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A last entry

sunny -7 °C

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It's cold in Sweden. When I landed in Copenhagen the temperature was -7 degrees to get colder during the coming few days. I had no coat or winter clothes but three layers of thin long sleeved sweaters and a scarf kept helped me survive while waiting for the train home. What kept me happy though was Johanna who met me at the airport.

Since I came home I have gone ice skating a few times on a few out of the thousands of lakes in Sweden. I have tried fishing through a hole in the ice but we never got anything as the shallow lake was frozen solid! We saw a partly frozen rapid (fors) and had hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls, sitting on the side of the lake. It has all been very Swedish! It got even more Swedish when I caught a terrible cold and since then I have not been doing very much at all until now.

The best experience however was to walk on the sea. It's years and years since i did that last and this time my Jesus moment was even better! The winter here has apparently been so cold that the sea has frozen in the bays and I could walk about 100 meters out on the sea. Mind you it's very shallow. The bast part however was not the frozen sea but the big blocks of ice on the shore. I felt like some explorer of the north pole when I scrambled around on them.

This is my last blog entry and fittingly blog number 50. I'm now back to the point I started from and the adventure of traveling is over for this time. For me though there is plenty of excitement left. I'm looking for a job and not until I have one can I look for an apartment (as I'm applying for jobs in so different places as Copenhagen, Brussels, Stockholm, and Kongo-Kinshasa). The ultimate aim of it all is of course to be able to get Dana to come over here.

I want to thank you all for reading and commenting on my blog. For those of you that are not in Sweden I hope that we will see each other again soon! And Kenneth: have fun at Mardi Gras, I wish I could be there too!

The observation of the week: You can't always trust the seasons. Admittedly it's cold in Scandinavia, as cold as the winters were 30 years ago and the skies are fittingly blue. If I had stayed in Melbourne I would have been cold anyways as they are having an exceptionally cold summer with daytime temperatures not reaching 20 degrees (14 a few days ago). In Belgrade on the other hand they went from no snow to 30 cm over night the other day. I think I'm better of in Sweden where the outdoors is cold but where my room reaches 20 degrees and the fire place is burning merrily.
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Posted by Sockerbit 03:03 Archived in Sweden Tagged ice Comments (3)

Islands in the sun

Two weeks in the Philippines

sunny 29 °C

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David, a friend who also came on the road trip in Australia, told me a few months ago that he was going to the Philippines and that he would be going there on the same day that my visa in Australia expired. I was at that time looking for a ticket to Europe and David wondered why I didn't come with him. Hm, I thought: why not? And that's how I ended up in the Philippines.

David is a former Peace Corps volunteer and have lived in the Philippines for three years. Not only was he a knowledgeable guide but also dedicated both to the Philippines per se, and to making me see the best of "his" country. I could not have had a better guide.

Though i have only seen a very little bit of it I think I can say that the Philippines is a really beautiful country with volcanoes, beaches, clear turquoise water, and most importantly: a very nice and pleasant population. Manila is more than a bit like Mexico City, but instead of hearing loud salsa music by the train stations it's Asian pop and karaoke. I of course like it a lot. In fact a lot of what I saw in the Philippines reminded me of Mexico, and even many of the words were Spanish. For example all words relating to time were in Spanish. The reason is of course that the Philippines (named after king Philip of Spain) were a Spanish colony for 300 years. It wasn't until my last day in Manila however, that I realized why I was reminded of Mexico, and not Spain. It turned out (as any thinking person would have figured out) that the Spaniards didn't sail eastwards from Spain, to do that they would have had to pass Africa, India, and China only to mention a few. Instead they reached the Philippines westwards from Mexico. This also means that the sailors and governors were more likely to be born in Mexico than in Spain, and bring Mexican influence.

David decided that I needed to see the 8th wonder of the world and so we packed our warm clothes (sigh!) and took a night bus to first Sagada and then Banaue. The rice terraces, are one of the original wonders of the world. The stone terraces that create the leveled terraces are more then a 1000 years old. In fact they started to be built 2000 years ago and as far as I have learned it took about 1000 years to build them. Also, according to David, It's the only one out of the original wonders of the world that is still in Use (no one is being buried in the pyramids any more...). They were absolutely gorgeous! The hike we had to do to get there was long and rather strenuous but it was really beautiful. Banaue, and the other places that we visited in northern Luzon were all on a high altitude and as we are now in the cold season we often had rain at night and cold evenings. Still it was very enjoyable. We went on a cave tour with a very funny, but extremely safety oriented guide, entering through one cave ad getting out through another. We swam in an underground lake and got to climb here and there. The only thing we missed was Dana, who would have loved it! The following day we saw the famous hanging coffins. The people of Sagada don't bury their dead. Instead they put them in coffins and staple them in caves. The more prominent people get to have their coffin hung up on a mountain wall. I guess the reason for this strange tradition is that the area doesn't have a lot of soil. The newest coffin we saw was from December 2010 so we were warned to go to close, in case it would be smelly.

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After our trip to the north we booked a flight to Dumaguete. David warned me that the flight would lift well before schedule and that we needed to have passed security 45 minutes before takeoff. Still, at 6.30 in the morning when we arrived at the airport, the line to go through security to even enter the airport was phenomenal. We were short of time and asked a guard if we could jump the line with the result that an airport official helper took our tickets and id's and walked us through security. Mind you, we were still scanned and patted down, just faster. Our nanny took us to the check in line and got us in to a shorter line, made sure that we didn't have any problems and then walked us through airport security before we convinced him that we were fine. A very helpful man indeed. As we approached our gate 20 minutes before boarding time they were already boarding and without stopping once since we got to the airport we just walked on to the plane and took of 20 minutes before scheduled time. Three hours after we had woken up we had already landed and got our luggage. Very efficient indeed.

David wanted to show me his island so after a day in Dumaguete where I snorkeled in a reef for the first time, we took a boat to Siquijor. Every few steps David took we stopped and said hi to people. David hadn't told anyone that he was in the country so when we got to his head office everyone there looked as though they were seeing a ghost. In fact we went to the office to drop our things of. The Bureau of Fishery and Aquatic Resources has a dorm for visiting regional workers and that's where we set up. We had to run around for a while to find a mattress for one of the bunks but then we were set up. You don't need much in the ways of blankets there. Or, in fact I did since everyone uses a fan when they sleep. I suggested that we'd turn it of but it turned out that the fan was not only used against the heat but also against the plentiful and vicious mosquitoes. In any case our dorm was basic and not all that functioning but it had geckos running around the walls and beautiful palm trees outside the window. And best of all, no spiders bigger than what I can handle.

On Siquijor I got to see all of Davids spots. In fact we hired a dirt bike driver for a day who drove us around the island and down all the little impossible tracks that David knew about. We went to small beaches with white sands and lime stone formations that made me think of pirate movies. We drove up the mountain in the middle of the island and saw the view. We got lost walking the last bit to a lighthouse cause the vegetation had totally covered the trail but med two coconut harvesters who gave us each a coconut to drink before we continued in the heat. We walked out to an island that the Japanese had dug shafts into during WWII, looking for an ancient Japanese treasure. We snorkeled, waded in water, climbed on rocks, and finally we were invited to a birthday party. One day we randomly stumbled over a fiesta, a yearly village feast in honor of a saint. Judging from what I experienced, it consisted of people from neighboring villages visiting houses and eating there. In every house they had more or less the same food.

What surprised me was that fish hardly seemed to be on the menu, it was all pork and chicken, not only on Siquijor, but also in other places we visited. Rice came with all food, even with noodles (I'm not kidding) and all food contained meat. If I ordered vegetables, they would come in pork sauce and with pieces of pork fat mixed into the food. On the upside however, their grilled chicken with local lemons was excellent and we had that at least once a day for almost all of the first week, until I had had too much of it.

We went snorkeling several times and I saw the most amazing things. I saw a reef shark, about one meter long and entirely harmless to people, I swam with sea turtles, and of course I saw all kinds of colorful aquarium fish, sea stars, and corals. It was really cool. Oh, and for Johanna: I also held a sea cucumber, they are really slimy!

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The observation of the week:
1. I knew that the US puts its long nose into everybody else's business with their military so I was glad to hear that it also has the decency to to have a Peace Corps that helps poor countries with social issues, or environmental protection for example. In fact the volunteers are working for local organizations, learning the local language and customs, living like the locals, on a local wage. I'm not an expert on the Peace Corps but to me it sounds like the best type of help.

