Sydney to Brisbane to Wellington
I check out of the hostel and drop off the book 'The Who Is Who in Australian Rock' at the Enthusiasm record shop. It's a great book but it is just too heavy for me to carry around or send home. I then have breakfast in Hype Park, which like in London is very central but much smaller. Without all the records and CDs my bag is much lighter and I have no problems fitting all my stuff in, I'm walking town to Circular Quay and enjoy the views of the harbour bridge and the opera house for the last time. By train to the airport which is not too far but still cost $12 which is much more than to the stations beyond it, they must have added a special airport fee to not make it too cheap. I'm on Virgin Blue again but the usual machine check-in doesn't work because part of my flight is international. So I have to check in the old fashion way with a human. The lady asks me for my return ticket which I don't have and she is not sure whether my flight to the Cook Islands is good enough, but after checking with her supervisor she checks me in. The flight to Brisbane is only 80 minutes and Queensland doesn't have daylight savings so we arrive there only 20 minutes later. I have nearly 4 hours before my connecting flights leaves for Wellington but as with all the other Australian airports, the International terminal is far away from the domestic and I have to take the train to it. I consider staying on the train to go into downtown Brisbane just for a look, but in the end that seems too risky. I change five one US dollar notes which I'm carrying since Burma because I have only 7 Australian dollars left and that's not enough for some meal before the flight and some snacks for the flight. It feels weird to fly to New Zealand on a budget airline were you have to pay for everything. Last time I came to New Zealand from Los Angeles, a 14 hour flight on United and the longest one I've ever done. So I have a small pizza in the terminal which is the cheapest hot food they sell. I have a window seat in row 2, next to a couple of New Zealand pensioners who now live in Queensland. The flight is only 3 hours but New Zealand is 3 hours ahead and even though we are a bit early it's after midnight when we arrive in Wellington. The immigration officer is asking for my return ticket again and just checks my print-out. So they do ask for it but I good have made up some web page and print it out, they don't actually check whether you are on the flight. Jay is waiting for me in the arrivals hall, he is the husband of my Japanese friend Chie, who I met through the indiepop list tape swap in the late 90s. They invited me to stay at their house. They met in Japan while Jay was teaching English and studying there but then moved to his home country because it was easier for Jay to find a job here. Both are indiepop fans even though not up with the latest developments. They have two daughters, Sakura 3 years and Idoha 9 months old. They live in Lower Hutt, a town on the other side of the Wellington habour. They moved into the children's room and I stay in their bedroom. We had never met before, that must be the famous New Zealand hospitality.
City sightseeing in Sydney
Check with New Zealand immigration about entering the country without a return ticket, no possible. Then I check out the three Red Eye Records shops and walk around the city. In the evening long walk to Annandale to see Camera Obscura play at the Annandale hotel. Pretty good again. Chat to a local girl on the way back in the bus.
Train from Melbourne to Sydney
12.5 hour train ride from Melbourne Southern Cross to Sydney Central, nice but not spectecular landscape on the ride. For the second half a young Canadian woman sits next to me and we chat a bit.
Check into the base hostel in the CBD, big place. Pay $27 for a 10 bed dorm.
Walk around the city, the Laneway festival just finished and I sneak inside and have a chat with Gavin and the French guy from Camera Obscura who played there earlier.
Finding more good records in the suburbs
In the morning I am organizing my trip over to Sydney. Last time I went there, I took the overnight bus which wasn't very nice, you can't see anything and I can hardly even sleep on buses. So this time I plan to use the day train which arrives in Sydney at 9 in the evening. This means I need to book a hostel in advanced because I don't want to run around in the dark looking for a place to stay.
I looked around on www.hostelworld.com and in my V.I.P. brochure and called a few places which were all fully booked for Saturday night. The only places with available beds had really bad reviews online. So in the end I decided to stay another day in Melbourne and booked a bed for Sunday night in Sydney. I then buy a train ticket over at the Southern Cross station, $75 is not too bad for a 12 hour journey, at least not compared with European prices.
Then on to Richmond, an inner suburb where I've only been at night for the Candle Records gigs. I check out the two record shops but don't find anything. I like the area, lots of restaurants and shops on the main street. Then by train to Prahran, been here before but last time I missed on record shop. Licorice Pie Records on the High Street. I find a 7" by The Lighthouse Keepers which was on my list as well as two singles by bands I didn't even know about but Dave behind the counter recommended to me. I take another tram along the High Street to the suburb of Malvern where I visit my last record shop for today 'Vicious Sloth Collectables', like Licorice Pie, they have pretty much vinyl only but I don't find anything out here. I walk back a little bit and then take a train back into the city. I walk over to the library but they closed at 6 today. Carrissa brought some pasta back from work which I'm having for dinner. I share it with Tore from Denmark, a new arrival to our room. Later we go out to a club near Flinders Street station, but it's not that great and my friend from Flensburg and I are leaving after a pint (which is something you have to ask for in Australia, a normal beer comes in a half-pint glass). While at Licorice Pie I picked up a booked called 'Pig City' which is about the music scene in Brisbane from 1970 to 2000. I start reading it in bed but just get through the first chapter before falling asleep.
Record shopping in Fitzroy
Tried to do laundry this morning, but for some odd reason I put my clothes into a dryer rather than a washing machine. I only noticed it when I got them out, they were warm and smelled good but were still dirty.
I did a long walk today, started going north from the hostel to the campus of the University of Melbourne. I used to go and hang out at campuses all over the U.S. on previous trips but haven't done it for a while. I had a curry at the student union for lunch. More walking via a big cemetery to Brunswick street in Fitzroy. First I stopped at Dixons Recycled were I picked up a few second CDs and the first Whipper Snappers 7". Some new CDs at Polyester were I also chatted a bit with Chris from Candle Records.
Over to Collingwood but a recommended shop there had closed down. Back to Smith Street to a shop called Daves Boutique that Chris M had recommended to me. Lots of vinyl and some good UK indiepop 12" and LPs. I found a 7" by MacGuffins something I was looking for for 15 years, price 'One Dollar'.
Then I walked all the way back to the city to the library where I added the new records to www.twee.net and did some work on my contact list for the compilation. Back at the hostel, OZ-girl Garissa brought some pasta and chicken home from the place where she works, so I have that for dinner. As usual I rip my new CDs into MP3s later in the evening.
The Lucksmiths at the Switchboard
After two hours in the library I go down Swanston street in Central Melbourne to the corner of Collins street. Here is the Manchester Unity building, one of the early skyscrapers of Melbourne, built in 1932 which at the time had the first escalators in the city. In the public area on the ground level is a small cafe called 'Switchboard' and right next to it in a small ally the Lucksmiths are playing a secret gig. So secret it seems that hardly anybody shows up, there are about 10 people watching the play. Lots of office people pass by on their way to their lunch at nobody seem to care much about the 3 guys with guitars and another one standing behind his drum set singing away and playing their great music. According to the www.twee.net poll this is the second best band of the last 10 years guys. Of course I am really enjoying it, being a big Lucksmiths fan. They are playing a few new songs including a good one which will become their next single. They ask people to take photos with their mobile phones and send them in, so they can make a video from it.
