At other times the rain comes scudding, pushed along by strong winds and finding its way under eaves and verandah overhangs. It even finds its way into an open window normally sheltered by an awning.
They have had so much rain up north there is flooding around Townsville and Cairns and places between and to the west.
All this wet weather has messed up any plans I had for this week. Some people say it is unseasonal and part of climate change and we should be concerned. Climate change may be real but it will not change warm and sunny to cold and snow overnight. In fact there was a night of cool where we needed an empty quilt cover on the bed. A quilt cover is equivalent to two sheets.
Not two blankets!
Besides somewhere during the night we kicked off the quilt cover and sought the comfort of a sheet, which itself became a little over warm. Summer has not yet deserted us but autumn is just around the corner and will be here soon enough.
Finally after a little agitation via emails I received a reply to say Commonwealth Games Driver Training will resume. I was surprised when I turned up to find the new round of training has been going on for several days. So, at last, the driver App has been released for us to work with. However amongst the excitement and hurrah we were informed it still has a few bugs. A few bugs? Yes. For example in the Map mode on the screen there is an arrow to say turn left. That arrow is not for the next turn. That arrow is for the next turn after that. Somehow we have to be pro-active and anticipate the next turn and not rely on the GPS. Sigh!
Apart from that and a few minor bugs the App is well thought through and will a useful tool. Although I am comfortable with the training I have booked in another session next week.
Did I mention that one of the two drivers in our household had a small accident last week?
We submitted an insurance claim and took the i30 to the panel beaters for repair. They assessed the damage took the keys and said it would be ready by next Monday. They organised a cab to take us to Hertz Rent A car where we were given a new i30 for the next week. What do I like about the new i30? A bigger motor with more get up and go. The driving lights come on automatically. There is a big 7 inch dash screen with all the radio data, GPS, reversing camera, Android Auto for full connection of all features on your mobile phone. What don’t I like? The console cover is not a solid lock and wobbles when I rest my forearm on it and when you take the key out of the ignition the radio does not turn off until you open the door. This car did not have weather shields fitted unlike our car which has it on all four windows. In rain I can open our windows about 40 mm without rain coming in. With the new model you cannot even open the window 1mm before rain comes in.
Donnis and I both had Skin Clinic appointments. She had one rather large cancer removed with about 10 stitches. I had three biopsies carried out. I get my results next week and no doubt some surgery as well.
Every Friday Donnis attends an art appreciation and encouragement morning which doubles as a social gathering at a neighbours house. Sometimes as many as a dozen people turn up, including me. Mostly they turn up for the social gathering as I do. My art is in my photos so select about 20 photos on my ancient iPad and hand it around as they have coffee and cake.
Saturday 3rd March
Where has the year gone?
Summer was here (and still is according to the outside temperature) and all our plans for going to the beach and surfing have all but dissolved. We managed to get to the beach a dozen times but life has a way of getting in the way of plans. Hmmm! I think John Lennon may have said something like that once upon a time.
According to the calendar it is now autumn but the weather still feels like summer. The Commonwealth Games are rushing up at us and our overseas holiday is getting closer.
In a little over two weeks I am rostered to begin driving for the Commonwealth Games. I now have my uniform and accreditation pass which is designed to provide identification and access to most venues especially those requiring security clearance.
Today I attended what is called Venue Specific Training at the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village. Wow! What a place. The accommodation part of the village is complete. The main dining hall is complete as is several other buildings. Many of the temporary facilities are housed in large tents which in themselves look quite attractive. The landscaping is still being carried out and an area known as The Backyard including a huge water feature are all but complete. The athletes and officials will have some nice areas to relax and socialise. There are games rooms, Internet rooms, multi denominational prayer room, main dining hall and smaller specialist food areas. There is a medical centre and x-ray facilities. Each competing nation has its own space for officials, team meetings and even their own medical facilities. Depending on the size of the team they may have to share with another nation. There is a gymnasium, ice bath facilities and steam rooms and lap pools. In fact there are 4 pools in the complex. For those athletes still wanting to burn off a bit of nervous energy there is a walking track.
The accommodation will house about 7,000 athletes. I was part of the morning session of 300 people being shown around. There is another 5 sessions booked in over the next two days. We were asked not to take photos as the Games organisers want to keep the facilities a surprise until opening day on 20th March. I was too busy with the tour to even consider taking photos but several people did.
Unfortunately the tour did not include any advice on the next driver training sessions. Training was delayed waiting on the release of a mobile phone App which will be capable of booking all jobs for the day and specific pick-up and drop off instructions and a special Google Maps designed for The Games. I am keen to use and learn this App so early training will be instrumental in delivering quality drivers.
Sunday 4th March
Today was hot with humidity of about 92%.
For the past few days weather forecasters have warned us about thunderstorms and rain. Both seem to miss us entirely. While watching the TV and the reporter is showing heavy rain somewhere on the Gold Coast to the south or somewhere between here and Brisbane we got nothing. That can be a good or a bad thing.
To escape the humidity we went to the movies or “pictures” as we used to call them when I was a kid. Now we have adopted the American name. We went to Australia Fair as we can park in the shade of a multi-story carpark and walk a short distance to the theatre. The cinema complex has one of the cheapest ticket prices anywhere on the coast. For that matter anywhere. $10 each.
We saw the movie Game Night which is a black comedy and is full of shocks, surprises, sniggers, snickers, chortles, guffaws and laughs. Well worth going to see, especially if you want to escape the heat and humidity for a few hours.
Or escape the cold if you live in the northern hemisphere.
It is hot today but not heatwave hot. Still hot enough for one member of the household to need the air conditioner turned on.
While labouring in the garden for 5 minutes (any longer and I would have been a puddle of oil and chemical salts) I spied a baby Water Dragon.
OMG these little guys are so cute. He was aware of me and went into his statue defence.
He stayed there long enough for me to run off to get the camera. Unfortunately there were little things around him which my camera could not discern on which to focus. (A small tomato plant with two small leaves) Switching to manual mode and Macro focus did not help all that much as trying to hold the camera steady is near impossible without a tripod.
