So I finally took the time to sort out this whole primary/secondary blog business with tumblr. Apparently updatesfromdownunder is my primary blog which, until I return to Oz in the distant future, I plan to keep retired. Unfortunately I can’t convert my primary blog to my new blog, ezbgz.tumblr.com (that’s easy beejeezy).
So if you follow me on UPDATES, start following me on EZ instead! And stop by www.bjklophaus.com too!
Last day in Australia…and I have a final!
So here’s a quick rundown of my Perth experience.
What I didn’t count on was how much would be closed during Easter Weekend. Good Friday is a public holiday, Sunday is Easter, and Monday is Anzac Day (Memorial Day type deal). So when I showed up on Friday afternoon it literally felt like a ghost city. Everything was closed, there were no cars or people, and it was eerily quiet in the capital city of Western Australia. But most of my weekend’s activities took place outside of the city, so I didn’t mind it so much.
Friday afternoon I went to Cottesloe Beach. The water is clear and gorgeous, and long enough for me to find a spot all to myself. So I got the novelty of swimming in the Indian Ocean, which means I’ve hit up 3 out of 4 of the world’s oceans…and I don’t see myself swimming in the Arctic so I’m content with where I stand.
Friday evening I walked up to King’s Park which is a memorial park to those who served in the armed forces. It overlooks the city, so I got one of my essential nighttime skyline photos.
Saturday I decided to do some homework. I took a tour of the Swan Valley wine region, which I consider ‘studying’ for my Wine Industry exam. We went to 5 wineries and a brewery. All great fun, although by the end I wasn’t tasting wine so much as I was drinking it. I met some friendly people on the tour (everyone was friendlier as the day progressed) including a German couple who lived in Melbourne, an electrician and his two Scottish friends, and a couple who were visiting for Anzac Day but lived in Kansas for years and took a road trip around the States.
Sunday I spent the day at Rottnest Island, located just off the coast of Perth and accessible by ferry. There are no cars on the island except for tour buses, so the main form of transportation is by bike. I almost wasn’t going to hire one but I’m glad I did, because it made transportation throughout the whole island much more enjoyable than walking or riding the tour shuttle. I saw Quokkas, a native rodent-like animal that hops around like a wallaby. I was going to poke one that I saw sitting on the side of the road, but I have a personal policy against poking wild animals. Although these guys are rather people-friendly because they get fed by the tourists. The day was relaxing and I had good weather for most of it, although it did cloud up at the end. But I enjoyed taking a dip in a few of the empty beaches that I came across.
When I got back I ate dinner at a place called Fast Eddy’s which the electrician and his friends raved about. It’s a 24-hour diner, but not so similar to Jersey diners. It had a nice atmosphere though, with old posters and pictures and antique signs and objects hanging from the ceiling. And the food was amazing, although a bit pricey.
My last day was a tour of the Pinnacles Desert. The itinerary included a stop at a wildlife reserve, a rock lobstering town on the coast (where we didn’t eat lobster for lunch) the Pinnacles Desert, and sand boarding. It was a large 48-person coach tour, with our guide giving us a half hour lecture about green energy and reverse osmosis while we passed a wind farm and an hour long lecture about nuclear physics on the drive home. Literally it was a nonstop spew of information which was impressive, but I would have preferred to just listen to music. But the tour itself was pretty cool. The Pinnacles Desert is a desert which is actually within site of the ocean, with limestone rock formations jutting out of the ground. It was pretty neat, although not as impressive as I expected it to be. But hey, I still enjoyed it.
But the sand-boarding was a bigger highlight for me. It’s basically sledding down a sand dune. I got a ton of sand in my eyes and my jeans, but fortunately my camera remained safe…I hope. I think I enjoyed it so much because the landscape was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. And we had great lighting for photography, just as the sun was setting. We actually ended up seeing the sunset from the dunes because the 4WD bus that was supposed to pick us up got a flat tire so they had to send another one.
