Australia 2014: Part 16

<BNE – LAX | 00:51>

My last few days in Brisbane were wonderful! Arron and Brendan took me to a Turkish restaurant, we played a game of barefoot lawn bowling- which was a blast even though I now know of yet another sport I suck at. We went on a short bush walk, visited a fish store, had some overpriced ice cream, went to browse through a swap meet, and just had a great weekend hanging out together.

Fun fact: Did you know that some people (two I know in particular) actually go to bed by 20:00? I know what you’re thinking, but the two people I’m referring to are neither small infants nor are they old/decrepit yet. Does this mean that they’re just giving up? I think so. I gave them a hard time already.

I’m on Qantas flight 15, headed back to the states. I’m sad that this vacation is coming to an end. I guess it’s time to get back to reality. This isn’t so bad, however, because I’ve created a pretty awesome reality for myself. It’s time to get home so I can start preparations for my next adventure.

The End.

Australia 2014: Part 14

<Hobart, Tasmania | 09:08>

I have just purchased tickets to the Mona Gallery. This is one of the things that the flight attendant who brought me down here from Melbourne told me I had to see. She told me to make sure I come with an open mind. That makes me wonder what she’s talking about.

My mind is open to a whole mess of things (probably more than it should be) as most minds are open in this day and age. A small part of me wants to jump online and find out exactly what she was talking about. But I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

<10:16>

I am standing on a memorial walk at the Hobart Botanical Gardens. This walkway has been planted with so many trees. Each tree has been placed for a soldier who died in the first world war- it’s very moving. Some of the trees are younger because the original tree has died, but they keep replanting new ones when that happens. I just came across a plaque/ directory of the names of these soldiers. My eyes scan these names for someone who might possibly be a very distant relative. The directory tells me that tree #160 has been dedicated to Spr. Alfred Ernest Watson.- that’s the tree I need to find.

For some reason, I’m very emotional while I’m looking for this tree on the memorial walk. I am wondering who his descendants are and if they’ve come to visit him lately. Is someone bringing him flowers? As I approach the plaque, there is a black and white bird perched atop it. I tell the bird that he needs to leave because I’ve come to speak with Alfred. The bird looks at me and understands and leaves (ok I know the bird actually was afraid of me, but I’m choosing to believe he was flying away because Alfred and I needed a moment). 

Alfred (who I’m nicknaming Alf- since I have now decided that he is family) was a carpenter by trade. He was the son of Joseph William and Very Mary Gaunt Watson and his brother was Charles Watson of Port Esperance (later Geeveston). He was a Roman Catholic and he enlisted the 5th of January, 1915, embarked on April 19th of that same year. He was with the 2nd Tunnelling Co. Aust Mining Corps and was accidentally killed on the 17th of September, 1916.

Accidentally killed? What happened to him? Maybe some sort of mining accident? Did a tunnel collapse? Further investigation tells me that he was accidentally killed on railway line near Laventie. 

I’m reading this information and for some reason, I’m close to tears. This is stupid. I don’t know this guy- maybe I feel this attachment because he’s the only Watson on the list. That must mean his is/was a good person. All of us Watsons are great- some greater than others. I need to know all about this man for some reason. I need to do some digging. I wish I would have brought flowers to leave next to his tree.

Australia 2014: Part 13

<Hobart, Tasmania | 08:08>

I had set a goal to climb Mt. Wellington today. I’ve set this goal half-heartedly because according to Google Maps, it’s about 12 miles from the hostel one way. Therefore, I have updated said goal to at least walk toward the mountain. I’ve seen pictures from the top and it’s a great view of Hobart from above.

I didn’t sleep too well last night. I now have a roommate who snores. He’s a tattoo artist from Perth. He’s down here for work and is sharing a shop with a local friend. He showed me some pictures of his work and he seems to be really, really talented. I’m not into the whole tattoo thing but if you’re going to have it done, make sure you get an artist who has talent! This guy seems to have it. 

<10:35>

Road kill here is like road kill at home- only the conversation I have with myself goes a little like this… What on earth is that smell?  Something must have been hit by a car! I think I’m going to gag! Oh man, that’s strong- I may get sick! Oh look, it’s a pademelon! How cute!

