Wed 02/01/13 23:53
actually, I am just killing time

I had a pretty simple plan today, all I had to do was waste enough time to not get to the airport too early. Being too early to the airport has some distinct disadvantages compared to just killing time before you get to the airport. For one, when you’re at the airport early, you are unable to check in so you’re stuck lugging your bags around. Two, it always seems like it would be better to be earlier than on time, just in case you can get checked in and get a window seat. Unfortunately check in never opens until three hours before the flight and then you’re stuck wandering the concourses trying to find something interesting to do. Trust me, usually less than an hour will do if you’re on your own. Third, you always end up falling back on technology to kill your extra time. The problem that you usually face is that a phone or computer needs to get charged at some point. This means that you end up sitting in some weird place in the airport with your computer plugged in to some out of the way plugin. You try to hide into the woodwork just because you’re not sure if it’s okay to suck up some free electricity, and finally you wonder if that figure out of the corner of your eye is coming to tell you to move along.

Guess what I’m doing right now. If you read the first paragraph then you know exactly what I’m doing. ☺ I got here more than six hours before my flight, three before I can officially check in and drop off my bags. I did take some time and check in online—the first time ever—and managed to get the last window seat on the plane. I was so surprised and thankful that I scored a window seat.

Today was a kind of fun day. It started with a quick run to Starbucks and then to the Sidney harbor. I’m not sure why I picked that location except it just seemed to be a normal starting place for a tourist. With pretty much the whole day free I decided to take a ferry to Cockatoo Island. I didn’t know anything about the island, and with a name like that who knows, maybe there are lots of cockatiels there. I was pleased when I got off the ferry to see that it was a museum of sorts. I guess the best comparison would be Alcatraz to San Francisco in that it is probably the same distance away and was used as a prison, among other things. It took about 2 hours to walk around the island and for the most part it was interesting. The island had been used for pretty much everything, from a prison to a shipyard. Most of the buildings that were left after the island was closed were straight out of the first part of the 20th century, big hangar type buildings with many of the lathes and winches that were used. I found no problem imagining what it must have been like to work there.

Probably the most interesting thing was that I got attacked by vicious man eating sea gulls, I guess because I got too close to their hatchlings. There was something about me that they didn’t like, and I couldn’t figure it out, but they would attack me and leave other wanderers alone. Maybe it was some sort of anti-American sentiment that drove them with such hate. At one point I wanted to walk down this path but I had been attacked earlier, and from my vantage point I could see there were too many sea gulls just sitting around, so I decided not to take the chance. That was until from behind some trees I see this guy walking around with his camera, the blood letting was going to be horrific once the gulls saw him, but he walked right along the path, that same path I just minutes before I had decided was going to be too dangerous for me. So cool, he walked on past with barely a squawk from the birds, so I thought it would be safe for me. As soon as I got close to the path the squawks started up, once I got on the path one very aggressive gull went at me. A few others took flight too, my guess they were the back up if I managed to get free of the first one. My defense was to grab for my hat. It had worked before that when I took my hat off, the gulls veered away from me. Anyway, I kept walking and managed to make it to freedom, but I didn’t take any more chances from then on.

My adventurism quenched for the day I went to find some place to buy a souvenir and get some lunch. The rest of the time was wandering around trying to walk slowly, trying to find something to occupy me for a few more minutes. I even went so far as to repack my backpacks, change clothes, and clean up a little. That brings me to where I am now, more than three hours early to the airport sitting on my backpack, computer plugged into an outlet under some phone booths, and trying to look as in

Wed 02/01/13 15:44
and eventually to Dubai

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Sydney right now. I left Adelaide yesterday almost exactly 24 hours ago and I feel like it too. It was a journey to say the least getting to where I am right now, and I’ve still got another 24 hours (clock time, but actual time is an extra 6) to go before I land in Dubai, and where I can finally relax.

Before we even boarded the bus in Adelaide we were running about 15 minutes late. I didn’t think it would be a big problem since I had somewhere around 30 minutes of a layover in Bendigo, where I change from a bus to a train. Soon my worst fears started to be realized. At each stop we started back up a little bit late until we were running a full thirty behind schedule. The bus driver realized the problem and made announcements about getting back to the bus on time, and generally just trying to make everyone understand what was at risk for most of us who were making the transfer at Bendigo. I was really starting to worry since I needed to make that train to get to Melbourne so I could catch another train to Sydney so I could get to the airport for my flight back to Dubai.

To put the situation in context try to imagine me counting every minute as if it were life and death. Every light we missed as we made our way to the station I was repeating in my head, “Run it. Run it!” So when we pulled into the bus station at Bendigo about 5 minutes late and I didn’t see any trains I thought the worst. I guess there was a delay down the line so the train wasn’t going to show up until 7 pm, a full two hours late. I guess the bus and train company are one in the same, so they hired a bus to make an express run to Melbourne. I showed up with about 20 minutes to spare for my train ride to Sydney.

