Sunday, 30 December 2007

No News Is Good News

I know, I know. I know you're out there, and I know you're all hungry for news and pics of my crazy ambling.

Fortunately, I am too busy having the time of my life, which prevents me from putting down and together any amount of words.

But stay tuned. We'll be back shortly.

Thursday, 27 December 2007


Though not that wild, actually. Cleland Wildlife Park is a place I can't cease to recommend to everyone I meet. You can of course see echidnas, wombats, wallabies, emus, snakes, lizards and tons of birds in lots of other places.

But few are your occasions of feeding and petting kangaroos and koalas. Let me introduce you to my new friends:

Skippy the kangaroo

and Collie the koala!

I wanted to cuddle a wombat* too, but apparently they don’t appreciate it and bite. I didn’t try it with the emus* either, and nor did anybody else. They have a way of looking mean, mad and dangerous up close, without actually doing anything to account for it. I think it’s those big bright eyes and the mocking smile. And the mechanical, robotic way they walk. I can’t help thinking of an AT-AT Walker from Star Wars driven by The Joker.

But actually, the only really wild and potentially dangerous creature I saw was a kangaroo just outside the fence, that started growling and showing me its teeth as soon as I approached. I gather he had come because of the scent of the females inside, and he was quite angry because he couldn’t pass the fence. When I first approached the park, I was impressed by the security measures. Barbed wire, electrified fences, double fence lines in some places. It looked rather like a concentration camp or Jurassic Park. I thought, boy, there’s no way I’m getting in there for free. I was ready to spend $13 on the admission fee, but then, whaddya know, the rear door was open. Turns out those fences are more for keeping inmates in and other animals out.

But back to our stray ’roo. From behind the fence, I amused myself watching the poor enraged bastard. He hissed and he growled, and made aggressive gestures, which was really funny to watch. That is, funny from behind an electrified barrier. Now I have the proof of the roos’ famous bad temper.

*wombat = a marsupial halfway between a pig and a mole

*emu = a mean-looking ostrich

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Go West
Life is peaceful there
Go West
There in the open air
Go West
Where the skies are blue
Go West
This is what we're gonna do

Life is certainly peaceful in Perth. Sedated, even. After a while, dull. That is, according to the many travelers I've met. I myself haven't had the chance to get bored, and I've actually found it to be quite lively. Looks like I've hit the Interesting Times here: Christmas time. I can easily tell, for the city is packed full. It took me a long long time to find accommodation, and it was of the expensive sort. They say I've hit the "good" hostel though, and I've heard some really interesting stories of what the bad ones are like.

The very day I arrived they had a big parade through the city, with loads of colourful coaches and people dressed up funny, doing crazy choreographies. Dancers, clowns, jugglers, drum-banging hordes of asians, the full set. And the pipers, of course. Heaps of them. Can't have a parade without the pipers, stands to reason.

Then I met the locals and went out for a few beers too many. It was great fun.

Fremantle (the port of Perth) is fun on weekends. I love browsing through stalls in the markets, gaping at every cheap souvenir with a sprayed kangaroo on it. No comparison to the Victoria Market in Melbourne or Paddy's Markets in Sydney, but they're still cool enough. Fremantle also has a bit of history to it, and that's a plus.

Met the first two Spanish guys since Sydney (a rarity themselves in these parts), jolly good chaps both of them, with lots of stories to tell. It felt surprisingly good to have someone to speak Spanish to. I was tired of meeting german and dutch people, with their secret codes of communication. It was fun to use my own for a while.

Then Justo and I went to Scarborough for some beaching, but the day was pretty windy, so we came back up to our ears in sand.

On my last day I finally climbed to King's Park for some nice views of the city. They say it's prettier at sundown, but I had to get going.

All in all, though I've enjoyed my time there, met a truckload of cool people and had heaps of fun, I haven't done much in Perth itself. I suppose there just isn't much to do. It's just a nice place, with a "relaxed and laid-back" atmosphere. A place where it's common to get a nod, a smile and an "Oaryagoin' mate!" from people you pass on the street. Really homely for a city its size.

And then I suppose there's always the museums and zoos to visit. I would've done that, with a few more days to spare. But alas, time is scarce. Gotta get hopping on to Adelaide.

