Hello again! I'm checking in with you from beautiful (but rainy) Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Most recently, I've been in rainy Rockhampton, rainy Carnarvon Gorge, and back in rainy Rockhampton. However, for the sake of this post, let's rewind about a week to February 24th and pretend I had enough internet then to put up the post that I wrote...
So. February 24th, 2013. Reflecting on my time in Melbourne, Apollo Bay, and Wilson's Prom.
First Australia post! We ended our time in New Zealand after midterm break and made our way across the pond to Melbourne in the great state of Victoria. Melbourne is a lovely city and treated us very well during the two-week spell that we called it home. We completed the second half of our printmaking class while in Melbourne, taking over the Australian Print Workshop (APW) every day from 9-5. Printmaking is a process quite unlike any other form of art I’ve done (which, admittedly, isn’t many). It’s a little bit like if drawing and dark room photography had a child and let it run feral. It takes concentration, precision, and forethought, but ends up being completely unpredictable and doing whatever it wants anyway. One day, I tried to use a relatively simple technique called “soft ground” to make a background for my print that looked like water. I did this seven times over the course of eight hours and ended up at a stage that was actually before what I started the day with. It looked like something I’d produced partway through the day before. Although this surely has the potential to drive you totally bonkers, it’s the uncertainty of the process that I most enjoy about printmaking. The final product is always a little bit skill, a little bit luck, and a whole lot of chance.
Delicious bakery just down the road. Their eggplant, dijon mustard, baby lettuce, and feta flatbreads sustained me for many a day:
On the first day we were in Melbourne – before we’d even had a chance to get into our rooms yet – a couple friends and I decided to take a Great Adventure and go to the Melbourne Pride Parade which was happening that day. It wouldn’t have been such a great adventure had we not woken up at 3:45 that morning to catch a plane from Wellington, New Zealand, had we been at all familiar with the layout of the city, and had we not had to take the tram to get to the mysterious “St. Kilda Beach” where the parade was being held. But with a little bit of luck and a few helpful gifts from strangers (tram cards), we arrived along the parade route just before it started.
The parade was… how do I put it… cute. And a little bit silly. But wonderful. I had been to Pride events in Denver, San Francisco and Sydney, and my friend Richie had been to Pride events in Chicago and Minneapolis. Whereas all of these were filled with loud music, lots of nudity (and almost nudity), free rainbow swag everywhere, and beer, beer, and more beer, Melbourne’s was, for the most part, quiet, clothed, clean and sober. Groups such as the Victoria 3EARS, The Jewish Lesbian Group, the Greek and Gay Support Network, The 69ers Bowling League, and the Vegan LGBTQ marched happily and orderly alongside groups like Victoria Police Band, the Ambulance Service, The Australian Lesbian Medical Association, the Australian Rugby Union (including, I was told, two National players), and, inexplicably, a Strom Trooper. I was surprised to see so many families with young kids around (as I’ve not found this to be generally the case in the States), until I realized that all in all, it was quite a wholesome event. It was lovely!
Happy at the parade!
In Melbourne, we had a big birthday party to celebrate Alli and Sara’s departures from teenagehood. Fred and the TAs, Dylan and Eleanor (who, conveniently and collectively, answer to Dylanor), staged a surprise party complete with cake and a Dylanor-made platypus piñata. As was the case for most people, I hadn’t seen a piñata at a birthday party since I was maybe ten years old. They’re much harder to hit than I remember, especially with Dylanor manning the rope. Several people tried their hand at cracking open the platypus, swinging at it with all their might. As it turned out, however, the platypus was much stronger than long-handled duster Dylanor had borrowed from the hotel custodians. The duster was bent in two before the platypus looked any worse for wear. And so we let Richie, who may or may not have quite a lot of pent up anger against platypuses, go at it barehanded. He slapped it, punched it, beat it and kicked it until it spilled its candy-and-toy-filled guts and lay, decapitated and defeated, on the grass of the hotel courtyard. Poor guy. I guess Dylanor forgot to give him the venomous ankle spurs that all other platypuses possess when they were paper-macheing him.
