Monday, February 20, 2017

Oceana: What Ever Happened to….

coffee in a white cup and saucer with a spoon for $4 NZD
Designer coffee from one of Auckland Parnell neighborhood’s weekend farmer’s market vendors with a sit-down cafe.  $4 NZD.
Auckland, New Zealand.  Is there a choice?
Coffee.  Just a plain, cheap, $1 cup o’ joe.  

Remember when you could get a simple heavy white ceramic mug, filled from a coffeepot, which you could drink black or add your own cream or sugar?  

coffee machine in Cole's Express gas station Gosford NSW Australia near Sydney
Wayne, fascinated by this self-serve coffee machine in a Cole’s Express gas station convenience store.
Gosford, NSW, Australia.
You didn’t have to use all those fancy terms like “long black” or “latte” or “flat white.”  It didn’t take a high tech machine.  Servers weren’t called “baristas” (rhyming with “artistsa”*) or required to form a delicate heart over the top of your coffee.  It didn’t cost $4-6.

*My apologies to those who have, are currently or aspire to barista status.  This is no slam on their contribution, merely my desire for a bit more simplicity and correspondingly less impact on my finances from go-go juice.  

Usually, too it came with at least one free refill, or even as many as you wanted.

The only place we sometimes get a bargain cup is at gas station convenience stores.  We’ve learned that if it’s self-serve it’s $1-2.  If the coffee is made by the staff, it’s $4 and up.  As the sign outside a Ballarat cafe only half-joked, “Coffee — so you can pay for your dependency to wake up.”

All those fancy, choices, still…
Admittedly, one barista-style coffee benefit: it is much tougher to find a bad cup of coffee these days.

Is it only Australia and New Zealand that regular old coffee has gone the way of the dinosaur?

Is it only me who laments their passing?

This morning, we went with the most cost-effective option of all - we made our own coffee (and in my case, Tipu's Chai tea - a wonderful alternative to the typical disgustingly over-sweetened coffeeshop chais).

Baristas — watch out!  Cole’s Express gas station
convenience store.  Gosford, NSW, Australia.
Location Location
Journey is officially SOLD as of 17 Jan 2017 in Newport NSW Australia.  More on that soon.  Meanwhile, we're back in Oz and at this moment in a small town called Meredith  outside Melbourne, Victoria, getting some wifi done.

Up Next
We're looking for a 4-wheel drive Toyota Land Cruiser wagon to replace our van-camper conversion as we've decided it's what we need to go where we want to exploring Australia.  Still lots of catch-up blogs coming.  

Thanks Rob Plowman - for getting my Mac not only fixed, but running the best it ever has - and convincing me to use my iPad, too!

That makes getting future blog post done a whole lot easier!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

NZ: Auckland’s Chinese Lantern Festival

Auckland's 18th annual Chinese Lantern Festival featured elaborate "lanterns!" The festival marks
the close of Chinese New Year celebrations.  Auckland, New Zealand, February 12, 2017.
"Fierce" armored warrior at Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival
was happy to mug for the camera.  Auckland, New Zealand.
Serendipity!  With little time to plan, we made obligatory just-in-time-get-outta-town dash from Australia to New Zealand to renew our Australian tourist VISAs.*  Yet thumbing through the in-flight Jetstar magazine, lo and behold, we discovered were just in time to catch the last day of Auckland’s famed Chinese Lantern Festival! 

*We applied for quickie, cheap Australian VISA online with few requirements except leaving the country every 90 days or less to reset our VISA.  It’s good for at least a year that way.

“The Lantern Festival traditionally marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities and is celebrated on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month,” reported the New Zealand Herald
Best of all, the festival was free, and only a 15 minute walk from the Parnell neighborhood AirBnB where we were staying.

One of the many types of fanciful tree-hanging
lanterns at Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival.
This year marked the 18th celebration of the festival in Auckland, an event known to draw over 200,000 people to Auckland’s Domain (park adjacent Auckland Museum).  Around 800 lanterns lit up the night this year, celebrating the year of the rooster.  This year the 15th day of the lunar month fell on a Saturday, and Auckland decided to exploit the extra weekend day to end the festival with a bang of fireworks on Sunday night.

