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Friday, September 5, 2014

Hippie Road Trip – Stop 1 Hervey Bay & 2 Stumpleaf/Agnes Water/1770

When Dhan found out that I was not going to meet up with our mutual friend, Andy, in Sydney for another week she suggested we hire a car so she take me in a hippie road trip to see her friends.   Our first stop was Hervey Bay to crash at her friend, Annie’s place, before we picked up the car the next day.  Annie used to live in Utopia but now lived in seaside city with her daughter and her parents who had retired there.  She talked to me about the benefits of eating raw and drinking kefir, a fermented beverage made with yeast and bacteria that has even better health benefits than yogurt as they contain three times the probiotics and other great things for your body, which I had the pleasure of being introduced to the day before by one of Dhan’s friends in Utopia.  I also learned it is really easy to make and therefore I plan to make for myself when I return to the states. 
The following afternoon, after wandering Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens, their cute little Orchid House and spending two dollars for a cute hummingbird top and another warm sweatshirt at an Op Shop we picked up our upgraded midnight blue VW Golf at the airport to begin our road adventure.   It began with me in the driver seat on the “wrong side” of the car and Dhan reminding me to stay on the left side of the road every time we took a turn.  After a few turns and weird round abouts I got quickly got the hang of it, and found myself trying hard to follow the posted signs and stay a "Sunday Driver" going at most, if I was lucky, 110 km/h the equivalent of only 68 mph;  no wonder it takes people so long to get around the country.  When I did decide I couldn't take the people driving under the speed limit, even a few ks, I revved the little car's engine and gloried in the few moments of passing, even though I freaked a few people out.  With our New South Wales plates, Dhan informed me this was okay, because Queenslanders would think I was a "Mexican" and there for a crazy driver.  I find it hilarious that Queenslanders call those living in the southern states “Mexicans” as they live south of their border, so for one week I thoroughly cherished this title especially with my love for everything Mexican.  Slang, such as this,  was constant conversation on the my entire trip, and I am happy to report Heaps and Full-On are two words I find myself saying constantly and a few people there now call u-turns flipping a bitch.  I also Aussie’s like, even though it can be very confusing that, Aussies like to call things the opposite of what they are.  For example when something is red they say it is blue, which is why the nickname of our second host Josh, a pale ginger dreadlocked hippie, is Brother Blue. 
When Dhan explained to me we were going to being staying with a guy she met wearing fairy wings on the roof of the earthship they were building, I knew I was going to meet someone special, and it couldn't have been more true as he is one in a billion in this universe and the next.  Josh lives a short drive from the center of Agnes Water, a tiny magical town on Discovery Coast, on his friends’ 40 acre property they loving named Stumpleaf.   As we drove past the sign "watch out for naked hippies", Josh and his loyal dog Chelsea greeted us with a whoop, what I soon learned to be his normal happy hello.  He then hopped in our car, with Chelsea chasing us, and directed us down a path more than a road, which really annoyed car as it constantly beeped at us warning of all things (nature) we might run into, to the area he was turning into his home.  As we rocked up, we saw the dam to the left and this amazing canopy area next to a small tent and fire pit.  Josh had only moved on to the property four months before but you could see all the work he had put in.  His plan is to build a house, but there are heaps things on the list (which he still probably needs to write, wink) before that can happen, including renovating an old caravan he and his friends hope to rent out for a little extra money to backpackers in the area.  For now, we shoved a mattress on the floor and stapled green mesh over the windows to keep the mozzies out, so we could be the first inhabitants.
Once the caravan was ready and with the chill of the night starting to set in I thought it was about time to bust out the Bundaberg Rum, I had been carrying around for a week.  I am not usually a rum drinker but since my buddy Mike back in San Diego asked me to bring him home bottle I figured I would give it a try to see if it was as good as he made me to believe; and it is if you like the taste of whiskey, because for some reason, at least to me it tastes more like that then any rum I have tried.  Despite it not being my favorite, I continued to drink it as it helped keep me warm.  I was soon grateful Josh was cooking a meal full of delicious vegetables to slow down the affects since I only had a couple of beers here and there since I had left Seattle, a month and half ago.  The crispy salted chips he made for everyone, quickly and rather selfishly became a meal for one as I waited for the other food.  With all the singing, talking, chanting, and finally the other food it seemed like no one cared too much.  As the night went Josh brought out his Hapi drum to play, a round steel slit/tongue drum that he had fashioned from an old propane tank. The name perfectly fitting his persona and the sound being produced a gate way to his soul. I couldn't stop myself from trying, and quickly found the gentle touch required very difficult, and made me admire his talent even more. 
