• Concluding observations about Oz

    Our trip back to the Netherlands went pretty smoothly and we are now home again, tired but satisfied.  We can look back upon a very interesting holiday in a very engaging place. The most obvious conclusion we can draw is that Australians on the whole are really nice people: Friendly, helpful, open and interested. As soon as they see you looking around searching, or with a map, they immediately ask if they can help you. Everybody will talk with you and ask questions, exchange experiences or give you tips.

    They are quite tidy too: everything there is very clean and there are free toilets everywhere – and you can use them all safely because the other users will leave them neat and clean. I’ve never had one without toilet paper and only rarely without soap. In the wilderness parks you will encounter the composting-toilets; a hole on top of a heap of fertilizer. But most people close the lid properly afterwards, so I only had a really stinky one once. Amenities at the camp-sites are clean and tidy too. Most camp-sites have a bucket and a floor wiper ready so you can clean your shower quickly after you’ve used it. I am afraid that most Aussies will be very disappointed when they come to Europe; you have to pay for toilets and you have a fifty-fifty chance of finding a clean one.

    The trucks you encounter are often bigger than the Dutch ones, and longer. Not broader though; everything that takes up more than half the road has a little truck labelled “Oversized” driving in front of it to warn the oncoming traffic. The lorries are also very elegant: most of them have a lot of polished chrome and even their hubcaps are usually polished till they shine like mirrors. On the road we also noticed that the cars are more colourful than the ones on the Dutch roads. Though Aussies are notoriously uninterested in dressing up as a fashion statement you see in their cars as well as their houses that they like bright colours. Roofs and walls are more often painted than not, especially with the wooden houses we found most common in the ‘newer regions’.

    Australians have their own lingo too. A lot of it is slightly old-fashioned English, so Tim had no trouble understanding it. A docket is a ticket/receipt, cordial is the kind of lemonade you have to mix with water (“limonadesiroop” in Dutch), a nursery usually is a place where you can buy baby plants (weirdly enough the protection they put around saplings planted by the roadside makes them look like a special kind of cemetery) , a doona is a duvet (“dekbed”) and usually has a sheet under it instead of a cover all around it, all kinds of suck sweets are called lollies, a box of wine is called a cask and coffee is ordered as a long or short shot of black, depending on how much water should be added.

    Like Americans, they tend to have very colourful and enthusiastic descriptions that can set your expectations slightly higher than is advisable. But since they DO have a lot of very beautiful and enjoyable things we will gladly forgive them for it. The only thing in Oz that bothered me was the water; tap water had a very chlorinated taste so you really had to buy bottled water (or cordial).

    We had to get used to buying our drinks before we went to a restaurant, but unless they state that they are fully licensed they really expect you to Bring Your Own. Quite often the “bottleshop” where you can buy the booze is conveniently close, so it is not a problem.

    Daily cost of living seems to be slightly lower than in the Netherlands. On average things are about 80% of what you pay here, clothes probably even less. You have to watch out with the money though. The paper money resembles the European kind; each value has its own colour and size and bigger is worth more money. Their coins are harder to get used to. The most valuable coin is worth two dollars, and is a tiny bronze coloured kind. The slightly bigger one is one dollar, but the biggest ones are silver and only 20 cents.

    School uniforms are the norm and most of them include a floppy hat. Ozzies seem to be so used to the floppy hat that they also wear it under helmets and hard hats. Tourists who unfortunately find themselves stranded without luggage should know that there are a lot of shops to buy second hand clothes. St Vincent de Paul was a charity shop we saw in almost every town in NSW, though we also saw Salvation Army shops (they look very slick and at first we thought they were a commercial chain) and private ones with names like Second Hand Sam.

    The bins I saw in most caravan parks were clones of the commune provided ones we use at home, except that they were almost universally green and the recycling ones were yellow. I found myself unexpectedly trained to throw only biodegradable stuff in green bins and had quite a hard time overcoming the Pavlovian reaction. Their recycle bins are mostly distinguished by a bright yellow lid. Sometimes they want you to put everything recyclable in the same bin (paper, plastic bottles, aluminium cans), sometimes they had different bins for different kinds of recyclables. But they did not have a special one for what we call “chemical waste”, ie things like batteries and toner. So you dispose of old batteries by throwing them in the general bin, and presumably the same goes for paint and nail polish remover and all other materials we have to collect separately in the Netherlands. Till I received our battery-charger again I used AA’s for my camera, but I must admit that I disposed of them by giving them to a waiter – the Pavlovian training runs deep.

