The Red Center

Uluru from the Park HQ

Well, it has been a month since we arrived in Australia and about half our time here has passed.  It has been a wonderful month… an awesome month.

One thing that you realize once you are on the same road for over 600km and seen road signs advertising rest areas 500km ahead, a road where you can see a car approaching from the opposite direction more than 50k away or the horizon which is so far away is that this country is very, very big.  There were times when we did not see a car for an hour!  It does make you feel lonely and it makes you wonder what will happen if the car breaks down or there is another emergency.  The distances between inhabited places are between 90k-250k!  Imagine that is like going from Philadelphia to Washington DC or from Dusseldorf to Frankfurt and not see a town, a sealed road or any structure that resembles civilization.  Sure you may see the occasional car on the road and you wave at them, you really do.  It is maybe because we are the only humans for many kilometers around or because it breaks

The way up The Rock

the monotonous drive or may just be that Aussies are just very friendly to each other, who knows but you do it nonetheless.  There are many ways to greet drivers I found the one where you lift the index finger to be the most popular although the “V” sign is a close second.

On the day that we arrived in Australia we flew straight through the center of Australia.  As the sun was coming up I gazed down and all I could see is reddish brown earth with some white spots -I later found out that those are dry lakes.  There was nothing else as far as the eye could reach from 30 thousnad feet up.  I have travelled the Route 66 and the American West and I do not remember it to be that remote; the only place that resembles this experience was a couple years ago in a country that is far bigger than Australia, when we drove from Perm to Solikamsk in Russia albeit on horrific roads.  Then when you are about to reach one of these stops, even Coober Pedy, if you blink you will miss them, they go by so fast.  Coober Pedy is a town of about 2500 people but when you

Standing in the shade of the Rock

approach it it only has two exits, very close to each other.  The town spreads to the right (east) of the highway (when driving north) and not along the highway.  The cellular reception is also very localized, a few kilometers out of town and there is no reception at all.  A town like Marla with 50 people goes by even faster.

One thing that I though to take with me is our iPods and that has helped with the entertainment in the car.  I always wondered when I will listen through 36 days worth of music, well this trip has certainly helped to get through a good chunk of that.  There is something eerie about turning the radion on and not being able to get any station.
Along the road there are some peculiarities that most people are not used too, even many Australians.  First and foremost are the road trains, these are trucks that can be up to about 60 meters long!  Passing one of them takes a while, although the risk is negated by the fact that most of the highway has great visibility although not always to the left or right where wild life lurks to make the drive interesting to say the least.  The road is so monotonous that you slowly drift with your thoughts in different places and that is where it

Doing the base walk, 10.6km in 40C and with a stroller!

becomes very dangerous.  All along the highway there are skid marks, farther evidence to the dangers of the highway are the wrecks on both sides of the highway.  People just plainly fall asleep on the wheel or drink and drive.  The only kangaroos that we saw were splattered on both sides of the pavement,

The reason for the stupid nets!

along with other wildlife like lizards, birds, etc.  On the way to Uluru, we actually did hit a bird (πιάσαμε πουλιά στον αέρα! sorry it cannot be translated in English) and it must have escaped unscathed and there were no scratches on the hired car.

On the way to Uluru we stopped in Woomera, a must see for military buffs and surprise, surprise in the visitors center that doubles also as a museum, a coffee place, a restaurant, a bank and a gift shop we came across two German military officers.  Ben flashed his charming smile to them and when we talked to them in German they pretended not to be there, I guess there are some secretive stuff happening around this place or they were just fed up with Germans, it is unbelievable how many we met on our trip to the Red Center.   The town seemed deserted, up to the mid 80’s this town was off limits and it somehow feels that it has been forgotten, to rust away like the exhibits of its glorious past in the center of the town.
Farther north we stopped overnight at Cooper Pedy.  We stayed at the Stuart Caravan Park, which is owned by friends of Beth’s grandparents from Greece.

Another view of The Rock

This town had many more Greeks in the past, well over 1000 at some point.  Their dwindling numbers are now down to less than 400.  Nevertheless, as we were shopping in the general store, I came upon a face that looked Greek and so I tried my luck.  It turned out that it was Jimmy from Greece, a miner for over 40 years that emigrated to Australia as a kid with his parents.  In Greek fashion we were also immediately invited to his home for dinner with friends, it would have been interesting to meet these people and hear about their lives in this town that looked so out of place in the middle of the Outback.  Ben had to be showered, fed and then put to sleep so we had to refuse Jimmy’s offer.  At the caravan park we rented rooms (with linen!?!), as many of you know I love meeting people so I started to chat with the guy that pulled with his Land Cruiser next to our puny Jetta.  Turns out Rodney was on his way back to his farm of 5000 sq miles, yup that is about as big as the state of Connecticut.  As soon as his wife and son disappeared in their room he opened the back lid and a there from a huge cooler he pulled out a couple cans of beer and offered me one.  Beth got mad at me for forgetting that we had to get Ben and other things ready but I love these chance encounters.  It turns out

Feeding time!

Rodney is a real cowboy, that was educated with School of the Air, and has spend most of his life in the outdoors.  He was also very helpful by giving us the a fly net for Ben’s stroller, he just handed it to me although I had offered to pay for it.  Without it we would not be able to make the base walk in Uluru.

Around Coober Pedy we saw the Dingo Fence, which is the longest fence on earth and it goes a long way (literally….) to show the love Aussies have with fences.  I am amazed that people live in fenced properties down here.  I am not talking about a fence that somehow is pleasant to the eye, fitting to the environment or whatever, I am talking about fences that are up 2m in height and look as they were originally part of the Folsom prison.  I remember looking at some friend’s places on Google Earth and when I saw the fence on street view I was sure we had the wrong address, it looked more like an industrial zone but it actually is that way.  I am not sure what they have to hide or if it gives them a false sense of security but what it actually does is keep any neighborhood

It's an easy flat walk around the base

contact to an absolute minimum and for ugly housing.  We wanted to head of to the Breakaway Ranges but the road did not seem to be in good condition due to the heavy rainfalls of the past few days.  We then came across a jeep with four Germans that were actually had decided to head back due to the bad condition of the road.  They told us of other 4WD that were bogged down out there.  This chance encounter was interesting for two reasons, one that we again came across Germans, the Outback is full of them and German is enough to actually get by out there.  The other one is that this group has been on a world trip for the past six years by boat.  They always travel on land to wait out the hurricane/typhoon/etc season.  In the Outback we also met a Spanish traveller who is circling the world in his jeep, his wife joins him on parts of the trip as she has to work in Barcelona.  The guy has been on the road for well over two years.  We met many people and that has been a big part of this trip, it has enriched it and made it more interesting.    In Coober Pedy we saw the underground Serbian church and of course we visited a mine, an underground home and the underground hotel.  The town has been used as a filming location for many movies and we saw props

The Valley of the winds, The Olgas

left behind from the movie “Pitch Black”.  Here I would also like to mention the Stuart Caravan Park,  it is where we stayed for three nights in total and the hospitality was great, what would one expect, it is owned by Mr. Yianni and his family.  They also make a great Pizza.

