• Bateau Bay, July 16th

    Saturday we also had a really nice day in the Blue Mountains. We went to the Leura Falls (or cascades, depends on which local you talk to) which is a very lush and genteel walk. Up and down the stairs again of course, it is still in the mountains. Our leg muscles would be pretty strong if we stayed here all holiday.

    In the afternoon we dropped Tim and the boys near the lake close by, the same one they briefly visited yesterday. It had lots of ducks (and the occasional geese) to feed, a climbing rack, swings and a climbing rack resembling a pirate ship. They had lots of fun there, whilst my aunt and I did some more shopping in the local mall. No, still no word from the luggage people – so we have to buy bits and bobs on the road, when we actually need them.

    The evening was spent with my aunt, her son and his family in a Thai restaurant. The food was quite nice and we remembered to Bring Our Own just in time to get a nice white wine in a bottleshop.

    Sunday we departed to Bateay Bay, near Gosford, where my other aunt lives. Two and a half hours by car, which gives us time to get used to driving the campervan, finding the proper set-up for the kids, making sure we locked everything away properly (colouring pencils are nice to keep the kids entertained, but you will encounter a curve that neatly spreads them all through the campervan…), etc.

    We found a nice holiday park, close to where my aunt lives, and right next to the sea. I had a visit with my aunt and Tim and the boys explored the beach. They found the most amazing shells, and on the rocky bits all sort of weird clams and limpids. The park has a heated pool, which they couldn’t resist either, so they jumped right in. I added swimming gear to my shopping list; since it is winter here that didn’t have a high priority but with heated swimming pools…

    Sleeping in the campervan for the first time took some getting used too – mainly because the boys thought it was such great fun. We have a tv and a dvd player in the caravan, just at the right hight for them to watch it from their beds. We woke up at sunset. Falco squicked “mamma, is it morning or not? On one side of the caravan it is, on the other it isn’t”.

    Since our campervan is parked right next to the beach, we could see the sun rise from the sea while we were still in our beds, which is great. It also rose bit from behind the oil tankers we see cueing up on the horizon, waiting to stock up in New Castle. It’s a weird sight, the beautiful beach, a long stretch of ocean and near the horizon this line of little ships.

    We got up for a morning walk, more appreciated by the parents than by the kids. Strolling over a nice beach at 07.30 in the morning with multicoloured birds flying around your head sure gives me a holiday feeling!

    After a refreshing swim for the kids we departed for the Port Stephens area. Going north via the Pacific Highway led us first over a small land area between the ocean and a few quite beautiful lakes. It was appropriately named “The Entrance” and is supposed to be (next to a great fishing place) known for its pelicans. But feeding the pelicans would only happen at three and we didn’t want to wait that long, so we decided to travel on.

    The journey took is through Newcastle, which looked really nice. Maybe we will visit a bit longer on our way back; we more or less simultaneously declared that if we wanted to emigrate, this would be the place we wanted to live in.
    In the afternoon we arrived in Shoal Bay, right next to Nelson’s bay. The holiday park doesn’t have a swimming pool, but it is half the price and it has wifi, so we are still pleased. And we only have to cross the road to be on a nice little beach in a beautiful little bay. We bought sunglasses and hats, in preparation of the dolphin and whale spotting cruise we want to make from here. The local people also advised seasickness pills (“even if you think you never get seasick you’re better of taking them”) so we bought some of those too. It would be a shame to find ourselves to sick to truly enjoy the trip! Tomorrow we’ll try to book a nice cruise, so hopefully more news and photo’s soon.

    Oh, and they called from the airport this afternoon; they found one of our bags and promised to deliver it tomorrow at the holiday park. Hopefully it is the one with our clothes in it, kiddy garments are more easily found.

  • Woodford, July 13th

    We were so tired that we went to bed early and woke up early on Friday morning. Sitting in flannel striped pyjama’s and big dressing gowns with a cup of espresso next to the fire is not a bad start of the day, especially not if it is Friday the 13th.

    After some basic shopping my aunt took us to see the three sisters. The Blue Mountains are actually stunningly beautiful and very large. We took the “Giant Steps” down, which means going down really steep steps for about a kilometre. Very good leg exercise for all of us, but we all managed; even Falco did most of it by himself. After that we walked 2 km through the forest on a mountain path and ended up at the station of the scenic railway, with a little train that will take you up the hill again. They claim to be the steepest railway in the world and after taking the trip I do believe them. I don’t think I would dare to do it down the hill, it felt like it was a 60 degree angle. Or is that a 120 degrees? (Update: My cousin worked there and told me it actually is 52 degrees).

