Wednesday, 21 April 2010

the joke

... that is the "media" today (ah so we used the wrong picture. so what?)

... that is "professionalism" today (read extended whisper conversations/g talk conversations at any office)

... that is "nature" today (extensive global warming and volcanoes erupting in ICE-land)

... that is the "economy" today (extensive global warming and we worry about airlines' losses)

... that is "priesthood" today (masses of abortions, mothers paid for their silence and children molested)

... that is "politics" today (a rally undertaken for price rise and the media pays no heed, but says it disrupted traffic. what about price rise?)

... that is today's "politician" (shashi tharoor. enough said)

... that is "humanity" today (buying a pedigree boxer, sterilising him and throwing him on the streets, to the mercy of speedy traffic, because the procedure went wrong)

... that is "love" today (where do I begin: valentine's day? no, wait: fighting or making up over text messages. or even sexting, which I now learn is sex over text messages)

... that is "marriage" today (pretending you did not marry someone earlier, so you can marry an unsuccessful but notorious tennis star)

... that is "domestic help" today (a maid who raises your bp, talks back to you, and anyway you can sweep your house better than she can)

... that is "writing" today (a three-word poem. come on!)

... that is "office politics" today (you, z, have slept with x and y, who are friends, but broke up with both so they began the "we hate z" club)

... that is "saving tigers" today (putting them in reserves and being paid off by locals so they can bring on the poaching)

... that is "sports" today (IPL. enough said. no, wait. 20-20 cricket. you disagree? go on. let it rip)

... that is a "friend" today (she is on your facebook and you can't stand her guts [read, you both slept with the same guy and she's jealous of you because she thinks he ended it with her because he's into you, not literally, but the truth is he's just an ass] but everytime you remove her from your friends list, she adds you again, or contacts you because she wants publicity for said "boyfriends" professional ventures. oh yes, she works for him now)

... that is "family" today (they love you because you're worth 1,500 crores)

... that is "entertainment" today (watching anorexic models squealing on television because someone chopped off their hair while they slept or asked them to get ready for a marionette shoot and they don't know what that means)

... that is "blogging" today (rants like these. yes, this is a rant. was i so subtle that you didn't realise? i'm sure. [yes, sarcasm.])

blogger's note: is not mad at the reader [if there are any] so please refrain from feeling offended. is just having another fabulous day at office.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

the great australia trip - III

Cairns is the place to go if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef. And everyone wants to see it. We landed there at midnight, went to the wrong backpackers and finally landed up at the correct place well past one in the morning. Nomads Esplanade. The room was dark, someone was snoring and my heart sank when I realised we were sharing the room with a boy and we were all supposed to use the same loo. My heart sank even more when I approached my bunk (I got the one above the snoring boy, what fun) and saw the mess. Then the said heart fell to the bottom of my feet when I went into the loo. It wasn't as bad as some of the Indian bathrooms I've encountered but that isn't saying much really. It was just not what one would like to shower in after a LONG day of moving out of our gorgeous Brisbane backpackers (it was so perfect it even had a bright yellow wall, sniff) meeting koalas and wallabies, wandering in the cancer-causing Australian sun, visiting a windy beach and getting on a crowded and dehydrating flight.

Thankfully the people looked nicer (so did aforementioned bathroom) in daylight. Cairns was not what I had expected. After sleeping almost till noon the next day, we showered and headed out in search of food. I was introduced to Nando's, a popular chicken joint in Australia. I don't eat chicken, but their famous peri-peri sauce is famous for a reason. For vegetarians there are almost no options when it comes to food, unless you cook your own meals. Burgers are almost tasteless, but a dash of peri-peri sauce will go well with almost anything. Post a veggie meal at a chicken joint, it was time for us to check out the lagoon. It was alternately called a fake beach, which made me wonder. But it turned out to be a giant swimming pool for the citizens of Cairns who could not voyage to the Reef to scuba dive and swim everyday. I settled down with my Ian Rankin and the grey skies opened up. They had been threatening to for a couple of hours. So much for summer in Australia, I thought. My two friends were in the pool and sans any towels or warm clothes. For them it was like Wet 'n' Wild (trip 1) all over again, until they decided to go and buy aboriginal print towels (disgustingly over-priced these souvenir shops are I tell you). We wandered around after that, checking out the night market nearby, and tucked ourselves in that night in preparation for our trip to Cape Tribulation the next day. Day one of Cairns was pretty dull you might think, and one might agree. We were planning to join a friend on her tour to the Reef but apparently one needs to book well in advance for such tours. In any case, snorkelling is not a good idea for non-swimmers, no matter what people may say.

