Feb 27 2010

Australia, 2009-11-29

When we woke in the morning, we heard guests from another room talking to Wayne, saying that their moving cut out half way through last night.  They agreed that it was probably the storm, and Wayne went to flip a breaker.  I was planning on telling him myself, but considering the net result was that I’d fried a surge suppressor and nothing else was damaged after the power came back on, I figured I’d let them run with their assumption.

Outside Apollo Bay

We breakfasted with the other couple, whose names escape me now so I shall just dub them “The Melbourners”, and Lanaea tried her first taste of Vegemite. The look on her face told me she’d never end up intentionally putting it in her mouth again.  After a quick tally with Wayne, we headed off for our now regular flat whites and hit the road.

Our first intended stop was the Cape Otway Lighthouse.  Unfortunately, it was under construction and we couldn’t climb up it, but the original keeper’s houses and whatnot had been turned into something of a small museum.  Honestly, just mildly interesting in terms of a destination; the true delights — for us non-Australians — was the prevalence of wild koalas hanging about.  When we first heard them roar, I thought it was a wild boar or something; I had no idea such a deep and thrumming bass roar could emanate from such a small critter.  At this point, I felt truly like a tourist.

Nae and a Koala

After a bit of wandering and goofing about, we ran into the Melbourner Couple on our way out.  We’d eventually run into them for the rest of the morning, playing leapfrog up the coast to the Twelve Apostles.

WeaklingCape Otway LighthouseNae
We continued up the coast, stopping periodically for snaps, catching some air, and spotting contingents of the Coffin Chasers, until we arrived at the Twelve Apostles.  It really is some breathtaking scenery, particularly with the recent rains provide a heavily textured backdrop of deep navy blue and dense white clouds.

Through some series of events which are not entirely clear, there’s not necessarily twelve apostles.  First there were Gog and Magog, and later the 12 pigs, or some words that meant “pig”, and eventually, for tourism reasons, it was decided “apostles” sounded better than “pig.”  And, there’s not twelve — they are continually eroding, so when one falls, they have to extend their count to include the next earthen tower up the coast.  So, don’t get caught up in the name.  Go for the sight.

Somewhere Along the Coast

Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles

There’s only so long you can jostle among the continually arriving and departing throngs of bus-borne tourists.

The next stop on the list was Port Campbell, for grub and another flat white.  It’s a sleepy little town, perfect if you have nothing on your agenda aside from eating at some slightly overpriced mediocre restaurants.  (For some reason, it’s quite rare to pay at the table in Australia.  You almost always pay at the register.)  There might be more to Port Campbell, be we didn’t wait to find out, and decided to strike off inland, toward unknown destinations via an undecided route.

It could’ve been the recent rains, but that portion of inland Australia was positively beautiful.  Not 12 Apostles beautiful, but still quite striking.  After an hour or so of lush greenery on small rolling hills, the land flattened in agricultural fields.  It seemed an entirely different country, like falling out of the rockies into the great central American plains (although without dropping 10,000 feet in the process).

Inland Victoria

By far one of the most striking experiences of inland Victoria are the highways.  Normally, you’re speeding along at a solid 125kph or so.  Occasionally, the road drops down to one lane — not one lane in each direction, but one lane total.  The first time this happened, I pulled half the car off onto the soft shoulder and dropped my speed precipitously so cars coming the other direction would have some road to work with.

The other car didn’t slow.

Eventually, I got used to sliding halfway off the road at 125kph, zooming past other cars doing the same, throwing roster tails of rock and sand as the left side of our rental car kicked around on the shoulder.

Once we hit the town of Ballarat, we decided to find a place to stay for the night.  We tried a Lonely Planet recommendation — George’s Hotel — which I would heartily recommend against.  First we had to wander the casino integrated into the ground floor just to find an employee.  They told us we had to go next door to another hotel; they had out-sourced their booking desk.  The girl at the Quality Inn next door was slow as can be with every thing she did, and when she did do it, did it wrong.  First, she tried running Lanaea’s card multiple times, never succeeding in getting an authorization.  Eventually, we had to yell at her to stop so it wouldn’t get disabled for fraud.  After putting the room on my card, she magnetized our keys cards after unsuccessful attempts and calls with supervisors.  It honestly took about 45 minutes or so.

