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March 2007 Archives

March 31, 2007

Blown Away

A couple of weeks ago I was staring at an empty weekend in despair. The dolphin tour was filled up, and I wanted to get out of the city. I wanted to *do* something with this limited time I have in Australia, but I didn't know what.

Australia is a great place to live, it is, but it just seems my life here would be easier to experience if I had a car. Or a driver's license.

I poked around online until I found a tour group that would be doing something on Sunday, and signed up as quickly as I could. I didn't care what it was, I was just going to go out and do stuff and have fun, and damn the consequences.

"Stuff" turned out to be going to see the Pinnacles, checking out some beaches, going 4X4ing in the desert, seeing koalas and kangaroos in something approaching their natural habitat, and finishing off with sandboarding. Sandboarding! Like snowboarding, but entirely different! The whole thing sounded like exactly the sort of adventure I'd moved to Aus to experience. I gave them my credit card number and remembered to pack lots of water. And sun screen. And my camera.

Oh, my poor camera.

My camera started out the day in a bad mood and ended the day in an even worse mood, so if my photos seem odd, that's why. Cameras, as you may not know, do not like sandboarding.

Go Away, It's time for sleepingBut first, the tour. I once again got that marvellous disconnect of being the only white person (other than the tour guide) on the trip, everyone else being from various places in Japan. (This happens a lot on trips in Australia, apparently.) I feel kinda bad for being amused by hearing kangaroos described as "kawaii!" by the two school girls behind me, having previously only heard the word used to describe characters on Sailor Moon.

But kangaroos really are cute! And tasty! Mmm... kangaroo.

Kangaroos, I have learned, come in two sizes: Wee (as they are in Western Aus) and Really Really Big. They are also considered pests here by farmers, and are regularly shot and then eaten. I have no idea if there's a kangaroo hunting season. I do know I have to remember to buy some kangaroo meat next time I'm in the store, because them's good eatin'. Even if they are terribly cute.

Anyway, at way too early in the morning we headed out to a place where you can walk amongst the trees and check out koalas. It was great - you could just barely see koalas curled up in their trees, deeply wanting everyone to go away so they could continue to sleep. I was told that koalas spend most of their days drowsing, and tend to be stoned. The infamous "drop bears" are just koalas that got stoned and forgot to hold on.

Hey, I don't make up the stories, I just repeat them.

After checking out the koalas and the wee kangaroos, we got back on the bus and proceeded to drive through the Aussie countryside. And drive. And drive. And then drive some more. Something I wasn't really prepared for when moving here, even after growing up in Canada, was how long it takes to get anywhere outside of the cities. I got kinda used to Scotland, where "getting there" is usually a short trip and you can be home by lunch time. It took quite a while to get out to the Pinnacles, and along the way we saw Emus, and Windmills (that came with Emus), and a Wind farm, and lots and lots and lots of countryside.

I may have fallen asleep.

But! We were on our way to an adventure! To the Pinnacles! That sounded exciting!

These are the things I know about the Pinnacles: They're a natural rock formation that's caused by... limestone being blown away? Sand? Something? I don't know. We have something a bit similar in Canada called Hoo Doos. I have to admit, although I love looking at natural rock phenomena, I just don't know a lot about them. They look cool.

Basically, they didn't used to be a tourist attraction at all, since they're just a bunch of nifty looking pillars of rock in the middle of a desert. The area is considered cursed by the Aboriginal people. This is it, this is all I know. I wish they'd told us why it's considered cursed, what the story behind it is. None of my digging around on the internet has told me anything about it. I can only imagine.

The PinnaclesThey are, however, very nifty looking pillars of rock. (I really like this photo, mostly because of the background. Gives you a bit of an idea of what you're looking at.) We got to walk amongst them, and I took off my sandals and let the sand rush over my feet. It was windy, and I had trouble keeping my hat on. I chased it through the sand three or four times, I think, dodging limestone pillars and attempting to keep my balance. Even though there were other people with me, the whole experience was a bit eerie. I described it in a postcard as "feeling surrounded by an army that had turned into stone, worn away by centuries of wind and no rain." For all that I don't know the story, I can suspect why the area is considered cursed.

