Here are the former stories, the most recent contributions are at the top of this page
 

The Oodnadatta Track

painted desertOfficially the Oodnadatta Track starts at Marla. But because the Painted Desert has always been high on my list we take the turn off at Coober Pedy and head towards Oodnadatta. On the map it says Painted Desert but the actual coloured hills you can visit and walk through are the Arkaringa Hills. Beautifully coloured, especially when the sun comes out and lights up the hills. Very similar to the Breakaways near Coober Pedy and probably geologically the same. We spent the night bush camping at a nearby creek.

The track from Oodnadatta to Marree (where the Oodnadatta track ends) is 407 km long and in good condition. You can drive it in 1 day but it takes us 3 days to complete due to the amount of interesting historic sites along side the track. The old Ghan track and Overland Telegraph line ran alongside the track. There are hardly any Telegraph remains left, but remnants of the Ghan are plenty. Sleepers, bridges, signs and sometimes actual rails. Sidings, all ruins and water tanks. One water tank has been turned into a giant dog statue and every water tank I see after that just seems like an unfinished dog ;-).

oink roadhouseAfter having filled up at the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta (and this is the only place worth stopping for in Oodnadatta) we start the track. Of all the history you come across, some are more special than others. A gem in my opinion, despite being recent (1976), is the car wreck at Algebuckina bridge. It got pushed off the rails by an oncoming train when the car tried to avoid the flooded creek below. The driver survived.

The track to Peake Telegraph Repeater station is a 20 km badly corrugated dirt road, but worth the trip. The location was chosen because of a couple of nearby springs, and there are ruins of the Telegraph Station itself, main house, kitchen, store and a couple more buildings. The most striking to me are the 3 large palm trees. So out of place in this dry landscape that obviously someone tried to do up a bit.

Just after dark we arrive at William Creek where we set up camp on an overpriced camp ground. At least we can shower because the night is pretty cold. The next day we drive to Lake Eyre North via the Halligan Bay track. We come across Caroline Grossmuller's memorial. Back in Holland I've seen a documentary on the Discovery Channel about her and I remember it well, although I didn't know it happened in this location. She tried to walk back to William Creek from Lake Eyre after having bogged the car and perished at that spot in 1998. We drive on, pondering about Caroline as this is the track she walked.

Before you reach Halligan Bay there is a turnoff to ABC Bay. The landscape here looks like they were about to cover it all in bitumen but didn't finished the job, or have used it for atomic testing. Black and barren. And in stark contrast to Halligan Bay, only 10 km away, where it is light and grassy. We can't see actual water in Lake Eyre but can see passed water movement in the salt. It is beautiful anyway.

A couple of hours later we see the same area from the air when we take a scenic flight over Lake Eyre (and now we can see the water. An amazing sight!) and the Painted Hills on Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station in the world. Again, without the restriction of any knowledge, I'm sure the Painted Hills, the Painted Desert and the Breakaways are from the same origin. They would have been part of the same sea floor anyway thousands of years ago.
The flight was amazing, not just because of the lake and the hills. Just to see the landscape with all the dry creek beds, the colour (brown or bright red, depending on the sun), I found it all pretty impressive. A lot of money but not expensive, as we would say.

strangwayAfter the flight, late in the afternoon we head for Coward Springs. We stop at the Strangways Ruins. At Strangways there are springs as well and started out as sheep and cattle station. In 1870 it became a Telegraph Repeater Station. If you only had time to stop at one location on the way, this has to be the one. This one is the most complete and the most personal. And because of our late visit, we have the sunset lighting up the buildings and full moon as a bonus. It has 1 original Telegraph pole, beautiful ruins, a stockyard and a small cemetery, all close together. There is a grave on an elevated sand hill of a 32 year old wife who died during child birth. The sunset is behind the headstone and the moon on the other side. Very sad but beautiful at the same time. Makes you aware of the remoteness of the area and the harshness of life back then.

Again it is dark when we arrive at Coward Springs. Unfortunately the camp site is full and now we have to find a random spot alongside the track in the cold dark and are missing out on the warm spring. The next morning we go back to Coward Springs for a visit. This is the most beautiful campsite with facilities I have ever seen. The use of old sleepers from the Ghan for the amenities (including the famous spa/spring where I warm my feet) and rails for the markings is smart and totally blends in with the history of the whole Oodnadatta Track. Interesting little fact is that only the Mound Springs are natural. The others, including Coward Springs, are a result from bores, the water coming from the Great Artesian Basin.

We stop at Lake Eyre South. Even here are Ghan remnants because it ran straight passed. There is water in the lake and it takes a sticky muddy walk to get to the waters edge.
We have a pile of sausages for lunch in Marree (where they charge $4 for a can of coke at the Hotel), see a couple of Ghan diesel trains and head south again. Marree is the end of the Oodnadatta Track but the history doesn't stop there. We stop at Farina, another village-in-ruins. There are still old train track, although not from the Ghan.
We sleep at a commercial camping in Hawker (hot showers!) where we are allowed to camp "anywhere you can drive". The night is so cold outside that my wet towel is frozen the next morning.

Wildlife-wise we saw a very interesting bird on the track. Never seen it before, about half the size of an emu. Large and slowly walking when we stopped, head up high, sizing us up. Walked a slow circle, still looking at us, then walked of into the shrub. Google says it's a Bustard, also called a bush Turkey. Very funny animal and hope to see one again.
GPS log here.
(Claudia, 9 July 2012)

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Victor Harbor

horseWe returned to Victor Harbor for the June long weekend. We had many great memories when we visited back in 2005 with the kids. Apart from our boys, who stayed at home because they are teenagers now with computer games as their main interest, nothing had changed.
We walked Granite Island again and took another photo of the horse drawing the tram over the Causeway. We went to the Bluff and did a tourist walk past buildings of interest.

On Sunday we took a 6 hour cruise through part of the Coorong. We have seen the Coorong and Murray Mouth from the beach with the 4WD and Hindmarsh coorongIsland. This was the first time we saw it from the water. We went through the barrage at Goolwa where dozens of New Zealand Fur Seals were dozing and playing. At the Murray Mouth the difference in current from the river and the ocean water was very clear and you could see where they met. The boat moored twice for short walks. Once to the ocean beach and once to some Aboriginal midden sites. Weíve seen those often. The shells (waste) are collected over thousands of years. There were some coals from old fire pits and some bones. I had the strong feeling the bones were fake and planted there to make it more dramatic and to maybe show how it once might have looked. Since the area has been used for grazing (surprise surprise) and fishing the chances of bones still lying on the surface and having survived all those hooves and curious fishermen are extremely slim.
We cruised back over the calm water to Goolwa. The water at some points is very shallow and birds are standing in the water rather than swimming. It was a very relaxing way to see the Coorong and all its bird life.
(Claudia, 12 June 2012)

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Warraweena Conservation Park

warraweenaFor the long Easter weekend we head up to Warraweena Private Conservation Park. The location of the park between Flinders Ranges NP and Gammon Ranges NP promises spectacular scenery.
The property has a couple of great tracks and most of them follow creek beds at some point. We drive the historic Copper Track (GPS log) that goes past a couple of old mining settlements. Strange to drive through the mountains and then see a tall brick chimney (always intact) arise, and then some ruins of a shop, hotel and/or houses.
Back in 1870 this track was the way to Blinman which is an interesting thought as you drive a couple of k's through a creek bed. Somewhere along the track we have a scarily fascinating encounter with a tiger snake.

The Cockatoo-Dunbar track on Warraweena (GPS log) contains the so called Ďsuicide hillí, which is a track only allowed to be driven downhill and supposedly very steep. Well, it was steepish, but nowhere near as steep as Yuruga Hill in the Bendlebyís, and that one you get to drive up and down. The best track we kept till last. The first part of the Mt Gill tracks (GPS log) is through narrow creek beds, but then it goes up and up until you reach the top of Mt Gill that has beautiful views over the mountains, valleys and Lake Torrens.

snakeWe also so some seeing outside the area (GPS log). We drive to Leigh Creek via an old dirt road from Beltana. Beltana also used to be a copper mine village with a Ghan railroad, the sleepers made from Pine Trees from Warraweena. The train stopped at Beltana Station, coming from Adelaide and went up to Alice Springs. The mine closed and when the rail road was realigned further west most people left. These two factors are the reason for the existence of most ghost towns we've seen, but in Beltana there are still people living. We have a look at the Leigh Creek open cut coal mine, optimistically or ironically signposted as scenic lookout, which was impressive but in no way scenic.
I had no idea SA had a dam the size of the ones we've seen in the High Country, but Aroona dam is impressive. After all that human intervention it's now turned into a conservation area. Too bad because it could have been a second Lake Jindabyne.
(Claudia, 21 April 2012)

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Canunda National Park - Beachport - Robe

canundaFrom Carpenter Rocks, south of Canunda National Park, we basically drive north to Robe via beaches and dune tracks. It's a long weekend in both SA and Vic and we encounter numerous vehicles from both states along the way. But often enough we have the tracks to ourselves, meaning uninterupted views. The other cars are both a menace and a blessing. Twice bogged cars and rescue vehicles block the beach, forcing us to take unsafe detours and consequently causing us to get bogged ourselves. But then we get recovered by other cars twice as well so that sort of evens it out.
It was a awesome trip over beautiful beaches and narrow, hilly dune tracks and we came home on a high. AJ logged the trip so for the exact route and more photos see the GPS logging.
(Claudia, 15 March 2012)

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Honey bees

beesAll of a sudden we had a swarm of bees in a small tree in our front yard. They formed a large colony in the shape of a cone around the tree trunk. There were so many that my first thought was a bit panicky: we have to get rid of them. I searched online and after establishing that they were in fact bees (and more specifically honey bees), I came across an article that explained that bees often camp out like this (and the swarm protects the queen in the middle), until they have found a permanent place to stay. The bees would send out scouts that had the task of finding a new place to live. I thought that was kind of cute and since bees are basically harmless I decided to give 'em a week to relocate. In the meantime hoping that my tree was in fact the temporary residence, and they were not secretly building a permanent nest hidden under the cover of the outer layer of bees.
After a week they were still there. The cone had changed shape which I found a bit suspicious. Nevertheless, I gave them the benefit of the doubt and left them undisturbed for another week or so. And then, just when I was getting used to them being around, they were gone. Just as suddenly. I'm curious where they went and I hope it's somewhere safe.
My goal with the front yard was to attract wildlife, so I guess I can say I succeeded. It was just not the wildlife I had in mind but I guess beggars can't be choosers...
(Claudia, 19 February 2012)

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The Australian Alps

To accommodate everyoneís wishes (not always easy with teenagers) we have chosen 3 destinations: 1 in the Victorian part of the Australian Alps, 1 in the New South Wales part of the Alps and the last 1 in Queensland for the Theme Parks. The Australian Alps are part of the Great Dividing Range.
On the way up we get an unexpected extra when we stop for lunch in Glenrowan. The giant Ned Kelly statue sort of gave us a hint. I google the town on my phone and find that this is the town where Ned Kelly was captured after the siege. All the main locations are in walking distance and very well sign posted. Interesting to see where this part of history took place and strange it's not mentioned on the map that does highlight other attractions.

The Great Alpine Road starts at Wangaratta and from there we drive through the Alpine National Park in Victoriaís part of the Alps. High mountain ranges, deep ravines, tall trees, waterfalls and wild rivers dominate the landscape. We see a couple of yellow-tailed black cockatoos at the Victoria Waterfall, making it a little paradise.
Along the way we notice masses of dead trees on an extensive scale, remnants from 2006-2007 bush fires. The trunks are not blackened but white, giving the mountainsides the impression of being covered in snow. The scale of the dead trees is shockingly extensive.

alpsOur first destination is Falls Creek, a ski resort in winter. The room we booked there wasnít available and because the location is a bit too isolated (it looked great on the map but the road is very windy, making the 50 km a 1 hour journey one way) we only stay for 1 night and relocate to Bright. This is a lively town on the Alpine Road, where it also is about 10 degrees warmer, a pleasant 25.
In Bright we have a room including breakfast and we get a good deal to include diner as well. It turns out to be the kind of processed buffet food that is nice the first night, ok the second night, but the third your body is aching for fresh food and vitamins.
Nearby is Mount Buffalo (apparently resembles a sleeping buffalo but I didnít see it) and it has the best lookout point at The Horn weíve seen so far in Australia. The climb to the top leads through and over large granite boulders and the 360 degree view at the top over the endless Alps is spectacular.
I love mountains and for me it never gets boring. We hike part of the Razorback Ridge, have lunch in a valley at the banks of one of the many rivers and visit the Bogong High Plains, where the mountains suddenly stop and transform into a meadowy valley. The plains are known for the Bogong Moths that once were an Aboriginal delicacy. Wallace's hut is located there, a hut built in 1889 by stock men who used to bring their cattle up there for the summer.
Lucas and AJ go paragliding off Mystic Mountain in Bright. Itís great to watch and Iím glad thatís all I have to do because I have a fear of heights. We have paid for a 10 minute flight but it lasts double that time.

jindabyneJindabyne in New South Wales, our second destination, is one of a few relocated towns. It had to make way for a basin, part of the Snowy River Scheme. The result is a great lake, open to all types of water activities. We hire a little motor boat from an unfriendly employee at a caravan park to explore part of the lake. We enjoy nature with the engine noise and diesel smell around us.
We have fantastic view on the lake from our balcony, making this one of the best (non-camping) spots weíve ever stayed at and itís close to the Mount Kosciuszko National Park in the Snowy Mountains.

