A Travellerspoint blog

Gone to Tasmania...

A while ago...

all seasons in one day 11 °C

So I have been in Tasmania for an embarrassingly long time now with no update. I got to Tassie in early January. In fact, I landed the day before it was 42C in Hobart and the bush fires (in American bush fire= wild fire) tore through the state. I think it got media coverage in the US? I know my family flipped out…

Well, my excuse then for not posting was that I didn’t have a computer, which was true. My screen crapped out on me in Stratford, and because it was Christmas/ Boxing Day/New Years there was no way to get it fixed before I left the mainland.

I got my computer into the shop not long after I got to Hobart, and they told me two weeks and $100 bucks. My computer ended up being in the shop for about a month and a half and ended up costing me almost $250. It was the usual story… Oh the part we thought it was isn’t the problem… Oh the part we got from the manufacturer was defective… whatever. I have it back now, and it is functional for the moment. I have my eye on the charge cord though… the casing is starting to come off and the cord is looking a bit colorful.

So, where did I leave you guys? Back in Stratford just after Christmas… right. Ok, here is the condensed version:

I spent a lovely, but uneventful New year in Stratford and coordinated a WWOOF-ing destination in the Huon Valley. I ended up taking the train back to Melbourne (my host, Beth, ended up not going to Melbourne after all), and went off to the airport to catch my plane almost as soon as I got there… you know, I still haven’t really spent time in Melbourne. The flight was, delayed, which, as I have learned, is per usual if you are flying Jetstar or Tiger (the two dirt cheap airlines). I have also learned: I have way too much crap and paying for a few extra kilos up front is better than waiting until the day of your flight when you realize you have significantly more than you thought and then have to pay triple the price for your bag.

It’s very cheap to get to Tasmania… as long as you only have a 10 kilo or less carry on. If you have more than that, then you can expect to pay at least an extra $20-$30. Oh, don’t forget the “credit card processing charge” (or whatever they call it) of about $10.

When I landed in Hobart, I was surprised to see that instead of the usual moveable tube like arm thing that serves as your walk way into the terminal, we were greeted with a bit of a throw back. We went down a stair and had to walk into the terminal from the tarmac (it’s a city, but it’s still a small town too… and the airport is tiny). I’m glad we did though. We landed about 9pm, just in time for sun set. Man I love those Tassie sunsets and sunrises. The airport was all but shut down, and we all took a shuttle into town. I tried to find food after I got to the hostel and dropped off my stuff, but apparently the CBD (central business district aka downtown) shuts down at like 6 (ok, maybe not quite that early… but almost) and I hadn’t learned yet where to go for after hours food and drinks. On top of that, I wasn’t feeling particularly like exploring as I almost got knocked over several times by the near gale force winds that were ripping through the city that night. I finally found a Subway that was open and got a foot long (half for dinner, half for breakfast), went to bed, and off to my WWOOF spot in the am.

I spent a few days there only to realize that, as amazing as the property was, and as much as I didn’t mind tending the animals, the family was about as exciting as a pile of rocks (actually the rocks might be more interesting) and the shooting of wallabies from the balcony at dusk just weirded me out. Not that I have a problem eating wallaby mind you (it’s tasty and lean... but the pigs got what they killed), it was just a bit too bogan, (Australian for hick, hillbilly, and/or redneck) and they were just a bit to… British (seriously, when I told them I was leaving the extent of the reaction I got was a stiff lipped “oh”).

Smokey sunset from all of the bush fires

Smokey sunset from all of the bush fires

What the valley looked like when it wasn't full of smoke

What the valley looked like when it wasn't full of smoke

Rosie and Bruce... the most fun this place had to offer.

Rosie and Bruce... the most fun this place had to offer.

But I love rolling in the mud! Pigs were one of the animals I tended while I was there. They also had: turkeys, goats, peacocks, chickens, and geese.

But I love rolling in the mud! Pigs were one of the animals I tended while I was there. They also had: turkeys, goats, peacocks, chickens, and geese.

So, I had a mysterious relative suddenly die of a dramatic illness and I went back to Hobart (hey, I still needed a lift to the bus station, and really, what was I going to say? You’re boring and shoot wallabies from the balcony without warning? Now that would have been a long damn hike to the bus station).

Back in Hobart, I spent four days tossing my plans to only stay until the beginning of February and then get a job in Melbourne out the window. Oh, and I found another place to WWOOF… this time in Hobart with a bunch of hippies. By the end of the week, I had found myself in Petty Street, and I have been there since.

