April 2010

The Zook lines up at work with the big guys.

Next came the Uluru – Cairns trip. Tim dropped us at the airport in our own car and went on to work from there. The flight to Sydney was uneventful, but a little late, so we were walking down the concourse to the next flight hearing ourselves being paged to check in. The flight to Ayers Rock was long but also uneventful and it was great to see the evidence of water out there in the desert.

We picked up the free transport to town, finding out on the way that the entire resort of Yulara is owned by the one company and by staying one hotel, we automatically had access to the facilities of all of the others. Which is just as well, because just one night for the 3 of us was $370! We had a couple of hours to kill before collecting the hire car and time just dragged out. We had checked everything out and still had an hour to go. Shotglasses $16, the dinner buffet $50 EACH! So it’s burgers for dinner tonight. Fortunately, Michele called us from town and picked us up, because she needed to close the hire car office in town and get out to the airport.

From there, we went out to have a look at The Rock. Both Eemeli & Julie had been wondering what the big deal was, until they saw it getting bigger … and bigger … and bigger.

We drove around it, then went back to the hotel to cool off.

This sequence shows that by now, they have both perfected the “Great Aussie Wave”.

Eemeli & I returned for the sunset “show”, which was certainly impressive. It’s much bigger than I remember it from nearly 40 years ago. And I don’t remember there being that many flies out there either.

Speaking of flies, Mr Macho Man had said earlier that he would never swallow a fly while he is here. OK, he didn’t, but he certainly spat out 2 of them today. And he found a rather large spider in a VERY big web, just above where we had been walking into and out of the hotel room. Julie refused to go that way after that.

We found out later in the rainforest above Cairns, that it was a Golden Orb Spider, because the web glows golden in the sunlight.

Back home, it looks like Tim has been doing some training.

Friday, we packed up, ate our breakfast of cereal and milk, checked out and drove out to the Olgas.

As usual, Julie was asking the Universe for all sorts of wildlife and this time she was rewarded with a Blue Tongue Lizard crossing the road and a small herd of camels just wandering around near the roadside. No roos and no dingoes this time. I also was able to introduce Eemeli to the concept of the long drop dunny, a toilet built over a large pit and you just drop your stuff down the long pipe. No water and therefore no flushing, and the “stuff” decomposes naturally. We elected to walk up the gorge rather than the more travelled walk on the other side of the rocks. The sheer magnitude of the place is pretty awe inspiring.

Then back into town for lunch, before making our way to the airport for the direct flight to Cairns, where we arrived late afternoon. It had been raining there and the whole airport area just smelt damp (it is tropical of course).

It rained off and on for the whole weekend in Cairns, which didn’t really stop us at all.

Saturday’s planned trip up to Kuranda on the SkyRail and back down on the heritage train was modified by the cancellation of the train leg by a recent landslide, so it was SkyRail both ways. In Kuranda, Eemeli got to hold a koala, feed wallabies and have lots of exotic birds sitting on his shoulder. It was a big day.

Sunday’s tour of a crocodile farm was equally exciting, as we got within a few feet of some VERY large crocs. One of them snapped his jaws shut so loudly that we thought that someone had smacked a large block of wood.

Apparently, in the croc farm world, it’s a good thing to be imperfect, because you get to live a bit longer. These little guys are bred for the fashion industry.

And in the afternoon, we went down to the lagoon (a swimming pool right by the ocean) and swam in the rain.

On Monday, we were pleased to be able to see Dorothy & Pete for a short while at Brisbane Airport. We expect to be staying with them on the “long trip”.

The following weekend. We have finally caught up with the washing, done some shopping and Eemeli has seen his first footy game. Much to our surprise, he was on the interchange bench and ran on early in the second quarter. I didn’t see much after that, as I had to leave to go somewhere else, but apparently he handled the ball several times and got a kick in. For someone who has never played this game before and all he has seen is training, he did remarkably well.

Meanwhile, I went out to Yass to attend the Queens Scout Award presentation for Savannah, one of my former Cub Scouts, who just a couple of months ago was in Intensive Care after being knocked off her bicycle. I must say, it is gratifying to see some of those kids several years later, and see that they have turned out as such wonderful young people. It really makes all that effort worthwhile.

