December 2006

Just in case you missed it late last month, Julie is now a Permanent Resident of Australia and now has the visa pasted in her US passport.

Photos from the newly completed town house complex in Kalgoorlie.

From Seattle.

And more pictures of the outside.

We’ve just mapped out our holiday plans for Christmas:

20/12 – Pack and organise.
21/12 – Early express bus to Sydney, collect a 2-berth motorhome and head towards Melbourne.
23/12 – Deliver said motorhome and spend some time with the kids.
24/12 – Collect a 4-berth motorhome (with shower and toilet).
24/12 – Board the Spirit of Tasmania for an overnight sailing to Devonport.
25/12 – Arrive Devonport and take 2 days to get to Hobart.
27/12 – Deliver said motorhome and stay at Danielle’s place, in return for watering her garden.
31/12 – Fly home to Canberra.

The motorhomes are on a relocation program that costs us just a few dollars a day, on condition that we get each one to its destination on time. They even pay us a contribution towards our fuel and ferry costs.

The other news is that a month ago, Julie was given a month’s notice at General Dynamics, on the basis that she was unable to secure an Australian Defence security clearance. Although kinda cut up at the time, she has recovered well and this week, landed an Office Manager job with Allen Consulting, starting in the second week of January. Maybe now she can relax and enjoy the holidays! And we have been invited for a spot of croquet and then on to dinner to celebrate Christmas with them. Oh, really, how absolutely spiffing! (insert here toffy sounding British accent – heh heh).

The next day, we attended a Scouting function at the Old Woolshed, so I took the opportunity to show Julie around it.

As I understand it, the mob is driven up into the top part and penned into a large area ready for shearing. As each sheep in shorn, it is released back down the ramp, so that it can rest in the shade under the building.

Meanwhile, my knee continues to heal nicely. There is still a divot missing high on the kneecap, which will eventually result in a nice scar, and quite a bit of bruising to the muscles and ligaments underneath. I can now walk almost normally, but with the crutches taking about half of the weight.

The croquet was indeed lots of fun and the flies were great company! April, Mike and Sam, please take note of the 3 ladies standing watching and take careful note of the “Great Aussie Wave”. Practice it, you’re gonna need it!

Motoring holiday about to start. More as it develops, and as I get air time.

Friday 22/12, 6:15 am.
Been up since 5:30, Julie of course is still asleep. We survived yesterday remarkably well for both of us being tired and potentially cranky, as neither of us got much sleep on Wednesday night. The bus trip to Sydney was uneventful, followed by a short taxi ride to collect the van. On the motorway out of Sydney, I was pleased to see that my brand new e-Tag (sticky taped to the windscreen) worked properly. That will certainly make this easier getting in and out of both Melbourne and Sydney in the future. When we were collecting the van, when asked did I need any maps, I simply said, “I have a GPS and an e-Tag, what more could I need?” :o) After lunch in Campbelltown and dinner in Yass, we made it to Jugiong and pulled into a spot by the low level river bridge that had obviously been used many times before. Come morning, with heavy earth moving trucks barrelling past, I moved us to the rest area in the town, which is just superb. Put that one on the list.



Now 6:30 and almost everyone else has left already.

Julie: Okay – I’m up now to the smell of coffee.  I’ve discovered that I’m not nearly as spry as oh say 20 years ago!!!!!  This is fun though.  I’m sitting here listening to the birds, watching Rodney do his “male” things and eating Krispy Kreme donuts.  What more could you ask for?  Stay tuned.  Julie.




Friday 22/12, 7:00 pm.
Today has been a bloody long hot day. In keeping with the holiday plan of getting off the freeways where possible, we diverted off the Hume Freeway to Wagga Wagga, partly because I wanted to check the location of a Defence transmitting station on the road to Lockhart. Found it alright – nothing quite like sitting at the front gate and taking a GPS reading to 5 decimal places for being able to pinpoint it later! We then went on to Lockhart, Urana, Finley and Tocumwal – damn it’s not just dry out there, it’s parched! At one point, the GPS showed a large lake off to the right and all we could see was low lying land, just as dry as everything else. In Jerilderie (of Ned Kelly fame), we decided to heed the constant reminders to “Stop, Revive, Survive” and had an hour’s rest (Julie actually fell asleep) , which relieved her “rummy” (glassy eyed) look and enabled us to keep going.

Around Shepparton, we decided that as the weather was starting to turn nasty and the 2 berth van really is very cramped, we would re-do our Saturday plans and go right on in to where we need to start tomorrow. A quick session online at Macca’s and we booked a motel at Werribee through Wotif. Julie was REALLY happy on the way into Melbourne when she FINALLY saw 3 roos hopping across a paddock! Yeah, yeah, sometimes it’s the little things. We took the M80 Ring Road and the M1 Princes Freeway and didn’t have to pay a single toll – almost disappointing. A nice meal at the local RSL Club and we’re set for the night and will be ready for a very busy day tomorrow.