And then Richie got to it:
All in all, Melbourne was quite enjoyable. If I’m ever reincarnated as a twenty-something year old hipster, it’s definitely the place I’d like to be. I think that by the end of our two weeks there, however, we were all itching to get back into National Parks and start exploring more of Australia. Our first stop after the city was Apollo Bay, which lies along the Great Ocean Highway just a couple hours west of Melbourne. We stayed there for two days and amused ourselves by taking a rainforest walk, drawing koalas along the side of the road, sizzling in near-hundred degree heat* at the Twelve Apostles, swimming in the ocean and lying on the beach. Holly and I also picked quite a few blackberries under the pretense of doing good by trying to eradicate the invasive species.
Mmm... particularly good on vanilla ice cream with melted Cadbury chocolate:
Hard at work:
Koalas proved to be shockingly difficult to draw. Especially this one, which was really just an arm and a leg and a bunch of fur:
The others weren't much easier, but they did hold nice and still for us. What good models.
The Twelve Apostles, even though there are only seven or so of them left:
Trying to create some shade (limited success):
From there, we made our way down to Wison’s Promontory National Park. Nicknamed “Wilson’s Prom”, the park lies on the southernmost point of Victoria and indeed mainland Australia. If you jumped into the ocean and swam across the Bass Strait for a few hundred kilometers, theoretically you’d reach Tasmania. Unfortunately, attempts at such a feat were discouraged – I would love to see Tasmania.
The Prom shaped up to be an absolutely stunning juxtaposition of land and sea. Despite a bit of bad weather (a little rain and some tremendous winds), it was clear to me that the Prom was probably one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. It had it all – clear blue water, white sandy beaches, tea tree forests, eucalypts of all shapes and sizes, granite boulders, islands off in the distance, tidal rivers, and, on a clear night, a view of every single star in the busy Australian sky. One day, I walked to a beach called “Squeaky Beach” that was so named because its sand was such fine and pure quartz that it actually squeaked beneath one’s feet. Another day, we spent the morning drawing kangaroo and emu in their natural bush habitat. At night, we took walks with a naturalist and saw possum and wallaby emerge from the forest. And then there were the wombats. In early elementary school, I played on a baseball team called the Wombats. It was such an ugly-sounding name, I guess I just never thought to find a picture of what a wombat actually was. But since they were all around our campsite and don’t seem much afraid of humans, I spent a good deal of time looking at them at Wilson’s Prom. They seem to be something of a cross between a hamster, a bear, and a footstool. I don’t know how they do it, but they rearrange features from all three of these and create possibly the most endearing creature in the world. They’re about the size of a corgi and, despite being marsupial and having a pouch somewhere down there, are so low to the ground that they nearly drag their bellies. They live in burrows and, if a predator enters while the wombat is there, the wombat will let the predator get on top of it and then quickly stand up and crush the predator against the top of the burrow. Ingenious, especially considering wombats eat mainly grass and don’t seem to be built for conflict. They also poop cubic turds and like to display them on the highest point in the landscape, whatever that may be (rock, stair, etc.).
Kangaroo (all bedazzled by tracking devices):
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay at Wilson’s Prom forever either. As I write this, we’re currently on a bus on the way inland to Carnarvon Gorge. These are a travel-packed couple of days. Just yesterday morning we were still in the Prom. Since then, we’ve bussed several hours to Melbourne, flown from Melbourne up to Brisbane, taken a tiny propeller plane from Brisbane to Rockhampton, spent the night in Rockhampton, went back to the airport to wait for a lost bag to arrive from Melbourne, and now we’re in the midst of a seven hour bus ride to the Gorge. I won’t have access to internet with which to post this for at least a week, but since I have the time I figured I’d write something now and make this more of a diary-style entry.
Until next time!
Stay tuned for recounts of our adventures at Carnarvon, Rockhampton, Heron Island and Brisbane. Soon to come!