Big Question Marks

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Good Riddance (not really the Time of Our Life)

Call us nomads, if you will, but... WE'RE MOVING! (Yes, again.)

As you've probably already gathered, we've been itching to get out of our apartment. One day last week, we stopped by the noticeboard on our local bookshop to check out apartment ads, jotted down a few, and liked one of the ads enough to send the tenants a text (that's how ya do it in Australia- no worries!). A day or two later, we went to check the place out and it was AMAZING. As Adrian says, "There's moving up, and then there's a rocketship to the moon." Apparently the moon was within reach after all--just a few streets away from us, actually--and now we're moving into a spacious two-storey, carpeted house with a patio, two living rooms, a big kitchen, nice new furniture, a legitimate parking spot and more windows than we could ask for! Not to mention the girls living there right now are very cool-- two New Zealanders who loved having the house to themselves but are now trying to save up for a trip to Europe. There's just us and one other girl moving in (a far cry from 13 people, like our current place). It's a bit pricier, and it doesn't have internet (we'll still try to blog as much as we can!) but it's worlds better, and the peace of mind it will bring is worth every penny.

We started what we've thought was the big packing job today (Saturday) since we move Sunday morning, but we're now done way ahead of schedule, realizing we've gotten this whole pack-and-leave thing down to a fine art. So for our last 15 hours on Powell Lane, we'll just download everything imaginable, and write a short memoir of our time here. Please share with us in remembering...

Goodbye, brick wall in our room! We really will miss you for your artsy charm, despite the many times we've bashed our elbows on you when turning over in our sleep. Goodbye, free unlimited internet! You will be missed terribly. Goodbye, cute stray cats who live around our house... maybe we'll come back for a visit. Mrrow!

And good riddance to you, roommate who is still pissing on the bathroom floor! Good riddance to everyone who helps the flies breed faster by never bothering to take out the trash. Good riddance to the "visiting" mom-from-China who leaves our front door wide open at all hours of the day. Good riddance to the alcoholic Tasmanian who gets stupidly drunk and takes his car out for a spin late at night (and won't listen to reason about this dumbassery). Good riddance to an apartment where no one cares enough to keep it tidy, where there is no lounge to relax in, where there is a severe shortage of windows, where a parking lot serves as our 'backyard patio' (see photo above entitled: "Adrian Soaks Up Some Rays in the Garden"). And good riddance to a landlord who manipulates his tenants at any occasion, even proposing a bribe to get his handyman tenant to stay (ie. Adrian drops the bomb- we're leaving. Ernie: "Wait. Who's not happy? Is it you? I'll bet it's Dayle. Take her out for dinner... on my tab!" Adrian: "Uhhhhhh...I don't think you get it. We're leaving.")

OK, our place on Powell Lane wasn't the worst place in the world (a few of our flatmates were actually pretty awesome), but it sure took us back to our student housing days. It was an urgency to get out of the hostel, and the location which sold us, anyway. And our standards for a home have drastically lowered over the past year since living in a hostel, a tent, a van, a caravan, and a really rustic cottage. But we're ready to get comfy for the autumn and winter which are quickly approaching!

Check out our world on a Google map here!

And send us mail (pretty please) here:

139 Canning Street
Carlton, VIC 3053

... or just come visit us already-- Melbourne rocks! xoxoxo, The Big "?"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What is that menacing-looking blue thing over there???

Last weekend we decided to get a bit brave and took our first train to a far-off suburb of Melbourne. Actually, the heat was driving us crazy in our apartment (it was around 34 degrees) and we knew St Kilda Beach, which is more central to downtown, would be crammed with people... and plus, that oily film on the water's surface isn't very appealing to swim in.

We heard Brighton Beach had charm, and was decorated with a row of colourful beach huts. Sounded perfect! We felt a lot like tourists again, timidly crossing the gates at Flinders Street Station (the big, grandiose mustard-yellow train station at the south end of the CBD)... but once we made it on board, we couldn't help but think how impressive the transit is here. One ticket gets you on the tram (like a Toronto streetcar, but way more frequent and on time), the bus, and the trains (which serve the outer and faraway suburbs). Single tickets ($3.50) get you 2 hours of riding around, or if you validate it after 6pm, you can use it until 3am the next morning. Since it was Sunday, we decided to try a "Sunday Saver" card, which got us all-day access to transit for the day for $5.20. We've heard it's one of the best-kept secrets in Melbourne- not anymore!

