week 4 down, how many left to go?

This past week I did some good things — catching up with the lovely Fiona on Tuesday, and attending the Confined 6 exhibition opening night with Kerry on Wednesday. This was my favourite painting:

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It’s called Echidna Dreaming After The Rain by Dennis Thorpe (2014).

This is a story about my family and me going camping for the weekend. It was a sunny day until the afternoon when the clouds came and it started to rain. So we cooked the fish we had caught and waited until the rain stopped. The next morning the sky was nice and clear and my mother said “We are going to find some echidnas because after the rain you can see the new dirt and follow their tracks”.

I did lots of yoga, as my hip injuries have slowly improved, and I can return to more and more postures, with only standing-head-to-knee pose and toe stand being off limits for now. I realised that because of the injuries I’ve learned to pay more attention in each pose, every movement I make. It’s probably, in a hippy kind of way, made me better at Bikram. Also I started doing my physio! Incroyable, non? I realised I should do the exercises in the yoga studio whilst I’m waiting for class to begin. So far, so good.

Every time I think about going to yoga without Polly, my eyes well up and my throat feels constricted. Today she left — following a lovely breakfast with Graham and Skye, who then drove us to the airport — and I feel so horribly empty without her here. I managed to lock myself out of my flat on my way out to yoga; of course, my spare keys were still inside the flat because Polly had only just given them back to me. Fortunately my landlord was in town and she came over after my Bikram class to let me back in. All of these statements are a bit of a mishmash; I’ll blame it on missing Polly.

That, and I’m kind of not great overall. Despite all the yoga, I had a meltdown at work on Thursday and told my bosses I can’t do it anymore. We’re moving to new offices tomorrow so everything is very hectic at the moment, and they have asked me to reconsider what it would take for me to stay, but it’s going to require so many changes that I don’t see how I could last much longer there. In any case, I have to stay for another couple of months as I am managing a software development project that would take just as long to train up someone else to take over, as it would to see through to completion, and once it’s done, it will be much quicker and easier to train my replacement. It feels good to have put my unhappiness on the table and have some open discussions about how I don’t want to be there anymore, so overall, I suppose my hatred of work is somewhat diminished, but I don’t know for how long. I am at least looking forward to going into work tomorrow to see my new workspace; I’ll try to remember to take pictures!


arts and crafts

We did finally make it to ACCA for the Menagerie exhibition, although it was quite underwhelming. Having built it up for weeks, we ended up whizzing through it in 20 minutes. Polly loves animals, I love art, and yet neither of us were particularly moved by anything we saw, and I thought the curatorship and general layout of the gallery were rather atrocious. It was worth going however, as I noticed in their gift-shop the remnants of the Douglas Gordon exhibition the only way out is the only way in, which we were sad to have missed. Polly and I have a special thing for Douglas Gordon, ever since going to see a fantastic show of his at the Hayward Gallery over 10 years ago in London. The ACCA shop still had the Douglas Gordon show t-shirt which was so perfect for Polly, I had to get it for her: “i’ve changed”.

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Since we were in the Arts Precinct, we walked over to the NGV and went to see a few exhibitions there too. Polly wisely suggested we start on the third floor and work our way down; why have I never thought of this? When your feet start to hurt, as they always do, at least you are guaranteed a glimpse of things on your way out, rather than never making it to the top.

We first went through the Contemporary Art gallery on our way to check out the Alex Prager temporary exhibit. There were some really interesting pieces tucked away up there — I was delighted by Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker’s Domino Effect, a video of antiquated bricks set up like dominoes toppling across Panama City and finally crashing down into the sea. It was simultaneously fun to watch, just as any large-scale domino scene is, and beautifully shot with so many historical buildings and streets, and yet it was physically painful at the same time, because you can’t help flinching as you watch and hear the ancient bricks crunch and smash into each other. I know that we can’t and should not conserve everything, but it was a really moving piece for me (AS A CONSERVATOR, DAHLING), exacerbated by reading that the colonial-era bricks are used as landfill in the UNESCO-listed town as contemporary urban development continues to gnaw its way across the city.

