Friday, April 29, 2016

Camping Comrades

With whom have I set out on this adventure, who is the 'we' to which I keep referring? There are five of us on this adventure, or three, depending on how you count it. I'll outline us all here leave the final tally up to you.

Well firstly there is me, chief organiser and resident control freak. I'm taking a break from my studies (study break in fact) for this little excursion. This semester I am once again at two unis and unfortunately only one of them is on break this week, however due to Anzac day I'm only missing 2 hours of class from the other, which hopefully I'll be able to make up with some diligent revision and some rote learning (it's Italian).

Then we have Lochie, Captain in Chief. He's a building designer and draftsman, also the landrover owner. He's been hankering for a bit of a break from work and hardly needs much encouragement to head out on an off-roading trip. Since his vehicle of choice sports a 'made in England' sicker we're often at my dad's workshop having a bit of a tinker and fixing anything that's got broke.

Last human on our trip is Chief Navigator Haydn. He's just graduated as an electrical engineer, hasn't done much camping before but is always keen for a Leroy adventure. He only has a manual license so isn't going any of our road driving but is competent enough to drive Leroy in the event of Lochie being stung twice by bees and me breaking a leg.

Next up is Jace, Adventure Mascot. She has taken a break from her warm room and comfortable bed to journey with us into the wilderness. She hasn't camped before but is well versed in adventures.

Then there's Leroy, 'reliable, dependable, never holds back, provider of transport and warmth'. He's 7 years old, a little go getter, like a British bulldog but also he's a car. 2009 landrover Defender 130, um double cab chassis, 2.4l 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine, with 300nm of torque and 90 brake horse power. Some (Kim Cramer) may say that's not enough but Leroy's massive gear box will get us through anything. (cut to scene Leroy rising majestically over green hillside covered in mud) and that you may have guessed was dictation from proud Papa Lochie.

So there you have it, our little convoy. Final numbers to be determined by you.
Images to follow soon if not already uploaded.

Ravensthorpe to Fitzgerald River national park (also Hyden)

When I was telling my dad about our plan to swap drivers at Hyden on the way down he eagerly pulled up photos of the last time I'd been there. It was 2000 and toward the end (?) of a 3 month family camping/caravan trip, and directed pigtailed me (an also sometimes my sister) at wave rock. So after we'd had pies at the Hyden bake house I pushed for us to stop by on our way out of town to recreate the photo. In the end I couldn't find my hair lackies (it's a currently /just/ long enough to tie up) so there were no pig tails but we did take a photo to send to my dad next time we got reception. (I'll try an upload it when I get a copy/reception)

While we were there we commented on how much of a nanny state we live in, to have erected a wall across the top of such a beautiful natural land mark, so that people wouldn't fall off. It turns out however the wall was built to increase the catchment area of Hyden dam, when it was extended in 1951, which is actually pretty reasonable. We did the shortest of short walking trials up to the top of the rock and then down again which afforded us an awesome view of the surroundings.

After the brief interlude I took the wheel and we tottered on down to Ravensthorpe where we topped up Leroy's air bag suspension a touch (Leroy is the car we're in) and did our produce shop. The boys were weirded out by the fact the iga had a carpeted floor, but I was somewhat more distracted by the fact that they had camping/hardware supplies, and no sliced bread. We picked up a couple of gems, like discount (expired) 'regular spread (margarine) and a loaf of unsliced artisinal bread (of which half still remains with us and we're nearly at Albany). It was then just an hour further to our first vaguely planned camp-site (for which I relinquished vehicular control).

That night we camped at Stoke's inlet where there was a lovely volunteer camp ground manager couple, Bob and Pat (apparently Bob only had one had but the validity of that statement cannot be confirmed by and additional party), a well established and sheltered camping area, a barbecue and a toilet block. It made for a nice soft entry to camping. We arrived in time to figure out our swag arrangements, and get started on dinner before it got dark. I'd spent much of the car trip babysitting my not-quite-dead-yet bunch of flowers which made a nice addition to our table spread.

