Australia 2008

This trip wasn't much of a holiday as the primary reason for going out to Australia ahead of my usual five year schedule was to be with my dad who was having a major operation for Pancreatic Cancer and to help my mother and sister through this difficult period. I spent most of the time driving my mom to and from the hospital but did manage to get some time off to do some fun things.

Week One

The flight out was quite good, the food on Emerites airlines is better than any other airline I have flown, although having salmon at 02:45 in the morning was a bit odd, and the Boeing 777 was nice and comfy especially since it wasn't full. I particularly liked the mood lighting Emerites have installed, when its time to go to sleep they simulate a sunset, complete with orange and red light, and then at night the ceiling of the cabin even had little stars that twinkle. The twinkle is by panel though not by individual star, imagine part of the night sky twinkling in unison! Dubai airport is apparently rated as the best international airport in the world, but I wasn't that impressed. The architecture is very impressive but it isn't designed for humans, basically what you have is a big oval steel tube about 200m long that doesn't have anywhere secluded to sit or to break up the noise. At 0200 in the morning there must have been 10's of thousands of people about, so there wasn't anywhere to sit. People were just sitting or sleeping on the floor.

I haven't really done much in the week I have been here other than drive my mum up to the hospital to see my dad and gone to various shopping malls using my dad's automatic car. I was worried about car insurance but apparently a comprehensively insured car in Australia means anyone can drive it and be insured, which is very odd. I'm starting to get used to this new fangled automatic transmission thing, to begin with I kept on trying to change down when slowing down for an intersection, but it still annoys me as the car seems to change at crazy points like 30km/h. For a 2l my dad's Hyundi is also very flat. Give me a manual any day!

I have been trying to get some exercise in the evenings by riding my dad's bike to the pub and back, well you have to have some incentive. My arm is taking strain though, its very painful riding so I'm worried about being able to ride a motorcycle. Its probably just because I have lost a lot of muscle so maybe it will get better the longer I ride. On Friday I almost ran over a 1m long snake that was sunning itself on the cycle path, knowing the reputation Australia has for nasty bitey things I was a bit scared of it. It turned out to be a Green Tree Snake, totally harmless.... ha ha. My impression of Australia hasn't really changed over the last three years, nice place to live if only it was near civilisation and if only there were more pubs. Oh yeah and if only the beer was cheaper, in my 'local' a pint of lager is $7 AUS i.e. 3.30 while 6 small bottles of IPA is $18 i.e. 8.50 from the off licence, now what the hell is that about? I only go on holiday to places where its cheaper to drink than back home.

Week Two

Well pretty much the same as last week here in paradise, during the week the temperature peaked at 41.5C, it was 45.9C in my folks back yard, so its been HOT! I have been cycling a lot, mainly in the morning as we, my mom and I, normally go up to the hospital to see my dad in the afternoons. My arm is feeling a bit better and I think its getting a bit straighter as well, I have definitely lost a lot of fitness over 2007 as I am getting beaten by one legged men and the over 50s cycling club. I'm not kidding a guy with an amputation below the knee flew past me, however I think the over 50's have an unfair advantage as they are on those skinny tyre racing bikes. Today is labour day in Australia so I went to the Cottesloe beach in Perth with my sister and her family. They only told me afterwards that this beach is associated with a number of shark attacks! Fortunately I didn't see any, hopefully I will get a chance to go down to the beach again. Just about all of Perth seemed to be on the beaches today, so it was chocca as the Aussies say. You can have a great lifestyle in a place like this, but like any other place you need to take advantage of what's on offer. One thing I have noticed on this trip is that there are more very obese people than last time, I mean FAT! Perth is also continuing on its Americanization path, its almost like being in Florida now! I hope to get next weekend off by spending some time with my brother in law on Rottnest Island.

