June 30, 2007

Watch That First Step, It's a Doozy...

My weekend plans had involved the Indian Ocean and swimming with dolphins, so obviously I found myself in the back of a 4 x 4 minibus full of Japanese students just about to slip over the edge of an extremely steep, extremely white sand dune while an Aussie driver reminded us to "Buckle up - this one's a doozy!"

I'm amazed at how often I suddenly look up and wonder what I was thinking to get myself into these situations.

trust me i'm a professionalI've already written about seeing the Pinnacles - a vast expanse of shifting sand with large rock formations scattered throughout. The sand there was shades of orange, unmoving, making it hard to believe that the large rocks were because the sand had all been blown away hundreds or thousands of years ago. But this area was different. The sand was pure white, the sky a brilliant blue, and the ocean was peaking out from behind the dunes. The wind was so hot and blew the fine sand into everything, including my camera. (The photos here are the last ones I was able to take with it before it broke. Even now, I can't get the other photos off it.) Including my hair.

Oh, my poor hair.

But first, the 4 x 4ing. It's the only time during the trip the driver insisted we had to buckle up, and waivers had to be signed. Then, he drove the bus into this vast expanse of white, and up, up, up the dunes before pausing at the very top of one of them.

"Ooo... we're beginning to slide!" he cried out as teenaged girls squealed and even the boys gripped hard onto their seat belts. I just felt my eyes getting wider and reminded myself that if it wasn't safe they probably wouldn't be doing it.

And then... boom! Down we went, at top speed! Slipping down the hill, watching everything tilt to 45 degrees out the window, and thinking "but if it wasn't dangerous, would they insist upon a waiver?"

I scream loud.

through the windowUp and down the hills, bumping and jumping while the driver laughed and the rest of screamed or whimpered or giggled, and I felt queasy, worried I would throw up from the bumps and leaps into the air the bus was somehow managing to make, until finally we came to a halt at the top of the same tall dune and everyone piled out.

Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. Sand also turns very very cold when it's in shadows for short periods of time. I'm sure there's a physics lesson in there someplace.

Sandboarding, depending on how you do it, is either like tobogganing or like snowboarding - you either go down sitting on the board or standing on it. Either way, you need to wax the board in order for it to go far, it needs a certain amount of weight or it won't go very fast (and thus won't go very far), and if you scream loud enough, you'll go the farthest.

Near the bottomThe last one might not be as true as the first two, but I certainly found I went very very far as I screamed the whole way down the hill. I know, I like to sound so brave on my trips, but you don't understand - I was going down a hill! In the sand! In the heat! I could have been killed by... um... roving bands of... sand demons... or something....

Don't judge me!

I wasn't the first one down, but I was the first girl who went down, and I totally went the farthest of anyone who did. Which just meant I had the farthest to climb back up the damned hill afterwards.

Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. And sand is also very hard to climb up.

my poor hairAll in all it was a great time, even if I did ruin my camera and have sand caked so hard onto my skin that it took me almost thirty minutes of scrubbing in the shower to get most of it out - and I still had sand in my hair two days and three showers later. It was a great adventure, one I would happily do again should the opportunity present itself.

But really, if you get the chance - screaming makes you go further. Totally the truth.

{all the photos}

June 27, 2007

MidWinter in Australia, a photo essay, by jo

delicate

Sail Away

Blue

{to save on dialup, the rest are behind the cut, or view the entire set.}

Continue reading "MidWinter in Australia, a photo essay, by jo" »

June 17, 2007

Not All Those Who Wander....

I am drowning in nervousness about travelling.

I enjoy travelling, enjoy the rush of seeing someplace new, or going someplace old and seeing it again. I'm excited about going back to London, even if all I'm going to do is see a musical and buy my favourite chai in bulk, and spend a delightful afternoon in Sarah's company. I'm counting down the hours till I get to Halifax and finally see it when the city isn't encased in ice, planning walks along the harbour and trips out to lighthouses. I'm even planning, planning, planning every meal I'll have in Edmonton, every favourite street I'll walk down. Through it all, Poland whispers and Spain hisses promises and I'm numbering all the things I want to do and trying to make it all realistic with what I can do. Every day is about where I'll be and what I'll do and when it all will happen, and it's beautiful.

