Tag Archives: circumnavigating

Circumnavigating Part 7: Making Like Magellan

Day two at Hanalei. Mike is exceptionally patient and encouraging, so I’m not sure what I’m hoping Alouette will do for me in the water, but I do have hopes of a better outcome than yesterday. I suppose on some level, I’m thinking that Alouette is a woman and, maybe, more my speed. Mike is a gristley guy with a lifetime of surf experience, ranging from New York winters to pumping Hanalei and beyond. I’m also hoping that the waves will be a size that I consider more fun than, say, deadly, since everyone keeps saying the swell’s going down.

Alouette turns out to be just as dauntless as Mike and just a little less nurturing (in the lineup). The swell is still up.

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Circumnavigating Part 6: So this is Hawaii.

Comfort zone: noun. The range of temperature between 28 and 30 degrees Celsius, at which the naked body neither sweats nor shivers.

Or, a situation or position in which a person feels secure, comfortable, or in control.

I once paddled out at San Clemente pier with Alex Haro, even though the swell was coming in and it was already bigger than what I would have braved on my own. On most days, SC pier is an easy break. A reasonable paddle, a little hollow, not too rough, clean. When there’s swell, though, the sets can be slightly intimidating. The lips can be heavy and, somehow, unavoidable. On this afternoon, Alex succeeded (for once) in talking me into waves above my head. Literally and figuratively. At first, the waves were breaking at about the pier’s halfway mark. The pier is 1,296 feet long (17th longest in California). The longer we sat there, the further out the break moved. Within an hour, big sets were cracking at the end of the pier, and the smaller, unbroken ones left my stomach at their peaks as they rolled past. I hadn’t caught a single wave and I didn’t want to. I called it a night and met Alex on the beach an hour later. That session will remain the greatest distance I’ll be from my surf comfort zone. Until I surf Hanalei Bay with Michael.

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Circumnavigating Part 5: Separation Anxiety

Penguin in London (less useful than in Hawaii).

I’m video chatting with Jackie and she says, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you took your board all over Europe and you didn’t have it in Hawaii?”

Yes, Jac, that would be hilarious. And I would cry. And it is a real possibility.

I arrange for a courier to retrieve my board in Pottsville and deliver it to Jon’s house in Coogee. Supposedly, it will take two days. Supposedly they will pick it up tomorrow. At the end of tomorrow, Rita texts to inform me that nobody came for the board. I call the company from Canberra and they say, “Well, let me just call the driver and get back to you in a few minutes.”

An hour later, as their office is about to close, I still haven’t heard back. When I call, I ask for Mike (the guy I talked to before) and the woman says, “Ah yes, I think he mentioned you.”

Superb.

“Let me check if it was picked up,” says entirely unhelpful Mike.

“I can tell you that it wasn’t.”

“Yes, the driver said he didn’t have time and it will definitely be picked up tomorrow.”

“Okay, great thank you.”

The following day, I have a very similar conversation.

Like four days later, I’m in Sydney and leaving the country very, very soon. I have talked to the shipping company countless times in the last week and a half. I’m finallllyyy notified that the board will be in Coogee on April 5th. My flight to Kauai is on the 6th; if I fuck this up, I really won’t have a board in Hawaii.

As it’s a weekday, both Jon and Danny are working. I no longer have keys to the apartment. Furthermore, I have no idea what time to expect this delivery, and I definitely have to sign for it. How could I possibly botch this?

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Circumnavigating Part 4: Sydney Revisited, Canberra, and Melbourne

I’m at Pancakes on the Rocks. Again. Mildly hungover and/or sleep-deprived. I order the most embarrassingly big breakfast. It literally arrives on two plates. There are chocolate pancakes involved. The shame is heightened by the fact that I am sitting by myself. That, and, the way the waiter looks at me–like some kind of curiosity; a bottomless pit at which to marvel. A half hour later, I’m slumped on a bench near Campbell’s Cove, unsure whether the massive brekky will help or hinder my recovery and hoping for some noticeable vitamin D absorption; the sun is brilliant. The harbour bridge is just behind me and the opera house is right across the water. It’s just so pleasant in Sydney. It’s just so clean, so temperate, so… not Cairns.