Wednesday 21st February. I visited the RACQ and received my International Drivers Permit. Although I can legally drive using my Queensland License in both the USA and Canada, usually hiring a car can be difficult unless you have somebody with a local license to sign the agreement. Or, you have an International Driving Permit which is issued showing your good driving history and there are no driving warrants issued.
Sunday 25th February
The rest of the week was sliding off from a heatwave to regular hot days which led into overcast and rain which soon became heavy rain which eased off to just heavy days of humidity of around 92%. People are panting and saying how hot it is when in fact it is not hot but humid.
I used some of my time to look back in the past to see what we were doing this week in…
We joined the Mackay Sugarloafers for a weekend camp beside Marion Creek about 50 Klms south of Mackay. The campsite is mosquito and sandfly ridden so the camp has a fire all weekend with mozzie coils burning and lots of insect repellent. We had the Toyota Coaster bus converted to a motorhome which we parked up on the almost extreme edge of the steep creek bank. The site was away from the rest of the Sugarloafers but exposed to a nice breeze which came up or down the creek. We were not bothered by mozzies or sandflys. Except, that is, when we joined everybody at the main camp.
Usually in February in the Tropics it is too wet and windy to travel. It is better to stay home and be available in case there is a cyclone. Usually if a cyclone crosses the coast to the north we cop the tail end which includes wind and lots of rain, probably more rain than where it crosses the coast. If the cyclone crosses the coast to our south then it has probably buffeted us for a few days including the wind and rain before it moved south. Either way we need to be home for Cyclone Watch or Cyclone Alert.
A freak storm blew through Airlie Beach and flattened a few houses and washed over 60 boats onto the beach with more than 50% of them being a total loss. We received 600mm of rain in 24 hours. We stayed home all of the month of February.
Donnis and I were married on Cannonvale Beach. Council wanted $150 in fees for a permit plus we had to pay a damage deposit and all manner of regulations Council could think up including a fee for liability insurance. In the end we did not tell them the day we were getting married. Surprise, surprise, surprise. We had 50 guests, family and friends and somehow managed to not cause any damage or set off a chain of events which required liability insurance. So now we can thumb our noses at Whitsunday Shire Council and tell them “We Did It Our Way.” We also planned a 3 month trip to Tasmania in the Coaster.
It rained all week. As you come to expect in the tropics in February it is going to rain. By now we had traded the old Coaster for a Winnebago Leisure Seeker and it was a bit annoying looking at it parked beside the house, in the rain and we could not go anywhere.
Donnis is in Canada and I am house-sitting in Traveston on the Sunshine Coast and it is raining. This was not the rain which caused the major flooding in Brisbane. That was last week. This week the rain caused flooding in the Mary Valley along the Mary River including Maryborough. It seems Traveston Crossing is prone to flooding and once again the area around the bridge was washed away. Unusual in that the bridge and its approaches were still in place. I spent most of the week in the house watching TV.
We have been living in WWWGO at Culcairn NSW for the last month. Donnis is working at the Henty Hospital about 40 Klms away. We took a drive through parts of the Murray River Valley (being the longest river in Australia we can only see a few parts in one day) crossing bridges into Victoria and back again. We stopped at the town of Walbundrie and Howlong. There are lots of jokes about Howlong. “ How long are you going to stay?” “How Long is a piece of string?” “Howlong is the name of a Chinese train?” “How long are you going tell silly jokes?”
We had been housesitting at Guyra NSW since October last year. It was time to move on. We travelled to Forster to spend time with brother Allan and wife Rae the drove to Toukley and stayed on the coast at a caravan park at Soldiers Point. Our first night was a bit of a rude awakening with thunder, lightning, lots of rain and near cyclonic winds causing damage to most tents and trees but which thankfully left us, snug as a bug in a rug, in WWWGO.
We have arrived back in Airlie Beach. I am slowly unpacking the garage, cleaning and moving things into the house. Donnis is working at Collarenebri in NSW and I am working 3 days a week at my old job as a Marine Insurance Broker. We are still wondering what our plans are. Do we stay here and put up with heat, humidity, cyclones and grass which grows before your eyes or do we buy and live somewhere else?
Well the question from 2014 has been answered. We are now living at the Gold Coast and I am settled. Donnis is still trying to. This week we are watching as yet another cyclone threatens the stability of our home in Airlie Beach. Even here 1,000 Klms to the south we are effected by the tail end of cyclone MARCIA.
We are well and truly settled in now. I am getting therapy for my wrist which I broke and had surgery last August. Donnis sister Linda and partner arrived from Canada. Her son Peter and his son Chris arrived and we all went to the beach and flew large kites, surfed and generally behaved like Aussies at the beach.
We are cruising on the P & O Ship, “PACIFIC ARIA” to New Guinea and some of the myriad thousands of islands dotted around and belonging to PNG. It took me a couple of days to adjust to a different culture. A culture which is not far removed from cannibalism and headhunters but one which uses mobile phones and watches Australian sport on TV. That said, the towns, villages and islands we visited are extremely poor. Although after the trip I said I had been there, done that and had no desire to go there again, 12 months on and I feel differently.
After doing this review of a slice of time over the last 12 years I am left wondering. In 2006 I wondered how I could plan a long road trip in the Coaster. In 2010 I wondered how I would cope being on the road full time. In 2014 I wondered if we were back in Airlie Beach to stay. In 2018 I wonder what sort of adventures are coming our way especially since we have a permanent home base and leisure time in which to travel. I wonder, with careful budgeting can we travel and have adventures just like so many of our neighbours. The answer, so far, is yes. For the next two months I will be driving for the Commonwealth Games then, in May, we head to the USA and Canada for 7 weeks including an Amtrak Train journey across USA from Seattle to Niagara Falls. After that we might take a break and perhaps plan something for later this year.
The blog title and theme is Home and Travel Gallery.
This week there will be more of the former and less of the latter. In other words not much travel this week.
Monday 12th February
Need I say more? Stay indoors. Stay hydrated and turn on the air conditioner. Even with the AC on it was still a bit sweaty in bed waiting for sleep to come crawling out of wherever it has been hiding and throw a blanket of siesta over my mind.
Tuesday 13th February
Heat wave conditions.
Somewhere around 35° during the middle of the day.