Up bright and early.. oh wait, it was pitch dark and we tumbled out of our top bunks and nearly gave the occupants of the lower bunks heart-attacks. (I tend to dramatise things a little. Anything for you readers!) Ok well, it was dark and chilly. Remnants of the earlier day's thunderstorm. Or whatever. Rain on the Great Barrier Reef the one day I want to visit equals to a thunderstorm I say. Anyhow, where was I. Ah right. The Cape Trib tour was one which would take us to an animal reserve, a river (read, place for people to jump into cold, running water to make use of the bikinis they were wearing), a boat ride where we would attempt to spot live alligators (hear, hear, animal lovers) and then finally to the beauteous Cape Tribulation itself. Which I cannot describe because WE NEVER WENT THERE.
Yes, it began pouring just as we hopped on to the boats to spot alligators. So we got completely drenched and cold and miserable on the boat (is that beginning to sound familiar?) and were eagerly anticipating our final destination. Till we were informed that the river had reached a certain height making it unsafe for anyone to travel by it, which is how we needed to get to Cape Trib. So we sighed and went instead to Port Douglas, which is an extremely posh place where TomKat have a beach house.

The rest of the day wasn't bad, don't get me wrong. I was strangely not too depressed by the fact that we were on possibly one of the two tours which would not make it to Cape Trib the entire year. But going on the tour was still barrels of fun. For one, Australian tour guides are god's gift to erm, Australia? No really, they know their s*#^. From which plants could possibly make you unconscious to why the bats were out in the day when it was raining the day before, to every single, minute detail of the places we visit, were supposed to visit and were passing by. And they're fun aside from being knowledgeable. The tours are also a great way of meeting more strange people from all over the world with unpronounceable names, strange eating habits and incoherent accents. Lovely people. This might sound cliched but, as anti-social as I am, I had an incredible time meeting new people everywhere I went and talking to them (or listening to them talk, in my case). And remember: on these tours you represent your country. I still remember the two noisy, catty English girls on the tour. If I'd never been to the UK or met others from there, I'd never know that they all aren't like that.

After our return and teary farewell to our fabulous guide Mark, we headed out for a night about town. To a place called the Rhino Bar, with girls donning feathers on their rear-ends dancing on the table tops. The music was loud, beer was flowing freely (all 17,873 types of Ozzie beer) and I had more foreigners to meet. And an early morning flight to catch to Adelaide.

The next morning (the same morning rather) we missed our 4.30 am shuttle to the airport but made it on our flight. We missed the Reef and Cape Tribulation but it was an excuse for us to promise to return to Cairns in the not-so-near future. Adelaide was surprisingly cold. And the backpackers we were staying at was far-removed from any traveller-friendly (read, inexpensive) shops or eateries. We walked, and walked, and finally found a Subway and a mall where we salivated over beautiful Beagle puppies (and I bought my Labrador some toys), gorgeous stationery and indulged in bubble tea. A discovery made by me, courtesy my friend, in Adelaide. Bubble tea is essentially tea flavoured juice with tapioca balls you can slurp up through your rather large straw and chew on. My definition of heaven in a straw.

