We left cold, sunny Salem and headed north to Maine.
We took I-95 through the rest of Massachusetts and briefly through New Hampshire, which gave us a good opportunity to oggle the leaves the mountains. We crossed the state border about an hour later, and amidst the gigantic hi-ways (seriously, the shoulder lanes could be their own smaller hi-ways) and the moose crossing was just nothing but gorgeous scenery. And you start to understand why people from Maine spend most of their time outside doing shit. I’d want to do shit if I lived in a mostly unspoiled forest. Continue reading “USA: Chapter 3”→
We covered A LOT of ground on our trip. Here’s what went down:
Sydney to Dallas, Texas
Dallas to Northern Virginia (Gainesville and Fairfax)
Northern Virginia to Central Virginia (Bedford and Madison)
Central Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Continue reading “USA, Chapter 1”→
35 days, 6 states, 3 seasons, 2 vicious bouts of jet lag, and only 4 hangovers.
I’m still going through photos, but for now, here’s the 1 Second Everyday flick I put together. In true Audrey style, there are multiple seconds per day, because I hate making decisions. Continue reading “USA: 1 Second Everyday”→
SO. In my last post, I talked about how I confronted my fear of driving on the high ways here in Sydney by taking a professional driving lesson. I was hella scared and nervous, not because I was already scared about driving, but because on Friday, I made the mistake of telling my friend Josien about my upcoming lesson and how I planned to drive a little bit every weekend until I wasn’t scared anymore. Josien has this really irritating habit of forcing me to do things I’m afraid of and of holding me accountable for my goals, so I have to be careful what I tell her or else she’ll actually make me do it (i.e. I really should tell her everything I want to do with my life). And after I told her about my plans, without skipping a beat, she said “Ok, so where are we going on Sunday?”
I tried to talk my way out of it, but she wasn’t hearing it. It really was the perfect circumstances for a road trip: we’ve both been in a bit of a slump and it need of distraction, it was a long weekend, I had a car, and I needed road practice. And since Josien was my co-pilot on the very first time on the Australian roads, I figured she knew what she was getting herself in for. So, when I sat down for my lesson, I was actually twice as nervous: nervous to be there in the first place, and nervous that if this didn’t go well, tomorrow was going to be awful.
HOWEVER. My lesson was amazing. And by the end of the day Saturday, Josien and I had plans to visit the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah, about an hour and 40 mins away from Sydney. We were going to leave at 8AM, walk around the gardens, eat lunch on the porch of their restaurant, and head home. PLANS!
Well, Josien showed up and we got to work cleaning off my car. I hadn’t touched my car or even looked at it for 4 weeks when my instructor and I walked up to it. Of course, I could barely recognise the car because it was covered in bird shit and dust and pine needles and leaves, and the side mirrors were pine needles and cob webs (shudder). So I quickly brushed the needles off for my lesson, promising to give it a proper clean before our big road trip. For 20 minutes, we scrubbed the windows with Windex wipes and brushed all the debris off with a hand broom. And then, armed with a GPS and snacks, we were ready to get on the open road.
30 seconds into our drive, I knew something wasn’t right. The car sounded rough. Like there were rocks in the engine. I turned on to the main road and felt like I couldn’t get the car to speed up. And it still sounded strange. Very strange, considering it was driving perfect yesterday. At this point, about 2 minutes into our journey, it dawned on me that I might have a flat tyre (yes that’s how I spell it now). So I pulled off to the side of the road to investigate.
And oh, boy!
Ah, shit. I hate flat tyres. I hate them because I know exactly how to change a flat tyre, but I’m not strong enough. It’s my T-Rex arms syndrome. And I hate that when I call roadside assistance and the guy (always a guy) shows up and I’m like, “Hi my tyre is flat,” I get that “It’s ok, little lady, let me just take care of this for ya” and he’s done in 4 minutes and I’ve paid $400 and I hate myself and pledge to work out to get Schwarzenegger arms. But also this time, I didn’t have a jack. And that’s absolutely paramount to the whole tyre changing scenario, or so I’m told.
Also it cost $400 because I had to sign up for membership + lodge emergency service because we were parked in a metro two hour zone. I thought I had signed up for roadside assistance but Joel reminded me that we said we’d get it later because “we probably won’t need it right away.” because that’s exactly how I operate in life. At this point, Karma decided to help me drive over that screw that punctured the hell out of my tyre. But, I got a bonus year of coverage for free, so it’s not all that bad.
