Sunday, 27 November 2011

Our first walk

A while ago we bought a book with 'Adelaide's best bush, coast & city walks'. We were planning on doing one of the walks this weekend, and it happened to be today. The weather was gorgeous, and I selected a walk for the 'beginning Australian walker', as we've classified ourselves. So on our first walk we didn't want to go too deep into the forest or walk through high grass (snakes!) or do anything too daring. Also because we don't have our hiking boots here yet. We just wanted a semi-urban safe walk. So the 'Stirling Parks' walk sounded just what we needed. A 2hr walk nicely through the park-like surroundings of Stirling.

Stirling is the hilly version of the Dutch Veluwe, very leafy, very green. We drove to Stirling, which is a 15k drive or so, and then parked our car somewhere in a street, which supposedly was the start of our walk. Just what we wanted, nicely between the houses, tucked away in the bush. After 100m our book said to cross the road and take a walking trail somewhere through a park, and walk towards a swampy area, and then through a closely mowed area onto a service track. Etcetera etcetera.

We got lost at step 1 of 10 steps of the description of the walk. And the parks aren't parks as we thought parks would be, parks are to be interpreted as 'reserves'. And that means walking through high grass, sometimes up till your armpits through the boysenberries, eeeks! We were fairly scared to encounter snakes to be honest, with our short trousers (don't have long hiking trousers, so our next mission is to go to Kathmandu and get some! - and we thought we would be walking through 'parks'), no one else to be seen, and some of the trails looked like they hadn't been used for a while. And we weren't even in the middle of nowhere, really between gardens and houses on large blocks of bushland.

Our book says this about snakes:
Venomous snakes are widespread in and around Adelaide's suburbs and the Mount Lofty Ranges. It is possible you could encounter a snake on most of the routes in this book. Keep an eye on the track ahead and if walking through grass make plenty of noise - if they hear you coming they'll get out of the way.

So it wasn't this easy-peasy walk I had planned, but it was actually a very nice walk once we'd left the really high and wild grass behind us. We saw some great birds along the way and walked around a lake that had been excavated in 1922 to provide a reliable source of water for the long gone steam-locomotives.
At the end of our walk we went to Hahndorf for some authentic German food, sausages and kartoffel salat, yummm.

Here a selection of the birds we saw on our walk:
An Ibis

Blue Wren
Red Capped Robin
Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo - magnificent bird!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Almost finished in New Zealand

A lot has happened last week. While I was working here in Adelaide, Age went to Wellington for work. That was an excellent reason to organise the movers and get our house empty and clean. So Age added three extra days in New Zealand to his trip, and was in charge of the removal this time. I had organised the last two removals and was totally sick of it, especially as one of these moves was quite disastrous with a lot of damaged goods due to total incompetency of the removal crew.

Age kept me informed throughout the week, but I was sooooooooooooooo glad not having anything to do with it, and just be at the office. The weekend beforehand we went out for a coffee to create our removal to do list. The main things on there were:
  • to sell the car (I had sold it when I was in NZ last time, but the buyer had second thoughts on the day he was going to pick the car up, which was the day before I left for Adelaide. I spent that last day driving past dozens of car dealers, but no one needed an extra Subaru as they all had full car yards)
  • to get rid of 9m3 of goods. That way everything would fit into a 20ft container, otherwise the move would become a lot more expensive. We had been given a list from the removal company with all our items and the m3's per item, and based on this list we decided what we wanted to give away, sell, or throw away. Nine m3 doesn't sound like a lot, but it is! So Age had his work cut out for him!
While I was sweltering in the heat here with 34 and 37 degrees (actually, you don't notice anything from the weather at all when you are in the office - but I can tell you that sitting on a plastic seat on my scooter was rather uncomfy), Age was working very hard for us in Richmond.