She directed us to a parking garage so tight it took around 20 three point turns to get the car in, and after hiking through the back alleys and kitchen to the actual hotel lobby, we trundled upstairs only to find that our hotel room was outside of the protective smoke-doors at the end of the hall, and the place reeked.  Neither of our keys cards worked.  We attempted to exit the place via a different hallway, although through the same style glass door we’d entered, after which the door locked behind us.  After a brief exploration, we realized all the doors in this hallway were locked.  From the outside.  Lanaea banged on a few doors until we an employee in the casino heard us and let us out.

We headed directly back to the front desk to cancel our reservation, and decided on heading back the last hundred kilometers to Melbourne.  We arrived back at the Melbourne Central YHA, which turned out to have one room available that they’d been turning down to those that called in and were saving for “emergency” walk-ins.  We fit the bill, and we relieved.

The rest of the night was spent relaxing in Bertha Brown’s, the bar adjunct to the hostel on the first floor.  The beer was good and relatively cheap, and the food delicious.  After chatting with the bartender for a bit, he came over, introduced himself as Dan, the owner, and hung out at our booth, comping us beers and telling us everything he could about Melbourne.  He actually took the time to go through an entire “bar guide” of all the CBD bars and give us the local’s impression of each.  Seriously, this guy was way cool, and made my day after the debacle in Ballarat.

His summary of Melbourne?  “Sydney’s like the smoking hot girl, but a bitch. Melbourne’s like the beautiful, classy girl with personality.”  And of places to go:  “Melbourne’s all about the lanes. The best and the worst are hidden there.”

After a few more days of Melbourne, I’d heartily agree.


Jan 31 2010

Australia, 2009-11-28

It was probably a good thing we crashed so early the night before — we’d only planned a short nap, but it ended up taking us through the whole night.  We needed it.  It was the first time we’d adapted, and caught up, to a somewhat normal sleep schedule.

Degraves St.

The hostel recommended breakfast at Degraves St., which conveniently enough was halfway between the hostel and our car rental.  It’s right near the Flinders St. Station as well, and reminds me of the small cafe-lined European streets that movies are so fond of shooting.  It really was a charming little area; breakfast was delicious, and for the first time, not of obscenely large portions.  And to top it off, there was a kick-ass little jazz-punk band playing in an alcove at the end of the street, complete with upright bass.

Flinders St. Station

We wandered the Melbourne CBD until we found our the rental agency, which conveniently enough was right across the street from the hotel we planned on staying at after we returned.  I was a little hesitant to drive though the business district on the right side of the road and the wrong side of the car — and not because I didn’t trust my driving skills.  Melbourne has these bizarre right hand turns rules in the CBD:  to turn right, you pull into the intersection, on the far left hand side, then when all the cars and trams have cleared, you cut across every lane of traffic going both direction, and turn right.  Makes no sense to me.  As it turns out, this would be the least of my problems.

I kept turning on the blinkers instead of the windshield wipers, and vice versa.

Right Side Steering

After we got on the freeway, the frequency of inappropriate windshield wipings decreased, and we found ourselves headed down to Torquay.  We also passed hundred-strong motorcycle gang at a gas station, and didn’t yet realize we’d be playing leapfrog with portions of their group all weekend.

At the end of Torquay is Point Danger, our first view of the ocean on our Great Ocean Drive journey.  It’s quite beautiful, and the clouds rolling in weren’t yet threatening and provided a wonderful texture to the already beautiful scenery.

Point DangerPoint Danger

Me?Lanaea

Point DangerPoint Danger

On the way out, we hit up a restaurant called “The Nocturnal Donkey,” if only for the name — which we’d also end up recognizing, in the future, that Australian have a fondness for restaurants name “The Odd-Ajective Animal,” like “The Exploding Frog” or ‘The Effevescent Duck.”

As we ate, the clouds turned on us, and it began to pour quite heavily.  Since we were headed up the road to Bell’s Beach, and it’s associate with the stormy antics of Point Break (which was not filmed on-site, however), it seemed appropriate.  Bell’s beach, like just about all of the Great Ocean Drive, is stunning.  We wandered the shore for and hour or so, although the rain made it a bit difficult for me to shoot.

Bell's Beach

Lanaea

Most of the rest of the day was spent on the road, stopping periodically to take in the salt air, rainstorms, moments of sunshine, and snap photos.  Oh, and we learned that if there are cars stopped on the side of the road, with the occupants gazing upward, that someone has spotted a koala.  We emulated this behavior frequently, although not always when koalas were around.