At some we all fell asleep to be awoken with steam radiating from our mouths and the dam by Josh’s phone alarm happily signing "Good Morning!” over and over.  If I hadn’t been too busy laughing at how this piece technology also managed to mirror Josh’s personality, I would have been a bit put off, just like I was in college when my cheerleader friend greeted me as we opened the bagel at 4:30am – she a ball of happy energy excited to start the day and me ever so slowly letting in gently wake me.  He quickly made some coffee on the coals left from last night, and jumped in car telling us he hoped to knock off by 2pm.  When I could no longer see his car I, a bit guiltily, burrowed back into the blankets and drifted back to sleep.
         Around 10 am I finally awoke craving ice cream, and since I am an adult and could eat ice-cream for breakfast Dhan I headed in search of some.  Before you could blink we were through Agnes, not finding fulfillment, and on our way to the sleepy town of 1770, where Captain Cook, to the determent of the aborigines made his second landing in Australia for his counterparts back in Europe.  It has a Florida Keys feel, even though it is quite a bit smaller than any key that I had been too.  We took in the coast line until the road dead ended at a scenic point, and since we were there we decided to get out and take in the view.  Heaps of blue tiger butterflies, which I called blue monarchs at the time, because instead of orange filling the gaps between the black pattern it was lite blue, floated about as we made our way to an overlook of a beautiful beach, that would have been the perfect canvas for the artist, Andres Amador, as the sand laid smooth and untouched from any footprints.  If I had any ambition that morning, I would have made the beach adeptly named Butterfly Beach my own canvas, but two locals reminded me of my morning mission and told me where I could find the ice cream my belly so desperately wanted.  They said we should try Mammino the infamous local brand of ice-cream which you could find just down the road at the Agnes information center of all places.  When we arrived at the information center the lady gave us a strange look when I asked for ice cream but Dhan pointed to the small sign displaying the "famous" ice cream brand that actually came from another town two hours down the road.  She told us she wasn't sure if they any but she would check. When she came back she was holding two canisters, both chocolate peppermint, I was disappointed not to try the cashew flavor the ladies said was the best, but decided to still give it a try.  With all the buildup, I was quickly disappointed, the "ice cream" tasted more like yogurt frozen, then even frozen yogurt.  The good thing being I would never want to eat this brand again, and therefore not miss it when I left the area.  After my ice cream adventure we decided to grab lunch, and wouldn't you know it the place sold scooped ice-cream, which I probably would have been more satisfied with.  Oh well.
With our bellies full we headed across the street to Sol Foods, this amazing organic food and shop, where Dhan's friend, Shelley, the owner with her partner Bob of the first earthship in Australia, was the cook at. She came out to say hello with big hugs, inviting us to visit her home the next day, but telling us to meet her and her friends at the local pub that night for a chance to play Jackpot Jokers a  raffle she planned winning and buying a new car with.   With a few hours to spare before Josh got home, we headed to one of the charming deserted beaches, this one being where Dhan had celebrated at with her earthship mates.  It was basically empty with the chilly wind and prickly ocean water, but it didn't stop me from stripping to my bikini and taking a nice nap. 
When we got back to Stumpleaf I chilled while Dhan took a nap in the shade, until Josh pulled up.  As soon as he opened the door Chelsea and his cat, Pus, came trotting out of the woods for a hello.  Josh quickly got down on the ground and gave them both tons of love and attention.  You could tell it was a daily ritual.  Josh took a quick nap and then took out his Hapi to play in the sun.  As played we both went in and out of meditation, the perfect blend of man, music, and nature.  Time rolled on until it was time for us to head back into town.
         After a few quick turns, because Josh is a TERRIble navigator, we arrived at the local watering hole aptly named Agnes Water Tavern which is located on Tavern Road, you have to love small towns.  The Tavern had the feeling of a gaming hall with a stage out the way, and a really nice outside patio.  I was impressed.  As we were running late, the first thing we did, even before getting drinks, was get in line to purchase “Jackpot Joker” raffle tickets, an ongoing raffle where in a locked cabinet are 53 cards, where at the start of the game they are all face down and amongst the cards is a joker.  Each week raffle tickets are sold for £1 each, and also include chances to spin the prize wheel, win meat, or find the joker for the pot of cash that has been building up.  If no one finds the joker the card stays face up and the money rolls over to the next week.  As the weeks go by the odds and the pot get better and better, this week’s pot was $9,600 and there were only 6 cards left to find the joker from.  The three of us not wanting to win over a local decided to split a set of tickets.  We then ran into Shelley, and her two friends, Karli and Alex, this amazing couple who met in Thailand at massage school and where now traveling through Karli's home country and then onto Alex's in France next.  The funny thing about Alex is she half Greek and half French, which we predicted we were going to meet when Josh's phone turned to a language which we not certain of. We also said we were going to meet a pirate, and there was a local man who has to wear a patch, but who gets royally pissed when you call him a pirate - so we decided Josh should be the pirate instead.  Despite Shelley giving all of our tickets good juju by rubbing them on her chest, and Alex's determination to pay attention to the mayhem we did not win anything.   
