Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cambodia, the land of smiles

Cambodia, what a trippy place.

Mekong River

Two nights in Phnom Penh, just enough. The sunset Mekong boat ride was nice, had some beers, there was a DJ, people were fun. Got home late. Woke up leisurely. Took a tuk tuk to the killing fields and genocide museum. I didn't know much about this part of Cambodia's history. Google it if you need to. But basically the story is that a psychopath (Pol Pot) managed to take over the country with his "organization" (Khmer Rouge) which justified the torture and killing of anywhere between 1-2 million Cambodian people (and some foreigners) between 1975 and 1979.

The Khmer Rouge took detailed records of all their victims. These photos are all displayed at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum.

The country is recovering from a major blow. People here tend to be nice, they are friendly and they all have a story. It's like the wild wild west, where everything is possible, and anything goes. It's a major site for any adventure.

I just came back from being on the jungle island for 3 nights...

Accessible only by boat, I hitched a ride with a fellow who just finished a gig working as boat skipper on another island (for 6 months).

He was going to see about a job on the island, and also wanted to go fishing. Perfect! I would just tag along.

I got so sunburned that first day, I literally darkened about three shades sitting out there in the sun on the boat. We didn't catch any fish. The island has a kitchen, an eating area, a lookout/conversation deck and a bar. There was one squat toilet and there were two stalls for bucket showers.

Hammocks were US$7 & treehouse bungalows were $20.

This is expensive by Cambodian standards, as a bungalow with private toilet might go for $10 or even less, and a dorm bed might be as low as $2. I'm paying $3 for a bed in a dorm-like area tonight, but there are partitions and locks so it's pseudo private. I have my own fan and mosquito net, a light and an electrical outlet with a plug I can use with my American devices. It's in a building that is a two story grass shack.

The island, it comes with food. The owner is a reclusive chef, a man who revels in cooking but has escaped to a jungle island to make do with daily grocery runs by boat and a homemade brick oven to produce bread and pizza, lasagna and ravioli.

He has cheese! Cheese in Asia! On a jungle island! Food is amazing, and also pricey at $8.50 for dinner... Dinner here on the mainland was $3.50 for a huge plate of noodles, fish and vegetables. Just to give you an idea of the price difference. It get even cheaper as you head away from the beaches. There are many backpackers who can survive on US$5-7/day. Not including alcohol. But beer is cheaper than water, at <$1/can. Today I got three draft beers for a total of US$2.25. That's the other thing about Cambodia. You can pay in dollars. You get small change in Cambodian riel, but everything else, dollars.

The second night he had fresh Kampot pepper- have you ever had fresh pepper? So fresh you eat it like a fruit, it's crunchy like an apple, but tastes like pepper, but so fresh... It's hard to explain! Later he told me to take that pepper, and mix it 50/50 with lavender buds, then take a nice cut of steak, and smother the whole thing in it, more than you might think is necessary. They you get a pan and heat it until it's so hot it's smoking. Then sear that meat with the pepper and lavender, and feed it to your lover. That's what he told me.

(Ugh, can I just say there is a HUGE BUG! that somehow got in my weird little half-room and I had to put down the mosquito net to block it out.)

Back to the island- We had some (Bug actually got in my tent and I had to get it out!). We ate well on the island, is what I'm trying to say. Yesterday one of the guys went out to hunt for fresh oysters on the half-shell, mmmm. Then the storms came. The first one prevented our afternoon departure and so added one more night to the bill. The boat couldn't make it through the rough waters. The storm on the third day didn't daunt us though, as we were already trudging through the forest to the military base on the other side of the island to use the navy boat. It did soak us through and through. We ended up taking our shoes off because the mud was sucking our flimsy flip flops right off our feet.

So there I was, walking barefoot through the jungle in pouring rain. Wow! Amazing.

The army boat was tiny, and almost sank with 10 or 12 people on it. We got across though, for more hiking out of the army base on the other side, and had a cab waiting for an hour drive back to where the rest of my stuff was.