This parade dragon hoofed by in a hurry, along with his 3 undulating compatriots.  Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival, New Zealand.
The dragon's accompanying parade band moved at a bit more leisurely pace in their matching dragon leggings. 
According to Stephanie Lin in her NZ Herald interview, in her home country of Taiwan, “On the day of the lantern festival, thousands of people write their wishes on sky lanterns, and release them into the night sky.  The watch them float in the air and bring their hopes and wishes to for the new year to the gods.”

This large fabric lantern diorama depicted daily life in traditional China, here the games are afoot whilst a man holds his birds.  Auckland, New Zealand's Chinese Lantern Festival.
There's also an emphasis on study....
But still time for romance.
This handsome fella would get my attention if
I came across him on a lamp post at night!
While Auckland’s Lantern Chinese Lantern Festival is more grounded, it offers a wonderful panoply of Chinese culture, from the “noodle palace” food purveyors, to dragon parades, music, dances, martial arts and more. 

We arrived at dusk, to wander the show for a few hours and stay through to the firework finale. 

The people watching was even better than the lanterns.  While maintaining more of a “mixed salad” than a melting pot, there’s no denying Auckland’s multiculturalism.  Festival-goers included tiny tots (including some in traditional Chinese costumes), women wearing hijabs for modesty, (but not veiled), Maoris, resplendent in their tattoos, Indians in their westernized attire, and as many Chinese as Caucasians. 

Some displays were the stuff of legends, like this one, about discovering gold treasure.  Auckland, Chinese Lantern Festival.
Regardless of origin, gaiety and frivolity abounded, with karaoke, running kids, bubble machines, blinking neon-lit head ornaments, photo-bombing, and generally good-natured bobbing and weaving.

Buddha and swans on a more serious yet beautiful note.  Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival.
As the temperature dropped, the clouds descended earthward in a damp mist as those of us stalwart fireworks fans made our way to the grassy slope to watch.  The stadium lights brilliantly illuminated the fine airy waves of moisture whilst savvy Aucklanders popped their umbrellas.  We envied them, and the family next to us who pulled their plastic-coated picnic blanket over their slickers.  We figured it was not their first rodeo enjoying the great outdoors of an Auckland summer.

The music played by this accomplished young girl on a harp on its side enchanted us.
Eventually, there will be a video clip of her performance.
Nonetheless, the show went on.

Did the wetness dampen the fireworks?  We’ll never know.  We still enjoyed 10 minutes of oohs and aaahs of pyrotechnics, complete with whistles, bursts and bangs.

Given the conditions, I was unable to get any fireworks photos (even with my water camera), and apparently was not alone.  A Google Images search for this year’s festival fireworks drew a big goose egg.

These theropods were one of many Disney-fied displays at Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival.

Mixing the two arctics... with polar bears and penguins.  Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival.

It pleased us the next day on our late afternoon stroll through to still see some lanterns still about, though 99% of the festivities are all packed away and cleaned up.

All in all, after getting deluged in 2016’s New Year, it seemed fitting to celebrate two New Years this year, Sydney Harbour’s famed fireworks and Auckland’s Chinese New Year.

We have no idea where in the world we’ll be for New Year’s next year.

You can't possibly have too many dragons at a Chinese festival!  Auckland Chinese Lantern Festival.
Location Location
Journey, our almost totally sold sailboat, is still in the Sydney area.  Our new nomadic home, a van, is in Melbourne's airport parking lot.  We are in Auckland, returning to Melbourne tonight.

Could there possibly be a better symbol for a cultural festival than a friendship bridge?
Here 'tis, at Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival.
Up Next
We've decided to sell our van camper-conversion for a 4-wheel drive that will do a better job of taking us where we want to go.  That will be our first priority when we return to Australia.  Sigh... and more will continue to feature our open road travels as well as catching up on some open ocean posts.
The last of the lanterns, still lingering amongst the glorious trees, the afternoon after Auckland's Chinese Lantern Festival.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Downsizing from Open Ocean > Oz Open Road

Sydney area, 1st load from Journey to our new-to-us van, with about 1/8th the storage capacity of our boat.
Sydney area felt like some crazy vortex that held us fast well beyond when we wanted and needed to move on to explore Australia (aka Oz).  We returned from the glory of Sydneyharbour’s world-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks to a whole lotta boat work.

