June 2018: Road Trips

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t keep as detailed notes for June/July and August so these blog entries will be really short.

June started with an adventure down the coast to see Little Penguins (formerly known as fairy penguins). Little Penguins are in St. Kilda but they are also on Phillips Island (which is where I went to see them). They come in at night on the tides and are amazingly camouflaged. They then waddle up the beach to their little dens. They are so cute! Penguin Parade!

In about mid-June, I went on a road trip to Mount Gambier which is the second largest city in South Australia. Spoiler: it is actually not that big. There’s not heaps do in Mount Gambier, but there are some cool sinkholes that you can check out and the City’s library is very very nice.

On the way back from Mount Gambier, we detoured to the Grampians mountain range which were incredible. I wish we had more time there but c’est la vie!

At the end of the month I went on a 2 day tour of Fraser Island. Fraser Island is INCREDIBLE. It is an island made entirely of sand which is highly unusual. I was hoping to do a 3 day small 4WD jeep tour but it was cancelled and so I ended up on a 2 day 4WD bus tour. You have to drive a 4WD on Fraser Island or you will get stuck in the sand. There are no paved roads whatsoever.

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Our first big stop of the tour was Rainbow Beach. It is on the mainland and just before the crossing to Fraser Island. The sand on the beach is amazing. A variety of yellows and reds.

We also stopped at Red Canyon which also has some incredible coloured sands.  

 

We then caught the ferry from Inskip Point to 75 mile beach on Fraser Island. 75 mile beach is actually 74 miles but given that it was measured around 1770 using geometry – not so bad. While we were on the beach, a dingo crossed our paths. Fun fact: the dingo was introduced to Australia by Asian seafarers.

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We then drove inland to Wangoolba Creek. Wangoolba Creek is near Central Station on Fraser Island. This is an awesome spot and the water is so clear it is almost invisible.

After this we went to one of the freshwater lakes on the island. Fraser Island has some of the cleanest water in the world and the bottoms of the lakes are almost pure silica. The freshwater lakes are totallys safe to swim in (no crocodiles — unlike other places on Queensland). I didn’t see or visit Lake Mackenzie but I imagine it is very similar.  

We stayed overnight at the Eurong resort. The next morning we headed north along 75 mile beach. While we were waiting for the tide to go out we drove inland to the sand dunes lookout. It was a very special view.

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After the sand dunes, we headed back up the coast to the Maheno Shipwreck. You can’t touch anything because you don’t want the rusted bits to cut you and infect a limb but it was still cool to see! The SS Maheno was being towed to Japan when there was a cyclone that beached the ship on Fraser Island. I read that while there were attempts to re-float the boat and get it off the beach – all attempts were unsuccessful.

The last sight I saw on Fraser Island was Eli Creek! Eli Creek is a constantly moving, changing and a surprisingly deep water channel. Be careful of the depth of the Creek because it is way deeper than it looks!

May 2018: The Rundown

So this is a pretty short blog entry. Finally right?! I promised short entries and now I’m finally delivering. Well, given all the excitement of the previous month, May was pretty quiet on the adventure front.

At the start of the month, I participated in a 15k and 10k race in and around Melbourne. The first run was not particularly special, although it ended with a pancake breakfast which was fun. The second race was a trail run and was incredible. It was probably one of the most spectacular races that I’ve ever done. The trail run was at Wilsons Promontory. It was a beautiful day with some beautiful scenery. I think spent less time focused on speed and more time focusing on trying not to die up a giant hill and stopping to take photos of the stunning views around the Promontory.

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Around the middle of the month I flew up to Brisbane. While in Bissy, I took another trip to the Eat Street Markets which was awesome. The food here is so good. Did I mention this as a worthy pit stop to anyone who is in the area? A must do!

   

After flying from Queensland back to Victoria, I ran my third race of the month – the Great Ocean Road Half-Marathon. The number of people at the race was insane! I also had to get up insanely early to drive to the starting line. From the starting line, we than bused to the half marathon starting line in Kennett River. It was a cold and windy day and there were a million hills. While it wasn’t my best or favourite race of the series, it was a special experience (not to be repeated, I think).

     

At some point near the end of the month, I visited the Mornington Peninsula which is a special wine region in Victoria. In the Mornington Peninsula region is London’s Bridge. It is a cool rock formation that juts out into the sea. The next day, I visited the Mornington Peninsula Hot Springs. The Hot Springs are kind of like Spa Nordik in Ottawa (if you’ve never been it’s a must do) but it’s a less cool version of Spa Nordik. Canada definitely wins on the Hot Spring score. That said, the geothermal pools were still great, relaxing and fun!

              

April 2018: WA and the Red Centre (Part 2)

The second part of my adventure began at 3 am on Saturday morning with a flight from Perth to Alice Springs. The flight took about 4 hours which seems like a long time until you really think about just how big Australia is.

