Tuesday, January 23, 2007


This Week

So, what have I been up to this past week? Not a whole lot. On Thursday I drove out to Ferntree Gulley to do some running on the trails - I had hiked there a bit when I first got here and I thought it would be a nice place to do some hill running. I was a little late leaving work and agreed to give someone a ride home, which got me to the trail around 7:30 but I wasn't going to run far. From my hike a few months ago, I remembered one hill in particular right at the start, it was about a mile long and straight up so I headed up that and, man, it was tough. But at the same time it was great - living in MI for two years always had me dying for some elevation gain - these things aren't what I would call mountains but they're close and not bad. A few more times on these and I'll be ready for Mt. Washington '09.

But what would running in a new place be without getting lost in the bush with the dark coming oh so fast? So, my 4 tops run turned into a 9 with some road, big deal. In my defense, the last map that I saw had me hitting 5 different trails and I just forgot the name of one and headed off in the wrong direction. It was fun and I made it out alive and that's all that matters.

On to Friday. One thing that I learned in college was to close the bar. That doesn't easily translate to Australia since the bars close around the time that the sun comes up. So if you ever go to the Melbourne CBD you may run into these bars like I did that night: James Squire, Hard Rock Cafe, James Squire again (I got a t-shirt), get refused at the door at the Elephant and Wheelbarrow (someone was wearing sandals), Lounge (is that what it was called?), Exford Hotel, and Puggs Mahone. Add in a little walk down to St Kilda (4 miles) at 4am and that was my Friday night.

Saturday I went to the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) to see the Juan Davila exhibit. He's a Chilean born, now Aussie, social and political commentary artist. It was quite good, I was very impressed although it was tough to catch all of the symolism, who some of the people were, and the history of some. Although I did think it would be funny if John Howard (the prime minister of Australia - come on people, pick up a newspaper) toured this exhibit and saw a caricature of himself as a dog being held on a leash by big business. I'm sure he's used to political cartoons but this is a 6ft by 6ft painting in the major art museum of the second biggest city in Australia.

Saturday night - a guy from work was playing in a band at a bar called the Barley Corn Hotel in Collingwood. He was concerned that the bar may be a bit rough for me but I thought it was kind of nice - I went to school in Flint, MI for the love of god. The band was awesome and I got to play some pool so it was a good night. We got a call from someone that had already left to tell us that the last tram from that stop was leaving at 12:38 - we checked the time and our beers and it was going to be close. What to do? Finish the beers and go to another bar. We walked up towards Brunswick St, found the Night Cat that had a band playing and was packed so we stayed there for a couple of hours. Luckily, I was able to get a cab home this time because it was a bit further and I got home around 3:30am.

Sunday - yeah, I didn't do too much.

This week? All work, man (that one was for you, Card). Oh, and this weekend is Australia Day (a fleet of ships landed near Sydney on 26 Jan 1788 - thank you wikipedia) so we get Friday off from work. I was invited to a barbecue with beer and cricket, which was very tempting, but I'm heading over to Adelaide instead, despite the criticism of some Aussies.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Aussie Roadtrip

Sometime in December I took a roadtrip east of Melbourne - I had no idea where I was going, I was just going to drive until I got somewhere. I started out going the same way as I went to get to Wilson's Prom but kept going east once I got to Foster. It was after that town that I realized that this was a boring, boring drive. I looked at the map and there was nothing there - Sydney was a world away, there may be fires up in the mountains, and nothing along the coast looked interesting. But there was a road called Grand Ridge Rd that was supposed to a cool place for a drive so I decided to loop to the end of that and start at the end of the road and head back towards the city.

I just kept driving and driving in the middle of nowhere until I came upon the town of Sale, which is pretty stinking huge. It's not a city by any means but a sizeable town where it seems all of mideastern Victoria does its shopping. While there I had to fill up with petrol and found what must be the only pay-at-the-pump gas station in Australia - yeah, I couldn't get it to work.

After a turnaround or two I finally found the Grand Ridge Road, which is "shared with logging trucks." Not fun usually considering how fast these guys probably drive on these roads but to add to that the road might be wide enough for another lane and a lot of it was dirt or gravel. And I have to drive this for 135km?