2. a funny thing here is that as soon as I'm alone for even a second everyone who I come in contact with ask if I'm not married, or where my husband is. also, all of Davids local friends and acquaintances assumed that I was his girlfriend or wife. This interest in peoples marital status definitely didn't come from any idea that women need to be with a man or anything like that, but of what I gather people here marry early, and your family situation seems to be a public business. It was actually really amusing seeing David starting to look uncomfortable about one minute into every conversation he had with locals. That's when I knew that he was trying to explain that we were only friends. :-)

3. One kilo of mangoes for $2=10 SEK is heaven. Five top class mangoes for less then the price of a cup of tea. Odd on the other hand is to see a 75cl bottle of rum for $1.50=8 SEK, when a cheap meal costs $1.20 to $4.50=6-25 SEK. As is often the case in developing countries the prices were generally very inconsistent where some things were extremely cheap while other are the same price as home, fx milk.

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Posted by Sockerbit 20:02 Archived in Philippines Comments (2)

See you Australia

sunny 40 °C

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After a year in Australia my visa is running out and I have to go home. As any reasonable Swede however I'm delaying my trip home for a few weeks cause no sane person will go to Sweden in February. I haven't visited half the places in Australia that I would like to, but I'm sure that I'll be back here one day and therefore I keep on saying: another time. I must be the only traveler who has not visited Sydney, but on the other hand I have been to Coober Pedy and Walhalla!

My last few weeks here have been distracted. Dana trying to find a new place, I'm trying to say goodbye to people etc. so we managed to miss Australia Day. As we left the apartment in the afternoon we caught glimpses of people dressed in flags, and I got highly annoyed at myself for not going down to the city earlier. Well, well, next time!

From the place where I worked before Christmas I had got cinema tickets in something called gold class. Basically it's a cinema "first class" with a lounge with food and drinks to wait in before the movie, a cinema with only maybe 24 seats divided in twos with rows in between. Dana and I were showed to our seats, gigantic armchairs with a little table in between and a button for table service. The waitress brought us our bottle of sparkling wine (we had got a voucher for that too) and a blanket for me. The chairs even had automatic foot rests and you could lean back in the chair. We played with the features for a while before the movie began. We couldn't even reach the next set of chairs in front of us! It was most luxurious! The movie, "The king's speech" was great and we were so cozy!

As we are packing up the apartment, I'm trying to get as much as possible into my bag, and we are both generally distracted due to the fact that I'm leaving Dana's mother arrived from the US so my last day in Australia was spent pleasantly by Dana's childhood area where we visited a sanctuary, had nice lunch, and fed birds. The birds were rosellas, cockatoos, and galahs. The rosellas are small and pretty nice, their claws might scratch you but otherwise they are nice. The cockatoos however weren't too fussed about weather is was the bird seeds or your hand they got and managed to bite us a few times before we simply banned them from the food. the galahs were the worst though, they didn't even go for the food but went for your finger directly as Dana noticed twice! The birds were beautiful however, and so was the day, 29 degrees (ten less than the two previous days) and sunny. A little too humid but it was a great day. A great last day in Australia. After a nice vegetarian dinner did Dana and his mum take me and my loaded bags to the airport and I was of. See you again Australia!

The observation of the week: There's nothing wrong with Australia, it's a great place but it's just too far away.

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Posted by Sockerbit 15:04 Archived in Australia Comments (7)

The Outback Experience - part 3

Alice Springs

sunny 43 °C

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Finally after a week's interesting but increasingly uncomfortable travels in the desert we arrived into Alice springs. In a amusing book I recently read and highly recommend (Bill Bryson's “Downunder”) the author undertakes a road trip from Darwin to Alice Springs. He and a friend drive for several days through desert and stay at road houses that get odder and more basic as they travel. Some areas only got electricity in the 90's! Finally they reach Alice Springs, the icon of nowhereness, just to realize that Alice is a rather ordinary and civilized town who boasts to have not only McDonnalds, but also KFC and K-mart. They were terribly disappointed, having driven for that far to see the same American chains as they could back home! I, on the other hand, longed for a cold glass of water and a tomato (I know, I'm easily satisfied) and thought that Alice sounded like the modern miracle in the middle of the desert, thousands of kilometers from anything really.

Well Alice Springs is not your average town. Sure it does have the normal chains, and all the hings that a tourist destination would offer: internet cafes, souvenir shops, hostels etc. but it is NOT a normal place. For one thing, as Michele said: “what do you do when you are free? There is nothing here!” There is no beach, no city, the cinema only operates on certain days, and everything was very expensive. The isolation was tangible, our phones only had network in the very center, the internet was OK but very expensive and the whole place gave a mixed impression of tourist location and hick town with a lot of big muscular men, obviously locals, in singlets and hats. As we were looking around at the tourist office to see what there was to do in town I found an ad for ice skating in the city, “Ice skating at the conference center, all of January” it said. Ice skating! In Alice Springs, in Summer! This is a crazy world. But I guess that if Melbourne etc. can set up big Christmas trees in the city centers and eat plum pudding for Christmas lunch, Alice springs inhabitants can go ice skating. They want to be normal too, don't they? (I just hope, for the sake of global warming, that it wasn't real ice.)

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Still the strongest impression that Alice Springs made on us was that of being a frontier town, not mainly in the sense of man against the wild, even though that was most certainly an aspect of it as well. No, Alice Springs is a divided town in the sense of white Australians and the Aboriginals, or blacks, as they said. It was strange and disturbing to see how there was a double society. There were loads of Aboriginals in the city, but they were mostly sleeping in the parks, drinking, or arguing loudly. The white Australians, or for that reason, Asians, Africans, or any other immigrants, seemed not to see them. They behaved towards the Aboriginals the way we do when we see drunks at the side of the road: they looked away and pretended neither to see nor hear. The Aboriginals selling paintings on the pavement were treated the same way. Though this was strange and sad, this was not the worst. I got an impression of a society that is not only divided, but also very discriminating. More than once I heard the word “apartheid” being used to try to capture the situation, though the term is not correct: there are no laws stopping the Aboriginals from getting education, jobs, or houses in the white areas. But there is rampant discrimination together with extreme social lapse. Just like with the native Americans, or the Greenlanders, drinking and drug addictions are so widespread that the whole society has collapsed. There are Aboriginal areas where they live semi traditional and where alcohol and drugs are forbidden. I don't know how it's there, but in the cities, the Aboriginals have become a large problem. Alice Springs has the largest crime rate in Australia, with burglary, rape and violence as the main features. According to our local journalist friend though, besides the burglary, the crimes were almost always directed “black on black”. The only time that white people would get involved was if they accidentally got in the way. The old history of white colonization, kidnappings of children to bring them up “civilized” and mass murder of Aboriginals make the situation very infected so that the police either try not to see what is happening, or treat the Aboriginals very racist. It is a problem that continues to the next generations. If you look at Australian health statistics the Aboriginals live in a third world country. Due to poverty, poor nutrition, unemployment etc. they have an average life length of 20 years less than white (and other ethnicities) Australians. I'm not going to dwell on the subject. I'm not an expert and don't know too much about it but it is obvious that there is a huge problem, and just as obvious that most white Australians don't want to talk about it,either because they don’t know too much about it (the problem is not visible in the most populated areas of Australia) or because they don't know what to do about it.

In Alice Springs Dana and I decided to spend the hottest part of the day indoors at the reptile center where we had the time of our life holding lizards, getting hugged by snakes and watching a thorny devil eat. On the way there we popped in to the botanical gardens, but just as the rest of the nature around the area it was very hostile and warm, with very little shade. We hurried out of it, but on the way out we stirred some bushes, and out jumps a big kangaroo. Just in front of us. He stopped a little bit away and looked at us and we got a good look at him before he jumped of. I think it was our day cause right after that an eagle flew right above us and scared up a flock of budgies that twittered away. We ended the afternoon with our travel mates at the pub where the big stubborn bartender claimed that a pilsner is not a lager and Dana argued with him until I asked for a stout instead. It had been a hot trip. A long and uncomfortable trip. Dusty and dirty. But it had also been a very good trip. Amazing perspectives, unbelievable distances, and views that we had not expected. We had learned about opals, felt the dessert heat, swam in gorgeous waterholes, and learned about the natives of Australia. It had been a good trip.

