As many of us know Apple does some great products, recently I fooled around a bit with trailers on iMovie ’11. Here is an interesting trailer for our upcoming immigration to Australia.
We are done, the household is on route to the warehouse where it will spend the next 6 months away from us. We are sad… very sad… we loved our place and this was our home for a decade. I am sure that in two weeks we will be excited and smiling but today is a day for reminiscence.
Every beginning has an end… and a middle… We loved every minute in this place, it was our first real home. While I am sure we will have a new one soon enough, it still painful. It is here that we grew into a family and where our son, Ben, took his first steps… …well here and during our Australian vacation in 2010.
Ronsdorf we love you, we did not think that this would ever be the case but it is. Australia we love you too and we hope you are everything we hope for…. …see you in two weeks!
It is no secret that I despite the fact that I am Greek by birth I feel more at home in an anglophone world. The irony is, I spend most of my life in the German world and I carry a German passport, indeed it is my “main” passport. I am at home here. My wife holds two passports, my son holds three, despite his young age of 3 he seemingly understands three languages. A lot of people here find it peculiar and in many countries the law does not even allow such things. A lot of people frown upon it as they do not seem to understand how or why that is possible.
I understand that sometimes it is hard to comprehend but I always felt at home wherever I went and I believe we will feel at home in Australia. I have no doubt that once we have settled down in place that we will have rent or bought we will feel that we had been around for much longer than we actually have. I have travelled so much and there are many countries where I feel I could settle without any major issues. This obviously is not a talent, it is just reality that has grown from years of experiences with people from all over the world. I have family and friends in many places and I can relate to them, I know what routine looks and feels like for many of them and funny enough I have myself been stuck in traffic in many cities around the world be it New York, be in New Delhi or Tokyo.
I believe though that there is a deeper underlying reason for this, I believe people everywhere are very similar in so many ways. The basic needs of providing for your family, the sense of belonging, the need for recognition, etc. are the same everywhere. Obviously, there are big differences on how some of those needs are fulfilled and the only thing that I can say is that I have been very respectful and mindful on those differences. People have a tendency to complicate things but once you can go past that and see the simplicity, there is a lot of beauty. At the end of the day you get out of most anything whatever you put in, and we are going to put everything in our new lives in our new country. Hope….
We were sick by now of the rain so we decided to find a place that we at least did not get wet. It was a bit difficult as the whole region between the
Fiji Islands and most of Northern Queensland was heavily influenced by a series of cyclones, the radar showed covered skies everywhere. The only exception at least for the highlands. You see a few miles inland along the coast there are a series of hills that lead to the highlands, the climate there is very different than the coast, it is a lot drier and mostly cooler. So we decided to head inland to the Atherton Tablelands. The Atherton Tablelands are a plateau that is part of the Great Dividing Range. The plateau is named after John Atherton who sttled near the town that now bears his name in the late 1870s. The region is well suited for farming as the soil is very fertile due to ts volcanic origins and it is also well suited for dairy and grazing. The region though was originally developed for its tin that was discovered near the present town of Herberton. It is not an easy drive, especially with the car we had, the road up through the mountains onto the plateau is full of tight curves, there were lot of look out points but the only thing
we could see was a white nothingness as the clouds were hanging very low. It was raining all the way up but once we reached the plateau the weather turned favorable, we even saw some sun. We did not come prepared as we were not planning to visit this area, our idea of Port Douglas and Queensland was sun, beach and tropics but in life you do not always get what you want or even what you paid for. So we just looked at the map and drove to Mareeba. Mareeba is the biggest town in the region with a population of about 7000, as always Australia is just way to big to fill with 22 million people. Nevertheless by now we were accustomed by now and found the town to be bigger than expected. The town grew with the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century and also during World War 2 when the Australian army used the town as a staging area for the battles in the Pacific. According to the tourist guide the town gets 300 sunny days a year and that was a reason enough for us ti explore the town a bit. We headed for coffee at the Coffee Works. A delightful little place that was packed and offered some very tasty desserts, the Mississippi Mud Pie (I know it is not Australian) was the best and of course excellent coffee from local coffee beans. As with all places in Australia the town was trying to project a sense of history, to somehow tell a story and prove to anyone willing that there is more to the place than meets the eye. Australia is so young though that
