Archive for the ‘2007-09 to 10, Austrailia’ Category

last bit of differences…

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

It was incredibly difficult spending our last few days in Brisbane with the Dray-ras family knowing that our full six weeks in Oz just “whooshed” by. While we all knew our continued journey would by amazing and have lots of great, new experiences, it was still troublesome building up to a goodbye (for a couple years until they come and hit our Northern climate!). Their kids spent the last two days at home with us fooling around, playing and relaxing which was very nice. Then they dove us to the airport for a last big meal together before we ran off to security just in time to board the plane to Singapore. Robert, Leesie, Riley, & Emile… we’ll miss you guys! and thanks for making our visit down under so hospitable and memorable!!!
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A few last (last for Australia that is) differences in things that struck us are noted below:

Fuel pumps – To fill up vehicles is much slower because there is and less pull distance, and not once have we seen a holding catch. Bummer for us lazy people. The flow still stops as soon as there is the slightest bit of backsplash into the nozzel though.

BBQ’s – One campground we used in the last week had a half grill / half fry plate. The open flame side was filthy though so we bought some gorgeous porterhouse steaks and a brush and received serveral weird looks from others walking by that night. The one REALLY cool thing here is that many public parks have free or low cost ($1 for 20 min) coin operated ones available for use. On one tour boat we took, they BBQ’d on a half ‘n half, but sadly only used the open flame part to warm a large pan of poached fish…

Farm fields – same as Oilberta except the trees are much closer to the road here, and roads tend to be quite a bit windy-er on the secondary highways.

Crib boards – haven’t seen one at all in Oz, never mind a fold up travel board for us as a family

Toilettes dual flush mode – We started noticing this in Latin America but it seems to be practically EVERY single toilette here in Australia. Their are typically two buttons: with with a low volume of water and that doesn’t seem to have excessive force, (for urine). This lighter stage probably uses slightly less water than our usual single flush toilettes in Canada. The other “ferocious mode” lasts about 3-4 seconds longers, seems to have much more water behind it, and has an abundance of pressure that I would expect to force even the biggest of pices of solid human waste down the tubes. If you try and do two stage flushing while sitting down, all of your cheeks are gonna be soaked! Often times you’ll need to wipe the seats of fresh water that splashed up as well. This of course goes hand in hand with:

Water Conservation: For the Alberta government Enviroment departmet (or the GNWT’s for that matter) to talk about water conservation seems completely off track and irrelevant for most of Canada. Here, it is a simple fact of life, and not something to be (even slightly) trifeled (sp?)with. They have increasing levels of severity with all kinds of associated restrictions for each. The Brisbane area has apparently been at level for for well over a year now which means they get penalized havily for any quantity used over a monthly quota. I forget what that number is (I’ll ask Claudette and update this space later) but it was not at all less than the amount that almost all homes in Taloyak used due to in-house water tank deliveries and no underground lines. It was ample for a family of four to live life and do laudry on, but certainly not enough to water lawns or gardens with, (or wash cars ect). Most people here are buying large plastic tanks to drain their gutters into to use outside.

Urinals – have all been troughs since we left Canada. I haven’t seen a single stall porcelin urinal other than passing briefly through LAX way back… The urinal troughs can get quite creative however, from creatively tiled artwork, to stainless steel beamoths that are shiny and blinding to look at (especially when there are skylights above.

Public bathrooms – are seemingly few and far between! Practically no restraunts have them (as is the law in Canada) and we frequently struggeled in small towns to find public facilities. Most often they were in the main town square park or behind the largest pub. When needing to wash up before or after a meal out, waitresses or owners were only too happy to tell us that the nearest sink was “just accross the street, down a block and a half, and then a dogleg left accross the forest over there between those two tall buildings” Rather exasperating…

Eggs – In Latin America and all throughout Australia eggs are not refrigerated. There are sold in stores on a regular shelf and people don’t seem to bother about refridgerating them at home or camping either???? I forgot to ask Leesa-Maree about this…

My Beard – must be weird chemicals in the air here, but on occasion when it grows for a few days, it seems to be bleached considerably from the usual dark brown/black to a much lighter color. Almost grey… very bizzare!

Shopping carts – all four wheels swivel, which makes it seemingly much more awkward to control. Good in tight spaces but terrible for tracking a straight line down the aisles. Even worse is watching customers come out with loaded carts and the entrance ways and parking lots have slopes. A few baby carriages I’ve noticed lately are like this as well.

The Australia Zoo – Irwin central!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

We spent all day Tuesday at the Australia Zoo, and it was SPECTACULAR! Everything was laid out well, and the animals had tonnes of room! (unlike Lucy at Edmonton’s Story Land Valley Zoo). There was (quite understandably) a very strong conservation message at all exhibits and shows, but it was well done. We hit it first thing when the gates opened at nine, and stayed right up until they closed the park at 4:30. The highlights were many of course, and everything, from the displays, to shows, to animals and even the food services were done up very well.

We got lots of pets and cuddles in all types of animals and even paid for a family picture with a super soft (and inherently cuddly) Koala Bear. Many of our zoo visit pictures are uploaded to the website picture gallery now too! We had a wonderful hot day all in all, (drinking tonnes of water naturally) and even shot some pics of the Tasmanian Devil. It was much cuter than I ever would have expected! The staff also took our camera and shot some extreme close-ups of the zoo’s tiger cubs. The croc show was stunning, never minds the snakes… AGH! There was even the most amazing picture or Terry, with her pet cougar, before meeting Steve. We’re talking amazing Farah Fawcett, big, beautiful feathered back hair here; Claudette had the drag me away from the huge wall picture… Mmmmmmm…

Dickie Beach – Last Saltwater swim in Oz

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

We managed to sneak into Brisbane Monday morning and grabbed the Chinese VISA’s without a hitch. After a bookstore stop (for Lonely Planet Asia books) we headed an hour North towards the zoo. Instead of staying inland close to the zoo, we read a brochure that described how the had free shuttle buses that pick visitors up from 6 coastal towns. Claudette and I promptly decided that staying adjacent to the ocean again was a far more interesting option. Sadly though, when we phoned to book spots on the bus, we discovered pickup times were only 10:00 with a half hour drive, whilst the zoo opened at 9:00 AM! We therefore set the alarm and drove ourselves out early to get a full day in there.

