As The Days Count Down…

As the days count down to the end of 2013, it is time for a bit of idle reflection and some forward thinking to the year ahead. I have learnt a lot this year – new languages, of others countries and cultures, a lot more about Australia, the difference in accent between Australians and New Zealanders and just how amazingly brilliant my friends and family are. Gaining a lot, this includes an appreciation and proudness of my nationality, finding freedom and independence, an avenue to express myself and tell a story and gaining many friends in many countries. Losing more socks than I can remember, more than one pair of trousers, two razors (you have no idea how easy it is to forget these in a hostel shower!), an ipad and a fair chunk of money, travelling has also helped me let many things go…

The one thing I will say about my year is that I know I worried about a direction too much. I have spent too much time thinking. I’m pretty sure I decided many of the things I did, worked them round in my head only to arrive back at the same decision having stressed myself out about it. My New Year’s resolution is to try and live in the moment more and not worry about where I’m going next. To try and slow down a little and let things unfold around me :).

Travelling well in 2013, there are some things on my bucket list still to be achieved in 2014. Perhaps at a bit of a slower pace than this year though… 🙂 Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2014 brings you all everything you are hoping for :-).

Burning Clothes and Much Mulching

The sun's rays have been shining upon WA this week :-). Falling a little bit in love with the flowers here, I can't imagine a dry, not so green WA in summer…

Temperatures finally warming, after being inside for so many days at the roadhouse, I am very much enjoying being outside all day with my sleeves rolled up with the sounds of music playing in my ears :-). I have been enjoying my unplayed list again (still 1253 to go!) reminding me of many a zucchini being picked… In working hours, I have been bonding with a substance named 'Mulch'… It is sharp… It goes everywhere… I get covered in it… So much is required just to cover a small area… Its only saving grace is that it is a bit wetter and not quite as dusty as the mulch I was working with in Batchelor… Love the delightful stuff I do… ;-).

My week of randomness:

  • The major event of the week is that I managed to burn my favourite pair of trackie bottoms… Trying to dry them near the fire so I could wear them in bed that night… The heat set them alight… The same week that I remembered that I nearly didn't put them in my backpack before I left the UK and was thankful that I did… I know I need to lighten the load… Didn't plan to burn it all…! I'll need to buy some pyjama bottoms… For I am now sleeping in my running trousers… Don't seem to have much luck with trousers here :-s
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  • I stood in the caravan putting sunscreen on at 8am and was able to see my breath in front of me it was that cold…!!! There is something strangely oddly contradictory about these two things happening at the same time
  • I have managed to watch both X Factor and Australia's Got Talent for the first time in Australia. I asked my host about the timing of these Australia wide. They are shown in each state's prime time. It must be a nightmare to be trying to do anything on social media when something like that is on. A three hour time difference from Eastern time here, you would know who was voted out even before it started… More positive than the UK though, the judges vote to save rather than send home
  • Chatting to my hosts has started the 'European Bucket List' for when I eventually get back to the other side of the world
  • Always adding to the Australia playlist, Imagine Dragons – On Top of The World, Philip Phillips – Home and Katy Perry's Roar have become WA songs
  • A good eating week, I've made korma curry paste from scratch, tried a very tasty broad bean dip served with artichokes and eaten devilled sausages. Comprised of apples, tomato, onion, vinegar and a side of mashed potato, it was delicious 🙂

Boney Ducks, Aussie Rules and Bathroom Banter

With the UK having gone forward an hour last week, taking the time difference to be 10 hours, with Melbourne putting its clocks back an hour on the Saturday, therefore taking the difference to be 9 hours, looking at my computer to check times for skyping the relatives in Brisbane and finding that they are in fact an hour behind Melbourne I got mightily confused…!

On Saturday I was informed by my Dutch roommate that Scotland has set a date for the independence referendum for the 18 September 2014. Perhaps a bit worrying to be informed of your home nation’s news by a non native; note to self: must try and catch more news. Incidentally, that means I only have 529 days of travelling before I have to make sure that I am back in the country :-D.

Checking in with the family and my friend George, it was good to put the world to rights. The nightly routine started, entering the bathroom at approx 11.20, chat about toilet vending machines formed an instant bond with myself and an Australian girl called Emma. Literally talking for an hour, we educated each other on some local words! Another girl washing her face apologising to me, the only fish in the water for so long, I heard what I had had been looking for the last 3 weeks – the beautiful tones of the Scottish accent! :-). Also instantly clicking, we shared our stories and our job hunting endeavours. Knowing exactly how the other felt and having the same dilemmas, an ally has been formed!!

