Finally made it to Oz - Part 2

Trip Start Sep 15, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Saturday, January 9, 2010

The next morning we made our way to the Cairns docks and boarded the
Tusa Dive Boat, a fine vessel fully equipped for a day of snorkeling and
scuba diving on the reef. The staff was a bit quirky but all in all it
was a pretty good setup. We weren't off the dock 5 minutes when we were
offered an opportunity to take an introductory dive (no license needed)
for $70... hmmm, $70 to actually dive (up to 12 Meters deep) for the
first time.... and in the world renowned dive mecca, The Great Barrier
Reef...OK, sign me up!  After a few instructions during our 1.5 hour
cruise to the outer reef we suited up in our stinger suits and jumped
in.   Man, was it an experience; I rented an underwater camera after which
they gave me a disk with my photos and 200 "Best Shots" they had on
file, see if you can figure out which ones are mine ; ) Except for the
slightly limited visibility due to the high algae content (especially at
the second location) the day was spectacular. I ended up taking a
second dive as well and spent the rest of the day snorkeling with Beth. I
have to say, in all the snorkeling I've done I've never encountered the
scale of wildlife as I did on the reef. Instead of fish being hand to
forearm size, they are more like torso to full body sized and so many
amazing colors. I spotted a reef shark swimming by during the first dive
and the second dive started with a giant turtle which we followed
around for a bit. Check out the ginormous clam, even it had amazing
colors. Touch it's shell and it clamped shut. Another epic day...

The following day we made finally made it to the auto rental shop
swapped out the van for our trusty ford falcon station wagon, a car I
did not recognize from the US but one that is very popular in Oz. We
sadly piled our bags in the hatchback, thinking this was a serious
downgrade from the luxurious camper van but it actually turned out to be
great, easier to drive, easier on gas, and we could actually hear our
little music box between the seats now (Man VW vans are loud). I think
our biggest complaint would be that it didn't have curtains so getting a
little privacy in our sleeping quarters required some creativity
(garbage bags and baby pins..... white bags to be exact to keep the temp
down when the sun hit us in the morning).

We had a hankering to see a bit of the outback although at this point in
the trip it was clear we would not have time to make it to Alice
Springs, the famous far outback in the center of the country. Also in
our rental contract clearly stated "NO DRIVING ALLOWED ON UNSEALED
(dirt) ROADS OR WARRANTY IS VOID", so we had a discussion with John the
dude at Travelers Auto Barn. He told us the best way to get a taste of
the outback while also seeing something cool within a couple of days or
less and while sticking to the contract terms would be to visit either
the limestone caves in Chillago or the lava tubes in Undara, both south
west of Cairns and within a few hundred KMs inland. While the lava tubes
sounded cool he said there really wasn't anything there except a couple
of camp grounds, but Chillago is a small outback town with your basic
infrastructure, grocery store, hotel/restaurant, post office and of
course the local saloon style pub. That's the ticket we were looking for
so we jumped in the car and headed towards Chillago.

With the landscape and scenery changing slowly we made our way out of
the plush green coastal mountains and into a dryer, more desolate area.
Trees became more sparse and grand green needled trees turned to dust
covered leafed trees and bushes. The termite hills continued and were
even more visible now that there was less vegetation. After about an
hour of driving off the coast we were surprised to find the road we turn
to dirt. Hmmm strange since John told us it was totally sealed to
Chillago. Scratching our heads we looked to our trusty iPhone GPS, maps
supplied in the glove box, and Lonely Planet guide for the answer
(albeit a version published in 2002). Lonely planet mentioned a 17 KM
stretch of the road that yet remained unsealed but was due to be paved
so we decided to continue, taking our chances nothing would happen cause
we had no insurance for unsealed road driving. After an hour of driving
we clearly were well beyond the 17 KMs we thought would bring us back
to asphalt and with no changes, and no sign of life other than the usual
roadside kangaroos we started to get concerned. By this time we had no
cell service, it was getting dark, and yikes... we only had a 1/4 tank
of gas left, not enough to bring us back to the last town. OK what to
do, I spotted a another Atlas between the car seats and found a more
detailed map. Based on all the information we had we took a guess at
where were and mapped a path back to civilization. At this point since
it was getting dusk it was beginning to cool off, so we turned off the
air conditioning and rolled down the windows to save gas. The next hour
passed slowly as we searched for civilization around every corner and
over every hill. Finally we came to a crossroads in a place called
Emuford, which possibly mapped our path home. I say possibly because the
"town" Emuford was one creepy eery house on a hill with nobody home and
a fairly new road sign simply saying Emuford. It wasn't on the map but
there was a junction on the map that could possibly be this spot. If we
were right we needed to take a right turn here which clearly was the
path well taken. With the needle almost on "E" we proceeded praying to
find the junction with the main road approximately 20 KMs ahead. An
excessively long 20 KMs later we could see what looked like a sign at
the end of a long stretch of straight road. As we approached, straining
our eyes to see what it said, we finally were able to breath a sigh of
relief, this sign read "Petford 3KMs".

