Road trip!

8 04 2013

I just spent an incredible two days on a spontaneous road trip to the east coast of Tasmania, to the famous Wineglass Bay. The white sandy beaches were calling our name! When we found out on Thursday that we had Friday off, we quickly pulled together some plans, borrowed a van from a nice family from church, gathered some camping gear, and five of us – two Canadian girls, two French guys, and one Estonian girl – hopped in the van and drove to the coast. It is about 3 1/2 hours driving from where I am currently living in Devonport, northern Tasmania. We had no idea how much fun we were going to have! Our first stop was a random beach that we passed by, with no one else about, we goofed around, took some photos, and soaked in the sun for a little while. Then we headed to the small town of Bicheno, where we set up camp for the night. Two tents was all we needed because this camp ground came with a kitchen and TV room/hang out space. (I know, you´re probably thinking what kind of camping is that!) The best part about this indoor space was that they had an old piano! And it was in tune! So I got to play piano for the first time in over a month, and my friends were very happy to sit and listen! In the afternoon we explored the town and hiked up to the lookout for some incredible views of the ocean. When we went back down, we drove to the point to do some rock hopping, and to our surprise, there were dolphins swimming by! WOW! After watching the dolphins, we headed back to the camp to make some dinner. Steak and salad turned out deliciously! (I´m really enjoying the communal cooking part of my time in Tassie!) After dinner we went in search of the little penguins that are supposed to come on to land at night. We went to the rocky part of the shoreline where there were big boulders to climb on. With just one flash light to share between five of us, it was a bit of an adventure to rock hop in the dark in search of penguins. At one point, Paul was feeling brave and took a bold step onto what appeared to be a rock but turned out to be a pool of water with seaweed floating over the top. He got a bit wet…we were thankful that he was laughing so we could laugh with him because it sure was funny! We couldn´t find any penguins, so we laid down on the rocks and star gazed instead! It was a gorgeous and clear night. Then we were surprised again as we walked back to the van and almost literally bumped into a little penguin!
That night we had a campfire from wood that we scrounged up around the campsite. Around the fire we exchange songs and stories from our various countries which was just lovely.
The next morning we headed off to Wineglass Bay. It is a 11km hike to the lookout, down to the beach, and around to Coles Bay. It took us 4 1/2 hours to do the whole thing, but that included time to stop and take in the incredible views, eat a picnic lunch on the beach, and go for a freezing cold swim in the ocean on Hazards Beach…but it was so worth it! The beaches were something close to Paradise. Amazing!

That is a brief overview of what we did over the weekend. We had perfect 21 degree weather, hardly a cloud in the sky, and a clear starry night. Most importantly though, the people I travelled with were great travel companions and have become good friends. Everyone was flexible, fun, and we all enjoyed the same type of activities, so it was a very very good weekend. This trip has definitely been a highlight so far for me!





Apple picking

22 03 2013

Some of you were probably wondering if I was ever going to start the working part of this adventure I’m on. After all, my visa does say “working holiday”. So, I figured, since money doesn’t last forever when you start spending it, I should probably find a job for a while. That’s what brought me to Devonport, the third largest city in the island state of Tasmania. Now, don’t let “third largest” give you the wrong impression. Devonport is by no means a large city. But, it is a lovely and friendly one. I’m staying in a working hostel on the edge of town, just 15 minutes walk to city centre. This kind of hostel does their best to help you find work and they did just that for me, in three days. On Monday I began apple picking at Sassafras Orchards. Every morning I get up at 6am to catch the hostel bus at 7am so I start work at 7:30. It feels early, but it really is not. And the first few hours are the best part of the day when the air is crisp and the sun still rising. My job is to pick apples, all day. Nine hours. And the more I pick, the more money I make. Unfortunately, I don’t make very much. Most of us work in pairs to make the time go faster. We each have a bag around our neck and shoulders in which we collect the apples. Most we can reach from the ground, but we also use ladders. I got over my fear of heights very quickly with this job. When our bag is full or getting heavy, we gently dump the apples by opening the bottom flap, into the huge wooden crates. The only thing we can do wrong in this whole process is bruise the apples. We live in fear of hearing the words, “your apples are too bruised” because that would mean getting one bin deducted from your pay. And when It takes two of us an hour and a half to fill one bin, that’s pretty significant. Thankfully, my partner and I have heard only “good work” from the inspector lady!

I’ve picked for three days this week. It been raining quite a bit so we couldn’t work on Thursday and Friday which is rather unfortunate, but since I came down with the cold virus that has been going around the hostel this week, I needed a day off. This coming week we are looking forward to one day of grape picking as well. That job pays by the hour so that’s why we are looking forward to it!

I’m really happy here. Besides the pay, the job is great because I get to be outside. I love the hostel where I am living…it feels like home and the friends I have made already feel like family in many ways. Every day is a new adventure, a new lesson in pool, a new movie to be exposed to, or a new cooking adventure in the shared kitchen! Each day is also a new opportunity to talk about my faith, since there are a few searching souls here…hearts that are asking good questions about God, and really searching for Him. I have also been blessed with a lovely roommate named Ruth, who is a Christian from Hong Kong. On Sunday I attended church down the street and was warmly welcomed there. Even received an invitation to dinner by one family for that evening, and I don’t say no to free food and Christian community!

