Australia

Chennai – Good bye

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This was our only photo in Chennai (CHUH – NYE) – our last dinner on the roof our hotel.

We only had two days in the city. The last two days of our 10 month long trip, and we chose to spend it at a buffet table and a shopping mall. We were tired, and wanted a couple of days to gather our stuff and relax before our next leg of travel back to our home and native land.

Suffice it to say, we didn’t have any grand tales to share from our time in Chennai.

Instead maybe some advice:

1. Go to more breakfast buffets.

2. Take your time there: don’t blow your appetite on an overfilled, first plate of waffles and pancakes.

3. Aim for four plates. For example, start slow with salad. Move over to the omelette station next, and pay service to some sausage and bacon. Then for your third plate, you could bring in some insulation like pancakes, waffles, or french toast. This means you can finish on a light note. As your reliever, go with some fruit.

4. Get the fresh stuff: is there one piece of french toast left in the container? do another couple of laps, or distract yourself with the colours at the salad bar then double back to get the new batch.

5. Treat it as your own food museum: people spend hours touring museums, taking history in slowly, one piece at a time. There’s no reason you can’t do the same. Consider a buffet, your own edible museum or art gallery that you can enjoy, bit by bit, digesting it all slowly.

Enjoy.

We’ve now been back in Canada for a couple of months, and I can confidently say that the first impression of life here is cold. Not groundbreaking news for winter in Canada – but we’d been living under sun for the past 10 months, and hadn’t been below zero in a long time. Our East Coast is having it rough, getting hammered with one snow storm after the next, which I think, is well summed up in this ditty:

Toronto is just cold. I know, in comparison to other parts of Canada like Saskatchewan, Alberta, Northern B.C, and Quebec we’re living in a paradise. My eyelids aren’t freezing shut, my nose hairs aren’t growing icicles, and it doesn’t hurt to breathe outside. And yet, I still feel cold. Maybe the sun has made me soft.

There’s a lot of good things to being back:
– fast WiFi
– good coffee
– personal laundry
– maple syrup

And some bad:
– The Toronto Maple Leafs

It was an amazing trip overall – with a ton of different experiences along the way, which I’m sure we’ll return to again and again as our memories are randomly triggered.

” Do you remember that drunk guy singing in a microphone on that Indonesian ferry?”

” Remember those mountain goats we saw off the trail in Nepal”.

” Remember that Chinese trekker who had a teddy bear on his bag to remember his wife”.

Blah, blah, blah. We can go on forever – and think it enormously interesting, while boring the shit out of everyone around us. However, in place of our subjective impressions, here’s something we can include people on: our trip by the numbers.

Months spent travelling: 10

Countries visited: 10

Planes taken: 32

Longest single flight: 14 hrs 35 mins. (Vancouver to Auckland)

Trains taken: 5 (overnight) + 2 (day)

Longest single train ride: 14 hrs (Delhi to Varanasi)

Buses taken: 2 (overnight) + 19 (day)

Longest single bus ride: 13 hrs (Mumbai to Goa)

Tuk-tuk/rickshaws taken: 100+ (at least)

Cars/Taxis taken: 40-ish

Cars we rented and drove ourselves: 2

Mopeds we rented and drove ourselves: 5

Boats/Ferries: 7

Longest continuous day of travel: 26 hrs (Phuket to Sukothai)

Guesthouses stayed: 84

Nights sleeping in airports: 2

Bouts of food poisoning: 2 – Marc 0 – Rose

Countries where one or more nationals mistook Rose as a fellow citizen : 8

Scuba dives: 12

Highest altitude climbed: 5416 metres (16, 878 feet)

Lowest depth swum below sea level: 30 metres (98 feet)

Trail hikes: 4

Longest hike: 20 days (Annapurna Circuit)

Major news stories of our disappearance: 5 (Google search: Marc + Rose + Nepal)

Strangers who asked me to pose in a photo with them: 4

Temples visited: beaucoup

How many times we changed time zones: 10

Most times zone crossed in a single day: 10

Total distance travelled: 98, 885.4 kms (two times around the earth + 18k leftover)

I may fill in a few spots here and there, add some more travel books and odds and ends. But otherwise, that was our trip.

