A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: stevecrow

This is a test...

...and only a test. I'm going to take a shot at keeping a travel blog during my trip across Australia, so this is just an experiment to ensure that I can post blogs properly from my iPad. Not that I expect to have Internet access most of the time in the Outback anyway, so a lot of it might end up being posthumous postings.

I haven't actually really left yet, so this could be the worst travel blog entry ever.

Only about 62 hours to go now...far more interesting things to follow, promise!
(The picture below is a rough scrawling on a map of where I'll be going. It's hard to see, but really I'm just testing to see if the picture actually shows up...)

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Posted by stevecrow 21:31 Comments (3)

What Happens in the Emerald City...

...or "Show Me the Way to the Next Absinthe Bar"

overcast 16 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

Soundtrack: Never See The Day / Straight Line Stitch (because all epic, life-altering journeys should start off with ear-bleeding metal. Keeps the nerves in check.)

It is debatable if driving down an actual yellow brick road would be smoother and more comfortable - particularly in a sports car - than the worn-out concrete slabs that make up many sections of the I-5 between Bellingham and Seattle. Luckily mass density population came to my rescue and had me going 5mph for half of the trip. Much smoother that way :)

Finally...Seattle!

Soundtrack: Kirlian Camera / Odyssey Europa (because nothing seeps urban metrosexuality like Italian electronica. Plus, Kirlian Camera always stirs nostalgia for past trips to Seattle...at least the bits I remember).

Seattle offers anything you could ask for...as long as it is coffee, books, or wine. It seems every street is littered with coffee shops, books stores, wine bars, book stores that sell coffee, coffee bars with books, book stores offering wine, wine bars with specialty coffee, book stores with a wine / coffee bar. Definitely endless possibilities.

For anyone that has spent any time downtown Seattle, they can attest to one of the most recognizable qualities of the city - the rich, wide-spread aroma of hundreds of different types of food...all melding together into something that resembles fresh seafood and / or a rich, deep-fried bratwurst sausage. A fantastic place to be if you are hungry - but a really, really bad place to be if you are hung-over. Trust me.

Before dinner I visited one of my favourite places in Seattle - the Polar Bar at the Arctic Club Hotel. For anyone not familiar with this place, it never left the 1920's - which is beyond cool, as it has this totally 'Shining' thing going. Check the following pics for proof. Once again, I was served a nice French Absinthe from Viktor (nationality unknown) who, as the bill came, I totally expected to pipe up with "your money is no good here, Mr. Crowhurst". Unfortunately he did not. But if you are ever in the area and want to experience Absinthe, not just the drink but the whole timeless atmosphere, you have to go here.

Had dinner at a place called 'Purple Wine Bar' (mostly because my hotel room came with a $40 credit to it...but it was good). Very cool, happening...I was totally out of place. Had a steak that was actually too rare, even for me - it was actually still cold in the middle. The center of the restaurant was a gigantic pillar of wine with a spiral staircase (pic to follow)...so much wine...aggghhhh....

All this, and nothing really interesting pertaining to Australia. Well, tomorrow I take the long, long flight. Hopefully will be updating the blog once in Sydney...though more likely as I sit around LAF'nX for 6.5 hours.

Take care all!

Posted by stevecrow 22:11 Archived in USA Tagged books wine coffee pike_place_market absinthe Comments (1)

Pics from the Emerald City


View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

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Posted by stevecrow 22:21 Archived in USA Comments (2)

As The Crow Flies (or will fly...eventually...)

..or "Please hold for the next available event in your life to take place".

sunny 22 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

There are few more depressing places in the world than the international terminal of a major airport (ok, that is a seriously narrow-minded and selfish statement, considering all the terrible places and things that happen all around the world every day...but bear with me).

Hundreds of lives on hold. For hours and hours, people from all around the world just sit and wait. And wait. Their lives on hold. All the books, movies, TV, naps, complimentary wifi connections in the airport lounges - all just elevator music for them as they wait on hold for their lives to get going again.

LAX is an odd beast; a city on its own where people live for short periods of time, but no one seems to really want to be here. I guess people don't, in general, enjoy being on hold either.

A sullen and tired thought, I know. Being on hold for hours at a time will do that to you.

In any case, it's off to Sydney within the next 2 hours, and then the real fun will begin.

Soundtrack: the obnoxious buzzing sound coming from the complimentary soft-drink machine in the 'reLAX' lounge. That, and NBA playoffs on ESPN.

Posted by stevecrow 20:23 Archived in USA Tagged lax Comments (1)

The Longest Night...

