Friday, September 01, 2006

home sweet bloody home

So I'm back in the UK now. Have been for a week but I've had some sort of Guatemalan bird flu ever since I left Central America so I've been bed ridden since I got back.

Last few days in Guatemala involved more sun, sand and turtle hunting with some kayaking and drinking thrown in for good measure. It was a great experience and I'd love to go back - or in fact just be there right now!

My trip from Guatemala to San Salvador involved getting up at 4am to trundle of in the dark to the bank of the mangrove river to hopefully catch a boat. This eventually turned up and 'whisked' ahem, put-putted me to Papaturro, then I hopped on a chicken bus to Chiquimillia and onto another bus to the border - each leg taking over an hour. At the border I was asked why I didn't have a stamp in my passport to say that I had entered Guatemala. Central America have recently introduced a one stamp fits all kind of visa for all the countries but it was looking like Guatemala had forgotten this. I was being looked at very suspiciously and they were using Spanish words that I just hadn't required in Hawaii ('eggs' being the most useful word there). This was taking uncomfortably long and other people were passing through no problem. Feeling of edginess doesn't help when you are taller, blonder, whiter and more female than everyone else around. Not that I'm saying I'm extraordinarily feminine of course. Anyway turns out desk monkey hadn't looked through my passport properly and I was sent on my way. Walked over the border to El Salvador where immediately things felt more civilised. Can't really explain why though. Another bus to Sonsonate led me to my final bus to San Salvador. Jumped off that bus when I saw something I recognised (namely the space where that bit of hillside slid down and buried people in 2001) as being near my aunt's house and got a taxi driver to do the rest. I felt safe the whole way and barely needed to speak never mind know fluent Spanish. Took 8 hours though :(

Had a lovely pedicure the next day where I experienced my second tremor - and again didn't realise what it was. This time thought that the beauty parlour was made of flimsy material and that someone was getting a vigourous massage! Again, the truth made more sense.

So I'm back and it all seems so long ago already. Where shall I go next..........

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tuesday August 15

So far so good. Not had to patrol with the guy who will now be known as McAsshole.

Toook the chicken bus into MOnterrico yesterday to bid a fond farewell to JAred. Everyojne really got on with him and it's a real shame he was only here for 4 days. After he went for his bus, a few of us went for a beer at Jonny's hwere we quickly found out that no-one could stand McAsshole. Unfortunately that means that there is stiff competition to avoid patrolling with him, but at least it's menat that the rest of us have bonded well over our mutual irritation! Especially over the fact that he doens't eat any vegetables - and I mean ANY. Only potatoes and maybe onions - but only if they are finely chopped - WTF?!! There are quite a few vegetarians at the project and we take turns cooking. It's funny to watch him pushing anything that's not pasta or rice coloured around his plate in distaste!

No more turtles found so far except dead ones. The nights have been warm which tends to keep the turtles in the sea. Oh there was one live turtle found but she fell asleep mid-laying apparently - weird.

Went kayaking in the mangrove river this afternoon with Sam. That was so beautiful and peaceful, and a bit too sunny as I burnt myself a little. Sam is a wildlife photography student so she was hoping to get some great photos. Our inability ot keep the kayaks from crashing into our subjects kind of messed up our shots though!..........

....Just got back from night opatrol. I ahd an early shift tonight, 9pm-aapm. It's extremely hot and humid. There's a clear sky but no moon yet so it was very dark. Kept getting the crap scared out of me as I almost bumped into parlameros every 200m. Fireflies were cool though.

My feet are a mess with bites and burst blisters and nothing is getting the chance to heal. I even had to start wearing socks and sandals today - shock! HAven't looked in a mirror since I've been here so god know what state the rest of me is in.

McAsshole went to bed early tonight thank goodness. Amongst his many random and uninteresting stories he was telling about how he told his Spanish teacher that English is so much easier to learn than Spanish since it only has 3 tenses - past present and future - none of this perfect/imperfect nonsense that Spanish has. Yes I can hear you linguists gasp in shock!