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(photo from here)

Alex Prager didn’t really do it for us — I did feel awkward and unoriginal thinking how very Cindy Sherman it all was, but apparently Prager openly embraces what is known in the art world as The Cindy Sherman Effect. I still would have preferred to see some Sherman though.

Then we tried and failed to locate the Takahiro Iwasaki Itsukushima exhibit, so next up was David Shrigley. His work turned out to be extremely entertaining, and it’s a shame they don’t provide benches in that space as we would have happily spent far longer reading everything.

This piece is called “Eggs”.

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I thought this one was very well suited to my blog…

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…and I was amused by the juxtaposition of these two which reflects how Polly and I spend most of our free time: Yoga/Pizza

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Shriegly also made this fantastic gate which I want.

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Polly and I were slightly hypnotised by the gallery space and wandered into the dedicated Shriegly-Shop, where t-shirts, tea towels, coasters, soft toys, and all the usual swag all abounded. The fact that it had its own shop independent of the fantastic NGV shop, and that it was crawling with people earnestly trying on caps and clutching mugs eventually sunk into my brain, as did the pricetags which all said “DO YOU REALLY WANT TO TAKE THIS JUNK HOME” (or words to that effect) and I realised how silly it would be to buy anything at all!

So we have returned home, where I am ready to finish up the sashiko. Progress shots below:

Early last night:
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This afternoon:
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a trip to Wangaratta

I haven’t spent much time in regional Victoria, so it was lovely to escape to Wang (as it is affectionately known) to see my dear friend Bonnie for a couple of days. At Bonnie’s we made friends with a foal at the end of the garden:
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“Excuse me, I’ll take care of that”
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We also befriended two darling little dogs, Neddy (seen here in Polly’s lap) and Puppy.
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Sorry for the badly exposed picture, however it captures Neddy and Puppy’s personalities so well!
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Bonnie had to work, but kindly dropped us at the Milawa (which I kept accidentally calling Malawi, not quite the same thing) Cheese Company, where Polly and I devoured this platter of local produce and some Cabernet Sauvigon.
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Then we walked back to Milawa, enjoying the Australian landscape and bright skies. I was wearing SPF30 as always, but unfortunately I was a bad sister and didn’t check if Polly put sunscreen on… so here she is, pre-sunburn.
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We stopped to walk around the cemetery, which drew us in with its cheerful signage.
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Can you spot the mini-ponies?
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I was fascinated by these “tennis-ball trees” — the fruit are the exact same size and colour as tennis balls. I looked them up — they are Osage oranges, apparently.
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By this time Polly was really burnt — I feel terrible for her!
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We had a couple of drinks whilst waiting for Bonnie to come back from work…
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…and then another drink at a different pub, with Bonnie. Because that’s what one does in Australia!
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The pub Bonnie took us to had a little museum in its cellars.
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There’s a tunnel which Ned Kelly allegedly used:
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And a useful illustrated tale of Ned Kelly (yes, Wang is Ned Kelly Country!)
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This picture was my favourite: The North Wangaratta Picnic Committee, c.1910. A highly important organisation, I’m sure.
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I’m so grateful to Bonnie and her mum for having us stay — it was well worth the 3.5-hour train journey; it’s so weird to reflect on how vast Australia is, as 3.5 hours by train could take you to another country in Europe, and we didn’t even leave Victoria.

Tasmania 1 – MONA

If you’ve read this blog much in the past you will know I don’t have much free time. I mostly am at work all day, and then when I’m not at work I’m flopping around whinging about all the studying I have to do for this stupid Masters that seems like it will never finish. James being back from Afghanistan meant I got to see him when I get home from work, complain at him about work, then sit down and study, occasionally looking up to complain about study. For this reason I made sure to get a day off work for the long Cup Weekend (a horrid horse racing holiday we all get) and we booked a trip to Tasmania. My plans were: Go to MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) and climb some mountains. We did both, with great success.

