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Mar 7, 2006 - The Land of Oz

Reported by JoMar All rights reserved.

Frenchs Forest, Sydney, Australia

...here we are again, saying hello from the other side of the earths! (in relation to Vancouver, anyway!)

As we departed Bali something hit me : "we should not be leaving".

Our Singapore Airlines carrier was rolling down the runway, and pulling at my heart; but what could I do? (marc's)  We flew from Denpasar to Singapore to connect to our Emirates flight to the land of Oz, namely Brisbane, Australia.

We arrived into Singapore in a tropical downpour and called Mee Lian to retrieve a backpack and one carryon, they had been storing for us so kindly, while we travelled to Bali (how lucky we are!)  We met up and not only were our luggage returned to us, but she insisted on buying us dinner on top of it all ... unbelievable generosity and kindness in our current terrorized world; refreshing!  We have been blessed everywhere we have gone with meeting wonderful people, all over the world :-)

Finally getting into Brisbane early the next morning we were exhausted physically and emotionally, it felt so very different already, and we had just arrived.

Coming out of the carousel baggage area, we were looking for a gentleman that would have our names up on a sign that would take us to our hostel/guesthouse that our two friends we met in Vietnam, Cassie and Ariya, had arranged.  When all of a sudden, a vision of just them, Ariya and Cassie, not some strange man, but them! with that sign with "Marc and John" on it!  Here it was just 6:40am and there they were greeting us with those pretty Aussie smiles that any good friend would have to greet friends coming "home" from a long trip!
Our guesthouse (The Tourist Guesthouse in the Fortitude Valley of Brisbane) was sleek. Thanks guys for arranging that for us. (we do owe you some cash though! )

They got us settled in and went for lunch leaving us to get some needed sleep to catch up from the RED-EYE flight from Singapore/Bali. The girls came along the next morning to pick us up, but before the did that, "they checked in to the same guesthouse" as they had a night of dance and major frolic planned for later that night!!

They were so kind to take us to the scenic Gold Coast/Surfers' Paradise where we saw white sand beaches, amazing modern architecture (worlds tallest residential building) and heaps of "eye-candy" :-)  We had a perfect beach lunch where we had crazy conversation and reminiscing about how we all missed S.E. Asia and where we all met for the first time, in fantastic VIETNAM. It was a great day, thanks again to Ariya and Cassie, we truly will miss you and are so grateful for the kindness and generosity you have shown us.

This was our second day in Australia, and I  (Marc) was having extreme "reverse-culture-shock"... and I do mean extreme. All I knew was that  I was somewhere I simply did not want to be. My heart and soul were left in Bali. I could not, and still can't explain the emptiness I feel now; but I must plug along, like the brave little *ucking toaster that I am.

We all danced like maniacs at a club called FAMILY. It was great fun, there were 3 floors of varied music and varied crowds of clientele.

Sunday morning came along early as there was a knock at our door! With only 4 hours sleep, a friend that we had made on our Drifters'African Safari came knocking! It was Cheryl  :-)  She dragged our sorry asses out of bed and brought us to a fantastic look-out, which I believe was called Mount Kootha, where we had a light breakfast and once again remembered some of the cherished moments of our times together in wild Africa. Cheryl was so gracious as to invite us to her home to meet her husband Ian and we had a quiet time visiting on their terrace with birds and puppies.  It was just what the doctor had ordered for these two Canadian party animals...

Cheryl, it was great to see you again, and would love to see you and Ian sometime in Vancouver!

Getting back to our cozy room, we snoozed; it was well deserved.

The next day we flew from Brisbane to Cairns (pronounced Cans) to meet up with yet another great contact of Rebecca, whom we also have met on the African safari: Chrissy and Scotty!

What a retreat that was! Tropical northern Australia: Cairns... beautiful area.

It was now the 13th February... and our arrival into Cairns was as simple as it could get. Chrissy works at the airport in customs, so our ride to her home was simply just waiting for us. (counting my thankful things, all the time )

Chrissy and Scotty made us feel like family. We were simply home. Great conversations, great meals, including traditional Aussie "sticky-date" desert, WITH hot caramel sauce (oh my...) OH, and "kangaroo-steaks"!  YES, John went out on a limb and ate it as well.  Guess what -- John is vegetarian!! haha!! No worries though mate, he loved it! It was tasty, literally fat free and tender like filet mignon.

They toured us around Cairns, showed us the house they are having built right along the beautiful sea, that they should be into this week!  Brought us to the quaint village of Port Douglas and helped us plan and book our trips to Cape Tribulation and The Great Barrier Reef.  Oh, and not to mention, Chrissy bought us the travel version of Travel Scrabble, that we had been looking for this whole trip that was either really outrageously expensive or unavailable.  You guys are too much, thank you for everything!

It was the next day after a day of rest that we went along for our one-night/two-days venture to Cape Tribulation and the 140 million year old Daintree Jungle/Rainforest. The worlds oldest jungle which pre-dates pre-historic times. Yes that means dinosaurs roamed here in OZ at one time!  Wow.

Rain. Heaps and heaps of it. For hours.

We arrived at PK's Jungle resort in a downpour, but it stopped at about 4pm and we took advantage and went to find this ancient jungle-walk. Incredible. One just stands there in awe.  You zig-zag through this massive forest, 2 hours at least and out of nowhere the glistening sea appears. It was magic.

