Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Filming, Fixing Cameras and Frolicking in Freo

Our expected six day stay in Perth and Fremantle has turned into almost 3 weeks. At first I did not mind a few extra days, as I am absolutely in love with this place, but now we are ready to go. Facing three months in Antarctica is exciting, but also intimidating because I’ve never been to that part of the world. Each day I mentally prepare for life on a boat and life in some raw and wild conditions; each day we stay on the dock and an emotional rollercoaster carries me.

The boat is prepped, problems have been solved and goodies have been purchased. There are certain snacks and treats that make the long duration of the shoot more bearable. We all have our creature comforts and mine include comfy pajama pants, party mix, some good books, Tim Tams and my journal. We will put in long days and many sleepless nights, so there are things that bring some sense of normalcy to the insane ride that awaits us. Monty, the world-wandering shark, is also ready for his first journey to such cold temperatures.

Duncan and I are familiar with the boat; she was our home for two and a half months this summer. We know how she moves and what life is like in such tight quarters. We also know most of the crew, which makes the transition to 24 hours a day with 8 other people a little easier. As we bring boxes in, the unpacking and stowing process gets a bit overwhelming. It is like Jenga and each piece has to move just right in order to not cause a catastrophic crumble of camera equipment, toiletries and wool socks. Creative storage has become an art form on the boat and we use every plastic bin or cardboard box for something. Large rubber maid bins are drawers and a cloth shoe rack becomes ideal for storing a vast array of items, shoes not included. We negotiate for additional space and fill every inch we acquire.

The office space for prep was stuffed with gear for the daunting and equipment intensive shoot. Sorting, stocking, stowing and double -checking that we have everything we need. Not easy to get a part when you are in the middle of the ocean and if you could find it, the price would be astronomical. Expecting all things to go wrong we prepare and bring the appropriate back ups to make sure we can continue to shoot no matter what. The climate and salt water will continuously attempt to destroy our equipment and break our stride.

Long johns, wool socks, beanies and multiple pairs of gloves will be our daily outfits; an interesting contrast to the flip-flops and tanks tops we are wearing in the summer heat of Australia. Difficult to wrap your head around the broad temperature spectrum we are going to encounter. I am not a fan of the cold, so I have enough gear for two people, as I am determined to not let Mother Nature break me. I don’t want to miss the raw wilderness and once in a life time moments because I am being a wimp and am too cold.

As Christmas nears, there are no fir trees decorated with lights or snow covering the fields. Santa is riding around on a bicycle and golden stars shimmer on telephone poles, with melting from heat more of a concern than freezing. It is surreal and bizarre to hear Christmas songs with the sun scorching down and the beaches stuffed with bronzed bodies. Sale signs hang in store windows and the streets of Freo are busy with shoppers. Koalas are hanging from stockings or wearing Santa hats and Santa was even seen riding a crocodile. Crikey! Apparently Dick (Dick Smith) does Christmas and Santa is super skinny, probably due to riding his bike in 90-degree summer heat.

Mullets seem to be all the rage and are only outdone by the rat-tail. The Mohawk mullet can also be seen quite commonly and not because the owner of said haircut lost a bet. If you are not familiar with mullets, they are a style of haircut in which the top portion is short (business) and the back is long (party). They come in all flavors and sometimes the fairly elusive female mullet is sighted. They can be curly, spiked and come in a variety of colors, all, glorious in their own right. Tank tops, reserved for body builders and red necks in the States, are quite fashionable among most of the male population here. Singlets, the Aussie term for tank tops, can be seen on boys and men, from all walks of life. Summer is extremely hot here and I say that as someone that spends summers in the Bahamas and Florida. Maybe the singlet is more function than fashion?

Living in a hotel means eating out three meals a day, so we have become foodies during our extended stay. It is not cheap to eat in Australia, so we have explored in order to find cheaper options. The Fremantle markets have an Asian food court and it is amazing. We have avoided the stall that keeps getting visits from the health and safety department, but touch wood; all other meal endeavors have left full bellies that have remained full. I found a veggie red Thai curry that was to die for and was only $9. The average sandwich, to give you an idea, is between $18.00 to $28.00 Australian dollars. Breakfast is also not for the faint of heart when speaking about price. Brekky with a coffee will cost you at least $16.00. Dinner, well I am not going there. You can imagine. A pint of beer is on average between $7 and $9.50. Mixed cocktails are about $16, so it is comparable to a night out in South Beach, although the atmosphere is far more amazing and drinks are not served with a large side of attitude. I know, I am a bit biased, but I am absolutely and unabashedly in love with Australia. Shhh….don’t tell Duncan.

Our base camp started at the Esplanade, before moving to Duncan’s family’s house. During prep for a shoot the hotel is simply a place to take a shower before crashing into your pillow from exhaustion. The jet leg, heat and long days are enough to break even the most whole-hearted efforts. The World Sailing Championships had just launched when we arrived and our hotel was stuffed with Team UK. The hotel and city have welcomed the event with open arms and have decorated with sails and sailboats to show this consorted effort. The streets are packed and the bay is filled with white sails from early morning until dusk.

The park across from the hotel was the heart of the event with tents filled with merchandise, nightly bands and performances and even a massive Ferris wheel. Much to our dismay we missed the INXS concert. Wow, they really do love the 80’s here. Awesome! Yet another reason to move here! The energy of the city is bustling with this major event and the nearing holiday season. Such a contrast from being in Miami, as far as the energy and movement of a city goes. People smile and there is a lot of laughter as you walk down the street. People are out enjoying the weather with friends and family, filling the days with cold pints of locally brewed beer and lovely strolls along the boardwalk. Drivers are friendly and I have not received the middle finger once, nor needed to give it. I didn’t even need to honk the horn!

The summer season also means lot of fresh fruit. For those who know me, my obsession with watermelon is pretty ridiculous, so I have eaten as much as I possibly can. Strawberries, nectarines, mangos and avocados, have all been incredible. Our mass consumption of fresh produce is also largely due to the fact that very quickly into our journey it will become a luxury and then disappear all together. I feel like the pulse of Perth is one of a city that is not quite sure what it wants to be, but offers a diverse range of options. Being the most Western big city in the world, Perth sits on a unique doorstep. World class dinning and wineries make it a foodie’s paradise. Gorgeous turquoise water draws kite boarders, surfers and sunbathers, while the clean air and ample open space is ideal for athletes of all persuasions. Not a day has passed where the designated paths have not been decorated with runners and cyclists.

We’ve spent some time with Duncan’s family; Steve, Sue and Michael live in Perth and have allowed us to spend a few of our extra days as boarders at their house. It is lovely to be with family as the holidays approach and being so far from our immediate families. Welcoming us with cold beer and a proper Aussie BBQ, a glorious way to spend a summer evening. We all had a good laugh as we said “goodbye,” numerous times as our departure date kept getting pushed back. It became a running joke whether we would actually leave or not and if they should start charging rent.

We moved our lives and ourselves onto the boat and prepared for the official and actual departure. Pulling off the dock was emotional; excitement, charged energy for filming and the rush of adventure, sad to leave Freo and family behind and nerves about the impending journey. It is one of those moments that you want to shout, cry and laugh all at the same time, but instead you just move around in a weird bubble. Here we go again, on what is sure to be one of the most exciting and challenging journeys of our lives. See you on the flip side.

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