I love the smell of Hippies in the morning…

Welcome back, friends.  By now you may be wondering “What, exactly, do hippies smell like in the morning?”.  They smell like chai, bacon, pipe tobacco and happiness.  Some smell like long nights and some smell like new days, but all smell like happy.

We found Ourselves back in Byron Bay, land of happy hippies, on the 17th of Aug.  The bus dumped Us off around 11pm and We walked down to the Arts Factory to claim a campsite and settle in.  It was awesome to arrive and feel immediately at ease with the surroundings.  Since We started Our trip, We just go places, We don’t go back to places.  We set up the house and walked around a bit saying hello to people and relaxing before bed.  One of the first people We ran into was excited to see Us back and welcomed Us with smiles. 🙂  It was rainy, but there was a whole 10 days ahead of Us.

When We went to pay for Our stay the next morning, I asked again about work for accommodation and luckily, there was enough work for me to pay for 8 of my 10 nights!  They had 4 days of dorm cleaning from 10-1 which was just making beds, emptying trash bins and general tidying.  So, that is 12 total hours of doing stuff I would have been doing at home anyway for fun!!  Sounds like a good deal to me 🙂  A fantastic one, in fact.

Today is Thursday 25 August, and so far We have only had one day of sunshine.  During that day, We actually got INTO the ocean.  Cali hadn’t ever been into the ocean and We were in up to Our armpits.  Waves crashing on Our faces and stuff…magical.  Other than that one day, it has rained almost the entire time We have been here.  Because of the rain, We have spent a large portion of Our time watching movies and hanging around the tent.  I touched a lizard one time:

and later that night We attended a “Talent Show” at the Arts Factory that is basically an open mic night.  It was a couple hours of jamming and poetry and music and FUN!!!  The sound is not the best quality but oh well, here is a little glimpse:

Where else can you hear aggressive “rapping” over a beatboxed didgeridoo with accompanying drum?  Exactly.  Nowhere.

Today is my last day of “working” and then We are going to the beach with Jess to surf whether rain or shine.  We have never surfed before and We haven’t quite figured out the surfboard/wetsuit situation, but today IS surfing day.  Tomorrow is Our last day here in Byron-well, Our last day in Australia- and it is coming quickly.

I have very much enjoyed Australia.  It was my first foreign country and aside from everything being ridiculously expensive it was awesome.  Clean, well mannered, happy…I will miss it, but I’m happy to be moving one step closer to going home and hugging my babies.

In roughly 48 hours, a plane will take Us from the Gold Coast International Airport to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.  Scared?  Maybe a little.

Stay tuned…

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Its a wrap!

Welcome back, friends.  This blog will wrap up Our time in Queensland, and consequently Our time with Our friends.  I’m going to post some random photos from Our time there with captions.  We had such a wonderful time there…aside from being with a lovely lady I love dearly and being just up from the beach, there were things like picking strawberries at the strawberry farm and drinking wine and having expert made coffee right in the kitchen every day.  There was a day of meeting more new folk for brunch and randomly spending the day with them, during which I had my first 2 oysters!  I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed being there.  Luckily, We were there when Mark died and I had a friend to hug me and try to make me smile, but most of all to hug me and try to make me smile even when it was obvious I wasn’t going to.  We had made Our home base in Caloundra from the 22nd of July until the 17 of August and while it was a longish time, it flew right by.  As of today, it has been a week since she drove Us to Brisbane and dropped Us off at the transit center for Us to catch a bus back to Byron-and I miss her tons.  LOVE YOU BALLERINA LADY!!

Cloudy day at the beach.
Uh mah guh. ❤
Beautiful
Chiara and I strawberry picking.
Mmmmm...strawberries!
First oyster ever!!
Down it goes 🙂
Redcliffe beach...so named for obvious reasons.
Redcliffe
More flowers.
Random flowers

part of the Glasshouse Mountains
Glasshouse Mountains
Part of the Glasshouse Mtns trip day

We got on the bus in Brisbane, and got off again in Byron Bay to stay at the Arts Factory again for 10 days before flying to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on the 27 of August.

Stay tuned…

Sushi ME!