We had a wonderful last frolic Monday afternoon, after arriving at our campground early afternoon. We toyed with visiting the zoo for a few hours as well before spending the full day there Tuesday. Instead Claudette and I decided to rent a surfboard, and spend one last afternoon at the beach. The waves were more volatile here than we’d experienced at other beaches and we all took a pounding trying to stand up on that bloody thing again. The wax was poorly done on the board which didn’t give the kids as much grip as they needed. As a result they were sliding off really easily in the heavy waves. My excuse is that the board was just too darn sort for my weight and as a beginner, it was too small to support me. That coupled with the poor waxing meant that I would easily slide off even just ducking under a wave.

The kids built a few sandcastles over the afternoon, which of course were subsequently eaten by the oncoming tide. Alex and Luke still haven’t come to grips with the fact that anything they build in wet sand is gonna be toast in a few hours… Two Aussie kids (a sister & brother about 16 and 13 or so) were playing catch with jellyfish upper body parts that had washed up on the beach. Well, catch is a generous word. They were actually trying to throw the pieces 3-6m and smack each other. It was pretty funny to watch. I couldn’t get the kids to kick the soccer ball around with me much cause they were gravely concerned with building the sand walls higher and thicker to combat the ever encroaching water. Claudette however kicked it around for a bit and we had some great smacks back and forth.

Last week here…

Friday, October 19th, 2007

We are (very sadly!) winding down our Aussie visit. We left the mine after I had a great visit (and an up close tour) with the guys there and went about an hour South before camping. The next night we traveled to Cania Gorge National Park and spent a night in that beautiful spot. It was not unlike even more spectacular ones we have visited in the Rockies before, but still a nice change of scenery for a day. For Friday night we headed East, and almost made it back to the coast. On Saturday or Sunday we are going to try and meet up some friends of Claudette’s girlfriend who live in Mooloolaba, (a little ways North of Brisbane). On Monday we are going to try and sneak back to Brisbane to pick up our passports and Chinese VISA’s, (or to re-apply if there were any problems). Monday afternoon we are heading back North for an hour’s drive to hit the Spectacular “Australia Zoo” on Tuesday. Somehow on Monday we are also going to pack up a schwack of stuff to send home by mail.

The kids (via Luke of course) are making tonnes of friends wherever they go, and there is never a dog at any of our campgrround’s that goes un-pet by Alex Luke (and often me when I go to track them down to come back for bedtime!)

We’ve spent a little bit of time looking into places to stay in Thailand, but if anyone has experience with a great place, or has any other reasonable suggestions feel free to send us a note!

I highly recommend the Whitsundays!!!

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

We are having a great time. We did 2 trips with the “Cruise Whitsundays” company and I would highly recommend both. We put up some of the pictures from Saturday’s trip out to Knuckle Lagoon on the Great Barrier Reef. However you will have to wait and see the pictures from yesterday’s sailing adventures on the “Camira”.

Australia has been so much fun and relaxing, we’ve met some great people from Australia as well as a few Canadians on the cruise yesterday. I was fun comparing notes as to how much Australians are like Canadians. Personally I have felt more at home here than even when we’ve been through the US.

The family has been getting along really well, eventhough our campervan is rcrowded. Alex complains that she has to share the bed with Luke, but there hasn’t been too many fights. My only complaint would be that there has been several nights where it has been very hot in the van. Humid hot with no breeze, but the kids haven’t complained about it too much. A few times we’ve had to have cold showers before going to bed. Needless to say, I have a new appreciation for air conditioning.

We are leaving today to go visit a Rio Tinto mine near Clermont which is about 3 or 4 hours south. Hope that all is fine with you. Take care, Claudette

G.B.R. Part II

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

After the caves we drove a few hours North to Airlie Beach. We went again to the outer reef on a super fast and remarkably stable boat. At a 1770 campsite we met up with a couple who worked on that boat who had previously worked up North at a company in Airlie Beach. They both strongly suggested that we use a company called “Cruise Whittsundays” if we wanted do do a similar trip. So, in Airlie Beach we booked another Great Barrier Reef cruise and booked a wickedly fast (and beautiful) sailing cruise for the next day with the same company.

This GBR trip was very similar to the one we had taken from 1770. The main difference was the boat. While the other one was a nice twin hull that rode the rough seas reasonably well, this one had computer controlled anti-rocking mechanical devices built in which made the ride even nicer for the weak stomaches of Rick & Luke. There was also something not easily pinned down that made this cruise seemingly quite better than the previous one from 1770. There was just a stronger seemless integration of how everything ran and the general feelings of confidence and friendly professionalism conveyed. It probably also didn’t hurt that there was a little over 30 crew members for about 86 passengers! The boat usually carries around 340 people but we were lucky enough to have picked a light booking day I guess. I certainly couldn’t complain about any aspect of our tour from 1770, but… if I had to suggest one, then Cruise Whittsundays would be our strong recomendation by the entire family. Of course there was one tiny little incident with the prissy little photograpgher (Antoine I think the whiney little bitches name was), but he got over it after we chatted a bit. Like many tours these days with a situational advantage, they had a good scam of pictures going. At least they generally allow us to purchase copies of the digital pics these days, not like a few years ago when you could only get a crappy print (rarely done with dye-sublimation). Of course you have to pay $20-$30 each for printed photos before you are allowed to pay an extra $5-$10 for a digital copy. Capitalism is certainly alive and well in the tourism industry! They did get some excellent shots us of course! (Which we bought digital copies of and are currently uploading to our galery.

In addition to offering diving they also offered a non-certified “beginner” dive for those 12 and up. Luke was naturally disappointed, and then Claudette was ruled out due to the open heart surgery she had undergone over 33 years ago. Alex and I jumped at the ($120 each) opportunity. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far!!!! The guide tightly clasped each of Alex’s and my hands in hers and after a brief intro off we went! It was very controlled and we didn’t go any deeper than 6m. I used to say that diving was probably no big deal because you get to see the same stuff snorkling… Clearly I was absolutely delusional and was only fooling myself all these years! I sorta wanted to take a diving course before, but it just never worked out with timing and arrangements and stuff. Now I hafta take one as soon as I can. I was a little freaked at first just sitting on the edge of the platform breathing with my head less than one meter submerged. They gave us three or four minutes to get accustomed and during this time slight panic gave way to abject wonderment! Alex REALLY enjoyed her experience as well. (Hopefully she writes about it VERY soon!) Seeing the coral and all sorts of fish and plant organisms close up was phenominally more amazing than snorkeling unfortunately. My first words upon surfacing at the end were, “WOW! I’m gonna go broke doing this now I think!”. That trip is listed at:

