Category Archives: Travel Journal

Yes, I’m alive!

Some updates:

– I spent a long time hiding in my room here in Melbourne launching a new website, and working on my resume… because…

– It’s time to WORK. Still working on making that happen, but I think I’m ready. Sure, I’ve been saying that for awhile now, but after being a lazy backpacker for a few months, and then being a lazy Melbourne resident for a few months, I could use some activity beyond going to the gym and the pub.

– I miss summer. It’s getting quite chilly here, and the days are short. To make matters worse, I keep getting sick. Little colds here and there, and a nasty sore throat earlier this week. Luckily, we have plenty of hot tea and a fireplace!

– Speaking of being sick and lazy, last month I watched the entire series of The Wire in about ten days. That averages out to around 6 hours of The Wire per day. Not my finest moment, but damn, it was enjoyable. Now I know what everyone else was talking about. Some wonderful characters there, like Stringer Bell!

– It looks like my mom and stepdad are coming to visit in August. I’ll be hanging out with them in Melbourne, then they’ll head to the Great Barrier Reef without me, and then we’ll meet up again in Sydney. This will probably be tame compared to the crazy shit that’s going to go down when YOU come to visit me. You are coming to visit me, right? Yes, you. The one reading this.

– I owe some people some crazy stories… hopefully I’ll be able to get to those soon. Travel-related stuff will still get posted here, but everything else may end up over at adamkangas.com

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Travel Journal

F*ck you hippies, I’m out!

It is a blustery Saturday afternoon in Melbourne. I have some wet clothes hanging on my balcony, and Notus, Greek god of the southern wind, is trying to scatter them throughout the neighborhood. It rained yesterday, yet earlier today I got so much sun through a cafe window I felt like my face was going to melt. Melbourne Weather(tm): If you don’t like it, wait fifteen minutes.

I have a place to live. I have some new friends. I have been to Ikea twice, and moved some big boxes home using public transit. I recently made my own eggs, for the first time in over nine months. I am rapidly becoming a real person again, instead of a speck of pollen floating on the winds of change.

Open Questions: Is it still considered “traveling” once you have you’ve signed a lease and built Ikea furniture? If not, is this still considered a travel blog if I continue to make posts about my non-travels?



Room Hunting – Success!

Before heading to Melbourne from Perth, I put an ad up on Gumtree (aka “bizarro Craigslist”), describing myself and my search for a open room in one of the hip parts of town.

The first response was from a girl named Kat, saying that she didn’t have a open room for me to move into yet, but that she was organizing a group of people to apply for a lease on “the best house ever”. A few days later I met the crew, saw the house, and signed an application. A few days after that we were approved, and later that week we moved into our new five-bedroom home in Fitzroy.

This description of events probably makes the entire process sound easy, but it was anything but. There were hiccups with the leasing agency involving my foreign status (ixnay on the ackpackerbay!) and my self-employed status (“If you don’t have a boss to verify your income, we’ll settle for talking to your accountant.” “Uh, I don’t have an accountant. I handle my own finances.” “What?”). After being approved for the house, one person backed out. We scrambled to find someone to fill the hole, but only managed to scare a few people off (desperate, needy people do not make the best first impressions on potential housemates).

Eventually we struck a deal that allowed us to move in with three people, and add more at a later date. We have been having much more luck with prospective housemates now that we actually have the house to show them, instead of a few photos and a copy of the floor plan.

I’m now the token boy in the house, enjoying the perks (and higher price) of the master bedroom, sharing the place with Kat, Augie and Corinna. Feelers are out for someone to fill the empty room — preferably a guy to assist with beer/meat consumption and wingman duties.

Room Hunting = speed dating

I’m not one to put all of my eggs into one basket, so I actively looking for other housing options until I finally put pen to lease papers. This was a lot of fun.

I went to check out a lot of potential homes, and drank a lot of free beer/coffee with a lot of potential roommates. Sometimes I clicked more with the room than the roommates. Sometimes I clicked more with the beer than the room. And sometimes I clicked more with the roommates than either. I actually met a few great people in the process.

My friend Owen from college met his current girlfriend when he looked at a room she had open in her apartment. He looked at the apartment, met the people, and went home… only to write an email describing himself as pro-girl but anti-apartment. I used to give him shit for this lazy way of meeting women (yes, I was the bitter single guy critiquing the methods of my seemingly happy friends in relationships), but now I finally understand that this is an absolutely wonderful way to meet people — potentially romantic, definitely platonic, whatever.

It’s like a strange version of speed dating, but by calling it something else people lose all of their weird meeting-new-people hangups. It’s like when my parents told me that calamari rings were a special type of fried cheese during my picky eating years, and tricked me into a lifetime of seafood-appreciation

Now I have a place to live AND some people to hang out with.

Note: this was all permissible since I was actually looking for a place to live. Would it be creepy to go room hunting with no intention of actually moving? Most likely, yes. However, if I were to do it again, would it be in the Top 5 list of creepy things I’ve done? No, probably not.