    The mailboxes often were not familiar at all. We are used to very standard mailboxes. But in Oz they are less strict about what your mailbox should look like. Some people used (rusty) old milk churns or oil tins, I even saw a plastic bucket once. Others build houselike boxes with gable roofs and some were very creative. We should have a few photographs of those and will put them in an album on the photo page.

    Tim found many things in Oz highly familiar, “Old-fashioned British”. Marjolein liked their tidiness and structure: on every high bridge is a sign saying that it is forbidden to jump off it, even though, in most cases, you would be prosecuting a corpse. We both liked their cheerful pragmatism and easy-going tolerance. Aussies live and let live, perhaps because there is an enormous amount of room, if you do not like someone you can easily avoid them. We would love to go back and could even envision living there and fitting in pretty easily: as one Australian told us, all of them (except of course the Aboriginals) are newcomers.

  • Sydney, August 10th

    Assisted by the street directory we managed to get our luggage to my uncle’s place and the camper van to Apollo (the place we hired it from). Unfortunately we managed to get one of those rare specimens at Apollo; the unfriendly Australian. Tips about camper vans: fill it up before you return the van, because they charge 4 times the local price per litre (Tim went to another petrol station and returned the van a bit later). Don’t be nice and try to prepare the chemical toilet for them; everything has to be completely empty. Make sure you don’t stand sloped when you empty the grey water, because if something is left in the tank you have to empty it in a bucket and dispose of it elsewhere.

    We took the train to Circular Quay because we wanted to take the ferry to Manly one last time, as a goodbye to Sydney. It was late by then, so we sailed away in twilight, seeing the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge getting dark and then being lighted in the dark night. Sydney changed from huge modern skyscrapers in daylight to a vast darkness with a million lights. No pictures unfortunately: a moving boat is not the best place to take pictures of dark places.

    In Manly we took a cab to my uncles house, and went out to an Italian restaurant. My niece came after dinner with her bloke and daughter, which was really nice. We have corresponded with very irregular intervals since I was 12 and she has been to the Netherlands a few times, so it was really nice to see her here again. Her daughter and our boys got on like a house on fire (literally, lots of screaming and running away), so they had a great (but late) evening too.

    This morning we woke with the rising of the sun, as usual this holiday. We sorted out our luggage and packed everything as efficient as possible. We had to buy two new bags en route to carry the new buys to replace our missing luggage, and they are totally filled. Lost luggage will do that to you, but how we will get everything home is something I hardly dare to think about. We already had a hard time getting all bags from Haarlem to Schiphol and we now have a lot more to carry. The cab we took yesterday was a little van, and the bloke promised to be here at one to transport us to the airport, so that should be doable, and in the Netherlands we might commit some taxi-taking too.

    I’ll try to find the time for a concluding post with our observations and tips for other Australian tourists; the conclusion about our holiday is clear enough. We had a whale of a time and would love to visit again!

  • Lane Cove Park, August 9th

    Yesterday after dark the kids had a great time spotting possums. They tried to feed them leaves, which led to a little tragedy when one of them mistook Daniels finger for a carrot. But it is a small wound and after the initial shock it didn’t hurt much, so we only disinfected it and put a plaster on it. They then went spider hunting in the toilets, but fortunately they only found an innocent huntsman spider and only in the gents toilet section, so I am safe for now.

    The next morning we woke up with loud birdsong and beautiful sunshine, so we had our breakfast outside. Tim left his raisin toast alone for a minute and say a big black winged thief take of with it, and the kids got raided by lorikeets again, which is not a bad morning at all considering that you are in the middle of a big busy town.

    We packed everything and cleaned the campervan because we have to take it back this afternoon. We do hope to have time for a walk through this nice park though. If ever you need to be in Sydney, we would certainly recommend staying in a cabin here instead of a hotel; there website is www.lcrtp.com.au and their GPS cooridates are: Latitude 33° 47’19.56” S, Longitude 151° 8′ 34.14” E. They are slighty hard to find, we needed to buy a Sydney street directory to get here, but it is well worth the effort!