I'm soaking wet with sweat and it's going to be long and steamy night - and not in a good way. Let's hope there's not a rat scurrying around immediately above my head on my top bunk like there was last night. Ysabel found 2 scoprions in her bed last night. Eeeeeeeeekkkk!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

47 degrees

During the day here in HAwaii you are pretty much free to do what you want. There are tasks to be done but you don't have to do them if you don't want to since a lot of the time we are tired from night patrols. However I like to keep occupied - I have so far shown everyone that it is perfectly possible to keep toilets and kitchens clean and sanitised. But it did take a lot of elbow grease! Other activities have inclded plastering a water tank for the turtle rescue centre, cleaning, painting, cleaning, beach clearing, cleaning.

I am one of about a dozen people here. Scott and Sarah are an English couple who kind of run the place. Rachel and Emma are sponsored by the European Volunteer Service (EVS) to do some 'science'. Rebecca is a Kiwi who is alos kind of part funded by the EVS somehow and part self funded. Ysabel is here from Peru. She's a tour guide for all over South America nad has been given 6 months to discover Central America and is spending 3 months on this project. Correen is a 17 year old Canadian high school student. Sam and Alice are wildlife photography students at Blackpool. Anne is a more mature New Jersey software consultant. Noticed that it's all girls so far except Scott? Well that's what it was like when I first got here. The next day Jared arrived for a long weekend. He lives in Oregon and is employed by rich parents to get their kids off the rails and back into college. Then yesterday Derek arrived from Vermont. He has just sat his bar exam for environmental law. And finally and by all means least, there's Colin, a guy from Dunfermline who annoyed me as soon as he openend his mouth. He's almost everything I hate about Scottish people. When he introduced himself and I asked if that was another Scottish accent I was hearing, by way of reply he lifted his shirt sleeve to reveal his Scotland tattoo and the words "we shall be a nation again". All his t-shirts are Scotland/football related. He's sitting at the same table as me right now and has just shown me his diary - with a great big Scottish flag on it. He's already gone on about Scottish independence and how Mcconnell is a patsy for Blair. He's not a horrible person but I wouldn't want to socialise with him in any way in Scotland never mind Guatemala. I feel a tiny bit sorry for him as this is a very new experience for him and he looks a bit out of his depth at times. He just got divorced and the proceeds from the marital home are funding this trip. He is on anti-depressants and has nothing and no-one waiting for him back in Scotland. Aw - too much information in 24 hours mate!

Just as long as I never have to go on night patrol with him and we can stop hijm playing his awful music (4 non-blondes and Robbie FFS) then I'm sure I can cope. His arrival has significantly spoiled my enjoyment and chilled-outness though.

47 degrees celcius (in the sun) today. Phew.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Middle of nowhere, Guatemala

I think it must be a couple of weeks since my last entry - where was I then? Queenstown I think. There I skied and bungy'd - the latter being the most terrifying thing I've ever done. It was a bungy swing I did rather than a bungy jump. This still involves a vertical drop but starting out away and level from where the rope is anchored. When the rope becomes taut you then swing out rather than bounce up and down. Also you don't have to jump off - you are winched into position in a harness dangling over a cliff edge (eek), then you have to remove safety clip (eek) being careful not to pull other bits and pieces (eek) and then finally when you are ready you pull the release (eek) and then wheeeeeeeeeee.......
After I opened my eyes a few seconds later it was an awesome experience. The swing is situated on the side of a mountain looking over Queenstown and the lake and the view was stunning - I didn't want to be winched back up again. However the first few seconds was gut wrenching - literally. My eyes were tightly shut and I let out this primeval gutteral sound. My stomach muscles were sore for days afterwards because I'd clenched them so tight. Anyway great experience, glad I did it but can't say I'd do it again!
So now I'm in Hawaii, Guatemala. It took 35 hours to get from NZ to El Salvador. Exhausting. I stayed a couple of days at my aunt's in Santa Tecla and went to see some ancient Mayan carvings that were found buried in a coffee plantation a couple of hours away.
WE also spent a couple of days in Antigua, Guatemala where I experienced my first active volcano and earthquake. Mt Pacaya has been at its most active for at least 10 years. You can see the lava flowing just a metre away and, boy, is it hot. That night I awoke thinking that someone was having violent sex beneath my room by the way it was shaking. Turns out to ahve been a lot more innocent - it was a tremor. Definitely made more sense than my middle of the night theory. I guess I might have been more scared if I'd realised what it was at the time!