The following day (Saturday) we headed into Esperance for sliced bread, gluten free bread, an extra day's worth of meat (having revised our journey somewhat) and a tarp (there is alot of forecast rain). For lunch we stopped into Top End Takeaway at the recommendation of a friend who grew up in Albany, and their Mick's burger was just the delicious monstrosity she'd outlined. The boys' faces lit up at the mention of double patties. We got them to go and headed straight for the ocean, eating on a picnic table overlooking the Scout's yatch club.

Onwards we went to our second camp ground: Mason Bay. This was a beautiful little place right on the coast and it had a fire pit. It was still incredibly clear so we gave the tarp a miss. Woolies Esperance had provided us with the lovely gem of a discount butterflied lamb shoulder that we enjoyed with fire roasted veggies. Determined to beat the previous night's 7.30 bed time we stayed up watching the fire and listening to the surf (also warming our feet on the edge of the concrete fire enclosure). Whilst enjoying the fire we also sacrificed most of the forlorn looking roses to the rain gods in hopes of continued fair weather. The moon was incredibly full that night and despite my complaints about it being too bright this is probably my favourite camp ground so far; after getting into my swag I lay and watched the stars for a while listening to the waves crashing.

Flower Sacrifice to the Rain Gods
in hopes of continued fair weather

After a good 11 or so hours of sleep and Lochie's pre breakfast swim we pottered around for a bit before packing up and heading off towards Fitzgerald River national park. And while we're on the topic of sleep I must say, we sure are getting a lot, after getting to camp early to mid afternoon we set up, occasionally have a brief chill then start getting dinner ready around 5 as it begins to get dimmer. We're generally eating by torch light and not long after yawning ourselves into our swags only to rouse again at 7 or 8 the following day. That's what you're supposed to do on holiday, right? Sleep a lot?

Friday, April 22, 2016

We're off on an adventure

Only thing is, it's not overseas.

Currently I'm sitting in the back of a friend's Land Rover Defender as we muddle our way towards Brookton hwy; the main arterial of the day's journey to Esperance. After acquiring perishables from Ravensthorpe and camping somewhere between the two we spend the next 9 days off roading home up the coast. It'll be the longest holiday I've taken since going to Italy for Christmas in 2013.

It was just before Christmas when we started throwing around the idea of escaping the daily work/uni grind in favour of an adventure. Initially we had almost 10 people interested in going but conflicting uni breaks gave us the opportunity to scale it back to something more manageable and, from my point of view, enjoyable (ever tired catering for 10 people for a multiple of days, not the most relaxing tasks). We chose dates; long weekend, study week, least possible school holidays and left it there until about a month ago when we realised we had actually better get our acts together!

A couple of planning meetings later and Lady weekend we found ourselves up at my parents' farm on a supply run and trial camp. The vast majority of people I've talked to chuckled at the notion of practising our camping, but to be honest, if I'm going to have problems sleeping in a swag, I'd rather know about it sooner rather than later when I have the time and resources to deal with it. And as it turns out, tapered sleeping bags and swags aren't all that fun, something I've now accounted for.

The past few days have been rather hectic, trying to fit last bits of planning, staples shopping and packing in around labs, a 12hour day at work, and finishing off an assignment (handed in at 8am this morning, our first stop of the day). But now we are on our way and the things we don't have we don't have and that's that. We'll never be more than a few hours away from a decent sized town so we'll be able to pick up what we're missing on the next produce shop.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Postius I'm on a plane homeius

Having spent most of yesterday afternoon simultaneously packing my suitcase and helping Tancredi with his homework (italian homework I might add) I woke up early this morning to stuff my pyjamas into an already overly full bag, skull my last italian coffee, scoff down my last piece of Panettone in Italy and head off for the 7am bus to Milan. Sara drove me in to the bus stop and Tancredi tagged along too, despite it being obnoxiously early by Italian standards. He declined several social engagements with his friends last night to hang around the house with me and while his sadness at my departure has been somewhat eclipsed by his purchasing of a new phone yesterday it was pretty evident from his hug this morning that he'll miss me.

After plenty of half asleep photos on Tancredi's new phone Jace and I said our goodbyes and hopped on the bus. This whole morning it hasn't really felt like I'm actually leaving. Even as I was trundling down the stairs with my bag in tow this morning. Although now I am checking in and at the gate it does seem a little more real.

