Still tripping (days 3, 4 and 5)

Day three of our road trip dawned bright and sunny.  No, wait, the exact opposite of that: and given that our tour of the pretty rock formations (and, uh, Aboriginal heritage areas) didn’t run when the road was too wet ‘in case we twisted our ankles’, we had some time to kill.  So the three of us went on a hike along the ‘Zanci Heritage Trail’, to Zanci homestead.  It’s an old sheep farm, from when European-Australians started farming the area.  Which wasn’t that long ago, really: I mean, we federated in 1901, and the First Fleet only got here in 1788.  On the topic of European Australians (or not), the weirdest thing happened the other day.  I was walking through Circular Quay when I glanced at an Aboriginal man performing.  All of a sudden, from his semi-squat, he raised his arm, pointed his finger at me, and not exactly yelled but very much projected at me that “you’re European!”.  It was so weird.

Moving on—a couple of photos from the walk:

We returned to the Visitor’s Centre and were told that the 2pm tour would be going ahead.  Huzzah!  We would finally be able to see what we’d come such a long way for: rocky-type formations.  I feel like I should know what they’re called, really, but no.

Mungo National Park

We also learned a great deal about Aboriginal habitation in the area, which goes back for approximately a bajillion (>40,000) years.  We learned about their diet, religious habits, and even some plant lore and cooking practices still used by people in the area.  Plus we saw some wedge-tailed eagles, which it turns out mate for life.  (Fact of the day?)

After the tour, Mungo was pretty much done.  Jess and I spread the map on the hood of the car, and she turned to me and asked, “so do you want to go to Adelaide?”  “Yes,” I replied, in a particularly unequivocal tone of voice, and we were off.

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Moooo(ve off the road!)

What a fabulous drive.  Apart from the first bit of complete retardation, wherein we were driving into the sun on rutted muddy roads with it freaking raining on us and roos everywhere.  It was utterly unreasonable!  There was even the occasional cow, and one of them so large that I thought it must be a hay bale.  Giant amongst cows!

Sunset in Mildura.
Sunset in Mildura.

We paused briefly to check the sunset in Mildura (and also twice for snackfoods), and then it was off to South Australia—a first for both Nikky and I.  I was excited out of my mind, and the drive did nothing to help.  The landscape was absolutely lunar and stretched on forever, as the sun set an interminable distance away and the stars started to glimmer about us.  I was in a pretty happy place.

I can’t remember how long exactly—maybe 5 hours later?—we arrived in Radelaide.  The only Australian capital I’d never been to!  I feel like I’ve collected the set 🙂  Nikky and I stayed at my friend Tom’s house, where I managed to be mainly unconscious while they watched blue people leap about on screen to the rough storyline of Pocahontas.  Then, the next morning, time to explore!

I was actually really impressed by Adelaide.  Possibly because I’m so over the Sydney commute (and crowds).  It’s much smaller, having a population of less than 1.5 million.  Lots of beach of course, and actually lots of European trees—apparently there was a big wave of German immigrants when the city was founded, and they brought lots of trees with them.  So as we drove along the roads, there was yellow and general autumnal-ness happening all around us (Australian trees aren’t deciduous—they keep their leaves all year round, so autumn isn’t really a thing here).  It was nice enough that I think, if I were staying in Aus, I’d give Radelaide a go next.  I think my 10-year love affair with Sincity has come to an end.  Weird.

After an appropriate number of shenanigans and inappropriate amount of rolling on the beach, it was time to hit the road once more.  We went down along the coastline, through Coorong National Park, rang emergency services for an apparent fire, and wound up in Mt Gambier.

Following our last night of the trip, we went for a bit of an explore in Mt Gambier before heading off.  We checked out the Sinkhole Gardens in the centre of town, then Umpherston Sinkhole.  The sinkholes are natural cenotes, ie big holes that result from collapsing limestone (thank you, wikipedia!), and used to act as natural wells in the area.

Mt Gambier itself is very saloon-y: it felt a little like we were on the set of a wild west movie.

