Friday, November 21, 2008

Monkey Miarea

You just know you're off the beaten path in Australia when fruit grown in the very same country costs more in the shops than they do in shops in Norway.

And as if I needed further clues, when I was at the local pub the other night, people introduced themselves to me as Rex, Shelz, Jimboy, Mugsy, Pep, Skeg and Wookie. And those were not even made-up names, they had the driver licenses to prove that these were their actual names!

I temporarily settled in Denham, the "capital" of the Shark Bay shire. People there seemed to lead nice lives, although there weren't that many of them. Some of them mainly drink beer, others have several other jobs as well. When I wanted to rent a car, I was told to go talk to the hairdresser, as he also was the local rental company. Oh, and I should go to him outside school hours, as he was also the principal of the school there. When I finally got hold of him, it was of little use to me. The rental car (he only has one) would not be available until sometime next month. Oh well...

Denham has existed for quite a while. I found a tombstone from 1905 at the local cemetary. It may be difficult to live in Denham, but it must be even harder to die there. During the 103 years that have passed since the first grave was dug, only 65 people or so have succeeded in ending their lives in or near the town. At least that's my conclusion after having counted the tombstones. I had to ask someone whether this low number was just because they didn't usually put up a tombstone when someone was eaten whole by one of the many sharks in the area. But no. The only thing coming even close to a shark attack that anyone had heard about, was when a large, old, stuffed fish in the "restaurant" fell down during a particularly lively evening there, and hit someone in the head, causing a concussion.

I spent a day exploring the area on foot. Many a time my heart stopped as something completely unexpected jumped out of a bush just a few meters away and ran off into the distance. My best shock of the day was when the escapist turned out to be some kind of strange lizard that ran using only its hind legs, much like a person. I wish all animals would do that!

I also discovered a strange spider, Golden or Yellow Orb Something. It's venomous, but not really dangerous. Much like this blog. When you carelessly walk straight into its web, it's like walking into a rope or a hard-strung wire, and you do that a lot. Someone else have of course discovered it before me, and not only have they done so, they even have taken some of the spider DNA and merged it with goat DNA. So now there are goats walking around that instead of producing milk can be "milked" for really sturdy rope. This material is used to make bulletproof vests, even more robust than Kevlar. Scientists ARE mad!

Near Denham is Monkey Mia, a world heritage area. It's well-known for being home to large herds of seacows and dolphins. So I have spent the last couple of days feeding dolphins by hand and tipping sleeping seacows. At least I've done some of that, you guess which.

My next stop is Coral Bay. Good luck in finding that on the map!

Kalbarri never hosted the Winter Olympics

At last I managed to escape from Perth and the questionable "hostel" there. Now that I cannot be beaten up in a dark corner of the place anymore, I'll be happy to reveal that I'm talking about The Grand Backpacker Central in downtown Perth. I look forward to writing a report on the place, although I'm not sure whether I should submit it to or to the local police!

My first stop out of Perth was The Pinnacles near Cervantes. It's just thousands and thousands of pointy rocks, possibly fossilized tree trunks, in the middle of a small, yellow desert. It's a great place to visit, especially if you're into vivid colours and phallic symbols in general.

When I left the place, my camera told me that during my stay I had taken on average two photographs per minute. I must have enjoyed seeing it very much. Poor me, who sooner or later will have to go through all my travel photos and pick some of them for the rest of the world to see...

I moved on to Kalbarri, a cute and picturesque little fisherman's village with about two thousand inhabitants. It's located some 600 kilometres north of Perth. Since there aren't really that many alternatives, this means that lots of Perthians drive up there for the weekend, easily doubling the number of people in town.

The coziness of the place is in the details; it's nigh on impossible to buy even something as simple as a bread or a roll without having to spend half an eternity discussing the weather with the baker's wife. Oh, and in the afternoon, hundreds of pink cockatoos or something fly in to eat grass from the lawns in the village, so that the locals don't have to do any mowing. Very practical!

The beaches are nice and the streets see little traffic. So this is the kind of place where parents can let their children be children and run freely around, knowing that the worst that can happen is that they will fall and get a scratch on the knee. Or they could step on a snake, be bitten and die. Or they can fall in the water and be swiftly carried off to Africa by rip currents. Or they can be eaten by sharks. Or be horrifyingly burnt by strange, jello-y creatures of the sea. Or be struck by any of the many other surprises that Australian nature has in store for people equally or less careful than the late Steve Irwin.

