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Tasmania trip + Adam's book of cultural differences

Written on: Monday May 12th, 2008

A journal entry from: Australia

We just spent four days and three nights in Tasmania, and it was gorgeous!!! It was so nice to get away for a bit and see some countryside.

We flew to Launceston on Wednesday, which only took an hour, and picked up our rental car at the airport, which was a cute blue Hyundai of some variety. Originally we were going to rent a manual car, but after some thought realized that this was a stupid idea. We were going to be driving on narrow mountain roads, on the left side of the road and on the right side of the car, which requires enough concentration as it is. So we opted to upgrade a little to an automatic. It was a choice of, save a little money or have a greater chance of NOT dying.

We hopped in our new Australian car and drove to the city of Launceston. It was a little shaky at first, with a little bit of Adam, who was driving, going, "This is weeeeeird!" and me alternating between screaming "Watch out!!!" and laughing nervously every five minutes. We arrived at our hostel for the night without killing a single person.

It was evening when we got there, but we set out to explore the streets of downtown for a bit. It was quaint and kind of cute, with some shops I would have liked to go in if only they were open. Some of it looked European, which I loved (like the fountain in the middle of the shop-lined alleyway where no cars could go). For dinner we stopped in to a Mexican restaurant, where we had a fishbowl margarita (which reminded me of you, Twiggy!). It was towards the end of it that I started giggling uncontrollably, so much so that tears streamed down my face. About what, I don't know. All I can say is that margaritas make the world a funnier place!

The food was yummy, though we thought it would be funny to have Adam complain in a Mexican accent to the kitchen staff that they were "doing it all wrong!!!" (We haven't seen any Hispanic looking people here, especially not in Tasmania).

Afterwards we passed by the Boag's Brewery while meandering about town, and finally ended up at the infamous Irish pub so many have told us about who've been to Tasmania. Our guidebook told us to try the local beer, Boag's, while we were there and we thought that'd be a great idea, it being as fresh as it must be! So we did, and enjoyed the live music. Nothing too terribly eventful happened.

We got back to the hostel and tried to use my computer, but opted out of paying inordinate sums of money just to connect to the internet. That's when a rather large and bald man with square glasses came in, who was having a sweet tooth attack. Luckily we had a box of double chocolate chip cookies we were munching on at the moment and we gave him two of them, so he didn't have to go out and buy something like he was planning on. We chatted with him for a while. He's apparently an artist. I can definitely see him in a beret.

The next morning at breakfast we saw Mr. Artist again and he gave us juice and sandwiches (those two cookies were a good investment). We checked out (this time it was not a smarmy European woman but a strange Aussie man who claimed he had just got off the phone with Merlin) and headed to Cataract Gorge, which was only a five minute drive away. We didn't spend too much time there, because we needed to head on to Coles Bay, but it was beautiful. (Oh, and let us not forget the nasty surprise I got when we got out of the car to walk along the gorge and saw the nastiest thing hiding in the car door....it was a spider that looked like a small crab, all red and crustacean-looking.....This country's creatures can give you nightmares.)

We drove to Coles Bay (ok, Adam drove) to get to Freycinet National Park, which is where the famous Wineglass Bay is located. You have to hike for a little over an hour to get to Wineglass Bay, which is what we did as soon as we got there. (But not before seeing and petting a wild wallaby! So cute!)

I had no idea how hard it was going to be to go see this Wineglass Bay. It was almost literally a constant uphill climb through the forest. Ow ow ow. I didn't realize how out of shape I am. Just when I was starting to think that there was no secluded beach, it was only a cruel joke, we finally heard the roar of the ocean, and stepped onto Wineglass Bay beach. It was absolutely beautiful. There were only a few people there, maybe 5 or 6, on the whole beach. We took of our shoes (and sweat-soaked socks) and ran across the white sand and waded in the crystal-clear water (it was freezing). Soon after the few people that were there left, because it was later in the afternoon and I suppose they wanted to make sure they got back before dark. So the beach was all ours!!! Something I've always wanted, a beautiful deserted beach completely devoid of anybody! Naturally, it might of been better if it were hot and I could swim, but nevertheless, it was great. We then sat on the rocks and had our peanut butter sandwiches and chips. Finally we figured we'd better go too, before it got completely dark and we were lost in the Tasmanian forests. And we just narrowly avoided it. The sun set during the last part of our hike back and it was gone when we stepped out of the trail. Oh and that hike back was pretty cruel on my poor sore legs.

