Monday, September 29, 2003

G'day guys, how ya goin?

I'm goin pretty good. Sitting in a cafe in Byron Bay.

Well, Airlie beach didn't look so bad in the daylight, and I managed to book onto the same package as my friend Alex so at about 3pm we went down to the marina to find our boat. Our boat was called Jade and was skippered by a weatherbeaten old ozzie who's philosophy seemed to be "at sea, anything goes..." I can't really think of a lot to say about the trip. We spent the days lying around on thre deck of our catamaran, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters, visiting blinding white beaches etc, and the nights getting horribly drunk and sprawling in jaccuzis.

After our sailing trip, we got the bus down to Rainbow beach where we were doing an organised trip to Fraser Island. Now this is damn cool and I highly recommend it to anyone. Here's the jist of it:

take 10 young travellers, give them a 4x4 landcruiser, some tents, a load of food with an day by day menu of what to eat, an itinery of where to go and what to do, and then send them off in the direction of the ferry, via the off-licence..... :)

It was a bit like "Survivor - Fraser Island" crossed with "The Amazing Race 7 - Bickering Backpackers", but I enjoyed it all.. :) Needless to say, my driving skills were top-notch. On the first day, I was driving back along the beach and the tide was coming in fast. We had about 10 mins left to find the camp site and tensions were running high in the group. We had been told by the organisers and rangers that everytime we approached a "washoff" (stream/river running out to sea over the sand), we should send someone out to check how deep it it and how high the edge is. We did this for the first, but it was a waste of time as it was really shallow. As we approached the second washoff, I thought "fuck, this one looks quite deep" and I looked at my co-driver, who would be the one who had to wade out into it. "Just go for it" he said, and without another thought, i did. We flew off the edge of the bank, which turned out to be about 2 feet abover the water, and nose dived into the water, which turned out to be about 3 feet deep. The water came crashing up into the windscreen and for a good second i couldn't see a thing except water, and images of ppl passing our jeep stuck nose first in a river bed kept sneaking into my head. Luckily however, i was going pretty fast, and the momentum pulled my through the river and I revved up the other bank. But everything was soaked with salty water, which is one of the few things you are NOT allowed to do or your insurance is screwed. But fuckit, how were they gonna tell eh? The car kept going so i was happy, and my passengers forgave me pretty quickly, cos lets face it, living safely is boring, getting fucked up sucks, but living dangerously and not getting fucked up, now that's FUN! :D

Friday, September 19, 2003

Greetings from hell!

The story so far:

Decided to leave "The Treehouse", after keeping everyone awake till 3am playing guitar and doing martial arts in the kitchen... Moved to a new place called the "Beachshack"... good move! It was right on the beach, and felt like being at home! Big leather sofas, huge tv, video, X-Box, pool, free bikes, free tea and coffee, bathroom with power shower, bath, spa....!!!! I met some really great people there and apart from a bit of a bed-bug scare and a lot of cheap wine hangovers, it was all good... But then yesterday it was time to leave mission beach and move south.. but not after first doing a skydive from 12000 feet right onto the beach!! It's hard to explain the experience, except that it is awesome! I learned some interesting things about my rather odd brain that day too. During the whole experience, not once did I feel the slightest feeling of anxiety or nervousness, even as I swung my legs over the edge of the minute little plane and fell out, I was calm as a cucumber.... but then later, as I waited to catch my bus south, I felt anxiety building in my stomach as I worried about whether i would make the bus on time, whether i'd forgotten something etc etc! So what's going on here!?? How is it that I can be completely worry free when throwing myself out of a plane at 12000 feet but can't relax trying to catch a bus, even though I have a lift arranged already? I think I have a major problem of anxiety priority disorder. Anyway, I got a video of me doing the jump so folks at home can watch it once i post it back! :)

Anyway, I know you all hate it when I'm having too much fun, and it makes for a pretty boring read, so you'll be pleased to know that last night I arrived in hell. Well maybe not hell, but definitely a suburb of hell. It is called Airlie beach, despite having no beach, and it is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, which apparantly are stunning. Airlie, however, is not. It is a big long strip of bars and shops populated by drunken tourists staggering around a being sick. I arrived at 9:30pm, and was gutted to find out that all the "relaxed" hostels were closed already, and all that remained open were the two "party" hostels in the middle of town. I picked one at random and checked in. My dorm ended up being right above the pub/club with a balcony directly over the beer garden should I feel the need to throw up on someones head. The noise was at a level that made thought difficult.. I guess this was my treehouse bad karma coming back to bite me... luckily i have an MD player and some good tunes, so all was well in the end and I managed to get to sleep...