After that I walk around in the city which I really like, realising that I leave it soon. I stop by the New Zealand consulate, but even they are not 100% sure about the return trip policy for visitors their country. Apparently every visitor must have a return or onward ticket when arriving, something I don't like to have, because I don't know when I'm leaving and where I will go afterwards. I also check for train tickets to Sydney at the Southern Cross station but don't buy them yet. I also book a flight to Wellington, but it seems my credit card payment didn't work and I'll have to check it again later. At 5 I walk over to the south bank of the Yarra river where the local Microsoft offices are located. I'm visiting a meeting of Office user group. While at the Singapore user group meetings we had rice and spring rolls, here they have pizza, just like at the Microsoft MSDN events in London I used to go there, no beer though. Just water and soft drinks. I chat with some people and also ask several questions at all three presentations. At the end we have a good discussion about Groove. This is much more interactive than the meetings in Singapore. Afterwards I go for beers with the guys who are running the user group. They are all conference speakers as well. Back to the hostel where I chat to the blonde girl from Frankfurt about where to go in Cambodia and Laos as she plans to go there soon.
Lunch with Popboomerang
Once again to the state library, I send some emails, work on my travelog for the Philippines and look for flights to New Zealand. At lunchtime I walk over to the corner of Flinders and Spring street and take a lift to the 17th floor to meet Scotty who runs Popboomerang records. He works here for the government. Nice views from here, maybe I should try getting up onto one of the taller buildings. Anyway, I didn't know Scott before and didn't have any of his releases but he is a nice guy and we walk over to Federation Square for lunch. We talk about our labels, my compilation plans and Australian music in general. He not only gives me 14 CDs and a T-Shirt but even pays for the lunch, I had a nice pizza. All I can give him is a Leamington Spa Vol.1 CD, but at least he likes it a lot as he tells me later via email. He also offers to help with contacts for the comp. After dropping off the CDs at the hostel I go back to the library to finish the bit on the Philippines and work on my travel site. Also set up a page for Popboomerang records on TweeNet. A few days ago I sent an email to a company in New York City about a job offer, they were advertising on DotNetRocks. Today they emailed me back wanting to set up a phone pre-screening (or pre-interview), I don't have a phone though. Back at the hostel, the Aussie girl in my room is even more crazy than usual, her boyfriend broke up with her today (can't blame him). I spend several hours ripping the new CDs to MP3. After 10 p.m. they turn off the internet connection and nobody is using the two slow computers anymore.
Visiting Michael and more Camera Obscura
I take a tram from right infront of my hostel way out into the suburb of West Maribymong where my friend Michael Chin lives. The area around the tram terminus is deserted but i still manage to find his house. He still has his Mazda MX5 which I drove on the Great Ocean Road back in 1993, it's outside his house. We have a late breakfast and sit in the backyard talking about our lives and my trip. I haven't seen him since he and his twin brother Donald were visiting Europe in 1994. The we move upstairs and swap music for an hour. He's got a big Mac which is able to read the MP3 files from my Windows hard disk but can't write to it, so he is burning a CD with songs for me. Around lunch time we drive to Kingston where we have Malay Chinese lunch, I have a good chicken laksa. Mike is paying for both of us. He then has to leave to pick up his son from school. It was great seeing him again. I walk around the main street and spend some time in two charity shops. The I take the train back to the city. I'll have a break at the hostel and then get on another tram towards Brunswick. Camera Obscura are playing again tonight, this time in a warehouse and because this is in a residential street, they have to finish early and the first band is on before six. Because my directions were a bit wrong I get off the traim way past the venue and have to walk back to the venue. Chris from Popfrenzy Records (Camera Obscura's label in Austalia) puts me on the guest list which saves me another $20. Institut Polaire played again and another Melbourne band 'The crayon fields' were quite enjoyable as well. The atmosphere here was very different from last Friday, the place is just a big room in a warehouse, someone seems to live here because there is a kitchen with used dishes in the sink right next to the stage. The crowd is a bit younger as well. Camera Obscura are much better than on Friday, they play less slow songs and are more lively over all. As it is early the trams are still running when the bands are finished so it's no problem to get back to the hostel.
At the Backpacker Expo
I take a 15 minute walk over to the Royal Exhibition hall where there is a Backpacker-Expo for three days. All kinds of companies from the backpacker industry are there, and trust it is a big industry nowadays. I concentrate on my next(last) destination New Zealand but also check out some information about Latin America and India. At any time there have three rooms were companies give presentations about a particular topic, which is quite interesting and I even check out the ones about South East Asia and China. So I spend several hours there, much longer than expected. The Victoria market is a big fruit and vegetable market close to the hostel and I check it out for a while but in the end stay much longer in two record shops on the other side of the road. Back at the hostel I'm tired, staying up until 2 every nights takes its toll. I spend the evening in the hostel again, ripping all the CDs I bought so far to MP3 and copy them onto my Ipod. It's about eight Germans again in the common area. The guy from Berlin makes Tsaziki which we have with crackers for a late snack. Later at night we watch stupid video clips and a 9/11 conspiracy TV documentary on a laptop.
St. Kilda and Camera Obscura
I talk a tram down to the suburb of St.Kilda, it's the city beach of Melbourne. When I was here in 1993 I wasn't very impressed but today I actually liked it (I didn't see the whole place back then). Lots of restaurants and cafés on the main street and the beach is alright too. It's not really an ocean beach because it's just on a large bay, but it's clean and the sand is fine. It's hot and there are quite a few people here, I'm sure it is very packed on weekends. I get fruit for lunch at a Safeways and have them on the beach. I find a good record shop called 'Pure Pop' where I listen to a few things and break my rule of only buying Australian music. I pick up the latest pop sensation from Sweden 'Irene' and a 2001 compilation of Finnish indiepop. I've never heard of any of the bands before but it sounded really good.
Back for a shower at the hostel before heading out to another suburb, 'Northcote' where Camera Obscura are playing in a place called the 'Northcote Social Club'. As always I meet my friends from Singapore and came over for the Candle gigs and this. I also meet Christ from Popfrenzy records who released the last Camera Obscura album in Australia. We had actually met once before at a popfest in San Francisco when he was still doing Gifted Records. Nice guy and he is even interested in helping out with my Australian pop compilation. I have a chat with Tally Lucksmith for a while, through a friend of his I meet Jens, a guy from Frankfurt in Germany who is a pop-kids and knows Tweenet and regularly goes to How Does It Feel To Be Loved in London. Finally I meet my old friend Donald and Michael Chin and their wives. I tried to contact them before but never managed to get through to them. It's a great hello and I'm happy to see them. I stayed with them a few days when I was in Melbourne in 1993 and they also visited me in Germany in 1994.