Great Ocean DriveGreat Ocean Drive

Great Ocean DriveGreat Ocean Drive

Great Ocean DriveGreat Ocean Drive

We rolled into Apollo Bay near sunset and went searching for a place to crash.  Unfortunately, it was the weekend, and it appeared that Apollo Bay was somewhat of a mid-to-upper class getaway for Melbourners.  After an hour of driving around, checking off each entry in the Lonely Planet guide, we found one available room at Nelson’s Perch B&B.  The owner, Wayne, was spectacularly friendly.  The rooms was actually less than the guidebook stated, even on a high-demand weekend.  He informed us that the town shuts down early, so he handed us a set of keys, told us to drop our bags, get dinner, and we’d take care of the charge in the morning.  After a quick inspection of the rooom — which had a kind size bed, jacuzzi in the bathroom, private patio, and all the trimmings, we thanked him sped out splurge on a dinner.

We settled on La Bimba, a seafood restaurant we’d spotted earlier, since Apollo Bay was, and perhaps still is, a fishing village.  The food and wine were truly fantastic; we had the seafood paella for two.  I highly recommend it, even though it’s not inexpensive.

Sated, we headed back to Nelson’s Perch, where the wind and rain rose to torrential levels.  As Lanaea prepped for bed, I took the opportunity to back up the days photos to my netbook and charge my camera batteries.  Prior to the trip, I’d constructed something of a voltron doppleganger, where battery charges, outlet adapters, and all things electronic hook together with a surge supressor.

The one thing hadn’t yet used, was the surge supressor, which I’d brought more for it’s ability to turn one outlet into three, so I didn’t have to buy a bunch of outlet adapter.  Of course, this was also the thing I forgot to check for electrical characteristics, so as soon as I plugged it in, pow, the supressor blew it’s fuse and dropped the entire 220V circuit.  Doh.

Half the devices in the room still worked, so I figured it each room had a circuit or two, and I could let Wayne know what happened in the morning.


Jan 18 2010

Australia, 2009-11-27

We woke at 7am to the sound of thousands of little girls slamming doors.  It turns out we booked the Central Sydney Hostel for the one time of the year that performing arts schools from all over the nation meet to show their talents at Sydney Exhibition Center. After Lanaea and Natalie have elbowed tweens out from in front of the bathroom mirrors, Nate and I decide to see if we can wander over to the Google Sydney office, but once again, are foiled by the Australian sense of scale.  We spend an hour walking around without ever catching sight of the office, sweating like dogs in 30C heat, before deciding to grab some food and catching the train for the flight to Melbourne.  I don’t know if it’s changed since the “Underwear Bomber”, but airport security was actually reasonable:  no shoe, belt, and watch removal, personably security, anddefinitely some behavioral profilers on hand and the standard X-ray and metal detectors.  Much more pleasant than having to re-dress after being gruffly herded and nearly stripping like in LAX.

Tullamarine Airport is about an hour outside Melbourne and amounts to little more than a paved runway and a moderately sized building.  If you miss the bus back to the city … well, you better know how to spend a couple hours without entertainment or food anywhere in sight.  Fortunately, we were able to jump on just in time and walk the few blocks from the Southern Cross station to the Melbroune Central YHA.  This particular hostel wasn’t in Lonely Planet, but was absolutely one of the best places to stay in the central district:  new, modern, spacious, all amenities, and connected to a kick-ass bar and restaurant called Bertha Brown.

Melbourne City Central YHA

Melbourne is a city undergoing dramatic growth.  There are more construction cranes in operation than NYC, and the entire central business district is a mesh of ultra-modern and classic european.  There’s slick metal leaning bridge entrances right down the road from the classic Flinders Street Station, pedestrian-only laneways of outdoor cafes right across from stark minimalist over-priced bars, and hipster galore mixed among office executives and blue collar workers.  Despite the incongurencies, it works — and prices are generally better than Sydney and the attitude more relaxed, even though the attire and attitudes are a step up on the classy scale.

Degraves St

After a brief wander around the CBD and some food, we both agreed that we already like Melbourne better than Sydney; it just fit our attitudes better.  We were a little sad to be leaving in the morning, but the Great Ocean Road beckoned, and we’d have more time in Melbourne once we returned.