To get to MONA you take the ferry, MONA ROMA. Riding on a sheep.

First sight of MONA, all red and rusty.

I loved MONA. Sadly both the touring galleries were closed whilst we were there, but we spent a good 4 hours wandering the permanent exhibits. You are provided with an specially programmed iPod Touch upon arrival, which detects which artworks you are close to, and then you can find out all the usual details but also look into its “Art Wank” and “Art Gonzo” categories for additional insights. It also tracks everything you look at so you can save your tour, and then log in to revisit everything virtually — forever. Can you imagine always being able to revisit every museum you’ve ever been to, and having access to photos and information about the things you saw, so you could always research them further, or show them to people? I feel it’s such a thoughtful addition to the museum experience.

My tour – not that it’s as exciting for you guys, given it’s just a screencap.

From the moment you start the tour, down in the basement, the building itself is just so incredibly powerful. I think I took more pictures of the walls carved directly out of the cliff, than of any other feature. All the more impressive in a museum environment where temperature and relative humidity have to be carefully controlled.

I didn’t take many pictures of the artworks inside, but I did love this one, called Kryptos. It’s a small, low-lit concrete maze, with binary strewn on the walls, representing an encoding of a translation of the very old Mesopotamian text, ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’ (yep, stole that from my virtual tour!). It is very atmospheric and slightly spooky.

In the central chamber I went to take a photo of James, and then out of the corner of my eye saw a sinister figure lunging at me from the ceiling and almost had a heart attack. Mirrors.

The only other two that I felt the urge to photograph were ones that I felt a strong link to. This one is a Buddha formed from 8 tons of incense ashes collected from Buddhist temples. The ashes were formed in this aluminium mould:

and then the resulting statue has been gently disintegrating ever since.

The Chinese artist, Zhang Huan, apparently has a gigantic warehouse and many staff whose responsibility it is to sift through all the incense ash they can get, and ship the stuff out around the world to art galleries willing to pay for their own ash Buddhas. I BELIEVE IN CHINESE ART.

The other one I really liked enough to take a photo reminds me of The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke by Richard Dadd. This creepy yet fascinating piece was assembled from “taxidermied hedgehog, wasp nest, rat and hedgehog bones, dried toads, eggshell, crab shell, insects, plant roots”. You obviously can’t see from my photo, but there are tiny fairies made from what appears to be flies legs to me (but I am informed are minute twigs) riding bumble bees and attacking what appears to be everything in sight. It’s called The Fairy Horde and the Hedgehog Host, and my photo is just terrible.

Outside the museum it was glorious and sunny and perfect weather to appreciate the Gothic Chapel.

Inside, the stained glass windows are x-rays of human bodies.

Then we went down to the pier to wait for the ferry and gawp at the landscape. Warning: this is the first of many panoramic views to come. You should be able to click it for a bigger pic.

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October things

The beginning of October was all uni. I am just finishing up my Analytical Chemistry subject, in fact this series of blog posts is the result of procrastination against my assignments. The object I’ve been researching is a bronze dagger from Palestine, from the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1500 BCE) and I used to love it, but now I hate its stupid face because I have to write so much about it.

Just kidding. I couldn’t hate this thing if I tried!

I don’t often share the pictures I take in class these days as they would be quite boring to just about anyone and are more for functional than entertainment purposes, but I do like this little series of my very first resin-embedded cross-section.

Embedded in this block of resin is a tiny fragment of a paint chip, from Melbourne’s historic Princes Bridge. The bridge was cleaned a few years ago, and our lecturers gathered up all the paint chips and use them for our practicals. We didn’t get to pour the resin ourselves, so I don’t have pictures of that.

(Sorry that my annotation is the wrong way round. I am not very smart and I only remembered I wanted to rotate the picture after I had edited it.)

Once the resin has set, you need to carefully place the block in a small vise and then saw as close as possible to the sample:

Sawed through one edge! it’s hard work.

