2.26.2009

Everyday Life in Southern Victoria

6 days ago I journeyed from Antarctica to Christchurch, NZ via an AirBus. Spent two nights in Christchurch then flew to Melbourne. Spent one night in Melbourne and took a train to Sale at the train station shown below.


On the train I spoke with a few Aussie elders and we talked mostly about motorcycles and farming. Looking at the window all I could see were livestock (Emu, Goat, Cattle, and Kangaroo) farms. When I arrived at Sale I called Frank up. He showed up a few minutes later and drove me an hour away to his beach-farm property. When I got out of the car I met Fred, one of the many local Wallabies.

Fred loves carrots. But, Fred's not all that's in the bush. Kangaroos can be seen jumping around the beach trails. Kuckaburros sing from the tree tops. Whales cruise the ocean. Seals rest along the shore...


Here's Frank climbing out of one of 8 shipping containers filled with good ol' junk. You can see the solar panels right next to him. In front of him is Olivia, a girl from Switzerland who decided to get out of the floods of Queensland and cyclones of the West. Now she faces bushfires and we laugh about it. Australia is being hit by all the elements of nature... except ice and snow, which is ironic for me after being in Antarctica for the last few months.

The campground from a glance. Energy comes from a generator, but we hardly use it, maybe 1 or 2 hours a day. Our bathrooms are holes dug by ourselves, nothing different from my Alaska park experience. I bathe in the ocean. We clean our clothes in a bucket. Life is simple.

Things are a bit of a mess. But, sometimes intelligence is lying behind the trash built by insanity. In the back of the container there is one small clean spot, just for the telescope we use to read the stars.

Our dining area is in a big blue tent. Quite splendid. We dine right at sunset, eating very healthy foods while watching the wallabies next to us. The green water container is for the fire fighting system.

An old tractor from the previous landowners.

You can see our camp towards the bottom. It's bloody hot, around 35 C during the day and 15 C at night. Today is 40 C and fire alerts are all over the radio and television. The last time it was this hot, was Black Sunday when the fires claimed many lives, only a couple weeks ago. Frank's in Sale getting his truck fixed and the three of us are just keeping an eye on the news and weather. After finishing this post I will run to the hill-top and keep an eye out for smoke. My job for today is to be a fire watchdog and protect the girls.

Ontop the hill is the house we are building. It should be done within 6 months and is the most sustainable abode I have seen. I've been reading through eco-friendly development books and while reading walk around the house to check Frank's work. Everything is 110%. He's thought outside the box and I can't wait to see the final product. Not too expensive, amazingly strong (Cat. 4 cycle and fire proof), water comes from rain and storage (14,500 litres), can be split into two residences, air-locked windows and doors, energy from solar and wind (maybe micro-marine-hydroelectric system), and much more.

Here's Olivia and Latesha having lunch while looking out for whales.

The last few days we have been leveling the insulation, and soon we will start the rendering and installation of the bottom floor windows.

The roof has been originally pieced together by Frank. He took a bunch of older strong roofing designs and maximized their potential by using certain materials and grounding the roof deep into the infrastructure. His dream is to have an Aussie environment safe house that is a sustainable residence for several people at a time... while having a widescreen television that can alternate floor levels via a motorized track.

After work I head to the beach for a jog, swim, and nap... assuming I don't have to box any kangos on the way ;)

The only footprints are my own. The first day I got the shore I stared at the flowing ocean thinking about how different it was from the icy shores of Ross Island. I ripped my shirt off and ran into the water falling gracefully as if I were being reborn... again.

Shells everywhere.

Well, maybe there a few other tracks on the beach...

2.25.2009

In the Bush

I have arrived in the bush at Frank's sustainable design trailer park, and have a splendid room in a shipping container. Internet is very limited considering we have to turn on a generator, which we try to avoid. Solar panels are scattered in the front yard and a wind proof, cyclone proof, earthquake proof, fire proof sustainable house that is going to be 100% off-grid is being constructed ontop the hill, overlooking the ocean. Yesterday I ran 6 km in search of another person, nothing. We have a beach to ourselves. Beyond my expectations, but let me tell you, communications on the internet are highly limited. Without the net I will be spending most my day hanging with the Kangos and Hog-deers and working with a world of travelers in effort to construct an original, unique off-grid sustainable house.

The top clouds in the pic above are from the fire. Black ash is scattered all along the beach. Whales, seals, and penguins are a common sight... and no people.
Below is my room in an insulated shipping container. Much better than my room in Antarctica.


Upon arrival I got out of the car, and saw Fred. Not to mention the 15 kangaroos that night.

video

2.23.2009

Victoria Fire Maps




Source:
http://ddimick.typepad.com/.a/6a010535f73ca8970c0105371676af970b-500wi

The yellow arrow in the second map points to where I'll be later today. My Nannie emailed me earlier saying that she has friends about 25 miles away and they could see the fires burning from their backyard, which is probably that big red circle. Worse case scenerio jump in the ocean.