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The Observation of the week:
See a report on living conditions for the aboriginals.
http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/health/aboriginal-life-expectancy.html

Posted by Sockerbit 18:56 Archived in Australia Tagged outback alice_springs Comments (3)

The Outback Experience - part 2

sunny 42 °C

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Wise from the hike of the Uluru base walk we got up at 5.30 the following morning to do another few hours hike at the Kata Tjuta, or the Olgas, as they are also called, and thereafter, warm and hot as we were we drove of. We were so happy to be in the air conditioned car again! These few days by Uluru/Kata Tjuta, and later Kings Canyon, were all rather similar. We got up really early so that we could do the hikes and see the views before the sun would get to crazily hot, and drove during the hottest part of the day. As everything in Central Australia (and Australia in general) is so far away from each other the driving gave us shelter for a few hours every day. As all the sights are within national parks we couldn't just camp anywhere but had to stay at campgrounds that were strangely overdone. Luckily enough for us they all had swimming pools and we had soon figured out that the best way to spend midday was to be in the shade in the pool between the more active mornings and evenings. Still, in spite of the swimming, I remember those days as hot and dusty with little shade but with unique and spectacular views and a changing nature that made it worth every bit of it.

After a few days we reached the West McDonnell Ranges, a mountain range west of Alice Springs. We arrived to an undeveloped camping late at night and extremely tired and only saw enough to find a good spot for a tent. It looked as dry and dusty as everywhere we had been and we went to bed with a thin blanket by our feet in the vain hope of a chilly night.

The following morning we were more than pleasantly surprised. Just behind the camping there was a waterhole. Not a swimming pool with chlorinated water, but a real water hole. An oasis. We had come across a waterhole before but here we were almost alone with it. It was just after 8 am and the only other people there was a young couple who had also slept at the camp. It was already really hot in the sun but most of the hole was in shade. As we walked down through the hot sand and dry, spiky shrub towards it I could never have imagined the view that met my eyes. In front of us the mountain walls who blocked the path in two directions formed a gorge and in front of it was a waterhole that almost formed a little lake, continuing in through the gorge. Around the lake was soft grass, a small sand beach, and best of all: trees filtering the sunlight so that there was a pleasant half shade. It was probably the most perfect place to swim that I have ever seen. We got in and for a while I just stood there in the water enjoying being cool but in the flickering sunlight. After a while I got in, just as our two traveling friends got up and started chatting with the other travelers; again, one of them being a very cute girl. Oh, did I mention that our two traveling mates were two single guys? Dana was at the far end of the lake trying to climb a rock wall and I decided to join him. When I got there however the rock wall was covered in St Andrews spiders (nasty ones) and Dana joined me in swimming through the gorge. From the beach it looked as the gorge wouldn't have too much to offer but as we swam through it we could see hidden sand beaches and interesting rock formations. We tried them all and finally ended up at the most beautiful little sand beach, a perfect camping spot but for the detail that you had to swim in with your stuff. We finally ended up at the top of a slanting rock overlooking the inner part of the gorge, listening to the water and the quietness of the place and watching flocks of budgies (undulater). It was really magical. When we came out to the lake again a loud family with kids of all ages had arrived and the magic was broken. Still the place was very enjoyable and we got over to our friends who were still, unsuccessfully trying to chat up the girl.

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We drove on that day and the next to visit several other waterholes of extremely varying quality and the next morning we started of again for an early morning hike at Ormiston Gorge. The views were spectacular! Walking up a shaded slope to reach an overlook where we could see the whole valley bathing in morning sun. Fantastic! The end of the hike however got a bit complicated due to all the heavy rain in the area a month or so, earlier. We had to wade through waist (ribs really) high water - by this time the sun was very strong and our clothes dried fast, and climb a bit to avoid having to swim with our cameras (don't worry dad, it was very safe and easy climbing). Finally we got back, sweaty and very dirty, and collapsed at the beach. If you like climbing and trying so figure out what to do this is the hike for you – at least until the water dies up (Johanna...). That hike was definitely the best one we did!

During the hike we also found melons growing at the beach and we took two to ask a local if they were edible. They looked and smelled good but in Australia you simply assume that everything could be dangerous – chances are that you are right. At this point we were keeping a close eye on our water consumption, as we had to drive to Alice Springs if we ran out of it, and the water we had was bore water – totally potable but murky and warm, and with a strong after taste of rotten eggs. We were also out of the only fresh food (not vacuum packed or freeze-dried) we had had all week, a few oranges. We were craving cold water and nice fruits and veggies. I even managed to annoy Dana by in detail describing the large glass of sparkling water I wanted. Anyhow: we found the thought of a melon, sun warm or not, fantastic. Unfortunately all available locals claimed the melon inedible or poisonous...

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Posted by Sockerbit 03:46 Archived in Australia Tagged kata_tjuta Comments (2)

The outback Experience - part 1

sunny 43 °C

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So we hit the road again the very morning after I came home from Tasmania. In fact, we only got home to sleep for a few hours before we left very early the next morning to catch the bus to Adelaide. When we got to the station at the other side of the city however, the man at the front desk informed us that the bus was full. We could not believe it! I know what the Swedes think: that we should have checked availability before, or that we could just wait an hour for the next bus or use another company, no big deal. Well, this is Australia and between two of the country's largest cities there are only two buses a day. One at 8 am and the other at 8 pm. And did I mention that the ride is 10(!) hours long? Just like in the US, the buses are never full as everyone has a car, but Dana had actually called the company before we left the house. So, we would be 12 hours delayed, have another destroyed night (as this bus would fill up as well) and we had only slept for a few hours. We were not happy!

When we arrived with the night bus in Adelaide the next morning, we were at first confused, until we realized that there's a half an hour time difference between Victoria and South Australia; seriously, half an hour, what kind of time difference is that? Why not have 46 minutes difference in that case? A few days later, when we entered Northern Territory, we subsequently had the same problem. I knew that there was a time difference. Dana knew in which direction, but would it be a reasonable further half an hour, to make it an even hour behind Melbourne? Or would it be an hour, which would make it a ridiculous 1,5 hours behind Melbourne. You guess! It was of course the silly alternative. The only good ting about that was that we got an hour extra, which made us able to take a quick swim in the camp's swimming pool AND get a cold drink before both facilities pub closed for the evening.

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To help you to make some sense of the coming story, let me give you the wider itinerary and circumstances of our trip. Dana and I had found ourselves two other people to travel with. One was a friend of a friend, and the other one a couch surfer whom we had only met a few times before. We all met up in Adelaide and rented a car for 8 days to be dropped of in Alice Springs. Between Adelaide and Alice it's 1'500 km if you drive directly, but including all the sights we drove 3'000 km. Besides the first few hours drive up to Port Augusta, which is whine country, it's all dessert and far in between the stops. A fair bit is Aboriginal land where you can't divert from the highway or stop without a permit. For my American friends: an Australian highway is not like the American highways where it can be crowded despite their eight lanes (or is that only along the coasts?). An Australian highway has got two lanes, one in each direction, unless it's in a major city, and no divider in between them. There's basically no shoulder (vägren), and no traffic either. On this particular highway you should avoid driving at night as basically all desert animals are nocturnal and you don't want to hit an eagle or a kangaroo!

The desert didn't really look like any of us would have expected it to. I only have the deserts of South Western US to compare with, but to me this was way too green. There were basically no trees or any shade as far as you could see and just the same scrubby landscape in every direction until the horizon. However, the ground was not bare; the red or dark yellow sand was intrerpunctuated by low bushes or patches of high dry and spiky grass, I don’t know how to best describe it. Close up it really did look like a desert, but from a distance all the shrub melted together and formed a yellow bush landscape that hid the sand from view.

We got delayed from Adelaide and didn't reach Coober Pedy the first night as we had planned. Instead we camped at a parking lot in a “town” of thirty inhabitants. We got there really late and couldn't find any legal camping spot so I walked up to a lonely police car, the first car we had seen in an hour or so, batted my eyelids and asked where we could camp. The kind police told me that it didn't matter too much, anywhere would be fine “oh”, he said “we are pretty relaxed up here”. That's how we came to camp virtually under a sign saying “No camping - fines apply”.

