We are only a third of the way through. Should we expect more surprises?
The first surprise was on 20th March when her daughter Alecia and sister Linda and niece Simone arrived from Canada and called out surprise when they quietly entered our home and waited until she came out of the bedroom.
A few days later the second surprise occurred when son Errol arrived from King Lake in Victoria with wife Nicole and their daughters and all went out on a houseboat on The Broadwater for three days.
Next was the BIG surprise birthday party when her other son Peter arrived from Atherton in North Queensland, her other sister Joan arrived from Calgary in Canada.
One day we took a drive to Springbrook to see Purlingbrook Falls
and the Best of All Lookouts.
My sisters also arrived along with family friends from her past, invited by Alecia, arrived and hid in our Clubhouse until I conned her into going there to see somebody…just for a moment. That moment turned into a 6 hour party. Suddenly about 30 people jumped out from around the corner and called surprise!!! They were all surprised because Donnis did not fall down with excitement.
Visitors were from Vancouver, Calgary and Prince Edward Island in Canada.
King Lake in Victoria, Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland. Noosa on the Sunshine Coast Queensland, Mackay in North Queensland, Townsville North Queensland, Brisbane Queensland, Gold Coast Queensland, Gymea Bay Sydney New South Wales.
Finally, her real birthday occurred on Thursday and came as a surprise creeping up unexpectedly after the other three surprises. Alecia, Donnis and I went to a Thai Restaurant for a birthday dinner.
Alecia flew home to Prince Edward Island in Canada the next morning.
All the photo credits, taken with an Olympus Digital is by Alecia Wilson.
A Commonwealth Games Driver depot workmate, Ross, gave me a Quilpie Boulder Opal Pendant. http://www.gemstory.com.au/boulder-opal-field-quilpie.html I should mention that Ross fossicked for the small pebbles, cleaned them, polished them and attached a cord so it can be hung around the neck.
The pebbles have a thin vein of opal running through them. Especially when wet, the opal fire of red, blue, yellow, green and purple flash their colours when moved in light. Quilpie is about 1,000 Klms west of Brisbane, located in a harsh arid landscape on the edge of the desert. I gave the pendant to Donnis sister Joan as a reminder of her time visiting from Canada.
Tuesday 10th April
Up early at 4am for a 6am start at the Commonwealth Games. Also up early was Joan, packing her bags. After Donnis dropped me at the Games shuttle bus service she then had to take Joan to Brisbane airport for her return to Canada.
On arrival at the depot I was handed two folders, each containing car key, phone and a country flag. One folder for Malaysia and one for Samoa. After almost 4 hours without either team booking a car I called each of them. Malaysia seemed a bit stunned there was a car set aside for them while Samoa said they would need a car within 2 hours. Just as I took a sip of my coffee and a bite of muffin, Malaysia called and made a booking so I drove 500 metres to collect them. After waiting 10 minutes past the meet time they called and cancelled. It seems the team decided to catch the light rail which runs past the gates. Grrr! I drove 500 metres back to base and returned the folder etc. I had already handed back the folder for Samoa. Now I was car less and relegated back to waiting.
My second attempt at a fresh coffee resulted in a sip plus a bite of muffin before I was offered a car to drive a Nigerian team. Well, not team really. The athlete was a 100 metre para sprinter, the rest of the “team” was his team manager and interpretor and an Australian volunteer assigned as local shopping guide and companion. We went shopping for three hours. The Nigerians had a wonderful excursion and were just amazed at the size of the sports store. I pointed out it is a smaller store compared to others. They were astounded by Robina Shopping Centre and the Bag Store had more stock than they have ever seen. I think the range of choice was overwhelming. I arrived back at base in time to finish my shift.