On the last day of the year we climb Mount Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia. Lucas, who hasnít been feeling well for two days (probably from the buffet), has to go back just after the start and AJ goes with him. The first climb is by chair lift at Thredbo and after that the path is laid out with a broad iron netting board walk, making the sense of adventure minimal. It is also extremely busy. Contrarily to what I had imagined, it is not a landscape of mountains, with 1 rising tall above all others. It is more like a range or a plateau, with a few hills and rocky outcrops. Not visible to the naked eye, Mt Kosciuszkoís top is apparently the highest. But the scenery on the way is nevertheless amazing. Large boulders, wild flowers and views on the deep valleys. Crystal clear streams with galaxias (native little fish that, further down stream are being eaten by the introduced salmon and trout, so here is their safe haven). Patches of snow and flocks of crows and ravens. We have lunch at the top of Mt Kosciuszko where the views are fantastic.
Completely unsurprisingly, this beautiful area was grazing land for cattle until 1944. It is estimated that the top soil is 1 meter lower because of all the damage done by cattle to the soft soil.
And because weíre in New South Wales, the New Year starts half an hour earlier for us this year.

Since horse back riding and the Snowy Mountains go hand in hand (because of the mountain grazing), we do a 2 hour horse back ride through the beautiful Snowy River countryside. Although the horses donít go faster than walking pace, they do go up and down hills on narrow paths and even through a couple of water crossings. It made me feel like a fully skilled Amazon, even though that professionalism somehow isnít reflected in the photos ;-). It was a very horseenjoyable experience and I can highly recommend it.

After two days of driving we arrive in Beaudesert in Queensland for Dream World and White Water World. Lucas is the only one to complete all of the 7 Thrill Rides. When the boys have had enough after 3 days we start the long drive back. After driving 600 km west the sky that has been blue basically all through the holiday turns darker until itís black. Thereís lightning and the rain makes visibility almost zero. The temperature drops from 37 to 22 degrees. When the sky clears there are branches and even complete trees on the highway, slowing our progress (that was already slowed by the 1 hour time difference between QLD and NSW).
The landscape has changed from mountains to hills to agriculture and finally outback when we turn onto the barrier highway. We stop at Cobar (I like that name for my future dog), a mining town in the NSW outback. The plan is to visit an aboriginal art site but we get so much information at the tourist info that we decide to come back another time. After a quick look at a 24/7 working open cut gold mine we drive to our next stop, Broken Hill.
Broken Hill is also a mining town that actually has a mine in the middle of the town. And somehow that doesn't look bad at all. Broken Hill is still in NSW but they use the SA time zone. Itís an interesting town with old buildings accompanied by photos of how it used to be so you can compare on the spot. There used to be a tram even, as the photos show. We stay in a rare new and modern motel, a welcome change from the old standard ones, where you can't sleep because the room is either too hot or the air-conditioning is too noisy. We’re only here for one night but again, we’ll be back.
The area around Broken Hill is the only one where weíve seen wildlife in the form of emus and some wedge tailed eagles. On the entire trip before weíve only seen 2 kangaroos and that's it.

And then we're back in SA. Where Rogier, being an L-plater can drive 100km/hr, as opposed to the speed limit in Vic and only 80 km/hr in NSW. Where you don't get free plastic bags in the supermarkets. Where the rules on smoking are a lot stricter. Where green is a rare colour in the landscape most of the time and where most rivers are just dry creeks. And where we don't have to calculate the time difference all the time from the clock in the car. Our time is the right time. Easy :-)
(Claudia, 13 January 2012)

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Melbourne (2011)

Melbourne has a new attraction. Last time we visited the Rialto tower to have a 360 degree view over the city. The higher Eureka tower was still being built. edgeNow the Eureka is finished and apart from the views, it has another attraction: The Edge. It is like a glass box, shifting out of the building so you have super views, including down through the glass floor. Super scary. We went after dark and the city lights were awesome.

We went for diner at Neil Perryís (famous Australian chef) Rock Pool. Last time in Sydney we went to The Spice Temple, also from Neil Perry and the food there was fantastic so we were full of expectations. The menus at the Rock Pool look like place mats. On the front is a photo of an enormous bull and on the back the menu. I thought that was a great start (I got to take my menu home) and it got only better from there. The food was amazing, from starter to dessert, never had anything like it.
We had lunch at the Tram Restaurant. It navigates through the normal traffic and took us on a tour through the CBD and St Kilda. The whole package of the lavish and outdated dťcor, the friendly staff, the food and drinks that just seem to keep coming and the memories we had, especially about St Kilda from our last trip made it a very fun experience.

melbourneMelbourne is a great city and I loved strolling down the Yarra banks again where it's always busy and lively. We visited the Casino that had some beautiful and magical Christmas decorations. (As opposed to the Meyer Christmas windows, ďMyerís gift to the city of MelbourneĒ which were boring and plain, but apparently many didnít share my opinion because the rows to watch the displays were enormous.)
When we were at the Docklands we found a Lego store. Despite the facts that the kids 1) were at home and 2) have outgrown the Lego age anyway, we still spent $65 on Lego gadgets.
We strolled through the Botanic Garden where we visited the Shrine of Remembrance, Victoriaís largest war memorial. It was a lot larger than it appeared on the outside. From the balcony of the Shrine we had great views of the city and the bay, and inside my favourite part was the ceiling in the Sanctuary which resembles a pyramid. Both dramatic and peaceful with the incidence of light coming through the top.

Melbourne has many bars and a couple are quite unique. We went for drinks at the Rooftop Bar (great location with great views, and I loved the ESC button seats), and later at Section 8 which was a tip from some locals we met at the Rooftop Bar. The Section 8 Bar is based in two large sea containers and an undercover area with pallets to sit on, and somehow that made it just fantastic, it had a great atmosphere. I'm a big fan of unpretentiousness that way.
I must say that this visit made me understand better what the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne is all about. I'm not taking sides though.
(Claudia, 17 December 2011)

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My personal MP

One of the MPís present at the ceremony is quite persistent. He talked to me personally after the ceremony and gave me his card. He stressed that I could ring him if I would have a problem of any kind. He said the same thing in the letter he sent a couple of weeks after. I am unsure what exactly he means by that. If I get arrested by the police, can I ring him to bail me out?
Rogier received a similar letter, also stressing to contact him if he can be Ďof personal assistance on any matterí. So next time Ro has a C on his report, he knows who to ring.

Fluffs, Lucasí bunny has died and although sad for Lucas, we have a piece of our garden back that we decided to dedicate to some veggies that finally have a chance to grow without being eaten to death. Especially the tomatoes are doing very well and together with our fresh basil will make a beautiful salad, hopefully one day soon. AJ would like a buffalo too to add some fresh mozzarella to the salad, but yeah... no.
(Claudia, 12 October 2011)

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The Ceremony

ceremonyThe ceremony is held at the council where we live and we are welcomed by the mayor herself at the entrance. After some refreshments the official ceremony commences.
There are some councillors and mp's, the deputy mayor and of course the mayor who leads the pledge (-"From this time forward, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey"-) and hands out the certificates at the end.
Everyone also receives a small book with photos of Australia as a gift. All the adults are encouraged to put their name on the electoral roll, so now I can vote (and is compulsory).
The atmosphere of the ceremony is official but celebratory and I was happy to be a part of it with my 2 boys. It's official now: We are Australian citizens!
(Claudia, 10 September 2011)

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Bendleby Ranges / Hungry Ranges

The Nissan setup has been upgraded again and to try some things out and because we love 4wd, we went back to the Bendleby Ranges, North East of Orroroo.

billtgoatWe have been here before in 2007, and apart from the 4wd-ing I remember the area for the beautiful pastel coloured river stones of the dry creeks. This time we focus on a different part of the property, the Hungry Ranges. The area is filled with wild flowers and also wildlife is in abundance. It's a sheep station and there are plenty of lambs. Looking at the large Wedge Tailed Eagles makes me wonder if these birds would actually eat the lambs. And they do, so I'm told, although not all eagles are hunters, some are scavengers. The eagles are lucky in this time of year; they get fed some of the docked lamb tails.

ridgetopviewThe Hungry Ranges have a couple of quite spectacular tracks. The Ridge Top Track is self explanatory. The cool thing is that in parts the ridgetoptrack on the mountain ridge is so narrow that there is only about 20 cm on each side of the car to spare. The Billy Goat Track is also a ridge top track. A bit tricky in some places with loose rocks and some holes on steep parts, but not as narrow.
A new track has been added recently. It's a track up Yuruga Hill with great views. Only when you're at the top you don't really enjoy those views because it was a scary climb and you know you have to go back down again ;-). It must have been the steepest climb we've done so far

And everything we wanted to test out this weekend has passed the test.
(Claudia, 10 September 2011)

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Census Night

Rogier has had his third driving lesson in which he drove 100k p/h through the hills. Pretty cool, I still remember that lesson although I donít think it was only my third.

I survived the census night. A whole new experience and Tuesday August 9th was the night. Off course I took it way too seriously. Because it is compulsory and I am very busy with work, I wrote it on the calendar, put it in my phone and even put an alarm on it so I wouldnít forget. Weeks after the Census night thereíre still reminders to do the Census if you already hadnít. So much for the compulsory Tuesday night.
The census is used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to get information. The information they want is very personal, name, address etc, income and all that. Since they go through all the trouble of getting every inhabitant involved, I expected it to be more extensive but I finished the online census in about 20 minutes for the 4 of us.

ponto2Ponto is too big now to lie on my mini laptop, only he hasnít realised that, or maybe he doesnít care. He often hits the same keys, ctrl F is always one of them, searching for dfffffffffjjjj or something similar. One time he managed to turn my screen on its side which made it very hard to navigate and it took me while to discover it was ctrl alt >. His safe place is behind the TV cabinet. Safe from the vacuum cleaner and from Toohey (he doesnít fit). He has some toys there, including Tooheyís favourite toy, and a collection of every catís necessities like a scourer, a mobile phone cover and a USB key ;-). He is super cute and I love him to bits.
(Claudia, 15 August 2011)

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Warrnambool (VIC)

For the 3rd time this year we cross the border with Victoria. And for the third time the Victorian safety road signs give reason for discussion. The signs ďTired? Powernap NowĒ and ďA microsleep can kill in secondsĒ still seem contradictory.

whalesBecause we revisited the Great Ocean Road earlier this year, we concentrate on the Warrnambool area only. And thereís plenty to see. The main attraction for us are the whales. Loganís Beach is also a breeding ground for the Southern Right Whale, according to the many tourist brochures and websites anyway. But it doesnít have the large numbers we have at the Head of Bight in SA, which I realise now, is pretty unique. We are lucky though to see a couple of whales, because the previous days there have been no sightings at all. To me, any sighting of a whale is a mesmerising, regardless the number of animals.

craterWe spent quite some time at Tower Hill Reserve. A surprising area with two beautiful volcanic craters surrounded by a lake, towerhillclose to the ocean, filled with wildlife. We do all the available walks and conclude that this is a little paradise. Of course, as per good old Australian tradition, this area has been cleared in the past, used for grazing, quarrying and dumping ground. But it has been beautifully restored thanks to an old painting showing the area intact.
Actually another great way of restoring nature can be seen on Middle Island where two Maremma dogs are guarding the penguin population from foxes and dogs.

Flagstaff Hill is a could-have-been maritime village from back in the days, made of recycled materials. It also contains a museum with real relics salvaged from ship wrecks around the coast line which was quite interesting. The most remarkable relic to me was a silver toast rack. How English does it get?