Getting off the plane and walking into the heat of Alice Springs, I found the temperature oppressive. I was there at the beginning of fall and it was incredibly hot. 32 degrees during the day.

 

Alice Springs is a very very small town. I hear that if you actually live there, you find the charm and character of the town. Unfortunately, as someone passing through quickly, I didn’t think there was not much to do. The hostel suggested going to the botanic gardens and the kangaroo paddock but given that my previous couple of days had been very long, I decided to skip any long excursions. 

I ended up doing some “accidental” exploring of the town by virtue of walking across town to check-in for my tour to Uluru. On the recommendation of the guide, I ended up purchasing a fly net hat for the tour (LIVE SAVER) and 3L of water (a tour requirement). In trying to be thrifty on the price of water, I ended up purchasing the most expensive water available. Lesson learned. I finished my afternoon in Alice Springs by walking to the top of ANZAC hill for sunset. The view was great. 

The next morning I woke up at 4 am, ready and eager to start my tour to the red centre. It was totally dark when I left the hostel. The bus arrived at 5:30 am – and the guide Damo introduced himself to the group. Given the ungodly hour, as soon as the bus started driving, most of us promptly fell asleep on the bus. Around 8 am, we were woken up to the tune of – The Circle of Life – which myself and my soon to be new friends G and R – thought was amazing. It it about a 5 hour drive from Alice Springs to the red centre, so we all got to know each other pretty quickly.  As you drive along the road, the scenery is largely a lot of red and short scrub trees. I was actually shocked at how much scrub there is given that it is the desert. As I said, I was there at the start of fall and it was 32 degrees during the day.

Along the way to Alice Springs we stopped in the “Centre of Australia” – Erldunda. There are various ways to define “centre” but Damo explained that  Erldunda was the middle point of these various measurements – making it the Centre of the Centre.

Around 2 pm we entered Uluru National Park. We then walked to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre where we learned a little bit about why Uluru is a sacred place to the Aboriginal peoples of that area and I watched a video describing how the Aboriginal peoples initiated a legal and political battle for the return of Uluru which was at that time named “Ayers Rock.”

After the cultural centre, we then walked to the base of the rock. It is incredible. This is one of those times where you want a better camera but even then it would be impossible to capture – the enormity of Uluru. The first part of the base walk was guided and Damo told us a little bit about how certain portions of the base were used as kitchen areas or sacred spaces for young men. Damo also explained why the climb to the top of Uluru was closing and the Aboriginal perspective on people climbing Uluru. After this, we had a few minutes to wander around by ourselves and it was back on to the bus to drive to another part of the base. I was a little bit disappointed because I thought we were going to have 2 hours to walk around the base and I we only ended up having about an hour. But oh well. What are you going to do.

 

After a quick stop at a small creek at another part of the base, we were off to the sunset view of Uluru. This was spectacular. The setting sun illuminates Uluru and it is the image that everyone imagines. Except for the other tourists it is very quiet and there is really nothing except for Uluru on the horizon.

After an outback dinner in front of Uluru, we headed back to our “campsite.” I use the term campsite loosely as you can see from the photo below. It was serious roughing it (maybe pay for the slightly more expensive tour next time…). On the other hand, I was so tired after a long day, that the swag, sleeping bag and stars were the perfect backdrop for a dreamless sleep. Note to any future Uluru adventurers, everyone told me that the red soil (the iron in the soil) gets into all of your clothes, shoes and bags and stains them. This is true.

The next day, Monday, we were woken up at 4:45 am to a military horn.  We were up early to see the sunrise. In my opinion the sunrise illuminating the sky behind Uluru was even more magical than the sunset but they are both different and incredible experiences. The sunrise was like a watercolour painting.

After sunrise we were off to Kata Tjuta. You need to arrive at Kata Tjuta  fairly early in order to complete the Valley of the Winds walk because it gets really hot and windy as the day progresses. The walk closes at about 11 am. Before we started the walk, Damo gave us a short geology lesson on Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Did you realise that Uluru is one single rock? And that only 10% of it is showing? And the reason it looks like a bread loaf (e.g.,the striations) is because at one point it was vertical and then it tipped over? On the other hand Kata Tjuta is made of several rock formations.

The Valley of the Winds walk was another highlight of the trip. It is not an easy walk per se but our entire group made it. The view from the top of the Valley of the Winds hike is another must do. It is well worth the effort of turning yourself into a pile of sweat.

  

A short break and then we loaded ourselves onto the bus and drove the approximately 4 hours to Kings Canyon. Along the way we stopped by a salt lake. Salt lakes are insane. From a distance it really looks like there is water. Trickery.