Now that I’m here I’ve got about 12 hours before my flight to Dubai. It’s a long layover, but at least I’m familiar with the town so I think I should be able to kill the time effectively. I just wish that I had changed my clothes before I left my bags in storage. No worries, my “slept in hair” and wrinkled clothes will just be something for the locals to laugh at. If I’m lucky it will rain and that should tame my hair, and make everyone else’s clothes wrinkled. :)

Tue 01/01/13 04:55
and a little bit of the night

I finally made it out of the hostel about 2 and most of the photos that I’ve posted in the last entry are ones that I took during my walk around the city, and to be honest there really isn’t too much to see. I asked the guy at the reception why it was so quiet, and he said it’s because of the holiday, today is January 1st. Whatever the reason it sure is dead around the city. When I went out later in the night I was taking photos instead of cool or interesting things in the city, but of how deserted it is. Whole streets without any cars for as far as you can see.

I did find the red light area, such as it is, and it was pretty much closed down for the night. The red light district was nothing more than a few strip clubs, and a few massage parlors. Even those businesses were closed there were a few restaurants that were open and had people eating, so it wasn’t completely closed down.

After talking to the people this morning I’ve been trying to figure out a way to summarize Australia in general, and Adelaide specifically. I know that it is completely wrong to rank on Adelaide when I haven’t really spent enough time here, but I think it’s fair to talk about Australia in general, at least if just to poke fun at them a little. What I came up with is, “The Stepford Country™” ☺ Got to trademark that.  Everything here is too right and too perfect for me to feel comfortable. There are rules for everything and many things seem to be controlled by taxes. I think there are many other reasons for it, but I won’t bore you trying to qualify my how I came up with it.

I’m leaving here tomorrow morning early, so although it’s only 9pm I’ve got go make sure that my bags are ready to go. My bus leaves at 725 so I’ll probably want to be at the station by at least 7, that means that I have to leave by 630, which means that I will have to wake up by at least 6, but probably it would be better by 530.

Mon 31/12/12 23:58

I woke up at about 830 with little or no eye problems. I haven’t looked at my eye so it may still be red or swollen, but it doesn’t hurt and it’s not watery at all. What a relief. So I’m starting 2013 feeling pretty good. I just finished my first cup of coffee sitting outside in warm summer morning while I write this entry and finish the previous one. Life feels pretty good right now.

Just as I was getting up to go take a shower I got into a conversation with about 4 or 5 people about traveling. The discussion of travel changed to Australia and I asked what people thought about the country so far. All of the people were from Europe, except for me, and they all said there are too many rules here, and it’s way too expensive. Funny because that’s what I thought as well, but to hear it from Europeans it really made my opinions correct. In the end we talked about nearly everything for about 2 hours, until I finally decided it was time for me to get ready to see the city. Today I’m staying in a real hostel, dorm room, common area, mostly young people, and to be honest I enjoy this type of environment the best. The problem I run into so many times when I stay in a true hostel is that I feel too old, and some people treat me different. This one has been good though so far.

So I went back down to the common area and started talking to a German guy who is doing a working holiday around the world trip. He’s been traveling for like more than two years and is coming from Perth where he worked for 3 months. We ended up talking for a couple of hours and now it’s almost 2, and I haven’t stepped out of the hostel yet. Got to go now.

Mon 31/12/12 23:57
and the trip to Adelaide

I think I’m going to add two days into one entry. Yesterday was a big walk around the city and today was a bus and train ride to Adelaide, so although each had some interesting points nothing really stood out as being a big event.

I started kind of late in the morning yesterday. I knew that it was going to be my last day and I didn’t really know what to do that I hadn’t already done in my time here. Well, there was one thing, I hadn’t gone to the beach in Melbourne yet and it was one of the first things I was planning on doing. So what better excursion to do before I left Melbourne than to go down to the shore? I decided to walk the long route to the nearest beach, about 5k by my estimations. I didn’t really know what to expect either, was it a regular beach for swimming, or possibly it could be a working shore that would be complete with docks.

When I did finally arrive about an hour after leaving the hotel, I entered into a very nicely groomed beach. The white sand beaches were filled with all types, there were people kite surfing, swimming, laying out, and of course lots and lots of people just walking around. About the only negative that I could find was that it was windy to the point of being a little uncomfortable.

After walking along the beach for what was marked as 5.5 km, I headed back to the city on a bike/pedestrian path. This path couldn’t have been planned out any better, it ran parallel to a park on one side and metro track on the other so the only time that I had to deal with any cars was the occasional cross street. Much of the path was covered by trees so it seemed really idyllic in fact I wish all cities, or at least Dubai, had paths like this. The walk back to the city pretty much wore me out and after hitting a downtown, Hungry Jacks, I took the metro back to the hotel. Just to note, Burger King ran into a copyright problem when they tried to come to Australia and had to use a different name, Hungry Jacks.