 On the island, I slept in a hammock.

Right by the ocean. With ocean waves lapping at my toes. Waking up, out onto the beach. Days of doing nothing. I finished two books, one for each storm. Salt in the air brined my skin and I still don't feel completely dry. I didn't have internet access. I contemplated my isolation while I was out there, and came to the conclusion that I liked my "real life". I thought about how far removed I was from my every day reality, and asked myself if I wouldn't mind staying. And for once the answer was yes, I would mind. I wanted to go back to the world I created for myself back in LA. Hey, you can do it anywhere- it being whatever you want. You can be angry, or you can suck it up and try. Some people here express bitterness, anger and cynicism towards the US. Towards the "system," or towards rules, or towards "typical American" behaviour. It surprises me (or maybe not) that people adopt such a dismissive attitude to an entire country. More than that, towards the country that they are from, born and raised, and would not dare persecute them for expressing their opinion. I'm suprised that they don't recognize the worth of what they have. It is an honor to be born so lucky as to have had easy access to quality education, healthcare and other "rights." It's easy to write off a government, but irresponsible not to participate.

Today I'm off to Kampot, another beachside town in Southern Cambodia.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia. 3 countries, one week.

17 July, 2011

Singapore & Malaysia were like a blur. 4 Nights Sg, 2 nights KL. Cambodia, TBD.

Singapore: I went to meet up with May, a friend who is living there teaching yoga, and Julian, her bf, who came out to visit for her birthday. When I got there they had just gotten back from an amazing weekend in Indonesia, including posh accommodations at the Banyan Tree Bintan (check it out, honeymooners and romantics, it’s unbelievable!) and a jungle trek.

Singapore is a nice city. Clean. Lots of packaged sightseeing tours. I could list them all but you could also find them in a guidebook, complete with shiny pictures. The unexpected highlight of this trip was the Night Safari… and watching Julian find his holy grail, a Seiko watch that, in his own words, bumped him up to the next level in his watch collecting hobby…

Southern ridges walk. A nice hike through the jungle in the middle of the island. There were soaring views of the city from various lookout points, and fun exercise equipment.

It was warm and humid, and poor May still had to teach a couple of yoga classes at the end of the day.

See how we glow?

In the evenings we checked out various neighborhoods- Circular Quay, the club-hopping district. No party for us that night though, we were tired. Arab Street, where we found some Belgian beer.
The next day we went to the botanical gardens. There was a lake, and some wildlife. Pretty.
Orchard Road is the shopping district, and I stocked up on some shorts and sandals, as I was still coming out of the cold cold winter in Australia.

And best of all, the Night Safari! It’s like a zoo, but open only at night.

There’s an Indiana Jones feel to it, and for those of you who know me, I love Indiana Jones!

The animals live in open air enclosures, but kind of small. It ensures that tourists can get a good look, but rather sad for the lack of open space for the animals to enjoy.

Best of the night safari, the Mangrove walk, an enclosure where you can get up close and personal with bats! They hang from the trees nibbling fruit, and swoop around under a (rather low) canopy.

Fear, it always makes an experience memorable.

It’s a big city. We arrive by bus, 6 hours from Singapore. Our hotel is called Etica Inn, it’s in Chinatown, a convenient location next to a night market and hawker stalls. It’s like a run down version of Singapore. The first night we walked around the market, had some Chinese food, and went out late, around the corner from the hotel at the Reggae Bar. No reggae there, but packed like sardines with a ragged jumble of European backpackers, seasoned locals, and young kids. Either that or I’m getting older! I swear some of them were like 10! Ok well 15. We started with drinks, and stood around, and I started to get nervous about my upcoming trip- South East Asia… I guess it always comes to that when I start something, and the demons of uncertainty, fear and anxiety come up. I started to second-guess myself, and come up with reasons for how it’s not going to work out. It’s a processing experience I guess, to know your demons, and then exorcise them.

