Geraldton Life – Outdoor

Posted by on 27/11/2010 at 5:03 pm

Yo yo – (Brazilian Laura would say I have a “yo yo obsession”),

In my previous post I tried to render the vibes of the Geraldton hostel life; here I will mention a few cool things to do outside! This post will have few(er) words and more images!
The town is quite small, so from the hostel I was able to walk to any supermarket or shop, anything would be within one km. Free wi-fi was the driving force behind a lot of my walking: unfortunately, the public library closed down for renovations just two days after I got there, so the only alternative was McDonald’s connection. I finally understood why their air conditioning is so bad – to push the wireless junkies out.

As you can see, Geraldton is the typical outskirt town, with short but large buildings surrounded by wide roads. The night shot is the street between the hostel and the beach, fantastic for short dusk walks.

I have also been surfing: this is the best available shot that a Nothern Irish friend took from the shore. Not a massive wave you’ll notice, but hey, standing on the board is quite of a task already, for a beginner!

One day we went with the entire Taiwanese crew (plus a Japanese element) to a Wildlife Park, 20 km south of Geraldton. Rather than the classic cagey zoo, it was a family run business with large open-air pens where animals roam around. Well, still not freedom I guess. Anyway, I am finally able to show the uttermost symbol of the nature peculiarity of this country: the kangaroo! Have you ever wondered why kangaroos, unique among the biggest mammals, hop? Because it’s more efficient to cover long distances at medium speed! The energy of the bounce is stored in the tendons of the legs – much like in a pogo stick – while the intestines bounce up and down like a piston, emptying and fillings the lungs without need to activate the chest muscles. Brilliant and a total energy optimization when you have to travel long desert distances to find little food. They need one-fifth less food than equivalent size mammals!
Everybody knows their shape, but probably few have seen them from so close. Their facial expression is phenomenal! Eyes barely open (maybe also for efficiency purposes?), they look like half asleep at the bar after a night out drinking!

Another cool pet to meet was the Australian pink parrot: as you approach, it pulls its feathers up and stretches one leg out, absolutely seductive! I have videos where it says things like “What are you doing?”, “How is it going?”, “Come on!” and so forth. I had actually never heard a parrot “speaking”, so I found it pretty exciting!

Another funny thing was to be able to hold a baby python! At some point I had it around my neck, and the little fella, obviously eager to practice, began to tighten the grip! Not to any harmful level of course, but it definitely affected my breathing. I think my mixed feelings are well visible on my face – what a horrible death it must be to die strangled.

On the way home, we spotted another nature attraction of the zone: due to the constant massive wind, some trees have adapted to grow horizontally! This is no joke, nor an accident: they just grow like that, following the wind direction. Pretty amazing to see, that tree was maybe 10 or 15 meters long! There was one in the middle of the city but was quite smaller.

I loved the time in Geraldton as it gave me the opportunity to slow down a bit after two very fast months. It was totally “chillax” (as my friend Ash there would say) and cheap. I met loads of nice people with whom I’m sure I will stay in touch. If I think about it now, it feels like I’ve spent only two days there – time flies when you’re having a good one.

Geraldton Life – Hostel

Posted by on 25/11/2010 at 1:09 pm

Hey there!

I’m writing this post at my last day in Geraldton. As a hint of how much I liked it, consider that I planned 4-5 days here but ended up staying almost two weeks… and only because I had a damn plane to catch. I stayed in a wonderful hostel (that here is called ‘backpacker’). They do cheaper weekly rates, so the result is saving money and having a blast at the same time. In this post I will tell something about how easy life is here.

Most of the guests actually stay here for months, at 130 dollars a week. Everyone has his daily routine: wake up in the morning to go to work, grocery shopping in the afternoon, cooking and all the rest. And everything is shared: bedroom, kitchen, living space, toilets and showers.

The resulting atmosphere is of total “togetherness”, to the point that after some time it really starts to feel like a family! You maybe get the same with housemates, but here the numbers are different: we’re talking 30 or 40 people! The hostel is right in front of the beach, so any day we’d go for a swim, a dive, or just some fun: in the pyramid pic I am with a German, a French, two Japanese guys and a random Australian Santa at the top! Perny in Amsterdam will for sure approve.

This is the beach in front of the hostel. We often swim to the platform you see on the left and dive from there. No worries mum, there are no sharks in Geraldton!

Pretty much all the world is represented here, including Europeans, Kiwis and “local” Ozzies. There are quite a few English people, who are nice but whose fun is the classic manly, drunkass Northern European attitude, and that’s something that I already know well enough. That’s why I’m especially happy to be spending most of my time with people from Asian countries: there are so many of them, much more than in an average European hostel. There’s a big group of Taiwanese people, South Koreans and Japanese, and this crowd composition was indeed another new thing for me. The kitchen is where their presence is most obvious: the smell of noodles and other delicious, typical Asian dishes always fills the air. We even had a “mixed” barbeque where octopus tentacles were on the grill next to the usual Western food. In the next pic you see my Japanese friend Kuma (the nickname comes from the bear in Tekken!) preparing a fish that he caught himself!

Not having to work myself, I have taken it very easy during the days at the ‘backpacker’. A very common situation would be this one: doing fu*k all on the hammock┬áreading a book!