Dock-carting 1st of many loads into our new-to-us van.  Newport, Australia (a Sydney suburb).
To force us to go, we booked a round-trip flight leaving Melbourne, Oz for Auckland, New Zealand on February 11th.  Without sight-seeing, at 868 km (~535 miles), Melbourne is an assertive 9 hour or more ideally at least 2-days drive away from Sydney.  Our Oz tourist VISAs require us to leave the country every 90 days to renew our VISA; we checked into Bundaberg Oz November 13th, so we had to go by at least the February 12th.

Notice how much room there is the van before
we begin loading? Newport, Australia (a Sydney suburb).
Making those plans nearly always seems more do-able the further out.  As the time approached to the pressure mounted.

We needed to leave the boat sales-ready.

That meant fresh paint and varnish, and leaving the boat cleaner than it ever was even before we first came aboard.  More, all our personal belongings needed to be off the boat.  They needed to either fit into a van ~1/8th the storage capacity of our home of the last 4 ½ years, or be sold, given away, shipped or thrown away.

This is our closet on Journey, a bit full at 26 inches
across, a relatively deep.  Journey’s a 36.5’
Pearson 365 sailboat, with ample storage for its size.
We did reasonably well selling items our broker advised us were not expected by a prospective buyer, and would net us far more sold separately than included as an “extra” with the boat.  Realizing we could well be far across the country by the time our boat sold, motivated us to sell our extras before leaving our boat.  We sold them through Gumtree (the Craigslist/eBay or “TradeMe of Oz).

This is our closet on our van, 9 inches across, and too shallow to hold a hanger. 
We sold the following items, mostly via Gumtree:
  • Watermaker $1200 AUD
  • Offshore life raft $1000 AUD
  • Yamaha 2-horse outboard motor $700 AUD
  • Iridium GO! Satellite wifi hotspot $500 AUD
  • Women’s dive gear $450
  • Kayak & paddle* $260 AUD
  • Men’s dive gear & hooka $200 AUD
  • Fishing rod, reel and lures $100 AUD

Total $4,410 AUD ($3,365 USD)

*My kayak, carbon-fiber paddle and my long dive fins were the hardest items for me to say good-bye to.

Nearly the last load from Journey to our van.
Our dinghy, our 5-horse outboard motor, our Honda 110-volt 2,000 portable generator are all items we could have sold, but DBY Boat Sales recommended we include them with our boat sale.

After hoisting our dinghy to include in Journey’s sale, Wayne loaded the 2-horse Yamaha outboard motor for delivery
to Eve of Auntie in Newcastle.  Johnny from Miramar came to our aid.
That left only one item, a spare autopilot (self-steering mechanism) for our broker (nicknamed “Mr. Gumtree” by the DBY Boat Sales staff) to sell in our absence.

That still left a lot of stuff to deal with.

Despite several “Salvos” donations loads, giveaways and trash, this is what our van looked like at our road trip’s start.
This is the back-to-front view.
On a sailboat, while it’s not ideal to carry more than needed on the boat, it’s not unusual.  Heck, we aren’t the only boat owners to simply choose to raise our hull anti-foul and boot stripe paint line a little higher to reflect our choice to carry a heavier load.

On a 1982 van with a little 1.8 liter motor, too much weight will not only drive up our fuel costs, it can prevent its ability to make it up a hill.

This is the view looking from our van’s front, to its rear, inside, when we hit the road.
Most trips into Mona Vale for groceries also included a stop at “Salvos” aka Salvation Army to donate whatever we could do without that we thought Salvos would accept.

To boating friends, we gave away a variety of stuff, from foulies, to fun stuff, to optional safety safety items.  Our new friends Danni and Johnny on Miramar, starting out on a shoestring found themselves both blessed and cursed to be our neighbors.  We’ve little doubt their waterline rose more than our waterline dropped, and that’s just from the food we sent their way.  I still owe them the recipes that prompted items like fish sauce to be among my – and if they haven’t tossed them – their provisions.