The sand there is a very odd colour, and I knew when I looked back that my footprints wouldn't last long. There would be nothing left to say I'd ever been there at all.

I think that's the thing about Australia, that makes it so different than anywhere else I've travelled to. Rome and Paris and Scotland and China have all been about looking at the marks that people leave behind - castles and temples and statues. But Australia, as I keep saying, seems to be about nature, and the way we as people don't seem to matter much to it. The Pinnacles are there. They don't care about my footprints or my hat or my words. They just exist, and to them, I'm nothing but something to blow away with with the wind.

With the Warm Wind In My Hair

We ended up next at a beach where the water was many shades of blue and just watched the tide come in. The tour guide looked at me and smiled.

"This is my typical day at the office."

When I tell you my heart is lost to this country, remember that. To some, a typical day at the office is staring at every shade of blue.

I have lots more to write, as the trip was outstanding. I have 92 more photos to shuffle through and attempt to find the best of. I have a camera to be sad about.

For now, check out the current batch of photos, and I'll tell you about the beach, and the sandboarding, and the way my camera was destroyed soon.

March 25, 2007

Anna in the Chocolate Factory

This conversation may be slightly fictionalised.

I stood in a room full of chocolate and frantically pressed buttons on my phone until someone picked up.

Samples of Chocolate"He--llo?"

"Don, it's me."

"What? It's 4 in the morning, what are you doing calling? Is something wrong?"

"No, well... yes. Something's wrong. I need your help!"

"What help do you need? Did something bad happen with Amy? Was there an accident? Are you okay?"

"Yes, yes, I'm fine, but I need help. Don, I'm in the middle of a chocolate factory."


"Don, are you there?"

"You called me at four in the morning to tell me you're in the middle of a chocolate factory?"

"No, I called you at four in the afternoon. It's not my fault you live in Canada. Now, you have to help me, this is a chocolate situation that I just don't know how to deal with."

"You called me at four in the morning to tell me you're in a chocolate situation."

Bags of Chocolate"Yes! Yes, it's four in the morning in Canadia, I acknowledge this, but c'mon, I'm in a chocolate factory and it's full of chocolate! And there's chocolate everywhere, and there's samples of chocolate and chocolate being made right over there by incredibly gorgeous and sexy people and there's all this chocolate and I'm going to go insane with love for chocolate and look, see, people are making chocolate right over there and I don't know what to do!"

"Anna. It's four in the morning. I don't care what you do. Buy yourself some chocolate. Let me get off the phone and go back to sleep."

"Really? I can buy chocolate?"

"You can buy all the chocolate you want. I'm going to bed now."

Boxes of Chocolate"But-- but-- you have to help me pick out which chocolate to buy! You don't understand! There's bags and boxes and bottles of chocolate right here in front of me! Don! Help!"

"I'm hanging up now. I'll talk to you later. Enjoy the chocolate and the eye candy."

And then he hung up on me!

And this is why I came home from the chocolate factory without any chocolate. It's all Don's fault.

{Photos of the Chocolate Factory}

March 18, 2007

Dolphins & Swimming & Sunburns

Look Out!If I ever decide to put up a singles ad, this is totally the photo I should use!

I have been looking forward to swimming with dolpins since well before I made it to Australia's over-heated shores. Every weekend I've planned on doing it, and then every weekend something else has come up. But this weekend was finally the day: I woke up way too early after way too little sleep, and headed out to catch the bus to Rockingham and swim with real live wild dolphins!