The second support band 'Institute Polaire' sound quite good, they are from Perth and I also pick up a split 7" with them and 'The Bank Holidays'.
Camera Obscura are pretty good. Tracyanne tries to speak with a less Scottish accent than usual, but as soon as they start talking to each other on stage nobody understand them anymore. They play pretty much only songs from the latest album, 'Teenager' being the exception. I miss John the second singer who has left the band since I've seen them last. The dual-voice was great on stage and record. Take a the last tram back to the city with Chris.
In the Parks and The Triangles
After a few hours in the library I spend the afternoon walking through the city to the other side of the Yarra river. There are a few parks here, the area is collectively called 'The Domain' I first go up the remembrance shrine, a big monument for the Australian soldiers in the world wars of the 20th century. Good views from the top. Once again my camera not happy, as soon as I zoom in from the original setting, the photo comes out completely white. This seems to be an internal problem and I think I should finally buy a new one. I move on into the botanic garden which is really nice.
While walking through the parks I discover a great song on my Ipod, it's by a band called
'The Triangles' which was recommended to me by Chris Marney. Back in the hostel I download more songs from their web site. Later in the evening I go to a club called Eurotrash in Chinatown. The Triangles are playing here tonight and it's fun to watch them. Unfortunately they don't play my two favourite songs as the main guitarist injured his arm. Great gig anyway and I hang out there afterwards as the girl in the 'I love Indie Kids' T-shirt spins some CDs.
Meetings with Dave and A.D.
I buy a day Metcard for unlimited travel on the Melbourne public transport system and jump on a train into the suburbs at Flinders street station. The express gets me to a small station in less than 30 minutes. Dave Harris meets me at the station as he has to walk his dog. We walk for a while and chat about the last 13 years since we've last seen each other. By the time we reach his house, Charm his wife has left for work. We talk more about family and music and after a few hours he has to leave for a business meeting. I walk over to Blackburn to check out another one of the Dixon's Recycled second hand record shop. I buy a 'Falling Joys' CD for 5 bucks and then go back to Prahran, an inner city suburbs for lunch and yet another Dixon's Recycled, here however I don't find anything. By tram back to the hostel for a shower.
At 7 I meet A.D. or Adam Dennis who played in The Sugargliders, Steinbecks, Captain Cocoa, The Jordans and several other bands and who I was emailing with for quite a while. Really nice guy in person as well. We first have Belgian beers at the European Beer cafe and then Chinese dinner in Chinatown. We mostly talk about indiepop but also about IT because he is a IT-consultant as well. Great evening and he even pays for dinner, which is nice. We both had Deep-Fried ice-cream for dessert but it wasn't very good, and the food itself was way to European as well. Josh from the Sugargliders was suppose to be here, but couldn't make it
Back in the hostel I burn a CD with Aussie photos and chat with the young Germans until 2 a.m.
Monday in Melbourne
I spend more time at the library and walking around the CBD (an Australian term for the downtown area, Central Business District). Most of my lunches these days I have at a small Chinese Eatery opposite the library. It's a bit Singapore style where you pick some dished from the counter to go on your rice.
In the evening I hang out with all the German kids at the hostel, for most of the time I speak English while they all speak German, for the last two hours after midnight we switch to German topics and I speak German as well because it just sounded silly me talking English with them.
Hot Sunday in Melbourne
After getting back to the hostel at 5 a.m., I sleep a few hours and then move over to a hostel on Elizabeth street, on the north side of the city center. It's nicer than the All Nations one, but people in my 8 bed dorm are still messy and are having their stuff laying all over the room. It's hot again and I go back to the air conditioned state library which is open on Sundays as well. And I even read some books there but go online as well.
At the library in Melbourne
I spend several hours at the state library updating my travelog. In the evening back to the Corner Hotel for the second night of the Candle farewell thing. Again the bands are all good, I guess I preferred the ones yesterday though. However the Lucksmiths are playing tonights and they are marvellous as ever. As their very last song they play 'Bye Bye Bride' by the Go-Betweens and I start to cry. We hang our two more hours at the place and I even dance a bit. Share a cap with Alan, Chris and his friend from Sydney. We stop at a park on the east side of the city to watch some Opossums who come out here at night. I walk back the through the city to the hostel.
Check out a hostel in Prahran but it doesn't look to great, check out another one in the city, which is much nicer than my current one, but I will only move there on Sunday. Spend some time in the library.
Try to get in touch with my old friend Donald and Michael, but they dental practice they both at is so busy, that I don't get through to them.
In the evening to the candle gigs in Richmond, I meet Mark Lucksmiths, English Chris who lives here now and Martin 'Thrilled Skinny' who is visiting from London as well as his friend Alan who remembered me from one of my birthday parties in London. All the bands are pretty good. Walk back to the hostel for an hour. [TODO: full gig review]
First day in Melbourne
I start exploring the city. Even though I have been here for several days back in 1993 I don't really know my way around yet. That's because back then I stayed with friends in the suburbs and we only visited the city sometimes and I didn't really needed to know where things were because they always led the way. Anyway, I walk over to Fitzroy an inner-city suburb 20 minutes walk away. I remember it's main road 'Brunswick Street' with many Cafes, restaurants and clothing shops as well as some record shops. I spend some time at Polyester Records, run by Chris Crouch who also runs the Candle Records label and I pick up my tickets for the weekend gigs from him. I had ordered these from Singapore to be sure. I also spend some time at Dixons Recycled and pick up records and CDs in both shops. After that I check more record shops and some backpackers in the area. On the way back to the city I visit the Melbourne Museum. Dinner at the hostel.
On the Great Ocean Road
Most of this last day on the way to Melbourne we spend on the great ocean road, a really nice road along the Victorian coast, a bit similar to Highway One between L.A. and San Francisco. I've been here for some days in 1993 but never went to the part furthest away from Melbourne which has the most stunning rock formations in the water. We stopped several times including at the bay of island, London Bridge, Loch Ard Gorge and of course the 12 Apostles where the rock stacks in the water are up up 65 meter high. The cliffs on the coast itself are up to 70 meters high and the whole area looks just amazing. Some of us had planned to do a 10 minute helicopter flight over the area for just $60 but unfortunately there were clouds today, thick clouds and they were hanging to low for the choppers to get up, bummer. We then left the coast for a while to walk through the rain forest in Melba. We continue through Apollo bay and Lorne where I stayed for a few days in 1993 and have a beach/lunch stop at a small village on the coast. Our last stop before Melbourne is the town of Torque where the Australia surf gear companies Rip Curl and Quicksilver are based, this is a shopping stop and none of us is a surfer so I think it was a total waste of our time. Around 6:30 we arrive in Melbourne and I get dropped off first at the All Nations backpackers on the corner of Flinders and Spencer street in the city. It's a pretty big hostel and I am in a 10 bed dorm, people have their stuff all over the place and is not very clean overall.