White chest, Cottesloe

White chest competition winner, Cottesloe beach

Week Three

Well not much change here on the personal front, for the last week I have mostly been driving to the hospital and back and also driving to the various shopping centres so my mom can prepare for my dad coming home. I am still doing quite a bit of cycling and seem to be getting fitter but I don't think I'm loosing any weight (I'm 76kg instead of my usual 70kg), in fact I might be putting on weight since I have been having quite a few BBQs and ice coffees with ice cream and cream! Unfortunately the plan to go to Rottnest Island fell through as a cyclone came down the coast and built up a nice big swell, and I'm not very good at ferries and seasickness! We did manage to go to the beach again to take a look at a sculpture exhibition, there were quite a few pieces and some of them were quite good but it was very strange to see that most of them had signs saying do not touch... on a beach, full of kids... yeah right! I went for a swim and just drifted on my back for a while with my eyes closed, it was great until I suddenly felt seasick, I blame the waves coming from all directions. I think my arm is improving slowly, it feels a bit looser and I think I'm getting a bigger range of movement from it. It does occasionally click painfully. I was thinking about going off up north on a bike for 4 or 5 days to see Shark Bay next weekend but some idiot decided that Easter should be early this year so it will be impossible to find accommodation as a lot of the locals just take their kids out of school for a whole week and go fishing etc... lazy Aussies! We'll see how it goes maybe I'll be able to get some time early next week to take a look at some stuff north of here, maybe I will just have to ride in Europe somewhere this summer.

Week Four

Well not too much change or excitement here in Aussie, looks like my bike trip is definitely not going to happen but that's ok since this trip wasn't really about having fun. Its a pity though since there are some nice roads here! The only thing aside from driving back and forth to the hospital that I have done is to take a day trip to Rottnest Island with Rory, my brother in law, on Sunday. Rottnest is a small island about 20km off the coast. Fortunately the 45 min ferry ride to the island and back was pretty easy as the water was flat, I don't know what it is about fast ferries but they make me horribly sea sick. Rory and I cycled around the Island, probably about 30km or so, and went snorkelling in a few of the bays before having a few beers at the local / only pub on the island. The island has changed a bit since I went last (back in 1992) as they have built more holiday cottages and there seem to be far fewer Quokkas on the island, or maybe they are more scared of people than they used to be. Apparently some of the Aussie teenagers think its 'fun' to kick them!

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island

Week Five

Well this trip seems to be going too fast for my liking. This week I managed to get into central Perth for Thursday, I went to the Art Gallery and saw a Year 12 exhibition and an exhibition by an American born South African photographer Roger Ballen. The Year 12 had some very good art, I wish I could draw / paint like that! Roger Ballen's work is very disturbing, especially if you are Afrikaans ha ha. After the art gallery I went to The Brass Monkey for lunch a good bar in Northbridge which is the main party area of Perth. Then I went on a trip to the Perth Mint where I tried my best to squeeze a 'touch it' $200000 bar of gold through the hole in the armoured glass case, unfortunately it would not come out.

On Saturday I went to Freemantle to watch the Fremantle Street Arts festival and to visit the Sail and Anchor. No visit to Western Australia is complete without a visit to my second favourite bar in the world. Of the performances I saw the two I really enjoyed was Great Scott and Pedro Tochas. Great Scott is a juggler who is very good at crowd involvement. He pulled two guys out of the crowd as his assistants, one of whom had the misfortune to be American as he was immediately told by Great Scott that although he liked American's he couldn't stand their president. Pedro Tochas is a Portuguese 'Sculpture Clown' who used three audience members to tell a tragic tale of a love triangle using balloon art. It basically involved the hero (complete with muscles , sword and hat made from balloons) dying at the hand of a villain (complete with sword, hunch back and hat made from balloons). The villain is shot by the girl while the hero is brought back to life by a fairy (complete with fairy wings and wand) and lives happily ever after with the girl. It was very funny, especially the rude bits for example when he made a flower for the girl in the story half way through it looked remarkably like two balls and well you guess! Also when he pulled a huge rough looking Aussie called Merv out of the crowd and made him a set of fairy wings and a wand it definitely made the crowd laugh. You can see some pics of what I mean at here. The other 'funny' thing was a crucifixion act that seemed to follow me around town, there is nothing funnier than hearing the 'Romans' talk with a broad Aussie accent... and when a bloke says he would rather 'build my house on the sand and go surfing dude than build my house on the rock'....crickey mate!! The beer at the Sail and Anchor was as good as last time although I'm not so sure about the Chilli beer, yep beer that has an 'after taste' (actually quite a strong taste) of Chilli.

Crucify him

Crucify him, mate!

On Monday I went to Penguin Island which is a small nature reserve Island off Rockingham just south of Perth. I only saw one Penguin but there were millions of sea gulls! The gulls seemed to take a dislike to my bald head since every time I came up for air in the sea some stupid bird had a go at it.

Penguin Island

Penguin Island