It was okay as The Mason Rack Band was to celebrate with instead. They were really good, especially the drummer, despite all being extremely cocky.  It felt as if they played to be rock stars not because of the love of the music.  We danced until one of their breaks, when Josh was dared to dump a wine bucket of ice and water over his head.  Without hesitation he stripped off his shirt and dumped the contents over his head as Alex videoed.  The bouncers, of course, were not too happy, but because the ice bucket challenge had been going on around Facebook they let it slide.  We danced a bit more and ate Josh's take away, until sleepiness caught up to the group. 
The early part of our second day was spent chatting around the fire, until it was time to get ready for the local festival.  Let's just say it took Josh a bit longer then the ladies, it wasn't his attire he was just wearing some cotton drawstring pant, no shirt, his turquoise necklace, and a hat. It was  all the stuff he brought, a jug of water, his Hapi, another drum, trumpet, pillows, blankets, beer in his cooler named Pete, a shirt, and who knows what else.  But as he happily bounced around like Tigger collecting it all you couldn't help but shake your head, it just Josh being Josh.  Finally we all packed in the car, a few reverses we stopped at Shelley's, who was not at home, we found out later was nursing her hangover from the night before with Kristi and Alex.  Off to find grub instead, Josh brought us to his first place of employment, but under new better management by his friend’s cafe, that actually just opened that day.  You could tell the food was made with love because it was amazing! Back into the woods, Josh driving a caravan, me following behind, we headed to Bustard Bay one of only four places on the East Coast of Australia where you can watch the sun rise and set over the ocean.  I must say it is harder to follow Josh driving a vehicle then his directions while sitting in your car.
The 1770 festival was put on for all the visiting cyclists, but by the time we got there it was more of a local thing.  On the beach to the west you could try out dragon boating if you wanted, which I thought was ironic as my mom as in Italy at that exact moment cheering on my aunt and one of her best friends in a world dragon boat competition and the fact I had never heard about it outside my hometown. In the park area there were some stalls and awesome live music, the reason for us being there.  Josh jammed with his buddy Dave, Jayson Kokles aka "Gypsy" the roaming didgeridoo player, and some cat on harmonica.  They were good but I much rather hear Josh play and sing by himself, especially when it’s a private show in the middle of nature.  After they played we put to my surprise Josh's blankets and pillows to use watching the other bands until Jack and the BOM played.  Jack is this amazing 16 year old musician who played solo for a while until he decided to get some of the rest of his musical family involved.  On the night we saw him the neck broke on his dads bass so it was just him and his 12 year old sister on Frea on drums.  They are amazing, so much talent and love in one family, who also have a cool story.  Mama Blandford told us they travel around Australia for years, until one day they decided as a family to put down roots in Agnes.  You can tell they are each other's best friends and love being with each other, not something you see with many families these days.  With the sun setting behind Jack and the BOM it was amazing experience until it was time to pack up and do a few turns on the way to my first drive through bottle shop and onto Josh’s mate’s, who was not having a BBQ but was still nice of enough to let us in and tell us about the drinking game wizards.  Wizards is where you stack your beers into a staff, you are an apprentice until your staff is as tall as you, then once it is you are a wizard and can break other people's staffs.   I was glad we only learned about it as I was dd and would have wanted to participate. 
With the following day being Dhan and my last’s we decided to head over to Shelley’s once again, so I could hopefully have a tour of her earthship that both Dhan and Josh volunteered to help build and that I had heard so much about.  An earthship is a passive solar house made of natural and recycled materials, such as rammed-earth tires and glass bottle walls.  The way they are built also allows for minimum, if any, need for public utilities and fossil fuels making it one of the greenest ways to build and live. I have to say it is an amazing work of architecture, and I can’t wait to see when it is 100% and they are living in it. Until then I’ll just watch the docos and be thankfully for Shelley allowing me a visit.   After our tour, we all decided to head to the outskirts of Agnes for a good bye lunch, despite it being Australian Father’s Day, at the tantalizing Get-Away Garden Café.  The food and the company was magical just like my entire hippie road trip thus far.  We made one final stop at the area Josh’s friends were going to build their house in Stumpleaf, and got out of the car to wrap our arms around a giant tree.  Yes, I was being a stereotypical tree hugger with total hippies, but I couldn't have been happier especially because I knew in a few minutes I would have to say goodbye. 
When the time finally came there were tears in my eyes especially when Josh presented me with his turquoise necklace.  I was a bit speechless at such a thoughtful gift, but managed to squeak out a thank you and you shouldn't have.  The first few hours of our drive I kept touching each stone like a mantra, until I thought I might wear them out, so I put it around my neck where it is not only safer, but where it has been basically since.  I am such a lucky girl to always meet such amazing people, even though I know I will begin missing a short time later.  But as Josh says you shouldn't miss them, just cherish them until the next time you meet again.

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