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Some people who have heard about our trip have had the impression that we were doing this whole trip just to see Uluru (Ayers Rock), but if that would have been the only reason I would have flown there. No, for me the actual trip was important and also: I really wanted to see Coober Pedy. We reached it the next day around lunch time. This place might be the oddest human habitation center on earth. The town is built in the middle of nowhere, not close to any natural water source as far as I know, and with a most horrific climate. Temperatures can rise to almost 50 degrees in the summer while the winter nights can get freezing. Still there is a town there and it's all due to opals. Coober Pedy is the worlds largest producer of opals. People came here in the early 19th century (1800-talet) to dig for opals and the whole landscape around the town has been turned into a moon landscape with random holes and piles of rubble. Everyone in Coober Pedy has several jobs; the postman is also the guide at the local opal museum and digs for opals on his spare time etc.. The local photo and souvenir shop had a corner where the owner and his friends cleaned the opals that they had found on their lot. The reason why I wanted to see Coober Pedy however, was not the opals. I wanted to see it because of its buildings; it is so insanely hot in summer and cold in winter that the first settlers had to figure out a way to deal with it. They started to build their houses underground, first using old opal mines and extending them to make a room, later they started digging whole apartments. The underground houses are naturally at a pleasant 27 degrees all year round and people still live in them today. Even the churches are underground!

We didn't stay for too long in Coober Pedy, it was really hot and as it was out of season for tourists some of the attractions I had been looking forward to, such as being able to see a real house that someone lives in, were closed. Still we saw enough to wonder if opals were really worth it. We drove on towards Erldunda, a roadhouse in the intersection between the Stuart highway, the one we drove on, and the road leading to Uluru. Even with air conditioning in the car the drive was very long and very hot so when we realized that Erldunda had a swimming pool, we were in seventh heaven. The following day we drove to Uluru and at the worst heat of the day (45 °C/113 °F) we decided to hike around the whole of Uluru, some 10,5 km or so. We brought loads of water but still realized that it was a bad idea. The sun was blazing and despite all the bushes there's no shade anywhere. On the bright side it gave us a good idea of how hot and unforgiving the desert can be. Uluru got a lot better when we drove up to a lookout point to see the sunset and while waiting for it under a roof we got out our camping stove and made dinner. I have never had such a view while eating indecently hot camping food. Neither has couscous and canned chili ever tasted as well in 45 degrees heat.

Talking about food, we survived the trip on different ready made dishes as we couldn't bring anything fresh. All food had to be able to stand 40+ degrees for an extended amount of time so it was noodles with canned veggies, canned stag stew etc. One afternoon when on the way when we stopped for dinner at the South Australian-Northern Territory border to boil some water for our instant rice dish, we started talking to a group of Frenchies in a van (one of the girls was beautiful), the only other people there . They were out on the same kind of trip as we and were also making dinner. They had lit a fire in and were now barbecuing meat and boiling something. From the van they got out what I believe was crackers and cheese to have as an aperitif. Before they even turned their meat we had not only finished cooking our food, but eaten and were doing the dishes. We were in and out “like real Americans”, as our American travel mate said. As we jumped into the car we looked longingly at the french group's camper van and sighed “ah if only we had cooling possibilities...”

As I'm writing about this lack of fresh food I am back in Melbourne and the first thing we did, after taking a desperately needed shower, was to buy a full load of fresh food. So as I’m recalling the appalling food situation in the desert I am gluttonizing (frossar) on fruits of all kinds.

The Observation ow the week:
According to Dana Uluru is like an iceberg. What we see above ground is only a little bit of the harder stone that comprise Uluru, under a cover of packed sand. As wind and weather tears on the sound Uluru gets "dug up" of the ground and in a few thousand years the monolith will be higher.
For Coober Pedy, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coober_Pedy
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Posted by Sockerbit 06:27 Archived in Australia Tagged uluru coober_pedy Comments (7)

Tasmania

sunny 20 °C

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Hi to you all! I'm back in civilization from an awesome hike. Not a drop of rain all time, warmer then we expected, and only awesomeness about the hike and the company!

Last Tuesday (i tisdags) Morgane, Jason, and I took the bus up along the coast to go hiking. In fact we were supposed to go in Jason's car but it broke down just after Christmas so we had no car and not much time to look up buses and bus hours. This meant that when we tried to book our bus for Tuesday we could not get through to the bus company. We decided to hope for the best and filled up our bags with food and heavy water. When we got to the station at eight the following morning it turned out that the bus wasn't going to the place we were that day. There was only one bus a day and as it is school holidays and everyone in Tasmania is out camping, the bus company had - no, not catered with extra bus services - removed services to only a bus a day to a place on the way to where we wanted to go, and twice a week all the way (bus drivers want to go out camping with their families too). Anyhow, we discussed our options and called the car rental firms. Everything was rented out! Everything in the whole of Hobart! Finally we decided to get on the bus (now waiting outside) and figure it out as it happened. In the bus Jason thought of a fantastic island we could go to instead as it was on the bus line. He called the ferry company and got negative, a discouraging reply. We decided to go to the end station and hitch hike to the place we wanted to go to, after all it was only another 40 km. It's not everyone who can pick up three people with gigantic back packs, but within half an hour we were on our way. Our driver turned out to be a really cool guy, how had got an extra day in Tasmania before flying home, and didn't know what to do with it. We, of course, talked him into coming with us.

The first day we only had a 1.5 hour hike once we arrived. It wasn't long but as half the day had already passed and we were carrying camping gear and water for three days (Jason was carrying about 12 liters in I'm not mistaken and Morganne and I were carrying 5 litres each plus all the food) so it was still really hard. So that when we arrived at the Wine Glass Bay we were really sweaty. It was gorgeous! It looked tropical. The white sand, the turquoise water, the mountains in the background, and it got even better. We walked along the whole of the beach and soon left the day hikers behind us. Finally we arrived at a bend in the coastline and a protected and gorgeous spot to put up our tents before we jumped in to our bikinis and went back to the beach. Our part of the beach ended with a wall of cliffs which meant that we were protected from wind and sight. There were two or three boats lying at anchor a bit further out but other than that, we were alone. We tried to swim, but it was late at afternoon and after all, we were not in Hawaii, we were in Tasmania, in an ocean with the South Pole as its closest neighbor. I picked some seashells and then we went up to make dinner at our camping kitchen, having a glass of wine, and barbecue a few marshmallows before we turned in.

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Morgane and I were woken up by something sniffing around and apparently trying to do something to my bag that was left outside. We had moved everything opened edible in the tent to dissuade the possums from trying to get into our bags. However, I must have forgotten something because now we were continuously woken up by the noise and finally I caught a possum red handed trying to get into one of my side pockets. It starred at me. I starred back and then I pulled the bag towards me and took it into the tent. After that I lay awake listening for a while before I decided that they had given up and I went to sleep.

The next morning we packed up our things and started to walk. We crossed the peninsula and had lunch at another each, after having stopped to see a tiger snake. This beach was too windy but after setting up some protection against the wind we had a great resting place and spent a very long time just hanging out. Finally we continued and walked along the beach, admiring the island further out and the mountains in front of and behind us. That day we walked to a place called the Honey Moon Bay, but as the camp grounds were full did we take refuge in a secluded bay next to it. This turned out to be a hit! It's hard to imagine a better camping ground. We swam, ate, made tea and looked at the wallabies who jumped around, quite unperturbed by us. Very undisturbed indeed as we would soon realize. We slept well that night but when we woke up I noticed that they had pooed on our tent. In fact they had been all over the place. I was most unhappy about it and even started to reconsider my fondness for these little jumpers and when Jason started telling us about all the delicious ways to cook them Morgane and I didn't protest at all but just ooo-ed and ah-ed.

This day turned out to become our busiest. We left our bags and headed towards a day hike up mount Amos, a granite mountain, only sparsely populated by trees. The day was really warm and we were sweaty before we even reached the start of the hike.
The hike was pretty difficult but really funny. I saw a whip snake (a tiny not dangerous snake), we saw tons of lizards and even an echidna, who didn't let us stop it in its efforts to extract food from a a dead tree stem. As we got higher up the climb got harder and harder and half the time we were using bot hands and feet. Morgane's shoes were not super for hiking so we had to help her here and there. Still no-one complained. The view was magnificent all the way up and we could see all the way down to where we had slept. When we climbed over the last boulders we realised however why this was such a renowned climb: the view over Wine glass bay (the photo in the top) was completely breath taking (though we were already out of breath after 2 hours or more climbing there). Needless to say we stayed up there until we were driven down by hunger, and guess what; I had wallaby for dinner (kangaroo burger in fact but never mind the details). We had walked out of the national park and back to the place where we were going to take the bus the following day and as good hikers we wanted someone else to cook for us. The others had fish and chips and I, a very healthy and home made looking roo burger. Delicious!