I would like to comment that so far there has been a lot of waiting around for jobs. Mostly the drivers will complain in a light-hearted joking fashion. We all feel the same way. We volunteered to be drivers and we want to drive. Waiting is boring. The only way to deal with it is by good humour, otherwise the annoyance soon becomes anger. Anger becomes infectious and leads to aggression and even quitting. We have three shifts per day and about 60 drivers per shift. In addition to the Games Village Depot there are other depots, Central and North who also have a huge bunch of drivers waiting for work. Now it seems our village TX (basically means taxi) shifts are being taken over by those depots. Our depot is now concentrating on CGA (basically bookable vehicles where the driver stays with the passenger for the length of the booking which sometime includes going to dinner or shopping or even events) bookings.
It seems large organisations use a lot of acronyms. The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is a large organisation and is no stranger to acronym infection. There are hundreds of acronyms most of which are included in a large book which nobody reads or understands. Lately new acronyms have begun to appear on signposts at various venues. The signs will have several “nyms” ( oh look, I have created my own acronym) with an arrow pointing left while another bunch of “nyms” appear with a right pointing arrow. Drivers look for a “nym” they know and wonder about the rest. So far things have mostly worked.
Still smiling and making jokes with the other drivers. We are having fun and remind ourselves we are.
Thursday 12th April.
Today is Donnis birthday. At last after all the surprise parties and dinners and trips and visits her day finally arrived.
I went to the Commonwealth Games and started at 6am. Before I mention what happened today let me tell you how the day ended. On the shuttle bus back to Runaway Bay the atmosphere amongst the drivers reminded me of the Camp Granada songs by Alan Sherman. ( have a look at the song here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3_xiUYMnXA )
The song starts with a young boy writing home to his parents complaining about all the things that have gone wrong at the camp and how the rain will not stop and he wants to come home. Suddenly the sun comes out, the rain has stopped and there are things to do so he now wants to stay. My relationship with Commonwealth Games Fleet has been like that. Nothing was fun and it was waiting waiting waiting and in the beginning, lots of rain. Today we were busy busy busy and my relationship with CGF changed and everybody else on the bus put in a full days work. In fact we all worked an hour beyond our shift and we were enthusiastic.
Now back to my day. It started slow when I was handed two folders containing keys and phone, one folder for Jamaica and one for Bermuda. After two hours of no action I called both Chefs de Mission to remind them I was their driver for the day. Eventually Bermuda called back and we arranged to meet. I handed back the folder for Jamaica to despatch. I had two athletes and an official who wanted to see the Mountain Bike Races at Nerang.
(one athlete, Tyler, is a marathon runner due to race on Sunday)
I agreed to stay with them until they wanted to come back to the Athletes Village. I got to see the ladies race.
Once back at the Games Village Depot Bermuda decided they did not need a car for the rest of the day. Luckily my old partners in crime, Mauritius needed a car to take an athlete to Coolangatta Airport. No, he was not fleeing the country, it was a domestic flight. (By the way there are now 13 athletes who have absconded, 8 from Cameroon, 2 from Uganda, 2 from Sierra Leonne and 1 weightlifting coach from Rwanda. He said he was going to the loo and never returned…One of the Mauritian athletes said, jokingly, I think, that he was going to abscond too. After dropping the airport passenger I dropped two officials at a shopping centre and took two athletes to Greenmount Beach and told them I would be back in an hour. After collecting the shopping officials I went back to the beach but the athletes were missing. One official went looking for the them. The other was not well so we waited. After half an hour I was beginning to wonder if they had all absconded. Eventually they arrived back, apologetic and the official looked relieved to see them again. I arrived back at the depot about an hour late in good spirits because of my busy day.
Friday 13th April…Oh what an ominous sign…Friday 13th!
It started out as a good day. I did not have to start until 4pm and work until 1am. I had breakfast and checked my email. Then the Friday 13th curse struck me. I was gobsmacked. I was stunned. I was angry. I, and many other drivers received an email telling us our Sunday afternoon shift, our last shift and one we were looking forward to was cancelled. Just like that. No discussion no warning. Cancelled. The mood on the shuttle bus was nothing like the buoyant happy people yesterday afternoon. That enthusiasm had evaporated this morning and it was difficult for anybody to make a funny comment.
