Tuesday, January 24, 2006

49 hours in Australia

G’day mate!

P3 is now at its peak, with numerous group projects coming due at the same time. I had group meetings to settle two “Applied Corp Finance” projects for two nights in a row until 1am. I also have a presentation in Social Entrepreneurship, and a ten-page report in Venture Opportunities and Business Models due this week. Complementing these are company presentations, IT assignments, club fairs, and the other regular INSEAD activities. Ouf….

I figured the best way to get away from it all is to visit Darwin Australia, with 3 Portuguese, 1 Spanish and 1 American. I showed up to Changi airport with Leonardo about 70 minutes before our flight, only to find out that we needed visas for Australia. I assured Leo that we didn’t need any so I felt like a real a**. Fortunately, you can buy visas immediately online. Thank you technology! However, the internet connections were down in terminal one, so Leo and I literally sprinted to terminal two to sign in and buy the visas. We managed to get back to the check-in desk about 5 minutes before they closed the flight. To reward our efforts, we bought some Kilkenny’s and downed them before boarding. It was a night flight, after all, and we needed something to mellow us out. We landed around 5:30am, and had the brilliant idea of renting a minibus for the group. We jumped into our Toyota bus and drove across the outback to Litchfield National Park, making sure to stop at Batchlor, Northern Territories, to load up on Australian booze and peanuts. Our first stop was termite mounds which have remarkable architecture. We then went swimming in natural waterfalls. The second waterfall was at least 30-50 meters high, and I discovered that it was possible to swim under the fall, and literally be behind the fall. It was absolutely amazing!

We then came back toward Darwin and went to the “Jumping Crocodile Show” where they tease crocs with meat until they literally jump 6 feet out of the water to eat the beef. It was quite an intense show, and we were fortunate to see a 5 meter croc about 1 meter from the boat. No worries, mate! We kept our hands inside the boat.

After eating a very average burger, we drove back to Darwin to return the bus and check into our hotels. Leo and I were travelling student budget and staying at a backpackers place, while the consultants were staying at the high-end Novotel. The price difference was not great, but we didn’t feel the need to shed the extra dough. We then had kangaroo and croc meat at a local pub, and enjoyed some live music while drinking several local bitters, such as Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Coopers Bitter. It seems like all they drink is bitter in Darwin. After everyone else went to sleep, Leo and I went to Discovery, THE club in Darwin, to have a look at the Darwin party scene. It turned out to be the same as everywhere else, so we went home around 3am.

The next morning, we wasted precious Darwin time going to the “Hand-feed fish” exhibition, and rapidly moved on to the NT Natural history museum, which was quite interesting. After a kangaroo schnitzel on the wharf, we walked around and napped by the pool at the Novotel. We then had the most fun dinner I’ve had in while at the Buzz Café. The staff was absolutely fantastic, and their prime rib was quite delicious. At the beginning of the meal, we setup a contest to see how many “No worries” we could get out of the wait staff. “No worries” is the standard reply to thank you in Australia, so we were extremely polite with the staff. I won with 4, followed closely by 3, and everyone else had 1 or 2. The place was filled with cool stuff, such as a bar made of lava, and a fake toilet with a door that leads nowhere. Very cool also was a one-way mirror in the men's washroom which was actually the urinal. You pee on the glass looking at everyone right in front of you in the dinning room, while they cannot see more than a faint shadow if you're very close up and actually looking for it. I had the brillant idea of watching for someone to go in, walking up to the window, and pretend that I could see through and laughing my butt off. The Australian guy I did it to was rolling on the floor laughing when he came out and sat with us for a good 10-15 minutes to chat us up. I then went to the bathroom, and pretty much everyone in the restaurant walked up to the window and pretended to see through. I tried to take a picture through the glass but unfortunately, it did not come out well. Very cool touch on an already cool restaurant with great staff!

It was a good laugh, and we ended up have quite a few drinks there and finally explained the contest to the staff, who thought it was hilarious. We closed down the place having drinks with the staff.

Leo and I didn’t have a hotel room that night, because we were flying out at 5:30am, so we decided to visit “The Vic”, a pub with live music that closes at 4am. We enjoyed ourselves until 3:30am, and went straight to airport after picking up our bags and the American at the Novotel. We landed in Singapore on Monday morning around 9am, just in time to attend the 10am lectures. (In my case, I didn’t have anything until 1pm, so I went home and had a much-needed nap)

On Tuesday night, I made a presentation to other students about Micro-finance and my experience in Tanzania. I called Mr. Elias, the chairman of the trust fund in Ngaramtoni, and he said that 9 out of the 10 businesses are still operating! Incredible! I felt extremely proud to hear that, as I feel I was able to make a lasting difference in the lives of the people participating to the program. They have recently a third batch of micro-businesses, and the model I have designed with Nicola while in Tanzania seems to be working.

Life is very tough around here. Next weekend, I am going to the Philippines to dive at a world-class resort with a few friends from INSEAD. I will be visiting Manilla on Friday (skipping classes, unusual in my case) and coming back Monday night. Monday is Chinese New Year so we don’t have classes. I look forward to telling you all about my Philippine adventures.

I will post Australian pictures on the blog as soon as I get a chance.

No worries!

3 comments:

Renzo said...

Oliver,

I was sitting in class, reading your story about the restaurant, and almost burst out loud laughing myself. Great story! Wish I was there! Beautiful photos!

-- Renzo

Rogan said...

You sonofabitch. If you have any more fun without me, I'm going to fly out there and strangle you.

l'optimiste said...

Fantastic.

No, fu*** hillarious!

I think we should walk home together some time again and you can tell more about 'down under'!