Tuesday 1 to Thursday 3 February 2011, London
The people of London are not as fat as the people elsewhere. The clothes are all dark or muddy colours though. Some things never change. Another constant, people everywhere spit. At least the British do not make horrible sounds while doing so! The pavement though is covered in white blobs of old spit not black ones. Is pollution a different colour here? At least the weather was warmer than expected. I still needed a coat scarf and gloves though.
We did walk around St Pauls but stayed outside because of the exorbitant cost. To us anyway, the hostel manager thought the price was reasonable. Then there was the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Very professional, much more so than in South America. They wore standard uniforms though not the colourful dress uniforms.
Friday 4 to Thursday 17 February 2011, Newquay
We took the train to Bodmin where John met us and took us straight to the Land Cruiser Troop Carrier. The Troopie was smaller than I expected emotionally but the size I had expected intellectually. IT will have to be cleaned and there are small cosmetic things which need fixing, the largest being a broken back window. Next morning we had another good look at the storage space and the equipment. It has everything we require. The fridge doesn't work though. At least John had contacted the dealer while it was under warranty and it will be fixed by them. Unfortunately it means we will have to drive to the dealers. While waiting for the finances from South Africa we did some cleaning and minor repairs but it was too cold to do very much.
Newquay is a surfing centre and even though it was windy and a little cold there were surfers out most days. Of course they were covered in wet suits with gloves, shoes and caps.
Friday 18 February 2011, Hartelbury
We left early so we could be at Hartelbury by 3:00pm. The owner of the South African manufacturing company was in England visiting the dealer and it was suggested we speak to him. He listened to the story of the problems as told to us by John, checked the motor, phoned South Africa and the fridge started. Pity because it could only be used with 12 and 220 volts. However he said he had found the same problem once before where the coil worked for a while then stopped for a while and so on and so forth. He decided we should be given a new fridge straight from the box! WOW! The new one can be run on 9 to36 volts or 90 to 240 volts! Absolutely perfect for anywhere in the world.
Saturday 19 February 2011, Dunkirk
We caught a late ferry and decided to stop in Dunkirk in a hotel. We don't have anything to camp with yet except a Troopie, fridge and gas stove! All the equipment will have to be brought from South Africa or purchased locally.
Sunday 20 to Saturday 26 February 2011, Groningen
It was lovely to spend the week with Harjet and Kees while waiting to catch the plane to South Africa. The Troopie is being stored on the same farm where they store their caravan. Unfortunately it was far to cold to do any work on the Troopie.
Sunday 27 February 2011, Gouda
The evening was spent in the company of Marianne and Frans, Harjet and Kees's daughter and son-in-law. Thea, another daughter dropped in later. Once again lovely to catch up and see how much the children have grown.
Monday 28 February to Sunday 3rd March 2011
Besides spending time with the boys our visit revolved around the car. This time we made sure we only arrived in Durban the day the ship arrived. Naturally the car was at the bottom of the ship this time and took days to unload. Eventually we went back to Johannesburg for a few days over the weekend and public holiday. Back in Durban the car was finally unloaded but it still took 2 days before we could take it out of the yard. Its called waiting for the customs inspection! Two weeks after the ship arrived we had our car. Now it had to emptied, everything cleaned thoroughly and the seats put back in. The next step was to sell the car and hopefully the contents plus organise my ticket to Australia. Pieter stayed behind and sold the car. The contents have not yet been sold as it is the wrong time of year. Next spring will be a better time.
Tuesday 5 to Thursday 14 April 2011, Sydney
Jet lag hit rather hard. On the trip to Singapore I sat reading then, about 9:00pm my time decided to sleep. Unfortunately the cabin crew brought breakfast around as soon as I was settled. I did manage some sleep on the trip to Sydney though. The next few days were slow. My sister Carol and her husband Bruce let me sleep and relax. I did manage to apply for a new passport. The photograph is terrible, besides the no smiling or glasses my jet lag shows through. I also started setting up a bank account and looking for property. I decided to stay in the Sydney area as I know the city - sort of - and if we want to live else where I can always sell.
The first weekend was spent in Orange. This is a large farming country town over the Blue Mountains. We went to the opening of an art exhibition. The artist is also an optometrist and used to be a client of Bruce. He paints as a hobby and is very good.
Friday 15 to Saturday 16 April 2011, Maree
As a surprise for me Carol had organised a trip for the 3 of us to Lake Eyre. It was fantastic. Lake Eyre actually has a lot of water in it at the moment due to the heavy rains in Queensland. Those rains that have done so much damage up there! They have made the basin area green. Green is a relative term. There are many bushes and grasses instead of just dust. It is not green like a European countryside.
FYI: The Lake Eyre Basin (Great Artesian Basin) is about 18m below sea level, covers 1/6th of Australia (1.7 million square kilometres) and is one of the largest internally draining systems in the world and is the fifth largest terminal lake in the world. The water comes mainly from Queensland and goes underground. There are extensive natural springs, the deepest being 120m, some are salt, most are brackish and some are potable. When used as drinking water by humans it must be filtered. Mound springs deposit clays and sand on the surface, gradually raising the surrounding area. These fresh water springs were used by the aborigines and allowed them to live in the harsh desert climate. Mining in South Australia will draw 100 million litres per day. The state government has signed a contract to this effect much to the consternation of NSW and Queensland who also have a stake in the water in Lake Eyre and of course the landowners who depend on the water.