The bus was almost 15 minutes early and the line for checking only a few people long. I was slightly concerned that the 2hours from bus arrival to plane departure would be cutting it a bit fine since I couldn't check in online (my passport expires in 5 months 13 days and you need 6 months for online check in) but i really shouldn't have been worried. For all of Italy's usual disorganisation/mayhem I basically walked straight through, waiting maybe at most 5 minutes at both check in and security. So not more than 30mins after the bus arrived I found my self arriving at the gate. I'm glad Sara convinced me that the 6am bus was too early.

Having received a call from Nonna Irma almost exactly as the bus pulled up when my phone went off again as I got to the gate I thought it would be her once again calling to lament my departure. She is well know for calling multiple times in an hour or even hanging up from one call and ringing someone else in the house straight after. It is a bit if a joke around the house that whenever the phone rings everyone says 'ciao Nonna' before someone picks it up (usually to say 'ciao Nonna' again). It was not, in fact Nonna Irma calling me again but Tancredi, checking when I'd arrived and how my waiting in line was going (he was super impressed how fast I'd gotten through everything.

We chatted for almost 10 minutes, something which I'm personally quite proud of. Talking on the phone in Italian is hard; it's very easy to lose the thread of conversation and not being able to wave arms or have the other person see if I'm understanding or not is difficult. Not to mention my inability to work out what someone is saying if the signal is bad. Mostly we chatted about the airport, Tancredi's plans for the day (nothing beyond getting a micro sim for his new phone) and breakfast. After instructing him to take pictures of things at the markets to email and to eat lots of Panettone for me We rang off, him to have breakfast and me to finish this and nosh a banana.

(i should point out at this point Nonna Irma called me again to make sure I'd checked in and eaten breakfast and coffee and second breakfast)

With the Singapore Airlines sausages (flight attendants) having just boarded the plane and passengers moshing in front of the gate I had best publish then and then plan out my Facebook post for the grand reveal.

Ci vediamo in Australia!

Updateius the experiment is overius

So i was running a bit of am experiment with this blog while I was away (i forget if I've mentioned it before) where by I didn't tell anyone I was updating it and waited to see home long it took for them to go looking for information about my adventures. After several weeks I told my sister and a couple of friends about it but other than that only one person, my boyfriend, discovered it, and that I believe is because I mentioned it on twitter. I didn't cross post anything to Facebook and I kept my email updates to my family brief in the hope they would wonder where the rest was and go looking. But I guess my unreliability in updating when I was in exchange meant they didn't even consider checking.

My sister and I have spent weeks driving hints. Including a direct mention of a travel blog on the same day as mentioning the tediousness of uploading photos using H+. Still no bells rung, which honestly surprised me, I had thought that overnight as all the hint sunk in someone would work it out. So now on my last full day here, as I face packing my bag I have dropped the last hint. A Facebook status mentioning my 'Overseas Adventure'. Now it's quite possible that after all this time my parents have forgotten what my blog is called and it will mean nothing to them but my randomly capitalising letters. So tomorrow just before I head off I shall post a link on Facebook.

My sister has been urging me for a couple of weeks to just tell them about it. But after not being able to cotton on after an abundance of clues I decided it would wait.

Last time I was constantly hassled to update and never did. Once I'd gotten a little bit behind the task seemed impossible. So this time I've approached it differently. I've never been strong in written English, in making things make sense when they're written down, and having them flow. So this time I've approached it more as the telling of a story and less of a blow by blow account of each day and activity. That was where I got bogged down last time. It isn't necessary for me to recount my every action, my every meal and my every conversation. This time I've tried to keep the mood lighter, funnier and centred around specific events. I've found this a much more constructive way of writing. It's as though I've say down to tell someone a story rather than the recount my time here. I even have a little chuckle when reading bit back.

Another thing I've found helpful is updating via email. The internet at Sara's is extremely unreliable at night which is when I found myself updating most in 2011. I'd spent the evening slaving over a post only to have the internet crash 10 times in 15 minutes as I tried to upload. Very discouraging. This time, having a smart phone and internet data I've written all my photos from there and only used my computer for adding photos. I've also done most of my writing whilst pounding it out on the treadmill at the gym. It's a perfect piece of otherwise un used them I can dedicate just to writing with no other distractions other than how many steps I've don't and how long I've been walking for. Due to the nature of typing on a self correcting keyboard whilst walking at 6km/h I imagine there is a significant number of spelling and grammatical errors. I'll get onto fixing them when I'm home, with reliable internet and a screen bigger than my netbook. Although I hope most of the post are at least understandable even with the random errors thrown in.

