Whole Lotta Sand at Fraser Island
A bit north of Brisbane, just off the coast from a little town called Hervey Bay, lies Fraser Island. Fraser is a popular tourist adventure destination because it's an island made entirely of sand but it has a tremendous diversity of flora and forests on the island due to its abundance of fresh water. Quite a unique place.
We booked ourselves on a 2-day organized trip to tour the island in a custom-built 4x4 tour bus that looked more like Godzilla the Monster Truck, than Buddy the Greyhound Bus. Our truck must have been named by a former theme park marketing sort since it was painted with the name "Wallaby", rather than "Godzilla". I'm certain there will never be a Monster Truck named "Wallaby" unless it's sole role is to get run over by a vehicle with a more menacing name like "The Reaper" or "Anaconda". Nevertheless, Wallaby was a bruiser of a machine that bounced along through the foot deep sand of the island paths quite easily.
Craig, our tour guide, had a dry sense of humor and told us tales of the island's logging past. He wore a long, whispy beard that made him look like a the lost member of Metallica who got kicked out of the band after the band's manager caught on he only scowled and played the woodblock. Craig knew how to keep our rig crawling through the sand and even changed a flat on our first day before cooking our BBQ dinner.
It turns out all the folks staying at our Hervey Bay B&B were headed out on the same tour to the island and returning to the same B&B on the mainland afterwards so we got to know them quite well over the course of a few days. Our group included Tim from the UK, and Jeroen and Marieke from the Netherlands. Tim turned 28 on our last day together so we celebrated by cooking BBQ kebabs at our B&B. Celebrating a birthday with a group of friends was really nice as life on the road isn't filled with many birthday parties with friends.
Fraser Island was a hoot for us. It's surprisingly fun to bounce through sand, drive through rainforests, and drive along the edge of the waves at the beach. Prior to becoming protected land, the island was used for timber logging throughout much of the last 100 years and has giant rainforests to this day. In addition to the lush forests, it also has over 200 freshwater lakes and several good fishing beaches. The freshwater lakes were superb swimming and one in particular was postcard perfect with its pure white silicon sand. It's freshwater without any seaweed or algae so it's a perfect blue and a nice temperature. Craig told us the sand is great for exfoliation so many weary travelers lay in the foot deep water exfoliating with a sand massage.
In addition to hosting several big rig 4x4 tour companies, the island also has a fair number of weekend-warrior car camper sorts sitting in camp chairs behind their SUVs doing 12 oz. curls while the little ones run through the lakes and streams. I'm told these folks claim they come every year for the excellent fishing but I suspect "fishing" involves a lot of time "strategizing" in a lawn chair with a cold one in hand.
Fraser Island was a highlight of our travels down the east coast of Australia and well worth doing should you be in the vicinity of Brisbane.
All the World Cuts Hair
I've been getting my hair cut around the world. I've found these experiences a source of amusement so perhaps you will as well:
#1 Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: At the near empty mammoth casino which one guide claimed was partially-owned by Michael Jackson. (That Michael, such a smart businessman diversifying into oh-so-stable Zimbabwe.) All tourist paths in this region of Africa lead through Victoria Falls, thus the need for an enormous Vegas style, safari-themed casino unlike anything for hundreds of miles. Course with the rapid devaluation of Zimbabwe's currency as a result of the government seizing land owned by whites, now no one wants to win Zimbabwean money. Nevertheless, I did get a decent cut there from the in-house Aussie stylist.
#2 Nairobi, Kenya: In the lobby of a fancy hotel. Very rough cut that didn't grow out well. Kenny Rogers played on the radio and the black stylist said his parents really liked Kenny. As a result, I've been talking to Kenny's management about setting up his Eastern Africa Comeback Tour. It'll be bigger than Elvis' 68 Comeback Special. Prepurchase your tickets now!
#3: Santorini, Greek Islands: This guy was a machine. Super duper quick and really, really good. I think I even got to leaf through a car magazine for 2 minutes before he hit me with the fastest scissors in the Mediterranean.
#4: Brasov, Romania: Very bright and cheery place with a cheery young woman giving so-so cuts for cheap.
#5: Hvar, Croatia: This was a classic. The barbershop was in the groundfloor of one of the old historic stone buildings. It appeared that the barber chairs, mirrors and clippers were the originals used when the building was first built. And the barber was the same barber from back then as well. An old, smoky smelling man with greasy, roughcut hair, he came at me with the clippers and didn't stop until I looked like a freshly sheared sheep. Luckily, the cut was an even, precision "peachfuzz" cut. I didn't need a cut for awhile after that and there was really no need for a comb for the first few weeks.
#6: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia: In a mall. Malaysia loves malls in the bigger cities. This barber had the clippers on the sides figured out, but gave me an "Asian shag" on the top which amounts to making all your hair varying lengths and not thinning it. This sort of cut looks big and bad on day one, and gets worse from there.
#7: Singapore: ooooh, another mall cut but a good one this time. Quick and efficient but pricey compared to some of my lesser cuts.
#8: Brisbane, Australia: Downtown barbershop with manly stuff on the dark wood-paneled walls. While I got my cut, I stared at framed hood emblems from various Holden (GM) vintage cars. A super fast cut and manly.
Watching flicks at Internet Cafes
We worked on this update at a few different internet cafes in Tasmania and Sydney. We started it at the Launceston, Tazmania public library that had an amazing IT lab. The internet cafe I'm at right now is $2.50 AUS/hour ($~1.90/hour USD). This café has dozens of full length recent movies saved to the hard drives and you can put on headphones and just watch a full length movie! Having worked in digital media distribution, I'm certain this does not comply with copyright law. The cafe is run by angry Asian man. A customer just had computer troubles and got frustrated and stormed out, and the man yelled after her in broken English, "Piss off!" I'm amid such love.