So in the end, a lot of what I did in Perth I could’ve done for a lot cheaper on the east coast of Australia: swimming, drinking, biking, and touring. But it wouldn’t have been the same. I wouldn’t have been able to say I swam in the Indian Ocean or say I’ve been to Western Australia. It completed my coverage of the continent, as I’ve been up and down the east, to Uluru in the center, and now Perth on the west.
So I’m pretty much done packing now, and just have a little more studying to do for my exam (actually studying, not more wine tasting). I can’t believe my time in Australia is almost up, but I’m just about ready to come home. I leave the continent pretty satisfied that I’ve made the most of my experience and did everything I could to make lasting memories. More reflections to come after I get home and have more time to look back at it all.
Well folks, the semester is winding down. A week from today I will be in New Zealand. It’s so hard to believe really. On my train ride to work over Sydney Harbor today, I saw the Opera House for the last time, and it started to hit me that I’m leaving, that I’ll be back in New Jersey in 3 weeks. It’s pretty exciting, but I’m also sad to leave. But I reckon as with all good things, eventually they must come to an end.
So this evening I went to Sydney Tower. My friends and I had pre-purchased tickets at the beginning of the semester in a tourist package, but never got around to using them. But I’m glad we didn’t go until tonight. As I looked down over Sydney, I saw all the places I had been this semester and had flashbacks to my experiences there. It occurred to me that people who were in the Tower at those times probably stared down at me, just as I was doing now, and to them I was just an insignificant speck. All of the people below me seemed lifeless, just little dots bustling about, but when I thought about it, I realized that each of those dots is a person with a story, experiencing the world. And when looking from above, you see the big picture: that all of the daily troubles and triumphs of our lives are meaningless to the greater whole and for most of us, our daily decisions don’t make more than a ripple in the world.
So if I had to compare the Sydney Tower to the Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne, I think I would say I prefer Sydney more, just for the nostalgia I got from looking out over what has been my home for the past 4 months.
So tomorrow morning I leave for Perth. I’m so excited for it, but at the same time kind of nervous, as I haven’t planned a trip alone for this long before. But be on the lookout for pics when I get back— it might be my last post until I get back to the States, as I won’t be carrying my laptop in New Zealand.
Well, no pun intended, but the rain kind of put a ‘damper’ on my weekend. I stayed in Friday and Saturday and pretty much just worked on final papers and projects. Boring.
Today I was supposed to go to Palm Beach with some friends, but one of my friends’ toe injury put those plans on hold. So that left me with nothing to do for yet another day. And that is simply unacceptable.
So I planned a day hike in Royal National Park, walking the Coastal Walk from Otford. When I got there I spent an hour trying to find where the walk began. I asked a shop owner how to get to the walking trail to Governor Game Lookout and he replied,
"Oh you have to drive there. It’s 20k’s that way."
Thanks for the information Mr., but don’t tell me it’s unwalkable, because I do as I please.
So I committed myself to do everything within reason to make it to Governor Game Lookout. The first issue was actually finding where the trail started, which ended up taking an hour. Then throw in a torrential downpour that lasted about 10 minutes and I was about ready to give up. But I’m way too stubborn to quit that easily and I eventually found the trail and the sky cleared up.
It turned out to be quite a pleasant hike, but the trail was muddy and easy to lose. And then I saw a sign that said the track was closed to let the environment rehabilitate (‘penalties apply’). So I decided to veer off course and walk along an unnamed beach where the waves were huge and dumped sapphire blue waves along the shore. On the side, there was a rocky cliff where the massive waves crashed, creating a splash of water that rose as a wall into the air and came splattering down to earth in a puddle of foam. It was mesmerizing, and I spent an hour there eating my lunch and taking photos.
So it was a nice walk, except that I had to retrace the trail back home. I prefer to walk in a loop to keep things new and exciting rather than walking back from the way I came, but it was okay. I was tired and not really in the mood for stopping along the way anyway, so I was able to zip back to the train pretty quickly (which arrived perfectly on time when I got there).
So in the end, I ended up having a pretty decent hike from a day that looked like it might be a bust. I do regret that I never made it to Governor Game Lookout, but I came pretty close. I don’t reckon I’ll lose sleep over it tonight. Judging by the soreness in my legs from the hike, I should sleep just fine.
