Happy New Year’s 2008 from Dunedin, NZ

Happy New Years! It is now 9:30 in the morning on January 1 – although you folks in Canada as still awaiting your celebrations.

We landed in New Zealand on the 30th late in the day after a whole of day of 3 flights to get here. It was cold and raining when we arrived, and with Mike having been sick with the flu for over a week, we did not start the NZ journey on a high note.

But we awoke on Dec 31 to a beautiful sunny day, and although it was cool, it made all the difference to see the sun after so many days of clouds and rain.

Dunedin is an interesting town as it is laid out around a central octagon. And Robbie Burns overlooks the centre of it all – this is a very Scottish town. The nephew of Robbie Burns was one of the founding fathers of the city.

The city is built on mountains – note that I don’t call them hills! and even skateboarders need a motor in this environment :-). The architecture is very interesting – a lot of gothic and 18th/19th century buildings most which have been well maintained.

In the morning we headed out to a local ‘minor’ attraction – Tunnel Beach. It was at the end of non-descript road – and it was incredible. You can see the limestone point in the photo. But what you can’t see is the tunnel that has worked through the rock to the beach below. You walk right through the rock to the beach below and it really is an awesome ‘freak’ of nature. And of course there are sheep and green grass everywhere!

We also checked out the steepest street in the world – I did mention that it is built on mountains! The gradient is at one point 1 in 2.81 – which is ridiculous! As you can see, I even end up taller than Kyle standing right beside him!
We celebrated in the town octagon in Dunedin with several other thousand people – locals and tourists both. We had a marvelous meal – the smoked salmon is fantastic here. Followed by a great dessert (as photoed here).

The octagon was home to lots of entertainment – there was a real mixed band playing for the whole evening.

And at midnight we had live piper playing Auld Lang Syne and lots of fireworks. A very memorable New Years.

So hopefully the sunny weather will signal a healthier Michael and it will help Kyle overcome his car sickness.


We are now on our last day in Australia πŸ™ . Tomorrow we head off to New Zealand. Again I will update the text at a later date (I can only write so much in one sitting – and the last update has me spent!). But here are our photos from Tasmania – basically 2 sets – the western area where we spent our first 3 days, and the Hobart set where we are now. I’ll sort them out next chance.

Till then, Happy New Year’s everyone. We’ll be one of the first to welcome 2008 from Dunedin NZ.

Week1-Adelaide to Melbourne (UPDATED)

This is a lengthy photo posting short on text. Some eye candy for Christmas! We have just arrived in Tasmania from the overnight ferry ride from Melbourne. We are not finding easy access to internet so far – hoping we have better luck in Hobart. So for now, you’ll have to settle for the photos sans explanations I’m sorry to say.

I hope to return to narrate, but for now below is a selection of photos from Adelaide to Melbourne. We’ve been having a great time despite the weather – cold and wet! We’ve made full use of all our warm clothes and rain gear. And this is summer in Australia!!! Looks like Perth is hot, but not here. Not that we are as cold as Canada at this point, but I did expect to be using sunscreen at least!

Well my internet time is out for now, so hope to catch up after Christmas. In the meantime – hope Santa is good to all and that you have a wonderful time with family and friends over the holidays. And remember even if you get a bit overloaded on time spent with family – appreciate what you have while you have it – some of us are not so lucky to spend time with family this year. Merry Christmas!

Finally back to update with some text. I’ll move the order of the photos also.
We started in Adelaide where we had some great meals and enjoyed browsing the square and watching some street performers. Haighs Chocolates building was especially interesting with it’s beehive top and armed security guard at the entrance to the shop (no, it’s not a normal sight to have security guards at shops here).

The architecture in Adelaide was quite interesting, and as you can see Mike found many interesting angles from behind the lens.

The Christmas atmosphere is obviously different – but the Christmas tree and lights display in the town square, and the sand castle of Santa and his elves contributed to the spirit. Your photo with Santa was by walking up behind the sand carvings to be part of the sculpture!