Danni and Johhny of Miramar, our neighbors in Pittwater.  They were a huge help as well as a ray of sunshine.

On top of that, we also transported a portable distiller set, which we bequeathed to Chris and Chris ofScintilla, and a spare Yamaha outboard motor which we agreed to deliver to Eve of Auntie who bought it and skedaddled off to Newcastle a day before we were able to finish moving from our boat to our van.

Wayne managed to not throttle me when I spent three more agonizing hours in 100-degree temperatures in a motel parking lot further triaging and organizing our van.  We’d spent the night there since we decided we were better off getting a good night’s sleep in an air-conditioned room rather than figuring out where to put our stuff in the van so we could sleep in it.

We’re continuing to shed whatever we can.

We’re still carrying a large box of stuff ranging from stuffed animals to tools to be sent back to the US for storage.  These items hold sentimental or practical value for when we stop traveling and return to work.  The problem is we’re still not quite sure when and where that will be.

Meanwhile, our van is still lumbering more than it’s climbing hills.

We’ll get there – and show and “after” picture when we do.

My beloved Montrail hiking boots didn’t make the cut, after serving me for at least 15 years.
Took too much weight, too much space.  Also hard to bid adieu.
Location Location
Journey, her pre-sale spa treatment complete, is still parked on a DBY Boat Sales mooring for sale  in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia (S33.39.433 E151.18.051).  We are at the moment finishing our sixth day of misadventures on the road, currently in Booderee National Park, New South Wales.  

We're on our way to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.   More on our transition from open ocean to open road coming up (as well as some fill-in posts on cruising and blog post cleanup).

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Oz: We're Off! (Sort Of)

Our protectors -- Gumby and his new sidekick hang on for the very start of long Australian road trip.
It began out of Pittwater, a Sydney Australian suburb, Feb. 2, 2017.
Since 1984 Wayne's hung tight with his found sidekick, Gumby.  Despite some radical downsizing into our new nomadic "home," (which included a temporary breakup of our cruising Holy Trinity), we're still sticking with Gumby as we hit the road.  

Thanks to Chris(tine) of Scintilla, Gumby won't be lonely.  He's being joined, appropriately enough, by a koala (from Chris).  Perfect for the Land Down Under, also known as Australia (or "Oz"for short).

Do we need to add one more member to resurrect a trinity?  Or is two company, and three a crowd?

Location Location
Journey, her pre-sale spa treatment complete, is still parked on a DBY Boat Sales mooring for sale  in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia (S33.39.433 E151.18.051).  We are at the moment finishing our fourth day of misadventures on the road, and the moment in another Sydney suburb, Hornsby.  

Why Hornsby? More on that and our transition from open ocean to open road coming up (as well as some fill-in posts on cruising and blog post cleanup).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Oz: Such A Nasty Woman

Site of one of the first Women's Marches taking a stand for human rights on the day of USA's 45th Presidential inauguration.
Hyde Park South, Sydney Australia.
Nasty sticker-giver.  Women's March, Sydney, Oz.
If you want a sense for how much impact the USA makes beyond its borders, travel abroad in the wake of a USA Presidential election.  

In 2000, I was in Australia on business whilst the whole "hanging chad" election results debate rocked well beyond the USA.  What irony! We're the country known for playing watchdog over other countries' elections!

Back in 2000, Ozzies (Australians) were more than happy to volunteer their opinions regarding our next President, right down to the bus driver who noted my American accent.  Overall, the reaction was one of great nervousness, particularly as it was looking likely a major change in regime was imminent.

In 2012, we were in Dominica, where we needed to ask for help getting our ballots in.  With limited wifi bandwidth, we needed to get our ballots scanned and that large file emailed to the Washington State elections office.  Dominicans were happy to help - there was great interest in our elections.  In fact, every bar we walked past featured CNN's USA election coverage on their TVs. 

The 2016 election, like 2000, highlighted the disconnect that can happen between the popular vote and the electoral vote.  Just as we did not find ourselves with Al Gore for President in 2000, a few days ago it was not the popular-vote-winning Hillary Clinton who was sworn in as the USA's 45th President.

