that a few of you are interested in where I am and what I’ve been up to. So here’s a brief update.
I started out in Sydney three months ago. Since I’d been there before and seen most of what I wanted to see already, I only stayed long enough to figure out where I wanted to go and how I was going to go about getting there. There were a number of options: buy a car? fly? bus? go north? go south? Ultimately I decided against buying a car; it was just too complicated, for various reasons. It’s coming on to winter down here in the southern hemisphere so before it got too cold, Tasmania sounded like an interesting place to spend some time.
Tasmania is beautiful and if it hadn’t been starting to get colder, I’d like to have spent more time there. (Cold is relative, of course. It was probably like September in Seattle.) Tasmania is small enough that it was economical to rent a car several times and travel around camping for several days at a time. I spent the majority of the time on the east coast of the island, visiting several of the national parks and the historical site of Pt Arthur, one of the most notorious of Australia’s penal colonies. One place that I’d really like to get back to and spend some time is Cradle Mountain National Park. I was only there for a day but I would like to return in the future and hike the Overland Track, a 6 – 8 day trek on a trail that is considered to be one of the top ten long-distance trails in the world. From what I saw in my short time there, the hike would be amazing. The highlight, though, was the week I spent sailing around the islands of the southeast coast. Responding to an ad someone had posted on the message board at the hostel, I was lucky enough to make contact with the boat owner and secure one of the available slots for the week. He was going with a group from a sailing club and usually his wife would go with him but this time she wasn’t interested. It was a small boat and he only had room for two extra people.
Leaving Tasmania, I returned to Melbourne on the mainland by the overnight ferry. It was a rather large ferry and was almost like a small cruise ship. It would have been cheaper and faster to have flown and considering that it was dark the entire time I was on the boat (about 12 hrs), it might have made more sense. But at least I can say I’ve done it (for whatever that’s worth). I don’t have much to say about the week or so that I was in Melbourne. It has a character similar to that of Portland with an arthouse, cafe, coffeeshop culture with frequent gray skies. It’s not a place you go for the sites or attractions but rather to absorb the culture and vibe. I enjoyed it more than the last time I was there, but it would not be my first choice of a place to live, though, due mostly to the climate.
Moving on from there, I began making my way west. I stopped briefly in Ballarat, a small town that was at the heart of Australia’s gold mining boom back in the 1850’s. It’s not heard of much in the States – I don’t recall ever hearing much of anything about it at all – but Australia’s gold rush apparently produced more gold than the California gold rush. Ballarat makes much of its history and one of the more interesting stops I made was the gold museum. There were some cast replicas of some amazingly large gold nuggets. There was also an amazingly dry lake (not at the gold museum). Well, maybe not so amazing considering the drought. The drought seems to be easing, however, and rainfalls have been returning to ‘normal’. The other things that could be said about Ballarat was that it appeared to be a popular place for biking, that of the road variety.
The next two weeks were spent at the Aquila Eco Lodge in the Grampians National Park. I wasn’t lounging about, though, but rather doing a work exchange where I would work for 3 – 5 hours a day in exchange for room and board. The resort owners were very relaxed and more interested in cultural exchange and getting to know the people staying with them rather than getting a set amount of work out of them. They went out of their way to be sure that I was able to get out and see some of the surrounding area. The work exchange was part of the WWOOF program, which is primarily although not exclusively geared to organic farms.
Adelaide was the next stop and the jumping off point for a 3-day tour up to the outback and the opal mining town of Coober Pedy. Aside from opals, Coober Pedy is known for its unusual architecture. Because of the extreme heat experienced in the summer with temperatures up to 50C (122F), most of the houses are built underground. Houses are carved right out of the rock with special machines. Although maybe a bit dark and dreary, they are actually quite comfortable with all the modern conveniences. The drought having broken, there had been a fair bit of rain in the outback which left a number of the roads we were to have taken on the tour impassible. The guide did his best with alternate routes but it was still a bit disappointing. The drive from Coober Pedy back to Adelaide was about 10 hrs and it rained almost the entire way.
I am now in Perth, on the west coast of Australia. It’s one of the most isolated developed cities in the world. I came here from Adelaide by way of a 36-hour train ride. Two nights and one day, much of it across vast expanses of nothing. It was quite entertaining.
Moving on from here, I’ll be leaving soon to go up the west coast. It’s almost winter here, and while winter here is relatively mild, it’s still warmer and more pleasant north up the coast. I’ll do a round-trip of a little over two weeks, returning to Perth on the 27th. On the 29th I fly up to Bali, Indonesia for approximately three weeks. After a stop of a couple days in Singapore, it’s on to the Philippines! I don’t know yet exactly how long I’ll stay there but afterword I’ll be coming back here to somewhere in Australia to start looking for work.
Ok, so this wasn’t so brief.