His achievements:
  • He sold the car and got $100 more than what I sold it for  :-)
  • He arranged for the piano to be picked up by Mr Music (!), who will make a theatre company happy with it. Finally we've learned our lesson: never go on a world tour with a piano, especially when you both don't play.
  • He sold our garden furniture, the single bed, the table saw, the book cases from IKEA in the study. We were pleased to sell these book cases, as only just a year ago Age bought them in person in Sydney from IKEA and shipped them to NZ (There is no IKEA in NZ, and there is no other shop that comes even close to the price/quality IKEA delivers.). We really didn't want to bring them back to Oz again!
  • He put the bistro set (two chairs and a table, which we used on the verandah) with a price tag on the street, and within a couple of minutes a lady drove past, and wanted to buy it, as she had been looking for months for something like it.
  • He sold the washing machine
  • And then made someone happy with a bulk lot of cabinets, odd chairs, and a wheelburrow, some pots and pans, our Senseo coffee maker, and probably more.
  • And finally the movers brought some leftover boxes away to the Salvation Army, with goods too good to throw away.
  • Ah, and let's not forget four shopping bags full of food! We can't import opened packages with food, so there goes my collection with herbs and spices, oils, flower, sugar, pasta,.... You know, all those basics that you immediately need on the other side, and which we have started to build up again.
  • And there is probably more. So we left a bit of a legacy :-)
Organising all of this required all Age's negotiation and networking skills, but he did a fabulous job.

Then of course there was the removal itself, on Thursday the packers came to pack most items, and on Friday they would lift it all up. So all around you it becomes quite a mess, and quite unclear as well: there are items that stay with the house, things that go, things that need to be put in a separate corner of the house, things to take to Oz on the way back, and things that needed to be taken apart (lots of furniture). Age said that he was so tired on Friday that he wanted to lie down on the floor all the time, but he never got the chance as there were continuously people around to say goodbye, or to pick things up, or to ask for directions (movers).

We let the movers organise the final cleaning of the house, and that was probably quite smart. For starters: you just don't want to do it anymore, we also didn't know beforehand if there would be enough time to do it (Age had to catch a plane on Friday), and how do you clean if all your stuff has just disappeared with the removal truck anyway.

Friday afternoon it was all over and done, Age had a bit of time for a beer somewhere, and then was dropped off at the airport to catch his plane to Auckland. He treated himself to a luxury hotel, an evening meal with venison and stuff, and flew to Adelaide the next morning.

And that was 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 years in New Zealand for us! The last thing that's left is settlement day, where the purchasers become new owners of the house.

We have to go out for dinner soon and review the past years with a good glass wine!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Midlife crisis?

Look what I've got since yesterday! It's yellow, it's wooshing past in great style and with a lot of flair - is it Superman???

No, even better, it's an 39-year old commuting to work!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Lunchtime walk

The river is just behind the Uni.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Animal noises

The last couple of nights in bed we heard the strangest animal noises. A low grunting of some sort, very guttural. We had no idea what it was, but it sounded either like a mating call from an over-excited kangaroo somewhere on the hill (not that we know what that sounds like), or a smaller animal very close by - under our bedroom window for example.

We both thought it could be a bear of some sort - but there are no bears here, just koalas. Then Age remembered reading something about the noise koalas make, and that they sound rather unattractive.

Well, after hearing this we knew that it had to be a koala! And very close by too. So today Age had a look around the house to see where the nearest eucalypt tree was, and there is a very big one just across the road from us. And tadaaa! It had a sleeping koala in it!
I know, it's hard to see, but if you do your best you can actually see 'our' koala wrapped around the trunk of the tree.

It looks further away on the pic than it is in reality - he's sitting halfway up the big tree

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lots of news

Sooooooo, I've survived my first four days at work! The daily routine is totally different from my previous life as a self-employed worker who works from home. Now the alarm goes off at 6.30am (crisis!). Age and I get up together, have breakfast and hop in the car at 7.30am. A few minutes past 8am we arrive for our early bird parking spot in the CBD. Then it's a short walk to our respective workplaces, and if we want to we can be at our desks at 8.10am. We can also start the day with a coffee somewhere in a cafe. The thing is that if we leave a little bit later, we'll arrive a LOT later and miss our early bird parking for $12 per day. Arriving later than 8.30 in the car park means paying $30 and up for the day. By sharing the car we keep our transport costs managable, although we are looking at other options too, like cycling to work and purchasing a scooter and/or a motorbike.
University building (University of Adelaide)
Another University building (UniSA)

And yet another University building (University of Adelaide). All these buildings (and more) are situated next to each other. Quite an impressive sight.

Cycling sounds attractive, but it's 17k's from door to door, and not flat - Adelaide city is as flat as a pancake, but it's seriously hilly where we live. I have good shower facilities at work, but Age doesn't - so he's looking into joining the Uni's gym for this purpose. And.... we don't have our bicycles in Ozzie yet.