At some point along the way to our second campsite,  we stopped to pick up firewood. Let me tell you, it is really hard to get firewood in the middle of a desert. In fact, I will always have a scar on my leg as a reminder of my battle with the trees from the red centre. While a particular tree may have won the battle, we eventually won the war and had a beautiful bonfire at our campsite that night. For the second night in a row, I slept under the stars with my swag and sleeping bag and it was fantastic. A swag for those of you who don’t know (I didn’t know) – is like a canvas sleeping bag shell with a small mattress for added comfort.  It’s not very warm though, hence the sleeping bag. While it is 32 degrees during the day, at night the temperature dramatically drops to about 10 degrees and during winter it can get below zero.

The next morning, we had yet another early start. This time to see the sunrise at Kings Canyon. To get to the sunrise viewing point, you have to climb this hill called Heart Attack Hill. Heart Attack Hill is not a misnomer. It is very steep. While the sunrise was nice – and I’m not sure if it was the clouds, or the angle, or simply the view – it was nothing compared to the day before. There is a little oasis deep in one of the valleys of Kings Canyon that only exists during the fall/winter. It is very beautiful but there were heaps and heaps of people there so I didn’t spend too much time there.

As we were at a base of the Canyon, it was only up from there. Up and up and up until we hit the ridge line of the canyon again. The Kings Canyon hikes are awesome. I highly recommend going to visit it.

  

After the Canyon, it was time to head back to Alice Springs to catch a plane to Melbourne. But before that, I obviously had to stop and get a camel ride. Did you know that Australia has wild camels? That’s right. WILD CAMELS. How weird is that?

April 2018: Western Australia and the Red Centre (Part 1 – WA)

After my relaxing  Bali holiday, I got back to the business of Melbourne life. Work, salsa and bachata. I know, stressful right? But all too quickly, I was getting ready for my next adventure to Western Australia and the Red Centre. 

There were definitely some bumps in the road before taking off. Actually, if you know me, this trip would be the first in a series of troubles that I had with cancelled/delayed flights and cancelled tours. But c’est la vie… I suppose. My flight to Perth was scheduled for early afternoon on a Sunday. Just as I was about to order my Uber and I got a text from TigerAir informing me that my flight had been cancelled. After being on hold for about an hour, I finally spoke to a human being and was told that the next earliest flight was Monday evening. As I had a tour scheduled for Monday at noon in Margaret River, TigerAir’s next “earliest” flight was just way too late. I ended up booking with a different airline and arrived in Perth at 3 am Monday morning – WA time. But focusing on the positives, I made it!

Later that morning, I picked up my rental car (free upgrade and GPS) and hit the road! With my accidental detours, I made it just in time for my tour of the wine region. What a great day! The weather was warm and fantastic. The tour stops were all unique and delicious! My favourite was probably Knotting Hill Winery (no, the name is  not based off of the movie). At the end of the tour, I headed back to the town of Margaret River. The town itself is pretty quiet, so if you’re there by yourself at night, there’s not much happening.

      

On Tuesday morning, I woke up reasonably early, picked up some postcards and headed to the Busselton Jetty. The Busselton Jetty is the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere going 1.8 meters into the ocean. If I had more time or better planning, I would have stopped by the jetty before going to the town of Margaret River because I ended up back tracking a bit but it was totally worth it.

     

After, I walked the jetty I went to the Visitor Center to get a Cave Lighthouse pass (discount!). I then hit the road, making it just in time for my tour of the Jewel Cave. Along the way I stopped at Hamelin’s Bay to try and see some stingrays but as it was windy and starting to cloud over, I didn’t have any luck at spotting stingrays.

Jewel Cave is incredible. This is one of those times that I wish I had more than my iphone to capture photos. The cave is enormous. Just huge. The stalagmite and stalactite formations are just beautiful. If I had written this entry sooner, I would remember if it was a sandstone or limestone cave but regardless, it was a fantastic experience.

  

Once the Jewel Cave tour was over, I rushed off to my Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse Tour. I was able to walk to the top of the lighthouse and snap some incredible photos. The lighthouse is really interesting because it sits on the point where 2 oceans meet. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to explore the rest of the lighthouse grounds because a storm blew in and the skies literally opened up.

    

At the time, this was a bit upsetting but it probably worked out for the best because it was already 2:30/3 pm and I still had a 4 hour drive to Albany ahead of me. Google maps, oh google maps, took me on some intense, curvy back roads and with the torrential downpours slowing me down, I ended up driving at dusk – which is something that I’d been trying to avoid.  Dawn and dusk means kangaroos. Kangaroos on the road are dangerous. I saw a few on the side of the road and one jumped in front of me but luckily I was going slow enough to stop. I made it to Albany around 7:30/8 and collapsed into bed.

Western Australia has a lot of natural beauty and Wednesday was jam packed with it. I started the day by driving to the top of Mount Melville. At the top of Mount Melville you can get a fantastic view of Albany. I then drove to Torrindup National Park and to the Gap and Natural Bridge. Standing above the Gap is terrifying. The waves are resounding and crushing. About 2 minutes away from the Gap is the Natural Bridge. It is awesome. While you can’t actually walk on it, it is cool to see it from afar. A short drive away, is Jimmy Newell’s Harbour Lookout. The lookout is gorgeous and actually reminded me a lot of a much smaller Wineglass Bay.

