Posts Tagged ‘Salted Board

20
Oct
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Cowabunga Kalamunda

Morning came much too early for me on Tuesday. Having slept far less than the Jarhead had over the last several days I gratefully would have slept for several hours after he had gotten out of bed. And while I haven’t sat down to do the math, I suspect I could have slept until noon and not even come close to tying—much less breaking—his record for the total number of hours spent sleeping by an American in Australia. Still, I would have given it a shot if Mr. Sunshine hadn’t opened the blinds and turned on the news after hopping out of the shower and brewing up a mini pot of coffee.

That option discarded, I dragged myself out of bed and left him to plan our day once again. He hadn’t done a bad job the day before, after all, and I didn’t have the brainpower to contribute to a discussion even if we had tried to have one at that point. That plus the fact that I’m in charge of nearly every aspect of life back in North America made it easy for me to let him be the boss Down Under.

Once I had showered my energy level out of the negative numbers and caffeine-d my way into the positives, I offered to let him be in charge for the rest of our stay, and every time we visit Australia in the future. He liked that idea so much—as evidenced by the fact that he nodded absently without looking up from the map—that I then suggested that we divvy up the various potential travel destinations in advance so we will know who will be responsible for organizing the itineraries and activities for all our future vacations. He paid as much attention to that as my previous suggestion, which is why he also gets to plan any vacation we take to Europe, Asia, Africa or South America, and I’m responsible for planning all our trips to Antarctica.

I know. How magnanimous of me, right?

That decided, we packed up and headed over to Salted Board. We had been there so many times by that point that I wondered briefly if we should go somewhere else for once. We didn’t want Chrissy to think we were crazy stalkers, after all, and it probably wouldn’t have hurt us to try something new. But then again, why risk it? So, another delicious breakfast later, we were on our way to Kalamunda National Park.

I’ll say this for the Aussies: they take their parks, wildlife, and conservation in general very seriously. And yet, in typical Aussie fashion, they seem to take them seriously without seeming to take them seriously. It seems almost assumed—a given—if you will, that the environment is a priority, and that the people who live on Earth are its stewards. Unlike in the US where you have some very passionate people striving to understand, appreciate, and protect the environment from those who want to rape, pillage, plunder and profit from it (while the rest of us are left wondering what to do and whether it will even matter so we almost nothing) in Australia conservation appears to be a way of life. Full stop. No drama. No debate. Just effing do it.

And the evidence was everywhere—at least in Western Australia. From the signs guiding you (if not literally inviting you) to all the local natural attractions, to the ubiquitous and well-maintained trash bins that were almost too clean and attractive to be trash bins, to the utter lack of litter or neglect anywhere, the place was seriously pristine.

And yet, as tidy as everything looked, it never seemed deliberate, groomed, or staged. There were no mower lines on the grass, or anything to indicate that the trees and other greenery had been purposefully planted, preened, or perfected.

One might be tempted to conclude that this was evidence of a lack of visitors, but this was clearly not the case. In literally every park, preserve, beach and boardwalk we visited there were people walking, hiking, biking, picnicking, backpacking, and snacking. And yet, there was no trash. Anywhere. No wayward candy wrappers. No discarded bottles, cans, or plastic bags.

Nor was anything broken or missing. In the restrooms, all the stalls were clean, and everything in them—including the door locks and latches—were fully functional. The trash bins were never overflowing and there was always tissue in the dispensers. It was like a neat freak’s version of paradise. Or Oceania’s version of Canada.

Which was mostly awesome but also a bit disconcerting in a Wrinkle in Time meets Stepford Wives meets Supernatural kind of way. Because we never saw even one groundskeeper, nor any grounds-keeping equipment. And yet we KNEW they had to have groundskeepers, who in turn had to have equipment. Somebody is emptying the trash cans and filling the tissue dispensers, after all, and even the most conscientious traveler drops a tissue now and then. And I doubt very much that the visitors are cleaning up after themselves—even the Canadians.

Which made me wonder if perhaps the Department of Parks and Wildlife was deploying nature ninjas to swoop in and sweep up when no one is looking. Or maybe they show up after dark decked out in optoelectronic devices to mow the lawns and collect the trash by starlight. The more likely explanation, I suppose, is that the park employees get up a little bit earlier than the average bear, and take care of business while the rest of us are having coffee. But doesn’t that sound boring? (More likely, yes. But definitely less interesting.)

