Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Paradise is a Tippy Hammock...

This is what I told myself whilst swinging lazily in one of several hammocks our hostel provided for us on the beach in Fiji. Tied up inbetween towering palm trees gently leaning toward the open ocean, time spent in the hammock was the perfect way to wait out the effects of jetlag, the extreme humidity of the rainy season and a general sense of being overwhelmed by just having begun our first backpacking experience on the other side of the world.
There are several ways one can attempt to enter a hammock, but I learned that not many of them actually work. Watching my fellow hostel visitors (yes, including my dear traveling partner, Rosie) attempt to get into the hammocks became my favorite passtime. Reaching the middle of the hammock as fast as humanly possible really seems to be the key- otherwise the entire contraption errupts into a centrifugal killing machine, whipping innocent passengers around and sending them flying into oblivion.
Yes, giggling to myself as arse after arse met with sand was really a highlight. And did I hide my smiles and tears of joy shed at the expense of others? You bet your bippy I didn't. I probably built up a good amount of bad hammock karma, but I'm telling you it was so worth it. That's why I think you should give Fiji a chance when you're next holiday is coming up. Don't worry about the native people who seem to be extremely laid back and happy to help you if you're lost in town. You needn't bother with the gorgeous natural scenery available to you at the feet of "the Sleeping Giant". You could go sailing, snorkel off the coast of one of the Yasawa islands, drink enough cava to make your tongue and lips go numb, meet fellow travelers or walk around the busling streets of Nandi on market day.
But really friends, just find yourself a simple place with a hammock beside the ocean. Bring a good read, maybe a drink or ten (some suntan lotion would be a good idea) and watch the sun rise and set from that mischievious pleasure contraption. Let its gently woven ropes lull you into sweet meditation; for this is a true pause from the every day rigors of routine and responsibility. Bask in the feeling that you've swung onto the set of a Corona commercial as the wind delivers cool soothing breaths beneath you. And finally, try not to fall out as you're laughing heartily at the person trying to climb into the hammock beside you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The beginning!

Hello all! We've been going non-stop for the past... oh what's it been, two weeks? Quite a lot of ground to cover in one internet cafe session... but perhaps I can start with some excerpts from the trusty travel journal? I'll try for coherence... but don't get your hopes up too high ;-)

But first, a quick 'where are they now?' update:.We just flew in to Sydney this afternoon, and already I am very much loving it! (All signs indicate that Stacy as well :-) We're staying at the Wake Up! cafe, a huge hostel in the middle of Sydney, that is for almost but not quite a hotel. Key cards and everything. A great place to start out, as the location is oh-so-central (and it's across the street from the train station) but it's a bit bustling for our taste. So in three days time we'll be moving to a smaller spot that a backpacker in Fiji recommended to us.

And skipping back a few days... (feel free to skim, sometimes I do get a bit carried away...)


March 2nd 2007, Friday:

And it begins! We're suspended somewhere over...Montana I believe? On our way to Seattle. Dayton was sunny when we left, smelled like the beginnings of spring. And - this is quite a record me - I believe I managed to sleep four full hours before departure. This after assembling all the various components of my journey into pleasing piles distributed throughout the living room. I was already several steps ahead of normal procedure - which generally involves a single massive pile of stuff dumped front and center, usually positioned so as to maximize potential for tripping passers-by. I celebrated this improvement with some well-earned sleep - and then shoved it all into the backpack and headed for the airport.

Erika's backpack (which I'm borrowing for the journey) makes me look like a badass backpacker. It's covered with patches from all the countries she's visited, (quite a good number!) Hopefully I can live up to it...!


March 4th 2007, Saturday

I am visiting my brother's college, at long last! We have arrived at Evergreen State University. In fact, we arrived at 'dorm B' last night around 6:30, met up with Alex, and discovered that his roommate Nick had generously given us his bed for the entirety of our stay! And so it fell out that Stacy took his bed by the bank of windows (which we discovered in the morning looked out into pine trees and sun) - and Alex gave me his bed, right under the Adbusters flag. He insisted that he was perfectly comfortable sleeping on the floor. I remain skeptical. In any case, on all accounts they were extremely sweet and excellent hosts and must be thusly lauded in our blog :-)

Of course, it wasn't quite bed time when we arrived, so we took the bus into Olympia for food - heavy on the veggies and tofu - yum! Over dinner he filled us in on their upcoming play, class work and general-life-stuff... etc. Also we argued over blog names.

