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Due Southern Hemisphere

We're back in Sydney again, and aside from my knee which is worse for wear and the intermittent mozzie bites, we are in one piece and alive and well, and were having a wonderful time. We fell so deeply in love with the place we were staying that we stayed there much longer than intended (which involved phonecalls to cancel the other hostel we were at, and change bus times- the univesal response to all this upheaval was *no worries* - I love love love Australia).

The Aussie accent is contagious too- I can feel it sneaking up on me and almost irresistibly coaxing my I's into Oi and E into Eeees and Ehs. Not to mention the fact that I keep finding myself wanting to address everyone as mate and wish them a G'day.

And although my days in the rural Australia were truly wonderful they were internetless so I'm afraid my dears that I am terribly behind on LJ and haven't a clue of waht's gone on in your lives, so it may take me a while to catch up.

Day One- Wednesday the 15th

We took the bus north from Sydney Central to Port Stephens and used the three and a bit hours journey to sigh at the changing scenery and the beauty of the countryside. The Australian bush reminds both Lynne and me of the smalltown America, except with far fewer firearms, better beer and friendlier locals.

We got to our hostel (Samurai Beach Bungalows, a splendid place run by a lovely couple by name of Mark and Sandy) as the sun was dying over the edge of the world and the sky above and through the treetops ablaze with its vanishing fire and promptly fell in love with the place. We were instantly charmed by the lush green vegetation, by the neighbouring koala we could spot and by the brush tailed possum which lived in the roof of our bungalow and came out to eat pieces of apple we offered up. (Lynne was considerably less delighted to be woken up at 4 am by the amorous gruntings of the said koalas- those things really make lots of noise, although I didn't hear them until the next day being gifted by the ability to sleep through thunderstorms and neighbours and waking up surprised at all the goings on that had occurred without my knowledge).

Being in the semi-wild was wonderful for me, the best of both worlds in which you have electricity and running water and a forest on your doorstep- being able to sit on the porch and feast your eyes on the fierce green of everything and listen to the raucous laughter of the cockaburras (a sound for me unsettlingly reminscent of one of my former Greek housemates from Liverpool).

Then, as we were still settling in we got a chance to meet yet more wild-life when Mark (one of the people running the hostel) showed up with an eight-foot diamond-back python ("it's just a baby") whose body felt surprisingly warm to the touch and who began to lovingly loop it around my neck which I found highly disturbing despite Mark's assertions that "he won't constrict". (I found most of Mark's assertions highly disturbing as they had a habit of changing - the python was at first deemed full of rats and when I delcined to hold the python on account of the proximity of rats (I don't care that they were eaten, phobia is not a rational thing) I was assured that the python was devoid of rats since it had eaten them days ago. But anyway.)

When the evening cold set in, it was another thing I hadn't been entirely prepared for - the chill was so bitter that I shievered in bed beneath a duvet and two blankets and compared and contrasted my need to go to the bathroom with the likelihood of hypothermia (as to get to the toilet I would have needed to go outside). And having drifted off to sleep on those happy notes, woke up at 3am discovering that the temperatures were bearable but the need for toilet wasn't, so I spent disoriented moments stumbling around in the dark looking for the door and then stumbling around outside looking for the bathroom (and finding it wonderfully free of rodentia). Stumbling back from the bathroom waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark and muttering "nice rat, nice snake - let's just stay out of each other's ways now" I found my way to the room , located door handle by trial and error as I failed to see anything - including Lynne- crouched in the gloom by the fridge.

And so when she reached out to touch my leg I nearly jumped out of my skin (although all in all, I consider my scream to have been fairly restrained).

Day Two

Our second day dawned bright and lovely, and it turned out to be a day of exciting accomplishments. We had Vegimite on toast, and hand-fed cockaburras (whose beaks are wicked sharp and who look at you with great indignation when you pet them) and I got intimidated by some waddling fowl who looked to me like an evil turkey-goose hybrid but turned out to be a duck (but it was still huge, and looked scary). I spent many hours in terror of this creature who it seemed was bent upon stalking my person, until I realised that I could chase it away if I flapped my towel at it matador-style.

We caught a bus to Port Stephens (a little coastal town, where the Club Scene our guidebook referred to consisted of The Boules Club and the Returning Servicemen Association) and went on a whale and dolphin watching cruise. The wales made themselves scarce that day and did not surface (perhaps chased away by the fighter planes out en masse for training day) but we spotted a few dolphins leaping in and out of the sea and surfing the bow waves). It was bitterly cold (fast becoming a pattern of my days) on board the ship (mainly due to wind chill) and I heaped on as many layers of clothing as possible (including a huge wet weather yellow fishermans jacket the ships crew provided) but shievered in spite of these measures.