Over the next few days, I spend an inconsiderate amount of time with friends, avoiding hostels by sleeping on a vintage love seat in Adam Mada’s living room somewhere near the beach in Sydney. I share the room with his magical fish and Emily’s mom, Eileen, who sleeps on the floor. Kindly, no one makes me feel like the spectacular mooch that I am.

Adam, a magician by profession, is Emily’s brother-in-law and he has allowed me and, pretty much, their entire family to invade his home. One morning, Adam plans to take us on an alternate coastal walk–the route is known only to him, so the whole crew sets out, blindly, on foot from Bondi. We walk through a ritzy neighborhood, past many bays full of sailboats and pontoon planes, up hills. Up more hills. We stop to swim and it’s lost on no one that Sydney Harbour is more notoriously populated by sharks than the ocean. Thankfully, this swimming area has a net around it, but Eileen wonders, “What if a baby shark swam through the net and grew up?” It’s so hot that we swim despite the remote possibility of a shark outsmarting a safety net.

We continue walking: even more hills. After a while, we are begging for coffee and a place to rest our weary feet. Adam promises tea on a cliff overlooking the ocean, so on we trek. Several hours later, we are sunburnt and mutinous.

“Where’s that cliff-side café, Adam?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You said if we kept walking, we’d be rewarded with coffee and a fantastic view!”

“Oh. Yeah. I don’t know, I just figured we’d find something like that.”

THERE IS NO CLIFFSIDE CAFÉ!

We are rapidly losing faith, but still, we follow Adam. When we turn up at Bondi Sewage Treatment Works, which, admittedly, does have a great view but, you know, also processes shit and is probably a little toxic, we abandon our fearless leader and find comfort in body surfing, followed by beer. Later, looking at a map, I still can’t figure out exactly where we walked. But I do know that it was almost entirely uphill and it took about 6 hours. Possibly longer.

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Circumnavigating Part 3: Byron Bay to Cairns

“The itinerary” for this trip has been a little on the dodgy side. When it exists, it does so only in weekly increments and only once I have made a reservation for something. Typically, it materializes as vague notations in my planner.

In the middle of the week, in the middle of February, I am considering a modified itinerary. The current version puts me in Byron Bay next week. I’ve already booked a place to stay, already reserved a bus seat. But the thing is, I met this guy.

But the other thing is, I want to spend a week in everyone’s favorite Aussie beach town before I have to be on the Goldie for the Quik Pro. Logic prevails and some uncivilized hour finds me stretching my legs in a gas station parking lot, after deciding that an oversized candy bar will make a fine substitute for actual food.

Twelve and a half hours is a very long time to spend on a bus–even when fortified by Milo bars. At least they showed a film on that bus. Do you know what it was? The First Wives’ Club.

Paddy, the genial proprietor of Byron Haven, has given me what I believe is an okay rate for a week in a studio in Byron: $650. He has also offered to fetch me and my many belongings (still no baggage charge!) from the bus along with his morning paper.

It’s still early and the room isn’t ready yet, so I walk into town and end up finding this great café. The waitress happens to be from Seattle. She’s living in a tent at one of the hostels. I feel like a yuppie, so I don’t tell her where I’m staying. She suggests I try BBQ sauce on my bacon, egg, and cheese. I must look skeptical because she says, “No, really, it’s delicious. Their BBQ sauce is different than ours and besides, it’s a very Australian thing to eat–you have to try it.” I’m surprised to discover that it’s scrumptious. She also tells me that I can pick up “wireless internet” (“Wifi” is met almost unanimously with “Ehh?”) at the Beach Hotel across the street. Thank you, Michelle!

When I get back to my pricey digs, I feel like even more of a snob and even less sorry for it. The studio is gigantic: Two king-sized beds, kitchen, flat screen… no roommates. Paddy asks if I need help with anything else. “Will you take a nap?” Half an inquiry, half a suggestion.

It is 80 degrees and sunny, and the waves are small but clean.

“Can you please tell me how to get to the beach?”

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Circumnavigating Part 2: Sydney and The Subs

You know how sometimes on those red-eye, trans-Atlantic flights, 7 hours doesn’t quite cut it? By the time you’ve had your lasagna, watched Nicholas Cage’s latest, and, finally, lulled your brain into a state somewhat resembling sleep, you’ve got to put your seat in an upright position and prepare for landing. Sleep be damned. This is not an issue on the flight from London to Sydney.

