So, headed off to Melbourne from Canberra and it was a pretty good drive after an exceptionally late start. Had been dealing with shop stuff and other bits and pieces and decided not to stress (well, not too much) and to leave when I was ready, which after the post office and other things, ended up being 2:30pm.
Been making notes about what I've listened to on this trip. With approximately 80 hours of driving in total, should be an interesting range of stuff. Will whack it all up at the end.
Reached Melbourne late-ish and crashed out. My plans had all been to catch up with as many people as possible for the four or so days I'd be in town, but that went by the wayside due to one major issue which most of you know about.
So instead of seeing lots of people, I saw a few. It was a good few, a quality few, but I missed out on some of the big ones like Mitch and Sally, Mondy and Jules, etc. I also had planned to catch up with Paul and Ori (though given my mentions of the previous folks, I should stress that they aren't a couple... no really, they're not... honestly! *grin*), who I'd really wanted to see this time around, but it wasn't to be. Not being guilty or mopey, it's just a shame.
I was late for almost everything I'd meant to do in Melbourne, usually by about an hour and a half. This was all down to me just being stuffed. As mentioned previously, Tiki drove me around to various places, helped me figure what I was doing, and made sure I was fed and watered.
Of course I can't talk about Melbourne without mentioning Sat night's surprise, which was lovely. My current plan is to take the train to or from Perth next year, so that those of you that put in for my ticket get to know that I've done it ASAP. Thanks once more to Amanda for organising this, it's really the perfect gift since I've been wanting to do the train trip for around 10-15 years, but could never justify the extra expense. Thanks again.
Left Melbourne and visited Glen and Jess, Carol was unfortunately away on a school camp. It was pleasant, they're good folks, and I got to taunt the 14yo daughter.
"So, when are you going to come adventuring with a hairy old man across Australia?"
"Nah, it'll be fun! We'll be camping most nights of course."
"And of course, we can eat roadside vegetation!"
Teenagers are so easy to bait.
Left Ballarat, or was about to when I got a call from Theresa. She'd gotten the pressie the day before, and hadn't been able to ring 'cos she was all choked up. We did a good thing people, she was rapt, touched and blown away. Meant the world to her that people put in and thought she deserved her RC dalek, and a bunch of other toys and the DW soundtrack. We then proceeded to geek out about the last few episodes with each other over the phone.
Got on my way and reached Adelaide much later than intended. Crashed the night on the floor of Sean's office. The youngest of the kids was apparently a little nervous of the strange guy being in the house because he didn't know anything about me. He went into his parent's room, expressed his concerns about me, and Sean proceeded to tell him Danny stories.
The weird thing is, after hearing them, he was actually comfortable going to sleep with me in the house! Tough kid! *grin*
It sounds like when I next visit, he and I are going to have a conversation about swearing, since one of the things Sean mentioned is that I swear like a trooper. So there's now three people that want to talk to me about swearing, and none of them are going to be telling me off for it!
Other trip highlights include seeing wild camels for the first time ever. I was giving a lift to a hitch-hiker called Caveman, and his little dog Tooey, when we came across them by the side of the road.
Male camels have great big long tongues. That are inflatable. And unlike Simon, who is much more refined in seduction techniques that involve his inflatable tongue, they use their huge inflatable tongues to attract mates by flopping them out of the side of their mouths, making gurgling gargling noises, and letting drool and foam and spit dribble and drip down the sides of their neck and body! It looks gross, it sounds gross, and it fucking freaks me right out!
They aren't natural animals!
Got out, took some piccies, it was all good. Camels actually look kind of pretty in their own way, and it's nice to see them wild, especially since Australia is the only place they can be found wild now, from memory. And when I got to have a good look at my shots, they had turned out okay. Well, except for the fact that one of the male camels had his freaking tongue out!
Also flew to Maralinga with Rodney the pilot, who is also a Doctor Who fan. Lovely bloke and may be coming to next year's Swancon, thanks to the Danny Oz Mobile Fandom Advertising Platform.
Oh and on the return flight, he let me fly the plane for 15 minutes! And I didn't crash it into anything at all! (okay, well maybe once, very slightly) Flying planes is just like driving cars, except slightly more complex and lethal. And therein lies the fun!