Living on the coast we do get a sea breeze so conditions are not as bad as 60 klms and more inland where temps were in the mid forties. I suppose the humidity there was not as high as on the coast.
Our internet has been intermittent for some time. It has become much worse this last week. In fact it came to a grinding halt today. Hmmm! All the lights on the modem say we are getting signal and wireless is working. All lights green. The laptop and the desktop can connect wirelessly but say there is no internet. Both mobile phones are set up to switch to wireless connection as soon as we are in range. Both say there is no internet signal. That is four devices all registering no internet. I dragged out the aging Apple iPad. It also would not connect. There is no internet signal despite the modem saying otherwise. Five of 5 devices all with the same problem. I called Telstra and they did their usual tests, remotely, from wherever they are located. They told me I had internet I told them I did not. We turned the modem off and on…several times. I unplugged power…several times. I unplugged the modem from the splitter box and connected directly to the wall socket. No change. I re-set the modem…several times. No change. I kept saying we had an electrical storm on Sunday night and the real problem began after that. I told them I thought the modem was faulty.
The technical help person, probably located in The Phillipines referred me to a higher level technician further up the evolutionary tree. We repeated everything we did before. This technician referred me higher up the tree to a top level technician who declared they had reached the level of expertise or ability and declared I need a real live technician to visit us. Yay! That is what I was asking for. I think the modem is faulty. By the time we had finished, the modem ECO light was red and the Internet light was red…constantly. Earlier, before I called I would have a signal for awhile then it would drop out and the red lights came on then suddenly the signal would return then drop out again and then come back. After three hours they admitted defeat and just as a precaution warned me that if the technician discovered the fault was in my equipment they would bill me. The only “equipment” I own are the laptop, the desktop, the two mobile phones and an iPad. As far as I am concerned the modem is their property.
I received a text message to say the technician would arrive on Thursday between 8am and noon.
After the call was finished I saw I had a missed call from the Commonwealth Games Driver Section. They left a message. My day at Games Central tomorrow morning at 8am to get my uniform and accreditation has been cancelled and I have to reschedule.
Tonight we had the annual general meeting of our village. Just as we arrived, close to 7pm, lightning struck very close by. So close the strike and the thunder were instant. The lightning shorted out our security gates, leaving the exit gate open and the entrance gate unable to be opened. Lightning flashed for another two hours and dumped a heap of rain. The temperature dropped enough that we could sleep with just a sheet and no need for air conditioning.
Wednesday 14th February. Valentines Day.
Another heat wave day.
We drove to Australia Fair Shopping Centre so we could park the car underground and go inside to walk around in the AC. Lots of other people had the same idea. The food shops and coffee outlets were busy busy busy. This shopping centre food court is located opposite The Broadwater and has high glass windows to show all those people still walking around in the heat outside while we are comfortable inside.
All too soon we spent money on groceries and returned home to a hot house.
The AC was turned on again.
Thursday 15th February.
Another heat wave day.
At 6am Donnis and I went to The Broadwater for a walk followed by a swim in the lagoon. There was a misty haze over to the east where the sun was wrestling with the salty residue from yesterday’s wind and sea spray. By the time we left the beach the sun had won the battle. The haze had all but disappeared and the sun had a distinct bite to it. Time to go home, hide in the house and wait for Telstra.
Telstra arrived mid-morning and confirmed the modem was faulty. It was replaced but still no internet. The techie made a call to the exchange and they re-set the port and viola, we had signal. Yay! It was working like a charm.
It was, that is, until 9.30 tonight. I cannot access the internet. The modem is firing on all lights, the laptop tells me I have internet but the little timer goes around and around and nothing happens. The techie did say that when everybody comes home from work or school the speed will slow. Slow I understand. Stopped is not what I am paying for. There was not even enough download to carry out a speed test.
Friday 17th February
Another day of heatwave.
Internet is as it should be. If the day pans out according to my expectations the speed will drop off late in the afternoon and become a sleeping tortoise by 8pm.
After lunch we drove out to The Spit to see the predicted big swells.
It was low tide and the waves were not as big as expected and the entire coast was covered in a salty haze while in the distance an incoming storm was building dark ominous clouds.
I apologise for the clarity of the photos. I would wipe the lens clean and by the time I focus on where to shoot, the lens would be covered with a fine salty mist. It was almost impossible to see through my sunglasses by the time we left.
Between the haze and the clouds the skyline was disappearing.
Although much cooler here on the beach the strong steady wind was blowing the salty haze onto sunglasses, camera lens, windscreen and skin. By the time we left we could feel the grittiness of the salt.
On the beach the usual hardy surfers, boogie boarders, kite surfers and Asian tourists were enjoying themselves.
The Spit as it is known to most locals is actually called Moondewarra Spit and is part of the Doug Jennings Park.
Recently council has spent a small fortune upgrading the northern end of the park including sealed carpark, sealed roads, fencing, pathways, dive exit sites, picnic facilities and a roundabout. At the entrance to the park, the roundabout and scattered throughout the park in strategic locations are basalt columns, some in an upright position while others are placed horizontally.
These columns have been brought here from an ancient volcanic site, Burleigh Heads National Park, which is part of the extinct Tweed Volcano. Some years ago a number of columns, as a result of degradation of the underlying soil, slid down the slope of the volcanic caldera and landed in a precarious and unstable position. Those six sided hexagonal columns were removed and relocated to this park.
The storm clouds rolled in, a little lightning and thunder announced a spattering of rain and the temperature dropped as did the humidity. We can look forward to a comfortable night without the need for air conditioning.
Saturday 17th February
Lesser heatwave day.
Only about 32° today.
I have been having some trouble with my original release iPad. iPad was released in Australia late May 2010. Mine was received in late August 2010. It cannot be updated any more. Its computing power for Internet is incapable of maintaining a signal. Battery life is still good and I can run Music and Photos but I am having problems in both areas. I called Apple Services on the off chance they could help. When uploading photos the iPad deletes previous photos or only imports the name of the new folder and either deletes a few photos or adds a few photos. After an hour the techie referred me to a local man who said he is a Case Support Manager. After asking a few questions, the same as the previous operator, he connected to my laptop and asked me to show how I import photos. Within a minute he explained what was wrong and how to overcome the problem. Photo problem solved.
Next came the Music. Sometimes it works other times almost all songs will not play and has a message saying it is unavailable. Once more I showed him via remote viewing and he was able to explain how to solve the music problem
What do you do when at least one person is suffering in the heat? Go to a shopping centre of course.
Today it was the turn of Robina Shopping Town. Originally I planned to go there and visit the Apple Store Techies but I no longer need to do that.
Instead we walked around in air conditioned comfort and did a load of shopping.
Sunday 18th February.
Still hot and a promise of huge seas from tropical cyclone Gita heading towards New Zealand encouraged me to go to the beach.
Down at The Spit the huge seas and low tide kept all but the silly out of the water.
I watched as a half dozen people thinking it was safe to wade suddenly got knocked off their feet by the undertow and were dragged, struggling out to the waves. A larger than usual wave washed them back towards shore, tumbling them over and over. We have been warned for two days to stay out of the water and all the beaches are closed but there is always somebody who will ignore the warnings.
Damn head cold. The sun may be shining brightly On My Old Kentucky Home but I still need trousers and a jacket in the middle of summer. Lots of sneezes, coughs, headaches, nose blowing and a body temperature which does not seem to be able to regulate itself.
Searched high and low for my Samsung Ear buds which are normally attached to my original Apple iPod Shuffle. It seems the Co-Pilot uses her ear buds too often and they now only work on one channel. She also wore out the good Panasonic ear buds last year sometime. My ear buds work on two channels and the temptation to “borrow” mine was too great. Besides I was head cold miserable and unable to defend my property. (Insert smiley icon here) EBay came to the rescue and a pack of two ear buds suitable for my Samsung Galaxy A3 but will fit any device with a 3.5 mm stereo jack are on their way. They also have an in-line microphone the same as my original ear buds. We are both going to need good ear buds when we travel to the US and Canada this year.
Tuesday 6th February
Commonwealth Games Driver Training. Not so much training as driving to familiarise ourselves with the different vehicles, the locations, the preferred transit routes and the mobile phone app for booking passengers and Google Maps interface. The mobile phone app is still not working and everybody seems to have their fingers crossed it will be ready in two weeks. (Famous last words- that’s what they said two weeks ago) After today there is no sense doing any more familiarisation driver training until the app is ready. We really need to be familiar with the app as so much of the drivers work day will be dependant on the app and what it should be able to do
Thursday 8th February
Saw the doctor about the head cold today. I was fearful it would get into my chest. Although I cough and cough and cough only to bring up small amounts of phlegm he feels I am on the home stretch and my body is doing its work.
Coughing and nose blowing will continue for some days yet.
Sunday 11th February
Picked up the stereo er buds from Big W. Although I purchased on ebay, on-line the buds are sent to Woolworths or Big W for collection. It cuts down on postage costs. Yay they work as they orta.
Day One of the expected heat wave conditions over the next 5 days. The best respite is to stay indoors and drink water. Some people even advocate turning on the AC. That sounds a bit drastic doesn’t it?
The social club organised a Mini Commonwealth Games followed by a sausage sizzle dinner at the clubhouse. All the activities were conducted indoors with the air conditioning doing a great job keeping us cool. Graham did a great job organising us into teams of 4 and named after nations of the Commonwealth. I did really good in the elastic band gun target shoot and the bean bag toss. Seconds of extreme training went into both events. Donnis was great at the 5 ring quoit toss but we were terrible in the golf chipping game. Our team, Canada, came in a disappointing 4th while Australia came in last. Come on Aussie Come on. Oy Oy Oy.
Just after the barbecue the clouds rolled in, the thunder and lightning began and some rain fell. As is usually the case we got little of the rain as we seem to live in a pocket of calm. The temperature dropped but humidity levels stayed high.
Heat wave conditions followed by afternoon thunderstorms are predicted for the coming week.
Coughing and nose blowing continue.
Now for the mystery.
During the week my blog post from late February 2017 which advised we were heading off to New Guinea on a cruise appeared on Facebook. I was asked by several people when did we get back? My reaction? Back from where? They began to show me the Facebook post.
WTF!!! How? What? Why? When?
There was even a photo when Donnis and I were married back in 2010. Nice photo but how did it get into the post? How did the post re-post this week?
Today I also began an on-line Family Tree search as I do from time to time. Oooh what a minefield of names and dates and Births Deaths and Marriages. Ancestry.com make it all sound so easy. Yes you can do all your own research through various state BDM offices ( I am using NSW Births Deaths and Marriages) or through National Archives in Canberra or even using old newspaper archives called Trove. You can also use Census records and even War records in Canberra. Once you get past your most recent family it really becomes a slow search. Great grandparents and beyond can be a challenge. What becomes interesting is the penchant for popular names among people with the same surname. It is amazing how many Beatrice married a Robert, who had the same surname as other Roberts and Beatrice in other towns even in the same year. Then the number of families who had ten or more children who named their offspring after themselves. So Robert and Beatrice had 10 kids and there was always a Robert and a Beatrice amongst them along with Annies, Elizabeths and Mary’s. Josiah and Hyam were popular, not only with the family but other families with the same surname. It is a conspiracy of names. It can also be very costly. For every certificate that you order from BDM…in my case NSW… it costs $43. If you join Ancestry.com it costs near enough to $150 for 3 months access to their data base, plus the cost of producing a certificate.
Today was another “buddy up” and take a car for a drive to some of the venues for the Commonwealth Games. The phone app is not working and probably will not be available for another week…or longer. My buddy and I drove to Brisbane Airport, Domestic and International. The International arrivals and waiting section have been changed but we are supposed to use the Limousine Service section but could not access it today. At least we now know where it is. Brisbane and Gold Coast Airports are going to be a lot busier in March and very busy about the 18th April when all those extra visitors and athletes want to go home. Well some of them. On the news tonight it was announced that Federal Police and Immigration officers expect there will be many athletes from poorer nations who will want to disappear while here or who will claim refugee status. It seems that about 150 athletes tried to disappear at the Glasgow Games in 2014. Imagine defecting to cold Scotland!
Wednesday 31st January.