Maybe i'm just a boring bastard and I should have just downed half a bottle of tequlia and gone and joined the first group of young drunk people I saw... but I think the truth is even more shocking.... I'm getting older! Nooooo! Yes, it's true, every day that passes I am getting progressively older and strange metabloic and psychological changes are taking place that make drinking too much and being sick seem less and less appealing each day. I mean I still love to get hammered with a group of people I like in a cool setting, but the 100's of people down in that pub last night was just noy my idea of a cool setting.... anyway, I guess I've been travelling too long when i say that being in a party town is hellish... compared to having a shit job and working 9 to 5 I guess it does have some advantages... ;)

Mmmmm, not sure what else to write about.... It's not like asia where everyday something bizzare happens that I can write about... life here is pretty damn predictable, but pretty cool all the same. I can see why most brits just come backpacking here and skip asia, as it is basically just like britain except everything is bigger and more spread out, the beaches are more beautiful, the weather's better, and the people are generally more friendly.... But it doesn't feel like travelling. It feels like a long and rather expensive holiday... damn that exchange rate! Ok, I'm starting to bore you now, I'm sorry, i'll leave......

Sunday, September 14, 2003


well, here's the highlights of the last few days:

I arrived in Cairns after a pretty impressive flight over the vast area of nothingness that is central australia. Finally I was actually "backpacking" in australia! I got a bus to the hostel, which was easy.... too easy..... and was shocked by the hostels appearance. It was just so.... clean! The receptionist was very friendly, and gave me the key for my dorm, so I went to get settled in. My dorm was empty, but there were other backpacks lying around. It wasn't really a "dorm" in the sense that I understood, it was just a bedroom with 4 beds in it. I was expecting a huge room with 20 or so beds! I looked around to see if I could find any clues as to what the other guys sharing my room might be like. The first thing I spotted was a pink anorak on one of the coat hooks... not a good start. Then I saw that one guy had a small teddy bear keyring attatched to his bag... then I looked closer and saw that one guy had a bra poking out of the top of his bag!!! Then it suddenly dawned on me! I was in the wrong dorm! This must be a girls dorm, and any second a girl was going to open the door wrapped in a towel, see me there, scream and run to get the security guard! I was about to run back to the reception and tell her that shed given me the wrong kety, when I noticed under one of the beds was a pair of mens shoes.... mmmm, this was very odd... could it really be that they had MIXED dorms here?! In asia that would have been impossible, but I suppose here that wasn't so strange....

After discovering that they were in fact mixed dorms, I realised my next problem. I was used to every guest house having a restaurant and being able to afford everything on the menu ten times over, but when I walked out of my room, I realised that there was no restaurant, and everyone else was busy cooking food in the communal kitchen. I asked one guy if there was any restaurant near by, and he told me that there wasn't, but there was a supermarket 5 mins walk away. So, I set off for the supermarket. Walking into the supermarket, I suddenly realised what it must feel like for someone from india when they first arrive in the west... it was completely overwhelming. How could I possibly find something to eat in here?! It was just huge! There was more food in this one supermarket than i saw in the whole 3 months i spent travelling in india! It really felt quite obscene. I wandered around trying to figure out how to buy just enough for 1 meal for 1 person, and eventually setteled for:

1 small courgette
1 small onion
2 packets instant noodles
1 clove garlic

I went back to the hostel and cooked a rather disgcuting stir fried noodle dish which stuck to the pan, and spent the rest of the evening watching "who want's to be a millionaire" on tv. So far this wasn't really seeming that great.....

The next day I decided I needed to do something exciting to get myself into the trip, so I set off to book a diving trip. I ended up booking myself on a 4 day, 3 night "liveaboard" diving trip that left in 1 hour!! After hurridly packing a few things, i was on the boat and heading out to sea. At this point I discovered that "Holmes Reef" where we were headed was actually 150 miles out to sea and would take 17 hours to reach!!! That night I slept like a baby........ in a washing machine. It was mad. It felt like being on a fairground ride, with one minute the g-force really pushing your loose flesh into the matress, and the next minute you whole body being waitless as the bow of the boat crashed up and down....

