“There's a race of men that don't fit in, A race that can't sit still; So they break the hearts of kith and kin, And they roam the world at will. They range the field and rove the flood, And they climb the mountain's crest; Their's is the curse of the gypsy blood, And they don't know how to rest.”
- Robert Service

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Animals (by Michael)

We've seen a lot of new animals in Australia, which I'm super stoked about.  I think we've seen nearly every stereotypical Australian animal, except the elusive platypus.  I hear they're elusive.  We didn't actually go searching for one though.  Here's a recap.  We went swimming with a pelican in Perth.  Admired trees full of colourful loris and galahs.  Saw fields full of roos in Margaret River.  Bumped into black swans all over.  Watched a blue penguin waddle out for a swim in St Kilda.  Hung out with some possums in the park in Melbourne - they were in the trees directly above the metal bands supposed to keep them out.  Had a one-sided chat with a couple koalas in Otway National Park.  Snuck up on some emus at Tower Hill.  Almost slept with a scorpion in Hobart.  Saw Wallabies and Paddymelons all over Tassie.  Pet a wombat at Cradle Mountain.  And were laughed at by a kookaburra.  We managed all this without visiting a zoo, but on our last day in Tassie we still hadn’t seen a Tasmanian Devil, so we decided to go to a wildlife park. 
Possums in downtown Melbourne
 On a side note, there is a whole lot of roadkill in Tassie.  I think this has to do with having mostly small, nocturnal animals, and winding roads with ambitiously high speed limits.  The limit is 100 kmh most places, but the roads are also full of sharp corner caution signs.  The upside is speeding is nearly impossible.  The downside is cars often come around the tight corners hugging or over the centre line.  Back to roadkill -- in one day of driving I counted 4 dozen.  They looked like mostly possums or paddymelons with the odd wallabie mixed in, but I’m assuming there must have been at least one devil in there.  Sarah said that doesn’t count as a sighting though.

This guy did some figure-eight laps of the pen, but unfortunately no tornado spinning.
 The wildlife park we went to, Trowunna, is one of a few devil sanctuaries on the island that are maintaining populations of devils in isolation, while the wild population is being devastated by the recent emergence of devil facial tumor disease (that's a sad looking devil).  Trowunna was one of my highlights of our trip so far.  We didn’t just see devils, we got to pet one, hold a wombat and a ringtail possum, and hand-feed kangaroos.  We also saw an echidna at the park, who was doing his best impression of Papillon pacing back and forth along the wall.

Roos looking pretty casual, until we approached with food
Feeding roos

Echidna pacing back and forth, presumably working on his escape plan.
 Including the camels, stray dogs, and rat temple we saw in India, and the customs beagle that jumped up and sniffed my pack at the Christchurch airport, I’m pretty happy with the amount of animal encounters on this trip so far.  My goal for New Zealand is to see a kiwi.  We have 4 weeks to achieve this.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Half Way Along

This week, Michael and I realized that we had surpassed the half way mark on our adventure. Half way! It seems like a strange time, though. Walking the Great Wall seems both like yesterday, and forever ago. There’s just been so many things happen in between that it’s difficult to measure the time properly. And today we start in on a fresh new adventure. We’ve stepped into our 5th country – New Zealand – and into a 4 week long caravan road trip from Christchurch to the southern tip of the country and all the way up north to Auckland. Michael and I each have goals:


     Hike a tall glacial mountain

     See Hobbiton

     Watch a sheepdog trial

     Find some spectacular NZ wool (even though I truly don’t need any more yarn in my collection)

     Take a Mud Bath at Rotorua






     White Water Rafting


…I’m sure Michael has other goals but when we discuss our New Zealand needs, it mostly sounds like I’d like to be a granny and Michael would like to tempts the Gods of Water, Earth and Air.

There will be a happy medium achieved, I think.

Mostly, I’m really extremely looking forward to our campervan rental. I can’t wait to really set up shop in our traveling “home” (though it’s really just a glorified minivan), and to hit up a grocery store. I can’t wait to cook my own supper.  After all this time, making my own supper feels like a luxury!

Can I tell you about Christchurch? We’ve been here exactly one day, and it is not like anything I’ve ever seen before. After the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Christchurch was leveled. I remembered hearing about it on the news and seeing some crumbled buildings on tv, but after seeing this city in the flesh – three years after the earthquake – I certainly underestimated the magnitude of the disaster. Sure, there seems to be constant construction work going on; road work and cranes and support beams. But walking around the downtown core, you’d think you were in a ghost town. “Oh look! A Starbucks!....oh wait. It’s closed.” Most of the buildings are either so visibly damaged that of course there wouldn’t be a shop in it anymore, or else they have enough structural damage that the shopkeeper needed to board up the windows and leave anyway. Most of the tourist spots in downtown are now centred around the post-earthquake life. We visited a shopping district called Re:Start. It’s made up of colourfully painted shipping containers and houses everything from tourist souvenir shops to cafes (we ate breakfast in an upstairs window!) and Lululemon. It’s clearly an area that’s vibrant with locals who want to reclaim their city.We also visited a museum which explained Christchurch’s experiences with the disaster and their drastic (but slow moving) plans for rebuilding. We walked past the crumbled Christchurch Cathedral (amongst others), and found ourselves at a pop-up arts and community centre called the Pallet Pavillion. Hundreds of blue-painted pallets are stacked up tall to form walls, and inside you can get a coffee or a beer and snacks and watch local artists perform, or join an open mic night, or participate in a local dance troupe’s jig! We left just before an activity which would have involved about twenty xlyophones…

Around Christchurch Cathedral
With so many empty spaces where commercial buildings used to be, Christchurch is doing a fairly good job at keeping the city “full.” They insert art pieces or murals. They give restaurant licenses to people who want to open up a burger joint out of a couple of parked city buses. They construct temporary performance spaces and keep plenty of the barricades colourful! It’d be a grey place to live if not for these interesting additions. Though, it does seem like most people have moved away from downtown. Like I said – for the most part, it looks like a ghost town. (I’m told there’s a “new downtown” somewhere, and I assume that’s where most of the shops and restaurants and people have gone to). I definitely think that this will be an excellent place to revisit in 10 years.

Our swanky bus-shaped dinner spot
 But I haven’t written anything about Tasmania yet, have I?!

I’ll put it in another post very soon. I was sadly absent from the interwebs in Tasi as most of our lodging either didn’t have internet or wanted to charge us actual money for the use of the WWW. Pfft. Here’s a teaser: