Adelaide then Melbourne

Another quick roundup as I’ve not done a lot of touristy stuff, just hung out and travelled.

I ended up going for the redeye flight from Perth to Adelaide. Mel very kindly dropped me off at Perth International Airport. Then realised this wasn’t much use as I was flying domestically and even more kindly drove me the extra ten minutes to the Domestic Airport. Thanks, Mel!

It had been a good, smooth flight with Tiger Airways. We even took off late as there was a tailwind. The flight time was reduced and we were dot on time for landing. Craig (Mudcrab) picked me up at a little after 7am after I landed in Adelaide. He dropped me at his place where I caught up first on email and then on sleep.

Dinner was from the Adelaide Burger bar on O’Connell Street. This is heartily recommended. The chips are slight crispy, but I don’t know what they put in the batter. Whatever it is it tastes delicious. This was followed up by an exceptionally good slice of fruit crumble from the 24 hour bakery over the road.

Our home for the evening was to be the Crown & Anchor (if I remember correctly) where we chewed various amounts of fat and drank far too much and until far too late. Or early. They really don’t do “chucking out time” here.

Thursday was a bit of a blur until Craig came home. Just about recovered, we went to the Grace to see about 5 local bands each doing a short set. The final act, Raw Ether, were playing their last set for several months. The bassist is heading to Germany for some reason I didn’t quite pick up. All three members are 19 years old and annoyingly talented. Great set, and thanks for the free CD!

As the pub closed we relocated back to the Crown & Anchor until they did actually throw us out. A steak and pepper pie and a cake from the bakers on the way home and we crashed out around 5am. No worries. 2½ hours sleep would do us fine for the next day…

Only we had nearer 4½ hours. Craig was late for work and I was late to start hitching to Melbourne. However, Craig got me to the outskirts just before the M1 route begins and set me down around 10:00 for my trek to Victoria.

Almost 45 minutes later I got my first lift off a lady heading just outside of Adelaide to see a relative. A 20 minute drive, but it was a start. Next up – after 30 minutes – were two guys finishing work for the day. They both had beards as good as mine! They dropped me off after around half an hour with instructions on how to get to a really good truck stop if I was struggling.

Maybe 15 minutes later, I was picked up by Geraldine and her two dogs. They kept me company for 4½ hours as we stopped for a beer and headed deep into Victoria. 300km to go and I was picked up by Rick, a truck driver heading back east in his 4×4. He left me around 2 hours’ outside of Melbourne at a roadside café. I’d barely put my bags down when Jason, a young IT guy who works for a large financial company, picked me up and dropped me off right near Shelly’s place. Almost 12 hours to the dot since Craig left me in Adelaide.

However, by this time Shelly had caught a tram into the CBD. Cue a farcicle attempt to locate each other which we finally did. We had a quick meal (it was after 11pm by now) in Red Pepper on Bourke Street. This was amazing – only $5 for a small but filling and very spicy dahl dish with two nan bread. Just about the right amount for me at that moment.

We sat and talked for about an hour until Amy and her sister Emma picked me up to take me to their place where I’m typing this up now. The two girls are Vietnamese and if I remember correctly I got talking to Amy as she’s also a big sponsor of the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi.

So now to bed. I have a couple of plans for tomorrow (after sleeping very heavily) and then will be meeting up with Shelly, Amy and her boyfriend for a couple of drinks (oh, no…).

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Aussie catch-up

Hualamphong Station, Bangkok

Hualamphong Station, Bangkok

Fair bit of travelling since the last post, but I’ll try to breeze through it all. My flight from Yangon to Bangkok was on time, but I had some “fun” at the departure tax kiosk trying to convince them to accept a torn $5 bill and a $1 with the tiniest little rip in it. Two other passengers swapped the bills for me, stating how ridiculous the system was in Mynmar where the condition of the notes is so important. Their own currency can be battered, torn, ripped, covered in grease… and still accepted.

At Bangkok, I hooked up with another guy and two girls and we shared a taxi into the city. The chap and I were both getting off at Hualamphong while the girls were going on to Khao San Road. That involved a lot of haggling with the driver, but overall it worked out at around 50 baht each cheaper than getting the bus, and far faster.