So, around 9:45, our tyre was changed and we were ready to go. Except I was a bit defeated, feeling nervous, like this was all a bad idea, and I was ready to call it a day. I was half-heartedly trying to convince Josien that we should just go see a movie and save the road trip for another day, but then she said, “You know if you don’t go out today, you’ll never get back in your car again.” And I hated her because she was right. We had a full tank of gas, a full sized spare, and we still had heaps of day left. And so, I pushed on, against my will, by my friend who won’t let me bail on myself.
After a shakey start (I was literally shakey), we made it to the main road, then the highways, and more highways, and a wrong turn, and then more accidental highways, side winding back roads going up the mountain, and finally, we made it to our destination.
We ate an amazing lunch (I couldn’t take pictures because I was so hungry that I immediately inhaled the thiny sliced salmon, perfectly friend potato cake with sour cream and fennel, and spring salad. I wish I were still eating it), with a gorgeous view, and made our way back to Sydney. I had pumped myself up to spend hours finding a parking spot, especially when my FAVOURITE spot was taken (the nerve of some people), but we found one in minutes that I only kinda needed to parallel park into.
All in all, what a fantastic little adventure. Josien and I used to work together, but she’s a doctor now with her own business so we don’t get to hang out 3-4 days a week anymore (once again, the nerve of some people). So it was great to spend the day with her, being huge nerds, laughing, having heart to hearts, scaring people with our show tunes, and listening to Mitch Hedburg and Eddie Izzard. I don’t remember the names of any of the new flowers I saw, but I still feel like I got a lot out of the day. I’m happy to have people like her in my life, who push me out of my sweatpants shell when they know it’s best for me.
Also, I’m still running off my driver’s high from having driven so far. Even if my ass and shoulders hurt the next day from being so stiff in the driver’s seat. But it’s such a good feeling to know that I’m not bound to public transport or someone else driving when I want to go somewhere. Feels good, man.
Ohhh northern hemisphere. It’s been two years since I’ve endured your summer August, and spending a week in humid, muggy, so hot it won’t rain but it really wants to rain Tokyo was a good enough reminder to cherish my (now) winter birthday in Australia. Continue reading “Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 3”→
I know I went on about how I don’t plan things when I’m on vacation, and how I’m all fly by the seat of my pants and “planning things isn’t fun”, but I didn’t realise how gigantic Tokyo is. And how much there is to see. And just how quickly 9 days can fly by – especially when 2 of those days are eaten by travel. Continue reading “Big Audrey in Little Tokyo – part 2”→
Our trip to Tokyo was amazing, as predicted. For 8 days, we took in the sights (and heights), the sounds (when it wasn’t eerily quiet), the tastes (holy crap, food city), and in all realness, only made it through 1/2 of what Tokyo had to offer.
You guys – after nearly 3 years, I got to see the Blue Mountains.
There has always been something stopping me from getting there – mostly because I wanted to go with Joel the first time I went, and our schedules, the weather, money, and someone with a car just never lined up. But last weekend, the stars aligned. I bought some active wear (active wear!), we woke up before dawn,and set out with our friend Rob, his flatmate Eloise and her pal Oxanna to see Empress Falls in the Blue Mountains National Park.
After a traffic free, two and half hour drive, we reached the mountains. It felt cold. It felt like actual winter cold, with real frost in the air. So that was exciting. It was less exciting that I was wearing super thin, stretchy active wear pants and that didn’t do a thing to keep me warm unless I was moving in them (clever girl, active wear).
We parked the car and set out to begin our 3.5 km trail. I was too excited to get to the first look out to take many pictures, but I did see some killer rocks, and a pair of underpants in a tree (nature!).
Eloise and Oxanna and I had never been to the mountains, so when we reached the first look out, there were collective OOooOooOOo’s and AAAaaaAAAhhHhHhhs. It was incredible. All the photos I’ve seen, all the movies they’ve been featured in, nothing does them justice. And seeing the bright white cockatoo’s flying against the green trees was beautiful. It’s like looking down at a masterpiece.
We continued down, down the trail, down the trail steps, down the rickety wooden stairs, down the slick, narrow, metal stairs, and we finally got to a valley that looked straight out of Ferngully. Or even Jurrassic Park. All rock walls and hanging plants and waterfalls and boulders.
And there we got our first look at Empress Falls.
