“They don’t go to Melbourne for the weather, love.” – Paul Pappy Pozzan
A bit of escapism for the weekend seems apropos while those of us Stateside, continue to process the shock and awe of the past ten days.
The continuing adventures of Kiki Shakti…
Dispatch From Melbourne
Melbourne is the place that everybody told me I HAD to visit. Sydney is all right, but it’s just “another city like any other” (except for it has amazingly blue, clear water in its harbor, fabulous beaches and an opera house recognizable around the world). Melbourne is the “cool city.” Outright cold is what it was when I was there. The people, however, were as warm and inviting as I could have asked for. I have been using CouchSurfing.com to find places to stay since I am traveling on a budget and it is also a wonderful way to get to know a place from an inside perspective. The guy I stayed with in Melbourne, Luke, was amazingly generous and kindhearted. He offered me a private room in a nice place in an up and coming, soon to be gentrified neighborhood, Seddon, which is pretty much a suburb of Melbourne proper near Footscray, a fairly diverse neighborhood full of people from Vietnam, Africa and India.
I arrived from Sydney in the middle of the night. Luke left a key under the mat for me as he was already sleeping by the time I got there. We met the following morning and he took me to a sweet little bakery with great coffee. In Melbourne they are coffee snobs, which I can dig. Then, he went to work and I met up with a guy named Tristram who I also found through the CouchSurfing website. Tris was in Melbourne visiting his folks and wanted to tour the Great Ocean Road. I had been planning on taking a “groovy” bus tour down the Great Ocean Road, but going with someone in a car seemed an even better option. So, we decided to head out the following day.
Hanging out with Tris was great! He’s my age and is “in between stories,” just like me. In fact, my host, Luke, was also “in between stories.” It seemed to be a regular theme for my visit to Melbourne. All of us there, for whatever reason (boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with us, a business fell apart), whatever story we had told ourselves hadn’t panned out. And, there we were each trying in our own ways to find our next story, or more exactly, to be content without any at all.
So, Tris and I explored the Great Ocean Road together. Comparable, perhaps, to Hwy. 1 in California, but with signs that reminded us to “drive on the left in Australia“ (begging the question of how you could get all the way out there without knowing that). A landslide had taken out part of the road just the previous day, so we had to take a detour through the countryside. Bright green hills of undulating pastureland made for a magical landscape where one would not be surprised to see a unicorn come frolicking out of the enchanted forest. I saw a koala! Well, actually a few, but the first one I saw was crossing the road with its baby on its back. Apparently, that’s a rare thing. Tris said that he had been born and raised in Australia, but had never seen a koala with its baby. Pretty cool. We hiked down to the Twelve Apostles, huge towers of limestone that sit perched out of the ocean and we stayed in Apollo Bay in a B&B that overlooked the entire sparkling teal-blue horseshoe bay.
Back in Melbourne, Luke and I went to see Captain Fantastic, which I enjoyed partially because I thought it was a good movie. And, partially because some of it was shot in New Mexico and I got a chance to show off my home state.
The weather really did keep me from doing as much exploring as I would have otherwise. One day I was kept completely indoors by the cold, relentless wind. But, Luke and I relaxed and watched Australian TV, which was actually (relative to American news) interesting and informative. I did explore the city by myself quite a bit, tending to end up at a covered coffee shop courtyard or beer garden just before the rain came on several occasions. The city is covered in fantastic street art. Apparently, a couple of years ago Banksy came and did a piece, and then the council painted over it. There was a huge uproar and now there’s street art on every wall, everywhere you look. You couldn’t possibly take photos of all of it. The fact that you can look in any direction and see incredible street art is a testament to the ripe creativity abundant in Melbourne.
Tris and his parents took me on a Safari at the open range zoo in Werribee and also to the mansion next to the zoo. They were sweet and provincial, and we saw giraffes and rhinos. It was a lovely experience. There is a weird thing in Melbourne called a hook turn, which is where you have to go all the way to the left in order to turn right because of the tram. They also have an ad campaign asking people to be aware of trams because “a tramweighs the same as 30 rhinos.” So, Tris and I had a lot of laughs, making joke after joke about rhinos.
Melbourne is a great town, however, the weather made me want to go back during the height of summer or the autumn (which is supposedly way nicer than the spring) when I will be more motivated to do more than hunker down inside. And, I thought I was escaping the winter! Now, I’m heading over to Broome, Western Australia where it is “always summer.” So, sayonara winter!
Dispatch From Broome
“It’s always summer.” – Paul Pappy Pozzan
I hardly slept the night before I left Melbourne because my flight was super early in the morning. I don’t have all that much room in my bags and I get really cold on planes, so I tend to wear a lot of my stuff (my leather jacket, my boots and a sweater) on the plane as a space-saving maneuver. It was pretty cold in Melbourne anyway.