After polishing completely smooth with sandpaper, you can now see the cross-section:

After sawing and polishing all the edges:

And then the final results underneath a compound microscope, magnified x100 (and photographed by moi, such an achievement)! Visible are all the layers of paint from decades and decades, all different colours:

Other October things — all entirely unrelated to each other:

Possum in my tree!

I went to an exhibition about Japanese earthquakes and I found this so poignant. Sisters are special.

My friends from way-back-when (“when” being Taiwan 2006!) Mélodie and Duncan paid a surprise visit, as is testified by this incredibly blurry photo — the only one we took, unfortunately. Oh well! it was fantastic to catch up with such lovely friends, and I hope they come back to Melbourne soon.

We moved all the furniture around in my house and now the sun hits my bookshelves as it sets. This makes me grin.

My manager had her baby and my ovaries kicked into overdrive:


Polly in Aus

As I mentioned in the previous post my sister Polly came to stay with me for two months. We were both a little apprehensive about such a long stay but in fact I loved having her here with me — loved it even more than when she came to visit in Sri Lanka in 2012. I miss her and I am quietly hoping she will come back soon. I went through some pictures of us and the various fun things we got up to and decided I wanted to pop these on here for my family to see and so I can come back and reminisce whenever I want! Some of these are just random and some have proper activities attached…

When James was here for his surprise visit, he kindly drove us out to Healesville Sanctuary so Polly could get up close with native animals.

Polly and James watching koalas

One of our favourite sights: Kangaroos chillin’ like a villain

James and Polly make such a great comedy duo

Polly and I paid extra for a Magical Moment where you can pet a Real Australian Animal (originally with a tree kangaroo but it wouldn’t come down to play, so we got an echidna instead)

I always seem to be trying to escape in pictures of me + animals… don’t know why?

Wombats are my favourite animal and I thought these big sleeping fatties in glass boxes might be my only sighting of them…

but luckily later in the day we stumbled across the same zookeeper who was carrying a teenage wombat around for petting! Yes, she looks deranged in this picture. I chose it cos I am jealous of her job.

So much cute!

This is a not terribly interesting picture of a goanna. The reason why I include it is so I can share this fact: Early colonists of Australia named it “a goanna” as a contraction of “iguana” (totally unrelated species of course). Aaah Aussies.

Actually James took a much better one of me and Polly getting friendly with a goanna.

This is not really Polly-related, but that evening I went down to the beach with James. Couple selfie! You know I can’t resist ’em!

Continuing the trend, we follow with some more completely unrelated pictures (except they do feature Polly:

Swimming sisters!

Visiting the Immigration Museum

Pictures of Polly drinking a beverage with a straw!

I miss going for walks together. Along the river in Collingwood…

…and of course along the beach at St Kilda

We went to Melbourne Museum a couple of times — once for a night-time event at the Smartbar (which I have attended previously and LOVED) and once just for casual funtimes because I wanted to show Polly the Melbourne Story exhibits.

This particular Smartbar event wasn’t quite as thrilling in terms of lectures — the interesting ones had mostly been cancelled sadly — but we still drank lots of wine and had fun being in the museum at night with no children around: my personal idea of heaven. Random snaps from the night:
Polly being hypnotised by some creepy stick insects

Rosie smirking with a lion (and purple wine-stained teeth)

We watched this fantastic 3D 360o screen thing about the formation of rocks. Very stylish 3D glasses.

We gawked at all the incredible minerals and Polly found this finger-shaped one that made us giggle like drunken idiots

When we went back in the cold light of day we also made the acquaintance of some cute frogs — you would be forgiven for thinking that Melbourne Museum is a zoo.

More silly posing in front of Australiana:

Close-up of that tapestry

Polly is very moved

We went to Bikram yoga a few times and Polly rocked it there. One Friday night however we dragged ourselves out to class and it was canceled, so we went for Ethiopian food. When I suggested Ethiopian (I’d been craving injera), Polly made a face and said she didn’t fancy being bright purple all night. I was confused, wondering if she was referring to food stains… then realised that in France, Ethiopian food is made by and for Ethiopians and is super spicy. I quickly reassured her that in Whitesville, Whiteland Australia, Ethiopian food is prepared according to whimpy white people tastes. We stuffed ourselves accordingly (and the photos are terrible but the anecdote makes me smile so I keep them anyway!).

