Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Moustache Movember

Oy....why do guys grow moustaches anyways? Its itchy and scratchy and for some, ya just look like a big ol perv...HAHA Well, add me to that list because its Movember! Thats right, a month where Aussie men grow their moustache to raise money for men's health, mostly for prostate cancer and depression in men.

While I was in Rocky, I met a couple of mates who are trying to make an Aussie outta me. That won't take long but nonetheless, they informed me of the Movember and since then, I've been growing my moustache out! So call me a MO'BRO but I think I grew a pretty good stache' After you've seen the photos, please check out the website for more info! And I may have to continue this tradition year after year.....Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Now that Movember is over...take a look at how long my stache grew!!! Woo hoo!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goodbye Armageddon: Rocky to Cairns 4/11 - 7/11

After having an amazing breakfast and leaving Evan's place, we headed to the Rockhampton Zoo to give us sometime to work out the breakfast before jumping back in the car and drive all day. Of course we had a few stop overs eating ice cream and taking pictures of these crazy signs.
Made driving fun as we anticipated what the next sign would say. That evening we made it to our next destination, Airlie Beach.

Airlie Beach, one of the starting points to the Whitsunday Islands where funny thing is as we drove into a parking lot to find a place to sleep (in our car of course) we ran into the girls, Camille & Molly, we had met in Fraser Island. Crazy! It happens when you're heading in the same direction I suppose. Anyways, the next morning, Colleen went out on her 2 day sailing trip and Steph and I used the time sleep in, walk around Airlie Beach and get some hiking in. It was nice to not be stuck in the car or have a deadline of trying to get somewhere. We hiked out to Coral Beach and had a nice time taking our time enjoying the scenery and talking. Last minute we tried to see if we could go camping on an island but of course, us running last minute, didn't have enough time. Instead we opted to hang out at the "beach." Its funny because you would think that you could just hang out at the beach but because Australian waters get infested with jelly fish, many little towns create a "lagoon" where you can swim and hang out as if you were on a beach. We laid out with all the other backpackers and enjoyed the hot sun for a bit before getting some much needed laundry done and eating meat pies. YUM! Later we played our favorite game, Scrabble. Yes, the scrabble nerds we are played most of the night.

The next morning we, unfortunately woke up to a ticket...yea thats right a ticket. We had done so good of finding places we could park our car overnight and sleep and we parked the same place as we did the night before but, I guess we got lucky the night before. I guess its also because they had the Saturday market and well of course we were in the parking lot they held it in. Oh well, it happens, right? We made the most of it and woke up to walk around the market and picked up some fresh fruit....yummy local mangoes! After, we drove around and did some window shopping before heading back to the beach where we saw the other two girls from the cruise ship, Gianna & Anna, that we had met in Fraser Island. Yes, thats right...it must be a meeting place for all of us. Anyways, we played more scrabble, got some journaling done and waited for Colleen under the hot sun. Picked Colleen up, made dinner and drove through the night. This time, we found a place we could actually park and not get a ticket!

We had found a place where we were walking distance to the beach and made breakfast. We're in OZ of course we have to be near a beach! Well, it being the last day in our "spaceship," Armageddon, we had a lot of driving to get done. Yet, our deadline was technically Sunday and the shop being closed, we took advantage of having the car thinking if we had to drop off the car just before they opened...well at least we got our money's worth...a $1/day...remember? Such a steal I know!! LOL We stopped over to eat some mango ice cream...yes if we weren't eating at any of the local bakeries, it was the local mangoes! They are in season...ya gotta take advantage of the tropical fruit! Of course the three of us had other detours like hiking up to Jourama Falls and laying out in the Rock Pools. Let me say, that was amazing. The further we traveled north, the more hot and humid it got and those pools might have had little worms, the cold water was refreshing. Wait, what?!?! little worms? Yeah...it was weird. I didn't discover them until the end when they were all over my skin. Of course I was a little paranoid...but don't worry...I think I got them all off. LOL. After, we stopped over in Mission Beach to take a few pictures and have some lunch. It was definitely another beautiful beach in beautiful 'Stralia. After, we drove straight to Cairns so we could find a hostel. That was an adventure because as you know, we're always running late and well, if you wait too long, hostel offices closed and well...needless to say we did find one and stayed at the Northern Green Hostel. It was nice even with our drunk dorm mate. It took awhile to get all of our crap out of the spaceship and into the hostel, mind you we had been living in it for 2 weeks now. Kinda crazy...it was also kinda sad. it had been our home for our trip from Sydney and now we had to say goodbye. If I had the money I would have just kept it or bought something similar so I could live in a car. Does that sound crazy? Living in a car? Yeah....I guess it does but its a culture here. All the backpackers do it if they aren't staying in hostels and you know me and me "living" in my car....its a culture I could definitely be a part of.