Cutting in-land, we headed for the Great Ocean Road, stopping at Warnamble Warramble Warrnambool on the way.  Where I went for a swim—my first ever in the Southern Ocean.  (I’ve since made a resolution to swim in every sea and ocean… I’ve got kind of a long way to go!)  It was not even marginally warm.

Our final stop would be at the Twelve Apostles, before making it back to Melbourne to fly to our respective home states—five days and a mere 2500km later.  Roadtrips for the win!

Home-comings

I made the notes for this post on a page which has a count-down of my days left in Aus, which is not exactly a good sign I suppose! And to be fair, the first draft was written in a coach station with a suspicious keyboard.  However, that was pretty super depressing, so I’m redoing it while listening to the below on repeat and bouncing on a fit ball.  That should just about fix it!

There are two things which I’m trying to be positive about this year. One is my enforced being-single-ness (no more airport/train platform/bus station goodbyes!), and the other is having to be stationary. So I’ve been trying to think of things that are good about each.  Either way, I’m definitely never going to do again what I’ve done to myself this year, in terms of my budget, my commute and stress level: I’m angry 24/7 and it freaking sucks.

The very first good thing about being stationary is food.  I can eat whatever the heck I want.  I can buy spices, I can have a stocked pantry, and in fact I only need to go to one supermarket to get what I need—not five or six separate stores, as per Russia.

Next comes a dependable income, being able to budget properly, and no visa restrictions and ‘get-out-of-the-country-or-else!!’ date.  Not to mention not sharing a room, and having a clean kitchen and bathroom!  (Haha yes, there’s a kitchen theme.)  And knowing where I’m going to sleep at night!  And not having these ridiculous freaking expenses which pop out of seemingly nowhere (haha but maybe I felt that because of living on 10 euro a day in Greece etc).

Then there’s belonging to the majority linguistic group. It’s like a weight off your shoulders—no pre-planning your vocab, no ‘wtf’ expressions when your sentence gets a little over-ambitious and your grammatical cases go to hell, the convenience of knowing what’s inside the package you’re buying, the ability to perfectly express yourself (at least within the limits of the education system), and my personal favourite, being able to make people laugh more easily.

There are good things about being in Australia, too. (Duh).  The weather’s pretty great (other than the middle of summer, which is inhumanly hot).  The beach is only a couple of hours away, and the bush/hiking is pretty accessible.  I spent last weekend in Canberra, and a 20 minute walk from Jess’ place I was on a hiking trail going around a potentially racist-ly named mountain.  Haha if the colours of green weren’t all wrong, if Australia weren’t so young, and like I didn’t feel like some essential part of me was missing when I’m here, I’d probably be okay with staying.  But we can’t have me going around being all piece-less, now can we?  That would make for a very strange, lop-sided Laura.

Then there’s travel.  There are bad things about travel (which, oddly enough, are pretty much the exact opposite of the good things about stationariness).  But then there’s an incredible beauty and poignancy to it, too.  There’s the mini disasters and the sense of accomplishment when you manage to successfully speak to someone in their own language.  I’m sure I’ve spoken about this before—at first when I got to Russia, ordering a coffee coherently was a massive ‘yesss!’ moment.  By the time I left, it was discussing politics, or completing ridiculous transferry-opening-weird-ass bank transactions.

There’s the people, and the endless possibilities, the not knowing what will happen next: today could be the day you meet the love of your life, your new best friend, someone who’s going to give you a puppy (though that last seems not precisely pragmatic).  There’s the could-have-beens that you know and have to let go of, and there’s a different sort of tragic beauty to that, too.  There’s meeting new people who you’re going to keep bumping into all over the world for the rest of your life.  There’s seeing things which are straight out of imagination: endless deserts, mountains with an almost crushing majesty, and oceans of a thousand different characters.  So I suppose on the one hand, stationary life is devoid of that almost vicious poignancy and multitudinous impossible possibilities, but travel life can get pretty hollow at times.  It’s like wholemeal cereal vs an itinerant breeze.  And I am, after all, a sailor!  Haha I want to be outside and free, but the cost—intimacy, love, affection—is becoming  too high.  I’ll just have to find someone like-minded I suppose!

And on that note 🙂

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Anthropomorphic Blue Hippo

Ah, the return of the blue hippo.

