Monday, February 19, 2007


What's in store for this week?

For some reason a lot of people like to hear what I'm doing down here on normal days as if my life is more exciting than theirs just because I'm in Australia. But it's not just my locale, let's face it, I'm a walking party, baby, come on. So here's a recap of last week:

Normal days consist of me working until 5:30 or 6 coming home, eating, then going for a run, and probably working some more. Fun, I know. But that takes care of the days that I don't mention.

Wednesday was Valentine's Day, which is popular here, although I must say not as commercially disgusting as it is in the US. And in the spirit of the holiday I decided to celebrate with my only love that hasn't turned on me yet - beer (aside from one or two "incidents" but she can be forgiven). So, I met up with a friend at one of my favorite bars in the city - Riverland on the banks of the Yarra and had a few pints waiting for a free outdoor concert by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. We met a few other friends there, sat on the grass, and enjoyed the concert, which was really good. Then it was off to home for me.

Friday I joined a bunch of American expats and short-timers at the Belgian Beer Gardens on St. Kilda Rd. They have great Belgian beer and it's an outdoor bar and it has a great atmosphere. A bunch of Hoegaardens and stories later a few people decided to go home, some went wherever, and a group of us went down to St. Kilda to hit the Elephant and Wheelbarrow - an English pub with Guinness, outside tables, and a live band inside. Some Guinness and a lot of music later we decided to get some food and that was it for us - I walked into my apartment around 3:30am.

The late Friday night kind of killed my Saturday but I was able to bring my bike into the shop and attempted to go to the beach but one step on the sand with bare feet had me swearing out loud. It was hot this weekend, by the way, up to 38 on Sunday. I walked along the beach (in the water) for a bit but never parked myself anywhere so I decided to walk up to the CBD, I found some dinner and took it to another free outdoor MSO concert. Some friends showed up for the concert as well and afterwards we walked up to Hardware Lane for some dinner at an Italian restaurant - I had already eaten so I was only drinking wine. This place had outside seating and an outside DJ playing Italian music and it turned into a dance party. I didn't join in because A) I didn't have that much wine and B) I was quite disgusting from walking around in the 38 degree heat all day. And the night ended early.

Early Sunday I got a call to go surfing down on Phillip Island - the surf report didn't look very good but it was worth the try. We tried one beach, got in the water, and paddled around trying to catch some waves. Some of the waves weren't too bad but they were inconsistent and there were quite a few people trying to grab them so I didn't accomplish much. But it was fun anyway. We grabbed some lunch on the island and checked another beach but everything was flat so we headed back to the city.

This week:

I have a birthday dinner in about an hour not too far from here. Wednesday I think I'm running in an 8k (hopefully it cools down). And this weekend looks like either hiking, biking, or surfing. I'm sure some people will want to hit some restaurant/bar type places as well.


Wilson's Prom 2

The hiking route

Emus on the side of the road

Last weekend was my first camping experience in Australia. Since I was going by myself and it was my first time here I decided to go to a place that I've already done a day hike - Wilson's Prom. The hike was going to be about 35 miles over 3 days but as the time got closer I realized that it became apparent that I just didn't have the time to do that. So now I'm down to 2 days and we'll see what I'll do for mileage.

I left early Saturday morning and right away noticed that something wasn't right - umm, it was raining. I'm in Victoria and we're in the middle of the worst drought in recorded history and it's raining on the day that I decide to go camping? That's ok because it's early and the storm will blow over soon. But as I drove closer to the Prom the rain got worse, and worse, and worse. It got to the point that I couldn't see and I had the wipers going full tilt. Should I cancel? Should I go back? No. I'm going, I'm at least going to make it to the trailhead and decide from there. Then about 10kms from the gate it just stopped.

I pull up to the gate, tell the girl my plans because you need a permit to hike overnight - "Have you heard about the high wind advisory?" "Uhh, sure. What about the rain?" "Oh, we're going to have some showers. You need to check in with the office at Tidal River." And that's where I met the ranger from hell - it's not completely her fault, I'm sure she doesn't want to drag my dead body out of the woods but she just asked question after question and reminded me time and time again that there was going to be rain and wind and thunder and lightening. Yes yes yes, I'll be fine.

And I'm off, a quick 10 miles down to South Point. There wasn't too much to see on the way down because the track goes right through the forest and then there wasn't much to see once I got there because the storm was coming in. I had decided that I was going to camp at Little Waterloo Bay so I had some miles to do. Came back from South Point, headed towards the lighthouse but couldn't see a thing and that's when the rain started.