I met up with fellow drivers, Ross and Keiko. Keiko is Japanese and has lived on the Gold Coast for 16 years.
She is a very positive, enthusiastic and funny lady. She is also a marathon runner although did not enter the games. Today one of her passengers was the Australian Chef de Mission, Steve Moneghetti the Australian Gold Medalist Marathon Runner. She was so excited and said it was her dream come true to meet him. They chatted about various events they have competed in and he agreed to have a photo taken with her.
Once again I was given two folders car keys and phones. One for Uganda and one for Rwanda. I called both Chefs de Mission, left messages and followed up with a text message.
Uganda called back. Please pick up three athletes from Harbour Town Shopping Centre. The three passengers were all squash players and we had a lot to talk about. I was once a very avid squash player (My family might say obsessed). I told them I was their driver until 11 pm and where did they want to go. No nightclubs but they would like a guided tour or a karaoke bar. Well that’s fine with me, I will do either or both. They wanted to have dinner, a shower and get ready to go by 7pm. By 8pm I sent a message to say I was ready for them. They said thanks but by 10pm I had heard nothing. By then I was disappointed and not interested in any more waiting and finishing late. By 10.30pm I found a shuttle bus going my way and jumped out at the lights. My volunteer duties were now complete. All us final night drivers received a gift of a stylised chrome surfboard with some words of thank you which somehow seems a slap in the face at the moment.
Sunday 15th April
Just watched the closing ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. It was a bitter disappointment. Even the Channel 7 Commentators complained. They could only broadcast what the Independent TV Crew from the Organisers allowed them to broadcast. We did not see the athletes march into the stadium and we did not see Kurt Fearnley as the Australian Flag Bearer.
Apart from some of my negative comments and the disappointing closing ceremony I still feel, overall, the games were a huge success. I still feel proud to be a part of it. So proud in fact that Donnis and I will attend the Volunteers Party at Broadwater Park next Saturday evening.
Grrrrrrr! Just as I was preparing this blog to Post I noticed a tiny warning that the link with Facebook has failed….Again!!! This is ridiculous. Facebook are riddled with so many problems. Created by and managed and perpetuated by a bunch of adolescents with no life skills and no idea of how to solve a problem when one occurs. If Facebook was a motor car they would be in serious financial trouble and on the brink of collapse. Unlike car owners, Facebook users seem to shrug and accept what is dished up to them. There is no repair shop we can take the problem to.
Working as a driver for the Commonwealth Games on night shift is not much different to day shift. It is darker, cooler and quieter. I am beginning to believe we have too many drivers and the athletes are not using the service as much as anticipated. Today I worked early shift to allow me to attend the Dress Rehearsal of the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony at Carrara Stadium. The live music and sounds of the Ceremony are awesome when heard live. Live TV loses that magical sound but on the other hand you see more on TV than being live at the stadium. On TV there is usually a commentary but live at the stadium there is no such explanation. I left early to catch a shuttle bus home.
Thursday 5th April
Day shift at the games. It was a long, hot day with few passengers. We are given a little soft bodied Esky and two fresh freezer blocks (I now have a large collection of freezer blocks)The little Esky contains our lunch, which comprises a muesli bar, a piece of fruit, a sandwich and a muffin. I am getting a little tired of soft bread and soggy tomato on every sandwich.
Today I drove two Anguila Track and Field team managers to their hotel at Broadbeach. The address was not on my list of approved destinations. It seems the hotel is really an Air B&B within a hotel and hotel reception know nothing of the arrangement. We drove around for ages trying to find the entrance as several streets were blocked off while entertainment events were being held. We tried calling the Air B&B but the lady who answered was Chinese and difficult to understand. The ladies phones were running out of battery until they found a help number. The man they called was a bit aggressive and not helpful except to say we were parked in the hotel entrance but not to go inside to see reception. Instead we should walk along the side and through a gate and into a small lobby where we would find keys and instructions. The ladies by now were quite tired and so relieved their journey was over so they could go to bed.