Anyway, although we’d been in the car for over thirty minutes, our excursion officially began when we arrived at the Perth Hills Visitor Centre and Zig Zag Cultural Centre in the town of Kalamunda. Located between the Kalamunda History Village and the Kalamunda library (in what their website proudly calls the ‘Kalamunda Cultural Precinct’) the center offers a wealth of information relating to the historical, cultural, and recreational options to be found in and around Kalamunda and Kalamunda National Park.

After studying the map and our hiking options, we got back in the car and headed for the hills. Okay, one hill. Gooseberry Hill Recreation Reserve to be perfectly honest. Here we would find a trail that would suit not only our age and fitness level, but also our footwear. Turns out some of the trails are a bit jagged and loose, and since we weren’t properly equipped for anything too treacherous we had to settle for one of the easier routes.

By the time we parked the car at the entrance to the reserve (which, oddly enough, was at the terminus of Hill Street right smack in the suburbs of Perth) I was pretty fired up. I had brought my walking poles and brand-new hiking boots, and my almost brand-new knees. I had plenty of water, eyewear, and sun protection, and although we weren’t exactly about to hike the Aussie equivalent of Appalachian Trail, I was fully psyched. I had survived the hike the day before without encountering one snake, spider, or crocodile, so I knew it could be done. I was feeling bold. Brave. Confident. I was going to hike that trail and I was going to crush it!

And then I got out of the car.

Instantly, I heard it: the sound of bees buzzing all around me. And I mean literally ALL around me. You couldn’t see even one single bee. But you could hear them—thousands of them.

To be honest, I’m not allergic to bees. And I’m not really afraid of bees as much as I am terrified of them. No lie. As a kid, the sound of a bee (or wasp or hornet or anything resembling a bee—including but not limited to dragonflies, horseflies, and houseflies) would leave me quivering in terror. Outwardly, I would either freeze and nearly wet my pants, or run around in nonconcentric circles with my arms, legs, and head flailing in all directions like I was having a seizure, while internally screaming and hyperventilating at the same time.

Like other disabilities, this crippling fear made outdoor activities a bit more challenging for me, but thanks to my dad and his abject lack of patience and sympathy, I managed to overcome it. Mostly. I no longer freeze or have a seizure when a bee buzzes by me in the garden or my phone vibrates on the table. Inside I still scream a little and sometimes need to be reminded to breathe, but I don’t have a full-blown panic attack. Usually.

But there at the entrance to the preserve, I admit I had a mild relapse. The buzzing was so loud, and it seemed to grow louder with every passing second. It was like some of the bees had noticed my arrival, and word was spreading among the other bees that I was there. And they were all plotting how they would attack, and in what order, at what speed, and in which formation.

Standing there, just steps away from the edge of a suburban cul-de-sac with my new Keens and fancy hiking poles, I felt like a dog faced with the choice of staying with the kid who found me when I was lost and the kid I knew and loved until fate separated us. Do I conquer my fears and crush that trail full of bees, or do I go back to the car a failure, foiled by her apiphobia?

It didn’t help that I had just read an article that said tourists are more likely to die from a bee sting in Australia than from a spider bite or snakebite. Because bees are more numerous and less afraid of people than snakes and spiders, tourists are more likely to encounter a bee than they are a snake or a spider, and because tourists typically haven’t been exposed to Australian bees, they are more sensitive to their venom than native Australians are. Fan-tabulous.

Knowing that the Jarhead would not take that hike without me, it came down to this: would I rather make his day and die by a thousand bee stings or would I rather ruin his day and live to tell the tale? The more I thought about it, the harder the decision got. Especially since the Jarhead was not standing next to me awaiting the outcome of my internal struggle. Instead, he was striding eagerly toward the entrance to the trail. With or without me. In other words, my choice wasn’t whether to hike and die or leave and live; it was to either hike and die with him, or sit in the car and die alone.

How’s that for a plot twist?

Well I wasn’t about to sit in the car waiting for the Jarhead to come back from a bushwalk, I’ll tell you that much. It could take hours for me to find someone to drive me back to the hotel if he didn’t come back, and years to find someone who likes my cooking enough to put up with my crap. Nuts to that.

So, bees or no bees, I was staying with the Jarhead.