Welcome back, friends.  In case the lunch at The Spirit House wasn’t amazing enough, dinner looked to be comparable-if not better.  As I previously mentioned (HERE), We stopped at the markets on the way home from the restaurant.  We got everything I would need to make SUSHI!!  I had watched my lovely friend make it a few times since We arrived and I felt ready.  Around 8, the married folk got to leave on a much needed date to the movies alone and We stayed at the house with the children and made food.  I did everything on my own except mix the rice and it was quite the experience.  I sliced avocado, cucumber, chilis, and cream cheese.  I peeled prawns and cut up the salmon and tuna.  I added mayo, hand rolled them and sliced them beautifully.  I even made a few “hand rolls” (the ones with the fish on the outside) since someone seems to like those.

Let me just say it was good.   Better than good.  It got me thinking about all the different kinds of sushi I want to make in the future, and the different ways to modify them to suit the people I want to make it for. Lauren, Sam, My kitti and others-watch out, I will blow your MIND with my sushi.  That is all.

Stay tuned…

A lovely lunch and a smackdown…

Welcome back, friends.  Our next day in Caloundra brought a lunch date that We had long been anticipating.  A reservation at The Spirit House was made more than a month before!  This place is amazing…We walked through a bamboo garden before getting to the restaurant/cooking school set amidst pagodas for private dining and a few ponds. Some photos to illustrate:

One of the entrance ponds
See the monitor lizard in the water? My toes are pointing at it.
Beautiful surroundings

We were led to Our table next to the water and the dining experience began.

Our table had a beautiful view!

The wait staff was very attentive and We were not kept waiting for anything.  We all talked about the menu options, but in the end the food was ordered by Our hosts and We relaxed with a glass of wine.

First to come out was the

Sweet Potato, Ginger Noodle Balls with Szechwan Pepper Glaze
Crispy Pork Belly with Citrus Caramel Sauce

and

(Cuttlefish Salad)

I forgot to take photos until We had almost eaten it all!  🙂  The cuttlefish salad was so amazing, but so were the other dishes.  I had never eaten any of that before.

The main dishes came out next and were truly a treat.

Yellow Curry of Duck and Roast Waygu Beef with a Red Curry Sauce & Candied Bamboo

and the one that kinda freaked me out even though it was fantastic:

Whole Crispy Fish with Tamarind Chili Sauce
Check out the teeth!!

Yes, that’s a whole fish.

Sometime during the meal, I had to go to the bathroom and this is what I found.  Take a moment to examine the sink/toilet situation…

Eco toilet

You wash your hands in the sink and the water fills the tank and is used to flush the toilet!!  Suh.cool.  I want one (CLICK HERE).  Cool, but not cool enough to keep my attention long with all the yum waiting back on the table.

The food, the wine, and most of all, the company came together to make for an astoundingly lovely experience CLICK HERE for the menu.  The food was delicious and quite the learning experience 🙂 When leaving, We took some more photos ❤  We truly are an attractive bunch.

LOVE
Aaack they have sticks!

Yes folks, those are bamboo canes the Boys have…and Im afraid They know how to use them :/  The lovely lady got away from hers fast enough to get out her camera and catch me resisting.

attack!

Got it away!
Had it...
Going down?
Down.
Never surrender!
Running away!

Like I said, a relaxing lunch 🙂  On the way back to the house, We stopped to pick up the items I would need to make sushi by myself for the very.first.time.

Stay tuned!!

The Sunshine State… and I don’t mean Florida.

Welcome back, friends.  After getting shot up at paintball, We spent the rest of the week at the beach.  Mostly.  Our temporary home was within walking distance of the beach, so We walked down almost everyday.  One great thing about Queensland is that even in winter, it is sunny.  Hence the name… The Sunshine State.  Fun fact, the name is now The Smart State.  Apparently advertising that it is always sunny in a place that has high skin cancer rates and a hole in the ozone isn’t attracting tourists.  It is very appealing to me though!  I loooove the sun.  I am terrified of skin cancer, but I can’t stay away from the lovely warm feeling I get when the sun is kissing me.  Call it a love affair, if you wish 🙂  Cali, on the other hand, detests the sun so the beach time was mostly for me.  He did bring His camera along on the trips and got some awesome shots (VISIT HIS BLOG HERE FOR THOSE PHOTOS) but he stayed covered and therefor sweltering.  When We weren’t at the beach, We were spending time around the house with the loveys.  We cooked, We played, We watched movies We never got around to watching before, We internetted, We blogged…good times.