The Pinnacles Trip

I took an organized day trip there, which in the end turned out to include a mere 30 minutes stay at the Pinnacles themselves. I would be angry about that, but I had so much fun it didn't matter.

First of all, I saw my first proper big kangaroos and koalas up close, in a park where we stopped just for that. I also caught a glimpse of a few emus, all of them running away as soon as we approached.

Then, on our way to do some sandboarding, our driver managed to get our 4WD truck stuck in sand. Bogged, he called it. After watching how the halfwit tried forward and reverse 80 times and just dug deeper and deeper, I offered my services as a rational being and came up with the idea of putting rocks and wood under the wheels. He discarded it as useless, and tried to dig out the wheels with his hands. I came up with the idea of using the sandboards as shovels. He discarded it as useless, and just continued to sink the thing deeper.

So I just did what I had proposed, and gathered rocks and sticks, then started shovelling with a board. Two Asian guys joined in. We propped the wheels, and we shoveled, and we shoveled some more, while our idiot driver watched and commented. I started pushing and everybody joined. We pushed. And we pushed and we sweated. And we pushed and we sweated some more.

And we made it.

We got the truck out of the sand. It was great. For the same price, a full hour of forced labor for free!

After that, the sandboarding, on big dunes of very fine sand. An opportunity to end up to my ears in sand I didn't miss. It's fun, but not as exciting as it seems.

Then we drove a few more hours and arrived at the National Park. Had a nourishing barbie* lunch there, then went to see it. We saw it. I loved it. Even though it was too short.

Drove half of the 260km back to Perth. I slept. We had tea*. Drove back the other half. I slept.

I arrived back at the hostel, and heartily filled my dorm with a very abundant mix of three different kinds of sand, much to the cleaning lady's dismay the following morning.

Heaps of sand. Heaps of fun.

* barbie=barbecue. As in, brekkie=breakfast, undies=underwear
*tea=light early evening meal, very rarely including tea


Picture this: Hundreds of thousands of solid rock pillars, boldly reaching for the blue sky again, through the sand and the wind, like the once mighty trees that made them... while slowly crumbling away, constantly, inevitably, eroding, bit by bit disintegrating into more sand, joining the infinite surrounding dunes... then blown away and away, over the hills and beyond the horizon, fine dust subtly flying into oblivion.

That's the Pinnacles. Beautiful, isn't it?

Out of Rottnest

I booked the trip to Rottnest Island and the accommodation with a travel agency, which was a first for me. I paid a few dollars more, but I saved myself a lot of trouble.

Just as usual, when we're talking bureaucracy and myself, by the time I got to Fremantle C-shed, the ferry company had no record of my booking. I actually had a booking for an 8:30 service that didn't exist (their fault: a misprint). Took them half an hour to fix it.

I enjoyed the cruise, and got there without further incident. I knew I wanted to rent a bike, and thought I would just get it on the island. It never occurred to me that I could get a decent mountain bike from the ferry at a decent price.

Instead, I paid a rajah's ransom for a useless metal bulk that looked like the offspring of tractor and a rake and might, just might, have been a bike in one of its previous metallic reincarnations. A one-gear, wobbly, unstable rusty contraption, rented as if it was made of gold and diamonds.

I had to push it more than ride it. Every bump was pain, every hill penitence. After every ride, my legs were shaking and my arse was in agony.

Oh, but I had so much fun.

I flew down the hills, by the splashing sea, over bays of coral. I went up the hills, up the cliffs, down to the beach. I cycled all the island, and walked half of it. I swam and snorkeled among the pink corals, in the company of heaps of very photographic fish of all shapes and sizes, colorful starfish and hermit crabs.

It’s a small island, but it’s still easy to escape civilization. Actually, civilization on Rottnest consists in a few buildings by the main jetty, a couple of residential neighborhoods and the former army barracks, now refurbished as the Youth Hostel. When I got to the Other Side (Cape Vlamingh*), I was alone.