The trip out was great - the group I went with (Rockingham Dolphins) does a great intro to the whole thing on the bus ride out. They talked quite up front about how hard it can be to actually see dolphins in the wild - it's not as though they keep an updated calendar about where they'll be, and trips have taken as long as 5 1/2 hour before anyone saw any dolphins in the water. Nothing at all can be guaranteed.

They also gave great little facts about dolphins - apparently baby dolphins don't realise they have blow holes right away, and for a while keep surfacing to breath with their mouth (awww... so cute!). Also, apparently when mating (and they have no mating season - dolphins are always up for it), they take on a pinkish hue. I have no idea how obvious this pinkish hue is, but hey - I like the image of happy excited little dolphins playing in shades of pink. I'm strange that way.

Once we got out to Rockingham, we all started to congragate on the boat and get into our uber-sexy wet suits. "Swimming" with dolphins is really snorkling with dolphins, which really makes a lot more sense. As much as the image in my head of little dolphins happily frolicking and playing amongst the people, rubbing up against them and playing little games of tag appeals, the truth of the matter is that dolphins "are wild animals and as such behave in unpredicatable ways". (They had that sign up at AUC regarding the swans. It always makes me giggle.) Basically, dolphins will bite you if they don't like you.

So, we suited up, and proceeded to drive around the bay at Rockingham, looking for dolphins. It took a while (no where near five hours, though!), but I can definitely think of worse ways of spending my morning than sitting on a boat watching the water and the waves, looking for dolphins while seeing all sorts of birds I'm unfamiliar with.

But eventually we found dolphins! I was so excited (and I have a video clip of me jumping up and down about the whole thing), but a bit scared. The people running the tour suggested I come right up front and hold on to one of them while we snorkled around, in case something went wrong. Which was a really really good idea.

Because... guess who found out she panics when snorkling?

I've been in the water before, I've been in the ocean before, but I completely freaked out at the idea of snorkling and putting my head in the water and trying to breathe at all. I started frantically trying to keep myself afloat (not difficult, being that the suits keep you floating) and crying and sobbing and begging them to please please please get me out of the water please I am going to drown and die and there will be badness and god I don't want to die in the middle of the ocean please get me out of there now please.

They very quickly and calmly and politely got me out of the water and back onto the boat, where I proceeded to huddle in a corner and hyperventilate for a while, sobbing and crying and generally freaking out for at least two or three minutes.

A very nice woman who has been on the tour three times now (Hi Wendy!) sat with me for a few minutes and got me to breathe and got me some water. Then, she kindly held onto my glasses as I got myself back into the snorkle gear and went back into the water.

Scariest thing I've ever done. I was convinced I'd go back in and panic again and be so embarassed for the rest of my life that I had done that. I was so scared, and yet... went back in.

I'd love to say that the next time everything went fine, but it took me at least three or four times in the water before I could just relax and float and breathe through the snorkle. For the first few times I kept pulling me head out of the water and breathing that way. But eventually I relaxed.

Being in the water like that, even being unable to see very far... it's amazing. It's like there's nothing anymore except the water. It's like... like... I don't know. It's as close to being in paradise as I think I ever want to be. Nothing else seemed to matter except the water and the coolness and the way sounds pass. It's like floating forever, and time just seemed to stop for me once I could relax and enjoy it.

Because of how bad my vision is, I know I saw less dolphins than the other people did, but I did get to see quite a few out there. I remember seeing these two dolphins swimming side by side through the water, doing something that looked so graceful and acrobatic. They seemed so close... I wanted to reach out and touch them, I wanted to follow them. Watching dolphins swim underneath you is so... well, it's amazing. I'm sorry I lack the words for it. It was everything I wanted it to be. This was such an experience, and if you get the chance to do it, I recommend you do.

I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted, even with my sexy new camera, because I was soaking wet a lot of the time and didn't want to touch it. As well, as per my usual reaction to being on a boat, I felt sea sick a lot. (I didn't actually throw up, and yay on that.) I didn't really want to move much. But I did get a few photos of the tour itself, and some lovely pics of the beach out at Rockingham. There is, sadly, only one photo of a dolphin. But really - photos wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

I'm Sailing Away

Some time in the next few months I'll head out again and go actual SCUBA diving. I can't wait.