       

I then drove an hour or so to Greens Pools and the Elephant Bay Rocks (again a bit of backtracking. If I had more time, I could have planned this better). The Greens Pool is incredible and I’m sure it would have been even better on a sunny day. The Elephant Rocks totally look like elephants. I felt like I was standing in front of a herd of elephants. Definitely one of my favourite things.

    

It was continuing to storm down, so with some trepidation I decided to drive to the Valley of the Giants to do the skywalk. Luckily, at the exact moment I arrived there was a break in the rain. The skywalk was incredible. The trees are really giants – towering high into the sky. Because the weather was miserable, there were very few people doing the walk, which contributed to peacefulness of the overall experience. After the skywalk I walked around the base of the trees in the Ancient Empire and then it was time to hop into the car – and head back to Perth.

  

The next day, was my only full day in Perth. I walked around the CBD, which is not that big, and headed to Kings Park and Botanic Gardens (which sit at the top of the hill). The skybridge at Kings Park is very cool. Nothing compared to the Valley of the Giants but for the city, it is pretty impressive. I spent some time wandering the Botanic Gardens before heading to the Art Gallery of WA. 

      

One of my favourite things about Australia, is that the galleries are free. I think I’ve been to 3 or 4 galleries since starting my trip and they always have an interesting perspective. The WA gallery had 3 things going for it – (1) part of it was an old courthouse and jail that they transformed; (2) they had a very interesting wing on aboriginal art; and (3) their special exhibition was of student artwork from high schools around the state. Numbers 2 and 3 were incredible.  

    

After the art gallery I hopped on a train to explore Freemantle. Fremantle is like the Brunswick or north side of Melbourne. It is awesome and there’s so much happening there. I would definitely recommend staying in Fremantle over Perth City.

Friday was my last day in WA and so I headed to Rottnest Island! I got up (reasonably early) and took the train to Fremantle to catch the Ferry to Rottnest (again poor planning – should have just stayed overnight in Freyo the night before). The Ferry is a bit of scam. It is so expensive but given it’s the only way to get there, what are you going to do. I rented a bike to get around the Island. Totally worth it! I would suggest bringing snacks, water and a towel. I spent the day solo biking around the Island and it was awesome. The weather was perfect. Not too hot. Not too cold. The Island is full of animals called Quokkas, which will come up to you and try and befriend you. Quokkas  look like giant rats and I may or may not have run away a few times, utterly terrified. Again, a bit of planning and research would have helped me here – as I later learned that they are quite friendly and are actually giant marsupial cats. After returning to Freyo on the Ferry and catching the train back to Perth, it was time to to hit the hay. 

         

Early April 2018: Bali!

As usual I am woefully behind in writing updates. In fact, as I am writing this entry, I am currently waiting at the airport for a flight to Canada, so I am EXTREMELY behind. As such, all of the upcoming entries will be bare bones and short!

At the start of April 2018, I decided to make a quick trip to Bali! My flight landed in Denpasar and I immediately hopped into a taxi and headed to Ubud (which is what I would soon find out – the yoga and vegan capital of the world).

While in Bali, I stayed at a little villa near the rice paddies that was about a 20-minute walk to the centre of Ubud. The villa (found on airbnb) was fantastic. During the first day and after a long flight, I decided to explore the area around the villa. Quite close to the villa was a restaurant called Alchemy that had a raw vegan food. As I would soon find out, vegan food is not a rare thing in Ubud.

After grabbing a bite to eat, I returned to the villa. Prior to landing, I had pre-arranged for a massage at the villa. What a relaxing experience! After a long flight and a massage, I fell asleep to the sounds of a torrential downpour.

The next day I headed to the Yoga Barn, which is famous for its various yoga spaces and different styles of yoga.  Yoga Barn typically runs about 130 classes a week. Unbeknownst to me, it was the Bali Spirit Festival that week. This meant that Yoga Barn classes were reduced from the usual 130 to 4 classes a day (the same classes repeating every day). While I briefly considered attending the Bali Spirit Festival, after looking at the price I nixed that idea because it was very expensive. Anywho, lucky for me, this was the last day of the regular Yoga Barn schedule, which meant that I got to try a Vinyasa Flow class and a Thai Yoga Massage class. Both were great.

The following day I returned to Yoga Barn for their modified schedule. The instructor was let’s say…interesting. There was a lot of talking at the class. Not a lot of movement or postures. Multiple off the cuff comments about his book, audiobook and going to check out his app…

Later that night I caught up with my former boss who happened to be in Indonesia at the same time. We went out for dinner and then went to a traditional fire dance which was incredible! K tells me that each village puts on a performance and all of the villagers take turns participating. The profits of each performance go to the villages.