to us it did not seem very significant in the big scheme of things, maybe only in the Australian scheme of things. Mind you that this is not a criticism, just an observation. The drive had taken us longer than expected so we decided to head off to Cairns with a stop at Kuranda. The road was better, we also got to see some huge termite mounds, they can be huge! It started raining again, it was pouring like there was no tomorrow. That was to continue for the rest of the day, which was still half the day. We drove to the town of Kuranda, 25 kays from Cairns. Thousands of tourists visit the town either with the skyrail or the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. The rain was so bad that we did not stop to get out but just drove through the town that was devoid of any tourists. We managed to find our way to Barron Falls were Beth and me took turns to run to the lookout platform to look at the -only in the wet season- spectacular falls. It was a pity that we did not get to spend more time but it was uncomfortable so we decided to get on to Cairns and hope to find some respite. The road turned nasty again as we had to drive down from the highlands, I wish we can visit again sometime when the weather is better the views must be breathtaking. We went into Cairns looking for food, we were hungry as we only had had breakfast in the morning but it was not meant to be. The restaurant we wanted to go to was closed and would not open until 5pm, so we took a little walk at the Cairns Esplanade in the
rain and went into a couple of souvenir shops. Before long we took off to go back to Port Douglas. I cannot stress enough how beautiful the drives were, the scenery despite the gray skies were breathtaking, we stopped at Palm Cove and while the beach was closed for swimming the place looked very beautiful.
This was our last night in Port Douglas and we decided to try Thai food, Beth did not allow me to give prik (Thai for chili) to Ben but we had fun and enjoyed a very nice evening out. We also started talking about the return trip and we wondered where two months went. We only had four more days in Australia, we had so much fun and we done so much that we did not realize that our time here was almost up. We went back to the hotel and packed, we had a flight to Melbourne to prepare for….
It has been a few weeks since we are back home but there are a couple more posts at least to complete our trip to Australia. The last week we were there we went up to Port Douglas, fully aware that a cyclone had devastated Fiji and
Whitesunday but we had booked and organized everything so we went head and hoped for the best.
This time we flew with Virgin Blue and it was a much more pleasant experience than Quantas. Everybody from airport staff to airplane crew were very friendly and helpful both on the way to Cairns and on the return flight. At the airport in Melbourne we also met Joseph Pouliotis, our friend from Adelaide who actually had just landed in Melbourne. We could not see anything on our approach to the Cairns International Airport as the clouds hung low and there were heavy rains. We quickly made our way to the rental company, everything seemed to be a bit more chaotic than at the airports we had seen in Australia and this was low season. We picked up our Suzuki Vitara, I would never recommend this car to anyone. Port Douglas is about 60 kays north of Cairns and the road, named after James Cook, is beautiful. The windy road takes you close to many beaches and the view is just plain spectacular, it would have been even better if the skies were not gray. On our way we past well known beaches like Palm Cove, Trinity Beach, Turtle Beach and others.
Port Douglas was established a little over 100 years ago as a mining town and it was almost deserted at the beginning of the 20th century after the completion of the Kuranda Railway in Cairns and a devastating cyclone in 1911 that left only two buildings standing. In the 1960s the town had a population of less than 100. It wasn’t until the 80’s when the town started to develop into one of the best towns in Australia, it currently ranks on the #3 spot on the 100 Best Towns in Australia. It certainly is a great town. It is a
tropical little heaven with very good beaches and although in high season it doubles in size the town is very small and you can walk it in a couple of hours. On its north side there are very nice homes on a hill that overlooks the Four Mile Beach and the tropical forest that extends all the way to the beach. We stayed on Macrossan Street in a place called Reflections of Port Douglas and Carmel, the owner, made everything possible to make our stay comfortable. Her apartments are great but what I found outstanding is her hospitality and easy going manner, Ben will miss her. Reflections is about two minutes from the beach and five minutes from the center of town so its location is great especially if you have a baby with you.
