Brisbane, Australia Fending Off Wild Dingoes

I just stepped off an express commuter train heading out from the city center and found an old-fashioned steam locomotive zipping through the station on the opposite track. It had a chimney up front with smoke pouring out, wooden passenger cars, caboose, the whole shebang. As a lover of the absurd, I appreciated it greatly.

Speaking of absurd, a shopping center in Guam was using this Yak for promotional purposes. Shop with us, ride our yak.

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I’ve been getting ready to leave for the second and much longer part of my trip. I go to Singapore on Sunday. I’ll stay there for a few days to get some of the visas I’ll need in later countries. I also want to buy a nice digital camera and I understand Singapore is a good place to do it. After that I’ll have about four weeks to make my way up through Malaysia to Phuket, Thailand. I plan on seeing Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and hopefully a lot of the islands and beaches along the coasts of Malaysia and southern Thailand.

I’m flirting with the idea of flying over to Brunei for a few days. It sounds interesting, and it’d be nice to get another country under my belt.

From Phuket, I’m flying to Hanoi in Vietnam to meet up with my dear friend, Bradford. Brad and I will spend a couple weeks in the north of the country, then I’m heading off on June 5th to meet my cousin Thomas in Delhi, India.

Thomas and I have about six weeks to do whatever we want. We’ve decided to leave our options open in case we love India and want to spend the whole time there – as has been suggested to both of us. But if we do decide to move on, we’ve got Nepal, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand on the itinerary. A bit much, I know. We’ll see what we have time for.

On July 16th, we fly to Beijing. We’ll hang out there for a couple days, then join up with a tour group to catch one of the longest train routes in the world: Beijing to Moscow. The thirteen day trip will include stops in Mongolia and Russia.

From Moscow, I’m going to Prague for a couple days. I’m not sure if Thomas is joining me for that. Then on the 7th of August I’m flying to New York, where I’ll meet up with my friend, Sophie. We’re going to spend a while in New York, then rent a car and drive cross-country to Seattle. Soph has never been to America, and I’m excited to show her we’re not all a bunch of gun-toting, jingoistic lunatics. So please put your guns away when we’re in town. That means you!

I assume America’s love affair with Colin Farrell is going to start any minute now.

I spent Easter weekend on Fraser Island with a bunch of friends: Naomi, Sophie, Andy, Tristan, Dave, Peter, Mary, Matt K., and me. Naomi rented a house for the nine of us. It rained intermittently the entire time, so between excursions to lakes and beaches, we played a whole lot of Boggle. That was just fine with me. I can’t ever get enough of Boggle. And there was some pretty good competition amongst the group.

As I’ve mentioned already, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. The sand has a nutrient in it that allows for tree growth, so it’s lush and wooded in parts, but there are also lots of vast, rolling sand dunes. We trekked pretty far into one of them — had the whole line of footprints trailing off into the horizon thing happening — then we got caught in a harsh, pounding rain. There’s nowhere to hide in the desert.

There are no paved roads on Fraser, and the only way to get up and down the island is by driving on the beach. So you pretty much have to have a 4WD. We had one to split between all of us, so we went up in two groups. I was in the second group of four.

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You’re completely at the mercy of the tides. There’s a window of several hours at low tide, and you have to schedule all your transportation during that time. If you’re driving in high tide, you’ll get swept away.

A fairly common event is when cars get stuck in the sand at low tide, then submerged as the ocean slowly rolls in. There’s a wall of shame at a gas station on the mainland showing all the cars that’ve been lost.

Fraser has a lot of wild dingoes living on it. They look like normal dogs, so you want to run over and pet them, but they will gnaw your hand off. Incidents are common on the island. They often attack small children, and occasionally they’ll go after bigger prey. A German backpacker was recently dragged out of his tent by his leg and mauled a bit before scaring them away.

When the ferry dropped us off, we had to wait on the beach for the other group to come pick us up in the 4WD. While we were waiting, two dingoes came out of the woods and started checking us out. That was fun.

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We went to a fresh water lake on the second day. The water gets filtered by the sand, so it’s really clean. It’s like drinking spring water.

One of these guys has been touring tropical islands for the last month. The other has been sitting in front of a computer, programming. Can you guess which is which?

