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O caos do Camboja

sunny 100 °F

Chegamos no Camboja, país localizado na Indochina, suas fronteiras são com a Tailândia, Laos e Vietnã. Viajar pela Austrália e chegar no Camboja foi um choque cultural imenso, o caos do trânsito, o calor insuportável e a pobreza da população são notáveis . A distribuição da riqueza e muito desigual, não existe uma classe media, existem pessoas muito pobres e existem pessoas extremamente ricas, são palácios cobertos de ouro e diamante, cercados por favelas, meninos de rua e lixo, em todos os lugares.

O Camboja foi colonizado pelos franceses, mas adquiriu a sua independência após a segunda guerra mundial. Depois de alguns anos de reinado, o partido de esquerda organizou uma das mais violentas rebeliões que ha existiram. O Khmer Vermelho (em francês: Khmer Rouge) foi o partido comunista do Camboja,em 1973, os Acordos de Paris estabeleceram o fim da participação militar dos EUA na Indochina, oficializando o término da Guerra do Vietnã. Em 1975, o Khmer Vermelho assumiu o poder no Camboja através da conquista de Phnom Penh, capital do país, em 17 de abril, dando fim a guerra civil contra o governo de Lon Nol.O líder deste grupo, Pol Pot tentou concretizar a sua proposta de um país novo feito com um homem novo, para o que instalou um regime de terror. No governo do Khmer Vermelho, liderado principalmente por Pol Pot, as cidades foram evacuadas, e os cambojanos, levados ao campo para o trabalho no cultivo de arroz. O partido é acusado de desrespeitar os direitos humanos nesse período, promovendo o massacre de opositores, intelectuais e pessoas suspeitas de se relacionar com o governo anterior. Entre os assassinatos cometidos pelo Khmer Vermelho, estima-se que entre 15 a 20 mil professores foram mortos, 90% dos monges budistas e 1 em cada 5 médicos. Até hoje o Camboja tenta contabilizar o número total de mortos no genocídio, mas as estimativas vão de 1 milhão a 3 milhões de assassinatos sob o comando de Pol Pot, num país de 7 milhões de habitantes. Em 1978, ainda que apoiado pelo governo comunista da China, foi deposto pela intervenção de tropas vietnamitas.
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Para entender melhor o que aconteceu no país nos visitamos a prisão onde muitas dessas pessoa que foram assassinadas estiveram detidas. Todos os prisioneiros foram torturados das maneiras mais cruéis possíveis, as lembranças da tortura estão em todas as partes, nas paredes manchadas, as armas de tortura e as fotos de todos os prisioneiros, entre eles crianças e mulheres, fotos que mostram os rostos de sofrimento e os corpos torturados pelo membros do Khmer vermelho. Depois de presos e torturados, os prisioneiros foram transportados para uma área de massacre, chamada de Killing Fields, onde todos foram assassinados das maneiras mais cruéis possíveis e jogados em grupos de 200 ou ate 400 pessoas em buracos escavados pelos pelas próprias vitimas, antes delas serem assassinadas. Alguns anos depois o local foi descoberto e vários esqueletos das vitimas foram recuperados e transformados em um monumento, que simboliza ate hoje o nível de crueldade que o ser “humano” pode atingir. Trinta anos apos o genocídio, a população certamente ainda mostra o sofrimento em cada face, não se vêem muitos sorrisos, 50% da população esta abaixo de 14 anos, somente as crianças que ainda possuem alguma inocência são capazes de sorrir por completo.

Apesar de tudo, esse país merece a visita de todos, uma experiência que abre os olhos para o pior lado da humanidade, mas mostra que ainda existe esperança, nos rostos e nos sorrisos de suas crianças.

Posted by flaviaU 18:39 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

Welcome to Cambodia

sunny 105 °F

Cambodia inspires me, saddens me, and excites me. Off the plane, the bustle of the visa application, the thick heat and humidity, the mob of tuk-tuk drivers outside, this is like no place I’ve ever been before. We are dead from the long trip, the layover and the previous day spent wandering around Brisbane. I am perplexed by the conversation I just had with my neighbor whose business card announced that he is the “Senior Vice President of the Muslim League Party of Pakistan.” I am already overwhelmed as we leave the airport. Either you drive a tiny motorcycle or a huge Lexus SUV or Hummer, the separation of wealth is so pronounced and prominent. We darted down to the riverfront, then found a hotel nearby, paying a bit more than we would like, but enjoying having an AC that works, free wifi, and a bit of security ($25/night). Flavia seemed understandably overwhelmed as the mass of people crowded in the streets, crossing the intersection seems like a mix between Russian Roulette and Frogger. We walked and sweated in the pounding afternoon sun against the blacktop with no relief of a cool breeze or a shady spot. Fortunately we found 60 cent beers and a quick bite to eat. We then toured the royal palace, the 100kg gold Buddha’s covered in diamonds and the whizzing Mercedes outside incongruously mixed with the child beggars and the missing limbed street hawkers. The palace was incredible, Buddha statue after Buddha statue, a pagoda with a 5000 kg silver floor, orchids, lotus flowers, shrines, and pronounced affection for the king, all hidden behind a massive wall separating riches from reality.