    On top we saw the statues of the three sisters and their father (I think), so I assume there is a legend about how three nice young sisters got turned into stone. Being without internet also means being without google though, and at times like that I really miss the opportunity to look up what the legend is.

    By that time we had walked for two hours, so we had a little picnic up the mountain. Not for too long though, it is much colder that high up. The kids had a play near a little lake to shake the last bits of cabin fever out and than we headed back to the nice wood fire in my aunts house.

    I’ll put some of the pictures of today up in a Blue Mountain photo album on the photo page, if folks want to admire the three sisters.

  • Woodford, Blue Mountains, July 12th

    Tim picked up the caravan and it is rather huge. Unfortunately we hadn’t realized that I had to be there too to sign the contract, so Tim is now the only one who may drive the monster. Though after seeing it and seeing Tim drive it I am secretly a bit glad too 😉

    It’s hard to stay away from the left side of the road/lane, because as a driver you can’t see the edges, and it is hard to steer such a big car – not to mention trying to get it into another gear – so Tim had to work really hard. I had to help him stay away from the left side of the lane and keep the kids calm (they are not yet used to driving in a camper, and all their colouring pencils got scattered across the flour after a while) so I didn’t really have time to look at our surroundings. But they occasional glance showed some marvellous landscape.

    I did notice a very weird thing. Even on the big motorways the part that in the Netherlands is reserved for broken down cars (“vluchtstrook”) had a bike painted on them. Bikers must be really brave in Oz! We even encountered signs saying that bikers should be careful crossing the rather busy road. I managed to take a picture of one on one of the smaller roads, but you see this even on two or three lane motorways. So next time I hear that they took a biker of the motorway in the Netherlands I’ll just assume it was an Aussie tourist.

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    My aunt’s house is really nice. She had prepared a shepherds pie for us, and made a nice big fire in the wood stove. Her son came by and will eat here on Saturday with his family; nice to finally see the people who up till now only figured in family stories. My aunt told me that it was good that her Irish (late) husband wasn’t there any more, because he wouldn’t have spoken to us all day. All through their long marriage he would not speak to her at all on July 12th – which is Orange Day in Ireland, the day Willem invaded the island.

  • Sydney, Wednesday July 11th

    Yesterday, after many phone calls, Tim finally managed to get an airport person on the phone when he desperately (we hadn’t heard anything for three days) called Sydney Airport themselves. They told us that the lost luggage people had been overwhelmed and almost impossible to reach and gave us the number of the director of the department.

    It seems that there had been bomb scares and some kind of gas leak at Heathrow which totally crashed the luggage system: apparently there are currently 20.000 pieces of luggage stranded at Heathrow and they don’t have the manpower to really process them, whilst more are coming in all the time. If you had to change from terminal 1 to terminal 4, like we did, you had an 80% chance of yo being doomed.

    Today Tim went to the airport to check the heap of luggage there, just in case we were lucky. He found that there were people looking for their luggage for a week-and-a-half and hadn’t found anything yet. He also discovered that luggage tags handed out when you check in weren’t unique, a grey sports bag that is probably ours was tagged with our number, but in name of Mr. Smith, and was on it’s way to Edinburgh. Apparently it is so difficult to correctly forward luggage from Heathrow that they are now just sending luggage out to another random airport in the hope that it will be processed there…

    We can claim 50 pounds per day till they give us our luggage, and if they receive it during our holiday they will just call us on our mobile and we’ll make an agreement about where they send it so that we can pick it up. We should also contact our travel insurance about what we can claim from them. Tomorrow we depart for the Blue Mountains, so today we have to do some basic shopping. At least we’ll have lots of souvenirs when we come back 😉

    My aunt has been a lifesaver. She has been staying with us in my uncle’s house and showing us around. So, we actually did some really nice Sydney sight-seeing, which would otherwise be hard when you are still as severely travel weary and jet-lagged as we are. She knows how the buses and the ferries work; I would have never known that in public transport in Sydney you only pay for one child, no matter how many you have with you. They even have special gates they open for groups, if this policy means that you have more people than tickets and you need the ticket to get through the automatic gate. The ferry we took, from Circular Quay to Manly, is really great. It shows most of the beautiful Sydney Harbour, takes you right past the Opera House and passes the Heads (the area’s that mark the border between the Ocean and the Harbour) where you feel nice big waves.

    My aunt also introduced me to an unexpected advantage of suffering from an inherited condition for which you need medication; she has to take as much thyroid medication as I do so I could borrow of hers when mine ran out. Stupid of me to try to avoid harassment by putting as little as I could in our hand luggage; live and learn though.