We filled up with gas and made our way to Chillago, which in the end
proved to be what we were looking for. A quiet little outback town with a
main strip called Queen St. which in summary had an old post office,
hotel and pub (famous for a great burger which I unfortunately was not
lucky enough to taste), a pool hall and pub, a restaurant, and a brand
new tourist information center called "The Hub".  The Hub showcased a
walking history of the area telling ancient stories of long lost seas
and ancient coral reefs resulting in the local limestone, to present day
Chillago.  After checking into a camp site we strolled over to the
local pool hall and pub in search of some real outback friendlies and we
found it. We found a small group of locals (including a couple of
aboriginals) co-mingling with a group of men from coastal towns who were
in the area while working on you'll never guess... paving the roads. We
had a few beers and shot pool with the crew, enjoying a chat with some
fun, laid back Aussies.

We went on 2 of the 3 possible cave tours the following day and between
the two tours we made our own way out to the Mungana National Park where
we found aboriginal stone paintings and the self-guided archway caves.
The guided cave tours were great, our guide was the local ranger and
experienced tour guide as well. The first was the Donna Cave and we were
flying solo with the guide which made it more intimate for us so we
could ask all kinds of questions and joke around more. The limestone
formations were awesome, having been formed over millions of years
through natural process of water seeping through the ground and natural
calcification. We learned that the points grow from the ceiling through
calcification of a dripping water flow (stalagmites) and spikes grow
upward from the cave base where the water drops fall through the same
calcification process (stalagtites). The stalagmites and the stalagtites
growing closer and closer at about the rate of a centimeter a year
(depending on rain fall) eventually they meet in the middle creating a
column of limestone.  During a rainy season they can get several
thousand millimeters of rain, if it's a really bad storm they sometimes
get a meter of rain in just one day (yes I said a meter) in which case
the caves flood temporarily. Later that afternoon, our tour was in the
Royal Arch Cave which has no lighting so everyone was given battery
packs and spot lights. This made things a little spookier, a nice
addition to the atmosphere. The caves were even better here, there were
many caves running in all directions, some over top of others. We ran
across several harmless Huntsman spiders and one barking spider which
looks a lot like a tarantula and is quite poisonous. I looked everywhere
for a python but no luck. Bummer the guide had seen one the day before
but we weren't as lucky.

That evening we headed south again, getting some directions before
taking a paved (!) road back to the coast we meandered toward our next
destination, a revisit to Airlie beach where we had connected with John
Nayler, the renowned couch surfing host who takes surfers around the
Whitsunday Islands on his Catamaran. Unfortunately John's boat was
parked out on the mooring as summer is actually off season since its
quite rainy although he was excited to meet us to hang out for a bit and
offered advice on which tour company was good and let us know if we
were getting a good deal or not. Although we were a little disappointed
that we had to resort to a touristy operator which would be shared space
with a bunch of foreigners like us and considerably less intimate than
spending time with a local guy just the 3 of us. Arriving at the Marina
where John's web based marketing company ( office was
located we were stoked that the weather had turned around and it was
beautifully sunny however it was scorching hot.