The hustle of Phnom Penh doesn’t stop, you can’t walk a block without 1 of 30 moto-taxi drivers offering you a ride, kids asking for money or selling knockoff books, or just the glare of the locals. The locals all seem to look with the same expression, and I don’t see the familiar smile that I received when I traveled through South America, even in the poorest countries. The glare here tells a different, story. It speaks of understandable mistrust, anger, and inability to forget mixed with an unwillingness to forgive what these people have seen. The Cambodian history is still present, and a vibrant reminder of the ability of man to murder, maim, and destroy their own people as happened here only 30 years ago. It brings me back to one of the books I read before I left, where Dostoyevsky fought his religion in questioning how God could create an animal as evil as man, capable of doing worse to his own people than any other animal on Earth. As our tuk-tuk driver took us to The Killing Fields just outside the city, we sped through ghettos and markets, trash discarded everywhere, the smells of burning fuel, putrid waste, and grilled meat, the dust in our eyes as we raced through the thousands of motos, pulled over to the side as a racing dump truck screamed it’s horn for us to get the hell out of the way. We saw motorcycles with six people on it, ones pulling carts full of pipes, Audi SUVs oblivious and uncaring of anyone else on the road and received the same look from everyone passing.
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The grounds of The Killing Fields told the story of the recent events, the recent destruction, the genocide of 1.7 million people by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge against anyone and everyone suspected of having the least amount of influence. Government officials were bound and beheaded, intellectuals and monks were electrocuted to death, doctors and teachers had their skulls bashed in by blunt objects, women and girls were raped, had their teeth pulled out, and then had their lives taken with pickaxes, and babies were held by the legs and smashed into trees to prevent future generations from seeking revenge. Cambodians killed Cambodians, they emptied Phnom Penh, sent some to jail, some to die, and others to the countryside where they worked as slaves and hopefully were spared. Our guide, Mao Tong, lost his entire family, 3 generations of life, as he was the only one to escape and hide for years. We walked around the mass graves, bits of bone still in the ground, with torn children’s clothing and shattered skulls on display to remind us of what happened here. 8987 corpses were exhumed from the ground here. Our guide wept as he told how he still to this day does not understand what could cause these people who were just like him to do what they have done, to disintegrate their population in the name of Communism.

From The Killing Fields we went to S-21, a school turned into a prison when Phnom Penh was taken over by the Khmer Rouge in 1976. This prison held the pocket sized cells where torture took place, where people were hung upside down by their arms, where they were electrocuted, and where they were waterboarded. The heat was beyond intense as we walked through the cells, saw the photos of the prisoners that were held and killed here, and read the stories of former Khmer Rouge soldiers trying to explain what made them do what they did.
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Cambodia is a hard country. There is no love reserved for foreign visitors. There is only the hope to make profit in a country where so many live with nothing. There is the exploitation, the prostitutes, and the hidden child prostitutes. There is a large expat community here, and when you pay $10 for a meal, including drinks, you wonder how much these workers can be paid. I can’t escape the looks though, it is truly something I have never seen before. I want to smile and say hello, but the look says don’t, the children look away, the elderly show their past and tell of the horror they have lived. I am fascinated and overwhelmed, hot, sad, sweaty, sticky, and eager to experience this country.

Posted by JonathanU 19:50 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

Off to SE Asia

Posted by flaviaU 16:37 Comments (0)

Out of Oz

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Australia completely shuts down for the Easter weekend. Here, it’s that last glimpse of summer and spring before the days get shorter and winter comes, although this far up north, that’s the dry season. Flavia and I have taken full advantage of our last week, after an extremely disappointing trip to Cairns to return Campee, that was marred by rain and bad seas, preventing us from exploring the Great Barrier Reef, and keeping us within short distance of cover, as the ominous skies looked as if they could open up at any second. Cairns was pretty gross, all and all, kind of a thrown together mess of cheap kebab stands for backpackers, tour operators all employing good looking foreign ladies, and expensive boutiques and jewelry stores for the masses of Japanese tourists. We wandered unimpressed and annoyed, the end of our 3500km trip up the coast without the finale that we had hoped for, snorkeling in the best place in the world.

