Kangaroo Island: Remarkable Rocks

A ten-minute drive away from Cape du Couedic lay Remarkable Rocks, which sounded too much like a tourist trap to be true. However, the sight was definitely worth the trip, with several behemoth boulders blown into bizarre configurations by time, wind, and natural erosion.

Remarkable, indeed.

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Kangaroo Island: Cape du Couedic

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Flinders Chase is a national park that’s bitten off the east tip of Kangaroo Island, and it’s a repository of weird rocks, aww-inspiring animals, and lots of greenery. Our first stop, after harassing the very nice lady at the Visitors Centre, was Cape du Couedic.

The first thing that greets you at Cape du Couedic is a sign describing its gruesome shipwreck, where 32 people perished and the survivors were found with rotting penguins tied around their necks. Naturally, I didn’t get my hopes up about the place. But after making our way down the wooden boardwalk to the craggy cliffs’ edge, we were greeted with the sight of a bunch of lazy mama seals ignoring their adventurous, bickering babies as they tumbled around on the rocks below. It was easily one of my top experiences in Australia so far.

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Kangaroo Island: Flinders Chase

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We drive to Flinders Chase, passing dead kangaroo after dead possum after dead unidentified. I’ve never been anywhere with as much roadkill as here, and I say this having grown up in a country that consistently tops rankings for its bad drivers. I focus my eyes upwards, on the gumtrees and the stretches of sheep-peppered land. Continue reading

Kangaroo Island: Stokes Bay

We spent our first day on Kangaroo Island at Stokes Bay, a great expanse of beach hidden on the North Coast. When we first pulled into the carpark, the view wasn’t too impressive – a bunch of rocks plopped on a beach, with a handful of kids running around in their trunks, apparently unaware that it was freezing out.

We skipped the rather-unexciting beach in front of us and instead scurried off to the cliffs on the right, where we actually found a surprise: a sign saying “beach” and pointing through a maze of rocks. This was puzzling, since we were standing on a beach, albeit not a beautiful one, but we ducked through and twisted our way through a natural rock tunnel.

On the other side was a wide stretch of white sand and waters clear as glass. Giant stones led out into the ocean and razor-sharp rocks made up the cliffs around us. What a fantastic hidden gem. Here’s the views of Stokes Bay.

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I also took the following pictures on the North Coast, just outside our cabin in Emu Bay.

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Couchsurfing

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For those who haven’t heard of it, Couchsurfing is an online community of travellers who open their doors (and couches) to travellers in their cities. It beats the ever-rising costs of hotels and hostels (even backpackers’ seem to have exorbitant costs these days), and it gives you the chance to live with locals. The website allows you to get in touch with couchsurfers and hosts that suit your interests and lifestyle, giving you a chance to make lifelong friends. It also has myriad events (from rock climbing to pub crawling) in whichever city you visit, where couchsurfers and hosts alike get to meet each other.

I haven’t actually couchsurfed that much myself, but my roommates and I are all hosts, and one of our rooms contains 4 bunk beds and a pull-out couch for our surfers. We usually have 2 – 8 couchsurfers staying with us at a time. We all have many positive references, and between us, we receive many more requests than we can accept. I’d imagine it’s the same for most couchsurfing hosts. So here’s how to write a good request and make the most of your couchsurfing experience!

1. Fill in your profile. Besides the obvious security factor, hosts want to get to know you. Obviously, you are going to get along with some people better than you will with others. By filling out your profile honestly, you give hosts a chance to see whether or not you’d be a good mesh for their house. That said, most people on Couchsurfing are the travelling, adventuring type, and the negative experiences I’ve had are few and far between.

2. Leave references. Let other people know if you’ve enjoyed your stay at someone’s place, and if you’ve had a bad experience (the host expected you to sleep in their bed, for instance), do leave a reference to warn other surfers.

3. Know that Couchsurfing is NOT a free ride. Hosts are giving you a space in their home and their life, and you should act accordingly. Share a meal with them and get to know the person who is opening up their home to you. Cook a meal for them, offer to take them on some of your adventures, and join them on theirs. With Couchsurfing, the goal is to make friends in diverse cities, not just score a free place to sleep on your travels.