It was absolutely beautiful down in the valley. We were down far enough for the sun to barely touch us, and we were surrounded by so many trees and water falls that it felt like walking in a rain forest. I felt like I couldn’t take enough videos or pictures, like I was trying to memorise the entire scene with my camera. It’s just beautiful. Also I kept waiting for a dinosaur to jump out at me.
It was so still and quiet. Since we made it there so early, there weren’t many people around besides us. All you could hear was the waterfall and the birds. No planes, no cars, no people, no phones buzzing. Everything smelled wet and Earthy. I felt the cold air settling in my lungs. It was phenomenal.
Joel and Rob spent a lot of time getting photos of the waterfall.
Like, A LOT of time.
At one point I took out my book, sat on a rock and read a couple of chapters. Totes felt one with the world and nature — sitting outside in the almost sun, listening to the waterfall, breathing in the pure mountain air, wearing my active wear— and I was nearly overwhelmed by how lucky I was to experience all this splendour and solitude and how I should do this more often, when I realised my butt was frozen to the cold rock and I almost pulled a muscle when I extricated myself from it. And then I slipped on the moss when I got down and nearly fell in the water.
Maybe I’m not 100% ready for nature.
Eventually the photographers packed up and we all continued down the trail the next waterfall, Sylvia Falls.
I could have stared at this waterfall all day. It was beautiful. We got there right as the afternoon sun was hitting the rocks perfectly — it was hazy and glittery and very much dreamy.
The sun was also casting amazing light on the trees above us. At this point the tip of my nose and my finger tips were insanely cold (yassss winter cold) and all I wanted to do was take a nap in that sun. But I liked the look of the highlighted gum trees and the dark shadows where the light didn’t touch. Yeah, I had Mufasa’s voice in my head the whole time.
After spending some more time with Sylvia, the moment I had been dreading since we made plans to go to the mountains finally came. It was time… to hike back up to the car.
I’m woefully out of shape. Like, I have the cardiovascular endurance of a 700lb diabetic smoker who’s been bed-ridden for years. It’s baffling to the doctors I work with, who think I must be asthmatic to get excruciatingly, painfully winded with even moderate exertion, but really, I’m just horrifically unfit. Climbing stairs makes me winded, and the slightest incline makes my thighs hurt. And with every step I took going down on the initial journey, I knew that would be one more step going up on the return. So I said a little prayer to the active wear Gods and started followed the rest of my team up the first set of stairs.
I quickly realised Eloise was behind me. I let her pass in front of me, saying “I’m going to be really slow, you won’t want to get caught behind me.”
“Oh that’s ok, I’m really slow too!”
“Nope, you have no idea how slow I’ll be.”
And it was true. Just climbing the short bit of rock stairs between Sylvia Falls and Empress Falls left me gasping and pretending to video the guys ab-sailing so I could catch my breath. Joel hung back with me and pushed me up parts of the stairs, and stopped with me whenever I started seeing stars and needed to stop. I was trying to be positive, trying to feel the inspiration of my active wear and JUST PUSH THROUGH IT! NO PAIN NO GAIN! HUSTLE GETS MUSCLE! INSPIRATIONAL PHRASE but all that kept running through my head was Sam telling Frodo that they needed to save the elfish bread for the return trip home and Frodo looking at him and being all “yeah, we aren’t making it home.” I was quite certain I would die, even as people twice my age were bounding up the stairs and that asshole fitness jock passed us jogging — again.
It took me about 20, maybe 30 hours mins longer to make the walk back to the car. I couldn’t breathe deep enough. My heart was straining from beating so fast, my lungs felt like steel wool, my ribs all felt cracked, my throat and nose were killing me, my head was splitting, and my arms and legs were spaghetti. My face was beet red and I was ready to collapse. At one point I tasted blood (I swear!). It was actually pretty scary. My chest and throat hurts just thinking about it.
But, I survived. And we made our way to the Conservatory Hut to have breakfast. And milkshakes. Because after facing death in the face, you get a milkshake.
We picked up some take away coffees and made our way to the car. I was warm, happy, and snug in the backseat, but too full of caffeine and adrenaline to sleep. When we got home, though, I was instantly so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I slept for 2.5 hours and woke up feeling like I got hit by a truck.
I’ve been sick all week as a result of my cold-weather-over-exertion and resulting sinus/chest infection, but shit. It was absolutely gorgeous and I would do all again next weekend.
Except this time, I’d hire a helicopter to save me from the hike back.
Verdict: +10, will mountain again. Must get in shape, or I will die.