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Travel Log

"Live the change you want to see in the world"  --Gandhi

On December 15, 2002,  Pete will be returning to Australia to continue his research. This two-month exploration of the Aboriginal culture will take him to Tasmania where he will embark on a two week Aboriginal guided "walk about." He will explore the wilderness landscape stopping to visit and understand the significant Aboriginal landmarks. From here he will head north to mainland Australia and into the northern Territories in search of furthering his understanding of the Aboriginal people and their culture.


 Current time in Australia:  

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The 2002/2003 Trip to Tasmania Australia

The trip to Tasmania was sweet; I can truthfully say that I have conquered Tasmania.  The trip was probably the most intense on a physical level that I have ever been on.  We hiked over sixty miles in the course of just the first five days, with fifty pound back packs to start off with, scaling three mountain ranges and making it to the highest point on the island, Mt. Osa = 9 thousand foot elevation.  From the top of this behemoth we could almost see from the Base Straights, The Indian ocean all the way to the Tasman sea with one hundred mile views in all directions! I can't believe there is that kind of open spaces in the world, it felt like the surface of another planet at times.  

The second night sleeping under the southern cross (a constellation of stars only seen in the southern hemisphere) I lay in my tent wondering if I had what it took to make it the rest of the expedition, my knees were a bit achy, my shoulders sore from the pack and I had no clue what type of mountain we'd be climbing next.  Then, I heard it, a "thump thump THUMP"! Into our wilderness campsite, pulling me out of my worried mind and into a flight or fight state!  I carefully dawned my headlamp and slowly peaked out, only the thin mesh of my tent door kept me from what was outside.  My eyes struggled to focus through the dark and then I saw it, four glimmering eyes glowing from my head lamp about two feet away from me, peering right into my tent!  I was a bit freaked out at first, but then, upon further examination, I saw that the four eyes were actually those of a wallaby and it's baby Joey nestled in its mother's marsupial pouch.  The miniature Kangaroos were sniffing out our pack for a morsel of food that they thought we might not have wanted.

Turns out these little fellas are quite docile.  During the day we could get close enough to pet them!  Real cool.  This trip to Tasmania was so plutonium, even though it was only a month, it felt like I was gone for six months.  Catching up on jet lag and just finishing up one of two colds I picked up on the trip. This was mostly due to lack of sleep and recycled air on the 78 hours of flying.  My head was spinning to say the least for the last week. 

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December 5, 1998

How Australia came to be....

It took six months toiling away at our work, squirreling away extra cash, and doing whatever we could to stockpile cash for the adventure we were about to embark on in just two days.  My friend and co-worker Christian and I had started planning this trip to Australia more than six months ago.  Now the time was upon us. 

Over the last four months, another friend of mine named Melissa showed an immense amount of interest in coming with us to Australia.   Melissa was a veteran traveler so I thought it might be a good idea to have her come along.  Christian wanted to keep it strictly a guy's trip, but somehow she managed to score a ticket on our trip down under.

So here was the departure day, December 7 1998, and the three of us stood poised in my driveway, surrounded by friends and family, all there to wish us well and to say good bye.  Getting into the limousine after I said goodbye to my parents was the first time I truly got excited.  Up until the departure day, the trip seemed like a dream, a big shimmering fake out oasis to a parched man.  That was until that limousine door closed and I said goodbye to my parents. The anticipation and the excitement of the unknown and the adventure of what we were about to embark on were felt by all of us.  Once the three of us were in the limo and moving towards New York our moods became obvious; the atmosphere was electric! 

Christian and I would get kind of pumped up for short periods of time over the past few months, but even now sitting in the airport in New York waiting for our 9:15 flight I can't completely grab hold of the concept of leaving the country. I sit quietly by myself journaling my thoughts as Melissa and Christian make idle chitchat amongst themselves. 

Melissa talked us into letting her handle the flight reservation, being that she was the only one out of all of us that has ever flown out of the country. Melissa was the type of person who took chances without putting much thought into it.  This made her exciting in a way but also a bit dangerous.  I met Melissa about ten years ago while working at a nightclub in Hartford.  She had a flamboyant lifestyle living at times in New York as a freelance writer for Rolling Stone magazine and a few other publications.  She very much enjoyed the chaos that life sometimes served people.  Most people would crumble when chaos came to visit their lives but not Melissa, she thrived on it.  That's great if you're Melissa, but sometimes challenging to say the least if you are anywhere close to her when this happens. 

I never saw my tickets until the day we were flying.  So here we are, the three of us, the blind leading the blind, sitting in JFK Airport and we just found out that we were in fact flying into Germany first!  This flight is going in the opposite direction right from the start.  From there, we would be flying into Guam, then Singapore, finishing down into Sydney, Australia.  Going through Germany would add about five and half more hours to an already unbelievably long twenty-six hour flight!  I've never sat on a plane longer than five hours before in my life, now I was about to be on one for almost thirty hours!  This was just the beginning of the surprises Melissa would eventually spring on me over the next four years of traveling.  

I just caught a glimpse of our Singapore flight crew, all of them were looking real professional, exotic, and interesting. Blue suits with colorful scarves and a tidy hat atop of their pretty faces.  We also find out we have an ambassador on our flight and security is heightened.  This worries me having any political figures on board especially in this day and age.  The first stop was Frankfurt Germany; we had a one-hour layover and were unable to step outside the airport.  Walking through the international airport in Germany was surreal.  Everything was written in German, the voices coming over the announcement speakers were in German and the people all looked very foreign.  I was operating on minimal sleep as it was and to be here in this airport ready to get to another very foreign airport must have been what Alice felt like when she began to tumble down the rabbit's hole.  