We flew back down to Brisbane to meet up with Campbell, Alex, and Frank with hopes that we had earned a bit of good weather karma for our trip to Fraser Island, which we had delayed due to the Cyclone a few weeks back. Things started off well, everything was bought and prepped for the trip, the 4x4 had been arranged, and we set off early in the morning for Rainbow Beach, two hours away. Upon our arrival we dealt with probably the rudest person we had met so far on our trip, and as we were lectured about the dangers of tourists in 4 wheel drive trucks, we grew antsy to get on the ferry and explore. Finally after 2 hours of waiting, we made it, and we cruised down 75 Mile Beach at 80 k/h, enjoying the sun, the salt in the air, and the feeling of whipping across the beach in a well equipped Toyota Land Cruiser. We turned inland onto some singletrack roads and I drove cautiously but quickly over the bumps and through the sand tracks towards the beautiful crystal clear freshwater lakes that Fraser Island is known for. We relaxed and ate lunch, the five of us and Barb, one of Campbell’s friends, overlooking the light blue water, with Dingos lurking nearby, eager to see if we would leave anything for them. We continued around the island, feeling comfortable as we passed backpackers packed 11 to a vehicle, slowly grinding their way through the sand, not looking as happy as we were! Back on the beach for the final drive of the day, the sun dipped behind the clouds as we sped passed a shipwreck from the 1930s, over creeks, by families of fishermen, and finally pulled into camp at 6pm. I quickly prepared a BBQ for the hungry masses and chugged my first beer of the day (I was driving the whole day), while we recounted the events and ate the copious amounts of meat that Barb had purchased from her uncle’s butcher shop. We cleaned and showered, then drank beer, wine and Australian rum, and howled with laughter late into the night, concluding what was to us, the best day we’d had so far in Australia.
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Fresh but a bit ragged from a brief night of sleep, we set off at just before low tide once the sea allowed us access to the beach. The schedule on Fraser is simple, low tide means go, high tide means you better have arrived at where you need to be. We cruised back down the beach to Eli River, a clear, narrow stream full of visitors, although our group clearly seemed to be having the best time as we climbed trees, splashed through the water, wrestled, and made fools of ourselves. Back in the Land Cruiser, Barb took the wheel, and about five minutes after she started, she failed to veer out of the way of a benign looking puddle that turned out to be about thigh deep and proceeded to flood the engine. All of the fun stopped as we looked first at the dripping engine, full of soaked wires and plugs, then at my watch, as the last ferry left on a pretty strict time schedule. We waited under the hot midday sun, receiving conciliatory looks from the vehicles that sped by, as we waited and hoped that the truck would dry out enough to give us a spark to get the engine running. I retreated to the nearby sand dunes, a bit perturbed at the twist that the day had taken, and jumped for joy as Campbell finally got the engine to turn over and the water-logged turbines glugged to a roar. We sped back to the ferry and made it with 5 minutes to spare, and we headed back to Rainbow Beach, not happy about the impending argument that was sure to come after we received our lecture about the $1500 fine for getting salt water on the engine. We argued and nearly came to blows with the equally unfriendly co-owner who was not a shred kinder than his sister (the one who lectured us the previous day), and I let Campbell handle the end of the argument, and they agreed not to charge us for any damage.

Last night, Campbell’s friend had a 40th birthday party, and although none of us was too eager to go out, we couldn’t turn down a good party, so we loaded up and headed out. I’m glad we did as this party was one of the most interesting collection of hillbilly folk that I have ever met. Somehow, we were transported from seemingly normal suburb to Kart driving through the mud, missing a few teeth, lamb and pork spit-roasted fun after just a 15 minute car ride. I chatted with folks who had never been on a plane, who seemed to think my accent was from Scotland, and just generally kind and simple minded locals. We sang Karaoke and tore through the grounds in the pitch dark on the crackling go-Kart (of course a great idea after a bit of beer), then finally took a taxi home from a Parisian driver named Guy. We sat on the porch, celebrating our last night together, before finally getting to bed.

Overall, I would have to say that the first and last few days in Australia were amazing. Having Campee was also a great experience and the places that we went with her, from Seal Rocks to Byron Bay were so much fun and so beautiful that the only thing that I wished for a bit more sun and lower prices. I appreciate the small town feel that Australia maintains, the butcher shops and small pharmacies where people can still know where their meat comes from and get medical advice from a familiar place, the community feel in the caravan parks, and the overwhelming existence of pride that the Aussies have for their country. The coast of this massive country is so green and unspoiled, the land left at its natural state, the empty feel that you can experience as you cruise up the M1. We leave here on Monday, glad that we made so many great friends to see (mostly from Switzerland), and a bit lighter than we would like to be in the pocket. We are extremely eager to arrive in Cambodia, needless to say that will be a huge change of pace from the calm and organized manner of the first world to the craziness, heat, and hustle that will surely greet us as we set foot into SE Asia.

Posted by JonathanU 17:15 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Adeus Australia

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Cairns foi uma decepção, ainda sob o efeito do ciclone, choveu muito e acabou arruinando os nossos planos de visitar a barreira de corais. O plano seria de fazer mergulho e snorkeling, mas a visibilidade do mar era de apenas 6 metros de profundidade, que não eram nada comparados aos 20/30 metros que normalmente são visíveis quando o tempo esta melhor. O custo do passeio de barco e do equipamento de mergulho era muito alto e não valeria a pena gastar mais dinheiro sem razão, Austrália é um pais com um custo de vida muito alto e nós já gastamos o suficiente por aqui.

