Margaret River Trip, W.A., 150411 - 160411
Labels: Cycling Australia
Labels: Cycling Australia
Labels: Cycling Australia
040411 (Perth, Australia)
I departed Lijiang on April Fools Day (010411), with help from 'Darling Daughter Dara,' and others, of course. I couldn't have lived in China without my Chinese 'sons and daughters.' This day involved moving stuff from the house where I was renting to Dr. Bruce's storage room (#17, behind the old Mama Mia's Restaurant). He turned up after saying he couldn't be there, and with Hui, so I was happily surprised. I was glad to see him, as I could explain and give him the tea MaRuxia had sent me.
Then Dara, our driver and I went to lunch. During lunch the driver told me I looked 'weak,' or he could have meant 'strong,' as so much (in China) lost in translation.
By the time we got to Zhao Gang's/Merida bicycle shop, they were all waiting: Shingo, Zhu, Xuni and Muli. When I hugged my 'daughter' Xuni goodbye, she said, 'I love you!' It made my day. It was a tearful parting... I'd been in China for five years.
Dara and I got to the Lijiang airport early (my style), so plenty of time to talk. When I ordered just hot water, to make coffee in my blue cup (with my own Yunnan coffee) Dara thought this was so funny. Note, any time you do something different in China they just can't believe it.
Then, finally, Dara watched me until I disappeared through the security maze. This sweet child who truly loves me -- I'll never forget her looking after me. If I were just 30-years younger, at 41, I'd marry her! But, being her 'father' (at 71) the next best thing.
At Gate 8, after a 30-minute delay I boarded China Eastern flight (MU5851) for Chengdu.
Not a seat empty (usual in a country with 1.5 billion) but uneventful, we landed in probably one of the most unpleasant cities in the world (China has many). Xutan and the girls (my other Chinese daughters, Crystal and Helen) were waiting. But, true to Chinese style they hadn't introduced themselves to each other.
But, right away there was a hassle as the terminal crazy with too many travellers. We had to figure out what to do with my luggage (including two large bicycle boxes). I didn't want to take all of it to my hotel for one night, but storing was too expensive. So, Xutan took it to his hotel, and I went into the city with the girls.
First they took me to a new hotel (Totem Impressions) then to a restaurant ('Helen's' driving bothered me as too crazy slow). Then 'Helen and Crystal,' dropped me off and we said 'goodbye.'
'Crystal,' my oldest 'daughter,' having met her in Lhasa, in 1999. 'Helen' I met through Crystal as they turned out to be sisters (I didn't realize until recently.). This was way before 'Stephanie' Zhao who I met in the U.S. in 2003. With no plans to ever return to China, I'll probably never see them again.
Dara, would be the only reason to return to China, maybe Xuni.
The Hotel room was cold when I returned from dinner, as the window has been left open (typical of Chinese hotels). But, I figured out how to turn the heater on, and I slept in a chair under it. It was an exceptionally good night too as so tired from all the excitement.
In the morning there was no water, so I couldn't take a shower. When I went to the desk to inform them there was the usual 'explanation,' that I couldn't understand.
Later when I checked out, they charged me for the two bottles of water I'd used for tea. Pissed off about this, I sent an email message to 'Helen,' who booked me into this no-water Hotel. Yes, it's new, and there are last-minute opening problems, but to charge me for bottled water, when none was forthcoming from tap, so typical of Chinese employees (they can't think when there are exceptions)!
I found a taxi, but the driver got angry when I soiled his white seat covers with my bags. Yes, I made a mistake setting the street-dirt bottoms on the seat. But, I'm the customer! To make amends and him happier I gave him 10RMB extra. But, no smile, no thanks. I can't imagine having to live in Chengdu -- I'd be pissed off too.
Then the real 'shit' began at the airport, as International air travel all too crazy in this day and age. At least the combination of China and Air Asia.
We were first in line at Air Asia, who had written on their website you could check in 3 hours prior, but on the electronic board, it turned out to be two hours, so we stood there for two hours. But, at least first to get to the counter where they weren't going to let Xutan fly to Kuala Lumpur, because he has no return ticket. Of course, nothing about this on Air Asia's website or when Xutan went to get his visa the Malay Consulate. Xutan, getting more aggressive as he gets older, argued well and finally the 'loban' (big leader) relented.