Anyways, the journey in Armageddon was over. We dropped our home off and walked back to our hostel. Quite the far walk too I must say especially when you're tired. LOL but the adventures aren't over yet. Its just trying to plan out the next one....now theres the problem.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rocky Hospitality - 3/11/2010

Saying thank you or expressing the amount of appreciation will never be enough to describe the amount of gratitude that I feel towards a couple of mates. Every Aussie that we've met has always been so helpful but no one could ever compare to the hospitality that we found in Rocky.

Rockhampton, the meat capital of Australia was just another city to drive through as we made our way to Airlie Beach. With limited time and a lot of ground to cover, a driving day was very much needed. Yet, when you've been cramped in a van driving hours on end, a small detour to make lunch and regroup was very much needed.

It all started when we needed internet to check something out but the Macca's (aka McDonalds) didn't have a plug and one thing turned into another. The very nice lady at the information site let us charge the laptop but they didn't have free internet - very important when you're on a budget, and so what to do but get a little information and make lunch. Well, we ended up spending a few hours at the local library which by the way, was amazing for such a small town (kinda wish I took a picture now that I think about it) and drove by the Great Western Hotel. Now, that nice lady had said that Wednesday nights were 2 for 1 dinners and rodeo practice. It was completely un-intentional to stop and have dinner (remember budget!!) and well, we hadn't had dinner in a restaurant nor any entertainment since the cruise ship....yeah maybe we were a little spoiled after a 30 day cruise but we were doing pretty well cooking outta the van, that we decided we could splurge a little and stop in for a little sit-down dinner.

Remember, meat capital so what to have but....Steak...which was good, not great but 2 for 1, made it taste better. We watched the kids, LITERALLY kids practice riding bulls...teenagers too but anyways afterwards, as I was staring at the pictures on the wall waiting for the girls to come out of the bathroom, a young guy starts making conversation. Now, I know I stick out like a sore thumb...I mean...we're in the meat capital, watching a rodeo, how many Filipinos do you see hanging around ranches? And have you ever heard of an Australian cowboy? I mean when I hear cowboys I definitely don't think of Australians being cowboys but then again what do I know except for Texas? HA! Anyways, I'm sure I had AMERICAN written all over my face but conversation lead to a game of Sail Boat (aka Flip Cup) and it was the Aussies vs Americans. Now, the girls do not drink and we're in Australia so who else is American? Oh...thank goodness it was only 3 cups of beer and thank goodness I only had to drink two. I was supposed to continue driving that night...remember mission to Airlie Beach? Well, that wasn't going to happen...me driving that is. Anyways, technically they won, and really we won...I mean they did flip the last cup first but they didn't drink all of their beer ....and its not because I didn't down the beer...oh I gulped those two cups faster than they finished their first beer but...its not always easy flicking those cups right side up. We all stood around the table trying to flip a cup to see who won. Anyways, let's just say this lead to the next bar.

The five of us, Steph, Colleen and I along with our new mates, Evan and Travis went to another hang out spot. I want you to remember hospitality....now, they wanted to make sure us Americans were going to have a great time in Australia so what do they do...buy jugs of alcohol for us, really just me, to enjoy. The guys figured since I was the only one who drinks, I should be allowed to get drunk one night and of course they wanted to drink me under the table. It was a nice try but we'll get to that later. Jug after jug, laugh after laugh...mind you Travis is hillarious - full of energy, full of jokes, full of quick one liners that definitely gave my stomach a work out. All this then leads to the next place for some Maroke (aka Karaoke). OH! This is also where we all learned about some Aussie culture, words and MOVEMBER...which will be in another post.

