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The best bookshop in the world. "The Book Exchange" Maroochydore, QLD.

As crazy as it might sound Logan and I loved used bookstore in Australia. We loved books. We read like we hadn't in years. Our trip to Australia involved a lot of adventuring, hiking, beach walking, working, hanging out, drinking and fun. And it also involved long travel, beach sitting, hostel hanging and park chilling. One needs books for such occasions. We decided that our summer was going to be a break from our lives. A break from school and stress and computers. Thus we needed books. And we needed a lot of them. Probably too many in fact, considering that we were BACKPACKING. By the time we caught the train from Adelaide to Perth (our last trek) we had an entire bag for our books.

The love of all things literary began in Maroochydore.

Books in Aus are expensive. New soft cover books seemed to average in the 20-25 dollar range. Hard cover 35-45. Even used books were expensive but cheap in comparison.  5-10 for soft cover. 10-15 for hardcover. Thus, Australia has a wonderful collection of used book stores. They have character. They are amazing. And we spent a lot of time in them!



Books I read (in no particular order):

October Sky-Homer Hickham (brought from home left at hostel in Maroochydore)
*A Sunburnt Country- Bill Bryson (brought from home left at hostel in Maroochydore)
Small Island- Andrea Levy (brought from home trade in Maroochydore)
Her Fearful Symmetry- Audrey Neffinger (Got at hostel in Maroochydore traded in Maroochydore)
Handle With Care- Jodi Picoult (Got at hostel in Maroochydore traded in Maroochydore)
 *Shipping arrivals and departures: Tasmania: Volume III: 1843-1850 -by Graeme Broxam (bought at the Maritime Museum in Hobart and brought home)
Second Glance- Jodi Picoult (Bought at farmer's market in Maroochydore traded in Maroochydore)
Vanishing Acts- Jodi Picoult (bought at book exhange in Maroochydore, traded in Maroochydore)
Tenth Circle- Jodi Picoult (Bought in a three pack at Australian post office in Perth, brought home)
*The Potato Factory- Bryce Courtney (Bought in Launceston, Tas brought home)
Maus- Art Spiegelman (Bought at library in Maroochydore, brought home)
Maus II- Art Spiegelman (got out on library card maroochydore)
Cairo- G. Willow Wilson (got out on library card maroochydore)
Badlands Part 1-Susan Wright (bought at farmers market in Alice Springs, brought home)
Rendevous with Rama- Arthur C. Clarke (Picked up at hostel in Atherton Table Lands, QLD -where I wasn't even staying- and brought home)
Salem Falls- Jodi Picoult (Bought at farmers market in Alice Spring left at Hobart Hostel)
The Eyes of the Beholder- A.C Crispin (bought at Book Exhchange in Maroochydore, exchanged in Maroochydore)
Ghost Ship- Diane Duane (bought at Book Exhchange in Maroochydore, exchanged in Maroochydore)
Holy Fools- Joanne Harris (bought at Book Exhchange in Maroochydore, exchanged in Maroochydore)
*Territory- Judy Nunn (Bought at Book Exchange in Maroochydore, exchanged in Alice Springs)
The Chosen- Chaim Potok (Bought in Alice Springs, brought home)
Blackberry Wine- Joanne Harris (Bought at Oxfam store in Adelaide, brought home)
Coastliners- Joanne Harris (bought at farmer's market in Maroochydore, exchanged in maroochydore)
Space-James Michner (Bought in Hobart, brought home)
The Shipping News- Annie E. Prouloux (bought at Oxfam store in Adelaide, brought home)
*Wombat Revenge- Kenneth Cook (Bought in Alice Springs, brought home)
*Diary of a Wombat- Jackie French (Bought at Border's in Perth, brought home)
Isvk- Hammand Innes (Bought in Launceston, brought home)
Rama Returns (Picked up in Hobart, Brought home)
The Blue Castle- Lucy Maud Montgomery (Brought from home, brought home- my favorite comfort book)
Imzadi- Peter David (Bought at Maroochydore library left at Hobart Hostel)
Imzadi Forever- Peter David (Bought at Maroochydore library left at Hobart Hostel)
The Peace Keepers- Gene DeWeese (Bought at Book Exchange in Maroochydore, exchanged in Maroochydore)
Gullivers Fugitives- Keith Sharee (Bought at Farmer's market in Alice Springs, brought home)

*Books about Australia/Australian authors- I did try to soak up some culture in my reading

Yes, it's true, i'll admit it, these are not exactly fine literature. I got a little obsessed with Jodi Picoult. For the keen eye, yes, some of those are Star Trek novels. But it was fun. Fun to read, fun to comb the used bookstores and the farmer's market. Fun checking out every hostel's book exchange. Fun to chat with Logan about the books.