Early gearing up for the Sydney Women's March.  Hyde Park, Sydney Australia.
Nonetheless, I was again grateful that Washington State enabled me to vote in the Presidential election via email (from Australia).  If I didn't vote, even though my state is generally a "blue" state, I would've felt as though I contributed to Hilary's loss.

Come November 16th, I felt stricken by a mix of disbelief, shock and fear upon hearing the US Presidential election results.  A large part of what drives my vote is who I believe the President will appoint to the Supreme Court, as those lifetime appointees have a very long-lasting influence on what I regard as my personal rights.  In general, my alliances are far more liberal than conservative, thus Democratic, rather than Republican.

More early birds for the Sydney Women's March.
Thus, when fellow cruiser, Marce Schultz of Escape Velocity sent out a Facebook shout to see if any other cruisers wanted to join her for the Sydney Womens March I was intrigued.  The march was timed to send a human rights message the date of the inauguration of the USA's 45th President; the Sydney march was one of over 670 January 21, 2017 Women's Marches worldwide, with the leading march in Washington DC.  

"I'm afraid these marches could get violent," confessed a friend who opted to not participate in the march in her hometown, despite her sympathies with the cause.  While I did feel there was some risk, my hunch was the marches would be peaceful (especially in Australia, one of the leading countries on gun control, where the incidence of gun violence dropped after the enactment of gun controls).  More importantly, I felt compelled to demonstrate my agreement with the Martin Luther King quote "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  

An upbeat crowd materialized shortly before the speakers kicked off the Sydney Women's March.
The Sydney Women's March started from the reflecting pool at South Hyde Park, and wove its way to completion next to the US embassy in Sydney.

Marce was a stone's throw from Sydney.  I was an hour and a half's bus ride away*, but was in.  Better still, fellow cruiser Chris of Scintilla was also willing join us and was along the bus route in.

*FYI - Sydney's transit webpage did not give the accurate fare amount - it was nearly $1 AUD short!  From Newport L90 to downtown Sydney is $5.40 AUD not $4.50 AUD.  Apparently it's not the first time the bus driver's had to let passengers know that.

Sisterhood of the pink pussy hat at the Sydney Women's March.
Chris and I arrived early, well before the first of the 11 am speakers, who were preceding the noon march.  In fact, we weren't too sure how big the turnout would be as at that point, there weren't many folks there beyond the organizers.

Marce, carrying the sign her husband Jack made. Sydney Women's March.
One of the early birds was a gal handing out free "Such a Nasty Woman*" stickers, which we happily donned.  Marce, when she arrived later, luckily got the very last sticker.  The gifter of the stickers said her brother in the States printed them up for use there, and happily sent some his sister's way to support the Sydney Women's March.  The Sydney Women's March also marked my introduction to the "pussy hat" phenomenon, as the sticker-giver was wearing one.

*"Such a Nasty Woman" is a retort Trump uttered as an interruption to Hillary Clinton's commentary in the final Presidential debate.  I found out about "Nasty Woman" from the hysterical Saturday Night Live spoof on the Presidential debate.

That changed, dramatically.  A goodly sized crowd gathered, filling a broad swath of the street through the march.  My guesstimate for the turnout was 5,000, though reports for Sydney's total ranged from 3,000 - 10,000.  

One of many special interests under than banner of human rights at the Sydney Women's March.
One of many kids participating at the Sydney Women's March.
The intent of the march was to support not just women's rights, but a range of human rights. Despite diverse interests, there was a strong, deliberate sense of unity. 

In Sydney, every speaker began their speech by noting that land from which they spoke belonged to the Aborigines.  Apparently, that is now a relatively common practice in Australia.  I do not recall hearing a series USA speeches beginning with homage given to native American Indians, which given the stance the US is now taking regarding immigration would be quite appropriate!

However, we did not see anyone in the march who looked aboriginal, though we heard (but could not see through the crowds) a speaker on Aboriginal rights.  Presumably, as she spoke in the first person, she was aboriginal.

We did see plenty of men there to lend their support, including Jack, Marce's husband.  We also saw lots of kids, male and female, happy to support their mums in the cause.  There were even dogs, bearing banners.