I am writing this - actually phyically writing with pen and paper - on Sunday August 13. I am at a nature reserve called Parque Hawai, south of Monterrico on the Paacific coast and I've been here 3 days. The park is situated by a beach that is a popular turtle nesting area. It is also a popular turtle egg plundering area. We spend our nights patrolling the beach for tortugas (turtles) and parlameros (egg plunderers). If we find a turtle we wait for her to lay her 100 or so eggs, then we dig the eggs up and rebury them in the hatchery. If we find parlameros with eggs, they are required by law to give us a donation of 12 eggs which we also then bury.
My first night, I was due to patrol at 4.30am. It got stormy about 10pm which is perfect weather for the turtles so I went out then too and found a turtle!! Beginners luck. It's quite rare to find your own turtle. I wish I'd taken my camera - no doubt I won't see another one if I have my camera with me.

The storm itself was brilliant. I'd never seen such fork lightning before - networks right across the sky.

We are housed if a fairly open construction with a palm thatched roof. I'm sleeping in what is effectively a ledge above the common areas which acn be noisy - there's a squawking parrot outside and a fish tank immediately below full of prehistoric alligator garr (fish) which becmome active and splashy at night. Also since people have different shifts throughout the night there is a lot of noise from alarms, people climbing in and out of bunks and general chit chat, so a good night's sleep is hard to come by.

Free time is spent lying in hammocks or on the beach but generally in the shade. I've just checked the termperature and it 31.5 deg C in the shade. At night it's a chilly 29.5 degrees.

Along with this tropical weather comes the downside - mosquitos, fire ants, cockroaches, sandflies and rats. My legs are covered in bites and sores. Walking on the sand so much in sandals just rubs off the skin wherever the material is in contact with the sand.

Have got the chicken bus into town today to type this up but best go now as have to go for lunch and beer!!

Hasta luego

Monday, July 31, 2006

Skiing and bungy

I am now in Queenstown, New Zealand where my sis has a house. Arrived 2 days ago from a delayed flight from Sydney. Too much fuel had been put on the plane so we spent an hour flying through the stunning snow capped mountains of South Island burning up the fuel - better than sitting on the tarmac waiting for a truck to come take the fuel off which was the another (and more economical) option the captain could have taken. Thank you Cap'n

On Friday night after my flight from Cairns, I managed to catch up with some of the people in Sydney that have made my visit so enjoyable. Thanks to all - Ben, David, Stephen, Joanne, Jette, Mark, JP, Sarah Jane, Luiz, Simon, Pawel, Joan, Conrad, Nigel, Ben V, Aaron and Tracey. Yes they are in a particular order, but it's a coded order so you can figure it out for yourself! Sorry if I missed anyone, but it just means that I am too sad to be away from you to type your name.

Went skiing yesterday but it was pretty rainy and miserable so wasn't up for long - actually it worked out at $20 a run. Most expensive ski trip I've ever been on!

Was supposed to go on the bungy swing today but it has clouded over so am aiming to do it tomorrow. The bungy swing is not as vertical as the normal bungy and it significantly cheaper which is why I'm going to do it. You still travel down as far as normal bungy but there is more swinging than bouncing and I should be able to actually be aware of what is around - maybe. Still thrilling though I believe. I had fully intended to do a bungy jump in Bali the first time I went there 7 years ago, but when I went to the site it was closed. I was completely psyched up for it as well. I have since developed vertigo so god knows how I'll cope! I'll let you know.