John was a really nice interesting chap, living life in a way that we
envied immediately. His formula was to work a solid 2 months per year
creating marketing materials and web sites for local businesses,
promoting Whitsunday tourism, then enjoy the rest of the year sailing
the Whitsundays and meeting wonderful people through couchsurfing. 
During our initial chat John reminded us that he had no plans to sail at
the moment as this was off season and the beginning of his "work:"
period so he was super busy drumming up business for the year. He
graciously offered to give us advice on what boat we should jump on so
we set off for main street to find out what boats were sailing the
following morning. Of course as goes this entire trip we plan virtually
everything last second and as it goes with this kind of traveling we
sometimes get the short end of the stick. Well this was one of those
times, there were just 2 tour boats with space left out of almost 100
boats sailing the next day. The good news was that the last hour (6 PM
by this time) search provided reduced prices but even at that we were
looking at $300 each for 2 day 1 night or $500 each for 3 day 2 nights,
Yikes!! Circling back with John to get the inside scoop on the 2
companies before we through our credit cards down and totally blew our
budget we were completely surprised when he told us to spend our money
on groceries instead cause he changed his mind and was packing up to
take us our on his boat. Heeehawww, we had scored probably the best
couch in all of couchsurfing with the ultimate hosting captain.  We were
so stoked we splurged on some "Phat" steaks and grub for a couple of
days, as it goes with couchsurfing exchanges our gift back to John would
be awesome meals, helping around the boat, and good company.

We set off within the hour, it was a beautiful evening, finally cooling
off as the intense sun receded towards the horizon. Soon after leaving
the breakwater we set the sails for Hook Island where we would spend the
night. With the sun setting behind us and the wind picking up once we
lost the shield of the bluff off Airlie beach we sat back to relax with
the boat on auto pilot. John had rigged up a system using his iPhone GPS
and an automated  steering system to keep the boat on track for the
destination. We just needed to keep an eye out for traffic and the rest
was cake. Arriving at Hook Island Beth and I started putting together
dinner, for an appetizer John introduced us to Halloumi cheese. Wow what
a sensation, it's so unbelievably tasty, a super salty cheese that's
amazing lightly pan fried. Filling our bellies with T-bone steak/vege
entree and all the fixins we setup for the sack. On John's suggestion we
pulled a mattress from one of the bunks out on the deck to sleep under
the stars. It was magical, the light rocking of the boat and subtle
splash of water against the hull, a billion stars shining brighter than
we had never seen before. Just Beth and I lying there (John crashed in
his bunk down below) so relaxed and so happy..... zzzzzzzzz

Waking up the next morning was equally spectacular, it was the butt
crack of dawn when I opened my eyes to the most brilliant aqua blue
sheet of glass I had ever seen. Not a breath of air, and all we could
hear was the seagulls flying around looking for a scrap of something to
fill their bellies. It was picture perfect, so I took about a hundred
pictures.... of the same thing. It was then that I was reminded a camera
really can't capture the essence of what we were experiencing. Attached
are some pics but they're lacking. John finally stirred and we set off
for a dive mecca just around the corner while Beth and I got breakfast
going. With eggs still on the way down we were in the water snorkeling
over the Whitsundays area of the Great Barrier Reef, so cool. Again the
fish were a stunning array of colors, from florescent yellows, blues,
and reds to black, and everything in between. Huge as well. We spotted a
stingray and followed it around the bay for a while. John stayed back
on the boat working (he has his boat fully wired with WiFi so it's like
an office away from home). John wanted to take us to one other spot to
snorkel so we jumped back aboard and made our way there. Upon arrival we
noticed a police boat sniffing around the bay. John pulled out a loaf
of bread and fired a couple of small pieces in the water and Shazam
there were a raft of huge fish under the boat between the pontoons. Beth
got into it and eventually had them eating right out of her hand, check
out these pics. We decided to bolt from there once we saw the cops
mounting another chartered boat, we didn't want the hassle.

The boat itself had a few party scars and need some TLC so John had a
plan to sail it several hundred KMs south to Hervey Bay for repairs so
we pulled up to shore in a gorgeous quiet cove and did a little prep
work for his trip. While he tightened up the steering Beth and I scraped
barnacles off the pontoons By the time we were done night was coming on
so we set sail back to Airlie. Sailing into the sunset again we laid
back and relaxed on the bow net between the pontoons and put a plan
together to help John out with his trip south to Hervey.. Beth and I
would take his convertible sports car down to Hervey for him so he had
wheels to get back to Airlie.