So here’s an interesting fact for ya’ll.
If you go to the Lonely Planet website and look for Things to Do in Sydney, the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are #2 and 3 respectively. Number one is the Thai restaurant Spice I Am.
So I decided I’d check it out to see if it really does deserve to be ranked higher than Sydney’s icons on the guidebook’s list. That being said, I had quite high expectations for it, and I probably didn’t get the best experience, as I grabbed takeaway Beef Pad Thai as the kitchen was closing for the evening.
But it was still delicious. Served with a lime wedge, the noodles went perfectly with a few glasses of the Sauvignon Blanc I’ve been drinking for my wine class. I didn’t have high expectations for the pairing, but I think the lime really accentuated the fruity citrus of the Sav Blanc, especially on the tip of my tongue. I guess at this point I’ll stop pretending like I know what I’m talking about and get to the point: by itself the pad thai was inferior to the legendary Nud Pob Crispy Chicken Pad Thai. But with half a bottle of Deakin Estate 2009 Sav Blanc, I think I’ll give Spice I Am the edge.
So with that little review aside, let me describe my day.
It was quite a Manly day. Yes, I went back to Manly Beach to tie up some loose ends and do some things before I leave. First on my checklist was to look for ‘Manly’ shirts for souvenirs. But I couldn’t find any that I thought were worthy so I ended up passing on the purchase.
Second on the list was to lay out on the beach. A cloud cover rolled in right as I was settling in, but I did enjoy watching the surfers and listening to Jack Johnson. Can you say ‘Bi-winning’?
Third up was a visit to 4 Pines Brewery. I tried the sample rack, which included 5 tastings which were all quite good. The Heffeweizen was good, although not my typical style. But oddly enough, I liked it more than the Pale Ale, which is the type of beer I’ve generally come to like most.
And then to wrap up my day I walked along the Manly Scenic Walkway to The Spit in Mosman. This walk, the ‘Manly Spit’ walk as I refer to it, was charted as a 10k, 4.5 hour excursion. I saw the sign at 4:40 pm, about an hour before sunset, and I chuckled. Ha! Since when has darkness ever deterred me? I figured if worst came to worst, I could always abandon my trek and catch a bus back to Sydney along the way.
I figured wrong!
While there were a few opportunities to leave the track near the beginning and the end, there was little I could do to bailout after about 3km when it started getting dark and civilization began vanishing and I found myself hiking through wilderness…alone….with a dying phone battery.
Why do I always do this to myself? My first week in Sydney I got lost in the streets alone with a dead phone at night. My first night in Melbourne I got lost in the streets alone with a dead phone at night. And now at the end of my semester it’s all come full circle, as I found myself lost in Sydney Harbor National Park alone with a dying phone at night.
The battery ended up holding up for the duration of the walk. I think my constant use of the flashlight feature is what drained the battery. One thing’s for sure though: the next time I get a cell phone upgrade I’m making sure it has a flashlight built in. It’s been surprisingly useful.
So even though I was on edge during my whole stroll to the Spit and I didn’t get to see much of the scenery on the scenic walk, I wouldn’t take back the experience at all. I actually think it was quite beautiful seeing the lights of civilization dot the horizon across the black abyss of the harbor.
I would have to say the most stunning lookout was a rocky ledge a little off the trail that looked out over the harbor to the distant Sydney skyline. I had to climb down a rock, and peered down at tree tops and endless darkness below me, but being the confidant youth I am, I proceeded slowly and surely.
The view was fabulous, and the only thing that would make that memory better would be a few beers and a few friends (in that order, jk). I’ll upload the picture I took of myself on the ledge. I really like the image, because for me it gives my whole Sydney experience some closure, just as my photos of the New York skyline gave my High School experience closure 3 years ago.
So this has been quite a long post, and if you’re still reading at this point, give yourself a pat on the back. I will be doing likewise on the other side of the planet, because that means my superior writing has kept you enthralled. :)
Keep checking in for updates. Hopefully I’ll keep you all fascinated, and you can live vicariously through me.