Sorry there have been no pictures recently but it takes a while to upload them and I haven't had a decent internet connection for a while. I'll try and do some before I leave New Zealand.

some more weeks later

Several weeks later ...(July 28th)

Crikey, just looked at previous entry and all that seemed very long ago. I am in yet another airport (Cairns) and I have to give laptop back tonight so this may very well be my last entry till I get home.

I leave Australia tomorrow morning and I’m off to see sis in Queenstown. From 28 degrees to freezing. Eek.

I’ve spent the last few days in Cape Tribulation north of Cairns. It had been raining there non-stop for weeks before we arrived but amazingly we had 5 days of beautiful weather. Cape Trib is a pretty undeveloped resort 2-3 hours drive from Cairns. It is often described as where the rainforest meets the reef – and it’s not a bad description at all. I went with 3 folk from Buccleuch Place – Ben Hachey, Amy Isard and Sam Brody. We stayed in this gorgeous place called the Cape Trib Retreat (google it), a house set in the trees/jungle. Nothing was enclosed except the bathroom I think. My bedroom had its 2 balconies – 1 over the rainforest and one over the lounge/kitchen/sitting room. There was even an open staircase (i.e. no door) into the house but luckily there seems to be no crime in the area. I did wake up in the middle of the night thinking that someone was creeping around, but that was probably Ben, or maybe a cassowary! A cassowary is a big emu sized bird that roams the area and we were eager to see one.

We took a trip out to the barrier reef and I tried snorkelling for the first time – I saw me a clown fish, yes I found Nemo. Now I’m not a big fan of being underwater but I am now hooked on snorkelling and reckon the only way to go now is diving. Sorry credit cards! There was so much life down there. Unfortunately I didn’t see a turtle but there were so many beautifully coloured fish of all crazy sizes and huge sea slugs and giant clams and I even saw a sting ray. I did manage to kill a few thousand creatures though. Some of the coral is very close to the surface and the current took me over it before I could turn around and so a collision occurred. :( Sorry.

The next day Ben and I did the Mount Sorrow ridge walk. That is the steepest climb I have ever done but it was good. Didn’t see much wildlife but at least no spiders fell on me. We also did a guided night walk through the forest hoping to see some wildlife. We saw a cricket, a stick insect, a lizard and a sleeping bird. Not quite what we were hoping for but clambering along wet rocks in the dark is always a laugh.

There is an exotic fruit farm in the resort as well so we went along to a tasting where we were introduced to some mighty fine fruits that we will probably never see in the shops because either they are ugly looking or they don’t travel well. Black sapote is also called chocolate pudding fruit and you can see why. Although it doesn’t quite taste of chocolate it does have the texture and sheen of a very rich chocolate pudding and is yummy. We tried it in a smoothie today too. There was also a yellow sapote which tasted of pumpkin. My favourite was probably soursop which is a relative of the custard apple but not as sweet. Also good was breadfruit – use as you would a sweet potato. And there were many more fruits that I can’t remember the name of. One smelled of gasoline and reminded me of durian. One of those that you either love or hate. We were then taken round the orchard where Ben decided to lick an ant’s ass. It was a green ant which when it bites your releases acid – it’s pure citric acid and so if you lick one of these ants it tastes like lemon and gives you your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C in that one lick.

The drive back today involved lunch at a gorgeous restaurant looking ove a river just south of Cape Trib, Heritage Lodge. They often have the smallest kangaroos, the muskyrat kangaroos, roaming around but of course we didn’t see any. Stopped off for some jackfruit, macadamia nut, apricot and wattle seed ice cream before roaming around the Discovery Centre hoping to see some wildlife. The problem with the rainforest is that there are too many bloody trees around and most of the wildlife is brown or green. We did see some tree frogs but they were pointed out to us by the staff and they were located in the rafters of the toilets!! What is it with toilets and frogs?!