Sound Advice

I have been stretching myself so thin in this country that it's a miracle I'm not entirely flattened.

Or maybe I am. It's certainly one way of explaining everything!

Today, because I am low on cash, I decided to just stay in and realised that, including the day that I called in sick to work due to the excessive heat, this is only the second day since coming to Aus where I haven't been doing something. Usually lots of somethings.

Every weekend I've been doing things that leave me at least a shade of pink, if not red. Every day I go to my job, and come home every evening and try and support friends scattered around the world who are having various problems and need help and advice, or just someone to talk to who isn't involved. I don't begrudge it at all, but I'm typically up very late at night, and dragging myself out of bed in the morning to start the whole thing over again. It's a bit insane.

Couple with the fact that my current workplace is making me want to cry I'm so bored, I find it harder and harder to spend any time just relaxing at home. I don't want to relax! Relaxing is boring, and work is boring, and too much boring in my life and I'll go nuts!

Or so I keep telling myself, as I slather more aloe on my face.

I'm really having an outstanding time, but I think having spent today just napping, tidying things up a bit, and not doing anything has been great. If nothing else, it means I've been able to write something about what I've been doing. And update my photos up on flickr.

I did get a new camera, and it loves me, and I love it, and we're happy. It's champagne coloured. I don't know what that means - it looks silver to me, but that's what they tell me. I used it to take a few photos (not nearly enough, but that story will be up in the next few hours) of the dolphin swimming I did this weekend.

I'm having a wonderful time, but man, I need to sleep some more before I make myself really really sick.

March 12, 2007

My Heart is Lost To You

I was not expecting to fall in love with Australia. My heart and soul is supposed to belong to Edinburgh, and Scotland, with its beautiful ruins and its churches and its parks and its strange language of slang and its people. I fell so deeply in love with Edinburgh that it didn’t occur to me that I might be able to love anywhere else as much.

But Australia, being so different, has captured my heart all over again. I’ve fallen in love with beaches of pristine white sand and water an entirely different and indescribable shade of blue, with all the things you can find under the water, with the desert and its emptiness, with 4X4ing and sandboarding off dunes, with strange rock formations and trees that go up to the sky and back.

It’s hurting my head a lot, this amazingly beautiful country. I’ve never loved a place just because it was beautiful in and of itself. I loved Scotland because it had ruins, as I said, and the fact that the Highlands and Skye were so lovely was merely an added bonus, but with Australia, it’s the mountains and the water and the deserts and the sand… that there are buildings here to look at often slips my mind entirely.

(I wish it wouldn’t quite so often. My face is sunburned almost constantly. If I spent my weekends touring convict-built buildings, that might stop happening.)

It’s like getting used to a new lover. South is where you go to get colder, and north is hotter, and this confuses me. Orion is in the sky, but the rest of the stars make me dizzy as I try and find the ones I remember. I’ve found the Southern Cross, but I don’t think I could find it again. It’s not where I think it should be. Exotic birds are shot here because they’re pests. I’m trying to sort out that I live in a place where parrots aren’t kept in cages, but just fly around everywhere. I know exotic birds come from somewhere but that I live in that somewhere is hurting my head.

The guide on the last tour I went on talked about “roo shooting”, which he does a lot on his farm. They’re all over the place, here, and I guess can be quite the annoyance.

Tasty little things, too.

This weekend I took a tour that brought me through parts of the desert, and I could understand the desire to just walk into it someday with whatever you were carrying and live out there. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and it would be so easy to just disappear into it.

I would probably miss air conditioning.

{There are some photos but I seem to have damaged my camera by foolishly taking it into the desert. Will keep you posted.}

About March 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in March 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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