Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And it's strange how clouds that look like mountains in the sky are next to mountains anyways


Warning: This e-mail is going to be pretty long, so get comfortable. On the plus side, there will be lots of pictures to go with it!!

I'll start off by filling you in on my trip to the Sydney Jewish Museum located in none other than Sydney's redlight district. Needless to say, it was a good thing I went during the day. The museum was fairly small, but really nicely designed. Some fun facts include: Australia, second to Israel, accepted the largest number of Jews after the Holocaust per capita. Among the first boat of convicts sent to do time in Australia, 11 were Jewish and eventually became bankers and shopkeepers, of course ;-). One of Australia's finest generals, Gen. Monash, was Jewish, and in Melbourne there is a university named after him. We creamed them in uni games....I guess Jews really aren't athletes. Hehe. I bought a fair amount of things at the gift shop- hey gota support fellow Jews! All in all, the musem was really incredible. I'm hoping to check out the Great Synagogue in the next week or so.

Well, my big trip was touring the west coast of Tasmania, which I just got back from tonight. A lot of Americans don't really think to check out Tasmania, it seems. I knew I wanted to do something else before I left, and I didn't get to see the Great Ocean Road, so I thought a trip to Tasmania would be awesome. Originally I was supposed to go with three other girls, all of which bailed AT the booking agency. I was pretty upset, but then decided I wanted to see Tasmania regardless if I went alone. So I booked the trip and a few days before, a friend of mine said she'd like to go, so I had a travel mate. I left last Friday and flew into Launceston. All of Tasmania was about 500,000 people, so it's pretty tiny- mostly farms. I guess it's similar to New Zealand, which I'll see for myself in a few weeks. We stayed at this really sketchy hostel that night. The guy was no where to be found, and then when we found him he gave us a key to the wrong room, and we really freaked out the girls in there. I don't blame them. After spending the night in probably bed bug-ridden sheets, we ventured off in the Under Down Under tour bus, with our guide, Tony.

We first went to Cradle Mountain National Park, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Cradle Mountain, can you guess? Looks like a cradle, and it sits above this huge lake called Dove Lake. Kendra and I decided the two reccommended trails were far too easy for us athletic folks, so we decided on the hard trail. It should say that hard really means rock climbing. We thought the first set of rock stairs were tiring, and then we got to areas where we were literally rock climbing. Eventually we got to a sign that told us to go a weird direction to get to the parking lot; it pointed us away from the lot, so we decided to keep going around the lake. We eventually were climbing directly upward and found ourselves in the cradle. It was absolutely stunning, but a little unnerving, considering there were no signs that we should've been there besides a few metal poles. We had to get back to the parking lot no later than 7 20 for the bus, and since we had no cell service, we started to get a little concerned about making it back in time since we weren't sure if the trail was ever going to back down! Finally, after nearly being mauled to death by a bird that wouldn't leave me alone so I ended up sprinting down somerocks holding onto a metal chain, we found a sign that pointed toward the car park. But the sign said 1.45 hours so we had a ways to go. Upon running out of watr, we found a stream and I felt like Bambi drinking out of it, but it was delicious. Way better than the tap I drink in my apartment. We then entered the rainforest, but luckily it was all downhill. We kept going and met an older couple (who we later meet again), and FINALLY after nearly collapsing, we made it to the end!

Well, our hike was over, but we had missed our tour guide so we had to find the other parking lot with the shuttle bus, which meant more walking. It was getting to be dusk, so we saw tons of wallabies (small kangaroos) and wombats chiling along the road. It was pretty amazing. They were fairly tame too. We walked for awhile, but still no sign of our van. Eventually a car pulled up and it was the old couple who offered us a ride. They dropped us off at this lodge where we ate steak dinners. It was expensive and not that great, but we were starving and scarfed it down in a matter of minutes. I learned the way NOT to open ketchup (tomato sauce as it's called here) after spraying it all over my T-shirt. (Pam, it's the Australia one you gave me...gota bleach that baby out). The whole restaurant got a laugh at me. After dinner, we had to continue walking, but luckily our tour guide was genuinely concerned we hadn't come back yet and came looking for us and picked us up on the side of the road. We felt bad we worried him, but we said if we weren't back by 9 to worry (of course, that was in jest since we didn't think we'd be gone that long). Apparently he told the other people on our tour that he looked for us, couldn't find us, and decided we could easily be replaced by other Americans (we were the only Americans). They believed him. We passed out from exhaustion.

The next day we headed to Montezuma Falls in the rainforest. It was a 3-hour walk, but didn't have hills so that was good since we were recovering from Cradle Mountain. There was a big suspension bridge, which I crossed, twice, but practically cried the whole way. It was pretty scary. The waterfalls were beautiful, but due to acid, we couldn't touch it. Nice. Later on, we stopped at the Henty Sand dunes, which were dunes at least 30 meters (90 feet) high. Some kid sprinted down them and tripped, smashed into a sandbank and broke his collar bone. I thought he broke his back. After that, I walked down...slowly. We had to take him to a medical center...poor kid. We also Ocean Beach, along the west coast, which is the start of the longest stretch of ocean in the world. The next time you see land is South America. It's pretty crazy. The western beaches are pretty desolate, and kind of eerie, but beautiful. The water is brown because of the tanen (also in tea) which runs off the rivers.