I went for a walk of about 20 kilometers along the coast just south of Kalbarri. It's a national park with tall cliffs and ample supplies of coastal bush. It took nine hours to complete! That's partially because I had a talk with a park ranger about venomous snakes before I started walking, but mainly because there was so much to see along the trail: A super-blue ocean, whales on the move south to Antarctica, dolphins hunting for fish, kangaroos looking goofy and/or jumping about, and last, but not least, scenic viewpoints near parking lots, where you can enjoy incredible numbers of skirts flying straight up as the strong winds from the sea do their best.

Kalbarri is a windy place. At night the wind howls so much that you can only barely hear the snoring in the hostel dorm!

Next up is Monkey Mia. Even just the name of the place makes me want to go there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hostel from Hell

Tropical rain of the monsoon kind filled Singapore with dreary weather just as I arrived at the airport to leave for Perth, so I guess I was lucky with the weather. And with Singapore in general. When you go straight from there to Australia, there are some things you really notice and appreciate about Singapore.

Like everyone else, Australians are of the opinion that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. The difference is just that Australians seem to think that they are already on that other side of the fence. I'm not so sure that is completely the case.

As I sarcastically commented upon the price for transportation from the airport to downtown Perth, the driver mumbled something about that I should remember that Australia is a huge country, and that Perth is closer to the Moon than to Sydney.

I remain unconvinced that this was a relevant piece of information, or whether that is a fact or not. What IS a fact, though, is that Perth is located so far away from the rest of the world, that they seem to have no idea there's a world-wide financial meltdown going on. So here in Perth they still build skyscrapers and keep investing all the money they may or may not have. And to do this, they need lots of people to help them with construction work of all kinds. This means that backpackers from all over, desperate to make money on their Work Holiday Visa, are arriving in Perth like never before. And this, in turn, meant that I had a hard time finding anywhere to stay here. All the hostels were full, and I'm not really into five star hotels.

So, now I stay at the decidedly worst hole of a hostel I've ever encountered, except for that one time when I shared a room, and eventually a bed, with three rats in a little village on Java. And it's not even cheap! It IS dirty, however. And right in the middle of Perth. As flash as a rat with a gold tooth, as the Australians say.

We are few actual travelers staying there. I've met three so far, including myself. The rest are people who work long hours, and for the rest of the time sit in front of a TV, completely mentally gone. Oh, and there's a room full of Asians, more of them than there are square meters in the room, I think. They also pay way too much for the room, but in return they have not had to show their papers to the receptionist. Or tell anyone where they're actually from. Wherever that is, I am pretty sure that now they have more items in their beds than they ever owned at home. It's a complete mess.

We're not allowed to access the third floor. "It's too dangerous, the floors may collapse at any moment! If you go there, you will be evicted from the hostel!", the manager says. And then he goes up there. I'm just guessing, but could the floor house an urban marihuana farm, perhaps?

So now I'm doing all I can to get away from Perth, as supposedly it's easier to find a decent place to stay anywhere but here. I'll leave on a bus north to Kalbarri tomorrow morning, so I'm fine.

Yesterday I visited the Western Australian Museum and learned about the sand frog, which lives in the Great Sandy Desert, which sounds just about right. It's a fat frog, apparently, but 50 % of its body weight is "fairly dilute urine" housed inside one of the most impressive bladders of the whole animal kingdom. So, if you're lost in the desert and thirsty, just get yourself one of these, make a hole and squeeze out your frog juice! Yummy!

If there's anything else you'd like to know about survival in Australia, just wait for more blog entries and learn!


Sunday, November 9, 2008


After I visited Singapore 11 years ago (!), I wrote that I would probably never return to this place. And right I was, because Singapore of today is not at all like what it was back then!

Not only have people bought themselves new cell phones, they have also gained a LOT of weight! Several times I've been sitting at the metro here and thought that the person next to me must have fallen asleep, when it turned out that they were simply so obese that they snore even when awake. Have you seen "The March of the Penguin"? You know, the movie where masses of penguins come waddling across the ice, walking from the coast where they have become fat by eating fish, while others had to stay on the ice and hatch the new batch of chicks? Well, the sidewalks in Singapore look much like that.

It struck me when I and the Singaporeans were about to walk across the street when the green man said so. Last time I visited I was very much impressed by the efficiency of the local walkers. Now they have forgotten everything about walking in a big city. They slowly amble along,seemingly at random, with no coordinated direction or pace. When the two groups meet in the middle of a road that needs to be crossed, it often ends in disaster. People crash into each other, and some will fall over, onto their back, unable to regain a standing position. Sometimes cranes have to be brought in to remedy the situation. It's a sad sight. The Burger King here sells four storey Whoppers. Now, if that's not a sign of a nation in decline, I don't know what is.