This is the second time I have dealt with Air B&B in the last week and I find their arrangements are quite unsatisfactory. There is nobody to call if the room is not cleaned or bedding or bath towels are not in place. Usually keys are dropped off at an agreed place or left with somebody else.
Tonight we joined Karen and her son and grandsons at Southport Chinatown for dinner. The streets have been closed to allow a street party for the next 10 days, One street has a giant TV screen
while another has a live band on stage and amongst this was a giant inflated moon suspended via a crane.
As well as the amazing Asian restaurants there were lots of street food vans. It was a nice warm evening and a relaxed safe atmosphere. We at at a little Vietnamese Family place with a limited menu. The food was good, plentiful and cheap.
Friday 6th April.
Afternoon shift at the Games. I was asked to pick up 5 members of the Mauritius Officials and take them to the airport. It turns out I was only taking one to the airport and the other 4 were minders including the President of the Mauritius Commonwealth & Olympic Games Committee. They rarely spoke and would not answer any of my questions unless they discussed the question first then somebody else would answer. Once I left the airport the remaining 4 men fell asleep. When I arrived at the Presidents hotel I asked if he was tired, he turned to me for the first time and said “we are all very tired but now we can rest”.
That’s him, same shirt and coat and nice trimmed beard. The report stated he fled the country last night!!!
I drove the fugitive to the airport and the other 4 helped him leave the country.
Sunday 8th April
Alecia arrived last night so today we drove her and Joan (Donnis sister) to Springbrook to see the waterfalls, especially at Purling Brook Falls. We were surprised by a man and his two mates show up with a bag full of ropes and preparing to abseil or rappel down the cliff face near the falls. (Actually abseil and rappel are the same thing. Rappel was the name of the Frenchman who invented the technique)
I had every confidence the man knew what he was doing and was suitably prepared with safety equipment.
Donnis was too scared for his safety to watch.
I was not so confident of the pair of backpacking idiots who jumped a safety fence, despite signs asking people not to climb the fence as the rocks are slippery and it is a 100 metre sheer drop to certain death. One backpacker in particular stepped right to the edge and used a selfie stick to record his lack of brains.
In the meantime the abseil was underway finally running out of rope a metre above a rock slide.
He unhooked then struggled through thick bush to scramble to the creek below.
While his mates pulled the rope back up the cliff face he started the 2 Klm hike back up the cliffs.
To finish our drive we went to Hinze Dam which supplies most of the water to the Gold Coast.
With all the rain we have had over the last two months, water is running over the spillway.
Another day as driver for the Commonwealth Games. It seems that although most of the athletes and officials have not all arrived, the daily increases in security and road and lane closures are increasing.
The annoying part about being a driver is for each shift, there are several shift as a day, for my depot alone, there are around 60 drivers. As yet there is little demand for drivers so most are sitting around all day getting grumpy as they are not doing what they volunteered and trained to do.
I managed to get a job of driving the Jamaican Team Manager to Coolangatta Airport to collect an athlete and bring him back to the village for issuance of accreditation and room assignment. Next, I had a two hour shift at the Sheraton Grande Mirage waiting for a games family member needing a driver.
Next I drove two Australian Media officials to Coolangatta Airport to meet the Australian Boxing Team. Those boxers were bussed to the Games Village so I drove there as well albeit with no passengers.
In the meantime Donnis and some family members hired a houseboat and escaped for three nights on The Broadwater.
Half their luck.
Tuesday 27th March
Had the stitches removed from my nose and had another cancer removed from my back. Ouch! Another 5 stitches.
