Big Question Marks

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Canberra, Sydney... and Dookie

The big Aussie road trip is officially underway-- two days and 4 1/2 hours later than planned, we managed to get Daisy fully packed and ventured into the Melbourne rush-hour gridlock on Wednesday at 9:30am (doesn't anyone go to work at 9 these days?). It was a long and monotonous drive up the Hume highway to Canberra, broken up only taking photos with funny roadside signs-- pity the fool who lives in a town called Dookie!--by snacking on leftover pizza. We were more than happy to get to Canberra in the early evening, and did a couple of loops around the Parliament building's numerous roundabouts to celebrate. We even got an angry pointing-at from a French diplomat's car (not sure what that was about!) while hooning around the futuristic monstrosity that is the Aussie Capital Hill.

Canberra is a bit of an oddly designed place-- made of cube apartments and futuristic building designs. Everything was really clean and sparkly looking, and there were heaps of trees everywhere, and wide boulevards. We couldn't stop thinking about Sim City! The CBD is pretty unexciting, so we retreated to our first caravan park of the trip and had a surprisingly wonderful sleep... and woke up shocked we were no longer in our little riverside apartment in South Yarra.

On day 2 we headed straight for the Parliament building-- first the new Parliament building, which was finished in 1988. It's a space-agey place (with grassy lawns on the roof!), mixed with that Washington feel of long grassy 'malls' and symmetry, ringed by mountains which surround the city. We figure there must be some cool bomb shelter underneath the giant hill it's built on... well, you never know. On the way into the building, Dayle was caught by parliament security for accidentally carrying a boxcutter knife around in her purse (it was a long and sleepless move-out from the apartment!), and Adrian and the security guards laughed at her a lot. That's the trouble with large purses-- you never know what's lurking at the bottom!!

After that, we took a guided tour of the building, watched some government dudes hurl insults at each other ("Mr. Smith(?), your points are about as damaging as getting hit by wet lettuce..."). A very creative bunch they are here! We decided to book tickets to watch Question Time, since the House only sits 18 weeks of the year, and we'd get to see the PM Kevin Rudd up close, and see how much he actually resembles TinTin (he was depicted as TinTin in many a political cartoon prior to the election last year). The PM was kind of sassy in person, (which was cool) but unfortunately we didn't catch too many snappy comments (or lettuce-slapping) so we snuck out after a half hour and headed first to the Canadian embassy to snap photos by the totem pole-- the building itself is really unexciting compared to other consulates!-- and then onto the really cool National Museum of Australia for a bit more culture & history (everything's free admission in Canberra, which is awesome!). The it was a dash for Sydney in a thunderstorm, since we had a (budget) hotel booked...

Yesterday we met up with a couple of Dayle's parents' friends from Sydney (they've been exchanging Xmas cards for 30 years after meeting on a European bus trip!). The Isbisters were super sweet and took us for a wonderful driving tour around Manly & Sydney's northern suburbs... without them I don't know if we'd have even ventured out there! We saw many giant houses, huge boats, and ate a beachside lunch watching the surfers toughing it out in the rain.

Later we used our ferry daypasses to head way up into the Parramatta River, where it was mangrovey and didn't feel like Sydney at all. We made it back to the city in another thunderstorm, bought a giant umbrella, and headed out for the evening to the Rocks area (the oldest area in the city, with old warehouses converted into shops, restaurants and pubs) and found ourselves drinking giant Lowenbraus with a bunch of Germans before the long walk back to our Kings Cross hotel past many of Sydney's finest prostitutes (gee, sometimes you forget you haven't see one in ages!)...

Today it's off to Bondi, maybe a trip up the Sydney tower for some views, and then who knows! Tomorrow we'll head off to the Blue Mountains for some hiking and some natural scenery, just west of the city... it's shaping up to be a good trip already!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Downsizing... a very time-consuming exercise

Yup, that's our clothing being turned into clothing jerky. Hooray for vaccuum-seal bags!

So... yeah, we're horrible travelers. Somehow we're 2 days behind and still at our place in Melbourne -- BUT we have resigned to leave today at 7am!

We!just can't get enough of this apartment! We've cut through all our clutter and donated heaps. Now its a matter of stuffing it all into the van and going... which we're working on.
Stay tuned.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Aussie road trip map route

Ahoy, hoy! Well this is it our route for the next little while - it makes a nice "figure 8", or as Adrian says; "It looks like the mask of an angry superhero looking down and to the right."
Everyone's a critic I suppose.
From Melbourne we head East up the coast to Canberra, Sydney, & Brisbane. Then cut West to Adelaide (that's where the middle of the "figure 8" meets). From there we blast north up to Darwin and follow the West coast down to Perth. Finally we head back to Melbourne along the South coast (once again through Adelaide), and back to our quasi-home of Melbourne.
There is lots of adventure afoot, so please keep tuning in!

Off we go! (Well, sort of...)

The long-awaited day has arrived-- it's time to hit the road!