In the Grampians national park
We leave early to head into the Grampians national park where we spend most of our day. It's a mountain range over in Victoria, so we have to set our watches half an hour forward. We climb up one of these mountains even though I and especially the Swiss girls call them hills, the climb takes us only up another 150 meters but is quite nice and the views from the top are great. McKenzie Falls is one of Victoria's largest and most majestic waterfalls, but it hasn't rained here for quite a while so the amount of water coming down today is not the same you see on the postcards. It's still pretty cool though. We make a view more stops at scenic spots while we drive through the range. A longer stop is at the "Brambuk" Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which has a good exhibition on yes, Aboriginal culture. The last stop of the day is at Tower Hill, an extinct volcanic crater now home to an abundance of Australian bird and wildlife. We were promised Kangaroos, Emus and Koalas but all we see is four Koalas on different trees. It's find with me because I've see tons of Kangaroos and Emus elsewhere but no Koalas yet. The hostel in Warrnambool is really nice and spacious. We have another Spaghetti Bolognese and hang out in the huge common area of the hostel for the evening.
From Adelaide to Narracoorte
After Mark, the driver of the bus to Melbourne picks me up at my hostel we collect the other passengers around the city; Marlise from Holland, Kathleen from Irland plus Sabine, Sabrina and Gabi from Switzerland. First stop is Hahndorf where we have breakfast at Otto's bakery. After an hour drive we stop for wine tasting in the Coonawarra region. Then on to the highlight of the day, adventure caving in Wonambi. This is not just walking through some caves, in crawling through them. We are provided with overalls and kneepads as well as helmets with a head torch. After a short walk in the public area our guide leads us into the dark where we have to crawl on the ground for about half of the 90 minute tour. It's a lot of fun. Claustrophobic people shouldn't come here and most of the harder parts are optional, there are easier ways around them. I do them all except one where I just don't fit through the hole. Okay, the Viet Cong tunnels in South Vietnam were even tighter but they are also very hot, this is more natural caving. I really enjoy it. After that we check the Wonambi Fossil Centre, a short museum of the prehistoric Australia with recreated forests and animals including giant Kangaroos, Wombats and giant Snakes. Then we drop off most of the girls for horse-riding and Sabrina and I go swimming in a pool in the town of Naracoorte where we also stay overnight at a backpackers. The tour company 'Going South' has it's headquarters here as well. Our driver does a good barbecue and the hostel people also prepare some really nice salads as well. Great dinner but the room I shared with the five girls is pretty small and there is hardly enough space for all our bags. The Swiss girls speak Swiss-German most of the time which I don't understand so most of the evening I chat with some English girls which are the doing the same tour in the opposite direction.
Final day in Adelaide
More walking and sightseeing in the city and then record shopping for several hours at Big Star and the Market Bazaar where I chat with the two shop assistance in their sixties about music, politics and travelling. I only buy a compilation with 80s indie bands from Adelaide and a Mari Wilson 7" from 1982 but also listen to several other CD and records. I feels really great to put on vinyl onto the turntable, I haven't done this since I've left London. The rest of the afternoon I spent at Peter Pans chatting with Tobsi and download Podcasts for the next day as well as uploading photos to Flickr. Once again I stayed the evening in the hostel talking to people.
Lazy day in Adelaide
I walk around town in the morning, buy laundry detergent and then do my laundry at the hostel. I go to the PeterPans office to book the bus trip to Melbourne. I book a trip for Monday morning. Tobsi, the sales woman knows the Lucksmiths and also was in several bands, so we talk about music and my record project. I get an hour free internet because I booked a tour but it turns out not one but nearly all of their computers are virus infested. I clean a few and also copy photos and do some other online tasks. I try to find out the band Peter the bus driver from south-west easy rider tour. He was the singer in 'King Snake Roost' and Tobsi calls Easy Riders in Perth that they have indeed a driver with the name of 'Peter Hill'.
The bloody virus infects my IPOD but I manage to fix it. More walking around and another evening at the hostel. All the Brits are watching cricket where England won versus Australia for the first time in 93 years or so.
A day in Hahndorf
I take a local bus to Hahndorf village through the Adelaide Hills, this takes about 50 minutes and costs $2.30 after peak hours end at 9 a.m. The place is pretty empty at 10. There are even more tourist shops here than last time I was here in 1993. Hahndorf is the oldest German settlement still existing in Australia. A ship with Germans arrived near Adelaide in 1839 and the people founded the town. The named it after their caption 'Hahn' and dorf just means village. Now it is a very touristy spot basically because it has many old buildings from the second half of the 19th century and some German food shops. But with a few exceptions the architecture is not German at all but Australian and nobody speaks German anymore. Most of the Germanyness here is actually Bavarianism (both words don't exists) even though all the settlers were from Prussia and not from Bavaria. Most people outside Germany just see Bavarian culture as German culture. There are many signs with 'Hahndorf' on it and I talk many photos.
I walk 30 minutes to the Hahndorf Hill winery and taste all their wines and have a nice chat the the owner, a chap from South Africa. There is no one else around and their restaurant is only open on weekends. Back in town I look for some gifts with Hahndorf on them. I bay a bag, a tea towel and two t-shirts. I try to find the Hahndorf soccer club to buy their shirts for my nephews but can't find anybody in charge and they people at the tourist information tell me they don't have anything for sale.
I have German lunch at the Hahndorf Inn hotel which is okay, most meals include lots of meat and Bavarian beer. I talk to a local guy in this late 60s about the town, he lived here all his life and it was only 20 years ago that it became this touristy. Then he tells me he loves wanking and If I like it too, we can go to his house and we could do it together. I politely decline his offer and move on.
Back to Adelaide on the bus, nearly fall asleep. I'm pretty tired and stay at the hostel making plans for the trip over to Melbourne. Watch another movie.
Flying from Perth to Adelaide
I take the shuttle bus to the airport and arrive there 40 minutes before departure. Virgin Blue uses electronic check-in machines and you only have to check in your bags with a real person, this makes the check-in pretty quick. An uneventful flight over to Adelaide, it only take just over two hours. I take a public bus to the city centre ($2.30) and check for accommodation in Hahndorf village at the tourist information, but there is nothing under $100 so I decide to stay in town. I check out some hostels and end up in a 6 bed dorm in the MyPlace hostel a 10 minute walk from the centre. I walk around the town a bit more, I hardly recognize anything from when I was here in 1993. At the 'Big Star' recordshop I ask for members from the 'Mandelbrot Set', an Adelaide band I would like to include on my compilation. One guy there knows Brian from the band and promises to pass on a message for him as he comes to the shop fairly frequently. I also buy a 7" by the Sometimes, a band from Victoria I've never heard of before. The cover looked right and I could even listen to it a bit, sounded good. The shop has mostly vinyl and you can listen to everything there, cool. Back at the hostel I meet some people and get free dinner again because people just cook too much.
