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Australia came to be....
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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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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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
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.
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 ¾ 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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with new boards!
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
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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up camp - New South Whales