Sunday, July 31, 2005

Lunacy In The Overhead Bin

I had the loftiest of intentions to write some sort of poetic appendix to this whole trip, but it seems time is against me. We leave for the airport in 20 minutes, and so it is with a slightly disappointed sigh that I bid farewell to Sydney in a lackluster performance.

Time permits me to tell one strange story, however.

On our flight from Perth, the three rows in front of us were filled with a traveling wheelchair basketball team. We flew the bizarrely rigid skies of Virgin Blue. I say "bizarrely rigid" because on that flight there was the most stringent, by-the-book flight attendant I've ever come across. By the end of today, we'll have been on 11 flights, so that's saying something. Virgin Blue is also the cheapest airline in existence; their discounted rates don't include so much as a cold beverage or a tiny bag of peanuts. Striving for that vital backpacker vibe, they employ mostly twenty-somethings named Tammy or Brittany or Keith.

So cut to the chase, one wouldn't suspect that this was an airline that would require a legless passenger to stow his prosthetic limbs in the overhead bin prior to takeoff.

Yet, the uber-strict steward walked by the team of young men, studying the belongings in front of them. He then began attempting to persuade them that their legs were best left in the compartment above.

"But what if I need to get up to go to the toilet?" a young man asked.
"Or what if there's an emergency?" another mentioned.
I began imagining a scenario in which the plane had crashed into the ocean and the steward was attempting to retrieve the floating limbs.

You had to hand it to the guy in the wheelchair -- he made a good case.

But alas, dignity lost its way.

"After takeoff it won't be a problem, and I can get them for you then."

So the team complied, amazingly, and that's where the story pretty much ends.

He also forced Mary to put her purse on the floor, which she then threw down and let out a dramatic, "Fine!"

It was comical, but the demand placed on the amputee was a little more absurd.

Well, I'm off to fly United, in search of an airline that perhaps won't be so domineering as to require I keep my legs stowed overhead. We'll see you in 24.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Coat Hanger

We've whittled six months down to a weekend. I'm torn between not wanting to leave and a readiness to return home -- a predictable conflict of emotions, but nevertheless a conundrum.

We couldn't climb Mount Kosciuszko because the roads were snowed in. We didn't climb Uluru because it is a sacred site for the Aboriginees. But by jove, we're off to climb the Harbour Bridge.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


We've arrived in Perth. If pressed, I'd describe it as clean and organized -- a real candy land for the city planner in all of us.

The three day train ride was, for lack of a better Teesdalian expression, "a trip." The elderly man dying of emphysema in the seat in front of me, Snorey Mcphlegmalot, and the young children playing a game I'd call "Scream your head off" interfered slightly with my plan to sleep the first night. But beyond that, the journey into Western Australia was smooth and enjoyable.

I got around to putting up photos from Brisbane to Sydney, from Sydney to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Adelaide.

I don't expect anyone to sift through all that, as they're just a backup should I be so unfortunate as to break or lose another camera. Digital camera-disposing seems to be a hobby of mine.

Thus, I'll leave you with something slightly more interesting, a comparison of 2002 vs 2005. Check out how the one Apostle is gone and marvel at my unchanged silhoutte -- I know I could spend hours doing so.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

To Perth! Jeff Grand threw down the gauntlet. "Flowery," he says. So I figure a bizarre photo and no expanation is what this blog needs.
We leave tonight on the Indian Pacific, traveling 4,352 kilometers to Perth.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Landscape Photography: Totally Plausible Career Option

I cannot stop taking photos of the land, lately. I'd argue there is a finite number, a limit so to speak, of how many pictures one should take while traveling, and I'm sensing that perhaps I've crossed that barrier. But then, I'm beginning to trust my judgement in the category of all things travel.

For example, Travel and Leisure magazine recently vindicated my belief that Sydney is the finest city in the world, for the eighth time in ten years. Chiang Mai and Bangkok also rounded out the top five, to which my good friend Yao would lift a Chang and say, "khaawp khoon khrap."

We've arrived in Melbourne this evening, staying on the outskirts of the city in the bohemian district of St. Kilda. I'm transfixed with the place -- curse those beaurocrats that say four months is long enough for a working visa.

Enjoy the photos below, and perhaps comment to reassure me I haven't lost my marbles. The countryside of this land is magnificent.

Sunset near Cape Byron, New South Wales

Lakes Entrance, Victoria

McKillops Bridge, Snowy River, Victoria
Lake Jindabyne, New South Wales

Near Barrington, New South Wales

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Capital Idea!

We spent the last few days hiking through inland and northern New South Wales, along ocean fronts and lighthouse hillsides, then mountains and mammoth granite boulders.

Last night we night kayaked down two kilometers of seven-rapid whitewater in Barrington. It is the only commercial location of night kayaking that exists in the world, according to our guide. Being blindly thrown down rapids, under only the light of a half-moon and miniature headlamps, in midwinter, is the adrenaline equivalent of skydiving -- moronic, tense, and awesome.

Five of us sat afterwords in a hot tub, wet suits on, drinking under the night sky and discussing the legal infancy of adventure tourism.

"There exists a pendulum between cowboy entrepreneurs and genuine enthusiasts -- technicians that deserve the full protection of the law," the guide lamented. "We've had this law on the books for three years, so where are the cowboys?"

Perhaps it was the alcohol, or the heat thinning our bloodstream, that made such waxing prophetic seem brilliant, but any cynicism was rendered irrelevant as the hours passed.

Tomorrow we set off from Sydney towards the Snowy Mountains of Victoria, and on to Melbourne. I'll be spending my 24th birthday in scenic Wilsons Promontory, to which I react, "But of course!"

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I Heard the News Today

I'm having trouble typing something coherent tonight, as half a world away, four bombings rocked mid-morning London. In Australia, there exists a phenomenal draw of British expatriots and it has been unsettling to see the gloom and horror on their faces as the news came in. This is as close a feeling I've experienced since the gut-wrenching surprise of 9/11 or to the Madrid bombings of 3/11.

It is strange, as well, to realize that as this part of the world receives the news, the United States sleeps, mostly unaware, for the next few hours.

On a brighter note, we are doing well.

We are in Brisbane, having traveled through Airlie Beach, Kroombit, Agnes Waters, Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach, and Noosa. We've covered roughly 1,500 kilometers in the past three days. Mary's holding up great, I'm a bit tired of living out of a backpack, and we've a few days in Brisbane to relax.

Back to the news.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Call Me Ishmael

Well, we've returned three majestic days on the open sea. As the picture at left indicates, we were fortunate enough to see several whales migrating north from Antarctica. It's hard to explain the sight or even the powerful sound of its tale breaking through water, but it was incredible.

On day 2, with a stiff breeze, we did some genuine sailing -- through 4 meter swells and with that 30 knot wind at our backs. A few people lost their lunch, but thanks to a nifty medication callled Trava-Calm, I was fine. The rest of the photos from the trip can be seen here.

Majestic Destiny

Cairns, Mission Beach, and Magnetic Island photos are here. I'm turning into Peter Lik, right? Well, I can at least emulate his style for choice of title, that much is certain.

Cairn Do

Lastly, photos from Alice Springs to Cairns, and a day trip up to Cape Tribulation, are here.