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Goodbye Convict Country

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  The 1st several weeks felt like ages, but as trips always do, time accelerated as we settled in.  I surfed a ton, we worked a little, and we were lucky enough to enjoy lots of time with friends and family.  In the last week or two we begrudgingly broke out of our routine and worked through the process of selling our things or giving them away to friends.  I nearly cried as I sold the 1st board I ever had a hand in shaping.  It was a tear jerker to sell our campervan, “Schmelly” too, even with the love/ hate relationship we had.

We also had to sort out visas for China and Russia and set an outline for our SE Asia journey.  We land in Siem Reap, Cambodia on July 18 and have to be in Hanoi, Vietnam just over a month later.  The guts of the trip will be determined along the way.

On the Saturday of our final weekend in Kirra we had a long day of cleaning our apartment and packing our bags.  We planned a big night out to celebrate our buddy’s birthday as well as our last weekend in Australia.  We had passed on lunch and for dinner figured the liquid diet would suffice.  We made some vodka drinks and made the 3 minute walk to Sam’s house.  After several intense games of foosball and some solid brew drinking the bullshit was flowing.  Out of the blue Nug asked me, “Are you ready to go?”  Confused, I asked what she meant as it was only 10:30.  We walked outside where she admitted, “I’ve had too much to drink.”  I have to concede that I will have too much booze 10x to every 1x that Nug does so I was a bit surprised.  It was obvious that the blue moon had arrived as I struggled to hold a 5’6” piece of human jello.  “I don’t feel good,” Nug said.  “Do you want to walk home?” I inquired.  Her head bobbled affirmatively and on the 2nd shake a strange gurgling sound came from deep within her belly.  She lurched forward and liberally glazed my shins and shoes with regurgitated vodka.  I was aghast and Nug looked up at me with a crooked smile while she stammered “Yes, I want to go home.”  Asia here we come.

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Crikey!!

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After a great trip to New Zealand my parents came to Australia to visit us as an afterthought.  Haha…just kidding Mom and Dad!  Anyways, they had several days to spend with us on the Gold Coast.  We planned a day trip to the “hinterland” to walk the Twin Falls Track.

Mom and Dad

Nug

 

 

 

It was a chilly but sunny day and we were on the lookout for some Australian critters.  “Do we have to watch out for snakes?” my mom wondered aloud.  “There are no snakes in Australia except zoos,” I joked.  We encountered very few trampers on the trail and found several great caves and waterfalls.  I led the group and kept running ahead and looking back like an anxious puppy while I waited for everyone to catch up.  Each time I turned around I would needle Nug to hurry up or bother her in some way that only a husband has the power to do.  On one of these exchanges I watched her face change expression and her mouth gape open as she attempted to speak.  I didn’t hear a word but instinctively wheeled to face an unseen foe.  Covering the entire path and directly below the sole of my oafish foot was the giant body of an 8ft carpet python (which at that moment looked to be an anaconda).  I immediately broke into an impromptu break dance that I hope no one saw and is never repeated again.  At the same time a strange guttural scream betrayed my fear.  Fate smiled on me at that moment because although my erratic stomping feet tried, I missed the snake and retreated to safety.  The serpent had apparently just dined as there was a massive lump in his gut.

It was scarier in real life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nug laughed once I was out of danger and my Dad proceeded to further wound my dignity by stepping on the snake’s tail as it slithered away “so we could get better pictures.”  The rest of the walk was amazing with cascading waterfalls and caves, yet behind every tangle of roots I saw more pythons lurking.