School holidays. Eemeli has done the usual thing of sleeping in, lounging around, going to the gym with mates, and the inevitable footy training, which gets interrupted by weekends away. This time, it was Eemeli who was away for the weekend, at the coast with Peggy, another host parent, and some of the Canberra exchange students. He learned how to body surf and came back looking “as brown as a nut”, to use another Julie expression. She had to explain to both of us that this expression apparently refers to roasted chestnuts.

Eemeli also took Kelly for a walk to the Weston Creek shops and back. Kelly was running and bouncing on the way out. Then he had to be tied up and as Eemeli walked away, he could see Kelly with that amazed expression that said, “Um, you’ve left me here. On my own. Um, hey.” When Eemeli came out of the shops, he could see Kelly scanning everyone going past, obviously thinking, “Is that you? How about you? Is that you? Oh, THERE you are!” Followed by the paffy paws thing. The return trip was much more sedate. Towards the end, Kelly was lagging so far behind that Eemeli had to put him back on the lead to keep him going.

Lily from the next door unit has joined the Air Force Cadets. She sent Julie a picture of her in her camos, although I haven’t yet managed to get it from her laptop onto mine for publishing.

Annakaisa sent Eemeli his footy boots (soccer boots actually) and included in the package were some pictures of Eemeli & Emilia from when they were much younger. I’ll publish those too when I get the time to scan them.

This weekend, we are a Tumut in the bus on a CMCA Chapter outing. We haven’t seen much of the others yet, except the odd visitor this morning, as we arrived last night at about 8pm. We proceeded to plonk ourselves on our allocated site, get set up in just 10 minutes, and then sat back and relaxed for the first time in weeks. The rain came in overnight as forecast, so keeping dry has been a real challenge today, as we walked into town to watch the parade for the Festival of the Falling Leaves.

Then Jenny from Sydney came past (they have their fifth wheeler parked right next to us) and showed us the waterproof coat that she had just bought at the Festival market. So off we trudged up the hill again to go and buy one for Angel, since she spends most of the day outside in her nest under the hydrangeas. We really could do without quite this much exercise!

Sunday, Anzac Day. Eemeli & I walked back up to town, missed the parade and found the Memorial Service, although we only stayed briefly.

That night, we went in search of possums, armed with a few slices of bread. It wasn’t long before we found some, or perhaps they found us. Eemeli was as just as excited by them as Julie was last year, and I think it shows in the pictures.

We chilled out in the evening by watching a DVD and were surprised to find that it has Suomi sub-titles. We now recognise one word – Kiitos – which means thank you.

Monday, prepare to go back to reality. But meanwhile, we called in on Julie’s boss’s mother at her house on a hill overlooking the Tumut River, just out of town, to collect some items to bring back to Canberra. Megan said the bus wouldn’t make it up the driveway. Huh! Amazing where we can put it in first gear, as long as the road is OK. And what a house it is. Huge, about 50 squares, with a garden on one side and a view on the other side, both “to die for”. Apparently, Eemeli & I were an instant hit with Jean, when we managed to fix the belt on her original treadle version Singer sewing machine, AND locate the baseplate and the bobbin. Jean explained that they have had a lot of Finnish tree fellers working for them over the years and she has great respect for their abilities. She even brought out a beautiful Iitala plate that had been given to her by one of the men. We’ve been invited back “any time”.

The trip back time was uneventful, out via Brungle to Gundagai and then hit the freeway. The new regulator in the bus does the job perfectly. The Auto Electrician managed to source a Japanese one, instead of having to modify the connections in the alternator to suit an Australian one, and it is performing flawlessly. Next step is to replace the bank of house (12V) batteries (4 big 6V ones configured as 2 in series, times 2 in parallel), as they are definitely dying. We survive OK on mains power, but by the time we got home, having been charging them off the alternator, plus the solar panels, while on the road, the 240V inverter was screaming that the voltage was already down to 10V.

Eemeli is now back at school and has moved up from Maths Applications to Maths Methods, which hopefully will be more of a challenge for him. He is also back to regular footy training and expects to be playing in the next few games, as we should be home on weekends for a little while. I must say I am impressed with the gear that they have handed out – shorts, socks, training shirt, game shirt and waterproof jacket.

Meanwhile, the sale of the last investment property, the one in Perth, is getting ready to settle early next month. After that, we will FINALLY be rid of the debt that has been dogging us for a full 12 months, the loan we took out to buy the bus.

As the song tells us, “And the dog sits on the tucker box, five miles from Gundagai”.