Tonight was meant to be the Big Trifecta. The moon was in a eclipse phase as well as a blue moon phase and a blood moon phase. It was overcast, strong cold winds and skudding rain showers. We drove to The Spit hoping we might get a break in the clouds but it stayed bleak, wet, windy and moonless.
Thursday 1st February
Whaaaat the!!!! Just as a matter of interest I researched some train journeys. As a starting point I used our planned trip from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada to Seattle, Washington USA to Niagara Falls Ontario Canada, a distance of 4,391 Klms. The trip covers 4 days and requires a bus from Vancouver, change to train at Seattle, change again at Chicago, change at Buffalo NY and arrive Niagara Falls. The cost is AU$1,831 including all meals and gives us a private room with shower and toilet. That works out to about 41 cents per Klm for two of us.
A journey from Brisbane to Sydney is the next comparison. There is no train line between Queensland and NSW. Yes you read that correctly. No train line connecting two big states, more importantly, connecting two state capitals, Brisbane and Sydney. In Brisbane they load you onto a coach and change to the train at Casino NSW. The distance to Sydney is 915 Klms. The cost is $420 for the overnight train and includes breakfast (other meals are at your own expense)and a shared shower and toilet. The cost is .46 cents per Klm for two of us. If I compared that same fare to the US trip it would be $2015 not including meals.
I could not even begin to compare a similar journey in Canada from Vancouver to Toronto (near Niagara Falls) Firstly rail journeys per Province would be with different train companies. There is no direct route and involves several changes which also means staying overnight in hotels. The closest I could come is AU$7102 per person. That works out at $1.62 per Klm per person. Not all meals are included. I suppose I could research a bit further just for the train content but remember there are different trains on different time schedules so sometimes overnighting in hotels is required. I gave up trying.
Result. The US is good value for the train journey. Australia is dearer but Canada is off the rails dearer. Air flights across Canada to Vancouver is AU$857 for two of us but does not include any meals.
Costs in Australia are thwarted by The Tyranny of Distance, different railway companies in each state and lack of population and higher wages. About 24 million in 2016.
Canada also has a distance problem but also have about 36 million population in 2016. They are thwarted by different rail companies in different Provinces. They have a wage structure similar to the USA.
Costs in US are kept reasonable by a much bigger population, (326 million 2017) with one rail company providing a service nation-wide but with a lower wage structure for employees providing a service. A lot of US wages are biased against those people who work in service industries.
Friday 2nd February
For the past few days I have struggled to fight a head cold. The visit to two nights ago to The Spit to look for a moon hiding behind clouds in the rain and wind probably did not help my condition. Today was overcast and cold and wet. The head cold was winning and bed kept calling me. I succumbed for most of the day.
Sunday 4th February
The head cold is getting the better of me. The sun made a welcome appearance today but a blustery cold wind from the south was a bit bracing. Donnis bullied me into getting out for a walk, getting my feet wet and breathing wonderful salt laden air.
Still felt miserable but at The Broadwater I found the Kite Surfers were revelling in the conditions.
They were skimming the water surface then becoming airborne for a couple of hundred metres and often 15 metres above the water.
It was gasp time for the beachside spectators so I guess it must have been thrilling for the riders.
We followed three riders for some time but they eventually sailed/Skiied/skimmed or flew north to Lands End where the sky was filled with surf kites.
The wind was so strong it was lifting the slab sided houseboats about 10 cm out of the water on the windward side.
Afterwards I must admit the head cold was less congesting but I still felt cold, needing to wear jeans and a jeans jacket to keep warm.
Instead of riding the bike along The Broadwater at 5.30 am I walked twice around our village. The walk through our own park beside Biggera Creek is very relaxing and picturesque.
The reason why I walked instead of taking a longer bike ride is because I had an Open Day Training Session as a driver for the Commonwealth Games at 9am.
The training session today was similar to last week. However instead of following a turn by turn guide to various sporting locations we “buddied” up and chose our own destination. Part of the “rules” was to use as far as possible the preferred routes laid down by the CG2018. The only other rule was to be back at the depot by 12 noon. Most of the locations were known to me but not my buddy. I chose to navigate so he could learn the routes, locations and planned parking, pickup, set-down and holding bays. The planned app which is to hold all of our jobs for the day and to link via Android Auto to the vehicle and show all route maps is not yet up and running. Each vehicle is fitted with a Samsung Galaxy J3 mobile phone and the App is simply not working as it orta. I suppose there are still 10 weeks to the games opening to solve the problem. There are only 8 weeks remaining until we start collecting passengers from the airports. In the meantime we are learning the manual method. At the end of the session my “buddy” and I arranged another Open Day drive for next Monday.
Thursday 25th January
In the afternoon we set up the clubhouse for the Australia Day function tomorrow.
Friday 26th January – Australia Day
Originally we expected between 40 to 50 villagers would attend the FREE morning tea, luncheon, afternoon tea and a series of fun games complete with prizes. We ended up taking down the nomination form when numbers reached 84 as it is close to the capacity our clubhouse can cater for. Committee member Wayne took on the task of catering for the event including cooking damper. Wayne, Marie and Lynne spent most of the day working to cook up a storm in the small kitchen. We agreed to keep residents out of the kitchen by putting a screen across the doorway. It is only a small kitchen so workers do not need unnessesary people making it smaller. I offered to provide real coffee (well at least pod coffee which is 100% coffee) as an additional option to the Billy Tea or instant coffee. Some other villagers with similar pod machines as mine offered their machines to make several cups at a time. We were overwhelmed by the response and on the day made about 60 cups of coffee. The day was a total success, despite the heat, thanks to the efforts of our hard working social committee and Graham who is the glue which holds us all together. Much of the events were able to be held inside the clubhouse. Although suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Graham ran the event all day as MC ensuring there were as few delays as possible. He ran on adrenaline until the day concluded then went home to rest body and voice. All of us needed a good rest as well.
Saturday 27th January
We have somebody jumping our perimeter fence and cutting a hose with a sharp knife, It does not sound like a giant problem but the person has been seen before and has usually run away by climbing the fence. Some residents are concerned as anybody who carries a sharp knife and is prepared to cut a hose could very well be prepared to use it if confronted. As well as reporting to the Police we will set up our own movement activated spy camera.