The death of a backpacker

I emptied my backpack of all of its contents and hid it on the top shelf of my closet. The Green Menace (previously unnamed, but it looks a bit scary up there) has treated me well over the past three months, but I’m temporarily over the concept of living out of a bag… even if it’s a wonderful bag.

Similar to this...

I walked by a local hostel a few days ago on my way to buy something deliciously domestic like 500 thread count sheets. I saw some hairy, shirtless, dreadlocked guys trying to parallel park their giant camper van in a tiny space in front of the building. With a smug smile on my face, I thought “Fuck you hippies, I’m out!”.

All plans for future travel are on hold. Darwin, Alice Springs, Cairns, New Zealand, India, Thailand, Japan: screw off. I’m in MELBOURNE.



“How long are you staying?”

Everyone I meet here asks me this. Stop nagging me, I don’t know!

The lease I signed (12 months) is longer than the time remaining on my visa (9 months). If I end up wanting to do some brief traveling (and return) I’ll need to sublet. If I want/need to leave the area permanently, I’ll have to find someone to take over my portion of the lease.

If I want to stay longer than January 2011, I have some additional visa options. I have six months or so before I need to make a decision!

Pub Trivia

My new friend Tom (who happens to have a lovely room for rent in North Fitzroy) recently invited me out to a pub trivia night in Brunswick, and now I’m hooked.

I always forget just how much I love the rush that comes from probing the depths of my brain for esoteric information, while numbing said depths with copious amounts of beer.

Our two-man team came in 3rd overall out of around twelve teams. The teams that did better than us had far more people than we did. I reckon we’ll be serious contenders if we can add a few more people to the crew! Actually, I don’t care about the top prize… just as long as we keep winning some of the free beer rounds!



The Supermarket of Plenty

I know that stealing is wrong. However, I believe that random errors in my favor are oh so right.

The first time I went to my new local supermarket, I received $10 more in change than I was due, but didn’t realize it until I got home.

The next time I went, I got home and found that among my numerous plastic grocery bags was one full of stuff I hadn’t picked out or paid for. The guy in front of me in line left me a rotisserie-cooked chicken and multigrain rolls!

Random events? Karmic reward for some past good I’ve done? Who cares — beer money and chicken sandwiches!

Improv class

I tried to register for some improv classes which supposedly just started in Melbourne, but the people in charge haven’t responded to any of my email inquiries. Come on jerks, I want some stage time!

3 Comments

Filed under Travel Journal

Hot Days and Cool Nights on Australia’s West Coast

Here’s a brief sampling of things I have supposedly “known” in my life, but didn’t really appreciate until they inconvenienced me in some capacity:

– You should reapply your sunscreen every few hours, especially after spending time in the water.
– There’s more booze in a White Russian than you’re actually tasting.
– Western Australia is a ridiculously huge, empty, expensive place.

I just wrapped up about 10 days on the west coast, traveling from Perth up to Broome. There were plenty of good times, but they were just brief dalliances to break up the incredible amounts of monotonous driving… and driving… and driving some more.

Folks, you haven’t lived until you’ve spent 24 hours straight on a Greyhound Bus without seeing anything resembling civilization in the process. It boggles the mind.

Perth to Broome with Western Xposure
March 24th – 28th

Our bus at the Tropic of Capricorn

Pole-dancing!

"The Loop" at Kalbarri

Nature's Window, Kalbarri

Spending ten days camping across the Nullarbor toughened me up. Five days up the west coast sounded like small potatoes in comparison. And sleeping in actual beds instead of tents at night? Pssh, this was going to be child’s play.

Starting a new tour

One of my favorite parts of going on these adventure tours is the first morning at 7am, when people board the bus for the first time. Like a mob of Romero-era zombies, a group of complete strangers quietly staggers aboard, picks seats, and falls asleep almost immediately. Without any conversation to guide me, I attempt to assign everyone a nickname and figure them out based on looks alone.

Usually I’m wrong, but in the past I’ve been right about a few, including:

– “Quiet Nerd”. Presumed backstory: his backpack is so heavy because it is full of calculators he will spend his evenings playing with, instead of being social and hanging out with rest of us.
– “Typical Asian Tourist Girl”. Prediction: she will throw up the peace sign in a few dozen photos daily. I will do it too, just to be silly.
– “The Beer Brothers”. Observation: they had a big night last night, and are still drunk. This will be a common occurrence.
– “The Tour Floozy”. My inner monologue: Dude, move your bag off of the seat next to you so it looks available!

Everyone boarded, I played my little nickname game, and then we were off.

Same bus, different tours

The bus we were on was doing a 14-day roundtrip between Perth and Broome. You could pay for any number of days up to 14, so different people were with the tour for different lengths of time.