The following morning we went diving. I won't tell you about all the diving, cos you had ro be there really, but I will tell you about the last one: The shark feed! First onr of the crew threw dead fish overboard to show us how many sharks were in the water. As soon as the fish had left his hand, the sharks and Giant trevelli were racing through the water towards the point of impact, and the second it hit the water it was engulfed by a mass of thrashing tails and gnashing jaws!!! There must have been 20 to 30 sharks plus many other massive mean looking fish in there! Bear in mind that this is not "underwater World" I'm talking about, this is the ocean, 150 miles from land, with the nearest medical help 17 hours away...

So then it was out turn to get in the water... We got kitted up, and were told not to inflate our bouyancy jackets as the longer you float on the surface the more likely you are to get eaten! I jumped in, and as soon as I was under the water I saw about 5 BIG sharks coming right for me! They swam up to me, and the turned just as they reached me, as if they had gotr a whiff of me a decided I wasn't really that appetising... I swam down where i was directed and took my place in a semi circle with the other guys, all spaced about 1.5 metres apart. Then came the fun part. The crew up on the boat lowered in a giant kebab of Red Snapper fish, secured to a chain. This hung in the water about 6 metres in front of us. The sharks and giant trevelli were highest in the pecking order, so they went first, ripping into it with their powerful jaws, thrashing their bodies as they tried to rip of the flesh. As soon as they'd got a bit they woulf turn and swim quickly away... straight towards us!! They literally swam right past my face, jaws still gnashing as they tried to swallow the meat. Let me just emphasise now, that some of these sharks were BIG. Most of them were white tip reef sharks, which aren't that big: maybe 1.5-2 metres, but there were also silver tips and greay whalers, which are big mean looking bastards! I guess the biggest must have been 3.5 metres or so...

Anyway, that was great fun, I recommend it to anyone!

Now I'm in Mission Beach, which is south of Cairns. It's a beautiful beach and I've met some cool people, so I'm happy. I'm staying up in the rainforest in a place called the treehouse, and I have to get the bus now to get back and cook my bangers and mash....

seeya next time! :)

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Hello, Gday, and welcome.

I'm leaving tomorrow for the east coast so I thought I'd make a quick entry to get you guys up to speed....

Well, as i predicted, I discovered that australia does indeed have some pretty amazing beaches. Yesterday we went on a day trip to Rottnest Island, which is off the coast of Perth. It was stunning. The island is covered by a bike path and has a main hub where there's lots of facilities and coffee shops etc, but despite this high level of "organised tourism", within 3 mins we managed to find an idylic, deserted beach, with no signs of mankind visible at all. And the beaches really were amazing! For a while now I've been pining for the ruggedness of Britains coastline, as all Tropical beaches are basically the same: big arc of golden/white sand, blue water, backed by palm trees. But the beaches on Rottnest had the best of both worlds: perfectly clear turquoise blue water, white sand, but backed by dunes and limestone rocks that have been worn by the wind into amazing overhangs and craggy..... crags. The only drawback was that the water was icy cold, but that didn't stop us having a paddle... (Jim even went the whole way and plunged in, although this may well have been as a self inflicted punishment. His crime: making us all search for 45 mins for my "lost" sunglasses when all the while they were actually on his head under his bicycle helmet...)

mmm, what else to write.... Just had a long "discussion" with james about the Aborigonals and whether or not they are all "usually drunk" and "don't want to work".. will have to do some research so that I can argue with facts in future.... ;)

I'm feeling a little apprehensive about starting my trip down the east coast. The problem is that i'm attempting to do it in a month, whereas most sane ppl give themselves 3 months at least.. just hoping I can find some other idiots who have a car and also want to rush their way down one of the most beautiful coasts in the world.... mmmmmm.

Am getting very used to this cosy home.. not looking forward to being in a smelly hostel... then again my mattress here does smell of cabbage... Lynn and Jim are waiting for the company to come and replace it... :) I saw my first kangaroo today. It was.. well... a kangaroo. I was more impressed by the quokkers on Rottnest island. They're like big friendly rats that sit on their hind legs and come up to you and sniff your hands.. very cool. It's a bit bloody cold here tho.. looking forward to getting back to the tropical weather in cairns... I'm definitely a warm weather kinda guy....