After rather an absence, I’ve decided it’s time to get back to the blog – mainly because I am excited out of my brain! Things were getting pretty bad for a while there.

So I’ve spent the past few months trying to get some balance back in my life, and it was probably the best decision ever. Haha though it did involve bingeing on Stargate in all its forms :p. I’ve also stopped drinking caffeinated coffee. It turns out, coffee makes me angry: who knew?! It’s not like I’ve been drinking it for 12 years or anything. I still crave it constantly, but such is life I guess.

So, what of travels? I went to Melbourne at the start of July and had a freaking amazing time with friends and getting allllll the gay man hugs. Since then, I’ve more or less stayed put, and have been busy catching up with friends, working in projects, and going for regular hikes in the wilderness. At the end of this month I’m off to NZ for ten days, and before that have a 30th and Oz Comic Con to be losing my mind with excitement about. Then I’m spending 5 days in Tasmania in December before FLYING OUT IN 3.5 MONTHS!!! OMG I am so excited!!! I get all tingly when I think about it, and have to try to remember to breathe haha. I can’t wait to see my students and my friends, plus go SNOWBOARDING of course, and start the next phase of my life 😀

In saying that, I’m currently the happiest I’ve ever been. There hadn’t been another time in my life where I haven’t been at least a little scared or depressed. I mean, I utterly lost 18-22 to depression, which is a bit rude really. I never thought that simply ‘not feeling bad’ was something I would NOT have to be constantly fighting for. (Sorry for all the double negatives there haha). So this is just great. Haha I’m not sad, I’m not scared, I’m not heart broken and I’m not in Russia – so winning all round, really!

And what of the BOOK? It should be out later this month :D. I’ve commissioned a super talented Swiss girl to do the cover, am ready-to-go on the publishing platforms, and final draft is with four readers right now. A few little tweaks to make and we’re good. It’ll be available in ebook and paperback (possibly also audio book down the track) , and I will definitely be posting about it on here and everywhere else. Yay!

PS there are absolutely no apologies for the sheer number of exclamation marks and capital letters in this post.

https://twitter.com/Bl4ckSheepWorld

Lowenbrau

I realise I have nine overdue New Zealand posts (which are forlornly awaiting photos), but something a little strange just happened to me, and so I am buzz-blogging for the first time since Piter.

I’ve just been out at the Lowenbrau with my housemate Crystal for a friend’s birthday.  It was this strange experience of having several different phases of my life all crashing together in a thoroughly unwholesome way.  There were snow people, from the friends to the drunken mistake; there was a girl who’s spent time in Mexico and another who broke out with some Norwegian; and then there was the bar itself.

Lowenbrau—”where it’s always fucking Oktoberfest” (possibly not the actual slogan)—takes its Germanic branding really, really seriously.  Everything’s all steins and prost, and the bar staff are all kitted out in fairly uncomfortable-looking uniforms and speaking the Deutsch (it should be noted that the cute German guy behind the bar was probably the highlight of the night).  All the same though, kitsch as it is, it did remind me of being back in Europe, and where I’ll soon be.

Then we have Mexico-girl, seasoned traveller, an obvious and long-standing part of my life.

Lastly, we have snow people, and oh god, am I glad that’s not my life anymore.  I’m so intensely grateful (to what?  to whom??  I’m atheist if not anti-religious, so I’m going to go with grateful to universe ju-ju, good fortune and ambition).  Snow life is full of so many toxic people, who only feel better for putting others down; who mistake ‘drunk’ for interesting; who value gratification over connection.  I am not interested in getting drunk every night, I am not interested in casual sex, and I don’t give a damn what people think of it.  It drives me crazy that I ever subjected myself to that life, that bro culture—there were good parts, yes (knowing hundreds of people on a night out; snowboarding snowboarding snowboarding), but man.  It teaches you that people are things.  It teaches you that money is for alcohol and partying and that a forgotten night out is more important than anything else you could be doing with your life.  It’s this big toxic morass which I want no part of.