Australia 2014: Part 12

<4.20.14| New Town, Australia | 09:13

It’s Easter Sunday. I figure the least I could do on this day is attend church. I check the internet, and it looks like the nearest chapel is about 4 miles from the hostel- I’m glad that I was in the mood for a walk. I stop several times on the trek to make sure I wasn’t going in the wrong direction. When I arrive, I’m greeted by a heavy-set man who is ‘jolly’ for lack of a better word. He seemed very welcoming and excited that I’m here.

We end up in the chapel, and I sit on the back row, trying to blend in with my surroundings. The problem I have is that it’s a small congregation- if you’re not in attendance every Sunday, they notice. I guess it doesn’t help that the hair on my head has been bleached blonde and that the sides are growing back brown. Maybe I look rebellious to them and am sticking out like a sore thumb.

A little old woman sits by me and asks my name. She then asks if I’m related to “those Watsons.” I tell her I don’t think I am. After the 7th or 8th person asks if I’m part of the ‘Tasmanian Watsons’ I have decided to change my introduction to, “Hi, I’m visiting from the States on holiday, but I’m not related to ‘those Watsons.'” Everyone that I say this to seems to understand.

Now the little old woman has taken to doing the introduction on my behalf. She is such a sweet thing and reminds me so much of my departed Gramma Bess. I want to hug her, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. I’m so blessed to have this temporary Gramma Bess sitting next to me.

Finally, the meeting starts, and so I don’t have to introduce myself anymore. It’s a good Easter service, nothing special or out of the ordinary. I’m glad I went, however. I always feel at home when I make it to church.

Australia 2014: Part 11

<Hobart, Tasmania | 07:48>

I am sitting on my bed at the Brunswick Hotel (Tassie Backpackers) in Hobart, Tasmania. I’m wondering what I’m going to do for breakfast. Since today is the day before Easter, I’m not sure what is going to be open. McDonalds may be my only option but I need to crawl out of bed and put on clothes and go find something. This hotel seems so old but has so much quirky charm about it.

Hobart is a lovely little city. I really didn’t know what to expect, especially since I did absolutely no research before booking my flight. I got some exploring done yesterday but it was a rainy Good Friday and this means that the city was more or less a ghost town. I tried to go out and be social last night, but nothing was open. 

<19:49> 

I went for a walk up a local mountain called Mt. Wellington but didn’t know which road would take me. Found some beautiful houses and neighborhoods, but the road didn’t lead to the mountain sadly. When I returned to the hostel, I asked the desk clerk if she knew what road would take me there. She showed me on Google Maps and printed out the directions for me. It looks like it’s a 4-hour walk (one-way) and so I think I’ll find out if there are bicycle rentals in the city.

For dinner tonight, I was in the mood to eat something a little fancier than the quick Asian cuisine that I’ve been having lately. I grabbed my phone and launched the Urban Spoon app (I  highly recommend you download this app if you don’t have it yet- it’s great!) and shook my phone, causing it to pick a restaurant at random. The one that came up was an Italian restaurant called Smolt. It wasn’t too far of a walk, so I gave it a try.

I looked the menu over and ended up ordering the grilled Tasman venison, seasonal fruit puree, quinoa, spices, cauliflower & almond salad with a creamed garlic. I had to make a note of exactly what I’d ordered. It was amazing!

I am so thankful for delicious food! I don’t know if I would consider myself a foodie because I’m not really great at knowing what the chef has put in each dish. I sometimes recognize some of the ingredients by their taste or texture but I don’t think I could recreate most of these dishes at home- I wish I could!

Australia 2014: Part 10

<Melbourne, Victoria | 22:00>

Arron gave me an assignment before I’d left Brisbane. He told me that while I was in Melbourne I needed to go find the brightly colored bathing boxes at Brighton Beach. These are quite the tourist attraction and he told me that they sell for about AU$200,000.

I think they’re fun, but they’re definitely not worth that much money. Maybe there’s a supply and demand thing going on? Don’t get me wrong, they are lovely… I guess I could set up a lemonade stand  or some such nonsense. For more info, check out http://www.brightonbathingbox.org.au.

Australia 2014: Part 9

<Melbourne, Victoria| 09:12> 

I just got back from my free breakfast upstairs. It was a bowl of Rice Krispies. They may have been the generic version, but I’m not sure. They were good. I’m thankful that the hostel provides it for us. 