The holiday home we rented is also for sale. The asking price is $1.1 million! Once you know this you look at everything in the house differently and apart from the location maybe, not worth that amount of money. But for a holiday home, it was great.
We take some back roads on our way home for a change of scenery and are surprised to find two waterfalls, the Nigretta falls and the Wannon falls, making perfect stopovers on our long drive back.
(Claudia, 28 July 2011)

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The Test

Unexpectedly fast (because it took them more than a year to process our visa application) I got a reaction from the Department of Immigration & Citizenship after 2 days already, with a set date for both Rogierís interview and my test. The appointment to check all the original documentation is on the same day, so itís all going very quick.

I read through the citizenship booklet a couple of times and memorised a couple of dates and political terminology. Lucas put some pressure on me to pass the test because he is included in my application. Today I took the test and finished within 5 minutes with a 100% score. Go me! Lucas can be happy.
After my original documents were checked I was offered to join a ceremony straight away. I declined because I want to do that as a family and Rogier hasnít had his interview yet, but I could have been an Australian citizen today already!
(Claudia, 1 July 2011)

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Pontoponto

We have renamed our kitten ďPontoĒ, which is an aboriginal word for Ďlittle brotherí. Toohey and Ponto are becoming friendlier with each other, resulting in them playing chasey. Playing tornado would be a better description, as they have no regard for anything on their path, including laptops that end up on the floor. Itís a great little cat that loves computers, either to lie on the keyboard (especially when you're using them), or to watch and play.

I sent in some photos to the My SA website, a website from the SA Tourism Commission. I won with 2 of them and received 2 x $200 gift vouchers for a selection of SA getaways. It made me very happy. I had a great destination in mind to spend those vouchers on, and it happened to be in the selection. Then I got carried away and sent in some more photos. I didnít win again, but itís also a nice way to share some photos of SA which is a beautiful state, and my home.
(Claudia, 30 June 2011)

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The application

aussieflagWhile signing and dating the forms I take note of the date: June 6, 2011. Exactly six years ago this was the day we left for Australia. Today, June 8, I have posted the applications. Six years ago exactly was the day that we arrived in Australia. The dates are coincidental but drenched in symbolism.
The applications for citizenship for me and my 2 boys involve an appointment to verify all the certified copies after the application has been processed, a test for me and an interview for Rogier (because is 16) and finally a ceremony with a pledge of commitment.
It was the welcoming and inviting city of Canberra that convinced me and while sitting on the grass roof of the Parliament house I made my decision. Today the process has started and I'm quite excited about it.

We got Toohey a little friend, although at this stage "friend" is a big word. At this point in time Too tolerates him, which is not bad considering the new kitten lies on his spot on the sofa, lies in his scratchy pole and poor Toohey has to share everything, including our attention. But I'm sure they will be mates soon, because the little one is very affectionate and friendly.
(Claudia, 8 June 2011)

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Mice

Autumn has started. Weatherwise we didnít have much of a summer but compared to the other states that suffered from bush fires, floods and cyclones Iím not complaining.
I read in the paper that because of all the rain vermin have been able to breed and are taking on plague like proportions. This is not the first plague this year. Throughout summer there have been swarms of locusts, especially in the country, but Iíve also seen them in my backyard. They lasted for a couple of weeks. Ate some of my plants, a couple of them drowned in the pool and Toohey loved hunting them. And then they were gone, although I did encounter some swarms in the hills on occasion.
So now itís the mice. In NT itís also donkeys and brumbies who have been able to breed in great numbers. In Pinnaroo (where we stopped on our way to the Big Desert) a mouse actually walked up with me for a couple of meters in the main street. While we were having lunch in Tailem Bend on the banks of the Murray on our way back, a mouse was sitting near a garbage bin, making no effort to flee. They seem fearless. We also had one in the house. I first saw it when it happily and care-free strolled from the laundry to the hallway.
Turns out Toohey is the worst mouser. Not only didnít he hunt the mouse, he didnít even scare the mouse. I had to buy a trap to get rid of it (mouse friendly trap, I set it free in a nearby reserve). I still have the trap in the laundry but havenít caught another mouse. I donít know if thatís because there are no more mice, or because they all saw the trapped mouse and are too smart to make the same mistake. Anyway, I should be glad it was just a mouse. Imagine the size of the trap if it had been a brumby.
(Claudia, 6 May 2011)

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Fauna Rescue Day

From our latest project, the renewal of the pergola at the entrance (the plan was to just replace one beam but it ended with a complete new pergola) we had some waste that -until the council would collect it- has been lying in the front yard for about 2 months. We knew it had become the home of a lizard, so on the day of the collection we relocated the angry lizard to the back yard, where I'm sure he lived before.
That same day the new owners of the house next door were busy trimming the possum tree and AJ happened to see something fall out of it. possumIt was a baby possum and it was unable to climb back in the tree. It ran into our garage where we put it in a box. Baby possums look awfully cute but have sharp claws and sharp teeth (ask AJ). After googling what to do we left it in the box in the shed with a towel where it curled up and went to sleep. At sunset we put it on the fence next to the tree. The possum was very calm, sat still and made a calling sound every so often to attract its parents. If I wouldn't have known it was the possum, I would have mistaken the sound for a screechy bird. It took about half an hour and withstanding a couple of mozzy bites, but finally I saw a big possum carefully coming down the tree. It took another 5 minutes before it jumped on the fence, probably because the baby had some of our scent. It was difficult to see because of the dark and I didn't want to risk scaring them off with a light. Although I didn't actually see the baby going towards the parent, I did see a bulky pouch afterwards. The big possum jumped back into the tree and it was a great ending and an awesome feel-good moment that will last a long time.
(Claudia, 26 April 2011)

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Big Desert and Lakes (Vic)

Our choice for 4wd destinations was not only limited due to road closures up north, but also by the conditions of the tires. Sand driving was still a good option though, and curious if the 2 dry lakes we saw in early 2006 were still dry (because of the floodings Qld and Vic had), we returned to the Big Desert in Victoria. We crossed the border after Pinnaroo and headed south at Murrayville.
bigdesertThe Big Desert State Forest is not, as the name suggest, an area with rows and rows of neatly planted trees, but a real wilderness area. It looked very healthy with the mallee trees and bushes full of green and shiny leaves. We saw dozens of tiny lizards crossing the tracks we drove, but only 2 emus (also healthy and shiny looking) and a couple of kangaroos. We had a recent map of the area but apparently a lot of changes had been made because 2 campsites were non existent so we camped somewhere along a track, probably illegal. The days were sunny turning cloudy as the days went on and ending in rain in the evenings. Conditions creating some amazing skies and sunsets.
Via the Chinaman Well's track through the Wyperfeld Wilderness area we drove all the way up to Lake Albacutya. Still dry. The wethindmarshlake has changed function and is now basically a large plain where we saw the largest herd of emus we've seen so far. Further down south we're in for a surprise though. Lake Hindmarsh (also coloured white and marked as 'usually dry' on the map) is filled up, the water coming from the Wimmera River. Looking for a private camp site we end up at the west side of the lake via tracks right along side the lake's edge. We have a great spot, although windy, with views on the water.

We drive back west over the Netting Fence track and Sanders Road, which is in parts a sand track, a dirt road and an almost impassable overgrown track. After a couple of hours we arrive at the Border Track, a track on a small strip of land between the Victorian and South Australian border. Look left you see Victoria, look right you see SA (where the grass is greener and the sheep whiter ;)). You can drive the track all the way to Bordertown, but apparently few people do. The track is so narrow and overgrown that we can only drive at 10 k's an hour. It is getting dark and to prevent driving in the dark for hours, we decide to take a public side track over farmland so we'll end up on the bitumen for the last 30 km or so. That track isn't even used by the farmer himself, unless he has a mini tractor. The land is muddy but the track has trees on one side with branches hanging low over the track, and a fence on the other side. We have the challenge of the darkness, and also the fact that you can't drive too slow because of the mud, but can't drive too fast either because there hundreds of branches you have to avoid/ drive through because avoiding is impossible. Damage seems inevitable and the next day we discover the tent sack has some holes in it and the roof rack has collected some branches and hundreds of leaves. It was an adventurous short cut. The next day is an easy and almost boring bitumen drive home.
(Claudia, 24 April 2011)

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Canberra (ACT)

Canberra is an inviting and welcoming city. It is a city for the people, as a capital city should be. Most attractions have free entry and plenty of free parking spaces, so everyone can visit them. The lake created after the damming of the Molonglo River at the city centre (maybe in an attempt to copy Sydney in a way) provides ample recreation opportunities and there are plenty of dedicated push bike lanes.
It is an easy city to get around in, except maybe during peak hour on Friday afternoon when you become aware of the enormous amount of traffic lights that all seem to be only 50 meters apart and always on red. But since most people fly out home for the weekend because they only work in Canberra during the week, the rest of our stay the city was nice and peaceful.

Like any city Canberra has a couple of must-sees.
warmemorialThe War Memorial is a beautiful Mediterranean style symmetric building containing a large, unique and extremely well set up museum, the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (although even the rank of this man is unknown) and the names of all Australians who have perished in all wars.
The Parliament House was great to see and the tour made it even better. We got to hear a lot of interesting facts (a law was passed to allow the 'exit' signs only in the Senate to have a red background because green would clash with the other colours), and explanations about both the Senate and House of Representatives (colour wise, who sits where, who does what etc.). Itís a lot more interesting now to watch politics on TV. projections

We also visited the Old Parliament House, the National Museum of Australia (I expected more of this one, seemed a bit limited. Besides, I got a bit depressed looking at the dead Tasmanian tiger and the black and white movie featuring the last living one) and the Australian Mint (where the coins are made). canberra
The city has a couple of great look out points where you can see how the War Memorial, Old Parliament House and new Parliament House are aligned.

To top it off our visit coincided with the Enlighten festival, with hot air balloons rising from the Old Parliament House lawns early in the balloonmorning which was a great sight, and architectural lighting on 4 main buildings after dark.

Canberra is a long (and rather boring because the landscape is mostly uninterestingly flat) drive from Adelaide and while planning the trip we had a look on the map and pinpointed a stopover for the way up in Victoria. For the way back we choose Wagga Wagga in NSW because we liked the name, but that turned out to be about all thatís interesting about that town. I didnít even take any photos which is very exceptional. The drive from Canberra to Wagga Wagga however was great. Our navigator directed us over the Wee Jasper Road, a great detour route to our destination through mesmerising mountainous scenery. The road starts as a bitumen road but turns into a winding mountain dirt road where the maximum speed we could drive was only 30 km. It was an awesome drive and a short introduction to an area we would love to see more of.
(Claudia, 26 March 2011)

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The rising Murray

Curious about the rising levels of the Murray River we went to Morgan. After a trip to the quarry (where some of the best attractions had become inaccessible due to earlier heavy rain causing some massive wash outs) we went back to our private campground on the farmerís land near Morgan. He needed some help fixing a mower so AJ, I and a mate went over to give him a hand and camp for the night. From the numerous campsites along the river bank there were only 2 left. The rest were all flooded and they have a big inland lake at the moment. The last flood was back in 1993 so unfortunately a lot of gumtrees that are in the middle of the water now are dead. It was very interesting to hear how they feel about the coming flood from the rising water level. They have lived with floods all through the years and know that when the water level reaches a certain town, it will be 3 weeks until the water is down to Morgan. So there is no panic or fear, they just wait patiently and see what happens further upstream.

floodWith the cattle gone, the many dead gum trees and the abundance of spider webs in the bushes (that actually had a beautiful golden glow in the morning sun light) the place brought on a sadness. It wasn't completely lifeless though. I saw an enormous collection of Golden Orb Weavers (spiders), but it just wasn't the same as it used to be. Hopefully, once the flood is over it will leave behind fertile soil where new trees can grow and bring some life back. The river has certainly changed. Apart from the risen water level the strong current is clearly visible on the surface and it goes fast. There is also debris visible that floats down the river. The water was quite warm but there was no safe way to swim in it or take our inflatable kayak out on the water. In fact, there were hardly any boats on the river that would otherwise have been full of them.
(Claudia, 4 February 2011)

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Kangaroo Island revisited

For the third time this year we have overseas visitors. We feel we have developed some great tour guide skills and depending on length of stay and wishes of the visitors we make a program on the fly. We offer varied tours of the Barossa Valley, know where to find wildlife outside of Cleland Wildlife Park, know the 'must-sees' of the city, have some great drives through the Adelaide Hills and all this within about an hourís radius from our home.

stokesA bit further down but still within very reasonable driving distance is KI, always highly recommended by us.
This time we came along for the trip to show them around. We had a cabin on the north coast with great views over Stokes Bay, and on the kangaroos that met up on the same piece of land each evening to graze and socialise.