Something else that I keep telling myself that I need to mention in this blog is, that most of what I’ve seen of Australia, specifically where people are involved, reminds me so much like the west coast of the US. I swear there have been times like on my walk home yesterday that I felt like I was walking near Laurelhurst Park. The streets, the architecture, the parking, and nearly everything seemed so familiar.

I set both of my alarms for 6 to get out of the hotel by 7, and without a hitch I got to the train station on time. I like when that happens. About the only thing to note in my morning was that sometime over the night I developed an eye infection. It wasn’t bad at first, but by about midway through my trip I couldn’t even open my eye without tears streaming down my face. The guy sitting next to me kept looking at me, probably thought I was crying or something. Eventually we spoke a little and I took the opportunity to mention the eye infection and he nodded like now it made sense.

The type of eye infection is the same type as I usually get, I don’t know what causes it, but it seems to be common after being in strong wind where fine dust or sand is around. It happens a lot in Dubai. Another thing that I feel like kind of talking about is that on the second part of my journey we were on a bus, and there was a short, round, old man sitting across the aisle from me. He was the type that would talk to anyone and when he talked he didn’t care who heard. For the most part his voice just turned into background noise, much like the din of all the other noises of the bus, but at one point he says, “…I’ve been all around the world and I like all countries except for one.” He piqued my interest, which could it be? Russia? Japan? China? He continued, “America. The people are crazy there, they want war, and every one of them has a gun. And if it weren’t for America there wouldn’t be any wars. Just look, every war that there has been, America has been in it.” I was being given a rare inside look of what so many Australians think about the US. He didn’t know that I was from the US but I was smiling at that point. He mentioned, “I lived there for two months so I know what I’m talking about. At the time my wife was pregnant and she got nervous, so we got right out of there and came back to Australia!” I thought about breaking down his logic to him, like mentioning that the time frame he’s talking about is over 50 years ago (he mentioned that his daughter is 52), or that most of the wars the US has been in have been either at the request of other nations, WWI, WWII, Kuwait, and a number of other encounters. Sure, there are the ones that we’ve done wrong, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, but not every war. The whole time that I overheard his rant about how evil the US is/was, I just kept thinking how ignorance is like a warm blanket that people love to cover themselves in. He was so content in his belief that America was evil, he used the cause of wars to rationalize his theory, and now he could hate it without ever having to question his own beliefs. He is a perfect example of why I hate ignorance in everyone. In two months in Los Angeles and we’re all supposed to believe his hate of another group of people, who are so much like him that he couldn’t even tell an American(aka one of the demons) was sitting less than 4 feet away. To be honest though, I really enjoyed the opportunity that he gave me and only wish that I had said something to him… you know to let him hear my accent.

The bus pulled into Adelaide at about 730 in the evening and no lie, the city looked deserted. If it weren’t for an occasional car it would have looked like marshal law or a curfew was in effect. I made it to the hostel without any problems, and about the only thing that I can mention is that my eye was so swollen, red, and watery that I was embarrassed to talk to anyone. Earlier in the day I kept my sunglasses on so my eye was somewhat hidden, now that the sun was pretty much down my sunglasses aren’t really an option and my eye is out there to creep everyone out that happens to look at me. I quickly grabbed something to eat and headed to bed. It was about 9:30 when I laid my head down, and that is about the last thing I remember. It is somewhat interesting to me that I slept nearly half the trip to Adelaide asleep and then fell asleep at night before 10 on New Years Eve. Must have been the eye infection.

Sat 29/12/12 18:15
One day driving along the beach

The bus was supposed to pick me up at about 720 in the morning, but ended up being a little late. No worries, I was looking forward to getting out of the city and was proud that I was doing something a little bit out of the norm for me. Today was to be a day long road trip along The Great Ocean Road, stopping along the way for photos, tea, lunch, and breaks.

We started the actual journey at about 8, but didn’t actually stop until about 10. That left me about an hour to take a small nap to make up for having to wake up early. There were lots of stops along the way and the coast was absolutely beautiful, and about my only complaint was how cold and windy it was.

Most of the photos that I took were of the landscape, but a few were from wildlife that we saw along the way. We stopped at several surfing locations and one place that is well known for having Koalas. The vast majority of our stops were to take photos of the rock formations along the coast. I was also playing with my new phone’s panorama feature.

One more thing of note, on our way back to Melbourne last night we stopped in a small farming town which I swear could have been straight from Western Texas. The big open road, the tractor supply stores, a few cars waiting to cross road, of course there was the scattered fast food restaurants (KFC, McD). It was just strange, in a good way. :)