At the train station I loafed in the KFC for an hour or so until my train was ready for boarding. A menu was provided for dinner and breakfast on the train, which would cost me 250 baht in total. You can take your own (non strong-smelling) food on board if you prefer, but the grub on board wasn’t too bad for the price.

The journey was quite long – departing at roughly 3pm and arriving at Butterworth in Malaysia around 2pm the next day (an hour ahead due to the time difference). It’s fairly comfy with large seats for the start of the journey. Around 10pm, the staff wander down and convert the seated areas into berths – one upper, one lower.  The upper ones are slightly cheaper and – apparently – slightly smaller, but certainly not cramped.

I enjoyed some brief conversation on the trip with two Japanese people travelling independantly of each other. I still find it unusual to see Japanese who aren’t on package/coach tours but they’re always very nice to chat with.

No hippies allowed!

No hippies allowed!

The customs stopoff as we crossed the border at Padang Besar was fairly casual, very much like the one coming from Singapore and heading north into Malaysia. However, here there are no x-ray machines. You still have to disembark with all your luggage, stamp out of Thailand, into Malaysia and then open your luggage. The check was cursory and polite with my bag being waved on after a quick prod and a query of “clothes?”

I did spot one sign as I queued at immigration giving details on how to spot a “hippie”. Click the thumbnail for the full details. I’m hoping this dates back to the 60’s and isn’t used these days!

At Butterworth, I haggled my bus fare down from 32RM to 28 (saving about 80p…) but had to find an ATM. If you’re arriving there off the train, go to the end of the platform to the station and look to the right. You’ll see a big glass building – the dental college. It’s about a five minute walk on the other side of the freeway. There are three banks located around the bottom with ATMs.

My 14:30 bus departed at 15:45 which wasn’t great. It was very comfy, though, with fully reclining seats and just the right level of aircon. It took quite some time to get to KL – over five hours – so it was rather late when I arrived.

The stage is set...

The stage is set...

I tried to find my guesthouse – Haven – but couldn’t spot it. As I stood looking puzzled, a man walked up and identified himself as one of the staff. Due to the heavy rain in KL recently, the ceiling had sprung a leak and they’d had to close down for repairs. He then walked me to another hostel nearby where they’d made arrangements for some of their guests to be houses. It was more expensive, but they were covering the difference. Nice place, too. So next time I’m in KL, I will be booking with Haven again and hoping their ceiling’s working!

I didn’t do much in KL apart from use the internet a lot and eat too much McD’s. I had some good company in the hostel, though, with Kiki from Vietnam, a German guy who’s name I didn’t get, James from England and a chap from Sri Lanka (now living in India) who I talked to for ages.

Then the usual Skytrain/bus combo to the airport (another McDs) and late flight to Perth where the lovely Mel picked me up after midnight. Immigration was a little hiccupy as I didn’t know Mel’s address. The usual rule – if it’s got an address space on it, fill it in. Even if you don’t know one, put any old nonsense in. The immigration guy was fine about it, to be fair, but it’s still one of those daft niggles. Back at her place I was introduced to Mason – 11 months old and cute as a button. He wasn’t around the last time I was in Perth!

Again, not a lot to do in Perth except lay back and chill out with Mel, Matt, Mason and Jezza. I bought a bundle of second hand books from an OpShop (charity place) for $4. The bill only came to $2.50 (a pound!) for about 12 books, but I don’t mind giving a charity shop a bit extra. My plan’s not to use aeroplanes so the extra bulk/weight shouldn’t be a problem.

Rocking hard!

Rocking hard!

The guys also had a gig in a nearby bar on Saturday night which I went to. They’re Matt drums, Mel sings and Jezza plays guitar. There’s also a bassist and another vocalist/guitarist who I met. The band’s called Crimson Ink and they’re pretty good! The sound was a little squelchy on their first set, but by the second and third they had a decent sized crowd up and dancing.