Our overweight (3 bicycle boxes) cost an extra 1,800RMB, or some $300U.S This turned out good news to me actually, as I'd expected it to be more. But, because they don't take bank cards, poor Xutan had to run all over hell and gone, first because they wouldn't take U.S. dollar cash, only RMB. But, again they don't tell you this in advance.
Finally, we get to security, where the guy can't locate, in my passport, the last time I entered China (stamp). Luckily, the 'big guy,' waved me through, my heart pounding as we were running out of time. I couldn't imagine getting stuck in China at this point. So, we walked smartly to the gate with just ten minutes to spare. We had arrived at the Airport at 1030 in the morning, for a 3P.M. departure.
I can't tell you the relief we both felt, when we sat in our seats! We had overcome every obstacle and 'let nothing stop us!' But, maybe I'm getting to old for this kind of hassle.
When the wheels left the ground, both Xutan and I said 'Goodbye to China, forever!' Never again, at least for me!
Sitting next to Xutan, was a Chinese girl from Guangzhou, and once they started talking it became apparent, at least to me, that they had potential be become 'friends.' I was hoping that, that would develop, and who knows for the night. But, we found out later that someone was 'meeting her.'
Once in Kuala Lumpur for the first time poor Xutan had to manage 50KM that night and on a bicycle! But, according to him this wouldn't be a big problem! He said getting out of China was the challenge, finding his couch-surfing host 50KM distance was easy!
Before we parted I gave him the amulet that Rucha had give me. This to wear around his neck, a 'hidden,' money stash in case his backpack was stolen.
By myself now I waited in the 'Transit Lounge,' and enjoyed a chocolate brownie!
The A.A. flight to Perth took off on time, and I crossed over the equator for the first time in my life (1300 hours, 030411). I tried to sleep, putting my feet up on the seat I'd purchased for Xutan, and where he should have been sitting. No thanks to the Australian Government who had rejected his visa application.
We landed at the Perth International A.P. at 0530, me anticipating a hassle at Customs, because a warning about 'dirty bicycles' getting quarantined. But, my prayers were answered, and I sailed through with little problem.
Suddenly, there I was on Australian soil for the first time, the sun just showing in the East. I was so relieved at getting through Customs I celebrated with a muffin and coffee for !0 AUS. DOLLARS, OR ALMOST 700RMB. Chinese families could live for one week for the same amount! One muffin, one poor cup of coffee for $11U.S. dollars. Welcome to prosperous Australia.
Outside, I put Mr. Fetes back together, and waited for Mike Norman to pick me up (all pre-arranged via the Internet).
A little early, at 0945, he appeared, and we loaded everything in or on his automobile (he has a Thule bike rack).
My first glimpse of Perth, Australia, reminded me of San Diego, California. Suddenly, I 'was home.' Familiar, but strange, I felt like I was dreaming in 'Dream Time.'
Nola Cray, where I'm encounsced at this very moment (175 Swansea Drive, in East Victoria Park), turns out to be a wonderful host. She's taken care of me, like I was her brother!
After tea with Mike, I got settled in her 'trailer' (a Popette 400) where I am now.
But, that very evening we went on a long bicycle ride into Perth proper, and up a hill to King's Park (overlooking City Center). This was great fun, and I got oriented as to the Perth area! Inside one 'walking/shopping' court, a Chinese man played 'Waltzing Matilda,' on his violin. How's that for a welcome! I was going to give him some money, but I'd lost the coins in my pocket. Australia has minted coins.
Note, the song, 'Waltzing Matilda,' I remember from a book/movie entitled, 'On the Beach,' by Nevil Shute (an Australian). So, poignant to me, the song, as the movie ends in Australia, where the last human being on earth succumbs to the effects of radiation poisoning from a nuclear holocaust. Prescient maybe...
Back at Nola's house, she cooked scrambled eggs and tomatoes for us. I am a fortunate man (or maybe a fortunate woman -- that should confuse you).