The next day we got up and ventured out to the Batu Cave, an enormous cave and Hindu religious site.

272 stairs.

Monkeys wreaking havoc.

(Dubious) highlight: A little boy was teasing the monkeys, and one of them, fed up when the boy swiped at him one last time, screamed out and grabbed the boys arm and started biting his head. Wow! It was horrifying and shocking, and I was really hoping the monkey wasn’t serious about hurting the kid, that would have been a buzz kill. And the parents? Ha! The kid’s dad was just kind of laughing at him, as if to say, “See what you get?” I think they were Russian. Imagine that happening in the states?! Horror! That’s why it was so funny, just the contrast and shock value of the way the scene played out. Later we saw the kid throwing rocks at the pigeons. Dumb kid.

Then we went to the absolute highlight of our trip in Malaysia- The Bird Park!

I love birds!

We saw so many birds.

The peacock shook his tail feathers.

I love birds.

Then that evening we went to a second highlight, to the Sky Bar at Traders Hotel to admire the Petronas Towers at night. They were lit up like diamond jewels, beautiful!

Second tallest buildings in the world. Kuala Lumpor. The first tallest building is in Taipei. Go Asia!

Later that night we went to meet some friends May and Julian had met on their jungle trek the previous week, and had a nice chat with them in another district known for nightlife, Bintang.
And then we went to the airport. At 4am.

Cambodia: Arrival 8:35am in Phnom Penh airport. Matching flannel pajamas are all the rage amongst local women. I have to stop going to the bathroom before getting my luggage off the baggage claim because I’m always the last one to get my bag. I got my visa on arrival no problem at the airport, $25 US. Cambodia surprised me by giving me US dollars out of the ATM. I was also surprised by being greeted at the airport by a little girl, all in pink, complete with a Dora the Explorer bag, a sign with my name on it, and a cell phone, which she hands to me. It was the hostel owner, explaining for me to follow the little girl and she will take me to the hostel! Awesome Indiana Jones moment. She’s the cutest thing EVER! She’s about 7 or 8. The tuk tuk driver is there as well, and he’s really nice, and I end up at Nomads Guesthouse. It feels like it’s 3 in the afternoon, but really it’s only 9. It feels like the longest day ever. I have been up for the past 24 hours, with a small nap in between 3 & 4 am when we got home from our last (and second) night out in Malaysia and when we had to be up to meet the taxi to get to the airport for a 6:45am flight. My room isn’t ready yet. I sit there trying to figure out what I’m going to do next, and meet some nice girls who are also staying there. They give me some info about Southern Cambodia, and it sounds so nice, I think I’m going to change my plans and give it a go. Then I take a walk with one of the girls and we book tickets for a sunset mekong cruise… Here I go…

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sydney and my last week in Australia!

July 10, 2011

It was windy and cold in Sydney. I arrived from Cairns, and Mariana picked me up at the airport, making my life soooo nice. She is like a bundle of energy, an instant pick-me-up! Her infectious smile and hearty laugh make me feel right at home. I’m so glad I got this chance to know her better, she’s a soul sister, from the other side of the world.

I had a really great time staying with Randwick with Mariana and her flat mates, Sammy and Jiri.

I was lucky to have Mariana the entire week, as she was supposed to have left for Brasil on the 23rd, but her flight was delayed due to volcanic ash from Chile.

What a great week! Sammy is Turkish, and also an amazing chef.

This is her stand at the Rozelle market.

She makes Turkish gozleme for the Rozelle market on Sundays. There is always a line. She's been doing this for 14 years... In her own words, she works enough for 4 days in one day, but on that one day, wow, she makes enough not to have to work the rest of the days of the week. She’s like a garden hose turned on at full blast, she’s got so much energy, and it goes in all directions, whizzling around and getting everything wet.

