Sunday, 30 January 2011

Kangaroos and Kookaburras

We are still in Cairns but have had xrays, bloodtests and medicals which should allow us to get our work visa at long last. There seems to be no shortcuts to the bureacracy so we have tried to keep calm and carry on!

Sandra has continued in her role as wildlife spotter by noticing a family of kangaroos near to where we are staying. There are warning signs by the roadside as they can be quite a hazard if the hop over the road when you are bombing along at 70mph!

 Sandra thought she had heard a kookabura when we visited this area the other day and insisted on singing "Kokkabura sits in the old gum tree ............" but we didn't get a sighting until the following day when this one presented itself on the roof of a shelter. It was very regal and was totally indifferent to our presence. Thankfully Sandra didn't sing the kookabura song again.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Phil and Sandra Explore Yorkey's Knob and Encounter Monsoon Conditions

Since we snorkelled on the Great Barrier Reef on Tuesday it has been raining, raining and raining. The tropical storm may be developing into a cyclone but there's still time to do a spot of childish photography (yes we did drive all the way to Yorkey's Knob (a beach village on the Queensland coast) just to take a picture! Also had a puncture on a main highway so had to change a tyre in the pouring rain (first time in 25 years)
The weather has meant that we have had ample time to explore the Australian TV network. Previously we had thought US television was an all time low but the line up here includes: The Brady Bunch, Dukes of Hazard, Midsomer Murders (with a PG rating), Happy Days, I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, Filipino News, Dutch News, Spanish News, Russian News, Mork and Mindy BUT we do have live cricket. Unfortunately ever since we have been watching England have failed to win a match.
Hoping for sunshine tomorrow and visas next week.
Sandra is now getting quite cross every time Phil lapses into his aussie accent (this is happening more and more frequently).
She says I'd better not sign off with g'day mate but g'day, she'll be right.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

In The Rainforest

With our faithful Nissan we have explored the area and visited the local national parks. As if the insects and wild animals weren't bad enough we found a place which had a suspension bridge - much more frightening for Sandra whose fear of heights is legendary!

There are some fantastic sounds as you explore the jungle but you rarely see any of the birds. We managed to photograph this sulphur crested cockatoo (thanks EJ) from the apartment pool!

Later we explored Kuranda. Most people go there by train or cable car (not an option for Sandra!). We went by Nissan. the waterfall was fabulous and reflects the amount of rain/flooding in this area.

Searching for Nemo - In Lycra Sting Suits!

Still awaiting our work visas so decided to take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. Snorkelling involved not just a mask, snorkel and flippers but also a rather fetching sting suit. This little lycra outfit prevents stings but does nothing to flatter as you can see!
In fact if anyone does find anyone attractive in one of these outfits it is probably a very worrying fetish!
Believe it or not when we got on the boat they announced we were going to Hastings Reef! So we felt quite at home.
The reef was fantastic, very colourful with thousands of fish. On the first snorkelling trip we almost couldn't swim back to the boat as the current was strong and we had drifted away from the boat.
The crew were fantastic but for those of you in education it was a bit like being on a "PGL Experience". The CD playing on the way back was very much like Thursday night at the Crypt so Sandra felt very much at home.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Cairns and Beyond

Having escaped Brisbane we have moved into a very lovely apartment in North Cairns. The weather is very hot, scenery great and the cricket's on the telly! What's not to like!
We hired a car from the airport ( a rather strange automatic Nissan something) and have been exploring the coastline.

There are warning signs all over telling of the dangers of crocodiles. Hopefully we won't encounter any. There are also small fish called stingers who surprisingly sting you quite badly. there are 2 treatments for the stings one is vinegar (there are bottles of this along the beach area) or urine. We will probably keep out of the stinger water areas as the treatment could be a true test of friendship and if you are on your own it could be really tricky!

Drove up the coast today and wandered in Mossman Gorge rainforest. Supposed to be the oldest rainforest. Brush turkeys wandering around everywhere, they even have their very own road signs to warn you. Rushed out of the apartment this afternoon to investigate very loud squawks - a couple of very large parrots either fighting over territory or peforming a weird mating ritual.