One of the things I did whilst Polly was here was get some second-hand frames and put up some art on my walls. She was very helpful and I need her to come back and help me pick out the right ones!

Embroidery by me + an old Christmas card from Graham

I love the lime green frame with this pointillist painting which has plenty of chartreuse and magenta to match.

We must save Taiwan! Thanks China! I got these in Beijing a few years ago.

Speaking of art, I also unearthed this majestic pictures from when I was posing for some artists in Taiwan, back in the day… (the day being 2006!)

Graham took Polly and me to Lysterfield Lake for a hike as I really wanted Poll to see some kangaroos in the wild — it’s such a special experience (for me anyway!) We didn’t see any for ages, and I was starting to worry we wouldn’t, but then one popped up from the undergrowth and we saw heaps of them after that.
Kangaroo numero uno

Polly gets in close! You can’t see them but they ARE in the picture.

Rambling hikers


We came home that night to yet another fantastic Melbourne sunset. I love Melbourne skies.

I had been taunting Polly with mysterious mentions of how we must go see the Polly Woodside, without ever letting her know what it was. Eventually we made it there…

It’s a ship! (in case the writing above wasn’t clue enough)

Polly posed with the ship and then swiftly redirected us to the nearby bar, to pose with cocktails.

I think she looks so much like Mummy here! (don’t look at me, I look creepy as usual)

It was a really gorgeous way to spend the end of the afternoon.

But we couldn’t linger too long as we had places to be:

Alan Davies!

Too soon the two months came to an end… My boss took us out for a farewell dinner, where the food was unremarkable but Polly was introduced to the pleasures of the Fishbowl Margarita. She managed to drink most of it by herself, despite the waitress’ suggestion that I share with her (no thanks! I want my own drink!)

Polly and I had our own last supper together — I took my baby girl out for Japanese and it was very very delicious. The dessert was so good – green tea ice cream and sesame ice cream.

As we were walking home for her to pack, I said to Polly, “Do you want to get a bottle of —“ and hadn’t finished my sentence before she made a sharp turn into the bottle shop, immediately saying “Yes!” We chose it based on my time-honoured method of selecting one with a good label.

And so it all ended. Polly! do you miss Melbourne yet? Come back!!

May travels

Warning. This is a super-long post — I didn’t dare stop in case I never started again. It also probably will need some proof-reading which I will do AFTER publishing for the same reasons. It starts out wordy then gets more picture-based as I stopped being a lazy mclazypants and dug up new pictures instead of recycling Facebook ones.

I have not updated for six months. This is because my trip with James to Nepal and Bhutan happened and there were SO MANY PICTURES (a month in the Himalayas will do that to you). And then straight after I got back to Melbourne, my baby sister came to stay (so busy, lots of pictures!) for two months. And James turned up in the middle of the night for a surprise 10-day visit from Afghanistan. And then my friend Susan dropped by for a few days, and my Supermate Cici came to stay for a couple of weeks. And then my first uni course started up. And then I had a surprise last-minute holiday with James in South Korea. And then uni started up a second time. And now it’s nearly June and the only reason I’m making time to write a blog post is because I have only completed 4 of my 16 chemistry assignments and I OBVIOUSLY need to procrastinate.

So I thought I would come and post some pictures of our time in Jeju Island, but then I realised that means crawling through the hundreds of pictures James and I took between us (well mostly him, to be honest), and then uploading them. If I wait, I’ll never write anything! So I am going to cheat by just using the ones I already put on Facebook (for my non-FB readers) EDIT: THIS WORKED. I ENDED UP ADDING MORE PICTURES.

