So, I’m heading in a general homewards direction in about an hour. Have just crammed as much as possible into my suitcase and rucksack; with all of the PNG bilums (wool bags), spears, arrows etc it wasn’t easy. I’ve had to leave quite a lot behind including the ‘mud men’ masks which is a shame – they’re left in very good hands though! Have spent the last couple of days getting my first glimpse into the world of moving house. Having never moved house, or even witnessed anybody moving house before, it was a completely novel experience helping Kieran to pack up his house into boxes. There were a series of complications which resulted in the removal van being unloaded into a storage facility through a small door which could only be open for four minutes before the alarm went off leading to a $60 fine! Anyway, I’m bizarrely arriving into England tomorrow morning at 7 despite the fact that I’ve got 14+8 hours of flying and over 4 hours in Singapore…fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly!
I’ve now touched down back in Brisbane, but the last evening in Sydney was definitely one to remember. In the afternoon I tried my hand at the flying trapeze which was fantastically fun. It was with ‘Sydney Trapeze School’ in the middle on Centennial park, if anyone’s interested in giving it a go! That evening we went to see ‘La Soirée’ at the Opera House. The act was like an intimate cabaret with a circus twist; There was a very small circular stage in the centre of the studio with little tables and chairs running around the outside. It was outstandingly brilliant: As vibrant as a full-blown circus, as impressive as the Olympic gymnastics and as witty as a show at the comedy store in London. It’s a definite must-see for anybody in the Sydney area!
I almost stepped on one of these earlier. My foot was around twelve inches above it’s torso before I suddenly noticed it on the path. I flew backwards and in my shock I could barely articulate a proper swear word. On identifying it on our return to Libby’s house we discovered that not only is it endangered but according to the ‘Australian Venom Research Unit’ the ‘broad headed snake’ “may become agitated when disturbed, and strike rapidly. Its venom contains neurotoxins and procoagulants…and may cause serious illness.” I’m very glad that we didn’t attempt to get a photo, as the snake was in fact raised up into this threatening position, but it does mean that I’ve had to borrow a photo off the internet so forgive me for that!
At 7:30 am on New Year’s Eve Kieran and I arrived at the botanical gardens to a ridiculously large number of people already snaked around the park in a neat seated queue. We waited until around nine o’clock when somebody decided to get up, naturally resulting in a mass stampede towards the end of the field. We dived into the mob and got swept away up the hill eventually petering out into what vaguely resembled a line. The gates didn’t even open until 10 and there were thousands of people in front of us. By some stroke of luck we managed to pitch a spot right at the tip of ‘Lady Macquarie’s Chair’ with a fantastic view of the bridge and Opera house. This was quite an accomplishment as at the end of the hour, there wasn’t a patch of grass visible with 17,000 people crammed in like sardines. The day’s toil was definitely worth it; it has to be one of the finest firework displays that the world has to offer.
Since then we’ve spent our time getting familiar with the city. We popped on a ferry over to Manly yesterday. The ferry ride itself was gorgeous but Manly was almost as packed as the botanical gardens were the evening before. We later made a visit to the largest cinema screen in the world – the IMAX where we watched the hobbit (in my case, for the second time but the other’s were desperate to see it). The screen was so big that you had to look around you to get the whole picture!
Today unfortunately Anna and Hannah have had to head in a general homewards direction so four has become two. Kieran and I, though, have had a fantastic day exploring what the city has to offer in terms of galleries and museums. The ‘Art Gallery of New South Wales’ in my opinion in definitely preferable over the ‘Museum of Contemporary Art’. The Australia Museum is also worth a visit. One particularly fantastic exhibition was ‘surviving Australia’ which covered the natural history of the country. I genuinely had no idea that there had been giant marsupial lions and tigers in Australia. It seems completely weird! There was also a giant marsupial called a diprotodon which was unlike anything I was aware had ever existed! http://news.nationalgeographic.co.uk/news/2003/10/1016_031017_giantmarsupial.html
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former. “ Albert Einstein
We went to see the new Les Miserables film on the 27th. It was spectacular – really did the musical proud. I hope Hugh Jackman gets the Oscar for it. We then headed out on the 28th on our trip down to Sydney, stopping first in the hippy haven known as Byron Bay. One of the highlights was a man cycling round with a stall selling coconuts. Fantastic. A storm started brewing over the beach so we moved on (after getting a thorough soaking) to a beautiful little coastal town called Yamba which was decidedly less busy! At night we drove down to our YHA hostel in Cops Harbour but came and went like ghosts in the night, leaving early in the morning to get down to Port Stephens in good time. It was there that I finally met Wendy (the lady who helped to set up my volunteering in PNG). She whisked us away to her ‘sand pit’: a national park consisting of a vast expanse of sand dune, where we had another crack at sand boarding before rinsing off in the sea. Hannah and I did a fantastic yoga session on the beach which was quite amusing considering the strange looks we were getting from the fleets of tourists.
That morning we popped out on a, rather cheesy, camel ride which was nevertheless good fun before heading on our way once more. We arrived in Sydney just after lunch to an extremely welcoming household. We’re staying with Aunt Sally’s friend Libby and her family in Northern Sydney, a short train journey from the central city so an ideal location for us! We headed out in the car to have a look around and got very excited crossing Harbour Bridge for the first time and seeing the view of the opera house! We stopped off at Bondi beach. Over the trip we’ve been making a compilation of ‘jump’ shot photographs in different places so had a go jumping off a ledge around a metre and a half high onto the sand. It was the most hilarious stupidity I’ve been party to in a while. Kieran jumped off and the sand was surprisingly hard so he twisted both of his ankles badly. I idiotically followed a while after and jumped even higher, giving little thought to the landing as it didn’t appear to be too far down. I landed on a rock and, apart from twisting both of my ankles, seriously jammed my knee resulting in an inability to walk for the rest of the day. Useful. Even after this Anna then jumped off as well and jammed her ankles too. How hilariously ridiculous.
