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A Visit To Tasmania: An Unexpected Wonder

 

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What do I know about Tasmania?

Not a damn thing.

The only thing I do know is that the island is the native home to the most feisty marsupial in the world: the Tasmanian devil. I would love to see some of those guys in the wild if at all possible.

Besides that, some Melburnians jokingly told me to check the necks of any Tassie I meet. They said I should find a huge scar from where their second head used to be attached. The running joke here is that the local  Tassies are inbreeds since they’re all “stuck” more or less on a relatively small island. It’s kinda like how the northerners in the States poke fun at the people in the deep south; harmless and pure buffoonery.

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The 26th largest island in the world, Tasmania is an island state part of the Australian Commonwealth. It’s located just south of the main big island. There currently as of today (2016) just a little over half a million people populating Tas (which is a popular shortening people may refer of the state). I was fortunate enough to cross paths with two very welcoming Tassies early on in my Quest to the Seven Continents.

While in Fiji, I met two volunteers who hailed from Tasmania. Their names are Denika and Karissa, two full-on Aussies, born and raised from Tasmanian scratch. They both invited me to visit them during my trip through Australia when I found the time. At first I was reluctant. It wasn’t on my mind and it’s kind of out of the way, but then I figured, “Why the hell not?”. If anything the timing was perfect, return flights to Tasmania were cheap, the weather for the weekend predicted desirable forecasts, and I knew two cool people who wanted to show me the true guts and bones of Tasmania.

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Karissa on the left. Denika on the right. I think this photo accurately portrays how they are!

Just like that, I booked a flight to Launceston from Melbourne; an easy flight that took just under an hour.

Little Denika arrived and scooped me up from the airport and from there we made the two-hour drive to the northwest part of the island called Burnie. I briefly met her family before we headed to Boat Harbour Beach, one of Denika’s personal favorite spots.

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Later that day, I met up with Karissa near the Parklands. She mentioned to me that she reserved us a table for tea later in the evening.

“Who makes a reservation for tea?” I thought to myself. But hey whatever, I was down for some tea! I’m more hungry than thirsty but I’m sure this tea place had to have some grub.

In the meantime she showed me a little more of the surrounding area. So far from what I’ve seen, the roadsides of Tasmania reminded me of New Zealand; a perfectly cut, grass ocean as far as the eye can see. Oh and lots of cows and crops with mountains and hills in the wayside.

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We pulled up to an Italian restaurant, where we had the reservations for…tea?

“Wait, you guys call dinner, tea?” I asked Karissa. “I thought we were having actual tea.”

“Yeah that’s normal.” she responded laughing. “We are going for tea means food. How would you say it back in America?”

“Dinner!” I replied with a chuckle. “Supper, if you’re a weirdo.”

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That’s not the only difference I noticed. I’ve been hearing Denika say the word “shivers” in substitution for what should be the word “f*ck”. Like for example, something would go wrong and then she would blurt “Oh, shivers!” in her little Aussie accent. I couldn’t help but to laugh whenever she did that.

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Another pretty big thing I noticed is that, everyone knows freakin’ everybody on this island! There’s not a place we went to where Denika and Karissa didn’t know someone. The ice cream shop, the convenient store, the restaurants we ate in, the park, the parking lot, wherever! Living in Tasmania is equivalent to living in the world’s largest soap opera. Everyone is gonna know your business and there’s no hiding from it.

The next day, both girls took me on a short trail just above Sisters Beach. It was a linear hike that presented us with views of the aforementioned beach and of the Indian Ocean.

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During the trail, I noticed strange flora that resembled figments of my childhood. A prickly, pine cone thing that would have been a Furby if it had the googly eyes and also this bush tree thing that resembles a little jungle tribe warrior man. I can’t unsee them.

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Continuing on with my personalized tour of Tasmania, the girls took me to a waterfall in the Crown Reserve and through Stanley to the top of the Nut State Reserve. Amazing, amazing, amazing stuff!

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That same evening, while Denika went to work, Karissa took me to one of the coolest local waterfalls in West Ridgley that people could spend their summer days to swim in. I would have but it wasn’t warm enough yet for it.