So, next place was more drinking supplied by Evan & Travis - I barely was able to buy them a couple drinks each (they wouldn't let me buy them any), also included dancing and Maroke. Oh, the dance Travis showed us...the "nervous" dance (I might try to get a clip on here) funny stuff...anyways we all sang "Summer Lovin" But afterwards, Evan invited us to stay at his place. It was amazing that he had offered and the chance to sleep where I could actually stretch out a little bit more than in a van was....very restful. He even cooked us up some food, I mean after a night of dancing, drinking and singing, of course we were hungry not to mention our expanded stomachs from the cruise ship.

Evan woke up to go to the grocery store to cook us this amazing breakfast. I'll let the picture show it all. It was probably the BEST breakfast I had in Australia. And the entire time, I kept thinking...this would never happen in the U.S. I mean, it was more than just allowing a place to crash for the night, it was more than just having a great time learning about the culture...it was more than necessary - the drinking, the place to stay, the extra effort to get food for breakfast. I was in complete awe and driving away, I just couldn't believe their hospitality. It was also hard to say goodbye to Evan's dog, Sheila. She was so sweet and kept coming next to me and letting me pet her head...mind you she was pregnant and come to find out a week later had 17 pups! Can you believe that? Anyways, I felt that she even got a little sad as if she knew I was leaving. Isn't it weird that dogs have that sense? Me and my tangents...

If I could ever repay what Evan and Travis has done....I would jump at the opportunity. Their hospitality, their friendship means a lot and even now, I speak of their genuine personalities showing what Australian hospitality is all about.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fraser Island 2/11/2010

We originally rented our "spaceship" in Sydney for a week and was supposed to drop it off in Brisbane. Well, a week went by and there was more to see. As much as I wanted to stay and explore Brisbane for a day, time once again had a deadline (6 days) and with 1700 km to cover to get to Cairns with lots to see in between, the road called us to get lost again. And with a relocation special to drive the Armageddon (spaceship's name) up to Cairns for a $1 a day, its a pretty easy decision.

After getting Sarah settled in to her hostel, Steph, Colleen, and I started making our way towards Hervey Bay. It was a long drive and there was no way we could make it all the way at night so we camped out at this spot where we saw a toad. Now, me being paranoid about every animal we luckily didn't touch it because come to find out the next morning, they were in fact poisonous! AHHH.....so just add another poisonous animal to the list. The next morning we woke to loud birds...talk about an early wake up call which we needed anyways because we had a tour in the morning with still an hour to drive.

Hervey Bay is one of the starting spots to Fraser Island. The proper way and the way the three of us would have liked to have seen Fraser Island was to rent a 4x4 vehicle and camp out but remember we were on another time deadline and only a day trip out to Fraser Island is all we could afford, and afford at least for me.

Taking the ferry over, we then jumped into a 4x4 bus. Can you believe that? Yeah, a bus that could drive through sand dune. Now, to explain why 4x4 is so important, Fraser Island is actually the largest sand dune island in the world. Yup, an island completely filled of sand but covered with a rain forest. And speaking of rain forest, our first stop was to walk right through one. Its true what our guide said, everyone tries to bottle that rain forest smell but there is nothing that can compare. Eucalyptus the strongest of the scent filled with a hint of pine created this aroma that filled my nose of sweetness not to mention the beauty of it all as we stared at a river so clear, you almost did not know it was there. From there we drove down 75 mile beach which really wasn't 75 miles but it was beautiful looking out at the ocean under the clear blue sky. We stopped to take pictures at the colored rock and the Maheno shipwreck. We reminisced our memories by pretending to be dancing on the cruise ship like we had on our cruise on the way over.

Colleen decided she wanted to see more of the island and hopped on an airplane while Steph and I drove back down on the beach and walked through Eli Creek. We were thigh high deep in clear water walking and stopping to take pictures.