Exhausted, 'wanked out,' I had a delicious sleep in a comfortable bed. Maybe the first good night (except for the Hotel chair) in three months. I never slept well in the house in Old Town, Lijiang (Peter's that Keith is looking after): 'malerb,' or bad energy in that house.
Before entering the trailer I looked up into the night sky and beheld of the 'Big Dipper' (Ursula Majorus), and for the first time saw it completely upside down. Thus, the two usual stars aiming at Polaris (to find the North Pole) couldn't. I'm 'down under!' But, I also glimpsed the 'Southern Cross,' for the first time, and will learn how to find the star that indicates the South Pole.
Australia, the word, means 'southern country.'
Day #2, Monday, 040411
I didn't get up until 0700, then made coffee in the kitchen. Nola leaves her back door open all the time, as she has boarders (besides me).
By 0900 I was looking for WIFI, but the Cafe Nola had told me about only had wired computers. The man behind the counter, informed me MacDonald's across the street had such. So, one good turn deserving another, I bought some 'trail mix' (don't know what else to call this mixture of nuts, seeds, and raisons) from him. One tiny container of such cost $2 (these are 'Aussie' dollars). I lose .03 cents when I convert.
Sad, what's happened to America, going to hell in a hand basket (2011).
At MacDonald's a poor cup of black tea, cost $2.35A., or $2.50U.S. But, the WIFI worked and I was soon online, at least until my battery ran out after about one hour. They have WIFI at MacDonald's, but guess what, no electric outlets. I sometimes wonder about how people don't think. I guess all portables (now iPod) have long-life batteries. But, how 'bout the people that don't? OOL!
I haven't noticed any Starfucks in Perth...?
Afterwards, I cranked back into City Center, Perth, and then up to King's Park. All of this retracing our route of the previous evening to 'shoot,' for 'Discover Australia by Bicycle.'
The thing I'm reminded of, being back in a Western country, is all the war memorials, and how we glorify military sacrifice. King's Park is full of monuments, 'Lest we forget!' But, the Botanical Garden, a treat, and the discovery of the long-living Boaba (Bottle) tree. According to Nola, the Aborigines used them as 'prisons' for 'bad people.' Can you imagine being encased in a 'Bottle tree,' for however long? Such made me think of the Druids of ancient Britannia, as they communicated with 'tree spirits.' Maybe there's a connection?
After sitting on a bench, feeding the magpies with my trail mix, I returned to Nola's via the Albany Highway. On the way, I stopped twice, once to check out the Nepali Restaurant, and to see about purchasing an adaptor plug. Australia is 220V, with a ground connection, my Apple Computer, being U.S., has but two, and I needed to recharge the battery for Macs in the morning. I ended up buying an Apple cable, from an Iraqi man for $20A.
Back writing in the trailer Nola yells to me to watch TV. I thank her, but of course don't.
I'm tired and soon am in bed, something like 8P.M.
Day #3 (050411), Tuesday.
I'm up at 0700, after a hot night, and I'm not talking with a woman! One of the surprises about Western Australia is the heat, around 30C. by 4P.M., and everyday. So, I 'jump cut,' from the beginning of Spring in China, to mid-summer in Australia, in 48 hours. And I don't think my -15C down sleeping bag, is going to be needed here in Australia, even in the winter. Note, the 'highest' latitude in Australia is southern Tasmania, and that's only 45 degrees south, equivalent to Portland, Or. (45 degrees north) in the U.S., This, if you want to compare relative temperatures based on proximity to the poles. I'm sure in October (April in Australia) it's much colder at that time of year. But, we're going to discover, as Tasmania, is on my list to 'Discover...'
Off again about 0900, I head directly for Macs, appropriately with my MacBook.
Then I return to Nola's bicycle shop, to have the check my derailleurs which have been acting up since the trip. The maintenance area, in such contrast to Zhao Gang's in Lijiang. All the tools are hung up and organized, and everything neat and clean in order. The mechanic, a man with a withered arm, turns out to be a good, and he first informs me my chain is stretched slightly, only good for another 300KM. When I tell him it's only gone about 2K KM, he replies with, that's 'quite a long way!' Note, in China they run them 10K KMs, or until the break. A new cassette/chain will cost something like $250A. or 2,000RMB (in Chinese money). This about 10X more expensive than at Merida in Lijiang, China. Again, welcome to prosperous and rich Australia (as China making them rich, buying up all their resources: iron ore, minerals and natural gas).