http://www.cruisewhitsundays.com/gbra.aspx

On the next day (Sunday) we went on a sailing tour on a stunningly gorgeous ($4.5 million dollar) sailing boat. It was sleek, fast and very comfortable. They just went around a few of the Whitsunday Islands. We did another snorking tour on another reef which was stunning. Then we went to an amazing beach with sand that was 98% pure and actually squeeked when we walked on it. The beach was about 7km long, stunningly beautiful (along with all the Assuie & German bikini’s of course) and we smam, relaxed and frolicked for an hour or so. After heading back to the sailboat we had a magnificent BBQ meal (they had been feeding us snacks all day long previously as well of course). Then the free booze was available and Claudette heartily indulged (for both of us) on the couple hour sailing trip back to port. That tour is:

http://www.cruisewhitsundays.com/camira.aspx

The Caves

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2007

After leaving 1770 we headed North a few hors to a town called “The Caves”. Here there is privately owned land with a series of spectacular DRY caves on it. They had been running tourists through this area for well over two hundred years now, and they even had a little campground beside the reception. We got there in the late afternoon and only planned on staying one night. So the next morning we woke up planning to take the tour, then check out and head North. The “basic” one hour tour was so incredible and enjoyable that we needed more! The “intro” tour (as we now call it) is suitable for all ages, (babies in strollers to 100+ year olds) and has a couple sections of stairs, some handrails and has switchable illumination all the way along. The sights and inside views were amazing and we barely had to crouch slightly in one or two spots. During this tour our guide alluded to a slightly more complex “Adventure Tour”.

It took some convincing on the part of Luke, Alex and myself; but eventually Claudette consented to staying an extra night, and staying for a second, longer adventure cave tour in the afternoon. She went along because the guide insisted on having two other s for safety. Claudette went on the understanding that she would NOT be crawling and that she would be taking the easy way around whereever possible. It was along some of the same portions of routes as before, but there were crawl holes and thin passages to go through. The first few were pretty cool and we got a little dirty slithering around. Then the guide sent us (kids and I only) into one set that had a small entryway, and larger cavern inside with lots of short dead end passages and only one way out via a boost into a hole in the ceiling. The kids had a tremendous time excitely going too and fro, here and there looking for the way out. The guide had told me approximately where to look so I let the kids explore all of the other options first with their flashlights darting around all over the place in front of them. Eventually I gave them a little boost at the spot and jumped in myself to find the passage back to Claudette and the Guide waiting for us in the main cavern.

After that we (the three us only of course) went in to “The Whale’s Belly”, a spot where the original guides kids used to crawl into and hide scaring original tourists by making screaming sounds and crazy noises. There was a crack in the Whale’s Belly which allowed sounds to get out into the main cavern. Getting in entailed going up a fairly steep incline, which quickly went down at a similarly steep incline for a few meters. To continue on out of this spot was a very tight squeeze wiggling around through a passage called the “Nutcracker”. There was a small (large fist sized) outcrop right in the middle which affects most men’s ability to safely navigate this particular twisty, 35 degree incline passage. Luke and then Alex both bot through without too much problem. I was forwarned that all adults would have to have their arms straight out ahead of them to narrow up the shoulders to even have a hope in hell of worming through. I got lodged partway into the passage, (right at the nutcracker) and quickly determined that it would take considerable effort (and maybe about 20 minutes!!) to finish getting through the 5m or so long passage. Suddenly a thought flashed into my head that expending such effort would no longer be fun, and I wormed my way back down into the whale’s belly. Backing out from that point to the main cavern was no easy feat, but I managed to scramble up the steep slope backwards to ensure that I would land feet first into the cavern where I had begun. The guide was quite shocked that I was already out, since most people who chicken out tended to come out the wrong way (head first), and wait for help from a few others on the outside.

After that she took us to a couple spots that only the kids could do while we watched from either end. I took some spectacular photos and a bit of video using the light and the enhanced night mode at different times. One other favorite part of all of us was the cathedral. This was one cavern with stunning vaulted ceilings and a bunch of pews brought in for weekly church services. They also book weddings and all sorts of other meetings and socials in there. She told us that there was a two year waiting list of weddings and other bookings! On the first tour she asked for volunteers to sing and Luke went up to the front and gave us all a beautiful low key rendition of “Put A Little Love in Your Heart” to a round of wild applause from everyone at the end.

The caves tour was an absolute highlight for Australia and for Luke and probably Alex, almost of the entire trip so far. A website with further information is: http://www.showcaves.com/english/au/showcaves/Capricorn.html

A few more Canuck – Aussie differences

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Some odd meandering thoughts that have struck me in the last few weeks…

But first: H A P P Y 4 0 th L E E S A – M A R E E ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Welcome to the status of: OLD….

Ketchup – doesn’t really exist here. Not only is it called something different (tomatoe sauce) it is not physically like the North American “anticipation” (old Heinz commercial reference) that we North Americans are used to. It is much runnier and a little less sweet, and a tiny bit more tangy. Claudette forced us all to eat at Rotten Ronnies one day, and the only good thing about it was the (presumably) imported heinz McDonald’s labeled ketchup! It was nummy! (the only food part there that was any good at least). As an aside, Luke has a new saying besides “Rotten Ronnies” that I love. It’s sung to the tune of the current McD’s commercials: “Bah, dah, dup, bah… BLECH!”

Intenet WIFI – is way more locked up (encrypted) here in Australia than I’m used to in residential and even shiopping areas of Canada. In South America every tourist town had govt. supplied free WIFI hotspots, (usually in all the main squares and parks) fro the tourists. Not here in a civilized capitalist pig Western country, nope! There’s all kinds of hotspots but they all cost mucho dinero. Even in the South American main (non-tourist) cities I would find lots of open routers that we could use the phone on. I’ve spent a few hours walking around a few neighborhoods here looking for open connections to no avail. The only free spot I’ve found so far was at a little stip mall, near a (very yummy) bakery.