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We also managed to find baby penguins back on the Parklands. Don’t shine your lights on them, it’s bad for their eyes. Instead, we were able to use lights with a red filter which don’t startle them. This may be a bit naive on my part but I wasn’t aware that Australia had native penguins. All I hear about are the kangaroos and koalas.

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We had a big weekend planned so for the next day, Karissa baton passed me back to Denika. (They both have steady jobs and have been passing me back and forth to each other to make sure I was always occupied and exploring their great State. They’ve been doing a great job!) With Denika, she had plans to go along the east coast of Tasmania along with a few of her friends and spend the night over there. When she pulled up, I met her friend Jack who was coming along with us, and together we went grocery shopping for the long ride to the East coast. Two other friends of hers met us there and would join us.

The drive was almost exactly like a drive through the country of New Zealand, except it felt like Tasmania had a lot more trees. Along the way, we made a destination stop at Bicheno. A coast influenced by giant orange-colored boulders and a break between conveniently placed crevices of stones where water shoots up through it every few seconds, aptly called the Bicheno Blowhole. I’ve got blown on a couple of times when I wasn’t paying attention.

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Our base was in an area called Swansea. Swansea is home to fascinating places like The Ugly Duckout takeaway restaurant and The Horny Cray takeaway restaurant.

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Swansea is also home to Loontitetermairrelehoiner Track.

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That’s a real thing folks! The reception lady said there was free ice cream for whoever could pronounce it correctly. The key words being FREE ICE CREAM. Believe me, I tried my hardest to figure out how to pronounce it. It was impossible, however.

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Continuing on with our east coast trip, the focus was to visit as many beaches as we could. First up, Friendly Beaches!

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Then this cool spot where we were the only ones there.

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Later onto Freycinet, to a place called Honeymoon Beach. It’s here where the water is so calm and the wildlife so peculiar, that it’s become a popular spot to snorkel.

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Freycinet also hold spectacular lookouts into the sea from various advantages along the coast.

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And then finally, Coles Bay has a postcard worthy lighthouse that overlooks a couple of much smaller islands harbouring seals just a short distance away.

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Did you see how amazing Tasmania actually looks?

Every single one of these locales were absolutely stunning and was the most “nature” I’ve gotten in Australia yet! The only bummer that it was not the right temperature to go for a dip in each of the beaches we visited. Regardless, it was still amazing to visit.

I had no idea Tasmania had such a diverse coastal line to explore. I had no idea about anything! It was literally one neat spot after another after another.

I gotta hand it to Denika and Karissa. They went way above and beyond to show me as much as they could in as little time as possible. A+ ladies 🙂

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See ya back in Melbourne!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Legendary Tale

16 countries. 8 months. 1 Legendary Tale.

Once upon a time, I set out on an indescribable journey around the world and across the continents. Searching for an adventure beyond the guide books, I’ve found the perfect stride and lived one heck of a tale for years to come. It was legendary. I’ve been home for a couple of weeks now with family and friends asking “How my trip was?” or “What was my favorite country?” or “What’s the most favorite memory?” I mean this when I say, it was ALL GREAT! Impossible for me to choose a favorite. Just to give you a quick recap.

It began in July of 2014…

Continue reading A Legendary Tale

Teacher from Outer Space

Sometimes strangers from strange places come into your life and change it forever. For this group of young Guatemalans, I was that stranger who came into their lives from out of nowhere.

When I arrived in Guatemala back in December, Roxy and I were the very first teachers of a new after-school English teaching program. We were thrown into the trenches of a mix of different locals, some with excellent English but most with little to none. Now, six weeks later, my very short stint was coming to an end and I’ve grown completely attached to all my youngin’s.

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The past couple of weeks at the school, new volunteer teachers have been introduced. I’ve had full reigns of every class prior but had to give up some classes to the new guys. Since then, I’ve become something like a principal of the school. I assigned each student to their permanent classes, observed the other teachers to make sure they were teaching properly, and handled any problems associated with attendance and classroom structure. Principal Sellers at his finest!