Which is fortunate, because just a few yards down the trail—as the Jarhead was checking the treetops for koalas and I was distracting myself from the bees by scanning the ground for the shier, less dangerous snakes—I looked up momentarily and came nearly face to face with two kangaroos. They were both adults this time and instead of lounging around in the shade ignoring us, they were both standing upright looking directly at me. Not wanting to alarm them or the Jarhead, I stayed perfectly still and whispered out of the side of my mouth. “Psst! Kangaroos at your four o’clock.” Slowly, he lowered his head and turned to his right. “Oh, wow,” he whispered back. They’re pretty close.”

They were definitely close, but they were also behind a fairly tall and sturdy fence. Still, we didn’t want to spook them, so I left my phone in my back pocket and let the Jarhead take all the pictures and a few short videos. Which is why I don’t have any evidence of this encounter to offer you today. It’s all on one of his many SD cards, which got all mixed together during our recent move. But if and when we find them, I’ll be sure to share them.

Meanwhile, content yourself with the knowledge that we both survived the hike through the reserve and went on to enjoy a walk on the beach and a nice leisurely dinner back at the hotel.

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Another day down and only one more to go. I was already beginning to miss Australia.

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27
Jul
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Criminal Elements

If you’ve spent the last several weeks glued to your computer or smart phone neglecting your family, your friends, and perhaps your hygiene while anxiously waiting for the next post, please accept my apologies. When we started planning this trip last year I never imagined I would still be writing about it nearly seven months after we got back.

And while I can express my intense regret over stringing you along, I have little to offer in terms of an excuse. It’s not as if I’ve been too busy to sit down and crank out a few hundred words and phrases here and there. Truth be told, I can do that with my eyes closed and with one hand tied behind my back, although it tends to take a little longer that way.

But that’s not why it’s taken so long this time. Although if it will make the experience of reading this column a more entertaining read for you, feel free to imagine me sitting blindfolded and restrained in a sturdy wooden chair and pecking away at my keyboard with a pencil, pen, or screwdriver clamped between my teeth. Whatever floats your boat, as they say.

Anyway, since we had enjoyed our breakfast at the Salted Board so much on Saturday, we decided to go there for breakfast again on Sunday. The eggs Benedict with salmon and smashed avocado was just as good then as it had been the first time only better since this time I decided to enjoy the delicious crusty, toasted whole grain bread that it came with instead of giving it to the Jarhead. Yum!

From there we decided to visit Fremantle Prison, which was just a short walk up the road. The facility, originally called the Convict Establishment—or the Establishment—was built by the British in the 1850’s to house British convicts who were shipped to Australia to do hard labor. In the 1880’s the colonial government of Western Australia took it over and begin using it to house local convicts.

According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle_Prison) the facility remained in operation until 1991 when it was replaced by the modern, maximum security Casuarina Prison (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casuarina_Prison) in Perth. Fremantle Prison has since been designated a World Heritage property and is now a popular tourist attraction.

For more information, you can visit the website at http://fremantleprison.com.au/. Before you click on the link, you may want to adjust the speakers on your device. The audio on the site includes background noises that, depending on your volume settings, may or may not cause you to jump out of your skin or cause your heart to skip a beat. If you clicked on the link before reading my warning statement, I apologize, and wish you a speedy recovery.

After touring the prison, we made our way back down to the main drag and headed for the Fremantle Markets (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fremantle_Markets.) Here we were treated briefly to a show by a local performer whose shtick included spinning plates on dowels and tricking innocent bystanders into sitting a box and wearing a helmet containing the dowels on which said plates were spinning.

Since we had come in at the tail end of the show, I can only assume the guy (pictured above in the black hat with burgundy pants and vest) had performed many other feats of wonder prior to our arrival. That and a lack of other forms of entertainment in the area are about the only ideas I can dream up to explain the size of the crowd that was present when we got there. Unless the dude was not just a juggler but also a hypnotist and he had them all transfixed. Or maybe they were all actors who had been promised bonuses if they could convincingly appear interested. Either way, with our path to the entrance to the markets essentially blocked, we were forced to wait until the show was over to make our way into the building. Once there, we took in all sorts of cool sights, to include kangaroo leather purses, totes, and belts, as well as locally made soaps, jewelry, clothing, artwork, knickknacks, tools, and ethnic foods.

Having been walking since breakfast, after meandering around the markets we decided it was time to rest and have a drink. With that in mind, we headed for a place called the Mexican Kitchen. Since the chairs were comfortable and we had a pretty good view of the main drag, we decided to have some dinner and a few adult beverages, and do some people watching.