Pickup trucks – are practically non-existant! I mean really barely any at all. There are a few Toyota small sized work trucks around, and a very few little Ford’s, but of of these are actually slightly smaller than the Tacoma. The ford is just like a baby little Ford courier my Dad used to have in about 1972. As far as full size (1/2 ton, 3/4 ton or even 1 ton) pickups go there just aren’t any that we’ve seen on the roads. Conversely of course there are sport utility vehicles in massive abundance. They in fact are everywhere and I would say that over 80% have snorkles. This is so cool! Even though barely one in fifty would probably actually go in water deeper than 10cm, the fact that they can is just so exciting! If I had a snorkle vehicle at home we would be the envy of the whole town just based on cool factor. Shame we can’t even think about affording that kind of vehicle…

Toyota – vehicles are in massive abundance here and Latin America. They are just everywhere. As good as everyone know they are in Canada, people just tend to get sucked in by the hype and baloney of Fiord, GM, and Dodge I guess. The prices of toyota compared to the domestic three are starting to get much closer though, and that coupled with how incredibly well Toyota (or Mazda, or Nissan, or whatever other Aisian car company) vehicles last now certainly makes them a much more clear choice. Anyways, don’t feel bady for Toyata because they are incredibly successful in many other parts of the world it seems. Hyndi was another very common vehicle that we saw all ovver the place in Latin America that hasn’t seemed to have broken onto Aussie shores much yet.

BBQ’s – I’ve mentioned previously a few times, but there is an exception at this campground we’re at in Airlie Beach. They have the standard huge flat flame fired frying pan units, but they also have one consumer type unit with a grill that allows the flames to lick and caress your food. Good for them! I say…

The GREAT BARRIER REEF!

Friday, October 12th, 2007

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9
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We stopped at a very quaint (as a matter of fact, one could call it quintessentially “Quaint”) town called SEVENTEEN SEVENTY. It was fairly smallish, and was obviously only recently (in the last decade or so) developed. The beach was quite nice, but had very small waves. The town (Hamlet really) is named for the year that Captain Cook first hit Queensland (his second landfall in Australia). They’re VERY prowd of that fact too! Just down the road from our campsite were a couple of tours for the area. One was a Great Barrier reef day tour which we did on our second day there. The other was an amphibious vehicle tour accross the bay, down the beach, accross a couple more seawater creeks, and up to the state’s first lighthouse. These (wonderful) local people were fanatical about their local lighthouse restoration, beleive me! The tour itself was pretty cool. It was a larger, US military amphibious vehicle which held about 30 tourists in the 5 ton cargo area. We put a couple pics up at the . The lighthouse was fun, and pretty standard, but the stories of the caretakers and community around it from 200 years ago were fabulous. Alex even bought one of the “stories” books about the area to read.

One other cool part of this Amphib. tour was a stop at an otherwise impossible to reach sand dune for some sand boarding. This was great for two reasons: (1) it’s a mega tonne of fun! (2) we had lost the disc with the pictures and video from the previous sandboarding tour we had taken. This was a little bit of a smaller hill than the previous one we went on and they used wave boogie boards instead of a wood laminate board (similar to a snowboard) that the other tour used. This one would actually end up in the water normally, but since we were at low tide, we just slid accross the mud. I set the distance record for that day on my first trip at which Alex and Luke were pretty proud. Since we have to walk UP! the hill, I only planned on going once (lazy old fart, I know…) but some y little 15 year old beat me and gave a very smug look afterwards. Thus, there I was once again trudging up the sandy hill (literally three steps forward and sliding two back!) to teach the little twirp a lesson. His rides were still not as smooth as I knew I could go, (thus gaining more distance) plus he had taken at least six or seven runs to beat my one. To much wild cheering from most of my family, (and a couple other 40 year old guys who also didn’t care for the attitude of the young whipper-snapper) I had a fairly nice run and sailed past the kid’s mark. I gave him a look that let him know how upset I’d be if he beat my mark again and made me scale that defying mound of desolate sand. He didn’t appear to care and tried a couple more times in earnest, yet unsuccessfully before it was time to leave.

The next day we finally got to go out to “The Reef”. It was the Southern portion, and the company screamed us out there in an hour and a half on a dual hull, 100 seat comfortable boat. Once in their “lease” area, there was an anchored pontoon platform at which the main boat, two glass bottomed boats, and a semi submersible docked, and the snorkling and diving tours left from. It was very well organized, and our day was very full. The snorkling was similar to what we experienced in the Galapagos, (which is of course to say absolutely phenominal!) but the Great Barrier Reef is just so much more vast. And this is just the local area we were in I’m refering to. The ability to thread their/our way in and around passages of reef in the glass bottomed boats, the semi-submersible or snorkling was mind boggling and very formidable (and REALLY cool!).

The trip out there wasn’t so much fun for Luke’s and my weaker stomaches, but we were ged up. When we had a bit further North to Airlie Beach we plan on taking another similar day tour as well as visiting a Rio Tinto Coal mine in the area.

G’day!

Friday, October 12th, 2007

We are still in Australia. We leave soon (I think). Since I last wrote, we have seen some of the great barrior reef and done some caving( I think it is actually called spelunking or something like that, must have been a guy named George Spelunk :D) The great barrior reef was really cool but the part we saw was kinda disapionting. We didn’t see alot of anything or alot of bright colours. I think we all really preferred caving! It was way fun, first we did a tour were we walked around and she was telling us how these brides, lond ago would get married in the church(which I’ll tell you about in a sec) and they had to go this long long way, in knee deep guano (bat poop). and People would also go to sunday mass , what you would do is pay for it on saturday(which cost an arm and a leg!) then on sunday you would get up really early get into your best clothes and take a 3 hour horse and wagon ride, then walk in knee deep guano( which I forgot to tell you was filled with all sorts of bugs, roaches, worms and maggots, just to name a few :D) in there best clothes and get all sorts of stuff in their shoes! Then they would sit through mass which was about 3 hours with stuff moving around in thier shoes! Then they would tromp through the guano again and get even more stuff in their shoes! Afterwards there was a picnic and many people would use it as an excuse to sneek of and empty there shoes then, take the 3 hour ride back home. It was very popular aparently.
There church was so so pretty there had speakers set up so we sat in there and Luke sang, (he sang put a little love in your heart by the way)and we listened to a song and had a light show. I was very cool. Then there was some bridges and a very ziggy zaggy passage way that we had to exit out of. Our guide had to let us out in the light becaus it had rained that morning so it it was kinda slippery (there was many sighs of relief when she told us this!)
I have found the perfect sport for lots of kids! Adventure caving! Thats what we did once we finished the tour of the cave. We all liked the cave so much that is what we decideed to do. All you do is you get a guide and they tour you around the cave leading you to many spots where you do something like belly crawl into a pocket then look around and try and get out! My favorite was called the whales belly, and what we did was we got boosted into a wiggle hole then are in a big space enough for 5 adults. then you have to get another boost and you go into this spot where you crawl on your belly and get into another space big enough for 2 adult and you have to crawl out of the whales blow hole it was awesome fun! my dad had to turn around. Me and Luke made it through every single one! My dad didn’t do 2 and my mom did 1 I think. Another fun one was kids only. I was the smallest one and I was this crack in a rock only just big enough for me! you had to climb up it but there was only one hard spot which is hard to get your leg through. I manged to go up twice and down once before we had to go. Anyone under 9 would not have a single trouble!!
Bye bye!!!!!
Alex

