Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Lessons in Road Travel, Part III (New Years in Nature)
It doesn't take a genius to point out the obvious similarities between the coast of southern Australia and the coast line of California. This doesn't make too much sense to me though, because the sensible thing might be that since the east coast of OZ and the west coast of the US share the same ocean (Pacific, for those trying quickly to picture mental map.) But no, the coastline closest to Antarctica (I swear, I can hear penguins cawing...or rustling...or chirping. What do they do exactly?) looks just like driving down Highway 1, the highway my great-grandpa helped build.
What are these similarities, exactly? Well, it's a bit cooler - though they are at this very moment experiencing a heat wave of almost 45 degrees, which is like sitting in your oven with a snowsuit on. The ocean water has a bit more chop and is certainly cooler to swim in. The beaches are covered in long kelp bulbs and tidal pools are abundant as you peer down the sand. The road is ocean on one side and rocky cliffs on the other (think, Half Moon Bay), covered in mosses and grasses. And when you drive just a smidge from the coastline, you are in Point Reyes, expecting to see elk or something bound out of the brush, when in fact kangaroos line the roads at dusk, faking you out, making you think they will be your next favorite hood ornament.
This is what the Great Ocean Road looks like.
***I interrupt these stories for a quick blurb about bread. I love Australian supermarket wheat bread. Hell, it is expeeeeeeennnnsive - about five bucks a loaf (although adjusted for the OZ dollar inflation, it's more like three). But it comes in so many delicious good-for-you flavors and it is MOIST. When was the last time you ate dense, moist, thickly cut wheat bread from a supermarket? I'm eating it right now. My poison of choice: Burgen bread.
Anyway, the Great Ocean Road. There are the most beautiful, idyllic seaside towns on the Great Ocean Road, the kind you would sell your own home and buy one of these homes for, just so you could live this peaceful seaside life, full of greenery and salt air and fish and chip shops. I wanted so much, though, to like the city of Lorne, but it was overrun with teenagers attending a music festival, and they were all dragging around beer cases an taking up my walking room on the sidewalk and shouting an smelling musty, etc. So I didn't like it too much. Plus, I scraped my back on a pole and it really hurt, compounded with the fact that a tapas restaurant I really wanted to go to was closed (even though I had talked to them the day before and they said "See you tomorrow!") and then I was hungry. Cranky Caitlin almost burnt Lorne down. Thank goodness it's still there, for you to possibly see it one day, and pick up my tapas torch.
We ended up finding this campground by chance using the "Campground Search" function on the GPS, and I liked the name because it was listen as "bimbiparkcampingunderkoalas" - and because I like run-on words so much, and it sounded so silly, we went for it.
What I would like my readers to appreciate a bit was how much trouble we had over the two weeks finding places to stay. Because the seasons are flipped, we are now experiencing summer holidays here, where families are off work and kids are out of school, and apparently every sheila and her brood likes a nice seaside caravan park. So most of the time, we would call them up and ask if they could just...squeeze us in. And squeeze we did. Luckily, squeeze at Bimbi Park wasn't too bad, since they had some "non-designated" grassy space we comandeered. And guess what? It really was camping under koalas. As in, at any time of day, you could see a koala somewhere, doing its thing - eating, sleeping, climbing, etc.
I remember seeing koalas at the San Diego Zoo when I was nine years old and I also remember being very disappointed. They looked like muppets, or puppets, and they didn't do anything. They looked like Lawrence Hall of Science dinosaurs, you know the ones that move only their heads very slowly in the same motion.
Real koalas are much more exciting. They move, they climb. I saw one climb down from a tree and cross right in front of us, literally running on the ground while grunting this awful koala grunt. Koalas make disgusting noises, and they do it all day and all night. It's like...a squak/grunt/rumble. It is a mating call. I saw them mate. You hear an awful, awful screaming noise, and that's the female. He grabs her from behind, while she tries to scramble away, and...does his thing. It's just disgusting. That was New Year's Eve.
New Year's Eve was also fish and chips, pasta made on the Trangea, relaxing under the koala sex, drinking fruity white cask wine in camping mugs, then watching Home Alone in the outdoor movie theatre (full of kids, of course, and then us with our wine), and having a nice loud count down with a rousing round of Auld Lang Syne, whatever that really is. It was so different. I loved it.
That's all for my poor fingers for now. (Eventually the whole story will come out.) I forsee a special edition posting on my opinion of Australian English later today. But for now, I would like all of you out there to listen to the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, like I am doing, and revel in the good things - health, happiness, sunshine, wheat bread, home lip-waxing kits, intellect - just like I am. Until then.