We only had three full days in Port Douglas so we had to make the most out of it. The main reason for going to Port Douglas was for Beth to go the Great Barrier Reef, one of the two world heritage in the area. So we organized for her to go on a boat on Tuesday, the only day where the weather was going to be half-decent. As Beth gets seasick we had very
little choice as we had to choose the biggest ship that went out there. We chose Quicksilver and if you ever have the chance avoid them. The crew seemed very rude before they even left and from what Beth described they were not very helpful or nice. Anyway, we suspected that it might be that way but we had to choose them. It was already late afternoon so we quickly went onto the Four Mile Beach and took a stroll down the beach. The beach was closed for swimming and the sea was rough but what made this visit to the beach memorable were the warning signs around it. Crocodiles, stingers, slippery rocks, strong currents, tides and we shall not forget the stingrays, Steve Irvin the “Crocodile Hunter” was killed by one off the shores of Port Douglas. So as with most places in Australia dangers lurk around but we adhered to the quintessential Australian adage of no worries and walked on the beach, to be fair we were not alone. Macrossan St. is really the center of town and we headed out that way when we came back from the beach. We found good food, good desserts and as always great coffee, prices were fair with the exception of ice cream which is very expensive everywhere in Australia and not
really as good as our gelaterias here in Germany. Of course all shops were closed and that is really I never understood about Australia, why do shops close so early? We were forced not to spend any money, which is not bad after all. Most liquor shops though are open until very late, I guess work little drink a lot is the motto! That is not bad, not bad at all.
The next day Beth went on to the Great Barrier Reef with Quicksilver and the day did not look good at all. Skies were gray, clouds hung low and it was windy, which means that out in the open sea the waves would be rough. There are hundreds of people that fit on the quicksilver and looking at them board I was wondering if they had read the weather report. There were people with strollers, families with toddlers, elderly people that needed assistance to walk, did they know what they were in for? Ben and me waited for mum to board and we sat at a bar at the marina to have a coffee and Ben his milk. We then got into the car and headed north towards Daintree and Mossmann, I could not wait to get to into the rain forest. We were disappointed, this area has been cleared long ago
for the production of mainly sugar cane and sugar cane fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Mossman is also known for its 2-foot gauge tramways, these trams that look like small trains run along the fields and were crucial for the development of the regional economy and Mossman was bigger and richer than Port Douglas for many years. We then took to the back roads through tiny towns and sugar cane fields, Ben in the mean time was asleep and did not seem to mind the constant opening and shutting of the door as I had to get out to take pictures. This region is so
far from anything and there are just not enough people so the infrastructure is not as great as one would expect but it is a beautiful place to live. It is always green, there is the proximity to the highlands and of course the awesome beaches make this region very attractive. There is always Cairns about 80 km south of Mossman that provides for anything anyone would want. We drove through some streets where houses were literally in the jungle, it is difficult to imagine how you can live so close to “uncomfortable” nature. The low clouds provided for some dramatic scenery as the surrounding hills were engulfed in them. In the afternoon we went to pick Beth up and watched as the Quicksilver catamaran approached the marina and people disembarked. It to
ok a while but then we saw Beth all wobbly, the first thing she said is food but she pale was as pale as alpine snow. They encountered rough seas and well over half the people on that boat became seasick, Beth unfortunately was among them. On the way out she had great difficulty and the pills that they gave her did not help as they did not have time to kick in. Ben was happy to see his mum, we sat at a restaurant at the marina and something small to eat. It was still early but Beth had to relax so we drove to the apartment.
