Saturday, October 5, 2013

Steiglitz Walkabout

I honestly wasn't sure how today would pan out, but it ended up being a blast!

I've been staying with my boss here in Australia, and he and his wife went to Melbourne for a weekend without the kids.  The grandparents from Sydney flew in to enjoy the weekend with the kids here in Geelong, as well as babysit.  There was some overlap with the grandparents' stay before David and Sinead left for Melbourne so that meant for the weekend I needed to find a new place to stay so the guest room was available for the grandparents.  Sinead was kind enough to find someone who works in the lab with a spare room, so I've been staying with a single lady and her cat.  I'm not a super fancy person, and I'm happy to sleep on a couch - but my weekend accommodations are far less than stellar.  Solution: get out and explore during the day!

I started the day at Cafe Go, a trendy little shop about 45 min walk from where I was staying.  I heard from other PhD students that they had good food as well as free wifi (no internet at the place I'm staying for the weekend).  The weather was absolutely gorgeous today, compared to the cold temps we had earlier in the week, so the walk downtown was very enjoyable.  I stopped in a few shops along the way as well, just to look around.

At Cafe Go I ordered a grilled lamb sandwich.  It had some sort of fancy sauce and fancy cheese, but I didn't really care - it was a good price and came on fancy artisan bread.  For coffee, I ordered a flat white, which has been my go-to Australian coffee order (  I honestly don't know the difference between a flat white and a latte, but my boss orders a flat white so I've been ordering them.  They're quite delicious.

A cute thing about Cafe Go is that you order your food, and they give you an item to identify the order once you chose a table.  Lots of restaurants use a silver stand with a number to identify the order, but Cafe Go has a tub of stuffed animals they use as identifiers.  So everyone is sitting in the restaurant enjoying their meals next to a stuffed bear or zebra toy.  I was given a Winnie the Pooh - we hung out and enjoyed a sandwich and flat white together.  My new yellow Australian homie ;)

Delicious flat white and Pooh bear my Australian homedog

From Cafe Go, my friend Kathy picked me up for an afternoon adventure.  Kathy is part of the running group that I joined upon arriving in Geelong.  She is a sweet lady in her 40s (50s?  I suck at judging age) who has kindly taken to picking me up on Mondays to take me to the evening runs and then drops me back at home afterwards.  She knows my situation (in a new country, no car, few friends, etc), and mentioned to her that I didn't have much planned for the weekend.  She said she'd pick me up for an afternoon bushwalk (aka, Australian hiking).  I thought it would be an hour or so of entertainment, but it ended up being even better than that.

One of the dozens of wineries that we passed during the 45 min drive to Steiglitz
Turns out Kathy has a friend Colin, who is one of the ~5 people who lives in Steiglitz, VIC.  Steiglitz is a small township (village?) in Victoria that sprung up around the gold rush back in the 1850s, and  there are currently about 10 remaining standing buildings. (,_Victoria)  There are historic plaques all over the place with photos and such, but pretty much all of the buildings are gone due to fires and the passage of time.  There are filled in mines all over the place, and Colin is very well versed in the history of Steiglitz.  I think he's one of four people who make up the historic society.  He proceeded to explain the history of the town, as well as provide an extensive walking tour of current and past properties of the town.  I love history stuff, and especially since it was interactive (with a walk in the bush), the four hour tour was an absolute blast.  Not only is Colin well-versed in Steiglitz history, but he's also well-read in botany and biological sciences.  He told me all about the varieties of gum trees (eucalyptus trees) and native Australian foilage.

Mainstreet Steiglitz - I kid you not.  Plaques for the post office and grocer are visible on the far right

Steiglitz courthouse, surrounded by gum trees
Turns out that Colin is a pretty colorful character.  He lives in a house that he rebuilt/restored.  It was built in the 1880s as a butcher shop but later abandoned.  He purchased the place as a complete shell - just a standing stone frame, and rebuilt the interior and exterior.  There is no main electricity in Steiglitz, so he has a solar panel that powers the minimal electricity that his house requires.  He has a wood-burning stove as a heating source, and obviously no A/C.  He was really excited to show me his new outdoor latrine - complete with a composting option that I'd rather not describe on this blog ;)  But his house is ingenious - he has a huge vegetable garden, surrounded by a tall wire fence to keep the roos out, as well as bees for honey.  The interior has a southwestern sort of feeling, but I think the outside looks like something straight out of Italy.  Very homey indeed.


 Colin is also quite colorful in that he travels quite a bit and passionately loves dancing, both ballroom and latin dancing.  He just returned from a 6 week trip to Cuba to enjoy the dancing culture.  It was his second trip there, first one being with a dance company, and his second visit was to stay with friends he met from his first trip.  He has long hair and wears a coral shell necklace - quite a free spirit.  He also believes in not killing the snakes he finds in his house (since he lives in the bush), and would rather carry them out in a pillowcase and release them back into the wild.  And I'm not talking about large snakes that are unpleasant to find in your house - I'm talking about snakes that will KILL you with one bite, serious snakes here.  But Colin is a soft heart and believes in avoiding harm to any living creatures.  I'm sure he has tons more stories about his great life experiences.

We had a great chat about history and toured the grounds, complete with wildlife sightings and native plant examinations.



Afterwards we enjoyed some Australian wine from pottery made Colin, as well as bread with Colin's homemade honey

But the best part-- I've saved the best part for last.  I have an Australian bucket list - things I want to do before I leave in the next 2-3 years.  And one of the activities is to see a wild koala and kangaroo.  I've had my eyes peeled since I arrived, and today I saw my first roo and first koala!!!!

I mentioned to Colin that I really wanted to see a roo and koala, and he brings me to the front yard and points to a tree. "Ah, there's a lady that lives in this tree, she's having a nap"  No kidding, a koala lives in a tree in his front yard.  So ridiculously cool!!!  Of course the koala is wild and won't have any touching or petting, but she was a blast to watch.

Yeah I took 20 photos and 2 videos of the koala, you know you would too in my place

The koala was a bit easier to photograph than the roos - but if you look closely, you can see one crouching over having a snack, and one lounging in the sun

All in all, it was a ridiculously good time.  Much better than I expected, and very worthwhile to add to my whole Australian experience.  More photos of the property are below.  I can't wait for my next fun Australian adventure!!

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