It was windy and cloudy, a combination often producing beautiful dramatic skies. The Admirals Arch beautiful as ever, the sandRemarkable Rocks mysterious as ever (despite the busload of tourists that got dropped off just in front of us), the Little Sahara changing shape in front of our eyes when the wind blew the sand off the large dune we were standing on, and the destruction of the bush fires of 3 years ago almost invisible. And to top it off, the variety of wildlife you canít avoid even if you would want to. And for visitors it is a chance to see what Australia is about on a small scale without having to travel those long distances.
(Claudia, 28 December 2010)

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The Mighty Murray

When planning a weekend getaway at the end of November, the weather would be one of the last things to worry about. This year we had to change our destination twice due to severe weather warnings. We ended up going on a day trip to the Morgan Quarry, with the second day optional, weather permitting. It did rain in Morgan, but nothing extreme. The trip was a success because we managed to climb a hill (loose rocks, large holes) for the first time after previous failed attempts. Since Morgan is on the river as well, we decided to make it a Murray River themed weekend. Saturday afternoon we drove south along side the river. This was sort of on the way home anyway, in case the weather got worse. It was good to see that the many wetlands were filled with water (mostly from rains in Queensland) instead of dried out mud as they usually are. It gave us a very positive feeling after all the bad drought news that usually accompanies the topic ĎMurray Riverí in the news.
horseThere were a couple of horses on the wetlands that saw there meadow seriously reduced by the water. A sad and slightly ironic sight was a hill full of dead fruit trees on one side of the road, and the flooded wetlands just on the other side. The watering system of the trees was fully intact and it would have been the restricted water allocations that caused this farmer to throw in the towel ... and now there's water galore. The Murray is often nicknamed 'The Mighty Murray', but this was the first time that I could actually agree with that name. Not all small towns on the river seem to have suffered from the years of drought. We drove through Bowhill for example and it was full of new, luxurious shacks, big cars and boats and a new jetty for house boats. Great to see.

We found a great camping spot near Purnong on the edge of a lake, which is an overflow area of the river. It was the first time in 3 years that the lake actually contained water. There were plenty of birds, especially pelicans. Camping for the night was a bit of a gamble but it was dry and we hoped for a better and improved Sunday. The next morning was dry but very windy. We had planned to hire a canoe and peddle across the lake but the cold, choppy water didn't look too inviting and when it started to rain again we packed up camp and drove along the river to Mannum. We discovered that Mannum has a very interesting museum where a lot of snippets of knowledge about the River Murray we had were put together into a greater understanding. We had a great weekend despite the weather and I'm glad it hadn't deterred us from going.
(Claudia, 3 December 2010)

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Australian wildlife icons

After December 1st the water restrictions will be eased and water sprinklers are allowed again. We (and especially Queensland) had enough rain apparently. The River Murray has had a great flush through and dried up lakes are filled up again, which is really great. Despite this I don't quite understand the decision. We have done without for 3 years so who really needs sprinklers now. But anyway, it remains to be seen how long this easement will last. With the start of every summer everything dries out quickly. You only have to drive through the hills to see the difference after a few warm days. It seems the green turns into yellow almost overnight. And you can see water levels in dams fall tremendously in only a couple of weeks. So the use of sprinklers still seem like a waste of water to me.

Lucas has a fake spider that scared me once real good. Despite Lucasí efforts to get that same initial reaction from me by placing the spider in different places, Iím always cool, calm and collected when I see it ever since. In fact, Iím so not scared anymore that I think there comes a day that I will pick it up by its legs only to find itís a real one.
Although even the real ones don't scare me that much anymore. We had a redback in the garage but it didn't bother anyone so we left him be. Unfortunately Toohey found him and our shiny, glorious redback was degraded to a dusty, pitiful one by Toohey's playful paws and we ended up having to put it out of its misery. But usually we relocate spiders that are in our way to the front yard, where I'm trying to attract wildlife anyway. One of the highlights of wildlife so far was a small grey legless lizard I found when I was pulling out weeds. And recently I saw the (or a different one?) possum with baby possum on its back, but they only travel through.
koalaIn Holland I don't recall ever seeing wildlife. Not that we have much of that, but I've never seen even a deer or something in the wild. Except squirrels, but they are often fed, so that probably contributed to the sightings, and reduces the level of wildness. Here it's virtually impossible not to see any wildlife. The other day AJ and I took a walk at Cudlee Creek, and within 20 minutes we had seen all the Australian animal icons: koalas, emus and kangaroos.
(Claudia, 21 November 2010)

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Bartagunyah Estate

It has been a while since the last update. Itís not that nothing happened, on the contrary actually: Study finished: tick. Found a job: tick. Enjoying it: tick!
Iíve also done quite some work on the house. I know I wrote earlier that it was all finished, but sometimes you start something that leads to another thing and it somehow ended with me painting the entire exterior. And then that looked so good that other parts seemed old and worn so I painted that as well and basically, the work just never really ends.

As every year, it rained for two months on end. (The only variable in this are the months. This year it was July and August.) In a rare shower-less weekend we went to a private 4wd property near Melrose in the Mid North for the weekend. On our way up we took the Bridle Track, a public 4wd track with great views of the Spencer Gulf and a track through fresh, green, Telletubbie-like hills and pastoral land where the sheep were unwilling to move off the road.
viewBartagunyah Estate, as the property is called, was interesting. The track seemed not to have been maintained for a while and in a lot of places was barely visible so it wasnít always easy to find our way. There were star pickets to signpost the track, but they seemed abundant where the track was clear, and very scares in places where we basically had no idea where to go (we went the wrong way once, where the combination of slippery mud and a steep ascent caused us to be unable to drive up the hill without sliding and possibly ending up rolling down into a gully, so we needed a recovery). The good part of all that rain: we came across numerous water crossings. We camped for the night and drove the track again the next day, now knowing where to go, and more importantly: where not to go ;-).

cowsWe also had some visitors and we both like showing people around. Time is usually limited, but not the choice of destinations. Personally, one of the things I like is that no matter where you go, there's always something to see that makes it different from the time before. Cows crossing a road in the hills, a flock of black cockatoos in the city, birds of prey in action, kangaroos in various stages of activity depending on the time of day and weather. It never gets boring.
(Claudia, 30 October 2010)

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Goolwa fishing trip

What a great day this was. And Iím not even talking about the 2-1 win from Holland against Brazil.
Via backroads through the Adelaide Hills we and our friends set of to Goolwa. It is early morning and freezing cold. The hills are covered in mist and when the sun rises the most picturesque sceneries arise. Perfect winter landscapes that for the first time, remind me of Holland.

sealionIn Goolwa we drive onto the beach towards the Murray Mouth, our destination. In the shallow water where the Murray River runs into the ocean a group of sea lions are floating. Theyíre sunbathing, on their side, front and back fin up. Judging from the news helicopter on the beach and the journalists filming them, they are an unusual sight in this location. We hope their presence hasnít scared away the fish. We set up our fishing gear a little distance away from them. The weather has warmed up and it is a nice sunny day with hardly any wind. It is very relaxing to watch, wait and sit in the sun, but after having caught nothing at all for 2 hours we move away a bit further down from the sea lions, who are moving up our way. This time we catch some yellowfins and crabs, but they are all undersized so theyíre set free at the end.
The sea lions get more active later on the day and quite playful. They even come ashore. They are not afraid of or bothered by humans. It is funny to watch from a distance how anglers and sea lions go around their own business, side by side. Later on the day the sea lions come closer again and scan our water a couple of times, scaring away the fish. pelican
The pelican, that has been waiting patiently and politely from a distance, eats our left over bait when we pack up.
With an empty eski but a camera full of sea lion photos we drive back through the hills. This time we have a beautiful sunset with views all the way to the ocean. A great day from start to finish.

And two days later the results from the IELTS test come in. I have passed!
(Claudia, 7 July 2010)

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Back on track

Two weeks after the surgery I have my post-op check. It turns out to be a strangely casual visit where we look at pictures of some of my organs in full colour on A4 size paper as if they are holiday snaps. Everything is fine, according to the surgeonís point of view anyway. Even though I have reduced my meds intake by more than half Iím still very tired and every movement is an effort. He said I should be on 80% but I feel like Iím just over 50. However, mentally I do feel a lot better after the visit.

Two days later itís time for my IELTS test. My main concern is having to sit upright for a long period of time. I take only one pain tablet in the hope that it will get me through the morning without being mentally affected. The hardest thing about the test is the time pressure and that takes my mind of my pain and discomfort most of the time. Hope the result is good, because it is an expensive test to fail and I wonít be able to work as a nurse without it.

Three weeks after surgery Iím at 90% but the last 10 seem to take forever. I have ceased all medications and have made great improvements at trivial things. Like being able to sneeze and laugh without pain (instead of trying to hold it in or laugh only superficially which sounds quite stupid). Or being able to turn on my side almost automatically (instead of waking up from the pressure pain, trying to ignore it as long as possible, and eventually turning ever so slightly with the greatest effort, just enough to release the pressure and avoid any sores). The only thing that is still uncomfy is being dressed. Any fabric, no matter how soft, feels rough on my skin around the scar.

barossawinterBecause riding in the car is also a doable activity again AJ and I go out for a drive which is a very welcome change of scenery. We drive to the Barossa Valley where the pruning of the bare grape vines are in progress and eat award (both state and national) winning pizza for lunch in Angaston. We also see Maggie Beer in the wild when we have a short stopover at her Farm Shop ;-)
A couple of days later we have a look at the Rally SA, with rounds driven at different locations. The best views are at Mt Crawfort Forest where you can stand close to the track. The weather is cold and rainy and standing for a long period of time is still uncomfortable but the cars provide a good distraction and as a bonus we have a beautiful sunset on the way back.

Exactly four weeks after the operation Iím back at the gym doing a step class. Because thereís not much bending involved I think I should be ok, which I am and it feels like a little victory. Itís a great mental boost. Iím at 99% and expect the last 1% to take a while. But thatís alright because I have my life back. Iíll be starting my final placement next week and all in all will only be a month behind on schedule.
(Claudia, 2 July 2010)

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A personal setback

It is May and it has been raining off and on during the month. Everything looks fresh and green and the meadows are filled with cute little calves and lambs. The only thing that gives away itís not actually spring are the introduced trees that have their beautiful red and yellow autumn leaves. Thereís also plenty of wildlife, even during the day. I love these drives through the hills, especially now that I need the distraction.

Funny how things go. And how quickly things can change. Turns out I have a large complex cyst on my left ovary. Complex meaning it can be cancer. All of a sudden I have a new role in life. Apart from being a wife, a mother, an employee, a student and a cat owner I'm now also a patient. Hopefully this role is a temporary one. Until the surgery (laparoscopy, keyhole surgery) I have no certainty if it is cancer or not. Things in my favour: I eat reasonably healthy, donít smoke or drink and exercise on a regular basis. Things against me: related cancers in my family. The hardest thing is that it's out of my hands, I have no control over it and there's nothing I can do about it. The specialist says he is not extremely worried because the blood results are good and my lack of serious symptoms, but then calls ovarian cancer a silent disease in the same conversation. One of the first hits on Google said it can be fatal if left untreated. How long have I had it? Itís constantly on my mind. I canít concentrate on anything. I try to stay positive but deep down I fear the worst.

After waking up from surgery there were a few clues that the surgery had been a laparotomy which is more invasive and much more painful. I overheard somebody use the word although I wasnít sure if they were talking about me, and the amount of attachments I discovered I had over the next hours, like the PCA containing Morphine, the oxygen and the IV fluids. And later, the 15 cm scar. The laparotomy is a setback in itself.
After 5 days in hospital I can go home. The pathology result takes a week but is worth the wait: the cyst was benign. Good news but Iím still stuck with the recovery which turns out to be a slow process. My main activities seem to consist of sleeping and watching old seasons of The Amazing Race. Iím not allowed to drive for two weeks and not allowed to work for at least 3 weeks. Iím missing out on placement and wonít finish on the scheduled date.
I have 4 types of medication for pain relief, of which 3 have affect mental alertness warning stickers and cause me to say things like ďI feel yesterday than betterĒ. And I have my IELTS test at the end of the week. Could be interesting.
(Claudia, May-June 2010)

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Back at Spalding

AJ and Lucas went to the showdown, the footy game between Port Power and the Adelaide Crows last Saturday. I would think that no matter who wins, itíll still be an Adelaide team but of course itís not that simple. The Crows were ahead up to the 3rd quarter but then, unfortunately for Lucas, lost.