She made delicious soup for us this week, three different kinds. So nourishing and comforting in the fierce wind that howls at the windows all night. We ate raw turnip with the soup, it was amazing. She eats yogurt in the mornings, yogurt with almonds, fresh dill, chopped red onion, lemon and olive oil. She soaks raw almonds in water in the fridge and they swell up and take on an irresistible crunch.

She made a salad last night for dinner, with celery, leek, pomegranate, mint, dill, those almonds, and apples.

Me and Jiri went to the market today to try her gozleme. We met up with Martin, a friend of his, and we went for coffee. Martin and Jiri are from Czech, and they are also amazing. They are talkers, these two, as are Sammy and Mariana. I had a great time, talking with all of them!

Everybody that I meet in Sydney is in a transition phase in their lives, and maybe that’s why we can be so open with each other. One of my goals on this trip is to connect and learn from people as I travel. Friendships and even quick connections are the best souvenirs. Without connections I get bored very easily. That’s why I have no interest in packaged tours and rushed “experiences.”

On Friday Bali took me around Newtown, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst.

We went to Westpac and closed my bank account, we had a sausage roll at Bourke Bakery, had mulled wine at the Lounge, and pizza at Mario’s. Then we did a little disco dancing at the Columbian Hotel, and met up with his flat mate. Later, due to the wonders of facebook, I reconnected with a friend from high school who also knew Bali, what a small world!

Thursday I met up with Dulan, a mate of mine from school in Adelaide, and we took the ferry from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay, then walked around the Botanic Gardens.

The birds were so friendly- I love the birds in Australia, they are so unusual and make the most amazing sounds. It’s like being at a bird exhibit every day. Or inside the Angry Birds app.

It was a beautiful day.

On Tuesday Mariana and Sammy took me out to see Coogee Beach, and we walked along a path that bordered the ocean.

There are swimming pools constructed at the side of most beaches, where you can lap swim in the ocean. Sydney really is a great city, I know I would love the lifestyle there. Laid-back, sporty and lots of beach and sun.

We went out salsa dancing one night. Another day Mariana took me to her capoeira class, it was really fun. Her students were great, I got into the zone and remembered more of why I love capoeira. One of her students got me to pose for a video demonstrating the correct posture for picking up a baby- stabilizing the shoulder girdle and using the legs to lift… Check it out at

Last night Mariana’s flat mates held a goodbye dinner- that delicious salad I mentioned earlier, chicken soup, a bean dish and an okra dish, plus a few bottles of red and much talking and laughing!

Jiri took me to the airport, as he really likes planes. We went out to the observation deck and he pointed out the Airbus 380- the largest plane in the world. It turned out to be the very same plane that I flew in to Australia on, as I had a photo of it from when I first landed in Sydney, way back in February. It had the same identifying numbers on the side. What a trip, to see the same plane. And now, thinking back to when I first arrived, and all that has happened... It has been a humbling and eye-opening experience. First, I’ve studied the western way, in terms of modern physiotherapy. Now, I’m going to study the eastern way, with a Thai massage course in Thailand, a yoga instructor training course in India, and a temple stay in Japan. And the entire way, trying to keep my eyes and mind open, challenging my beliefs about people and the way I think the world works. It’s wonderful, the world we live in. I’m so excited for this next phase of my journey!

Next stop: Singapore

Singapore (11-14 Jul)
Kuala Lumpor (14-17 Jul)
Cambodia (17-24 Jul)
Laos (overland via Thailand) (24-13 Aug)
Chiang Mai Thailand (for Thai massage course, 14-28 Aug)
Indore, India (for yoga instructor course, 1-28 Sept)
Japan (1-10 Oct)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On leaving Adelaide, a Groovy Grape tour & uneventful Cairns

Ah, leaving Adelaide was such a bittersweet memory.
We threw a great going away party!
(I tried to find a good group photo but I can't get it from facebook!)