Most of all, enjoy it. Couchsurfing has put me in touch with people that have become some of my best friends. If any of us had been the sort to see Couchsurfing simply as a free couch, we would have bypassed that connection. Take advantage & enjoy the benefits it offers up!

Grampians National Park

We ended up at Grampians National Park because of Pinterest, which is odd, because usually Pinterest ends up being a repository of recipes I will never cook and far-off places I will never visit. However, when helping my itinerary-obsessed mother plan a trip around Australia, I saw the following picture on Pinterest and decided we had to add the Grampians to the Great Ocean Road leg of our trip:

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I can’t speak for the entirety of the Grampians, since we ended up rushing through the rain for most of it, but during a brief stint of sunshine, we pulled over to do the Pinnacle hike. It was a quick, gorgeous glimpse into one of Australia’s most beautiful spaces. Part of the Pinnacle’s 2-hour round-trip hike included a section called the Grand Canyon, where a waterfall snaked its way next to steep volcanic rock and steps cut into stone. My favourite part of the hike, however, was a section called the Silent Stairs, which was basically a tall alleyway of steps between two towering walls of rock. There’s something powerful about being in natural places whose size sheerly overwhelm you – it’s an ego-bumping reminder of how small we are, and how little our own individual lives really mean. That might sound depressing, but it’s not meant to be.  I like to think of it as sonder for the natural world, in which Mother Nature reminds us that, at the end of the day, she doesn’t give a shit about the petty things that occupy our everyday worries.

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The Pinnacle ends with a 350* lookout, ripe with lakes, fields, and the endless Grampians before you. I’m not very poetic, so the most I can say is that the rolling trees of the Grampians looked like a bunch of broccoli had invaded a mountain range very successfully. My words do no justice to how beautiful the view was. (Bear in mind, neither do my photos). The photo opp at the top wasn’t too bad either. Too bad I was too chicken shit to stand – but oh well, here’s me doing the inchworm towards the edge.

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Hike: Wonderland Carpark to the Pinnacle, via the Grand Canyon
Hike length: 
 2 hours total, with some dillydallying time at the peak to take in the view
Distance: 4.2k return

Little Ghosts

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The longer I live, the more ghosts live with me. They twine themselves around locks of hair, tuck in behind my pierced ear. One lays in the scar sliced into my shin during my summerful of biking. One swings from an anklet given by a boy whose memory is as persistent as an earworm. One tries to be a guardian angel against both bike injuries and broken hearts, and that ghost lives beneath the bracelet my father gave me years ago. The ghosts flit over eyelashes and warm themselves under rings.

Most of the time they use my body as a playground, weightless, as constant as a heartbeat. But sometimes a familiar song will play on the radio, unexpected, and a ghost will make its way up to my earlobe, tug slightly, and whisper. Sometimes they murmur nothing but nostalgia. The laugh of a friend from years ago. The carelessness of camping under shooting stars. Midnight scares in a kitchen that became home, with paper hands and a singing fish on its wall. A sweater wrung with memories. The exact crack a table makes when five best friends dance upon it, long into the night.

And at moments like that, those ghosts are demons. Because they’re not reminding me of a place or a person, but of a time. There’s no way to go back to those perfect little pockets, where life stopped and took a big breath and grinned. Life has tripped and continued on, leaving nothing but imprints behind. The houses will be empty, the people long gone, the pieces of the puzzle never quite the same.

But other times these ghosts from the past will sneak up onto my shoulder and play the angel, pointing out a mistake I shouldn’t remake, whispering a new opportunity. A friend with a smile that crinkles his eyes says he knows everything about me, and a ghost tells me not to let him slip away through the fingers of time. These friends are few and far between.

When I’ve given up on a new idea or decide the millionth attempt at another goal just isn’t worth the effort, the ghosts clamber up on my shoulder. It stands firmly there, memories gripped in each of its little hands, and it shouts DON’T. So I’ll throw out another draft and crack my knuckles and put pen to paper again. I’ll lace up my shoes. I’ll pack up my bag and continue on to the next oasis.

And in the end, when I’m laying down for my final sleep, I hope these little ghosts crowd around me and murmur their furry memories into my ear, and I hope there’s tonnes of them filling my days. Both the angels and the devils and all of their whispers.