One of the best things about friends is that they go away. Sometimes they go away for a holiday and I get to go with them. Sometimes they go away for extended periods, usually blaming work or business or family, and I get to go visit them. Sometimes when they go away there are phone calls or emails or letters or skype chats, but these become fewer and farther between, and eventually we describe each other to strangers as having “grown apart” — but at least we both grew. And then sometimes friends just go away, never to be heard from or seen again, raising doubt as to whether they were really friends. This may not be one of the best things about friends, but is certainly is cause for reflection, which in my experience is all for the best. Continue reading 05. Friends Go Away
Annie was full of shit, the sun did not come out tomorrow. Sunday was badly named in this instance, drizzly and cloudy.
The resort’s outing for the day was a canoe trip to a “magic waterfall” over a “fern grotto” beneath which we could bath in “sacred pools”. This, I surmised from participation in the Friday expedition, not to mention a lifetime of cynicism, would prove to be a load of crap. Nevertheless, the prospect of another day staring at abandoned amenity was reason compelling enough to sign on. Continue reading 04. Coup de Grâce?
The Fijian rain pelted down all night and into Friday morning, 30 July 1999. Opening the curtains in the morning, I half expected to find a muddy gully where the lower half of the resort used to be. No such luck. I did realize for the first time what a tremendous view of the reef our room offered. And a good thing, too. If this weather continued, we’d be spending a lot of time using that view.
Down at breakfast, we read the activities board for the day. The weather being what it was, we decided to partake of the Pottery Village Tour and Shopping Trip to Sigatoka. It promised comers would “see with your naked eyes” the formation of bowls, vases, and such pottery stuff, which seemed totally unremarkable to we jaded fat white folk. But what else do fat white folk do on a rainy day other than shop? Continue reading 03. Growing Indigenation
The morning of Thursday 29 July 1999 my stomach and head were having the usual post facto debate, wherein my stomach points out that if we missed breakfast, we’d starve before lunch, and my head retorts that given its current state, remaining horizontal and perishing for lack of nourishment before noon was the more attractive option. Unusually, my calves entered the discussion, incoherently twanging on about stairs. As usual my stomach won, egged on by the aroma of bacon wafting up the jungle hillside.
By daylight the full portent of Crusoe’s Retreat revealed itself. It is indeed a small remote resort situated on about five acres along the Coral Coast. There was a main building housing reception, the bar, and the restaurant in which we’d take our meals – and aside from potato chips at the bar, those meals were the only available source of sustenance for miles around. There was a foot-shaped saltwater swimming pool and an array of other recreational amenities – a catamaran, a grass tennis court, a beach volleyball court, and picnic tables. Except for the pool, nobody ever used any of these things, and in the case of the catamaran, nobody was allowed to use it (I asked). Continue reading 02. Fun & Games
If you had told me thirty years ago that my fifty-fourth Christmas would be spent in Fiji, I would have been much better looking then. A very smart sister of mine once observed that if you aren’t happy with your looks at the age of twenty-four, you’ve got a rather difficult life ahead.
This is my third trip to Fiji, albeit my first Christmas spent here. It may seem an odd place to celebrate Christmas, but Christianity itself is riddled with such oddities. If the Brits can sings hymns declaring Jesus an Englishman, surely it is not a bridge too far to suggest he may have wintered here. Certainly the Fijians have become pretty good Christians, at least since they stopped eating one another. Continue reading 01. Fiji…Again?
[This is the last of five posts in the series Tasmaniacs]
Queenstown is a copper mining town about forty kilometres inland from Strahan in Tasmania’s West Coast Ranges. Tourism Tasmania claims it “was once the richest mining town in the world”, although they give no indication as to when that might have been or for how long. I’m guessing fifteen minutes during the depression of the 1890’s. It is a dubious distinction in any case. Like all mining towns, Queenstown has had its ups and downs, but the general direction has been down for a long time.
We stopped for petrol and a toilet, and didn’t expect much more. After fulfilling our needs, a stroll down the main drag, Orr Street, revealed a surprisingly charming town centre. Handsome Victorian structures intermingled with once grand pubs and hotels, most now closed and decaying, weathered, withered and warn, hinting of glory days long gone. Continue reading 05. Gay Gordons, Top to Bottom
I awoke in the dark before sunrise without the faintest idea where I was. Then I remembered: nowhere. I decided this was okay, since I had nothing to do. I went back to sleep.
Two hours later I awoke to a panoramic view, bright blue skies over the dark blue waters of Strahan’s Macquarie Harbour, wind ripples on its surface crackling the reflected sunshine. I like nowhere.
The thing to do in Strahan is take the award-winning life-changing Gordon River Cruise into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, part of the UN recognised Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. For only $350 we could be in Captain’s Class: a reclining chair by the window, air conditioned comfort, three count ‘em three viewing decks, a hot and cold buffet, and an open bar (!!) for the six hour cruise. Wow!
Wait a minute, does that say a six hour cruise? The Skipper and Gilligan went out for only three hours which ended up being 98 episodes. The idea of being trapped on a stinkpot for that duration made me shudder. I’ve never met an open bar I didn’t like, and this voyage started with a “Welcome Wine” at 8:30 in the morning. There was a fair chance my fellow passengers would throw me overboard by noon. Continue reading 04. Nowhere like Strahan
No one is more eager to get out of a hotel than parents and children sharing a room, no matter their age or stage. I thought we’d be amongst the first to get breakfast when it started at 7 am, but when we arrived at 7:10 am the restaurant was vibrant with energetic children, Moms on the edge, and Dads all too aware of how close their energetic children were putting Mom to the edge.
We found a relatively quiet spot in a windowed corner where the echoes of generational recrimination waned in acoustic insignificance. In preparation for the day’s exertions we gorged ourselves on all sorts of things real mountain climbers wouldn’t touch. And bacon.
We headed back into the park to get good use of the last five hours of our twenty-four hour pass. Regarding the shuttle bus, we adhered to the old adage “Fool me once, fuck you.” Instead, we took the more dangerous and less environmentally friendly option of driving to where we wanted to be so we could leave when we were done. The drive was easy, although it helped that we had toured it by bus the previous day.
Continue reading 03. The Ends of the Earth
Tasmanians can be a bit precious. They get miffed when cartographers leave their island off maps of Australia, or even when graphic designers leave it out of logos. From prior visits I know never to ask a Hobart waiter “How much is that in Australian dollars?” And Tasmanians are quite sensitive about being reminded how they succeeded where so many others had failed by perpetrating a wholly effective genocide on the indigenous population, the last Tasmanian aboriginal having died in 1876. Tasmania is to Australia what Cornell is to the Ivy League – they’re in, but only just.
Continue reading 02. The Cradle to Grave Shuttle
I’m excited about doing something new in my own hometown – when was the last time that happened? Tonight I am aboard the ferry Spirit of Tasmania I, enroute from Port Melbourne to Devonport, Tasmania. This is one of those voyages I have long wanted to take, but always defaulted to the cheaper and faster flight option. For years I lived a stone’s throw from its Melbourne terminus, Station Pier, but never could bring myself to spend the time and money. Now that I am unemployed, I have the time, and now that I’m an old man, I have the money. So here we are.
Continue reading 01. The Spirits of Tasmaniacs