Great New Friends and A Shorter Aussie Itinerary

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

We just spent three tremendous days in Brisbane lounging around, visiting and relaxing. Every day the kids played a variety of games from fort building, lego or treasure hunting (complete with custom maps in bottles!). Dinners were wonderful with Leesa-Maree’s spectacular seafood spread, one night of Dim Sum and the last consisting of amazingly juicy T-bones cooked over flame on a BBQ. Leesa was intreiged she said by my previous blog comments about all of the BBQ’s having flat pans that just fry everything. Even their own BBQ was a half combo pan & grill. The issue most Aussie’s consider is how to clean the dam grill afterwards. They personally took it out after every meal and scrubbed it with soap and water. I suggested the filthy(er) North American method of just burning the crap off for an extra ten minutes before the next meal, and then using the BBQ brush to rub off the crisp remaining pieces of carbon (formerly meat) from the grill. Any which way, they can now use the second half of the BBQ without tinfoil and have the juices of the meat locked in by searing. Mmmmm, Mmmmm, great! Other than just eating we of course spent every evening right up my alley of either playing 80’s music trivia games, watching 80’s music videos or just chatting about 80’s music while playing with all of their neat new computer gadgets. This was naturally coupled with a few bottles of wine or beer once the kids were setteled in.

For some crazy reason, Robert & Leesa-Maree invited us back right before we leave Brisbane to spend our last few nights with them. This is an option all four of us are very delighted to plan for! We (the four adults) all are “mostly” about the same age, have enormously compatible personalities, and have very closely alligned parenting ideals. Now we just have to figure out how to lure them to Canada for a few weeks in 2009!!! The only bad part of Brisbane was having to deal with the Chinese Consulate there to get our travel VISA’s. They were astoundingly rude, and as abslutely as unhelpful as I think they could possibly have been. I’ll save intricate details for “stories over beer” time with everyone, but it was a very unpleasant two mornings. (Yes, I had to go there twice…)

This afternoon before supper at the campground Claudette and I reveiwed our Australia itinerary with a calendar and decided to make some extensive revisions. Mainly, we are no longer going to go all the way to Cairns. We want to be able to spend a few days (read: two nights to four nights) at a place before moving on. Thus our schedule simply doesn’t allow us to travel all the way up. Instead we are going to go as far as Airlie Beach (between MacKay and Townsville). This is near the bottom of, but still close to the Great Barrier Reef. From that area we will take some snorkling tours out to the reef and some local islands which are supposed to be very nice as well. We have heard from many fellow campers over the last three weeks about the Town of “1770” and so are heading there tomorrow night for a few days. After that we’ll go to Airlie and take in their sights. On our way back down I am going to try and visit a Rio Tinto mine, and then we’ll visit some friends of Claudette’s girlfriend in Mooloolaba before going to check out “The Australia Zoo”. After seeing this new National icon, we’ll be back in Brisbane and getting ready to fly to Singapore, (while likely making more pirate maps, drinking more red wine, and listening to even more 80’s music!).

We don’t have South Asia planned out very well yet. So far we have a place booked in Singapore (almost as expensive as Sydney!) for two nights while we work on getting Laos & Vietnam VISA’s. We’re still toying with possibly visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia after hearing so many good things about it. We haven’t confirmed any dates with Grandma Vi for meeting up yet either…

Loving Australia!!!

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Well, as you can tell from reading Rick and Alex’s entries, we are just having a blast in Australia. We’ve met some great people, and had some great wine. It’s been just the best prevention for any homesickness. Luke has made friends in almost ever campground we’ve stayed in, and usually their has been a friend for Alex too (even a few boys).

I am loving some of the different words Australian use and may just have to keep using them. Especially “feral” which is used like we would use the word “bad” and the word “dear” which is used to mean expensive.

Anyway, I know this is a quick note but we are leaving Brisbane today. So we are packing up after making ourselves at home with friends we made, Robert, Leesa-Maree and their kids, Riley & Emile for the last 3 days.

Glad everyone is enjoying our blogs. Take care, Claudette

Brisbane is probably a nice place, but…

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

We’re having so much fun visiting and staying with a family here that we haven’t had time to check out the City at all. OK, that’s only a half truth I suppose. We met up with a couple a few campgrounds (and a few hundred KM) ago who graciously invited us to stay at their place when passing through Brisbane. We got here yesterday and pretty much feel like long lost friends! My trip to the Chinese embassy this morning into the city was a big bust, since they were closed for a holiday. For lunch we all went out for Dim Sum (sp?) and then computer accessories shopping, (for Robert, not us). The remainder of the evening we spent with another two neighbors, all kinds of visiting amongst four or five (or six?) bottels of wine and capped the evening off with an extensive (well, a dozen or so) review of their huge 80’s music video collection. It’s just like being at home! Spectacular eating, drinking and socializing with friends…

On Thursday morning I’ll try the consulate for VISA’s again, and then we’ll probably just slough around for the afternoon. On Friday we’ll either go for a day tour of the local bay, or (if it’s booked up) we’ll head up North a bit to the Australia Zoo. After spending a day at the zoo we’ll continue North, inland, to Cairns to take a Great Barrier Reef tour and then start slowly working our way back to Brisbane on the coast. Although… It’s very tempting just to stay in Brisbane for a few more weeks!

Two months down!!!!!

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

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/

So many firsts!