My red-eye flight to Seoul took well over 24 hours. I had a stopover in Hong Kong so I went into Central for breakfast with Cici which was lovely, I had forgotten how much I love HK and was really glad I had scheduled another 12-hour stopover on my way back. My plans to move to Hong Kong a couple of years ago are not completely forgotten, although I don’t know quite how that would happen!

Then after several delays I was finally reunited with James — seeing each other three times in 5 months, we are spoilt! We had rented a little apartment in Seoul, although we barely got to spend 10 hours there due to my flight being so late.

Together at last!
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Lotteria fast food, pocket cheese, and plum wine: the trashiest, tastiest Korean late night snack.
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The next day was James’ birthday and we had what would be the first of many Korean pizzas for a celebratory lunch before dashing to the airport. I have never missed a flight in my life, due to an obsession with being early wherever I go, but lunchtime birthday beers helped me relax so well that we only made it to check-in 10 minutes before the flight. We rushed through security, only for them to spot a little knife I gave James last year, and which I was very anxious for us not to lose. I whispered to him we should miss our flight rather than give up the knife, but fortunately they allowed us to get it back once we landed. Very accommodating, the Koreans!

And where were we headed? Jeju Island! It’s normally a highly popular tourist destination, but with canny planning we managed to avoid crowds all but the last day. We rented a tiny KIA and drove from Jeju down to Segwipo (the Other Town on the island).

We have a tradition of travelling in shitty cars.
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On the first day we just lazed around in our rental house whilst I recovered from all the travelling. The floors were heated and the weather wasn’t very nice which made it tempting to stay put, and I was supposed to be doing homework but mostly just napped. Then in the evening James coaxed me out of the house for dinner, and casually suggested we check out one of the waterfalls for which the island is so famous. It was late at night and raining, but he reassured me this meant there would be no other tourists at Cheonjiyeon.

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Why yes, we did get a bit wet. No other tourists though.

We went back to some other waterfalls the next day, when it was nice and sunny. There were some other people around, but we escaped by clambering over the boulders where no Mainland Chinese Tourist has ever been. I was wearing my hiking boots and this allowed me to feel nice and smug and strong as I scrambled about, compared to everyone else in flip-flops back at the waterfall.
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Jeongbang waterfall is the ONLY waterfall in Asia to fall into the ocean. The more you know.
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Exploring is how we discovered a cave, with a secret Buddha.
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I did some posing at the entrance of the cave.
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Obligatory (and rather inflexible) dancer’s pose (I explained to James this is what all yoga-practicing show-off traveller girls do so he obligingly took about 50 shots of it).
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Signs along the path warned us that Cheonjeyeon waterfall is apparently invisible most of the time, but the crazy rains we got soaked in the night before meant it was out in full force. Lucky us! (Psst. Check out those awesome boots)
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We found a cave and in the cave we (meaning James, because I was too chicken to follow him down the tunnel) found pickles… I guess they must be super-spiritual pickles.
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Then we packed up and drove to a traditional guest house, Kasan Tobang, the other side of Segwipo. It was INCREDIBLE. Because I am too lazy to go find my external drive with all the photos, here are some I “found” on the internets.

This is our room, which seems almost sparse in its simplicity, but was very delicately decorated, with visible wooden timbers and the plaster walls covered in handmade white paper. I wasn’t too sure about the thin mattress padding but James assured me I would be fine. I was fine… but I still requested an extra mattress the second night, because I am a wuss. I’m apparently too lazy to even find a photo without someone’s backpack. Let’s say it’s there for scale.
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Our room was in this hobbit-like corridor, with tiny little doors, just like in the Shire.
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The entire guesthouse was in the same style of yellow ochre clay, visible stone and timber, and gorgeous traditional paper everywhere.
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It somehow just avoided being twee, by being very calm and comfortable and sort of… authentic-feeling. Some reviewers on TripAdvisor were distressed about the communal bathroom, which I admit I wasn’t too keen on when we made the booking, but in fact I LOVED the bathroom. It was much more like a spa, with lots of polished wood, warm stone floors, steam-filled shower-rooms, and a general Orientalist touch of decadence.