I booked five days, which would leave me in Exmouth so I could spend a few days there doing an advanced course. Some people booked 10 day tours, which would take them to Broome but allow them to fly back to Perth. Some people booked the full 14 days, and regretted it as soon as they realized what a strange creature our tour guide was.

Julie the tour guide

Our tour guide was a loud Kiwi named Julie who always found a reason to get mad at someone about something — sometimes deservedly, but usually because she’s just an insane control freak. She was fine most of the time, but once in awhile her temper would flare up and someone would get chewed out.

Our first run-in with angry Julie came late on the first afternoon, when she got extremely pissed off at two Norwegian guys for drinking beer on the back of the bus. This was in the 30 minutes between buying the beer at the bottle shop and arriving at our night’s accommodation. Apparently beer on the bus is illegal, but so is not wearing a seatbelt; however, she never made anyone buckle up.

The second tongue-lashing was on the second morning. We were the only people staying in a large guesthouse which had more rooms than we required. We weren’t supposed to go into any of the extra rooms, yet the doors to all of the rooms were wide open in the morning. She didn’t know who to blame, so we got yelled at us as a group for not following directions. What actually happened is that I went “missing” in the middle of the night and some people got worried and scoured the property to find me (more on this later).

Later that morning, we went for a hike after being advised to wear shoes instead of flip-flops. Some people shrugged and disregarded the advice, while others simply didn’t have any proper shoes to wear. Halfway through the hike Julie noticed that the small contingent of flip-flop footed fools, and started screaming at them for ignoring her advice: “If you don’t want to listen to your tour guide, I can kick you off the tour right here and you can enjoy the rest of your trip doing things your own way!”

Almost every major road-accessible tourist attraction in Australia has a special section of parking lot reserved for tour buses. These reserved spaces are usually closer to the action than the standard spaces, so you’ll occasionally see some people disregard the sign and park their Honda Civic in the bus zone. Normally this is no big deal, but you should only park in Julie’s spot if you have a death wish.

The best explosion was on a morning that we stopped at a small grocery store to restock our food supplies. While we loitered around the bus waiting for Julie to finish the shopping, we noticed a liquor store down the street. Seduced by the siren song of cold beer, the majority of our group wandered down the street to restock on alcohol. Julie came out of the grocery store soon after we left, and found an rather empty tour bus. By the time she finally gathered everyone up, she was livid. The people who didn’t go to the liquor store got screamed at for not trying to stop us from going. The ones who went got yelled at for delaying the bus, messing up the schedule and ruining the day. When we eventually pulled into our night’s accommodation well ahead of schedule, we considered calling her on her mistake, but figured that would only further anger the beast. Instead, we quietly enjoyed our ample supplies of cold frothy delight.

The Pinnacles

Pinnacles 1

Me @ Pinnacles

Pinnacles 6

We stopped to see “The Pinnacles” at the Nambung National Park.

Pinnacles 3 (Cock & Balls!)

Some of the pinnacles were far more interesting than others.

A night in Jurien Bay: Port and Corona

Our accommodation for the first night was a guesthouse right next to the ocean in a small town called Jurien Bay. We went in for a dip at sunset, and were surrounded by jumping fish and even a small jumping eagle ray.

Some of us stayed up long after everyone else went to bed: Andreas and Christopher from Norway, Saskia from Germany, and Jonathan from Luxembourg.

Saskia didn’t pay attention at the liquor store and accidentally purchased a 4-liter box of sickeningly sweet port, instead of something more “reasonable” like a 4-liter box of Merlot. She convinced us that we should try to drink it all in one night, so that she’d be free to buy a box of something more palatable the next day. This is classic backpacker logic: even if it’s gross, you paid for it, so you need to make sure someone drinks it before you spend any more money.

We sat on the second floor balcony all night long, overlooking the ocean and double-fisting bottles of Corona and bottomless cups of cheap dessert wine. We fought over the music. One minute we’re listening to Mozart, conducting Eine kleine Nachtmusik with our beer bottles; the next and we’re dancing cheek-to-cheek as Sinatra croons Strangers in the Night.

My six-person shared room was hot and stuffy, with the lingering aroma of a fart or two. I grabbed my sleeping bag and went to slept out in the parking lot. I woke up a short time later to people shouting “we found him!” and trying to carry me back into my room. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going; someone saw my empty bed in the middle of the night and got worried. Half of the tour group woke up to search for me, thinking that maybe I’d gone down to the beach and drowned. After a few minutes of protesting they left me alone and headed back to their rooms full of hot, drunken flatulence.

Hungover assistant tour guide

The view from the front seat

Our tour bus was technically a tour TRUCK. The driver sits up in a truck cab, which pulls the special passenger trailer. It gets lonely up in the cab, so Julie had a rule: every day a different person has to join her up front.

I wasn’t firing on all cylinders in the morning, and was the last one boarding the bus. As I got into the back to take a seat and sleep off whatever traces of port and Corona lingered in my system, Julie informed me that my gracious tourmates had volunteered me for duty. Instead of sleeping peacefully in the back, I had a day full of keeping the driver awake and alert up front. Just. Freaking. Wonderful.