So not much wildlife but plenty of sun. Also plenty of computational linguists. We met 4 separate sets of them in Cape Trib and saw 2 others on our plane up. One of the main reasons for my trip and certainly the catalyst was the ColingACL conference that took place in Sydney last week. So there were loads of Edinburgh people about and we spent a lot of time drinking and playing pool, and yes, of course I am the champion. I spent most of the conference organising the volunteers and gossiping with the organisers so didn’t really attend too many talks – actually I attended a grand total of 2 in 4 days! Hey, but it’s all about the networking isn’t it?!

Before the conference I went up to the Blue Mountains with Ben Ha, David Talbot and Sam B. The weather was miserable but we did manage to see some sights. The Jenolan Caves were fantastic. So ornate with so many different formations – shame I forgot my camera!! Maria (another new friend) was fantastic in driving us there as it is 2 hours from Katoomba – our base in the Blue Mountains. There are over 300 caves in a 12km area but only a handful are open to the public. We went on 2 tours but unfortunately we had the same guide for both – his stories were bad enough the first time round!! The caves themselves were wonderful though. David Talbot was unable to fully appreciate them though as we had had a fairly busy day the day before. Straight from his flight into Sydney we were off sight seeing around the city, including all the fruit bats in the Botanic Gardens. Then I took him off for cocktails in Newtown where we met up with Stephen before heading into town to a fabulous Japanese/Californian restaurant and meeting up with Ben Hu, David H, Matt Frampton and Mihai. Lots of wine and food later we went to another pub before heading home about 2am. So a busy day for a jetlagged David and then we were up early to get to the mountains. All the looking up at the caves caused him to feel very nauseous so he may be quite an expert on the floors of caves now! We went for a hike in the drizzle along the Grand Canyon the next day – the Australian version. Many steps but worth the effort. The weather ahd cleared just enough the next day for us to actually see the main sight that all the tourists go to see – the 3 Sisters.

I’d been up to the Blue Mountains before a few weeks earlier where I went to the Blue Mountains Scots annual ball – yes I went to a ceilidh in Australia (2 actually since the conference dinner involved a ceilidh). They take their country dancing here very seriously. Not sure what they made of Ben and my Strip the Willow – the kind where you try to inflict as much damage as possible on those unfortunate enough to be nearby! I also won a raffle prize - a basket containing crackers, pate, peanuts and paper tartan napkins which you can see me professionally modelling. The next day, local Maria took us around different spots and outlooks to get a feel for the Mountains. The canyon there is the second largest in the world after the other Grand Canyon and looks stunning. Total opposite to the barren images we see of the canyon the Colorado river has formed – trees everywhere We went to some caves that aboriginals had been using for up to 20 thousand years and you could still see some of the carvings – simple ones involving horseshoe shapes (meaning person) and straight lines (meaning spear) – you really have to know what you are looking for!

What else did I do in my final weeks….. Oh, I saw some whales. I went on a whale watching trip out of Sydney Harbour. We followed a pod of 3 humpback whales for a while. You are allowed to get up to 100m from the pod so we managed to see quite a bit of them, although trying to guage where and when they would next come up for air is not an exact science. Saw some tail slapping and some fin waving but not leaping into the air unfortunately. The boat docked in Circular Quay right next to this Aboriginal art gallery that I’d had my eye on for a while so of course I had to go in just for another look. Came out with 2 oil on canvas paintings – they were half price so surely my purchase was justified! I do love them so I don’t care.

Talking of shopping I also took myself off the the factory outlet centre one hungover Sunday and came back with a ski jacket and 2 pairs of sunnies among many other things. Also one day I went into the Macquarie Centre to get jacket dry cleaned and came out with a new pair of shoes. Just because the Aussie dollar is weak and things seem cheap should not mean that I have to buy everything I see but I just can’t seem to help it!