That’s all I have time for right now. Thank you for your love, prayers, and support!





Devonport Skyline

22 03 2013

Devonport Skyline

Makes the early morning wake-ups worth it!





Coles Beach, Devonport, Tasmania

22 03 2013

Coles Beach, Devonport, Tasmania





“Blessed Be Your Name”

8 03 2013

I’ve had many opportunities to live out the lyrics of this worship song this week.

 
“Blessed be your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be
Blessed be your name…”
 
I’ve walked through city streets in 30 degree heat. I’ve strolled along sandy beaches and soaked in the sun-warmed ocean water. I’ve gone for morning jogs through neighbourhoods I now call home. I’ve sat in outdoor cafes sipping chai lattes with new friends. I’ve dug my hands into the dirt, planting flowers and pulling weeds. I’ve picked oranges from backyard trees and juiced them for breakfast. In each moment, I can sing “blessed be your name, Lord”. 
 
“Blessed be your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name…”
 
This verse took on new meaning for me today. I went to take my host’s dog for a walk in the nearby nature reserve. My plan was to walk her for half an hour or so. Well, first of all, I didn’t walk her, she walked me. In fact,  we ran. Secondly, I discovered rather quickly that this nature reserve was quite large, and had many meandering paths through it. But, off we went. With the clouds above threatening to spill at any moment, we half-walked, half-jogged through various trails until I was completely and utterly lost. This place was huge! I was in the middle of a forest with no other human being in sight. I wasn’t too nervous, and just kept walking, turning this way and that, thinking we were headed in the right direction. After maybe an hour or so, I almost cried at the sight of a road, with cars driving on it! I thought surely this road would lead us home, so Lily and I walked along the road for quite some time. It was at this point that I accepted the fact that I was still quite lost. I had no idea where we were or what edge of the reserve we were on. Still we walked. Eventually, we came across a man and his young son walking along the road.  With an embarrassed smile, I admitted to this man that I was lost and could he tell me where I was? I am so thankful that he was a local who knew the area well and was able to point me in the right direction…opposite of where I was headed, and probably 2 or 3 kilometres from home! So off we went again, and this is when the rain started to fall. We walked and walked and after quite some time, there was the house in the distance. I think you can imagine my relief. That 30 minute dog walk turned into a 1 1/2 hour walk and jog with the dog! A walk in the wilderness, indeed. Blessed be your name, Lord.
 
Whether the sun is shining or you’re walking in the wilderness today, I hope you can join me in singing “blessed be the name of the Lord”.
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Travelling Solo

15 02 2013

You learn a lot when you travel alone, when you live alone, when you eat alone. I’ve learned so much, grown so much, discovered so much. I was discussing this with a fellow solo traveller last night. When searching for a place to eat, we tend to seek out the cafes and restaurants that aren’t too busy and don’t have large groups of people eating together so that we don’t stand out as being alone. We wonder if people wonder why we’re eating out alone. I suppose it could be kind of strange. But a girl’s gotta eat, you know. And the beauty of it is that we can eat whenever we want, wherever we want, and stay there for however long we want.

When I walk, I let my feet take me wherever they want to go. It’s lovely not to have a plan sometimes. It’s freeing. When I get tired, I just sit. I don’t have to ask anyone if they also want to sit. Or eat. Or go back. Or keep going.

When I want to talk to someone, I can find a common room in the hostel and go meet someone, or I can strike up a conversation on the train, or in McDonalds, or wherever, really. You meet all sorts of interesting people that way.

I think without the distractions and routines of everyday normal life, you begin to see yourself for who you really are, you try and look at yourself from the eyes of the strangers you meet, and you look inside yourself to learn more about who you are. That might sound really self-absorbed or introspective, but I think it’s healthy. As a Christian, when you get to know yourself, you’re getting to know your Maker as well. And your relationship with God becomes deeper, clearer, lovelier. That’s a good thing. Since I have so much time to think, it’s a challenge to direct my thoughts toward good, positive, edifying things. To use my thinking time for not just random things, but things that really require contemplation! To turn my thoughts to prayers is also my constant desire. But it isn’t easy. Each day is a new day though.

This last week I first visited a town called Ballarat and my only roommate was a girl from New Zealand who now works in Melbourne. I might even be able to get a job with her company. God’s timing, right? And then I moved to Hall’s Gap, a town at the base of Grampians National Park, and stayed at a lovely little backpackers hostel called Tim’s Place. What I loved about this place, besides the fact that he had potatoes growing in the garden that we could eat, was that I was the only twenty-something age traveller, and everyone else seemed to be over 40. My hiking companion was a really nice Australian lady named Trish who also shared her breakfast with me. My dinner companions were Trish as well as a sculpture artist from England named Dominic. We went to an open mic night at a cafe in town together.

So when I think about it, I haven’t really been travelling solo all that much. When I need to be alone, I can be. For example, I went for a quick bike ride this morning (and almost ran into some deer). Then I went back to my hostel and met up with Trish again and we caught the bus together back to Melbourne.