Scots Church

I can’t recall what Lanaea had for dinner, but I know it yet again had bacon on it, which she graciously delivered to my plate, commenting, “They put bacon on everything here!”

“I know.  It’s a glorious country.”


Jan 18 2010

Australia, 2009-11-26

We woke early again — although we still hadn’t adjusted to the time yet, so we didn’t really have a choice in the matter — to head into downtown Sydney to meet a man with a van and plan:  a Hunter Valley wine tour.  Hunter Valley is a few hours outside of town, so there was a little chatting amongst the passengers, as encouraged by the friendly tour guide, but overall it was a pretty uneventful trip.  Essentially, we hit three wineries, a cheese shop, and had a mediocre lunch break, all over the course of 8-10 hours or so — and we only really liked one winery and the cheese shop.  Not to mention, we probably quaffed a total of perhaps 2 glasses apiece for the entire day.

Lanaea at Iron Gate

Inside the Fromagerie

The first place, Petersons’ Savanna, wasn’t very good, the last place, Ernest Hill, was acceptable, and the middle one, Iron Gate, was fantastic.  I normally don’t prefer white wines, but the Mellenio and Chardonays were exceptional.  And the “Smelly Cheese Shop” lived up to it’s name: very smelly, very delicious.  Highly recommend the Danish Viking Blue.

We powernapped on the way home and check into the Sydney Central Hostel.  It was much more like a hotel than Bondi Beach, but it also high a nice rooftop sauna and pool.  Nae and I sweat out some wine, showered up, and Frenchie magically appeared at our room.

Hunter Valley Private ChaufferThanksgiving dinner was traditional Irish at Paddy McGuires, after which Nae, Frenchie, and I hit up the rooftop and broke out a bottle of Millenio from Iron Gate.  While the wine was fantastic, Nae got bit by a spider, eventually had trouble breathing, and spent the rest of the evening in the ER waiting rooom.

Lanaea and Myself at the Sydney Central Hostel RooftopFrenchie and Myself at the Sydney Central Hostel Rooftop

Um, Happy Thanksgiving?


Jan 9 2010

Australia, 2009-11-25

We were running out of time in Sydney, although we’d heard Melbourne was less expensive, and were lookingforward to saving some money.  Up and out early on a day that promised gorgeous weather, we grabbed another transportation day pass and headed out to Manly Beach.

Voyage to Manly

On the way over I noticed two policement stationed on the ferry, chatting casually.  It struck me that they were the first police I’d seen the entire trip thus far.

In the Manly ferry terminal we spotted a Subway an realized we were quite famished.  Normally, subway wouldn’t be my preferred fare, but for $8 for a foot-long (no “$5 foo-long here”), Nae and I split a relatively good meal for $4/each, which would end up being our cheapest meal of the entire trip.  As an added bonus, and you can dump on all the veggies you want, for now extra cost.  Contrast that with the breakfast bars we saw advertised in a grocery store that boasted “high in carbohydrates!, and you’ll perhaps understand why we felt a little mineral-deprived.

Manly, and the abutting Steyne Beach, is a nice little strip of land, a little higher class yet slightly less expensive than Bondi.  Or, that could be that it’s slightly less popular than Bondi, and as of yet doesn’t quite have the prices nor the dirt that tourism brings.  Of the two, I think next time I’d like to try

staying in Manly for a few nights.

Manly Beach toward Steyne

After a beach walk up to Steyne under a clear blue sky, a nice change from yesterday’s drizzles, the girls plopped down for some rays while Jorden and I swam out for some body surfing.  There’s plenty of no-swim zones with the mess of powerful currents along the beach, and even on the small 3-4 footers we were catching, I could see how it’d be easy to get quickly pulled out in a rip.  The water was warm enough to not require a wetsuit, but cold enough that you’d get chilly after an hour or so.   The loss of energy due to heat diffusion and fighting the currents could drag even serious swimmers out.  Unlike in SoCal beaches, the lifeguards would actually paddle out periodically and tour around the edge of the surf checking for problems.  (And, afterward, would take a quick nap on the beach, occasionally topless.)

The mood to explore some more struck back, and we reversed our direction to start wandering south.  We passed out of Steyne, through Manly and more of the oceanside pools, through Shelly Beach, and began hiking up into the Parkhill Reserve.