After 1600 km we finally reached our destination.  We drove 1600 km for a rock.  This is about the distance from Philadelphia to St. Louis or from Wuppertal to Barcelona and the destination is a huge rock surrounded by lots of dry red earth.  The earth in the outback is so red, it is actually more the color of rust as it actually is rusted (oxidized) iron.  The rock which is called Uluru but to most it still know as Ayer’s Rock sits there like a giant turtle, recognizable from miles away it is a fantastic and formidable sandstone formation.  I cannot really describe the awe one feels when we first laid our eyes upon this quintessential Australian icon.  Supposedly this rock is all that is left from a mountain range.  We did the base walk which about 10.5 km in about 40C, we were exhausted after we finished and I believe that we had a mild sun stroke on that day despite the hats and the water that we made sure we drunk.  Oh, yes baby Ben was with us all the way.  He complained towards the end as he got bored and very hot but by that time he had learned

The Olgas

to drink lots of water and we made sure that he did not dehydrate.  Everyone knows about Uluru but not many people know that in the same park, not far away there is another wonderful rock formation.  A rock formation that supposedly many years ago was similar in shape to Uluru, only 6 times bigger.  This rock formation is called Kata-Tjuta or as it used to be called the Olgas, named after its tallest peak Mt. Olga.  Mt. Olga was named after Queen Olga of Würrtemberg, Germany (Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, daughter of Nikolas I of Russia).  This group of domed shaped formations is more interesting to explore as there are gorges and valleys that you can hike into.  Of course we did not miss the opportunity and we did hike part of the Valley of the Winds.  With Ben carried by Beth on her back it was dangerous to do the whole hike.  What we saw though was a wonderful and unique landscape that took our breath away.  Ben slept most of the way and there is something to be said about a baby sleeping like that on his mum’s back.  We enjoyed it immensely and love to take him around to see as much as possible even if he will not consciously remember much.  The winds were quite strong and it was a cooler day to hike, the wind sounded like whispers, and weird sounds emanated from

Sunset at Uluru!

the wind whipping the rocks.  I am not sure why the Olgas are not well known, maybe it is because the sunrises and sunsets are not as awe inspiring as in Uluru or maybe it is just lack of marketing.

The Serbian Orthodox Underground church

One thing that we really missed though, the national park is a world heritage site for it, is the cultural aspect.  We did see some aborigines driving by and one lady in the park HQ but there was nothing that else.  There was no chance to get close to their villages and see how they live or learn about their history, their culture.  In that sense the trip to Uluru left some weird after taste.  This land is new for us but it is very old for the aborigines who have lived here for thousands of years.  They know how to live here with the bare minimum.  Most aborigines that we saw where in Coober Pedy and it was not a pretty sight.  They were drunks, bums that seem not to care about themselves or anybody else.  It is a stark difference to what I experienced in the American West, where there is much more to see and do in the Indian lands and the India reservations.

We stayed in Yulara, which is a town just outside the park.  This town is actually a resort and nothing else.  There are many types of accommodation and a town center with a supermarket, restaurants, souvenir shops, a bank and a post office.  Everything is overpriced, which I kind of understand but then there was that thing with the service and the quality of the food.  I understand that it takes extra cost to haul tomatoes and minced meat from Alice Springs or wherever to the middle of nowhere,  one should expect a better level of service though.  The resort

Another day in the Outback!

employs about 1000 people on site during low season, which in Australia is during their summer.  This country is so different and hot that the winter is the high season!  There are 2000 people on site during high season all to service about 800 rooms, and a caravan park.  If you really think about it is a bit crazy but the resort at least does a good job in being as eco friendly as possible and by blending well in its surroundings.  Interesting was the mix of the staff, most where not from Australia.

The trip took us about 7 days, we crossed half a continent, that also means half a country to see a rock.  But as always with any trip it is not only the destination but the experiences that you gain while you travel there.  That was one of the main reasons that we did not want to just fly there.  It was mainly me that wanted to see and experience The Bush.  I wanted to have a beer in bar together with many other locals and travellers, a bar that in a town of 30 people.  A town where every road in every direction is dirt road and the next stop is a few hundred kilometers.  You got to see that, feel it and converse with the people.  It is the only way to

The Dingo fence

understand, at least a little bit.  Flying to Uluru from Melbourne or Adelaide and then back is half the experience.  It is an experience that will remain with us for a long time to come.  With Ben this trip has also some special significance as we literally spend every hour of every day together by forming our own little world for him.  We were not sure how he will take it but looking back at the experience and the pictures are proof he had a heck of a time.  He has become a world traveller before he turned 10 months.  His smile in the morning was priceless and despite the fact that we could not always make it comfortable for him he never complained, he took it at a stride and we can only learn from that.

We have spend a month in Adelaide and South Australia, we have seen so many people and so many places.  It is now time to move on as we have to see so many more places.  We are now moving into the second phase of our trip, in this second phase we will travel even greater distances but this time most of it will be by plane.  We are going to move to Melbourne by car and we will base ourselves there.
So long….

Can you see his teeth?

6000 plus km in that capsule!

Overlooking Coober Pedy

Ben in our motel room in Coober Pedy

Props left behind from Pitch Black

The Olgas...

...and Uluru!

Stuart Highway

Distances to some destinations

My BBs!

Well, on the 22nd of Feb we were all ready to go.  We woke up early, too early for Beth but exactly right when you consider that midday on our road the temperatures could reach 40C plus easily.  If you have a map go take it out and trace your finger along the route that we have taken.  Find Australia and then go all the way down about halfway between Melbourne and Perth.  There you will find Adelaide, from Adelaide, we will follow the Stuart Highway north.

Stuart Highway was named after John McDouall Stuart, who was the first European to cross Australia from south to north.  Oodnadatta, Stuart’s original route is a track that actually followed a traditional aboriginal route.  The modern highway is in parts laid on this track, although there are specific parts of the the Oodnadatta track that run parallel to the modern highway and are popular with the more adventurous drivers.  It is also along this route that the original Ghan (the train connection) run, the new one is closer and in many parts right next to the highway.  The train’s current name honors the Afghan came l drivers that used the same route when they arrived some time in the late 1800s.  The modern highway, still a dirt truck gained new significance in WWII as Darwin and the Australian north was repeatedly attacked by the Japanese.  So it was with a lot of haste that the track was widened and improve in 1940/1941 from Alice Springs to Darwin.  It remained a dirt truck for most of its life, it was in the late 80s when it was finally sealed.  All this was in my mind while driving north, believe there was not very much else to do.