    I am not sure we’ll be able to internet before we leave (though I will certainly try to get to Circular Point where they had nice coffe and free WiFi), but we will fly tomorrow afternoon and hope to land in London at 7.45 and , Heathrow willing, will be in Amsterdam at 11h Saturday the 11th.

  • Orange, August 5th

    Ah, the evil empire struck again: the MacDonald Cafe (or Macca, as they want you to call it) has wireless internet here. So we can have nice espresso, the kids can play, and I have 45 minutes to quickly upload the latest posts and photo’s – if I manage it in that time, there are a lot of photo’s…

    This morning we left Dubbo in grey and wet weather, and drove on to Wellington for the caves. During our break in Wellington, because the cave-tours wouldn’t start for another hour, we read up on the caves in NSW and spontaneously decided to skip these and change our route. Flexibility-R-us at your service…

    We are now on our way to Oberon, a bit past Bathurst, because we want to see the Jenalon caves. They have nine limestone caves and they are supposed to be really great. We will then go on to the entrance, where we will be the 7th. On the road we might, if we feel like it at that particular moment, visit the zig-zag railway and the glow-worm tunnel too, but we have no fixed route planned.

  • uploading photo’s

    I had a bit of a worry when uploading the pictures from the laptop didn’t go as smoothly as planned. But with a bit of effort it all worked well in the end. My trying out project were the pictures Tim and I took in Africa in 1994, so I uploaded a few nice ones into a photo album on our photo page.

  • Counting downs

    Two evenings and one full day left… For the time being we are right on schedule, but tomorrow is the last day I’ll be able to buy anyting we need for the trip, or can get papers/medications/vouchers we still need. We are gradually working our way through the checklists (thanks Henri) and through our own actionlist.;p

  • Watching Wildlife

    When I was in the bookshop I saw a special Lonely Planet guide, called Watching Wildlife: Australia and I’m really glad I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy it. It gives a very clear description of the wildlife in Australia and in which parts you are likely to find specific species.

  • Road Planner

    That might come in handy: a route planner for NWS.

  • Camper

    The camper company is quite efficient with email traffic. I got a reply immediately. Picking it up three days later is not a problem at all. It does mean that we pay more per day though, so our total rent will increase by approximately 120 euro (for four weeks). We are not supposed to leave it somewhere overnight, so officially we should either go for the new price or pick it up on the original date and park it on a camping for three days. Hmmmm…. seems weird too.

    Compared with the costs of the complete holiday 120 euro is a tiny amount of course, so we could decide to just follow the rules.
    Pick it up three days later and no worries about burglars or idiots driving into it.

    Knowing us we are likely to choose the legal yet more expensive option, but we have a few hours before we have to decide…

  • Inside info

    We just started to read about NSW and which things we can do there, when my uncle from Sydney dropped by. He is spending three months in… well, partly in Europe and partly elsewhere in the world. This week however he is in the Netherlands so he decided to drop by.

    Which also means that he is not in Australia when we arrive there. We can still see him before we leave though, and he kindly offered us the use of his house for our first days. He lives in Mosman, in the Northern part of Sydney. So we now decided to use his house as our base station for the first days, get a Sydney Pass to use all public transport freely, and make a little list of things we really want to see and do in Sydney.

    Appearantly Sydney has a public transport planner that’s very comparable with our Dutch system. Quite a number of busses stop in front of his house, some of which go to Sydney centre, others go southwards to Manley beach. The latter is a nice area to have a little walk in one of the National Parks, and you can also take the ferry to Sydney centre from there. Since you see most of the harbour that way it saves the cost of a specific harbour cruise. Therefore we’ve now crossed that from our list of things to do.

    This fortunate change of plans also means that I now have to call my cousin (whom I’ve seen only once in my life, years ago) to ask for the keys of the house and to see if he can pick us up from the airport. Not an unreasonable request, I know, but quite hard for someone who is a bit telephone phobic. I hate asking favours and I hate calling – but I know I sometimes just have to kick myself in the right direction and this seems to be one of those times.

    I also have to contact the company we rent the camper from, and ask if we can pick it up a few days later. That can be done by email though 😉