We flew into Sydney on Easter Sunday. Finally, our 7th continent! Usually Australia is one of the first continents people visit, because of the kangaroos, I think, but for some reason it took us a really long time to get here. I guess we just don’t like kangaroos as much as most people. It don’t know for sure, but it was weird to think that while everyone at home was celebrating and having Easter dinner we were wandering around a strange dock, called Fisherman’s Wharf, full of tourists. All the women wore really high heels even though most of them had a really hard time walking normal. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I think a lot of the guys were from the Middle East, because they were kind of dark and made a lot of weird sounds when they talked and wore sleeveless shirts that really showed off how hairy their arms were, but for some reason made you notice their little bellies more.
The next day was a holiday in Australia, but sort of just another day for us. We were staying downtown and it was like a ghost town. I think we were the only people who waited for the walk lights to change before crossing the streets, which sort of made me angry at first, but then we took the train and a bus to Coogee Beach (pronounced coo-jee, like when old people are trying to make a baby smile but aren’t really sure what to do) It was a pretty nice beach with lots of people drinking coffee. From there we walked to Bondi Beach. It took us about an hour and a half, and there were a LOT of people walking there. I guess we weren’t the only tourists in Sydney, ha ha. Sometimes it seemed like we were on one of those really cool but crowded moving sidewalks you find in airports, full of tourists, too, except there were way more dogs, and lots of joggers with asses that make you sort of nod and say, “good job on that”. There were lots of great views along the way – of beaches, coves, and people surfing, and big rocks, and old folks lawn bowling in really warm clothes, even though it was super-hot out. And a really nice cemetery overlooking the ocean – I mean, it was still sad and all, you know, all those dead people and stuff, but it looked nice. Next to Bondi there was this fancy spa or something, and it had a big pool where people were swimming laps even though the waves from the ocean were coming right over the edge into the pool. They didn’t even seem to notice the wall needed to be higher. I was going to say something but figured they’d notice on their own eventually, so whatever.
Then we took a bus up to Watson’s Bay. It had a nice cliff full of Asian tourists taking selfies, and a really nice green park with tons of kids screaming like they were upset, even though I think they were really just having fun. I bought a huge ice cream cone before we got on the ferry back downtown, mostly because Laynni said I should probably get 2 scoops because what if 1 scoop wasn’t enough? It turns out that one scoop would have been lots, but I think she just wanted some for herself. She does that sometimes, pretends she doesn’t want ice cream, even when deep down really does.
First thing in the morning we bought something called an Opal card that I don’t think actually has anything to do with opals, you know, the jewel or whatever, but is kind of just a name they picked to try to make a transportation card sound cool, because it must be a pretty hard thing to make sound cool. Anyway, it was a really good deal, you could take as many buses, trains and ferries as you wanted and the most it would charge you was $15. Only the minimum you could put on the card was $20 so we ended up not using the extra $5, which sucked, but still, we took 2 buses, 1 train and 3 different ferries for $20 each, which is pretty cheap. It would definitely cost more than that to take a train from Moscow to China, or even lots of other places.
Riding ferries around Sydney Harbour was great, and it only rained a little bit, and we didn’t even care because we just went inside when it did. We saw the Opera House, which is right on a point over the water and looks kind of like a bunch of shells stuck together, but with opera people inside instead of gross snails. The Botanical Gardens were nice, too, but I think the name is a bit braggy since it seemed mainly like just a big park. I didn’t see any potatoes, or peas, or any vegetables, really, except the one carrot, but even that one looked old and had bite marks on it, and I don’t think it was even alive any more. When we were looking for the stairs up to the Harbour Bridge we ran into this German guy that had been staying in the same hotel as us on the Banks Peninsula, like, weeks ago when we were still in New Zealand. Pretty small world, I thought at first, but then I started thinking maybe he was following us or, like, trying to hack our phone or something. So I pretended to be nice to him, but I watched him pretty closely, and was careful about keeping our phone out of sight.
On Tuesday we drove up to Newcastle to visit our friend Beth, who we met on our trip to Antarctica last year. We couldn’t agree on who was buying alcohol for who, so we all bought lots, and ended up having too much, even though we drank plenty, don’t worry about that. Beth made us a great meal, introduced us to her “bad dogs”, although they seemed mostly like normal dogs, except the one did kind of look at me funny whenever he thought I wasn’t watching him, but I usually was, anyway. Her daughter was nice, and her granddaughter was really cute, even if she did crap her pants once or twice. Some young guy who lives nearby came to the door to ask for a dollar so he could buy sugar. Beth said this was the second time he ran out of sugar that week, and he seemed kind of nervous, and didn’t seem to know you can’t buy much sugar for a dollar these days, what with inflation and all. Maybe when he said sugar he really meant crystal methamphetamine.