Missile Park, Woomera SA

Pt. Augusta Crossroads of Australia

We drove straight north in the direction of Port Augusta, the city that prides itself to be the crossroads of Australia.  Port Augusta, about 450km north of Adelaide is also where civilization stops, 10km out of town on the Stuart highway there is nothing but red earth, the bush, Kangaroos and no mobile reception.  From Port Augusta trace the Stuart Highway, a highway straight as an arrow for hundreds of kilometers at a time with a total length of 2834 km to the next major town that is Woomera.  Between these two towns we passed through dry lakes that were white as snow as the only thing left after they dried was salt.  Basically, Woomera’s sole purpose was to beat the Soviets in the race to space and arms game.  It is an Anglo-Australian project and as you enter the town you see what it is all about as a rocket is there to greet you.  North of Woomera we pass through the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA), an area the size of England that is the largest land-based defense and aerospace range in

Coober Pedy, SA

the world.  The town of Woomera mainly serves the people that work in this range.  Work your way about 360k north, through Glendabo and the WPA to Coober Pedy.  Glendambo prides itself that it is a town of 30 people, 2200 sheep and approx. 2,000,000 flies, we did not stay to count them.  Coober Pedy is a town that in the summer lives underground as it is too hot to be on the surface.  It is the opal capital of the world and in the little experience I had in town it looks and feels like a frontier town.  An aerial picture of Coober Pedy showed how much digging has taken place, the region looked like Swiss cheese on a bad day.

...welcomed us!

From Coober Pedy it is about 150k to Cadney Homestead and from there another 90k to the town of Marla, supposedly one of the hottest spots on earth.  These places are really service areas that offer anything that travelers may need plus a bar for the people that are staying overnight and the few locals.  Marla prides itself of being the last stop in South Australia and on the way back of course as being the first stop in South Australia, I guess it is always a matte of perspective.  In Marla there is also a police station, I immediately thought of Mad Max!  These places are so isolated.  You are not allowed to transport animals, vegetables, etc. between states so in Marla there is also a quarantine zone.  When we stopped for fuel in Marla, I noticed posters about the upcoming election, apparently the vote would take place in the pub.  That is I believe a great way of motivating the voters.  If you trace your finger

NT border, only 500km to go!

farther up north about 180k you will see a place called Kulgera that is as Marla the first or last stop in the Northern Territory and like Marla nothing more than a pub, a petrol station, a motel and a caravan park.  After Kulgera, it is only 70k to Erldunda, it is here that we turned right or west to you boy scouts out there.  It is only 250k to our final destination the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.  Now I am not sure if you have realized but after Port Augusta this is the first major turn off the Stuart Highway.  Sure you can leave the highway at Pimba to go to Woomera and then to Roxby Downs but that is a stretch of less than 100k, Roxby Downs is a city that was build in 1987 to serve the world largest uranium and significant gold, copper and silver mine, the Olympic Dam Mine.  Apart from this bitumen (sealed to you non-Australians) roads there is nothing for more than a 1000k.  From Erldunda it is another 300k or so north on the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs.  Imagine that 1000k of mostly straight road and there is no other road to turn onto, nothing, nada.  Sure there are enough dirt roads to take you anywhere if you got the right wheels and experience.  For example the Tallaringa Track, which heads west at Coober Pedy through the WPA (special permission needed) for more than 500k to the West Australian border through Emu Junction, a place that is so radio active that it rivals Tchernobyl.  The British did atomic bomb testing in this area.  Once you reach the border you need a few hundred kilometers still before you hit any town of significance.

This is the other side of the same marker!

Another notable junction is to the Oodnadatta, the original south-north route.  There were many dirt roads like that on both sides of the highway and I did feel the urge to follow them but then of course I was not alone, maybe another time.

Now Erldunda is a major crossroads right in the middle of the continent and the only direction that you can go besides the north-south direction on the Stuart Highway is West.  So take a turn here and follow the Lasseter Highway for 250 km to our final destination, through Mt. Ebenezer and Curtin Springs both service stations much like Marla and Glendambo.  This highway is a bit more interesting as there are more rock formations to see and the road itself has more curves than the Stuart Highway.  Lasseter Highway ends in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, with special permission you can continue on a dirt track to the West Australian border for another 250k.
Tracing this route on a map with your finger took you a few seconds, this route though is 1600k in total distance, 3200k return and we had to do it with all the stops, hikes, sun set viewings, tours, also on the road sightseeing, etc. in 7days/6nights.

A few more meters before to the Lasseter Highway

Erldunda Station and a road train

The Bush/The Outback

Marla.

WPA, what are they hiding?

Glendambo

Ben in his capsule.

Ready to go, notice the Camelbak

Hiking in the Kata-Tjuta.

By the time you will read this we will be back in Adelaide and we will be getting ready for another 1000k of driving along the coast from Adelaide to Melbourne, we will also have spent well over 70 hours in the car.  We have been to so many places and seen so many things that I will bore you if I included them all.  I will however post a commentary on the trip itself, about our experience, our encounters with birds and kangaroos, flash floods, fellow travelers and aborigines.

Our final destination...

...we travelled 1600 km for this!

An HDR version

So long…
PS.: I do not have time to proofread these posts, so I hope you do not mind some of the grammatical or spelling errors.
PSS.: Some random videos, first one is from the drive.  This is how it looked for most of the drive!

Adelaide Hills, the Wine Country and the beach town

Beth and her Godparents

This past week we have spent meeting with friends of Beth and Beth’s parents. Beth left Australia in

BBQ!

1981 and she was 8 years old at that time. I am surprised how much she remembers from back then. Of course they had seen each other since then but there was a lot of talk about the old times and the new times. It is amazing as I heard stories from Greeks here that are very similar to stories I have heard from the same generation Greeks in the US and I also know of very similar stories from my own family’s past. It was a very hard time but most of them did well, I believe they did much better than if they had stayed in our homeland. It is unbelievable the hardship that those people had to endure

The Pouliotis Family

and the difficulties and challenges they faced in their new adopted countries. Most could not speak the language, the passage down here was mostly by ship and they had to work for well o

Dimi and you know who

ver a year to pay for their passage to Australia.  Here in Adelaide Greeks are everywhere, anywhere one turns can see sign posts with Greek names. They have left a strong influence that, together with other immigrant groups like the Italians, have left a distinct cultural mark, enriching their lives and the lives of this city in many ways. Up in the Adelaide Hills we went to Hahndorf. Lutheran Germans were prosecuted in Germany in the early 1800s and thus sought a new home. Germans were the second significant people that came to the shores of this country looking for a better future and freedom to

The Antarakis Family

express their religion. They found a new country in the rolling hills surrounding the city of Adelaide, there are many small Lutheran churches dotting the area. Hahndorf has a German look and a lot of the eateries and stores sell German food, there are some Fachwerk houses.  We tried the sausages and they were decent but nothing like back home.  We saw people eating Eisbein and Sauerkraut with a beer outside in 30C weather!  It was bizarre.  We went on to Mt. Barker and drove up to the summit where we

Dirk Meinhertz Hahn

had an incredible view of the surroundings.

