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The end of the earth. And some jokes.

The coastline of any country is, I suppose, technically the end of the earth. But some places feel more terminal than others. Australia’s southern coast is one of those places. The land drops into the ocean in a headlong rush of tangled green. White-barked eucalyptus trees seem to fling their branches overhead in startled free fall. The road—the Great Ocean Road—winds between inlets and headlands, stuck to the edges of cliffs by its hairpins.

I rode the bus south from Melbourne yesterday, finally shaking off the urban inertia. Rain chased us through the city of Geelong (gah-LONG) and the surfing town Torquay and then the curves and cliffs began in earnest. It’s still the summer holidays here, and traffic was thick. Around one tight turn I saw a loose cluster of people out of their vehicles, cameras in hand, eyes craned up into the trees. I know what this means, I thought: animal traffic jam! My first thought was birds, but I’d forgotten that I am in Australia. I caught a glimpse as the bus rolled past: KOALAS.

(Q: Why isn’t a koala bear a real bear? A: It doesn’t have the koalafications.)

The animal sightings are slowly accruing. Flocks (flocks!) of butter-white crested cockatoos and gray and pink galahs (geh-las) shriek in the trees. A wallaby peeped out of the bush on the side of the road for half a second before disappearing again. I went to an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” in Melbourne and a possum interrupted the show as it noisily tried to climb a nearby tree. That same night, I looked up at the sky and saw bats—HUGE bats, with foot-long wing spans—cruising the twilight. I guess Australia is sneaking up on me.

(Q: How do you catch a unique rabbit? A: You ‘neak up on it.)

Today, I am in Port Campbell, in the middle of the Great Ocean Road. I rented a bike, helmet, and yellow high-vis vest from my hostel and did a little slow-tourism, biking 40 kilometers (25 miles) up and down and around the coast, visiting limestone outcrops and sea stacks and marigold beaches. I passed an electronic sign that reminded drivers of the speed limit and provided a read out of their actual speed. “WELL DONE!” it flashed at me as I pumped uphill. Aww, thanks, Australian highway council!

Rocking the high-vis.

Rocking the high-vis.

Tomorrow, I start work on an organic farm near the town of Warrnambool (stand by for pronunciation notes). A week of weeding and fence-building in exchange for room and board and Aussie culture, then it’s back to Melbourne…and beyond!

Quiet in Melbourne

I haven’t had a real conversation with anyone in days now, not since leaving Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the last day of last year. Tiptoeing down an icy driveway into the waiting airport transfer, shivering in my summer-in-the-southern-hemisphere jacket, I slipped out of the city in a contemplative quiet that has […]

South, Very South

On the nights when the seas were rough, I lay in the narrow bed in my cabin and imagined I was riding on the back of a dolphin as it leaped and plunged through the waves. My cabin was near the bow of the ship, and each pitch and yaw was accentuated by the percussive […]

The How and the Why of the Wend

How have I done it?

And why? And what does my lifestyle have to do with my English degree?

In November I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the Clark University English department’s annual alumni event. I was asked to address these questions in front of an audience of current and potential English […]

A little bit of self-promotion

Just a quickie, folks.

Canoe & Kayak Magazine online published about fifteen of my photos and a short article I wrote about my recent trip to Chile!

Hope you enjoy :)

The 29th Year

In three days, I will be 30 years old.

For the past 362 days, I have not been 29 – I have been “almost thirty”.

It’s been with both trepidation and an accelerated sense of validation that I’ve contemplated this milestone. “There are certain things I want to accomplish in my life,” I told a […]

Ríos to Rivers, or Susan’s Next Scheme to Save the World

Did I ever tell you the story of the month that I spent in Cochrane, Chile, under the tutelage of Roberto and his kayaking club, Los Escualos? The month I spent wearing a patched wetsuit and fraying dry top, with my legs wedged into a battered kayak, learning to do an Eskimo roll? The month […]

Seldom Seen Susan – Part Two

My weekly “business trip” on Lake Powell to pick up the Holiday River Expeditions Cataract Canyon trip nearly ends in disaster when I wake to find that the company motorboat has blown off the beach where I’m camping. Thanks to a heavy upstream wind, the boat is found, but I’m not off the reservoir yet. […]

Seldom Seen Susan: Part One

I woke from a light doze at 4:00 AM. Drifts of sand had accumulated inside my unzipped sleeping bag and on my sweat-slimed skin. Even in the pre-dawn dark, it was still too hot to be in a sleeping bag but too windy to lie uncovered on the beach. Sticky, gritty, sleepless, I sat up […]

138 pictures = 138,000 words

My entry on the Grand Canyon trip was short. My photo album is not. I took over two thousand pictures, and was hard pressed to edit down to the 138 best.

In my blog entry, I wrote about the space between my Grand trip and reality instead of describing the details of being on the […]