Drive to Jervis Bay
The drive from Newcastle through Sydney and down to Jervis Bay was very hectic, and kind of stressful. I suppose it could be fun if you are the sort of person who really enjoys four lanes of traffic all going really different speeds, that suddenly change to two lanes, then up to three, and, you know back to four, with lots of road construction. Not me, though, I didn’t really like the traffic, and if I had a choice I’d rather watch CSI, whichever one, they’re all so good. Near Wollongong the road got a bit quieter and we took a “scenic loop”. It was 35 kilometres through dense bushes, though, so I wouldn’t really call it “scenic”. Maybe “dark” or “claustrophobic”. But the sign looked very professional, and the guy who made it would probably be sad if he had to start all over from scratch.
We just stayed overnight there, it’s a quiet little town with lots of confusing rivers and bays, and we didn’t do too much, other than making lasagna in the microwave oven. It tasted a little bit Italian, but not all that much.
The Coast Road
The next day we planned a big day of driving and stopping and driving and stopping. Not because of street lights, though, or because of gophers and stuff, but just because we wanted to. After some practice we worked out a good system. We would stop, get out of the car, walk a bit, say some nice things like, “Wow, that’s nice”, or “Hmm, that’s pretty cool”, or sometimes even, “Hey, check that out”. Then we would take a couple photos and slowly walk back to the car, and on the way I would look back once more and go “Hmm”, one, or maybe two or three, more times before we got in. The number of times really depended on the stop, I found.
Laynni thinks this was actually called Hyam’s Beach, but I’m not so sure, because why else would I have made a joke about cherries? Either way, it supposedly has the whitest sand out of all the beaches in Australia, and it seems possible, the sand really was very white. An Asian girl spent a lot of time comparing it to her hand, and I think the sand came out pretty well, considering. I don’t really know what colour most hymens are, but if I could find out I think maybe we could settle our argument.
This place got famous because its surfing kangaroos made it to the internet, but it turns out they don’t really surf, they actually just live near the ocean. Probably they really like the beach lifestyle, or sleep better knowing there are lots of fish just swimming around nearby, no matter what. There were a lot of kangaroos there, but they were mostly just lying around sleeping. Sometimes they would look at us if we got close, but sometimes they just kept on sleeping like they didn’t even care that it was probably the only time they would ever get a chance to see us. One was a bit more awake, and for a while he pinned his tail to the ground with one of his paws while he scratched it really hard with his other paw. He did that for a really long time. It was pretty awesome at first, but eventually we got bored and left, and he still didn’t really seem happy with what he’d done.
This was a nice old lighthouse, and we did a short walk nearby. It was pretty windy, and we stopped and ate lunch on this old wooden bench that was blocked off for some reason. Lunch was our usual salami and cheese sandwiches, which were pretty good, except I couldn’t enjoy it as much because I was so nervous that we weren’t supposed to be there. It felt so good to get back to the trail that I decided to just eat my apple while we walked.
After a while we left the ocean and drove up into the mountains. We stopped at a little town called Cooma for supper. I was in a weird mood, probably because of all the driving, or maybe because of the cycle of the moon. I don’t know for sure. But I ordered a bacon chicken melt with a side of baked beans and a milkshake. I had been complaining about never finding good thick milkshakes anywhere, but this one was specifically called a “Thick Shake” so I took a chance. And it really was very thick. Maybe too thick, now that I think about it. But I couldn’t really complain, you know, because of the name and all. We got gas there, too.
This mountain town is real popular with skiers, and it was very cold, like below zero even. The lady at the hotel seemed very excited because they had just had their first “dusting of snow”. When she said that I thought it sounded pretty nice, but in the end it sounded a lot nicer than it looked, I think.
The main reason we came that way was to drive back down along the Barry Way. I read that it had very nice scenery but was very rough and that we would have to drive slow. Plus, I thought there was a chance it was named after my dad, whose name is also Barry. But now that we’ve driven it, I don’t think so. Normally if I ask him a question he says “What’s it to you? You a cop?” and not even one person said that to us there, not even in a joking sort of way.
This is a national park that people like for hiking and seeing animals, and because it’s really easy to hit the animals with your car. The cottage we stayed in was called Black Cockatoo, but the only cockatoos we saw were green, and a few white ones. Which was still ok, I guess, because they all had red bellies, at least. The cottage was really nice, with good views all the way to the ocean, and a bedroom, and a couch, and big kitchen Laynni used to make pork chops one night, then steak another night. I ate both of them. In the park we saw lots of kangaroos, and emus (like ostriches with sort of gross necks), and, of course, wallabies, I think. The wombats were our favourites. They are short and fat, but really fast when you try to take a photo, and really slow when they are crossing the road in front of the car. I don’t know why they do it that way. We also climbed to the summit of Mt. Bishop and ate our lunch on a big round rock, then went walking on Squeaky Beach. It didn’t squeak at all until the very end, but when it did, boy, was it worth it. The video will probably go viral, no big deal.