Path to Shelly BeachNear Shelly Beach

The temperature climbed quicker than we did, and we were hot and sweaty within no time.  We were rewarded with some great views up and down the coastline.  Eventually, we were able to find some old WWII anti-aircraft artillery bunkers, get a little bit lost, and come out the other side somewhere near an artillery school.  Everyone else on the trail gave up and turned back, which made the “find” feel a little more special — until we realized that we could’ve reached the bunkers via three minute walk from the roadside, if we’d come from the opposite direction.  Oh well.  It was a nice hike.

Shelly Beach LookoutSunbathing in Parkhill Reserve

After returning to Manly from the west, we quickly hopped on a ferry — most likely walking past Frenchie, as it turns out — and returned to the hostel for some food, drinks, and socializing.  It ended up being a logistical night:  taking advantage of the laundry machines, Nat and Jorden realizing that 6 pairs of jeans per person weighs a lot and isn’t necessary, and figuring out how to deal with the screaming Chinese neighbors (I gave lanaea my travel earplugs).

Oh, and the Israelia guys I was hanging with asked if I was 40.  Ouch.

Bondi Beachouse Night Terrace View


Jan 5 2010

Australia, 2009-11-24

Sleep came easy, unfortunately it was fleeting.  We were up before the hostel kitchen opened, but after showers and a brief walk scouting for coffee houses, we were able to grab a pot and mixing spoon and improvise a breakfast.  We hoofed it out to the main drag, and on the recommendations of others, picked up an all-day train-bus-ferry pass for a mere $17.  Well worth it if you can start early and jam a whole bunch of disparate activities together.

Breakfast

Our first destination was a Koala Park, which is really just a small zoo with all sorts of uniquely indigenous Australian critters.  But where else in the world are you going to be able to pet a koala or a kangaroo?  With our mega transit passes in hand, we headed off to find out exactly what wombats, echidnas, and wallaroos, and other such things actually looked like.

I must take a moment to note that Sydney’s public transportation is by and large fantastic.  We never spent more than a few minutes waiting for a train or bus and it was quite easy to figure out where we needed to go — at least for the first few legs of the journey.  After we hopped off the train in Pennant Hills, however, things changed.  According to the guide, the next bus would take us ten minutes to the koala park.  We figure it’s probably somewhat of a touristy thing, so it should be quite visible.  Twenty minutes into the ride, we still haven’t seen it, and start to realize that we’ve passed the same intersection before.  And that we’re in what be the world largest retirement community.  We decide to wait until we’ve gotten out of Florida-Down-Under, but alas, after another half hour we’re still trolling around building after building of Anglican institutional housing for the retired.  Finally, we bounce out the other side, and ask the driver.  We have to get of the bus, grab another, and take another 30 minutes ride back toward the park.  Oops.

When we do finally pass the park, we see it has a giant yellow sign out front — hard to miss — unless you’re sitting on the other side of the bus, as we were the first time.  Fortunately this has lined us up to enter the park just before the next koala feeding, were they pull one down (he really didn’t want to stop sleeping), feed him a bunch of eucalyptus, and let you pet him.  They’re actually incredibly soft, and I wondered if it was a bad thing to be petting it and thinking, “Could I get a sweater made of koala hair?”

Lanaea and KoalaKoala and I

We also sprung $1.70 for the special kangaroo food; necessary if you want to enter the kangaroo pen and make some new friends.  As it turns out kangaroos’ natural prey is Honey Nut Cheerios.  They’re quite inquisitive in this pen, although they’ve a huge center toe with a large ugly spike at the end that’d I’d hate to see used for defense.  For the most part they’d crawl all over you, digging in pockets and bags, searching for the elusive Cheerio.  One even bit a hole in the bottom of Lanaea’s bag of treats, allowing the cereal to funnel into it’s mouth.  I thought that was unfair, and challenged it to a fight.

Fight!

It was a lot quicker returning to Sydney since we opted out of the retirement tour, part two.  It was still midday at the Circular Quay (pronounced “key”, which I would be informed on our last day in Sydney), but we were still a bit jet-lagged.  Two more flat whites later, we did they obligatory Opera House and Harbor Bridge viewings.