The following day Alex had to help out at rehearsal, so while he was occupied Stacy and I wandered down to the organic farm and visited with the roosters, checked out the farmhouse, got up close and personal with some trees, etc. The students and faculty actually run the farm and herb garden, and they have an impressive composting operation. Quite the green campus!After our explorations we circled back to meet Alex for a coma-inducing dinner at the school cafeteria. They had a number of decently prepared vegan dishes, pretty nifty. I feel so at home here, surrounded by men with long sweeps of hair and women who keep their multi-colored hair in pixie cuts under do-rags and funky hats - and of course posters championing causes like environmental sustainability, homelessness awareness and the ongoing plight of Katrina survivors. It's like I'm back at Guilford!

Of course the scenery is a bit more breathtaking than at Guilco...

After dinner a small group of us wandered through the woods so that we could check out the full moon from the beach. Along the way, the pine trees did a rather effective job of screening the moonlight out for much of the walk, so I did a lot of skidding and twirling on mud, and some rather splendid last minute leaps over logs and roots and god knows what else. Alex and his pals had the advantage of having actually walked the path in daylight... but Stacy and I had an entertaining time of trying to decipher the shadows and shapes that suddenly loomed up out of nowhere on the path.

(On our return journey Alex shared a delightful story about how he encountered a large animal in the underbrush one night when he was out wandering about by himself... He scared it off, whatever it was...)

In any case, once we reached the beach crisis struck! Sarah, one of our companions, had wandered into the mud/sand mush at the edge of the water, and ended up trapped nearly up to her knees. I tried to pull her out with a branch, but ended up stuck myself... finally she crawled out with a bit of help from Eden (her roommate), and I squirmed out on my own.

Other highlights:

We saw a fox-like creature farther down the beach, but it seemed pointedly disinterested in us.

Also, did I mention that it was a beautiful night? Just a little bit of fog, and the water was perfectly still... small house lights reflecting of it in the distance... and a gorgeous full moon peaking through the pine trees.

And on the way back they showed us the tree house!! I love tree houses and fully intend to live in one someday. We climbed up to the second floor and to be in the moonlight it felt like we were in a fairy-tale.

Closer to campus we bumped into some folks trying to start a bonfire, but all they had were soaking wet logs, some napkins and a lighter. We stuck around for about 10 minutes... after which the logs were still soaking wet, so we eventually gave up, and wandered back to the apartment. Stacy has now collapsed on Nick's bed, lights are out, and Alex is sitting on the floor playing with his synthesizer - which is absolutely hypnotic in the dark. All the blinking lights... Loreena McKennit is crooning to us... it's pretty peaceful... maybe I should sleep...?


March 6th 2007, Tuesday

And now we're bouncing merrily across the landscape on the Coast Starlight train from Seattle to LA. Dusk is fallying rapidly and we're mostly left with the silhouettes of the Oregon hills, and the ubiquitous pines.

Stacy and I are hanging out in the lounge car - we've spent the whole afternoon soaking up the scenery here. Windows line the car on both sides and the top, and the sun just pours in... well, was pouring in...

We had a nice chat with a gent we just met, Bruce, and his German Shephard Polenka (sp?) - they're on their way to Monterey Bay. Bruce has had many adventures - backpacking in Casablanca, around Europe, hiking parts of the Pacific Coast Trail, living in Alaska...

The trip has been relatively smooth so far. We hung out in the Seattle train station for a good hour before boarding - it was an old and rather grand looking station - and it featured a bizarre soundtrack that included jazzy piano compositions, 'Highway to the Danger Zone' and yodeling.

Apparently there was some problem with the tracks between Seattle and Portland, so we were given sack lunches and packed onto a charter bus to Portland where we caught up with the train. Not a bad drive, except for the non-stop monologues delivered by the small boy sitting behind Stacy. On the rare occasion that he took a break from orating, he switched to singing 'loo-lee-loo-LEE-loo-lee-loo-LEE' with an intensity and determination that could not be ignored. Apparently he also treated Stacy to a series of repeated blows to the back of her chair, sadly I missed out on that aspect of the performance.

Thus far the train ride has been quite an improvement.


March 6th 2007, Tuesday

Dinner time arrived and we couldn't resist the dining car (we felt just a little bit like we were on the Orient Express :-) We ended up sharing a table with a Canadian engineer (he had the pinkie ring!) Conversation was smooth as long as Stacy and I were appropriately impressed by his camping and scouting exploits, and as long as we never tried to talk about ourselves. If we did, his face went slack, his eyes glazed over, and 'oh, okay' was about as much response as we could provoke. Otherwise he was a nice guy who taught us how to make a camping stove out of a flattened cardboard box, some aluminum foil, a coat hanger and a few aluminum pie pans. (Also, some charcoal is helpful.)

Of course the key to being considered a good conversationalist is smiling and listening attentively, so Stacy and I must have come across as brilliantly witty and bright :-)


And I think that might be enough for the moment... more updates to come soon!