The following day we went the other direction towards Barossa Valley and the wine country around Adelaide.  Barossa Valley also has a distinct German touch, there are also many Lutheran churches around.  It is incredible how many wineries there are in South Australia.

On Mt. Barker Summit

Australia is now the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world behind France, Italy and Spain.  Barossa Valley is most known for its Shiraz, but there are excellent Rieslings as well and of course many more.  We visited the Seppeltsfield winery, they also have a self taught chocolatier on the winery, who was inspired by the movie “Chocolat”.  When I watched that movie I was inspired to eat 200 euros worth of pralines within a week, I guess each to his own.  We then moved on to Clare Valley, which in my eyes looked like Barossa Valley albeit much smaller.  Riesling in Australia has its home in this valley.  It was a great day and

Hahndorf

we spend it with Dimi, Beth’s childhood friend, who once about 37 years ago held my wife’s hand without asking me, he is a great dude though so I let it slide.

I have been told Adelaide is actually a beach town, if I remember correctly around 80% of Australians live within 20 or 30 miles of the sea.  So in my book that most towns in Australia are beach towns.

The beach at Glenelg

Well, what better way to see what kind of beach town we are talking about by driving down to Glenelg, the first settlement on mainland Australia according to Wikipedia.org.  Reading up on this plush and popular beach side suburb I also came across a new word that I will use when possible to impress native English speakers.  The word is “palindrome”, a Greek word by the way, and Glenelg is such a word.  It can be read in either direction.  About the Glenelg beach there is not really that much that I can w

My BBs on the Glenelg jetty

rite, I have never seen beaches anywhere as good as our beaches on the Mediterranean (Greece, Spain, Turkey, Italy, etc.).  I have yet to see the South Sea though so there might be something better.  As you can tell we were not really impressed by the beach or the waters in Glenelg  Also, similar to the Henley Beach that we had visited a couple weeks ago the waters are rough, and there is just too much build around it.  We like our beaches to be away from major settlements, the waters should be clear.  That is nearly impossible here with the big waves pounding the beach.

The Family!

Mosley Square is right at the beach and it does look good looking into the town with all the shops and the tram that arrives from Adelaide.  The jetty also has an interesting story and at 215m it is only about two thirds of the original one that stood a little farther away.  It is also from the jetty that the Greek Orthodox Bishop releases the cross on the Epiphany each year on January 6th.  Glenelg though has not been able to escape the high rise development that started in the late 70’s.  Farther afield, in a corner of the marina we saw a replica of the HMS Buffalo.  It was this ship that carried Rear-Admiral Hindmarsh, head of a small fleet of ships that carried the first British settlers for the colony, in

Mosley Square

December of 1836.  It really is a very young country in some regards.  The replica doubles as a restaurant and a museum, unfortunately both were closed when we were there.

Barossa Valley

On Saturday we were invited at a baptism, Beth’s Godparent’s daughter who was also a witness at our wedding in 1999; baptized her daughter Eirini.  It was the first time that I saw a round church like that.  It is a very significant event in the life of a Christian-Orthodox.

He is so handsome!

Here is more proof!

...and some more!

After a few days in Adelaide I was getting anxious about finally heading out to the real Outback, we planned to leave Adelaide on Feb the 22nd and head out to Coober Pedy for an overnight stay and then on to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where we had to stay in Yulara (there is nothing else out there).  Beth was not really thrilled to drive 1600 km through nothingness and hostile – especially to city people like us- environment.  I was ready for the wide open road…
So long…

Adelaide, SA – Part 3

Adelaide seems to be one of the forgotten cities in Australia.  It seems forgotten as not many people outside this country have heard anything about it, and within Australia it seems to be bypassed by just about everybody, they go to Perth or Melbourne, of course Sydney, maybe Brisbane but not Adelaide.  We have not yet seen the other ones so I cannot really compare this city to any other in Australia at this point but this city is

Adelaide Skyline

very comfortable, it does have more of a country feel.  Its streets are very wide, there is practically no traffic jams.  It has a very good climate, albeit a bit on the dry side.  There does not seem to be any particular rush even during lunchtime in the CBD people do not seem to be overly stressed, there is no hectic.

The downtown area is also very compact, we walked along the Torrens river and the view as you can see in the pictures is very nice.  The walk around the river is very pretty, everything is green as the city uses recycled water as of late to water the parks.  There were lots of birds everywhere, I could not believe that we were in the immediate downtown area and there was absolutely no noise, it was very serene and relaxing.

We went to the Central Market, which describes itself as the “heart

Adelaide Skyline

Beth and Ben

of Adelaide”.  It is a very colorful place, with lots of stalls selling all kinds of foods along side with different cafes.  It is interesting as it was bustling, a very stark contrast to the city outside.  Chinatown is next to the market and we choose a place to have lunch were the signs were illegible, it is mostly a safe bet that the food is going to be more authentic than the food you get in other places.  The quality was excellent and the prices were quite good.

The Central Market

Victoria Square looking north

It was a really hot day but we wanted to walk the center of Adelaide, the famous Victoria Square.  Adelaide has a nice practical grid layout and although I have a navigation system to guide me to wherever we want to go I have by now gotten the basics and I can navigate the city without any issues.  Down here they say: no worries mate!  The grid is centered on Victoria Square, all the streets radiate from there and right in the middle of the square, actually it has a diamond shape, is a big statue of Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria, err a statue of hers, actually.One of the things that I have noticed and I have not really found an explanation yet is the sizes of different drinks.  In Australia a can of coke has 375ml in Europe or the US it has something like 335ml.  There are bottles of water with 1.25l, we do not have them anything like that, the same goes for yoghurts, butter, and an array of other products the sizes are just a little bit different than what I have seen in Europe and the US.  I wonder who decides on those things and what the rationale is behind a can of soda having 375ml or 335ml?  Is it economics?  Anyhow, this is no biggie but still a bit odd.

So long…

Here are some random videos of the past few weeks.