From Adelaide we made the drive down the southern coast to Melbourne. We took 3 days en route. Our first night was at Mount Gambier. The next day we visited Blue Lake -one of the glacier lakes in the region. It is quite unique in that it is grey most of the year. But mid-November it turns turquoise blue overnight. Then by mid-February it fades back to grey for the rest of the year. There was no real explanation supplied – guess they want it to be one of lifes little mysteries πŸ™‚

Also in this area we had to make a stop for a crossing echidna. We have seen many on the roadside (alive that is), but this is the only one we’ve had to stop to allow cross!

We also visited the limestone caves and the petrified forest. And everywhere we went, we accompanied by the flies! We thought WA was bad, but now we realize they can be worse – much worse! The photo at right of Mike’s back was after many of them had flown away!

Our next day we rose very early to try to catch the main sights of the Great Ocean Road with good morning lighting. It started clear, but quickly clouded over, and by later in the day it was quite wet. So luckily we made the trip this morning rather than returning in the evening when we would have been rained out! Our first stop was London Bridge (photo above). The bridge actually collapsed in 1995 – the arch shown was actually attached prior to that. Dan & Suz’s photos from 1989 will be interesting to compare to!

The 12 Apostles have also suffered from weathering – there seem to be only 10 now at most, and the latest one collapsed in 2005 – again we want to compare to 1989 photos.

The coast road was a very interesting drive – especially the stretch from Apollo Bay heading to Melbourne. It hugged the coast line and it was hard to keep your eyes on the road! Unfortunately most of that day was raining, so it was perhaps not as spectacular as it could have been.



Then we were off to Melbourne. We hooked up with Bruce and Marilena and their two daughters Maia and Emma. They were marvelous hosts and they made us feel most welcome. Mike had not seen Bruce for about 20 years!

We visited the Victoria Market with Marilena and Maia. We had a few marvelous Marilena meal creations (including a wonderful salmon dinner), as well as a Greek meal out. Again lots of good food and too much of it!
Mike, Kyle & I headed into Melbourne on our own on Sunday (by train – the roads here are very weird so I was happy not to be driving!). We walked the town – from street buskers up to the Gaol where Ned Kelly was hung (photo at left). Then we walked back down to the Victoria Art Gallery.

We split up inside the gallery. Lots of interesting antiquities there, but Kyle and I did not have the camera! For my dad – Mike captured this photo of Eva Gardner in the Nevil Shute film The Beach.

We also came across a shopping centre built around this historic mill. They were not allowed to tear down the building, so they built the mall around it! Quite interesting and ingenious.

We also managed to find this ergonomic building. It fully recycles the air every 4 hours. The windows open at 2am every night to cool the building and save on air conditioning costs. The lighting in the building is almost all natural light with task lighting only. One wall is full of plants and the opposite wall has ventilation shafts hanging off the building for air circulation (we think). For anyone who has worked in a modern office building, this would be a wonderful change!

Also included here are a selection of other Melbourne shots. A very interesting city and we really enjoyed our stay here.

And We’re Off

In less than 1/2 hour we leave our ‘home away from home’. It truly has been a home for us for the past year, and each return home from our 2 week stints has felt like coming home. But now we start our next adventure.

Kyle and ‘JC’ have been catching as much time together as possible before we leave, including a tour of the Mandurah canals to see the incredible Christmas lights adorning the ‘ritzy’ homes on the canals. And Mike and I have been socializing up to the end also. Last night we had a wonderful ‘Christmassy’ dinner hosted by Donna & Chris and with Richard & Phillipa. Again too much good food and drink!

But now having spent the last few days frantically packing and cleaning and disposing of the car, we are waiting for our ‘bookend’ hosts to take us back to the airport. Richard and Phillipa met us at the airport upon arrival and are now seeing us off. In between they have been the perfect sponsors, always there when we need them.

So, as promised here is our final adventure plan. The next few weeks will see sporatic postings depending upon network access on our travels. But here’s where we’ll be:

Dec 16-22 Fly to Adelaide and drive down to Melbourne where we’ll hook up with Montgomery family friends, the Wallaces.

Dec 23 – 29 In Tasmania – 3 days near Cradle Mountain, and 3 in Hobart. Tassie for ‘Chrissie’ as the Aussies call it.

Dec 30-Jan 13 2 weeks in New Zealand (the map is a bit off – we really do start in the far south and then head north). In the North Island, we’ll hook up with the Birds who were in Canada on exchange a few years back.