The road itself was cool - it ran along a ridge (hence the name) and had amazing views; of course there was no way I was going to stop and take a picture. But I found a reserve called Tarra-Bulga National Park and that's where our picture show begins.


1) These little hikes were short - here I'm walking through a cold weather rain forests that you can find in the gullies between mountains.

2) Looking out into the valley.

3) Very tall trees.

4) A suspension bridge in the forest. They actually moved it from another town a long time ago to bring tourists up here. I think this is a rebuilt one.

5) The bridge with zoom.

6) The bridge without zoom.

7) This tree was huge and one of the oldest trees in Victoria.

8) The top of the tree.

9) Oh, we're getting to the bridge.

10) We're on the bridge.

11) The forest from the bridge.

12) Looking back on the bridge.

13) One of the weird shaped trees.

14) Yeah, going down Tarra Valley Road - they ain't kidding. There were some tourists up here and the road was so narrow that I was literaly going 5mph around corners in case I met someone coming the other way.

15) Although at times you could really hit the accelerator. You're not allowed to dial your mobile when you're driving, how about taking pictures? I mean I was stopped.. yeah.

16) Cyathea Falls - not as impressive as the brochure. We'll blame the drought. How do you have a drought in a rain forest?

17) Maybe if I zoom in... nope.

18) A valley taken from the car.

19) More of the valley.

20) Valley.

21) Ok - I was driving along and saw a sign that said "Historic tree stump, 1km". How can I turn that down? And this is what I see. There were two of them and they're actually what all of the trees were in that area until it was cleared out for settling in the yearly 1900s. So, they cut down all of these beautiful, enormous trees to settle the area and guess what - NOBODY LIVES THERE!! It's in the middle of nowhere!

22) The other one - I must say that it's pretty convenient that two of the only remaining stumps just happen to be next to each other and off the main road.

23) Hey, that's me! Just to show scale. My head looks little in that picture.

24) Uhh, just some trail - I actually took the picture so that I could remember where it was. I'm not sure why I uploaded it.

25) More valley.

26) Logging the side of the hill - that's gotta be good for erosion.

27) It's the same damn valley - what was I thinking?

And that's my little roadtrip. I should probably point out that I never finished the Grand Ridge Road, I made my way north to M1 after about 30km. This weekend I'm going to try for a tour of Melbourne. We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Wilson's Promontory

Or "Wilson's Prom" or "The Prom". The Prom is a National Park about 200km southeast of Melbourne with some smaller mountains, a lot of hiking, a lot of wild space, beaches, wildlife, and campgrounds. It is the southernmost point on mainland Australia and to get to the actual southern most point you have to hike about 13km in. I didn't make it all the way to the southern point, I went along the foreshore instead. I took this daytrip in December during the break. It was a great trip and I'll definitely be back for some hiking and camping and to make it down to that point. And, yes, this is where I saw my first wild kangaroo and first wild wombat.

Here's a website for The Prom

Here's the link to my pictures - open up the pictures and follow along with the commentary below (shift+click to open in a different window).

1) I drove into the park and parked near the Tidal River campground. This is a picture of Norman Bay from the beach near the carpark.

2) Mt Oberon (558m - 1,831ft) from the same beach.

3) Smaller hill towards the ocean.

4) Looking back at the beach heading back to the carpark.

5) Trying to get a closer look at the rocks/islands just offshore.

6) This guy is the first wombat that I've seen in the wild and he was hanging very close to the campground and, as you can see, not too far from where I was walking on the trail. He's at least a foot long and is a bit bigger than a cat.

7) The strange trees that cover part of the trail.

8) Trying to show what the bushfires did to this area a year or two ago - a big problem throughout Victoria.

9) More bushfire remnants.

10) The beach on Norman Bay from the trail - all of the first 10 pictures were taken within the first half hour of the hike.

11) Same beach.

12) A couple of huge boulders just sitting on the side of the mountain. These mountains were covered with some very strange boulders.

13) Islands in Norman Bay.

14) I think these are the same boulders just from the other side.

15) Looking down into Little Oberon Bay - the color of the water was amazing but it was still very cold.

16) Looking across Oberon Bay to Mt Norgate (419m - 1,375ft).

17) A white sand beach on Little Oberon Bay and boulders on the side of Mt Oberon.