The one saving grace was that Julie gave me permission to make liberal use of the tour guide microphone. If I wasn’t going to get any sleep, then neither was anyone else. I spent the entire morning narrating the sights, telling horrible jokes and generally trying to be as annoying as humanly possible. Payback is a bitch.

Heat!

43 degrees outside!

As we drove on the second afternoon, we watched the temperature outside climb higher and higher. Right after it hit 43 degrees celsius (109.4 degrees fahrenheit), we passed by a little blonde girl trying to hitchhike out in the middle of nowhere, absolutely baking in the afternoon sun. We didn’t stop for her; I decided that if she died of heat stroke, we were prime candidates for some back-from-the-grave haunting.

The Dolphins at Monkey Mia

Monkey Mia is famous for the wild dolphins that visit the beach each morning for a free handout — get a job, hippy!

To explain the phenomena briefly, three times a day there are organized feedings in which tourists line up in the shallows, hoping for the chance to hand a dead fish to a hungry dolphin. In order to be eligible for carcass-handling you have to listen to an angry park ranger bore you with dolphin facts for half an hour, and somehow manage not to get yelled at in the process.

If you are standing too deep in the water, you get yelled at. If you attempt to touch a dolphin, you get yelled at. If you give the ranger the stinkeye, you get yelled at. I’m not saying these are bad rules, but it makes for an awful lot of yelling.

I got tired of listening to people get yelled at for various infractions, and wandered off in search of my own food after learning this fun fact: it is very common for a gang of male dolphins to kidnap a lady dolphin and take turns mating with her for days on end, not letting her escape until they’re confident that they’ve successfully knocked her up. The ranger then pointed to a baby dolphin and its mother, explaining that the baby was the result of a time two years ago that mommy disappeared for 60+ days.

That sound you hear right now is all of my female readers squirming uncomfortably in their seats. Hello ladies!

Stromatolites

Later on the 3rd day we went to check out some stromatolites, possibly the most boring tour stop on the history of all tours. I still don’t know exactly what a stromatolite is, and frankly I don’t want to.

Coral Bay

Coral Bay is a tiny beach town (population: 190) right off of the Ningaloo Reef. Just grab a mask and fins and swim a few meters offshore, and you’re snorkeling in an aquatic wonderland.

We stopped in Coral Bay on our 3rd night, and spent the evening drinking beer on the beach, singing our national anthems and staring at the stars.

Our 4th day started with a free morning/afternoon in Coral Bay. Most people paid lots of money to go on some sort of day tour: snorkeling with whale sharks, glass bottom boat trips, etc.

While everyone was out on their mini-adventures, I sat around all day reading my book, hiding from Julie and working on my tan. I couldn’t bring myself to spend $400 to spend a few hours snorkeling with the whale sharks, especially when I had just spent that much money on my 3-day Exmouth diving course.

Exmouth

Cape Range Lighthouse 2

Very similar to Coral Bay, but larger (population: 1995). There’s not much to do except fishing, snorkeling, diving, etc.

Yuka and Gordana on cleaning duty in Exmouth

Me and blurry Saskia

Saskia <3 beer

Since there aren’t many bars, and no nightclubs, it can be hard to find something to keep your occupied at night. We spent the 4th night of our tour hanging around at some picnic tables until we were kicked out for making too much noise. We relocated, and began reveling in a lovely moonlit field full of kangaroo shit.

Exmouth Scuba Adventure
March 29th – April 1st

Ningaloo Dive Boat

I got off the tour after five days in order to take a scuba diving course in Exmouth. I’ve been certified at a basic level since I was 15, but I thought it might be fun to upgrade to an advanced certification.

I needed new photos for my license.

I found the advanced course itself to be ridiculously easy. I’ve probably been on around 100 dives in my life, so I’m at ease while diving. It seemed that everyone else in my advanced class had only passed their basic class the week before, and stayed on for the advanced because they had nothing better to do.

We studied and were tested on things relating to deep diving, underwater navigation, advanced buoyancy control, and fish/invertebrate identification. I handled everything without a problem, whereas some of my fellow students actually got lost during their navigation test. Oops.

Greyhound Bus!
April 1st

I got on the Greyhound bus in Exmouth around 10:30pm on a Thursday. I got off the bus in Broome around 8pm on a Friday.

The ride was boring, and it was incredibly hot in Broome. All I wanted was a cold beer, and was all set to have one until I was informed that alcohol sales were banned due to it being Good Friday. Ugh.

Broome
April 2nd – 4th

A cool coincidence I hadn’t planned: almost all of my old Perth-to-Exmouth tour crew had made it to Broome ahead of me, and were staying at the hostel I checked into. It was good to see everyone again, especially since I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye when they left Exmouth.