It was Doug’s Birthday. (he is Donnis brother in law from Canada) So tonight I joined Linda and Doug and Peggy and Fred at Southport Surf Life Saving Club for dinner. It was “Members Night” which involves a draw of a member number. The prize was $9,200. The member was not present so the jackpot increases to $9,300 next week. The place was crowded but once the draw was over most people left. It was still noisy.
We had some heavy rain in the evening and our thoughts strayed briefly to those spending the night on the houseboat.
Wednesday 28th March
I had a late afternoon shift for the Commonwealth Games. Much like other days, about 60 of us sat around waiting to be called to drive. A new system is in place. Each driver is issued with a number. They call a number, issue keys and when you return, the keys are handed in. When a driver is required the next number is called. Although the system makes sense there are still not enough athletes in the village at the moment to need 60 drivers. To relieve the boredom of waiting some of us were given keys to choose a destination and take a partner and drive. My partner drove to Coolangatta Airport. When we arrived back at the depot we sat around until our shifts ended at 1am. Grrrr!. Waiting to be a driver can be so frustrating.
Friday 30th March
Donnis and family went to Seaworld for the day.
I have been holding a secret for 5 months. The reason why most of Donnis family arrived was to surprise her with a big birthday party which included some of my family and some of her friends from years gone by. I pretended we were meeting the family at the surf club for dinner but stopped at our clubhouse with the excuse I had to see somebody inside. Donnis said she would wait in the car. I insisted she come inside with me. The clubhouse lights were off and once inside 35 people errupted with “Surprise” from where they were hiding. The party went from 6pm to 10pm and was a big hit. Donnis daughter Alecia organised the party, the guests, the timing and the caterers via on-line from Canada. An amazing job. Was Donnis surprised? The look on her face was a bit mask like rather than surprised. She took it all in her stride and managed to circulate and talk with every guest. I kept the secret.
Saturday 31st March
Another late shift with the Commonwealth Games.
In case I have not mentioned this before, here are some facts about the games.
* 60 competing nations and territories will take part in the Gold Coast Games
* It’s the 5th time Australia has staged the Commonwealth Games
* 18 sports, including 7 para-sports, will offer 275 gold medals.
* 6600 athletes and team officials will travel to the Gold Coast.
* 3500 accredited and non-accredited media will cover the Games.
* The Games are estimated to have a $2 billion economic impact on the Gold Coast and Queensland
* $320 million has been invested in sport and community infrastructure.
* Four sources of funding to deliver the Games. Qld Govt – $1.507b, Fed Govt – $156m, Gold Coast City Council – $115m, commercial income from sponsorship, ticket sales, licensing and merchandising – $240m.
* Games will generate 30,000 full-time equivalent jobs across various sectors.
* Over one million spectators to watch the Games across 18 venues located on the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville.
* 350 cameras set to broadcast 1100 hours of live sport.
* 15,000 volunteers to be selected from 47,000 applications.
Tonight I drove a team manager of Lesotho from the games to her accommodation. The Kingdom, landlocked within Africa, has a population of 2.2 million people. The manager was just amazed at how big the Gold Coast is and how friendly are the people. The other aspect which impressed her was the security arrangements which are quite visual and even in your face. She is grateful for the security so they can compete in safety.
Later in the night I drove another official, this time from Nigeria who was enthused about how beautiful the Gold Coast is. He also considers the security visibility is important to the athletes and gives them a great sense of safety. His job was to ensure all athletes are in their rooms by 9pm before he returns to his accommodation. I asked about the reported thousands of condoms handed out to athletes on arrival. He laughed and said he has to ensure athletes are in their rooms when HE leaves. What they get up to after that was a matter for them.
So far all the visitors have spoken good to excellent English.
Getting into and even out of venues requires multiple security checks. After awhile it becomes routine for the drivers and the passengers.
Tonight there are more road and lane closures as we get closer to the games opening on 4th April.
The Police have a drone, equipped with guns hovering over the games village. Earlier this week an unauthorised drone was shot down.