...or "A Room With A...View(?)"

rain 15 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

As I sat in my seat, plane still at the gate, before takeoff, I posed the question to myself in my head: if I wanted to - right now - how could I get home? Not that for any second I would consider it, but I think just quickly going through the scenario in my head helped remove the finality of the situation, and this seemed to help with the nerves. Your first transcontinental flight is going to be a very trying and possibly even emotional experience - I don't care who you are.

Then we pulled away from the gate and took off. Once we were off the ground I settled down, letting everything sink in, as I watched the only thing I could see from my window seat - the reflection of the moon off the very large wing of the A380-800 that was taking me to Australia.

Soundtrack: actually, movie: "Black Death" with Sean Bean on the iPad. For those of you who haven't seen it - skip this paragraph! The movie was quite good, fantastic dialogue and period sets...but I can't help but think the movie may have actually spawned from a conversation that went something like this: Producer: we're making a movie about the Plague with Sean Bean as lead. Director: hmmm...tricky. Doesn't our lead die, and then aren't we pretty much ever other movie that stars Sean Bean? Producer: we've decided to something original and unpredictable. Director: he lives? Producer: no, we'll violently tear him to pieces. No movie has done that yet. Take that, GOT!

The long flight was filled with iPad HD movies and an uncomfortable, fitfull sleep. 20 minutes of trying to sleep, followed by those wierd half-awake dreams, followed by maybe 15 minutes of sort-of sleep. Wake up, do ankle exercises to combat the thrombosis, then re-adjust. Lather, rinse, repeat. Kind of like being riddled with a 'shitty sleep' machine gun for 7 hours.

Landed around 6:30am, pushed through customs, baggage, and quarantine. Sydney airport, at least at that time of the morning after that sort of ordeal, is really unpleasant - it felt dirty, unkempt, and lacked any real personality. I guess I ask too much from my airports. Caught the train from the airport ($16.20 for a 10 minute ride - ouch!) to downtown.

Soundtrack: A Current Obsession / Lacuna Coil - playing as the train emerged from underground and I caught my first view of Syndey in all it's 'cloudy-with-periods-of-heavy-rain' glory. The Epic was almost too much to handle.

The Radisson Hotel and Suites is a short walk from the train in the China/Asian town area(ish) - and the most wonderful thing happened. I walked in and asked them if they could store my bags until checkin (and was ready to start begging them to use some kind of showering facility - for everyone's sake) when the kind gentleman at the desk informed me that, although I had requested a room with "a balcony, a view, and on a high floor" (I've learned that, when making hotel reservations, simply ask for every possible desirable quality a room can have - if you get one or two of those, you win!), if I wanted he had a room available immediately if I was willing to forego the view. No brainer! And it isn't that the room didn't have a view...(see pic to follow in next post!)

All this, and really - I have done absolutely nothing in Sydney (one measley, but cool pic, of Sydney Tower to follow)! I wandered around a while, checked out Darling Harbour, admired the whole "kind of like Vancouver except with a lot more Asian influence and post-modern feel" aspect of the shopping district, and then went grocery shopping. Yep, grocery shopping. I sure know how to party abroad :(

Tonight I hope to catch some pics of the 'Vivid' festival (lights + music at the Circular Quay) in order to nurture some far more interesting travel-related posts in the near future. Good night all!

Posted by stevecrow 01:36 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney Comments (1)

Room View and the Sydney Tower

rain 16 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

I was having troubles uploading pics for some reason, so I'm trying a different method now. These are still pics that belong to the previous post; I should have much more inspiring pictures in the next post.

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Posted by stevecrow 21:04 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney Comments (1)

Above And Below...

...Or "To Tourist or Not To Tourist"

sunny 20 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

Last night a crazy homeless man inadvertently brought something interesting to my attention. He was tucked in a doorway, screaming madly at passerby's - and I realized that, and I'm not sure if this was the Australian accent at work or annunciation was problematic for this gentleman, but the phrase "fucking terrorists" and "fucking tourists" kind of sound the same. I'm not sure which he was yelling, and ergo I'm not sure if he was yelling at me as I belong to only one of those two groups...

Soundtrack: In Motion #1 / The Gathering.

I visited the Circular Quay for the annual VIVID festival, which is a huge thing here each year that involves: a) several really expensive shows and workshops at the Opera House and other venues around town; and b) a wild array of sound and light performances along with street performers. Obviously I took in the latter, as I would like to continue being able to afford to eat. Music pumps out of the speakers set up around the quay and dazzling projections of really, really cool animation is projected onto various buildings - including the Opera House. Unfortunately, the video camera that I had takes lousy nighttime stills so, although I have plenty of great video (including 30 minutes of some guy from Minnesota and his 12 ft unicycle act...don't ask me why) I have only one good picture to share.