Aussie Mexican 1

Aussie Mexican 2Aussie Mexican 4

Fremantle attracts tourists from all walks of life, and it really showed on that day. Couples, families, groups of adults, and groups of teenagers were among the folks that passed by us that evening, and they represented close to the full spectrum in terms of nationality, ethnicity, religion, and lifestyle. There happened to be a car show going on that weekend as well, so in addition to watching all the people around us, we got to gawk at a nearly steady stream of classic cars that ran the gamut from muscle cars and hot rods to antique and luxury models.

Should anyone you know ever wonder aloud what Mexican food is like in Australia, you can tell them this: Mexican food in Australia is basically the same as Mexican food in the United States, only without the beans. That seemed weird to me since literally every Mexican meal I have seen or eaten in my 50-odd years on Earth has been accompanied by beans, but there you have it.

Aussie Mexican 3

I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal that the beans were missing since neither of us noticed it until we got our prints back from the Walgreens photo center a few weeks later. I wish I could claim not to know how or why we didn’t miss the beans, but since I was already on my third margarita when the plates arrived, there isn’t a lot of mystery there to unravel. With three ‘rita’s under my belt and several hours having passed since our last meal, I probably wouldn’t have noticed if my entire meal had been missing. Or if they’d served me melamine models of taquitos instead of real ones. Or, well, you get the picture.

One thing I would have expected to see in a city the size of Fremantle but had yet to find was evidence of poverty or homelessness. This seemed strange given that in literally every place I’ve been in the US I’ve seen folks on the street corner at stoplights or the entrance to Walmart asking for money or food. But at no point during our stay in Australia did we see anyone standing or sitting anywhere with a cup or a cardboard sign.

Oddly, at almost the exact moment the Jarhead and I were discussing the lack of panhandlers, one suddenly appeared. Only he didn’t look like a panhandler in that he was reasonably well groomed and dressed, and had no cup nor any sign. In fact, had he not sidled up to the table literally right next to ours and asked the three young women sitting there if they had any spare change, I would never have pegged him for a panhandler at all

Almost the second after the panhandler stepped away from their table—having received nothing for his efforts—a well-muscled man clad in black jeans, white tee shirt, and a black stocking cap (whom we later found out was some sort of undercover security officer) approached him. “You picked the wrong street for that, mate,” he said sternly, and the panhandler quickly strode off down the street.

“So it isn’t that they don’t HAVE panhandlers in Fremantle,” I observed afterward. “It’s that they wear camouflage and the city has a policy of containment.”

I’m not sure how to feel about that, but, again, there you have it. Do with it what you will.

16
Jun
17

Road Trippin’ Down Under: Shopping & Dropping

Day Four of our vacation to Fremantle started about the same as Day Three had, but slightly later. Despite having absolutely nowhere to go and not even a hint of a schedule to keep or an agenda to pursue, we were out of bed, in the shower, and out the door like Amy Schumer ditching a hookup in the movie, Trainwreck.

It seemed insane—if not a little sad—for two healthy, red-blooded vacationing American’s to be up and around at 5am on a Saturday morning in Australia, but there we were. And we couldn’t even blame the time zone issue at this point since we’d been there for nearly 3 days—and it was 7pm back home.

Still, we tried—I mean we really, really tried—to relax and take it easy but it was a futile effort. There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room, after all—and only so many times one fifty-year-old couple can do them, if you catch my drift.

Even the television offered little in terms of distraction. Although the Jarhead normally can (a) lapse into and (b) sustain a TV coma—faster, longer, and with less effort than literally any man, woman or child on the face of planet earth—his superpowers are apparently weaker outside of North America. Seriously.

It doesn’t happen every day, but I and a handful of other witnesses have seen this man sit through twelve straight cycles of the Local on the Eights and three consecutive airings of Dune, and four solid hours of The Big Bang Theory—without blinking. And just when you’re ready to call someone with an electroencephalogram to check for evidence of brain activity, he’ll suddenly, casually, and quite coherently remark on some subtle difference between the most recent forecast and the one that had been issued for our area precisely one hour and eight minutes earlier—or preemptively blurt out Leonard Hofstadter’s response to one of Sheldon Cooper’s crazy complaints before Johnny Galecki can deliver the line himself. It’s uncanny.

But again, TV failed to hold the same attraction for him in Australia that it does in the States. My guess it has something to do with the language barrier.

I know. I know. The Aussies speak English just like we do. But DO they?