Twist Brothers Strawberries. Logan and I found these strawberries in a specialty grocery store in Hobart, Tasmania. 2000 kilometers from Chevallum, QLD. I nudged Logan and we both starred. I whipped out my camera and took a picture. An employee walked by us and said,
"You think our strawberries are special do you?"

We both looked at him, aware that we looked like raging idiots. You don't understand, I wanted to say. I picked these strawberries. I worked for this company and it was simultaneously one of the worst and one of the best times of my life. To find them here, far away, is just a reminder of it all.

I picked those strawberries.
Logan and I worked on a farm for seven weeks picking strawberries. I got up every morning at 5:45am, ate breakfast, made lunch. Was out at the front tying on my boots at 6:20, said hi to Luke who walked out yawning to say goodbye before he went surfing, and off we went. Two vans full of people heading off to work. We drove twenty five minutes, got there, signed in, put our lunch and water on the truck, put on some sunscreen, got our gear and at seven am, we were standing in a row, one amongst the many and Brad the boss yelled "ADDIO" and we were off. 9:30 we had a fifteen minute break. Noon we had lunch. Around 2:15 you waited to hear if they would call another break. If they did it mean we worked until four. If they didn't it meant you got off at 2:30. They never told us in advance.

It was hard work. Hard manual labour. When I started off we pruned. You went through the rows with a pair of pruners and you took of the "runners and the spotty leaves" and were sure to "don't cut the flowers. The flowers are the strawberries." I did that for two weeks. After that we picked. We picked everyday. We had a huge metal basket and we picked.

There were four farms: Humptie, Revella Two, Main Farm and Highway Patch. With 90 people we could pick it all in four days. One million plants. The farms were all separated from each other, so when you finished one, you'd go to your van and drive to the next one. There were one or two minutes down the road, but they docked us fifteen minutes for travel time.

Twist had several rules which were written on the side of the truck for emphasis:

Always pick with two hands
We do work in the rain
If you can't work and talk at the same time, don't talk.

My back ached. My legs ached. I got a tan. I got thin. I got muscles. Every day after work I went to the beach.

Days off were special. You never knew when they were coming. We would gossip the whole day. Around 90 people worked there, and I ended up talking to all of them at one point. And we would gossip. "I heard we were going to get Wednesday off."
"I heard Tuesday."
"I heard Elaine say maybe Thursday and Friday."

You'd never know until we were done for the day and Brad and Elaine would call out, "No work tomorrow."
Which meant it was time to go home and dream about what you would do with no work. Buy a box of wine, and party out in the front yard.

There were politics going on there. Mostly Aussie-Queensland politics. Brad, the boss, was a white Queensland Aussie and he hated foreigners and women. Which was unfortunate as most people there were foreigners and about half were women. He'd never yell at a girl though, he'd only yell at the boys, he just made the girls feel stupid.

At any given time he could come up to and say "Whaddya know?" And you would stumble, "Uh, I don't know."
"That's what I thought." He'd reply smuggly and stride off. I kept coming up with things to tell him, and eventually he stopped asking.
Did you know the first big blockbuster art exhibition was curated by Hitler?
That balabusta means housewife in yiddish?
More people die from vending machine accidents than shark attacks?
That aztecs believed there were made from corn so if children died they left them in the corn fields?

One time I was picking a row and a guy from Finland was picking the row next to mine. Brad was picking the row adjacent. He starts chatting with the Finnish guy.

"Do you have a monarchy in Finland?"
"No, we have a president?"
"Oh, what's his name?"
"Her."
"Excuse me?" He's starting to get confused now.
"Our president is a woman."
Brad stops work for a moment. Stares.
"You have a bitch president? That says something about the men of your country if you have a bitch for a president."

At this point the Premier of Queensland was a woman. Three weeks later the Prime Minister of Australia was a woman. I wonder what that says about him.

He hated foreigners more. Hated to hear any language other than English. He'd walk up to them "Blah, blah, blah, speak English!"
"Speak english, or don't speak anything at all!"

Elaine was a Twist. Her husband was a Twist brother. She was the real brains behind the operation, but tried to never look mean, she'd just tell Brad to yell at us. She always sure to remind us that there were a hundred people on the waiting list and that any of them would love to have our job.

I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I worked on a farm. Glad I worked in a different country. Glad that I got to live in a working hostel and meet the people I did. Glad that I have an idea about where food comes from and what hard work it is.