Sydney Opera HouseSydney Harbor Bridge

Honestly, the Opera House is cool, but it’s crowded as hell, and it’s much more impressive from a distance.  I’ve heard the opposite of the bridge climb, where you actually haul yourself up to the top, but for several hundred dollars in an already expensive town, we figured we’d save our big expenditures for things like the glacier climb in New Zealand.  We did find some other toursists that found a cheaper way to alter their perspective, however.

Opera House Inversion

Frenchie had happened to be in Sydney the same time as us, somewhere in the general vicinity, and we hoped to stop by his hotel and catch him there or leave a message for him at the front desk with our whereabouts.  This would be the first time among many when we’d discover that the Australian sense of scale is completely different from anywhere else.  If an Aussie says, “a few steps away,” it means a few blocks.  ”Right around the corner” is perhaps a half-kilometer.  ”A few blocks” is several kilometers.  After ten blocks into “a few blocks away,” we found a Marriott with a map and a helpful concierge that marked Frenchie’s hotel:  30 minutes away.

Exhausted already, we decided to head back to meet Nat and Jorden, and leave an email with Frenchie.  The evening became a blur, hanging out with Nat, Jorden, Sofia, Hamilton (who had no recollection of meeting us the previous night, Maryland (her name was apparently Erin, but I could never remember that), drinking beer in the courtyard and stopping by BB’s for more drinks and the tail end of a comedy show.

I think we all went to bed somewhat drunk.


Jan 1 2010

Australia, 2009-11-23

After fifteen hours on a plane, busrides, and walking around, I’m a bit more ripe than I anticipated. Oh, that shower felt good.

Lanaea and I walked from Bondi Junction to the hostel, Bondi Beachouse, which turned out to be a couple kilometers. It felt good after so much sitting. But, try as I might to amplify my awareness: threats, exits, locale, possible joints for dinner, interesting cultural habits, etc., one of the first things I do is look left-right-left before crossing the street. And just about get clipped by a car — oh yeah, they drive on the left here. Make sure I do right-left-right in the future.

It’s the little things that’ll getcha.

The hostel is decent by hostel standards, moderately sized with a terrace overlooking Tamarama Bay to the south. As soon as we walked in we met an American from Maine who was trying to get together more pats in order to scrounge together a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Unfortunately, we’ll be in central Sydney come Thursday so we’ll have to make do on our own. He’s also told us that Melbourne just received a month’s worth of rain in the last day. Bridges have been washed out — as in completely destroyed. This might make our Great Ocean Road drive a bit more of an adventure.

Bondi Beachouse Terrace View

Wandering down to Bondi Beach, we come across an oceanside pool, where the surf crashes over the separator, filling and draining the pool. Weeks later, I’d see that same pool on the news, with the Australian Olympic swim team modeling suits in front of it.

Bondi Ocean Pool

On the culinary side, bacon here is a real man’s bacon: not overcooked, in huge thick slices, with lots of fat. Normally, I’m not such a fan of the fat, but in the case: oh hell yes. The coffee, however, I haven’t adjusted to. If you don’t want something fancy, it’s either a “long black” — espresso with no milk or cream — or a “flat white,” — which looks and tastes like a latte, despite being a separate line item on the menu. The place on Hall St we had brunch at (it’s 10a local time, and we were served an unsatisfying ariline breakfast at 4:30a) served up Lanaea’s flat white with a little message in the foam, very intricate and well executed, and I wonder if they just do that for the tourists. (Aside from the accents, it’s apparent we’re first-timers when I stare, non-plussed, in response to the question, “What kind of coffee?”)

First Flat White

After a short while, we realized it was still near noon, and had more things we wanted to do than time to do them. Bondi to Coogee beach walk, Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley, Manly beach, Operahous and Harbor Bridge, exploring Bondi, etc. We started down the cost to Tamarama, which was distinctive thus ar for it’s encolsing rock formations, more so than anything else. There was another oceanside pool, which we’d soon find commonplace, but at this point was still a novelty. There was also the awkward formation of picnic tables — a circular concrete roofing, under which four equal sized partitions were divided, such that each group would be completely separated visually, but not aurally, from each other, yet in very close proximity. It seemed very Japanese to me.

Tamarama RampTamarama BayTamarama Bay, Northward

We continued on, despite the looming thunderheads and rolling thuds of distant storms, and found ourselves descending on a stunning display of necrotic headstones and mausoleums. Waverly Cemetery. It abutts the coast, with a freshly renovated walkway just below it, yet the dichotomy is not obscene, but strikingly complementary. The cemetary covers several hillsides, with classic granite, marble, and wrought iron markers ranging back 200 years. It is profoundy beautiful, if you take the time to absorb the engravings.