December 9th, 8:00 PM
When I boarded the first plane in New York, it was bitter cold and snow bound, just like I remember all New England winters.  However, when I exited the plane in Sydney Australia for the first time, the weather hit me like a breath of warm fresh air totally unfamiliar, yet I also felt like I was home.  I found it to be very tropical, in a way like Florida, but not as muggy and no sulfur smell.

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Byron Bay


It's summer again! It is the first morning in Australia and I am sitting on the corner of a popular spot on Bondi Beach.  The water is beautiful, turbulent and untamed!  The colors are a swirl of cobalt blue and emerald green, dancing together to create a never before seen combination. The entire beach reminds me a bit of First Beach in Newport Rhode Island, horse shoed in shape, beautiful people everywhere running, and exercising sun tanning.  


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Bondi Beach


The coast is peppered with shops and vendors, activity is buzzing and life is good. The plane ride was bearable. The first leg to Germany was seven hours, and the second leg was brutal, fourteen hours to Singapore.  The last leg was the worst; we all temporarily lost our minds in our own way.  Melissa played Tetris for literally twenty hours straight! Christian's legs were cramped beyond belief, but the flight attendants were so very beautiful it helped ease the tension a bit.  I felt like I was living a scene from Heart of Darkness, embarking on a journey that would lead me to insanity and hopefully back.

I was extremely tired and could not think straight.  We walked out of the airport and found our connection straight away, Pano's cousin Alex was to be our host for the next four or five days.  Pano is the guy who owns the delicatessen in my town and makes our egg sandwiches for breakfast.  He has a Greek cousin who lives in Bondi Beach and agreed to contact his cousin Alex and have him help us out with getting oriented in Australia. 

Anyhow, here was Alex, 26 years old surfer dude who was going to college part-time and living with his girlfriend who wanted to have nothing to do with more travelers coming to stay with them.  Needless to say, Alex escorted us to his home for one night and the next day checked us into The Lamb Rock Youth Hostel and it was a bit hostile at that.  There are many stories to be told about staying here for a few nights, but for now I will get to the story I want to tell. 

December 10th 
The next day comes and we managed to find and buy our surfboards that we have been saving and dreaming about getting.  I purchased a used Australian board, 7 feet inches, supposedly perfect for the type of waves notorious for the southeast shore of Australia.  Little did I know what I was in for.  Christian bought a board similar to mine yet his was brand new.  Melissa didn't surf but managed to get a boogie board and some fins so she could get into what seemed to be fun waves. 

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Christian with new boards!


December 11th
I tried surfing for the first time yesterday, but had to sit it out on the beach after only a few attempts at catching waves because of a tremendous headache due to jet lag.  Today was a new day and I was hopeful that I would get to ride Aussie waves for the first time in my life, something I had dreamed of for years!  So the three of us head down to Bondi Beach.  Christian and Melissa jump right in and start paddling around in the surf.  I decide to sit on the edge of the water and watch the waves a bit to get a feel for the ocean, something an old surfing friend told me to do before I jumped into surfing the waves. 

So there I was just sitting on the shore letting the waves crash and roll up to where I was.  I watched the other surfers and people playing in the water.  It was sunny, 85 degrees low humidity and an all around beautiful day.  I watched the next wave rush up to me, splash my feet and continue on about ten feet past me.  While I'm sitting there with nothing but my board shorts on and my surf board attached to my ankle in the water that was rushing up from the open ocean, a tiny sea creature called a miniature Portuguese Man of War was washed directly up and into my open ended board shorts and right onto my left butt cheek.  At first it felt like a ball of silly putty or a hard-boiled egg in my shorts.  What happened next, I was totally unprepared for. 

Now the rule of thumb goes if you're ever in the Australian waters and you ever get just one, just one tentacle of this creature on you, you are not to touch it!  You are supposed to get to where you can use soap and water to gently wash it from your body.  Vinegar is best at removing the toxin, but soap will do in a jam. The tentacles of these sea creatures have tiny barbs on them for which to pierce its enemy's flesh.  Once the flesh is pierced, the rest of the tentacles will now deposit the burning and sometimes lethal poison into its victim.  Now this is not the famous Australian box jellyfish which can kills you in minutes, but the Portuguese man of war can cause anaphylactic shock if you are susceptible to its poison. 

Now if the entire jellyfish is in your shorts and you squash it into the back of your thigh and rear end, what effect do you think this little sea creature and all its hundreds of thousands of flesh piercing barbs will do to you?   Forget about one tentacle, the entire organism was in my shorts! Now I stand up and begin to scratch was started off as a small itch. Within thirty seconds, my entire back of my upper thigh was on fire!  It was more pain than a thousand mad bees stinging me all at once.  If this were not a miniature Portuguese Man of War, I would have died of anaphylactic shock! 

Welcome to Australia and all its wonderful deadly creatures!  Melissa and Christian now have come out of the water and see the _expression on my face.  They knew instantly I was in trouble.  They asked me what was wrong.  All I could tell them is that I was sitting on the shore and I think  a jelly fish possibly, a was a Portuguese Man of War just washed up my shorts.  I crushed the little bugger and rubbed its tentacles into my ass and thigh and I'm in trouble! 

They both looked at me and saw the pain on my face but could not help it and burst out laughing!  I jogged up to the open air showers and opened my surf trunks to attempt to wash the stingers off of me.  Shame took a back seat to the immense pain that I felt as I scrubbed my backside in plain view of everyone.  The pain gradually subsided over the coarse of a few hours.  My friends took pictures of the injury but I will spare you the graphics! 


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Setting up camp - New South Whales



Pete found the best surfing in Costa Rica!  Check out the Live Surf Cam and Costa Rica Surf Report: www.ranchocoral.com




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