Depois de 3 dias de chuva no Norte, pegamos um vôo de volta para Brisbane, onde iríamos encontrar o amigo do Jonathan que nos havíamos nos hospedados na semana passada e de la íamos fazer uma visita a Fraser Island, uma ilha tomada por lagos de água doce e cristalina. O Campbell programou toda a excursão, o total de 6 pessoas, eu, o Jonathan, o Campbell, o casal de suíços Alex e Frank (que também estavam hospedados na casa do Campbell) e a Barb (amiga australiana do Campbell). Alugamos um jipe 4 por 4, que é a única maneira de dirigir pela Ilha, reservamos uma casa para passar a noite e seguimos em direção a Fraser Island. Assim que chegamos, seguimos fomos visitar as lagoas naturais, que são de fato transparentes e quando o sol reflete, os vários tons de azul fazem a água parecer surreal, o que fez com que eu e o Jonathan voltássemos a sorrir.

Como não existem estradas na ilha, os caminhos são muito rústicos e cada estrada de areia que nós dirigimos foi uma aventura, o Jonathan de motorista, e o resto do povo sentados nos bancos de trás, que já estavam tortos de tanto que o carro pulava de um lado para o outro, mas valeu a pena o pescoço torto, a diversão foi ainda melhor, rimos o dia todo. Fizemos um churrasco pela noite, acordamos no outro dia e fomos visitar o restante da ilha. Depois de dois dias de aventura, voltamos à casa do Campbell e de novo arrumamos as malas, por que daqui a dois dias partiremos para a Ásia, mais precisamente Camboja, um lugar que promete muitas surpresas, uma civilização que ainda não recebeu muita influência do muito ocidental e que possui vários tesouros e também muita destruição deixados pelo império Khamer. Chegamos em Camboja na terça-feira e depois de ter viajado quase que exclusivamente em países de primeiro mundo, tenho certeza que vai ser uma choque cultural, mas eu também tenho certeza que esse choque vai ser uma dessas experiências que mudam a vida de várias pessoas e não existe nada mais fascinante nesse mundo que ter passado por uma experiência dessas.

Posted by flaviaU 17:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Campervan Diaries- Fin

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Day 18- Up early… again. It had been so long without an alarm clock that we have this feeling that maybe it won’t go off, so neither of us slept very well. It’s mostly cloudy today, and it rained all through the night, but we are picked up early for a trip to the Whitsunday Islands on a big purple sailboat. We both had extremely high expectations for this trip, as it was pricey, and we had been told by many people that this is one of the most beautiful places in Australia. As we sailed out, the usual glass like water was anything but, as a strong wind whipped up the typically placid seas. Flavia and I looked at each other, perhaps with a bit of regret, and maybe just an early realization that expectations would not be met. At the snorkeling spot, this was confirmed, as the cyclone had whipped up the water so well that you couldn’t see more than six or seven feet, and the water was extremely choppy. I was told by the captain of the boat that Cyclone Ului was the first cyclone to actually come onto land in this city since 1971, and that the water was so badly mixed up that it would take as long as two months to return to normal. We continued on the boat over the very rough waters, and people began to get sick. Flavia and I felt fine, but the morale of the boat was low as we pulled up to Whithaven beach, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was nice, I will give it that, but due to the debris left from the cyclone, and the iffy weather, it wasn’t as nice as it could have been. We relaxed and walked, put on our stinger suits and went for a swim. Stinger suits are mandatory because theses jellyfish live in the water here and if they get you… you go bye-bye! Back on the boat we had a great BBQ lunch and felt good drinking (free) beer and wine as we began the 3 hour trip back to Arley Beach. The boat’s sails went up and Flavia and I relaxed on the trampoline of the huge catamaran drinking beer, listening to the wind whip the sails, and watched the sun set ahead of us. This was the highlight of the day. Back at camp we made a quick dinner and went to sleep early, with another day of driving just ahead.
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Day 19- No Alarm, but up early again, we have a lot of room to cover. We left the soaked town of Arley and continued north along the 1, this time we would take it to the end! This drive was much easier than the one from Campbell’s to Arley, this one was only 8 hours, which went by surprisingly quickly, perhaps the biggest surprise was two hours of “Fresh Air” from NPR as we drove through Townsville, and I was delighted to hear this, plus there we two stories that took place in Oakland! As we continued north the terrain changed again from the almost prehistoric plains to rocky hills finally to the thickest rainforest we have seen here thus far. The mountains spread from coast to well inland and brown rivers with croc warning signs flowed at capacity from all the rains. It began to rain really hard as we entered Cairns and we continued to Port Douglas, were, yah you guessed it, it rained all night! Another day of driving and another night of rain!