Adelaide was good, it was perfect for school. Quiet, small, beautiful. The people were the best part. I hope we all stay in touch, it's going to be so interesting to see where we all end up.
Keep in touch guys! Come visit me in LA! You will always have somewhere to stay in LA.

I also said goodbye to Soul Capoeira, to Chan and Aimee...

What a great gooup of people, my capoeira brothers and sisters from South Australia. They offered me the opportunity to teach a workshop on my last night there, and it was really fun, we even did some drumming, and I loved it! Thank you so much guys!

Next it was the Groovy Grapes tour. Adelaide to Alice Springs in 6 days. Here's a blow by blow account (edited version), for anyone who's interested...

22 - 27 June, 2011
Start time is 6:45am in front of the Parliament building on King William and North Terrace. Bus is late. I get in the front and the tour driver seems ok, I think. Everyone else is half-asleep, in a daze. We travel out of Adelaide into the dark morning, cloud cover but no rain. Cold, cold. He stops to show us the “Australian Loch Ness Monster” but none of us want to take a picture. It’s a creature made of tires, set up in a salt lake. There’s all these salt lakes around, half filled with water and salt, they turn pink in the winter. I realize I left my camera at the capoeira studio the night before. We stop for lunch. It was good and I’m getting less apprehensive.

Transition from post-grad physio personality to tour group mode. We drive and drive, the view from the front seat is fantastic and it’s not too long until we get to our campsite. We settle in at Stony Creek campsite and go off for a hike at Alligator Gorge. First thing, we get lost. The tour guide (name: Derek. Sometimes we call him D, or D-tour, or other names…) drops us off, gives us some dodgy directions and takes off. He said, ‘Go right!’ and it becomes a joke because it clearly wasn’t the right way. It doesn’t matter, we meet up with him again and go down a million stairs to the nice part of the hike, beautiful!

We walk down into a canyon surrounded by red rocks, there’s a creek at the bottom.

We take a group picture. We climb out of the canyon, and Dutch guy and Swiss guy run up the stairs with me. We see kangaroos hopping around on the way home, it’s awesome! Dinner is a three course meal with meatball appetizers, pork chops, salad and some kind of date walnut cake for dessert. It’s not bad. We play darts before dinner. After dinner we clean up, and there was talk of a campfire and dreamtime stories, I mean dreamings.

Waking up is early, like 5 or 6am and we head out for another long drive, we all sleep most of the way. Lunch is again good.

Second night is in Coober Pedy, in underground bunkers.

We take showers and tour the opal museum.

We buy opal souvenirs. We have pizza for dinner, then sit around in the kitchen having a chat. There are aborigines in the town. They walk barefoot and I want to give them some new clothes. There’s a cowboy vibe. It’s a small town based on dreams of opals. Their dreams are put into rusty machinery, into dusty holes. The people are covered in dust too, and they are proud of their choice but also desolate.

So leaving early is good, and we are heading for Ayers Rock Desert resort. Derek buys Eric a soccer ball, actually two, but one gets left behind.

At some point he also buys us ice cream, at one of the many stops along the way. We arrive around 3pm, get more supplies from the supermarket, and head out on the base hike.

It’s beautiful countryside, and Uluru is magnificent from a distance, looming red out of the desert. The hike itself is 10K, walking around. You can climb up but the aborigines don’t want us to. It’s sacred for them. D is pretty adamant about not doing it, and there are signs saying the walk is closed. It’s another strange thing, this disrespect by the white people for the wishes of the aborigines. I mean, it’s a rock, it’s there, let’s climb it! That’s how I respect the desert. Heck, peak-bagging is my thing, so why not? But it’s the situation, it’s a religious symbol. I can respect that. There are other rocks to climb. But there are a lot of people who do climb it, in blatant disregard for open statements by the aborigines NOT to climb it. This country is still young, and we are in the “wild west”, if you want to compare it to the United States. In a discussion later with one of the other people on the tour, he pointed out that mistakes were made in the past regarding oppression of native people, and we don’t have to make the same mistakes again. But still people climb the rock.