Sunday 28th January
It rained overnight and in the morning but the sun came along and managed to bully the clouds away leaving a glorious hot sunny day. As usual on days like this the beaches get populated. For a change we bought Fish n Chips from the Harbour Seafood Market http://www.harbourseafoodmarket.com.au/ (worth a visit just to look at the range of fresh and frozen seafood) and drove to Broadwater Parklands, a wonderful park and beach and swimming enclosure and playgrounds and so many things to do with the perfect weather we have most days.
The scaffolding work around the swimming complex and diving area is reaching new heights to be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games.
Located beside the free swimming enclosure is Aquasplash (https://aquasplash.com.au/ ) a fun filled swimming enclosure with inflated equipment to bounce on or off and into the water. The water temp today was 26°. Everybody was either looking for shade or looking to get into the water. It costs $16 for an adult ticket for 50 minutes of fun. Once each swimmer is equipped with a life jacket and the alarm goes off on the hour a mad dash of children, teenagers and adults rush into the water in a mass of splashing and shouting humanity.
Nearby is another seething mass of happy people enjoying The Big Wedgie (https://thebigwedgie.com.au/ ) an inflatable set of three water slides.
Are big older – much older – kids allowed on these rides?
Last week I mentioned our planned Amtrak rail journey across the USA. I want to take my laptop to keep track of daily events, download photos and keep up to date on the internet. My Toshiba Satellite L500 Laptop has a Pentium Dual Core 2.20 Ghz CPU and a 240 Gb SSD memory and a 64 Bit processor with a 15” LCD screen and is fast enough for my needs. It weighs something like 3.5 Kg. It is simply too big and heavy to consider travelling on plane and train.
I do have a Toshiba Note Book, NB550D which has a 1 Ghz single core CPU, a 500 Gb memory, a 32 Bit processor and a 9” LCD screen.
It is very slow especially as many of the features have built in systems to look for updates and security and back up facilities.
They are always running in the background. Little pop ups occur constantly and annoyingly. I know they are using processing power which I can better use elsewhere. However it is small and only weighs 1.1 Kg. I can take it anywhere. Hmmm! The solution is to strip off all the programmes and running in the background stuff I do not need and it will be ideal and is much cheaper than buying a new something which weighs the same. I am running Windows 7 Starter. Because of the CPU size I cannot upgrade to Windows 10. But it is still usable. It is now a little faster and can be used on my trip. It does have wireless so I can access internet.
Tuesday 16th January
The weather is perfect, blue skies and temps around 30° but very strong winds blowing from the south. We went for a walk along the beach at the Broadwater
and Donnis had a swim in the lagoon.
This is a lovely safe family location and is always popular.
Wednesday 17th January.
Today is the first day of Role Specific vehicle training for the Commonwealth Games. It was a long day, mostly in the classroom. We started at 8am and finished a little after 5pm. The last 90 minutes of the day was spent in a vehicle getting used to it and driving to various venues to be used for the games and looking for our specific parking signs. We could not find any signs we were told to expect to see and as we were told by the facilitators at the end of the day, they have not yet been installed. Grrr! We were then told that was our last specific training day but we are encouraged to attend as many Open Days to try different cars and different routes as we can manage. I went to enrol for a number of Open Days only to be told they can only book one day at a time as they expect a heavy demand!!! To complicate matters, my depot at the Athletes Village will not be available until 22nd March two days after athletes etc start arriving! In the meantime I have to book into the far northern depot to learn routes etc for the central depot. Next week I start the first of “how many” Open Days to learn 44 maps and venues, 7 levels of service codes, vehicle Access & Parking Permits, Checkpoints, Screening Areas, Load Zones, Parking and Staging, Holding Bays along with Navigation via Samsung J3 phones and priority lanes on the M1 and other main roads.
Friday 19th January
I have been trying to ride to and along the waterfront at The Broadwater this week. Arriving usually before 6am it is a magical time of day but hordes of other walkers, riders and pram pushers also enjoy that time of day. No matter. It is simply quite enjoyable being there with the near perfect weather and just enjoying the day the weather and salt air.
Sometime overnight a large nice looking houseboat ran aground . I
t appears there may not have been damage to the houseboat but the pride of the skipper may have been injured.
Sunday 21st January
The houseboat was still aground at 6am this morning. I guess they are waiting for a higher than usual tide to refloat.
After lunch we went to Seaworld Beach for a walk. The day was hot but the lovely sea breeze on the shore was delightful. We also discovered the water temperature was 26°. That was warm enough even for me to run in and have a surf except the seas have been huge this week and combined with a northeasterly and falling tide the surf was more like a washing machine with a strong rip dragging to the north. The beach advice was, as usual, swim between the flags and because of the rip, keep your feet on the bottom. Water clarity was surprisingly clear after a week of big seas. Despite the less than favourable surf conditions I enjoyed trying to body surf a few waves.
We dropped the girls at Uncle Scott’s house then went for a drive to Westernport Bay. Bear on mind it was an hours drive to Scott’s home then another hour to Hastings Marina.
Westernport Bay is a much smaller bay to the east of Port Phillip Bay where Melbourne is located. Topographically it is almost choked off by Phillip Island which is Internationally recognised as a Motorcycle racing circuit and V8 Supercars Championships course. The Island was named in honour of Arthur Phillip the first Governor of New South Wales.
Most of the rest of Westernport Bay (Confusing name as it is east of Port Phillip Bay but I suppose it is West of the East coast of Victoria – go figure) is relatively shallow which, along with large tidal movements contribute to the less than pretty marine environment. I understand the water is always a dark murky shade of mud. Also filling up a fair chunk of the bay is French Island which is a National Park.
We arrived at Hastings which has two marinas separated by a small spit of land. One looks terribly run down, old, uncared for, as do most of the boats berthed there.
The other marina looks run down, uncared for and has a slightly better class of boat berthed there.
Actually I found it rather depressing and similar to many aging marinas I encountered in Alaska, Canada and the USA. Given my Marine Insurance background (Marine Insurance includes Marina’s, Jetties, Wharves, Pylons, Pontoons, Floating Restaurants and so on) I was somewhat surprised to see lots of problems in and around the marinas which normally are subject to an Insurers Survey of Safety. These marinas are poor cousins compared to first class marinas I am used to in northern Queensland.