From Albany to Perth
Out to the coast for some stops the 'Blowholes', the 'Gap' and another Natural Bridge , we pick up two girls from Lincolnshire and two German girls. Breakfast at the beach and lunch at a winery then back to Path where I check 5 hostels but they are all full. The Swan barracks had a bed in a 4 bed room for me but just because they can't find keys for the 8 bed room I paid for. I realize what a shithole this place is, that goes for both the facilities and the guests. Most Brits here can't finish a sentence without at least one 'fuck' in it. I have the pasta left-overs from last night with some cheese on top. I also check out a local indie club around the corner called 'Club321' but didn't stay to long. It's nice to be among the local hip indie crowd for a change though.
From Magarate River to Albany
Orla and Martina and the only ones from the old gang moving on with me. A new Fiona, this time Scottish, Patrick from Ireland, Nicole from London, Shirly from Holland and Gabi from Switzerland. For a while we also have Tom and birdwatcher Gerald. The driver is Peter, 42 and a cool guy. He used to be in a punk-rock band in the 80s and had his own label. His home is more the Nick Cave, Big Black, Jello Biafra side of things, but we still have lots to talk about.
Our first stop is Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian and the Southern oceans meet. We have a discusssions about the oceans, because as a European of my age you only learn about 3 oceans in school. After some research it turns out that the southern and Arctic oceans are only recognized in 2000. Anyway it's a nice spot and pretty windy around the lighthouse. After a while on the bus we reach some great forest where we climb the Gloucester Tree. The platform near the top is 61m high and they rammed metal sticks into the tree for form some sort of latter that circles the tree to the top, it used to be for fire watching but is now just a tourist thing. There are great views from the top and the climb and and down is fun. Next stop is in the Valley of the Giants, another forest where they have the 'the Ancient Empire and Treetop Walk'. Its a metal walkway up to 30 meters high where you can walk through the gigantic tingle trees. Pretty amazing even on the ground. Last stop is at the coast, first to the Greens Pool in William Bay and then to the Elephant rocks nearby, both pretty cool. While driving through Denmark it becomes apparent that our hostel for the night has a bed-bug problem. A couple we picked up on the way also had severe beg-bug bites (say that three times fast). Otherwise the hostel in Albany is fine, much more space than in Margaret River. We go shopping together and cook a huge portion of Spaghetti Bolognese and salad and drink in the kitchen until after midnight.
On the beach near Magarate River
I fix the hostel's internet connection and check their PCs for suspected viruses which I don't find. The hostel warden on duty is a nice lady in her early 30s. I get $10 to use for the internet which works by allowing power to the monitors rather than some software solution as in most other places. Around noon I hire a good mountain bike for $10 (half day) and ride back to the beach for another swim at that great beach. Then I ride on a sandy path along the beach to the other side of the bay. Three of the girls have their lunch at a little cafe there and I join them and finish their food because the portions are too big for them. Martina, the cure 22 year old Swiss musical dancer also rented a bike and we cycle a bit together and stay a bit at another beach before getting once again to the swimming beach with all the great waves. Out planned barbecue is not happening for some reason, so we just have some more pasta instead. Later in the pub I meet the people of the Easy Rider bus I will join tomorrow.
Walking along Magarate River
In the morning I do the river walk for about 10km, it's fine for a while but then becomes a bit boring because the path is no longer next to the river but just through some forest. After a break of an hour at the hostel I walk to the beach. A nice walk on a small path about 30m next to the main road, I see dozens of Kangaroos on a field. It's another 10 KM to the beach and when I get closer to the coast I follow a small footpath which leads me down to the river which is really beautiful out here close to it's mouth. I see some small caves and then carry on through the dunes to the beach. At the mother of Margaret River is a beautiful beach with really nice waves and even though there are some surfers here, you are allowed to swim here and there is even a lifeguard. I love the waves. I hitch hike back to town, the second car stops. I cook dinner with the girls, a decent Swiss style Chicken curry.
From Dunborough to Magarate River
I finish off my cereal and also have some small backed baguettes for brekkie. After checkout I walk along the beach for an hour to the other side of town and then back. It's my first cloudy day in Australia which is nice because it is not so hot. The town is more a rich weekend suburb rather than a normal seaside town. Around 12:30 the next Easy Rider bus arrives. Enzo is the driver and besides two older guys (who keep to themselves) he brings along five girls: Martina and Daniella from Switzerland, Fiona from Scotland, Femke from Holland and Anke from Germany. Age range between 18 and 32. Our first stop is a beach in Meelup Bay which is nice but again doesn't have waves or corals, I'm spoilt now. After lunch we proceed to some cool cliffs (Canal Rocks) with great waves hitting on them. We are now out of the sheltered bay and it's pretty windy, we climb around the rocks which is fun, the views are stunning. Next on to Surfers point where dozens of kite and wind surfers are out in the sea, we watch them for a while from a high cliff. The waves look amazing, the best I've seen since Bali. Then to the hostel in Margaret River, which is small and busy and not really that great. I have tomato and bananas on my Pumpernikkel for dinner and then the five girls and I head to the big local pub for drinks. 'Freya Hanley' and her band from Perth are playing their folkie music tonight and they are actually okay. Later a drunk Aussie woman comes to our table and talks to us, she's holding my hands and even after her husband has joined us and all the girls left, she invites me to stay with her at her rich husband's house. I escape outside where the girls attracted the attention of some kiwi guys and also try to get away from them. Later in the night to English people come into our dorm and have quick sex on the upper bunk bed next to mine. I had heard about this happening but it's kind of weird to witness it.
From Perth to Dunsbury
Onto another Easy Rider bus, the driver once again is crazy Jane who I also head when leaving Perth northbound. Our small group consists of Stefan from Switzerland, Chris from England, Orla from Ireland and Randy from Alaska who I already know from Denham up north. We stop in one of the new towns on the coast south of Perth for breakfast, then at a dolphin discovery center in Bunbury which doesn't have any dolphins. A few towns down the coast in Busselton we see the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere, a nice little town too. Around lunch time we arrive Dunsborough where all of us except Randy are staying for the night. It's a really nice hostel right on the beach with great facilities. In our room we meet two brothers from Vancouver. I walk to the center of the town in the heat, it's hot but not as bad as in South East Asia because it's a dry heat. I do some shopping in a big Coles supermarket, among other things I get Pumpernikkel and Nutella. Later I have a swim in the sea which is really refreshing but a bit boring because they are neither waves nor corals. There are many Japanese at the hostel, at least some of them are here just for surfing, apparently there are some surfer beaches not far away. We have dinner sitting outside under a nice full moon. Rather than having my remaining pasta I just have some nice salad the Canadians made and my bred as well as some wine Orla invited me to. Lots of people here work in as fruit pickers on the fields around here.