Jan 14-21 Thailand – we do an organized tour for the week.

Jan 22-23 Back to Hong Kong and hopefully catch up with Simon who we met on the way down.

Jan 24 – BACK TO CANADA !!!

These Are a Few of My Favourite Things…

Just 4 sleeps left till we leave Western Australia. All the expected lines apply – “Seems like we just arrived”, “Time flies when you’re having fun”, “Where did the year go?”, “A penny saved is a penny earned”. Okay, not that last one. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention πŸ™‚

I’ll do one last post after this from WA with our travel plans. But todays focus is all the incredible memories and things we’ll miss from this corner of the world. Just as back in Canada, our list is topped by family and friends, the list here is headed by the wonderful people we have met. It may be ‘a small world’, but distances are still very great when you would like to just sit and have a coffee (or glass of Aussie wine πŸ™‚ with a friend.

We’ve made friends through many channels. Both Mike & Kyle have new mates from school as expected, but there’s also my fitness friends (they even took me out for morning tea to say goodbye), yoga buddies, Kyle’s friends through his gaming club – not to mention his girlfriend whom he met through those friends, and the Canadian and Aussie friends we now have acquired through the exchange teachers group. Canadians are supposed to be known for their generosity, but the Aussie folks we’ve met have done their country proud. They have made this an absolutely memorable (in only good ways) year.

And then there’s the other stuff. Being nature buffs, both Mike and I have been especially taken with the variety of birds and trees down here. I’ll miss the 29’s (coloured parrots – family lives in the tree behind us), the magpies, the pink and grey gallahs (Kyle’s fav), the cockatoos (my favourite) who wrestle each other off the branches of trees for entertainment (theirs and mine), the ravens with their loud laughter and cries which make you think there’s a baby out there, the wagtails – especially the one who danced on our window ledge at his own reflection, the wattle bird who picks off all the spiders around the house and the pelicans who waddle around the waterside.

The trees are fascinating to me in how distinct they are from our trees. Almost all trees flower in colour – spring is wonderful. The bottlebrush have colourful ‘brush’ type flowers along their branch, the grevillea with their wonderful constant flowers, the wattle with their masses of tiny pompom flowers, the banskia with their unique cones and large cylindrical brush flowers, the eucalyptus in all their many varietes with wonderful bark and aromas, the desert oak (not an oak at all) so soft and whispy, the tree ferns which florish after fires. Some trees lose their bark, not their leaves. Some can survive fires which appear to have decimated them. Then there’s the giant fig trees which are massive in their width, and the karri and the tingle and the tuart – all giants in their height. And when you do see a North American tree such as an oak, it is suffering to survive in the dry heat of summer and missing it’s long winter nap.

And of course, there’s the food and drink!!! We will definitely miss the Aussie wine. We’ve been spoiled for the entire time with quality wine for a reasonable price. And although that has not helped the waistline any, it’s been good for the palate. Besides a glass or two of red wine is good for you – right? Also on the list are macadamia nuts, mangos, bananas, Milo (kind of a chocolate milk drink mix – Kyle is addicted and will likely suffer from withdrawl), TimTams (chocolate biscuits), pavlova, prawns, and perhaps most of all – meat pies (especially from Miami bake shop!)

The landscape is another of my favourite aussie memories – beaches and coral reefs, ancient rocks and giant bolders, and canyons and ravines and waterfalls. You’ve seen the photos and know that I can’t even begin to put them into words.

Finally – though certainly not least – the weather. Although it seemed to rain endlessly in the winter, it was NOT SNOW. Apart from the occasional day when rain kept me in, I rode the bike all year round – not something I can say back home. And even though it gets very hot in the day at times, the nights almost always cool down with a wonderful sea breeze. If I have to complain, it would probably be the wind – it rarely stops and often causes painful sand blasting on any exposed skin. Not being especially keen winter sport fanatics, both Mike and I can’t really say that we’ve missed the Canadian winter. But I must admit – it’s just not right having Christmas around the corner and 35 degree weather. And TV commercials with shrimp on the barbie for Christmas dinner just seem weird – sorry folks. Regardless – I will really miss the weather….sigh.