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Tip to those coming to Australia - if you spend the couple of weeks preceding your departure slowly nudging your bed time later and later until you aren't going to bed until about 4am - it bloody works, better than I expected.

Today was absolutely gorgeous (seems to be rare for Sydney winter) - spent the morning at the Sydney Tower, which was the one 'touristy' thing I wanted to do, and it was pretty amazing. It starts with a cool 4D movie with rumbling floors, spraying water, bubbles, and smoke. This, I guess, is what 4D means - no time travel was involved (boo!). Great shots of the whole city in all directions. A sample:

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Profile: Common Sydney Man: suit pants and suit or leisure jacket (dark coloured); collared shirt (light coloured - white, pink, or light blue); *important* you MUST NOT be wearing a tie, regardless of your occupation, and the shirt must have the first top 2 buttons undone. Keep the hair short, and keep the 5 o'clock shadow 1 day old - no more, no less. You must always look like you just got off work, and it doesn't matter it's 8am or if you are actually still working. Did I mention you cannot be wearing a tie?

Profile: Common Sydney Woman: you are wearing either dark tights with a mid-length to short skirt (also dark but may have patterns) with high-heels or flat shoes OR you are wearing tight jeans with boots. The top doesn't matter because it is covered in a jacket - because it's winter and only, what, 17 celsius? Chances are you are blonde or almost blonde. You must be talking on your cellular phone at all times, through your white earbud headset with a microphone. And many of you are the woman of my dreams. Kidding. Not really. But yes really, kidding. But not really.

Soundtrack: Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole / Scarling

Spent the afternoon (after a pathetic homemade soup and wrap combo to save $$, because I'm a cheap ass son-of-a-bitch) sitting in Hyde Park reading a book (Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, which by some coincidence is about a guy intentionally crashing a trans-Pacific flight into the Australian Outback...). I did this to rebel against the notion that, as a tourist (or terrorist according to our crazy friend), I don't think you need to be actively touristing all the time. Headed up to the Quay just in time for the sunset - yep, timed it perfectly, thank you very much - and that was that.

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Tonight, after some grub, I'll be heading to King's Cross - the red light district - to see a totally different side of the city. I wonder if the men wear ties there? I know the women don't - unless, well, never mind...

Later!

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Posted by stevecrow 02:05 Archived in Australia Tagged opera_house sydney sydney_tower Comments (3)

Only A Man...

...or "How To Be A Moron 12,000 Kms From Home"

storm 14 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

King's Cross is the notorious Red Light district of Sydney, Australia...unless you're me and it's a Monday night. Then it takes on more of a light pink, maybe salmon colour. Fully expecting a bit of dredgy craziness and debauchery, I ventured on the train last night to King's Cross, taking extra special care to make sure I didn't look too much like a tourist that simply stepped on the train on the wrong platform. Which really meant leave the camera at home. I wish I hadn't; the area was kind of neat, with good night views of Sydney CBD and some interesting architecture. Yes, there were strip clubs, adult stores, $$/hour hotels...but no real feeling of danger, adventure, or even slight discomfort. I mean, I was only propositioned by one...uh...lady. One! Apparently I creep out even hookers.

I snapped a couple pathetic pics with the iPhone (which I may be able to update this post with at a later date), trained back to Sydney CBD defeated, and scrounged around for something to do or somewhere to go. Alas it was not meant to be, as I began to realize that Sydney and I (at least the area I'm in) aren't entirely compatible. Let's face it - I'm far too old to go hang out at a dance club full of young club-goers, too 'David Lynchian' to be at a pub frequented by backpackers, too poor and designer-labelless to be at a posh Sydney hot-spot (they would spot the faux-leather jacket a mile away and beat me to death with it), too here-on-a-weeknight-and-no-where-near-the-suburbs to find any punk or metal bars open, and too by-myself (sans wife and / or children) to really get much of anything from your typical tourist trap. And I have noticed that the burned-out has-been aging-emo-goth-lite-wannabe look is really, really rare here. So the dilema: what to do? Well, go to the only place my personal decor fits in nicely - a graveyard.

