I write this from my “bed” (read: sleeping bag) in the back of my 1994 Ford Falcon station wagon. It’s 9pm, dark but for the stars. Orion stands on his head in the southern hemisphere, by the way. On another night, the moon would light up the car, its shine reflected off the ocean just a few hundred meters away. We’ve parked at the beach tonight. The roaring ocean is loud, the waves are continually crashing. But it’s a lovely cacophony.
We’re definitely living nomadically in southwest Australia, even though we’re working. I work 6 days a week -3 days in a bike shop, 3 at a winery – until I earn enough to buy a Surly LHT touring bike, and then the game WILL BE ON.
I love working in the bike shop. I’m learning how to fix bikes well, getting my hands greasy and turning down offers of help from male customers surprised to see a young woman removing a crank arm. It’s spectacular to work with my hands, to be doing something concrete. And the mechanic knowledge I get here will serve me well on my tours!
As for the winery, I can’t wait to quit. It’s great money, but I hate working in food service. I much prefer tuning gears to refilling water glasses.
So how’s Australia? you may ask. Well, it’s certainly the easiest place to live that I’ve found (though, coming from someone who’s lived for 3 years in the Middle East, you can take that how you’d like). Cheerful, polite people, great wages, good single track, lots of sun, good beer. Though I’m a “traveler” and want to qualify myself as such, it’s very tempting to stay in this region for a while. We’re in the southwest, in the Margaret River region. It’s chock-full of wineries, forested in gum, karri, and marri trees, with some super cool cave formations as well. Dave’s psyched because of the world-class surfing. He met Taj Burrow at Yallingup beach last week! I think his heart almost popped from joy.
We’re coming up on the summer tourist season, which coincides with Christmas down here. This place fills up, swelling to many times its winter size. It’s a tourist region. Three-quarters of the mansions on Cape Naturaliste, where Taj Burrow happens to live, lie empty most of the year. But around Christmastime, all the owners come down on holiday to enjoy the beautiful weather.
But life can’t be all peachy.
Nope, there are two things here that plague me: Kangaroos and kookaburras.
I have to deal with them at opposite ends of the day. Kangas come out at dusk, and kookas do their thing at dawn.
Why I hate kookaburras: Each morning at around 4:30, these birds begins to SCREAM. Don’t be fooled by the kid’s song, kookaburras don’t laugh. They sit in gum trees and scream out this intense, warbling shriek. And they do this for an hour on end, until I’m well and thoroughly awake against my will. Then, blessedly, the kookas stop and wait their 23 hours to begin again. Plus, more than once, a kookaburra has tried to steal my breakfast from my hands.
Kangaroos are more than a bit dangerous. They total cars. Like deer in the U.S., or wild boars in Israel, they get stunned by headlights on dark roads, and simply wait to get hit. Then, these Aussie beasts often just hop away from the steaming wreckage they’ve just created.
Kangas are muscular as all get-out. Males can be 6 feet (2 metres) tall, and can literally eviscerate you with their hind claws. Not that there’s too much to worry about – everyone here talks about shark attacks, but I haven’t heard mention of a single kangaroo attack. Still, kangas hang out in heavily-wooded areas, so nearly every day I cycle past a few of them. It’s good to keep in mind what they can do.
My life is surreal. I still can’t believe that kangaroos are real, let alone that I see them every day.