Sunday 24/12, 5:15 pm.
Hmm, must’ve been busy yesterday. We stumbled through the things we had to do, like acquiring some motorcycling safety gear from the warehouse, collecting a hire car from the city (an experience in itself), dropping off the motorhome. Lo and behold, there we were doing the paperwork and mentioned that we were collecting another one tomorrow and the guy suggested that we could collect it now. Great idea until we found out that the key to the thingy for emptying the toilet didn’t actually open the door, so we just did the paperwork and left it there for a faster getaway tomorrow. We’d prepaid for the car for the whole day anyway! Then off to Paul’s place to collect him and Kiana and take them to Val’s place, to discover that Simon and Lisa had arranged to bring Christmas Dinner forward a couple of days just for us! Val brought out a very nice 2000 vintage Tatachilla red – damn, I’m driving! So we did the whole dinner and presents thing and only had a short distance to drive back to the apartments.

So, on to today. Struggled out about 8:30 to go off and do the whole pickup and dropoff thing all over again. Turns out they hadn’t got to the lock yet, so they broke it off and installed another one. Then we had to get back into the city with Julie in the rental car following me in a (much bigger) motorhome – after going around the block once, Julie just dropped it onto the footpath and said no way was she moving it anywhere else! The nearby Victoria Market was obviously open and in full swing; there were people everywhere. Then we went out to Val’s place again, collected Simon and Lisa for a quick spot of shopping and they helped us to re-arrange our luggage into storage bins and stow the suitcases. OMG, we’re organised! We’ve now had dinner and are patiently waiting for loading time for the ferry. Late breaking news: The lights went out in the restaurant and the owner (micro manager) went into full scale micro-ing. And a cop car came pushing up through the traffic onto the pier, no idea why. This last update is from on board ship, using the access point on the pier itself.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday 25/12, 5:50 pm.
…. or it will be if I can just get some sleep! I finally managed to convince Julie around midnight that sleeping would be a good idea. However, my legs continued to ache, I read half a book and finally got to sleep at 4 am. Needless to say, a little later on in the day, at Ferny Glen near Burnie, we retreated to the bed for a hour or so. And the rest of the day was spent cruising southwards, finishing at Strahan. As is to be expected with a small Town Council struggling for funds, they don’t want you plonking your van just anywhere, they want you to pay money to park it in the local caravan park. We’ll see how it turns out in the car park of the railway station.

Tuesday 26/12, 9:30 am.
OK, survived the night without any disturbances. In fact we had the company of another motorhome at the other end of the carpark, until they left at 7 am. This van is giving us lots of ideas of what we do and don’t want in our future home, mostly about what we do want, as it has been set up extremely well. May as well learn from the experts, I guess. Really the only hassle is climbing the stairs to and from the overhead bed (specially when you need a pee during the night, which I do at least twice a night). One of the great things about sleeping “out” is the wildlife. I was making coffee when a black and white bunny just appeared, nibbled on some grass and then disappeared again right after I woke Julie to have a look.

Just sitting here having breakfast in a cafe that is actually open. It was disconcerting yesterday to drive through towns that were completely shut. Most businesses that open 7 days a week are shut on Christmas Day.

Tuesday 26/12, 9:10 pm.
Actually, today wasn’t much better!

This morning, we drove out to Hell’s Gates, which was originally a very severe penal colony, on an island in a river mouth fronting onto the open ocean. Then we decided to make some miles, as one of the highlights that Julie REALLY wants to see is the wildlife sanctuary that has Tassie Devils up close. So we pushed on up through Queenstown and Derwent Bridge to Deloraine. The single most noticeable event was the dramatic change in the landscape, from coastal dunes to rocky ranges, some with snow on top, to heavily forested wilderness, to the high plains and back down again to dairy country. And across the lakes road, the wildlife included numerous wallabies, an echidna, lots of bunnies, and sheep out on the road with no fences.

We have also rediscovered what was attractive to both of us when we first met – that we can sit together, each doing our own thing, not needing to entertain the other, and be close.

Wednesday 27/12, 5:40 pm.
The wildlife sanctuary lived up to the expectations. A wombat pacing.


The devils.

We were there soon after they opened and got talking to the keeper who does the guided tour. He picked up the Devil in the enclosure and gave us a private pat and photo session. “Just don’t go near her mouth.” She was very soft! The wet nose is for detecting meat and blood by smell. They feed them mostly with road kill. And both of us expected them to be bigger than they are.

This eagle has a damaged wing and can’t be rehomed into the wild, but he has all he needs right here, including his own space.

Yes, more piddling koalas.

After that, we set sail for Hobart, to check in at Danielle’s place (thanks again, mate!) and get the motorhome back. The people in Melbourne had been rushed after the lock debacle, so they didn’t get around to briefing us on the process. I found out yesterday that there was a packet of chemicals in the handle of the “dunny bucket” (the container where all the poo goes) and poured that into the system. We found out when we arrived that we should have emptied it by then. So they just showed us where and how to empty it and it was a done deal. We also found out this morning that the water filling hose had been supplied with a “stop” fitting, with the stopper facing the wrong way, so that nothing got through the hose and we weren’t able to top up the tank, which meant that by the time both of us had taken a quick shower, the pump was running dry, so we weren’t able to wash dishes. Amazing how much of what we do depends on the availability of water. Anyway, after we had finished with the various tales of woe, they didn’t notice that we had managed to put a scratch down the side from clipping a street sign.