The next morning John and a couple of friends set sail for a four day
adventure to Hervey while Beth and I departed for the same destination
via land now with two cars. With less than two weeks of our Australian
adventure remaining we decided to jet past the Capricorn coastline
straight to Hervey Bay (nearly a thousand KMs south) for our next
adventure on Frasier Island. Frasier Island, a world heritage site since
1993, is said to be the largest sand island in the world spanning 120Km
by 15Km, and has an amazing biodiversity including dense tropical
rainforest, 200 fresh water lakes and a wide range of fauna. The fresh
water lakes boast some the purest waters in the world containing mainly
water pushed up from the tables below and filtered by the hundreds of
meters of sand that make up the Island. This is a good thing since the
waters surrounding the island are shark and stinger jellyfish infested
so swimming is a serious hazard. The island consists of a maze sandy
roads through the forest which are passable only by 4WD vehicles,
several camp sites, a hotel, and a few residents.

There is a tremendous tourist industry built around visiting the Island,
options are to visit via an organized excursion where typically a large
4WD bus with immense tires takes tourists to the island or the more
attractive option which is to hire (rent) a 4WD vehicle from one of the
many outfitters and visit the Island on your own. Clearly the best
option was to rent and ride on our own, seeing pictures I was all fired
up about cruising the dunes for a couple of days, that was until we
realized what it would cost.... yikes. Nearly $500 for just 2 days and
one night was way outside our budget not to mention gas, camping
equipment rental and all the rest. In the end Beth was really in the
mood for a down day of blogging and catching up on a few chores so I
jumped on a 4WD bus and headed out for a one day adventure.

Well it was a good thing Beth decided not to come because anyone with an
even mild case of car sickness would have been miserable on our giant
mammoth bus. I was thankful that our trusty driver/tour guide had
experience driving though the rainforest on one lane roads over bumps
that felt like tree stumps under the sand cause he had a serious
determination to keep on schedule at all costs. As if we weren't
blasting along the daring dunes enough already things escalated when we
got stuck behind a bunch of teenage backpackers who broke down and then
broke the key off in the ignition trying to get their rented 4X4 to
start. An hour passed before we finally pushed them off the path enough
that we could get our mammoth machine past and continue on our journey.
All this was nothing but a day of fun for me, I was loving cruising the
dunes and watching all the drama unfold as our trusty tour guide
internally lost his cheese while externally maintaining a professional

Once we got back on the beaten path our first stop was at Lake McKenzie,
a stunningly beautiful fresh water lake like I'd never seen before.
Pictures really don't capture the bright white sand hitting the clearest
aqua blue water I had ever seen. Perfectly temperatured for a
refreshing break from the hot sun, I wanted to stay there forever. The
only thing that was missing was to have Beth there, as much as she would
have hated the journey she would have absolutely loved the destination.
Next we stopped for a short trek in the rainforest and learned a little
about the flora and fauna on the island. After that was a 40KM journey
up the eastern beach to the Pinnacles, sandy formations along the
cliffs. What a trip that was, once again being behind schedule our
driver ignored the posted 80Km/h speed limit signs and at one point was
hitting 110Kh/h. With huge sand dunes on our left, crashing shark
infested surf on our right we flew up the sandy highway in free-for-all
fashion. While "stay to the left" Australian road rules were generally
met it was a bit of a game of chicken for each passing vehicle
considering the moving water line on the right and the rolling dunes
that got larger the further up the beach they went. There was an optimal
line between both that allowed for higher speeds and or course everyone
wanted the line..... A couple of times our driver was forced off the
line and we hit one of the dunes going too fast. One time in particular
everyone was out of their seats as the giant bus lunged into the air and
came crashing down the crest of the drift with a pretty serious bounce.
Heehaw. Circling back down the beach we stopped at the Maheno shipwreck
for a few pictures and finally we hit the mouth of Eli creek for a
short swim before the long journey across the island for the ferry home.
I had such a great day that I left wishing I had splurged on the 4X4
rental, ahhh someday we'll be rich and will return to the Frasier
adventure for a second time, definitely worth a second go!