Behind the curtain

Twin Falls

 

 

 

The Infamous Barrier Reef

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Have you been to the Barrier Reef?  My haughty response was always “Nah, but I have seen tons of coral reefs in tropical places before.”  The credulous reply was habitually, “You have too!  It’s one of the highlights of Australia!”  This groundhog day conversation had annoyed me to no end.  After a few trips Down Under and repeatedly fielding the question we decided to discover what all of this fuss was about.  Nug and I booked cheap flights to Cairns on Jetstar in April and packed for a week in “Tropical Queensland”.  On the flight there I read about all the critters that can kill you in dreadful ways.  “I don’t think I want to leave the room,” I confided to Nug.  As we walked off the plane the sticky tropical heat clung to us like stink to a Frenchman.  The volcanic mountains soared skyward and we literally swam through the humidity to our Rent-a-Bomb rental car (You can’t beat this outfit for cars that look like they came from the dump or the cheap price).  We hadn’t even left the state of Queensland but it felt like we were on a tropical island.  We jumped on the “Tropical Great Ocean Road” and rubbernecked amazing scenery as I tried to navigate hairpin turns.  Everything was electric green…except the water which was a poo brown and reminded me of a dirty day in Jax Beach.  We made a pit stop at a beach and were encountered by signs warning of “Marine Stingers” or jellyfish.  In April the box jellyfish, which has the world’s most deadly venom, is prevalent.  It is an odd feeling to sit at the water’s edge and know that less than 10ft away is a creature that with the slightest brush of its tentacle could send you into painful spasms which could lead to your demise.  Needless to say the water was to dirty for a dip…oh, and the jellies made it even less inviting.

Marine Stinger Warning

Port Douglas

 

 

 

 

 

Video of Tropical QLD

 

 

 

We continued to Port Douglas and passed what must have been 200 roundabouts…apparently they don’t believe in traffic lights.  Port Douglas was an amazing island style town with great restaurants, mountain views, and a fantastic waterfront market on Sunday.  We explored several national parks including Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and the Daintree Rainforest but our main goal was to get to the Great Barrier Reef.

Nug at Mossman Gorge

Daintree Rainforest

 

 

 

 

 

 

We booked a cruise on Calypso and were met with a morning of off and on rain.  Either way we were committed as we rode to a patch of reef 32 miles off the coast.  The woman next to us was horribly sick the whole ride.  If it wasn’t for Nug’s foresight and the sea sickness meds my landlubber ways would have had me competing with her in a barf contest.  I skeptically mentioned that I hoped the ride would be worthwhile, while harboring low expectations.  We arrived at the 1st snorkel spot and it appeared to be a random spot in the middle of the ocean.  Nug and I pulled on musty jellyfish condoms (lycra body suits to protect from marine stingers) and were the 1st ones off the boat into the water.

Heading to the GBR!

Wearing the jellyfish condoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My pompous façade was instantly washed away as I stared in wonderment at the underwater scene.  The sharks, rays, turtles, thousands of fish, corals, and cornucopia of colors were stunning.  I thought I had seen great coral reefs before but this was like the allegory of the cave for me.  I thought my head was going to explode!  The 4 hour journey went by in what felt like 15 minutes.  On the ride back I had to admit, “The Great Barrier Reef is the real deal,” before I passed out in the corner like a tuckered out child.  Now I am just trying to avoid being one of the zealots who bombards people who have visited Australia with the annoying question, “Have you been to the Barrier Reef?”

 

If you have made it this far and can bear any more here are 2 vids from our snorkel trips to the reef!

 

Fat Kid Showdown and Other Tales

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-I proudly consider myself to be a fat kid.  I easily scarf down 7 or 8 of Nug’s epic oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.  Ted has always claimed that he is as well.  The two of us crushed 50 of Nug’s cookies in 2 days.  I thought that I could keep pace with him but the epiphany came on a trip down the coast.  We stopped at Suffolk Park Bakery, home of mouthwatering sugar laced baked goods that typically cost $3-$5 each.  In less than 24 hours Ted dropped over $50 at this fat kid oasis.  This compared to my paltry $30.  My sucrose induced cataleptic fit was spoiled by the bitter truth.  I’m an imposter fat kid compared to Ted the authority.

The Showdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suffolk Bakery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Undisputed “Fat Kid Champion” in his element.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-We took a trip to Noosa and we threw Ted in the back of the van and shut all the curtains since it is illegal to drive with a passenger in the back seat.  We saw a double rainbow on the ride and I did an impeccable impression of the YouTube “classic” of the Yosemite double rainbow to blank looks from Nug and Ted.  Neither had ever seen it apparently.  Our van, “Smelter”, maxes at 80kph so it was a 3 hour drive.  We passed a car for the first time EVER on the highway and had a celebration…nevermind that the driver had the hazards blinking and was going about 50kph.

“Stay Down!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-On our 1st day in Noosa we resolved to rent a few longboards and surf the points.  On the way to town we saw several kangaroos.  I was deafened by Ted’s boisterous shout when he saw them.  He was like a kid on Christmas morning.  “That’s the 1st kangaroo I’ve ever seen!  WOOOO!” he shouted.  The enthusiasm was contagious.  We found 2 longboards “for hire” at the Quiksilver shop.  One was far superior to the other.  Somehow, Ted asserted claim to the beauty first.  I sulked like a small child who didn’t get his way and refused to talk to him for the next hour.  He overlooked my infantile antics and we switched off boards over the next 3 hours at Tea Tree Bay.  It was incredibly fun with only a few people around.

 

Tea Tree Bay, Noosa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ted

Ted

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nose knows the nose.

Short Stories with Tall Ted

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-The Gold Coast Titans are the local rugby team and we decided to go check out a game.  The team color is similar to the Jacksonville Jaguars so we suited up as if we were headed to a Jags game.  We had a few beers at the Kirra Beach Hotel and took a bus to the stadium.  My micro bladder couldn’t make the trip.  I had to find relief on the bus with the help of a water bottle while Nug and Ted covered for me.  We cheered for the home team and finally learned the rules of rugby.  I set out to get $6 beers for the 3 of us.  I immediately noticed the dilemma of carrying them all.  “Would you like a carry tray?” the attendant asked.   “That would be great!”  I responded.  I was notified that the tray cost 50 cents.  I dismissively laughed at him and declined.  On the hike back to the seats I spilled at least $2 worth of beer before giving Nug and Ted their cups.  The end of the game reminded me of watching a Jags game when the home team Titans gave up the lead and were defeated in the last 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– One night Nug, Ted, and I went to the Cooly Hotel to catch some live music.  An incredibly stout “soul” woman was belting out some amazing covers of everyone’s Motown and disco favorites.  The beats were infectious and soon we were all out on the dance floor.  Ted bellyached that his height made him a beacon for attention.  “That’s perfect!  Everyone can see your dancing skills,” I said.  The three of us persisted to throw down honky moves for the next hour.  By some means the singer singled me out and persuaded me to get up on the stage.  I was soon peer pressured into dancing on stage with her.  Ted gleefully laughed at my pathetic contortions in front of the crowded bar.  The tables had been turned.  I understood his complaint.  Nug’s face wore the undeniable look of embarrassment for me.  I continued to awkwardly gyrate on display while the portly woman (she was easily twice my weight) manhandled my scrawny frame.  After several songs, I worked my way back into the anonymity of the crowd.  Ted was literally crying as he stated me that “Everyone got to enjoy your dancing skills!”

 

 

 

-Ted’s arrival in Australia coincided with 3 weeks of blue skies and pumping surf.  One day we drove to Currumbin Alley to get away from the Cooly crowds.  The waves were well overhead and the current was horrendous.  Ted managed to make it out fairly easily while I was bombarded by walls of whitewater.  I was ripped a quarter of a mile down the beach before making it out the back.  We both got some good rides and after 2 hours I decided to call it quits.  We had the camera so I decided to snap a few photos.  At that moment the biggest wave of the day rolled through and Ted happened to be in the right position for it.  He got the best ride of the morning as I muttered to myself, “Lucky bastard!”

Kangaroo Beach

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On a recent road trip into New South Wales we stopped at Moonee Beach Reserve to hang out with the native kangaroo population. Here is a short video of that morning.

Port Douglas Low Isles

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A short video from our trip to the Low Isles.

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