Wow... 11 weeks flewwwwwww by. I had imagined 4... maybe 6 weeks here in Australia. Oops! Well, not oops actually-- this country is huge and AMAZING, and 11 weeks really was only like watching a preview, enticing enough to reallllllly make me want to watch the entire ‘movie’ :). You know I’ve already made a list of things I didn't get to do; have to leave something for my next trip!!! ... and I do intent to be back, someday :). I can honestly say my 75 days here was 99% positive. There’s not many other words to describe such a statistic but i n c r e d i b l e. People are just nice-- everywhere! If push came to shove, I could live here for sure.
All last week I was up in the Daintree rainforest; working, swimming and relaxing! Tina, the owner of the place, and I got along just great. It was quite a symbiotic relationship. We developed a routine (and a sweet friendship) in our week together: work hard, go for a swim to cool off, eat, nap, then watch a movie and cap the night with a pawpaw (like a papaya), greek yogurt and honey snack :) She went above and beyond over and over, easily converting from host to friend. :).
|Adding Bamboo to the "Yurt" roof!|
|How sweet are those roots! I love rope swings!|
On the 21st we drove down to Cairns and spent the day there. We went to their Botanical gardens--- and WOW, Cairns wins. Of all the other cities’ I went to (Melbourne, Albury, Sydney, Brisbane) this was by far my fav! It had this amazing jungle feel (of course, it’s a rainforest!) that set it apart despite it’s being much smaller. After that we went to the Esplanade where we were among 3,015 people who broke the Guinness World Record for most people doing Zumba together!! So YES, officially I can add World Record Holder to my credentials ;) haha.
|Cairns Botanial Gardens. Love.|
|Hug a tree!|
I was supposed to leave Sunday, but got an email on Thursday (ish) from a Couchsurfer! She wanted to know if I was interested in an Adventure weekend up in the Tablelands!! YESSS!! It was sad to leave Tina a bit early, but she was an angel and made my fav meal (roast and potatoes) for our last dinner and then eggs and bacon for ‘brekky’ before driving me all the way down to Cairns! We stopped halfway in a place called Mossman Gorge-- which I LOVED!!! I spent the first few hours wondering the area while she ran some errands. I am truly right at home in the woods on the edge of a rushing river. I feel like I get covered in this cloud of peace and happiness and love and fulfillment when I’m there. I am certain now I will buy land with woods and either a creek or river running thru it wherever I settle. It’s my happy place:). Tina returned and we walked some trails, swam, climbed rocks, and I rode down the rapids after finding a fellow daredevil to show me where to jump in! Wheeewww! That place was awesome. Thank you Tina!! Everyone go stay at Saraswati’s Oasis!!!
|That's my head in the rapids-- wwooowweeee!!!|
She dropped me in Cairns that afternoon for a trade-off to my new host, Mathilda, whose profile on Couchsurfers could have been my own. We swam in her pool and then went out that first night... it was fun and it was nice to put my dancing shoes on for a bit... but I didn’t last long before I was draggin’ and ready for bed! 12 is waaaay past my bedtime these days :)
Saturday morn we woke up, packed day bags, and drove up into the Tablelands, to Tinaroo. We were registered for an adventure weekend which consisted of 4 events plus a BBQ-- all for only $20! First we teamed up for the Metrogaine-- which was an urban scavenger hunt! Find and reach as many checkpoints as possible in 45 minutes. Next, we went to a campground to compete in an individual Orienteering race- a staggered start where you’re given a map and whoever finds the marks in the correct order and returns in the fastest time wins. Third was a Bush Rogaine. Nope, no about hair growth;). Rogaining is similar to Orienteering, except it was a given time limit and whoever gets the most checkpoints in that time wins using only a compass and large scale map. This one was crrrraaazzyyy awesome!! First off, a swim across a canal for a point (later I was told there are crocs in there!! ackkk!) then it was SERIOUS bush! Zero semblance of a trail- Totally off road!!! During competition I only had winning in mind, but was quite taken back afterwards when you consider Australia has like 223 kinds of venemous snakes and we were trekking thru their prime homeland! LOVED it though! No snakes, just legs that looked whipped all over :). Last was the fun race (to me they were all fun)! It was an obstacle course trail run-- which, among other things, included a swim, a climb, a crawl, and ended with a slip and slide!!!! Completely exhausting day, therefore I was in heaven!! The BBQ was quite delish and the day ended with the awards ceremony-- where I found out I’d won the Orienteering event!! Wooohoooooo. This should make my mom more at ease when I go off traipsing in the woods ;). Mathilda and I blew up her air mattress and slept in the back of her car: camping at it’s finest :).