The City of Melbourne


Oi, people. In one block I passed by more people than I have seen all summer. No more red parkas and bunny boots, it's all about the suit and tie and funky French leather boots. In the past I'd shy away from these crowds, but now I'm getting to enjoy them, especially when your in isolation for 1/3 of the year. Spent the evening doing some shopping and applying for some Australian governmental conservation jobs. I got a mobile phone... an astonishing feat considering I haven't had one for nearly 4 years. But enough spending let's get to the farm. I called Frank up and the first thing he asks is what food I like... haha, anything, everything. Already off to a great start. Then he says that two girls from Sweden and Brazil are there moving beds around, he asks if I mind being flexible about where I sleep. 6 months ago I was sleeping on rocks with a tarp at a coastal nature reserve in Costa Rica and in Antarctica I basically had a jail cell with a few tapestries, fake tree, and chillzin red light my Mama sent me. A bed is a bed and beggars can't be chosers. Eh? Flexibility requires the necessity of simplicity and an open mind, both of these traits inspire me to explore and reap the sweetness of life. I love Australia! G'night mates.

2.22.2009

The Land of Oz from Heaven

Woke up at 4 AM, but I really never slept. Every hour I tossed and turned thinking about Australia. Ate an apple and hiked to the aiport with my backpack and cheap old Italian military duffle bag that I bought at a New Zealand army surplus store, together the bags weigh 20 kg. Jumped on a plane at 6 AM and flew three hours to Melbourne. Passed customs and my electronic visitors visa let me in with a 3 month stay. I told them I'm migrating from the Ice of Antarctica and need to thaw out in Australia. They told me thawing out shouldn't be a problem, last week it was 45 C. After that I got on the SkyBus transit and went to the Southern Cross Railway Station, which is bascially at the center of Melbourne. This is a big town with skyscrappers, arenas, restaurants and shopping districts. And of course I go on a journey with my bags hiking and sweating at least 10 city blocks in search of a trendy hostel, finding nothing I then retreat back to the American-born Quality Inn, which is right next to train station. Duh. Back in Ohio a year ago, my ol' pal Pat (aka Chef Dumbo) used to host late night cooking parties every weekend at the cheapy Quality Inn near our parent's houses. They all would party while I'd chill on the bed watching Cops and eating whatever it is they were cooking :) Anyways, I went inside the hotel in Melbourne, asked about the prices, the clerk tells me and I asked if there is anything cheaper nearby. He points me to a couple backpacker hostels opposite to where I just came from. Map anyone? Compass? I leave the Quality Inn and hike a few more blocks down to a backpackers hostel. I make my way up the raggedy steps while having to dodge my way around a flock of girls and their giant backpacks. It's hot, steamy, crowded and I find that the prices aren't much different than the Quality Inn. So I go back to Quality Inn and right now am sitting at a desk with broadband internet, next to a bed, fridge, and warm shower. Luxurious for a tramper, yet nothing different than a Motel 8 crammed in an urban environment. Tomorrow I catch the train to Sale and embark to Frank's farm where I'll work for room and board for next month and half.


As the sun climbed higher into the sky the clouds looked more metallic. In Bangkok the sky would sometimes look like this due to haze and pollution. But, these clouds were different, very rainbowy and layered, they must contain some chemicals from the bushfires nearby. In many of the stores there are donation boxes for those impacted by the fires. They are a big deal and forecasters say it's not over yet.

Tour of Antarctic Centre in CHC

video

2.21.2009

Sustainable Design & Surfing in Australia

Tomorrow I have to catch a flight at 6 AM to Melbourne, AU. I will spend a night in Melbourne and then take a train to Sale where I will meet my host Frank. You can read more about the host and job in the second picture. Sounds almost to good to be true... beach, sustainable design construction, education, room and board, future paid work, wallabies, sunshine. Just think, 3 days ago I was in -30 Deg C. in Antarctica and tomorrow I will be in 30-40 Deg. C in Australia. Possibly a 70 Deg C change in less than a week, the biggest change I have ever experienced. Right now it's 25 Deg C in Christchurch, NZ and sunny. I can see Iron Maiden's luxury airplane from the hotel and they are playing tonight at the arena. Next to that is the United States Antarctic Centre with C-17s and Hercs in the lot, being unloaded by the US Air National Guard. There is also an Antarctic visitor centre packed with kids and tourists and a few penguins. Some of the tourists stared at me... skin white as snow, sweating, beaten black army boots, rugged jeans, unshaven, USAP badge on my backpack.. they must have known I was a kid from the Ice. Nothing matches the Antarctic wild and I will never take that experience for granite.

My taxi driver told me that he was supposed to winterover at Ross Station (the Kiwi base) in the late 1960's. He told me that things were much more primitive then, they ate penguins and seals, and if you lucky you got a side of rice. He was going to be a cook, but never made it to the ice. While he was telling me this we came to a stoplight where there was a funky red box-like truck. The driver stares excitedly at the truck telling me that's probably the oldest truck I will ever see on the road... it was built in 1901 and electric. Electric truck from 1901... huh? If they had electric back then, why is it that were became so hooked on gas? He goes on to tell me that NZ has the greatest collection of ecletic and antique cars. Just from one hotel to another I saw three antique cars and a couple old mopeds. It's nice to see so many bikes, scooters, electric cars, hybrid cars, and mass transit vehciles on the road. Environmental bumper stickers are common. Most of the antique cars come from England. I asked him if the New Zealand car scene was like Cuba's. He says it wasn't, these cars are more compact and engineered in many different ways.

Anyways, I have to check my laundry and go for a run in the sun. Peace.