I've got a few more post to go; tales of my adventures on the city these past few days and stories to go with other photos I've taken. But for now they will have to wait. I'm catching the bus to Milan at 7am tomorrow and have a lot of packing to do as well as having to go out and grab a few more last minute gifts!

Coming over with a 23kg bag 8kg and almost half the bag of which was gifts gives me not only plenty of space but also plenty of weight to fill up. Singapore has changed their baggage limit to 30 kg which is more than I imagine I can fit in my bag! So far I've bought 4kg of books and 2kg of food. So we're already close to half my additional weight and I haven't even checked how heavy the rest is. My job for after the gym.

Postius more about the snowius

I really enjoyed my time in the mountains and the novelty of being surrounded by snow never wore off. Who would have thought I'd enjoy tramping through slush when it was -1 out at 4.30pm just to take photos. Well that's what I did one day. It wasn't a terribly good day for taking photos unfortunately, there was quite a bit of fog around but I enjoyed the walk all the same.

One day Sara and I headed up the hill (16 flights of stairs in 1000 steps) to the second apartment to give the keys to people renting it for the weekend. I started taking photos of trees covered in snow while she was explaining things and afterward we decided to just continue on up the hill. And hour later we were sprawled in deckchairs 1890m above sea level waiting for Corrado and Tancredi who were skiing to join us.

We grabbed got chocolates to warm up and a couple of pieces of cake to share as we sat and took in the view. As the pre dusk fog started to settle in we all headed off. I declined Tancredi's offer to go down the pista on his shoulders, and instead made the wall back down the 'road' with Sara. It was much faster going down and before long we almost walked straight past the snow angles we made on the way up. I really enjoyed the walk, it was the same one we had done during summer when I was here last time to the contrast of picking wild berries to making snow angles was quite amusing.

I'm quite surprised how well I feared with the walk. I was in a pair of Sara's old hiking boots and wasn't wearing my orthotics, yet when we got back home the inside of my big toe hurt slightly, a testament to my lack of orthotics. I didn't even have any blistered or anything. Considering last time I was all but incapacitated the next day despite wearing my own shoes and orthotics I think it's safe to say that two years of pilates has done me some good!

The day Sara and I went up the mountain I climbed the equivalent of over 130 flights of stairs, my biggest day yet by more than double! 27 had been just after mining as we trekked home after watching and Italian comedy at the cinema. If it cost only $12 for a standard ticket to the movies in Australia I'd be there all the time too! Fortunately though I live near a small art Deco cinema that has cheap tickets though only a select few films.

The rest if the time when I ventured out of the house I often snapped photos on my phone to email off to my family to make them all jealous of my snow adventures. My only internet access while we were there was through the data connection on my phone and I dedicated most of one afternoon to supervising the very slow uploading of photos to this blog through a wireless hot stop from my phone. The whole thing was done using a H+ data connection, which as I explained to my mum is like the dial up of mobile data. It was a very tedious afternoon.

After 9 days in a beautiful white wonderland I was sad to be leaving but very thankful for the time I had there. My sister and I have resolved to come back for Christmas one year (i possibly have understated to her how hilly the village is and how much walking you do there...)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Postius emergency pound cake saves the same dayius

+ some photos
After the success of Tancredi's birthday cake Sara's friend Alessandra requested another one for her son's 8th birthday a few days later. Knowing the cake is much easier to work with the say after its cooked I set aside time to make it ahead of time. In one of my city adventures I'd headed to an Asian shop to pick up the ingredients to make a curry as Tancredi requested. With my time here dwindling to a close it was decided that cake baking day would also be curry making night. 

So in a momentary and unusual bit of time alone in the apartment I set out first with the cake and then once that was in the oven with the curry. Previously when Sara had been at the shops she'd called me up to check what meat I needed for the curry asking if chicken on the bone was okay. I pointed out that deboned would be better but she decided we could just cut it from the bones our selves. So whilst periodically checking on the cake of i definite cooking time I set out to debone 5 chicken thighs with the two bluntest knives ever. I should also point out that each was at least 20cm long and half the chicken thighs were frozen. Also I hate raw chicken.