Just at the start of the footy season Lucasí footy team has been cancelled due to a lack of players. It's a shame because he has played there for 4 years. Most of the boys decided to join a team from another suburb, who were facing similar problems but are saved now. There are some differences in training techniques but Lucas likes his new team and the biggest change I think are the new team colours. He had his 50th game anniversary last year (which is an important mile stone in a boyís footy career. We spent hours making the banner which, after the photo was taken, was destroyed in just seconds by the boys traditionally running through it) with his old club and who knows, if he keeps enjoying to play he can have his 100th game anniversary with his new club.

spalding2We went to Spalding again with the 4wd club. I have been basically waiting for this trip to happen ever since the last one. Itís one of my most favourite 4wd destinations within a 2 hours driving radius from Adelaide. The trip consisted of both training and driving. AJ was able to finish his basic 4wd training and is almost finished with his advanced that he has been doing simultaneously. At one point, while others were having training, we were allowed to drive around by ourselves, providing we would stay on the tracks. It was great and apart from the main tracks we were able to find some just barely visible tracks. One of those led us up to a ridge and then stopped. Since there was no track to follow and the other side of the hilltop didnít seem to be at a safe angle, we did a 3 point turn that took about 8 turns on the narrow ridge. We saw a whole new part of the property and apparently there's still a large part we haven't seen. Can't wait till the next Spalding trip.
(Claudia, 5 May 2010)

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All grown up

It's the last day of the school holidays. Lucas is doing well in his first year of high school. I can still remember hanging little baby clothes on the clothesline. Now I'm hanging adult size high school uniforms on the line. Restaurants children's menu haven't been an option anymore for years and children's movies are too childish. They grow up so fast. I would put up a photo but the boys won't have it.

We had plenty of rain in the past weeks. The water restrictions are still on level 3, but have eased a lot. Now watering is allowed for 5 hours a week and from May first 7 hours a week, the use of sprinklers still not permitted. The majority of my plants are doing well and the more they grow the better the garden looks. I have watered them about 7 times over summer but eventually I hope they can do without it and just survive on the rain.

gutterToohey has grown a lot over summer and weighs over 5 kg now. Heís not just an inside cat anymore. With the summer and consequent open doors he came outside very often and has learned to climb on the roof. Not in an elegant, agile way, but he does make it. He loves the overview and watches the birds in the trees and the dogs in the other yards around us. Sometimes he lies down in the gutter, which of course is no place for a pedigree cat ;-). His favourite way to get down is to meow until we pick him up and put him back down. And sometimes he meows and meows, and when we want to pick him up he quickly runs off. In the beginning we thought he couldn't get down himself, but when it started to rain one day and we hurried outside to save him, he was already back down and was watching the rain drops fall. Heís playing with us and has us wrapped around his little paw.
(Claudia, 18 April 2010)

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No mining in Arkaroola (I hope)

Ok, so I slept through the earth quake. I read about it afterwards. I had an early shift that day and was fast asleep at 11.27 pm.

What didnít go past me are the plans to permit mining activities in Arkaroola in the Northern Flinders Ranges. Arkaroola is a beautiful wilderness area we visited a couple of years ago. As requested on the Arkaroola Wilderness website I sent some protest emails to a couple of politicians, something I normally never do. But because I think SA has to be very careful with its nature I did it anyway. My main statement was something like: why do you trust a mining company to mine in such an area while they failed to dispose of trial drilling waste appropriately. What does that say for the way they will handle the actual mine? As far as I know the area is part of the operation Ďbounce backí to protect the endangered yellow footed rock wallaby. You cannot always have it both ways and sometimes you have to make a choice. So Iím hoping the choice will be to protect this area.
Looking at history it probably wonít. All National Parks and nature areas weĎve visited have all been used in one way or another, usually clearings and grazing, but also mining and oil drilling among others. Weíll see, they may surprise me.
(Claudia, 17 April 2010)

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Dares Hill Tourist Drive

This must have been the first Easter we didn't go away. The 4WD has some issues which makes it unfit for big camping trips (water bladder broke, fridge stopped working and some other issues). On the good side, it is also the first Easter that I finally had time to make those hot cross buns, traditional Easter buns, myself. Iíve been meaning to do that for years but never got to it and they turned out really well.
The weather was good over Easter and we did some nice trips in the Adelaide Hills with the Tiguan. All it takes is to turn off into the odd side road off the bitumen. Most tracks are dirt roads and some are very interesting because they are narrow, contain steep climbs, sand or rocks. And the scenery is always beautiful.

piltimitiapparuinsAnother day trip we did is the Dares Hill Tourist Drive east of Mount Bryan in the Mid North, a perfect Tiguan drive. The hills start out agricultural, as they are all the way up north with harvested grain stems that serve as grazing food, but when you leave the bitumen just outside of Mt Bryan and follow the route north-northeast, the hills change from a few bushes to fully overgrown and rocky in other parts. The area has the usual ruins and abandoned homesteads, some in very pretty locations and also contains an area with aboriginal rock engravings and paintings, as always in a picturesque location where you can easily picture past gatherings.
The view from Dares Hill is beautiful and we see some kangaroos hopping away. Along the way I see a number of birds of prey circling in the sky and we spoil their view with the clouds of dust raised by our car on the dry dirt roads.
The drive ends in Terowie, one of the small rural towns that is beautiful in a depressing way. It has some renovated buildings, a tourist information with internet accessterowie (!) and a funny tin statue paddock. But most buildings are old abandoned stores and houses, the remnants of past glory when the railway was an important part of the town until it was closed. There are even 2 museums, one filled with black and white photographs of farmers and horses that look sort of interesting. The other museum is filled with old junk as far as we can see it. Two elderly people are sitting at the door and are disturbed by our presence, probably hopeful weíre 2 potential visitors. We quickly walk on because weíre afraid we might be contained for hours with stories and explanations and we still have the drive home ahead of us.
(Claudia, 6 April 2010)

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Green and Gold

Out of curiosity and early preparation I ordered the Australian Citizenship booklet. It consists of 5 chapters of which you need to know 3 to pass the test. I flicked through it and the information is fairly easy, but thatís because the Netherlands and Australia are similar countries with basically the same beliefs, rights, liberties and law. Australia just has some demographical and geographical advantages. Some things were new to me. The national colours, green and gold, are from the national flower (didnít know we had one) the Golden Wattle. I think SA (and probably other states/territories) depending on where you are, use the colours as they please. Iíve heard several explanations: gold from the beaches and green from nature, or gold from the grain fields and green from the grape vines. All sound good to me.

It wonít have an effect on my decision, but two things still really irritate me about his country.
About 99% of the companies answer the telephone with just a Ēhello?Ē. My initial thought still is that I must have dialled the wrong number but that is never the case.
And when you order a starter at a restaurant and they bring your main while youíre still having your starter. Even at ďrealĒ restaurants with good reputations. It is a STARTER, something you START with, thatís why itís called a STARTER. Itís not a side dish with the main, those are under the section: side dishes. A STARTER is to START with, have a drink, talk and about 15 minutes after you finished your starter the main can be served. Bloody hell.
No, three things. When they talk about the UK and Europe. The UK is part of Europe, whether they like it or not.
But for the rest: great country.
And you know what I realised: if I become Australian, I will be married to a foreigner!
(Claudia, 21 March 2010)

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A Sydney revelation

sydneyviewI was lucky and had another mini holiday to enjoy.
AJ was in Sydney for the week and I flew in on the Friday and we flew back together the next day.
I love Sydney. It is lively and friendly, both modern and historic, itís got style and character and the location on the bay is just awesome. Last time we took the ferry to Manly, towards the ocean, this time we took the ferry towards Parramatta, at the inland side of the bay. The bay is just another public (water)way and if it floats itís there. I saw boats in all different shapes and sizes, from the giant cruise ship Queen Victoria, ferries, sailing boats, dinghies, fishing boats, yachts to canoes, a zodiac and even a wake boarder. I'm sure there are 'road' rules, but I was unable to figure them out as every one seemed to be everywhere, left, right and centre. No doubt the bay is one of Sydney's best attractions.

I had some sort of revelation when I walked through the city. I was holding the photo camera in my hand but I didnít feel like a tourist, I merely felt like someone taking some pictures, maybe be even a photographer (although that may be stretching it a bit :-)). The point is that even though I donít live in Sydney, I feel at home in this city, I feel at home in this country. It feels like my country. And since I have never had any homesickness or desire to go back, I think I will go for the Australian citizenship. Since it is a very definite decision with great consequences (because Holland only allows for 1 nationality) IĎll take my time.
I actually have to renew my Dutch passport shortly because to be able to be enrolled after my study I have to sit another IELTS (English) test and they only accept a passport for identification. The new passport will be valid for 5 years, but I'm sure I don't need this much time to think it over. For now I just see how it feels, see if I or anyone else can come up with reasons not to do it and then make a decision later on.
(Claudia, 21 February 2010)

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Back yard wildlife

ourpossumWhen we came back from the Red Centre our little possum had moved from the big tree in the neighbourís front yard into a part of our storage shed. He probably thought it was a good spot because it was quiet with us gone and close to the food. We left some bread and oranges behind for him. The possum is very smart. He only eats one orange at a time and finishes it when itís completely empty, with only the peel left. Only then does he start on the next one. He came to our yard to eat Fluffs leftovers initially. We only started to feed him because he was always alone, small and his fur looked mangy. And he always seemed hungry. He is still small, but looks quite healthy now. Luckily, us being back was enough to make him move back into the tree. He has become quite tame and eats out of our hands. We donít feed him every day to keep him from getting too dependent on us. The other day I saw him with another, bigger possum that had a baby on its back, so apparently he is not alone anymore, or at least socialises with other possums.
Every now and then we still have the big possums in our yard, but they come out a lot later than our possum. But if he has to grow to their size, he still has a long way to go.

The possum is not our only native pet. We also have a blue tongue lizard living on our block. It is not the large one we had earlier, but a smaller one, that Toohey finds very interesting. The lizard however is not impressed by our cat, and Toohey is easily scared by the blue tongue combined with the hissing sound. The lizard uses a large part of the yard as his home, we see him rummaging in the garage and hear him around the shed and the swimming pool pump, and sometimes even in the front yard. Hopefully, when the plants grow bigger, weíll have some front yard wildlife as well.
(Claudia, 15 February 2010)

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Mini holidays

murraysunsetI always find it amazing how soon you're back into everyday life and memories of a holiday seem far away even if it was just a week ago.
Almost traditionally we spent the first long weekend of the year at the Murray River near Morgan. The farmer who owns the land on which we camp has sold his cattle, and even though I did not always see the cows, it made the land feel very empty. No more cows wandering around the campsite, ever. It was a nice relaxing weekend except for Lucas who loves the biscuit and just can't get enough of it with the resultant muscle tiredness (which didn't stop him from going again and again and the rougher the ride the better). We also went to the Morgan Quarry again which is a nice little playground for 4WD close to the campsite. I was actually tempted to take the Tiguan (we had both cars with us), but no, too rough a terrain for a car without the necessary clearance.

I still work for the agency and sometimes when I don't get a phone call on the weekend we'll go out (spending money I didn't make ;-)). This Saturday we went to the tiguanbarossaBarossa Valley, which is an outing we make a couple of times a year. We live quite close to this beautiful area and we are discovering more of it every time. This time we even did some off road with the Tiguan and ended up on a hill with great views over the vineyards. We bought some delicious plums and peaches from a local who has a lot of fruit trees and sells them from his shed (cannot be compared to the supermarket fruit. He also had a cross between an apple and a cucumber we never saw before. We bought 2 to try out. Taste like cucumber.). We had lunch at Maggie Beer's farm shop (another of our 'discoveries', turns out Maggie Beer is a famous chef with her own TV show and all) and an almost compulsory stop at Jenke's Vineyard.
I love days like this, they're like mini holidays.
(Claudia, 2 February 2010)

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The Red Centre

I donít find the road to Alice Springs boring as other people have told me it is, itís actually quite diverse. Before any landscape can get boring it changes over. Some areas have bushes, other trees, sometimes itís flat, other times itís hilly. Mountain ranges appear and disappear, thereís salt lakes to be seen and plenty of temporary billabongs in areas with recent rainfall. Never boring.
Animals keep you alert while driving: there are small orangy lizards on the road (sometimes they sit still and you can get them between your wheels, but other times they turn when youíre close and who knows what happens to them then), cows crossing the road (the road crosses several cattle stations) and wedge tailed eagles feasting on fresh road kill. I also saw a dead horse in the verge and a rolled over car wreck a few metres further down. Not hard to imagine what happened there. The same sight in NT, but now with a dead cow and a car wreck. A bit eerie.
Weíre waved down by two Aboriginals who want some of our petrol to go to the nearest petrol station. Sorry, it's a diesel. Oh. We offer to get them some petrol, they give us two empty coke bottles to fill and 10 dollars. Not even 1 km away is the petrol station and we help them on their way. Thereís road trains with 3 or 4 trailers. We are about to overtake one when we see it has a load of camels. They are low and just when we think that maybe they are tied down, one stands up, probably curious about the car following behind. After overtaking, we see in the mirror that the camel has stuck its head out of the trailer, like a dog sticking its head out of a car window. Funny.

cooberpedyOur first stop is Coober Pedy. Well known for itís opal mining and the resultant heaps of pulverised sandstone start roughly 50 km before the town and end about the same distance after. Thereís signs around town warning you not to fall in the mining holes and certainly not walk backwards (e.g. when taking photographs). I thought those holes would be clearly visible and these warnings seemed a bit exaggerated, but thereís also a lot of trial holes that are small but deep and easy to fall in if youíre not paying attention. Coober Pedy is not a beautiful town but it certainly has got character. Itís a pioneers desert town, dusty, hot, not much green. There are houses carved out of sandstone, but also a lot of normal above ground houses. Thereís 2 underground churches of which one has some nicely carved murals. We also visit the cemetery where most people seemed to have died around 40. Some rooms of the motel where we are staying are rented out to opal miners and are recognisable by the huge man-high safes. The landscape of piles of dirt and holes in and around the city have an odd kind of beauty because of their symmetry. It doesnít look bad at all.

aliceOn our way to Alice Springs we visit the Henley Conservation Park Meteorites which is a nice stop because the craters are not too big and the interpretive walk around them is not too long. Alice Springs is a nice and unexpected green town in the heart of the Red Centre in the Northern Territory. It is situated on top of a underground water basin which should provide the city with water for at least 100 years, so thereís no water restrictions and sprinklers are used daily. You enter the city through a gap in the rocks and when you stand on top of Anzac Hill you can see that the city is surrounded by mountains. The dry Todd River runs through the city and I see Wedge Tailed Eagles circling above it. Alice Springs has all the shops and amenities you need and nature on its doorstep.

