I have literally spent the last 27 Christmas mornings in the same 20-40 square metres, and every Christmas season in Halifax. To be honest, I wasn’t alllll that excited to be spending it away from home.
This may have been unique to Lindy and me, but at no point did it really “feel” like the Christmas season to us. Instead, as December drew nearer, everything became more Christmas themed.
Imagine this, you’re going to a big party hosted by your best friend Doug. Doug lives in Winnipeg, and is a great guy, he has huge parties and invites all his friends and family. This one party Doug invites you to is “Hawaiian Luau” themed, and he pulls out all the stops.
That’s what Christmas was like for us in 2016… Christmas themed. Just like Doug’s party guests, we had a fantastic time, and were thrilled to be part of it. But no matter how many Christmas carols we heard, faux Christmas trees we walked by, or store window Christmas displays we saw, when you’re wearing sunglasses and it’s 28 degrees out at 7pm, it just doesn’t feel the same!
Kinda like how some Australians look at that Canadian image on the left and say:
"Yea, nah that's not surfing, good effort though mate"
If you’ve read a few of these blogs before, you may remember reoccurring character, Donald MacDonald. He was our guide to Canberra as well as Canadian-Australian interpreter. Well he kindly invited Lindy and I down to his beach cottage in Bateman’s Bay for the holiday. We had an excellent hybrid holiday, complete with the Canadian expectations of NHL on TV, welcoming fireplace (I mean, it did drop below 20 at night) and and AND, an actual Christmas tree, a rare occurrence down under.
All of these combined with the great hospitality of our hosts made an awesome time. Aussie staples like a Christmas day seafood lunch and some late morning body boarding just bonuses. Thanks Don!
And then it was New Years, which was pretty simple. IF you have ONE NYE to spend in Australia, and you're already in Sydney; you see the fireworks. So that’s what we did.
The fireworks in Sydney are extensive to say the least. So we made sure we had a great view of the show and went to the Botanical Gardens, which is a destination in its own right. In order to get in you had to pay a bit over a $75 each, but then it was BYOB&F, so you didn’t have to pay crazy prices for food or booze.
Basically, we arrived around 6:00PM, set up our blanket amongst the others, and proceeded to eat chips and drink beer until midnight. It was a pretty nice New Years.
According to the stats… there were:
buying a van
As Lindy and I get older, more and more strangers get more and more emphatic when they say:
"You’ve NEVER owned a car?!”
And we respond “Nope, never!”
But we can’t say that anymore because we bought a 1998 Mercedes Vito.
This beaut of a vehicle was built when I was ten, and is the selected vessel to take us from Sydney, to Melbourne, to Cairns. You can see our path in the picture, which is well over 5,000 kilometres (we had plenty of detours), excluding our 500 or so with a rental car in Tasmania.
How do you buy a car? I don’t know, I've never done it. So we had to find out. It turns out that Australia is a bit of a weird market for campervans, with dozens changing hands each week in Sydney alone. Although, buying a van isn’t all that serious of a commitment as it might be in other countries.
So we set a budget, searched the online classifieds (Gumtree), met a few people and saw their vans, subsequently raised our budget, and then met a few more people and saw their vans.
We ended up making a deal with a French couple, who had just concluded a 6-month drive-about with the Vito, making our 2.5 month venture seem paltry by comparison. The van had a clean bill of health, started reliably, and ticked the boxes. So we pulled the trigger and handed them a bunch of cash.
Now we're trying to sell the van! How time flies...
I don’t have much to say about the driving around part. You could probably assume that it’s fun, it’s hot (temperature), you meet lots of people, you see great scenery, etc… So how about I just go through some photos? Yea sure, let’s do that. Click those pictures, read those captions.
Royal National Park Figure 8 Pools - Australia has a lot of rock pools, because it has a lot of coastline. A lot of of the coastline is limestone and easily worn away, which lends itself to some cool erosion patterns, like the Figure 8 Rock pools. These pools are an "instagram" famous spot, which means wide-eyed youngin's from around the world want to have that photo you see below.
The problem is, if you don't go at low tide, and on a nice day, you might die. The waves are unforgiving, and don't care about instagram. Needless to say, we went at low tide with no injuries, though we did see a girl with a bloody leg from a wave that knocked her on the rocks... Also, the waves were too choppy, so we didn't get that Epic "8" picture. Oh well! Fun times nonetheless! Click that link for a recent article on the subject.
Tasmania is the Newfoundland to Australia. It's the butt of jokes, the climate is "rough", also people are super friendly.
We were only there a quick six nights, but man what a beautiful spot. Also, they distill by far the best whisky in Australia and brew plenty of great beers. We stayed with our friend Tom, who we met in Slovenia, and he showed plenty of great stuff on the island.
The Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) Gallery was truly unique. It was one of the best laid our galleries I've seen, with great (digital) handheld information on every single piece, and a diversity (seriously diverse) I've never seen in a museum or art gallery. All of this, picturesquely located a private ferry ride away from downtown Hobart.
Did I mention that the gallery was started by a dude who made a FORTUNE gambling on horse races? I don't know how much he won, but this guy, David Walsh, in 2012 had the Aussie government trying to get $37 MILLION in taxes from his gambling profits. It pays to gamble, apparently.
I think I have one more Australia blog entry in me, and it will be the wrap up.