That night we stayed at some nice cabins- tiny but very comfortable. The last day of the tour consisted of a few more rainforest walks with waterfalls, and hiked up to this great lookout over the Franklin River. Throughout the trip we passed through some tiny towns- literally nothing was going on, since they used to be mining towns, but all the stuff was used up. By the end of the third day, I was beat. I don't know how people do 5-day or weeklong tours. I was exhausted. We crashed at this hostel in Hobart after I had my first fish and chips experience. Not too bad until I saw the blue fish skin and couldn't eat anymore. We got up early this morning and went to Claremont, about an hour outside Hobart for a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, the world's second largest Cadbury factory outside England. (We also stopped by a smaller chocolate factory near Launceston where they had a plethora of samples.) We had to wear hairnets and we walked through all the processing machines. I felt like I was in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, but unfortunately there was no Johnny Depp. It smelled like heaven, and I was so sad to see the throw out huge trays of chocolate which touched the ground. Five second rule? I guess not when you're serving to millions upon millions of people. We got some freee mini bars and a package of chocolates at the end. I bought some "less than perfect" discounted bars for my roommates. My stomach hurt from my samples so I passed on chocolate for me. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Hobart and eventually falling asleep in a park until we had to catch the bus to the airport. The flights were OK, but I was tired and the chocolate was still churning in my lactarded stomach so that was annoying. Now, back in Sydney, I have two exams before heading off to New Zealand and Fiji and then home! I'll be home in 24 days, which is crazy.

Until then, enjoy your winter while Sydney is just warming up!


I think I'm going to have some issues leaving Australia

Hey everyone,

I'll be home in just a little more than a month, and it's starting to freak me out. I'm excited to get home and see people, but Australia is definitely somewhere I'd like to stay. Despite the weather not really turning out in our favor, things are going well, and now that classes and papers are done, it's almost smooth sailing. I have two exams spread out over the next two weeks before I can officially be halfway through my junior year.

About that surf lesson I mentioned...I didn't do too badly. I got up twice, which is more than most people can do. Granted, I didn't stay up for very long, but maybe next time. I wore a wetsuit, which was great since the water is still pretty cold in Sydney. My friend Kendra took me and told me to avoid the bluebottle jellyfish, which I saw all along the beach. Once I got that fear out of my head, I enjoyed the water, although the waves tired me out due to the fact I'm not a strong swimmer and even the smallest waves are taller than me. I was extremely sore afterwards, but it was a great full-body workout. Good thing I can do all those pushups!

I went on my kayaking trip in Watson's Bay, which was pretty spectacular. The flies are pretty awful, but once we got into the water they left us alone. My friend Sarah, from high school, and I partnered up in a two-person kayak. I guess I'm renown for being strong because my roommates always ask me to open the jars and bottles, and Sarah asked for me to be in the back to be the power steerer. We went pretty well, I reckon. We kayaked almost to Manly, which is part of Sydney's northern beaches. Along the way we saw an old, pretty wrinkly naked man walking along some rocks. We giggled and then realized it was a nude beach. Haha. We kayaked a bit further to the entrance to the Tasman Sea. This was pretty surreal because it looked like a drop off; it was just a small opening and then wide, vast sea. Kind of eerie, really. Then we kayaked into various other bays with some incredible houses that apparently go for $10 million. We even saw Paul Hogan's Sydney House. (Speaking of houses, I've seen the 'Real World: Sydney' house in Darling Harbour; Paul I thought that might interest you.) I took the ferry back to Circular Quay, which was faster and way better than the bus.

Halloween in Australia isn't as big as it is at home, but I found some ways to celebrate. My ultimate team and I planned a bit of a Halloween party and then ventured off to this club, which was hosting a party with live music. I went as Peter Pan. My costume was pretty awesome considering I'm not my mother and can't sew and I was on a bit of a budget. I'll attach a picture. I did get some of my mom's creativity genes though and everyone loved my costume. The party was great, and there were some good costumes. I didn't go out on Halloween though. I got dressed to go out and then decided I'd watch Ghostbusters and study for an exam, which I think I dominated.

Last night was our big, formal Frisbee dinner. We all got dressed up and ate at this Nepalese restaurant. We had our own private room upstairs, and we sat on pillows on the floor. I was a bit skeptical about trying Nepalese food, but it turned out to be pretty good. Unfortunately we didn't get much for our $25, so that was a disappointment. My friend Waz and I were in charge of making and giving out awards to everyone, and that was a lot of fun. I was in charge of making the awards for the boys. My award was "Best Costume of the Year," with regard to my ridiculous outfit at one of the uni games party. After dinner we went into the city for some good ole karaoke. The place we went to had absolutely no ventilation and was seriously 100 degrees. Eventually we didn't even bother trying to wipe off the sweat anymore because everything just became drenched. I sang some tunes, "I Will Survive" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" were my spotlight moments.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to some of my friends last night in a hurry because it was raining and we were hailing cabs. I wish I had had more time to say my goodbyes considering I may never see these guys again.

I'm headed off to Tasmania on Friday for a three-day tour and then in Hobart I'm going on a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. It turns out I'll be traveling with someone afterall. Originally some friends bailed, but it turns out my friend Kendra just booked the trip as well. I'm pretty excited.

That's about all the news from down under.