I head straight to the pub from Sydney airport tonight for farewell drinks with all the fabulous people I’ve met here, then I few hours sleep before I wake up, cram everything into my luggage, throw anything that doesn’t fit out and head off. Once I get to Queenstown I’ll spend a couple of days with sis and family before hiring a car and spending a few days getting to Christchurch. I leave NZ next Saturday and spend the rest of my trip in Central America.

some weeks later

July 12th

Sorry, it's been a little while since I updated this and I'm pretty sure I'll miss out some fascinating story from the past couple of weeks.

My leaving date is fast approaching and i don't feel I've done anything. I've not taken a ferry yet, or gone whale watching or been to Manly or, or, or...... However I did got to a drag show last weekend. New friend Nigel is leaving to work in Paris and Saturday was his leaving do which he very kindly invited me along to. Drinks and dinner were followed by going to the Imperial Club where they have the most famous/infamous/notorious? drag shows. Hmm, not quite the Lady Boys of Bangkok but entertaining enough. There were a total of 2 straight boys in our party and it was of course expected that I pull one of them. However several shots of tequila and something called cowboys saddles later and I was still resisting. Much to their disappointment obviously!!

Felt rough as the next day so the only option was to drink through it. I countered a camp and civilised evening with a testosterone filled drunken Sunday afternoon with flatmate Ben and his mates in the local pub. Much beer and filth later and we retired to the apartment where we spilled red wine and threw our memories away! My resistance, however, wasn't as strong as the previous night and ended up with a drunken fumble with a guy called Crazy! He reminded me of Richard Hammond including in the height respect. Oh just remembered that his name was Richard - maybe it was the man himself - oh yay!

So the Soccerroos are out of the World Cup :( At least that means I don't feel obliged to get up at silly hours of the morning to watch the matches. I got up for the Brazil game (2am) and the Croatia game (4am) but I couldn't manage the Italy game (1am) on Monday night after the previous 2 nights. I might try and catch some (I'm optimistic there!!) england games and the Tri Nations starts next week so I won't be short for spectator sport.

Sad woman that I am, I ended up in the pub on my own 2 Saturday nights ago. It was the 2nd S Africa vs Scotland (rugby) test. The local pub calls itself a rugby pub so I went there at 11am to watch it. It was showing on the 2 big screens and the football was being shown on the 2 small screens on the other side of the pub. I was the only one watching the rugby - so not only was I on my own but it was also very obvious that I was on my own. Ach who cares.

i had been out earlier for someone else's leaving do. we went to the minus 5 bar in Circular Quay. It's a bar made of ice - even the glasses are made of ice (imported from New Zealand!). You only get to stay for half an hour as it is about -16C. You have to wear a massive thermal jacket and 2 pairs of gloves and can only handle the glasses with both hands. There were fantastic ice carvings too but to be honest after about 15 minutes you'd seen all you needed to see and the novelty had worn off. Then it was off to a Chinatown for dinner to a restaurant that had all the live fish and seafood in tanks beside the tables. It was like something out of a B movie. these things were huge, especially the abalone - they are molluscs sucking on to the side of the glass and were bigger than my hand. Apparently they taste gorgeous and are quite expensive but I could do without seeing them alive. Kind of reminded me of genitalia - and not in a good way!

My free days have been spent nursing hangovers or exploring. Before the Ice Bar i'd been walking between Bondi and Coogee with Joanne. There's a great coastal walk between the 2 suburbs where you go from cliffs to beaches to cliffs again. I experienced my first $5 dollar steak. Stephen has been going on about these deals for weeks. You seriously get a steak for $5 (that's 2 quid) and it's not on the small side by any means. Crazy. Also encountered some crazy jellyfish scattered all over Bondi beach - which reminded me of the other genitalia. Must have sex on the brain.