We were going to stay in the tiny town we were in that night, but then decided a better idea would be to move on, see more, go to Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, so that if we wanted to actually do something that night we could find something to do. If we'd stayed there, we'd have nothing to do but enjoy the natural beauty, which would have been difficult seeing as it was dark.

So we drove to Hobart and stayed at a hostel there. Funny we actually thought we'd feel like going out on the town that night, after such a physically trying and tiring day. When we got there all we wanted to do was eat and go to sleep. We got pizza from a place called Sublime and ate it at the hostel and went to bed (in a 12-person dorm where everybody snored!).

I woke up the next day to find my calves were ON FIRE. Not literally, but they were extremely sore. And they stayed that way for the rest of the trip (they're just now getting over it). We explored Hobart for a bit in the morning, did some shopping, saw Salamanca Place. It's a cute city nestled in the mountains. It kind of reminded me of Rapid City, South Dakota. It's Autumn so there were gold leaves all over the place.

In the afternoon, we left for Cradle Mountain, which took up the rest of the day. We drove on a highway that actually turned to dirt for a few kilometres. I drove this time, and I was damn good. The drive was absolutely gorgeous. It looked exactly like I pictured the Outback to look. There were almost no cars, and on each side of the highway the view alternated between flatlands and mountains and lakes. We even passed a dead wallaby on the road :( Imagine hitting one of those.

We had issues finding the YHA hostel we'd booked. You got up in the mountains and there's nothing around but a few different hotels every now and then. We couldn't find ours. When we asked someone at the fancy resort where ours was, they told us the name. It just wasn't labeled YHA, it was something completely different on the sign (a bit of information that would have been appreciated at the time of booking).

We stayed at the fancy place to have dinner. It looked just like the type of mountain cabin resort I want to stay in some day, with leather and mahogany and fireplaces everywhere you turn. After dinner, we went back to our budget cabin that was definitely devoid of leather, mahogany and fireplaces. I was amazed that there were no lights to guide us. When we finally found it, after driving through the barely marked pathways to get there, there were no lights at all to see to get in it. Just the car headlights. It was kind of scary, you could easily imagine dangerous creatures and crazy people coming out of the woods in the dark to attack you. We were in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, with no lights, and a communal bathroom a few metres away. But we survived. The nice cabin getaway will have to come later.

The next morning we saw Cradle Mountain. You actually can climb up it all the way to the top, but we did not do that because we didn't have time; our flight left that evening and I don't think I physically could have anyway. I was still recovering from going to Wineglass Bay. But we did do a few walks around the place, including going up to Glacier Rock for a gorgeous view of the Mountain and Dove Lake just below it. We also walked to nearby Lake Lilla. And lastly we did the "Enchanted Walk" along a river to end the trip.

The rest is uneventful, not counting the wild wombat we found on the road! We petted it, too! Marsupials are so cute!!

And now we're here, at the state library, hoping uploading these pictures won't take all day. I hope you like nature pictures, because we have a lot of them!

Adam speaks...

I've been wanting to mention some of the cultural/language differences I have picked up, mostly in the world of restaraunts/cafes...

US = Australia

For Here = Eat In

To Go = Takeaway (Restaurants often advertise if they are "Takeaways". Unlike in America, if you do not finish your meal, we will gladly throw it away for you. Restaraunts must purchase an expensive, second license to provide doggy bag service or takeout food. Any restaurant that is nice is most often not a takeway licensee...both places I work - if you don't finish it - it is trash - no option! This results in plates being almost "licked clean".

Debit Card = EFTPOS (Electronic Fund Transfer Point of Service. Australians think they are cheating the government by paying cash for EVERYTHING. Cash is still the standard, and businesses almost always require a $20 minimum for credit or debit purchases, if at all. Alot of them have no machine. The places I work take in about 90% of tender as cash, whereas my last job in the states, Pasta Grill in Mount Pleasant, SC, took in 5% in cash

Ice Water with Lemon = A flask of water to share or pay for Bottled. Most cafes and takeaways only sell expensive bottled waters, and bottled soft drinks. No fountain drinks anywhere. To compensate, soft drink companies offer small 280 ml cokes, which is only like 7 oz.

In America, cheap restaurant goers, including myself, always order ice water - which is free, and we expect it to come with a straw, ice, and a lemon wedge. And we want it re-filled every second! Here in OZ, you will not find this. This makes a servers job much EASIER. Bottled Water only if it is not a sit-down place, and then the table gets a chilled flask of water, usually a pretty wine or vodka bottle, and some small glasses. You fill your glass yourself. This saves Servers so much time, no refilling water every second, or the business owner giving your 1/6 of a 70 cent lemon for free! Plus a straw and ice!!!! None of these are free...