Wilson's Prom has very beautiful coastline and some nice mountains for their size. The views are amazing but today I had visibility of about 25 meters and at this point I was walking around with my tent's rain fly over my pack and myself. It was mile after mile, the bush grew thick, and the rain didn't stop. When I was fixed on just walking, 30 feet in front of me, a kangaroo jumped right across the track and scared the crap out of me. As I kept walking kangaroos would run around in the brush around me; sometimes i would see them and sometimes not. I felt like I was being hunted. And then I rounded a corner and had a kangaroo standing there looking right at me. He let me get closer but soon ran away.. or I guess I should say hopped away.

Then the thunder and lightening started. The hill that I was on became exposed and I had to dodge lightening bolts and cover my ears for thunder. I moved quickly and finally got back into the cover of the forest. The storm was huge and was quite impressive over the ocean. Then the trail dumped me out on the beach - "You've got to be kidding me" (that's not actually what I said but I'm trying to keep this clean) - now I had almost a kilometer of very exposed beach to cover before I could get back into the trees. The surf was huge, the rip looked like it would suck you in and spit you out somewhere around Antarctica before you could even think about sharks, and the lightening kept coming but I had no choice but to keep moving.

Finally I walked into camp and quickly set up my tent and got in. Everything was drenched and the rain started coming down stronger. I slept through the rain, thunder, lightening, and a river rushing under my tent. Later I found out that the Prom got 4 inches of rain that night.

I woke up to water everywhere but the rain had stopped. The plan was to take the quick track back to the carpark so that I could make it home for the St. Kilda music festival that night. I moved south from camp and immediately hit a tidal river that wasn't very difficult to cross the night before but now - it must be high tide - it was next to impossible. I kept looking for a safe area to cross but the water was at least waist deep and I had visions of myself being quickly swept out to sea. Normally it is possible to cross this river even at high tide but the storm was still offshore and preventing me from an easy walk home. I did some bushwhacking and headed into a swamp but that required a river crossing too. It wasn't as deep but the second step sunk my foot 4 inches into mud and now I was afraid that I would lose my shoe but I made it to the other side. But now I'm in the swamp and another river needs to be crossed and this one is deeper, faster, and probably has the same mud as the last. Now I'm stuck, I can't get to the trail, I can't cross the tidal river and I have two choices: wait for the tide to go down or take the long way through Refuge Cove and Sealer's Cove. I decided to go the long way but first that meant crossing the first river again and once I was across I took off north.

It wasn't long after that that I lost the track because it was so overgrown and I found myself bushwhacking through some very sharp bushes. But I found a stream and was able to painfully follow it to the track and then I just took off. Going up and down mountains, along the coast, and across beaches. I turned onto the last trail and hoofed it through the swamp, over flooded trail, and then a long climb up Mt. Oberon. Hours later I jumped into the carpark on top of Mt. Oberon and took the shuttle back to my car.

Overall the trip was a success. Despite the rain, the waterlogged clothes and gear, the unbelievable blisters that I got, and missing the festival; I was able to make my first hiking trip here in Australia, I was able to collect my thoughts and push out some of the craziness that's been driving me, well, crazy, and I met some cool people along the way. I will be doing this hike again but let's hope that next time it's a little drier.

Pictures with comments:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Adelaide for Australia Day

January 26 is Australia Day. Similar to the 4th of July in the US in that it is their national day and that it is celebrated on the actual day. This year the 26 fell on a Friday, which gave us a 3 day weekend and an excuse to get out of town for the weekend. I travel quite a bit and have since I moved to Australia but not only have I not been on a plane or boat or long distance train since November 3rd, I haven't even been out of the state of Victoria. To my credit, Victoria is huge.. but enough with the excuses, let's get out of Victoria and head to South Australia and its capital city, Adelaide.

I had a very well thought out plan for my Adelaide weekend: Adelaide is west so come Friday morning I will point my car west and eventually I will run into Adelaide. But then Adam and Melanie jumped on board for this trip and they wanted a little more planning. So we had to get a hotel before we got there. And we had to look at a map. And we had to have an idea of what we were going to do. But Adam was offering up his car and they were sharing the cost of gas and hotel so I let them in.

