A Travellerspoint blog

February 2011

Life in Hobart, Tasmania.

One week in a full sized town house and one week on a boat in the marina. How's that for a taste of the Hobart Lifestyle.

Imagine living the good life on an small island just south off of the coast of Australia. And all the way, almost on the south end of that island, there is a town. Big enough to call a city, but lets be honest and call it a supersized village. It goes by the name of Hobart. The island was originally named Van Diemen's island, but these days people called it "Tassie", short for Tasmania. I'm quoting a television advertisement now, that airs frequently here in Australia; "Hobart, the way life should be."

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It doesn't necessarily have a proud history, especially if you look back to what happened to the indigenous people, the Tasmanian Aborigines, but it does have lots of character. I can tell you that much. As almost every other town in this country, Hobart started off as a penal colony and got to where it is nowadays without too many hick ups. A beautiful town set smack in the middle of magnificent surroundings... Tassie is not a bad place.. No, no.

Thanks to Helpexchange, the organization we use to travel around the world, we got to be introduced to Lynne and James (plus family). They needed some help with fixing up a town house, they were planning on renting out soon again. They got us set up very nicely, so we could do the work while living in the house by ourselves. Their generosity and trust in us, made this definitely an authentic "How is town life in Hobart like?" experience for us. So after a week of exploring Hobart and finishing the work, we moved on to their not so shabby boat named Intuition, located in Sandy bay marina.

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Same story here, we got very nicely set up and spent time sanding the wooden railing. It was a majorly fun yet different experience. Usually we get a separate bedroom or something similar, to see as our temporary home away from home, while staying at these HelpX places. This time it was a bit grander and worth writing home about for sure. I found out I don't really get seasick, but I do got a bit of a case of land sickness. Every time I would get on the mainland, I'd feel a bit unsteady on my feet and woozy in the head. As long as I kept moving, everything was fine though.

Hobart is the friendliest town we've been to so far in Oz and the fact it's surrounded by lots of water, doesn't make it a terrible destination either. On Valentine's day we spent an extremely sunny, afternoon boating around. I got to catch my first fish EVER.

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Simply awesome.
That's all I have left to say.

Sincerely,

a Tassie lovin' Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 13:51 Archived in Australia Tagged water boat tasmania sun hobart harbor sunny townhouse colony intuition tassie wooden_boat_festival north_hobart penal

A tale of Tipi's and kangaroos.

Learning all about Sustainable living. Straw bale buildings, compost toilets and rainwater catchment system.

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When I arrived at Sue and Don’s, I was ecstatic. Located just outside of Daylesford, Victoria. A charming small town, where tourism is it’s only big income. Property value is skyrocketing and sadly enough, unaffordable for the normal working class. The springs are what’s making this town renowned for its spa’s and health centers.

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I was finally out of the city, completely surrounded by nature. The best part was I’d be camping on their magical property in one of their majestic tipi’s. Tipi’s or teepees, the verdict is still out, but both are considered correct spelling. So I’m going ahead with what I think reads better. Already during the first night, I realized their knowledge of sustainable living was vast and they were all about sharing and providing us with even more reading material. An open fireplace in the middle of your tipi, smoldering while you doze off is a very relaxing, authentic experience. Sue and Don have a significant affinity for native American spirituality. They host spiritual unity gatherings on their property and attended them in The States as well. They also do work with local aboriginal cultures and are very much in tune with their Australian heritage. Truly beautiful people.

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Their property, a whopping 40 acres, has a river running through it. Which makes it a very inviting place for all the local wildlife. A family of kangaroos is to be spotted often and the occasional wallaby at dusk. The indigenous birds will sing you awake, especially the over eager Kookaburras and many colorful varieties of the cockatoo family. There is something to be said about being woken up by the thumping sound of kangaroos passing right outside your tipi. Other wildlife, I was not so keen on meeting for the first time, were the spiders. I do not recommend trying to go to sleep in a bed where a huntsman was lurking around just 5 minutes before. I’m still get the creeps just thinking about it. I saw a bunch of big spiders and okay, they were all harmless. They are so big and ugly and fury though.. So when in Australia, always check under the blankets, clothes and shake out your shoes in the morning. The famous poisonous red back can be found everywhere but apparently he’s slow and never comes out of his dark little hiding spot.

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Back to their awesome straw bale house built about 11 years ago. The front part has two stories, the upper one is their bedroom apartment and the ground floor is the open kitchen living room area. Attached in the back is a large room, work and storage area, where they make their fabulous tipi’s. Everything works on solar energy and rain water catchment. All toilets are compost toilets and the shower was definitely something else. Beautifully decorated with some recycled tiles and other broken porcelain pieces. I gave it a shot as well, trying to make the second outdoor compost toilet in the back of the property look nice. I think the shower still rocks more though!