Today Morgane went back to Melbourne,from Hobart. When we walked her to the bus stop it was so warm and sunny that I regretted not bringing water to this ten minute mission. An hour later when I dashed to the bus to the city however it was still warm but it was getting windy and I could feel how a rainstorm was on the way. I considered going back to get some more clothes but didn't want to miss the bus as there was only one bus per hour (hmm, what did I say about the Tassie bus system...). I took a walk around the city center and went to the museum. The weather was still great. I was going to meet Jason at seven so when the museum closed at five I went back to the city but found they most stores, bakeries, cafes and even restaurants were now closed. As I strolled there it started raining. Then it really started raining! I found an open cafe, a little bit up the street and ordered a tea to warm up my shivering hands. I wasn't too wet, but cold enough. As I sat there reading my book (the experienced traveler always carries a book, a notebook or a game (suduku for me) for times like this) I there was a loud sound, as though a car backfired or someone shot with a gun. It was thunder!

The observation of the week:
Australia does have good apples and some berries, you just need to go to Tasmania. Ten years ago there were hundreds of Orchards in The Hobart region alone, with all kinds of apples, a little bit like Kivik in Sweden, but today the cheap Chinese production has out competed a lot of the orchards and now all you can buy in mainland Australia is crappy mealy Pink Ladies, Sundowner, and Royal Gala (some of these are great in Europe but here they are bad), as well as the infamous Granny Smith.

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Posted by Sockerbit 05:51 Archived in Australia Tagged tasmania living abroad Comments (4)

An Australian and Swedish Christmas

Dancing around the Christmas bush or backyard cricket?

semi-overcast 23 °C

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Hi everyone, I'm sorry for being so late in writing this account but somehow the days have just passed in lazy contentedness and loads of social events. In Australia, as in most countries, Christmas is celebrated on the 25 of December, and Dana had a summer intensive just before the holidays, his take home was of course due on Christmas Eve. It sucks, I know! Anyhow, as Dana was plodding along with his task and getting more and more agitated about it, I went to the market to get a mango and bananas to bring to Dana's dads later that night. But as the market was about to be closed for a full week and the stall keepers were eager to get rid of all they had, everything was so cheap that I bought more stuff than I have ever done before. One young salesman got infatuated with my shorts and gave me prime capsicums (bell peppers for normal people, i.e. not Australians) for less than the kilo price on sale and another one gave me an extra banana because I liked the sticker. I had a great time, and then a horrible time trying to get all the stuff back on the bike -with no carrier (pakethållare). I tied a bunch of rhubarbs to my completely full back pack and biked/walked with one additional bag in each hand. Very heavy. And best of all, almost all of it was fruits! I loved it, having water melon, bananas, pears, peaches, rock melon, mango, and grape fruit as well as the rhubarbs, all at once! Ok, i know, I'm obsessed with fruits, but I guess I could have had worse obsessions.

Anyhow, after a fruit orgy by the swimming pool (I lured Dana out), I got dressed and headed to the Swedish Church to dance around the Christmas tree, drink some mulled wine, and watch the Disney Christmas Show. When asked later that weekend what Swedes do for Christmas I had a really hard time convincing them that I was not pulling their legs. "Yes, most Swedes start their Christmas celebrations at 15.00 by watching Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse etc.! Yes, we do dance around the Christmas tree, and we impersonate frogs, pigs, an illegally driving crow and a rocket. I'm not joking!" Funnily enough most people then wondered: "but where do you place the Christmas tree if you are dancing around it?" And I had to explain that as our houses are no bigger than theirs (but rather smaller in the cities - Aussies love space) we also place our trees in the corner or along a wall, but we pull it out and dance around it none the less. Anyhow, back to the Swedish church. I did all the crazy things above, and a few other things too. I danced and sang about the fox, the musicians, and the terribly long song about all the chores a woman did during the week a hundred years ago. It was fun to see 50 or so random people jumping around as frogs and all the other, but it was odd to dance around a piney (barrig) bush outdoors, in summer clothes. Very odd indeed.

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Half way through the Disney show I left to meet Dana on the train to his dad's. We arrived late at night but still had the honor to decorate the Christmas tree before we headed off to bed. Dana was super tired but still helped out, and we were fittingly accompanied by the tv's carols. When we had already decorated most of the tree however, the decorations started to fall of - the downside with having a real tree. I put them on again... they fell off. I put them on a little firmer and finally the tree stood there glittering and nice, almost as though it was really Christmas. Dana went up for bed as I collected the left overs from the decorations, broken things, packages, and left over tinsel. As I turned around to follow Dana upstairs, the tree fell over. Water covered the floor and the gifts, and decorations were rolling around! Dana's dad tried to resurrect the tree, and his wife and I tried to rescue the gifts and decorations. Dana could hardly have reached even to the top of the stairs when the tree fell over but he didn't hear any of the commotion downstairs. Betty started drying the gifts with a hairdryer which was effective but naturally looked very silly. I started to redecorate the tree. The decorations fell off. John came back to fix the tree better (as the tree is not danced around it doesn't need to be movable, which in turn makes it unnecessary to decorate the back of it) and I gave up the decoration. When I got upstairs Dana was already half asleep.

The next morning, on Christmas Day John woke us up early so that we could come with him for the Santa run. I didn't really understand what
a Santa run was, but figured that if I went I'd get to know, It took some will power to get up but i had been promised that it would be good so I got up. Dana also intended to come but proved impossible to wake and we let him sleep.

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A Santa run proved to be when Santa goes around the community wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and handing the kids candy. There were two Santas and they were each supposed to have an elf handing them the candy and making sure they had what they needed. However, they were one elf short so I became a stand in elf. These particular Santas did not have sleighs, nor did they walk as country side communities can be pretty spread out. These santas drove around in fire trucks so my Santa, our neighbor, and I climbed on to the back of the fire truck with our candy and got going. One Santa team went left and the other right as we drove out of the fire station and we were off. It was really fun to ride at the back of the fire truck and wave at all the people who came out of the houses to see us. When there were kids we stopped, santa talked to them, asked if they had been good, and gave them a little bag of candy, and then we drove on. The oddest part of this santa run however, was that Santa rode on a fire truck but Santa himself. The other truck was led by Santa John, who I can't think of anything but a very characteristic Santa. My Santa on the other hand had an alarmingly evil laughter at the first stop, before he adjusted it and started sounding more like a Santa. When we were driving he continually cursed and told me all kinds of gossip about the people who lived in the houses we drove past, or whom we passed. I learned exactly who had cancer, who had left his wife for another woman, who had enlarged her breasts etc. By now I have forgotten it all, but I could really feel the small town spirit. The Christmas spirit however... not sure.

After Santa and a bear we went back home to wake Dana up and open gifts before we headed of to the real Christmas celebration a few kilometers away. The Christmas lunch was very good, light Australian food, seafood and salads, combined with traditional English Christmas food: roasted veggies, several meats and gravy. It was all very tasty and I welcome the little break before the desserts, mini plum puddings (on the photo), chocolates, and a real Christmas Cake with Custard.

As most of the guests started to congregate outdoors I started to come to terms with the lack of practical use of the Christmas trees in this country as a summery Christmas allows for outdoors sports to be played. Instead of running around the house and singing about how Anders-Petter's house is burning in order to digest the food, the Australians play cricket. While the older men (and the lazier) went fishing in the pond, the younger or more energetic guests started this very odd game. At first i watched apprehensively. when Dana watches it on TV I'm always bored half to death even by the glimpses I catch from walking past. Here however it looked rather fun. In a backyard the rules are few and even cricket get some action, though it wasn't faster than that I could easily join. I was of course the most terrible cricket player ever seen, but whatever, it was fun! We all got warm and rather puffed so I guess that it fulfilled its purpose of getting the digestion going...

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The following day, the boxing day, we were all done lazying around, and started to burn old leaves, branches and twigs outdoors. Well, all but Dana, who had just finished an exam and spent most of the afternoon watching the 5 day(!) cricket match. Dana's dad let me drive the tractor with a slasher on behind (traktor med gräsklipparsläp, vad det nu kallas). I had the time of my life cutting paths through the impassible grass of the fields around the garden. As there are loads of scary snakes in Australia we could not walk through the grass when it was long. Anyhow, as I was driving with John behind me yelling instructions over the sound of the tractor Dana and Betty were burning stuff. John and I joined and we all dragged branches over to the fire when Dana yelled out that there was a snake. The stupid but impressive snake slithered in to the fire and then almost immediately out again. It probably was a bit too hot. For the records I can tell you that it was a fat 1,5 meter red-belly-black-snake; they all have such illustrative names.