    We had to buy some necessary items for our trip to the Blue Mountains tomorrow, so the afternoon was spent buying pyjama’s, thick sweaters and children books. We cannot really expect the kids to be good and silent if we don’t provide them with some nice things to do, so they fall under necessary items we’ve decided.

    By the time we were finished it was time to eat, so we enjoyed the Australian bring-your-own concept which feels slightly weird and impolite but makes sense too. We felt awfully touristic though, since we all were wearing our new Australian outfits.

    When we came home my aunt had bought a bottle of red too so I ended up talking and drinking till half past one in the morning. I seem to get time adjusted just fine 🙂 . Tomorrow we will get the caravan and go to my aunts house in the Blue Mountains, so the journeying will really begin.

  • small update on friday the 13th

    I have all the prepared posts and pictures on the laptop but am currently connected via my aunts dial in computer. So this is just a tiny update and I will fit the other posts in later, when I have found an internet cafe. Probabely in a day or two.

    We are in the Blue Mountains at the moment, at my aunts home in Woodford. The luggage has not been found, but we’ve been told that Heathrow was affected so badly by the bomb threat scares that their whole logistic system is screwed up. Apparently they now have 20.000 pieces of luggage in Heathrow that they haven’t processed yet. One of our bags was traced down and found in Edinburough (Schotland) because they sent cleared out bags to any airport that might process them further (said our airport informer). No news on our other four bags – and that one bag still has to arrive.

    Sydney airport had one big heap of bags and suitcases, more than they could fit in the designated room. Unfortunately ours weren’t there either, so for now we will have to wait and see. We are the tourist family from hell, because we are all dressed in different kind of Australian tourist t-shirts ;).

    We will stay here till Sunday, move on to briefly visit my other aunt, and be on our own as from Monday. I might find an internetcafe to post the other stuff than. Now I have to go to my home cooked meal and the wood fire here.

  • Our first day

    Yesterday was a very rainy day. Made us feel right at home ;). We were still pretty whacked, but we felt that going out and doing things was the best way to get into the Australian time-zone. So we went to Darling Harbour where the Aquarium is. Unfortunately by the time we got there the rows were allready pretty long; it is a school holiday here so everybody is entertaining their kids and on a rainy day the options are limited.

    So we decided to go to the Australian Maritime museum first and had quite a nice time. After an extensive exploration of the museum Tim decided to take the boys on a tour through a submarine and a big warship (Destroyer) while my aunt and I sat outside (on the dry moments) to talk and catch up. We had sandwiches with us, so lunch was easy.

    Afterwards the rows seem to be slightly less long, so we lined up for the Aquarium. I like the fact that people can actually touch some animals and plants there. The tunnels under the seal and the shark section were really impressive too. Kids had a whale of a time till they suddenly started to drop off around four. Falco fell asleep first, but Daniel didn’t last any longer than the monorail and we still had to take two more buses afterwards. We did manage to get home safe; Australians are really helpfull and give directions, get up from chairs and assist you in getting through the gates if they see you need some help.

    We made some nice pics, which I will upload into an album at the photo page (see tabs in the header of the page).

    At one I was brutally woken up by Falco who first cried because of hurting legs (growing pains we assume, the other kids had them too at this age). An hour later he got ill, so I was up even earlier than yesterday, instead of slowly getting a more apropriate schedule in place. After creating a lot of additional laundry and getting a nice warm bath Falco seemed a lot better. The weather improved too, so we decided to go to the Zoo where we had a great time. We took the Ferry to the centre of Sydney, where we are having coffee now in a place that has wifi. As soon as possible I’ll upload some pictures into a sydney album too – I can’t do it directly because we don’t have cables (or chargers/loaders yet) since those were all in the luggage.

    We haven’t heard anything from the lost luggage people, which is worrying. They don’t even pick up the phone, which is even more worrying…

  • We are there, but…

    Yesterday we finally arrived in Sydney. Our flight from Hong Kong to Sydney was fast and unremarkable – except for the fact that Business Class really is nicer, but everybody already knew that. Sleeping in Economy is really hard. None of us managed, not even the kids, so we all watched lots of films (the flight took 10 hour).

    By the time we arrived the kids were really tired. They fell asleep in the line for immigration and we had to line up for half an hour with sleeping kids in our arms. Fortunately Matthijs is really sturdy and he stayed awake all the time. The Australian immigration was nice, helpful and efficient, which helped a great deal. They are paranoid about food being imported, so we had to clear everything except our wrapped muesli bars out. One of their food-sniffing dogs was still very interested in our bags, so we had to open them and show her that there really only were crumbs left.

