Australia – Day 08

We left Gibraltar National park and made good time heading south west. Our eventual goal was Broken Hill, a town on the edge of the outback and about as far out as you can go in New South Wales without needing to stock up on extra fuel. 

We have been playing it by ear each day so that we can take advantage of how the day presents itself. This day we decided to head towards Wurrambunga National Park, which put us about 1/3rd of the way to Broken Hill. On the way there, we realized how amazing the stars had been the night before, and started looking for an observatory. It turns out the astronomy capital of Australia was where we were already heading! We called up and booked a night with an astronomer named, no kidding, Peter Starr. 

As we arrived to town, we went up to the research telescope on the hill. It is massive. We arrived just after it closed, but the gift shop lady told us we could try. The door on the observatory wasn’t properly latched, so we went in, and took the elevator up. The visitors gallery was absolutely pitch black upon arrival, and more than a little creepy. Outside we got some photos, then headed down the hill for camp. This park had good facilities, so we made dinner, then took showers before going to Peter’s house in town. On the way there, a kangaroo jumped out of the bush and came about a foot away from committing suicide on our van. Adrenalin rush. 

Peter used to manage the large research observatory, and now runs his own at his home. He has a large computer controlled telescope observatory of his own, then leases out four remote operated observatories to people from all over the world. One of the owners, Terry, was in from the UK setting up a new camera on his and spent the the evening talking to us about his work. He observes galaxies that are colliding!

Peter’s research focuses on variable stars — stars that have variable light patterns, either from planets passing in front of them, or because they are getting hotter or brighter rapidly, or because they orbit other stars. 

We got a chance to look at Saturn, and several globular clusters, as well a dead star and some nebulas. It was incredible and we definitely geeked out for a while. 

Australia – Day 6, 7

Day 6

I left Mandie’s place around lunch time, and headed north to pick up Jason at the Gold Coast Airport. He was getting in late at 10:00pm and I really needed to hunker down and get some work done, so I got a hotel and spent the rest of the day finishing what I needed to before heading into the outback. Jason’s flight was on time, and I scooped him up from the tiny airport in the camper. We stayed up late catching up while walking the beach and around the little town.

 

Day 7

In the morning we planned our first day out over coffee and eggs. There are some great national parks along the coastal mountains, so we headed for the Gibraltar mountain range. The drive was only about 4 hours and we got in with plenty of light left. We parked the car, ate a snack and set off on a 2 hour hike to an area where three streams converge in a canyon. It was going to be used as a hydro electric plant back around 1920, but never got developed. We clambered around on boulders in the stream before heading back to make dinner and a fire. We took some time to sort out the sleeping situation, and discovered that there is plenty of room for both of us. We slept quite well.

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Australia – Day 04,05

It occurs to me that these posts are inaccurately named. I have actually been in Australia since August 9th. However, I was working the first week and have only started traveling around the country in a camper for these days. 

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Day 4

We spent the day catching up and doing some work. It was good to have a place to sit and focus in on some things that needed doing. Mandy (Hanna) and I are in the middle of purchasing some land up near Nevada City, and we are getting to the end of that process. We needed to settle up some final issues before moving forward, and we did successfully. 

Mandie (Kilotat) had a call in the afternoon and I sat out on the porch reading a book and enjoying the view. 

We took a long walk on the beach before grabbing sushi near her house. She went to a dance class, and I had a long catch up with Casey Fenton on the current project he is working on. 

Day 5

Be a tourist in Byron Bay Day! Byron Bay is a tropical paradise on the coast — and it has the highest concentration of body workers, healers and coaches (professional, career, life) in Australia. Mandie is a coach, and knows a lot of people in the industry, so naturally I had to get a massage from one of them while I was here.

We woke up, and headed to the local farmers market for some veggies and cheese, then I unicycled to the next town over for a massage with one of Mandie’s friends that she had set up for me. Mandie went to get a massage as well at a different place. She picked me up after, and we went back for some food and to change before going for a hike.

We hiked up to the lighthouse and got to see some whales off in the distance while we were looking over the bluffs. The trail back down was through the jungle, and was very fun. Afterwords we headed to a tea tree lake to scope it out since she had never been. The lake is rimmed with Tea Trees, and the oil leaks out into the water making it a dark brown. It supposedly has medicinal qualities, but we didn’t go swimming.

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To round off the day, we went to the next shire over and took a soak in the hot tubs and plunge baths of Kiva spa. Quite an end to the day. We stopped of at the local fish market, then Mandie cooked us salmon and sweet potato chips and we called it an early night.

Australia – Day 03

Day 03

I woke up to my dad face timing me, forgetting about the time difference. It was 7:30am, so not too bad. The sun was coming up over the estuary, and I decided to stay awake and start breakfast. My go-to has been instant coffee, cereal and a banana. It keeps me going for long enough that I can make it to lunch. I packed up and left without seeing anyone else up and about yet.

Today was a power driving day, as I wanted to make it to Mandie’s before it got too late. The clouds rolled in, and it started raining heavily so not a great day for sightseeing anyway. I put a podcast on and drove north.

The pacific highway followed a river valley through hours of sugar cane fields. Mandie has told me that soon they will harvest it and burn the rest of the fields. That will be quite a sight to see.

I met up with her at about 1:30pm and we went into “Bruns” (New Brunswick Heads)for a late lunch of Mint, Pea & Halloumi Cheese fritters with bacon and chili jam. It was delicious. After a quick walk around town — it is one square block, we headed back for a lazy afternoon and evening of Orange is the new Black, catching up conversation and take out thai food. We ended up talking late, and then I parked the van right outside in her driveway to make a little guest house.

Her home overlooks a valley, and is full of parrots. Sounds embedded below.