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There are many unfinished projects scattered around the property. As they hold workshops for learning how to strawbale, many are left that way. That’s where we came in. We finished rendering the greenhouse and energy storage shed. There’s nothing more fun than mixing the cob render and splashing it on the walls with your bare hands! I can’t get enough of it. So what if I am still five on the inside, dying to play in the mud at all times? When we moved the chicken coop to the opposite wall of what could be considered their inner courtyard next to the main house, the chooks seemed a bit confused. At first they loudly made their way into their new home, having a look around, discussing whether they were content with the new arrangement or not, promptly laying their eggs. Though later at dusk they didn’t seem to realize that was their new sleeping place as well. So we had to gently carry them inside and put them to bed for a couple of nights before they seemed to finally understand what had happened. For some unknown reason these chooks loved picking at styrofoam. We made jokes about it all the time. For example if there would ever be a radio show contest of "Guess what this sound is?" and it would be chooks picking at styrofoam, we'd immediately all recognize it and win the first prize! Please let it be a trip to Hawaii... I miss that place..

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Don is also the timber bending expert and runs a wood bending factory in Creswick. As this is a very rare yet extremely skillful profession, people come on tours to check his mad skills out. The Veggie garden was in need of some lovin’, bursting with lots of artichokes almost ready for consummation. They told us artichokes grew particularly well here, so once they found out it was good for pretty much everything, they started growing lots and lots.

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Right before we got there, this particular region in Victoria had suffered from severe rains and floods, leaving the really cute little cottage at the end of the property damaged. The two other helpers decided to stick around for a while and clean it up. Sue and Don gave them permission to do so and stay for as long as they wanted. This was indeed one of those places you’d consider staying at for a bit longer. I know we seriously thought about it. Good times on the gorgeous Victorian countryside. Good times spent with wonderful people.

Love and peace,

Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 02:08 Archived in Australia Tagged victoria green house cottage kangaroos native_americans cockatoos cob wallabies rendering tipi's teepees

The monster that is Cyclone Yasi.

It seems the apocalypse decided to start off in Australia.

Update:

Everything's fine!! Yasi lost most of his feared force, hitting the coastline. It stayed a category 3. Everybody's safe and that's the most important part! Only material damage, like we all hoped for.

The largest deadliest Tropical Cyclone ever known to living generations in Australia, is heading for North Queensland as I’m typing this entry. Nothing but warnings, details about the storm coming and safety guidelines for the people staying behind in the cyclone’s target area, are non-stop repeating on the news channels. Next to the cyclone, Australia is suffering from more than a dozen large bushfires and the water of the previous floods are still moving and flooding new areas. What the heck is going on?? Should we all start kneeling down and praying? Or like the 90 year old lady who just answered that question by a reporter on the news.. What can you do? Nothing. At least she’s realistic?

My question is to those backpackers trying to stick out the category 5 cyclone in the only hostel still open in Cairns. What the hell are you guys thinking? Maybe it’s hard to find a bus or a train out, but why aren’t you hitchhiking your way out of there? You think an overcrowded hostel is going to keep you safe? You think this is going to be a good travel story for back home? Come on.. I’m dreading to hear the news tomorrow morning. It’s projected to start hitting hard around 10pm and supposed to have a category 3 effect for the following 12 hours. They are saying it will go inland after hitting the coastline for another 450 km. All with winds going about 200-300km/h. Anything could turn into a deadly missile. Are you kidding me? That sounds dead serious and terrifying. Remember those images on the television of hurricane Katrina. All those folks stuck on their roofs, trying to get out? How about those evacuation centers, that are cramped full and turning people away. What are they supposed to do? Are those centers even safe? I got to stop thinking this way.

Let’s all send out positive thoughts towards the soon to be disaster area. Let it only by material damage and nothing else. Pray to the weather gods, things will calm down rather sooner than later. Luckily we have a good head on our shoulders and went south as soon as we realized what an extreme summer it was going to be up in Queensland. This could be the most significant storm in modern history and I’m certainly not looking forward to it.

Good luck Queensland!

Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:55 Archived in Australia Tagged north hostel queensland cairns backpackers wind cyclone yassi category

The Rules of Packing your Backpack.

Need help deciding what to bring and what not to?

Stop packing right now! Get rid of all that crap in your backpack , please.. yes, I’m talking to you. Toss everything out and let’s start over together. No more dilemmas and almost panic attacks. I’m here to help..