John and team finally arrived in Hervey Bay after four days at sea. We
met them at the marina for dinner where we met John's good friend Mark
and another couchsurfer, Maura, who has a passion for sailing and was
"sailing" couches around Australia, hence her connection with Mark and
John who were both avid sailors. We had the pleasure of giving Maura a
lift to her next couch in River Heads near the town of Hervey bay. Have
you ever met someone that just exudes happiness and all the good stuff
in life, you know, those that can only see the glass half full not
matter what life throws at them. These are the people that go through
life infecting everyone they contact with an incredible jolt of positive
energy leaving them with a warm fuzzy feeling that just makes their
day. Well Maura was one of those people! A short but wonderfully warm
time spent with a gem of a person who is surfing the planet touching
others in a positive and wonderful way. We are looking forward to
meeting up with her again if we get to visit Italy next summer.

 After saying goodbye to Maura we made a quick pit stop in a nearby
town called Maryborough, the birth place of the Mary Poppins author, PL
Travers. We grabbed lunch and had our photo opp with the Mary Poppins
Statue then headed on our way south towards Sydney. Feeling a little
food Coma coming on I was on the hunt for a coffee, we happened to pass a
"Driver Reviver" station which are community sponsored stalls along the
highway serving free coffee and tea. The idea is that keep drivers
awake is good for them and for your community as most of the highway
traffic are locals. We loved these stops not only because it was a free
fix but more because we always met the greatest people working the
stations, often retirees volunteering their time for a good cause. We
got excellent advice there as well, nothing better than a local's
opinion when you're exploring their backyard or in need of some insider
information. Well I had a hankering to find an authentic Didgeridoo or
Didg (pronounced Didj) which is an aboriginal instrument made from
termite infested eucalyptus trees. Basically the termites eat away the
core of the tree in a spiral pattern that when cut to an appropriate
length produces a deep base sound when played like a trumpet. Across the
north east Australia's Aboriginals have been making Didg's for
thousands of years (some say it's likely the oldest instrument in the
world) and are still making a living by hunting down the perfect tree,
extracting the stock and finishing the exterior in various ways, usually
recreating the scene of a local legend in aboriginal dot painting. The
Didg was considered a male instrument where only males were allowed to
play it, in some tribes woman were not even allowed to see the
instrument used in djungguwan ceremonies where it represents Yurlunggur,
or the rainbow serpent. There are also those who believe that the deep
drone vibration of the didgeridoo has healing power. Well the retired
couple at the Driver Reviver Station gave us a great tip about a huge
fair taking place the following day in a small town called Eumundi, near
Noosa Heads, our next destination. They said there were many authentic
Didgs to be found at the fair.

Crashing in the fair parking lot made for an early start and it wasn't
long before I found Ken, an aboriginal fellow that spent his life making
and playing Didgeridoos. The man was a wealth of knowledge and had some
incredible looking Didg's in his shop.   In contrast to the temporary
craft stands usually seen at this type of fair, Ken's was a shop in the
strip mall next to the fair, which told me he's well established in the
area and coupled with his knowledge and the quality and craftsmanship of
the didg's in his shop he was clearly the right choice. After much
deliberation I chose a small F-chord didg which has great sound for it's
size (bigger = louder and deeper sounds). Not the best didg in the shop
but a great quality unit within our budget and small enough that I
could travel with it.  (I figured our next destination South America
would be my learning playground... although I must admit being nearly 3
months into our SA travels I still have yet to make it a priority).