I’m starting to think I should have done this post first, and then followed up with the Canadian things we’ve missed while here. Right now I’m struggling with why we’re leaving (just joking Mum πŸ™‚

Year End Staff Party

With just one week to go before we leave WA, we had a chance to spend an evening with Pinjarra staff at the year end party.

Fund raising and fees are used to fund the entire do for staff (reasonable charge for partners), so with all your booze and food paid for, many staff take advantage!

We were lucky that the venue was at the local cricket club – so we were able to walk and not have to worry about ‘drink driving’ (that’s the Aussie term for DUI or drunk driving). In the end, we actually were given a lift home by Paul Mitchum and his wife (and daughter) which was a nice bonus.

We are told that not as many people attended this year since it was held a week prior to school end. Sounds like some people don’t want to show their face after the party πŸ™‚ At any rate, there was still a good turn out and those in attendance had a great time (at least we did).

Given Mike’s passion for music, he supplied the music for the evening. He and Kyle headed over early to set up and make sure all was in order (and grab an early beer). As you can see, it did get people up dancing. It was good to burn off some of the alcohol and calories that had been consumed!

And as seems to be an Aussie tradition, there had to be a certain amount of bared flesh. While some of the boys had fun dropping each others drawers (you can ask Monty about the unintentional full Monty – apparently he needs tighter elastic on his boxers :-), they also had a full out streak fest on the cricket field later in the evening. Too bad the lights on the field were not on!

And finally around midnight, the bar staff had had enough of us, and the booze tab had run out. So we all headed off – several staff continued on at Players – a Mandurah bar, but knowing our limits, we very maturely headed home – after all it was hard to pass up a drive home!


First Farewells & Round ‘Em Up

As we continue our ‘last time’ events, it naturally includes seeing people for the last time. The Exchange Teachers of WA farewell BBQ was this past Saturday, and we could not miss this one. The host exchange group have been amazing in their support and effort put into arranging events on our behalf.

Ted and his wife Wendy hosted the farewell event. The food was fantastic and most of the group made it out. There were ‘2 up’ demonstrations for those who missed the Kalgoorlie trip, and each teacher was presented with their own 2 up betting stick. 2 up is a pure form of gambling where you bet on the outcome of a toss of 2 coins. I spoke more of it back on our Kalgoorlie posting (click to refer back if you wish).

So we had a bitter sweet evening comparing notes and saying farewell to the many new friends we have accumulated over the year. As Ted said when we first met: “We meet at the start, and at the end of the year. In between we will cross paths at several of the organized events. If we see you at every event, we know something is wrong and if we don’t see you at any events, we know something is wrong.” Our intermittent crossing of paths with this group has been very much a part of our successful exchange experience. They truly have been an exceptional set of hosts and their dedication to our welfare and enjoyment has been most appreciated.

On Sunday, we headed out for some more ‘local’ experience. A teacher at the school had told Mike of the ‘Camp Draft’ which was running this weekend. So Mike & I ventured out to check what a Camp Draft was all about.

Along with several thousands flies (look closely at some of the photos – the inside of the loud speakers as a prime example), we watched the competition in Coolup. There are several categories, but we only witnessed the Novice competitors.

As we were standing trying to figure out the process, a local cowboy kindly explained the rules for us.

Each cowboy/cowgirl in turn takes their go. They are first in a corral with 8 cows. They must identify which cow they are going to isolate to compete with. They then must separate that cow from the herd and force it out of that corral into the bigger arena.

Once in the big arena, they must lead the cow around a set of posts in a figure 8, and then back up around through two other posts all within a 40 second time limit. They are judged on their work in the first corral, their horsemanship in manipulating the cow in the main corral and on their success on guiding through the posts.

Many are eliminated by failing to isolate their cow from the herd, or from failing to guide through the posts. The skill of the cowpokes was very impressive and it was all very entertaining. True Aussie cowboys/girls in action. Apart from the odd over zealous face slap to swat the flies, and a cow running into the fencing (it’s actually soft fencing – tough cloth stripping), there were no incidents.

And as mentioned in my last post, the posting on what we’ll miss from here is still to come.