On a Thursday evening commute, a cold front brings in a damn gorgeous sunset: Continue reading “Pictorial: A literal ball of fire”
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.
Onward to the next adventure!
Sooooo – how about September, huh? It’s like the whole month happened, and I slept through most of it. Today is the end of the month, and since it’s been a bit quiet around this corner of the internet, I thought I’d write a little catch up post. Mostly so I can figure out where the hell the time went. Continue reading “Catchup.com – September”
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.
Onwards to the next adventure!
Once upon a more productive time, I used to do a catch up blog every month. Ah, the days when life was simple, unencumbered by the wild throws of admiration and attention that sudden success and fame brings. Continue reading “Catchup.com”
As I mentioned in my last post – I’m doing Australia in a series of posts called Audrey vs. Australia. LOOK OUT! And my first stop was basically in my backyard – a 15 minute walk from our apartment took us to the gorgeous Chinese Garden of Friendship, right in Darling Harbour.
I’ve walked past the Garden more times than I count, but Saturday marked the first time I’ve been behind the walls. It’s $6 for adult admission, and it’s $6 of beauty, zen, and most importantly, big ass, majestic lizards. The garden is filled with peaceful rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and lagoons; is drowning in greenery; is glowing with flowers and lanterns; and dotted with intricately designed pavilions and secret pathways where you can have a sit or explore. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of traditional zen and bustling city, and I had a blast. Will definitely add “Chinese Garden of Zen” to my future dream house plans.
It was a bit cold, and too late into autumn to see the garden in bloom, but it was still absolutely lovely. I can only imagine how lush and beautiful it looks in spring and summer. Or when it’s raining. Ah man.
Let’s take a tour:
I had a pretty stressful Friday, which bled into Saturday morning, and I was surprised that wandering around the Garden all morning absolutely took my mind off of it. As we left, I felt happy, relaxed, and like I wanted to go right back in. I’m not one who is normally fixed by zen gardens, and I didn’t even realise it, but it actually worked. Triumph!
+10, would definitely venture again.
The building I work in has a balcony with a view of the ANZAC Bridge, and yesterday I spent my lunch break up there. It was one of those days where the sun was perfect, the humidity was perfect, the temperature was perfect, the breeze was perfect, and the pollen count was awful (can’t win ’em all). Continue reading “AudPodge vs. Australia”
Yesterday, we got the big news we’ve been waiting for since… basically the moment in 2013 that we decided to live together.
I GOT MY VISA!
All the stress, all the worry, all the paperwork, all the days off from work to stand in line at various government agencies and all the thousands of dollars spent, and it all came through. And in possibly a year (not the 2 years I originally thought) I’ll be granted a Permanent Residency – and we’ll never have to worry about my visa status EVER. AGAIN. The fact that we don’t have to worry about it anymore has brought so much relief – but the idea that now we have more security, it makes planning for the future so much easier.
Like, it’s not insane to think about buying a car, now. And I can arrange for my books to be shipped here. And maybe we can get a pet. You know – the important things in life.
I thought that there would be a lot more pomp and circumstance when I found out – with all the effort that went into getting the visa, I was at least hoping for a kangaroo holding to deliver the visa in the form of a bronzed plaque and a hand full of balloons saying WELCOME!! Instead, it arrived in an innocuous email that I at first thought was asking me for more information. Ah well, however it happened, I’m glad that it did. We thought we were going to have to wait until July at least – if not December, before we found out. And that we found out Monday when our third anniversary was on Saturday – that’s just sweet timing.
Also it gave us another excuse to celebrate with cake. And that’s basically why I do everything in life – for the possibility of cake.
So happy days – happy visa-ing, and happy anniversaring. Joel, there’s no one I could ever imagine doing this with… every day, you show me that I made the right decision. Thank you for always going above and beyond, for listening, for counselling, for making the best punch drunk chicken this side of the meridian, for always knowing. I love you more than I love sweatpants. Even if you do love Suspect Zero more than you love me.
This morning, Joel and I woke up at 4:45 (what) to catch the sunrise at Bronte Beach. The forecast had been telling us all week that it would rain on Saturday morning, and I’ve kept my fingers crossed for so long that I basically have arthritis now. But, crippled granny hands are worth it, because the sunrise was be-a-u-ti-ful.
There are few things I love more than seeing a sunrise or sunset over the water. Seeing that golden orb sizzle along the horizon fills me with… I’m not sure. It’s a combination of inspiration and awe. Add in the smell of sea salt, the sound of crashing waves, and the cold breeze coming off the water, and it makes me feel so fantastic.
The beaches in Australia are just next level. The water is clear and the most perfect shade of aqua-marine, and the sand is almost white, and most of them have these craggy cliffs that catch and pool water and it’s like walking on another world. And when the rose and gold tones of the sunrise reflect off the water – it’s un real. I like Bronte because there’s a little rock pool to the side that’s very calm, and it’s where whusses like me can get in and splash around and pretend to be cool. Ok ok, insert anecdotes about sharks and dangerous Australian sea creatures here and everything – but you can’t deny just how drop dead gorgeous it all is.
I’m so happy we dragged ourselves out of bed and made the trip happen. It was a beautiful way to wrap up a particularly less than stellar month.
It’s very well known that I didn’t grow up at the beach or near the shore, and I don’t always keep my cool in the beach, but I love being at the beach. It’s very centering, very calming. I think being on the edge of the world makes my other problems feel very small. And being in the presence of such an incredible force helps me put things into perspective… just watching everything wash away with the waves is a good reminder that “this too shall pass.” Maybe it’s the visceral experience – sights, smells, textures, emotions – but the beach is one of the few places where I can go and my mind just clears. I could sit at the beach and do nothing for hours. And it feels good, man.
Thanks for a good morning, universe.
So who is waiting to wrap a big fat DONE ribbon around April, quietly put it on the shelf and just pretend it didn’t happen? *raises hand*
I can’t remember a month where I’ve felt more – fragile – I guess is the best word. Hence the sporadic appearances here and everywhere else in the social spectrum. It’s been a tough few weeks. I’ve been on the receiving end of more pep talks than I have in years. But I’m happy to say that being more proactive and attentive to what I need has been helping immensely, so I’m just taking it day by day.
BUT – April hasn’t been all bad! For one thing, we watched so many episodes of My 600lb Life that I think I’m *thiiiiiis* close to cutting out all processed foods from my life. Joel has become Head Chef around here and we’ve never eaten better. I’ve been able to skype/Facetime/phone date with many of my nearest and dearest. And my most favourite person had a birthday. We celebrated with a doughnut cake, Game of Thrones, and a night with friends… and a resulting Friday night of pizza and sweatpants recovery.
Annnnd we just had an awesome three day weekend of good food, good movies (ok, and some terrible movies), and relax times (and let’s face it, obsessive cleaning and rearranging #stressed) in honour of ANZAC Day.
So here’s to the last few days of April – fingers crossed that it all starts to shape up.