Fiji holiday

Fiji holiday

Chris and I grabbed the opportunity of a winter break and headed off to Fiji for a week to chill. It was definitely a relaxing holiday in that we rested a lot and there weren’t many activities.

We were hoping for more tropical weather but July is the coldest month in Fiji too so we didn’t really get beach weather as such (more winds and cold and rain). Then again, it was still much warmer than in Sydney.

We stayed near Sigatoka in a resort and learnt the hard way that resorts are akin to institutions and are full of redneck Aussies just trying to get smashed around the pool. Considering this the locals were gracious and lovely.

We made it out to Sigatoka town and walked to neighbouring villages to get some idea how the locals live. Sigatoka was dusty and decrepit but interesting, the villages were poor and welcoming with women and children gathering around us and old folk chatting to us about local medicinal herbs and village life.  At least these bits were real, unlike the resort.

We came back more chilled but also eager for real life experiences that a resort cannot offer. Lesson learned.

 

Tasmania – Cradle Mountain, Launceston, Freycinet

Tasmania - Cradle Mountain, Launceston, Freycinet

After Franklin we headed North to Cradle Mountain National Park. We stayed in an alpine hut in Moina which was far from most things and very close to the wilderness.

Wish I had more energy to hike, but even with low energy we managed to go for an 8km hike, see some amazing scenery around the lakes just underneath Cradles Mountain’s peak and see some alpine waterfalls and mossy forests. We also saw a wild wallaby close up who came to look for food. On the road we stopped to see animals in the wild: wallabies, wombats, a few devils and even an echidna!

After the national park experience we visited the Marakoopa Caves nearby which boasts some amazing formations and hundreds of glow worms. On the road we tasted the most amazing honey in Chudleigh where a Dutch family has set up a honey farm and the most incredible honey shop in the world. I was high for ages 😛

Launceston was a complete waste of time, I’d suggest for everyone to skip it: boring boring boring. It didn’t help that I got no sleep there at all and there was nothing I could eat. The only place worth visiting there is the Cataract Gorge which is beautiful.

Freycinet was our last stop before driving back to Hobart and flying back to Sydney. We had two days here and went up to the National Park to look down onto Wineglass Bay and visited some gorgeous beaches with red lichen on giant boulders.

We got back home very very tired… it was a bit exhausting but I’m also glad we made the most of our time and got to see so many amazing sites.

Tasmania – Hobert, Port Arthur, Franklin

Tasmania - Hobert, Port Arthur, Franklin

Finally getting to my notes on Tasmania! As you may be aware, Chris and I spent 10 days in Tassie in late Jan and early Feb 2012.

The overall experience was really amazing. We’ve taken in so much and have seen so many amazing places. However, I have also realised that the program was a bit too much and that led to stress and tiredness. I guess I wanted to make the most of the trip but went overboard a bit…

Hobart – Port Arthur – Franklin

The first leg of our Tasmanian journey started with Hobart. Our first full day saw us visiting MONA, the very new Museum of New Art. This architecturally beautiful site was recently developed to be a special space for new transgressive and inspiring art and to be the home for visiting artists and performers.

Many of the recent pieces (especially Wim Devoyne’s) managed to completely blow my mind! I’m still thinking about them. I would go down to Tassie just for MONA, it is that amazing. The Devoyne exhibition is on til early April, please go to see it!!

Next was Salamanca markets, which was bustling and awesome in a 30C day. We ended up eating a huge amount of beautiful food and rolled in the grass in a park, reading philosophy. I think we were really high on life at this point 🙂

Port Arthur was reasonably docile and quiet. We got there quite late so the whole place was nearly empty yet still sunny and warm (quite a treat even in summer, I think). The distances don’t look particularly large in Tassie but they are winding and slowish so getting around does take time. We walked in the ruins of the convict buildings and the beautiful gardens and on the way there looked at cafes, museums and a devil park that is completely free of tumor disease, the bane of the Tassie devil.

Franklin in stark contrast was the angry and sad yob cousin of Hobart: South of all of Australia it’s the arse end of Tassie for sure. The local towns subsist on aquaculture in the Huon delta, fruit picking in orchards, ships, wood and rudimentary tourism. The locals are insular, resentful and suspicious of anyone who doesn’t share their exact way of life and values. I guess these towns must be struggling, the young leave, opportunities decrease and most tourism has been snapped up by more enterprising and well established areas.