The Observation of the Week:
The name "boxing day" (annandag jul) does not, as I believed or hoped, have anything to do with the sport of boxing. Instead it's believed to be derived from the word "box" as people collected gifts for the poor in a box outside church, or alternatively it's after the boxes with food or gifts from their employers that servants were sent home with on this, free day.

An additional comment:
I know that everyone at home don't think that 24 degrees is cold. in fact I bet that you've had -20 something in just the last week as Grade commented. But here it's supposed to be summer so 24 degrees with a cool but not too strong wind and overcast is not super warm.

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Happy New Year!

Posted by Sockerbit 04:51 Archived in Australia Tagged australia christmas cricket Comments (4)

God Jul!

Merry Christmas!

all seasons in one day 18 °C

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Again I am writing from far far away to wish you all a merry Christmas. This time however I'm not writing from a sunny third world island with Christmas flowers growing taller than the house. This time as you know it's from another corner of the world. An Australia experiencing it's coldest and wettest summer in decades. In stead of a steady 30 degrees and a large risk of fire, we are experiencing a perfect example of a Swedish/danish summer with random rain, cold nights, and daytime temperatures not exceeding 25 degrees Celsius (we've been as low as a max of 14 degrees recently!).

I miss you all and really wish that i could be there with you! Anyhow, I just wanted to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! God jul!

Sara

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Posted by Sockerbit 03:10 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Rock Climbing

all seasons in one day 23 °C

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Last weekend Dana was working so I went rock climbing with some people. I should almost take a photo of the bruises on my legs! It was so much fun! I went with two guys we know and they started bu apologizing for their crude humor but they were sweet as sugar. We did a four hour ride to get to the mountains through a changing landscape. At first hilly, Melbourne is really hilly, something that i notice every day as I sweat on my bike to and from work. After a while however, the landscape flattened and as we got closer to the mountains I got slightly concerned as there was still no sign of anything worth climbing. We stopped for dinner at an odd fish and chips place where everyone had veggie burgers. I was so taken aback of two sporty guys, one of them with the nick-name "the hulk" (he isn't green or violent, but just huge), both ordering veggies that consented to ordering one myself in spite of it being deep-fried. We all ordered the veggie burger with "the lot" (med allt på) which here in Australia means that on top of the lettuce and tomatoes (and for normal people - not me- mayo and cheese) they put a fried egg, beetroot and pineapple. I have never earlier been hungry enough to have one, and to be honest I never ordered the egg, I just got it anyhow, but it was surprisingly tasty. So tasty in fact that I'll be making home made burgers one of those days and make sure to take out the beetroot and pineapple! So, my dear American friends, especially Kenneth, try the Aussie way next time that you are out for a burger.

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After a food break we drove on towards the Arapiles and I finally saw some mountains. Not our mountains though. These were the Grampians where I have been before and saw Emu's in April. Those mountains are really nice and look like a big pile of something that someone has dropped from afar as they stick up from the otherwise stone free ground. We drove on and once again the ground was flat until suddenly I saw a random rock formation sticking up from the ground in the now dark surroundings. We got closer and finally stopped at a camp ground. The night was cold but next day, after a long morning we went climbing. It was soo great! One of the guys climbed up first and put in all the safety equipment as he went. As he is at least double my weight we attached me to the ground so that if he would have fallen (which he did later) I wouldn't fly up the stone but just hang around in the air, 30 cm or so from the ground (a foot). He climbed up to the top and set up a rope there and I got to climb after and remove all the gear.

I'm not going to bore you all by telling you all the details of the climbing so to wrap it all up: it was a great weekend, I met some new people and the views were fantastic. Even though we weren't very high up the landscape around us was so flat that we could see several kilometers away!

It has been raining a lot here this year - to the great pleasure of everyone else and to my displeasure but by two climbing companions were totally awed because it was so green (no, nothing like Sweden, the grass is still pretty yellowish some places, but this is Australia and it's next to "little desert"). We drove past several dames that hold the water supply for Melbourne and the areas around and they were all pretty full and we saw several lakes where bushes and other stuff was sticking up from around the beaches as they haven't been this full for at least 10 if not 30 years!

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A few weeks ago, on the weekend of the 2nd of Advent the Swedish church had it's yearly Bazaar and I had promised to help. I had told several of my friends about it and loads of them actually showed up, including Dana's dad with family. It was a nice day though I was rather busy during most of it. There is not too much to say about it except that its really funny, like a joke from fate, that I'm helping out at a church bazaar and baking for them, as I used to tease Johanna that she will end up working for the church bazaar when we live together in Odense when we retire (This is an old internal joke). It's also pretty funny that the task I was set on was to make sandwiches: salmon, meatballs, shrimps, and skagenröra. I don't eat any of that stuff and I made sure to wear the plastic gloves they provided at all times!

The Observation of the week:
Being a temp isn't all that bad... My assignment ended last week at the place where I have been working for the last four months and not only was I still invited to their Christmas party, I also got a big bouquet of beautiful flowers in my favorite colors and a little gift on my last day. It was almost like leaving Denmark again! The photo below is of the flowers and the pet that came with them. Dana named him Steve, but I think that Gregory suits him better!

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Posted by Sockerbit 02:21 Archived in Australia Comments (9)

Christmas Decorations

too early, to silly, and too sunny!

sunny 30 °C

Public christmas decorations 2

Public christmas decorations 2


So, can you guess what this blog entry will be about? You were hopefully right: about Christmas decorations mostly.

The Christmas decorations in public places have already been around for a few weeks though the first of advent was this past weekend. After having travelled a lot in the US I'm getting used to that, but what I'm not used to is how terrible tinsel looks in summer light! Ok, so Christmas as we know it was, as far as I understand the concept, invented to make people survive the horrible winter. In the Nordic countries and the British islands at least they had mid winter feasts to persuade the gods to give them the sun back. People ate heavy food, drank loads of alcohol, and partied in the ways they could to keep warm and keep up the will to live (This whole account is of course entirely unscientific and possibly historically incorrect). As history progressed we got Jesus as an excuse to continue partying and keeping warm. We still ate heavy foods, lit loads of candles and tried to brighten up our dark days. No wonder that we invented advent lights and tinsel, both of them go extremely well with darkness, cold and an attempt to keep of depression!

December in Australia is warm and sunny so there is no need what so ever for heavy food and candles, traditions that came here with the Britts and other Europeans and that are living side by side with more reasonably summerish Christmas traditions; I will most likely write more about this at the end of December. But a tradition that still lives, and lives well, is the concept of Christmas decorations.

Along the main shopping street in Melbourne CBD are red flags with Santa and along another street are hanging big christmas wreaths (kransar) on the parking signs. I've seen tinsel and Santas and loads of fake Christmas trees. In one imposing Victorian business building the decorations look amazing - as long as you stand so that you can't see the gate and the summer light flowing in through it. It's just not right! Not only that bright warm sun dosen't feel right with wreaths and pine, but more that the sun just extinguishes everything that is magical about tinsel. As every person who has ever visited a club knows: what looks good in darkness dosen't always look as good in daylight...

I'm not sure but that might also be why Christmas decorations here seem more experimental/tropical/horrible (choose a word after your likening). Our old flat mate told us of the decorations in Sydney, where gigantic red, green and yellow flags hung along the streets, but rather than picturing trees and Santas, the flags pictured tropical flowers and a parrot saying "Merry Christmas!" That at least seems funny. The gigantic Christmas tree on the main street for example is a big green plastic cone that's not making any attempt to look like an actual tree. To speak like my theory books: it is now appealing to our symbolic understanding of Christmas decorations. Anyhow, the green cone is decorated with red and green stars. It's horrific, but inventive, and actually looks a little better in the picture than in life. I'm sorry for being negative, but I haven't so far seen any descent outdoors decorations, and I can totally understand why. We got the decorations out today for work and now i'm sitting facing a plastic tree with half the branches still pressed together and decorated with blue lights, blue and silver tinsel and random decorations. Well, at least it looks better than the outdoors decorations, but I have to say that I preffer the Guatemalan and Mexican approach: if it has to be tacky, go with the tackyness!