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Yesterday we have almost completed our firsts! We had already seen our first possum and while we were driving to our next campsite, I spotted our first kangaroos! Notice the I spotted them no one else had beleived me until I forced Luke’s head to turn :). There were only little ones. We saw similar ones later that were the same size and we were told they are about in their teens. I’m not sure if we got any pictures, because the first time we were driving and it was to fast then the next time my dad had killed the the camera and I’m not sure I it got (ummmmm) unkilled.
Two camps ago I took my first surfing lessons and they were so awesome!! I’m still in the early stages but I can manouver on my belly and stand up and balence for a bit (20 seconds Is my record I believe). Now my mom totally has to buy me a surf board! If only I could keep it up! Theres no place to surf in Fort Smith!
Also When I got surfing lesson I saw my first real live Jelly(fish, I’m talking Aussie now!). It is a blue bottle and there tenticles can grow from about 2 inches to 2 metres! For every say 50 meters on the beach there was probably about 30 of them! Luckily this only happens in the summer because the wind blows them in (or something like that).
The only first we have to complete now is seeing a koala. When we first arrived we were told we would see a kangaroo because there is lots of them and they are pests like a black bear (excepts kangaroos aren’t carnivorous, but they have a pretty good kick and an adult could probably break your ribs easily). But koalas are very rare and extremely shy! I only hope we do get to see one that is not in a zoo.
Thats all I have to say we are leaving this camp pretty soon, Bye!!!!

Second Surfing Lesson.

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

This morning Alex and I had a second lesson, while Claudette and Luke joined us for their first lesson. It was pretty good, the surf was nice and the water warm. Alex had a bit of a rougher go, bonking herself on the head twice while Luke had fun and made it up a couple times. Claudette demonstrated excellent balance and made it up onto her knees quite a bit and on two legs once too. I continued to struggle with my balance and kept plugging away and trying wave after wave, after wave. Finally one time ZING! I found the sweet spot of my balance and Whoop! I was up. What an exhilerating feeling to ride that baby wave in for a ways!!! Then, after a couple more flops in the water the 90 minute lesson was over. Luckily the instructor had another lesson in a half an hour and encourgaed us to keep using the boards until then. I slammed down every which way ’till Sunday off my board a bunch more times and then, nirvanically (is that a word? Agh, who cares…) I found that sweet spot in my balance of rising from stomache to legs again. Then again! Then AGAIN!!! And once more. I rode four baby waves in a row and quickly began contemplating what kind of work I could do in Australia and how much was it going to cost for the board of my own that I desperately needed to buy…. Hmmmmm, I shall force myself to bear out the remainder of our planned trip and then as quickly as possible find my way back (with or without family ) to bum out the rest of my dwindling years on the beach getting skin cancer with a glorious grin on my face.

Alex plans on trying again. We really, REALLY should have gotten that $85 board at the pawn shop in sydney now. Claudette I’ve told will be trying at least one more lesson. She seemed to agree in a mock obidiant tone, but I think that she really does want to go again herself. Luke I’m not so sure. As everything for ten year olds, I think it was a bit harder and slightly more work than he anticipated. He’ll probably have another go a couple days down the road though… At least he got up on two legs just a couple of waves before I did today!

Today’s Lesson: Taking Things for Granted…

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

Last night I volunteered to take one of the kids turns at doing the dishes to make up for being late getting back to the van for supper. It shouldn’t have been too difficult really… We had decided to use paper plates for eating off of so doing “dishes” really mainly consisted of doing the difficult & extensive sausages residue in the stainless steel frying pan and cleaning out the sticky rice pot, (along with a bit of cutlery and a couple of cups). Now, Luke being the enormously social creature that he is had wandered next door to our camping neighbors to introduce himself and chat before eating. Surprisingly, he had lured our typically very shy Alex there as well after supper. A family with four kids (ages ranging from ten to fifteen) were all sitting around with our two lovlies swapping stories of educational and societal differences and just generally having a grand time.

After I finished eating (last of course) I took the frying pan into our ensuite washroom to get that nasty thing soaking in the wonderfully hot water from the tap. Our camper only has cold water (no heater) and in fact it doesn’t even have a grey water tank. The drainage tube from the small sink goes straight down through the undercarriage and simply drains right onto the ground. Luckily the camper rental company had thoughtfully seen fit to include a plastic drainage tub beautifully suited for purposes of draining the sink water NOT onto the ground. So… there I was with the frying pan sitting in the ensuite bathroom sink, plug in and slowly filling up with nice hot water to loosen off that gunk on fried into the molecules of steel of the pan. I then went to quickly run and get the other dishes from the table in the van to bring to wash, (along with some bizzare substance called “dish soap” Claudette insisted??). On my way to the van (all of barely seven meters) I heard Alex’s voice next store at the neighbors campsite. Thus I was struck with the remembrance that Alex was supposed to put the leftovers away and hadn’t yet. She had left the table after eating with a slightly urgent look in her eyes, heading to the washroom. When I reminded her that she needed to get the leftovers done, her sweet thirteen year old, daughterish eyes (only other Fathers could possibly fathom the depth of this rock moving experience) begged for but a moments repreive in the bathroom and then she verbally promised to do them right after she washed her hands. Naturally, being the phenomenally reasonable man that I am, acquiescence was quickly granted.

Now, as I walked back to the camper I recalled that I couldn’t possibly wash the remaining dishes since Alex had not yet removed and put away the said leftover portions. It also became clearer to me how she suddenly overcame her usual desperate shyness to join Luke chatting with the neighbors. In barely a flash of a second after hearing her voice I turned in the direction of the neighbors and noncholantly strode up to the group to ask if my children were bothering anyone. Of course everyone replied to the negative, and that in fact all present were delighted with the regalings of life in Canada’s sub-arctic. They wre a wonderful family and after brief introductions of us adults I joined in the conversation as well leaning on top of their still cooling off BBQ. After a short time (barely ten or fifteen minutes I’m sure!) of comparing societal makeup and some good hardy chuckles at various stories back and forth Luke wandered back to our camp for some reason or another. Very quickly he called back to me saying that “Mom wants you back here right away” in a slightly alarmed voice. Now, it was clear to me that in the verty short time that Luke was gone, he couldn’t possibly have encountered anything to actually be alarmed about. I therefore easily concluded that the agitated tone of his voice must be solely translated from the VERY agitated tone of Claudette’s voice whom he was trying to channel with some urgency. Among the crowd I made light of this of course, and vocally lamented to the other couple that I was shocked my wife couldn’t wait until the darling children were in bed sleeping. Ha, ha, ha… Chuckles all around and then I high tailed my ass back to find my darling wife.