Day 20- A nice night of sleep, plus, it’s my birthday, so maybe there will be sun today! Nope, rain again… and after breakfast we head into town for a walk and a shop, although the rain and the ridiculously high prices stopped that pretty quickly. Back in Campee, Flavia makes the executive decision that we waste the day in Cairns, which is fine by me. In my Brazil days of travelling, my way of wasting the day was to find the nearest mall and walk around and see a movie, so that’s what we did. Now, we were both a bit sad about it being our last full day with Campee, but there are some things that we most certainly won’t miss. First, windows closed for the whole day and night during a rainstorm and sleeping in the hot, muggy, camper, that smells like dinner and somehow the damn mosquitoes still got in! Second, the drawers, now you have to make sure the drawers are all closed and sealed properly, because if they’re not, you will hear about it after the first turn! Also there is the fridge, this one is even better, because if the fridge isn’t locked and you make a right turn, the door swings open and inside of the car becomes infested with everything! Then when you go to open the door, all of the round things fall out, like tomatoes and limes and so on. I guess the final thing is the lack of space. When the bed is made, we literally have about enough room for both of us to stand up, however anything else requires a bit of dexterity, plus the back of the camper has a low ceiling, and if you don’t hit your head at least once a day, you aren’t doing enough to help.

Day 21- Probably the best night of sleep we both had in Campee the whole time, and therefore we are running short on time to pack up and return her, and clear all our gear out. This day is made even more difficult with the news from home that my grandfather had passed away. He was a great man, a hero to me, and a wonderful human, and we will miss him. The news was hard to take but we knew it was coming, he was 92, and had lived a very full life, but had become extremely frail and weak in the past few months. I will remember him as the one (along with grandma) who inspired me to travel, as they were always cruising and have seen a lot of the world. He is also the one who taught me how to play cards, and nurtured my love for olives. In the end, he and I discussed this and he didn’t want us to come home, so I said goodbye to him last night before I went to sleep at around the same time that he passed. It was great to speak to him a week ago and tell him one last time thank you, and that I love him. He will never be forgotten… We have now returned Campee and are checked into a hotel, hoping that the weather will be good enough tomorrow as we have scheduled a snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef, a decision that we quarreled over because of the weather and cost, but who knows if we will ever have the chance to do it again.

Posted by JonathanU 15:22 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Adeus Campe!

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Como eu havia dito na ultima vez que eu escrevi, nos estávamos aguardando a chegada de um ciclone, que acabou acontecendo no ultimo domingo. O ciclone atingiu o norte do estado de Queensland, justamente a nossa próxima parada, o que causou um atraso no nosso itinerário, mesmo assim tentamos aproveitar a nossa estadia na casa do Campell (amigo do Jonathan), que havia acabado de voltar de viagem, depois de fazer um trabalho voluntario para um barco de australianos que protege as baleias que são caçadas por Japoneses nas águas da Antártida. A coincidência foi que esse barco faz parte de um programa de TV que faz o maior sucesso nos Estados Unidos e que eu e o Jonathan sempre assistimos, e agora descobrimos que o Campbell e o seu irmão mais velho vão estar na próxima serie do programa.

Campbell havia conhecido um casal de Suíços quando ele estava viajando pela America do Sul no ano passado, esse casal também esta fazendo a volta ao mundo e agora estão na Austrália visitando o Campbell e nós também conhecemos o Campbell na America do Sul, estamos fazendo a volta ao mundo e agora estamos visitando o Campbell na Austrália ao mesmo tempo, como esse mundo é pequeno! A casa estava cheia e com tanta gente pra se distrair que nós resolvemos ficar mais uns dias, acabou que a nossa espera não foi tão ruim quanto esperávamos.

Despedimos-nos de todos e saímos bem cedo em rumo a Whitsundays, desconfiados que a nossa viagem iria ser bem longa, depois de 12 horas de viagem finalmente chegamos ao nosso destino. Foi um choque quando chegamos na cidadezinha de Arlie Beach e vimos todo o estrago que o ciclone havia feito naquele lugar, árvores e postes caídos em todo lugar, casas destelhadas e placas quebradas. Depois de 3 dias, os moradores da cidade já haviam removido muitas arvores e a energia elétrica havia acabado de voltar, então a situação não estava muito caótica. Arlie Beach é a saída oficial dos barcos que vão para as Ilhas Whitsundays, que são muito famosas por suas belezas naturais e por serem próximas a barreira de corais, então no dia seguinte a nossa chegada, embarcamos em um veleiro com destino as ilhas, o dia estava ensolarado, depois de tanta chuva. O único problema foi que a água do mar não estava muito clara por causa da tempestade, então não pudemos ver os peixes e corais, parece que depois de ciclones como esse, podem demorar ate 30 dias para que o mar fique transparente de novo, mas mesmo assim, o lugar não deixou de ser lindo e velejar no final da tarde com o pôr-do-sol na na nossa direção foi maravilhoso.