After 11 months in Melbourne (we arrived on December 23, 2007), it's finally time to ship out and see the rest of Australia. Time to venture to the Outback, visit Uluru, take a cruise around Sydney harbour, and explore the little-discovered west coast. We're super excited and have been preparing for ages...

But as we keep learning, there's never enough hours in a day! Yesterday was spent feverishly cleaning (the apartment and Daisy), packing, and tying up loose ends, in anticipation of an early-morning departure today. We thought we could get our mile-long to-do lists done--no worries!--but it was around 9pm or so last night, when we were eating one last pizza delivered from our favourite pizza joint, Crust, and watching CSI Miami (hey, no more TV for ages!) in a VERY messy and chaotic living room, thinking about the late night ahead... when we thought, hey, would it really hurt our schedule THAT much if we just left on Tuesday?

The thought of enjoying our solid walls and our fiery gas heater (yes, it's gotten cold here again!), a TV, internet, our own bathroom an kitchen, and perhaps one more beer on the balcony while watching the sunset over the city was pretty enticing. Not to mention the chance to sleep in! It wasn't a very tough decision at all...

It's true, we originally planned a Sunday departure (the 22nd), but as Adrian just finished work on Friday, we thought it would be too chaotic. Monday seemed like a good idea. But now, Tuesday seems like an even better one!

So here's the plan: Tuesday morning we'll head off early, drive about 6 1/2 hours northeast to Canberra. We'll check out the leafy city of civil servants (which apparently has the biggest concentration of porn and drugs in the country, is what we keep hearing... too funny!) and see the sights before heading off to Sydney on Thursday morning (about 4 hours east). We've booked a budget (ghetto?) hotel room cuz we're sick of hostels... and we'll stay there, enjoying that good city life til Sunday morning, when we head off to the nearby Blue Mountains. We'll post our whole (rough) itinerary on the blog here so everyone can follow along, but as we know, plans change, and if we've learned nothing else on our travels, it's to be flexible!

So stay tuned, and we promise to bring you lots of stories, photos, videos, and more of our trek around the great wild world Down Under. But for now, we'll just be enjoying one more chai latte from that trendy teak-couched & silk-cushioned cafe down the street! We'll miss this city...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pimping it up at the Races

As we'd suspected, Cup Day was a grand old time. It was a gorgeous spring day, full of sunshine, blooming rosebushes and a crowd of more than 100,000 happy people-- perhaps helped along by the continuous flow of Fleur-de-Lys champagne!

Melbourne Cup, now in its 148th year, is the country's major thoroughbred horse race held on the first Tuesday of November-- it's a public holiday in the Melbourne area but also shuts down most of the country. Naturally, we were ecstatic to be in the city for its biggest annual event. And although it's supposed to be about the races, it's just a big fashion show for many- us included- and a great excuse to strut around in a fancy outfit and ridiculously large hat, sipping champagne out of plastic flutes!

There were 10 races happening throughout the day at Flemington Racecourse, so there was plenty of time to explore and people-watch (and take photos- check ours out on Flickr). Of course, there were a few jokers wearing Santa Claus suits, and the odd tuxedo-printed t-shirt, which we had been told to look out for, and lots of good pimp costumes (coincidentally we heard Snoop Dogg made an appearance). Not to mention the heaps of old ladies doing their Queen Elizabeth impressions, and high school girls with patchy orange tans hobbling around in giant heels, ironically like newborn foals. We also watched in awe some of the gravity-defying fascinators some of the ladies wore, and wondered what poor exotic bird died to put its feathers on some fashionista's head. (We were also shocked to find out, while shopping for outfits prior to the race, that an average to low-end feathery fascinator at Myer goes for $110 and up...yipe!)

We even tried our hand at betting on a horse or two (hey, you've gotta get into it!) but didn't make any sweet winnings. At least we learned what a trifecta was-- well, sort of. Perhaps there's some skill to it-- but then again, all of the horses who were hyped up to win the big 3.2 km Cup race didn't even place in the top three. (FYI, A horse named "Viewed" won the trophy, in an insanely close decision which had the crowd in suspense for ages) I guess our strategy of betting on the silliest names doesn't always win. Though "The Fuzz" and "Big Daddy Cool" still rock for horse names. But it was definitely the best place to be in November!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's Cup Day!

Today we're super excited to be heading off to the biggest event of the year in Melbourne (it's even a public holiday in the city!).... and maybe even the biggest in Oz. It's Melbourne Cup Day!

Cup Day is now in its 148th year and it's a day of horse racing... but really, it's all about dressing in silly, expensive outfits, getting really drunk, and gambling. Hooray Australia! Before we get all dolled up for the races we're brushing up on words like "trifecta", etc., so maybe we won't look so foreign! Dayle got a sneak preview of Cup Day while working at the races on Saturday (Derby Day, which they call "DAHHHHHBY Day" for some reason). There were already lots of feathery fascinators, fake hair, and frilly hats-- Marie Antoinette would feel right at home! The ride home on the train was something out of a Hunter S Thompson novel, but that's another story.
Stay tuned for lots of photos and more...