The next day, Tuesday, I got up very early so I could run to the Yoga Barn. However, because of the modified schedule, by the time I got to the class it was packed out. This ended up being a great result though because I got to try out a different yoga studio – Radiantly Alive. The class I attended was an awesome class but it involved a lot of power, strength and core power (that I just don’t have). My former boss and I then met up for lunch and pedicures (one must do a little bit of pampering in Ubud).

On Wednesday, Yoga Barn was closed so I decided to go on a bike tour. The tour was awesome. You start the tour by driving to the highest point of Ubud. It is all pretty much biking downhill from there. The tour ended up being private as there was a large family group with young children and the guide was concerned that the kids needed to go at a slower pace. As part of the tour, we stopped at Luwak coffee which is wild cat poop coffee. The wild cats did not look like any cat that I’ve ever seen before. Apparently, Luwak coffee is some of the most expensive coffee in the world but I still couldn’t be convinced to taste the cat poop coffee. The coffee plantation also grows a number of different herbs like lemongrass, citronella and tin pineapples and banana plants. After the coffee stop, we biked past rice paddies and villages. As part of the stop, the guide showed us a golden orb spider up close and personal, putting it on his face. It was terrifying. Succumbing to peer pressure, I ended up putting the golden orb on my arm. It was less horrifying then I imagined! We then had lunch at the home of our guide which was amazing. The food was delicious!

 

The next day, was an early start (1:30 am wake up!). Why? Because 2:30 am is is the perfect time to catch a lift to the base of Mount Batur to hike and see the sunrise. It was about an hour drive from Ubud to the base of volcano. It was then an hour and a half hike up to the top of the volcano! We made it to the top of the volcano around 5:30 am. It was pitch dark except for our flashlights and surprisingly warm. However, as soon as I stopped walking, I cooled down very quickly. The guide then took me to the side of the volcano to show me the steam rising from it! We then watched the sun rise which was absolutely incredible. The colours of the sky were fantastic.

After an insanely early morning, it was time for a short nap! The nap was followed by afternoon yoga at the Yoga Barn with Chocolat (sp?). She’s from the Southern United States and had opened up a yoga studio in Uganda which is really cool. Her class was an Introduction to Yoga but was very intense and felt the burn. After yoga, I dropped by one of the local places for a quick massage. Why not, right?!

Unfortunately, Bali ended all too quickly! Before heading to the airport on Friday morning, I went to one final yoga class at the Yoga Barn (the guest instructor was another American). Again, the class was quite intense and I thought I was very lucky that I had to leave early to catch my flight. Lol.

March 2018: Sydney and Adelaide

Life has been super hectic so I have been extremely tardy in updating this blog. It is unreal how quickly time has flown by. Given that I am yet again behind – here, are the highlights from March.

In early March I flew to Sydney. As someone who has flown in and out of the Melbourne airport frequently over the last few months, let me tell you, getting to the airport sucks. I live North of the CBD (above Brunswick) – and in an Uber it takes about 20-30 minutes (in light traffic) to get to the airport and costs about $30-$35 bucks. During this trip I was downtown, so I hopped on the Skybus. Omg. Downtown, Friday, rush hour. The Skybus sat in traffic. It was excruciating. The point here is that Melbourne is a hub of transit and needs a train to the airport. As I write this, I am ironically sitting in the Sydney airport and it took me 18 minutes on the train from the CBD to the aiport. Come on Melbourne. You can do better.

Anywho, back to Sydney. So we flew to Sydney’s for the Mardi Gras Pride parade. If you know me you will understand how impressive it was that I did not check a bag and just had a 6 kilo carry-on (ignore the fact that it was only 3 days away). We stayed at the Village Surrey Hills, which was…… an interesting experience. Right outside the hostel we saw not one but two Redblack spiders. These are highly venomous and dangerous spiders. I was not exactly enthralled with the idea that there seemed to be a nest of them right outside where I was going to sleep but nothing I could do but hope for the best. Avoiding the spiders and after dropping off our bags we went out for delicious Thai food. Another thing Sydney has on point, Thai food. Seriously. Check it out.

The next day we headed to Watson’s Bay. We took the ferry across and so crossed the infamous Opera House. This was my second trip to Watson’s Bay (yes I totally forgot that I was here 2 years ago) but it was nice to explore the Bay at a more leisurely pace. We literally walked all over the Bay. Did you know there is a candy cane lighthouse there? I didn’t. After a long morning and afternoon of walking around, we headed back to the hostel for an afternoon nap before the big parade.