It was definitely weird to think about it being mid-February and we were sweltering on a beach, drinking wine and snacking on fancy cheese and crackers (and snapping photos), while everyone at home was getting buried in snow. Here in end-of-summertime Melbourne, the Speedos were out in full-force, and so were the jellyfish. Dayle had gone in for a dip-- still trying to overcome her fear of sharks-- when, looking around the crystal-clear water surrounding her, she noticed one, then two, then three blue wiggly blobs. EEK! She ran out of the water as fast as she could, and there wasn't a chance Adrian would go in after that either. (We were told later by local friends that "Oh, those blue ones won't do much to you" but WHATEVER!) We don't know how people handle the heat here when there's all these monsters lurking in the water. We were telling some Aussies about the Great Lakes and a swim in Lake Huron is sounding more and more appealing all the time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chasing the Fifty Year Storm

Last weekend we finally got away from the city routine and headed down to the Great Ocean Road-- a winding, 250-km-or-so stretch of gorgeous highway running along the southernmost point in mainland Australia (built by returning soldiers after WWI). We'd been hearing about it for ages, and so when our friends Bianca (the German) and John (the ranger) invited us to join them for this leg of their trip, we jumped at the chance. We set off last Saturday morning, girls in one car, boys in the other, equipped with VHF radios and off to see a picturesque corner of Oz none of us four had seen, outside of many, many postcards and books.

After emerging from a traffic jam around Melbourne's west end, our first peek at the coastline was in Torquay, Victoria's surf capital. With a surfing museum, surf lessons galore, and outlet stores for every surfer brand imaginable from Rip Curl to Billabong to Blunt (etc.), there's no doubt we'll be heading back to explore. But, we had a lot of ground to cover in two days, and made our first stop just outside Torquay at the legendary Bells Beach. And why does this name sounds familiar, you ask? Movie buffs, here's your clue:

JOHNNY UTAH: I knew you wouldn't miss the fifty year storm, Bodhi.

Who can forget Keanu in his hot surfer days in Point Break? Not us. We soon learned that despite our differences in ages and homelands, all four of us were huge Point Break fans, and so visiting Bells Beach--home to that dramatic final scene in the film-- was a bit of a pilgrimage. It wasn't long before the Point Break quotes were flying back and forth on the VHF. Appropriately enough, it started to pour rain like crazy just as we left our cars for the long boardwalk descending down the cliff. THE FIFTY YEAR STORM HAD ARRIVED! We tried looking for Bodhi in the waves, but it was pretty choppy and hard to get a good look (though we're sure he must have been out there...). Visiting Bells did finally confirm what Adrian and I have been suspecting after watching Point Break over here: the final scene was definitely NOT filmed in Oz. First of all, there are no beaches lined with pine trees in Australia; secondly, the beach in the movie is a tiny little cove, while Bells is actually a long sandy beach. *Sigh* (Check online and it seems we've all been duped: the "Bells Beach" pictured in the movie was actually a beach in Oregon) We got drenched during the walk, and spent a good part of the day with the only warm clothes we packed now sopping wet. Not so much fun. [If you're craving a little surf right now, check out this live web cam (and photos) to see how the waves are down at Bells.]

After Bells, the road became more winding, often running along cliffs which dropped straight into the ocean. The views were gorgeous and reminded us a lot of the drive from Port Douglas to Cairns (except colder). Though it's not always beside the ocean, as the name led us to believe, the farmlands it travels through are pretty spectacular too. We explored waterfalls, a lighthouse, cute little towns (Lorne, Apollo Bay), and watched packs of surfers along each beach, beginning to realize that the GOR may very well be Daisy's true home. Ever since we bought her (and who knows for how long before that), she's had a Bells Beach Rip Curl Surfing Pro Competition poster stuck up on a window--which eerily enough, fell off as we were lunching near Bells Beach-- and a sticker that says "I played Apollo Bay 2000" (the Apollo Bay Music Festival is a hippie music fest held in a cute GOR town in March) along with a couple of surf brand bumper stickers as well. We're sure she was quite the happy van despite the many twists and turns en route.

One of the other coolest sights from our first day on the road came when we spotted a bunch of cars stopped at the roadside ahead of us. At first we thought "Car accident!" but then Ranger John pointed out the bare branches of the trees around-- KOALAS! We pulled over with the other tourists to snap photos and film the adorable koalas munching on eucalyptus in their natural habitat. It was just after 6pm and they were lively as ever, hopping from tree to tree in the cutest of ways. They were also brown, not the typical grey variety we see on postcards. We even got quite close to one in the forest nearby.

That night we camped among sand dunes at Johanna Beach, site of one of many shipwrecks on the coast. It was gorgeous but so much colder than Queenslander camping (we'll pack better next time!). As we ate breakfast, tiny birds with bright blue stripes on their heads chirped and flitted around us. We set off for the most famous of GOR sights Sunday morning: the Twelve Apostles, a set of giant limestone towers just off the coast that are slowly being eroded by the elements over the centuries. These monoliths, alongside the high cliffs of the shoreline, really do make for a spellbinding scene, even after seeing it in a million photos (just like the Grand Canyon, or like Angkor Wat). We took plenty of our own pics, because, who knows how much it will change by the next time we visit? It'll be cool to find out.

