Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Riding a camel to see the sunrise on Uluru!

I can now cross TWO items off my bucket list! Although, as that list is continually being added to, I haven't really made a dent in it. But two - in one trip! We had some friends visit from the States and being excellent travelers they planned to see various sites across the country. And, being excellent friends, they invited us to join them on their jaunt to Uluru. Yes please! My Aussie husband had been there once, long long ago on a school trip, but I had never been. Plus, this was a new State for me - Northwest Territories!
And so we went, and it was incredible. We stayed in an apartment at the Ayers Rock Resort which is about the only civilization for miles and miles. They actually do a good job there, really emphasizing the Aboriginal reverence for Uluru, and offering tours that seem to be sensitive to their culture. We were only there for 3 nights so that kind of limited our options, as we didn't want to just run from one thing to the next. So that is how I came to sign up for the "Camel Tour to Sunrise". Fortunately we were there in the beginning of May (late Fall) so sunrise was at a somewhat reasonable time, a little before 7. The shuttle picked us up at Zero Dark Thirty and took us ("us" being one of my friends and I, we couldn't talk the other two into it) even further out into the bush to a camel ranch. And this is what was waiting for us!

 A bit of history - camels were brought to Australia in the 1840s for use in exploring the Outback, some escaped into the wild and they have been quite happy, breeding to pest-like numbers. So this camel ranch rounded up some and tamed them, and now we were going to ride them through the desert to see the sun rise and illuminate the massive iconic rock that is Uluru. If you have never been on a camel, I highly recommend it. They have a swaying almost hypnotic gate, and their height gives you quite a good view across the land. And what a view it was!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Season(al) Disorder

So today is officially the first day of Autumn in Australia. But it is not yet the equinox, you say. No it most certainly is not! However like so many other things, Australia assigns the season a little differently than everyone else - they start their seasons on the first of the month which is the Meteorological way of doing things. I had never heard of this as I have lived all my life believing that the seasons changed on the Solstices and Equinoxes. This I have learned is the Astronomical reckoning of the seasonal changes. This has been very educational because I have also learned that there are MANY other ways of assigning the seasons:
Ireland uses an ancient Celtic calendar system to determine the seasons, so spring begins on St Brigid's Day on February 1. Some cultures, especially those in South Asia have calendars that divide the year into six seasons, instead of the four that most of us are familiar with.
In Finland and Sweden, the dates of the seasons are not based on the calendar at all, but on temperatures. Here, spring officially begins when the average temperature rises above 0 °C (32 °F). This means that the seasons within each county start and end on different dates, depending on the regions and their climate.

It still feels like Summer, so I am holding out until March 21st to admit to Fall. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Driving Lessons

I have now driven in 3 countries. The U.S. (of course) Canada, and now Australia. Canada almost doesn't count as a separate country as it is just like driving in the States except with that kilometer thing.  My Aussie husband has driven in lots more countries, Italy being his "favorite". He says that any non-Italian who drives there has to be crazy as there are so many unwritten rules of the road.
As he was born in Australia and learned to drive here, he has become my driving instructor. Australia being it's own land mass can make up whatever rules it wants to for driving, so they drive on the left (British) side of the road. In Melbourne there are all sorts of rules about how to drive with trams, as they use the same lanes as cars and the tracks run down the middle of the streets. They have stops every other block it seems, and you are not allowed to pass them while they are letting passengers on or off. Your only chance is to pull up next to them at an intersection and beat them out of the gate when the light turns green. I love the tram system, when I am riding on one. Driving behind one? Not so much. 
Back to my instruction. My husband, not wanting to add to his grey hair suggests that Sunday mornings would be a good time for me to get behind the wheel and work on my driving skills. Not too much traffic, and people aren't quite in as much of a hurry to get places, he says. Sounds good to me! So we set off, following streets that are near and familiar to me. My confidence building, I head for a main street with a tram line. Of course I time it perfectly and turn in right after a tram has passed. What should have been a quick 10 minute drive now stretches into an eternity, with me anxiously looking for an opportunity to pass the tram, and my husband sweating in the passenger seat, praying that the tram does not make any stops for the next 10 kilometers. Fortunately for all involved we arrived at the road that goes to our place, I turn left off the tram line, and my husband can breathe again. Strangely, he has not suggested another driving lesson for me...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