Our first Outback Experience – Part 2

Although we had seen signs warnings us of Kangaroos we had not seen one yet but as soon as we turned off the main road to head to Wilpena Pound Resort (a fancy name for an excellent motel that was trying to be more than it should) we saw Emus and Kangaroos. There is something to be said about being in a place where wild animals still roam free and along side humans.  Outside the reception area there

Ben and Beth, it was getting warm

was a place where many Kangaroos had gathered and many of the guests were taking pictures.  We arri

St. Mary's Peak, 1170m

ved just in time to see the General Store and the Visitors Center close.  Why does everything in Australia close so early?  We booked a scenic flight over the area at the reception for early next morning.  We choose the 30 minute flight that took us around the Wilpena Pound as well as the Elder Range, Edeowie Gorge, Heysen Range, Lake Torrens (no water, only salt), Bunyeroo Gorge, Brachina Gorge, St Mary Peak and the Pound Gap.

Woke up early, we had to get Ben out of bed at 7am but he took like a champ.  The airstrip was only a couple k’s away, of course like most airstrips around here it was not

The plane landing

sealed, there were a few Cessnas parked but no one to be seen but a few kangaroos crossing the landing strip.  That raised a eyebrow, how do you swerve around a kangaroo when you go full throttle ready to take off?  It was not long before the plane, a Cessna 182 landed and a young pilot, Hayden flashed us a sm

Beware of Emus crossing the road

ile and welcomed us in the plane with just four seats.  I asked him about the kangaroos, in the typical nonchalant aussie tone he told me not to worry.  Those of you who know me know that I have flown many times but flying in this little plane was a new experience.  It was a pleasant short flight with spectacular views an amazing landscape.  A landscape that formed millions of years ago, an ancient landscape that is unlike any other.  A landscape that was hidden away to anyone outside the aborigines, until the late 1800s.

Ben was sleeping!

When we landed half an hour later the temperature had risen considerably, the swings in temperature is amazing.  We had seen the area from above and realized that we needed a 4WD in order to see some of the spectacular gorges so we inquired at the visitor’s center.  They told us to head up to Blinman and ask at the hotel.  We also decided to postpone the hike into the pound for the next morning, by the time we would have reached the Wangara Lookout it would be mid-day and that is too hot for walking and too sunny to take good pictures.  We then spend the next few hours lounging around the hotel, we had coffee and I finally had a Punch Punch!  It had been a long time since I had a good cigar like that; Ben had his mid-day nap and sometime in the

I was carrying the water and the nappies!

afternoon we drove north to Blinman.  Blinman is about 60km north of Wilpena Pound and it is the highest town in South Australia, in the 1850s they found copper in the area.  You can check a 360 picture of the main street here.  We wanted to check the general store, despite the fact that it was still 4pm, the store had closed as business was slow on that particular day.  We decided to head for the hotel and see about that 4WD.  The hotel was really nice and the coffee was really good.  Unfortunately, a rainstorm caught up with us and it was a bad one.  We were advised to head back to the hotel quickly as flash floods would cut off our way south.  True enough when we reached our hotel we were told that there were people stuck in Blinman, the extend of the flash floods only became apparent on our way back to Adelaide a couple days later.  On our way back we stopped at some locations and took pictures on some lookouts.  I was lucky

Ben after his nap, Beth after reaching the first marker.

enough to get a nice picture of the storm that was brewing over Blinman that I posted on my last posting.  By the time we returned to the hotel rain had caught up with us again.  There was not much to do but go to the bar have a beer and meet the many Germans and French that seemingly were the only nationalities present.  It is interesting but we have met so many people from Europe travelling in Australia. I guess there are so many interesting things to see and down under.

Early in the morning we got ready and after checking with the visitors center about the weather and the general condition, it was still cloudy and wet, we headed into the direction of the Pound.  The first 3.3 km would take us through a very easy walking trail, the last 600 meters would be a steep walk up to an altitude of 900m to the two Wangara Lookouts.  The view from the Lookouts was breathtaking. Throughout the walk we met again many Germans, if anything had gone wrong we would have been ok as we speak

The view from the Wangara Lookout

their language.  One thing that we were warned about were the flies and we got our first encounter during the walk, we have never seen so many flies.  They tell us that it will get worse when we travel to the red center, so we have bought fly nets for us, we are not sure yet what we can do for Ben as he did not like the net.  We did the walk in 2 1/2 hours by the time we were back the temperature had risen

Mother and son with a Kangaroo in the distance.

considerably, so we headed back to the air conditioned room.  In  the afternoon we drove around on sealed roads as we did are not allowed to take our hired car on non paved road.  We went and took pictures of the Cazneaux tree, named after the famous Australian photographer who immortalized it in 1937 with his

The Cazneaoux tree

depiction of it called “The Spirit of Endurance”.  These gum trees are magnificent, they were here long before we were born and they will outlive all of us.  Here looking at the Cazneaux tree with the Pound in the background one realizes the land itself is ancient, the formations that we saw were hundreds of millions old.  The country we know as Australia maybe really fresh but its land is far from it.

The next morning we packed and left the resort early, Ben had some tummy problems and we rushed as fast as we could towards home in Adelaide.  Rushing is only a figure of speech as the highway here is

They are having fun.

limited to 110kmh and it is for the most part a one lane highway!  What also surprised me is that the highway is not dotted with rest/service areas as we know them in Europe or the US.  We found some gas stations every 60km or so and the occasional hotel -hotels in Australia are usually the pubs, not necessary a hotel as I understand it. Funny is that this was the stretch of highway in the more densely populated part of SA between Port Augusta and Adelaide.  What will we encounter next week when we drive back the same highway past Port Augusta towards Cooper Pedy and Uluru?  Well, we will take lots of water with us and probably some extra diesel just to be safe.

One of the things that has surprised me here in Australia is the lack of education about conserving water and how cheap water is.  This is after all the driest continent and country in the world and SA is the driest state in this country, nevertheless people use too much water of which more than 60% is used to water gardens and plants that have no place in this country to begin with.  The cost of water is about 1/4 of the cost we have in Germany!  No wonder people let the water running when brushing their teeth or shaving!  There is something to be said about how conscious we are in Germany about this matter despite abundant water, we have learned to conserve and leave for the most part more efficient -high cost and taxation do work after all.

In the past few days we have been going places around Adelaide, will post fresh pictures and a new post soon.

So long….

What an angel!

Dramatic and spectacular!

A small pond along the hike.

Ben hiking!

The way up to Wangara Lookout

Can you spot Beth?

Can't get enough looking at them two!

Is he going to become a pilot?

Lake Torrens, a dry lake!

An HDR image!