We spent that evening and the following day in Noosa Heads, a yuppie
community with loads of $$$. Really not our scene but they had a great
Park which was located along the bluffs where we spent the afternoon
hiking. The park was loaded with koala bears, we ran across this one
just a few feet from the trail, totally relaxed as he strolled along
from tree to tree. The trail headed along the shoreline with spectacular
views of several bays and beautiful beaches, ending at Alexandria

In our quest to meet cool Aussies along our adventure, we looked up a
friend-of-a-friend who lived in Buderim close to Noosa Heads on
Australia's Sunshine Coast.  Our well-traveled friend Hiro had met Robyn
Clay during his world adventures, and highly recommended that we
connect with her.  Needless to say, Robyn was a blast!  She was a
trooper since she was grieving the loss of her dog, but still wanted to
get out and elevate the spirits.  So we went to the local Buderim bar
via the round-trip door-to-door courtesy transportation provided by the
bar.  In an effort to curb problems with drinking and driving, public
intoxication, and pub fights, Australian bars were forced to be really
strict about not serving drunk people, and not letting someone even
enter their establishment if they seem a little wobbly, since they faced
heavy fines ($10,000 for the bar and the bartender that served them). 
But hey they still need to make a buck, so some watering holes' solution
was to offer free transportation to their patrons. 

Aligning with our desire to do volunteer work in every country/continent
we visit we joined a network called WWOOFing (Willing Workers On
Organic Farms). Although there is an "exchange" of work for lodging and
food it was the closest thing we could find to volunteer work in
Australia that didn't COST us money. Yes I said cost us money..... the
latest trend in the volunteer scene is actually the most ridiculous
thing I've ever heard of. Basically people are building businesses
around finding volunteer work for willing workers and charging the
willing party for this service. In fact in many countries it's nearly
impossible to find volunteer work without this service and it costs
sometimes thousands of dollars. I don't know about you but I have to
scratch my head and wonder what this world is coming to when we can't
even be organized enough to put true volunteer programs in place where
people like ourselves can just walk in and lend a hand. Anyway for Oz we
leaned on the WWOOFING project to satisfy our desire to give. For us it
was more about the cultural exchange, we were really looking forward to
finding an authentic hardworking Australian farm where we could live
with the family for a few days and see how the Auzzies do it while maybe
learning a little about organic farming while helping out.

Unfortunately as traveling by the seat of our pants goes we started our
search at the last hour and with just a few days to spare before we had
to be back in Sydney to return the car we had to score a volunteer
opportunity quickly. After about 30 calls, all with one of two results-
voice mail or a polite "no availability" answer- we started to worry
about finding a place to volunteer. Finally we received a call from
Maria who was looking for WWOOFers to help prepare for a triple 50th
birthday party she was throwing for her and 2 friends at their farm.
Well it wasn't the farm experience we envisioned but given the
circumstances we decided to take it thinking it would be a lot of fun
and since we have hosted many-a-costume-party in our day it kinda fit
our skill set.....  Bad call. Our first mistake was not noticing the
Maria's lack of Australian accent when we first spoke with her on the
cellphone, so instead of the authentic Australian experience we were
greeted by an American woman who misplaced her razor years ago and her
Dutch friend in her nighty (never caught her name so let's just call her
nighty woman). At least Maria had an Australian boyfriend and
Australian neighbors.... They were part of a pseudo-self-sustained
community situated a long ways from nowhere. They shared a plot of land
which was in a gorgeous valley amongst plus green rolling hills. Maria
had a large beautiful home while the neighbors were living in shacks
ranging from a small home to campervans to a tree house. At the bottom
of the back lawn was another camper trailer complete with a deck which
we learned was the nighty woman's retirement home and a huge teepee that
apparently was a sacred place for woman only.

Maria seemed initially nice enough on the surface but it became clear
there was more (or less) than meets the eye.... It started with the
WWOOFers quarters, a rusted out bug infested musty old camper stuck in
the thick shrubs in the field next door, I mean come on I wouldn't put
my dog in there. A dirty mattress on the floor and cobwebs everywhere,
at least there was a light bulb hanging on a wire that worked. As she's
showing us what she offers as the "sleeping quarters" she's putting down
the European WWOOFers saying they aren't tough enough to handle the
sleeping quarters, cripes almighty! Oh and on the walk over she warns to
keep an eye out for pythons or even worse deadly brown snakes, not to
mention the funnel web or red back spiders all around. Luckily we were
already setup in our trusty Falcon station wagon so we politely declined
utilizing the WWOOFer's sleeping shack and headed off to bed in
anticipation of a good day's work the following day.

