Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oz: Holy S---!

Hitch-hiker discovered leaving Split Point Lighthouse, Great Ocean Road, ViIC Australia.
Photo taken from inside through the window.  Can you blame me?
"Holy S---!" Wayne exclaimed -- loudly -- glancing in his rear view window, as he pulled out of the Great Ocean Road Split Point Lighthouse parking lot. 

Given the shenanigans we've seen from other clueless tourists on Australia's highly-traveled Great Ocean Road I'd figured something along those lines inspired his outburst.


"You gotta see this!  You are definitely going to want a photo of this," he declared.

Still puzzled, he said, "Look at my rear view mirror."

Huge as our rearview mirror is, a spider had claimed a substantial proportion of it.  The Gary Larson eyeball  cartoon, "Objects are larger than they appear," came to mind.

I did indeed take a photo.  I did not ask Wayne to roll down the window to take it.  Nor did I walk around to the highway side to get closer to my subject, though normally I would.  

When we were in a safer spot, I did amble out with a folded section of paper, my usual transport strategy for bugs.

This is the slot where the spider scurried to when I tried to dislodge him.
The spider quickly scurried between the slot between the car body and the door, where the door hinges open.  We were not sure if the spider could crawl inside our new-to-us car* from there!  He crawled in deep enough I was unable to dislodge or squish him with my paper.

*More on our van to 4-wheel-drive transition in a future post.

We took off, hoping nervously for the best -- that our drive would dislodge the spider and he was unable to get inside our vehicle.  Otherwise, Wayne planned to deploy chemical warfare on our next stop.  

When we stopped for groceries in Lorne, Wayne promised to do the deed while i shopped. Australia is the land of poisonous things and spiders here are definitely not an exception.  We're not sure where this fellow boarded us - at our campsite the night before or where we parked at Split Point Lighthouse.

In any case, Wayne joined me few minutes later in the market, looking proud.

Wayne, my spider-killer hero.
Afterward, he showed me his handiwork.

Leo* - thank you for equipping our vehicle well.  If the spider spray was inspired by an event in your travels, do tell, please!

*Leo is the former owner of our "new" vehicle.

In prior travels to Australia, I remember waking up in the morning and seeing a spider the size of my hand silhouetted on the outside of my tent.  Still, the spider who attempted to take up residence in our car was one scary-lookin' dude!

Spider on our running board.  Lorne, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
Thanks Amy Luck for identifying this as a huntsman spider, and Debra Butts for noting they don't generally attack people (though they are fond of invading cars and homes).  In fact, after reading more about them, I feel kind of guilty about our killing this one, though headaches and nausea are kind of reason enough.

Location Location
We are currently in Port Campbell, Victoria, near the tail end of our Great Ocean Road tour.

Up Next
Lots of catch-up posts, still.  Our wifi's will be off-and-on as we're often camping and prior to that we were scrambling to sell our van and replace it with a 4-wheel-drive.  My Mac is now much more cooperative with photo downloads after my Mac "guru" friend Rob Plowman of iThings Bendigo "cured" when we visited him in Bendigo.

Today, April 12, 2017 upon loading some stuff into our Land Cruiser at a campsite in Western Australia's Cape Leveque when a startled huntman spider got loose inside.  We were just getting ready to leave and weren't too keen on getting startled by a large hairy scurrying spider in our vehicle while 4-wheel driving.  The spider disappeared before I could track and remove it.  We were not pleased.  

Less than a kilometer underway I spotted the spider on the back of my leg!  I gave a short scream.  Wayne promptly stopped and I popped open my door and quickly hopped out into the red dust with a book in hand to flick the spider off my leg.  

"Show me!" a nervous Wayne insisted before I returned to the Cruiser.  Not that Wayne's above asking for ulterior motives - in this case that was not his motivation. WIth no further ado, I stripped (no one was around) and Wayne backed up my confirmation wherever the spider was, it was no longer on me.  I was reasonably sure the huntsman was finding a new cubbyhole somewhere in the bush.

"Australia, and it's bugs..." sighed Wayne.

We both breathed easier.  Wayne hates spiders.  

No photos this time.  Just relief.

These days I don't worry about fast, but mild-mannered huntsman spiders any more, and was glad this one got evicted without getting killed.  Funny, without looking for it, today I came across another huntsman spider story - click here to check it out.  They're pretty cool, spiders actually, as long as they're not loose in your vehicle or crawling up your bare leg!

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).