Soundtrack: Hello London / Scarling

OK, a crematorium - the Northern Suburbs Crematorium and Memorial is a beautiful place just west of snazzy and weathy-seeming Chatswood in the northern area of Sydney. And I did go here with a purpose (c'mon, I'm not that emo!) - I apprehensively approached the elderly receptionalist and inquired that, although it may seem a bit childish for a man my age, that I would like to visit the cenotaph of Michael Hutchence. The wonderful woman responded that it wasn't childish in the slightest, and that "if she were 85 and could visit John Lennon's apartment, she wouldn't hesitate". The other thing that I absolutely cherished about this woman is that, when she directed me to the cenotaph, she refered to it as "Michael's" - meaning a person: a man, father, brother, and son; not a celebrity landmark. And as I made my way to the memorial, I was actually saddened by this fact, that a person - famous or not - could die so young (younger than I am now) and so alone.

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Now, I can't be classified as a true INXS fan - I had a couple albums, and always found the music listenable, but by no means auto-repeat worthy most of the time. I was here for a different reason. My wife grew up listening to Michael and INXS, and to this day it is her favourite band. I stood in front of the memorial (took pictures, obviously, and some video) - and very quietly thanked this man, whom I have never met and never will, for everything he did for my wife to make her into the woman that she is, the woman that I fell in love with and am still in love with. Without Michael, maybe she's a different person, maybe we never even meet - who knows. It doesn't matter - Michael was there and was a huge part of her life (and still is), so I thanked him, and quietly left.

Soundtrack: Factor: Misery / Omega Lithium

The weather all morning had been beautiful - but there were rumours of a storm coming our way. In fact, over lunch back at the hotel room, I could see the clouds in the distance. So I did what any self-respecting British Columbian would do in such weather - I decided to head to the beach. I packed up the video camera, iPhone and headphones, a book to read on the ferry, and headed off.

(Notice I didn't mention 'umbrella'? Like the one the front desk kindly provided on day 1? The one sitting right beside me now - stlll dry? Nah, too much to carry. Moron.)

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The ferry ride to Manley Beach was cool, with the storm approaching from the east and us heading right into it. Didn't look that menacing from a distance. Now, I've made some bad decisions in my time, but this one was pretty damned noteworthy. By the time I disembarked, the rain was coming down in sheets. But what to do, I had come all this way? As I walked along the 'Corso' (the pedestrian mall, no idea about the name) I decided to look at umbrellas along the way. Did I ever mention I'm a cheap-ass son-of-a-bitch? No way I'm paying $10 for an umbrella I'll only use once! So I did the only thing I could - I wandered out onto the beach in the torrential downpour, because I figured it was important that I touch the other side of the pacific.

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By the time I got back to the ferry, I went from creepy Canadian tourist to down-right scary, slick, drenched Canadian tourist. The ferry ride back was the roughest boat ride I've ever taken, in the huge waves and angry winds. I finally got back to my hotel room...and this was just outside the door, to give you an idea what is going on here right now:

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Anyway, hopefully I'll be dry soon and I can find some food before I have to pack for the next leg of the journey, and the real test of my - ahem - character. I fly to Alice Springs tomorrow, and the following day will pick up my camper-van for my long, solitary road trip.

Have a good night everyone!

Posted by stevecrow 02:03 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney manley_beach michael_hutchence Comments (3)

Blue Lake, Brown Lake, Red Lake, Oops...

or "How To Eat A Meat Pie In A Confined Space"

sunny 9 °C
View Sydney and the Outback on stevecrow's travel map.

I had every intention of going out and finding a nice, fine-dining restaurant somewhere (not difficult here, the prices put McDonald's in that category by our standards) so I could feel important, if only for a while. But I was too worn out to feign any amount of pretentiousness (no comment thank you very much) so I decided to go down to Darling Harbour, which I have to say is - for some reason - my favourite place I visited in Sydney during my brief stint here. A nice chicken-veal with white wine and tarragon sauce, roasted garlic potatoes, and some monumentally bad service later, I retired to my final sleep in Sydney. And a restless one it was.

Soundtrack: Beside You In Time / Nine Inch Nails

After setting off Australian airport security for the second time in 3 days (coming in I discovered that Australian security classify a 4.5 inch fixed-blade hunting knife with a serrated edge and weighted handle as a "weapon" for some reason. Paranoids!) by accidentally leaving my tiny little wire-cutters in my carry-on instead of putting it back into my guitar case, which I checked into oversize baggage. These cutters made it through *TSA* screening for Pete's sake! Anyway, if anyone is looking for a Christmas present for me, I sure could use a tiny set of wire cutters for my guitar...

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The take off wielded some spectacular views. As I left the overbearing and smothering warmth of Sydney hospitality behind (...) everything was put right as the lovely young lady beside me struck up a conversation. Just talking to someone in a normal friendly conversation about the country, why I'm here, where I'm from, etc. I think is maybe all I was looking for. She obviously wasn't from Sydney (that really isn't fair, I shouldn't generalize. All North Americans generalize for some reason).