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Como nós temos que subir ate Cairns (localizada quase no final da costa oeste) para devolver a motorhome no Domingo e também ver a barreira de corais, tivemos que nos despedir de Whitsundays e partir viagem de manhã, com mais 8 horas a serem viajadas. Chegamos em Cairns e é claro que com a nossa sorte, estava chovendo horrores e a previsão não é das melhores para os próximos dias. O coitado do Jonathan esta completamente exausto de tanto dirigir, mas o bom é que logo nos despedimos da “Campe” e pegamos um avião de volta para Brisbane, onde estaremos torcendo pra o tempo melhore ate terça-feira. Morar em uma motorhome foi um desafio, as noites mal dormidas, o calor, os mosquitos, o aperto e um grande teste para qualquer relação amorosa, principalmente em dias de chuva, mas nos conseguimos passar o teste, passamos 3 semanas e sobrevivemos sem nenhum arranhão. Estamos dizendo adeus a nossa casa com rodas e retornando a nossa vida de mochileiros.

Até a semana que vem!

Posted by flaviaU 20:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Campervan Diaries-Part 5

Day 14- It’s Sunday here and the sky is completely grey. Today is the day that Cyclone Ului is supposed to hit the coast, just north of where we are, so we are currently still in a holding pattern. As long as the day is shot, I decide to treat my friend upon his triumphant return from sea with Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian dish with black beans and all sorts of pig and cow parts. Now for those of you who do watch “Whale Wars”, they are fed only vegan fare while on the ships, but my friend Campbell is not a full time vegan. So I venture out early in between rain showers and search three supermarkets and the butcher to salvage sufficient ingredients for the dish, then hurry back to allow the beans to soak for a few hours. Flavia and I spend the day reading, literally just sitting there reading, and you know what, it was marvelous! Once I got a bit bored, I ventured out for a jog, getting a few miles of exercise in to break up sitting around. Finally, once the beans had sufficiently soaked I spent five or six hours not only making the Feijoada, which is quite a handful in itself, but I also prepared a braised chicken dish for us as well, I guess I did really miss having a nice kitchen. Campbell’s house is very nice, located just outside the city of Nambour, up on a hill with a wonderfully redone interior and a comfy couch with a DVD player, man how we miss some of the simple luxuries while we are packed into Campee. The dinner and the next day’s lunch come out great and we eat, clean, watch a movie and head to bed, feeling pretty content with how we have “wasted” a day waiting for the cyclone to pass.

Day 15- Cam and his brother Mal show up from the airport with a Swiss couple (yes… another) that Campbell met last year while he was travelling around Peru. Mal is a quartermaster on the Bob Barker, and from my experience with the show, the only one with any brains when it comes to the seas, and Campbell is the Chief Engineer. Mal is a bit shy, especially since we both know who he is, as he is truly a conservationist and has no interest in the fame that the show has brought them, although the show itself is not shown in Australia. I prepare the final touches for the lunch and we eat, the five of us that is, Cam, Flavia, the Swiss couple Alex and Frank, and I, and I must say that the meal was spectacular, although just sitting on the verandah drinking beer and checking out the incredible photos that Cam snapped while on the Bob Barker chasing the Japanese Whalers was the highlight of my day. To hear the stories and get the true feeling about something that both Flavia and I love (Whale Wars that is) was truly remarkable, and hopefully this season will do justice (Dad… please DVR, the show starts in June). The beer, stories, and laughs quickly dissolved the day into night, and Campbell called for the RSL shuttle to come, which was a complete mystery. About 30 minutes later, a van pulls up to the door and we are shuttled downtown to a newly redone 70’s style place with the cheapest beer in town. Now why would a place pick us up, offer cheap beer and food? Well, it turns out that the “Retired Servicemen’s League” is a private club ($5 year membership), and therefore they have figured out a way to be full of slots, even though there are no casinos here! After a quick dinner and a bunch of beer, we waste a few dollars in the one armed bandits before walking home, watching a bit of TV and heading to bed.
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Day 16- The Cyclone has past, we are alive and the sun is out! I am the first one up and I plop down on the couch to watch the local TV channels and get some great coverage of the health care vote. This is a very proud morning for me, and although I hate to throw politics in here, I’m very happy that this is done for now. Once everyone awakens we decide to head to the beach! The drive from Campbell’s is about 30 minutes and since it is the middle of the week, we arrive at an empty beach where we relax, swim, then walk down the beach for some fresh prawns and crab. Back at the house Flavia and I pack and prep for the next day, we have a long way to go, then we finally BBQ some lamb and steak, then sit out on the verandah till past midnight. Flavia and I had a great time getting to know Campbell’s friends as well. Frank and Alex are both very avid travelers, and we told South American travel stories for hours, and it was great to meet some people who had done a lot of the same route as I had just recently. I was a bit dismayed at how they said places had changed, like La Paz becoming very dangerous, and Bolivian buses not playing the wretched Cumbia music all through the night. In the end Flavia and I knew that these days in Noosa, Byron bay, and at Campbells waiting for Ului to pass may have completely screwed up our schedule, we couldn’t have had a better time.