|Croc water-- scarryyyy!|
|Making our way along Platypus Creek!|
|Pooped bush women :)|
Next morning, my very last day here, we were up at 6, because we had to get to the off-road triathlon!!! I’d found a wonderful lady who was willing to loan me her mountain bike, so was able to register for the race! It was only $15!!! I appreciate that AUS, considering in America they are $75+! It was just a sprint distance (300m swim, 8k bike, 5k run) but it felt soooo good to race! It wasn’t a very big one, so not nearly as impressive as it sounds, but I got third place of the women. I was quite happy with that considering it’s been more than 4 months since my last race and my exercise here is sporadic at best. More than anything it was synonymous to a huge red delicious cherry on the top of an absolutely amazing trip!!!! I love you Australia!!!!
|A Hammerhead (my florida try club) in Australia!|
AUS is actually pretty close in size to the USA, so for comparison sake, my trip from Melbourne (plus some to the west) up to Cairns (and north to Daintree) was more than 2600 miles, just short of the american equivalent from Los Angeles to Miami!!!
I got to visit the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay, Brisbane, Rainbow Beach, Airlie Beach, and Cairns. I did tours of the Great Ocean Road, Blue Mountains, Fraser Island, Moreton Island, and The Great Barrier Reef. I stayed and worked in the Rainforest of Queensland and in the countryside of New South Wales at an Ashram, where I had the most AMAZING self discovery experience. I climbed the tallest mountain, went 60’ below the sea, and stood at the Eastern most point of the mainland! I explored botanical gardens, ‘window shopped’ loads of markets, did city tours, played beach volleyball, practiced dragon boating, did an underwater nature trail, hiked as many tracks as possible (made my own at times), rock hopped up creeks, rivers, and along oceans, held koalas, fed birds, made pals w/ kangaroos (and ate some- sorry!), turtles and a ginormous fish named Wally. Saw sharks, made art, learned african dance, meditative dance, and took a capoeira lesson :) I traveled by plane, bus, train, ferry, car, tinny, kayak, 4 wheel, bike, and my good ole feet, which stood up to broken toes, mosquitos, leeches, giant biting flies, major sunburns, cuts, scraps, bruises, razor clam lacerations, burning sand, rock slammings... and a horrendously sad pedicure :) AND, on the average, I managed to stay exactly on budget ($275/week) including airfare! Wow! Considering how craaazzy expensive AUS is (think $15-$20 for a simple lunch), that is an amazing feat! Thank you to frequent flier miles, tuna and pb&j, couchsurfers, workaway.info and no desire to party, I think I can proudly proclaim myself a talented budget traveler :)
|The wrath of leaches|
I must again give special thanks again to Peter and Gail, Dazza, PK, Marejada, Anudasi, Samaya and the ashram folks, Tyson, Gazza, Tina and Mathilda for extending their homes and hospitality and friendship to a strange girl from America:). I’ll be eagerly awaiting you to claim repayment!!!
So what did I get out of it? Besides mass visual orgasmo over incredible scenery and activities, I confirmed quite a few things I already knew about myself: That I love hot tea w/ milk and “biscuits” (cookies!) :) That I like ridiculously busy days, and calm peaceful introspective nights. That I need to do something productive in order to feel okay relaxing. That I’m really not that into partying. That I will always lose one earring and break whatever camera I have:(. That I love creating and discovering things. That having nice things done for me reeeeeallllllllly inspires me to pay it forward. That I love not having to drive. That I love not having to shop. That I love not worrying about fashion, or lack thereof ;). That having quality food or accommodations are low low lowww on the priority list when up against an adventure. That I would prefer both, but I’d choose the mountains over the ocean any day. That the words please, thank you, and I’m sorry, when said with depth and sincerity, are like magic markers to me, erasing my issues instantly. And, that being yourself is 1,111 times better than being cool :).
