I'm finally in Tassie. It has been quite an unusual and eventful ride...
I spent my last day in Melbourne in St. Kilda again. I laid out on the beach and spent a lot of time in the grass near Luna Park. I actually ended up getting burned on my face, but it was so worth it. I slept in the grass a while, which wouldn't have been possible had I not locked up all my bags with my hostel prior to checking out. So I didn't have to carry them around all day, which really freed me up. I got my bags out around 4:30 and hailed a cab.
The cabbie was very interested in The Spirit of Tasmania and had lots of questions. I did my best to answer most of them, explaining that there is a website he can go to and reserve the tickets if he wants. He finally dropped me outside the waterfront. I wandered around until I found what looked like the entrance for passengers for the ship. I checked in and was told we weren't to board until 6pm- almost an hour away. I dragged my stuff and sat down, noticing the giant TV. They were playing MASH. I looked around. There were families, older couples, the occasional backpacker, and several random rough looking types. There were two guys who looked like they were in a biker gang because of the jackets they were wearing, and one guy who just looked homeless. He reeked, the kind of stench that comes from more than just a couple days of not showering, and he couldn't sit still. He was pacing all around the waiting area, and every time he moved, he left a trail of his stench behind him like that Pigpen character from Peanuts. I just knew I would end up with a seat next to him.
Finally, they began boarding. They do not have x-ray machines like every other form of major transportation these days, so the line moved very slowly, with them checking every single bag from every single person. Stinky was a couple people behind me in line. I detected his presence and looked to confirm. After assuring them I was not carrying fruit or explosives, I was allowed entry to the ship. I walked around at first to explore the general area. I noted that there was no secure storage in the ocean recliner area, so I would have to carry my 2 bags around where ever I went all evening. I walked the length of the main floor of the ship, then decided to have a drink. I got a glass of wine and grabbed a chair in a lounge area. I was getting ready to pull out my computer and blog when I was approached by someone asking if the other seat at my table was taken. I said no, and I wasn't very interested in being social, but I kind of knew what was ahead. His name was Paul, he looked older, maybe in his forties, and was on his way back to Tasmania from visiting his mother and sisters. We talked about wine and bands and like 5 other things. He took a couple of phone calls during conversations, making sure to turn so I wouldn't hear him. It was around 8 o'clock, and I didn't want to be stuck with him all night, plus I needed dinner. He offered to buy me another drink when he got off his second call, and I explained I needed to go find dinner, thanks anyway. "Ok, shall we?" he said. So I guess he decided he was joining me. We paid a ridiculous $24.50 for one plate of cafeteria quality food, then took our seats. We talked about Tasmania, he kept bringing up hillbillies that live here and making reference to Deliverance, not the best picture of your home state. After dinner, he offered to give me a tour of the ship, since he'd been on the ship so many times. We went to each level and the top 2 decks were basically deserted, save for a few sketchy types of people up there all alone. The chairs swivelled around like ghosts were sitting in them. I was like "no one is up here, I'm going back down." Around this time, I started feeling sick. I don't know if I was sick because I couldn't shake this guy, or if I was getting seasick, but I chalk it up as a combination of the two. He wanted to watch Pirates of the Caribbean, which I've only seen 212 times, but we did. He tried to hold my hand most of the time, and kept asking if I was feeling better. "Nope, still nauseous." Isn't this a pretty clear signal? After the movie, I told him I was going to bed. I thought I'd be free, but he followed me. I went to my assigned chair, and him seeing that no one was in the chair next to me, decided to take that chair. I slept maybe 2 hours because recliners are not the best sleepers and I had no arm rests, so my hands kept falling asleep. They turned on the lights about 5 am to wake everyone up, and my suitor was still right there beside me. He stuck to me the rest of the time on the boat, and offered me a ride to Launceston. ***Red Flag!*** Since I didn't really want to become human skin clothing, and I had already purchased my bus ticket, I politely declined. He was called first to get off board because he had a car on the ship, and gave me a hug goodbye, AND SAID "I LOVE YOU." I almost puked. You what? How could you possibly say that? You've known me like 6 hours, you're twice my age, go away. Uh, weirdorama. I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea, at no time was I in any danger or anything, it was just more of an annoyance. If I had been in a worse mood, I may have had to just tell him to beat it, but as it was, he wasn't really harming anything or getting too fresh (haha), so I kind of just put up with him.