Day 17- Up early, just before 6am, we have a lot of ground to cover today. We hope to make it all the way to Arley Bay, way up the Queensland coast, to do a cruise of the Whitsunday Islands. After a breakfast stop, we only stop for gas and a quick lunch, as we drive through the remarkably lush green landscape. After Rockhampton, things become extremely desolate, with only one town every hour or so, and as Campee’s fuel light comes on, I am very relieved to see a Petrol Station. We are cruising all day, working our way through my Iphone’s music collection, hunting for music that we haven’t listened to yet. The further north we go, the less traffic we encounter, and the lush landscape turns into plains with scattered trees and looming clouds over the hills to the east. The air is warm as I roll down my window, and I begin to fatigue as we get gas once again and I chug an energy drink. It’s now 2 pm, we still have about four hours to go. Back on the road we cross back into the land of sugar plantations, as sugar plants spread for miles from both sides of the road, covering the landscape with a thick green fur. Every car in Australia seems built for these roads, many with snorkels for when the road floods, and the Utes (pickups) and big rigs all have Road Warrior style grills, commonly known as Roo-guards, because sooner or later everyone ends up hitting a Kangaroo. Finally sunset we arrive in Arley beach, the area that was hit hardest by the cyclone. All of the signs are ripped apart, trees are uprooted, and everything is one big puddle, and we wait to see if there is power in the town itself. We are pleased to find that although some windows are boarded up, and some outlying areas are still without power, the town is once again alive and we are able to book our tour and find a place to park Campee for the night. Man a shower feels good after 1000 km and 12 hours on the road.

Posted by JonathanU 20:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Campervan Diaries- Part 4

storm

Day 10- Back on the road, heading north through Brisbane to Noosa Heads. We pass through Brisbane because we fly out of there so we intend to check it out when we come back for our flight to SE Asia. After a quick stop at McDonald’s to utilize free internet we continued north along the 1 then headed to Noosa. The drive into Noosa reminds me of yet one more thing that I have had to get used to since I have been driving down here… Roundabouts! Now, I have seen them before, but we don’t really have them in the US, and driving into Noosa, there are about 25 as you head from the highway into the town and main beach. So first off you go counter-clock-wise, and put your right turn signal on if you are going to continue around and then your left turn signal when you are taking an exit. Trust me, it’s a bit difficult if you are not used to it. Once in town, we looked for a while for a parking space, driving around the packed three lots over and over again until we finally argued Campee into a spot after some a-hole zoomed the wrong way down the aisle trying to steal our spot! The beach was hot, and even though it is cloudy along the entire coast, there is bright sun here. That is Noosa’s secret, even if it is pouring rain on the next beach north, Noosa somehow get’s the sun. This has drawn crowds and money, and the area around the beach is packed with expensive clothing shops as well as overpriced restaurants. We relaxed on the beach and I swam, even though the pounding surf and the strongest sideways current I have ever felt made Flavia nervous, and made it nearly impossible for me to move, I still enjoyed being out in the water. Finally as it darkened we cooked in a nearby caravan park and went to sleep early.

Day 11- Even though every forecast predicts rain, it’s sunny and we spend the morning on the beach. We leave midday to explore the area to the south to find a new place to stay the night as the caravan park the night before was a bit sketchy and unpleasant. We drive down the coast along a beach that spreads forever, a massive expanse of sand that seems to stretch until Brisbane. This area is too “suburbia” for us so we head back, stopping along the way for a nice lunch, something that is a treat for us, as we have been eating campervan sandwiches everyday for the past week or so. Our new caravan park is much mellower; I swim some laps in the pool and as we settle down for the night, the drizzle against the camper lulls us to sleep.

Day 12- We have given up on going to Fraser Island for now as every forecast that cyclone Ului will be hitting the area in the next few days and we can’t risk being on an island made of sand during a cyclone. We spend the morning on the sunny beach, looking out at the looming black clouds that seem to hang everywhere except on the Main Beach at Noosa Heads. After lunch (sandwiches… again), we make our way inland to my friend Campbell’s house, about 40 minutes near the city of Nambour, Campbell is away right now, finishing up his maiden voyage on the Bob Barker, one of the Sea Shepherd boats chasing the Japanese Whalers near Antarctica. He’ll be back in a few days, and he told us we could stay at his house if we would like to. Although we are completely comfy in Campee, a few nights sleeping in a bed and sitting on a couch watching DVDs in the rain does sound wonderful, so we kindly oblige and settle down inland for a few days. A nice night of take out Thai and a movie round out the night, after a stop at the neighborhood McDonald’s for some free emailing! It was nice to be able to sleep during a hard rainfall, although we were a bit confused at the first sound, when we didn’t hear the familiar drumset sound above our heads that we have become accustomed to as we have spent pretty much every moment of rain for the past two weeks.