Sunday 1st April
Yay! Today was just a lazy stay at home day without direction or effort. Most of our visitors have gone away for a day and it was just good to simply do nothing.
Today the stitches in my eyebrow were removed. There now, that wasn’t so bad. Was it? No, but the surgery on my nose which followed was a bit more uncomfortable and I realise that I have a reaction to the local anaesthetic which I understand is Xlylocaine and sometimes includes a mild dose of Adrenaline. I seem to get a weakness in the legs, a headache, swelling around the wound and nearby sites, bruising and a general feeling of being unwell. I need to discuss that with my doctor when I front up for the next bit of surgery.
Tuesday 20th March
Donnis was surprised by a visit from her daughter Alecia, sister Linda and her partner, her niece Simone and some friends from way back when. All arrived from Canada today. The surprise was planned about September 2017 and I had to keep the secret all these months. The shock and squeals and tears when Donnis saw all these people, in our lounge room when she emerged from the bedroom was worth waiting for.
Thursday 22nd March
Today was my first work day as a driver for the Commonwealth Games. My job was to collect 10 officials of the Ghana team and bring them to the Games Athletes Village for an inspection of their new accommodation. I drove a Toyota 12 seater Commuter Bus. Communication with the Ghana Officials was quite easy as it seems they were all, if not fluent, at least proficient in English. Before leaving their luxury hotel I politely informed them that wearing a seat belt in Australia is compulsory by law. They all belted up without protest.
The next job was to take 10 members of the Botswana Officials on a shopping excursion. Once I was issued with the car keys and rolled up to collect them we discovered they had been double booked and had already left.
Most of the day was spent sitting around and waiting. Many of the athletes, their families and officials have not yet arrived. We had more drivers than people needing drivers. This will change over the next few days and we will be very busy once the games begin.
Friday 23rd March
Another day working for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
I drove the Botswana Team manager to Runaway Bay. Then I was assigned the transport desk in what is known as The Games Family Hotel (otherwise known as Sheraton Grande Mirage.) Wow! That is one delightfully fancy hotel on the beach. I spent two hours waiting for a family member to require a driver.
Alas, my time was wasted.
Sunday 25th March.
Today was busy.
I saw the doctor about my nose surgery as a blister or haematoma is growing inside. As well I wanted to discuss a way to get rid of my belly which stays the same even when I have lost weight elsewhere. A fasting blood test was carried out.
Afterwards I drove visiting Canadians, Fred and Peggy on a tour of the Gold Coast and northern NSW. First we stopped at Burleigh Heads and headed along the coast through Currumbin Beach, Kirra Beach, Coolangatta and the Dangar Point Light Station on the border. From there we went to Fingal Heads in NSW to see the lighthouse and the Giants Staircase.
The headland itself was made from a lava flow from the now extinct Tweed Volcano. In fact the remnants of the Tweed Volcano stretch all the way into Queensland at least as far as Burleigh Heads where the same Basalt columns can be found. The rock composition in the area is mainly basalt or andesite. These formed into hexagonal columns on the headland and nearby Cook Island when molten lava flowed into the sea and cooled rapidly. About 500 metres offshore from the headland is Cook Island, a rocky uninhabited island first charted by James Cook in 1770 and is named after him. The stretch of water to the island is called the “Giants Causeway”, named after the famous Giants Causeway between Northern Ireland and Western Scotland. Cook Island was made a marine reserve in 1998 and fishing is prohibited in the waters nearby.
A provisional light station was established on the head in 1872 and in 1878 a proper lighthouse, built as a sandstone construction in a round design, was inaugurated.
It was part of a series of five such lighthouses established between 1878 and 1880. All the original lighthouse buildings including the keepers cottage are gone. Only a few foundations still exist almost hidden by the encroaching scrub. The lighthouse is fully automatic although checked and monitored on a regular basis.
