1. They are metric here - no more miles, yards and ounces! This is a logical country. They still drive on the wrong side of the road, though...
2. They have good chocolate here. Ok, it is not like Milka Noisette, but chocolate is edible and at German price level. So Wolfgang, Toek and Maik fear no more: There won't be any begging letters for German chocolate from Australia.
3. They have real jogurt here - even real fat Greek yogurt. Forget about no-fat American yogurt, this is the real stuff!
4. They have other stuff than Knorr formerly known as Lipton side dishes.... ok, there still is the universal chicken flavour noodles and Spanish rice, but they have some very good stuff, too like Lime coconut rice. Also it is called Continental here instead of Lipton. And because of their huge Asian population there is a whole variety of Asian Kimchi or Thai soups or Spicy Seafood ramen.
5. They have real muesli here - everywhere. Forget about the crappy cornflakes, here they have the real rolled oats and raisin stuff in every tiny little supermarket and it is cheap, too.
6. The exchange rate is great. First it has plummeted to a low just before I came here and second it is at a very handy 1 EUR = 2 AUS$. Calculating prices is very easy.
7. Life is cheap. Most of the time I am camping, but there are backpackers and youth hostels everywhere. You never pay more than 28 AUS$ for a dorm room. Prices in supermarkets are a little bit under German level - at least in the big cities. Unfortunately prices in small towns (and this is were I am usually hiking through) can be quite steep.
8. Food choices are great in cities. I have already mentioned that but I have to mention it again. Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Italian or Burgers - you name it and they have it. The ethnic food variety is great. And I can't remember having seen a McDonald's yet - though I am sure they have it, too. Unfortunately, in the small towns choices are pretty limited. It is mostly Fish and Chips (God bless the Queen) and I just recently discovered that I utterly dislike that.
9. They have ALDI here - and this needs no further comment.
10. People are very interesting. I have met more interesting people here in one week than in one month in the US on the AT. Australia is a very young country - much younger than the US, so I have met loads of people who immigrated themselves (instead of being second generation immigrants). Most people seem to have a very interesting life story.
There seems to be one pattern: You get an Australian boyfriend/girlfriend, you come to Australia to stay with them, you like it in Australia, you stay for 2 years, you can then apply for Australian citizenship, you become an Australian citizen....
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
|Damaged water tank|
|Wet,but happy that it is over|
Saturday, 13 December 2008
|View from a hut|
|Wagaul trail marker|
|Fire danger warning|
After 3 days in Melbourne I flew to Perth. I have never been really sick on this trail (apart from an infected finger) but of course once I had to fly I got a cold.... It had already happened twice before: With a cold your ears cannot adapt to the air pressure change while landing. Beside hurting like hell you end up being deaf. And that happenend again. Despite nasal spray I was in horribly pain and could hardly hear on my left ear when I landed in Perth.
|Northern Terminus of the Bibbulmun|
Luckily, things got even better the next day: My hearing came back, I could do all my errands and resupply and even saw the new movie "Australi" with a very sexy Hugh Jackman. Unfortunately, not all Australian men look like him...
Perth seems to be very nice, but I did not do any sightseeing - I was busy preparing the Bibb Track.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
|My new haircut|
1. There is an Aldi right in downtown Melbourne. It is fucking hot outside, but inside Aldi you can buy Stollen and Lebkuchen for Christmas. I immediately felt at home - and for sure half of the people in that Aldi spoke German, probably all backpackers from Germany.
2. I got a new haircut for just 14 AUS$ which is about 7 EUR. This was the cheapest and fastest haircut I ever got. My hairdresser was from Mauritius by the way. Which leads to...
3. Melbourne is a truly cosmopolitan place. You see schoolgirls in old-fashioned British school uniforms next to dolled-up Japanese girls next to Indians next to Fijians next to Good knows what. The very positive consequence of all this is that the food is incredible. Melbourne has a plethora of excellent Asian restaurants and in fact the local equivilant to a Berlin Doener Kebab is sushi. Everybody is eating sushi rolls as a snack - and they are incredibly cheap: About 1 to 1,50 EUR per roll. It actually is the perfect snack food and you see people everywhere snacking on a sushi roll in a paper bag. I do hope that I am not overeating on all that sushi before I go to Japan.