After the gig, there was a little altercation outside. Kids who couldn’t hold their beer – same all over the world. I helped break it up and ended up with blood down my arm and on my shirt. Not my blood, I hasten to add! And I don’t even know how it got there as I didn’t see anyone actually bleeding. Still, it all ended more or less peacefully and the venue seemed to like Crimson Ink – with luck it could mean a residency.

And that’s me up to date. I’m currently trying to get a lift to Adelaide ASAP. Failing that I’ll bite the bullet and get a flight. Tiger have one for the ridiculously low sum of $88 at 1:45am on Wednesday although I have to worry about those books. Hum.

Oh, I also have an Aussie mobile. If you need the number, contact me through the link on the right and I’ll give you it. It took me an age to register it as – like in the UK now or soon or planned – you have to register with a valid Australian address. Which is pointless as it’s not checked. The online registration refused to recognise Mel and Matt’s address, so I had to go through the voice recognition system over the phone. In an area with a really dodgy signal. Somehow I got it working though.

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Back to Darwin… and counting down to leaving

Friday the 13th – what a day to fly! Which may explain why my flight was moderately empty. It’s also my mum’s birthday, so maybe everyone else was having a party for her.

Mel wasn’t in a fit state to drive (or walk, come to mention it) at 6:15am, so Matt drove me to the airport. My last impression of Mel is someone lying in bed in a semi-coma, apologising for not being able to get up… so I remember her as someone who parties far too hard, which is no bad thing!

We made it to the airport with ten minutes to spare and I rattled off a blog post or two while I waited. Yay for free wireless! Quantas called me on board shortly afterwards and we took off dot on schedule.

I’d not had time for breakfast when I left the house, so it’s a good job I was with the only non-budget airline in Oz as it meant I got fed. It was still the cheapest flight I could get. Air fares here are barmy. A really cute little girl in the seat in front kept playing peek-a-boo with me and that helped while the time away, as did ploughing through another Grisham and snoozing for the last hour.

Darwin was as hot as I remember it, and the shuttle bus had me at the Cav within 15 minutes. Quick check in and back in the old favourite room 36. Esther was out at work and shortly after I started sorting my things out I met Katie, the only other person in the dorm. She’s a vet from the UK looking at settling here and in a fluster about trying to find a house to live in.

The kitchen at the hostel is out of order as they’re refurbishing it. It was supposed to re-open today, but is now scheduled for tomorrow. We’ll see… I argued with the reception staff as I’d not been told this and they were only dishing out free dinner vouchers for the Queen Vic, not lunch ones. As I budget 50c for lunch (beans on toast!), this means a big increase in expenses as eating out is much dearer. We ended up with five meal vouchers which should take us past when the kitchen is available again. Hopefully that will balance things out.

The rest of the day went predictably and Darwin-y enough. Down to the pool at 5:00, Esther back from work (lovely to see her again), the Vic for (free) dinner, back for a quick change and then out for a few beers. Shennanigans was our chosen venue as the Vic itself was a little quiet. A covers band was playing some decent tunes, the beer was cold and the company good.

Between lack of sleep and five pints of Coopers Pale, I enjoyed a good night’s kip!

Slayer! Slayer! Slayer!

My last full day in Perth and I didn’t do a whole heck of a lot except work on the 1000 Mile Walk page, eat food and watch telly.

Until 7pm when I headed for the train station, then the Claremont Showgrounds for Slayer’s first Australian appearance in 10 years.

Perth Central station was packed with black t-shirts, leather boots and bizarre hairstyles as the Fremantle line trains filled with loud metal fans off to the first major concert by pretty much any well-known act in a long time. It seems Perth has reached the population level it needs to make a tour date on the west coast economically viable as other acts are starting to dribble through now as well.

I got there in time to see the tail end of Mastodon who were OK, but nothing special. Outside, the concession vans were charging inflated prices for food and drinks but I did enjoy a fairly tasty and scorching hot chicken roll for $6. I also weakened and bought a tour t-shirt at $45 (quite pricey – they’re normally around $30 in Oz) just so I could get one with Australian dates on the back.