One marina had a smart eatery –Pelikan Societe – overlooking the small tidal basin. Although the marina looks quite poor the eatery looked quite smart and attractive but charged very high prices (for example $28 for a piece of fish, chips and a small salad). Even the fish comes pre- packaged and frozen, not fresh prepared. Unimpressed we left before ordering. The nearby suburb of Hastings is quite busy but again looks tired. (Previously known as King’s Creek and Star Point, its post office opened on 4 February 1863.) We found an eatery – Beach Hut Café, although it is a long way from a beach – which also sold pre- packaged frozen fish but at a more respectable $10 for the same meal.
If I sound unimpressed by Hastings, I was. However beauty is in the eye of the beholder and looking around the area it seems there were lots of people who probably disagree with me.
Tuesday 9th January
On the road by 9am for the one hour journey down the mountain to Melbourne Airport. Donnis and I were booked “standby” on a Jet Star flight at 12.55 to the Gold Coast. We were told we are passengers 6 & 7 on standby with 6 seats available – at the moment. Depending on seniority of passengers also on standby we could get pushed down the list even further. We had to wait almost two hours before being called for our boarding pass at 12.25. We still had to get our luggage checked and weighed and a mad dash through security and a long long long gallop to terminal 48, the furthest terminal from the ticket counter. On arrival at the gate we discovered the plane had been delayed by 30 minutes.
Well at least we had an opportunity to sit and catch our breath. Our seats were in aisle 11, over the wings and beside an emergency escape exit. We had to undergo a brief training session on what to do in an emergency. As a coincidence we did a similar emergency training on the flight to Sydney on Christmas Day.
On arrival at Coolangatta we caught the 777 double decker bus to Broadbeach. This is a free service and the aisles were jammed with luggage. At least it was air conditioned and only stopped at a few select stops. At Broadbeach we stepped off the bus and onto the Light Rail as far as the Gold Coast University Hospital where a friend from our village, Marie, was waiting for us. We were home by 3.30 and noted the constant 30° heat and high humidity of around 85%. A big change from the cool temps in Kinglake where humidity levels were around 30%.
Sunday 14th January 2018.
The rest of this week has been spent just getting back into a rhythm of daily life and when it gets hot, just stay indoors and relax.
For the record I have been planning a major trip after the Commonwealth Games (April). We have been visiting airline websites looking for good deals and booking as required. As it turns out, our flights through Canada have been booked first before our return flight to Canada was booked. Today I was booking an Amtrak Train https://www.amtrak.com/home journey across the USA. I wanted to start in Vancouver B C (Canada). This leg was by Amtrak Bus to Seattle WA (USA) where it connects with the Amtrak Empire Builder train to Chicago. The journey takes two days and nights to cross 6 states over 2000 miles and travels through the lower section of The Rocky Mountains including stops in Glacier National Park which has spectacular scenery and is a mecca for snow skiing. We change trains in Chicago for the Lake Shore Limited for another overnight almost 600 mile trip to Buffalo NY (USA). This train journey follows parts of Lakes Huron and Erie. At Buffalo we change trains again for the day journey on the Maple Leaf to Niagara Falls ON (Canada). We have not yet booked hotel or car hire for NF as I had enough drama today just getting the train journey sorted.
As I was booking the train on-line, the entry rejected three times for “ID Error 115” (No, not ID 10 T error). As I was attempting to try yet again the phone rang. It was my banks credit card section to say a transaction had processed 6 times and caused them to react and call me so I could react and throw some words around which did not adequately describe my emotions at that moment!
After several deep breaths I decided to call Amtrak Bookings in the USA despite the time difference it being almost 8pm on their Saturday night. There was some delay as the northern part of the USA was in blizzard conditions and lots of trains were delayed and schedules were out of kilter. It seems their switchboard was jammed. Anyway a lovely lady finally answered my call. She offered to finish my booking and that’s when I discovered we would have been sitting up all the way if my booking had proceeded. WE wanted a room with shower and toilet. So, their system error was to my advantage. Now I have a booking including a room. The room also includes all meals, electricity, WiFi and access to the panorama car. While this was happening Amtrak also found the earlier error and reversed those 6 transactions.
I am looking forward to this trip especially as I have always wanted to have a train journey which included overnight travel and a dining car.
While all this going on, we were watching an all- day documentary on SBS TV, called, The Ghan. It was simply the long train journey from Adelaide to Darwin with minimal editing and was mostly made up of endless flat desert vista with an occasional voice over the train PA system or some interesting historical facts appearing as writing on screen above the unwinding track. Sometimes video of the train passing over a river or an overhead view from a drone and even a Google Earth sequence made what sounds like a boring nothing happening event to listening for a change in the sound as something different happens.
What a lazy New Years Day today was. Or was it? We went for a drive to Lady Stonehavens Lookout at Frank Thomson Reserve on the outskirts of Kinglake.
By the way Kinglake is about 580 m above sea level. There is a great distant view of the Melbourne skyline from here.
Next it was off to Masons Falls Picnic Area.
Recent rains meant the falls were working. Not pumping but working. Granddaughter Hannah’s Pre School has a class visit here every week so she was able to tell us where all the paths led and what the interpretive panels were all about.
On our way home we stopped at Kinglake Raspberries to pick our own.
http://www.kinglake-raspberries.com.au/ By now I had a stinking heavy duty headache and all I wanted to do was lay down under the shade of a tree until it was time to go and could get something for the headache. Once the others had picked a small bucket of raspberries we left.
None too soon as far as I was concerned. I had a couple of Panadeine Forte a cup of tea and a good lay down. I slept for the next 3 hours and woke not exactly refreshed but at least minus a headache.
Tuesday 2nd January
Errol went to work today. He was piloting Qantas Link from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island and back, then to Hobart Tasmania where he stayed for the night.
Nicole Amelia Hannah Donnis and I took the opportunity to visit the Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery at Yarra Glen.