4. There is an incredible street market everyday with wonderful fruit. Mangos sell for 0,50 EUR and they are better than anything you have ever bought in a German Aldi: juicy and sweet. Right now apricots, peaches and nectarines are in season, too and they are really tasty - not like the bland stuff you get in American supermarkets.
5. Cultural life is good, too: There are some interesting museums and an awesome theatre building. I decided to get a little culture and even saw a theatre play.
I will come back twice to Melbourne and I am really looking forward to it. But right now I have just arrived in Perth, where I will start to hike the Bibbulmun Track tomorrow. I have no clue how the internet access situation is along the trail so don't worry if I am not posting for the next 5 weeks.
Thursday, 27 November 2008
|Welcome to Australia|
I spontaneaously liked Australia. Immigration was easy - no fingerprinting, no stupid questions like "Do you want to marry an American?" - just a stamp in the passport. Awesome. Even in customs they did not bitch about German chocolate or dirty bike tires. Everything worked out great.
Melbourne is a great city - much more atmosphere than comparable American cities, probably due to the British influence. And the food is so good: Lots of Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Italian and whatever you want. But what irony: I expected incredibly dry heat and when I arrived it started to rain....
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
|Flat Feet, his wife and I|
|Martin and Larea|
Maik left for Germany and I left for Los Angeles where Anita was being my angel again picking me up at the airport at night. Luckily I did not have a bicycle that time. I have to admit that I did not do much sightseeing in LA - I am just taking it easy.
In 12 hours I will be leaving for Australia - I am horribly nervous. I had to dissassemble my bike for transport and now I am having nightmares about not being able to assemble it again. At the end of this trip I will probably be a very able bike mechanic - hopefully.
Well, that is all for today - next post will be from Australia.
Saturday, 15 November 2008
On November 22nd Maik flies back to Germany and I fly on to Los Angeles to be happily reunited with my bicycle. I will spend three days there and then eventually leave for Australia. I depart on November 25th and will arrive in Melbourne on November 27th. Luckily this is due to the international date line and not to long flight times.
I will stay 3 days in Melbourne and then fly on to Perth where I will start to hike the Bibbulmun Track on December 1st. So I will not be hiking for 2 weeks now! Lots of travelling and flying around for 2 weeks. I will be glad to be back on the trail again.
Australia - here I come!
There are loads of websites and internet forums about hiking the Appalachian Trail and therefore I do not want to go into many details here. Just some advice that might differ from what you generally hear about how to hike the AT.
Resupply: I found tons of info on where to send resupply boxes and hikers with elaborate resupply plans. You don't really need all that on the AT (if you are not on a specific diet for whatever reason). I hiked the AT without a single re-supply maildrop and did not have the slightest problem with it. You are always so close to towns that "buy as you go" is easy - I find it way more complicated to coordinate your town visits with post office opening times. You don't even need a bounce box. I hiked with the same equipment all the time except for my tent (that had to be sent away for warranty repair) and my sleeping bag (I changed into a warmer sleeping bag towards the end of my hike.
|The long green tunnel in summer|
|... in fall|
It was a good hike after all...
|and in winter.|
Now the statistics:
Hours I hiked with other people: 8 (Half a day with Timber who had to be protected from the bears and two hours with Silver Potato and Cracker) - that was it - I had a very lonely hike on the most populated National Scenic Trail
Times I stayed in a shelter: 3 (I hate mice and snorers)
Amount of zero days: 6 (including 2 days at the Gathering), but I had a lot of nero days.