Everyone seems to wake at 5-6am and by 3pm nothing is open. This greatly clashed with my body clock and expectations. There was little hospitality to enjoy. Loved the Huon river though and enjoyed some nice food. Also stopped on the way in Cygnet (home to SBS’s Gourmet Farmer and several cute shops in the pouring rain) and sneaked into the National Park’s rainforest after hours which was both exhilirating (taking our chances that the early hours have robbed us of) and nerve wrecking as we had to contend with disgruntled locals chasing us. The cherries and plums were out of this world though…

ConFest and camping trip

ConFest and camping trip

Chris and I are back from our camping trip around NSW. We are dirty, tired and happy to be back home.

We started out by driving to Mulemein for two days in a hired campervan, which was more promising in comfort than turned out to be. Still, was good to have a small mobile home.

Mulemein is 80km South-West of Deniliquin which is in the SW corner of NSW, closer to Melbourne than Sydney by many hours. After a La Nina cold wet beginning to summer we didn’t expect ferocious heat, but that’s exactly what we got! Each day got hotter by a few degrees, finally reaching 41C for the campers, but not for us… we left the site before all hell broke loose and headed towards Canberra to chill out in a state forest before returning home.

ConFest was marvelous in lots of ways: wonderful alternative people, a great spirit, gorgeous if utterly badly placed campsite, lovely Edward river and all the community spirit you could want. Unfortunately our car battery died straight after leaving home and it took several days to get new batteries. By then we were short on essential supplies and in danger of landing the most uncomfortable trip… so we changed plans.

Left ConFest, started driving towards the coast, got new batteries and supplies and sought refuge in camping sites and state forests. The sites were varied but all very hot still! We spent NYE under the stars in a lovely camping ground, which however turned into wildlife hell at 5am with hundreds of birds descending on the nearby river. By 7am black and white cows were licking our windows (from a guy who lives on those grounds with livestock). The comic relief wasn’t enough compensation for lost sleep and discomfort.

Billapaloola state forest near the ACT provided much better shelter with less heat, fewer bugs, no fellow humans and certainly no cows. We spent the last two days there finally catching our breath, going on walks, watching the stars, cooking food and chilling.

No more ConFest during summer, but I’m eagerly preparing for our Tassie trip in 3 weeks already! 🙂

Invisible Exhibition

Invisible Exhibition

I had many awesome, some mixed/ambiguous and a few awful experiences while in Budapest last month. The Invisible Exhibition was one of the best of the good ones and I’d love to share some insights here.

Invisible Exhibition website

This is a continuous exhibition that aims to show you what the world of the blind looks like. Yes, I’m deliberately mixing my metaphors/words! Amongst other things the exhibition makes you aware just how much of our language is imbued with the idea of seeing, we are a visual species but with a sizeable component of blind citizens.

I got a taste of their world in 2 hours…

Once you have entered the exhibiton you realise that instead of a blindfold you have entered a place so dark you are effectively blinded… your eyes are free but you cannot see anything at all, you are in total darkness. Your guide, who is blind, leads you through several rooms. The tables have turned: outside you were sure of your world and the blind man in front of you was looking unsure, inside your blind guide is utterly comfortable and at home while you are disoriented and without reference points.

My guide was a wonderfully funny, smart and beautiful man who was endlessly encouraging, gentle and informative.

The rooms are small enough not to get lost but large enough to accommodate 8-10 participants. You are guided by touch and sound, and occasionally smell. Making out objects, orienting yourself and not getting hurt is much harder than you’d think! Bumping into each other is unavoidable and your relationship to your body and that of others changes. Every moment our blind guide knew exactly where everyone was and what everyone was doing! It took me a while to work up some courage and freely wonder, letting go of anxieties about hurting myself or getting lost. Eventually I felt quite free and even managed to order a drink and pay for it in the ‘blind bar’ at the end!

Asked lots of questions about blind culture and got very informative, funny, sensitive and sometimes surprising answers. I may still only have a limited idea of what the world of the blind is like, but I definitely have more of a feel for it and will know how to relate to blind people better. Awesome revelations!!

After the exhibition I chatted with my guide Szabolcs, who is a lawyer by occupation, and met his current Labrador guide dog (photo!). I was so grateful for his patience and insights and the opportunity to learn so much more about not only blind life but about my own preconceptions and ways of relating my senses and my idea of reality.

If you are in Hungary I strongly recommend that you go along!! (there are even English speaking guides on request) Do book ahead online. It took me 3 goes to find the place and get in but it was sooo worth it!

Additional events include a blind dinner, blind conversations, blind drawing competition and massage. I didn’t make it to these, but maybe you can.

Two new links (in Hungarian):
Semmit a szemnek
Kobanyai kilato