Well the saga continues, I was lucky enough to score the whipper snipper
job (as long as I didn't hit a snake) and spent the day at the helm of a
massive gas powered hedger slicing through deep brush to clear areas
for tents, paths, parking, and porta potties. Beth on the other hand was
in charge of clearing junk from below the deck and cleaning an ant
infested fridge that was rusted out.... not sure what the hell Maria was
thinking of actually putting in the fridge for the party but we surely
weren't having any. The nest was inside the door so there were ants
streaming out the cracks for days. All the while Maria complained in
great detail of the horrific physical effects of Menopause (which she
was happy to tell us all about over dinner the night before and every
opportunity thereafter, what the hell did we get ourselves into) so not
only were we working our asses off but she wasn't in any "condition" to
prepare meals so we made our own with whatever we could pull together
that actually looked edible.  Luckily her 20-ish year old daughter and
10 year old son showed up in the afternoon and took over the meal
situation.  Her son was actually a really great cook, the only problem
now was as the chefs they both felt the need to taste every dish 100
times, and what better way to taste your food then stick your dirty
finger in and shove it in your mouth and then back into the pot
again.... over and over and over again. 

The following day we pushed forward determined to stick it through with
our 2-3 day commitment. Around midday we happily joined nearly the whole
community at the neighbor's for a coffee break. A few hundred yards
walk through the bush we came upon a large compost mound next to a duck
coop with a large sign on it that read "Always close door, snakes eat
ducks". Just beyond that was a large metal shed with a massive coffee
roaster along side of it. Inside we find a party planning meeting under
way with Maria and team as well as several other community members.  The
son of the coffee proprietor was taking orders, serving up coffee,
cappuccinos, or whatever our herd desired while in his underwear and
bare feet..... did I mention yet that Australians have something against
wearing shoes? From the moment we landed in Oz with Lovell picking us
up barefooted and taking us to the supermarket to the moment we departed
Oz are loads of Australians that seemingly never wear shoes. Anyway we
were given a tour of the grounds by another WWOOFer and her friend, two
french Canadian girls, checking out the camper vans and the awesome tree
house that father and son occupied.

Well we were back to work after a short bit, building tents and a stage
for the multiple bands that were to play,  but after many more slightly
rude comments from our beloved host (you know the kind that leave you
baffled thinking "wow, did I just hear that right?...... nooo she must
have meant something different"), and digging up a dirty fire pit (we
had to save a barrel of ashes for "protection"...... something to do
with that voodoo teepee) while Maria got a professional massage in her
house, showering in the one shower room with no door and huge
curtain-less glass windows overlooking the back yard, we had had enough
and slid out of there ASAP. Phew, what an experience that was.

By this time it was evening and it happened to be Australia day and
since we really hadn't spent much time in Byron Bay on the way up the
coast we headed over there to see if we could find a good Australian day
party to join and shake off our less-than-positive volunteer
experience. We met up with the WWOOFers that had shown us around Maria's
earlier that day, and sat on the bluff overlooking the ocean listening
to some groovy Jazz, spinning poi, and sipping a few drinks. Wow did it
feel good to be back on the road, totally free again to go and do as we
please. Seriously the short 2 days we spent WWOOFing was like a time
warp from hell, taking us from the bliss of traveling into the abyss of
taking orders and obeying a crank box.  (Christ how are we ever going to
go back to work after this trip?)

The following day we made our last stop before landing in Sydney for our
flight out. Not far from Byron is a magical little town called Nimbin.
Nimbin is a small hippie town known for it's free thinking and liberal
attitude, complete with an array of head shops, hemp clothing stores,
organic restaurants and the one and only Nimbin Museum which all line
the one block strip of downtown. The entire strip of buildings have
painted facades in full hippie style colors and are operated by, bet you
can't guess....uber relaxed, laid back hippies. Without a doubt the
most unique hippiesque place we'd seen since Haight Ashbury in San
Francisco, and of the scale to contend with the Haight for sure.