The big question everyone asks you in late January is, "So, what are you doing for Australia Day?" And my answer of, "Adelaide," was always returned with, "Why?" But sending the same question of what they were doing for Australia Day usually resulted in, "Nothing." So Adelaide gets a bad rap with Melbournians - probably because it's not Melbourne but few cities in this world are. But a guy I work with goes there often and he was able to give some places to go to.

What's the best thing to do the night before a road trip that starts at 6am the next day? Why, get some sleep and pack - but I didn't do either, I went to the pub and packed Friday morning. But I was able to get out of bed, into the car, and make it to the Docklands to meet Adam and Melanie by 6. We jumped in the car and we were on our way.

This is a roadtrip so we took the scenic route; past Ballarat, south of the Grampians, and stopped in Hamilton for breakfast at Subway (EVERYTHING was closed). From there we headed to Mt. Gambier, which was a nice little town with some good restaurants and a cool downtown. We weren't quite ready for lunch so we took a look at some sinkholes that they have in the area. These things were pretty big, one of them was made into a garden and the other was literally right across the street from the restaurant that we had lunch in. The reason that we were in Mt. Gambier was because on the second day that I was here I met this old English lady who was asking for directions (even though she's lived in Melbourne for 26 years) and when I told her that I just moved here she told me about a bunch of places to visit and one of them was Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier. This lake is quite grey in the winter but turns a brilliant blue in the summer. And they're not kidding this thing was blue - we were concerned about the color not showing up in the pictures but it does look pretty cool and I think seeing it in person is worth the long drive from Melbourne. Why is it blue you ask? Good question. We have one source - a postcard from the giftshop - that said that it's "a scientific mystery" and another - the sign outside of the giftshop - that said that all of the wavelengths except for blue are absorbed because of the temperature of the water - did I mention that this is a crater in a volcano? It is but you can't really tell - or at least I couldn't. And to finish of the tour of Mt. Gambier we had lunch at Sorento's, which was really good.

And we're off again rolling along and seeing absolutely nothing.. and I mean nothing. Well, maybe some sheep. And on and on it went until we pulled into Kingston and saw the biggest lobster ever - yeah it was fake but it was big. That was about 3 minutes of fun and then we were back on the road again and saw just nothing and nothing until we until we pulled into Adelaide around 7pm.

At this point I was driving in the city and, I tell you, these people can't drive, they just can't. They're horrible. We found the hotel (Stamford Hotel on North Terrace), checked in, it was very fancy, and out the door again to find some food and drink. We walked down Rundle St, which is the place for food in Adelaide and found the Exeter Hotel, which was recommended to us as a place to drink. And a place to drink it was but not so much to eat but they had steel tip darts so we had to stay for a few pints. Dinner ended up being pizza and then it was time to get some sleep.

Saturday. The first trick was getting around the city - I just wanted to do a quick loop of the city to get a feel for where everything is. of course, they had a free shuttle that took us around the city, the driver announced where everything was and when we stopped for a short time for the driver to have a cigarette we got out and talked to him and he told us some stories and pointed out som parts of town. We got off at the botanical gardens, walked through there, saw the rose garden and the Palm House. Now that we're walking we headed north past some parks and to a big church that you could see from our hotel room - but once you got up next to it it seemed so much less grand that we actually questioned whether or not that was the same church. But we were able to tour the inside, which was cool. Off again - past the oval and back to the center of town, we split up for a short time, and met up again for the art museum.

The art museum was good - the international stuff wasn't bad but I was very impressed with the Australian landscape paintings. I'm sure the landscape itself lent a bit of inspiration but these were very well done nonetheless. On some days I may even say that Adelaide's is better than Melbourne's - and free, all of the art museums in this country seem to be free to get into the main exhibition halls.

Walking all day so we now had to find some food and drink - back to Rundle St. What are we feeling? Mexican. of course there's not much for Mexican on Rundle St so a quick stop at the bookstore tells us to head up to Melbourne St to eat at Montezumas - not too bad, they had Dos Equis, good food. We walked through some rich neighbourhoods to get to O'Connell St. where we were supposed to find some more pubs but we really couldn't find any. We stopped at one that was pretty packed, took a table upstairs but that place was full of high school kids (the drinking age is 18) that came from the rich neighbourhoods that we had just walked through - kind of irritating. And that was Saturday night.

Sunday was just the long and boring ride home except for the giant koala that we ran into just north of the Grampians.

To recap, Adelaide is a nice city but if you're coming down here for a week or two don't feel too bad about skipping it. Picture link below:

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