I definitely had a cracked tooth in there that I had to contend with too… 1st commandment of being a traveler: thou shalt always have travel insurance! Fortunately I did, and fortunately I ended up getting reimbursed the full $500. But not not before I was sent to a dentist in the Buddhist center (I'm hazy on if it is run by the center or if it just happens to be in that building) that was more interested in sharing his anti-feminist views than examining my teeth (did no one else notice he was looking at the x-ray upside down and backwards? 'cause i did...). That was an interesting conversation with my insurance company. I ended up with a lovely dentist in battery point that didn't reek of bargain basement prices after that.

Until next time!

Hostel Reviews
Central City Backpackers: 6 Standard hostel. A bit old and busted, but sanitary. Has free WIFI, but the computers in the lounge were never working right (or at all) when I was there. You need a sleeping bag or you will need to pay for linens.

"Sign, Sealed, Delivered I'm yours" Stevie wonder

Posted by Nama 13:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

WWOOF-ing

sunny 27 °C

WWOOF= Willing Workers On Organic Farms

It is a program in which you do 4-6 hrs/ day or up to 42 hrs/ week of work in exchange for room and board. You will also, unofficially, play the role of ambassador for your country… so don’t be a pain in the ass, always clean up after yourself, and go easy on the TP. Work isn’t limited to farming, but can include cooking, child minding, animal care, crafting art work, dyeing, helping at farmers markets, cleaning, gardening, etc etc. (so far, I have: cooked, cleaned, minded kids, picked worms out of a worm farm, weeded, planted, minded cats, dug up flower beds, baked, sorted timber, cleaned up old bikes... etc) What you end up doing depends on the host, their needs, your interests, and your skills. Your accommodation can vary from a room to yourself in the family home to a BYO (Bring Your Own) shelter.

You won’t necessarily be on a farm either. There are many urban and suburban hosts that just have large gardens. But what you will find (or should find) in all of your hosts is a commitment (to varying degrees of course) to sustainable living practices, and many of the hosts are into permaculture and/ or biodynamic growing as well.

Sustainable Living= "a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources and his/her own resources.[1] Practitioners of sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet.[2] Proponents of sustainable living aim to conduct their lives in ways that are consistent with sustainability, in natural balance and respectful of humanity's symbiotic relationship with the Earth's natural ecology and cycles." *

Permacultre= "Permaculture (the word, coined by Bill Mollison, is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture and permanent culture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way." *

Biodynamic Growing= "Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition." *

The WWOOF program is not limited to Australia, but is active in several other countries including: New Zealand, USA, and France to name a few. To participate in the WWOOF program as a worker, you have to buy a WWOOF membership, which, in Australia, currently costs about 65 dollars. This will only get you access to the Australian WWOOF program though. If you were to go to New Zealand, you’d have to buy the New Zealand WWOOF membership.

Your membership includes access to the WWOOF forum and the official WWOOF book, which contains information about all of the current registered hosts in that country. The program puts an emphasis on not sharing your book with people not in the WWOOF program as it contains personal information (like where they live and their phone number) of the WWOOF hosts. In fact, when you get to your WWOOF destination, you have to show your book and passport to your host. They then record your member number and nationality in their guestbook. In Australia, the information in the book and on the forum is protected under some sort of privacy law so sharing the information is actually, technically, illegal and punishable by law. I am a bit fuzzy on the details of the law and how severe the repercussions would be though.

WWOOF book cover

WWOOF book cover

Membership also includes a small insurance policy (up to 10,000 dollars) that covers injuries that occur on the way to, during, and while leaving your WWOOF host. Well, at least it does in Australia… I have never WWOOFed anywhere else, but I would imagine there is something similar everywhere.

Lastly, if you are considering WWOOFing, remember that you spend a lot of time outdoors digging in the dirt… you will cross paths with lots and lots of bugs, spiders, lizards, snakes, etc. Many of these can bite, and some are poisonous, particularly in Australia (so far I have seen a few red back and white tail spiders, which are sort of similar to black widows and brown recluses).
For more information about WWOOF check out: http://wwoof.org/

Ok, lesson over. Now, there will be a test over all of this next week so I hope you took notes.

Currently, I am in a tiny town about a 3 hour train ride outside of Melbourne called Stratford, which is located on the Avon River and has a large Shakespeare festival each year (I think in the fall?). I am beginning to notice that the early white Australians really liked to name things after the things in England. Seriously, I think every city I have been to or seen a map of has at least one Goulburn Street, Elizabeth Street, and Victoria Street.