On Friday the 29, We all piled in the car and drove down to Mooloolaba.  Contrary to the way it looks, it is not pronounced moo-loo-laba, its more of a muh-LOO-lubuh.  Its not the only funny sounding thing around here, but I enjoy that one in particular…and of course, I call it moo loo laba.  There isn’t much in Mooloolaba except more beach and some shops, so beaching and shopping and eating is what We did 🙂 I even colored a mat at the restaurant.

The epitome of beach fashion.

We wanted candy so bad...
Coloring like a good girl waiting for my food.

The weekend was a lazy one, full of more beach time and movies, but starting on Tuesday was no more lazy.  We left on the 2nd for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk, which means 3 and a half days of hiking and camping.  I don’t know for sure since We didn’t go from the very beginning of the walk to the end, We just jumped in the middle, but I believe We hiked about 40km which is 24 miles.  The views on this hike are amazing…it kind of goes along a ridge over a valley so ever so often you get to look out and compare where you are to where you were.  By the time We finished on Friday, We had walked down the mountain and could look up to where We were and it was almost unbelievable.

The view from the starting point.

Strangler Fig. The seed starts growing in the top of a tree, and grows down it to the ground and strangles the tree.

View from the end of day 1's hike.
Reading a book in the sun until it went down=awesome
Loved this. Our campsite at sundown.

super rad!!
Not quite done yet!
Sunset on night 2

We were retrieved from the hinterland on Friday the 5th and the mister of the house came home late that night as well…the last time he came home, We were shot at.  How would this weekend turn out?

Stay tuned.

Sushi and shooting or Welcome to Queensland

Welcome back, friends.  When We woke on the morning of Friday July 22nd, We grabbed Our packs and headed to the common area for check out and saying goodbye.  A few of the people who We regularly spoke to at the Arts were also either employees or “work for accommodation” volunteers and were awake and moving around early enough to hug and say farewell.  The lovely Jessie-Rose was barista-ing that morning so We got to see her one more time as well.  We learned that no one was driving the shuttle that morning and We would have to walk to the bus which meant leaving almost right away, but Jess was insistent that she drive Us-which was awesome and thankfully unnecessary as someone else also overheard and volunteered to drive Us in the shuttle anyway.  Nice people, those Byron hippies…We enjoyed the visit greatly and decided We would absolutely have to come back again, but Our time there was over and the very near future held something I’d been waiting for for forever.

The Greyhound took Us to Brisbane (only about a 4 hour ride) and We had about 5 hours to kill before being picked up and taken to Our newest new home in Caloundra.  Longest 5 hours ever.  Well, it certainly seemed like at least double that even though I had already waited a few years and it was now only a few hours away.  I damn near couldn’t control myself.

What was it that had me so excited?  I was finally about to meet in person someone who had become one of my closest friends over the internet.  We “met” a few years ago in an online forum where We both posted and commented on discussions relevant to daily life.  I liked what she said and how she seemed to think (and vice versa), and it seemed We had a lot in common.  We began email type correspondence and moved on to instant messaging and then Facebook and then Skype.  We talked about our kids, our homes, our partners-we talked about everything.  Maybe because I felt safe on the other side of the planet from her, but I also talked to her about things that I didn’t talk to anyone else about.  In time, she became one of my closest confidants and dearest friends and while we had never met, I felt I had known her my whole life.  Today, I would not only meet her in person, but be taken to her home to unpack and get comfortable, meet her husband, her children and her au pair.  They had made their home available for Us to stay at during Our time on the Sunshine Coast and were equally excited to be meeting Us.  Gee, I hope We arent serial killers or something!