It is amazing how something with the right product, located in an out of the way place can draw such huge crowds. Nicole ordered a chocolate fondue for two people. I called it Death by Chocolate. It included a large bowl of melted chocolate along with liquorice, apple slices, strawberries, banana pieces, honeycomb, nougat, peanut brittle and marshmallows for dipping in the chocolate. It was enough for 5 of us. On reflection it was probably too much. I never want to see chocolate again.
At least until tomorrow!
Nicole drove the girls to Melbourne as their other grandmother is taking them to the movies in the morning.
Wednesday 3rd January
Woke this morning to cold and a dismal day. It was raining and a thick fog blanketed the world. The road outside was only dimly visible.
Errol arrived home then we drove to Melbourne for a 42nd birthday dinner for Greg, Nicoles brother. It was rather an International affair as we sat down to dinner. Greg’s girlfriend is visiting from Russia
while Nicoles other brother, Scott, is married to a Peruvian woman, Monica.
Rounding out the Internationals of course is Donnis from Canada. The rest of us are Ozzies.
Dinner was at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant called the Vegie Bowl.at Forest Hill, a suburb of Melbourne. https://www.facebook.com/vegiebowlrestaurant/ The restaurant although vegetarian and owned by Buddhists has things on the menu such as sweet and sour pork, beef in black bean sauce, honey chicken. However none of the dishes contain meat. The “meat” is a combination of soy, tofu, mushrooms and spices. It was a unique experience but not one I could dine at on a regular basis.
Thursday 4th January
Today we were given a jolting reminder of the devastation which occurred in Kinglake during the bushfires of February 2009. In the 500 metre distance between the house and the small shopping centre the houses are mostly new or if not new, appear to be a mix of old but repaired. There are a few vacant blocks. On one we noticed what would once have been painted fence and gate posts. The posts are charred but still with some paint adhering some of which is still bubbled from the heat. Even the house we are staying in is new, built only in the last 5 years. The house next door has been rebuilt although still incomplete. After walking around just this small section of the community I am reminded of the mythical bird, the Phoenix which rose again from its own ashes.
Conversation at the local supermarket is all about the expected temperature predicted for this weekend, 41 degrees for two days. People are concern°ed about the dry heat and the fear of potential bushfire. The surrounding bushland is dry as is the stringy bark hanging off the trees and the tinder like undergrowth. The locals, having lived through a nightmare, are concerned it will happen again.
Friday 5th January
It was a hot day today, about 30° but the talk around the house and on the TV news is the expected high temp tomorrow of around 40° which will make today’s hot day cool by comparison.
Donnis and I took a walk in the Kinglake National Park to Jehosophat Gully.
It was a nice walk but we never found the gully.
Errol is on standby flight tomorrow. From 6 am he has to be available if a pilot is required. The only way we can get to the airport from here is when Errol goes to work. Tonight we packed our bags just in case he gets called in. Our standby tickets will be booked on line as we travel.
Tonight was warm enough to kick off the doona at bedtime.
Saturday 6th January
Errol did not get called in so we stay in Kinglake for a few more days.
By 11am the temperature was already 30° and by 5.40 had reached 41.7° but that is where it stopped. The heat was made more unbearable by a hot and strong north westerly wind. A cool change came hurtling in from the south and by 8pm the temperature had dropped to 21°. It was positively cold by comparison.
During the day we drove to the well known and popular Flying Tarts Bakery and Cafe. Although only 2pm they were preparing to close as the high temperatures has kept customers away. They only had 30 customers all day. Well alrighty then we bought the loaf of bread we came to buy plus a huge Vegetable Quiche a half dozen pies, several cakes and slices. Why not? All were marked down to half price. We had a delicious dinner with a delightful quiche and a garden salad with items mainly from Errol’s garden.
Tonight was cool enough to pull the doona back onto the bed.
Sunday 7th January.
Back to winter in the summer. Overcast with a chill wind blowing. I looked in vain all around the town but could not find the iceberg to account for the cold conditions.
We drove down the mountains into the wine producing area known as the Yarra Valley.
First stop was at an impressive winery called TarraWarra Estate Winery.
http://www.tarrawarra.com.au/ This winery boasts an impressive group of buildings, including a museum/art gallery. The buildings are made from pressed earth giving an appearance of sandstone. Wine tasting at the underground bunker- like Cellar Door starts at $5 for a splash taste of 5 different wines.
A little rich for our blood as is the price of wines in the bottle being around $50.
The art gallery was free entry as was entry to all the grounds. The vineyards are neat and well cared for.
The art gallery was huge with this months displays all being photographs – enlarged of course and with some tricky manipulation none of which appealed to me.
The lavish dining room had a menu to match. Lunch was $60 per person for a two course meal. That was also more than we wanted to spend for lunch but a great many people were enjoying themselves in the dining room.
We drove to Healesville and had a look around this old town reportedly the centre of the Yarra Valley Wine Region. We stopped to look at what may have been a car boot sale or perhaps a Sunday Markets. I am not sure what it was called but after looking at the ancient handicrafts and old junk from backyard sheds and garages I was ready to leave after a few minutes. Next stop was the Grand Hotel.
Often referred to as the “Grand Old Lady” we thought it may have been nice to have lunch but it was crowded, noisy and a burger cost $24.
We found a nice Chinese Restaurant which had lunch specials for $12.
After lunch we visited another grand winery, The Rochford. They also charge $5 a head for a taste of 5 different wines. The man who served us the 5 “tastes” regaled us with stories of grape varieties, bouquet, body etc etc etc.
He also commented how this winery did not send much of its produce to other states such as NSW and Queensland whereas wine makers in the Hunter region of NSW and Barossa Valley in SA are more well known interstate and overseas. He said this with a certain amount of disdain for the wines outside the Yarra Valley. This winery was tidy and the grape vines well tended but was simply not as much in the impressive category as TarraWarra.
Still on our way back to Kinglake we took a back road passing through a small village called Toolangi where we stopped at the huge timber Forest Discovery Centre.
Nearby there is a 45 minute sculpture walk through the forest.
What we have noticed in our drives are the number of locations marked as CFA (Country Fire Authority) water storage point. I guess the logic is if you are fighting a fire in a rural area you need to know where water is available.
Whew! Another long day. Thank goodness it was not heatwave conditions like yesterday.