Two months down!!!!!

We called some former Fort Smith friends who now live in Australia the other day. We were getting close to the town that they had moved to almost two years ago and wanted to arrange a beer together. Sadly for us they had moved! And not just a little ways away either… They moved a few thousand km away to Darwin in the “Northern Territory” where we hadn’t really planned on going before. Upon finding this out Claudette and I poured over the maps and made a five week calendar on some paper to calculate dates and distances. Sadly it just worked out to too crazy of a schedule to get up there and back to Brisbane via Cairns by our October 26 departure date.

A FEW MORE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND OBSERVATIONS:

While Oz is half a world away, both peoples seem very similar. We are both generally quite friendly, love to share a good beer with friends, are polite, have a great, easy going nature and are put off by the common arrogance of many Americans. They seem to LOVE! camping and getting away for the weekend as much as we do. The main difference so far with this is the much more elaborate “campgrounds” (read deluxe caravan resorts) they tend to flock to here. I’ll admit though that the only area of Australia we have seen (and are going to be visiting) is up the East coast, which is rather more “touristy” than most other parts of Oz. The real kicker is that all of these campgrounds offer BBQ’s (free or coin operated) but in fact they are not a BBQ as we are used to. Instead there is a flame directed onto a large surface area square skillet with a small vent at the back end for excess heat. In effect we are frying everything, rather than cooking it over open flame. I’m not sure if this is common for people’s home BBQ’s as well, or if it is only representative of campgrounds (for fear of liability of people using open flames or some other such reason???).

Music CD’s are crazy expensive! Most all of them are $30, regardles of being a new release or Fleetwood Mac’s RUMORS. On the other hand, wine is ridiculously cheap!!! In general across the board, I would say that wine is about 2/3 the prices in Canada (after factoring in the 0.9 exchange rate even). Beer is a tiny bit more, or about the same price including the exchange. As a quick example, I bought a bottle of Wolfblass Port for about $8. We don’t even have Wolfblass Port in Fort Smith, but if we did it would certainly be way more than that! Claudette and I have tried about 7 beers so far, (including Grosch, a lightweight waste of time) but I haven’t yet struck upon the perfect replacement fot Sleeman’s Honey Brown that I miss dearly.

As far as WIFI computer security goes, Aussies seem incredibly diligent about securing their networks. Almost to an unprecedented level, most all WIFI broadcasted sites that I’ve polled have been encrypted so far. As a result we’ve had very limited ability to use the WIFI phone here.

One last thing (as would be expected by anyone who knows us) that we noticed at EVERY campground so far, is that we are unequivicably the last ones up in the morning. Now this is not by just an hour or so either… I’m talking about a few hours here! Like, many families are up and around cooking breakies at 6:00 AM, (when I groggily slink to the shared bathroom for a quick P). We started by Claudette (and sometimes Luke or Alex) waking up around 7:00 or 7:30, but in the last week we have all pretty much universally been dragging our butts out of the Van by 9:00 AM, (often in order to pack up and checkout by 10:00!).

IN OTHER NEWS:

We plan on staying in the driveway of a great couple we met camping last weekend when we go to Brisbane in a couple of days. Robert and a couple of the other guys has suggested a few beers to try, and we’ll pick up some more wine and baily’s before heading there. Leesa Maree (I think that’s how she spelled it?) is going to grab a copy of our Ecador DVD showing the coriellis effect experiment since she’s a school teacher. They have two younger kids and are all off on vacation still for another week for when they invited us to stop by on our way through.

Saturday I sang on family karaoke night at the campground we are at. Naturally Claudette wouldn’t be anywhere near where there’s public displays of people being silly & embarrassing. When she found out that Luke was going to sing, and that he had asked me to sing a song as well, she left in a flash out of there, back to our camper van. I didn’t really feel like public singing that night but since Luke asked me with such sweetness in his eyes, I of course went to have a look at the song list. Imagine my delight when I saw “I Will” by The Beatles! I thought, “Wow! Not only will I not suck too badly, but I might nail it well enough to have a chance at the $100 prize for males over the age of 16”. I already had the video camera there to record Luke’s awesome performance, and gave it to Alex to film me. Lo and behold, a great rendition of the song didn’t quite happen and I got hit over the head with a frying pan, (figuratively of course). The version he played for me to sing to was by Allison Kraus, which I had never, ever heard before. Naturally she “made the song her own” and changed the timings and inflections all over the place. (I hope your eyes are filled with tears of both pity for me, and laughter with me as I recount this traumatic and party loney (my kids and some of the crowd cheered me on feverishly at least) devastating experience… )

It really wasn’t fair that so many other (drunken) spouses were there cheering on their (drunken) “partners” of course. So anyways, I sucked, but did my best anyways, and laughed all at the same time. At the end the crowd cheered my effort, and Alex & Luke gave me BIG hugs… Incidentally, Luke won the $100 prize for all kids under 16 for his rendition of THE ARCHIES “Sugar, Sugar”. He makes me proud! Sadly we later found out that it was only a hundred bucks off the next stay at this campground and it was non-transferable. I went to reception to book to stay one extra night than our already planned three nights. Being School holidays in the two surrounding states, all sites were completely booked for the day after. We checked with the manager and since we live in Canader and are probably never coming back, she made the certificate transferable to another family. That way (I suggested to her) they might at least get $50 out of someone else on a two night stay…

Any which way, camping is definitively the way to travel here. We have met so many more people and had great conversations than is even remotely possible in a hotel. I believe the cost savings to be slightly dubious (of camper van & $50-$80/night fees versus rental car and budget hotel stays) but the social benefits are stupendous!

On a very sad note, we have thought of more events that were on the now dead DVD. I had shot a couple stills and a bit of footage of Alex and her friend Jake frolicking on the beach unawares… Also, we went on a sand dune tour and boarded down the sand hill a few times each. It was an absolute BLAST! and we had some great footage and still pictures of that. We will have to send the disk to CBL labs in Ontario and (at about $250 !!!) see if they can recover much of the data. Their website (with some cool pics NOT of us) is:


http://www.portstephens4wd.com.au/

One Response to “Two months down!!!!!”

  1. Kalsy says:

    Hi,

    I am glad to hear and see that all of you are doing well. If you are going to Queensland our friends (Brad & Anna Leslie) live in Mooloolaba and their phone number is 07 54448754. Their daughter’s names are Mikayla and Alex. Rick, Brad knows how to knock back a few beers!!!!

    Take Care,
    Kalsy