At the end of town we were lucky enough to stumble upon a little coffee
shop where a group of locals were hanging out strumming tunes on guitars
while sipping excellent coffee and nibbling on an array of organic
pastries. We scored some grub and saddled up to join in on the
singalong. Sitting at the adjacent table were 2 men strumming the
guitars, one of which was the spitting image of my late father, wow all
night I couldn't get over the similarities from appearance to size and
proportions to hands to mannerisms , it was my Dad. Although Dad never
played an instrument, he was an avid music lover all his life, always
playing the air guitar to something on the stereo. He would have
absolutely loved being part of this scene, and it was nice to think
maybe he was there somewhere singing along to the classic American
tunes. Sitting between the guitar players was the reincarnation of Bob
Marley, unbelievable. Dark skinned, dreadlocks, slim, dressed in red,
green, yellow hemp clothing it was him from head to toe, wow. Not long
after we sat down, Nimbin Bob Marley, (Johnny was his real name but you
can find him on under "Nimbin Bob Marley"), strolled over to
our table and introduced himself. That's when the night took on another
level of magic; it wasn't long before we were telling life stories,
laughing and singing along to the excellent jams. Then, although
Johnny's voice was raspy from the night before, he pulled out his guitar
and treated us to a Bob Marley show. It's hard to describe how much we
enjoyed those few hours at the little Cafe, Johnny was so on the money
singing Bobby tunes with all his heart and soul like he was in front of a
crowd of 50,000. Ahhh if only there were more time, but like all things
on this incredible trip of ours everything has to come to an end....

The next morning we enjoyed a late breakfast and spent the early
afternoon strolling the Nimbin strip, people-watching and window
shopping. We made our donation to the Nimbin Museum and entered passing
by the "Get Real" VW bus that's half outside and half inside the museum.
Similar to Burningman it's really hard to explain what the museum is
like, you really have to experience it yourself. I'll try to summarize
then you can fill in the blanks with the attached pics. It's a maze of
artwork that fills every nook and cranny of the multi-room home its
built in, anything and everything stuck together in a manner that is
supposed to please the viewer in some hypnotic way.  Layered into this
maze is a clear message of peace, love, and happiness as the road to
salvation. Although it was quite mind-boggling to think how someone
could come up with all this the message is positive which further opens
the mind to enjoy the creativeness and find the message it's creators
are trying to convey. I recommend a visit to anyone, if your not into
jelling with the message then you're sure to have a good laugh at least.

We finally arrived in Sydney really late that same night arriving at Joe
and Lucy's, we were really happy to see our friends again. The next
morning we washed and returned the car after which we spent our last
hours in Oz with Joe and Lucy. We went to a popular lookout spot in
Manley that overlooked the Sydney harbor. There we were surprised to
find a bunch of fresh bandicoots, an animal resembling a possum, which
were pestering a couple for food trying to have a romantic evening under
the stars. Well they weren't giving up till they had a slice, at least
it made for a good laugh and photo op. To top the evening off Joe and
Lucy took us to their favorite chocolate desert pace, wow what a treat
that was.

The next day, January 31st, Joe and Lucy kindly insisted they run us out
to the airport. Before they dropped us off, we treated them to our last
goodbye dinner in Manley then alas it was time to move on to our next
adventure. Phew, Australia was a blast like no other, and action packed
whirlwind almost 7 weeks. Once again we found ourselves not wanting to
leave this wonderful place but at the same time excited at what lay
ahead- our first stop in South America- Brazil and Carnival....

Slideshow Report as Spam


Estrrella on

Hey guys, great stories. Makes me want to sell all my belongings and hit the road to travel the world again!!!! Love your writing. It is like fuel for the soul!!
It is Sunday, May 23, where are u now?????
Hope this post finds you two well. Hugs & Kisses. Estrella.

Uncle Jim G. on


irenan on

I stumbled upon your blog by accident (doing a research for a potential trip), but kept reading and reading and's fun, light, witty, and so informational!...I understand you write it mostly for friends and family (don't we all), but! along the way you managed to give some pleasure to strangers, too! :)
Good luck to you guys!!! and keep writing :)

Puma on

Wow! Your blog is totally amazing! Nice to get to follow your adventures. Love from your Bali buddies x x x Do you have Facebook address as well?

Estrella on

Hey guys, long time no hear from you, where in the world are you?

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