I played a gig the other night!!!!! Yes indeed, my musical talents were on display for all to hear (at least those who still had their hearing) at the Kalamunda Folk Club! I was on second, after a few women had performed a strange medieval folk song about removing one's head and then going on holiday. As I took the stage... well, the chair at the front of the room..., the audience hushed in anticipation. All you could hear was the static crackling of wooly jumpers and cardigans colliding in the crowded pews as people jostled for position.... and then my moment came.... I think the shock of hearing my lyrical skill was too much for some people, as when I returned to my seat I saw a surprising number of grey haired heads in the room.... anyway, I'm just messin, it was the first time I've ever been to a "folk night" and I have to say it was excellent fun. There was a few semi-proffesional acts who were really very talented and very, very funny.

I've uploaded some new photos to my yahoo folder in a new folder called "perth".. go to:

ok, it's time for me to go...

seeya on the other side.... :)

Friday, September 05, 2003

G'day maaaaate!

well, I'm back in the world of whitey. It's really nice to be in a house that's actually lived in for a change, sleeping in a bed with a duvet and real pillows! My relatives I'm visiting, who I've never met before, have turned out to be absolutely lovely and are going out of their way to make me feel at home. Their house is in a suburb of Perth called Kalamunda, which is such a contrast to my last 7 months it's quite a culture shock. Greay haired grannies with a blue rinses walking dogs along quiet suburban tree lined roads past shops so new the brickwork is still irridescant orange. Everything is so clean it shines. Not even a bit of moss or lichen, let alone mildew, blemishes the walls of the newly constructed shopping arcades and community centres that make up the small neighbourhood. Part of me enjoys the familiarity of it all, but another part of me yearns for crumling dusty buildings coated in black mildew, the smell of spices and foodstalls, the noise of traffic and people and dogs and cockerels....

We went for a drive along the coast yesterday. The beaches are beautiful, but we left quite late in the day, so didn't have time to go far from the city. What struck me about the beaches was how neat and orderly they were, all with identical car-parks, neatly bordered by identical wooden fences, with signposts proclaiming the beaches name in matching colours and styles. The grass cut to a respectable stubble, the dunes set back and fenced in; only the seaweed along the tideline seemed to challenge the ordered cleanliness of it all. But don't get me wrong, I'm not saying this made the beach less attractive. After all, this is how half the beaches of my childhood looked, although maybe not quite so well maintained. The abscence of litter and plastic bottles was a breath of fresh air after the pointless littering that so many people in asia seem unable to control. But I think for me I always prefer to see nature untamed; allowed to run free without fences and footpaths. But not to worry, I'm sure that in a country the size of australia, there'll be plenty of that to come!.....

I finally managed to get me flight confirmed for the 8th of september to fly to Cairns after hours on the phone. In the end I had to tell the nice girl on the phone at Quantas that I wanted to give someone some serious shit, and as she probably wasn't in a position of authority would she please put on someone who was. She was more than happy to pass me thru to her supevisor, Rodney.

"Alright Rodders", I said. "I have discovered that the flight which you have been telling me is fully booked for the last 3 weeks actually has 40 seats available in a class that is cheaper than mine and identical in all but the letter before it's name, and that you only have 9 setas allocated to MY class anyway, meaning that there is no chance of a seat becoming available for me. So Rodney, I want you to put me in one of those 40 empty seats, and don't tell me you can't do it, because I know you can".

"Ummm, I wouldn't know about the availability sir, as I would have to check our system..."

"Don't bother", I interrupted, "I've already told you, there's no need to check".

"But how do you know that sir?" he asked with a barb in his voice.

"I have my sources" I said mysteriously. (The girl I spoke to before told me by accident: "Ah yes sir, there's 40 seats available on this flight... oh... no, hang on a minute... no that flight's full sir...." Too late mate!! Ha! After further grilling she admitted the truth)

"So Rodney, would you please make on of those empty seats available to me".

"Ummmm, I'll put a request thru to head office, but that's all I can do".

"Thank's Rodders, you're a star!"