A weekend of meeting new people, I also got to know two friends other half’s. Australian football on in the city on Sunday (known colloquially as Aussie rules), my volunteering friend Dirk getting to me before any other Aussies, claiming his team (Collingwood) as my team, we won! Having a pint of collingwood draught in celebration, without trying to appear biased, it is the best beer I have had in Australia so far! Chat about dumplings could only result in one outcome, with us partaking in all you can eat dumplings at the dumpling house. Another achievement on the Melbourne bucket list, it made me think of my friend Lianne. Loving his and his wife’s amazing back story, with some fab banter that involved happy birthday’s, it was a very enjoyable evening.

Finally reunited with a Scottish friend that lives in Melbourne on Monday, enjoying the side street bars, we had dinner in chinatown. With perhaps the boniest duck all 3 of us have ever eaten, it was messy work!! Taking me to a campervan bar called chuckles, there was not a chuckle brother in sight! Amazing to have so many hours in the company of a scotsman, getting to know his and Tracey’s story, I laughed a lot :-).

Me and Andrew with Section 8's wall graffiti behind us




No Flash Photography Allowed!

Slightly obsessed with penguins and toying with the idea of leaving Melbourne, I decided that Philip Island's penguin parade should be the next achievement on my Australia bucket list. Opting for a backpacker oriented tour to hopefully meet a younger clientele than the last tour I undertook, picked up first, I was somewhat surprised at stop 2, when a seemingly unending line of people streamed onto the bus. A family group of about 10, kids and granny in tow, I think they had all but the kitchen sink… The bus giving the impression of being full, fearing I was going to have a lonely day, the minibus appeared to turn into an amazing Mary Poppins bus! Stopping every couple of minutes, I didn't know where Simon, our guide, was putting them!! Picking up another 10 odd people of somewhat a 'backpacker' appearance, relieved, I relaxed and took in the streets of Melbourne.

A drive through Cranbourne, them lunch in Tooradin, Simon provided some very useful Australia facts. Stories were shared about a boat getting stuck near mudflats after a king tide and of a hurdy gurdy creek! This so named because a circus carrying a carousel crashed into it (apparently in ye olden days carousels were called hurdy gurdy's!!). Onto Maru animal park, I saw much the same that had been on view previously at Lone Pine koala sanctuary, though there was no offer of koala cuddles. Befriending a French girl called Marian, we did a good job of reciprocating picture opportunities. Paying $2 to feed the kangaroos, which I enjoyed, I couldn't help but think about the welfare implications of them being fed so many pots of animal feed every day…

Finally onto the last stretch of road to Philip island, we hit traffic! It being Good Friday, I realised everybody shared my Philip Island plan… Crossing the bridge onto the island and finding Woolami beach, it was amazing to feel the wind and be near the sea, and it had an instant calming effect on me. The sun out, a beautiful blue sky overhead with some fluffy white clouds in the sky, it was nice to be exploring a new place.

Passing the motorcycle Grand Prix circuit, the island green, with an avenue of trees cutting its way through, you instantly forgot you were on an island when you drove away from the beach. Onto the so named nobbies, which were round rocks jutting out of the ocean, the south coast of the island was pretty impressive.

After a pizza dinner in the town of Cowes, we drove with the masses to the penguin viewing point. The island's penguin inhabitants being aptly named little penguins, we were told they are the smallest penguins in the world with a life span of 8-11 years. Told that 542 penguins surfaced from the water the night before at 19.42 we headed down to the tiered seating on the beach. Grabbing some of the last seats at 19.20, there had to have been nearly 1000 people there… A no camera policy in operation, I wish I could show you what this looked like! We patiently waited, and waited, and waited and then 10 penguins popped out at nearly 20.20. It nearly dark, cue everyone, who had been told to remain seated, standing up and rushing over to see them. The next batch of penguins to leave the water did so pretty far away from where everyone was sitting, surprisingly enough, this resulted in a mass exodus from the seats to the boardwalk to view the cute little things waddling underneath. So many people and so much noise, people talking, babies crying, people using their phones when they had been told not to, not a lot of penguins were seen! The ones that I did were undoubtedly cute though. The visitor centre brimming, I truly witnessed mass tourism this evening. The poor little penguins. Leaving the centre, a bit disappointed, I decided that I definitely want to go volunteer somewhere and be able to see them in a more secluded viewing spot…