Australia – Day 02

Day Two

I was in no rush to leave Mungo National Park, and ended up hanging out long enough for the rangers to come by and collect the park fee. $14 AUD wasn’t a bad price to pay, but if I had been 15 min quicker, I would have gotten it for free.

The main highway has clearly marked “Tourist Routes”, and I continue to take them. They have better views, go through small towns, and are generally more interesting. One of them led me to The Grandis, the tallest tree in New South Wales. A massive Eucalyptus tree deep in the woods down a dirt road. It is over 400 years old.

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I saw a sign for the “Billabong Koala Zoo – Pet a Koala” and could not resist. I was the only guy in there without kids, but it was amazing. They had Koalas, which I got to pet, and: Kangaroos, birds of all kinds, emus, crocs, snakes, lizards, red pandas and more. I learned a lot about Australian wildlife, including the name of the bird that stole my cheese. The Laughing Kookaburra.

After the park I hopped over to Port Macquarie for lunch on the beach, and rode the unicycle around the ocean walk. People are always very surprised to see it.

The afternoon found me making my way to Gumma Reserve State park. It is a campground on a tidal estuary system, and very tranquil. At $10 a night, people have set up long term camps here (you can stay for a month at a time) and are friendly with each other.

I ended up sitting around a fire with two retired couples both on long journeys. One couple was from Tasmania, the other Victoria. Tasmania has the same reputation as the deep south in the states. (Inbred, backwater, behind the times)

On of the guys had caught a sting ray that day, and he fried it up in a cast iron skillet over the fire. We enjoyed it with roasted veggies for dinner. It was tasty, but not the best thing I have ever had, and full of little bones.

Australians are not Politically Correct, and it was fun listening to a group of 65-70 years olds running their mouths, trash talking and being crass. One of the ladies was in the middle of reading “50 Shades of Grey” and obsessed would be putting it mildly. I think there should be an age restriction on that series.

I am now off north to meet up with Mandie Kilotat near Byron Bay and will stay there for a few nights. Jason will be flying in to an airport near there and I will pick him up.

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Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, cheese, wine & a book next to a tidal estuary. Perfect.

 

 

Australia – Day 01

First night in the camper in Australia!

Left Sydney around noon/1:00 and drove a few hours north, taking the scenic “tourist routes” and just enjoying the first time being alone in almost a week. I stopped and did some food shopping and got gas before leaving the main roads and heading down a small coastal road to this small national park.

I am on a narrow 200 meter wide strip of land between the ocean and a lake. I can hear the bass notes of the waves off in the distance but haven’t hiked through the woods to get there yet. I will in the morning.

I found this place simply by looking on wikicamp (an excellent wiki camping app here in AU) for camps in interesting geographical areas. I knew nothing about it other than it was probably interesting because of the lake/ocean juxtaposition. So far so good, there are only four of us here and we are pretty spread out.

A lady and her husband are in an old camper, and I said hello. The woman, Joe, came over to invite me to use their fire and as we were talking, a bird blasted across the table and stole cheese from me WHILE I WAS CUTTING IT. Those things are bold. I recorded their sound and will put it online.

Bay Area Water Bubble

We really are in a horrible drought. As Mandy and I look for land, this becomes more and more apparent. Lakes are low, boats are on the ground, and rivers are only trickles.

In the Bay Area, we don’t notice it as much because our water supply is still flowing, and many landlords pay for water.

Towns in California are running out of water, as this video shows with great emotion.

 

Interview Candidates

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For a while now I have been doing interviews of business leaders in my network. The longevity and popularity of these articles has surprised me, and one of them even helped the subject get considered for Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.

I am currently looking for more people to interview. If you know someone you think would be a good candidate, please get in touch. I generally think the best candidates are small business leaders who are doing an excellent job of growing their organization, but are not currently getting a great deal of press.

Companies that grow by word-of-mouth are the most interesting to me, because it shows that their clients like the business enough to recommend to their peers.

Do you know someone who I should talk to? If so please send me their information by email [ben (at) benhanna (dot) com] and I’ll gladly get in touch.

Interview: Ken Hernandez of Collective Green SF

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Ken Hernandez started his catering company, Collective Green SF, two-and-a-half years ago. He now serves almost 400 people a day, and just doubled his capacity. He cooks over 100 lbs of Bacon a week!


 

Ben Hanna: If somebody asks “What is Collective Green?” What is your answer?

Ken Hernandez: We’re a holistic gourmet catering company. I define that as sustainable, healthy great food, with a twist. We had to learn how to take normal food and make it healthier, but still make it taste good.

Ben Hanna: What put you on the track of what you’re doing now?

Ken Hernandez: A lot of the pushing, to be honest, came from Jason Sanders. He’s said “I think you should do this.” and he fully supported me in what I was doing. Because, essentially I was an employee at Couchsurfing, so I was supposed to be focused on CouchSurfing but he really let me have some lee way to figure out what I was doing and restructure my arrangement. That really, really helped a lot. But, I remember doing a catering gig for someone else after being at Couchsurfing. Then, I realized that it felt really good that I could cater for two companies. I thought it was going to be a two company thing.

Ben Hanna: How many companies are you working for now?

Ken Hernandez: Right now, we have about 10 companies, but overall we’ve cooked for about, I’d say 50 companies throughout the years. Both in events and lunches. We have cooked for Anchor Brewing, Instagram, Anyperk, Apple, Beats, Camp Grounded, CrowdFlower, Couchsurfing, Heroku, Lookout, MetaMarkets, Lumnia, UpShift and others.

Ben Hanna: Where are you at right now with staffing and how do you handle that? How many people per team you’re working on?
Read the rest »

Sky Report

What will the sky look like tonight? Use this to see if it is a good time to go star gazing!

Click the image to get details on what the colors mean, and to see your own city. Blue / darker blocks are better for the Sky section.