Backpackers of Oz

 

It really looks like Australia’s East Coast attracts backpackers from all over the world. When I started my trip in Cairns, up north, I even got the feeling I was suddenly in a special town where a special meeting was about to take place – Like Woodstock 2014, with different purposes.
Moving forward, I realized how different every one of us was, most of us coming here with a purpose, all of us with an interesting story to tell.

Camping cars

The travellers I didn’t meet are the one who travel by motorhome. Small camper vans where three or four people sleep one on the top of the other – at least that was my impression. In general, they would be surfers, going from one spot to another, living for their passion. The others would just smoke water pipes watching the sunset, or the sunrise, or whatever, it doesn’t matter much.

Anglaise à Byron BayA majority of backpackers are in their twenties, coming from Europe – Mainly Germans, some Brits, some Swedish, a couple of others. They come with a “working holiday” permit. They work to get enough money to enjoy vacations in the country afterwards. In general, they would be waiters in Sydney, carpenters in small towns, fruits pickers in the countryside… They spend the money and they work again. From a few months to an entire year for some of them. Most of them are students, living at their parents, but some aren’t.
For example, this lovely British girl is a hairdresser in Cambridge. A bit bored she came here to face a brighter future, and probably make money…

françaiseAlexia is French, we’ve spent time in the same guesthouses from Townsville to Byron Bay, meaning almost the entire East part of my trip. She had been fired from her job and thought it could help her to speak better English to find a new position. At the Airlie Beach guesthouse, I met another French woman in her fifties, also unemployed; also thinking it would help her to be better at English. She had left behind her husband and son for a six months experience in Australia and New Zealand. An other time, on Magnetic Island, I met a couple of young French students, graduating from their management school, also being here to improve their English.

Italien à Airlie BeachMetello. He reached Australia by boat, all the way from Italia, passing by Russia, China, Indonesia… He left nine months ago after his brother sold the company he was working at. Though, he is considering coming back, for his mother… By boat still…

Aren’t they amazing ???

Paul is a legend

With his neat Clark Gabble mustache, you could say Paul is a well-behaved British, who could be teaching at Cambridge. May be… May be not: Paul is an American Indiana Jones who could inspire far more than a trilogy.

Paul was born in Arizona in the fifties. His parents were teenagers, his father looking like James Dean, his mother like Marilyn Monroe. Though, his fate wasn’t to become a Salinger’s character, catching in the rye. When he was ten or so, his father decided to move the family to Guatemala, where he thought they would have a more organic life, so to speak. By the time they reach this exotic location with their 1936 Chevrolet, a civil war pops up! They drive back to the US. A couple of stopovers later, the family ends up in Sacramento, California…

Sacramento

 

A regular childhood unfolds. He takes care of is little sister. Everyone grows up.
End of the sixties. Instead of experiencing the hippie summer of love, Paul enlists in the Coast Guards and will spend the next two years in exile, on the East Coast.
In 1968, he leaves this hole with two buddies with a Volkswagen Combi. Direction: Daytona Beach, Florida, to attend the famous motorcycle show. The Combi will end up in the sea. Other Combi, other buddies, direction Backersfield, California, because one of the hitchhikers he grabbed on the way needs to pick cotton there.

Paul combi VW

 

The crazy seventies can start! For ten years or so, Paul is gonna be a racer. A dirt bike racer! He runs with is father, who is also a professional racer.

Paul racer

 

Early eighties. Paul works an import-export business. He gets assigned to the Philippines, a country he barely knows where to find on a world map. Anyway. He gets the job done. Miss Cebu lives around. According to many (and still alive) witnesses, Miss Cebu is the most beautiful woman you’d ever meet. To seduce her, Paul will pass by her balcony every single morning of the year, with his fancy Harley Davidson… Twenty-nine years later, they are still married. They ran a successful business, raised twins, and lived happily ever after.

But a fairy tale ending does not implies the prince is gonna run a dull life from now on. Nope nope nope.

Over the years, always looking for good business opportunities, Paul has been transporting chairs produced in unreachable villages with pitching bangkas, has been sourcing gems in Afghanistan, has been searching for petrified wood in deep China, has been painting human skulls turned into art pieces, and other crazy ideas that made his family wealthy.

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For fun though, he’d rather ride in the Mexico desert or in the Australia outback. He’d fish in the Fijis, where he gets so many fishing prizes that he is now featured in records books.

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Today, Paul picked up the twins at school. He brought Alice the purple folder he found in the entrance hall, thinking that she could need it for her music class. And later today, he’ll have a thorough talk with Paulie about fishing.

He taught me how to ride a jet ski, did show me how to find fossils, and offered me a skull as a memory of my journey in Cebu. Paul is definitely my hero.

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La vie en rose with Chef Renel

“I want people to see cuisine differently”, told me Chef Renel, a young cook you learnt alongside Alain Ducasse, in France. “Here, at the beginning, people looked at me as if I was a weirdo when I put vegetable in the soups. That far, soup was only powder you were boiling with water”.

Apparently, Knorr, Maggi, and the other major food industry brands have quite damaged local cuisine customs, and Renel wants to bring his restaurant to the next level. “Alain Ducasse was always telling us that the important is terroir, terroir, terroir. I have that in mind. I want Filipinos to rediscover their cooking roots”.

chef Renel

Renel Dimacali  is a Chief at Ocean suite, a boutique hotel of Bohol located in Tagbilaran City. Next to a fabulous overflowing swimming pool, stands the Blood Compact site commemorating the friendship between the Philippines and Spain, when Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi mixed their bloods.

René Dimacali

 

Chef Renal tries to maintain his French level by listening to songs. “I listen to classics”, he says. “The pinnacle is Edith Piaf, and I often listen to La Vie en Rose”.

Saving memories from the flows…

Last November, an exceptionally powerful tropical cyclone devastated portions of Southern Asia, and particularly the Philippines, where its is known as typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan for the rest of the world).

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Virginia was at her place on November 8, when it hit Tacloban, the capital and seat of government of the Region of Eastern Visayas (see map here). One week afterwards, she was leaving the city bringing with her the photos albums of a lifetime. For the last two months, she has spent her days trying to dry them.

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Yolanda caused massive destruction across the city. Dead bodies were scattered on the streets, trees were uprooted, every single building, every single house, were severely damaged.

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Somehow, Virginia was lucky. She had planned to renovate her house, a renovation that had just started, the first step having been to elevate the level of the house, that far stuck in a basin. Only the bedroom and bathroom had been elevated that far. Otherwise, she would have probably drown during that very night…

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Widespread looting is reported to have taken place and local government virtually collapsed, as many city officials were victims. Four jails had to be evacuated, as inmates couldn’t be fed anymore. 70 of them escaped. That’s when Virginia’s niece decided to pick up her aunt and bring her to a safer location.

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Unfortunately, the albums’ plastic sticks to the pictures, and memories are melting with gelatin. Yolanda stole her future, but also grabbed her past. Is her present a burden or a relief, I didn’t dare to ask…

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As of December 5, The death toll stands at 7,000 people in Tacloban.

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