Our first experience in the Outback – Part 1

Before I go on to describe our excursion into the Flinders Ranges, which in effect is in the Outback I want to give you an idea of how big and diversified Australia is.  The basics that you might have heard before is that Australia is the only continent that is a country and the only country that is a continent, it is I believe the largest island.  It is about as big as the continental USA and it has about 22 million inhabitants. More than 80% of the population are within a few miles from the sea and besides the cities of AdelaideBrisbaneCanberra,CairnsDarwinHobartMelbournePerth and Sydney there is not much else.  Imagine that, a whole continent with less than 10 major urban centers.  We were driving in, relatively speaking, the more densely populated parts of the  country and there were times when we did not see a car for 30-40min, driving at a 100kmh.

Watch out for those kangaroos!

Main Street, Gladstone, SA

Some of the older towns we passed through were founded in the late 1800s, my grandfather was born in 1897!  Sydney, the oldest of the cities established by white men, was founded in 1788, that is 12 years after the birth of another young nation across the Atlantic (or across the Pacific if you sit where I am now).  Melbourne the second biggest city here was declared a city by Queen Victoria only in 1847 the same year that Siemens was founded in Germany and the same year that Alexander Graham Bell was born.  In England the first Industrial Revolution was already over.  This country is so new and vast it is difficult to describe.  I thought I was prepared, I have driven for hours in parts of rural Russia (Russia is the biggest country) and I have driven from coast to coast in the USA and I am still surprised at how vast and sparsely

Main Street, Wirrabara, SA

populated this land is.

We wanted to get up and leave Adelaide early but it was almost 10am before we left Adelaide on the A1 in the direction of Port Augusta and about 200km north of Adelaide we got off the highway and headed for the hills on a parallel road, the Main North Rd,  that took us through GladstoneLaura, Stone Hut, Wirrabara, Wongyara, Murray Town, MelroseWilmingtonQuornHawker onto our final destination the Wilpena Pound.  We stopped at some of these towns, they do have that certain feeling of being frontier towns.  They do offer many outdoor activities as they are located along the Flinders Ranges

Melrose, SA

and also Mount Remarkable National Park.  Quorn and Hawker are also significant as they were along

War Memorial

the original Ghan railroad line that went through Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.  Actually in Quorn one can still ride the Pichi Richi railroad, which at least partly runs on the old Ghan railroad line.  February is still the summer here in Australia (it is the low season for tourism) so I cannot be certain but these towns seemed to be forgotten, way past their prime and somehow living in their past, trying to hang on to a former glory that never really came to be.  Quorn though was the most interesting of them all and apart of some modern signs it could be a real frontier town, it really seemed like we were in a movie set.

The railroad station in Quorn, SA

One of the things that I noticed in all the towns is that they all have memorials to theirs soldiers of WWI, WWII, Korea, etc. (picture on the right is from the memorial in Wirrabara). It is incredible that these people from these remote villages left their tranquil towns to fight and ultimately sacrifice their lives thousands of km away from their homes.  We had a significant force of Australians in Greece during WWII.  Their most painful memory of course is Gallipoli.

This is the first part, I am almost finished with the second part and I will have it online by tomorrow.

So long….

Wide open road into nothingness, welcome to the Outback!

Kangaroos welcoming us to the hotel.

A quick update

I have finally managed to get an internet connection. I had to, Lost was on a couple days ago and there is no way I am going to miss an episode, not now… ….not in the final season. Well, we had a thunderstorm yesterday and we rushed back to the hotel as flash floods are very common and we do not have the right wheels to be able to deal with it.  We should’ve gone 4WD, there is no other way to explore this land.  Today we hiked 8km to the Wangara Lookout, which oversees Wilpena Pound, the last 600 meters were a killer as we had a steep ascend on rocks that magnified the heat.  This land is ancient, the formations here are very very old and it looks unlike anything we have seen.  It is at least as impressive as Monument Valley.  We have met quite a few Germans, there are more of them than Aussies here.  We are staying here another night and we will be back in Adelaide tomorrow evening.

Oh yes, Ben of course was with us. See the pics for proof…

…and yes Lost is better than ever!

On Wangara Lookout, a very happy family!

Wilpena Pound from the Wangara Lookout

Ben and Beth before our flight over the Pound

The view North from Stokes Lookout

Wilpena Pound from the air

Oh yes, that is the plane. A Cessna 182.

Our hotel from the air

The landing strip!

Ben is our hero! He was smiling all the way...

Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, SA

After a long drive through wondeful country roads we have made it to Wilpena Pound, the hotel here is great, Kangaroos and Emu all over the place. It is hot, we had more than 40C all day yesterday. Flew over the Pound, amazing! We will hike around for the next couple days and then back to Adelaide. This is an amazing country, I love it already.
Ben, well there are no words to describe the little man. He has not stopped smiling, maybe he is laughing at us…. who knows!

Willl post properly once I get internet connection again. There is no recepetion here, we are in the woods.

So long…

Adelaide, SA – Part 2

Well, here we are more or less where I last left off.  We have explored the surroundings a little bit and met many of Beth’s friends from the old times.  We visited the Museum of South Australia in Adelaide, a very interesting museum about Aboriginal history and culture and also the civilizations of the Pacific.  We walked in the down town area in the scorching sun, the sun is really different here, it burns right through the skin.  We all got our tans, even Ben who finds it way too warm.  We went to the Cancer Council to

Ben in the South Australian Museum

get some advise on how to prepare the little one out in the Outback.  So, among other things, we bought him sunglasses.  He looks so cool it was incredible, he flashed us a smile…. ….priceless.  He needs to get used to them though as he constantly takes them off.  We also went to the outdoor shop and bought long sleeve sun proof shirts and received a little advise on venturing out there.  There will be stretches on our way to Uluru of over 200km with nothing but a straight line through red dust in the scorching sun, I have no worries but better safe than sorry.  We have bought more than 50L of water already, hopefully we will not

Downtown Adelaide

need it.  Late in the evening we also went up the hills top see the city lights.  On Saturday we went to Henley Beach, the beach is 10 minutes away from the city center!

We also got our rental today, maybe it is because they saw the booking was from Germany, they gave us a VW Jetta, Auto, Leather and the works.  It is also a diesel so we will be saving on gas money.  Diesel here is 50% more expensive than normal unleaded though.  Tomorrow, we are going to go down town again to see the Botanical Garden,  Migration Museum and also the Himeji Gardens.  In the afternoon we will meet some friends for dinner and then we will get ready for the trip on Wednesday.  We will visit Flinders Ranges, according to SA Tourism Organization FR is

Beth and her Godfather, Adelaide city lights in the background

“…among Australia’s best natural and cultural landscapes, offering a rich environment for you to experience on your Outback holiday. The Flinders Ranges provide an emotionally uplifting and tranquil travel destination.”.  We will stay in the only hotel in the National Park, the Wilpena Pound Resort, planning to so some hiking and get to some look out spots to take in the amazing scenery, we may also do a short plane tour over the Wilpena Pound to take some pictures.  We will take the scenic route that will take us through the Southern Flinders Ranges and the towns of Gladstone, Melrose, Quorn, Hawker into Wilpena.  It is going to take about 6-8 hours

Enjoying Henley Beach

depending on how many breaks we will take but we will try to take us much in as possible and will write about it once we are back this coming weekend.