|...unless you're cool without trying to be cool ;)|
What’s the most interesting to me is that over 2 1/2 months, I’ve unknowingly been focusing on studying myself and the relationships and connections with people far more than with the actual visual/physical/location part. I absolutely love seeing and doing all these amazzzzing things, and being in these amazing places, it feeds my body! But it’s the connections with people that has an overwhelming presence, feeding my soul! You’ve probably noticed that in the blogs; the pictures take care of the action, but I like to write about the feeling or an insight. What I’ve learned is that getting to know people, and spending a good bit of time in one place is def’ the way to go when traveling solo. Being a tourist: I recommend for 2 or more. I've learned that it only takes one full day (mostly much less) to cross the threshold of new/awkward/small chat into comfy/easy convo’s, but that for me 3 straight days is about the max I can spend w/ any one person, even someone I really like, before I need to go off and have at least a little bit of alone time! That confidence is one of my favorite traits in other people. I don’t like to make all the decisions even though I like to make decisions! (ha- typical woman there)! That our instincts and intuitions are powerful, powerful tools we should tap into all the time. That as much as I love the adventure, I love the downtime so I can reach out to those far away. I learned that we have power over every thought/emotion/reaction in our bodies... not the action, but the response, and that’s incredibly enpowering. That we need to love ourselves before we can really love anyone else. I mean really love ourselves, and stay true to that. Happiness doesn’t come from others, it comes from within, and it just gets enhanced when you add special people. That being here on my own is wonderful, and I needed it and Im loving every minute of it, but that absence does make the heart grow fonder. I really do have amazing friends and family!! Mmmm.... mental group hug please!!
An incredibly intuitive person (Hi Lenny!) once told me he could see I had a lot of love to give. It’s very true... I love to love. I frequently get comments about how I’m constantly ohhing and ahhing and jumping up and down over the littlest things. Some people say it’s childish... but I prefer ‘childlike’ (Yes Edith!!) and I love that about myself--- it’s so easy for me to love. There IS beauty in everyone and everything!! So making new friends is a funny thing. Where do I have space for them?? We need a term in between an acquaintance and friend! And even in between friend and best friend! At this point, there are times I feel overwhelmed with how many people I reallly do like and want to keep in touch with but it’s just impossible. Facebook is like a sauna. Feels great, good for your ‘surface’ skin, can be longterm beneficial to your health in short spurts by giving you the ability to keep in touch with so many people... but it can burn the shit out of you if you stay too long. I’ve had trouble in the past where I HAD to keep in touch because that’s how I showed love, and when the other didn’t return it equally or in the same way, I thought the friendship was unimportant to them. I think that’s because everything (yes, everything) I do is extrovisual (I made that word up). My emotions, my mood, my attitude, my energy... it’s always been written all over my face, my body language, oozing from my pores. No way to hide it here, even when I want to. And because of that I’m beginning to understand that I have a ridiculous capacity to dish out love (and disappointment:(, working on that!). The trick is, accepting that giving it makes me happy, period. What I didn’t understand before is that I don’t have to get it back to still feel happy giving it. I have my Mudda to keep me feeling loved :)
Sooooo, I need to trust more in my friendships, trust that you (yes you!) know I think of you even if I haven’t said hello in a while. Trust that nature will run it’s correct course and weed out some relationships and strengthen others. Similar to my friendships with Jill and Mandy (remember this blog?) and Mayumi and Serena, we’ve been separated for years by distance, but we don’t need constant contact to know we really love each other. In all likelihood I’ll be moving to Southern Oregon (or the like) when Im done traveling. Which means every important person in my life will remain a long ways away :(, so finding a balance between becoming a facebooking fanatic and just trusting in a understood care will become essentially important.
Without a doubt each and every day, in between and even throughout events, I’m thinking about people. Missing, wishing, loving, reminiscing, sending long distance hugs. It really IS only our relationships and how you make people feel that matters. Everything else dies with us. Our accomplishments, our resumes, our credentials (World record holder HA), our 6-packs or hour-glass figures (not me! speaking figuratively here!). What will people say at your funeral? Not that I plan on dying, but you know what I mean!! That’s what it’s coming down to for me: Does everyone that crosses my path feel better, or at least the same, but never worse, after our encounter?
This is of course much easier to say than do, as I know I’ve offended or hurt in the past (knowing with guilt or unknowingly) but I love to work on stuff, and writing it down is quite helpful. It’s like having an exercise partner that calls you at 6 times in a row at 6am, unwilling to let you sleep in and skip it :). So, my friends, 'new word for in betweens' , acquaintances, family, true loves and those near and dear to my heart, I send love, lots of love. Hope you can feel it :)
p.s.... I’m at my layover in Singapore at the moment, finishing the first 15 hours of travel... only 23 hours more until INDIA!!!!! CANT WAIT FOR THE NEW EXPERIENCES!!!! Robynnnnnn is coming to visit!! Who is next??!!??!?!?!!? (hint, hint!)