The living room of the hostel (where I’m busy writing now!) has two tables, two couches with TV, a bar, a soccer table and a pool table, which is probably the most popular amenity of the building. I’ve never been very good at pool but this time at the hostel is definitely leading somewhere. My Anglo-Himalayan teacher Peter would be proud of my progresses! I’m posing next to the table with Aki, a Japanese friend that I also share the room with. He’s tiny but full of energy and smiling all the time.

Another Japanese guy sums up the world-traveler spirit with the traditional Japanese wisdom. His name is Hokuto (but he is no related to Ken Shiro) and we spent a lot of time making music together with a couple of guitars, the harmonica and the djembe of an Australian girl called Heidi.
We tend not to go out at night but rather buy drinks and stay in. The owner is the nicest hostel owner you’ll ever meet. He puts music on after dinner and stays with us at the tables outside. In the next pic, I’m pouring Aki some of the home-made bourbon that I was given back in Esperance!

This hostel is a GREAT place. After all this talking, I’d better write down which one it is: the Foreshore Backpackers. You might get the idea though that I spent inside the building the entire two weeks in Geraldton. It’s not (completely) like that and in the next post I’ll talk a bit of what’s outside these 4 walls, so stay tuned!

The Surfing End

Posted by on 23/11/2010 at 6:15 am

Hey, how are you doing today?

In the last post we’d just spent a night in Meekhatarra… and that was actually to be the last night of the road trip. That day, Becky and I came to the conclusion that not only we live at the antipodes, we’re also antipodean people. We thus decided to pull the plug of the road adventure one week earlier than scheduled. Instead of driving further North, we headed for the coast and just after lunchtime she dropped me off at Geraldton. Check here for the final map of our journey.

So there I am, alone again. The first hours in town were definitely quite frantic and anxious. I was walking under the sun with all my stuff + food on my shoulders, and couldn’t find accomodation. I even considered buying a small tent to go camp in the wild, but in the end I was able to enter a single room in a sleazy hotel that was also a skimpie bar and a liquor store (sic). There, I kinda recollected myself and started arrangintg stuff for a better tomorrow… and indeed the next day the wind changed for the better: I found a bed in a great, cheap hostel full of friendly people and in the afternoon (just 24 hours after arriving in town) I was on a sunny beach attending my first surf lesson!

Surfing is really a lot of fun! Within the first lesson I was already able to stand on the speeding board for… quite some seconds. My instructor Keith is a very cool guy, and I can now understand what’s the story with all the people who go nuts and drop everything they have to move to some sand island and surf all day!

The only downside of this lovely town is its constant wind, strong to the point that all trees grow up bent on one side – which I had only previously seen on top of some mountain! You would think that it’s good for surfing but it actually isn’t: the waves are maybe a bit higher, but the wind is destabilising and it makes it harder to stand on the board.

In this new hostel situation, I am also trying to save some money while I’m here – the road trip was being quite expensive between fuel and drinks. So I’m visiting the supermarket quite often, and one of the funny thing I noticed is that special offer & cards here are mostly related to saving on fuel: like, every 30 dollars in Woolworths you get a 8 cent/litre discount on gas. One could argue that, this way, they loose grip on all those people like me who don’t care about fuel, but actually this kind of marketing is a perfect indicator of the role of cars here. Woolworths doesn’t care about people who don’t have a car because… we are so few that we are completely neglectable. Everyone here has got a car. Cars rule. While in Amsterdam everything is built around bycicles, here it’s all about cars. There is one crossroad here in Geraldton where the waiting time for pedestrian is RIDICOLOUS, and you might see the same lane getting the green twice before you! The Greyhound bus service isn’t capillary┬ánor cheap – that’s maybe why I looked for a ride at the hostel:

This hostel also complies with another feature of most toilets I have tested in Western Australia: when you open the “cold” water tap, the water is warm anyway as the pipes are exposed to the sunlight! Traveling on this side of the world, I also get to meet a diverse traveling crowd: I have a lot of Taiwanese and Japanese mates – never seen a Japanese in a hostel before -, mostly here for work. One day we had a barbeque to celebrate the birthday of a Taiwanese girl. Well, I’d never had octopus tentacles at a barbeque!
I am also finding time to read my books, which is the second time this happens in two months of traveling. The first book I read was “Ignore Everybody” , a fantastic birthday present from Nick. Now it’s an Agatha Christie classic, which I actually bought in a second-hand bookshop in Sydney. Maybe some Italian reader can guess which one it is from a few words?

I have actually just finished that book, so I went to another second-hand bookshop here in Geraldton, and there’s a nice story here to tell. I went to the “foreign language” section, to find that she only had two italian novels and pretty crappy ones too. I then spent a good 20 minutes checking the Dutch books, and finally chose one, a 1961 book for 3,50 dollars. As I show it at the counter, the old, red hair woman examines the price sticker and says: “Ah, I recognize this sticker, it’s the kind that the previous owner used, and that means that this book has been here unsold for at least 5 years. Just take it!”
That book now is now for me a lot more precious than three dollars and fifty cents. Such little stories always shed a positive light on your day.