Times I was sick: 1 (I had to see a doctor because of my infected finger)
Times I used sun tan lotion: 0 (you are always under tree cover)
Times I used DEET: Several times a day through all of New England - the mosquitoes just did not want to die
Most favourite Lipton side dish: Thai Sesame Noodles and Tomato Parmesan
Most favourite Idahoan Mashed Potatoes: Baby Reds Roasted Garlic
Most favourite Ben & Jerry's ice cream: Cherry Garcia
Most favourite American Snack: Peanut Butter M&M's, Milky Way Midnight, Pringles Sour Cream & Onion
Most favourite maildrop chocolate: Milka Creme de Caramel and Creme de Chocolate (thank you Toek and Wolfgang)
Most exotic wildlife: Turtles on the trail
Most exotic flora: Peach trees on the trail
Most exotic trail angel: Mayor Dick in New York - chain smoking and cursing the hikers he loves so much
Most exotic town food: Gourmet vegetarian meal at Elmer's (a Buddhist running a retreat center and hiker hostel) - even I ate salad with dressing
Most exotic trail food: Toek's wonderful 12 pound chocolate mail drop
Best off-trail event: Unexpected visit of Gettysburg and attending the Gathering
Best on-trail event: The many nights when I went to sleep thinking "This has been a good day!"
|A happy new Triple Crowner|
As a celebration menu I ate my favourite Knorr formerly know as Lipton side dish "Thai Sesame Noodles" and a highlight dessert: I had saved one bar of chocolate from Toek's wonderful maildrop for that occasion (Milka Creme de Caramel). And then I went to bed and fell asleep - I did not even have energy to listen to radio or read. I did not feel very special - it just felt like a normal day hiking. I got up next morning at 5.45 am as usual - everything even INSIDE the shelter was soaking wet from the fog. Even in Germany we do not have fog as bad as that. I ate Kashi cereal for breakfast and still did not feel special. Then I hiked back to Springer Mountain to take the official "I did it" photos which was kind of difficult because there was no one else around and I had to play with the timer nearly breaking the camera in the process. After taking about 50 photos and signing the trail register I decided it was time to leave and hike back to Suches. I still did not feel very special.
|Note Silver Potato's hiking skirt|
But I had to leave soon to hike my last missing 3.5 miles and meet Flat Feet. This is when it really started to rain hard. I ran into a leftover fire fighter and cursed the trail a last time for going over every damn mountain. Flat Feet had even hiked in a little bit to meet me and hike the last yards of my triple crown with me. By the time we arrived at his car we were soaking wet - and I was happy that the hike was over. I still do not feel very special. But from now on I can call myself: German Tourist - Triple Crown Hiker
|I at the Southern CDT terminus|
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Today I was happily hiking along the trail when I meet another hiker. He tells me that he met me last year on the CDT - this thruhiker world is really small. But it got much better when his two hiking companions turned up who happened to be from Australia. And in 10 minutes I ended up with 2 places to stay in Australia. Long distance hiking community international I would say.
Monday, 10 November 2008
|Silver Potato and Cracker|
Around the same time I had had a pretty bizarre "Christian" experience myself: I was happily hiking along the trail when I saw a sign saying "Trail magic 500 yards" and of course no hungry hiker can pass up such an opportunity. I ended up in front of a rather posh house which was quickly opened and I was invited to an opulent pancake breakfast. The trail angels, a retired couple seemed very nice and friendly. But all of a sudden and completely out of context the husband asked me: "What do you think will happen when you die?" I nearly dropped my fork and all my alarm bells started ringing. Had I fallen into the hands of serial killers? It turned out not to be quite that bad - I was only dealing with some over-zealous Christian missionaries who tried to proselytize hikers. Discussion was not possible and ended up getting a very long sermon which I had to endure defenseless as I was still eating breakfast. And in the end I was more or less forced to take a Christian book with me. I was very glad to get of there and not surprised at all to find loads of similar books in the next shelters....Apparently other hikers had had to endure similar experiences.
|Snow in the Smokies|
As it was finally getting colder and colder every day I was looking forward to the town of Hot Springs – which really boasts some hot springs for soaking. But there was another attraction, too: Elmer's, a sort of buddhist retreat and hiker hostel. Elmer is an American offers very cheap accommodation in his huge, but a bit decrepit house. The rooms are big, but the sanitary facilities a bit out dated and each shared toilet had its own quirk. But all this was more than compensated by an extensive library and the fantastic vegetarian food served for dinner. As each night there are different guests Elmer starts the dinner conversation by a question everyone has to answer in order to introduce himself – in my case “If you were to die in a natural disaster which one would you choose?” I guess in reality you do not have much choice if your number is up, but the various answers were quite interesting. The hot springs on the other hand were a bit disappointing in comparison: This being puritan America you could only soak in separate pools – and it was not very sociable to sit all on my own in an outdoor tub in water that got colder by the minute.