It’s a long flight from Melbourne to Broome, but I was over the top with excitement, because I was almost there — the entire reason I had even come to Australia, to see my friend, Pappy who lives where it’s “always summer.” As we flew into Broome, an 8-year-old boy came and sat with me (his family was seated opposite the aisle from me). We chatted about all the things, like visiting the crocodile park and riding camels on the beach, that we were excited to do while there. I love sitting in the window seat, but I begrudgingly offered my window seat to the boy, and was happy when he politely declined, because the view was incredible. Broome is on a peninsula and the airport is right in town. Flying in, we flew over the red baked earth of the Kimberley adjacent to sparkling white beaches and water a magic color of blue that I had never seen before in real life. By the time we landed, I was practically jumping up and down with excitement.
When we exited the plane onto the tarmac the heat enveloped us like a used sweaty glove. By the time I walked the 100 meters into the unairconditioned airport, I was sweating like crazy. I walked in to the airport and saw my friend; a friend I hadn’t seen in seven years and one I thought I may never see again. It was such a wonderful and happy reunion. While I’m loathe to check my bags, I had loaded up with gifts from America for Pappy and had hauled it all the way across the world, so at that point checking the bag was easier than not. While we waited for my suitcase, I quickly peeled off all my clothes: off came the jacket, the sweater, the boots (in exchange for flip-flops–or thongs as they call them in Oz). I even took off my bra, right there in the waiting room. There are two seasons in Broome: the wet and the dry. And, it is always summer, staying consistently around 30°C year round. None of those items of clothing saw the light of day again until I left.
I had come at a perfect time: just at the end of the dry season, when the tourists had mostly left and before the stingers came. Jellyfish, known as Portuguese man-o-wars in America, make the ocean around Broome their home during the wet season and you can’t go in the water without a stinger suit. (I never did figure out what the difference is between a stinger suit and a regular wetsuit. I don’t think there is one.)
So, Pappy picked me up from the airport and took me to his house where I met his lovely British roommates, Greg and Cara and their cute little doggie, Jerry (who I started calling Jerr-Jerr Binks). He took me out to the patio where I could put my feet up, handed me a beer and said, “Welcome to Broome, Kiki! You live here now. All you have to do now is relax.”
We did a lot of the touristy things available in Broome: we went to the crocodile park, rode camels on Cable beach, saw the fossilized dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point, ate barra wings (the best fried fish I have ever had in my life) at the wharf, played golf with kangaroos snickering at us on the green, we went to the motor Speedway for some car racing, saw a movie at the Sun Pictures: the world’s longest continually operating outdoor movie theater, and watched a staircase to the moon form during low tide under the light of the full moon. Most of my visit, though, was spent lying naked on the beach or frolicking in the warm clear water, which was exactly how I wanted to spend my time. I had a great setup where I could take a little cooler and beach umbrella along with a bag of snacks and supplies on the bus and take the bus from just outside Pappy’s house directly to the beach. I called it my office. I made a joke that it was super stressful to be so relaxed. It was just the kind of therapy that I needed.
After 10 days in Broome, Pappy and I put on some clothes (or at least more than we would ever need in Broome) and flew to Perth. Pappy is a chef (who turned out some fabulous meals during his years in Taos, at Byzantium), and while I ate pretty well in Broome (largely due to his cooking), he was excited to show me all the amazing food in Perth. When I had first arrived, I told Pappy that he had better not make me fat, but then I immediately realized that is a pretty dumb thing to say that when you’re visiting a chef. So, we ate our way around Perth and each also got souvenir tattoos. He got a big red Zia on his hand, in honor of the many years he had lived in New Mexico and the fact that someone from NM was now there visiting him. I got these words tattooed on my arm for a large variety of reasons that have meaning for me: Oh, the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on and on… Don’t stop believin’
So, it’s here in Perth that I left Pappy, but this time I am sure that I will see him again, because no matter where he is, I will visit him. And, I definitely want to come back to Australia.
At the Perth airport, I struck up a conversation with an Aussie guy who asked me why Americans are always so happy and nice. Tris and Luke had both said something to the same effect when I was in Melbourne. All of these people said the same thing: that out of anybody they meet, the nicest and happiest people are American. I’m happy to hear that there is at least a small consensus with that kind of opinion about Americans. My answer to this man’s question as to why we are like that was, “Well, maybe because when you meet them, they’re not actually in America…?” Then, I said my goodbyes and got on the plane to New Delhi (via a long layover in Kuala Lumpur). Goodbye for now, Australia 🇦🇺! Here I come, mom!
Editor’s note: Most of Kiki’s pics are taken on her phone, many are arriving upside down (fitting as they are coming from Downunder), although I correct them prior to posting, I notice on phones, they remain inverted. You have to turn your phone to view them!
All photographs c/o Kristina Siebenaler aka Kiki Shakti