When we headed out in the early evening, celebrations had already begun. Sydney’s Mardi Gras  is huge. It seemed like everyone was out on the streets celebrating. This was a special year for the pride parade because not only did Australia say yes to the same sex marriage postal vote but it was also the 40th anniversary of Sydney’s pride parade. I have never seen such a huge parade. The parade and floats started at 7:30ish and ended at 11ish? There was also a steady stream of fireworks into the sky. It was amazing!! After the parade finished there were random parties happening on the streets. We walked by a hair salon that was blasting music from its speakers and everyone just started dancing in the middle of the road. What a great night!

The next day we wandered to the Barangaroo Reserve. After taking a quick walk around, we hopped on to another ferry to Manly Beach for more Thai food and beach time. Manly has some awesome water dragons. If I could take one home, I wouldn’t because obviously they are an endangered species that should be kept in their natural habitat (that’s the right answer right?). After a lovely relaxing day, we headed to the airport and back to MEL.

Back in Melbourne, we headed to the Yarra Valley to check out this famous region. We stopped by Coldstream Brewery and the Oakridges Winery. Just a quick peek on our way to the 1000 steps. It was not the ideal weather for the 1000 steps given that it was a million degrees outside but you got to do, what you got to do. The steps are all different sizes and widths. It’s not safe to run up them but that didn’t stop people from trying. I was dressed too casually for the steps in a sundress and flip flops (aka thongs). Everyone beside me was decked out in their full active gear like this was the Inca trail or something. Once you get to the top, you don’t know you are there. There is no sign or spectacular view. It’s sort of just a clearing with some water fountains. Worth it?…. Not sure. But the Ethiopian food we ate after was definitely worth it.

After being in MEL for a couple of days, I headed to Adelaide for the Fringe. Now everyone has told me that the best time to be in Adelaide is during the end of February/March for the festivals. It is at this time that Adelaide is known as RADelaide. I don’t actually know if anyone calls it that, but in my mind that’s totally what it should be called.

My first Fringe show was Good Morning Comedy. What a great way to start the morning. To be honest – I’m glad that there were other people in the audience because I was worried that I would be the only one in the audience. So much pressure. But I wasn’t! There were 3 comedians. I thought some of the most hilarious jokes were related to flying domestically in Australia (because it is weird) but that is a story for another time. Later that afternoon I headed to Cirque Africa 2.0. It was awesome! It was like a much smaller Cirque Du Soliel. There was this one guy who was standing on unstable circular tubes and planks and he kept adding to them to make it taller and taller. I was sitting at the edge of my seat. I was terrified that he would fall. After taking a very short fringe break, I returned with N and his family and we had dinner at the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Omg. The food here is incredible. This is a must do. It must be on everybody’s list. After dinner we saw the Best of Ed (Edinburgh) Comedy! It was good, although one of the comedians was the same guy I saw earlier and he had promised the material would not be the same (…not entirely true). Don’t get me wrong, the first time I heard the jokes I was in tears laughing, but it’s not as funny the second time around. After this I saw my fourth Fringe show of the day (I know, I got addicted to Fringe) which was Baby Wants Candy. This has to be one of my favourite shows – it was an improv musical show. It was hilarious! It is also just so impressive how the actors have to feed on one another and do it all to music too boot.

The next day I went for a run in the Adelaide Greenbelt. I then prepared for my next Fringe filled afternoon. My theme for this afternoon was magic. The first show I went to was called RanDOM. It was quite small and intimate. It was your pretty traditional magic show but the magician was quite personable. The second show was called Unfair Advantage. To be fair to this show, I did not really read the description before checking it out but it was about card tricks and less about magic per se. While it was not really my thing, the magician or whatever you’d call him was amazing. The last show I saw was called, Unsolved with Matt Tarrant. This was in a huge tent. The magic was a bit more polished and on a large scale. Overall, I had a fun day but my mind was not blown and I am totally one of those individuals who is willing to suspend my belief. All of the magic shows were at Gluttony which was a bit cool because I felt like I had a gluttonous intake of music.

The next day, I took a (tiny) break from Fringe and headed to the Adelaide beaches – Henley to be specific. This should again be a must! Adelaide wins for beaches. The sand is so soft and the weather was perfect. Later that night, I stopped by the Garden of Unearthly Delights again and then went to a musical cabaret/comedy show called the Birds and the Beats. The singer was great, but the crowd was small and it was a bit awkward. Guess the topic of the show from the name.

On my second last day in Adelaide, I headed back to the Greenbelt for another run. Along the way I stopped by some Japanese gardens that are in the Greenbelt. They are quite stunning and beautiful. I then walked to the Art Gallery of South Australia and attended the biennial exhibit. It was so cool. It was focused on fashion and sculptures and called the Divided Worlds. There was this amazing piece, which was a car (maybe a Mazda) that was broken down into all of its pieces and wrapped in Japanese netting. It was incredible.