Luckily for us, my Indian friend had entertainment planned for us. Friends from Coimbatore who were living in Adelaide proceeded to take us around in their car, and show us Adelaide's alcohol shops and the inside of their living room (where I discovered Saw and loved it). Adelaide was chilled out (literally, also because of the weather) and a break from all our tourist-y running around and lack of sleep. I hadn't realised when leaving India, but usually when we flew from one city to another, we would be entering a different timezone. One forgets that Australia is a large country AND a continent. The Adelaide Fringe was on but we missed it because we went, saw gargantuan drunk crowds, and decided to go home with bottles of goon and Red Label and get drunk ourselves (for a definition of goon, refer to 'the great australia trip -I'). A Greek friend also showed off his driving skills and took us on a 120 mph drive up a mountain. Erm, hill. When one drives at about 150 mph up and down a very steep road, one experiences a feeling similar to if one had been on a rollercoaster. We also visited the harbour, by night, and froze some more.

All in all, Adelaide was fun in an entirely different way. Lots of laughter, alcohol and sleep. A good rest because Alice Springs-Uluru (our next stops) were possibly the most tired I would ever feel in my life. In a wondrous way :D
And that is up next.

**pic credit: sanjana soman**

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

the great australia trip - II

After gloomy, rainy Sydney, the Gold Coast was quite a change - hot and humid and left us gasping for water the minute we landed. Our destination was Aquarius Backpackers, a short walk from Australia Fair, which was where we would end up doing our shopping and eating. So this was (un)officially the first day of my Great Australia Trip. We were bursting with energy and raring to go. Which is why we were insane enough to walk, in the blistering heat, from our backpackers to Surfers Paradise. “A ten or twenty minute walk,” the guy at the reception told us. If you’re in the Fantastic Four maybe. It took us three girls about an hour and half. Then again, we were walking at our own tourist-y pace, taking pictures, ooh-ing and ah-ing over almost everything we saw (in our defense, everything WAS pretty marvellous, from jellyfish to whirlpools in the bluetiful ocean), and stopped for slurpies and bottles of water. Then we discovered that Main Beach was not in fact the ‘main’ beach and walked to a hazy spot in the horizon, which turned out to be the said paradise. Metre Maids, surfers (wind and water), women in non-existent bikinis and the shopping complex at Surfers Paradise awaited us.

We collected shells, booked ourselves tickets to the infamous Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, visited a sex store, lost a camera, ate a foot-long (my first foot-long sub!), hunted for a bikini for a friend, tired ourselves out completely and returned to the beach. The long walk back awaited us. Strangely enough, it was as we returned to Main Beach when we heard a bunch of young teenage men hooting at us on the road. Australians of Indian origin. And we wonder why Indians are being attacked down under. In all my three weeks of meeting strangers and running around Australia at strange hours of the night, this was the one time I felt uncomfortable. Ozzies were incredibly friendly, polite and helpful during our time there. Then again, I did skip Melbourne and we were three harmless, pretty and clueless girls from the other side of the globe. Who would be out for our blood? -bats eyelashes-

After a well-deserved, hot shower (every bone in my body was aching by then and I would only find out why tomorrow), we went in search of food. Authentic Chinese food was what we chanced upon first. As expected it was nothing like the 'Chinese' food we get in India. Fresh prawn in subtle ginger garlic sauce, fat pieces of broccoli, cold beer and chopsticks. We slept very well that night. And my Korean friend and I woke up the next morning to discover our sunburn. My Indian friend was sympathetic but she had warned us. My reaction to her warning was, hey my skin is already so dark; I've wandered around for hours in blistering Indian heat during elections and not gotten burnt, so fret not. The Korean friend had slathered sunscreen on herself the day before but got burnt nonetheless.