Alone with the Rats, that is. The island is full of them. “Quokkas”, they’re called. They do look like kangaroo rats; hence the name “Rats’ nest”. They’re the friendliest (and smallest) merry hopping marsupials I’ve met yet. They don’t mind you petting them, and will be very happy to eat whatever green thing you care to give them. Actually, they’re pretty stupid too, which may explain why they’re almost extinct on the continent. No competition or predators on the island.

And that’s about it. Rottnest: a great small place to go to get Away.
I sincerely loved every minute.
* named after the first Dutch guy who bothered to step ashore and give the island a name


Two days. Two days of cycling, swimming, snorkelling and hiking. Two days of blue skies, green hills, white beaches, turquoise crystalline waters and azure seas. Two gorgeous apocalyptic sunsets. Two days alone with Nature itself.

Two days of fun, adventure and freedom. Two days away from everybody and everything I know. Two days Away.


Saturday, 8 December 2007


The great huge empty dry flat plain nothingness in the way from Adelaide to Perth, crossed by the straightest 478km of railway track in the world.

Staring out of the window while crossing it has a certain hypnotic effect. A rough mat of greenish gray covers the reddish floor. No tree or house or any other point of reference in sight, just the same cloned scrub at irregular intervals on a flat flat plain, stretching to a heated blurry horizon and the infinite unknown nothingness behind. This same landscape keeps repeating itself, rolling on in front of your eyes, again and again, like a conveyor belt, on and on, until it starts revolving around itself, and becomes a whirling disc of scrubby shrubs and red dirt, and the horizon is a wobbly mirage, you can see the sea and almost the surfers and the disc is spinning, and now it's you that are going in circles around it all, in a huge infinite merry-go-round that will take you nowhere and never let you go, until your bones too lie spinning in the sun, clean and white, on the red red earth.

But the spell is broken when the train stops at a place that only exists as a name on the map and a bent signpost by the track, where people have gathered because the coming of the train is the big event of the week, probably of the month, possibly of the year. Aboriginal people, coming from a rumoured settlement over the horizon, driving the same white utes, with the trunk full of kids, coming for a free one-hour concert.

Then comes Cook, the ghost town in the approximate middle of the very precise nowhere, with abandoned buildings, rusting old wrecks, and a population of 2, who run a souvenir shop. There you really realize how far away you are from anything whatsoever.

Then the disc starts spinning again.

Tassie is an island's name

I'm in love with Tassie. She's a wonderful beautiful incredible place.

There's so much Nature happening around you at all times that you can't have enough of it in a lifetime. If you need to be alone, you just need to choose your background: mountains, beaches, forests, lakes, hills and rivers are all around you, a stone's throw away. Wherever you go, if you skip the highways, it's likely you won't meet anyone for hours.

Though there's little reason for not wanting to meet'em. Tassie people are cheerful, jolly-spirited, and so unbelievably friendly you'd think you're best friends with everyone. They greet you with delight and a big shining smile, and most often crack a joke in the first 5 seconds.

Cities and towns are all safe and clean, and really friendly to the pedestrian. Though I reckon this could be said for most of Australia, it's certainly true here. It's hard to get lost; streets are clearly labeled, and there are signposts pointing to anything interesting. And you'll never be left wanting for a toilet or a sip of water, even on a remote track in the middle of the forest.

But sure, not everything's perfect. First there's the weather. Tasmanian weather is proverbially unpredictable and quick-changing. One minute the sun burns through your skin like a blowtorch, the next it's raining possums and dingoes. Now it's hot, now it's chilly, now it's clouded, now it's windy.

And then there's the roads. Tasmanian roads suck. Really big time. They're all narrow and winding, and many are unsealed*. People drive fast on 4wd utes with high clearance, raising dust clouds, which is a bit unnerving at times. So no cicling in Tasmania, however hardcore you might be.

And there's the roadkill, of course.
To the best of my knowledge, I've managed to spare the lives of all adventurous furry and feathery creatures that crossed my path, but I could have been less lucky and hit a big one.

But loved it, loved it, loved it and had a wonderful time.

To anyone going to Tassie I would recommend:
- Do go, it's really worth it.
- Go in summer, the winter is cold and humid.
- If you're in Hobart:
-- Climb Mount Wellington
-- Stay at the Hobart Hostel
-- And get out of Hobart!!
- Get a car, or bus pass if you have more time than money.
- Don't miss any NP, they're worth it.
- Meet the locals, you'll have fun.