The sea was lovely though (if very choppy) and after several hours of leaping up and down on the waves terra firma proved to be more of a challenge than usual.

That evening I finally managed to master the backwards weave with poi, and practised it with delight underneath the eucalyptus trees while cockaburras laughed and koalas slept and grunted and scores of stars came out in the undefinable spaces overhead.

Day Three

Lynne, being an industrious person who likes to sight-see and functions in the morning went off to Shoale Bay and climbed a hill and spotted more interesting wildlife (a lizard, and an iguana) while I spent a blissful time being asleep (and warm) and that afternoon we went sandboarding on a huge dune (some twenty-three miles long)- which arose like a surreal mini-desert. Sand-boarding was fun (bringing back the gay sledding adventures of yore) and I sailed down sand in the trusted method of my bum, while the board did sideways tilts and the occasional pirouette.

It was all marvelous, and loads of invigorating fun (although it was not long before my knee began to hurt and my back threatened me with dire consequences unless I rested) so I just watched Lynne climb up gigantic steep dunes sinking into sand to her knees on the way up and whizzing down on the board, and then we both climbed the dunes and watched the sun set over the sand and on the way back saw an echydna trudge across the sand flanked by birds who heckled it like troublesome attendants.

That night we sat around by the campfire and then went to the beach, (guided thither by a man named Glen who was staying in the bungalow next to ours) where we spent some time looking for the right trail (without benefit of flash light or a map, but since I have no sense of direction anyway I am quite happy following people and at the very least getting lost with style) and then sinking into sand up to our knees and bumping into trees (to my melodious trills of *Ouch!* *Shit!* *Motherfucker!* ringing through the bush) as we ascended what felt like another giant sand dune on the way to the beach. And then we huddled together watched shooting stars hurtle on the horizon, through a sky so dark and clear that we could see the Milky Way, (Which was just about the only celestial formation we recognised- even the moon is lopsided here) and a constellation of stars that was
a) The Southern Cross
b) The Little Dipper/Chariot/Bear
c) Something else altogether

and listened to the ocean to the delicately harmonious accompaniment of my chattering teeth.

Eventually made way back to bungalows (and inordinate amount of sand followed me home in my shoes as souvenirs) and I thawed gradually and was gratified to find that I could feel my fingers and toes again.

We also discovered mosquitoes in thier droves, which showed great dedication in stinging through several layers of protective clothing and did not let up until the following day when we also discovered anti-mozzie spray for sale.

Day Four

We took the bus to Shoale Bay and spent some time looking for an acceptable stretch of sand on whcih to sun ourselves (I objected to the abundance of sea weed) and then went for a symbolic swim in the Tasman Sea (which was freezing cold but a lovely green-blue colour).

I continued with my experiemnts about minimum amount of sunprotection factor and maximum sun exposure, and then later we caught the bus back and spent another evening by the camp fire (ah, the only night-time so far when i felt warm in Australia) while small things rustled in the bushes and big things rustled and grunted and moved about in the trees.

Day Five

We went on a bike ride, which was wonderful, despite me not having ridden a bike in ten years, never having been particularly good at it in the first place, having a knee which became progressively more painful and discovering that I had an inability to signal turns as this would involve the bike careening wildly and me falling off.

Nonetheless, the roads did not have much traffic and the drivers (like the rest of Australians it seems) were very laid back and we saw very gaudy birds and trees with crimson flowers whose petals were long and graceful as dragonfly wings.

We cycled to a small beach we had been on at night the day before the day before, and I sunned myself on the rocks while Lynne went off climbing more hills and ran across a colony of mutant, huge, and very evil ants at which point she very sensibly beat back a hasty retreat and we watched a man kite-surfing on the sand.

It rained that night (it was clear by then to me that our clothes we had washed were doomed never to dry) but the sound of the rain was nice and lying curled up under the covers in the bungalow listening to the storm and watching the lightning was very cozy.

And then the day after that we caught the bus back to Sydney. And that believe it or not is the short version of events because I'm running out of computer time and the rest of the adventures will be saved off for another day.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2004 09:40 am (UTC)
Have you seen the southern cross?
Sep. 21st, 2004 02:42 pm (UTC)
Quite possibly. We definately saw something which Lynne insist is the Southern Cross and it does bear a resemblance to the pattern on the Australian flag.
Sep. 22nd, 2004 05:32 am (UTC)
The mosquitos did it for me!

I have the southern cross in bites on my back. Gee; thanks.

Sep. 21st, 2004 12:46 pm (UTC)
sigh. i'm jealous.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


deep sky, firefly

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