My friend Essi from Finland and I went to check out Matso’s Brewery, which boasts such strange brews as mango beer and alcoholic ginger beer. These were pretty great, but I was less impressed by their signature cardamom-infused wheat beer… a strange combination.

It was so hot in Broome that the hostel pool wasn’t much of a relief. Even in the water, you could still feel yourself sweating. Still, better to be wet in a bathing suit than in your dry clothes.

We missed the legendary sunset at Cable Beach by just a few minutes. It’s OK, we had priorities: we were enjoying cold beer back at the hostel and lost track of time.

Before bed I ran into some girls who sounded American, but they turned out to be from Bermuda. My friend Jonathan really wanted to fool around with one, not because she was attractive, but due to some logic that came down to “Luxembourg and Bermuda are both so small, what are the chances?”.

I flew from Broome to Perth, spent a few days there, and now I’m back in MELBOURNE! Time to start something resembling a life!

6 Comments

Filed under Travel Journal

What the hell is a Quokka?

Rottnest Island
March 23rd, 2010

Rottnest Island Cafe

Rottnest Island is known as Perth’s “island playground”. Just under an hour away by ferry, it offers beautiful beaches, excellent surfing and snorkeling opportunities, and an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. A small number of cars are permitted on the island for official government use, and all of the tourists get around on foot, bicycle or via the official shuttles that loop the island.

Salmon Bay

Salmon Bay

I spent a gorgeous Tuesday on Rotto, cycling around the island, soaking up the sun and laughing at the weatherman’s prediction that it was going to be a miserable, rainy day.

Rottnest Lighthouse

The island is named after the indigenous quokkas, strange marsupials which Dutch explorers originally mistook for giant rats — “Rottnest” being Dutch for “Rat’s Nest”. The quokkas have no natural predators on the island, and have no fear of humans.

Quokka Meets Sandyfoot

I said "FEED ME!"

I got off of my bike in the middle of the island to snap some photos of a lighthouse. When I went back to my bike, I found a quokka sniffing the wheel, checking things out. As I started to take photos of the quokka, three more of the furry things popped out of the trees to join the photo shoot. A girl on a bike came across the scene and stopped to take some photos, and then even more quokkas popped out. Too cool.

Pretty Peacock

Peacock walks, guy bikes

Grass munching peacock

Peacock Buddies

Lots of other creatures roam the island, including large numbers of wild peacocks. I had a great time chasing them around with the camera.

A great way to spend my final day in the Perth area, before heading up the West Coast on an adventure into some of the smallest, most isolated towns in Australia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Travel Journal

PHOTO BLAST: Fremantle

Enjoy some photos of Fremantle that weren’t ready until now!

Fire Buskers 2

Sparkler Girl

Cicerello's Landing

Railway Crossing

Uneven Surface

Fremantle Harbor Sunset 2

Fremantle Harbor Sunset 1

Fremantle Harbor Sunset 4

Fremantle Harbor Sunset 5

3 Comments

Filed under Travel Journal

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite. Seriously, Don’t.

Fremantle, Western Australia
March 19th – 23rd, 2010

[I’m having some trouble uploading all of my photos at the moment, so I’ll probably do a bonus PHOTO BLAST post later.]

Fremantle Sunset

I found the city of Perth proper to be bit of a yawner (probably since I’m not a cashed up bogan or an Irish backpacker), and after a week there I was after something a bit more exciting. I’d heard good things about a few of the suburbs: Subiaco, Cottesloe, and Fremantle. How to choose? Easy: follow the beer! Fremantle is the home of my favorite brewery in Australia, Little Creatures.

Bon Scott Tribute

Twisted Firestarters

Sperm Gate

Night Tunnel

Kidogo Arthouse 2

Sunset Girls

I paid $3.60 to ride the train from Perth to Freo, and enjoyed a few enjoyable days and miserable nights.

An Aside: The Good v. The Bad

I’m having a fun time on my adventures, but I feel like I resort to a lot of petty bitching when I post my tales online. This isn’t because I’m sitting around all day hating life — quite the opposite, in fact. This annoyed me for awhile, but I’ve come to terms with and embraced it: it’s a feature, not a bug.

I think it’s because I’m not sure how to relate of my happy but rather pedestrian experiences in an engaging way, e.g. “I sat on a bench at the park all afternoon, reading my book and enjoying the breeze”. Not very interesting, compared to “The guy in the bunk under me was truly a disgusting creature. His version of showering was to lift up the sides of the chowder-encrusted tee he slept in, spraying a woefully brief mist of Axe Body Spray directly into each of his underarm stench epicenters”.

Let’s face it — these are the things I’ll remember thirty years from now, long after I’ve lost count of the beautiful sunsets and Swiss girls. These are the experiences that inside jokes are born from, and the ones that I hope will keep you reading this blog when you could be doing far better things with your time.

So, without further ado…

The Hostel

There aren’t a ton of accommodation options in Freo, and after looking at reviews on HostelWorld.com I decided to opt for Pirates Backpackers which has a slightly high “fun” rating, and a slightly low “cleanliness” rating, when compared to the averages. Holy mistake, Batman!