Mumford and Sons.



It seems crazy but Mumford and Sons was a huge part of my trip. They followed me around and I can't listen to their songs without thinking about it. Call me crazy but I had never heard of them before I got to Australia. The first time I heard them was at the Strawberry Farm. Brad and Elaine usually played the radio out of the main truck, same radio station, all day. They had a "no repeat work day" which was repeated EVERY DAY. They never played the same song twice in one day, but they played the same songs every day. And every day, I would listen for The Cave. Everyday, I got to hear it, it made those four minutes the best part of the day. Logan didn't have the same attachment to the radio as I did. He barely listened. When we got home, I would bring up a song i'd heard, or a snippet of news and he'd just shake his head and say, "Oh, I didn't hear." I tried to explain The Cave to him. "You know the one about the noose, and changing your ways."

He didn't get it. One day it came on and Logan was only a row away. "Logan! This is it! This is the song." And he nodded, and we went back to work. I thought about buying the CD at the Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore, at the Virgin Store. I looked at it every Tuesday night when Logan and I went to the cheap movies. I didn't. I didn't have a computer or a discman.

Mumford and Sons returned in the outback. 11 people and our tour guide, Tom, in a bus cruising 400 kilometers back to Alice Springs. I'm sitting on the floor at the front with Tom picking music on his IPOD to listen over the system, he likes my music taste and I am surprised how much I like his selection. Logan and I write down music selections for him.

I select this one:

but it was not your fault but mine
and it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
didn't I, my dear?


Everyone in the van sang along. Outside the outback spins by and I can't help but think:

Goddamn, i'm lucky.

How many others have experiences like this one?

We get back and Miko invites us to a festival when we get to Perth and Mumford and Sons are playing. $145 for one day. I just can't justify it. I listened to the CD everyday in psycho_tabby 's kitchen.

Paddy Melon, Russell Falls, Tasmania.

Marsupials. They really are as cute as they are cracked up to me. Kangaroos, wallabies, paddy melons, wombats, tasmanian devils, koala bears. I saw them all running around in the wild. I got to say I was pretty enamored. No matter how hard you try, you can't even see a wild Kangaroo anywhere else.

Logan put up with me pretty well, as I chased after wild animals trying to take their pictures.

On a side note to the marsupials, I must admit. I ate that kangaroo. On a pizza. And I ate its tail  (and it was distgusting). In Coober Pedy, a tiny, quirky mining town in the middle of the outback, Logan and I ate Kangaroo and Emu pizza. Camping out on a cattle station in the middle of the outback, a guy named Tom cooked a kangaroo tail, he shoveled some coals in the ground, put the tail on top and covered it in dirt. He dug it up twenty minutes later. He scraped the hair and dirt off it and I took a big greasy bit. Gross. But i'll try anything once.


A tough ass wallaby with battle scars, Alice Spring, NT.

 The most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

Coober Pedy, South Australia.



I have not touched this picture with photoshop. I wasn't even using my "sunset" filter on my camera. It actually looked like this. Just like this only I saw it was a 180 degree panorama. The outback continued to amaze.

I sipped tea in wide opened glee and snapped a few pictures and could not believe that there were places on earth where sunsets could like a Turner painting.

Coober Pedy is a story for a different day.


Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.

When people ask, so which place was your favorite? There is always hesitation. I was there for three months, I traversed a continent, how can you pick a favorite? But if I had to? This would be near the top of the list.

When we started telling people in Queensland and the Northern Territory that we were going to go to Tasmania, they would look at us like we were crazy.
"It's winter down there." They would say. "Tassie is going to be cold. Really cold. Sometimes they even get snow. Tassie's only beautiful in the summer."

And we would grin. "We're from Canada. We can handle winter." We would tell them.

Others told us that Tasmania was the poor man's New Zealand. Others told us Tasmania is what New Zealand wished it could be.

I didn't go to New Zealand,so I can't actually compare. But if there had been hobbits beside me scaling this mountain, It wouldn't have felt weird.

Logan and I climbed 1600 feet, past wombats and waterfalls. It was raining and the trail was a waterfall beneath our feet. It was worth every second.

This is a view I won't forget.


Home. That's what it felt like.

I feel blessed to have once called one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, home.
It was the highlight of the trip. We saw so much, but this was, without doubt, the highlight. And it was all luck.

Maroochydore, QLD. The Sunshine Coast.

