Monday, June 21, 2010

Wodonga: Day One

Wake up at ten. Ten is a good time to wake up. Then, discover laundry facilities which will wash my clothes and make them all clean and dandy. Fantastic! I can't even remember the last time I've had to pay for clean clothes. Well, maybe if I think about it?

New Zealand, covered. Singapore, covered. China, covered. Japan, covered. Where was I before Japan? Silicon Valley, covered. The end of February would have been when they were washed, or when I met Katherine in San Francisco? No – not with her. And not in my hostel... ah yes, in my Los Angeles hostel, back in March. That is the last time I had to pay to wash my clothes.

If things continue on as they should, the next time I'll be doing a wash should be just before I leave Hawaii. And from then on out, I should be able to share the giant washing machines with Katherine, as we waste terrible amount of time getting our clothes clean. This is something we had not factored into our plans, and while I may be brazen enough to try to stretch five shirts fo two months (hey, that's only twelve days a shirt, you know... that's fine right?) I doubt she'd be all that down for it.

I wonder if we'll find laundry facilities along the way.

With Mitchel off being educated, his mother – also on the Africa trip, a fan favourite of our motley crew – took it upon herself to show me the sights to be seen in this potentially small town.

Why is this place called Albury/Wodonga? It's two towns. On the Victoria side of the boarder we were in Wodonga, but just across the river in New South Wales, is Albury. Needless to say the rivalries are bloody and many. Sports are more than just an idle contest here.

Our first stop was Oz. e. Wildlife park. It was a mini zoo with emus, and kangaroos, and dingos. Dingos? They are not the vicious looking beasts I had expected them to be. The ones here were actually quite beautiful with pristine coats. They looked like beautiful pets, rather than things which may start to feel a little peckish were they to lay eyes upon your baby.

Each entry came with a bag of kangaroo food. Now, let me tell you, this isn't really a problem except when the few logs you saw in front of you stand up, and turn out to be kangaroos. Even then, there are no problems, not until you go down to find your camera and look up to see the beasts standing around you like a dilophosaur begging for a stick to be thrown. They can smell the food. They know it's there, right in your pocket. The one question? Will they act like goats and eat everything you own in search of this hidden food?

After some thought, and the realization that the bouncing mice wouldn't eat food tossed on the ground, I put the pellets in my hand, and made sure to keep my fingers stretched out, so as not to have them confused for food, and then fed the kangaroos. Let me tell you, they have teeth. Teeth indeed.

When I'd decided that enough food had gone to these creatures, we continued on to view the drop bears. Hanging in trees, with the sharpest of teeth, they disguise themselves as cute little Ewoks. But they are not. They are savage beasts, simply pretending to be harmles koalas.

Though it wasn't feeding time, and we were told that the cute little monsters probably wouldn't be active, we saw them in three stages. One of the koalas was munching on leaves, pulling fistful after fistful into his mouth. The other was swinging around the tree moving from nook to nook, trying to find the most comfortable place to crash out, and the third? Well the third was what we were warned of – curled into a ball, not moving, not active, perhaps just waiting to drop on an unsuspecting person who wanders below.

As we left the Koala paddock, more logs came to life and started blazing across the field. Wallabies, moving like nothing I'd imagined, at immense speeds. The final thing we saw before leaving was the Blue penguin. Originally they were called the Fairy penguins, but that was ruled too inappropriate as it may hurt the sensitivity of the homosexual communities. So Blue penguin it is.

This little was was taken from his nice warm hovel for our viewing pleasure. I felt only slightly guilty, as it tried to make its way back into its home. But no, it was forced to eat sardines, and then was tossed right into the pool. Poor little guy, having a good nap, and then plucked from his world, taken to the light, and then dropped into the chilly water. It made haste running towards the little bushes and hiding back there.

Next up?

The Ettamogah Pub. This was a leaning pub of nonsense, with a tractor on the roof, and a plane crashed into the ground. There was a tree turned into a jail cell, and little signs posted everywhere. At first blush you would not be faulted for thinking, only in Australia. But if you wander into the barn passing itself off as a museum everything becomes clear. Cartoons are framed on the walls, and hanging in rows throughout the building. As it turns out, this pub, and everything on the property are the realization of a cartoonists creation. Imagine if you wandered into – I don't know, Calvin's house, but in Calvin and Hobbes, his house was actually a bar, and there was tons of crazy stuff all around. To the Aussies who grew up with this comic, I have no doubt that seeing the jail tree would be like being able to crawl inside a transmographier.

On a more tragic note, this pub has fallen the way of so much middle America. Once upon a time this pub was on the road between Melbourne and Sydney. Every driver would pass it, and undoubtedly many would stop to investigate its bizarreness. Now, the new freeway completed, this landmark is lost to the average traveller, discovered only by those who know where it is.

The gift shop is stocked as it was years ago, dust settling. The staff are few, the food unprepared. The coin operated machines are out of order, who knows for how long. Things are not as they once were during the glory years. And it's tragic watching the world fall apart as more efficient roads come into being.

After than unique sight, we headed to the reservoir – now much lower than it once was – and then back home.

Dinner was delicious, and plentiful. The best pumpkin soup (butter nut squizzers, in pseudo-German/African speak.) I'd ever had. And pizza. Then it was off to the garage, which is less of a garage, and more the coolest hang out room - with bar, tv, fireplace – to watch the Hawks face off against the Bombers.

Though I was in a Geelong house, and threatened with eviction for wearing my Essendon jacket, the Hawks needed to be defeated for Geelong to prosper. So tonight, we were friends. As much as I'd like to say the Bombers did me proud, they lost. It was a close game, and they came back from being way down. But... It just didn't come together.

I have discovered that I have no problem following the game on TV, and I quite like it on TV as well. So now, I once again need to figure out how to watch it back in North America. I can stream the radio broadcasts, but...

And as a fun fact, just because Australia is neat, they start the game on TV forty minutes after it began live, so as to prevent people from staying home rather than going out live. Avoiding the temptation to check the scores on the internet, knowing the game was over before I'd finished watching it on TV? Not so easy. But I did not dare destroy the experience.

And then once more off to sleep. Hurray.

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