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    It may not come as a surprise that our bags hadn’t arrived. Explaining to the people at lost luggage where the bags might be was interesting, but lengthy. “Oh, so you went from London to Singapore. But why is there a boarding card for Los Angeles here? And you arrived on the Hong Kong plane?”.

    They hope they will find the luggage and get it to us in the next two days, but that is their standard reply of course. I just hope they WILL find it, since the journey has been slightly jinxed so far.

    The kids were completely asleep by that time, and we were pretty tired too, so we put the Daniel and Falco on a luggage trolley. We had to fold in their arms and legs, but they were really spark out so they slept through all that. Customs was easy with so little luggage and everybody looked sympathetically at our load and helped us where they could.

    Our aunt was not at the gate, which was no surprise because we were late (and doomed) and didn’t come from the flight she expected – her last info was that we would arrive via LA. I went to the other entrance, but Sydney airport is very busy and it was crowded. I didn’t have her mobile number unfortunately, but I did have the mobile number of my cousin who lives close to the airport. We bought an Australian pre-paid sim-card and since it took a while to activate it the sales guy at the desk lend us his own mobile to call. Did I already mention that folks in Australia seem to be really nice and helpful?

    My cousin was home and on stand-by, so he came, picked us up and took us to my uncle’s (his father’s) house. We put the kids to bed and Tim held the fort while I went to Manly with my cousin to get some clothes. The trendy shops didn’t do cheap tracksuits, so I just bought a nice outfit for Tim and something that might suit me: after our travel adventures I felt to stinky to try anything on. Normally I have an overnight bag with me, but we already had so much hand luggage with five kids that I didn’t even pack clean knickers.

    When cousin dropped me at the house again my aunt had arrived, Tim had showered but was really tired and the kids were still in coma. So we told Tim to take some sleep and I went to another mall with my aunt for the rest of the clothes. We managed to find an open second-hand kiddy clothes shop, were they not only had decent outfits for the boys, but even a more normal outfit for me (I had showered, so I wore my new outfit, but I looked as if I had borrowed an outfit from my slightly slimmer teenage daughter). All that, for about a third of what I had spent in the trendy shop. I do hope we get some of the money we had to spend on emergency clothing back.

    When we came home again we woke the kids and Tim and I finally went to bed myself. Tim fed everybody from the little Italian restaurant down the street and they went to sleep again a little later. At three the kids woke up, at 4 I couldn’t sleep any more either, so we had an early start. This is the view from the balcony….

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  • Hong Kong

    Hong Kong, July 7th, 16.50h local time but still 11.50 on our clock.

    The journey to Hong Kong fortunately went smoothly. The kids loved business class, which is no surprise. They take after their parents and we are well suited for the luxury life. It’s only the money that is missing 😉

    Tim and I slept some, but not much. Falco fell asleep while we were departing and slept a solid 8 hours. Daniel had completely fallen asleep before we departed, woke up when we planted him in his business class chair and was glued to the tv-screen and the headphones ever after. Matthijs loved the availability of movies and kiddy-tv even more, if possible, but was as pleased with the bag of goodies they provided the kids with, which included a book about the history of chocolate. Both kids needed to be told to go to sleep firmly by their father, but slept well afterwards.

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    Currently we are waiting for our flight from Hong Kong to Sydney, with Virgin Airways. The transfer seemed to go without any problems and they said that our luggage would really still follow us to Sydney, so we cross our fingers. We’ll have some lunch in the main restaurant in Hong Kong airport, and hope to catch our flight in another hour-and-a-half.

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  • Tim in business lounge…

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  • Hong Kong

    We were getting slightly worried for a while, but things seem to be arranged properly now. In almost three hours we will fly to Hong Kong, where we will have a three hour stopover, and fly on to Sydney. With the former change in plans, flying via LA, we woke my aunt to inform her that she had to be at the airport Sunday morning early instead of Saturday evening. Fortunately we don’t have to wake her again, since this new schedule will get us to Sydney at 07.25 instead of 07.30.

    The kids are actually doing pretty well considering the hardships of the day; we’ve been up for 13 hours now and spent most of that time travelling. We hope they will fall asleep fast in the airoplane to Hong Kong, since it will depart after there bedtime (22.15h Dutch time).

    We are parked in the Business Lounge now, where they have nice salads and buns — and serve a bitchingly good red wine. We are adjusting fine 😉