So long…

Ben & Fofo

Helen, Wayne and his son Ryan

They always look so good together!

Ben and Alekos

Adelaide, SA

The driest city in the driest continent, that is what the say about Adelaide.  The city was named after a German Queen, who married William IV and became the Queen of the UK and Ireland.  As we approached the city we could see a brown landscape, I expected more green.  The city sprawls for miles in the horizon, there are some taller buildings in the center but the skyline is nothing spectacular.  As we approach from the north we can see the famous Adelaide Hills to our right (eastward).  On the other side somewhere in the distance is the Kangaroo Island, the island without kangaroos.

Our arrival was uneventful, the red eye flight was short and Ben only slept 6 hours during the night, he did not complain.  It took us less than 15 minutes to get through immigration and pick up, again I thought of my last time when I arrived in Chicago.  It took me more than an hour, why?

Crocodile Dundee wannabe in Adelaide

Well, we have been in Adelaide for a few days now and we are catching up with relatives and friends.  We feel a little bit like being in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  On the first night though, I met a miner from Coober Pedy.  Theio (uncle to the non-Greeks, a term we use to show respect to elder people and of course for actual uncles) Aleko has been a miner over there for over 30 years!  Coober Pedy is one of the hottest places on earth and the city is known as The Opal Capital of the world.  We will stop in this town on our way to the Northern Territory along the Stuart Highway sometime later this month. Interesting about this town aside from what most travel books talk about is that there is a big Greek community that has been active there for many decades, along with Italians, Yugoslavs.  Life there is harsh, lonely and quite; time is on a different schedule.  Anyway, the pace is slow going right now and we are organizing our time, I have arranged for a rental and we should be going to Flinders Ranges National Park and the frontier town Quorn.  Besides some family matters that we have to attend we will also be doing excursions around Adelaide and hopefully see some festivals as it is that time of the year here in Adelaide.  Towards the end of the month we will be heading out to see Uluru and the real Outback.

They are in the pool again!

The house

Where we are staying

We are staying with Beth’s godparents in Vale Park which is about 10 minutes drive from down town Adelaide.  The suburbs here are a bit different compared to the typical US suburbs.  The houses are mostly ranch style house, there is no basement.

The neighbourhood

The lots seem to be much smaller and most of them are fenced in, in some cases with plain, ugly, metal sheets, I find that very weird and somehow depressing.  The houses are simple in their construction like in the US and unlike Germany nobody seems to even think about energy waste and eco friendly housing.  People are much more friendly than in Germany though and when you walk around here strangers tend to greet each other.  The cars are older and the contrast is especially stark cince our last station was Singapore where most cars were not older then 2 or 3 years, streets are very wide and the traffic at least here in Adelaide seems to be ok.

The Greeks that I have met here til now are very similar to Greek-Americans, they keep the idea of Hellenism alive.  The people here are more Greek than their brethren that live in Greece.  Through love and a lot of hard work they keep the Greek and especially their Pontianheritage alive.  To those of you who do not know Pontians are a distinct Greek ethnic group that lived in what is now day northern Turkey in the Black Sea area.  This is where my father’s family came from.  This love which is common to so many Greeks even in 2nd or 3rd generation in far away places is very strong, it is the fact that they miss their homeland so much that this flame alive even after 40 years of living in far away places like Australia.  Adelaide has two Greek radio stations, 14 Greek Orthodox churches and according to some estimates about 50,000 to 60,000 Greeks, that is very small compared to Melbourne where the number is well above 100,000.

So long….

I did not have the time to work on some of the videos that we took since we left home, you can watch them here.

Singapore – The rest

The stay over in Singapore was far too short or far too long we cannot decide.  We did not see everything we wanted to see, with a baby it is hard to keep a tight schedule and the heat did not help much.  On the other side travelling with Ben is a blast he does not complain, not once has he complained during the past few days and we put him through many ordeals.  Quite the opposite through his sweet toothless smile we were approached by many people.  In Germany when you walk around with a baby in a stroller you’re a nuisance, people tend to look at you in a different, not necessarily a positive way.  Here, we were stopped by mostly Asians, Westerners could not care less, and they wanted to talk to him and play with him.  They wanted to enquire about his age and if he can walk and stuff,

Oh, so tired!

it was an awesome experience and one that has really showed us how blessed we are.  Even now, it is late at night at the airport and we had to check out this morning he is still smiling at people.  It makes you think and he forces you to believe, to try better and to just smile.  He has definitely enriched our trip.  The picture on the right is shows how tired we all were by the end of each day.

A white tiger


There is not enough I can say about Ben, as a proud father I guess that is normal but I got to move on.  The second day we

A white rhino

went to the Singapore Zoo, the zoo is awesome, the best I have seen so far.  I guess the location helps as many of the animals feel right at home, in Wuppertal an elephant or a tiger does look a bit out of place as it is far from its natural environment.  There were some special things to see but the white tigers, the cheetahs and the white rhinoceros were the ones that impressed me the best.  The orangutan’s colony is well known and there are different shows that are quite entertaining, Ben did not seem to care much about the animals.

We chose to not rush to any other sites for the day and instead we went back to the hotel and went down to the pool.  Ben loves the water and his mother does too.  The day was hot and the pool helped us to cool down.  The Shangri La hotel was not as good as I expected it to be.  It had a nice pool area but the room was a little old, it was spacious but it looked like it needed some renovations.  The staff

Mother and son

were excellent though, they were very friendly and some people knew Ben by his name.  Lying by the pool I also started reading “One for the road” by Tony Horowitz a Travelogue about his trip a hitchhiker around Australia.  Funny stuff and a way to prepare at least a bit for our trip to Uluru.

On Sunday we decided to sleep in and use the pool again before we headed out to see the Singapore National Museum and meet up with my colleague Pamela.  Relaxing next to water is for some reason a great relaxing experience, the best.  We left to go to the National Museum at around 14:00, when we got there though there was a long queue to go and see the different exhibits so we decided to leave the place and walk down to the Esplanade to see the Merlion and also get a view of the business district and possibly the Quay.  On the way down we passed Fort Canning Park, best known for being the Allied HQ, headed by Lieutenant-General Arthur E. Pecival in that tragic loss to the Japanese in 1942.