It was not only refreshing from the hot sun but very relaxing walking under the shade of trees that formed above us. After, we met back up with Colleen and had lunch at Eurong Beach Resort. It was buffet style so you know we ate as much as we could and put whatever we could in our back packs....hello we're on the cheap!

As we drove to Lake McKenzie, it was a little nappy time for me...so much food in my belly as Colleen, Ms. Sociable, chatted with the girls next to us who happened to be from the Boston area. Anyways, I didn't not know what to expect but my eyes were amazed by the magical beauty of this lake that formed on top of a sand dune that I have to say had the same tropical look like the French Polynesian Islands. It was spectacular that it made you just want to jump in the water except one expression....BRRRRR!!!! It was slightly cold but every once in awhile you get a warm spot (no I don't think it was from anyone peeing) yet it was odd and I'd swim around looking for another warm spot which also meant I didn't stay in the lake too long.

As the day came to an end, Ms. Sociable discovered that on that same tour in a different bus were two other girls that worked on the Sapphire Princess - the ship we just had disembarked on. Can you believe it? Such a small world! Actually, kinda crazy but it doesn't surprise me anymore...partially because the Princess family is pretty small - all of us travelers and well I'd see one of them at the bar, she was the bar manager and of course where would I be? Yeah, you know me too well.

Well, we decided that once we got back to Hervey Bay we'd have a drink, the girls from "BAHSTIN," the Princess crew, and us three. It was nice to sit and chat for awhile. We talked mostly about Princess which, eh...always happens when thats the common thing. But, it was nice but there was more driving and of course dinner which I will explain was an adventure.

While Steph and Colleen went to go do some internet, I made dinner. Yes, I love to cook so I didn't mind. Well, a drunk guy came over and of course my first thought was "oh, great...he's drunk and hungry...I guess I could try to blow him off and ignore him" but then I realized how everywhere we've traveled we've met nothing but genuine hospitality and all he wanted was a drink of water....lots of water...and more water...I did say he was drunk, didn't I? We ended up having a conversation...yeah it was a good one too, him slurring while I smiled, cooked and well tried to figure out what he was saying. He offered me a place to stay if I needed it and wanted to take me and my friends out back to Fraser Island for a camping excursion. DAMN! Too bad we didn't meet him the night before because that trip would have been a lot more of fun. Oh well. After he left, I continued to cook, which by the way was an amazing Indian dish. Uhm, no I can't cook Indian but I can by canned sauce and mix in some chicken and vegetables on some rice. Yeah, it was delicious, so delicious that I think I attracted bats. OH, the bats. These were huge and I mean HUGE bats. One every so often would come and swoop around and fly back in to the tree. I swore I was going to become a vampire that night because the thing kept coming closer and closer. No I didn't take a picture! HELLO! I was too busy trying to cover my neck while I was trying to cook, I only have two hands! You didn't even have to see them, you could just here their wings flap in the wind like it was trying to catch its prey and I kept thinking that prey was me! I wasn't the only one who saw it, Steph luckily came out and she had a glimpse of those flying rodents!

Anyways, after finishing dinner what else was there to do but to continue driving and finding a place to stop and sleep. Still, lots of driving to do!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sydney to Brisbane 10/24/2010 - 11/1/2010

Oi....the start to my Aussie adventure was lying sick in a bed sleeping the days away. I finally caught whatever was going around on the cruise ship and sadly, Sarah caught it soon after. Yet, a little bit sleep, a lot of prayer, and some mind over matter was what it took to get outta bed so we can start seeing 'Stralia.

First things first, making a plan. Oh yeah, cuz the four of us, Colleen, Sarah, Stephanie and I were really good at doing. The one thing I know that Colleen, Steph and I love to do and are good at are....road trips. So, how to start but by renting a "SPACESHIP,"
named Armageddon.

It was our new home built for two but with all of us on a budget, four and backpacks and of course our cruise bags and souvenirs. It was a Toyota Previa van that was converted with a fridge, water, stoves, storage all stored underneath a pull out bed.