We walk around, the weather is beautiful, and it’s all good. There are sacred areas where you’re not supposed to enter or even take pictures of. Our guide prepares our swags and we make a campfire and have dinner. It’s our first night camping and it gets cold. We had Hungarian stew, it was delicious, and nice on a cold night. We sit around the campfire and anticipate the 4am wakeup call for the sunrise over Uluru.

(Swag: a sleeping bag cover made of canvas. So you sleep on the ground, but you zip yourself and your sleeping bag up into the swag, and there’s even a foam mattress in there. It’s as comfortable as it can be, and nice to sleep under the stars.)

Sunrise: It’s beautiful.

We see a wild camel on the way. Then we drive to the Olgas, where we do a 7K walk around and in between the huge mounds. We see a dingo, Derek says it’s really rare to see one, he’s pretty impressed. He said that the presence of the animals in the Olgas represents spirits of aboriginals who’ve died and ceremoniously had their ashes scattered in the area. They still perform ceremonies out there in the parklands.

We have a discussion on aboriginal culture these days. Despite preservation of tradition, there is a huge problem with alcohol, and they just sit outside all day, drinking. Eric asks, but why don’t they just get a job? It’s a good question, there are a lot of factors that go into that. I think it has to do with a sense of entitlement, and passivity. There’s resentment for sure. And lack of responsibility. It’s hard to judge, being an outsider. In my opinion, it’s not productive to blame others for your plight. But I also know that opportunity can be rare, and hard to recognize if you don’t have role models and support. Why did some cultures evolve to embrace change, while others stubbornly and to their downfall remain stuck in the past? It’s important to respect your ancestry, but surely ancestors want what’s best for their children. That’s life, you have to change. There’s the money problem, there’s the racism problem, there’s the lack of facilities, lack of schools, lack of money, lack of respect. Many aborigines now work as artists. There is aboriginal art on sale for upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. There are aboriginal cultural centres all over Alice Springs. I found a really nice gallery and almost bought a little painting that caught my eye. Now I wish I could go back and get it. But still, it’s hard to earn a living as an artist. It’s not something most parents want for their children (conservatively speaking). They want them to be doctors or lawyers, or engineers. What about an engineering school out in the outback? How to get these kids learning and empowered to believe in their ability to be successful in the “white man’s world?” You can only make a change from the top down. If you can’t beat ‘em… I’m just saying.

Anyways, the walk in the Olgas was nice, and then we went back to camp for more sitting around the campfire. This time we make a really good fire and end up melting the fire pit. Also we get some neighbors from the next camp who come by and hang out for a minute. They are just out for 3 nights, so we’re like seasoned travelers by comparison. We love each other, we’ve bonded and we’re like a little family. Their group tells us about the night before they spent in Kings Canyon with mice crawling all over them in their swags. We keep hearing stories about the mice, about how on the last tour our guide woke up with mice all over his swag, trying to get into the warmth. And, we are going there tomorrow.

That afternoon we had some free time and Eric and Stu had a jump in the pool (ICE cold), then went over to check out the camels. You can go on a camel caravan into the desert. Then we brought some beers over to watch the sunset over Uluru.

We took some pictures and went back for dinner.

So this next morning we wake up a little later (9am?) and roll groggily out of the swags. Onto the bus to Kings Canyon and the mice. We drive out of the Ayers Rock Resort and hit the road, only to stop a short ways out. Why? To pick up a hitch hiker. Ha! More craziness, but it’s all good. It’s a guy from Austria, who barely speaks English. He’s got a huge smile and just laughs and answers “Yes!” to everything you ask him. Luckily we’ve got some German speakers aboard. He’s got a Nikon D90 and a tent, and has walked from the Ayer’s Rock airport. He wants to get to Alice Springs, but he’s coming with us now, as we’ll be there in two days. Apparently he’s supposed to be in Oz for 3 months, but is already out of money and he’s only been here for 12 days. He’s a little strange. Anyways…

So the hike today was amazing, lots of cool rock formations, canyons and prehistoric ripples. At the watering hole some people jump in, I don’t know how, it’s too cold, no way!