The other passenger was Peter, a natural historian from Uluru, and something of a living legend from that area, having lived and worked there for over thirty years. At seventy-seven, he's a spry and entertaining character who still does tours of the botany surrounding The Rock. As someone who has lived and worked with the native people in the area for three decades, he is completely unimpressed with the government's recent actions with regards to stamping out child abuse in the local aboriginal communities, seeing it as more damaging simply because it doesn't do anything other than deal with one symptom of a much greater problem. In his opinion, it would do more long term good for the entire community if the money that's being spent on troops and police was spent on decent education, health care, social reforms, etc.
Maralinga is kind of cool. I always thought they set off a bomb there, but in actual fact they set of several low-yield devices, at anywhere between 100 and 300 meters above ground level. According to Leon and Dianne, the current caretakers, they wanted to see the effect of nuclear explosions on things below them.
At its height, Maralinga had 3000 people stationed there on six-month rotation - almost all of them living in tents. Six months, living and working from a tent, in the Australian outback, in Summer, a few miles from where they're testing nukes. Sounds like a dream job! Fallout was recorded up to 300 kms away at Nullarbor.
The area is now being cleaned up in preparation for giving it back to the aboriginals. I got to see one of the trucks from the clean-up efforts, with a passenger side door on it that looked like something from a submarine, to stop contaminated dust from reaching the cabin.
Since I'm talking aboriginal folks, had a brief but pleasant run-in with an elderly aboriginal woman called Billie at Ceduna while I was sitting by the seaside. She had come from Alice Springs way to see the ocean for the first time in her life, and was totally blown away by the sheer amount of water she could see in one place all at the same time.
I spent time at Eucla, of course. Not much to say that you haven't all heard a million times before. I like the fact that the locals remember me :)
Visited Questa Casa brothel and chatted to Carmel. Trying to convince her to write a book that mixes her personal history as Madam with the town history and the stories of some of the ladies. She told me about the woman that ran her car into the building as well. Totally normal, totally pleasant, they had a lovely civilised chat for ten minutes and the woman was going to come back the next day, since Carmel had suggested that the tour is more fun if shared with others - but had said if she came back the next day and there was no-one, they'd do the tour anyway.
The lady left, Carmel sat around behind the desk for a while doing bits and pieces, took a sip of her coffee, which was cold, so got up and went to the kitchen to pop it in the microwave. It was while she was away from the desk the woman did a u-turn and floored the car, taking it right through the entrance and through the desk where Carmel had been sitting a minute before.
The woman then proceeded to use the car as a battering ram. She'd put it into reverse, back up as far as the damage would allow, put it into gear and floor it, getting further and further into the building each time. She continued to do this over half an hour, even when the police were there and trying to get to the car. Her spinning tires set fire to the carpet.
Her lawyers are saying she had an epileptic seizure. There are plenty of learned and medical types that read this journal - is that even plausible? More plausible say than someone finally just snaps for no reason and does something nuts?
Carmel's been running the brothel now for 14 years. Prior to this the two worst things that she's mentioned as having happened were the customer who 'died' - and got better - it turned out he was narcoleptic, and the bloke who tried to push one of the girls to do something she didn't want to. She called out, and before Carmel could react, ten stark-naked men had come charging out of the various rooms they were in with their girls, run into the room, dragged the guy out, roughed him up a bit, told him to get his clothes on and leave - which he did. They then went back into the rooms with their respective ladies and finished their time.
Most important thing is no-one was hurt in the incident, but it's four months later and they are still waiting on insurance to organise repairs. So once more, I can highly recommend the tours of Questa Casa, 2pm daily, $20 and it's a great tour that takes in the history of Kalgoorlie as a town, as well as that of the brothel.
In Perth I caught up with tragically few people, but I did spend a lot of time on Simon's floor. He had brought out a mattress for me, but I never quite got around to using it, though I'm not sure why. Possibly because I wasn't told to...
Did catch up with people at pancakes, which was nice. Got at least a reasonable chat with everyone except nephron. I misjudged that one completely. Moved seats to catch up with a couple of other folks, then just didn't move because I was tired and kind of forgot to. Next thing I knew she was leaving for work. Bugger! Should have made the time to chat to the person I didn't know well, and known that my other friends would understand. But we're definitely catching up next Swancon. Hell, I'll probably be in my room for most of it, so it shouldn't be hard to find me!