By the time everyone made it home I was almost finished hacking the chicken, had potatoes boiling on the stove and the cake was almost done. Selene was super excited about the prospect of curry, not having eaten it since she was in Australia in 2011 every time someone asked what we were having with it I waved in her direction and asked her to explain it for me. Corrado kept insisting we were going to have something as a first plate and then curry second.

Remembering from last time that Sara's month couldn't handle spice I added about half the curry paste I would have normally and we had a very mild mussaman curry for dinner. I asked Selene (who asked Sara) to make the rice since we are lazy and have a rice cooker at home I've never learnt the proper amount of rice to add. Corrado was, as the Italians say, 'breaking my balls' about how I wanted the rice. Not only was I managing the curry and cake I also had some left over cookie dough defrosting to cook once the cake was done. Oh and there were 5 other people in the 45m² apartment. It's safe to say I did not appreciate his stopping me to ask how I wanted the rice, he was not in charge of the rice and I had already conveyed to Sara how it needed to be cooked. When he asked me about it I responded 'cooked' to which he started listing ways Italians cook rice as example of how I should have specified better. My rather short response was 'if i wanted it cooked like risotto I would have said' risotto' not cooked'. He seemed to leave me to it after that.

Everyone was pretty happy with the curry, though Selene complained it wasn't spicy enough, since there is still lost of paste left I explained to her how to make a second smaller and spicy sauce that people could add to their plate if they wanted. She seems pretty enthusiastic about cooking it again sometime so that's pretty cool.

The next day I had a lazy morning around the house before settling in to finish the cake around lunch time. After lunch Alessandra came over to borrow our oven to cook some party food and everything was going smoothly until at 10 to 5 she got a call from the person making a second cake to say that she'd dropped it. Eyes turned to me and I was asked if I could whip up another simple cake. I should point out the party was scheduled to start at 6.30. Glancing around the apartment to see what ingredients we had and taking on board the arm waving and explanation of a simple white cake I decided a pound cake would suffice. A did a quick google search and chose the first result (a recipe) without reading any others.

According to the rather waffley notes with the recipe it was apparently rather important the butter be at the right temperature and it be creamed with the sugar just so and the mix wasn't allowed to look curdled when you added the eggs. Considering i was doing all of the creaming with a hand mixer that would either break it jam every couple of minutes it's safe to say I disregarded most of the notes. Also when they insisted on the butter being at room temperature or else the whole thing be a catastrophe in don't think they had alpine room temperate in mind.

I eventually gave up on the hand blender and added the flour to a mix that was curdled. This whole time Corrado was muttering about how I shouldn't have been asked to make a second cake and they should have just bought a new one. After shoving the thing in the oven I retreated to my bed to escape people for the 50mins it took to cook. I as soon as the timer went off we rugged up and headed to the party, the cake cooling as we went! There were strict instructions to the person carrying the mud cake (Sara) that if they dropped it I'd kill them. We made it to the party without a drama, dropping off Tancredi's hired skis on the way.

I was quite pleased that within a few minutes of arrived I was given a glass of wine. After the stress of last minute cake making it was very welcome. Selene quickly grew bored of being surrounded by little kids and organised for me, her and Tancre to go down the road to the cinema and watch The Butler. We brought the cakes out and everyone was super impresses with how they looked. With the pound cake mostly cool I quickly covered it in icing sugar and stuck some candles in it. After singing happy birthday in both italian and English (who knows why) I was in charge of dishing out cake.

Everyone was super pleased with both despite the pound cake was still slightly warm in the middle. The party was held in a room of the ski school where Giacomo (the birthday boy) had been learning and most of the ski coaches pop in for a piece too. The three off us headed off to the film (that i'd already seen in Australia) leaving Corrado, Sara and the cakes at the mercy of 8 year old with party blower trumpets. I was surprised how much of the film Tancredi understood, there were only a few things, like him not recognising the Obama Biden logo, that he didn't get, and mostly because they were recent events and haddn't made it yet into history studies.