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For my last day at the school, I wanted to take a break from teaching and put together a fun time for everyone. It was also Ben’s last day, so he and I took the chicken bus to Alotenango early and loaded up on sweets and treats. We bought two piñatas for the younger classes and filled them with an assortment of colorful candies.

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Soon the students began to arrive, knowing full well that it was my, Ben, and Luke’s last day with them. “No class today!”I told them much to their delight. We spent all afternoon with music, snacks, photos, and ultimately piñatas.

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The oldest class arrived later. I’ve kept them as my own class since the very beginning and got them used to a weekly structure of new material. Each of them improved quite a bit since. I didn’t have a piñata for them, but instead we played games involving lots of candy, cookies, and cans of cokes as rewards.

The older class. I kept them since the very beginning.
The older class. I kept them since the very beginning.

I laid down the foundation for future volunteers to follow. A couple of the newer teachers have been spending the past few classes observing me and my methods. Hopefully everything Roxy and I started on the first day will trickle through from here on out: to learn English, but to have fun doing it!

Just like every time I say goodbye to my students in whatever country I’m in, it’s mighty tough. I did what I needed to do here and once that goal was accomplished, it meant that it was time to me to move on and meet others who need a little inspiration from this stranger from a strange land.

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I only have a few more days left in Guatemala before I set my eyes on the next phase of this global journey. With me, I’m taking all the good memories that came from this school and adding it to my plethora of memories from my teaching experiences all around the world.

I’ll have some information to reveal later as far as to what the next phase of this worldwide adventure has from me.

And when I tell you, you’ll think that I’m absolutely insane!

Too Much of a Good Thing

Just a few hours north of Antigua lies the deepest lake in all of Central America, Lake Atitlan. It’s a lake neighboring three volcanoes just to the south. German explorer Alexander von Humboldt called Atitlan “the most beautiful lake in the world”. That’s a pretty bold statement. I had to see it for myself.

Instead of organizing a tour to the lake like most of the visitors in Antigua have been doing, a few of us decided to just hire a shuttle there and do our own thing. I dislike the word “tour” and everything about it. I much prefer to “wing it”. I was happy that the group of volunteers I was with agreed with me. We were scheduled to leave in the morning and drive for about three hours. Not too bad compared to the ten hours it took to get to Semuc Champey a couple of weeks ago. Carly, Laura, Ellie, and I had first dibs on seats before we picked up the others who joined us on the shuttle, including Hanni and Abby.

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I passed out to Carlos Santana’s Supernatural album on the way there. El Farol put me right to sleep.The motion pills I still had from Nepal worked wonders. But it wasn’t too long before I woke up from the swerving van zig zagging down a large mountain. I could see Lago de Atitlan as clear as day and it was beautiful, just like Alexander von Humboldt declared.

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Part of the “winging it” process includes not booking an accommodation prior. In some cases this can backfire. It’s happened to me before a couple of times. I felt comfortable enough to wing it this time though. The holidays were over and visitors were heading back home. We managed to book a stay in the small town of San Marco where we were dropped off. Instantly, I was reminded of Pokhara and it’s Fewa lakeside offering. San Marco was similar except much more forested and on a much smaller scale. Also less condensed. We put away our bags in our rooms and made way to a place we were recommended to go called Hostal Del Lago. We tried to go there first but they were completely booked but still we went back because they had a cool outdoor hangout spot right next to the lake. And man, there were hippies everywhere! This hostel, and San Marco as a whole was crawling with them. I’ve never seen so many in one place before! I said that about Pokhara as well but San Marco blows Pokhara out the water. Thankfully, the hippies here weren’t the mega hippies that I sometimes encounter. Everyone here was cool and down to earth. Like for real down to earth. It was a really nice vibe! We noticed most of them had blotches of insect bites, most likely from mosquitos, all over their bodies. I heard hippies do not believe in using mosquito repellent because it´s inorganic and it hurts the environment. Thankfully, I didn´t abide by those rules and deeted up! The others in my group did as well. We savored in the day mostly unscathed from any insect bites.