I buy some Teflon lubricant, and the total charge is $25A. or about 200RMB. Zhao Gang, or any bicycle mechanic in China hasn't figured out to charge for 'shop time,' or their work. In China, they only charge for parts.
I don't mind being charged for 'labor,' here as this guy knows what he's doing. Thus, no problems now with my derailleurs. Ah, what a difference a country makes.
I head for Fremantle, the oldest community in the Perth area, as is the mouth of the Swan River. I am looking for 'The Painted Fish,' a guest house, I've connected to via the Internet and Sarah, the owner. It's about 15KM on the Leach Highway, a few hills and then I'm in this quaint little tourist town on the Indian Ocean.
I stop in the midst of tourists, and tourist shops, healthy eating places, check them out, but walk into HempCo, selling clothing made out of hemp. Where there is hemp, there is 'dama!' This company headquartered in 'Margaret River.' I shall have a look when down there next week. I also peruse 'The Blue Buddha,' for incense, but so expensive. A young man on the concourse is selling 'live painting.' Everyone is in shorts or 'sun dresses,' as it's only the beginning of Fall or 'October' in my mind (actually the month of April here).
I crank on now in quest of 'The Painted Fish' a Guest House. I stop a young man on a bicycle with an iPod, and checking, he finds Holbert St. He points south, which I think is north, and for one of the few times in my life I'm confused about directions. My body compass, living in the Northern Hemisphere for 70 years, is turned upside down (down under). But, I go in his direction, up (actually 'down') South street, to the end and then left on Duro, and Holbert is up on the right.
I find Holbert a cozy community of artists. On a public blackboard it reads, 'Happy Birthday, Lizzie!' I crank up a shallow hill, amidst cute little beach bungalows, some decorated with sculptures, one I stop to take a picture of, a 'Wet-suit' man, stuffed like the Straw Man in the 'Wizard of OZ.' I should have stopped there, as this turns out to be 'The Painted Fish,' but with no sign I move on.
I end up on a bike path looking for a higher number (I'd written down something like 100+), but end up on a busy commercial street. I stop and ask many pedestrians, but nobody, two French tourists, have no idea. 'Viva La France,' in Fremantle, Australia.
Finally, after a restaurant (for a toilet), cranking through a residential area, and passing the Old Prison, I decide I must retreat and ask at the Visitor's Center, I remember coming into town. Here, they know, it as 37 Hobert Street, with a missing 'l.' Seems I was right there had the a sign with 'THE PAINTED FISH.'
Back again, now it's obvious even without a text sign, as many painted fish scattered about (had I looked closer it might have dawned on me). Nobody is home, however, so I leave my postcard. But, I'm surprised as this is a funky deal, compared to what I saw on their website. Ah, reality is always different from advertising pictures, and as we say, 'the map is not the territory.'
I return to purchase an avocado, yoghurt and some water at a market. I'm close to South Beach, and go to partake of sand and sea, and the Indian Ocean.
I have my little picnic lunch in the shade on a wooden picnic table/bench, but an avocado and yoghurt turn out to be a strange combination. After eating I sit in the sun to digest my food, trying to 'snatch shots' of the locals (or tourists) enjoying the park. Then I crank on a bicycle path further south (toward Coburn). The Ocean is aqua-marine, and inviting under a bright sun (small lapping waves). But, not being drawn to water, I stop only to 'shoot' video for 'Discover Australia by Bicycle.'
At 3:30P.M. I decide it's time to return, as about 20KM distance.
But, oh the rushing traffic on the Leach Highway, so much more now! Even with six lanes, the big trucks come to close, and certainly too fast. Australians are into speed and the illusion of power and freedom (nothing new here, the same all over the world). At least there isn't the 'honking madness' of China!