But that's going to change as WE JUST SOLD OUR HOUSE in New Zealand! How amazing is that!! We have been under offer for a week or so, but weren't very excited as the offer was conditional upon the sale of our purchasers' home. You never know how long it is going to take before they sell. But out of the blue another couple appeared, had a look at our place, and put an unconditional offer in. We signed it, and now the first couple has got 3 working days to make their offer unconditional - by selling their home, or by arranging bridging, or whatever way they find to do it. Either way, the place is sold! Both parties wanted to settle mid December, which means that it needs to be empty by then.
Huge hothouse in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, which is around the corner from where I work.
Coincidentally, Age has to be in Wellington at the beginning of next week, so he's added a few days to make our home ready for the removal company. They will pack and lift our stuff up on Friday next week, and will do the final cleaning as well. We still have to get rid of 9m3 of furniture to get it all in a 20ft container. That'll be Age's job too :-)
The container will be shipped to Adelaide, probably arrive late December, checked by customs / biosecurity, and then partly unpacked for storage. We have a furnished rental place till June'12, so don't need much.

Things are suddenly moving very fast! By the way, even with the rigid current routine, we are enjoying our new lives quite a lot. It's nice to be in a city again. It's also nice to be in such a leafy and green area. A lot more trees here than in New Zealand, strangely enough. Another thing that is amazing is the climate. We've had rain almost every day (I don't know whether that's normal), but also temperatures in the high 20's and early 30's. And balmy evenings - just like you're on holiday all the time. Then there's all these tropical fruits, yumm, especially the mangos at the moment, they are devine!

[pics below: impression of Melbourne, where I was with Age a couple of weeks ago. Left: the best street in town. Centre: Melbourne Station. Right: CBD.]

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Almost missed my own immigration!

This morning - seems ages ago - Anne picked me up from home to drop me off at the airport. She was highly amused by my little black bag of only 18 kg's. People who immigrate should have tons of bags and stuff. Well, not me. I did, however, pack the strangest things, like my golf umbrella holder, Age's cycle shoes, lots of books for work, my favourite cookbooks, some kind of internet cable, an adaptor for the iphone for in the car, my brilliant headset, ... This just means that I need to shop for clothes this weekend. But that's easy enough.

The flight from Nelson to Aukland was fine, but we were about 10 minutes late, and when I checked my schedule I actually only would have an hour before I had to board my next plane. After checking my schedule again, as I found that a bit tight, it became even worse, as departure would be within the hour, and boarding at least half an hour before that.


Of course I never got my bag, the baggage handlers had a coffee break or so, and what normally takes only 2 minutes now took 20 minutes. So I had 10 minutes left to get from the Domestic terminal to the International terminal, to check in, to clear security, and to go to the gate to board. In other words, I would probably miss my flight to Australia!! Aaarghhh.

As soon as I got my bag I started running and ran all the way to the international terminal with my trolley - that is about 10 minutes. So my advice to all of you is to keep fit. You never know when you need your lungs. The first thing I saw on the board was that the Check In had closed. CLOSED. Aaarghhhh.

But I saw this queue still standing there for the counters, so I thought I'll just join the queue too. After 10 seconds in the queue I asked the lady in front of me where she was going to. Los Angeles, she said. Hmmm, that queue wasn't going to get me to Australia. There were two ground staff still sitting at their empty counters, processing a pilot or something like that, and I jumped over the fence and asked if they could check me in to Melbourne. O lalala, check in was closed, so they had to make a call. While one of them made a call, the other one told me to jump the queue, bring my bag over and she would check me in. Woohooo.

Then, I suddenly seemed to have landed in one of those airport documentaries, they got me my personal stewart, who had to run me through customs, security, and then to the gate, which was of course miles away in some corner of the airport. When we arrived at the gate, sweating like a pig, I'll tell you, they hadn't started boarding yet :-) And I desperately needed to pee, so when they started boarding I sneaked away to find a loo. Pfew.

Oh, and another tip: it may not be so smart to put your umbrella holder in your hand luggage, as customs in Auckland as well as Melbourne was highly interested in it. 'What are those big bolts you have in your bag there?' 'What the hell is that?'. I have to say, if I was working in customs I would be suspicious too. It looks a bit like a machine gun.

The rest of the trip went fine. And now I'm home.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Champion of Champions Hokitika

I have been terribly busy last week, with work actually and getting ready for my move. I got a bit in a state of panic early in the week, as I couldn't oversee all those little things that had to be done besides my work commitments, but after I'd made a bit of a schedule it became clear what I had to do and when. And that there wouldn't be a spare hour till I hop on the plane on Thursday.