Actually, according to our host, Stratford was founded by Scottish settlers out of NSW that left their farms for better land during a bad 3 year drought in the early-mid 1800’s… even by American standards, nothing is very old here. That is, of course, referring only to the Anglos who settled (or invaded… depending on who you talk to) and not to the native Aborigines who have lived in Australia for well over 40,000 years.

I am living in a (mostly) converted shed with a bunk bed, though I really don’t think 2 people could fit…. But that will be put to the test tonight when the new WWOOF-er gets here. The room in the house is being used by an Israeli couple who are also WWOOFing.

IMG_2417.jpg
My room is on the right and the toilet is on the left.

I spent a lovely Christmas here, and will be here for the New Year. I arrived here by the train on Christmas Eve actually… an hour late. On Christmas morning, my host, her granddaughter, the Israeli couple, and I gathered round the table, opened presents (our host got each of us a little something), played old maid, and had tea.

IMG_2412.jpg
Merry Christmas!

So far, we have been helping our host with her garden, cooking, and I have cycled over to her friend’s house to feed the cat a couple of times (her friend is out of the country for 6 weeks).

IMG_2448.jpg
Cardigan has the best meow... it sounds a lot like he ro (hello)

Funny story: the first day I rode over to feed Cardigan, I went out back, which has a great view of cow pastures and bushes, and decided it was a great opportunity to get some sun on my very pale legs (we wore wetsuits at surf camp). The house is on several acres of land so the nearest neighbor is a ways away. So I threw off my pants and did some tanning. It was sunny with a nice breeze, and the mooing of the cows could be heard gently in the distance. About 10 minutes in I got bored and thought to myself, “what a great time to do some squats and lunges.” So I did. About mid squat I realized there was a road between the bushes and the cow pasture. They honked.

IMG_2450.jpg
Yeah, you can't see it either

My previous host lived in a suburb of Melbourne, and had 2 very spirited boys aged 3 and 5. I stayed in the spare bedroom in the house, and did a lot of dishes, child minding, and some gardening. On the second day I was there, I transplanted some corn and beans, and by the time I left the plants had doubled in size… it was really a cool feeling to see my corn had grown (I was afraid I was gonna kill it.. I think I kinda killed the beans though).

Their house was on a street that dead-ended to a nature reserve, and at dusk all the kangaroos came out to feed. Finally, I got to see some kangaroos, and in the most inaccurate stereotypical way possible. Awesome.

IMG_2406.jpg
Kanga!

As it stands now, I will be here until the 2nd and will get a lift from my host back to Melbourne since she has business there and was going anyway. After that, I reckon it is off to Tasie.

UPDATE: I had my computer looked at, but the part I need is not to be found on the Australian continent (though there are several in The States), and since it is the Christmas/ Boxing Day/ New Year time of year, it would take several weeks to get one in. As such I will see about getting it fixed in Melbourne or Tasmania. The part costs about 10 dollars, and the labor charge will vary based on where I go ( I was quoted here in Stratford at 20 dollars… damn). My host was awesome enough to borrow a monitor from her brother and let me use her internet a bit (library is closed until after New Year’s).

I realized I had not mentioned this before, but all dollar amounts are in AUD, not USD unless otherwise specified.

  • In order, here are the sites I got my definitions from:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_living
http://www.permaculturenews.org/about-permaculture-and-the-pri/#permaculture
https://www.biodynamics.com/biodynamics.html

"I've Got A Feeling" The Beatles

Posted by Nama 13:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Crabby Computer

sunny 38 °C

So, the screen on my computer is not working at the moment (as I conveiniently found out a few minutes ago), fortunately I am staying in a hostel in Melbourne that has computers... for a fee. Hopefully I will either have Betsy up and running properly soon or access to a computer. I leave for Stratford to do some more WWOOF-ing in the morning.

What is WWOOF-ing? Well, that will just have to wait until I get this computer thing resolved... one way or the other.

Cheers! And to those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas!

And happy New Year! (just in case)

Hostel Review:
Discovery Melbourne: ??? Will only be here for a total of 8 hours so I can't really say as yet, but I will definitely come back.

"The Worst Day Since Yesterday" Flogging Molly

Posted by Nama 22:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Logistics, Surf Camp, and Getting Sick Oh My!