I thought I’d learned this lesson in the past, but apparently it slipped my mind: you can always leave your clean, boring accommodation to go find some trouble. You can not always leave your stiflingly hot, bedbug-ridden hovel with charming bohemian characters to go find an air conditioned bed.

Basically, the place was fun except for those 8ish hours per day I was expected to be sleeping in my room. Hell, I’d probably even have turned down an invitation to sleep in someone else’s room — if a girl’s room is hotter than she is, no dice.

Not only was my room hot and bedbug-infested, but two of the four beds were occupied by long-term residents: an English guy and an Irish guy who had been there for months and were not planning on leaving anytime soon. They each owned more stuff than could possibly fit in the backpacks they arrived with, and it was strewn everywhere. To help with the heat, they each had purchased personal cooling fans which were pointed directly at their beds, and their beds alone. They managed to fit their own personal mini-fridge into the room, and let me know on Day One that it was for their use only. Other than this brief orientation to the room, they largely ignored me and the various other guys cycled in and out to occupy the fourth bed during my five nights.

After spending some time in the common areas of the hostel I learned that there were a large number of other backpackers staying long-term — living and working in Fremantle and using the hostel as their frat house of sorts. I made friends with some of the more recent arrivals, including an American girl who had just spent the previous year living in Los Angeles, working at the Getty Museum. Knowing some people made place a lot more entertaining, pre-bedtime anyhow.

Most hostels have common areas which close at a certain time each night, to kill the noise so that people can get some sleep, but not Pirates. People stayed in the courtyard drunkenly shouting about this and that until the wee morning hours, while others sat in the TV Room watching Aladdin or other Disney cartoons with the volume maxed at 4am. This was great, since I had nowhere to be most mornings, and each minute spent in the courtyard was one I didn’t have to spend in my room.

Best New Discovery: “Chicken’s Ready!”, a drinking game involving various fowl noises
Best Overheard: “How about I lick that cat’s asshole? That’d impress you girls, right?”

Yacht Club DJs

On my first night in Freo I went to see some mashup DJs from Melbourne perform at a club called Metropolis. Yacht Club DJs are supposed to be Australia’s version of Girl Talk, and I love GT, so it seemed worth $15, and going through the standard Perth-area venue-entry privacy rape.

The Girl Talk comparisons were spot-on: if you like GT, you’d like Yacht Club DJs. A lot of it sounded like a cheap Girl Talk facsimile, but some of their material was very clever and original. I don’t have their album, and I don’t know the names of any of the songs, so all I can do is direct you to their Myspace page.

The show was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as a person I met.

As I’m talking with a group of people, a drunk guy comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder:

“Hey mate, didn’t you come here alone?”
“Yeah, I just met these people.”
“Cool, I came here alone too. I was behind you in line and it didn’t look like you were with anyone. Do you work for the mines too?”
“What?”
“The mines, mate. Do you work up in the mines?”
“No, why would you think that?”
“Oh, most guys who are out alone in Perth work for the mines. Me, I’m on my first day of my five days off. Nine days on up in a mining town, then they fly us down to Perth for five days off. Over and over.”

Drunk Mines Guy (DMG) and I chat. I tell him some travel tales, and he tells me what it’s like being 19 years old and working on a surface support team for an ore mining company:

– “It’s hot as hell up there. Like 40+ degrees at all times.”
– “Mate, to be honest all my boss and I do is sit in the Land Rover, blasting the aircon, and watching DVDs on a laptop. If something goes down in the mines, we get a call and we have to deal with it, but that hardly ever happens.”
– “I worked a few jobs after high school, but there’s no way I’d be making $120k anywhere but the mines.”
– “We have to stay sober up there — at night all we do is watch television shows on DVD and go to bed early… but for our five days off we get absolutely pissed.”

DMG was actually pretty entertaining. The stories were interesting, but the guy seemed to have the attention span of a puppy, and each story was interrupted by a few weird non-sequiturs, e.g. “Oi, look at that girl’s dress, mate! She looks like a disco ball. Let’s hang her from the ceiling and spin her.” Classic drunk guy, or so I thought. He offered me a drink for listening to his tales, which I accepted, and he ran off.

Later in the night I bumped into DMG again. He was much worse for wear, and offered me another drink. Always wary of getting into drink-debts with strangers, I declined. His response: “Well if you aren’t going to let me buy you a drink, at least drop some of my acid. I’ve been dropping heaps all night!”

Ding ding ding! Drunk Mines Guy is really Drunk Mines Guy on Acid” (DMGA). The evening suddenly makes a lot more sense. I end up opting for the free drink — I’ve never done acid, but I’m pretty sure I’d end up heading back to my bug-ridden hellhole of a hostel bedroom and clawing my face off after a single dose. Also, I’m pretty sure that this image would make for an excellent anti-Acid PSA.