More Language Confusion

So I moved from the United States to Australia. Easy, right? Both countries speak English! I won't have any problem understanding them, or them understanding me. Piece of cake? Not exactly...
They speak English, yes, but have a whole lot of different words for things and that confuses me daily.
Am I walking on the sidewalk? NO! It is a footpath. Do I put gas in my car? Of course not - it is petrol. Post, not Mail. Splash back, not back splash in the kitchen. A pie is most often savory and filled with meat, not something you get with a scoop of ice cream at the end of your meal. A Hotel is not a place you can get a room for the night, it is a pub. Actually it is like a Sports Bar, as they all have a million TV screens showing different races you can bet on, and often rows of slot machines or "Pokies". However they also have Chicken Parma specials with which you get platters of food bigger than your head for very reasonable prices, so I can overlook the other things... 
And my favorite? Cotton balls are called "cotton wool".  I think they are confused, as it cannot be cotton and wool at the same time.

And don't even get me started on the spelling differences! Harbour. Colour. Authorise. My spellcheck goes crazy every time I try to type anything. It is going to take some time to assimilate.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hunting for good beer

The apartment we just moved into is right above a shopping center. We have a grocery store, drug store, dry cleaner, Chinese massage, several places to grab a bite to eat, and a Liquor Store - Bottle Shop as they are called here. I have wine at my fingertips! Want a cocktail, but don't have all the ingredients? Why, you can just pop down and pick up whatever you need. It is all just an elevator ride away. Except decent beer. The Bottle Shop has a woefully mainstream selection, where Golden Ales are deemed strong, and a Craft Beer is Sierra Nevada. (odd thing to import!) My poor Aussie husband was very disappointed. I felt bad. And so I went on an expedition through the nearby shopping districts. All the main roads have at least a block-long grouping of shops and restaurants on them, so it was just a matter of finding the right type of shop on any given main road.
One day last week after a visit to the Australia Post shop, I almost bumped into a sandwich board advertising beer on sale for Father's Day. (it is the first weekend in September here, not June) I walked in and was surrounded by Beer Nirvana. They had an amazing selection of Stouts, shelves of actual IPAs, and even stocked selections from Moon Dog, our new favorite brewery. I couldn't wait to bring my husband there! We have to leave our complex to get the good stuff, but it is worth the 15 minute walk. NOW we have everything we need!

Thursday, August 24, 2017


Apparently people in Melbourne are very worried about toilet odors, During our apartment search, I noticed something I thought was rather odd - the bathroom extractor fans were all above the toilet. Not anywhere close to the shower, which is what I would expect when you want to prevent moisture from hanging around. No, it is above the toilet. I finally asked a real estate agent about it, and he exclaimed "to get rid of the smell"! Okay then... There is even a product on the market called "VIPoo" which according to the TV commercial (during prime time!) you spray into the toilet before you "drop your devil donuts" to "seal in the smell".  I am not kidding.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Almost Moving Day!

The Moving Gods are smiling upon us! We have only one possible day to move into our "real" apartment, and we have been able to schedule everything on that day. Everything!
Our very important appliances- refrigerator, clothes washer and dryer, and TV - will all be delivered. Our beautiful container that has spent weeks at sea will be delivered and unpacked. I cannot wait to see my treasured pots and pans.
My Aussie husband will be happy to see the container for different reasons as he will be able to sleep in his own bed once again. And he will have more than 7 changes of clothes. OK - so that is something I am happy for, maybe more than my husband. And SHOES! I will have all my shoes.
We only brought 3 checked bags with us so wardrobes have been limited, with emphasis on work attire for him. Emphasis on clothes that would pad the carefully packed bottles of Madeira for me.  Priorities!