In the Smokies I finally received the first snow of the year - and it hit me hard and very cold. In the morning not only my shoes and socks were frozen, but my complete water bottle. Even on the CDT I hardly ever had so much frost. So I was trudging through ankle deep snow on my way to Newfound Gap - but I was in very good mood because I knew that some trail magic is waiting for me there: Wildcat! And of course Wildcat was already waiting for me when I got to there – with tons of food like sandwiches, fruit and sweets to feed a hungry hiker. His wife Becky even cooked Sauerkraut for me as a special treat for German hikers.
|Wildcat and I|
Wildcat had hiked the CDT the same year I did and although we just had met for one evening he invited me to his house and a zero day in Maryville, TN. And what a great zero day I had: Halloween. We do not have Halloween in Germany so I was invited to do the Trick or Treat stuff with the kids (probably eating most of the candy I was supposed to give to the kids myself....) I was very well fed, laundered and showered when Wildcat and his wife Becky brought me back to the trail. And even the snow had melted by then which was just in time because I had to climb to the highest point on the AT this day: Clingman's Dome at an elavation of 2.025 meter. After all that snow I enjoyed a beautiful Indian Summer day.
Saturday, 1 November 2008
Everybody and their mother had told me about the movie "Deliverance" and warned me about Southern Appalachia. But nothing had prepared my for my own private little Deliverance experience. I was not so happily hiking one day when it was raining and storming so badly that even I decided to stay the night in a hostel 0.7 miles off trail. Of course there was no cell phone reception so I just walked there. When I arrived it was nearly getting dark and it was raining cats and dogs. There was a sign at the reception saying "We are in the house next door - come over and knock." which I did. The door was opened by - a guy about 20 years having no (I repeat: no) front teeth whatsoever, red eyes and being so drunk or stoned or both that he could hardly talk. The house behind him looked like a total mess and more like the crime scene of a ritual murder than an American home. But it was too late to tactfully retreat....
The program was a blast: There were so many workshops I was busy all weekend long. I learnt everything about hammock camping, got new trail ideas about the Florida Trail and hiking in the Andes, learnt about Peace Pilgrim and the Israeli National Trail and even did some dancing. The dancing was most interesting as I more or less had to drag Birdnut into the square dancing. There were all these hikers at the Gathering who had walked thousands of miles but nobody wanted to do square dancing! The first very reluctant Birdnut liked it so much that we actually square danced well into midnight (I mean real midnight, not hiker midnight!). (Postscript 2011: The presentation of the Florida Trail was so great that I decided to hike it - which I did in 2010)
And I met so many interesting people: First of all old PCT friends like Birdnut, Cadence, Radar, Billygoat and Weathercarrot. Then current AT hikers like Timber (who was so afraid of bears that I had to hike with him), Longwe Tru and Rockfish. And of course new hikers like Roni from Israel (who had to confess that he never hiked the Israeli National Trail), Stumpknocker and Miss Gorp who told me about cycling and so many more.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the AYCE food 3 times a day that was actually really good. And the campfires at night. And the free book about hammock camping. And the PCT CD's from Weathercarrot. And.. And.. And... When Birdnut had brought me back to the trail I was singing the whole day - so happy was I. I had had such a great time - I will be back for another Gathering.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
|Chocolate makes a happy hiker|
But then my friend Wolfgang came to my rescue. He had already sent me resupply packages to the PCT and CDT. On the AT I sent him a long list of what food I wash craving - basically the German version of Lipton sidedishes. The package was sent to Pearisburg and resulted in a very happy German hiker. I could eat something different than Lipton sidedishes for a whole week. Sweet and sour noodles instead of Teriaky noodles. Tomatoe Mozarella instead of Cheddar Broccoli. I know it sounds ridiculous to non-hikers, but for a hiker this can change the world. Thank you so much Wolfgang!