Last Saturday I borrowed Ben's bike and went cycling around Iron Cove Bay, 5 Dock bay and Abbotsford Bay. It was soooooo good to be out on a bike again. It's totally the way to explore anywhere. I was warned that Sydneysider drivers hate cyclists and won't pay much attention to your safety but I managed to stay alive. Some cycle paths are being developed but I was constantly having to swap between them and the road. All the hills definitely hurt but they don't last too long. I got completely lost in the grounds of Rozelle psychiatric hopital but the residents were very friendly!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

roo roo skip to my roo

Wow, what weekend. Went to the south coast of NSW, a place called Bawley Point about 3 and a half hours drive south of Sydney. Ben's mum, Jan has a place there looking over the sea. We travelled in and arrived to torrential rain. The forecast wasn't good but as long as we got some dry spells to go walking then I wasn't going to mind too much.

We arrived on the Saturday late afternoon and a quick roo steak later, David and I went off to MIlton for a concert of Bush tales and songs. David manages Musica Viva's Countrywide program which organises bringing music ensembles to venues all around Australia. Basically to me, that meant free tickets. So we went to see Warren Fahey and Dave de Hugard. The former's repertoire consists mainly of bush tales, poems and songs mostly unaccompanied. The latter mostly did folk type songs. The first half was really enjoyable - I particularly liked Warren's stuff but was a bit lukewarm about Dave's. One song was bout a load of shearers having a party and getting so drunk that they started mistaking the sheep for lasses and started dancing with them (and the rest...)!

Example bush tale:
Two drovers were camped by the orad for the night. After their meal they sat around the fire talking and, eventually, one of them got up and wandered over to the fence for a leak. After a minute or so he yelled out to his mate: 'Hey, Col, you ever smoked a cigarette that's been pissed on?'
The other drover thought this over for a few minutes and replied: 'Nar, I can't say that I have.'
More silence followed and then: 'Can't say that you've missed much.'

Since the first half lasted an hour an a half, I wasn't really expecting the second half to live up to the first - and I was correct. Half the audience had left during the interval anyway, thinking they'd probably got their money's worth by then and 10pm was their bedtime. I didn't quite fall asleep but I wanted to. I think even the performers were tired as they made quite a few mistakes and even admitted that some of the songs were the first time they'd performed them. Overall though, I'm glad I went.

Next day was stormy and cold. Made for dramatic waves crashing onto the beach and rocks though. The area consists of lots of beaches and headlands. We headed to Pretty Beach where I was promised I would see some kangaroos up close, which as you can see by the photo, I did. They don't seem bothered by humans at all, they just kind of crouch and stare at you. There was a camp site nearby though so they were probably partly tame and scavenging. Funny story actually, do you see how wet and bedraggled their coats look?.....Well, that's because it was REALLY BLOODY WET!! And cold - wished I'd brought a scarf and gloves. Ridiculous. Photo of Ben at strange angle is him being held up by the gale force winds. It cleared up a bit in the afternoon, still windy and cold but not as wet so did some more wondering along beaches and clambering on rocks. The surfers were out to enjoy the waves too. Found my ideal home - there is a lake set back from the beach and hidden by some trees. This is locally known as swan lake as it is populated by hundreds of black swans. Set back again from this lake was a house up on the hill with a great sweeping lawn down to the lake with a little jetty onto the lake that was just crying out for me to sit by it with a gin and tonic. It was the most beautiful setting. Also had it's own mini skate board park which wasn't really part of my ideal.

This holiday weekend is also traditionally bonfire night here - althougn fireworks are bannned in NSW. Neighbours very kindly put on a fireworks display for us during dinner. They'd built a big bonfire on the beach. After dinner and quite a bit of wine, we took over the by now slightly smaller bonfire and pranced around with sparklers. David also tried a bit of firewalking.

Bawley Point is apparently the first land Captain Cook spotted during his voyage of discovery. There is a very prominent hill that he said reminded him of a dovecot and it is now called Pigeon House. However the Aboriginal term for it is 'big breast' - can you see why?