I'm afraid of things, though - of flying, as always; of seeing people and things being awkward and nervous; of luggage going missing and pockets being picked. I have recurrent nightmares that I miss flights, miss connections, miss people, and everything goes all wrong in those moments that we let them.

People assume that my wanting to travel means I want to run away from something, that I'm hiding in new cities with new histories. Don tells me I'm searching for something, and when I find it I'll settle down, grow a garden, get a cat.

I'll tell you that I travel because not travelling feels like giving in to fear.

Every day I'm afraid that if I move away from my comfort zone, if I assume that I deserve something other than being bored, I will spend my life alone and miserable. My father tells me so often not to settle for unhappiness - to leave men who make me sad all the time, to leave jobs that make me bored or angry, to leave friendships that break my heart. He tells me to stop selling myself so short, to look for things that challenge or excite me, things that just make me happy. I spent most of my 20s ignoring that advice, and spent most of my 20s being unhappy because of it. I stayed in once place even though I longed to leave, stuck it out at jobs that made me dread waking up Monday mornings, and stayed in relationships that left me grieving before they were finished. I was afraid, you see, that there would be nothing better, that the next step would be worse. The next job would be even more terrible, and pay less; the next city would leave me friendless and alone.

I travel because I can't live like that anymore.

In less than a week I'll fly out to London for a couple of days, to Halifax for a week, to Edmonton for a few days after that, and then off to Poland to see a church made of bones. I'll soak up the heat in Spain, drinking sangria and teasing Don about Australia. And after that, I'll come back here, to Perth, to my tiny flat and my sweet and wonderful friends, and make my plans for my last six months in Australia.

I've planned it all out. I'm going to have a marvellous time.

Not all those who wander are lost.

May 28, 2007

Please do this

Please Do This

Save Our Old Town

You can help, even if you don't live in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is like my home, it's the place I've asked to be taken back to should I die suddenly, it's where I've left my heart, and Old Town, the Royal Mile, is one of my favourite places there. I can't describe it to you, what it's like to walk down the street there and just soak up the history and the importance of it.

And they want to tear parts of it down.

It will take only a few minutes of your time to voice an objection to this historic area being torn down, and I ask, sincerely, that you find the time.


The deadline for voicing objections to 'Caltongate' has been extended (pdf, bottom of page 4) to the 8th of June.

Caltongateis the proposed "bold and contemporary" new development which involvesdemolishing parts of the Old Town, including tenements and listedbuildings. Please click here to find out what we stand to lose.

If the council are allowed to get away with this who knows what they'll sell off next.

Thenew development will include a 7 storey hotel, offices, almost 200flats and 100 serviced apartments, a conference centre complete with afour storey bridge and a large new public square, and not only won't bein keeping with it's surroundings but will destroy part of Edinburgh'shistory. Once it's gone we can't get it back. We may lose our WorldHeritage status.

If you can spare a few minutes, please consider objecting to the plans - anyone of any age, nationality or location can do it. You can also sign the online petition.

Thanks.

Also Under Threat

The Grade A-listed Haymarket Station and Ryries Bar are set to be demolished to make way for a bigger train station, flats and offices.

May 27, 2007

Photos


Shades of Red
Originally uploaded by Anna Overseas
I'm currently having some issues with my internet, which is especially frustrating being that I have much to say. Instead, I managed to upload a bunch of photos of the wine tour I went on last weekend. I had sips of 44 glasses of wine, and decided that there were too many words to remember. The entire set of pics is here, and I am especially fond of the butterfly one and the one of me with the waterfall.

Port is really the best wine in the whole world. Although obviously now I must go on MORE wine tours to prove this.... Luckily, I will be in Spain for my birthday, and I'm sure people there will not object to me drinking lots and lots of wine.