Unable to give up my dream of magic, I went to another three shows. The first show I saw – [Chronicle] – was excellent. The magician was a 19-year-old mentalist – who clearly excelled at his craft. I loved this show and I was blown away when he told me to open a Harry Potter book and turn to a random page and pick the longest word. Once this was done, he guessed the word! I mean come on. How did he do that? He then followed up guessing my word, by performing the same trick for 3 other people for 3 different books. Spectacular! The second show I saw was the Edge of Magic. It was…3 amateur magicians who….were doing comedic magic? Not sure. Moving on, the last show I saw that night was the Card Ninja. It was a bit unfortunate as it was a crowd of 10 in a room for 70 but the Card Ninja was hilarious and great! I totally recommend this show. One of the audience members was the designated DJ and the soundtrack he picked was the exact opposite of the intense action packed vibe the Card Ninja was going for and it was perfect!

During my last day in South Australia, we went on a wine tour of the Barossa Valley using Trailhopper. The tour was excellent. The first stop of the day was Bethany Wines. It was fantastic and the staff was amazing. Definitely make sure you go to the top of hill at Bethany and get a view of the Barossa. The second stop of the day was Yalumba Wines. The grounds here are stunning and there is an painting of an upside down Farlap by the fireplace. The third stop of the day was the village of Angaston where we had lunch.  The final pit stop of the day was the Home of the Brave (I’ve got to admit it appealed to me because there is a bar in Toronto that is similarly named and is so reminiscent of baseball). Overall, the tour was great and we had a fantastic day.

Later that night, we returned to the Garden of Unearthly Delights (I’m telling you this is a must) for my final meal and final fringe show – A Night at the Musicals. It was great – the song and dance and drama and performance of it all was fantastic. The last few songs were from Grease and I totally loved it!!! My only comment here would be that both I and the audience really enjoyed singing along with the songs at the end and I only wish there had been more well known songs throughout. After a Night at the Musicals we went to the light show that was across the northern terrace buildings. Awesome! One of the coolest light shows we saw was called Northern Lights. Not entirely sure how it was done but lights/mist were projected into the sky and it felt like a mini northern lights (from someone who has never seen the real thing).

Tips for the Fringe – Tip 1 – between 12 pm and 3:00 pm you can get half price tickets if you aren’t too particular about what you see. Tip 2 – On Tuesday I think that most shows are half-price. Tip 3 – half price tickets run out – so buy quickly.

Back to MEL, I went to my second AFL game ever (Collingwood v Hawthorne). It was a lot of fun although I still have no idea what is happening. To finish up this blog post and March, I went to Holey Moley. It’s this indoor mini-golf thing, with 4 or 5 levels, blaring music and really cool courses. While it was fun it was also absurdly expensive and the security guards were asses so I would not have this on my list of must-dos.

 

February 2018 – Home for a rest (sort of)

As I am trying to catch up on my blog entries, we are all in luck (particularly me) that this will be a short entry as February was a quiet month!

I started the month by flying up to Brissy for the weekend for a quick visit. How I missed the sun, smiles and relaxed style of Brisbane! Unfortunately, I brought the cool rainy Melbourne weather with me. But oh well! 2 out of 3 is still winning in my books! C and G, my lovely hostesses, let me crash on their couch. On my first night in town, we decided to go out dancing, Brissy style. As you likely know from your own crazy nights out, one of the best parts about going out dancing is when the DJ plays your favourite tunes, enabling you to scream (I mean sing) along at the top of your lungs. We definitely stayed up late screaming (I mean singing along) to our favourite tunes.

The next day, I met up with the C and V and the gang at The Scratch for a peanuts and a Jenga-off! One of the great things about Jenga is that there are no winners or losers…or if there are winners and losers, a few months later when you are writing a blog entry, you don’t remember who won or lost, you only remember heaps of laughter and fun. The Scratch is a great chill place to hang out with friends. Check it out!

As part of my non-new year resolution, I am trying to increase the frequency of my weekly runs. Taking advantage of being close to the Brissy River, one morning I decided to run along around Kangaroo Point. Boy! The difference in humidity between Brissy and Melbourne is unreal. By the time I was finished the run I was drenched in sweat. Drenched! As a reward for waking up and dragging my body out of bed for a run, I decided to have lunch with H at the Netherworld restaurant- a restaurant with a twist. Everything on the menu is vegan and then you can opt in for dairy or meat options. The food was delicious.

After lunch, I thought I should treat myself given that I spent the morning exercising  (wait…had I already done that?). H and I parted ways, and C and I met up and  decided to have fancy nitrogen frozen sorbet dessert near the Southbank Streets Beach. Definitely a must see.

During this trip to Queensland, I also had the opportunity to visit the Varsity Lakes area. The name is spot-on! There are heaps of beautiful lakes with houses scattered around the edges. It actually reminded me very much of Canada. However, word on the street is that these lakes have a huge bull shark and crocodile problem (very unlike Canada).  Another reason Varsity Lakes reminded me so much of home was because of the subtle reminders everywhere. See for yourself:

 

Interesting fact that I learned whilst on this trip, Queensland does not observe daylight savings. This means that Coolangatta, which is a city Queensland, and Tweeds Head, directly across from Coolangatta in New South Wales, can be in different time zones during certain parts of the year! Imagine trying to get to work on time if you lived on the other side! Or, the panic you feel if you need to catch a flight and you’re not sure which side the airport is on (….it’s on the Queensland side).