Waverly Cemetery #1Waverly Cemetery #2

A smatter of rain brought us back northbound, hostel-bound, looking for food. A word to the wise: there is no cheap food in Bondi. (Although we didn’t actually check prices and “Hungry Jack,” what appears to be the Burger King Down Under), but eventually reached such a stage of famishment that we ended up dropping AUD $45 on “gourmet” burgers, fries, and a couple beers.

Refreshed with a belly of food and a patina of defeat, we rallied to the grocery store to pick up fruit and PB&J making to cut down on food expenses. Another warning, for those with restricted diets: organics are three times as expensive as standard brands, but gluten free is extremely common. Despite not recognizing any of the brands of cereal except Special K, the names seem somehow more honest, chemical names made easy to pronounce.

Southward

Oh, a the cheapest six pack of beer was $16. Ouch.

After food, we trundled down to the central courtyard of the hostel, which is the social center of the hostel, with a few beers and the intent to make some friends. We met and chatted with Sofia, a Scot and ex-Cisco PM looking for something else, Fanny from Ireland who really missed home cooking, a few English kids fresh out of high school (or whatever the UK equivalent is) that were living in Bondi for a year or so. They informed us that the reason boxed wine wasn’t allowed in the hostel anymore is that some girl had gotten so drunk on it — and it’s apparently a wicked kind of drunk such wine instills — that she’d crapped in the hallways. As in plural. As in systematically laying cable throughout the hostel.

Fortunately, it’d been thoroughly cleaned by the time we’d arrived.

We were also introduced to a local lush, a really good natured lush, who I shall dub “Hamilton.” He was already wine bottle or two deep, as was apparently his custom. His name I can’t recall, nor the town in New Zealand he was from, but after relating the beauty of his farm, I asked were it was.

“Oh, it’s near SomePlace.”

“What large city is that near?”

“Hamilton.”

“What larger city is that near?”

“Auckland.”

“Ok, I know that one.”

Lanaea near Waverly


Jun 29 2009

Photo Updates

I know I’ve really been slacking with photos lately, but there are some new ones up at osbornphoto.com, with one new one per day for the next few days.


Aug 20 2008

Slacker, Pt. 4

Venice Custom Bike Show


Nov 19 2007

Where did Oct Go?

Seriously. Wow. Two months with no update? Yeah, I know, you guys have been disappointed with that (judging from some phone calls and emails) since I disappeared. So what’s been going on?

Of course, I have a general policy not to blog about work, with the general exception of broaching vague summaries such as “busy” or “good.” And I’m not goig to change that now, but I will say this: working for Google rocks. It seems like they really value the employees, and everyone from engineer to exec seems to really buy in to the various phrases associated with Google (e.g., “Don’t be evil”), unlike other companies that just give such things lip service for the PR machine. There’s absolutely tons to learn and do here, so I’m really excited.

But, I only started just over a month ago, so what else has been going on? Ok, rewind, and let the snapshots do the talking….

And Nae and I went to Seattle for a week for a whole slew of reasons: Andrew’s wedding, hang out with Matt and Lindsay, and see some friends and family.

Andrew’s wedding:

Ben and Andrew

Ben and Andrew

Old Phoenix Boys

Old Phoenix Boys

Nae and I took one of those tours of the old underground Seattle. (Touristy but pretty cool to be down there.)

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2007-0922-153257-IMG_0820
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Wandering around Seattle:

Tangle Town

Tangle Town


Coolest Barstools Ever

Coolest Barstools Ever


Near Pike Place Market

Near Pike Place Market


Greenlake #1

Greenlake #1


Greenlake #2

Greenlake #2


Greenlake #3

Greenlake #3


Greenlake #4

Greenlake #4

Of course, some fam:

Family

Family

Oh yeah. In case you missed it, I had a Bon Voyage/bDay party as well:

Last SD Night #6

Last SD Night #6


Last SD Night #2

Last SD Night #2


Last SD Night #3

Last SD Night #3


Last SD Night #4

Last SD Night #4


Last SD Night #5

Last SD Night #5


Last SD Night #6

Last SD Night #6


Yay!

Yay!