In less than an hour, the hostel will give a free walking tour of the city. I think I’m going to join them. My driver from the airport told me that downtown Melbourne is 9 blocks by 9 blocks and is 2km by 1.9km or something like that. This means there’s a lot to cover and I’m curious as to what I’ll learn about the city. Since I don’t know very much, I guess anything I learn would be good.

I had a fun night last night- I went on a long walk with one of my hostel roommates, who has a name, but I can’t remember it. He’s from Malaysia and is here visiting a friend who is going to school in the city. My other roommate is from France, also a very nice guy, whose name is Pierre (of course it is).

<19:26>

I opted to not go on the free walking tour. The boy from France asked me if I wanted to go explore with him. This was his last day in Melbourne before he leaves for New Zealand and he told me that he wanted to walk to the bay. It is such a nice day and we had a great time! We walked out on some pier and took pictures.

A sign told us there would be little penguins, but they must have all been out finding food. We fed some black swans instead. We found a cafe for lunch- he had a salmon pizza and I opted for the lamb. We put in the miles today! 

This is the reason I love to stay in hostels- You never know who you’re going to meet. After our walk, I felt like I deserved another massage, but decided not to get one. If you recall my experience in Sydney, you understand why.

Tonight I helped Pierre drag his stuff to the bus station. He was grateful and I’m going to miss him. I gave him an American dollar and told him that he needed to return it to me someday, but it can’t be returned via mail. One of us will have to travel. Kind of a cool idea, if you ask me. I should be spreading out U.S. dollars to everyone I meet. Maybe this will get me to travel more often.

Australia 2014: Part 8

<Melbourne, Victoria | 11:40>

The first thing I have to say is that I love this hostel. It’s a prime location in the city and it’s right above a police station- that’s always good! Last night I asked one of my hostel mates about places to go jogging in the city. I decided that I am going to return to Brisbane in a couple weeks and I’m going to be skinnier than I was when I left. I must impress Arron and Brendan. This is my new life-goal.

Here’s the problem- my hostel room has no windows. I thought I was waking up early but I realized that it was already after 09:30! Still, I didn’t lose hope that I would get a decent jog in. Someone told me that the Botanical Garden was a good place to run. There was some charity run for children going on- or such some nonsense. There were so many people in the garden that it was impossible to get moving at all- I did get a fairly decent jog in though.

I am some kind of idiot: I left my camera on the plane yesterday and I was going to just take my iPhone and take pictures with that. Arron told me I needed something better quality than that and I wholeheartedly agree with him- I’ve gotten ahold of Virgin Australia’s lost and found department and they said that nothing had been turned in from my flight but I should check back again this afternoon. This is so frustrating to me! Why am I so scatter-brained that I’m doing things like leaving my camera behind? For now I’ll just take pictures with my iPhone.

Australia 2014: Part 7

<Sydney, New South Wales | 11:06>

Security at the Sydney Airport is ridiculous today! My flight doesn’t leave until 16:00, but I thought I’d better get to the airport early. I waited in line for about an hour, just to check in for my flight. As I lugged my bag through the line, I reached the realization that I need to pack less next time. I packed for two full weeks, but next time I’ll just pack for one week and do laundry more often. The nice ticketing agent was willing to move me to the 14:00 flight. There is also a 12:30 flight but it’s completely full. I’ll just sit and enjoy the airport.

Australia 2014: Part 6

<Sydney, New South Wales>

Sydney Day 3: After eating breakfast, it was time to get my hair done. The last time I dyed my hair, I was in Aberdeen, Scotland. I’m trying to make this a “thing” that happens whenever I travel. It’s a blast! I found a little Salon and an empty chair. A boy named Ollie who is an immigrant from Poland gave me a haircut and did the color. I told him afterward that since I was on vacation, he needed to pose for a picture with me. He came from Poland last year and is living with his girlfriend, who is originally from Lithuania. Very nice boy. Feel free to ignore my facial hair because when I got back to the hostel that night, I shaved it all off. I now look blonde… and younger…. ish… but I still have the same amount of wrinkles.