I will say that I'm surprised we survived in that van as long as we did. Mind you, this blog only covers Sydney to Brisbane but, in the next blog, we took that van from Brisbane up to Cairns. But lets not jump ahead, alright? So, as I was saying I was surprised after spending thirty days in a small cabin on a ship then take everything we had and shoved into something even smaller like our spaceship, we're all still friends. Not to mention the many times someone's bag "vomited" everywhere...not just one person's bag but one after another. Before you get all grossed out by vomit, let me explain. Have you ever packed a backpack with enough clothes for an overnight? Sure you have, then you add your gadgets, books, literature, maps, toiletries, swim wear, extra pair of clothes, sandals, shoes....is your back getting a little over loaded? Yeah? well lets add a few more things, postcards, pens, medicine, SPF, more literature, another extra shirt, socks, journal, ipod. Alright, got it all zipped up? Barely? yeah...okay so an hour goes by and you wanna write in your journal....what happens? Vomit of crap happens....get the point? Good. Lets move on.

So, after spending two sick days in Sydney, the four of us jumped in our Spaceship and headed towards the Blue Mountains. Only about an hour away, the Blue Mountains was an oasis of quaint little towns surrounded by eucalyptus trees and waterfalls. Rightly named, the Blue Mountains had a blue hue due to the sun rays reflecting off the eucalyptus oil in the air which also had a wonderful smell. We walked to see beautiful waterfalls - Wentworth Falls, take pictures at Blackhorn look out, saw the 3 sisters/Echo Point.
We then drove out to Mt Wilson Botanical Gardens and Mt Irvine where we then parked our van to cook ramen noodles and nearly got scared by a random guy walking out of the woods, not to mention me being paranoid of snakes, spiders and any other random wild animals. HELLO we're in Australia, a continent that has the top 10 poisonous of almost all animals. I don't want to get bit!

The next morning, we were awakened by a construction truck but left to go make brecky (breakfast) and get ready for our day. We drove through Mt. Tomah up the Putty Road to Hunter Valley for a little bit of wine tasting for Sarah and I. It was where we saw our fist wild kangaroo! There it was out in the grape vineyards hopping around. Colleen and Steph stayed outside to take heaps of pictures while Sarah and I stayed in to learn and taste wine. It wasn't a wine I'd buy apart from being deary (expensive) but just didn't hit my taste buds completely. The experience was amazing though, in the end, the care taker gave us 4 free bottles of wine! Jackpot, looks like I like the wine now! Afterwards, we hung out at Macca's for a few hours to get some internet done and wait to see if we can see our friend Gloeta. Did I mention that I was driving in all of this?? Not the whole time but here I was driving on the right side of the car in the left lane! Which I did pretty good until I drove on the wrong side once and a car stopped and was nice enough to let me drive through...whew...no accidents! That night we drove to Merriweather where we met up with the Oceanographer, Glo, from the ship to chat and have a sleep over!!!!

The next day was a pretty lazy day. Woke up pretty late, hung around and played scrabble. When we finally left, we drove towards these sand dunes. Think of that beautiful sand you might have laid out on in Waikiki....yeah can you believe HI imports sand all the way from Australia????? CRAZY! Its no wonder HI is so expensive! Anyways, we got carried away and took pictures whilst in the air....trying to be kangas I suppose. After watching the sunset, and after a little flirty flirt with the gas station guy - no not me, I wasn't flirting...leave it up to the girls, we then drove to Kurran where we made dinner at Myall National Park.

We wanted to wake up next to the beach but we didn't have 4-wheel drive so we managed to get as close as possible. Colleen and I woke up to see the sun rise and saw dolphins swimming in the ocean. It was beautiful to see and discovered our feet barked! There's only a few places in the world where when you walk on the sand it makes a barking noise. In the words of Steph "its like I'm stepping on puppies." Anyways, as we continued our day we drove and saw Seal Rocks light house. Stopped at a beach where we watched whales out at sea and chat with a few locals. Drove to Green Cathedral where its a church made of fig trees...we couldn't really see the church since there was a wedding, which was beautiful. I was tempted to walk down the aisle to take a few pictures since the bride still hadn't shown up but I'm sure that wouldn't go well for the groom. From there we trekked and when I mean trekked...we trekked down a road in the dark to see Ellenborough falls. It was a long and I mean long dirt road where the shocks on our spaceship did not know how to handle any bumps let alone rocks on a dirt road. And to top it off, we got stopped a by a herd of cows. You know, you really can't try to drive near them....you just wait until they MOOOOve outta the way. Anyways, when we finally saw a sign...I swear we drove forever with no sign to see if we were on the right road, it was dark and it was a relief to make it to our destination and have a good meal.