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The ladies of Fraser Island.

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Some drunk guy offered to take a group photo of us. He had a bit of trouble with the concept of point and shoot, but eventually worked it out.

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Here’s me being retarded.

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I brought my laptop to see what constellations were out, but most of the time it was too cloudy to see anything. The guy in the baseball shirt is Matt K. He looks like he’s mugging for the camera, but actually that’s how he always looks when he drinks.

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Andy has an incredible talent for sleeping. When I’ve traveled with him before, I’ve always been awed by his ability to pass out mid-sentence under the strangest of circumstances. But I’d never seen him fall asleep in a tree before.

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On the second night, Naomi woke up to the smell of fire. Worried that the cabin was burning down, she grabbed a flashlight and ran out of the bedroom. When she got to the next room where I was sleeping on the floor, she realized the powerful smell was not a fire. It was actually coming from my feet.

Here’s the thing: I have beautiful feet. They are soft, tender, and vulnerable when put to frequent use. These are feet that have never worked an honest day. The last month has been very hard on them. They are blistered and bruised. Some of those wounds have not been tended to adequately. The result is bacteria, and bacteria smells. I don’t always have smelly feet, but lately they’ve gotten pretty bad.

Okay, really really bad.

I’m on it now. I’m taking care of it.

I gained back most of the weight I lost in Micronesia, as the cornerstone of my diet over the weekend was chips and sausages. There were many great barbequed meals.

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Tristan brought a kite. He let me fly it and took a very cool picture.

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On the third day, Matt K., Sophie, Dave, and Mary left. So there were only five of us for the last two days. We went to a shipwreck called the Meheno. It was a luxury liner built in Scotland in 1905 to transport folks down under. It was used as a hospital ship in WWI. In 1935, it sank while being towed to Japan for scrap.

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Irony, how I adore thee.

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I should be Tristan’s official photographer, cause whenever I take a picture of him, he looks like a handsome bastard. Of course, it’s possible he just IS a handsome bastard. Here are several variations on his latest pose: Mountain Stream.

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Peter is also a handsome bastard.

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Andy is just a bastard.

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A really generous bastard. He’s putting me up while I’m here, and I now aspire to one day be as good of a host as he is. I have my own bedroom and bathroom, a clean towel with an unopened bar of soap, and a wireless network card for my laptop with a broadband internet connection.

He even places mints on my bed every night, folds the end of the toilet paper into a triangle, and puts those paper strips on the toilet seat so I know it’s been sanitized. It’s amazing.

He tolerates me stinking up his place with my smelly shoes.

He also paid for the carpet cleaning when I accidentally flooded his apartment in the process of doing my laundry. I set it to warm after he put it on cold for me. He didn’t specifically say, “don’t use warm, cause it will flood my apartment,” but I still feel really bad. I tried to pay, but he wasn’t having any of it.

I hate arguing about who pays for stuff. I feel uncomfortable and am usually the first to relent. It’s a bad habit, but it’s just so awkward shoving money at people repeatedly.

This is Indian Head.

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It’s a rock that juts out over the beach. It was named Indian Head by…

…let the suspense build…

Good ol’ Captain Cook. I guess he thought it looked like an Indian from out on the water. It looks like a big rock to me.

He also gave the island the name of Great Sandy, which it still carries in the form of Great Sandy National Park. He was right about that. It sure is sandy.

Here’s a picture of some woman’s ass.

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We had lunch at the Champagne Pools. They were cold and the water didn’t taste like champagne at all. Andy fell asleep again – this time standing upright against a rock.

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And that pretty much takes care of Fraser. It was great. I really needed a vacation.

…that was sarcasm.

I picked up some fancy gear for the next leg of my trip yesterday. I got some spray-on bandages. They call it “plastic skin.” It’s kind of horrifying, but really neat too. I got one of those wonder towels that’s small and absorbent and never gets wet. I was contemplating getting a bigger luggage bag, cause my Timberland is bursting at the seams, but then I found out about luggage compressors and got one of those instead. It’s a canvas bag with straps all around it that you put your clothes in. You pull the straps as tight as you can and your clothes take up half the space they used to. You get this super-dense block of condensed clothing matter. Oh, and I got some foot odor spray.

Mom, I got travel insurance.