Day 13- We finally answered the age old question of how you know that you are travelling? It’s when you finally notice that you have driven into a new time zone and didn’t realize it for three days, because you have had absolutely nothing to do on any sort of schedule, so when you go to see the Koala talk at the Australia Zoo at 1pm and you are the only one there, that’s because it’s actually noon, and that’s when you know you’re travelling! So after breakfast we headed to the Australia Zoo, which was amazing, we saw all the usual suspects, plus we were able to pet a wombat, a koala, and a few roos. This was the nicest zoo I have ever been to and a true monument to Steve Irwin, whose legacy lives on in Australia as far as preservation, animal rights, and environmental sustainability are concerned. We spent the whole day at the Zoo, although a few rain clouds passed overhead and sent us running for cover. Back in town, we went to shop for dinner, and I realized that maybe there were a few things that I still hadn’t gotten comfortable with when it comes to Campee. So when I drove into the parking garage that had a big bar across the top that said 2.1m clearance, and Campee’s top stretches to 2.5m, I learned the hard way that I need to be aware of how tall the stupid campervan is. No real harm done, just a deserved bruised ego, and a little yellow line on Campee’s roof. Good thing I took out the maximum insurance!

Posted by JonathanU 10:05 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Dias de sol

sunny

Byron Bay é o meu lugar favorito até agora, quase todos os lugares na costa sul foram lindos, praias de cartão postal mesmo, mas Byron Bay não foi só a praia de cartão postal, foi também a atitude, a personalidade.
O lugar esta cheio de mochileiros de todos os lugares do mundo, Byron Bay é a parada oficial na costa oeste. Uma mistura de garotas Inglesas de 18 anos, com casais australianos de classe alta com seus filhos pequenos. Tem gosto pra tudo, surf shops, boutiques de roupas “vintage”, lojas de decoração caríssimas e vários bares, cada um com a sua faixa etária, pelo menos até umas 2 horas da manhã, depois das 2 já não dava mais pra saber a diferença, todos as faixa etárias que já haviam bebido todas se direcionavam ao “Cheeky Monkey”, que só era tolerável depois de algumas cervejas.

Fora da cidade, em direção ao interior quase todas as vilas eram ocupadas por comunidades alternativas, tudo na paz e amor, nosso passeio foi em direção a uma feira hippie no Domingo em “The Channon”, que nos foi recomendada pelos nosso amigos alemães e Suíços, 2 casais que conhecemos no camping, como sendo a melhor feira da região. Havia chovido muito na noite anterior que quando chegamos la, a feira havia sido cancelada, uma pena, mas como não quisemos perder a viagem, nos resolvemos visitar uma cachoeira de 100 metros de altura. Chegamos na parte mais alta da cachoeira e a vista la de cima foi incrível, mas como todo mundo estava interessado em ver a base da cachoeira, decidimos pegar uma trilha de mais ou menos 3 horas (ida e volta). Começamos a descer pela trilha quando de repente Beni, o menino Alemão que estava andando na frente, da um berro e todo mundo para ver o que havia acontecido, ele tava sendo mordido por sanguessugas, nunca vi um bicho tão pequeno e tão horrível. Ele não soltava da pele dele ate que alguém conseguisse tirar depois de varias tentativas. Todo mundo começou a andar e olhar para seus pés, de repente começou a se ouvir um berro atrás do outro, as meninas claro que liderando a gritaria, depois de 30 minutos eu resolvi voltar para o camping com um casal que estava subindo de volta e que nos alertou que haviam muito mais próximo a cachoeira. Esperei todo mundo voltar e depois que eu vi a cara deles, eu não me arrependi mais de não ter ido ate o final, todo mundo estava exausto, foram atacados por um montão de sanguessugas e quando eles chegaram na base da cachoeira nem puderam chegar muito perto por causa da potencia da água. Segundo eles, a pior trilha que eles já caminharam na vida.
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Byron Bay também foi um lugar de reencontros, primeiro reencontramos as duas meninas alemãs, a Monica e a Marion, que viajaram com a gente por uns dias no sul e vieram a Byron Bay em busca do surf. E completamente inesperado foi quando dirigindo pela rua principal de Byron, vimos Winnie andando na rua, o menino Suíço que havíamos conhecido nas Ilhas Fiji, paramos o carro no meio da rua e começamos a gritar por ele ate que ele nos viu e correu ate o carro. O Jonathan costumava me dizer que quando ele estava mochilando pela America do sul, o mundo parecia ser tão pequeno, porque ele esbarrava com mochileiros toda hora, em diferentes países, em momentos inesperados. Agora sim eu comecei a perceber como o mundo é pequeno mesmo e como esses encontros são fascinantes.

Chega de falar de Byron Bay, o nosso plano era de fazer uma parada rapida em Noosa, uma praia de surf de Queensland e seguir viagem para Fraser Island, a maior ilha de areia do planeta, com diversas piscinas naturais e muito verde. Mas como vocês devem ter ouvido, tem um ciclone se aproximando do litoral australiano, que esta parado no oceano depois de ter atingido as Ilhas Fiji essa semana. O ciclone já perdeu muita forca e os alertas já são menos preocupantes, mas vai chover muito por aqui por alguns dias, então nos vamos fazer uma parada na casa de um amigo do Jonathan que mora a mais ou menos uma hora da praia, ate que a chuva pare e a gente posso seguir viagem.

Daqui a alguns dias eu escrevo com a previsão do tempo...

Posted by flaviaU 17:58 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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