We loitered in the area she would be meeting Us at, hoping not to blend in or be overlooked (lol) and suddenly, right in front of me, was this real life beautiful lady who was obviously looking for Us too.  The 2 of us were damn fools for each other right away!  We didn’t have a lot of time to stand around gabbing because her husband was arriving on a plane that night and We needed to pick him up.  He is working about 10 driving hours away from his family to establish a successful practice and be able to move them all out there with him as soon as possible, but until then, they see his handsome face only every few weeks and We intentionally made plans to arrive while he could be there and assess the state of his family’s safety with the weird american visitors during his absence. 🙂  She had previously prepared a curry in the slow cooker and We spent the evening talking excitedly and sharing stories.  There was no catching up to do since we were in contact frequently and it wasn’t like We were new people, so it was a very relaxed and fun evening full of conversation and smiles.  They are both even more lovely in person-even if they do talk funny.

Our first day in Caloundra- more specifically in Moffat Beach- began with a trip just up the road to the beach and a proper meal of fish and chips.  It was my first time having “fish and chips”.  It was not my first time to have a battered fried fish plank and french fries, but this was actually advertised, ordered and sold as “fish and chips” and it wasn’t from Long John Silvers!  There was calamari as well and I enjoyed this meal thoroughly.  We ate on the beach and soaked up the sunshine while also meeting some of their close friends who had come to the beach park with their kids to see the newly returned mister and meet their guests.

Moffat Beach
Invisible Man
I ❤ the ocean
FINALLY!

After eating, We took a walk further down the road before going back to the house to make sushi.  Yes, make  sushi.  I hadn’t ever even considered making sushi at home before, but this is a common occurrence at their house and a frequently requested dish.  Dinner was amazing:

Mmmmm

that girl can SUSHI-after which We watched the movie “Wolf Creek” since it came so highly recommended upon Our arrival in Oz.  For some reason, everyone thought We needed to see a movie about backpackers in central Aus being abducted and killed. :/  it was funny more than anything, but me thinks it might have freaked out the woman with the delicate sensibilities who protested the viewing beforehand. 🙂  At around midnight or so, We went to bed in preparation for the upcoming war.  Paintball at 6am.

There were 7 of Us in the car going to Skirmish.  Six men and me.  It was entirely too early to be awake and excited about being so, but We were going to go shoot things!  Not just things, but people!  The location of these happy fun times is outside Brisbane (hour drive, remember?) so in the name of convenience, We ate McDonald’s for breakfast.  I was actually really excited about getting my favorite fast breakfast of McDs breakfast burrito and coffee, until I noticed there was no such item on the menu.  No breakfast burritos?!?!  Really??  Traumatizing enough to end that part of the story there.

I assume you all know how paintball works:

Without face shields just before beginning
After, obviously alive with orange paint in my hair.

and We were all on the same team (which means I didn’t get to shoot at Cali, darn it).  Without going into details, Our team won all 5 games  and all of Us were shot at least once.  I got one particularly good shot to the top joint of my thumb which was a lucky shot considering my fingerTIPS and the back of my head were the only skin exposed on my body.  That being said, it was so.much.fun.  Can’t wait to do it again.  Photos taken the next day:

OUCH :/
right inner calf
Of course I took one to the bum
inner thigh!

Would We survive the rest of Our time with them?

Stay tuned…

Welcome to Hippieville a.k.a. Byron Bay

Welcome back, friends.  I would like to first openly state that my last travel blog was written in a hurry since I was going out camping for a few days and it was insisted upon that it was finished before I left-which made it the not so much best work I ever did.  Now, where was I…?

We arrived in Byron Bay, NSW Australia on Saturday July 15th at around 10am.  The shuttle bus from The Arts Factory Hostel (the link is worth clicking-this place is rad) was there waiting to pick Us up and We were whisked away to Our new home for the next 6 days.