We spend four nights in Port Douglas and we went out all four nights, Macrossan St., the main street in Port Douglas is very nice. It is lined up with small boutique shops (that we never saw in operation) and many restaurants and hotels (remember hotels in Australia are not necessarily hotels in Australia rather they are pubs that may or may not offer rooms to let). We tried a different restaurant each time and once even tried Mexican (my Burritos are better;), the food was good and prices surprisingly down to earth considering that Port Douglas is considered a high end tourist destination, in Europe prices would have been much higher. It rained every night but as during the day it was warm. We decided to drive up to Cape Tribulation on the next day, the route would take us through part of the route that I had just done but we would push on farther north take the ferry over the Daintree river and then drive through the jungle onto Cape Trib as local call it. The road ends at C
ape Trib and there is dirt truck that is impassable for most cars during wet season for I believe about 100km to Cooktown. Cooktown is the place where Captain Cook was stranded for a few weeks on the natural harbor after sustaining heavy damage on his lead ship. It is also in Cooktown that the name Kangaroo came to be as it was one of about 50 words that Cook learned from the local Aborigines, the tribe of Guugu Yimithirr. It was not until the mid sixties that any kind of road actually reached Cape Trib, it proved to be a lively road with loads of
tourists, especially back packers and the younger crowd. The road took as through field of sugar cane to the Daintree river. Once we crossed the river we found ourselves in the rainforest, the windy road was very narrow and the trees were towering over the road, there were only a few spots where we could see the gray skies. It rained almost non stop so we did not have the opportunity to get out of the car for pictures but we nevertheless enjoyed the majestic beauty of one of the oldest forests on earth. We never got see a Cassowary but we saw plenty of spiders a
nd many warning signs to keep off any creek or river banks because of crocodiles. We stopped at the Daintree Discover Center, an excellent little center in the rainforest with skywalks and different displays, signs and information explaining and pointing out the peculiarities and uniqueness of the forest. As it is the rainy season the mosquitos are on overdrive and let
`me tell you if you are ever in this situation wear bright and shiny colors as they are the best defense against them, as fate had it I had a navy blue t-shirt on which attracted mosquitos like you never seen before, they like to hide in the dark. We did visit the center and did walk around for about an hour, we even went up the tower that takes you higher than the tree canopies for a breathtaking view (it was cloudy). It is also here that we saw the tree called the stinging tree or better known locally as “dead man’s itch”. According to the guide book if you are stung you will believe all the stories that surround this tree, there were signs to warn us. Well besides the humidity, rain, toxic trees,
ferocious mosquitoes we also saw spiders that were bigger than the palm of my hand and supposedly there were snakes around. It is an experience to say the least but soaking wet with Ben complaining in his pouch I started dreaming about all that snow that we had back home in Germany! We decided to cut our visit in the center short and head farther north to our destination, Cape Trib. I found it amazing that there were houses scattered about in this so densely forested region. I cannot believe that there are people that voluntarily live on in this place, it is one thing to visit or stay for a little while but to live there forever, hmmm!?! I guess you have to love insects and uncontrolled growth of all sorts of weeds…
Everything in Sydney is about the harbor. As one non-Sydney (how do you call someone who lives in Sydney?) resident told me Sydney is the harbor with 5% that have a view of it and 95% who want to have a view of the harbor. Any property with view of the harbor gets an instant premium on its value. Talking about property value, what is going on in Australia is putting me off. The quality of the housing is terrible to not so terrible but the prices are through the roof. I was not sure if the quality of the housing was substandard or if it was just the houses we had visited but after talking to recent immigrants to Australia from Europe they all say the same thing. I cannot believe that this country has forced the light bulbs off the shelves around the globe but otherwise live in highly inefficient houses waisting water, energy and precious resources. House prices through are really high, even in suburbs that are half an hour away from the CBD a decent place can cost you a million! The same goes for all major cities in Australia. It is crazy and stupid, the discussions about property and property values remind me of discussions I had with friends in the US back in 2007. Is there a housing bubble looming in the horizon down under? I do not know but I like the
German restrain on these matters, we do not get excited about this stuff and we do not like artificial wealth nor much credit. As usual I tend to trail off so lets get back to the subject at hand.
on the north side also looked a lot better and more exclusive that the ones in south but we only drove through and did not linger much. Closer to the city and next to the Rocks is the Darling Harbor and Chinatown, two parts of the city that are very interesting to visit and tons of stuff to do. Especially around Darling Harbor there are a lots of restaurants, clubs and cafes.
Of course visiting Sydney without visiting the famous beach of Bondi is like drinking a milkshake without the ice cream. Bondi beach was crowded, there was also a contest of surfing that was being filmed. The commotion was incredible, and the weather perfect. We also visited Coogee and other beaches like Cronulla around Botany Bay. Botany Bay is also the spot where Captain Cook actually made his first landing in Australia, there is a small memorial in the Botany Bay National Park to mark the spot. It is incredible to just stand at that spot, look around and see all the development that has taken place in the last 200 years. I am sure he would not recognize the place today.