May 13, 2007

Heading West

It's easy to forget how big Australia actually is. I know, that sounds a bit odd - I'm Canadian, Canada's even bigger (and we have a song about that), but travelling in your home country is different than travelling someplace else. In Canada, I expect everything 'interesting' to be a long ways away, but here? Everything should be like the UK - a daytrip is always possible.

What really brought home for me how big Western Australia (just one state!) actually is wasn't that it took two days of driving to get out to Monkey Mia, but how different everything was by sunset of that second day.

On the first evening, everything was dark as pitch by the time we got to the hostel. We'd made a brief stop to look at some cliffs, but the sun was rapidly setting and there wasn't a lot of time to spend enjoying them. We hurried off to the hostel, leaving behind the crashing waves and looking forward to good food and a long sleep far away from the bus.

Sinking Like A SunsetBut the second evening, though, we'd travelled far enough west to make a different in how late the sun was out. We drove much later, and caught a spectacular sunset over the ocean.

I sat down and looked out over the water, watching the breeze blow through the trees, fluttering the sails on the boats, and thought about how easy it would be to get used to this.

Later, when we got to Monkey Mia, I lay down on the beach and looked up at the stars, and wondered at how easy it is to be overwhelmed by natural beauty. There were dolphins in the water, but I couldn't see them, only hear them, and I couldn't imagine a more peaceful moment in my life.

In many ways, being in Australia has made me very eager to go back and look at Canada and see how differently I view it now. I loved Scotland for castles and crags and men in kilts, but mostly for the ruins and the history behind them. As I've said before, I love Australia because it's beautiful here - from the ocean and the sand to the desert and the wind, so much of Australia is beautiful and overwhelming because of where it is. I keep being caught off-guard for it.

People say to me all the time "Oh, Canada! It's very beautiful there!", and I've always just smiled and nodded. I've loved the Rocky Mountains, but I don't really think about the majority of my country and if it's actually a beautiful place to be. I lament that Canada has so little history, so few ruins that talk about what happened "before", without thinking about how lovely it is to walk through old growth forests or stand on the edge of a crystal clear river. These are, quite frankly, things I grew up with. Things I don't notice.

I've been gone a long time. I'll be in Canada for two weeks this summer, and I wonder how different Alberta will look, now that I've been here.

May 6, 2007

Till Human Voices Wake Us

Shell Beach - From The WaterWhen I was a little girl, my mother always used to tease me all summer long that she couldn't tell what was dirt and what was tan. I spent entire days, from dawn till dusk, outside, running around and playing in the dirt and being rowdy, before puberty and a sudden interest in books turned me into a pasty white girl with a fear of the bright ball of light in the sky.

I was thinking about this as I floated in the Indian Ocean, looking at my feet. They were tanned and dirty and covered in sand, even though I'd been splashing in the water for a while. The dirt from Australia had ground in, and I could barely see the pale lines of where my sandals blocked the sun.

The place I was swimming is called "Shell Beach" for obvious reasons - the entire beach is made of shells, the bottom of the ocean is made of shells, white, brown, purple, all sorts of colours. The water isn't very deep there - I walked far out and it never got above my hips - and it was easy to pick up shell after shell as I floated. I lay back and let my hair drift, and wondered how far the waves and the wind and the sea would pull me away from land, if only I'd let it.

It was so warm, with just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. The rest of the tour group had walked back to land, complaining about cold and salty water, while I felt more relaxed than I had the entire trip. I closed my eyes and pretended I couldn't hear them.

I listened for mermaids instead.

I thought about Australia, about the deserts and the oceans and the short trees and red dust everywhere. I thought about how nice it would be to just lie in the water and see how far I could float away. I wondered how long it would take me to get lonely.

Shell Beach - Mermaid HuntingEventually I lifted my head and looked back at the beach. I'd floated quite a ways, I guess. I saw everyone on land beginning to pack up, waving to me to return so we could get back on the hot and cramped bus, get closer to the furthest point west in all of Western Australia.

I put my ears back under the water for just another moment, but I couldn't hear the mermaids singing.

Instead, I slowly started back towards the beach.

Maybe next time.

{photos of shell beach}