Also not an issue: The condensation of time. I leave London Friday night and arrive in Sydney Sunday morning. Just go with it. “We’re not spending much time in Saturday,” Nick says casually. Nick is the amiable British guy to my right. He and his girlfriend, Kate, will be splitting five weeks between New Zealand and Australia. They ask me how I liked London and when I hesitantly say something along the lines of, “It was cool…” they inform (as if it is a fact) me that people in England get friendlier as you climb in latitude. Interesting.

In our stout Saturday, we experience Suvarnabhumi International Airport (and what is visible of Bangkok through the windows) as hot, hazy, and lush. The sun sinks into evening as we begin the second leg of our flight, after just an hour and a half on solid ground. Qantas serves dinner, but I’m still full from breakfast. Somewhere between Thailand and Australia, in the middle of the night, I look out one of the few open windows and observe a stupendous display of lightning: It’s bouncing off the clouds and it’s orange.

Stepping into Australia is like napping on that incredible couch you used to have in that apartment you used to have: Slightly disorienting but oh-so cozy. It’s just after 7 a.m. in Sydney and I am greeted by a chatty man in passport control and a smiling customs officer. And sunshine.

After arriving too early to access my first ever hostel room, I stumble upon Darling Harbour, by which locals seem unimpressed. I think it is beautiful. I can’t believe how many fish and likely poisonous jellyfish are visible right next to the dock. By 4:28 in the afternoon, I am completely exhausted and completely enamored with Sydney.

The hostel, on the other hand, is not doing much to win my favor. The girl at the front desk gave me the wrong change for my key deposit and when I told her, she had to check the surveillance camera to see whether my claim was accurate. They don’t allow alcohol in the building. I feel like I’m back in freshman year at Rutgers. Except there are five other vagabonds in my room, I need a swipe card to use the bathroom, and I’m pretty sure the bedroom door doesn’t really lock.

With sleep-deprived eyeballs, I decide to watch Drive Thru Australia because 6:37 p.m. is clearly too early to go to bed. I don’t make it much past nine, and am wide awake at four the next morning.

The Tim Tam Chiller’s one flaw is that it doesn’t actually have any coffee in it. However, by adding a shot of espresso, it is rendered the perfect way to keep cool in summertime Sydney. Another great way to keep cool is to roam the streets and let copious amounts of wasted energy wash over you: Every shop seems to blast the A/C whilst maintaining a literal open door policy. Not that I’m complaining–I think this is the hottest week that Sydney will see all summer, and at one point, I hover in the doorway of an under-construction bar and chug a half litre of water.

In miles and miles of walking, I note that people in Sydney are damn good-looking. And they look like surfers: sun-tinted. It’s funny, though, because I don’t think the majority of them are. I’m sure there’s some kind of statistic that reveals that while 98% of Sydney residents have, at some point in time, found themselves on surfboards, only 40% of them actually surf regularly. Surf mags are also surprisingly hard to come by. And they cost $9–$14 if you get the “Air Freight” [CURRENT] issue.

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Circumnavigating Part 1: Paris and London Plus Board

The Inertia kindly published part one of Circumnavigating a few months ago. In case you didn’t see it, here it is. If you did (and enjoyed), look for part two tomorrow.

Against all logic and airline stipulations, my board and I traveled from New York to Paris, to Metz, back to Paris, to London, and to Sydney (via Bangkok) without paying a single baggage fee. Unless you count needing a bigger-than-standard taxi in Paris. And actually, the board got me some free first-class Chunnel seats.

Friends at home kept suggesting that I just ship the Penguin straight to Australia and forget about dragging it around with me, for the sake of expediency and cash flow. I insisted that taking it with me would be a “funny” thing to do—and would probably be cheaper. To those friends, I say… “Wait a second, I was right?” Okay, only half right, maybe.

The guy who checks me in at the Iceland Air counter gingerly presses a “Fragile” sticker onto the bag and says it is light enough to fly for free. The very image of hospitality. Nevermind that I will shiver through the entire flight, there will be no food served, and Icelandic sounds like a mash-up language.

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