Day 2 in the Gold Coast was not Golden. But before the skies turned grey I discovered my love for hot, ridiculously soft cinnamon doughnuts. After brunch we headed for Wet 'n' Wild, a water park. And it started raining. We continued undeterred, hopping on rides and shrieking our lungs out, until we realised it was pouring madly. The park officials seemed to realise it too and shut down all rides for the day. And then, the freezing began. Ever been sopping wet, continued to stand in the rain in clothes you wore for a water park (read, not expansive, warm clothes) and waited to freeze to death? My hands turned blue and I thought of distant warm Chennai skies and things like humidity and hot sambar. And I felt like crying. Taxis came one by one, for people named Maria and John but never for us (yes, we called for one) and the buses got pretty packed pretty fast. I didn't mind behaving like a Chennaiite getting on to a 29C but rules forbade it. Finally, finally, we hopped on to a bus and I realised I would freeze for the hour-long drive - in the air-conditioned bus.

Ninety minutes and a hot shower and some warm clothes later, we were sipping on beer and being entertained by a noisy, talkative French girl who was sharing our room. I love backpackers - you meet the strangest of people from the most far-off places. This one called us grannies because we retired to our room early, completely spent. The next day was to be even more tiring. But less cold, thank the sunny lord.

Wet 'n' Wild was crazy the next day. Ride after ride in chlorinated water may not be most people's idea of fun but I love water and cannot swim. Safe Australian rides which will still give you plenty of those tummy-flip feelings (the kinds you get on rollercoasters) are my safest bet. After that we left for Brisbane, which was only an hour away by train.

Brisbane. Well, let's just say if I move to Australia, it would be to Brisbane. The place we stayed at was the best backpackers out of the ones we crashed in - Base Central. Air-conditioned, fancy bathrooms, and it even had its own bar. Aside from that, it was a short walk from everything we needed and wanted to see. Cafes called Pig 'n' Whistle, arty Louis Vuitton displays, cheap and chic stores, a giant ferris wheel, the gallery and museum.. which brings me to, the city doesn't lack culture and isn't as crowded as Sydney. Maybe it's Australia's very own Chennai. But I loved it. It even had a casino.

The Gallery of Modern Art was simply out of any world I have seen. I am not a person who easily appreciates or even knows about art when it's not performed before me. But GoMA was an exception. Enter the gallery and you'll find anyone, from school-kids to grandparents and people with mohawks making an aeroplane. Out of material provided by the gallery, like cellophane, ice-cream sticks, plastic sheets, thread etc etc etc. You'll see the most innovative aeroplanes suspended in and around the entrance. There's so much to see that an average Indian has never seen before and may never see again.

We spent half the day there and were forced to leave when the gallery closed at 5 pm. The museum is right next to it and is pretty fascinating too. Later we drove up to Mount Coot-tha, a scenic viewpoint above the city, froze in the strong breeze and checked out the bar above which we were sleeping in the city. An annoying emcee, free beer and a wet T shirt contest which completely scandalised even me. Ah well.. the things people do for 300 dollars.

The next day we did what I had been dying to do - visited koala bears. Lone Pine Sanctuary was where we headed. I got more than I asked for, in a good way I mean. Endless koala bears! I even got to scratch one's face, but we refused to pose for pictures with the traumatised koala being passed on from one stranger's sweaty grasp to another. (we respect animals, alright) Giant birds, owls awake during the day, infinite kangaroos, birds in all shapes and colours, some members of the reptilian family, and did I mention a giant number of kangaroos? My friends were nonchalant but I'd never seen kangaroos up close and personal before. Babies, mommas with a joey (that's what baby kangaroos are called), big ones, small ones, wallabies and whatnot. Bliss for nature and animal lovers.

Before heading to the airport, we visited Brisbane's beach. Sandgate doesn't have much of a shore, but is beautiful beyond belief. Two walkways led us almost right into the ocean, where the breeze nearly carried away my Korean friend. A bottle of beer, gorgeous sunset, the sound of waves lapping at the shore, and great company. It was heaven. Given we had a flight to catch, we wound up and sighing, left for the airport. Otherwise, chances are we would have camped there forever.

Next up: Cairns and Cape Tribulation. No, that isn't a fake name.
**pic: sanjana soman**