As I promised to my Prof (Rob), I was the first one on the bus and went straight to the back seat. Knowing we were on a bigger bus then we had people on the trip I lay out over the back seats and conked back out again. I skipped the first rest stop (for I had been sick when I first got up - not from drinking though, I think my body just rebelled against waking up so early) but was made to get off the bus an walk around. The second stop was in a teenie little Brighton/Tweed style town called Charlton which had no food chains or franchises of any kind. They must do it on purpose, we decided, as if there had been a Hungry Jacks (Burger King- literally just BK with a different name) we all would have gone there. Instead Haseena (Canadian who has been mentioned previously) , Teni (London/Nigeria) and I found a little fish and chips shop where I had shark! Fish and chips in Aus can mean Shark and Chips! It was about the same price and it was great! Haseena assures me (and I trust her on it) that unlike the controversy in Canada right now about shark fin soup that this is a particular kind of shark -gum shark? I believe- that is farmed sustainably. It was made just that more delicious knowing that. Sustainability is sexy. After eating our lunch by the river where a giant metal fish stood (that no one got a picture of) and moments after mentioning just how badly I needed some child or pet therapy ("I just need to play with something new for 20min. Give me a baby or a puppy or a joey to cuddle and I'll be content") I found a playground to mess around in (Graham-another CDN, and Haseena joined me) and there was a little boy named Terrin, 19 months old, who wanted to throw dirt with/at me. I couldn't be happier to oblige. We dug in the red sand together, played tag and I took him down the slide over and over again. This was while Haseena and Graham had what I later discovered was a very interesting conversation with Terrin's mother and Grandmother regarding their options of aboriginals in their home town.
Hate is easy. Love takes effort. Don't be lazy.
Once we got back on the bus Pricilla Queen of the Desert was the movie on the overhead screen because the place we are heading to - Broken Hill - is featured in the film. If you haven't seen Pricilla I suggest it. It doesn't have the speed of today's films, rather the subtle classic tension that makes a film from the 70's/80's really good. Also it's Agent Smith in drag and with that you just can't go wrong.
We are traveling through/to the deep country were no ones lives but as I look out the window of the bus to the side of the road there are beer bottles every 3 meters. I can't tell if the shimmering in the sand is the sand itself or broken glass.
Dear American Cousins (who, for those who don't know, have young burgeoning little ones) Please, for the love of everything good in this world, raise your children to be better then the rude, vapid, useless wastes of space and resources that are the American exchange students on this trip. Oh my goodness. When I was chosen to go on this exchange it was due to my outgoing qualities as an ambassador of York and all Canadians and THIS is what the states has to offer?! Oh my god get out now. Just leave. Get off this planet because if this is the future of the free world we're fucked. Let me clarify that this is not all the Americans on exchange or who are on this trip. I can name some exchange students who I find lovely and are totally except from this description but they are counted on one hand and are definably separate from the other group. I keep using the word 'vapid' after Graham used it earlier today and its just a perfect word to describe them with. Their conversation is such empty, meaningless dribble, I can't believe how they function. What are these people taking? What are they doing in university? Why do you bother to exist?! I use 'useless wastes of space' because that is exactly what they are.
Now, I know I'm spewing all this in the same post as my lovely little phrase about hate, so I want to clarify: I do not hate these people. I don't even know them to hate them. I will give them all of the benefit of the doubt and innocent until proven guilty until the cows come home. I'm not suggesting they are mean or even bad people, just ones without a point or purpose to society. I'm praying they will prove me wrong -if someone who is involved in this group or is offended by what I'm saying is reading this -please- prove me wrong. Show me that you can have an intelligent, meaningful conversation within - or even more impressively - outside of your group and I will change my tune. Prove to me you have something to offer anyone that is not you or your immediate circle of friends. Something society or someone else can benefit from and I will sing your praises as the rose amongst the thorns but in the mean time, you're doing nothing to stop perpetuating the stereotype.
I'm sharing (present tense as I'm writing this on my iPod- one of the best gifts ever: thank you Zac) a room with Haseena and Teni. There is a double bed (which I requested and the two others graciously rewarded) and two singles. We are staying for the first three nights in Broken Hill's classiest...no...nicest...no...cleanest...ha, nice try...spookiest hotel accommodation. The West Darling Hotel - Budget Accommodation. It is entertainingly sketchy and 'spooky' is a great word to describe it. It looks like every and any hotel from any and every horror film ever. I cannot even begin to document it without time, effort and a fancier lens on my camera (though as you'll see below I did try) but the people who run it are lovely. There are 3 bars that I can count, a breakfast room/large dining hall and a dinner room.
From there it was to The Royal Flying Doctors Service which had nothing to do with Doctor Who so it's not worth mentioning. Here however is a picture of a plane.
After lunch - a stellar beef pie from Mrs Mac's Cafe - we headed into the outback to the Daydream Silver Mine where after looking at many holes in the ground and taking several photos like this.
We headed underground. It was a very interesting and entertaining experience with some of the tightest squeezes in single file being a little over a meter high. I'm not itching to go back but I did enjoy myself.