The welcoming party
One of the walls outside the Arts
Another wall outside

It was quite busy in the receiving area that morning so We put down Our packs, left a passport for collateral and took a self guided tour around “The Arts”.  We had a $4 breakfast of eggs and turkish toast (I only mention the price because in Australia, that’s cheap) and then explored the grounds including the campsite where We intended to stay.  Checkout wasnt until after noon so We had time to look around and decide which accommodations We would prefer.  There really was no question about it-the campground, a.k.a. tent city, was the only option We would be considering.  As We walked the path out to the campground and away from the bustle of the main area, the vibe changed and it felt like We were in a different place than We had been in only a few paces back.  It had its own outdoor kitchen and food storage, its own bathroom and showers, a covered pavilion with several tables to hang out at communally, a no campers under 18 rule and the generally respected rule of keeping the noise to a minimum.  There were tents everywhere.  Not in designated numbered campsites, but on whatever patch of sandy dirt their tent would fit, possibly next to someone they knew and arranged to provide the best interaction (or lack of) with their neighbor.

Neighborhood 🙂
Organized chaos.
A resident of the Arts

The laid back attitude of every single camper made Us feel at home in about 45 seconds.  We chose a spot to build Our house, and it turned out that We had chosen Our neighbor to be the same guy who picked Us up from the bus-Sam.  Our first impression of Sam had been nothing short of great (“and here we are at the arts factory, this is the bar that has happy hour nightly and live music, and here is the cafe.” he had priorities 🙂 ) so from the beginning this little hippie commune of sorts looked to have promise.  We had looked at the weather for days before We got to Byron and knew it was intended to rain for the first 3 days, which was how We ended up choosing to visit Byron in the first place.  It was going to be raining at every Greyhound stop up the coast and the decision had to be made of where to get off and spend time camping in the rain.  We investigated the hostel/campsite options in those areas and came across The Arts Factory.  Sleeping in a teepee sounded fun and the beach was a ten minute walk so when it stopped raining, We would be able to spend time by the ocean in the sun ❤ WIN.  After setting up Our house, We hung out in the common area on the wi-fi (oh yeah, and there is wi-fi) until happy hour at the bar next door, which also happens to be the Byron Bay brewery.  Already We could tell that it was freaking genius to have all these things (including the spa and cinema I havent mentioned yet) all sort of connected by the walking path in front.  And still, the campsite community felt like it was a whole different place!  People stay in the dorm and teepee and cabin parts of the hostel for a short time and they go on, people stay in the campsite, meet other people, enjoy feeling like a family and sometimes don’t leave.  We learned early on that the most common story in Byron Bay, especially from campers and employees, started with the words, “Well, I was only going to stay a week or so, and then…” and end with “so, now I’ve been here for _____ (insert a time period from 3 months to a few years)”.  Wow.

We had seen a few flyers posted that said The Arts was accepting work for accommodation volunteers so, I asked if there was anything I could do.  Around 8pm I was informed I could drive the shuttle bus from the hostel to the greyhound stop from 7am-1pm for the following day and the day after.  For driving the shuttle 16 times total, I would receive 4 free nights of accommodation in the campsite.  Sounds great, there is just one problem- I’ve never driven on the left hand side of the road, from the right hand side of the vehicle.  Actually, I felt weird just being in the vehicles here when other people are driving who do it all the time.  I expressed this to the lady, and I was told I would be fine.

“Ok, then, I’ll do it.” 🙂

The next morning I got up early and went to work.  Weird.  I was given the keys and directions to the pickup/drop off point, and shown the schedule of when I should make my trips.  The first time I got in the driver seat that morning, it was disconcerting to say the least, and by the time I pulled out of the lot I was feeling kinda freaked out.  It didn’t seem natural to be intentionally driving on the wrong side of the road!  I’ve been driving more than 10 years now and driving on the left side of the road only happened on one way streets or on accident.  It only took 2 trips there and  back before my anxiety turned to confidence and since there was only about 1 trip an hour I could read or check Facebook in between and drink coffee.  Plus, that meant I was the first impression for all travelers arriving during my shift.  😀 Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.  I drove the shuttle for those 2 days and following the last trip, We finally headed to the beach for some sunshine.

The beach was popular when you first step on it, but it is called Main Beach so We weren’t surprised.  Since it gets substantially colder as it gets later, and it was only an hour or so before sunset, I hadn’t worn my swimsuit and We didn’t stay long.

I so love the ocean.