And so he was! The next day I rang up and found that my flight was confirmed just like that. I called ready for a big argument, but before I even had time to set up my opening move the woman interrupted me and said "Yes sir, that's confirmed for you". I rekon rodders had put notes on my file saying "Just give him the bloody confirmation and hang up! Do not speak to this man!"... :)

We went to see a movie last night: "Once upon a time in the midlands". Before the movie we were talking about how hollywood movies were so formulaic, and I commented that enlish movies were starting to become a bit formulaic too: Working class families doing bugger all except watch tv and wear tasteless clothes have some kind of crises that affects their relationships but it all works out in the end and everyone is happy and free to go back to eating chips and watching "Who want's to be a millionairre". I couldn't have been more right! It was as if I had been talking abou tthe plot of this exact movie! It was alright though. Great cast and great acting, holding up a very thin and uninspiring plot. Watch it on video.

Right, not really got much of interest to say at the moment. Just to round up my Indonesia trip, I'd like to repeat myself: Go to Indonesia, it rocks. Amazingly friendly and honest people, stunning scenery, good food... just go there! (But not to Papua, they've been shooting each other with bows and arrows, 4 dead so far. All part of another oil powerplay involving an american company.... grrrrr)

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


I'm in Kuta, Bali, at the mo. Site of the infamous Bali bomb. All seems fairly normal and touristy to me... I have just got here after spending a few days on a little island just to the south of Bali, Nusa lembongan.

One thing that struck me about this island, and in fact most of bali, is how obsessed the local men are with their cocks. It's not unusual to see a man sat stroking his cock on the front porch of his house. They are very competative about their cocks, and one guy was explaining to me how he massages his every day to make it stronger. Then, once a week, they strap razor blades to their cocks (I kid you not!) and hold a "cock-fight" at which all the men bet money on who's cock will be the first to have it's head cut off..... oh! you didn't think I meant??... oh you silly things!.....

Another thing about their being so many cocks on this island is that there is a pretty much 24 hour chorus of "cock-a-doodle-doo", which peaks at about 5am, making sleep completely impossible. I've never heard quite so many cocks at once before.. if only they could learn to crow in a round and get some harmonies going....

Well, I'm off to Oz tonight. I can't quite believe it. My time in Asia is finally coming to an end. 2 years in sinagpore, then india, nepal, thailand, singapore again, and now indonesia..... and tomorrow I'm gonna be back in the land of sitting toilets, fast food, expensive restaurants, and above all.... white people! Arrrghhh! It's a scary thought you know. Most people in the west are scared of coming to aplace where theirs is the only white face, but for me now it's the opposite. It's like, if mine is the only white face, it's much easier to identify myself, like yep, that's me, Billy the ang mo/farang/buloh etc etc, but when I arrive back in a western country, especially in a city, my face just blends into a sea of similar faces and I suddenly become annonymous again... perhaps i should dye my hair blue....

Anyway, aside from theorising about how Oz will affect my sense of self, I am also looking forward to having heaps of fun and meeing loads of ppl and trying to meet the "locals". I have already started practising the local language, which I was already fairly profficient at, having spent many a fruitful day at uni watching "neighbours" and "home and away" (ozzie soaps), sometimes twice in the same day! I have learnt that the local way to deal with persistent taxi touts and rickshaw wallahs in the major ozzie cities is with the phrase "Rack off mate!", which roughly translated in english means "Piss off mate!". There are in fact many similarities between "australian" and english. I think maybe at some point in the past they may actually have been derived from the same language...

The only problem with my current grasp of this language is that due to the nature of my studies, I can only really speak like either an angst ridden adopted teenager with intimacy issues, or a grumpy 55 year old shopkeeper. "Aw Streuth Elsa!"

I went diving yesterday by the way. It was a rather lax company, with old equipment and almost non-existent safety regulations, but I survived, and saw some seriously amazing shit. Not real shit you understand, although that wouldn't have been that surprising, as just before getting in the water, tim, the instructor, jumped in saying he needed to go to the toilet. We all assumed he was going for a piss, but after 30 mins when he still hadn't returned, we started to wonder what had happened to him, as we were in the middle of the sea. Then we saw him, swimming back from far away on the horizon. Turns out he ate too much chilli the night before and had had to go and let it rip, right over the reef we were about to dive!! Grim huh?

ok, better go now. See you down under! :)