We’re now having dinner at the “Waterfront Hotel on Kangaroo Bay”, surrounded by a collection of rather expensive yachts.

Thursday, 28/12
We headed into to the city to have a look first, found a Starbucks and hit the Internet (log in, check incoming mail for spam, start copying photos up to the website, check the banking, blacklist the spam and start downloading mail messages, then synchronise the current newsletter and photos pages and log out – it’s a fast and furious 5 to 10 minutes!) Then we found the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race headquarters and checked out the docks and the annual celebration called “The Taste of Tasmania”.

Then to get over the claustrophobia, we got out of town, via the Shot Tower at Taroona (balls of lead were dropped down the tower to make them perfectly spherical) and headed on over to the Huon Valley to find an apple orchard that I worked in way back in 1972.

And returned to town via Mt Wellington, which provides a view of Hobart and the surrounding area, 4000 feet below. At least it does when there’s no cloud around!


Friday 29/12, 7:30 pm.
I realised when I started this for today that I had to catch up yesterday first. How time flies! Must be having too much fun. Today’s adventure was first a quick visit to the Tessellated Pavement ..

then out to Port Arthur, where we spent all afternoon. We’ve just finished dinner at a pub and still have to get back to Hobart.

Notes on Port Arthur. The photos show the outside and inside of a typical senior officer’s house,

other quarters,

the church and chapel (the church was never consecrated although services were held in it, because the authorities didn’t want to make it either Catholic or Protestant, for fear of upsetting the other),

the Model Prison (more on that below),

in and around the Commandant’s house,

in and around the granary, which later became the penitentiary,


views on and from the water.

Actually, with all the free labour and the availability of learning a trade if a convict’s behaviour warranted it, the colony was incredibly productive – in addition to being largely self sufficient, their major exports to Hobart Town included vegetables, timber, ship building and ship repairs. The boys were eventually kept in their own prison area called Point Puer, where they were used for labour, but also learned a trade. Much of the exquisite stone work, particularly in the church, was produced by them.

The “Model Prison” was an experiment in the rehabilitation of serious repeat offenders by providing them with the solitude and religious stimulus to review their evil ways. Unfortunately, in the process, they denied the prisoner all sounds and all contact with others, effectively total solitary confinement in a small cell, driving many of them insane. Any deviation from the monastic silence would result in time in the “punishment cell”, an even smaller room in pitch darkness. Julie went in there and I turned out the light and it came home to her very forcefully, even without the door closed, that all that an illiterate man would have available to him in pitch darkness would be songs and stories that his mind would have to sing or tell silently, as he was not allowed to speak! Over and over and over again – no wonder they went nuts! And imagine the exercise yard with those foundations being walls ten feet high and mesh over the top for just one hour a day, wearing a hood so that no contact could be made with any other prisoner. Exercise for a prisoner in the punishment cell was always at night, otherwise the sunlight would send him blind. In the chapel, all the prisoner could see was the pulpit, everything else was partitioned off, like a whole bunch of opaque phone booths – it gave the Julie the heebie jeebies and she couldn’t go in any further than the door.

Saturday 30/12, 8:15 am.
I’ve been up for a whole hour now, filling in the details from yesterday. Just been trying to rouse the sleeping wonder, definitely not a morning person, whose pinched nerve in her lower back is once again giving her considerable grief. At least now we know what is causing the pain.

Saturday 30/12, 11:20 am.
Just had to return part of the camera battery charger that we bought 2 days ago, as it died last night. If you’re ever in Hobart and need assistance with camera problems or photos developed in a hurry, I highly recommend the Perfect Prints Hobart Camera Centre at 100 Collins Street, just to the right off the southern end of the Elizabeth Street Mall. Tim is an absolute pleasure to deal with.

Saturday 30/12, 7:15 pm.
We managed to keep each other happy by going off in separate directions for a while – Julie to go shopping in Salamanca Market and me to go and see some Sydney to Hobart yachts arrive.

My timing was perfect – five yachts arrived in the half hour or so that I was there. They’d been racing for four days.

We spent the afternoon recovering.

Sunday 31/12.
Get up slowly, get down to the laundromat to wash the sheets, refuel the car, pack up and read until the taxi arrived. At the airport, I ran into Erik Adriaanse, one of the parents in my Scouting days, who was feeling very pleased at his yacht “Love and War” taking out handicap honours in the Sydney to Hobart. And we sat next to an old sailor from the “Chancellor” with 3 cracked ribs. He’d gone to the hospital in Hobart, but “it was full of sick people, so I left”. Coming into Canberra, the pilot advised that there was some storm activity in the area and the wind had changed direction, so we had to go around and land from the opposite direction. Then we had to sit on the tarmac for about 5 minutes, waiting for the airbridge to be run out, because the ground staff had been ordered to shelter because of the danger from lightning strikes! I hadn’t thought of that as a hazard, but of course they must also provide a safe working environment for their people.