*Unsealed road = gravel road = dirt track = track a goat would not venture onto

Out of Tasmania

Day 1 (28 Nov)
- Got to the Hobart Hostel, met some awesome people (how do you write that?)
- Had a few fun beers. Coopers Brewery=two thumbs up.

Day 2
- Hiked up Mount Wellington with aforesaid Awesome People (henceforth AP). Long hike, loads of fun. Hit wonderful weather, had amazing views. Ended up exhausted, but really loved it.

Day 3
- Rented a car. Got it cheap at first, but guy at Thrifty scared me into paying for extra insurance, which at the time seemed a good idea.
- Took a while to get used to driving on the wrong side. When signalling for turning left or right, I got a very clean windshield instead.
- Scratched a tyre while parking.
- Day trip to Bruny Island with AP. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
- Took the ferry there and back. Rediscovered I love being at sea.
- Took beautiful pictures.
- Painted the white car a shitty brown with dirt from the gravel roads.
- Couldn't see the penguins, it was too early in the evening.
- Went all the way South to the lighthouse. Chilly, windy, lovely.
- Took beautiful pictures.
- Made it back just on time to take the ferry to the mainland.
- Dropped the guys at the Hostel, went out on my own.
- Drove until nightfall. Crossed the Tasman Bridge, passed Sorrell, said ok shit that's enough and stopped near Lewisham, on a dirt patch at an intersection.
- A policeman (policemate?) came, no doubt called by someone living in the vicinity. "Neighbourhood watch", they call it.
Policeman: "G'day mate!"
Me: "G'day"
P: "Ev'thin' all righ'?"
M: "No worries"
P: "Wherabouts yer from?"
M: "Spain"
P: "Oh, ess-pa-nya!"
M: "Yupp"
P:"Sleepin' 'ere t'night, are ya?"
M: "Yupp"
P: "Ok, g'night then"
Day 4
- Woke up late, drove to the Tasman Peninsula. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
- Stopped at the Tesselated Pavement, took tons of pictures of myself walking on it.
- Went up and down Pirates' Bay, walking the sands, skipjumping rocks, climbing up cliffs and being surprised by the diversity and colourfulness of dead marine life lying on the beach.
- Got attacked by a seagull. Turns out I was conspicuously close to her eggs. Now here's an exercise for you: try jumping from rock to rock over splashing waves, while dodging an angry seagull diving at you. It's fun, but you're likely to get a bit wet. I did.
- Saw the Blowhole and Tasman's Arch. Nice and rocky.
- Drove on to Port Arthur. The biggest tourist attraction of Tasmania turns out to be just the remains of the penal colony: a few old buildings. While no doubt interesting, still severely overpriced and not my cup of tea.
- Drove a bit North and had a chilly night amidst the woods, near the shore.

Day 5
- Drove back to the mainland, stopping at lovely deserted windy beaches along the way.
- Took the Wielangta Forest Drive. Lovely. Got off the main road and got a bit lost. It was great fun, I had the forest all for myself. Finally arrived at closed gate with redundant "Keep Out" message, so had to backtrack. Took a few walks in the forest, really really worth it.
- Got almost attacked by seagull. But this time I was prepared, I had a Big Stick.
- Went up the coast; Orford, Triabunna, Swansea, Bicheno. Nothing much in those places. They're all nice, and Bicheno adds to that a hill, a few interesting rocks and a Blowhole.
- Drove my way to Launceston, met the Suicidal Wallabies et altra.
- Hit a railway track and broke the underside of the car a bit. Tasmanian roads suck. Big time. No wonder all vehicles are Utes*/4WDs.
- Fixed the broken plastic thing temporarily with a piece of ripped tyre I found on the road.
- Drove on to Launceston, where I had no hostel booking. Remembered I had a "Let's Go Australia" guidebook with me, on which I identified the only hostel in the centre. Took me a while to find it.
- Guess who I met there: David & Johan, the very same AP guys from Hobart, on their way to the Overland Track. Way to go mates!