Panic aside, my first night back in Melbourne I went to a salsa class! I can’t stop dancing! The theme this month for salsa was enchufla and outside turns for bachata. I sometimes try to take notes during my dance classes and while I find the dance pattern fairly easy to transcribe for salsa, for some reason I find it very difficult to do for bachata. Maybe it is because it is a much more partner dependent dance or because the steps flow more into one another? I’m not sure. But in either case, what has became apparent is that I need to practice, practice, practice.

Pretty standard question – have you ever gotten into a fight with an ATM before? Now, I’m not saying that I got into a fight with an ATM, but I did put my Australian debit card into an ATM (the ATM and debit card belonged to the same bank), and shortly thereafter the ATM freaked out and literally went into a meltdown mode. It crashed. Went to some insane website. Tried to restart. Froze. And then decided that it wanted my card “for keeps.” As someone who only has one Australian debit card and who waited outside the ATM for 15 minutes in case, IN CASE, the ATM changed its mind, the solution to this stressful solution was to call the bank immediately to cancel the card. NOT. If you call the emergency line to speak to a representative of this particular bank, you will be on hold, ON HOLD, for 30 minutes. On the emergency line!! Emergency!! I can only say that if a hypothetical fight was started with an ATM, I definitely lost.

In about mid-February (so still Australian summer), Melbourne has White Night (also known as Nuit Blanche). Summer is the perfect time to host this event! Toronto has Nuit Blanche in the fall and it can sometimes be pretty chilly. With cooler evenings also comes the desire to stay inside, which can impact your desire to walk around looking at artwork.

We started our White Nite adventures around 9/9:30 pm, which is high crowd, peak time, but as I’m not very good at staying up until 4:00 am something’s gotta give. The fire breathing serpent outside of the Melbourne Museum was unreal. Almost dragon? Perhaps. In any case, it gave off a ton of heat and was amazing to see!!

Also very cool were the projections. I suspect that Melbourne is very into this type of projection artwork. There was a lot of it and it was all excellent. Outside the exhibition building there was an incredible 3-minute movie projection, part of which was the architecture of the building coming in on itself in dynamic ways. It was some amazing imagery.

The La Trobe Reading Room in the State Library also had this sort of magical, books come to life projection. It was like stepping into another world. Slightly disappointing was an interactive metamorphosis exhibit. It was not particularly interactive or metamorphosis-y, but we moved on to bigger and better things!

The last art piece we saw was the Federation Square Living Skyline. This was very cool. Hard to describe as it was so much more than a bunch of tassels in the sky that moved in the wind – but if I was going to describe it in a literal sense – that is what I would go with. In any case, it was awesome.

It was actually White Night, that inspired my next adventure, a visit to the Melbourne Museum. I am a huge fan of the Melbourne Museum. It is one of the largest museums in the Southern hemisphere. It has an indoor forest exhibit which is incredible. While we were visiting, there was also a very interesting and interactive exhibit on the human brain, as well as an exhibit on the history of Melbourne! Perhaps for people who live here, the history of Melbourne is not that exciting, but as an outsider, I thought the exhibit was great. The way the museum incorporates interactive elements into all of its exhibits is top-notch. I highly recommend a visit to the museum.

 

Lastly, have you ever watched a sport (your sport) in a foreign country? I found myself glued to the gold medal Women’s Olympic hockey between Canada and the US in Australia where most people don’t even know that the winter Olympics are a thing. I happened to be watching the tail end of game while I was on a tram and my gasps, sighs and then gut-wrenching disappointment earned me quite a few stares. While I don’t find there are many drastic difference between Canada and Australia, love of hockey is a stark difference.

Tips on Eats (from a non-food critic)

  • Queen Victoria Summer Night Market: Good. Again, I really like the Night Market vibe, but the Summer Market seemed very meat focused and their weren’t a ton of vendors.
  • South Melbourne Night Market: Excellent. Shorter timeframe than the Queen Victoria Summer Night Market and smaller, however, there seemed to be a more diverse variety of vendors and the calibre of the food vendors was excellent.
  • The Shaw Davey Slum: Okay. Not a fan. Wouldn’t go again.
  • DOC Pizza & Mozzarella Bar: Excellent. Have been several times.
  • Boney: Excellent for snacks. Have been several times.
  • The Petty Officer: Excellent. However, in the space of writing this blog it has now closed down. Hopefully, something equally amazing will pop up in its place.
  • Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya: Excellent sushi! Fantastic vibe. Would go several times!