We took a car ferry across south of Melbourne and another Camino friend met us when we got off. His name is Ben, and we knew he would be there so it wasn’t as weird as it would have been if we just ran into him. Still kind of weird, though. He took us for lunch and gave us a guided tour of the area. Outside Port Lonsdale there was a sketchy little cave near a lighthouse where they said some sailor lived after his ship sunk. Or maybe he just stopped there for a couple hours, nobody is really sure. Everyone agrees it’s a cave, though. Then we walked around Geelong’s wharf area, which is pretty nice, with a lot of boats and docks and a long circular pier with Asians and stuff, and all along the waterfront there are these wooden sculptures of people, except they don’t quite look right, on account of being too big, and sort of round, and made of wood. And there always seemed to be a rabbit peeking around near their feet, which isn’t really that realistic, I don’t think.
The Great Ocean Road
This is one of the most famous scenic drives in the world, probably because of the name. Having a big-time name like that makes it sound like it’s really going to be something, you know. And it was, which was nice, because I hate it when things that sound really cool turn out to be kind of crappy, like hummus, or skin tags, or possums. Some things can be better than they sound, too, though, like boxfish and French toast. We got to Bell’s Beach two days after a famous surfing competition ended (the Ripcurl Pro), so we didn’t see Kelly Slater or any of the other really good surfers that I’ve never heard of, but there were lots of other, not as good, surfers, who I’d never heard of, either. So that was all right. But mostly we just drove and pointed at different views and made surprised noises sometimes. There were lots of nice beaches and lookout points and a place called the 12 Apostles because there are 9 really amazing giant rocks out in the water and steep cliffs and tons of tourists and stuff. I think maybe the other 3 collapsed, or were washed away by the waves, or maybe turned out to be a different religion altogether after all, like maybe Greek Orthodox or something, I’m not too sure. But we took lots of photos anyway. Another pretty cool one was called London Bridge, and a few years ago the bridge part fell down, just like in the song so, you know, that was something, too. We stopped at a place called the Koala Café which everyone said had lots and lots of koalas just hanging out in the trees nearby. And, sure enough, there was one right where everyone parked, and he wasn’t very high up, and even though he was sleeping he was perfectly turned to face all the tourists, and he never moved, not even once, never even opened his eyes, so it was real easy to get good photos. We saw another one further up the road, but it was way further up the tree and was all huddled up in a ball so you couldn’t see him very well, then we saw another one on the Otway Lighthouse road, and that one kept moving around, and was too far away to see much, and then when he went to sleep he tucked his head down so we couldn’t see him anymore, either. And we just kept thinking how lucky that café was that there was a koala that liked to sleep right in the best photo spot near their café, and that he didn’t mind people, and didn’t like to move much, or tuck his head in the way the other ones did. Sometimes things just work out, I guess.
We spent our last night in Melbourne. Australians pronounce it Mel-burn, like if you were to burn a guy named Mel, not Mel-born, as if a baby was born and his parents named him Mel. But that wasn’t all, it also has a really nice river with little bridges just for people, not cars or trucks or buses or boats, and there are trams all over the place that take people around the city just like buses, except they are on rails so they can’t really go many places, even though they have a cool name. We met up with Sally for dinner, a friend we knew from Guatemala, and drank beer and ate, and wandered around the streets a bit. She showed us her favourite bars and restaurants and dark alleys and such. That part sort of reminded me of Barcelona, except the people don’t speak Catalan, they mostly speak Korean and Hindi and Arabic, and some people even speak English. I told her I thought Melbourne was, you know, “vibrant”, and she didn’t really argue, and kind of nodded, so I think she probably liked hearing that.
And then our trip to Australia was over, because we had to fly to the Philippines the next day, and the airlines, you know, they always get real touchy about showing up on time, and being on the right plane, and things like that. They didn’t care that we thought it would be nice to stay another night or two, and maybe have the flat noodles again, because the ones I had in Melbourne were quite good, and it is surprisingly hard to find good flat noodles, which I’m sure you’ve noticed. Overall, Australia was really beautiful, and they have so many nice beaches that it hardly seems fair to people from Saskatchewan, or Bolivia, or Iran. It is kind of expensive to travel there, but at least the people are friendly and the hotels are nice, and they are way better drivers than people in New Zealand, even though all the kangaroos in the world can’t compete with even one or two hobbits, obviously.