It was Saturday which meant “The Event” was happening. I asked one of the bartenders what The Event was all about. He told me that a few DJ’s will come by and play for blends of techno-y, earthy, shaggedelic, trance-y sorts of stuff. I’m not sure what the heck that was but I would find out that night. We still had a few hours before sunset.

We relaxed. We chilled. We drank…

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My group with another group of people we met at the lake.
My group with another group of people we met at the lake.

 

…and we had huge freaking burgers and burritos for lunch!

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Near the lake, there was a bamboo hut perched a few meters up. It was a place for practicing yoga. Carly is a yoga instructor back in her home of Los Angeles and decided to work up a few poses in which I helped capture in photos.

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She did this spontaneously, much to the delights of the carefree hippies lounging there. Before we knew it, Carly made herself a bunch of new friends. There was some spiritual vibe thing going on and they connected with her on the spot and so she offered to give her new friends a free yoga class right then and there. They all were keen. There were yoga mats stashed to the corner of the hut they all could use.

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After about an hour, her new yoga students swarmed her and embraced her into a group huddle. Carly was loving it.

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The day turned into night as a splash of pink painted the plumes above one of the volcanoes. Groups of DJ’s continued to play a blend of flutes and electronic music.

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Slowly, the night turned into an Alice in Wonderland, Legend of Zelda, hippyville, steampunk kind of shin dig with the stench of weed in every corner. What is a steampunk? It’s a trend I’ve never heard of. I saw a girl dressed like the Mad Hatter arrive and Hanni informed me that she was a steampunk, whatever that is. There were others like her around, dazed and in a hypnotic trance from the tunes of the DJ’s.

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The night ended after Laura, Carly, Hanni and I split a couple of delicious pizzas just outside of Hostal del Lago. I’m not saying how much Guatemalan beer I had, but there are videos out there of me doing the snake wave dance in the restaurant’s kitchen.

I informed my group that the sun rises near 6:15 in the morning and that we should go to the lake early to see it. Most of them came and we snuck back to Hostal del Lago from our hostel. Del Lago’s door was locked so I climbed over the fence and opened it from the inside. We silently crept inside as a bunch of barking dogs made our trespassing known to the tenants. Still no one bothered us, it was too chill here. We walked to the lake but it was still pretty dark so we sat there in silence. The only sounds were of birds, bugs, and the gentle riffs of water. There were clusters of clouds in the sky with hues of deep purples and grays casting a haunting haze over Atitlan. I laid in a nearby hammock for a few minutes as the sun quietly rose, although we couldn’t really make out where the sun was coming from. There were too many clouds but that’s okay, it was still pretty neat.

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After the sunrise, we went to eat breakfast at an organic restaurant where I had possibly the best vegetarian sandwich of my life. Immediately after we beelined back to Hostel del Lago to join all the hippies, backpackers, and steam punks at the lake. The water was calm and it was hot enough outside for a cool early morning dip.

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After buying a bag of sun dried roasted tomatoes that I really didn’t want (the seller gave me a lot of free samples of everything so I felt like I had too), we went back to the vegetarian restaurant to eat lunch before our bus came to take us back to Antigua. It was about an hour late and we found ourselves packed tight with other travelers on the trip back home from the lake. So is Lago de Atitlan the most beautiful lake in the world? I can’t possibly compare. I’ve seen some beautiful lakes in my times, but never a lake surrounded by volcanoes. English philosopher Aldous Huxley famously wrote that “Atitlan really is too much of a good thing”. I couldn´t agree more. This was bittersweet because it was Ellie and Laura’s last day in Antigua before they left in the morning to go to Belize. They were awesome to have around but I had a strong feeling I’ll be seeing both of them sometime in the near future.

At this point, I started thinking ahead. I have a few more weeks in Guatemala with still no concrete agenda laid out. The unplanned plan. I’m not sure what lies ahead or where I’ll be going, even so here in Antigua. All I know is that my poor family and friends back in Michigan are freezing their tails off right now while I’m over here enjoying the sun. Come join me in Guatemala everyone! I’ll show you around!

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I have no intention on returning home anytime soon. 🙂