I was looking at the map, deciding where I wanted to go on day 4, and what jumped out at me was a place called Watsons Bay (why on earth would that catch my eye?). Not sure the history of Watsons Bay, but I knew this was going to be my goal for the day. Rather than wait for a bus, I opted to walk… and walk… and walk… and walk.  I put in the miles! It was 7.1 miles one way, to be exact!

The walk was incredibly beautiful and when I got to Watsons Bay, I needed some rest and relaxation. I thought I would walk around the park where I was told there was a historic lighthouse. The area was so great- looking to the left, you could see the mouth of the Sydney Bay. Looking to the right, you could see the Tasman Sea. It was incredible!

Now for the fun part: I never thought I’d have the guts to do what I did next. First of all, I knew that if I thought about it for too long then I’d “wuss-out”. After doing it, I sort of struggled with the decision of whether or not I should share this part of my journey. My first thought is that my friends and family don’t need to know EVERYTHING that happens on this vacation.

This is, however, something that I feel is such a milestone in someone’s life that I just needed to share. Before you throw your unrighteous judgment in my direction- understand that I had just walked over 7.1 miles and needed to relax. Nude beach time! I figure that “haters gonna hate”.

The beach was occupied by me and two others. No big deal, right? This goes against my American squeamishness, but it’s not like they’re ever going to see me again. So screw it! Let’s get naked and wet! 

I decided that I was going to walk all the way home, rather than try to find public transportation. With all this walking around, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I walked about 17 miles by the time I got back to the hostel. I needed to get off my feet bad! I felt a massage was in order.

Near my hostel, I remembered seeing a building that said they offered Thai Massages. Up to this point, I’d only ever had a Swedish massages so I figured this would be a new experience. The massage parlor was located upstairs so when I walked through the glass doors, there was a long narrow stairway leading up to the next level.

I made my way up top and this lady was sitting at a desk. I asked her if any of the therapists were available. She said they were and I wanted a remedial massage- she said this was the closest thing to a Swedish massage. I paid her the money and she called one of the therapists over. The girl smiles and bows her head. Now, do you remember the scene from Big Trouble in Little China where the guy goes in to find a Chinese prostitute with green eyes? This is the vibe I’m getting by this point.

The therapist tells me her name but I’m kind of freaking out so I don’t remember it. She says, “Follow me, please.” Only she says it in a very thick Asian accent and I have to ask her to repeat herself so that I can understand. She bows and motions with her hand for me to follower her down a dark hallway to a room. 

We enter the room and she tells me to take off all my clothes but leave on my underwear. I’m laughing to myself wondering what the hell I’m getting myself into. I always leave my underwear on when I’m getting a massage because if something happens (fire drill or whatever) and I have to exit the building fast, at least I have underwear on. So she motions to the table and tells me she’ll be right back.

Ok here’s one key difference with a massage in the states (at least with the massages I’ve had up to this point): They always ask you to cover up under the top sheet and wait (usually on your stomach). Then the therapist comes in and starts. Here’s the problem I’m faced with. There is no top sheet. So I strip down to my underwear and am laying there on my stomach, stressing out that I might be doing this wrong.

She comes back into the room and asks me if I’m relaxed. I tell her I am, even though I’m just trying to convince myself that I am. She then proceeds to pull down the back of my underwear and I’m thinking “ok it’s just my butt crack- everyone has a butt crack. No big deal.” She slathered this oil all over my back (and upper-hiney) and starts the massage.

Ok, this feels amazing and in no time I’m feeling relaxed. I was hurting so bad that I really needed this work done. The slight uneasiness I had when I first got here has now melted away.

Next, she climbs up onto the table  (I’m not even kidding) and I’m wondering what’s about to happen. I am also wondering how many steps it will take me to be out of the door if needed. She kneels on my feet and is moving up the back of my legs slowly.  The back of my calves are killing me, but she’s working them deeply! It was horribly painful, and when I told her to back off a bit, she laughed and kept working them.

She gets to my gluteus maximus. I can feel her feet on the back of my knees now. This sounds weird but it felt really incredible. She kept working up my back until her knees are on my shoulder blades. She hops off and re-oils my back and goes to work on my neck and shoulders, more of Swedish style.

I just reread this entire story and I am laughing at myself. Some of the other people in the hostel are wondering what’s so funny. I just read them the story. I’m pretty sure they think I’m a moron. They laughed though- so at least I’m a funny moron.