The West MacDonnell Ranges are diverse with rows of red and yellow rocky outcrops. Only 10 minutes from the city is the first attraction of these ranges: the Simpsons Gap, a gap in the rocks with a waterhole. In SA we have the yellow footed rock wallaby, here they have the black footed version. I saw 2 dead ones, one only a tiny joey, still mostly pink with some fur patches. Luckily I also see a life one and itís very beautiful to see in its natural surroundings. (A whole group of those rock wallabies we see at Heavitree Gap where you can feed them. They eat rabbit pellets, but also banana (peel and all) and apple). Other impressive sites are Standley Chasm (a narrow cleft in the ranges where we wait 1.5 hours to see the rocks coloured deep red by the sun at midday, well worth the wait), Ellery Creek Big Hole (a permanent waterhole in a gap), Serpentine Gorge (also has some water) and the Ochre Pits (coloured rocks that aboriginals mixed with animal fat to make dye, never seen them this large before, very beautiful).

ochrepitsOur trip in the East MacDonnell Ranges on the other side of the city is cut short when we get 2 flat tires on a dirt road suitable for conventional vehicles. Plain bad luck but thatís not the problem though: we are prepared and have everything we need to fix this. Itís just that because of the (VW) side steps the VW jack doesnít fit on the jack points anymore and because of the jackís shape thereís no other way to jack up the car. Unbelievable. Breath in, breath out. When another car comes by we can borrow their jack, plug the tires and head straight back to Alice Springs because we donít know how long this will work and if any new holes will be punctured on the way. First stop the next day: tire repair centre, more spare plugs, new jack (and complaint sent to VW).
The East MacDonnell Ranges are even more beautiful than the West. Thereís two gaps containing aboriginal paintings about the caterpillar dreaming (at Jessie Gap theemilygap sign points out something on the east side of the gap. Most Australians seem to know which way is north-east-south-west anywhere they are, but here shows our foreignness. We have no idea. Why doesnít the sign say: opposite this sign, or to the left or right of this sign, or on the right/left hand side of the GapÖ No matter where we look, we canít find the sight the sign mentions. At least it wasn't the main attraction of the gap), the Corroboree Rock, also an important Aboriginal site (still), and Arltunga, an historic gold town with ruins (a dirt road right through the mountains), where our journey is cut short.

It is summer and the weather is hot on some days, but then we combine the visit of The Desert Park, the Old Telegraph Station (where Darwin was connected to Adelaide by telegraph) and the Royal Flying Doctors Service Museum with a swim in the pool of the resort where we stay. One afternoon thereís a reptile show where we get a change to get hugged by a 3.3 meter long Olive Python. The snake feels heavy. We have lunch at Bo Jangles, a saloon full of interesting boy stuff (skulls, guns, crocodile hide etc) where we have a taste of emu sausages, camel skewers, crocodile rissole, kangaroo steak and buffalo medallions, all very nice except for the buffalo that tastes the way these animals smell.
Another attraction close to the city are the Ewaninga Rock Carvings, located along side a dirt road which follows the old historic Ghan railway. The engravings are similar to others weíve seen in SA (I recognised the circles and arrows), but here the Arrernte people (the local Aboriginal tribe) keep the meaning a secret. Female Arrernte people are not even allowed on the site. It is here that we see our only big red kangaroo of this trip. And supposedly the Red Centre is full of them.

camelsWe drive the Mereenie loop to Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park, a long dirt road through Aboriginal land. A permit is required but there's no-one that checks if we have one. Along the way we see a few small herds of camels that really donít look out of place in the savannah-like landscape, despite being non-native. There are also small groups of Brumbies (wild horses) and a couple of donkeys. kingscanyonAt Kings Canyon we stay only one night. We do the easy Canyon Creek walk in the afternoon and early next morning the amazing and surprising rim walk that starts with a steep climb, then follows the ridge of the canyon with domes called ĎThe Lost Cityí. Looking down we can see that the Canyon consists of 2 levels: the Garden of Eden that has waterholes and prehistoric fern-like palms called cycads, and then it drops down to ground level, the creek. And standing at the creek you have no idea of the world thatís up there.

uluruUnlike what it seems on photographs, the land around Uluru isnít flat but full of dunes. So it takes a while before you first see the rock, and then it disappears and appears over and over again, until youíre so close it canít be hidden by any dune. Uluru is very impressive to see in real life. It is impossible to get the grandeur of it in a photograph. The weather is cloudy and rainy. At one point the temperature even drops till 21 degrees, but itís not cool, itís stuffy. So no famous sunrise and sunset photos to take, but the rock also colours beautifully in purple and grey teints in this weather. We manage to do a few walks in between the showers. Rogier and I do the 10.7 km base walk. Half of the walk is not very interesting because the path is about 50 meters from the rock and youíre not even allowed to take photographs (the Aboriginals donít want you to climb. Fair enough. They want you to stay on the path. No problem. But no waterholephotos? Thatís a bit far I reckon). However, the other half is very beautiful and impressive and the path leads close to the rock, there are (messy) cave paintings where aboriginal children learned the art from their parents and the most beautiful part as far as Iím concerned: the rock hole, and thereís even water running down into it. Itís a mesmerising place.
And itís so unreal to drive and see Uluru in your rear-view mirror.

We also visit Kata Tjuta on 40 km distance from Uluru. It rains for hours and waterfalls stream down the domes. Just when we want to turn back the rain stops and we frogdo the slippery Walpa gorge walk that leads in between two domes. We hear an animal sound we canít place. Thereís a lot of water steaming down the gorge with some rock pools in between. Turns out the noise is from frogs in the pools. I can understand why they make such a loud noise: thereís limited time for mating rituals before the water dries up so they need to make themselves heard and impress the lady frogs.
When we leave for Coober Pedy to head home, we hear that the road to Kings Canyon we drove earlier is closed due to floodings. Our road is open, although I see plenty of water alongside and sometimes on the road.

breakawaysThe first place to stop and fill up on fuel in SA is Marla. We also stopped here on the way up, but this time Marla suffers a beetle invasion. They are at the pumps, in the supermarket and in the take away restaurant in two forms: alive (and busy searching for something seemingly) and quashed to death.
Back at Coober Pedy the road to the Breakaways that was closed on the way up is now open. The Breakaways used to be part of the Stuart Range but have Ďbroken awayí (hence the name) by the inlands sea some 70 million years ago. Itís both arid and beautiful, I love the white and brown colours that go well with the blue of the sky. The temperature here is 45.5 degrees.

There is a time difference between SA and NT, but the main difference are the alcohol regulations. In NT these are very, very strict. All the alcohol you buy at the liquor stores are registered (your driverís licence gets scanned) and thereís a max you can buy on a day. The cartons of wine are not sold until after 6 pm. At the Kings Canyon Resort we went to the bar for a drink but didnít realise we had to bring our room key (for evidence that we were guests) and were thus unable to order any alcohol. I know the reasons behind it, but I think it is very extreme. And I don't even drink, really.
(Claudia, 16 January 2010)

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The Giant Pandas

This Thursday we went to the Adelaide zoo to see the giant pandas. The zoo has leased 2 pandas for 10 years from China. They are expected to be a huge tourist attraction, both interstate and international, and apparently ďbigger than LanceĒ (Armstrong) in that regard. They have only been on public display for a couple of days and we had to book a timeslot (1 hour) to be able to see them. They are in separate enclosures which I didnít quite understand because they're hoping for some Panda offspring.
One was sleeping, the other was eating bamboo, as a good panda is supposed to be. They were smaller than I thought they would be but it was a beautiful sight. They look very cute. A bit disappointing was that the glass of the enclosures reflected the visitors so it was hard to get a good photo of them. Photo opportunities will be better once they are allowed outside, because there the glass is only about a meter high. pandas
There is a lot of merchandise around the pandas and thereís a dedicated panda shop. Most shelves were filled with stuffed pandas dressed in two different silly gowns (maybe to distinct between the male and female?). Nothing worth buying imo.
The temperature dropped from 40 yesterday to 22 on Thursday and thatís probably why most animals were quite active. It was good to see that the Sumatran Tiger moved from the small depressing cage to a great new rainforesty exhibit. There were still some animals I felt sorry for (like the lion), but overall the enclosures are roomy and fakely natural and the animals look occupied with their surrounding. Now all we have to do is wait for the baby panda.
(Claudia, 21 December 2009)

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Happy Tigging

This is the last week of school for the boys and it will be he last week Iíll be washing Lucasí year 7 shirts. He graduates on Thursday from primary school and then I will be having both my sons on high school. How time flies! I have another week to go with only one subject left and I find it hard to keep focused with the holidays around the corner.

Toohey had a little accident which left him limping with his left front paw. He didnít use it at all so I took him to the vet to have it checked out. At the vet he suddenly walked on all fours because of the adrenaline (= fear), ďoookayyy, he didnít do that at homeÖĒ so I already knew then it wasnít broken. Luckily I sent a picture of Toohey to the breeder a few days earlier when all his paws were still nice and straight ;-)

tiguanWe exchanged the Astra for a VW Tiguan to have a comfortable and roomier car for longer road trip we plan to make. We have been doing some off road with it as well to get to know the car and it does quite well, despite the lack of clearance. On one of these try-out trips near Tintinara we finally (because we have been in mallee parks many times) saw the endangered mallee fowl. We also saw a wild deer that jumped the 2 meter fence effortlessly, but that's not a native animal so it doesn't really count. It's a nice area, it also has some nicely stacked big granite rocks that must have happened during the last ice age. And the Tig drives great, I love that car.
(Claudia, 8 December 2009)

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Port Victoria

The weather has been up and down at the beginning of spring, but now we have the first ever November heatwave. A heatwave here is 5 consecutive days or more over 35 degrees, but most days have been around 39.
This weekend a top of 42 was expected and we decided to spend the weekend at the friendly Port Victoria on the Yorke Peninsula in a beach front cabin. We had a fantastic view from our veranda over the bay.
We did some relaxing, snorkelling (I saw a few pink and purple coloured jelly fish and a 1 meter wide stingray), visited the little maritime museum on the jetty (Port Victoria actually used to be a busy grain port) so the name Barley Stacks Winery made total sense when we visited them and they had great wines and some we got for free. Must have been our lucky day. We didnít expect a winery on the Yorke Peninsula at all, but apparently they are located in the golden mile, an area with reliable yearly rainfall.
Before we headed home we filled up the esky with an 18kg bag of ice but because our esky is not that big we had half a bag left and gave it to our neighbours. Unexpectedly they gave us 5 King George whiting fish they caught the day before in return. Must have been our lucky weekend :-). On our way back we explored Moonta Bay and had a look at some of the historic mine sites, the usual 'after' ruins accompanied with the 'before' photos. We're getting used to this kind of history and it was quite interesting.
(Claudia, 15 November 2009)

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Glenleg, in the end


My study is going very well and about half way through, Rogier got the ďmost valuable player of the teamĒ award for his Rockets basketball team and Lucas will be in the maths acceleration class when he goes to high school next year.

mannumfallsWe had plenty of rain this winter and we went to the Mannum Waterfalls for the second time to see if this time there would actually be some sort of water movement going down the big rocks. And there was. Still not a text book waterfall but it was nice and we climbed our way up the waterfall (dry rocks still in the majority) as far as we could.