Some banners were insulting, some angry, some funny, some altruistic.  Many of the signs were clearly originated for the Washington DC Women's March, acquired via internet and printed.  "Washington [DC]" was crossed out, and "Sydney" written in its place.  Then at the tail end of the march, there was a Trump supporter who who paid a skywriter to get in his 2 cents... for ~$4,000 AUD.

I was not a sign-carrier; my attendance was as much driven by curiosity as to offer support. 

This sign made me laugh. Note to future protesters - this simple graphic
against a pink background really stood out!
Personally, I don't believe that anger or insults are the most productive approach to use in protecting human rights (though I do confess to chuckling over some that struck me as funny).   In general, I strive to work hard to understand the facts and issues, including getting clarity on the viewpoints opposed to my own, with as open a mind as possible.  

While some feel our role is to as supportive as possible of our President, I believe it is my responsibility as a citizen to express the kind of governance I feel is right.  Apparently, I am not alone.  As historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich famously quipped, "Well behaved women seldom make history."

Some estimates put worldwide participation in the Women's March at 4.8 million -- I felt privileged to be part of the movement. The march  in Washington drew at least 500,000 and is the largest single-day demonstrations in U.S. history.  Seeing my friends in New Zealand, Portland, Vancouver Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose also participate in the marches in there hometowns was also very cool - global sisterhood.  

One of many Washington Women's March signs adapted for the Sydney Women's March.
The challenge... Now that the march is done, what next?  What are your greatest hopes and plans moving forward?  I am open to your ideas - particularly what actions will be the most productive, even when coming from a US citizen, far, far from home.

Oh - the "Such A Nasty Women" sticker proved a great conversation opener.  It prompted questions from folks wandering around Sydney near the march to ask about the sticker and what was going on.  As well, on the bus ride home, an ex-pat (also named Dana!) from the San Diego asked about it as well.  We finished our conversation by exchanging phone numbers. 

Hmmm, maybe that's how it will be in the interim, one conversation at a time.

Sydney Women's March takes to the streets.
Location Location
We're in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia (S33.39.433 E151.18.051), about an hour's drive (in light traffic), an hour and a half bus ride, and four hour's sail (in good conditions) from Sydney. 

Up Next
In just a few more days, we'll begin our clockwise, 6-month tour by van of Australia.  Journey's for sale, though there's lots more to blog about, catching up on past adventures and transitioning from the open ocean to the open road.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Oz: Nomadic "Home" II

3-wheeled motor cycle with a boat sidecar towing a tiny trailer
Life on the road for several months in Australia (aka Oz) will be a bit different!
Thanks, Rich Kallerud, for finding the perfect pix to show what we've got planned!
This was our New Zealand budget
for a road trip vehicle....
This is what we ended up road-trippingwith in New Zealand.

Soon - this van camper-conversion will be "home" for us on the road, in Australia.  Photo from Seonkook.
After ~19,000 nautical miles, the time is approaching to shift from keels to wheels -- a common transition for cruisers still feeling wanderlust and wanting to see the world less wet.

Journey, our Pearson 365 ketch sailboat and "home" since September 2012, is now officially listed for sale, though not exactly show-room ready.  While exceptionally mechanically sound, part of her much-needed beauty treatment is making her inviting for her new owner (whoever that might be).  

That means in addition to basic cleaning, sanding, vanishing, painting etc., figuring out what to do with everything not physically not part of the boat.  

Downsizing - again!!!

One bonus?  Our new bed will not be shaped like a pie slice!  We'll have more than 1 1/2 feet for our 4 feet.  Yay!
Photo from Seonkook.
Everything aboard, we need to decide

  • what stays for the new owners (not much)
  • what comes with us on the van (much less still)
  • what's sold (less still)
  • what's shipped back to the USA (almost nothing - we don't know where home will be next or when, it's expensive, and we don't want to abuse the good graces of Wayne's folks garage space)
  • what's given away to charity, other cruisers or whoever else finds it worthwhile (a bit)
  • what's thrown away (a lot, embarrassingly, most likely including my dead, former and once resurrected Mac)

For Wayne, almost the only part that makes it hard is my foot-dragging.  He is a good minimalist.  I am not.  