Whilst we were staying at Kasan Tobang we decided to go climb Hallasan aka the highest mountain in South Korea (which is only 1950m, the North Koreans get all the crazy mountains I guess). Our original attempt was flummoxed when we started on the wrong trail a mile up the road.

This is me prancing around showing off. I laugh now, thinking how different things would have been, if I had been on the right trail… you may well laugh too, once you read about the actual hike.
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Once we realised our mistake, we hunted down the correct trail, where the man at the gate told us 11am was too late in the day to start the 8.7km ascent — he swore it would take at least 10 hours return, and could not allow us to proceed. We pouted a little then took off to the famous lava tubes, which were quite impressive. The one we visited allows you to walk along the corridor carved by lava flows for a full kilometre underground, and is fun in that they haven’t sanitised it by putting in lots of safe walkways and “tasteful” lighting like they do in France. Obviously in the absence of light, photos are not that easy to take. James took some great ones actually but again… they are on another hard-drive.

Just pretend like this photo actually shows something…
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I once again felt smug in my hiking boots. I had insisted we buy me some warm leggings on the way to the tubes (as I was wearing that tiny running skirt, not really suitable for spelunking), but as we walked towards the tubes I saw lots of women in mini dresses and flip-flops emerging and thought maybe I was over-dressed. Nope! more smug for Rosie! it was COLD and WET down there. I saw one girl with blinged-out white platform wedge trainers hobbling along and felt all kinds of self-satisfied.

So much smug…
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Once back out in the sun, we decided to go hike an Olle trail, which are a network of paths around the island. The closest one left from a beach, and I was not prepared for how breath-taking the white sand, black rocks and bright blue-green water would be!
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Couple Selfie! I make James do these all the time, mainly because we see each other so rarely I need a way to remember how we look together.
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More scrambling over lava flows. It was hot and sunny and so quiet, apart from the sound of little crustaceans attending to their duties among the rocks, which make a clicking, cracking sound, making it feel quite exciting as if the hot lava was still cooling. Again, much hiking boot smug.
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Growing on the lava was bindweed, which is my sister’s special flower…
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What next? I think we probably drove home and ate something with kimchi. I don’t mention the kimchi much, but we did eat plenty of Korean food, I just never found it terribly exciting. We had several local black pork barbecue dinners — the speciality being that the pork does not taste like pork. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? of course, it was very tasty. But you know. Pork belly without pork belly taste is kind of… sad?

I’ve just realised I didn’t even mention the women divers — kick-ass elderly ladies who go diving every day for abalone and what appeared to be kelp to my untrained eyes. Go read about the Hanyeo here. They are incredible — and who doesn’t love a matriarchal society? I don’t have any good pictures cos I am incredibly awkward about taking tourist photos of people.

Anyway the NEXT day, we woke up at 5am, determined not to be refused our Hallasan experience. It was raining. And grey. And windy (Jeju is famous for its insane winds). I did some research (aka reading someone’s blog describing their hike up the mountain in the rain) and decided we’d be fine. James had already warned me it was really not a high mountain at all.

I should probably have had a full post dedicate just to that hike. It went on forever. It got wetter and windier and colder and steeper as we climbed, and because we didn’t think it would be that huge of a deal and erroneously believed there was food at a shelter before the peak, we didn’t eat breakfast OR pack any food. I was starving about 10 minutes in, and when we reached the shelter, my ramen fantasies were shattered. We were 3 hours in on an 8-hour-long hike, and the rain was thrashing all around us, and there was no food. I am not kidding — I found the wrapper of a chocolate-nut bar I’d eaten the day before and licked the insides of it, whimpering as James urged me to drink more water to stave off hunger pangs. Of course he is used to going without food, what with the whole Afghanistan thing, so he wasn’t too worried.

In fact, the entire memory gave me the strength to get up and fetch my harddrive and hunt down some pictures. If I can climb that freaking mountain… I can do this.