From Geraldon to Perth
A half day ride back to Perth. I sit at the front with Greg explaining to him what exactly it means to run a record label. I also play him some Aussie pop music, but he is more a rock guy. I check back into the Swans backpackers, same room with the two Germans Marius and Jenny. I go over to 78 records and have a final chat with Kim 'Summer Suns' about my Aussie compilation. It will take him some time to track down all the bands and check with him but in general he is fine with the idea. I book another bus trip, this time to the region south of Perth and will leave tomorrow. I also book a flight to Adelaide. The only alternative is a long train ride with two nights on board. The sleeper tickets start from $1000 and the seats are around 300 but I don't want to sleep in a seat for two nights, the flight was only $220. As there seem to be an unwritten law that backpackers have to have pasta for dinner, I cook some Spaghetti Bolognese, far too much for me and even though it was good I feed a big sick afterwards because I ate it all. I teach Marius and a few other Germans some English.
Exmouth to Geraldon
Steve, Julie, Madeleine and I start the long way back south, Greg is our driver again and we pick up Swiss Susan in Coral bay. Not much happens on the 11 hour drive. We stop at the few roadhouses along the road for food and toilets. The overnight stop is in Geraldon, a mid-size town on the coast. We stay in a pretty old backpackers. I walk around town for an hour, they have some nice buildings and a monument for the HMAS Sydney, a cruiser that was sunk by a German warship off the coast during World War 2. I didn't know the Germans were operating their ships out here, South America yet, but Australia, that's a long way from home. We have dinner in a typical aussie pub 'The camel' and I have a conversation with Greg and Susan over a bottle of wine.
Coral Bay to Exmouth
We leave Coral Bay at 10 to go to Exmouth, the northernmost stop on the west coast for me. It's still only have way up the coast. Besides 'what do you call it' Steve there are Louise and Lindsay from Birmingham (though they look and behave more like they are from Essex) and an older Swiss guy who keeps to himself. Our driver is Grego. After a two hour drive we check into a tourist camp where Steve, the English girls and I share a caravan trailer type thingie. We pick up some snorkel gear and drive another hour to Turquoise bay, a beautiful bay on the other side of the peninsula where we spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach and in the water doing more snorkelling. Even more fish around here and I finally see two reef sharks about two meters long. Marvellous place with very few people around. Exmouth is officially a city but it's still very small and there is not much to do because the nearest beach is 12 KM away. It used to be an American military base until the 70s and parts still look like it. We unite with Ryan, Claudine, Rachel, Madeleine and Julie for dinner, another 30 dollars gone.
More Snorkelling in Coral Bay
After the usual cereal breakfast I go down to the 200 meters to the beach to do a guided Kayak/snorkelling tour which several people recommended. Unfortunately the minimum number of people for the trip is two and nowhere else wants to do it. So I just hire a mask, snorkel and fins for snorkelling again. This time I get prescriptions class in my mask which allows me to see the underwater world even better. I do three great snorkel trips over the day. The first two in the morning are really fantastic. The reef is huge here compared to what I've seen in the Philippines, it just goes on and on. I see heaps of fish but no sharks which are a bit further out. The corals themselves are beautiful enough and there are plenty of colourful fish around. In between these trips I relax at the pool in the shade or walk southbound along the beach. I moved from the 10 bed dorm to a six bed one. We stay in the hostel for another barbecue burger. I sit with several Germans and later meet the gorgeous girl who was always smiling at me over the last few days. She was actually smiling at everybody. She and her boyfriend are from Paris and really nice people.
Long walks on the beach in Coral Bay
Goodbye to everybody from the bus but Steve. I walk along the beach again, but this time much further, about 5 KM. Really nice and no people out here at all, but also no shade and the sun is burning down. Occasionally I have a swim which is really refreshing because the water is still a bit cool, not like in some South East Asian places where it was actually warm. I do laundry back at the hostel, it's just Steve and me in our 10 bedroom dorm now. We have a good Thai chicken pizza at the Italian place again, eating out is really expensive, but we are both to lazy to cook and the supermarket in town is pricey too. The hostel is nearly empty because they are no backpacker buses tonight. I have beers with an Irish couple I have meet in Denham and some of their acquaintances.
Snorkelling in Coral Bay
Surprisingly I don't have a hang-over, in Singapore I always had one after several bottles of Tiger. The Australian stuff seems to be much cleaner. I get myself snorkelling gear which is free for one day for Easy rider passengers and start snorkelling around 10:30. The corals start only about 10 meters from the beach and there are quite a few fish around as well. The highlight of the morning is a big sea turtle which I follow around for about 5 minutes swimming just above her. After a break at the hostel I go back to the beach with Steve. We both decided to stay four rather than two days in Coral bay. By now the tide is high and I have to walk out a bit further to get to the corals. It's also more windy and there are some waves which doesn't make the conditions for snorkelling very good. Sometimes the waves push water into the top end of the snorkel. Visibility is also not as good as in the morning. In the evening the 8 of us are going to have dinner at the Fin Cafe, sea food is their speciality, but as expected I'm having non of it. Instead I go for the chicken break fillet on risotto ($25), not cheap but nice. I meet the next Easy rider bus driver, but he wants to stay incognito for the evening.
Australia day, the day the first British settlers arrived in Australia in 1770 or so. For most people it seems to be just much another excuse to get very drunk. I stay in bed reading the John Peel autobiography which is gripping even though I already know some of his stories from his shows. It also brought tears to my eyes several times. Then I go for a walk on the beach to a bay which is known as shark nursery, dozens of young small reed sharks are cruising in the shallow waters next to the beach. They don't look very dangerous but I still stay out of the water. Back to the hostel through the dunes for lunch and a relaxing afternoon. I join the gang for dinner at the Italian restaurant. I share a supremo 15" pizza with Steve which is pretty good, after that we hit to the pub in the hotel which is actually just an open air bar with chairs and is full of Aussies, not only drunken ones but also families. Many are wearing funny Aussie-flag heads and the green and yellow shirts of their national sport teams. You could see them like this all day playing cricket on the lawn of having barbecue. After a few beers we getting two 24 packs of 'Tooheys New' lager and head to the beach where we drink until the wee hours. Some drunken Australians speed along the beach in their 4 wheel drives.