I got off the boat, almost convinced I had caught the kavorka from Seinfeld (google it) or something (I mean, what is the deal? I wish you could just hold up signs that said, "yes, come socialize with me" or "no, just having a glass of wine, I want to spend my evening alone exploring the ship and taking pictures." It would be so easy), when a girl asked if this was the area to collect checked baggage. "I assume so," I said, because I was wondering myself, and had just started standing with everyone else. I noticed her lack of an accent, and wondered if I had once again happened upon the rare American traveler. I began talking to her- it turns out we were taking the same bus to Hobart. Her name was Anna, and she was from Oregon. We talked about our experiences on the boat, and she had an almost identical story about a guy she couldn't get rid of! "I can't believe the same thing happened to you," she said, which makes me wonder if these locals ride the Spirit of Tasmania in hopes of picking up lone travelers, haha. She explained she was able to escape because a very kind person that worked on the Casino area on board had offered to upgrade her from an ocean recliner to a room. She got her own room to herself! "I kept hearing that the ocean recliners were where the farters and snorers slept," she said. I laughed, and decided on my return voyage, I would do my best to befriend someone who worked on the ship in hopes of an upgrade (as well as be thoroughly involved in something if I am alone at the bar, or maybe just wear a sign lying "I have a boyfriend, sorry.") We got to talk a lot about what we had experienced so far since we sat across from each other on the bus for about 4 hours. If you ever want to experience what it is like to drive from Devonport to Hobart without flying over 24 hours, just hop in your car and head about 4 hours west. The area we drove through today, at least this time of year, is a dead ringer for Appalachian mountains. I'll show you some pics as I continue to explain about Anna. It turns out she landed in Sydney the exact same day I did. She was on a flight that I had heard about that was detoured to Brisbane because of fog. She had been to Cairns and Alice Springs, and was taking a Tassie tour 5 days now. She was only to be here for 6 weeks. Anyway, I was glad to have another recharge from an American, as well as validation that I wasn't the only person with a creepish stalker on the ship. I don't know why finding Americans to me is recharging, but it is. I think it's because they are so few and far between. It's like spotting an elusive creature that only comes out several times a year. Everywhere I've been, I've felt like a novelty. Just tonight, one of the guys in the hostel asked me where the showers are. When I was answering him, he said "Aw, you're American?" with a smile. I smiled back, because this was better than the average reaction, and said yes. "Aw, that's so lovely," he said. I think I like this hostel so far. For one, I have a private room, which was supposed to have up to six people in it. But there aren't a lot of people here, so I have it to myself. Two, it's old, but in a cozy way. It's not new and efficient like the Base hostels, but it feels like an old cabin. There are even several wood fire stoves, which I am actually sitting by to type this because I am FROZEN. This afternoon after check in, I ventured out into the community to check things out and get lunch because I was starving. I got some sushi and fried rice, but turned out not being as hungry and I thought I was (I think I was confusing hunger with sleep deprivation?), so I boxed up the rice for dinner tonight. I shuffled around their outdoor mall area, got a recharge for my phone, picked up some more cheap postcards (if I see them under 50 cents each, I buy them), and then decided a trip to Australia wouldn't be complete without seeing what their Target was like. They had 2 stories, but better than that, they had some serious quality clothing. Lots more fashionable than Targets I've seen. I was so tired from no sleep and walking that I brought my dinner back and put it in the fridge. They have these little labels for food here, there must be a problem with people eating unlabeled food. So I labeled it with my name, the date, and my room number (I guess in case someone needed to come check with me and make sure it was indeed my fried rice). I spent the rest of my afternoon basically observing the other people in the hostel. A lot of the boys seem to be younger than Nathan, but there is a french girl, an English guy, and a guy from Kuala Lumpur that I've been watching the most. They were watching the footy match this afternoon, and were also at the TV tonight when I was heating up my dinner. I had gotten a Victorian Bitter to go with dinner, and was watching Mrs. Doubtfire, because that is what they had on. They started debating on what movie they wanted to watch (they have a lot of movies available here at the hostel). I kept hearing them mention really involved films like Saving Private Ryan and heavy stuff I was not interested in processing. They finally picked 8 Mile (yes, we went from the critically acclaimed Saving Private Ryan to Eminem's breakout role in 8 Mile). I wasn't too excited, but I was basically killing time till it was acceptable for me to go to bed (did I mention I'm tired?). The little Asian guy kept trying to rap throughout the movie, and kept saying stuff like that he trained Eminem to rap. He was hilarious. I kept laughing at him too even though I wasn't really involved in the group, and he kept looking over when he said stuff, I guess to make sure I was amused. Anyway, to update you on the grand final rematch, Collingwood crushed St. Kilda, it was like 108 to 52 or something ridiculous like that. It's really a shame, I wanted St. Kilda to win. I tried my best to watch the whole match, but I kept dozing off. Speaking of which, I will probably read about 3 pages of my book before I pass out and start drooling (I wish I could have done a better job of that last night, might have scared that guy away). Tomorrow I want to find a market I have read about that occurs on Sunday, and then maybe pick up lunch to have in the Botanical Gardens (yes, every city I've been to has at least one.)
One last thing- I sometimes don't know how to respond to things Australians say to me. When they ask "How are you going?" this loosely is translated to "How are you doing?", so I usually answer it as such: "I'm fine, how are you?" But am I also supposed to say "How are you going?" It just seems ungenuine (is this a word?) to me. Also, I cannot say g'day. For one thing, my pronunciation of it is off, and it just makes me feel like one of those people that go to Mexican restaurants and try to order off the menu and roll their R's to try to feel like they are really authentically communicating with the Mexican waiter. It's not natural for me to say "g'day." Someone said it to me today and I responded with "Hello." Do you think this is ok? I just feel like it's my normal response, and I feel like such a faker trying to say it their way.