We walked down to the lookout and then the short hike to the Three Sisters, the main landmark in the Blue Mountains. We loved the landscape and we would love to have more time to hike through some of the trails and spend time in this National Park. Throughout our travels we have enjoyed mountains and forrest parks the most and this one was really very pretty. The air had a pleasant smell as the Eucalyptus oil that the trees emit permeates the air. It is also the reason why the mountains look blue from the distance. This place is a mere 200km away from Sydney but it is so dense that only in the mid 1990’s did they find a pine tree that was thought to be extinct for 90 million years. This country is so vast that there are still things, species, organisms that have yet to be discovered. Sydney is where Beth and me fell in love with Australia. We have seen so much in the past two months but we were awestruck and dumbfounded. Sydney maybe a city that is very far away from other big cities, Melbourne does not count (at least not for the people of Sydney) but there is a reason why so many people want to come to Sydney.
When one mentions Australia there are two things that come to mind, especially after the Olympics of 2000, Sydney and beaches. Well it is all for a good reason. If there is one place that you can visit in Australia it has to be the state of New South Wales. I wondered why it is called New South Wales as there is no other Wales than the Wales we know in the UK, would it not be simpler just to call it New Wales? Well, name issues aside NSW is the most populous state and it has a bit of everything that we associate with Australia. A trivial fact is that New Zealand was briefly part of NWS in the mid 19th century. Sydney is the biggest city in Australia and its trademark is the Sydney Harbor but besides the city which has a lot to offer there are beaches in and around Sydney and within a couple hours drive you can reach the outback, see the Blue Mountains and drive north on the Pacific Highway to Hunter Valley, the oldest winemaking region of Australia. We flew to Sydney from
Melbourne on the 12th of March, the flight was uneventful until we reached the city where we flew over the city and had grant views of the city and the harbor with the dominating Harbor Bridge, locally known as the “Coat hanger”, the Quays and the Sydney Opera. What a view! It was and will be one of the greatest approaches that we have ever experienced. The city looks big and I remember reading somewhere that the area of Sydney is about 7 times bigger than Paris! So you get the idea, there were a lot of expectations and Sydney did them all justice.
the morning news show is New York. We walked through the Domain and the Botanical Gardens. While the Botanical Gardens are not as spectacular as the ones we saw in Singapore, they are still very very good. The city skyline in the background and the general setting, the lush green and the many birds make this a wonderful place to picnic, jog, stroll or even just sit on the grass and enjoy the warm sun. From the distance you can see the roof of Opera House and once you hit the water the views are just amazing. Behind us on the left was the skyline of Sydney, while not as big as New York or Chicago it is very nice and with the Gardens in the foreground and the water it is just amazing! Now to the main attraction, the Sydney Opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, there is no much one can say. It is stunning, it is a view that is just breathtaking. I
have seen it so many times on TV or pictures but nothing can do it justice, you just have to be there. It was a sunny and very warm day but Ben was enjoying the outdoors, he loves being outside – I know we did not give him much choice but still. We just stood there and took in the scenery, while all around us there were tourists and locals alike strolling through the park or just having a picnic. The warm wind and the sound of the water just enhancing the whole experience. We took many pictures as you can see and wondered loudly why it took us so long to get here to see this. We walked towards the Opera House. The Opera House is not really as nice when you are close up, this is a building that you have to take in and admire from a distance. When you are walking along it you do not see much and what you see seems a bit outdated, a bit old… …the brown glass does not help the appearance either as it looks like the windows have not been cleaned in a while. From what I hear it is not the best of theaters and the indoors is rather mundane.
The Sydney Harbor is actually part of Port Jackson. Port Jackson is the natural harbor and it is location of the first European settlement in Australia. The first European to discover Port Jackson was Lt. James Cook in 1770 and it was named after the Judge Advocate of the British Fleet. Although, Cook’s first landing with the HMS Endeavour was on 29 April 1770 (230 year in about a month!) in Botany Bay, slightly south of Port Jackson. The sight is marked within the Botany Bay National Park near Kurnell. In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip returned and established the first British colony, later to become the city of Sydney.
continued our walk through the SydneyWriter’s Walk, that honors Australians and foreign writers. The plaques start somewhere near the Opera House and go all the way around through Circular Quay (pronounced key for some reason) to the International Passenger Terminal west of the Quay. It provides an overview and interesting quotes. The Quay is a bustling ferry, bus and train terminals where commuters and