Anyway, in the midst of it all would be this heaven of tranquillity: my trip with Anne to Hokitika, to play in the 'Champion of Champions Golf Tournament' (doesn't that sound great). A tournament played in one day over 36 holes. Anne was going to be my caddie, she would push the trolley with golf clubs, wet weather gear (it always poors in Hokitika), and lots of food, while I would swing some clubs around to try and get this ball from A to B.

She picked me up half an hour late early on Saturday morning (Anne is always late) - I could have slept an extra 30 minutes! - and after a site visit with some prospective clients (Anne is an architect - anybody in need of architectual plans for a new home, renovation or extension??) we were on our way.

Chat chat chat chat chat chat - coffee in Murchison - twitter twitter twitter - lunch in Reefton and another coffee. Reefton was packed with golf ladies from all sorts of other clubs who were traveling to the same tournament. We were spotted by a lady who somehow recognised us as being golfers, which was interesting. After a visit to the loo, off we went again - chat chat chat chat - arrival in Hokitika, that was quick!

We were planning on having a look at the golf course and play 9 holes together, but somehow we weren't really in the mood to play. Maybe it was getting too late or so, or perhaps we just wanted to chill out on the couch with tea, chocolate, and chippies. The threathening clouds didn't help either. So we just kept it at having a look at the golf course and getting my registration done.

Anne had made her famous curry, which we had for dinner that evening. Some more chatting, and then to bed! You won't believe it, but the tournament would start at 7.30 the next morning! That reminded me of old times, where we had rowing regattas with a start at 7am. And if you didn't manage to win your heat you could be out of the regatta at 7.10am. Now that's encouraging. At least golf takes a whole day.

Somehow we managed to fall out of bed at 6am, do our things, get organised (yes, even Anne) and go to the club. I would compete in a team thing, with two other players from our club, and in an individual Nett and Gross competition in the Bronze division, for players with handicaps 18.5 - 24.4.

It always poors in Hokitika, and the forecast was terrible. So we were prepared for swimming on the course. We also heard that we possibly were going to play only 18 holes, and not 36, because of the wet conditions. To make a long story short - we were prepared for everything, but not for FINE weather. We needed MORE sun lotion, and a lot LESS clothes, as there was no rain to be seen - yeah, somewhere in the distance. We were cooking!
We had a lovely time on the course, Anne even enjoyed being a caddie, which was a new experience for her (and for me), the course itself was incredibly different from our own course, which is a lot more closely mowed, and has much faster greens. The grass here tried to eat my clubs all the time, so I had a lot of crappy shots. Luckily in my group we all seemed to have that problem. Putting was something else - the ball just didn't roll at all! I guess after 36 holes of this kind of putting I will completely over-shoot our own greens.

To make a very long story short: we had a lovely meal afterwards, and there appeared to be a prize-giving ceremony as well. Put a room full with cackling women and you don't hear a word of what's being said, so we just clapped when everybody else clapped. Miraculously, somehow I picked up my name in the cackling - I had won a prize!!! I was second in my division with my Nett score. I was baffled, I still am actually. Isn't that cool :-)
Afterwards, Anne and I crashed back on the couch with tea, chocolate, and chippies. And then to bed. To wake up the next morning feeling like we had been hit by a train. My goodness, we were quite knackered.
We took our time to get up and so, checked out of the motel, and started our journey back home.

Chat chat chat chat - Coffee in Reefton - twitter twitter twitter - Murchison: shall we play some golf here? Yes, let's do it. Okay then. Off we went to this pretty 9 hole golf course and had a nice game of golf. We each had our own cloud with sandfly-groupies that travelled the whole nine holes with us. Funny that they are swarming around your butt most of all. We wondered if farting would keep them at bay. Our golf was pretty atrocious, but we both ended with the 'drive of the day' and the 'fairway shot of the day'. So that's good :-)

Chat chat chat and we ended up in Nelson again! Anne dropped me off at home, I had a quick lie on my bed, a shower, and was off to Anne's mum, who had cooked a lovely dinner for us. After that I literally crashed back into bed again. And one of the first things this morning on my agenda was..... a whole body hot stone massage from my Dutch neighbour. Pure bliss!!

Tomorrow is my last day in New Zealand - on Thursday I'll fly to Adelaide (if Qantas cooperates nicely), and work starts on Monday!!