Denham to Coral Bay
Julia, the Norwegians and I join 9 people on the Easy Rider bus. First we visit Monkey Mia once again watching the dolphins for one last time. Then on to Eagle bluff, I high up lookout over the bay with dozens of sharks swimming in the waters below. On to shell beach again where I've already been a few days ago. The rest of the day is pretty much driving northbound to a place called Coral bay. The Germans in the hostel in Perth had told me that this was the best place on their west coast trip. Besides the driver Michael, there is a Swiss girl Claudine, the Dutch guy Arved, Madeleine and Julia from Edinburgh, Steve from Ireland, Rachel from England, Tony from Italy and Ryan from Sri Lanka but who lived in London for the last 20 years. Finally there is Alice a blonde very tanned girl from London who even though the talks a lot, is not as obnoxious as I first thought. We all stay in the same room and the big hostel in Coral Bay. There is a bar in the hostel and they are doing barbecue burgers tonight so we all have one along with quite a few beers. Besides the hostel Coral Bay consists of a camping ground, a few shops and restaurant as well as a hotel with a pub. About 200 people live here permanently. The Ningaloo Reef which stretches for hundreds of kilometres along the shore is not quite as big as the Great Barrier reef of the east coast but it is much closer to the coast which makes it easier to get to. You can just walk into the water and don't have to go on a boat. I talk to the woman from Buxton who I meet in Denham and who is travelling on the Greyhound bus which means overnight travel for several days with very inconvenient arrival times at some hostels, like she arrived here at 3:30 a.m. and had to sleep on the deck chairs next to the pool.
Walk to the little Laguna
Sleep in a bit and then venture out to the little Laguna about 5 km from the village. It's getting hot and there is no shade whatsoever until I read the Laguna and rest in a small hut. On my way around it I meet a cyclist and a couple in an SUV, otherwise the whole area is deserted. I walk barefoot through the little river connecting the Laguna with the Indian Ocean and along the shore. Later I learn that this part of the lake is full of Rockfish which when you step on them can be very dangerous. Lucky me I didn't step on something that looks like a rock. While walking in the heat I listen to Uncle Tom's cabin, the story moved on from Kentucky to Louisiana and there is some talk about the hear down there, I can totally feel with the characters walking in the mid-day sun. I go back to town talking the scenic route along the coast. Occasionally I see a car and just like with other cars the drivers are greeting me, so I now wave at all the vehicles I see as well. The afternoon I spend at the pool reading. It turns out I burnt myself quite a bit in the spots where I didn't put enough sunblock on. Also using a baseball cap rather than my rimmed Saltmine hat wasn't a good idea, I burnt the top of my ears. So the baseball cap goes in the bin. Dinner in the apartment.
Swimming with Dolphins in Monkey Mia
Again over to Monkey Mia, I meet a nice English couple in the mini-bus. I watch the feeding of the dolphins again, they are much more active today, jumping out of the water and and sometimes swimming very fast, there are some newly born baby dolphins and they are super cute. There are also some Pelicans and camels on the beach which are fun to observe. I watch a documentary about dolphins in the small cinema and listen to more Uncle Tom's cabin in the shade. I check out the backpackers accommodation up the coast which is right on the beach but doesn't have the nice apartment style dorms I have in Denham. I still consider moving over here for the last day because the beach is much nicer. In the afternoon while I'm in the water, a group of three dolphins swims very slowly around me in the shallow waters. Then suddenly they see some fish and speed up and I try to get out of the way because I don't want to be rammed by them. It's amazing being in the water with wild dolphins. There there is another big body in the water, one of the rangers is concerned because it doesn't come up to breath, so it's not a dolphin, but she doubts that it is a shark either and it swims out to the open sea, so we will never know. Back at the hostel I have chats with a Randy, an older lady from Alaska, another English girl, a young German girl with bad English, some Swiss people and the Norwegian couple who are also still around.
Watching the dolphins in Monkey Mia
With Julia in a shuttlebus provided by our hostel to Monkey Mia, a place 25 KM away on the other side of the peninsula. This is a touristy but quite nice place where they feed wild dolphins a few times every morning. It started back in the 60s when first some fishermen and then tourists fed the dolphins and it got a bit out of hand. Now the feeding is done by the conservation department and the fish fed is limited to about a tenth of what a dolphin needs every day. They also limit the human interaction with the animals, no touching allowed. Still I thing it's mostly a tourist thing, there is a resort, some restaurants and shops and they want to keep their businesses up and running. Having said this, I really enjoyed watching the dolphins especially on the second day when they were much more lively. I do a 90 minute walk trough the dunes and back along the beach. Julia, Lizzie and I spend the rest of the day on the beach, they in the sun, I'm in the shade. I started reading John Peel's autobiography, very interesting and it makes me very sad at time thinking about him. I also started listening to some audio-books I downloaded from librivox.org
I have the choice between Dickens 'Tale of two cities' and 'Uncle Tom's cabin' but then the notoriously low battery level of my IPOD decided for me. Uncle Tom is will be because it's on the Rio player. Back to the hostel in the late afternoon where I just swim in the pool again, read more and talk to some other backpackers.
Killberry to Denham
After shopping for breakfast and lunch at the local General store, we head to the loop and Z-Bend gorges. The land around here is pretty flat and the gorges cut into the landscape, it's like a small Grand Canyon. Even though the gorges here are not as big as in China, they are quite beautiful and sometime very narrow. None of our group is doing the abseiling on a 25 meter drop but we are watching some other people doing it. We then proceed to another part of the valley with great views over the small river below. After a long drive with lunch at a roadhouse, we visit Hamelin Pool where we look at ancient stromatolites, microbes that are similar to those organisms existing 1900 million years ago that first made the transition from sea to land life. The further north we come, the hotter it gets, but because it is still not very humid, I don't sweat even when we are climbing up some hills. We see lots of Kangaroos from the bus and also some mini-Tornados which they call 'willy willy' over here. They just lift up lots of red sand into the sky and are visible from a good distance. We do another stop at shell beach, which is part of the Peron peninsula but the whole area is better known as Shark bay. At shell beach the beach not surprisingly consists of millions of shells up to 10 meters deep. Finally we arrive in Denham, again a small town on the coast. The hostel is nice, there is a nice pool which we all use right away. The dorms are part of small apartments with two or three rooms plus bathroom, kitchen and a lounge area with TV. It's 5 of us in my apartment. For the first time on the whole trip I 'cook' some dinner, jump scrambled eggs on bred, mushed carrots and Kangarooh meat, a left over from last night's BBQ. It's actually not bad at all and pretty tender. I had to try it at least once while I'm out here. I chat with a fellow from Glasgow for a while. He and his girlfriend did a similar trip to mine from Beijing in about six months. We both agree that Australia is just like England with better weather, a different accen and some nice landscape. There really interesting thing in Asia was the different culture and we both liked it there more.