Monday morning brought glorious sunshine and lots of very colourful birds. A pair of king parrots, some crimson rosellas, rainbow lorikeets and hooded pigeons as well as some slightly less exciting magpies visited us on the balcony. Had a great day involving more walks by beaches, lagoons and bush but then unfortunately we had to head back to Sydney

It was the World Cup Australia vs Japan match that night and I was supposed to be going to Darling Harbour to watch it but I was just too tired. Shame as looked as if it would have a been a great atmosphere. The next match against Brazil is at 3am our time so I don't suppose I'll watch that one either. Guess I should really find out how England are doing.

During the weekend I brought Ben and David's attention to the roads people's penchant for word play on road warning signs which they had never noticed before: "Stop, revive, survive", "driver reviver, 500m", "the road is there to share", "click clack, front and back" and although not about roads "slip, slop, slap, wrap" - I can't remember exactly what that's about but the 2nd one is for sunscreen and the last one for shades.

The commentary I get from my hosts is quite funny too - when they point out this historic old something or other and I find it's a whole 80 years old. Heheh, my flat in Edinburgh is older than that! There was one sign on the road for th Historic Boathouse. Jan used to use it for courting (the boats, not the shed) when she was a lass and it wasn't considered historic then, just a simple boatshed.

I am sitting typing this in more glorious sunshine in my garden but my skin is beginning to feel a little overexposed so I think I'll head indoors and do something more constructive - like maybe work! I hear there are lots of burnt folk wandering around Edinburgh a the moment - sunscreen, people, suncreen.

Gratuitous shot of surfers
Jan taking in the view

hungry lorikeets

stunning lagoon 50m from the beach
Either Pretty Beach, or Pebbly Beach or Bawley Beach or Gannet Beach or Cormorant Beach or... och I dinnae ken, there were just soooo many beaches!!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

sunshine on a rainy day

makes my soul, makes my soul drip drip away..

Enough of the early 90s europop.

I am sitting in my back garden in the sunshine. Hurrah at last. It might get to the dizzy heights of 18 degC today, the pundits say. Better slap on the factor 40!! Tis Thursday and a holiday weekend looms. They celebrate the queen's birthday here - does the UK? I have been invited to someone's beach house in Bawley Point a couple of hours south of Sydney where there are long sweeping beaches with kanagaroos frolicking on them - that's if kangaroos frolick, maybe they gambol. Anyway it will be my first glimpst of kangaroos - alive anyway. Maybe I'll go hunting and then throw some on the barbie!! Only joking, they are kinda hard to kill without a 'ute' I would imagine.

Bawley Point is an area devoid of tourist trappings I am told. I am also going to a concert of bush songs and poetry on the saturday night in a nearby town. By choice! Please be aware that this is not the opposite of anti-Bush songs and poetry! The performance is by the most famous bush singer (?) in the land, so famous I don't know his name. Anyway, the songs and poems are based on stories heard on his travels around hicksville Australia. There may not even be a bar at the interval - now I really am immersing myself in a different culture!!

This week has been pretty tame so far I'm afraid to say, but I can tell you that both the Macquarie Uni and Sydney Uni gyms are abysmal compared to Edinburgh Uni - even before Edinburgh was refurbed - I guess I should never complain again. Macquaries is essentially a big shed with plywood panels to give the very faint impression of separate rooms. Women are not a common feature in either of them which is v v different from Edinburgh.

I am now working/volunteering every Wed morning at the Yoga in Daily Life ashram in my area. Think I'm becoming a volunteer junkie. I offered my services and they asked what I did for a living - when I said 'compooters' they rubbed their hands with glee and asked if I knew anything about databases. So now I will be replacing/augmenting my PHD procrastination skills with working out how the fuck Microsoft Access (doesn't) works.

Ohh, forecast is for 19 degC tomorrow - better go look out the SPF 50

Have a good weekend....