She was not inside of, around, near (or even under!) the campervan. “Ah-hah!” I thought to myself. She must be in the bathroom changing and needs me to fetch some different cloths for her after removing her bathing suit. A perfectly logical and suitable explanation for her transklated agitated tone I voice. No, I really did think so at the time, Honest! Anyways, I turned to the bathroom entrance only to see Claudette with a bizzare look on her face (not angry, which of course under the circumstances is quite remarkable). My wife was standing in about 5 cm of water on the floor, with a pitifully small drain (on a high part of the floor I might add, very shoddy workmanship constructing these bathrooms indeed) looking at me expectantly yet patiently, (not unlike how a mother looks at her son who has skinned his knee several times, and with scabs growing on scabs has just attempted another remarkable feat and failed, thus ripping sections of the old scabs and portions of fresh skin all at the same time). I bleakly suggested that perhaps I should get a mop and clean the flooded bathroom before resuming doing the dishes.

Luckily she had shut off the tap water which I had left running into that nasty little frying pan only a little while ago, while I went to get the remainder of the dishes. I gingerly approached the sink and stared in wonderment (as one stares at their squash or tennis raquet looking for a huge hole after missing an easy shot) looking at that sink withOUT any sort of overflow outlet of any kind apprearing anywhere at all in the clean white bowel of the plugged sink. Now I didn’t blame anyone else of course, but I did desperately wonder in abject bewilderment when our technologically advanced society reverted to making very UNsophisticated sinks bereft of even the tiniest overflow drainage hole for the occaisional idiot who would leave a room with the tap running… (And niot just running of course, but I had it cranked fully eight complete turns around to get the most forceful, hottest water that I could possibly squeeze out of that tap).

And so… I will no longer (at least for the remaining 42 weeks or our trip in foreign lands) take for granted that all sinks have idiot holes (my new technical description) for the occaisional person who might have the absolute bestest intentions, but wander momentarily away from the quickly filling sink and then further become distraced by witty and wonderful conversation from other adults.

The only other footnote (and neat bit of good news) I can offer is that Claudette somehow felt the need to fill my void next door and be social and join in a conversation with others without previous introductions or invitation. I almost feel that my ever so slight blunder then became worthwhile if it can have such a positive effect on my shy little wife as that! Also, I probably don’t need to mention the floor was really dammed clean! after I got finished with it!

Slowly worming our way up the Coast…

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Alex and I had our first (of many to come!) surfing lesson this morning. It was a blast! I’m sure kicking myself for not insisting on buying that $85 surfboard we saw at the pawn shop in Sydney now… Lessons here were quite reasonable at least! Only AUS$50 each for Alex and I compared to US$95 in Costa Rica! On the other hand music CD’s seem to be outrageously priced at a universal AUS $30 here!!! Milk is also AUS$4.30 for a 2L.

Gotta go cook supper, more blabbering later when I get a chance.

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We have been staying at a variety of types of campgrounds with generally nice, but a couple with not so stunning, facilities. Some of them seem to get right carried away with extra-curricular facilities and activities. Of course there are generally extra costs associated with those as well. We are just taking it easy with a few hours of driving on up the coast with typically a two night stay at each campground along the way. Once again we have no capability to put up pictures due to coin operated internet kiosks at the last several campgrounds. On the last disk there wasn’t much worthy of adding to our online picture gallery anyways. Just some so-so shots of the cutest little duckbilled platypus swimming in a tank at the Sydney aquarium. They were pretty cool, but very active and difficult to get a decent picture of.

Pulling into today’s campground we FINALLY saw our first kangaroos! They were grazing on some grass right at the entrance to this RV park. Then later on that night we saw two more little ones right near the shared kitchen about 20m from our van. When I got the camera, the disk wasn’t working!!! So I threw another disk in and shot footage and some stills of the two joeys in the dark. Then I checked into the previous disk. It was completely toast and unrecoverable. I was trying to think of what was on there… We put it in on our second day in Sydney while at the Aquarium. We think that Claudette had mostly shot Alex and I surfing on that disk so far. So, while its disappointing we can live without those pics. Upon investigation Claudette then told me that “Oh, by the way… something happened to the camera when I was filming you two surf the other day….” Oh well, I’m sure we’ll go surfing again and get even better footage then!

It’s easy for mom, she can’t tell left from right!

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

That is what Luke said while we were ajusting to driving on the left side of the road. The absolute first thing he said when we arrived in the taxi. I love Australia so far! When we first arrived it was nice, there was only one taxi driver (I’m comparing it to peru where there was a dirty hand slapping cat fight, except it was men) and it was funny because he said “do you guys need a taxi” and we said “‘yes but we don’t know where to yet”‘ and right away he led us to a big billboard and showed us all the good hotels. We had to phone atleast 9 hotels before we found a vacancy (I’m pretty sure it was summer holidays there plus we were in Sydney, the big city)!

Once we got our campervan, I was happy (no more walking or trains or taking the mono rail).

We have been in 3 camps with our campervan so far. One near the airport, where we didn’t make any friends(we were only there for a day).
The next one was south of Sydney, where we met Courtney and Hayden. Courtney is 12 and Hayden is 9 (And they are both way taller then us well courtney is taller than me but Hayden is only taller then Luke). Then they left, and we met a fam with three kids, Stephanie (7), Claudia (6) and Nathon (4). They were lots of fun to play with (but the next day we left :(!).
Then at our next camp site we go there and find (drum roll) Courtney and Hayden!!! Then Later that day We met Erin (10) and his older brother Jake (13). Me and Jake were really good friends, and me and Erin were really good enimies. Erin would totally devote himself to bugging Luke and Luke wouldn’t do anything so I would wave my hands like a wave and say ‘”Go Away!!!, Go Away!”‘ in a whiny voice and aproach Erin and he would fall to the ground laughing and leave Luke alone. It was very sad, but funny. We all (6 of us) Went exploring the campground at about 8:00 (it was dark) and we went possum hunting. I had never seen one before but we saw about 5. Then the next morning Courtney left:(! Then me and Jake went and wasted like 30 dollars( Australian) at the arcade:)! I found it amazing how Erin could be my biggest enimy one minute and then the next second (when I have money and we are at the arcade) he is my bestest friend in the entire world!! I alomost gave him 2 dollars! I wonder what his parents give him…
Then later that day Jake and Erin Left ( 🙁 🙂 !) Then I was at the pool for a bit and I saw (Drum roll) The family with the three young kids! We played for a bit then later at about 9 we went hunting for possums! We only saw 3 that time. then the next day (Today) we left ( :'(!). Now we are at an internet cafe and next we go to Point stevens then Coffs harber.
Thats all for today(I can’t see into the future)
bye miss everybody lots of love!!
Alex

Old posts and comments…

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

We just arrived in Umina Beach, ( a little South of Newcastle) for two nights at a great campground. We met up with the two Aussie kids that Alex & Luke made friends with at the last place as well. Luke was sure surprised to see them in the pool when he went to check it out.