Dorm Room Jenga, Sandwich Birdmen, Nancy Wake & Moomba Music

Sharing a dorm with labourers who awake at 5 and a girl that does not go to bed til 4, I have not been sleeping the best this week (the reason i am probably missing the free breakfast!) It very hot in the 10 bed dorm, with the tiny fans the hostel has on offer, I am pretty sure I sweat my entire body weight of water out of me each night. Already having a fitful sleep on friday night, you can imagine my surprise to be awoken when the girl above me, in the middle of the night, took 3 attempts to pull her mattress off the bed, prop the door open with a chair, then proceed to haul it into the tv room to sleep, waking the entire room. On chatting to her in the morning, the words 'oh did I wake you' were met with some disbelief. Whilst I echo her sentiments of sleeping elsewhere, it would have been a bit more reasonable if she hadn't been on a top bunk and hadn't then repeated the act the following two nights…Perhaps a pillow and sheet on the quite comfortable sofa would have sufficed…

Dorm room jenga out of the way, with Moomba on my doorstep I felt this was a situation to be taken advantage of. With water sports and live music on offer, Saturday's viewing consisting of Battleships and Ball Park Music and some new music was added to my 'to buy' list. Propped on the river banks for the nightly fireworks, they were truly amazing. A great atmosphere, finishing the night at the silent disco, happy cooperage place memories surfaced and my Australia bucket list grew after a chat with an interesting Frenchman.

Too tired as a result of the heat, on Sunday I failed to make the free mind, body and spirit class on offer at Moomba. However, I did finally attain free breakfast! Moomba bound again, I was able to catch the birdman rally where people try and fly over the Yarra river in various contraptions. Most failing spectacularly, my particular favourite was the not so aerodynamic sandwich. Camping out under the live music tent to escape the sun, Jackson McLaren & the triple threat band captured the mood of the day perfectly. Knowing my sister would like them, that made me like them all the more. Gossinger next, the singer reminded me of Lissie. A chilled afternoon mellowing, I returned early aiming for an early night.

On Sunday, on a roll, another free breakfast was consumed! The Moomba parade starting at 11, I headed to St Kilda Road. Finding a spot halfway along, the parade was colourful and the children did a brilliant job with temperatures at 36 degrees. Some gospel singers singing 'oh happy day', an amazing elephant, a 26 storey tree, fairy tales, a boat of faith and chitty chitty bang bang, there was certainly variety.

So near to the Shrine of Remembrance, I decided to make a dent in my Melbourne Bucket List. Walking up the steps, I got the fright of my life when an 'Oz' like voice informed the area that a 3 minute service was about to start. Standing looking at the marble 'Greater love hath no man' stone in the middle of the room, roof carvings above, with the symbolic light passing over it, I felt surprisingly a bit emotional. Reaching the balcony, a guide called John Williamson shared stories with me, including one about the Australian, Nancy Wake. Known as 'the white mouse', she survived the war despite being one of the most wanted by the Gestapo. My new fact of the day, I learnt that the trenches in WW1 were in fact diagonally edged!

A slow daunder back along St Kilda Road, the city boasted its beauty in the sunshine. Returning to Alexandra Park, Moomba's main stage offered Kasey Chambers, Ruby Boots, Jordie Lane and Electric Empire.

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Catching Kunjani at the cultural quarter also, with the glorious sunshine, a happy festival atmosphere was abounding. Great to see live bands, there is a lot of new music to buy! Fireworks viewed for the second time, but this time from the Princess Bridge, we finished our Moomba celebrations. A truly awesome festival, I can't recommend it highly enough if you happen to be in Melbourne in March.

Fireworks at Moomba

Linguistically challenged

Amazed by how effective knowing ‘good’ and ‘not good’ in Korean is for various situations, and picking the language up quickly enough to use in conversations effectively, my German housemates have also refreshed all the German I know. Not wanting the Belgian to feel left out, I have been trying to use French also. I now think and speak in 4 languages! Added to my bucket list is to learn French properly! I randomly wonder whether I am teaching my housemates English with a Scottish accent?! Today I answered my Korean housemate in German! Not bad having given it up approximately 16 years ago…!! Loving being immersed in all these languages, though at times it is hard not being able to understand.