Christmas this year was pretty odd to say the least. I made the others mini stockings with my hiking socks and stuffed them with wrapped fruit! Exciting! We had a fairly heavy egg-nogg and pancake breakfast before loading the car with camping gear and heading off. Christmas lunch took place at Nandos, followed by a ‘golden gaytime’ ice-cream (that is actually the name of an ice-lolly here). We arrived at Spring brook rainforest at around five and, after setting up camp, went to see the view from a lookout point. It didn’t disappoint. We also spotted some paddy-melons (wallabies) on the way which was a bonus. There was also an adorably fat bandicoot scuttling around the bbq area in the evening!
On Boxing Day we trumped our usual Cornish beach walk with a 17km hike through the rainforest. At one point Hannah and I were walking along, happily chatting about Paris when I suddenly noticed a large blue and red crustacean brandishing it’s claws at me a metre ahead on the path. I swore loudly and jumped about a foot in the area much to Hannah’s amusement. It transpired to be a ‘Lamington spiny crayfish’. To be fair, who expects to see a bloody lobster in the middle of the forest! We weren’t even near a stream! We actually saw a couple more. The highlight was finding a large carpet python which I, again, almost trod on. It was coiled on the side of the path and my heart stopped for a split second before I noticed the pattern on its back. I would not be good at staying still if I got that close to a taipan (the most venomous snake in Aus)! The python was extremely lethargic. It only moved off when Melissa and I touched its tail.
The antagonist of the story became apparent after a few km. I noticed a little blob on my arm which I eventually twigged was a leech. We then looked down and noticed that our shoes and socks were covered in the disgusting little creatures. We had to then make regular stops to ‘de-leach’. The little buggers were even swarming inside the car; we kept on finding them in our shoes even once we’d driven back to the campsite! That night we also made a fleeting visit to the Spring brook glow worm caves which were spectacular – completely covered in Asian tourists though, not quite as authentic an experience as our walk in New Zealand! We drove back today, stopping for the day at the gold coast for a sun-bathe and a swim which was fantastic after the pouring rain in the rainforest over Christmas and Boxing Day (we got completely soaked on our walk and remained damp for the duration).
Christmas Eve: we headed out to Moreton Island off the coast of Brisbane. The ‘luxury catamaran’ transfer to Tangalooma resort turned out to be a ferry full of Asians. We then proceeded to be herded around like livestock. Absolutely everything had a hidden price –the epitome of a ‘tourist-trap’. What little we managed to get out of the sand-boarding trip was fun though, granted, a face and mouth full of sand seemed inevitable but that was sort of part of the fun. We considered burying our sand boards and sneaking back later for a proper go but got distracted by the all-you-can-eat buffet. The snorkelling in the pile-up of shipwrecks off the island was absolutely incredible. We saw a couple of green turtles, all the usual suspects: parrot fish, box fish, clowns, angels etc. Melissa even spotted a golly wog/wobbegong/wolly gog wog (whatever the hell the thing was called, stupid bloody Australian names) hidden in one of the wrecks. A wobbegong is a large bottom feeding shark – they’re pretty stunning – see the photo below.
The end to the day was the ‘feeding the wild dolphins’ experience. It was quite possibly the touristiest thing I’ve ever done, perhaps in close contention with the camel ride in Morocco. A large crown on the pier (predominantly Asian) watched us strip into our bikinis and be herded down into the water in pairs. We only actually got a minute or two in the water it was ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, the actual feeding of the dolphins was fantastic but we only got one fish and weren’t allowed to touch them as apparently they don’t like it. I beg to differ; mine was rubbing up against my legs like a domestic cat and poking my hand with its nose, hoping for more fish. It was hilarious watching some of the other tourists having a go – the marine workers were having to swat away their hands, molly-coddling the hell out of everybody, of course, but you can sort of see why it was necessary!
We’ve just spent the doomsday weekend (congrats everyone for making it through) on fraser island. In a nutshell it was three days of sand forest, sand dunes, sandy lakes and getting sand thoroughly ingrained in all of our stuff . … Continue reading →
“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. “ – Oscar Wilde
Anna, Hannah and I have spent the last couple of days getting acquainted with Brisbane. We’ve visited a man-made beach in the middle of the city, done laps of the local markets to gather up the free tasters, wandered around the city popping into ‘tat’ shops and sauntered around the beautiful botanic gardens with the cockatoos and sacred ibis filling the skies. My personal favourite has been the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art: Fantastically curated, with some really exciting exhibitions due to the ‘seventh Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’. I particularly was taken with ‘Raqib Shaw’, a London-based Indian artist who creates fantastically extravagant fantasy paintings which encapsulate a sense of Japanese delicacy whilst conveying incredibly graphic scenes. His work is incredibly original; He uses stain-glass paint, enamel, glitter and rhinestone which he manipulates with a porcupine quill to create the most incredibly intricate pieces on a grand scale. His large ‘Paradise Lost’ below understandably took him ten years to complete. If you have a moment it’s definitely worth checking him out: http://whitecube.com/artists/raqib_shaw/, although it’s impossible to get across the sense of the grandeur or the texture of the paintings through a photograph or a print.
On a slightly less cultured note, I also accidentally kicked a baby in the face. Not a proud moment. Seriously though, who expects there to be babies all over the floor in an art gallery – Of course I wasn’t watching my feet I was looking at the walls! Luckily the baby was absolutely fine and the mother was very understanding…How embarrassing!