Because the thing is, I’m having a damn good time.  I’m not just a snow person, I value others; I’m not just a traveller, I seek connection and am an accomplished professional; I’m not European (but am also not not).  And I don’t need to define myself in one of these categories, because I’m too busy getting on with just being myself.  I had a guy at a party a few months back objecting to the fact I am both ‘nice’ and consummately (he he) dirty.  “You can’t be both!” he cried, “you have to pick one!”  Well, I’m sweet and I’m filthy, I’m an adventurer and a professional, I’m responsible and a terrible influence.  (I’m not going to break into a certain Meredith Brooks song though, don’t worry ;).)  I’m so glad I know who I am and what I want, and I’m not trapped by cliques and lifestyles anymore.

Anyway, bedtime—it’s a school night!

Also, check out my interview by Sorin Suciu, author of the awesomely hilarious and geeky ‘the Scriptlings’.  The interview ranges from fairy-tales to pc games to Doctor Who, and you can find it on his webpage here: www.sorinsuciu.com/interview-laura-may

’60s Date Night

A couple of times this year, my house-mate Crystal and I have been on what I’ve dubbed “flatmate date nights” (because I am the creepy one in all of my human relationships).  One of my favourites was toward the start of the year, when we went to see Anchorman 2 at the moonlit cinema—ie we sat in a park with a bunch of other people at night time, hung out on bean bags and ate junk food.  It was pretty excellent.  This time we went to Luna Park, a mini theme park on the shores of Sydney Harbour.

I’ve been to Luna Park before, but hadn’t realised how long it had been—last time I was there must have been around 2005, after it had just reopened for the nth time.  This was before I’d broken my back for the second time (and possibly before the first time, too), and I didn’t really think our visit through.  As it turns out, rides consist pretty much solely of motions which jar your back, either by wrenching you from side-to-side, or jostling you up and down.  There are warnings everywhere that people with neck or back problems shouldn’t go on the rides, and I can definitely see why!  No more rollercoasters or spinny things for Laura.  We went on the ferris wheel a couple of times though, and Crystal went on the ‘hair-raiser’ for me.  We also went on one of those pirate ship things (always my favourite) which go upside-down, and I giggled maniacally the whole time.

We meandered to check out ‘Coney Island’ and went down the giant slide, though I was again terrified—when I was a little kid, rides were just exciting and I felt safe.  Now my body’s already ridiculously broken, and I know how much harm I can come to if I’m jolted even a little in the wrong way.  Oh well, at least I can still snowboard!

My favourite part of the evening though was the photo display in the entrance to Coney Island.  Haha as I commented to Crystal, “we must be grown-ups, we’re looking at the photos rather than at the silly mirrors behind us!”  The gallery showed images of Luna Park over the past hundred years, and they were magical.  There were a lot in black and white from the 60s in particular.  There were servicemen (I automatically wrote ‘and women’ then realised… no, not so much) going on dates with girls in pretty frocks, turning out to see people walk tight-ropes, or to go on the rides, or to steal a quick kiss in the dark.  I’m quite sure people were just as douchey then, but all the same, it seemed terribly glamorous.  My life is entirely lacking in glamour in the traditional sense, and I seem to be quickly turning into the girl who wears hiking gear everywhere.  In fact I took my friend Sal to North Face yesterday, and two of the staff independently came up to me, looked at my shoes, and went “wow, they look well-used”.  I’ve only had these hiking shoes for around 8-9 months!

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Another thing entrancing about the photos was how excited everybody appeared.  I guess in the days of internet, we have instant access to whatever entertainment we want, whether that be books, movies, articles, comedy, naked people, or cat pics.  Stupid cat pics (except Chemistry Cat, I like him—science puns ftw!).  While as the night drew on, more people started to come into the park, it was still sparse—nothing at all like the hundreds and thousands flocking to it years ago.  Perhaps yay for entertainment, but boo for our lack of ability to get excited about the prospect of a night by the ferris wheel.  Though I must say, ‘make out with guy on ferris wheel’ has been added to the bucket list.  I might even let him touch my thigh (ooh, scandalous!).

Oh and PS, I’ve done all of the New Zealand posts, but as I back-dated them they didn’t appear in front of the ‘Lowenbrau’ post.  If you go to www.explaura.net/category/new-zealand/, you’ll see them all there sweetly waiting for you.