An hour later, after the Yacht City DJs set is long over, DMGA spots me once again. He calls out for me to join him. I look, and he’s managed to corner one of the Yacht Club DJs guys. The DJ looks like a kangaroo in the headlights, perhaps thinking “How did I find myself in this conversation, and how do I get out of it?”. DMGA introduces me to the DJ, and we look at each other like “How do we both know this guy?”. The DJ excuses himself, and I decide to head home to bed.

Other highlights:

– Girls in skimpy dresses getting into a fistfight! A sweet reminder of all that I’m missing back in Los Angeles: I miss you, Hollywood Blvd.
– I witnessed two little asian guys go into the guy’s bathroom, rip all of the toilet seats off of the toilets, then throw them into the dance floor crowd. A sweet reminder of an infamous “house-cooling” party my friends and I threw in 2006, after which we couldn’t find our toilet seat for days.

New Clothes, Old Clothes

After ten weeks of traveling, some of my clothes had seen better days. I decided to label a bag “Free clothes!” and load it up with stuff from my dirty clothes bag that I didn’t want to wash and lug around anymore. I left it in one of the hostel’s common areas and went out shopping for new shirts.

I got back a few hours later with $200 in new threads, and immediately encountered a guy wearing one of my old shirts. Strange, but OK… I gave it away, after all. Later that evening I saw yet another guy wearing one of my shirts. Then another. My bag of free stuff must have been like Christmas to these poor, slovenly backpacker types.

One guy proceeded to wear the same shirt for three days in a row. Somehow I doubt he washed it before wearing it. It came from my dirty clothes bag, and the guy looks like the kind of guy that helped me formulate the Law of Smells. Nasty.

Fish and Chips

A Fisherman’s Basket is one of the tastiest, least healthy lunches in existence. There’s nothing like heading down to the docks for beer-battered fish fillets, french fries, fried shrimp, fried calamari, fried imitation crab, and a fried pineapple ring. With a lemon. A completely yellow plate of delights. Visually repellent, but mmm-mmm good.

Diving

A prerequisite for my upcoming dive course in Exmouth is that I have a record of going on at least one dive within the last 12 months. Two problems here: I haven’t gone diving since April 2008, and I haven’t actually filled out a dive log book since 1999. I could have easily forged something, but I figured that some extra diving could be fun.

My travel agent jumped at the chance to book me on yet another adventure he’d make commission on, and $140 later I was booked on a day of diving the Rockingham Wreck Trail — an (alarmingly) densely-packed area of water featuring numerous sunken fishing boats, small crashed aircraft, and even a swing set that went missing from a local park after a cyclone.

The fun started a few meters offshore, so in we walked — a divemaster and his two charges — in full SCUBA gear, wading through the hordes of elementary school kids roughhousing in the shallows.

The visibility under the surface was horrible, but luckily there was a line to follow between the various attractions. The sunken aircraft were the best part: it was a lot of fun to swim into a Cessna through its open door, and swim out through the hole formerly occupied by the windshield, discovering an octopus wrapped around what remained of the controls.

Certainly not the best diving I’ve done, but I’m reminded of some wise words that my stepfather told me long ago, many years before I’d fully understood the meaning: “Diving is like sex. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”

As soon as we were out of the water and put our gear away, a thunderstorm of epic proportions rolled into the area. We slowly made our way through the hail to the Little Creatures Brewery for our debrief, log book signing, and a few pints of heaven.

Mexican Food

I’ve lost count of the number of people who have warned me off of the Mexican food in Australia. Most of it is prepared by people who have never tasted real Mexican food, have poor access to the standard ingredients, and consider it to be some sort of strange foreign delicacy. The whole situation makes me think of a faceless soccer mom in Tulsa, Oklahoma attempting to prepare homemade sushi for the family because she heard something about it on Oprah.

About half of the meals I eat here are southeast Asian in origin, due to the sheer number of Thai, Indian and Vietnamese immigrants who are happy to serve me heaps of spicy grub for under $10.

One fateful Sunday I was seduced by a sign reading “SPECIAL: 50% Off All Tacos”, after discovering that the Asian food court was closed for the day. Great, so the tacos would be In the $0.50-1.00 range, down from $1-2 range, right? WRONG — they were down to $4 from $8. Each. For a fucking TACO — hard shell, meat of choice, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, sour cream, and guacamole. Still probably a ripoff, but hey, how can you argue with HALF OFF?

Two rather blah tacos and a plate of chicken nachos later, I’m out $20 bucks, regretting my decision, and longing for Malo on Sunset, the Silverlake Burrito King, and Senor Fish in Echo Park.

Never again.

Random

– It took awhile to place the faces, but at the hostel I ran into a Scottish guy and an English girl that I shared a campfire the week before, near the end of my Nullarbor trip. “Hey, did you two share a campfire with a big group of people last week, at that weird place with all of the biting flies?”