We flew in a small, 9 seater plane. Weight is important so we had to be weighed along with our luggage. The pilots must be chosen for weight as well because both planes had very slim pilots. We flew to Maree in South Australia with 2 fuel stops along the way. Because we arrived after dark the pilot had to specifically request the landing lights be left on. Usually planes are not allowed to land after dark. We were given a lift into town in a variety of vehicles, including the local rescue vehicle. Accommodation was in cabins attached to a campground. It gave me an opportunity to see the type of vehicles used in the outback - surprisingly a lot of trailers which fold out into tents. The cabins were converted containers. Meals were taken at the local restaurant cum shop. A large metal building unfinished inside which provided really good meals. Maree is not very large. You can walk around town very slowly in half an hour.
Next day we went on a flight over the lake followed by a bus trip out to the lake. The flight was great. I enjoyed seeing the extent of the lake. It is difficult to see where the horizon is on the photos because of the reflection of clouds and sky on the water and salt. Our guide on the bus trip was Reg Dodds. His great grandfather was a German surveyor who married a full blood aborigine woman. He has a fount of knowledge to impart. He started as a welder on the Ghan Railway which went from Maree to Alice Spring. Maree was where the size of the line changed and it was a thriving town in its time because of the work change over to a different width line created. Most of the line has now been pulled up but different gauges are still used in different states making it impossible to travel from Brisbane through all the capital cities to Perth. Once the line was no longer in use Reg turned to tourism which will always be a means of employment in the area. Our bus trip took us through the green desert to the lake past the dog fence and via a homestead, Alberry, for lunch with billie tea. The tea was nice, not too strong even though it boils over the open fire. The walk along the lake was interesting. There are quite a few birds and flowering shrubs. The only ones to go for a paddle were Carol and Bruce. Everyone else opted out because of the cold. On the way back we stopped to look at one of the fresh water springs.
FYI: The dingo fence is the world's longest fence. It spans 5614 km from the Gulf of Carpentaria near Adelaide to the Indian Ocean in Western Australia. It is the longest structure in the world. Originally constructed to halt a rabbit invasion encroaching from the south it is still maintained to keep wild dogs from sheep grazing areas. The effectiveness of keeping dogs out is problematic as dog tracks can be found on both sides near the fence.
The return flight included a stopover in Tibooburra. A town with a population of 90 of which 10 will leave by Christmas.
Sunday 17 April to Monday 6 June 2011, Sydney
Besides visiting family the reason I came to Australia was to invest my father's inheritance in property. I looked at 10 properties and purchased the last one I viewed. The first one I put an offer in on turned out to be a very bad investment. When buying a unit in Australia, the lawyer has a 'strata' search performed. This basically looks through the records of the governing body of the units. My first choice turned out to be in a building with structural defaults and law suits against the developer pending. A big hole waiting to be filled with money! The unit I purchased has 2 bedrooms and a reasonable living / dining area. Small compared to what I am used to but reasonable in terms of what is available in Sydney.
The bank account was finally opened. A process..... To open a bank account you need 2 of several documents. Unfortunately a credit card from a foreign bank is not acceptable. Therefore I needed a Medicare card. To obtain this I needed to show an intention of living in Australia ie. a purchase contract for property. When signing the contract a 10% deposit has to be made. The money of course is sitting in the bank and cannot be accesses until I have the Medicare card! Carol paid the deposit on my behalf or else I would have been in trouble. Then it was a matter of following the thread back to the bank.
There were many outings. Two in the boat on the harbour. Sydney Harbour is glorious; a weekend at Fingal Bay near Port Stephens just north of Newcastle; a dawn ANZAC Day service with breakfast at the local RSL Club; a day at a cub camp; a day trip to the Southern Highlands and the Illawarra Fly ( an elevated walk through a rain forest where eucalyptus trees grow more than 40 meters); a concert at the Sydney Opera House and visits to nearby friends including a trip to Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains with Katherine.
The concert in the Sydney Opera House consisted of relatively modern symphonies. The main work was the 'Concerto for Orchestra' by Bela Bartok (Hungarian 1881-1945). Two Australian composers were also featured with a premier of 'Symphony' by Gordon Kerry who attended the concert and 'In a Nutshell' by Percy Grainger (1882-1961). The conductor Nicholas Carter looked to be about 30, very young.
Finally all the formalities of buying a property were completed and it was time to move. Pieter was VERY happy to hear I was on my way.
Wednesday 8 June to Friday 8 July 2011, Groenlo
Going west is much easier. Final purchases for the car were made. Then the wait began. Unfortunately Pieter had left the car papers in South Africa and these had to be shipped over. We also had the onboard computer repaired which took weeks. The weather was lousy, cold windy and wet. It was a great way to find out if we could manage in the car in bad weather. See,,,,,,, there is always a silver lining! While we were waiting we meandered around Holland drinking in the green manicured countryside.
Unfortunately Pieter had put a new battery in the wrong way and fried the screen of the onboard computer. There was also a problem with the computer itself. Rene from ANDOS Computers in Doetinchem, Holland spent many hours first fixing the computer and then changing a second hand screen to run on 12 volt. We now have an excellent on board computer with GPS.
ANDOS Computers, Waterstraat 5, 7001BG, Doetinchem. Tel: 0314-369955; www.andos.nl; firstname.lastname@example.org