Oh, and that whole thing with waiting for a green man before you cross the street? That was something that people took seriously eleven years ago. Snipers on the rooftops would kill of anyone that walked on red back then. So people waited for the green man, even when the nearest car was somewhere on the other side of India. Now? They just walk if they feel like it. I have seen no police around to convince people to do otherwise, and there are no more signs around warning about ginormous fines for offences like that. A sad development, in deed.

But there's one street that is easy and safe to walk across. Not to brag, but I believe that the street where my hotel is located hosts the best prostitutes in all of Singapore. I can't tell by looking at THEM (they all look the same to me, try your luck at if you think you can do any better), but the constant still-standing traffic, consisting mainly of single, sad-looking men, tells me everything I need to know. They are there 24 hours a day.

There are lots of 24 hour things around. For instance 24 hour suits. At first I thought they might be good hotel rooms for prostitutes. They're not. That will be 3 hour suits. 24 hour suits are really cheep clothes for business men. By the looks of them, 24 hours is not how long it takes to make them, but how long they will last before they fall apart. But hey, they're cheap!

Did I mention that people in Singapore are poor walkers? They slowly glide down the sidewalks, often stopping completely, forcing me to walk straight into them. The only way they can get going again is by pushing a button inside their nostrils. It's true! Or maybe not, but the fact of the matter is that people here pick their noses a lot, particularly while walking outside. Which reminds me of a joke I heard recently: My wife said that picking nose is disgusting, so now I have to do it myself. Oh well, enough of that.

I've been to many strange sights during the last three days, but the National Museum of Art brought the weirdest experience. I was really sweaty and foul-smelling after a long day of walking, and had planned to just pop by the museum on my way back to the hotel. It turned out that there was an official reception there, because a new exhibition of Korean artists was opening. The ambassador of Korea greeted me eagerly and pulled me over to a table where he told me to help myself to some grilled pig testicles and a large ration of butterfly larvae that had not yet suffered their deaths. Apart from that there were lots of nice things to look at there, some of them wearing cocktail dresses.

Anyway, there's lots more to tell about Singapore. I may tell you later, but now I'm going to the hotel to pack, and tomorrow morning I'm off to Perth, Australia!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I've made it to Singapore, and so far everything has gone according to my non-existent plan. There has been only one minor obstacle, and that was this question on the immigration form to Singapore: "Have you ever been to Africa or South America during the last six days?"

Well, I "have been to South America and Africa ever" since the very first time I went to South America, a long time ago. Still, I decided to answer "No", since I figured that would increase my chances of being allowed entrance to Singapore. I have no idea why they would ask that question anyway. Maybe no one from Singapore have ever been there themselves, so if anyone could please tell them what it's like there, and whether maybe the Africans and South Americans would be interested in cheap electronics and plastics, they'd be very interested to hear about it? Maybe.

Yesterday was spent in London. I had eight hours to kill between the plane from Oslo and the plane to Singapore, so I took the underground to the city centre. A day pass on the entire underground network costs just 7 pounds, so it's a cheap option to waiting and eating at the airport.

Somehow I made my way to the Museum of Natural History. It's a charmingly dusty place, at least in the sections that aren't very new and/or popular. And the building itself is a gem. Lots of nooks and crannies for living spiders to hide in between their spider-web design sessions. And lots of interesting tidbits of information to discover on small signs all over the place. For instance, how do crabs go about reproducing, when the naughty bits of the female crab are hidden under a robust shell? Well, it turns out that the male crab will closely follow the female, often for several weeks, doing everything it can in order to make the female start ousting her shell. He's more than happy to help her out of her old shell, and when he finally succeeds, he'll be quick and do his business before the new shell hardens! In my experience, this is a fairly accurate description of how many men has to work in order to get their chosen women out of their pants!

I'll be off to work on my jetlag now, but I'm sure I'll be back with more interesting details about life in Singapore soon. For now, all I know is that there are many women in Singapore hanging around my hotel, and they have very little in common with crabs, it appears. (They may very well HAVE the crabs, though!) It's a real struggle to make my way into the hotel without at least one of them latching on to me. Some genius created this site to let you calculate how many five-year-olds you probably could survive a fight with. I reckon they should make a similar test regarding Singaporean prostitutes.

Bye for now!