We're downsizing from a sailboat with about 150 feet of living space (and a LOT of storage) to a van about 1/8 of that, with decent storage for its size.  However, that's not saying much, for our home for the next 3-10 months, carrying most of our remaining worldly possessions.
Our new closet is on the left, followed by our tiny new 'fridge.  On the right is our new stove and hand-pump sink,
with kitchen storage underneath.  Photo courtesy Seonkook.
I cannot deny being stricken (again) by a sense of panic as we go through this process.  

It takes some time for me to visualize how it all will work.  

Letting go also means letting go of everyday conveniences (ample fridge, hot showers, a toilet), little pleasures (our SodaStream machine, my kayak, my favorite long dive fins), mementos (including most of my clothes - some favorites will have to go😦), failures (various dead and unused computer and electronic equipment), and dreams (reference books, SCUBA gear).

It took us 4 weeks to find our new "mobile" home.  

Our ideal was:  Toyota Hiace (reliable and repairable everywhere) van, built-in fridge, cooktop, sink, cabinets, roo bar, poptop, less than 250Ks "mileage," couch that converts to fold-out bed, air conditioning, sound engine... all for >$10K AUD at a price we felt we could resell for close to what we paid.

The market in Oz is hot for affordable van-camper conversions.  Twice we made offers, foolishly held only with the good intentions of a handshake.   Both times the seller found an easier quicker sale before the deed was done.  Several vans sold before we could see them.  

Then we got lucky.
Sunny & Seonkook, from their travel blog,  Impressive travelers!  We bought their van.
We were the favorite out of 20 prospective buyers on the van we bought, a well-kept 1982 Toyota Hiace poptop factory van conversion, with 186K "miles".  For whatever reason, sellers Sunny and Seonkook ("Kook") chose us to see it first (maybe it was our constant checking of Gumtree [much like Craigslist in the USA and TradeMe in New Zealand] for new listings, and promptly letting prospective sellers know we were motivated and ready to pay cash).  They knew - even stated with justifiable confidence in their ad -  "See this will you buy it."  

Wayne making sure we had enough cash to buy our van.  We had to pull our ATM daily limit, daily, several days to have enough.
We'd just reluctantly coughed up $1,100 AUD for an outboard motor replacement, and were a little short of the sale price.  Miraculously, Sunny and Kook were willing to hold their van for for us, and even pulled their Gumtree ad once we committed.

Front row seats on our upcoming adventure.  Sunny described this vehicle as "classic."  With a manual choke and
no power steering, it is.   Photo courtesy Seonkook.
We did compromise on air conditioning (there is none - which we expect we will regret touring scorching Western Australia), and there were other vans with 4-wheel drive (but less room inside), newer, or for less money.  Like boats, though, everything is a compromise, and we believe you know you've found what you're looking for when you stop looking.

Overall, we're very happy with our choice, and enjoyed meeting Sunny and Kook so much, we hosted them for dinner aboard.  They've done some amazing travels!  Check out their blog - though Google translate doesn't translate much from Korean!  You can still enjoy their photos and have fun guessing where they are.  Oh, and all the van photos on this page came from Kook - no point in re-inventing the wheel! 

My next "galley," as seen from the back of the van.  Photo courtesy Seonkook.
Location Location

We're in Pittwater, New South Wales, Australia (S33.39.433 E151.18.051), about an hour's drive (in light traffic) and four hour's sail (in good conditions) from Sydney.   

Up Next
After Journey's spa treatment is completed, we'll hit the road.  There will still be catch-up blogs from our cruising, as well as blogging about our road trips, like we did in New Zealand, New Caledonia and elsewhere.  We're targeting a week (or so) out, certainly less than two.  We're not quite sure where we'll go, though we'll likely start with Oz's legendary  Great Ocean Road.  We're not sure for how long we'll travel here, our guesstimate is 3-6 months, with some out of country trips to re-fresh our visa and making that much-promised trip to see our folks.  After that, we're even less sure - just know we need to go back to work, somewhere, preferably not the USA for another 4 years or so.