Afterwards we headed out to the broken hill outback sculpture park, a mountaintop sculpture park that permitted you to see for miles. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the mountain path and met us at the top with refreshments of wine and goon. Wine and goon on a mountain in the outback - the quintessential Australian experience. Lots of photos were taken, some are bound to pop up on here soon.
Dinner this evening was roast beef, potatoes, gravy, carrots, peas and corn and was served on dinnerware I swear my nanny and grandad had. It was a very good meal and was made even more impressive because it was mass produced. Afterwards we headed in groups to The Broken Hill Musician's Club where we drank and played pool. Highlights included a drunk and high aforementioned american girl me my shirt was "so hot" and kissing me on the cheek, a transsexual aboriginal woman and Graham being pulled into the smokers room by a horny local (the profs wanted to leave him at the end of the night but I insisted we save him, it was the right thing to do, he was very thankful).
Day 3 began with a trip to the miners memorial (from which you can see our hotel) it was a very sobering start to the day.
Reading about decades of men dying in the mines put a bit of a damper on things until CAMEL RIDES!
This appeared to be everyone's favorite part of the trip. It was not mine, but it was surprisingly fun.
Following this we stopped to overlook the mundy mundy plains and the ghost town of Silverton where Mad Max (2?) was filmed - I guess I have to watch it now.
Eldee Station was our stop for the rest of the day, another family run operation where we had lunch, a sheep sheering demonstration (which was not exactly fun but we've had that Moral discussion to death at this point). A bug covered walk down a dried up river bed to former squatters houses.
A light afternoon tea was waiting for us when we got back and the next mission was to make it up a mountain for sunset. It was a surprisingly reflective personal moment, so no talk, just pictures.
I was one of the last three off the mountain and we were greeted with steak, a variety of salads including potato and Greek, chocolate cake, apple crumble and ice cream. I ate so well this trip. I don't expect to eat this much or better ever again (to see pictures of pretty much everything I/we ate check out Haseena's blog).
After dinner was a bonfire, a star walk and a d&m with Haseena under the moon. I said several times that evening that I'm sure many people have had very interesting and fruitful long lives without experiencing this kind of thing but I won't be one of them. This trip (both to Broken Hill but more importantly and effectively this trip to Australia) has started me on a path to realize that it's getting unlikely that I will grow roots anytime soon. I look forward to having a home base but I'm not sure of anything at the moment and I'm okay with that. I don't know how soon I will travel again after I go back to Canada, nor to where, nor even where I'll live once I get back to T.O. And that is scary but also very freeing. I know my life will be more than most.
Back to the hotel and straight to bed.
As you should be able to tell with the dubious changes in tense over this entry I have been writing this over the length of the trip. The last few days in one sitting on the bus ride home an I'm growing wary of this task so I cannot promise the quality of the detail.
Day 4 (it's a 5 day trip FYI)
Very early wake up. Sleep on bus. Leg stretch where the Murray and Darling Rivers meet the former had experienced flooding upstream and was very muddy so when the two met you could see the divide continued for some time downriver. I noted it looked like tea and coke.
Here we switched buses and continued to Mungo National Park where we had an guided tour with an aboriginal guide. I thought it looked like a xidisix colony (I can hear someone telling 'NNNEEERRRRDD!' in my head and I'm okay with that). Props to the quality of the Mungo Visitors Center, poorly staffed(I would have bought a postcard if someone had've been there), but very well researched and presented.
Then came a long drive and traveling back into Victoria from *pause + echo effect* New South Wales. We arrived at our motel- a real motel, with real everything and as anticipated I would say 'Rob Kelly is a god amongst men'- with a pool and a private shower, an amazing thing all around. Here Krysten *cough* Laura joined our room and we decided to jump into the pool which produced these photos (thanks to Graham).
And then rushed to great ready an head out to a all you can eat pizza an pasta at a very nice restaurant followed by a brewery where Haseena and I shared a beer sampler and Rob permitted me to stay in Australia due to my liking of Vegemite.
The next morning was our mystery activity. We had several guesses as to what it was after receiving hints such as 'bring an extra pair of socks', 'all safety equipment will be provided', and that 'old sea dogs such as those who were in the navy together will have no problem'. This lead to many naughtical and moister related ideas. I was convinced we would be helping with flood relief (something Rob was known to do and why would they keep an activity we would want to do a secret?). Well I was wrong, though I did call that the socks were a red herring. (If you are planning in going on this trip in the future this is where you should stop reading). After driving around for about half and hour crossing boarders back and forth into *echo effect* nnnneeeewwwww ssssooouuuttthhh wwwwaaalllleesas we finally arrived (and honest to goodness I called it as soon as we passed an add for it) at a winery for 10 am tour and samples. Awesome.
This place smelled incredible you have no idea. Like sweet grapes and wine and wood and sugar and just divine. After tour and tasting Graham Krystyn/Laura and I took several pictures in the vineyard (credit to Teni for my hair) some samples:
And off to home we go. The trip was uneventful other then Rob coming to the back of the bus to dance with an American girl who had been dared to give him a lap dance. There are pictures of that, but I can't be bothered and I'm sure he doesn't want them on the internet.
I had one day back in Melbourne and then was off to Brisbane for One Fish Two Fish. And you thought this a long post.
There's no place like...