Merci bien. Thanks for reading.

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The Island Zoo

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“Remember. JUST LET HIM COME TO YOU!”.

We’ve arrived on Russell Island, a tiny little spot – 8km long, sitting off the coast of Brisbane on the East coast of Australia, and Rose is nervous.

I normally broadcast anxiety between us – but at this moment, she’s taking the lead, and while I admit my bias for anxious reactions, I think she’s on to something.

We’re about to meet our housemate who we’ll be in charge of for the next five weeks of our housesit – a 60kg German Shepherd. All we know at this point is his name – Zaroff – and that he’s recently been neutered. Also this: after a brief Google search on his name, we found that one of the top results was “man-eater”.

Fantastique.

Standing in the driveway while Zaroff’s owner calls him out – I have visions of a five-week housesit that will take the shape of the Middle East conflict in which Rose and I section off one part of the house, giving Zaroff the other, while occasionally crossing the border to toss food into his bowl then running back over before he takes a chunk out of my thigh as retaliation for a human having the balls to take his balls.

As he emerges around the corner, he runs right into Rose, head down, nuzzling himself into her leg. He then spots me and jumps up in excitement.

His paw – the size of a softball – is coming towards me, and I’m having second thoughts about Rose’s advice. Zaroff lands at my feet, shoves his head into my thigh and insists I pet him until my arm goes numb.

Ok. No man-eater. And, no need for a demilitarized zone. At least for conflict.

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As it turned out, he was more or less attached to our hip, and wanted to be in whatever room we were in. If we left to get groceries on the mainland, he’d rush out of the house to meet us.Unable to wait for the garage door to rise fully – he’d squiggle underneath as it opened and, once clear, would gallop towards us like a rugby player lining up an opposing player who’s carrying the ball.

And on the few times when the wind was howling – he jumped up on the couch, hoping to remain as inconspicuous as only 60kg German Shepherds can be.

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But this was only the start. We’d also signed up to tend to 13 chickens:

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2 peacocks

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2 miniature horses (we were told they’re not ponies!)

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And flocks and flocks of wild cockatoos and parrots.

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In short, we were zookeepers. When not preparing feed, we were brushing them, walking one of them, planning their menus for the next day and cleaning up trails, pathways – really, entire highways of chicken shit. It seems according to their evolution, chickens are not required to stop before they open the hatches. They can walk while bombing away.

Impressive time saving technique. But what are they using this extra time for? I looked into the eye of a chicken while she pecked her feed and while she may well have been plotting an insurrection, I’m more prone to think this was her internal dialogue:

Fucking corn!
Corn. Corn.
MMM, that’s good fucking corn.
CORN.
I’MA eat that.

For now, I think we’re safe from a chicken riot.

However, not all our time was spent egg snatching and poo shovelling – we also ventured ashore to explore what sights we could find on the mainland. One day we headed to Brisbane where we walked, full blast into Australian prices, paying $9 for the privilege to enjoy this saucisse:

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The city is also full of independent coffee shops – and it smelled incredible, but we decided to salivate for free instead of lose our lunch money to a single cappuccino. Aside from the prices, thought Brisbane was a nice spot.

We also went farther off our island to a nearby island called Stradbroke, where we watched surfers come in. There was also a seal lazing about that was so camouflaged from everyone that a beach patrol put a pylon in front it of it as a placeholder so you didn’t walk on it.

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Plus, we followed a boardwalk down the coast and stared East, out at what would next be New Caledonia (I think):

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After returning to our housesit for a wrestle with Zaroff,

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who Rose nicknamed the “Russian bear”, which I’m not sure why, because he’s pretty shitty at riding a bike, we called it quits on the itsy bitsy 8km wide Russell Island.

Next stop, Gargantua. Time to explore what lay to the west of us – a country and a continent – starting underwater at el Reef le Great.

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