We walk back and sniff eucalyptus leaves on the way. Tonight is the last night in the outback. Dinner is hamburgers. The Austrian helps cook and we’ve found an enormous tree trunk to use as our fire. And best of all, there were NO MICE! I don’t know why.
Arrival in Alice Springs. A small town. People only come here as a dropping off spot before heading to Uluru, the Olgas and Kings Canyon. I guess better than Coober Pedy (which means white man’s hole), but still. The same groups of aborigines walking around barefoot, needing a shower. We are instructed not to walk around alone at night, as it’s quite dangerous. It’s a different vibe here, more backpackers walking around and the aborigines don’t look at us. They ignore us, and we ignore them. I can’t help but stare out of the corner of my eye. I’m just a tourist here, and I feel like an intruder. There’s one little main drag, and he drops us off at the hostels and we meet for dinner at 7. We have one last evening together, and it was a good time.

It was a good group, a good tour, and good fun. A GREAT start to the rest of my travels!
I have two nights in Alice, and spend the next day wandering the street with Ana, a German girl from the tour. She is really excited to buy a digeridoo, and we go to a free ½ hour workshop.

It’s surprisingly fun, and I learn how to make noises that kind of resemble the sound they’re supposed to make. We walk around, buy some souvenirs and pack- off tomorrow for Cairns!

29 June- July 3, 2011

Arrival in Cairns. It’s raining! But warm. Nights in the outback got down to 1 or 2 degrees C (30’s F). Here it’s tropical and I’m looking forward to SCUBA in the Great Barrier Reef. I meet up with a few from the tour who have also come here, we go for dinner and have a chat. I go the next day for scuba, we take a big boat out to Agincourt reef, leaving from Port Douglas, it’s at the edges of the continental cliff.

The ocean is rough, it’s raining and we go airborne a few times on the way out- thank god I took my seasick pills or I’d have been green as and miserable! The crew rush around, bundle us up into lycra suits and off we go, thrown into the sea. We go down about a metre and start practicing our skills. My goggles start to fill up with water- I have to go up to the surface and exchange them for the kids size. It was awkward, slow and cumbersome, I’m not used to all this equipment. I didn’t really like it. I was aware that if something happened to my equipment I would drown down there, and it wasn’t a good feeling. Especially after the goggle incident. But I give it another chance. (There was even a girl on board who didn’t like it at all, she came right back up and decided it wasn’t for her. So I didn’t feel quite so bad about not loving it.) The next dive was nicer, warmer and brighter as it had stopped raining. I was more comfortable and knew more of what to expect. And a sea creature came up to me and made friends! A huge fish, blue and green came up and bumped into us, nudging us and swimming around, he was like a dog, wanted to be patted! It was totally awesome and I felt more comfortable. So I went for a third dive… Experimented with swimming around the way I’m used to, and tried to get closer to some other creatures in the reef. It was an overall terrific and even emotional experience, entering this other world. It was exactly as I’d imagined it, except for the fear and awkwardness… I don’t know if I’ve got the “bug” but I would do it again. The other thing was the boat was too big- everything happened so quickly and we were so rushed.

So after the diving, everything else in Cairns just paled in comparison. The hostel was nice but boring. My roommates were nice and quiet and didn’t snore, and that was good. I spent the next two days just relaxing and catching up on trip planning and calling home, and enjoying the tropical weather. I didn’t even do any more tours- everything is so packaged and artificial. I’m looking forward to Asia, and some real adventure.

And now… off to Sydney! The best part- getting picked up by a friend from the airport and staying with her for a couple of days… Friends are the best part of traveling!