On a separate note, I can highly recommend V energy drink. I've had it a couple of times this trip when I felt like I needed slight pick me up while driving, and found it does a good job. Kicks my brain up a notch, doesn't taste as crap as Red Bull, and doesn't leave me unable to sleep like Coke. Still something I'd use sparingly, generally prefer to get by on my own or not at all, but yeah, like it.
Had a couple of nice garlic pizzas from Domino's, too. The cheese with triple garlic is lovely.
I've ended up with tonight being my third night near Norseman. Finally camped at that nice spot and... well... it's too nice to leave. It feels good, it feels like a good place to rest and heal. I think on future trips that allow it that both hespa and tikiwanderer would like to check it out for a day or two. Been here since Tuesday night and not seen another soul. I saw two mosquitoes yesterday, which were around at twilight, but strangely vanished once it got dark. There are a few birds, a few footprints, and I just heard an emu making gumphing noises somewhere nearby.
Plus you know how I say that on each Nullarbor crossing I see something new, something I haven't seen before. On the way over it was the wild camels. Here it's been the second most fucking awesome shooting star I've ever seen. Actually, it's probably equal first, since they're both very different. The first was like a shooting star from a 1950's SF flick, and appropriately enough I saw it while outside the MSFC one Friday night. Jocko saw it too, so I'm not mad. Well... not much.
I went to sleep last night around 8:30-9pm, and awoke at about 3:30am. I'd want to watch for shooting stars, but it was kind of hard with such a bright moon in the sky. However, by the time I'd woken up, it had set and even through the mesh windows of the tent, the sky was awash with starlight. I put my glasses on, lie there, gazing up at the night sky admiring it, and after about ten minutes saw a brief pale scratch appear for a second or so, and thought "Oh! Now I can see them!" Prior to that I had just been enjoying the view, now I was reminded that if I'm patient, I can watch things burn up in the atmosphere.
Over the next half hour or so, I saw a handful more. I like wishing on falling stars. I know it's rubbish, but I like doing it anyway, because I like the romance of the idea. I also like 'gifting' them to people. 'That one's for Adina, that one's for Simon...' Again, I like the idea. I don't need all these wishes, I have a good life, may as well give some to my friends.
Now it's hard to know what part of the sky they are going to appear in. You just pick a bit of sky and keep your attention on it, and if one appears elsewhere hopefully your peripheral vision will pick it up in time to let you see it before it's gone. Many are short scratches, some are longer, maybe a handlength, and again, somewhere between 1-3 seconds.
So, I'm staring up at my bit of sky, and it appears right in my field of view. It's not a pale scratch, and please believe me when I say that this was like a magnesium flare - a distant blob of light dropping down through the sky. I have never seen another shooting star one tenth as bright. That would have been cool enough, but for probably a handwidth behind it I could see a smoke or debris trail, lit, I'm assuming either by the glow from the main piece or by the white hot debris coming off it within the trail. No 1950's sparking trail, but who the hell cares?!
And finally was the length. It travelled near vertically in my field of view for a good armlength before vanishing behind an opaque part of the tent wall and not reappearing in the next mesh section. If it had, I would have had to move my head to follow it. Time-wise, the whole thing would have been about three seconds.
Coolest shooting star ever!
Of course now I want to see another just like it. I didn't know they could look that spectacular, really I didn't! It's like the comet earlier this year. After the hype and damp squib that was Halley's Comet, even when you know better, know that they can reach across the sky, you expect comets to be a boring, dirty smudge at best.
My experience of shooting stars is that they are short pale marks on the sky. Jocko and I assumed what we saw at the MSFC was a shooting star because that's the most likely explanation given there were no plane crashes or anything. But it may not have been.
This was. And it was verra cool.
Okay, well, that's it for the moment. There may be stuff I've missed, but it can wait. Will get this to Norseman before the telecentre closes at 2. May try to get the Emotional Journey post done today, but probably won't. I'm enjoying wandering, resting and reading The Tracker, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a hat, and The Sky Warden and The Sun too much to stop to write. Plus my brain is still broken, and writing has been really hard, despite the way it may look.
Cheers, my dears! It's likely the next post will come from a bent, withered 40yo bloke, rather than a spry, dashing 39yo... unless I break and post tomorrow before heading off to Eucla...