There were more interesting rock formations along the way -- like Loch Ard Gorge, with a giant, noisy, creepy inland blowhole -- and plenty of historical plaques dedicated to all the ship which were destroyed along the treacherous coastline. The landscape here was fascinating-- the road was slightly inland, following the shoreline along a flat, desertlike plateau that suddenly drops into the crashing ocean far below. It was also neat to think about how close we were standing to Antarctica (you sure felt the chill in the air) as the wind howled straight at us from the south. And all this, just a few hours from our home in Melbourne! We turned back on Sunday afternoon, leaving Bianca and John to continue on their grand tour of Oz, and we headed back to the city, our zest for the camping life completely revived and thankful for our good old trusty surfin' van Daisy! We'll definitely be making a trip back to the Great Ocean Road as soon as we can--maybe next time with boards of our own.

WHOAAAAA! We just found out there will be a Point Break sequel.
Vaya con dios, brah.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Off the chopping block

Well, he just couldn't wait. Not even 5 more days. Definitely not another week. Yes, Adrian finally did it-- he visited the barber. A mighty cool barber shop as well-- with a free beer included in the price of a cut, and pinball machines to play while waiting. A very 'guy' place to go, that's for sure. Stay tuned for the full-length Adrian Haircut Experience blog & film... coming soon to a computer near you!

PS. Thanks for all the votes and suggestions. Sorry to everyone who voted 'yes' to the buzz cut-- he just couldn't do it in the end. Cornrows somehow didn't make it to #1 either, though Adrian does think his new 'do is right up there with Rachel's "Friends" look (minus the bad suspender outfits).

Monday, February 4, 2008

It's time to vote.

What should Adrian do with his unmanageable mane? It seems the hippie backpacker life has gotten the better of this once-bowl-cutted boy. He's going through conditioner like snot through a zombie. Is it finally time to call Vidal Sassoon? Leave your comments on what look or style would complement his self-described "pointy head"... and cast your vote on our new online poll!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Does a possum see its shadow Down Under?

Happy Groundhog Day! We're missing old Wiarton Willie right now. But with Melbourne's "4 Seasons in a Day" infamy, could a rodent really be trusted with such a task as predicting the weather? Maybe we'll go ask a possum, just for fun.

There's not a ton of exciting news to relay, more the ins and outs of everyday life. But here's our week in review anyway:
--> Australia Day: We didn't spot as much in the way of supremely bad Aussie fashion as we had thought we would. We also arrived to the festivities late, having to watch the fireworks from two suburbs away as we walked down to Federation Square. We did notice a definite increase in drunk people hooting and hollering from cab windows, and the odd patriot wearing a flag as a cape. We spent it with a couple of Frenchies and an Iranian, celebrating our collective "Australian-ness" by having a few Tasmanian (James Boags, nice beer!) beers in the park by the Yarra River. Not too bad at all.
--> On the Job Front: Adrian's still working on it, though our landlord is keeping him plenty busy with paid handyman chores around the apartment (he's practically a professional painter now!). Dayle is getting used to her fairly mundane office job, and had her first encounter with negotiating a contract. She was served a very one-sided deal to sign, with terms like, while the company could terminate her on a moment's notice, she had to give a month's notice to them to quit. There were also some sketchy pay terms-- in Oz, if you make over $450/month the employer must pay 9% superannuation (basically retirement money) to you on top of the wage. Dayle's company was trying to include superannuation into the agreed wage instead of paying it over and above. That's a problem because as travellers, we can only access our "super" money when we leave the country for good. It's a nice little savings plan, but not something we want taken OUT of our wages. The meeting with the boss went surprisingly well and he reworded the contract to meet Dayle's demands... so she didn't get to walk out in a huff like she planned. So maybe these guys aren't so bad after all.
--> TV: We are very jealous that you people back in Canada have already seen the first episode of Lost. We won't get to see it 'til this week, making us officially a week behind the rest of the world in everything except Britney Spears gossip. We drowned our sorrows in a massive 24:Season 6 marathon last weekend instead.
--> Scenic Musings: We're really digging the grand old buildings, the huge green parks filled with giant trees, and the little nooks-and-crannies bars/cafes Melbourne seems to have hidden everywhere. Today we went to this cafe with a cozy little patio perched almost 3 stories above the street, off of an artsy, warehousey kind of building. There's no storefront sign, and the entrance door is all graffitied; I doubt we would have had any idea that it was there if it weren't for friends taking Adrian there a week ago. And they made the best (and prettiest) mochas we've ever seen. It's such a cool city!
--> Drama on Powell Lane: We're now up to 12 official + 1 unofficial people living in our little converted-warehouse apartment. And lately, someone's been peeing all over the toilet seats! Everyone's been getting increasingly tense about it-- finally Adrian made it his mission to confront each and every person with "Look, I'm not blaming you, or ANYONE in particular. But this has got to stop! Especially as we're the ones who have to clean the bathrooms every week!" It's since stopped (though it's only been 2 days), possibly due to Adrian's efforts, possibly due to one key suspect coincidentally moving out later that day. Definitely the GROSSEST roommate situation we've had yet. And this is coming from people who lived in a van, and then lived in a cottage with a dunny!
And that's about all. We've added some new pics to Flickr, so go check them out. Bye for now!