First of all, it is a backpack you’re trying to pack. Think about it. That means everything you put inside of it will be carried by you and you alone on your own back. That will stop you from trying to stuff more useless objects in there, will it not?

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Okay, now that you realized the most important rule, we can go over the basics. Clothes, toiletries, camping gear (optional), electronics (optional, although I doubt that these days there’s still people traveling without a camera or cell phone). Long term travel or short term travel, it doesn’t really matter. You’ll still need all of the same things.

Let’s talk clothes first. Most of you take half of your closet with you on holidays right? You should see some of those girls and their backpacks, I’ve encountered in hostels before. They carry like 10 pairs of shoes around with them! Why? I’ll admit it’s definitely everybody’s biggest problem, trying to pack light. Even I made mistakes in the past, but I learned from them and here are my positive results. One pair of flip-flops and one pair of sneakers/hiking boots, five pairs of underwear, a sports bra, 4 pairs of socks, 1 short summer dress, 1 long summer dress, 1 bikini, 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of leggings, 1 pair of jogging pants, 2 tops, 4 T-shirts, one long sleeved shirt, 2 hoodies, a hat and a light but big scarf. Now this is not much at all, I know, but they are all very versatile pieces of clothing. Plus I can still look very trendy, despite what you’re thinking. For example my scarf has been used as a knapsack, picnic blanket, towel to lay on on the beach, head wrap for the sun, sarong and scarf for when it gets colder. Dirty clothing can always be washed in a sink with a piece of soap or a bit of shampoo! Don’t carry around all of your dirty clothes inside your bag for too long. It will start to reek fast! Another thing I’ve learned from my first long term backpacking trip, is to take your favorite clothing with you instead of your old, ripped up stuff. It’ll make you happy and not want to go shopping all the time :).

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Toiletries are also a necessity, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about them! What I personally have with me at all times is a toothbrush and toothpaste, 2in1 shampoo/conditioner (preferably organic), one comb or brush, one bar of soap, 1 razor (a girl’s gotta shave her legs once in a while), tweezers, nail clipper, cotton swabs, body butter, lip balm, sunscreen, hair bands, mascara, tampons (of course!), baby wipes (they’re good for everything, especially during camping trips), small first aid kit, Iodine tablets (for producing drinking water), anti-mosquito spray (preferable organic), painkillers and anti-histamines. I can swear to you, I don’t need anything more than this. I am, after all, traveling non-stop. I can always go to a local department store if I need anything.

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If you plan to go hiking and camping, you might want to make your pack a bit lighter of course. Make some space for water and food. We decided to take camping gear with us this time around and have found it very easy to make the extra space available in our backpacks. A marvelous tip for finding discount topnotch camping gear is going to your local specialized Outdoor’s shop and check if they have garage sales. This means returned items from unsatisfied customers for less than half the original price. Sometimes there is something wrong with it, but usually it’s more because it’s too small or short or the wrong color. That’s where we went looking (REI, Seattle) and got a super fancy tent,

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2 sleeping mats and 2 very comfy and warm sleeping bags for a total of 300 bucks. I can tell you that the price of it all together new would have been more than double that price. We also have a flashlight, pocket knife, a small one burner gas stove and one small pot and recently acquired forks. You don’t need more, well maybe a book, but that’s pretty much it.

By now, we have gotten the electronics part down as well. You could easily travel without a laptop but I personally can’t, so we have a netbook and a small external 1TB hard drive that we carry around with us. Connor can’t go without taking fabulous photographs everywhere we go, therefore we have a fairly new digital camera with us as well, plus a cell phone. Don’t forget the most important part. A internationally convertible adaptor for charging your batteries. We have a wonderful little thing that does it all in one.

Time for the last tips. A couple of things you wouldn’t think you’d need, but will prove to be super useful. Rubber bands (multiple uses), ziplock bags (for waterproofing or just space saving), pillow cases (separate the inside of your backpack into compartments or just as a laundry bag), a rain jacket is never a bad idea either or a journal to keep track of your adventures. Have a small rucksack with you as well for carry on purposes or as a day pack. We also save a lot of money on having or own water bottle. Instead of buying water all the time, we fill ours up pretty much anywhere.

Well, I think that’s about it. I hope this was helpful and please, if you have questions.. ask away!

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May you all have many grand adventures without too much back and/or shoulder pain!

Love and Peace,

Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 01:05 Tagged backpack camping back discount backpacking rei weight toiletries shoulders garage_sale electronics

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