Well, I have been a bit slow in getting this started. I had planned on getting this started during what should have been a wonderfully long layover in Fiji, but, as the gods of air travel decided, I just had to get bumped to a direct flight to Sydney on a better airline. (Oh hot damn!) :D

So, here is the short version:

Getting through customs and immigration was a breeze... I was all ready for them to demand proof of funds etc etc. But the worst I got was to get myself and my bags sniffed over by the food dog. Yes, that's right, not the drug dog, but the food dog. Australia has really strict rules on what you can and can't take into the country, and they have a pack of beagles to help enforce it! :D Cutest airport security force ever.

My first week in Sydney was nice, didn't do a whole lot other than wander about in a jet-lagged stupor, felt like I should really speak German (seriously, my hostel might as well have been smack in the middle of Germany), sort out logistics, and, well, my life. Still working on the last one. :) Oh, and there was a harbor cruise, a few beers, and some fish 'n chips mixed in there as well ;)

DID YOU KNOW:

The time difference between Sydney and Houston is 17 hours
Americans cannot qualify for a second year working holiday visa
To get your tax back after the end of the year you have to "work" in the same place for six months
The average backpacker tax back amount is around AUD $2500
WIFI is hard to come by... unless you want to pay
The sun is so strong here you get burned in 10 minutes with no sunscreen

I will do an entry later that goes into more detail about taxes and other logistical stuff as it relates to Americans. I had a really hard time finding that info before I left since pretty much everything I found was geared towards the British and Europeans. FYI you won’t find a whole hell of a lot of American backpackers here... so far the ones that I have run into with an "American" accent have been Canadians.

THEN, after I got tired of logistics and thinking I said, "screw it! I'm going to surf camp." And I did.

It was great! I never realized how physically demanding surfing was. Definitely my kind of workout.

So, yeah, the first five days went along swimmingly. I roomed with two Dutch girls, a German girl, and a Swedish guy (oh, most hostel style accommodation is co-ed). Then around day 5, when they were leaving and I was hitting my mid camp point, I got sick.

UGH.

Had a fever for a day and a half. When it broke I tried to go surfing, but after going a few rounds with the waves I had to call it quits. My body just wasn't up for it, and wouldn't be until after camp was over. I went to the office, got a voucher for my last few days, and left that night for Sydney. In hindsight, I should have contacted my insurance company to get trip cancellation reimbursement, but that would have been a major pain in my sick ass. Oh well.

Back in Sydney, I stayed in a very nice hostel with very nice beds and worked on recovering. I had to go out and get cold medicine too... that set me back $20. I saw a bottle of Robitussin for $15.... yikes. My advice: bring NyQuil. Lots and lots of Nyquil. Actually it was kind of funny... if you know me and how I shop. Which is to say, I have to look at everything and compare prices and labels. So, there I was, arms laden with groceries, looking every bit as crappy as I felt, mouth agape, and hair askew while having a staring match with the cold and flu isle. I have never seen most of the stuff they had... and the cheapest stuff I saw was $10. I'm hoping that perhaps it was just where I was.

I did a lot of hanging out, picnicking, and reading in Hyde Park. It is a genuinely lovely park smack in the middle of Sydney. Lots of good sunny spots, people watching, and/or bird watching. The park has a large flock or two of white Ibises (I think that's how you pluralize that?). They are kind of funny looking birds with long curved black beaks, but if you sit still for a while they walk right up to you.

Well, that is the short version. I am off tomorrow on the overnight bus to Melbourne. I had originally planned on getting a job in Melbourne and doing my six months there, but all the hostels are so expensive right now that I have decided to try and go WWOOF-ing through the holidays.

Lata'!

Hostel Reviews
Woodduck Bomerang: 6 standard budget hostel, not bad, not special. No A/c, no lift, no free wifi, global gossip internet access only, toast and corn flakes for free breaky. Had my jar of mustard stolen out of the kitchen, other than that no issues. i would stay here again.
G'Day Backpackers: 3 KITCHEN WAS FRIGHTENING.... i turned on the burner to cook and 20 roaches scattered in all directions. the roaches were everywhere in the kitchen too... scurrying on the walls, counters, in the toasters.... i like to cook so this was a huge issue. the rest of the place is nice and i did not see evidence of bugs in the rooms. the rooms were decent, i think it it overpriced and not worth it though. will never stay here again.
Bounce Sydney: 9 WORTH IT. upscale boutique hostel. excellent accomodation, excellent kitchen, excellent common area, great staff, huge rooms with lockers, lift, a/c. expensive for a budget traveller, no free breakfast, internet passes a rip off... $17 for 10 hours? i hope i get to stay here again.

"Dog Days Are Over" Florence+The Machine

Posted by Nama 14:21 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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