I arrive back at Nola's about 5P.M., and meet Tom, Nola's ex-husband. Tom, a former postman, is erudite, and I enjoy learning much about the world, particularly Australia. He has some 'migraine' problem with his ears, but can hear well enough. You can't talk if you can't hear. After an hour or so, I return to my trailer, and continue writing this...
At some point I realize I must call Mike, and do (Nola's wired telephone is a fax machine). But, he's at a Council Meeting. I leave a message with his wife I will call tomorrow.
Welcome to Australia!
Day 4, (060411), Perth (East Victoria Park)
I cycled into City Center, Perth, this route, the one Nola had taken me on the first night. But, I had to do a little searching before I got close, but then a wrong turn led me to one of YHA facilities. They advertised 'WIFI,' so I stopped and yes, but for $1A. per 15 minutes. I paid for 2.5 hours, some $10A. Then BOHICA time as the WIFI doesn't work with your own computer but only theirs (and they couldn't refund the $10A.). Now, here's a great example of modern-day stupidity, that these people wouldn't even understand. Why would I buy WIFI to use their computer? Stationary computers don't need WIFI, as they're wired. PEOPLE JUST DON'T THINK! Anyway, I didn't complain, as the woman informs me about 'free' WIFI at the City Library.
Inside the LIbrary, is a Cafe so I decide to have lunch first (bean salad, a slice of banana bread and tea for $10A.). Then I ask at the desk about WIFI, which they have, but then so many people using the WIFI-Internet, no site will load.
Finally, an employee came by to tell me I couldn't run my AC cable across the carpet to an outlet. Safety first, of course! I get the message and decide to return when they open in the morning (0900). Note, whereas there is no such thing as public safety in China, maybe too much in Australia. Oh, where is there a country that's 'perfect?"
After cycling around City Center (up into 'West End') Perth, as far as I can tell, is bereft of WIFI connection cafes. No Starbucks either! I wonder why no Starbucks...? Well, I know of course. On the other hand, they have MacDonalds! Coffee must have a louder 'voice' in Perth, than hamburgers.
On the way back to E. Victoria Park, I come across a cycling couple from Austria trying to find the Train Station. We chat awhile as they want to cycle China.
Then back to MacDonalds to get online, finally. I make a mistake and order a Strawberry 'Smoothie,' made from pre-packaged ingredients, and with too much ice (too cold). When will I ever learn?
While I'm dealing with email an Australian man comes up to inform me my MacBook screen is in sunlight, and not a good idea (he 'repairs computers'). I thank him and move it into shade. Later he tells me about how 'idiots' (vandals) had unscrewed the oil plug, taken the oil, and he, not knowing, drove his automobile/engine until it exploded. And the insurance won't pay! Thus, I curse all Insurance Companies (in the world): 'Oh, woe be unto you!'
I see Xutan (in Kuala Lumpur) is online so I launch a 'chat.' Then 'Jerry,' in Xining, China, wants to as well, but I beg him off. Before I can't do much as my battery runs out of juice.
Back at Nola's I make my Yunnan Yunlu instant coffee (with 'fat water'), and sit in her porch swing. Her back porch, in the late afternoon, is like a tranquilizer, the wind chimes lulling me into reverie. But, soon Nola sits, and we're talking about her family: five children (one died of cancer), and 11 grandchildren., 'No great-grandchildren, yet, that will take another 10 years, and I don't know if I'll be around.' She was born in 1944, and is 66-years 'young!'
She's quite a 'gal,' this Nola, a professional nurse (about to retire). Short, full of energy, she's not shy with men ('good for only one thing!'). But, she has a heart of gold, always thanking me for any little task I do for her, like washing the dishes. She also plays the violin in the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra. Their next concert, in June, dedicated to Gustav Mahler!
Soon, however, she departs for one of her granddaughter's and I hand wash some clothes, then take a shower. I'm taking many more showers than Lijiang, almost one per day. This because of the humidity.
Maybe, I'm beginning to adjust here in 'W,A,' (Western Australia), but certainly it is a 'jump cut' from China. I made a mistake not returning to a Western country in the five years I lived in China (Hong Kong twice). I should have taken a little vacation in a Western country. Now, the difference, 'culture shock'... challenging at my age!