We saw Alessandra again the next day as we were picking up to leave and she was again super thankful for both my cakes. One cake would probably have been enough but only just. And I am told the extras were left at the ski school for their coaches party the next day.

Ski Diary Day 2ius

January 4, 2014
Woke up early for Ski lesson, it was snowing.
Snow continued all day.
I am told this improves skiing conditions for learners as it covers any ice on the slope. 

My instructor, Carlotta, spoke reasonably good English, with a few italian words thrown in where she got stuck. We started off on the super beginners slope, that is actually a 'road' yet no one drives on it because it's never cleared if snow. The first few corners I just had to kind if figure out what to do but then Carlotta explained which ski to put my weight on and how to shift my body and soon we were making good time. The end of the super beginners slope spits you out on the actual pista (track) so you go down the last bit of that on the way to the ski lift.

My lessons in falling down with Sara a few days before had obviously been useful as we had enough time to go back up again. Carlotta reckoned I had enough control to just go down the actual pista the whole way. I did pretty well, only falling down twice (the third time apparently doesn't count because it was due to the snow being too thin and my getting stuck on a rock and it was on the practice track anyway). Apparently I had a pretty good stature which I think is mostly due to the water skiing I did years ago. Dad's 'knees bent arms straight' mantra came back to me every time I put my weight wrong and lost control. The difficult thing is your weight is quite far forward compared to normal, your shins connecting with the boot and transferring weight that way. The few times I forgot, I promptly lost control and/or fell over. Once hilariously enough just after Carlotta commented how well I was doing in not falling over. She was however impressed with how quickly and easily I manage to get up again. So that was a successful lesson from Sara.

At the end of the hour I had pretty good basic control over the skis and so long as the slow wasn't too steep i was pretty confident. I also had a VERY sore bum from all the spazzaneve (snow plow) and was very happy to head back to the apartment, sit down and eat. I had eaten breakfast before I went out but was super hungry again. Sara laughed at me.

I went out again for another hour or so that afternoon with Corrado. He wasn't a very good teacher and I didn't really need teaching so much as someone to keep an eye on me as I practiced. Every time I did something wrong or lost control he'd tell me what to do, even if he'd said it a few minutes before hand, as though I didn't know what to do rather than couldn't do it properly. Honestly, I spent a lot of the time ignoring what he was saying and concentrating more on where my weight was and how I had my skis placed. We did the pista twice and the second time I was nearly at the end before I fell over. I was hoping I'd be able to. Make it down once without falling over but that remains to be seen.

The next day I hoped to go out again but in the end I got caught up cake making and didn't get to. Hopefully I can at least partially remember what I learnt the next time I get to go skiing.

Ski Diary Day 1

January 1, 2014
Learnt to walk up hill sideways.
Learnt to walk down hill.
Learnt to fall down.
Learnt to make other people fall down.
Learnt to get up. Sometimes.
Learnt to ski down half hill on arse.

Before heading up to the mountains Sara had asked me if I had any interest in skiing, I said that I didn't really want to spend days an days going down hills but that I would like to have a go at it. So one afternoon we set out with an old pair of Tancredi's skis and a borrowed pair of old shoes to the kiddies sledding hill so I could 'get the feel' of skis before paying for a lesson. I probably spent more time on my arse or walking up or down the hill than I did practising skiing but I did get the feel of it, at least to some extent. Apart from the one time I fell over straight onto my hip, most of my falling down was because I couldn't stop or turn around and ended up on my bum instead. Which since its gained some italian padding didn't hurt that much.

Postius Jace adventures in the snowius

Up at the mountains Jace got a bit jealous of me and Tancredi playing out in the snow while she was stuck inside watching it out the window. One morning when we opened the door to change the air in the room she made a run for it to get in some snow play of her own. I snapped a few photos before convincing her to put on a hat so she didn't get too cold. A few more photos and we managed to coax her back inside, dust off the snow and sat her in front of a heater to warm up again.

Everyone was quite concerned she'd get sick from going out with such little warm weather gear on. But when we came back for lunch she was just waking up from a nap next to the heater and was right as rain. We kept a much closer eye on her after that when we had the door open and made sure she was well rugged up /before/ we headed out again.