18) Rocks on the side of the mountain.

19) The same white sand beach - you can tell that there's no one there.

20) I'm the only one on this white sand beach.

21) Same.

22) Mt Norgate from the beach looking across Little Oberon Bay and Oberon Bay.

23) The beach - the trail markings weren't very good, at times it seemed like the trail just ended. Here I was able (or forced to) do some bushwhacking to find the trail.

24) Boulders.

25) Rocks on the beach.

26) The boulders were huge.

27) This beach is on Oberon Bay, it was a lot bigger than the white sand beach.

28) Mt Norgate.

29) A tidal river just off the trail. I had to jump over it to get to the rest of the beach.

30) This beach, which was also empty except for me, was covered in jellyfish left of the beach by the waves.

31) The enormous, empty beach.

32) More jellyfish.

33) They're all over the place.

34) I was just coming off the beach and turned the corner when I saw this guy eating his lunch. He was a little over 4ft tall and was only about 30ft away from me. I had to sit around and wait for him to finish because I could pass him and I didn't want to disturb him. So, I watched him eat for about 10mins and he watched me watch him eat.

35) Still eating.

36) Come on, buddy, I gotta keep walking.

37) Typical Australian - just wants to hang around even if he's done eating.

38) Going back for more.

39) "Are you still watching me eat?"

40) I tried to get a little closer.

41) Once I got past the kangaroo I ran into these trees covering the trail.

42) You have to look closely but I'm taking a picure of the flies that are covering my backpack. And when the pack is on me, yes, so are the flies, they were everywhere.

43) An anthill? This thing was 4ft high and there were a few of them in the bush.

44) Tall, burnt trees with vegetation regrowing on them.

45) Mt Oberon from trail heading back to a carpark not too far from where my car was. I took the trail along the foreshore but took the direct trail out but the map didn't tell me that this carpark that I was heading to was on top of a mountain. Topo maps people, come on, help me out here. I was able to take a shuttle back to my carpark though - sweet.

46) The surrounding scenery.

47) This kangaroo was just hanging out on the road, probably wondering what I was doing in his backyard.

48) I'm getting closer.

49) Still just sitting there.

50) And he didn't really feel like talking.

51) I did get to see him hop down the hill in the bush.

52) Mountains along the ocean.

53) More mountains. These may look very short and they are, you have to go to northeaster Victoria to see the big ones.

54) Ahh, yes, the Squeaky Beach. This beach squeaks when you walk on it because of the type of sand on it. It's just like Singing Beach in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts except that I didn't have to pay $35 to park, show that my salary has 6 or more figures, or prove that my family came over on the Mayflower. If you've ever been to Manchester-By-The-Sea you know what I mean.

55) More of the Squeaky Beach.

56) And one more time, the Squeaky Beach.

There you have it, my trip to Wilson's Prom. Let me know what you think of this format of showing pictures and I'll change around to make it easier.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


The Cricket

On Friday 8 of us went to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) on the Yarra River to watch Australia take on England in an ODI (one day international). Now, the English team has been in Australia playing The Ashes series, which is a tournament between England and Australia that takes place in alternating countries every year and a half (to coincide with the summer of the host country). This year they were playing in Australia, starting in Brisbane on November 23 and then they went to Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, and finsihed off in Sydney earlier this month.

Now, The Ashes is a series of 5-day test matches, meaning at each location they'll play for 5 days or the end of the test, whichever comes first and even though it is a best of 3 they still play all 5 tests. In test cricket, Australia is #1 in the world and England is #2 but England just got spanked by Australia; it was no contest. They won all 5 tests, some of them wrapped up days early.

So after being disgraced by Australia, does England get to go home and cry for a bit before they rebuild? No, they have to play a Twenty20 against Australia in Sydney and then start a series of ODIs against Australia and New Zealand and I was able to go to the first match; Australia v England at the MCG.

A quick lesson in cricket. Cricket has been around forever but it's current form is an English creation and they spread it throughout the world. Most countries play or played cricket (the first international match was between the US and Canada in 1844) but now seems to be played mostly in countries that were once part of the British Empire. It was even big in the US until baseball took its place in the 1800s and baseball is based off of Rounders, which is based on cricket. So, if you watch a lot of baseball then cricket makes sense and once you learn the rules and the intricacies of the game then it can be fun to watch.