When I get a chance I often go back and reply to questions people have in the comments with an additional comment. If you commented on or asked about something be sure to check back and review them once in a while. I think that there’s a way to subscribe to a news feed (automatic notification of any updates) for the Blog as well, but I haven’t looked into that myself yet…

I heard there was snow in Smith the other day! Brrrrr… Guess I won’t whine about the +14 to +18 overcast weather we’ve been experiencing the last few days. We bought a boogie board at a pawn shop the other day, and went swiming in the surf (the fridgidly freezing bloody COLD surf that is…) yesterday morning. Well, three of us went, while one watched from shore… It was lots of fun, but we sure can’t wait to get further North where the waters will be even warmer!

Driving Left, and Other Absurdities.

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Australia has been fantastic so far. After two days of adjusting our sleep patterns in the (expensive!) little boutique hotel we picked up our camper van and proceded to a little campground at the South end of Sydney, but still within the city. From there we could still catch the very efficient train/subway system back downtown for a couple more touristy things. We spent one day with a quick guided tour of the opera house (It was amazing and VERY beautiful closeup too!) and then we went on to our scheduled bridgewalk. To spend about two hours climbing the Sydney Harbor bridge, we forked out about $456 for the family. (The Aussie $ is about $0.95 of the CAN $.) Yes, it was a tonne of money but even Claudette agreed that it was an amazing climb and a reasonable price. We weren’t allowed to have a scrap of paper in our pockets much less our own camera, so of course we had to purchase their (extravagantly priced) copies of our family photos. $20 each for digital copies!!!! Holy crap man… Of course the photos are simply amazing themselves so we bought two of the four different poses we took. I have posted these to the picture gallery already but haven’t had a chance to put up an Australia title slide. The pics are huge though in case anyone tries to download them. At about 6MB each they’ll probably take 5-20 each depending upon connection speeds.

Driving on the left side of the road has been quite interesting so far. I started out in the city, and drove most of the highway a couple hours South to our next campground in Kiama, NSW. At a rest stop on the highway I made Claudette switch with me and she did great too. The most common error for both of us so far has been turning on the windshield washers several times in an attempt to engage the signal light, (which of course is on the opposite side of the steering wheel). It’s difficult to focus on traffic and the lane edge on my left side when I’m driving in the right lane, but other than that I think we have both adapted reasonably well. The other main thing that we hadn’t considered before coming here was how the opposite sides of traffic affect our behavior and previously learned patterns as a pedestrian. While it is great to be out of Latin America, and have some rights again, we have to look the opposite direction everytime before crossing a road.

While we quickly noticed the crazy prices in and around Sydney for tourist hotels and restaurants, we quickly adapted by staying at a cheap place and trying to eat at bistros for our first few days in the city. Our budget hotel, was reasonably clean, but we could hear sounds at all hours through the door into the courtyard outside. The bathrooms were also shared & down the hall. All this for $128/night! A restaurant lunch would easily have cost us $60+ although the portions admiteedly were very generous, (such that Claudette, Alex & Luke wouldn’t be able to eat everything, and I would feel bloated if I did). We took to looking for bistros intended for the downtown office workers where the food was very good, fresh, and we could eat as a family for about $25-$35.

We bought the highway travel GPS option with our camper and it is amazingly wonderful. I wouldn’t get one in Oilberta of course, but for driving in a foreign country it is phenomenally worthwhile! Our camper is very small though, and there is much shuffling of gear and suitcases around between day and night time use. I see some others in the campground which are twice or thrice the size and wonder how nice it might be with all that luxurious room. Then I watch them trying to drive these beomoths (only 24′ even) around and back them in to tight places. Then when we finally get to the gas pumps I’m sure we’ll REALLY appreciate having a smaller van. Gas here is about the same as at home. $1.40/L in the city, and $1.20 ish in the outlying areas. We’re told that the prices are pretty much jacked up by 15-20 cents/liter every weekend starting Thursday night, and go back down for Monday morning.

We have no idea where we’re going or what our schedule is for the next week or so. We came South of Sydney first simply because that’s the end of town we were at. The campground we are currently at has a beautiful ocean beach right beside it and a great (unheated) pool as well as very nice laundry and common cooking facilities. We bought a site that has an ensuite bathroom adjacent to the site. It even has a large shower with the toilette and large sink. This costs an extra $20/night, but Claudette wanted to have that luxury a few days every week. Alex & Luke made friends with some Aussie kids last night, but they checked out this morning (Thursday) and moved on. We are going to stay here one or maybe two more nights before heading North, skirting around Sydney on the inland (West) side.

Hello from Downunder!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Yes, I know I haven’t posted a new message in quite a while, although I have to say I have been more faithful in keeping up my journal. Well, we are leaving Sydney this morning. We stayed in a hotel/bed & breakfast for 2 nights and then we picked up our camper van and stayed for 2 nights in a campground near the Sydney Airport so that we could finish seeing the sites in Sydney. Yesterday we did a guided tour around the Sydney Opera House and then we had to run to get to the Bridge Climb Tour that we booked. The SOH was beautiful and very interesting however the bridge climb was the most fun even Luke & I weren’t that freaked out by the heights.

Rick is off at the moment mailing another package home, while I am suppose to be looking for a new campground south of Sydney. I think I’ve found one that the kids will like. (www.eastvanparks.com.au)

Anyway thats all for now. Take care, Claudette

Landed Down Under…

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

After a brutally long day, we saw Sydney from the air. The opera house looked beautiful from the air, and we plan on visiting it tomorrow. Everyone is dog tired adjusting to the time change. Plus it didn’t help much that there was a good assortment of a dozen different movies available on the plane for the last 15 hours to keep us awake all night.

I tried going to the Chinese Embassy to get VISA’s today, but forgot that we had crossed the date line, and it was already Saturaday just befor lunch when we landed. Guess we’ll hit it on Monday. We didn’t have a hotel booked before arriving and scrambled at the airport calling around to actually find a room, but got a basic one in the end. Shared bathroom down the hall, and one double, one single bed in a walkup for $120

I’m off to join the other soundly sleeping James’!