It’s time to do some serious job hunting now that I’ve been travelling for a month. Kinda crazy to think I’ve been here for four weeks already. Thank you all for your prayers. I love to read your emails, messages, and comments. It’s interesting to see who is reading my blog, but I can only do so if you post a comment (questions are welcome, too). 🙂

Love to you all.





Melbourne adventures

10 02 2013

Where do I start, friends? So much has happened. When I last wrote you, I was just leaving the Blue Mountains. That was a good, and I do mean good, 11 days ago. I made the quick 2 hour flight over to Melbourne after saying goodbye to Sydney for now. I was picked up at the airport by my gracious hosts, Sjirk and Betty-Ann, cousins of some of the Bakker clan back home. They live in a suburban town called Narre Warren, just east of Melbourne and a 55 minute train ride into the city. I didn’t have a plan as to how long I would be here for, but apparently I like it here, and my hosts seem to like me and have made me feel very welcome.

So, it’s been 11 days. Now, mind you, I haven’t been in Narre Warren the whole time. I spent one weekend and a few other days in the city exploring. I did an overnight trip to Phillip Island, and Sjirk and Betty Ann have taken me to a few different places in the area, including the Australian botanical gardens and the Puffing Billy in Emerald. I’ve had lazy days where I just stayed inside where it was cool…because I’ve realized you just need those kind of days when you’re travelling so much. And I’ve had really full go-see-everything kind of days, too. Melbourne is a really fun city, known for its coffee and cafes, its hidden alleyways of screaming street art, and high end shopping districts. I’ve explored all of these things and more. There is a free city circle tram (what we would call a street car, as in Toronto) that runs in a loop around the CBD (central business district). There are several lovely parks and gardens bordering the CBD as places to pause and rest, picnic, or chat with friends. In one such garden, I visited Captain Cook’s cottage, an original English cottage brought over from England in memory of the man who is known for “discovering” Australia. Federation Square is another highlight. The funky centre-of-the-city meeting spot and cultural precinct leaves you wondering if the architects and designers had a little too much to drink when they came up with this idea. 467 million dollars later it was completed, and is known as one of the world’s ugliest buildings and tourist attractions. Personally, I quite Iike it. It has a fun vibe to it and I love to just sit and people watch from the stone steps. So that is a bit about the city itself. Just a bit.

I recently took a trip to Phillip Island for two days and one night. I can honestly say this is one of my favourite places I’ve visited so far. Phillip island is rolling hills, a bit of bush land, fields of cattle, and water. Blue, glistening water almost everywhere you look, unless you’re right in the middle of the island. It takes about 20 minutes to drive across, and is not very backpacker friendly since public transportation is limited. It is also home to the penguin parade, a very popular tourist attraction, for good reason. Every night, hundreds of little penguins swim to shore in rafts (that’s what you call a group of penguins) of 3 to 5 in search of their burrows on land. Every night at 9 o’clock this happens, and every night hundreds of tourists flock to see these adorable little 33 cm high birds get washed up to shore and struggle to find their footing on the beach before waddling off to their burrow for the night. It was well worth the cost and the fairly chilly temperatures out by the water. On a similar touristy note, I got to see koalas in their natural habitat at the conservation centre which was pretty cool. Then I spent the afternoon on the beach in the island town of Cowes, promptly getting a funny splotchy sunburn on my upper back in all the spots I couldn’t reach, a definite disadvantage to travelling alone in this sunburnt country. At night on my way to see the penguins, we almost hit a wallaby on the road as we were driving! A wallaby is a small kangaroo. In fact, I can’t really tell the difference. The next morning I walked to Churchill island, a much smaller island connected to Phillip island, and a nature reserve and old renewed farm similar to what would have been there in the 1800s. I walked around the island taking in the incredible views from the various points and lookouts, watched a cow being milked in the good old fashioned way, walked through the display house and gardens, and took a wagon ride around the property. It was lovely!

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far in the blog post. I won’t keep you much longer:)

On Sunday after church I went back into the city for the St. Kilda festival. It’s a one week summer festival of food, drinking, and live music by the beach. I met up there with my friend Suzanne from Nova Scotia whom I met back in Sydney when I first arrived. We walked and talked and took in the sights and sounds of the festival, including one concert of a rap-artist Pez, who should probably stick to rapping and not singing, because then at least he’s got his sweet accent going for him:) After smoothies for dinner, we met up with Amanda Pushka and her friend who are fellow Canadians also travelling Australia right now. Amanda and I went to elementary school together for a few years! It was really cool to see her again!

There is so much more I could tell you about, like the funky lady who took me out for lunch after church last week, or the lady I met on a train who was wearing dark glasses because she just got her eyelids “done” as a treat to her 50 something year old body :/ or the three and a half hour walking tour I did of the city where learned all about Ned Kelly and so many other facts I maybe didn’t need to know about Melbourne. But I will save more stories for next time.

Thank you for reading, friends and family. I hope and pray you’re surviving the cold winter storm if you’re in that part of the world.

Be blessed,
Natasha