It's funny too that the grocery stores are advertising mango as part of a traditional Christmas lunch, that makes so much more sense, as the season in in and we are buying mangoes in heaps from the market. We went together to the market last saturday after several weeks where Dana has had to go alone. We bought so much fruits! I was in seventh heaven with a peaches, nectarines, apples, bananas, cherries, mangoes and all the veggies too! Did I mention that I love Australia?

Public christmas decorations 3

Public christmas decorations 3

The observation of the week (month really):
November here is called Movember and loads of men wear moustaches to raise money for prostate cancer (if I got it all right). Most of them look silly, but some look ok. Has anyone heard of this phenomenon in another part of the world?

Jag lovade pappa en bild pa nar vi klattrar sa han skulle kunna se att det inte ar farligt. Pa den har bilden gor jag vad som heter en traverse, det innebar att men klattrar i knahojd (den lilla tavlan mellan mina fotter ar i golvhojd) och det ar darfor som jag inte har nagot rep fart i harnesset, men som ni ser anvander vi harness och en annan gang skickar jag hem en bild pa hur det ser ut. Det ar inte farligt om man bara sitter fast i repet eller haller sig vid marken
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Posted by Sockerbit 21:30 Archived in Australia Comments (5)

Halloween

rain 15 °C

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We had wonderful weather last week, until the weekend. On Friday we had a stunning 27 degrees and still pleasantly warm at midnight, on Saturday it was 15 degrees and raining. Both Dana and I got caught unaware in the rain on Saturday. According to our trustworthy flat mate, Dana looked like he had had a swim with all his clothes and bag on when he came home, and I can only imagine. I saw the rain, and his shoes were still soaked on Monday morning. I was a bit luckier and stood, dripping, but not totally wet at the fruits and vegetable market, loaded with mangos, bananas, carrots, etc, when I saw the wall of rain. I decided to stick around for another while and bought some more broccolli and grapefruits while waiting. Finally I had to leave and just by walking to the tram stop i got soaked I then stood at the tram, I didn't dare to sit as I was dripping like a clothes rack. Instead I stood there with my head bent down like a drunkard, trying only to drip at the floor. A lady got on the tram and started to giggle, I looked at her through my drop covered glasses and she was almost as wet. I started giggling too. "It's rather wet", she said. "Yes", I agreed. Since then it has been raining. Next time it looks like a fine day I'll take my rain coat!

On Thursday, before the rain, Dana had his last exam and we went out celebrating. It was wonderfully warm and we sat at a rooftop bar before going down to eat dumplings. His friends went out to another bar to try to pick up an Italian waiter but I have to admit that Dana and I were to lazy, it was too far away, and we didn't feel the need for a waiter. Instead we went home to recharge our batteries for the parties of the weekend and on the way we found a deserted bag. On opening the bag we found an Ipod and house- and car keys, as well as a diary. We did the good deed of the week and together with a police on the phone we traced the owner and managed to get hold of him before he had even realized that he had lost his bag - he was drunk.

The halloween party was strange, it felt like one of those parties you'd go to in high school. But our costumes were very appreciated. We impersonated a candy cane and a mime. The party turned out to be flooded by so many Nordic people (even though I personally only met Finns, and one Norwegian) that we were banned from writing our names on the world map that one of the guests impersonated. Strange, isn't it? There are not to many of us in the world (25,4 millions in total in 5 countries) but annywhere in the world you go you meet Nordic people. I think it might be a sign of how uninhabitable it is during winter... Go green house effect!

The observation of the week:
This is an odd country - they have an official public holiday for sports! The Melbourne cup day was this Tuesday and nothing in Melbourne was open, besides the big grocery stores. Well, well, If you can have a prime minister who dissappears while swimming (Harold Holt), and another one who is most famoyus for his world record for beer speed drinking (Bob Hawke), i guess that you can have a public holiday for a sports event too. This really is the world upside-down!

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Posted by Sockerbit 21:01 Archived in Australia Comments (5)

Darwin, the sun and the dangers

"Besides all the deadly things, this is a wonderful place"

sunny 32 °C
View Saras öden och äventyr on Sockerbit's travel map.

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I have just returned from Darwin, slightly tanned I hope, and in a very good mood.

In Darwin there are amazing beaches: long and sandy, with purple water, and totally empty. That is because one can't swim in the water. As Morganne, the girl i travelled with, joked: "besides the box jellyfish, the crocodiles, the sharks, and the cyclones, this is a wonderful place to live."

The weather is very warm and right now is the pre-wet season so it was very warm (29-34 degrees) and rather humid. As Morgane said on the phone one morning “It’s 7 am and I’m sweating to death.” I was surprised however, that it wasn't more humid, but it turned out that we were lucky, the rain season had started early. We therefore had occasional showers of warm rain, but humidity wasn't bad and all trees and bushes were gorgeously green, the grass was strong, and there were wonderfull flowers, both wild and domesticated, everywhere.

We went to Litchfield National park. Our host had a 4W car so we could get of the paved roads and go to the less visited areas. Even the roads themselves were beautiful; the road are really red there and go on til they dissappear in dust and the green of the trees, the treetrunks were black at the bottom and white at the top and the leaves were intensly green. Above it hang a dark blue sky.

We saw termite mounds of two kinds, one that builds really high towers (called cathedral mounds) and the other that builds strangely tombstone shaped mounds. When you see sevaral of them standing together it really looks like a graveyard sa they are all standing in the exact same direction. These mounds are built on a perfect north-south line, and are very thin in the east-west direction to even out the temperatures over the day. The flat broad sides catch all the morning and evening sun while catching very little of the burning midday sun. Isn't it amazing?

We got to an area where strangely shaped blocks of stone had withered so that it looked as though a gigant had piled them up on top of each other. It reminded me of stories of lost cities. We continued to an old homestead and had to drive through water to get there. By one of the water covered areas there were even crocodile warning signs since saltwater crocodiles get in there during the heighth of the wet season. We crossed it without problem however (it was only 40 cm high now) but a little bit along the way we had to cross a pool of water that went over the top of the front of the car. We got through it but then the car died. We were stuck in the forest with the flies and the heat and ages away from phone reception and at the end of a 4w track.

We did what any sensible people would do in that situation: we had lunch and then we practiced shooting. Finally we heard a car coming and hitched a ride back to one of the main areas where we could borrow the park ranger's satelite phones and call for a friend of our hosts. While waiting we spent the time swimming by a waterfall in one of the designated swimming areas, free from crocodiles. I'm not a big bear drinker but when the friend, John cane after two more hours and had brought frosty cold bears, I was really happy to drink even a lager!
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John came with his sweet indonesian wife and helped us out of our predicament. He had a big new 4w and pulled us out from the lonely road without any problem. When I have seen bik cars like that in LA and other big cities I have allways found them silly and rather childish. These cars drink a lot of fuel and are just ridicolous in a city, but here, on a possibly crocodile infested mud track, with water up to the windscreen they are in their right element. Our car started up as soon as we got back in the dry and we drove back together, on the way however we stopped at a pub along the highway to have a drink. The highways in the Northern Territory are not very big and it felt more like driving on a country road. This feeling was strongly reinforced by the pub which reminded me of every redneck pub i have seen in movies. The waitresses were rude, the place a little shabby, and the men by the pool table foul-mouthed. We sat out on the poarch and watched the rain when we noticed a sign by the enterance door: "Strippers every thursday between 7 and 9 pm" together with a badly drawn girl. Morgane and I just looked at each other.

To me the most amazing thing we did was to see wild saltwater crocodiles. We went on a little boat tour on Adelaide River where they fed crocodiles from poles. The crocodiles had to jump up out of the water in order to catch the food. It was impressive!Many of the big crocodiles we saw (all around 4,5 meters I beleive) had injuries. Two missed a leg and one had a chunk taken out of its tail. It turns out that crocodiles are canibals and eat less able crocodiles if nothing easier is around. I don't think it's very often that they try to eat their fellow crocodiles though, cause I learned that they have great patience. They don't try to take an prey unless they are sure that they can get it. They have been known to lie around for hours while people swam until that one individual that they have set eyes on gets into a perfect position. Then they strike. If they point something out as a prey they will remember ir and they will chase it. Maybe the perfect chance dosent come today, or tomorrow, but one day that wallabee or pig will come down to the waters alone, or be slightly apatr from the group, and the crocodile will remember it. However, human attacks are rare so there is no need to worry. The most resent human that got killed by a crocodile was a young guy who went swimming in Adelaide river, a river known for its large croc population, alone and completely drunk at 03.00. He had it comming.
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Oh, and the other amazing thing, I picked a mango! Just of a tree along the road where we were walking one day. It was warm from the sun and smelled so strong of mango. We were on our way to the botanical gardens when we found it and waithed with eating it untill we were well there. I found a table under a tree and cut it with the plastic knife I allways carry around when travelling (in the little bag of salt, pepper and a spoon or two) The other girls (there was an italian girl too) found me a little amusing or silly for being so excitied by a fruit, but as soon as they had tasted it they stopped. It was the most fantastic mango ever! Sun warm, perfectly ripe and without pesticides.