This is 'strip malls Dreamtime!'
Day 5 (070411)
I returned to City Center, Perth early to be some of the first when the State Library opened at 0900. The ride in only taking me 45 minutes, so I stood around and watched Australians waiting along with me.
One, an Aboriginal man, asked me about my little 'flex' jointed tripod attached to my camera. Another was wearing a t-shirt which read, '3-3-3, only one-half evil!' Note, for those who don't know the 'Fundies' (Christians) believe the numbers '6-6-6,' are symbolic of the Devil! I take some pictures before the door opens promptly at 0900. But, things are orderly, there's no big rush, no pushing and shoving as in China (where they suffer the 'too many rats in a cage' syndrome).
Now, because so few users the Internet servers work, and I can load gmail.com. Xutan and I chat later, but when it gets too busy we're cut off. He has an idea to ride to Singapore, 400KM from Kuala Lumpur, at the base of their peninsula. This, influenced by one German man he met that had suggested this. I responded with, 'When three people, and some research tell you it's the right thing to do, then go! But, one German man does not a decision make!'
Young people, particularly young Chinese people, haven't been taught how to think. Therefore they usually make poor decisions. But, then again when I was young, I made many (bad decisions). When young, you don't know that you don't know.
At 1100, I had lunch in their 'Aroma' Cafe (part of the State Library), a rice dish and toasted raison bread. With black tea this cost $16.18A., or $16.50U.S. This should give you some idea how expensive Australia is for me. I have to stop doing this.
Why are the prices so high in Australia? Money, the economy, dictates... When people are $ rich, prices are generally high. Why are they rich in Australia? Australia has many natural resources that the Chinese (who are rich also) need (iron ore, natural gas, minerals) are buying. So, Australians have money. And when people have money, lots of money, prices are high (because people can afford). The real estate market here, hot, with a small home costing $500,000, a moderate house worth $1 million. They, don't think it will change (that it will always go up), but someday the 'bubble with burst,' just like in the U.S. in 2008. What goes up, must come down! This is Taoism.
I ride around City Center looking for two things: Hydrogen Peroxide (food grade), to use as a mouth wash. And I also look for a watch repair place, to have a bucket added to the nylon strap I bought in Hogsaeter, Sweden, five years ago. Walking on Hay Mall, I find one on a sign that says, 'second floor,' but decide against, as the Mall too crowded with people, and I'm concerned about leaving Mr. Fetes (MacBook inside one of my panniers).
I head for the Victoria Park Library to check out their Internet connection. Nola, told me about this, and no doubt smaller (than the State Library in Perth), less people. And less people means maybe I can get online, and even in the afternoon.
I get just inside when it starts to rain. It's been cloudy all day, the front coming from the northwest (Indian Ocean). But, now actual rain, Mr. Fetes parked under cover.
After waiting a bit I'm able to get online, and chat with Rob Neal down in Bunbury. He's my next host, a cyclist I connected with via www.warmshowers.org. Ironically, Rudi and Lisa, an Austrian couple I'd met on a bicycle path yesterday, are staying with him. I get his address, as I'll be looking on Tuesday afternoon.
Then after reading the newspaper (an English-language paper, what a treat), I return to 175 Swansea St. and my little Popette 400.
I make coffee in Nola's Kitchen, but nobody seems to be around. Nola, as I wrote earlier, seems to operate kind of a 'boarding house,' as many men coming and going.
Editing 'Discover Australia by Bicycle,' Nola yells, for me to come eat fish. But, earlier craving peanut butter I bought some in the Swansea Market (just across), and now I'm eating a sandwich with green olives. So, I have to beg off.
Cooler, because of the wind and rain (change in weather), I put the quilt back on the bed, and am off to 'Dreamtime' at 2100 hours.
Day 6 (080411)
I'm at the Victoria Park Library early, so I lock Mr. Fetes, and then visit the adjacent Mall. What deja vu, as reminds me of being in Colorado Springs.
Online at 0900, I get an email message from Paolo, he's in Perth!
NOTE, MAYBE NOT MORE FOR ANOTHER WEEK, AS busy visiting with Paolo, or on the road again!
Labels: Cycling Australia