I love the sun too

We saw some surfers (I love watching surfers), and took a couple of photos before leaving with the promise of returning the next morning.  Return We did…for 3 days in a row 🙂  The beaches in Byron are simply beautiful.  We didn’t venture much further than the beaches walking left from main beach, but We didn’t need to.  Once We got to the next beach, there were hardly any people so We plunked down in the sand for a while to watch surfers, sunbathe, listen to music and read.  Cali took His camera along and got some more amazing shots-here are some and in His blog www.calidbs2011.wordpress.com are many more.  He is quite the photographer 🙂 Some of my pictures, however, were taken with my phone camera 🙂

Finally sunbathing! The way July is supposed to be for this TX girl.

Did I mention it is winter here in Australia?

Those few days We spent hanging out around the Arts and going to the beach, We met a few people who lived at/near the Arts and We could be found hanging out with the “local wanderers” when We weren’t off being alone together.  There were people from many different places around the world that had all found themselves in Byron, usually quite by accident, and hadn’t managed to leave again.  It made for a wonderful experience walking around and hearing all the different languages being spoken and then english being spoken in the many different accents.  There were a few nights We stayed up with the others and had some “goon” (wine from a box that has the box removed and is then just a bag), and passed a few around, and enjoyed Ourselves.  At any given time there was fire spinning, hula-hooping, guitar playing, singing, strap-walking, story telling and random dance breaks.  It was a group with an aspect of “realness” to them that was quite alluring.  Almost hypnotizing.

We met one girl in particular that We even became friends with.  I mean, We had several friendlies and enjoyed the company of the people We hung out with, but this girl We became like Facebook friends and exchanged phone numbers and stuff.  She is a musician and a fantastic singer and she’s pretty, but best of all-she introduced me to a loose leaf chai that she was pretty damn good at making.  There is a shop not far from the Arts that sold “Byron Loose Leaf Chai” and I have to admit…Byron produces awesome shit.  Miss you Jess!!

On Wed the 20th, after Our daily trip to the beach, I went on an informative bush walk at the Arts and learned some pretty useful things-some of which I hope I never need to remember, most of which could save my life.  That same night was “Trivia  Night” which was pretty entertaining to watch.  It was a $2 buy in, 5 people teams, the winning team got to divvy up the entry fees for themselves.  Also, everyone who bought in wrote their name and what they would name the book of their life story on a slip of paper that went into a large pot.  Throughout the competition, names were drawn from that pot and awesome prizes were given away.  Prizes like cruises, pub crawls, day trips, surf lessons, trapeze lessons and skydiving.  We did not buy in, but it was fun to watch.

The next day would be Our last day at the Arts.  We had made a friend who had a tent with an actual bed in it (I told you, most of the campers LIVE there) and said We could pack Our house and use his tent so when We woke in the morning We wouldn’t have to tear down before leaving.  Super cool.  We packed all of Our stuff and at that point realized that sometime during Our stay We had unwillingly picked up a roomie.  A mouse had chewed a hidden hole in Our tent wall to get to the oats in my pack.  Oats and mouse poop galore in my bag and under it.  I didn’t so much mind that there had been a mouse, but I didn’t particularly care for the idea that I was sharing my home with snake food :/  Never did see the rascal, and obviously didn’t die from a snakebite, but learned the “keep all of your food out of your tent if you can help it”  lesson.

We spent Our last evening in Byron hanging out with Jessie-Rose, the girl I told you about a minute ago.  She invited Us to visit her at her house-she used to live at the Arts, but now lives not far from it-and We all hung out talking until it was time for bed.  We were able to have a nice fire in the pit in her yard, which was fun watching her try to start and in the end Cali getting to play with it.  She had asked 2 friends if they wouldn’t mind coming over and spinning fire for Us privately and they agreed!  It was really cool to watch and the sound fire makes when it is spinning is almost as soothing as the ocean.  We enjoyed a few hours of mostly philosophical conversations before saying Our goodbyes and going to sleep.  A wonderful night indeed.

Where would the bus take Us the next day?  Somewhere awesome to see someone awesomer.

Stay tuned…