Australia restaurant goers have to come to expect, that what you put in front of them in the final product. No one has hassles you for extra ranch, or to change the dressing, or to hold "insert item". Australia trains their citizens to become Chefs, and all restaurants have them. The food is excellent here. In America, only the nicest restaurants have academically trainied Chefs. Most of what you in America is prepared by a "Cook".

Tip = Not Required (Servers earn a living wage here. Minimum is $13.00/hour plus retirement, and if full-time, 4 weeks paid holiday and double time on Holidays and time and a half on Sundays. Bartenders earn $18.50 to start. Expericenced food workers make near $30.00/hour. I prefer this system much more than $2.13/hour and no benefits!!! It dosen't matter if you work all slow days, you get paid!!! It is very stressful trying to pay for your car payment with tips - you take everything so personally if someone leaves a bad tip in America. Why does the owner think we will work for free? Because we TAKE IT in America and no one complains.

In Australia, I have plenty of great people dine with me, and leave no tip - and it is no big deal! I am well compensated for my work. Although I still get $10-$30 per shift...which means I make about $20 per hour here. If I worked at these restaurants all year, I would earn about $40,000, more than the College of Charleston. The cost of living is not that high either - higher than the US, but not HEAPS.

Lots = Heaps

Way Cool = Heaps Cool

Extra Cheese = Heaps Cheese

Skim Milk = Skinny Milk

Whole Milk = Full Cream

2%, 1%, 1/2% = Not Offered, enjoy the real thing please...

Coffee = Latte (pronounced "Ladde". Melbourne is a huge coffee culture. If you gave someone an American drip black coffee with equal, they would throw it at you!!! All coffee here is made from Espresso beans, and ground within the last hour. A coffee is usually $3, whether it is a double shot or not, and has the following variants:

Latte, Skinny Latte, Weak Latte, Cappa (capachino), Mocha, Long Black, Flat White, Hot Chocolate.

The latte is a presentation, a work of art, often consumed on location, and never in a plastic or paper cup. People want to see it, to see if it is right! The top 1/5 should be all froth, with a nice design on it, made from shaking the milk on top. I can do a heart, or swirls, and other patterns. It takes a lot of skill to make a latte, we are still screw them all of the time. But we re-do it, must be sent out perfectly.

And this takes me to me next point, realness and quality. Out of the 1000 or so coffees I have made, sold, guess how many have been decaf or with Equal/Splenda? About 10. Australians appreciate and consume real products. They have no 2% milk, no fake sugars, no fat free salad dressings, no light beers or ultra light cigarettes. Americans try to compensate poor eating habits by saving 10 calories in their coffee with a man made cancer causing Equal...shame on you! You will not find light beer on draft, or fake sugars on your table here. Smokers smoke full-flavored, beer drinkers drink real beer with flavor and yes, carbohydrates, and coffee drinkers expect real espresso beans with real milk, and real sugar.

Black Coffee = LONG BLACK.

Friend = Mate

Dude/Dog = Mattie

Fries = Chips

Chips = Crisps

Ketchup = Tomato Sauce (and not in inalienable right - usually 50-70 cents per packet)

Salsa = No such thing/never heard of it. Not even offered at "Mexican" restaurants

Pudding = A thin sweet dessert sauce, often mixed with a hot muffin called a "sticky date"

Raisin = Sultana (techincally different, but the only option)

Sprite = Lemonade (Very funny!!! There is no such thing as American Lemonade or Kool-Aid. Generic Sprite at the Grocery store is called "Lemonade", and that is how it is ordered - a "lemonade" or a Vodka Lemonade. Popular drink is Sprite with Bitter = Lemonade Bitters. I am not sure who decided Sprite is lemonade. Maybe they see Lemonade on American television, but haven't mastered the recipe.

Chili = Maybe a meat pie without the pastry. Chili is a sauce here, often a Thai Sweet Chili Pepper sauce

Green Pepper or Bell Pepper, or any pepper = Capsicum

Pepper Spray or Mace = You Guessed it - Capsicum Spray (we thought that was hilarious when we first heard it!)

Tank Top or Wife Beater = Singlet (sounds like babies' pajamas)

Flip Flops = Thongs

What's up? How are you doing? = How going?

Good job/good for you/well done = Good on ya

That's true/that's cool = Fair Dinkum

Thanks/Bye/You're Welcome = Cheers (pronounced "Chiz")


Note: The first few pictures are from hanging out at home in Richmond, not Tasmania...plus we have some videos but I'll have to get to some wireless before I can post those.