Started out alright…
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This is me speeding up ahead to dash to the shelter where I imagined ramen and hot water awaited me.
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This is not what I was expecting.
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All I found was fire-fighting equipment, which seemed extra cruel given the weather.
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“What weather?” you may be thinking, “doesn’t look too bad to me?” That’s because even driving rain does not show up in the photos.
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And admittedly, the weather there can be worse. For example this used to be a shelter, a proper building, of stone and cement and wood and everything, until 2007 when a storm hit it. Now it’s just a memorial.
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For a while it was still somewhat scenic in places…
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But then it just got… silly. That’s a mountain range behind me.
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Silly and very wet. The path was basically turning into a mountain stream. We took no photos on the way down due to James’ iPhone shutting down from cold and wet, and me not being at all in the mood for photos, but it was not far off a river at that point.
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The path ahead:
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The path behind:
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I can’t remember much about the bit before, during, and immediately after the peak. It was mostly just a lot of this:
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The wind and rain were lashing at our ridiculous blue rain-condoms and my feet and legs were aching (yes, even with the special boots…). The rain had seeped in through my socks, and I was so hungry and still only halfway done. I only know I got through it because James held my hand instead of running off ahead as is his normal process (actually he was very good on this hike, a potent mix of hunger and pity for me?).

Proof we made it to the top:
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I hear it’s extremely picturesque.
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[I’m already so tired writing this marathon of a post. It feels like climbing that damn mountain all over again — too far in to stop…].

Climbing back down took almost as long as going back up. I did not feel very shiny and I could not believe how far there still was to go, every time we reached a marker I would shriek in despair. My previously amazing hiking boots were like small cauldrons of warm soup attached to my feet. Anyway, I’ll abbreviate the account of my sufferings and skip to the end: We devoured chocolate and cheese in the car and headed home (there was a big, underwhelming but protein-heavy meal of course, but not worth discussing).

The next morning we had planned to do climb up Sangumburi Crater and watch the sunrise. My calf-muscles seized up completely after Hallasan and I couldn’t even stand up unassisted, let alone walk, so the sensible thing to do was to forget about it.

(I’m hoping these are a reasonable size as they are from James’ real camera and I had to resize them in Photoshop… so much effort)
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Do I look like I’m in pain?
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Worth it.
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As you can see, we aren’t quite that sensible, so instead we speed-walked up and down again in 37 minutes flat before dashing to the airport and flying back to Seoul. I must have been half-delirious from the previous day, but I did it. I’m not sure if it made things even worse, or if the DOMS hadn’t yet kicked in properly, but once we were in Seoul my handicap bordered on humiliating.

At this point I am debating just stopping here because I’m tired of writing. But I have to finish! So in quick summary, we stayed in another traditional guesthouse in Seoul, it was very beautiful.

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Our little appartment/house
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Me limping off somewhere, either a dentist or the museum.
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Then my last wisdom tooth (remember the penultimate one?) started giving me hell so we went to a dentist. We did get to visit the National Museum of Korea first, and I saw some very exciting ceramics — archaeological ones and gorgeous porcelains. Ceramics make me happy. Especially celadons. Especially celadons repaired with gold!
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Oh also there was some bear beer, apparently.
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And we say the Grand Budapest Hotel — the poster looks so pretty in Korean.
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And on our last night the host lit the underfloor fires…
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So we hung out in the dry sauna for an hour — which possibly helped my legs? But was just very relaxing and smelt amazing. Bikram yoga has made me very resilient to heat so we just lay on the floor sweating for ages, before eventually going to pack.

Ok, I think that’s pretty much all the interesting stuff we did in Korea – I was going to talk about the numerous pizzas we sampled but in hindsight it’s not THAT compelling.

A full 10 days later and my legs have recovered from Hallasan, you’ll be glad to hear. Cici and I got fantastic massages during my stopover in Hong Kong and I was able to return to daily Barre classes (my current exercise obsession) the day after I got back to Australia… no permanent damage done.*

The end!

*Except for the hiking boots. They still haven’t recovered from being soaked and staying wrapped up in plastic for 3 days. I am worried they may never be the same.