Before the start of the fire ban season we thought we go and have a last camping trip with camp fire. Weather predictions were good so off we went down south to Coles Crossing in Cox Scrub Conservation Park. The further south we went the cloudier the sky got. Coles Crossing wasnít a good camping spot but we were able to do some 4WD including a water crossing through the Finniss river. We had some alternative locations we could camp but they either didnít exist anymore despite being mentioned on the parks SA website or werenít in a nice setting, like Kuitpo Forrest. On top of this it started to rain and we somehow ended up back in the city (where the weather was good) in a Hotel in Glenelg with our muddy 4WD in front of it and us in our camping gear between fully dressed up people because it was Saturday night. But in SA anything goes so we looked at the sunset on the beach, went out to diner and strolled down the boulevard. Just no campfire.

Our 4WD club assists in the yearly Black Hill Challenge, a 12 km run through the Black Hill Conservation Park. Normally this park is not accessible for cars, but in this case the 4WD's take a spot somewhere along the route in the park, provide the runners with water and transport in case of an emergency, and afterwards the cars are allowed to drive a loop through the park. We have visited the park before to walk, but to drive it was a nice privilege (and a lot less tiring ;-)).
(Claudia, 8 November 2009)

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Spalding

We had an overseas visitor in August which gave us the excuse to revisit a few of Adelaideís highlights.
Waterfall Gully (nature close to the city), Mt Lofty lookout, Cleland Wildlife Park (a neat and tidy, spacious overview over the aussie animals), the Barossa Valley (wineries of course, I think Jenke was the favourite) and the Saunders Gorge Sanctuary (4WD in the rugged hills with stunning views and looked different in fresh green). Kangaroo Island of course was a must, although I skipped that trip because I had study commitments.

It was funny to see how many things we have grown accustomed to that our visitor found remarkable.
The neatly stacked veggies at Central Market, the selection of good, cheap steaks in the supermarket, the weather perception (where we dressed in jumpers, our visitor was wearing short sleeved shirts. I remember we even went to the beach in winter in our first year when 20 degrees was still warm), the excitement of seeing real wildlife in the wild, the cheering for a good tackle (at Lucasí footy game), 7 days a week shop openings and complete cattle families in the meadows (cows, bulls and calves).

September has started, which means the Royal Adelaide Show is back for a week. The mix of cattle, carnival rides, pets, show bags, Hilux 4wd shows and horse ride competitions works remarkably well and we had a great day out again. We even brought home a (Whiskas) show bag for Toohey ;-)

spaldingThe 4wd club organised of trip to a private property in Spalding this Saturday. I thought Saunders Gorge was a great 4wd destination close to home, but compared to Spalding it seems kind of boring. AJ and I left the day before and spent the night in Clare for some quality time and to prevent having to get up at 6 the next morning.
It was a beautiful Spring day, warm but very windy and the landscape was green and grassy, with many hills and rocks. The terrain has some tracks, but most tracks seemed to be made up as we went. That was a challenge in itself and it requires a lot of faith in the trip leader but also added enormously to the adventure aspect. Like being on a ridge where trees and rocks force you to take a way you wouldnít have chosen otherwise. So with no track to guide you and giving you some certainty that it can be done, youíre now on an angle. The wind is blowing hard and when you look out your side window, you look down the steep hill which isnít the safest of feelings. But when youíre back down all that is forgotten and all thatís left is the big WOW factor.
Sometimes the cars were far apart and it was just a matter of guessing where the car in front drove because the flattened grass was blown upright straight away by the wind. In case of doubt we had to use the radio (ďdid you go left or right at the top of the hillĒ?). The challenges with driving ďas you goĒ is that there are hidden dangers like rocks and gullies that are covered by the grass. We had a skilled trip leader who knew the terrain very well. I absolutely loved this trip because it was a great combination of good 4 WD-ing and great views.
(Claudia, 13 September 2009)

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Nullarbor Plain, Whales, Googs track and Woomera

Via Port Augusta, Kimba (has the giant Galah and is apparently ďhalfway across AustraliaĒ), Wudinna (now also comes with a giant statue, the Farmer, but with the 2 sheep at the base looks more like a Jesus) we are heading west. The landscape is mainly agriculture and the different shades of green colour beautifully with the different white and grey scales of the sky. At Ceduna (giant Oyster) we have a stop over twice.
Ceduna is a town like we have seen many, but the fences around the motel car park and the whole caravan park on the foreshore give the town a bit of an eery feeling initially. But on both occasions I find Ceduna to be a friendly town with friendly people and a good atmosphere. The water of the ocean is clear and when we take a walk on the jetty we see a sea lion catch a fish in the water. As many towns Ceduna also has giant grain silos, and as always I think they spoil the view, especially because this one is near a look out point.

The road west passes the Yalata Aboriginal land. The Yalata road house is closed (as in empty and boarded windows), so we drive on to the Nullarbor Roadhouse on the Nullarbor Plain. It has (well, had) an almost magical name but it is totally characterless, ridiculously overpriced, and we find an uninterested person behind the counter. The only charm are the travellers that stop there.
The main attraction (in the winter months) are the whales. The last update on the whale watching website was 20, but when we arrive there are 40, including two white whalescalves. The Head of Bight, on the Nullarbor Plain, is the breeding ground for the Southern Right Whale in SA. They stay until the calves that are born there are big enough to travel. There is a platform where you can watch them from and some come really close to shore. They are so big and slow and amazing and beautiful and you can hear the sound when they blow.
We take a flight with a Chesna plane where we do not only see the whales from above, but also the Bunda Cliffs and the old and new Eyre Highway and it is an amazing sight. A part of the Nullarbor Plain is treeless, and seems covered with small shrub, but from the air you can see how arid it is when you see mainly brown land.bundacliffs

We drive to Koonalda HS over the old highway which is just a dirt road and bad in some parts. Unbelievable that this was once the only route between SA and WA. Koonalda HS, now abandoned, was both a sheep station and a service station for travelers. There are still numerous car wrecks of cars, once maybe washed every weekend, taken for a trip to WA, maybe excited children in the back seat, that broke down on the old Eyre Highway and were left behind at oldeyrehighwayKoonalda forever to rust away. Despite the rust I can see that baby blue was a popular colour once for cars and seats.
When you travel through SA you come across a lot of rusty wrecks and I always wonder why they donít clean up their rubbish. Sometimes they put a fence around it and call it a museum. But this was the first time that I felt there really was an interesting part of history behind those wrecks. It should be signposted as an attraction.

We drive back over the new highway that has bitumen and makes traveling easy which we appreciate even more after Koonalda. We visit the Murrawijinie Caves which look more like sink holes and find a hand stencil in one of them, but since it doesnít look like a photo I saw and the colour is pinkish, I think it might be graffiti.
Despite the famous camel-kangaroo-wombat road warning signs, we donít see any, and they would be easy to spot in this landscape. We do see a fox, some wedge-tailed eagles and 2 dingoís on the plain. dingo
We are heading back east but are too late to arrive at Ceduna before dark so decide to camp at Fowlers Bay. At the local kiosk we get some real good information and it turns out Fowlers bay is a 4WD adventure playground. You can camp anywhere in the dunes, drive over the beach to access Point Fowler and drive all the way to the end where the rocks meet the ocean. When we stop to have a look we see 2 sea lions basking in the sun. What a great place.

googstrackThe next day, after the second stop over at Ceduna we head north and start Googs Track, a 4WD track and the only track through 2 nature reserves of mallee and spinifex, and consist of about 300 sand dunes to cross. We camp for two nights at the southern banks of Googís lake which has some water in it, or better on it because it is a very shallow salt lake. Here we have our only night of rain, and the next morning the lake looks googslakefilled, but after a few hours of sun most is gone again. There is an east track that leads to two rock holes, similar to others we have seen on the Eyre Peninsula. Itís a long drive but well worth it and we see an echidna on our way. At the end of Googs track we reach the railway line and head east towards Woomera on the old highway, which again is a dirt road, but this one is in excellent condition. Despite having filled up in Ceduna, our petrol meter has been on empty for a while and even though we know it is not accurate because we have a long range tank fitted, it is not a good feeling in such a remote area. But as long as the petrol light doesnít come on we will be alright. We cross two railway villages, one with only one inhabitant, the second, Kingooya has a pub and hotel that are open, 8 residents and a brand new modern fuel pump! It looks a bit out of place between the abandoned buildings with broken windows and curtains blowing out. We fill up the car (turns out we would have made it till Glendambo easily but you canít take any risks in the outback), have a drink in the pub and are on our way again, this time a lot more relaxed ;-).

We arrive at Woomera, the SA Defence Force test range (started as a response to the German V2 rocket) in the outback because we have to stay somewhere and think it will be an interesting place for the boys with the rockets and all. After visiting 2 museums and the Missile Park that contains some planes and rockets outside we get a good impression. Strangely enough, the nuclear bomb testing that took place in the Woomera prohibited area in the 50ís and 60ís is not mentioned at all in any exhibit. Another example of selective history we find in the Wadlata Outback Centre in Port Augusta we visit on our way home. Here the exhibition starts with the Aboriginals and then just continues with the British explorers and all their great achievements (I feel sorry for Sturt who dragged a boat along into the outback because he thought there would be an inland sea. And there was a sea, only a few million years earlier), but thereís no mention of the massacre of the Aboriginals.

Because of the whales we had to go in winter. We thought camping in this season would be challenging because of the cold so we prepared for that, but we had sunny days and mild nights. We were lucky with the weather because it rained when we left Adelaide and it rained when we came back. Good things of winter: everything is nice and green, water galore e.g. in the rock holes, in the salt lakes we past etc. (maybe thatís the reason we didnít see much wildlife), hardly any flies. One small downside: the sun rises late and sets early which limits our travelling time.
When we arrive home we are being greeted (in running mode!) by our small brush tail possum. Possums are considered a pest by many because they eat certain garden plants. Since we already have a rabbit that does that, we just find him very cute.
(Claudia, 15 July 2009)

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A smooth ride

I guess it will be the last time I will look back on our Australia anniversary which was on June the 8th. Life is good and I feel right at home here. I think this 4th anniversary was the first time we actually consciously celebrated. One of the things we did was eat pancakes for lunch at the same place we ate them in the first few days of our stay in Adelaide. Back then we found the place tacky with the yellow window glass and the carpet. Although nothing had changed, we now thought it wasnít as bad as we remembered it. Well, something has changed: we.

Life in our new country goes smooth, and every now and then I look back and realize that. Like when we went to some stand-up comedians during the Fringe Festival, and we understood all the jokes naturally, without effort. Both language-wise and content-wise. And my nursing study is going very well, and the language is no issue at all. Another thing that changed is how I feel about getting the Australian nationality (and the issue here is not gaining the Australian one, but consequently losing the Dutch one). Iím not saying now, but Iím not saying never either anymore.

Toohey is a great addition to our family. You can ask us about our day and the straight-faced answer will usually contain the part that ď I played hide and seek with TooheyĒ, among other things that happened.
He is very people orientated, and for me, being more of a dog person, that was the reason to choose this particular breed (Ragdoll). He hasn't disappointed me at all.
(Claudia, 3 July 2009)

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Bad language exposure

Some Dutch words have become, well, inappropriate. Normal everyday words, but the boys crack up over them, and sometimes they just look at us with a pitiful look.
Vak [sounds like: fuck]. A common word we still havenít been able to shed from our vocabulary. What vakÖ err SUBJECT, I mean subject did you have at school?
Reep [sounds like: rape]. Oh, bad, bad, bad. A bar I meant, do you want a BAR. Bar. Yes? Want a bar?
Kok [sounds like: cock]. Sorry, chef, chef, I mean chef. AJ even made me crack up (but thatís just because I am a very visual person) when he was talking about ďeen kale kok met een brilletjeĒ [a bold chef (cock) with glasses]. Rogier just had that pitiful look.
Hoor [sounds like: whore]. Not really a word like the others, but a kind of an interjection, so the boys jokingly ask me: you calling me a ho, mum? And Iím like: what?! And then I realize.