Sure, they speak many of the same words and use basically the same sentence structure that we do, but that accent of theirs can be tricky for people for whom language—and talking in general—doesn’t come easily. And this is the guy who spent three years in Naples and yet managed to learn enough Italian to request thirty liters of fuel from gas station attendants (trenta litri per favore) and to thank them afterwards (grazie.)

At any rate, the Jarhead wasn’t drawn to Australian TV like a moth to a flame as he is to American TV. Which was fine with me. Apart from a couple of programs I watch when I’m working out (which isn’t exactly often, obviously, or I wouldn’t be two seasons behind everyone else in the free world with Orange is the New Black) I mainly use our TV for background noise. And when the Jarhead is in a TV coma, he may as well be in a regular coma because he acknowledges and remembers very little—sort of like Jeff Sessions, except when the Jarhead doesn’t answer it’s because he hasn’t heard you and not because he’s trying like hell not to incriminate himself.

And so, as we had before, we walked out of the hotel with no idea how we were going to spend our day. The options were limitless and I’ll admit to having been somewhat paralyzed by the plethora of choices.

The one and only thing I truly wanted to accomplish that day was to purchase a new curling iron. Scratch that. The only thing I truly NEEDED to accomplish that day was to purchase a new curling iron. It’s an important distinction because, although I needed a curling iron, I most definitely did not WANT to buy a new curling. What I WANTED was for MY curling iron to work just as it had when we left the states.

But that was not going to happen. Because although one can power an American curling iron by plugging it into a US/Australia adaptor and then plugging the adaptor into an Australian outlet, one can only plug said curling iron into a US/Australia adaptor and then plug it into an Australian outlet so many times and for so long before you overheat and fry the bloody thing.

So…I needed a new curling iron. We needed sunscreen, too—not because of any mishaps involving electricity, thank goodness. Fortunately, I had remembered to pack my industrial-sized claw clamps and, therefore, was fully prepared to weather this and just about any other hair emergency, or the Jarhead would have been forced to set off for breakfast on his own and then pick up a curling iron and sunscreen on his way back.

For a change, it didn’t take us long to decide where to eat that morning, and soon we were sipping coffee and chatting with a staffer named Christine at a place called Salted Board. Salted Board has a funky yet cozy atmosphere with a décor that blends rustic and industrial elements and features bold earth tones and black accents to create a modern vibe that looked so positively chic that I started taking notes and making plans to remodel my home (again.)

And the food looked just as awesome as the décor, as you can see from the photos below.

Salted Board 1Salted Board 2

My ‘brekkie’ consisted of eggs Benedict, minus the bread, with salmon, smashed avocado, and a side of bacon. The Jarhead had sausage, ham, and eggs with crusty bread.

This was by far the best breakfast we had enjoyed so far. In fact, it was so good, that we ate breakfast there again on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and each time it was just as good as the last.

After breakfast, we began our quest to find a new curling iron. I say ‘a’ new curling iron because I knew better than to become attached to something I did not plan to keep. I would be leaving Australia in four days, after all, and it would be of no use to me back in the states—that is, unless I wanted to pick up an Australia/US electrical adapter and see how long it would last plugged in to a US outlet.

Turns out it’s fairly hard to find a large barreled, ceramic coated, variable setting curling iron in Fremantle, Western Australia. In fact, the only place we found that even carried curling irons, was Target. Not one of the three other stores we were advised to check had them, which I suppose is why we paid twice as much for that one than I had paid for the one that had died.

In the hunt for the new curling iron, we got to take in some more of the local scenery, wandered through a market, visited a shopping mall, and bought a few souvenirs. We also found the public library, and got up close and personal with some colorful parrots as well as a woman in the park whom I suspect was not dealing with a full deck because she kept shouting and swearing at the air above the bench beside her.

Dinner that night included cocktails and hanging kebabs which you have to see to believe, so here is the evidence:

Hanging Kebabs 1

We had put it off eating as long as we could by walking around for a while before heading back to the hotel restaurant. Our goal, again, was to stay out as late as we could in the hope of finally resetting our body clocks to local time.

The effort was valiant but, like our attempt to stay in bed that morning, was ultimately futile. The loud music and lights around the area kept us from falling asleep at our table, this time, but all that fresh air, food, and drink had left us sedated.

Fortunately, there was only one short elevator ride between us and our bed. So upstairs and of to bed we went. We had made it to 11pm!

 




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