– Our divemaster was a 22-year-old nerdy guy from Singapore, and despite his confidence regarding diving he seemed to lack it in all other areas. Instead of pointing out women on the beach and saying “hey man, she’s hot!” definitively, it was always an apprehensive “Hey man, that girl is pretty hot, right?”. As if he didn’t actually know, and just wanted to fit in… “This hail, it’s pretty bad, right?”, “This beer, it’s the best one they have here, right?”, “Me, I’m an annoying fraidy-cat who can’t form my own opinions, right?” etc.

On Flickr: Full Photoset

2 Comments

Filed under Travel Journal

Perth: My Accidental Girlfriend

Perth
March 12th – 19th

P1020726

Perth is like the blonde in the bar that catches your eye after you’ve had too much to drink. Even in the dim light you can see that she’s wearing a fair amount of concealer, but your vision is too hazy to gauge the extent of the damage. She can barely pull off wearing the outfit she’s decided to go out in, but she thinks she can. You know full well that things may not be as they appear, but dammit, she’s attractive enough at this very moment, so you’re going to march right up to her and give it your best shot — any potential issues can wait for later.

P1020705

The first night goes well enough… the hookup is awkward, but not the worst you’ve had by a longshot. Dawn breaks, and as you discreetly try to make it out the door without waking her, you pass the bookshelf and notice a few well dog-eared books by your favorite author. This is enough to flip a small switch in your head, and all of a sudden you’re sticking around, making scrambled eggs (for some odd reason you’re really bothered that she keeps her frying pans in the cupboard above the sink instead of the low one next to the oven, but you let it slide) and making plans for every day for the next week.

P1020689

One night you’re out at a “reasonably priced” restaurant she claims is her favorite, and you wince at the fact that the cheapest cocktails are $16, moreso once she starts putting Long Islands down like it’s her job. As you casually mention how delicious (and “reasonable”) your $8 Gin and Tonic is, she hits the cocktail menu once more and orders something with sambuca in it because “that word sounds funny”.

P1020691

A few nights later you steer a conversation away from American Idol and ask her about those books you saw on her shelf. “So which one is your favorite?”, you ask. She blinks a few times, and replies “Oh, those all belong to my ex-boyfriend. He really loves them, so I pretended that I couldn’t find them when he asked me to return his stuff.”

You proceed to shoot yourself in the face.

P1020712

This is a longwinded way to express my opinion that Perth is: (a) less attractive than it thinks it is, (b) expensive, (c) boring and (d) kind of a bitch. It’s the brightest and best city that Western Australia has to offer, but it just ain’t Melbourne (or Sydney).

I’ll admit, it roped me in. After ten days in the Outback I really wanted to spend some time in a nice city, so I booked a few weeks in Northbridge based on a few reports of “it’s nice”!

I’m just about ready to let Perth know that “it’s not you, it’s me”.

My main complaints would be:

– Large portions of the city’s most popular areas are completely dead except on the weekends. Granted, I’m an unemployed traveller with almost no reason to know which day of the week it is at any given moment, but in a sufficiently big city it shouldn’t be too hard to find something to do at the drop of a hat.

– Whenever something is actually going on, you have to jump through a ton of hoops and give away your privacy to actually get into a bar. Elsewhere in the country I almost never get carded, and my California Driver’s License works fine when I do. In Perth I need to provide my passport (just the thing I want to be carrying around at boozetime), pose for a photograph, and give them my FINGERPRINTS. Then the name of the person who grants you entrance into the club gets stamped onto your arm in ink, so they know who to hold accountable if you’re found face-down in a garbage can in the lady’s restroom. TSA agents could learn something from this shit.

– Things are pricy as a traveller. Perth is extremely isolated, so most stuff has to be imported from far away. On top of that, a large number of the people in town are LOADED. The mining industry is huge in Western Australia, and pays extremely well, so there are always a lot of people with money to burn, so the prices stay high.

– If you were a nerdy type during high school in Perth, you wouldn’t have the joy of watching all of the people who made your life difficult skip college and go to work at the local gas station. Instead, you’d go off to university while they all go to go work in the mines, and every time you’d be home on winter break you’d be reminded of how much more money they make than you.

P1020680

The place isn’t all bad. Beautiful parks. Great coffee. Attractive ladies.

P1020717

I really enjoyed my five nights in a proper hotel, with my own queen-sized bed, no roommates, and the air conditioning blasting.

P1020723

My St. Patrick’s Day almost sucked, but after suffering through hordes of drunk Irish I remembered an event I’d seen advertised earlier in the day. I hoofed it a few miles away from the city center, and found a place called the Flying Scotsman that had a weekly Wednesday Mod night. Vintage miniskirts, some nice new friends, and dancing to The Who. Win.

Off to Fremantle, Perth’s popular beach suburb for a few days. At the very least, I know that it’s home to my favorite Australian brewery, Little Creatures.

1 Comment

Filed under Travel Journal