We then walked and -did I mentioned it was hot!- saw two very peculiar things.  One was the arrest of what seemed to be a migrant worker, we did not know why but it seems a strange experience in a place like Singapore.  The other thing we saw and we actually looked on as he went through the routine was a bus driver dusting the outside of his bus.  We have never seen something like that but it also goes

Ben, me and the CBD

to show you how clean the place is.  The first time we used the stroller was in Singapore and we walked for many miles in the city and the different parks, the wheels do not even have dust on the them, they look like they have never been used, it is that clean!  We moved on and walked around the Esplanade and the

Raffles Place - Looking up!

Theaters on the Bay, we saw the Merlion and the CBD.  The sun was scorching hot and we were running a little late so

The Singapore River

we rushed to the Raffles Hotel where we met with Pam.  We took the MRT (their version of the Underground), which again was impeccably clean, how is that possible with the thousands of people that use the thing is beyond me to the Raffles Place, where the three tallest buildings of Singapore are located.  We were looking to go to the Singapore River to take a boat ride.  It is a touristy thing to do I guess but it also gives you a spectacular view of the city.  As he did not have lunch we got hungry early and we headed out of the city towards the East to the East Lagoon Seafood Plaza, chili crab and prawns were in order and they were tasty!  I find food in Asia to always taste better than what we have back home and we were not disappointed.  We then walked

Pam with Beth and Ben

along the beach looking out towards all the big ships anchored waiting their turn I guess.  On Sunday there was also some type of Kite gathering and there were quite a few people flying their kites along the beach as well.  Pam took good care of us and we are ever thankful for her hospitality.  We will hopefully see each other again soon.

Our last day in Singapore, we had to check out early and our flight was at midnight was spend at the pool in the morning and then at shopping malls where we had japanese lunch, oishi soba noodles and also kept cool for the main part of the day.  It is here also that we saw one too many Montblanc and Zara stores.  Doesn’t the value of exclusive brands diminish when they have shops every few hundred meters?  It is also here that we realized that Singapore has lost most of its past in these malls and high end hotels.  We went up to the 34th floor (….or was it 36th, hmmm) of the Mandarin Gallery/Meritus Mandarin Hotel where we had a spectacular view of the city.  The only thing that one could see is this mega city very few patches of green and even less of its past, which had been cleared by bulldozers to make way for the neon lights, the malls, the ever lasting hunger of people to spend money buying stuff they do not really need.  Little has been left of the old colonial Singapore, there are some patches where one can glimpse the old glory of this trading post or let alone the remnants of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire that was long before any white man set foot here.  The apetite for development is insatiable, there are more shopping centers and malls being build not only along Orchard Rd but all around the city and more housing units as the population is projected to grow from 5 million to 6 million within the next 20 years or so.  So while we liked many things in Singapore, I loved above all the multicultural aspect and the boring weather reports, there are a few things that are not as exciting as we had maybe hoped for.

So finally after a few days in Singapore we were ready for the flight to Adelaide, the airport -another shopping mall in disguise- is excellent.  The flight though was leaving at midnight and the day had been long, as soon the seat belt sign went off, we put Ben in his cot and we all fell asleep…

So long….

Singapore

We do not seem to suffer from jet-lag, well not much anyway!  So on our first day we naturally woke up a little later, had a long breakfast and decided to take it easy by heading to the Botanical Garden.

The National Orchid Garden

Of course we did not think that we will be exposed to  the sun for the better part of the morning with the temperature hitting 32C in the shade.  Beth, the eternal organizer had brought sun cream and lots of water for Ben and us but the heat was unbelievable.  The garden was very nice but the highlight is the Orchid Garden which is a 3-acre garden

within a garden and the only part for which we had to pay an admission.  It was wonderful we have never seen so many pretty flowers in one place.  I do not care much for flowers but it was amazing to see all the varieties, the many shapes and even more colors.  The walk through the park though took its toll on us, we had visibly difficulties dealing with this extreme weather, we were not used to it.  Ben was an angel, he did have his difficulties but he never complaint, not one bid.  We tried to give him more water and repeatedly whitened him with heavy sun cream but he was beat.  On thing that we noticed repeatedly is how Ben interacts with this strange environment, he smiles and engages people at will.  It is also true that people all

over Asia are much more child friendly than most places in Europe.  So many women but even some men would stop and interact with him, they smiled and played with him.  We went with the flow and let Ben do his thing and work the crowd, this was even more so later in the evening on Orchard rd.  We quickly decided though that staying out exposed to this sun was going to get the better of us so we got on a taxi, after feeding Ben, and went to Maxwell Food Court in Chinatown.  Maxwell’s is an open FC where mostly locals enjoy food so the taxi driver was a bit taken back when I asked him to take us there, his question was “You know Maxwell FC?”, I guess we did not look like locals.  The place is colorful, so many smells and so many different foods.  Some did not look like as appetizing but chinese kitchen is not only kung-po chicken or sweet and

Maxwell’s FC

sour pork.  There is such a variety and as the chinese themselves say they eat everything but the table!  We decided for some chicken and rice, supposedly a specialty of the Hain province and some greens that I have not seen before, it was all very tasty.  Meanwhile Ben was sleeping in his stroller and people were stopping by to look at him and then looked at us approvingly.  It was a bit embarrassing but we also felt proud.  Nearby there was a chinese Temple and a market that we took a stroll through.  I love local markets as the products they offer are profoundly different than what you get at home and it is the best way to see to familiarize with the locals.  It is funny because back home we never go to street markets but whenever I am anywhere in Asia I love walking through them, they

Chinese lanterns

become more interesting when they are far away from any urban area.

By now we had been out of the hotel for the better part of so we decided  to find our way back to the hotel and relax at the pool, Ben seemed to agree with us.  We do not understand why but it has been difficult to get a taxi but thanks to a very kind young man from Rhode Island, who called a cab for us, we were able to get into a air conditioned taxi that took us back to our hotel.  It was only when we returned back to the hotel that we realized that we were all red from the sun, Ben who used sun screen fared better but he got a nice little tan.

The hotel pool

Back in the hotel we decided to find some shade out by the pool and enjoy the rest of the day. The room is spacious and cool but we are not here to stay in the room, so we went down and promptly fell asleep.  There is nothing that compares to sleeping outside with the sound of water and Ben as you can see in

Father and son asleep at the pool

the picture enjoyed it too.

Later we again went out to Orchard road, we spend most of our evenings there and I will describe the experience in a later post.

It has been barely 24 hours since we left home but it could not be farther away and we were enjoying ourselves immensely.  More to follow, so long…