Perth to Kilberry
At 7:15 I go down to the offices of 'Easy Rider Backpackers transportation', I booked a trip with them to Exmouth, halfway up the West Coast of Australia. There are several companies offering such trips, but these guys are the only ones allowing me to get off the bus and certain places and stay there for a while before getting onto the next bus. With the other ones you going all the way with the same people. I wanted to most flexibility I could get from a tour. The trip takes a minimum of 4 days but I plan to do at least a week. We are a small group, our driver is Jane, a mid 20s girl from Perth, David from Sydney, Lizzie from London, Julia from Norwich, plus a young couple from Norway whose names I can not spell. After leaving the suburbs of Perth behind us, the distances become huge, so most of the time we spend on the bus, a 30 seater, driving along empty stretches of road. Our main stop on this first day is the Pinnacle desert, where we look at thousands of peculiar limestone pillars. It's pretty cool but I don't like the fact that they allow cars to drive through it. There are very few little towns and villages on the way but most of time time there is just nothing. Every few hundred kilometres there is a roadhouse for food, petrol and other human needs. Our overnight stop is at Kalbarri, a nice little place right on the coast. The hostel is all right but pretty full because there are a few other and bigger groups staying there as well. We see they guys on the 'Western Exposure' bus several times, because they are travelling northbound just as us as stop at the same places. We have dinner at a Fish restaurant where we get a $10 deal on special, a huge plate with all kinds of fish and chips. I go for the 'tree-huger' option which is spring rolls and chips and lots of salad. It's all right and good value for money but food in general is not one of Australia's strengths (I'm sure in the big cities it will be better because they have many south European and Asian immigrants there). We share a table with 10 people from an Easy Rider bus going south. On the way back to the hostel we watch the Comet C/2006 P1 McNaught in the sky, it is pretty impressive, I've never seen any as big as the one and we were in a good location as well, because there is very little light pollution around here.
Day trip to Frementle
I book a trip up the coast for $365 which is just for the transportation on the bus and entrance fees for national parks. Then I drop my four Microsoft T-Shirts at got at the TechEd conference in Kuala Lumpur at the charity shop. I still have two band T-Shirts I got in Indonesia and all my other shirts, this was fine in Singapore but here here I have carry everything, my backpack is just too small. Then I take a local train to Frementle
, the only other proper town in the west and just down the Swan river right on the Indian ocean. It's much smaller than Perth, no skyscrapers and with a very different feel to it. I follow a walk recommended in my tourist brochure, I got heaps of the when I arrived in Perth. I managed to get my Ipod to work again and listen to Music and Mondays
during my walk through the city. Food of the day consists of pies and fruit from the local market. I really like the place, very relaxed. I find a cool record shop (Record Finder) with pretty much vinyl only and also check out the local indie store were they play the new Shins albums, which sounds pretty good. I visit the old prison on top of a hill. Back to Perth by train, I finally buy a VIP backpackers card which gives me discounts at some hostels and tours. On Fridays the shops are open until 9 so I spend some more time at 78 records. While walking through the streets of Perth I have to remind myself that all the white people here are no tourists or Expad but actually locals. After 16 months in Asia it is a strange sight especially the older people which I hardly ever saw in Asia except in Singapore which is visited by tour groups full of pensioners.
Walking around in Perth
I do a guided walking tour through the city. It's free because the guides do this voluntarily. It's a small group with consisting of a Japanese couple and two ladies from Queensland. Out guide is a local lady in her sixties and she points out some interesting buildings I had not seen before and also throws in the usual facts and anecdotes you get on such guided tours. After the tour I have lunch in an India veggie place with a nice view over the Swan river, (the main body of water you see on photos of Perth). They have a lunch buffet only and you leave a donation rather than pay a fixed price for the food. Nice idea and location but the food isn't that great. I guess I am spoilt by the fantastic dishes in the little Indias in Singapore and Malaysia. I walk along the river to Kings park, one of the most beautiful city parks I've been to, mostly because it is pretty hilly with very nice views over the city and the surrounding suburbs. Of course the blue sky always helps. The weather is realy great, blue skies with some tiny clouds once in a while, warm but not hot and not humid like in Asia. I step up the steep Jacobs letter steps into the park and didn't even sweat. I walk back into the city and buy a blue long sleeve shirt at the Salvation army charity shop. A slice of pizza for dinner, there are many nice restaurants on James Street close to my hostel but I don't feel going by myself and they are all a bit pricey too. My room mates have their dinner in the hostel kitchen and considering the prices for even basic food I should do that as well. But even in the supermarket everything feels very expensive. Fiona leaves for Melbourne, we have some good conversations and I could be her dad, her being 19. scary!
Orientation day in Perth
I stay in bed until mid-morning. After always getting up at 7 in Singapore this is a nice change. The free breakfast at the hostel consists of cereal, toast and tea/coffee. I explore the city centre for a few hours and find a few record shops including one where Kim Williams the man behind Easter Records and the Summer Suns (one of my favourite Australian pop label/band) works. I used to sell his records through my Mind The Gap mail-order in the early 90s but haven't been in touch with him since 1993, however he still remembers me and we talk about Perth pop music and the compilation of Australian pop music I am planning. The rest of the day I'm a pretty lazy, nearly all shops are closing at 5:30 p.m. After that the city centre is dead. For dinner I have doner kebab, something I didn't have since I left London and I was looking forward to the Greek in Turkish food in Australia for a while.
Singapore to Perth
I jump in a taxi to the airport taking the great ECP (East Coast Parkway) in this case it really deserves its name, beautiful big trees line both sides as well as the middle divider. Singapore's Changi airport is frequently voted the best in the world and it is a very nice one indeed. Things just work and everything is easy, you even get free Internet. My flight shows 'Last call' one hour before the departure time, so I have to cut my breakfast short. This is the first flight with a proper airline (Qantas) on this trip. The inflight entertainment system gives me a choice of over 40 films as well as various TV shows and computer games. It all comes from a small box below my seat. The food was okay to. Perth
, the capital of Western Australia
is in the same time zone as Singapore but because they are on daylight savings time I loose one hour. I take a bus transfer into the city for $15, my daily budget in some Asian countries. I meet two German guys on the bus and check into the same hostel as them. Northbridge, the area just north of the city center has most of the backpacker hostels, it actually seems to have one of every street corner. Mine is called the 'Old Swan Barracks' and used to be an old army barracks. I chat with the girl at the reception for half an hour, because she is cute and from Singapore. My dorm mates are all German, Fiona, Marius and Jenny and all three have just finish their high school and are now working and travelling in Australia or OZ as they say here. In Singapore and most of the other countries I had visitited in the last 17 months it got dark quickly around 7 p.m. Here it is light until 9, I also notice the much longer shades here in the afternoon, however I never noticed the water going down the drain anti-clockwise. My bed cost me $22, more than I paid anywhere so far except for the nice hotel in Beijing. At night it gets a bit cool and after a short stroll through the neighbourhood I have an early night.