The landscape I was treated to was unbelievable, I've never seen anything like it (thanks for stating the obvious, Mr. Stating The Obvious). The land went from endless crops, to endless yellow, to endless brown with black bits, to endless red with black bits that looked like a goliath burn-victim groomed with a wire comb. Dozens of lakes of all different colours scattered the land in all directions - blue ones with water, brown ones with...I guess brown water...and also massive yellow and red empty beds and dunes.

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Then came lunch...the attendants come by with their cart, and I'm expecting some bag of dried kangaroo or beetles or something...but she hands me something that is wrapped in plastic that is shaped like a muffin or something. Except it's hot. Really hot. I then realize - it's a damned meat pie. And with this meat pie I was provided with: one (1) packet of ketchup (sorry..."tomato sauce"); and one (1) tiny napkin. I look around - no fork, knife, spoon, chop-sticks, nothing to eat this thing with. I then realize that the first day I was in Sydney when I indulged a beef+peppercorn pie from the local Pie Face outlet - which I took back to my hotel room and daintily ate with utensils - well, obviously I was doing it wrong. But for the life of me I'm now pondering why the national fast-food of this county is a gravy-filled pocket of pastry that is almost guaranteed to spill it's napalm-hot filling on you at least once as you eat it. OK, don't panic - I casually open the plastic and then pretend that I'm waiting for it to cool off. Very discreetly I angle my glance to my right to see how the nice young blonde lady beside me is tackling this challenge (trying desperately not to look like a real creep, watching her eat). I watch as she takes a couple of delicate nibbles off one side, opening a narrow slit in the pastry (ok good, got it so far) - she then proceeds to empty the ketchup (sorry, "tomato sauce") packet *into* the pie, and then start mowing down on this thing like it's a normal sandwich. She even slops on herself, and nonchalantly wipes herself with her single, tiny napkin. Now I'm thinking - why don't I fit in here better? I could get along in a country that is wandering around, everyone with their meat-pie stains on their shirts and pants. Maybe this isn't such a bad thing.

Touch down at Alice Springs airport, and disembark the 737 via roll-up stairs. Basically the terminals are a big parking lot for the planes - no joke, they were clearly marked with yellow lines that said 'parking'. Walking along the sunny pathway to the baggage claim, were were greeted with our welcome agent - the biggest, bulbous garden / desert spider I'm ever seen, casually sunning itself on the web it spun over the 'Welcome To Alice Springs" sign. It was just a garden spider, but like on steroids. I wish I got a picture but we were all walking in a rushed line and stopping to take a picture of a spider would have again secured my place as resident noob-douche-tourist.

Alice Springs is kind of like Kamloops. Except with palm trees. And no river beds with water in them. And cool trees I've never seen before. And birds that sound like car alarms. And carry-out limits at the liquor store. And it smells better. And I needed to pay 50c at the mall to get this:

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...so I could use the restroom.

Soundtrack: The Trick Is To Keep Breathing / Garbage

Not much else to report; I'm anxiously awaiting what the coming days will bring. For those following along at home that aren't privy to all the details, tomorrow I pick up a campervan and start a massive road trip. Providing all goes according to plan, I will visit Uluru (Ayers Rock) tomorrow night, drive back to Alice to resupply, and then the following day will drive across the Tanami Desert, stopping at: the side of the road, Wolfe Creek National Park, and finally touching down in Broome on the Indian Ocean. A few things need to fall into place: the rental company needs to grant me permission to drive the Tanami Track - a ~1000 Km dirt road that cuts across the Northern Territory and Western Australia (which is almost a 900 Km shortcut otherwise). I'm sure I'll be able to charm them, no problem, just as I've charmed every other Australian I've met so far.

The other detail - I will (likely) not be posting for awhile, not until at least June 11th (for me, late 10th for you) when I reach Broome. Until then, thanks everyone for reading and I can't wait to regale you with more wonderful anecdotes of me embarrassing myself on the other side of the planet. If I don't post by, say, June 22 - well then I've decided to start my new life as a patrolman for the Dingo Fence - don't wait up. Peace out.

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Soundtrack: Wayfaring Stranger / Ego Likeness (an excellent a cappella version of a traditional folk song - highly recommended) EDITED: "a cappella, not Acapulco..stupid...auto-spell...)

Posted by stevecrow 03:43 Archived in Australia Tagged outback alice_springs Comments (6)

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