Basic idea - defend your wicket with a bat as someone bowls a ball at it. And if you hit the ball away then you and your partner can run between the wickets and score runs.

Number of players on the field - 11
Innings - each player on each team bats until they are out (caught ball, bowler hits the wicket, batter blocked ball with body and it would have hit the wicket, wicket is knocked over before runner reaches line, etc)
Number of outs per innings - 10 (there are 11 batters but since you need a partner there are only 10 outs)
Oval - the field that they play onPitch - the bowling surface
Score Notation - Outs/Runs (e.g. 2/203 means there are 2 outs and they have 203 runs and is read 2 for 203)
Bowl - thowing the ball off of the ground at the batter's wicket
Over - 6 bowls

Types of cricket:
Test cricket - 5 days, 2 innings
ODI - they play 100 overs, each team bats for 50 overs, not everyone has to bat
Twenty20 - a new type of cricket to make it more exciting, each team bats for 20 overs

Finally, onto my first cricket match.. I've been watching The Ashes so I'm starting to understand the game and the guy that got the tickets, Pete, knows everything about cricket so I'm doing ok. We went to an ODI - 100 overs, much shorter than a test match but we were still there for 7 1/2 hours. And what do you do at a cricket match? Just like baseball - you drink - for 7 1/2 hours. The match was fun to watch, although I'm told that it wasn't very good since Australia killed them.

What I thought about the experience - it was fun, I had no problems sitting through the match for that long. There was a lot of beer and everyone was drinking, towards the end it was getting a little rowdy - we saw 2 fights, 2 guys run out on the field, a lot of chanting and yelling, some impressive waves, and just a lot of people having a lot of fun. I was impressed, the MCG is the largest cricket ground in the world and holds 100k people, last night there were 78k people and everyone stayed for the entire match - for 7 1/2 hours.

The MCG from Federation Square

New statue of Dennis Lillee - one Australia's best fast bowlers

The Oval

Still a packed house at the end of the match

Some dude ran on the field and was tackled by security

The same dude being escorted off - the fine's only $6k

Look at the time in the bottom left - this match started at 2:15 in the afternoon

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Riding the waves...

... Well, sort of. Today, after work (actually it was, we were trying to get out of there early but didn't end up leaving until 5) a few of us headed down to Smith's Beach on Philip Island to get in our first bit of surfing. We had 4 riders and 2 boards but no worries because we can just take turns. Unfortunately, Smith's Beach was PACKED and FLAT and there was no reason to stay around there, which brought us a little east to Woolamai Beach (still on Philip Island). This place was not packed at all and had some big surf. So after a quick lesson and putting on the wet suit (needed in Victoria, even when it's 36C like it was today) we got in the water. The first bit was just riding the wave in while lying down, which wasn't so bad but it can be tough to keep your balance with rushing water all around you. Then came trying to stand up.

So can I do it? Well, I didn't. I got up to my feet once or twice but then my board would go flying through the air. One of the problems is getting out to the waves - this surf was big (for me) and I don't know the most efficient way to get out to where I'm supposed to be. I also can't duck-dive so the big waves would push me back quite a ways and I'd have to start again. So by the time I pick a wave to ride I was too tired to push myself up.

What have I learned? Paddle hard.. oh, for the love of God, paddle hard. I was trying to get up on the board while I was on top of the wave instead of in front of it. But when I was paddling it felt like I wasn't going anywhere. But I think I picked it up when I was bodysurfing and I'll get it next time I go out.

Do I have pictures? I don't think so. There's video but I don't have it - maybe I can get some stills off of that.

I will be buying a board and I will be doing that soon. Pretty soon I won't be showing up to work and become an official beach bum. I'm liking it.


People, people people people... I know what it means to be left alone

Dig, I know I've been out for a while - I've just been blowing my mind too much. But I miss ya - I really do. But I'll get back in the game soon. I've got 2 sets of pictures uploaded and ready to go; I just need to type up some commentary on those and I have a bunch of other junk that I've been up to that may interest cats like you. So hold off a bit and I'll get to you, don't worry about that. Until we meet again.


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