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To continue on the theme of food, We went with our host to the wharf for dinner one day. It was still to hot to be in the appartment though all windows and doors were open. At the wharf however a sothing breeze came in and we sat overlooking the water. Morgane and I decided to try some exotic meats and had a plate with kangaroo, waterbuffalo, emu, and crocodile. We were all excited ofever it and our host laughed at us - he did that a lot as we got super excited every time there was a bymp in te road, a cool flower, or a crocodile sign. Anyhow, the food was tasty. The kangaroo was not so interesting but not bad either. It's a very gamey meat, like moose, and I got a feeling that skewers was not the best way to cook it. I suspect it would be delicious cooked in another way though. The buffalo was Morganes favorite, mine was emu, so tender and soft. Very creamy and with a nice taste. Both of us rated these two meats as number one and two. The crocodile ended up at the bottom at the list, it was really cool to try but rather tough, It felt like eating very though chicken but with and aftertaste of fish. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. We also tried our hosts breaded barramundi, a local fish that is sold for fortunes in Sydney and Melbourne. It was...fish.

The observation of the week:
It was used to beleive, and it still says in most books, that saltwater crocodiles can grow to about 5 meters in size. But this fact was established when crocodiles were almost extinguished and there weren't very many crocodiles around. Today the crocodile population is back at almost pre-colonial levels with between 100.000 annd 200.000 adult saltwater crocodiles in Australia. A crocodile of 8.6 meters was recently found in the river we cruised on. The people working there said that the newest facts indicated that crocodiles can get up to 9 meters long, and heavy to fit that!

As I'm back in Melbourne, working and studying, and trying to find a new tennant for our spare room there won't be any new blog entry for at least two weeks now. Have a good time.

More about crocodiles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltwater_crocodile

More about magnetic termites:
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s721104.htm
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Posted by Sockerbit 16:57 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

Ett år på luffen

sunny 23 °C
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Jag insåg precis att idag är det ett år sedan jag lämnade Sverige, på min ettåriga jordenruntbiljett. Så egentligen skulle jag åkt hem idag. Den 12 oktober förra året tog jag tåget till Göteborg och Landvetter for att möta Johanna i Nashville. Då trodde jag inte att jag skulle vara borta mer än högst 6 månader. För säkehets skull sa jag ändå upp mig - det var i alla fall dags att byta jobb.

Sedan dess har jag varit på Graceland, jobbat på en festival i öknen, firat en riktig amerikansk thanksgiving, picknickat vid en snötäckt "Delicate Arch", klappat vilda västern kaktusar,blivit nedslagen av en jattevåg, lärt mig göra en riktig guatemaltekisk juldricka, firat sommarjul, handmatat köttätande fåglar, firat min födelsedag på vintern, klappat kängurur och plockat citroner.

Jag hade aldrig planerat att bli i Australien såhär lange men så kan det gå om man traffar en australiensare. Men var inte oroliga därhemma, jag lobbar intensivt for att han ska borja plugga i Lund... ;-).

Ha det bra allesamman, vi ses kanske efter vintern.

Sara

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Posted by Sockerbit 20:22 Archived in Australia Comments (4)

En manad i Melbourne

Fran vinter till var

sunny 21 °C
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Nu har det gatt en manad sedan sist jag skrev och jag hade nog inte skrivit om det inte vore for att Motte undrade vad som hant. Det har varit en trevlig men handelselos manad i Melbourne och inte mycket att skriva om. Jag har borjat skrive uppsats och Dana pluggar massor sa vi har inte sa mycket tid att gora spannande saker.

Sakta har varlden runt omkring oss forvandlats fran kal, men mild, vinter till var. Traden ar nu grona, eller med grongula knoppande blad och varje gang jag kommer ur centrum slas jag va de fantastiska dofterna fran alla blommande buskar. Vi har haft sadan tur att de varmaste dagarna an sa lange har infallit pa helgerna, och de kallare, eller regninga dagarna har varit mitt i veckan. De sista par helgerna har vi darfor mestadels tillbragt pa balkongen dar Dana bar ut en madrass, och sa sitter vi dar och pluggar. Mycket trevligt.

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Vi hade vanner fran USA pa besok en helg och tog dem forst till vart stammis dumpling-stalle. Det var en fredag kvall och det var som vanligt ko pa gatan, mne det gick anda snabbt att komma in. Stallet ar lustigt, det ar bara om omsattning, sa de star i dorren och ropar ut ett antal, sa tar de det forsta par i kon som ar det antalet. Nar man ar klar tar det inte mangen minut innan de borjar stada upp runtomkring en, och om man sitter kvar trots det kastar de ut en. Stallet ar alltid mer eller mindre fullt och nar man kommer under rusningstid och ar tre eller fler, kan man bara fa "all you can eat". Da kommer de ut med en massa mat och bara satter den pa ditt bord. Bordet halls fyllt tills gasterna tappar farten i atandet. Da kommer de upp och fragar om man ar klar. Mycket kinesiskt.

Vi var alla glupande hungriga och hade ingenting alls emot att fa all you can eat, det sparade oss bekymret att bestalla sa vi satte oss ned, Dana sprang och hamtade chilisas och vinager samt te till oss allihopa och sedan at vi. Och at. Och at. Jag vet inte om jag nagonsin har atit sa mycket, eller i alla fall inte sedan Thanksgiving! Vi fick panerade pumpakakor, konstiga pankakssaker, sma varrullar, wookad kinesisk spenat (det grona pa bilden), nudlar, angade knyten med sot fyllning av roda bonor (mmmm) och sa klart massor med olika dumplings! Jag holl mig mest till dem och at nog ensam 20-30 st! Allesamman drankta i deras sarskilda chillisas... Johanna, ar du fortfarande saker pa att du inte kommer?

Pa vagen hem stannade vi till i den lokala parken som ar kand for att det finns mycket possum. Vara vanner som bara hade sett amerikansk opossum var lite oroliga (de ar aggressiva och fula, ser ut som stora rattor och ar vana vid att folk forsoker doda dem) men sa snart de sag dem forstod de varfor man gillar dem har. Jag hittade en smakaka i min vaske och vi brot den i bitar och matade dem. De kom helt nara oss, och jag ar saker pa att vi kunde ha handmatat dem men jag villeinte prova. Djur som tillbringar mycket tid i soptunnor ar nog inte helt rena.

Vi tog dem ocksa till Hillsville Sanctuary dar vi igen sag de Australiensiska djuren, matade kangurur och tittade pa wombats. Den har gangen hade vi tur och fick se Tasmanian devils bli matade. Det blev de genom att tva doda kaniner hangdes upp pa en lina. Sa fick djuren trana sig genom att hoppa och slita. Vi stod pa andra sidan glaset och sag kaninerna bli slitna i stycken. Intrassant, men inte smakligt.

Ett par ganger har jag gjort glogg nu fran kryddorna som Maggie skickade med mig. Jag var forvanad da de inte forsokta ta dem i tullen och nu har vi altswa anvant dem sedan jag insag att det kommer vara aldeles for varmt i jul far sadana saker. Man kan ocksa fa tag pa Annas pepparkakor. Faktiskt har de dem med en massa konstiga smaker, men det tror jag att jag kan ha namnt nar jag var i Alabama. I alla fall har jag lyckats att fa tag pa de riktiga pepparkakorna, och an sa lange har vi inga vanner som inte gillar det! Ska prova ikvall igen!

The observation of the month: You get more patriotic by being away for a long time from your country. I have never been as into mulled wine, ginger breads, pea soup, and cinnamon rolls as I am now. When spring started here I really wanted to go home and see the spring there, even though I know that spring here means fall there!I miss the berry bushes, the apple blooom, and the smell of earth, but a trip to the countryside can probably help against that. And the fact that the mango season has started again!

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Posted by Sockerbit 17:34 Archived in Australia Comments (6)

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