In the morning, we walked to see the beautiful waterfall which was supposed to be the longest single drop waterfall but come to find out later it wasn't....I can't remember the details but none the less it was an amazing sight to see. I will say we had an amazing breakfast sandwich due to this bread we had found that had cheese and ham cooked on top and all we did was add a fried egg. MMMM.....Now, I'm only going to say quickly that I was in a mood...yes, it was my turn and in all honesty, I had nothing on my mind, nothing to say, and very few words came outta my mouth. Just those moments where I couldn't get away for some alone time and well we had a make-up session after some good lunch made out of beets!
For some reason, beets are a big thing here, instead of a pickle in a hamburger they used beets. But anyways, this restaurant was known for their menu of beets - beet shakes, beet beef curry, beet this beet that. I'm not usually a fan of it but I will have to say it was good & healthy for you. Did you know that? I sure didn't....looks like I'll be eating fresh beets now. Well anyways, we continued driving and saw another beautiful beach and another beautiful light house before stopping off at the Koala Hospital, thats right those cute little koala's have a hospital because they get ran over or hurt. We did a little tour and I really learned a lot about those little guys. I wouldn't mind having a koala outside my window. They just sleep a lot anyways. From their our next destination is Byron Bay. I haven't mention where we were travelling have I? Believe me, they don't call it an open road for nothing. I barely remember what we did and where we went!

Byron Bay, absolutely beautiful. We propped up the tent fly, and hung out at the beach all day.
Its nice not being stuck in a van...you really need to stretch out and stop driving, ya know? There was a lot of ground to cover but we didn't want to feel like all we did was drive drive drive. Even though thats pretty much all we did with stops in between for bathroom breaks, waterfall pictures, light house walks and whatever else. So it was nice to lay out. There were dolphins in the ocean and I ran to see if I could swim with them...yeah right, cuz I can swim all the way out there. Afterwards, we threw in some vampire fangs...thats right HAPPY HALLOWEEN and went to see the lighthouse and walk to the Eastern most part of the mainland of Australia. Kinda cool, eh? Hey, its a photo op I suppose.

After, Steph and I found a bakery where we stocked up on some good ol meat pies and bakery dessert items. Let's just say that was Steph's thing...bakeries...oh do they have some good bread items. Anyways, the driving continues and we did a quick drive through Surfer's Paradise. Sadly, it was late at night and as much as I wanted to see my Aunt and Uncle, I didn't think calling them at midnight would be appropriate so we kept driving through so we could be closer to Brisbane. We did have a deadline to make to drop off the spaceship. And if you know us and deadlines....OY! So we made it to Beaudesert where we parked the car and slept.

Now, the next day we drove right to Brisbane where we once again didn't have any plans except for Sarah who the night before booked her plane ticket out from Brisbane to Sydney. So plans were sorta evolving and Sarah was leaving us. I mean I knew she had to get back but man, it was so abrupt. Steph, Colleen and I didn't even know what we were doing. Here we have Sarah flying back to Sydney in a couple of days and us losing our "home" from the past week. Needless to say, we had to choose what was right for the budget....which meant...rent the spaceship for another week except only $1.00 a day! Can you believe it? They were having a relocation special so, why not drive all the way up to Cairns??? So sadly, we had to leave Sarah in Brisbane and say our goodbyes. We only had the spaceship for a few more days and there were plenty of kilometers to cover. I felt bad leaving Sarah behind but, at least she was in a city where it was safe and easy to get around. And, she was heading back to Sydney, a city we've already been. I gave her one last hug and kept heading north.

All in all, from Sydney to Brisbane the four of us covered over 2900 kilometers seeing so much in between. We had spent 30 days on a ship together and 7 days in a van. We were close....literally close, we didn't have much space to work with and all in all, it was a wonderful time. Yet the adventure continues.