The original venue had sold out in next to no time, so the Showgrounds were selected as a larger one. Tickets were on sale at the door, but looking at the crowd inside it must have been very close to a sell-out. As soon as Mastodon finished and left the stage, the chants for Slayer began. And kept on going for the usual extended set-change times you have to get used to at these things.

The crowd got rowdy, people started shoving around as they always do, temperatures rose (and it must have been over 30 degrees to start with) and empty drinks containers flew through the air.

Then… darkness.

Then… smoke.

Then… Slayer!

Over 90 minutes of very loud, very fast music and people collapsing all over. Definitely the warmest indoor gig I’ve ever been at. Both my t-shirts and my shorts were drenched by the time I left. I was rather disappointed in the sound, though. Tom’s vocals were far too quiet and Kerry’s guitar kept dying – sounded like a dry joint or a dodgy cable somewhere.

Still, the crowd were active but much like the Brisbane mob for Fear Factory, content to do no more than move around occasionally, shove a bit and crowdsurf. Try to start a pit and you rapidly find yourself in a little empty spot thrashing at thin air. Wusses.

Talking to people on the train before and after only a handful had seen the band live before, and most of them while they were abroad in the UK or US. I have Slayer t-shirts at home older than some of the kids at the show. That’s scary.

The train back was delayed something rotten as well. It doesn’t help when the station display says that the next train is due in three minutes and you’re still standing there half an hour later. Of course, there was a mad crush when it did arrive and the driver’s pleas of “do not crowd onto the train – there is another one behind this one” fell on deaf ears. After all, if you can’t trust the sign to tell you when one is arriving, why believe the driver. As it turns out, the next train was over 20 minutes behind – I watched it pull into Perth later on.

The noise and atmosphere on the train was almost as intense as that at the Showgrounds. For three stops, almost the entire carriage I was on were chanting the band’s name. It was good to see that the “normal” passengers weren’t cowering, though. Instead, they sat and smiled at the loonies knowing that they weren’t going to be mugged or anything. Not what happens in the UK where anyone with a leather jacket or long hair is mentally branded a potential criminal.

I made it back to Mel’s around 12:30 and spent far too long packing my bags, showering and drinking lots of water before crashing at around 2:30. A bit silly as my alarm was set for 6:15 so I didn’t miss my flight the next morning.

SW Day 3 – chocs and caves

Today was a bit of a mix between the first two, with a few things to do and visit and a fair bit of driving to get back to Perth.

Destination one was the lighthouse at Leeuwen, the most south-westerly point in Australia. Looking at it on a map, this looks strange as I think there are places more westerly, and there are definitely places more southerly, but this seems to combine the two. It’s where the Indian and Great Southern oceans meet at an arbitrary line drawn at 45 degrees from the point where the lighthouse rests.

Another lovely bay was next, with waves coming in from two directions. These collided at the beach and surfers abounded. The sun had finally come out and this was starting to look more like the brochure!

After lunch by an old railway engine in Margaret River (where we fed the ducks and the kookaburra), Bob drove us to the Ngilgi cave at Yallingup. This was stunning. Originally discovered late int he 19th century, it’s been open for tourists for over 100 years. Definitely worth the visit if you’re in the area, the rock structures, stalactites and “views” are simply breathtaking. Not for the claustrophobic, though there are only one or two places where you need to duck your head.

More touristy stuff followed as we visited a chocolate factory (OK, it was more a shop with a viewing room) where free samples of proper milk, creamy white and delicious dark chocolate were munched down.

We were due to stop at a winery somewhere down the road, but it was closed when we reached it. We’d spotted a brewery on the drive, and convinced Bob to take us there. A good choice, and I think Bob may even suggest it be added to the regular itinerary! The old wooden building was set in a field surrounded by a gallery and some other small buildings. Blankets were available for free for those wanting to park their bums on the grass, humorous signs were up, lawn chess and pool available… it was more a bar than a brewery (I didn’t see any signs for tours), but the beverages were superb with a great variety of beers. I tried most of them!

And then the long haul back to Perth during which I read most of a Grisham novel and listened to my MP3 player. Goodbyes were said and I got on the train back to Mel’s after a very enjoyable three days.

P.S. Perth airport has free wireless access now – this item uploaded from there.