From Singapore to Australia

After a long hot walk and several detours Phil eventually Add Videofound the restaurant he was looking for where you eat curry from a banana leaf with your hand (not both hands Sandra! - the reason for one handedness is toilet related!). It was our favourite meal in Singapore and was washed down with a couple of Tiger beers. And yes Sandra managed to progress to drinking beer without lemonade!
We walked every day in the beautiful Botanic Gardens. It was always full of walkers, joggers, 'Moms' exercising with babies in strollers and many people doing Tai Chi. It was lovely in the early morning, not too hot or humid. Had to stop at the noodle shop on the way back each time for a bit of breakfast!Travelling in Asia you get used to seeing some unusual food choices but the worst yet has to be 'Lavender Frog Porridge' - I kid you not!

The news is full of the dreadful flooding in Queensland and the imminent threat to Brisbane - just as we are about to fly there. We have confirmed with the hotel and airline that we should travel. Arrived in Brisbane the day after the peak. Very sad for this beautiful city. Bad news comes through for us that the work permits are still not through and we have to wait. Getting a bit stir crazy in one room with so much luggage, decide to fly to Cairns and book into an apartment hotel. What a treat, a kitchen!!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Phil takes a trip down memory lane

Return to the Colbar

Phil met up with Mr Lim and revisited the scene of many Friday afternoon drinks sessions. The place has been moved piece by piece from its original location to even closer to the school. Mr and Mrs Lim were sorry that the picture of the Tanglin teachers had faded away. Well it was 30 years old! The menu is the same and the place as popular as ever.

Return to Tanglin
We visited Tanglin School and were shown around by a member of staff. The school now has 2600 students aged 3-18 and is vast.
As we were walking around who should we see but Fandi! It was great to see him. He is still in the Resources Room but is now in charge.
We were shown some of the Tanglin magazines and saw many pictures with Phil and the gang of five teachers (Mark, Tommy, Dr Bum, Dennis, Alan and Barry - and yes we know that's more than 5).

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Final Week

The Final Week Before Departure

We knew we had a lot to do BUT, like marriage and having children, nothing can quite prepare you for it. Take your pick from our Top Seven Stressful Moments:

  1. Buying an electric cooker for the flat only to be told by the kitchen fitter that there was no electric supply. SO go out and buy a gas cooker that day and fit it in Sandra’s mini (wouldn’t fit in the Jag much to Phil’s disgust).
  2. Nearly having several double hernias lifting fridge freezers, boxes, bags and crates of every description down our stairs then up the stairs of the flat. Sandra’s neck giving out for the last week (probably due to wrestling an IKEA sofa up the stairs to the flat!).
  3. Trying to communicate with utility providers on the phone or by email and getting a straight or helpful answer from anyone.
  4. Selling two cars to car dealers at the very last minute (Mini at 8.30am and the Jag at 12.30 on the day before we left). Although they didn’t pay a particularly good price there was some satisfaction gleaned from not always answering their questions completely e.g. Question: Does the car have a CD multi changer Answer 1 from Phil: Yes Completely Truthful Answer: Yes but it hasn’t worked for 4 years
  5. Needing to send stuff out to PNG by freight and finding a company that could do this. When the van arrived the man refused to carry the items down to the van (this being 1 day before departure). Luckily Jason (Toby’s mate) lifted all items to the van whilst the lazy bastard stood by taking photos of the stairs, presumably so he could complain. It will be interesting to see which complaint has most impact (his or ours). The items did go but whether they get there only time will tell.
  6. Trying to clean the house whilst moving out, renting out and living there at the same time all on the last day. We did it but with only JUST enough time.

Top Three Embarrassing Moments (so far):

  1. Being told that one of our 3 suitcases was 3 kilos overweight and we had to redistribute it into the other 2 cases. All cases were bursting at the seams so we had to move a couple of boxes from one into suitcase and substitute with items of Sandra’s underwear. All at check-in whilst people were waiting behind us. Phil did get a bit stressy at this point and insisted on throwing away a pair of shoes which seemed to be the difference between getting checked in and not getting checked in!
  2. Not just being offered Qantas pyjamas but Sandra accepting and putting them on! (Evidently noone had ever offered her pyjamas before so it was a new experience - she got too hot later in the flight so took them off anyway).
  3. Sandra bringing her own big socks for the plane. When we looked on the floor there was still an old plaster stuck on the outside (very classy!)