*Ute = pickup truck, usually white and with a useless snorkel

Day 6
- Spent a preposterous amount of time trying to fix the car, and finally managed it. Hope they don't notice.
- Spent some more time online, and buying food and petrol.
- Was very happy to finally get out of Launceston after too much time in city traffic. It's a nice place though, if you're on foot.
- It started pissing, but I went ahead with my plans and drove up to Narawntapu National Park, to look for wombats and kangaroos. No luck with the sighting, just a few wallabies.
- Met some other members of the Suicidium genus, spared their lives.
- Stopped for the night at a really nice free caravan park, close to Cradle Mountain.
- Saw lots of stars in the chilly night. Recognized some of them, but realized the constellations are all twisted.

Day 7
- Shitty pissing day, didn't feel like paying $22 to get to to Cradle Mountain. Got close on foot though, took my "been there" pic.
- Drove all around the mountains, through Queenstown and the National parks.
- Did a few hikes through rainforests, up and down hills, to waterfalls and rivers. Oh yes. Description is redundant, check the pics.
- Slept in New Norfolk, right in the city. Found no better place.

Day 8
- Made my way to the same hostel, dropped my stuff.
- Dropped the car. Felt really relieved. A rental car is an inexhaustible source of problems and worries.
- Went out to see what entertainment Hobart has to offer.
- Turns out the answer is "none" after 16:00. Boat trip around the bay, last one had already departed. Museum, closed when I got there. Damn.
- Walked around the historic part, read about that, was interesting.
- Got chilly, went back to hostel, met Awesome Guy, had really good time and a few beers. Cheers Shin!
- Happily got out of Hobart the next morning, on a delayed flight. Hopped on to Adelaide.


When green is the color and blue is the contrast
When the road is a mirror and the sky is on fire
When the world is all fields and a tree is an island

When the water is soothing and the sand is your bed
When the sun is ablaze and the rain is not wet
When the void is not empty and the stars are misplaced
When the rays pierce the clouds and the wind's in your face
When now is the time and here the place

When the light blasts the shadows and they lay on the ground
When the North is the South and the Earth is so round

When a mountain's a stone and the sky is the limit
When the sunset's the end and the dawn the beginning
When life is a road and your maps are misleading

Then you know you're alive and you know you are living

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Longest Journey

Assuming everything works smothly, I'll be on board the Indian Pacific on my way to Perth in a few hours. I should arrive there on the 8th.

This means, of course, that I'll be incommunicated for 2 days, while I roll along through the most absolute emptiness.

Actually, I'm really looking forward to it.

See you later!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Slightly incommunicated

Hi all! As you might have noticed, I don't get online much. Public internet access in these places is outstandingly crappy, slow, useless and expensive.

I offer my apologies from here to all those who are still waiting for me to answer an email.

I really wish I could.

Sunday, 2 December 2007


Today I've seen my first wallabies*. More accurately, today I've almost run over my first wallabies.

Eight of them. One thought that crossing the road just in front of my car was an exciting adventure. Another just sat in the middle of the lane scratching its nose. The rest mostly poked their nose into the asphalt, apparently trying to judge its nutritive value.

This was all at sunset. They do warn you about this. Apparently, the road is the cool place to be at sundown, in wallaby town. It's the trendy disco, the fashionable lounge, the seat of all excitement.

I was thrilled myself. I was excited as a child in a theme park. I tried to get close to a couple of them with photographic intentions, to no avail. They don't mind your car hitting them, but you'll find they're quickly hoppping away as soon as you try to take a snapshot. Reclusive, shy, suicidal little bastards they are.

*wallaby = small to medium-sized kangaroo

Saturday, 1 December 2007

On the road again

I've rented a car for 5 days. Here comes a piece out of my road diary.

From time to time, a yellow sign says "Narrow winding road - next 7km". They could save themselves the trouble of planting that sign. All Tasmanian roads are narrow and winding.

They're also lined with roadkill of all shapes and sizes. It's like a macabre zoo, an ongoing exhibition of dead animals. Here you can see a dead wallaby, that's a Decomposing Wombat. Oh, and don't miss the decom-possums...

Crows are everywhere, feeding off the roadside carcasses. No wonder they are thriving here. Quote the raven: "yum, yum"

This island is so full of life that you meet Death on every corner.