Later we chilled at PK's pub within the complex for the evening, drank beers and played UNO that attracted some other travellers which made the evening.

The rain began again, the tropical pounding all night long made for a peaceful sleep.

Waking up, everything drenched, in the hot humid surroundings, we were picked up at 11am to head back to Cairns, which took hours. When we got halted by a washed out bridge flooded by the overnight rains. It was a groovy part of a jungle adventure. We were stuck there for a couple of hours until the waters subsided for us to get through.

Along our way home we stopped at some sights, one was a rivercruise in which we saw pythons in trees and a croc sitting along the edge on her nest. It was a bit intimidating, but very exotic.

Our next journey was snorkeling and an introductory dive in the Great Barrier Reef! A fun-filled very scenic day on a great boat with entertaining staff!  It came to the dive, got my gear on as did John and getting 1/2 way down, about 3-4 meters, I bailed. I felt like I was not getting enough air to my lungs. Up I went.  But John was a trooper and went down to the depths and had his photo taken holding the Australian flag!

All in all, a fantastic day, but just was not comparable to the colours and sights of the fantastic RED SEA in Egypt. (sorry guys )

Now we are at the 19th February and we are going to start our road trip, south all the way down to Mardi Gras city, SYDNEY!

We visited Townsville, a very polished beach community, somewhat like Palm Springs, California! Some of the other stops were Airlie Beach, filled with surfers, hippies and our day trip on a blueberry-coloured sail boat to the Whitsundays. Onward to Hervey Bay, where we met a great brother and sister: Michael and Angelica; we missed not seeing you two in Sydney; that stop we saw hundreds and hundreds of the largest bats I have ever seen. They are twice the size of seagulls and they call them flying foxes here. Eerie!

Travelling south we stopped at Noosa Heads, (where I threw my bloody back out, which I have not done for a long long time, and it is still very uncomfortable now) Byron Bay (expensive as hell), Coffs Harbour, quaint and relaxing where we found a private little cove that was for nude sunbathing! (the tan line is not so apparent now !) this beach was called Little Diggers, it was great.

Then it was overnight :-( on Greyhound to Sydney...

In Sydney we headed to our pre-booked hostel in an area called Newtown. John particularly liked this part of town. This was very funky and bohemian, with neat little cafes and cheap eateries, great colorful row housing and very interesting looking people. There were scads of book stores which all of you know John LOVES!! Heaps of groovy little pubs and bars with bands that you can hear and even watch right from the street. Of course the main reason to visit Sydney for us was the legendary annual Mardi Gras, attended by some 800,000 people from all over the globe and televised live in it's entirety. Without a doubt the most popular gay and lesbian parade in the world visited by as many straight people from all over as well as gays. When we arrived in Sydney we headed for Oxford street where the pre-Mardi Gras parties were already in full swing! So we just blended in and explored the area and also went to the world famous Sydney landmark on the water front to see the great Sydney Opera house.  What an impressive structure it was!!! Getting caught up in the very cool surroundings of the opera house we decided to splurge.  We decided to spend money like we have it and get tickets to see Madam Butterfly, however our budget God was sitting on our shoulders and the performance was sold out.

On the morning of the parade we hung out in Newtown and chilled over coffee at a local sidewalk cafe until it was time to head to Oxford to find a place to park our asses and watch the spectacle! (which we were barely able to find even tho we were four hours early) Interesting point; unlike our parades starting at Sunday at noon, theirs starts Saturday evening at 7:45 and continues with the all night and all day parties. Two full days of parties, non-stop!! The party after the parade in the park lasts from 10:30 until 10:30 the next morning!!

Sydney is a very large city so we decided to do the nerd-city tour bus. We did this in other large cities also such as Paris, Florence, Rome and Berlin. Just too much to see and not enough time otherwise.

Then on March 06 we met up with Alana and Drew who were so kind as too pick us up downtown because we didn't realize that the bus to their house stops service at 6:45 pm. Coming to their neck of the woods called Frenchs Forest, still in Sydney, was a breath of fresh air after all our party nights in Sydney! Alana and Drew thank you so much for opening your home to us; your generosity was invaluable to us! Comfortable bed, beautiful retro-house, internet, beer, scrabble, great Billy bird and around the corner fab beaches, not to mention our introduction to tim-tams and shapes :-) Also thanks Drew for opening all our beer, screw-top, so I can see you flex your forearms:-)

We had so much fun staying with you guys and if you... no, WHEN you come to Vancouver we look forward to showing you a good time and still have to whip Lans ass at scrabble still! How can we thank you enough for also driving us to the airport at 5:30 am on a workday, no less!!

All in all Australia was a beautiful country with the small taste of just the east coast.

We returned to Brisbane and met up with Ariya and Cassie and got our bags that they were so kind to hold for us while we tramped around Australia. Thanks girls for the fab company and the belly aching laughs and the great chocolate orgy!!! We are going to miss you guys incredibly!!

Our next stop and one of our last -- New Zealand, where we will visit some great people we met: Jody in Northern Italy , and Rebecca from our South African safari.

I know this was a long entry, but so much to see and say.

Thanks for the visit as we wind-down our "dream come true world tour". It has been such an amazing journey filled with emotion, memories and great new friends!

Hope you are all healthy and happy and until we meet again, we send tons of hugs from "down under"...

Marc and John xo

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