Logan and I always planned on work and this is where work took us. Seven weeks. We worked on a farm and we expected to be somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And everyone else we talked to was. We got lucky. So incredibly lucky. Our working hostel was across the street from the Maroochydore river, which ran into the ocean. The beach was literally our backyard. The hostel became home, because it was a working hostel, nobody really leaves. Essentially the same people who were there when we got there, were there when we left. You knew everyone. On days off, everyone drank on the front porch. We all worked together. We spent every single day together. Not to say they were perfect. They weren't. I hated some of them. I could fill pages (and I have) about relationships in Maroochydore. Lucy, Jenny, Yoshi, Adam, Jamie, Luke, Anna, James, John, Bruno, Mattieu, Chris... the names go on. But they were there and all of them are apart of this story.

Everyday after work, Logan and I went to the beach. Swimming, boogie boarding, surfing. We would watch the sun go down over the water and then we would go back and make dinner. We spent days on that beach. We went kayaking. We biked. We climbed mountains.

I knew this place. The people. The culture. I got to observe here. This is where I really understood Australia. And that was so important to me. I cannot say enough positive things about this place. Tourists don't really go there, there is not a single store where you can buy a stuffed kangeroo. If it wasn't for work I would have never come here and I am so glad I did.

I miss it.

Byron Bay, NSW

Logan and I left Sydney at four o'clock in the afternoon and arrived at Byron Bay, 1000 km to the north at 5am. We took the train. On the way up, I was dropped into my first, (sadly of many) ridiculous racist, Aussie moment. My Aussie friend psycho_tabby  was always telling me horror stories of white, racist aussies, but I never really believed her, since all the Aussie's I ever met were so nice. Now, I know the truth and it's a little sad.

A few rows back a middle aged (drunk) woman was sitting with a young, Korean who was heading to Brisbane so that he could fly home after working as a cleaner in Sydney for six months. Samples of the conversation:

"So like what's the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese?"
"They are different languages."
"I think Korean is just Chinese backwards."
"No, it's a different language."
"Yes, it's just backwards. But they are all backwards to me."

"So what do you study?"
"I want to study business."
"Well, tell me something smart, i've never met a foreigner who was smart."

Ahem. I think Logan went to sleep just so he wouldn't have deal with it anymore. We arrived in Byron Bay (although we quickly learned that no one called it Byron Bay, everyone called it Byron) at 5am. I thought, I am damn tired, my hostel is not open, I am going to sit my ass on the beach and watch the sunrise. And we did. It was a wonderful experience, we dropped our backpacks in the sand and within minutes we were up to our knees in water as the sun rose.



Bryon is a beach town. The water is wonderful and warm, surfers are everywhere, and it was just beautiful. We went on hikes and saw the most Eastern tip of Australia, dolphins, dragons, snakes and the ever present bush turkeys. We went boogie boarding, we lounged on the beach and we got caught in one hell of a rainstorm... in a tent. But most of all I remember this:



The Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. These are two sights not to be fucked around with. Our flight landed at 6:50am, after being in transit for over thirty hours. By 9am, we had walked the three kilometers from the hostel and we were here, and by definition we were HERE. Here, Australia. This place we had talked about, thought about, dreamed about. What single building defines it better than this one?

Sometimes those iconic places, which you've built up in your mind end up being disappointments. But not this one. Throughout our trip we wandered from the beaten path, wanted to take in those things that were not on the backpacker beaten trail. To get away from Happy Hour and drunken brits and Peter Pans. But this first day, I needed something like this.

This day was special. We saw penguins in the harbour. We saw seventy types of rare cacti. And we saw this bridge from every angle. We walked across it, at noon all the little workers from the big office buildings put on their running shoes and run across it, instead of eating lunch. We meandered through the modern neighbourhoods on the other side, and wondered how much it costs to buy a house where you can view the Opera House from your living room. We ended up in a park filled with poinsettas and guys down on their luck fishing for fish that I certainly wouldn't eat. You should see that water. And always, the view.

And the Opera House, it's tiled. Most people don't know that.

Everyday for the next twenty days I am going to post a picture from Australia with a small story. Mostly this is just for me- to reflect back on the trip. I wrote in a journal while I was there, but I would also like a record here.



I was once asked something I loved and something I hated about Australia. I said I loved the trees and hated the strawberries.

Massive trees, unusual trees, trees that create a completely different view. Rainforest trees, tropical trees, temperate trees, desert trees. Seeing the vast spectrum of trees throughout Australia gave me such an appreciation for the diversity of the country. These trees put everything into perspective. This is big, those trees say. You just crossed a continent. All of them amazing, all of them unusual. All of them, so completely Australian.