We stopped for lunch at Kingscliff Surf Life Saving Club. The club uses the following as their dining motto. “Great food, comfortable surroundings, friendly staff and the best views in town.” I cannot argue with most of those comments except that the menu is mostly what I call club or pub food. That is, mostly deep fried food including chips.
Although Fred and Peggy were both gobsmacked with the coastal scenery the next destination was the highlight of the tour for them.
Byron Bay, the Easternmost point in Australia and first noted by Captain Cook in his epic 1770 voyage.
This was the first time I have stopped and parked at the lighthouse and discovered what a truly iconic building on a rugged clifftop this really is.
The lighthouse commenced operations in 1901 after a decision in 1890 to build the lighthouse and work commenced in 1899.
Snap snap snap went my trusty Panasonic DMC – FZ200 camera. It was having a great time dragging me around via the neck strap. I had no option other than to follow, scrambling up and down the myriad steps and staircases.
Spectacular seems to be a word which is bandied about by many writers.
In this case I really cannot think of another suitable word.
Byron Bay itself is a good size town with a modern hospital serving a large district. Most of the population is young backpackers and surfers all looking for a hedonistic lifestyle. The town is overly well endowed with night spots, eateries, coffee shops, bars, surf clothes stores and surfboard shops.
Leaving Byron Bay we drove home via Murwillumbah and over the Murwillumbah/Tweed/Nerang Range into Queensland in failing light where the speed limit was 60 KPH, the corners were 35 KPH and my passengers, not used to such roads, left finger imprints in the upholstery. My thought to take them for a drive up the mountains to Springwood and Binna Burra later in the week has been cancelled. The drive to those locations is steep and with twisting tight corners and even sections of road which are one way. I will have to plan another adventure for them.
I really enjoy being a driver and tour guide, sharing what I know about topical information and local history.
My appointment at the Skin Clinic resulted in a little surgery requiring 5 stitches in my eyebrow. Because of the delicate area where the anaesthetic was injected I ended up with a bonus black eye! I still have several other squamous cell carcinoma to be removed over the next several weeks.
Thursday 15th March
My final training session with the Commonwealth Games new phone App. Today I drove the people mover, the Kia carnival, capable of carrying 8 persons. It is easy to drive and although comfortable I found the passenger seat without lumbar adjustment was not kind to my back. We used the App to drive to Coolangatta Airport which should have been a simple drive along the M1 for 90% of the journey. Instead the App GPS directed us to leave the M1 and exit at the Smith Street Motorway and join the Gold Coast Highway. This added at least 30 minutes to the journey with the stop start traffic lights and driving through busy, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach and Currumbin. I call it the scenic drive and is great for first time visitors to the Gold Coast. It is not good if you are in a hurry. We reported the analogy to HQ who agree the GPS should have directed us along the M1. Apart from that the App and GPS functioned well. This was my last training session as we are live next week picking up athletes and families from Brisbane or Coolangatta Airport and driving them to the Athletes Village or their hotel.
Commonwealth Games commence on 5th April for 11 days.
Friday 16th March
We went to The Broadwater for a walk and for Donnis to have a swim.
Donnis was intrigued by a lady with a back of tattoo of a tree and birds and butterfly’s.
Saturday 17th March
In the morning with the social committee set up our clubhouse for St Patricks Day party tonight.
The party itself was a lot of fun. We had 60 people attend with most of them getting into the spirit by getting dressed up in Irish Green. We helped the spirit by adding vodka to the slushy machine. Wayne produced a Shepherds Pies with soda bread as a supper snack. Graham reminded us that the snack was once a staple part of the Irish Diet. In fact their shepherds pie was less meat, more potatoes and vegetables. Most Irish families could not afford meat, although potato was almost a staple of their diet.
Sunday 18th March
Donnis and I drove to Springwood to watch grandson Chris play his first rugby league game of the season.
Chris has grown tall and lanky in the last year and although he does not have the muscle of some of the other team members he is quite fast and is a difficult player to tackle.
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.