The other day I left the house to pick up the boys. Toohey was watching me through the window and I found myself waving goodbye at him. Maybe it means he really is part of the family now, but I felt pretty silly ;-)
(Claudia, 6 May 2009)

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Barossa helicopter flight

I had a busy Easter weekend. We went camping for two days and I had to work the other two. The last shift however was cancelled so I had an unexpected day off. It was a beautiful day and we went to check out a nearby conservation park for its camping facility. Normally we don't do that but this was not too far from home. It was good that we did because despite being mentioned in our SA camping guide, there is no camping allowed. But we came across the Lyndoch Family lyndochDay in the Barossa where they catered for short helicopter flights. It was only for 5 minutes but the price was accordingly. A good way to try it out and see the surroundings from a different angle. From the air the vineyards look like narrow neat lines on sandy ground as opposed to the low side view where it is more leafy and green. And flying in a helicopter is not scary at all, very different from a small airplane which is shaky and noisy. Lucas sat in front (awesome!") and said we flew 70 knots (130 km/h) but it didn't feel like that at all. It is a smooth way of flying, even the landing was smooth. I'll do it again any day.
(Claudia, 13 April 2009)

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Caroona Creek Conservation Park

Caroona Creek Conservation Park is located north-east of caroonasunsetBurra, but is not signposted until you are actually entering the park. We found it anyway with the help of our GPS and we were not the only ones. Usually we are alone in parks like this, but this place was (relatively) pretty busy, probably because of Easter. The park has a short 4wd track and we drove it a couple of times, including at sunset and full moon. caroonaBeautiful views on the southern Flinders Ranges. We came across some wildlife but the feral goats were in the majority. The temperatures during the day are warm but it cools down quite a lot at night and the fire ban lasts till the end of the month, so it was a bit cold. As always on old sheep stations we found a lot of bones and thanks to my study I could actually distinguish between the different ones and impress the others.
And this property also has a ruin where the owners used to live. I heard something very interesting the other day. Because I wondered before why all these houses were ruins already after only 100-150 years. I was told that when people left their house to go elsewhere, they took the wood and iron sheets from the roof with them to use again. Stone is readily available everywhere, so they left that behind.

On the way back just past Tarlee there is a sign. As if they know numerous motorists are driving on automatic and then think: what was that? "That was Tarlee", the sign says.
AJ saw some lamb meat in the supermarket that said "saltbush lamb". Sounds exotic, but we know they only eat that when there is nothing else available. So the lambs eat something they don't even like very much and we pay more for it ;-)
(Claudia, 12 April 2009)

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Sitting on my gluteus maximus

It is too bad that the ďweĒ feeling that existed during the coverage of the Victorian Bushfires didnít last very long. Where the river Murray is concerned, it is every state for lakealbertjettyhimself. Even we, in the (relatively) short period of time weíve been here, have seen changes. The banks of the river Murray where jetties are ending in the mud, or worse at Meningie at Lake Albert, one of the endangered lower lakes where the jetty ends on what is now more like a sandy beach.





< Monty Python mode> And now for something completely different. Monty Python mode>

tooheygrowingToohey is growing fast and is turning into a great cat. He has the most beautiful dreamy blue eyes and a great character. His best quality by far is that he can play hide and seek! He really loves that game. The boys think he is ďhell coolĒ and I agree.

I was talking about attracting wild life, and it is working already. We have a yellow plastic duck in the pool that attracted a real duck ;-). And we discovered that Fluffs has had a secret friend. We saw him being greeted by a possum in the back yard at sunset. The possum eats Fluffís leftovers.

I got bored with reading the gossip magazines during the quiet periods at work and decided it would be the perfect opportunity to do some study instead. So I am doing my Diploma of Nursing at the biggest hospital of Adelaide (350 expressions of interest, 24 available places and I got 1 of them! Very good for your self-esteem) and can study during work. The study just started but it is very interesting already. Like getting answers to questions I didnít even now I had. Especially in the beginning it made me very aware of everything, the bones and muscles I use, the processes that happen when I increase my speed when walking.... It's great and it gets me of my gluteus maximus.
(Claudia, 8 April 2009)

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Toohey is new

Last Saturday was the last hot day in SA, over 40 and hot winds. On my way home from work I was just thinking that we had been lucky with bush fires. One near Port Lincoln destroyed a few houses but that was the main one so far. In Victoria the heat lasted a bit longer. Sunday morning the news from the Victoria bush fires was 25 dead, possibly 40. The count is now 181 dead and 80 still missing. Devastating news. Just awful and it makes the rest seem so insignificant. But here it comes anyway.

Iíve been working on the front yard over the last couple of months. Putting plants and trees in every now and than, although it is not the best time for planting with the summer heat. But I couldnít resist and since it is the first thing you see of the house I wanted it cleaned up a bit. So not everything may survive the summer (and some already look like they wonít), but Iím happy with the result so far. I brought home some rocks from our recent trips and last week we had the finishing touch so far delivered: certified (!) wood chips (yes, another selling point ;-)). The real and final finishing touch will be a decking along side the house. I have planted some shrubs and trees in Ėhopefully- strategic positions so we have important shade and can enjoy our garden at sunset drinking wine while sitting on the deck.
bluetonguelizardThe garden is not just for us, I also try to attract animal life. We already had 2 blue tongue lizards around, but I think they travel because theyíre gone. One was really big and even came inside the house. We have the possums of course, although they donít live here but come for visits. We saw them drinking from our pool during the heatwave. Canít be healthy with the pool chemicals and besides, it is a salt water pool. So now we put out a bowl of water for them. I often found Fluffís drinking bottle on the ground. I blamed the rabbit, but now I think itís the poor possums trying to get some water.

tooheyBy not having a dog attracting wild life wonít be too hard. We will be having a cat though but he will stay indoors and besides, it is a non-hunting cat. In eleven days he will be 12 weeks old and we can finally pick him up from the breeder. It is so hard to wait and he is so cute! We had a vote for names and the name Toohey (after AJís fav. beer brand, Tooheyís New) won it from Lucas jr. (guess whoís choice) and Sydney (because I loved that city, but a girls name according to the boys). Eleven days to go...
(Cl 12 February 2009)

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Summer

School holidays are over, Rogier has started year 9, Lucas year 7 which is his last year at primary school. He has been made school captain and he is very proud of that (ďgo me!Ē).
Ever since Roughs died Fluffs is allowed to roam the back yard when weíre home. He enjoys our company and usually sits where we are. Unfortunately he reduced some of my plants from leafy and glorious to just some pitiful stems. He also likes phone lines and computer cables, not just to bite through, but to shred in dozens of pieces. The heatwave (started last week, top of 46 degrees and still going) is hard on him and makes him inactive so the plants are safe at the moment. The heatwave is a record breaker. Itís hot, the wind is hot and it doesnít cool down at night. We have the aircon on day and night at the moment. I didnít realize, but a lot of houses donít even have airconditing and so far 39 people are said to have died from heat related issues.

teatreecrossingWe made a few short trips during the holidays, with water as the common denominator. The beach at Rapid Bay is closed in by two cliffs. We camped there close to the beach and had a relax weekend and I brought back some nice stones for the front yard. Another trip was to the Coorong. We had a good camping spot behind a big dune. The Tea Tree Crossing was accessible. It is a track through a salt lagoon (so accessible when dry). The NavMan showed we were driving through water and advised us to find the nearest road ;-). Although we have done a lot of sand driving, this was different again. The drive trough the dunes is a bumpy one. Very beautiful with the rough ocean a couple of meters away. Not suitable for swimming so we played on the sand dunes near our tent and played cricket and footy on the beach. At Mannum on the Murray River Lucas stays up on the surf board behind the boat at only the third attempt. A few weeks later at Morgan he has his first go at the wake board and again, he only needs a few tries. He's got talent but also some great teachers.

We went out to look at the first stage of the Tour Down Under. World news because of Lance Armstrong. To be honest, before I came to Australia I had never heard of it. stage1tduThe four of us went to cheer on the riders at Gould Creek. It was great to be a part of it and AJ and I also went to Mawson Lakes to see the finish. Not that you can see much; the riders sprint to the end and have passed you before you know it. But I took a photo so I can see what I saw ;-) The commentator who talked us through the waiting for the riders made a few remarkable mistakes. He listed the number of riders from the different countries: Ö, 4 Danish riders and 4 from Denmark... ?
The New Zealand riders were only mentioned as ďKiwiísĒ. He also mentioned Lyell McEwin (which is a hospital) instead of Robbie McEwin. Letís just say it was entertaining. And we saw Kevin Rudd, our prime-minister and Mike Rann, the premier of SA with the winner of the stage,Andre Greipel. It was hot then already but they were lucky it was still under 40.
(Cl 31 Januari 2009)

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Kingscote, KI

This Friday it was AJ's turn to drop me off at the airport for work instead of the other way around. I went to Kingscote on Kangaroo Island for three shifts over the weekend through the agency.
Although our Qantas flight from last week didnít give me a totally save feeling because of a series of recent incidents, a flight in a small (SAAB 340) REX airplane takes getting used to. There is a lot of noise and during the flight the noise changes, a new noise comes on, another noise goes away, and every time Iím wondering if that is the way it is supposed to be. Despite this, I do enjoy the view and the flight only takes about half an hour.
Even though I have to work I have time to have a look around. Kingscote is the first settlement of SA (1836) and they even tried to make it the capital city of the state. Reeves Point is where the first few ships arrived ('The Duke of York' was the first one) and on Flagstaff Hill, with beautiful views over the bay, is a nice monument tidalpoolcommemorating this. There are some more relics like a grave yard and the old Mulberry tree that is still alive and fruit bearing. It was planted in 1836 with other trees to supply food for the settlers. However there was a lack of water so most settlers moved to Adelaide.
Another attraction, to me anyway, is the coastline. I took a long walk along the coast to the Cygnet River mouth where I saw plenty of black swans and pelicans.
And Kingscote has a very nice tidal swimming pool, but the pool sign is even better: it is not allowed to release sharks in the pool ;-).
(Cl 2 December 2008)

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Sydney

AJ was in Sydney for work for the week and the boys and I decided to accompany him for the weekend. The kids are cheated out of skipping school on the Friday because of the teacher strike, the third strike this school year.
sydneyWe fly in on Thursday night over the city which is an amazing sight on its own. Thousands of lights and darkness where the water is. We even can see the Opera house and the bridge, both from the plane and our apartment window. Because we have never been to Sydney, the boys and I take a 4 hour bike tour on Friday morning to see the highlights of the city while AJ is still working. It gives us a good overview of the city with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House as the main attractions. We cycle halfway across the bridge, through the oldest suburb The Rocks, Darling Harbour, Walsh Bay, Hyde Park and the Botanic Gardens.
The weather is nice and sunny and afterwards we decided to cool down at Minus 5 Ice Lounge. We heard about that and were curious and slightly disappointed. They put ice blocks against the walls, put a few ice sculptures here and there, but the ice blocks donít go all the way to the ceiling and the rest is just too grey and to me it was more like a big walk-in freezer. But we like the drinks in the glasses made of ice and we cool down, and on the photos we buy (not allowed to take your own photos) the illusion of the ice lounge is better than it was in real life. When AJ is finished we take the ferry to Manly Beach to have a look at the Harbour and the ocean. On the way back the harbour is filled with sailing boats which is a beautiful and peaceful sight. And so are the bats we see flying out over the city at sunset (during the day they sleep in the city parks). A nice example of co-existence.
At the Sydney Aquarium where we see a cute and very active platypus, our favourite Murray Cod (an important part of Dream Time stories), sharks and hundreds of other fish. After a trip on the Monorail we get ready for something we didnít plan to do: the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb. It is the largest single span bridge in the world. Rogier couldnít be bothered (somehow he didnít inherit our sense of adventure, or maybe itís just the age), Lucas really wanted to go, I was impressed with the city lights when we flew over, so we made it a night climb for the three of us. After about an hour of preparation with equipment and a test climb we go. It was scary, windy bridgeclimband awesome! (For Lucas it was just the latter two.) The views at night are fantastic! They take our picture with the Opera House on the background (here also not allowed to take your own photos) halfway on the arch, at the top (134 meter) they take a group photo and on the way back they take another photo with the city light on the background, my favourite. We also see the preparation for the famous New Years fireworks.
The last few hours of our last day we spent at the Luna Park on the north shore of the Harbour. A great location right next to the bridge. After eating a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts at the airport (very famous apparently and yes, they were good) we are on our way back home. I love Sydney. It is a big city, always busy, very lively, beautiful combination between old and new buildings, especially at the different harbour sites. The city impressed me and I felt right at home from the beginning. Weíll be back for more!
(Cl 24 November 2008)

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Some action on my part

I quit my job at the Nursing Home and joined another agency that provides hospital shifts. I like the dynamic environment of hospitals, get to see a few different ones, both public and private, and work at different wards so it is never boring. Most shifts I work as a special, where I have to take care of one or two patients with special needs. It is very easy work and I have lots of time to read trashy magazines like Womanís Day that I would never buy. For the first time Iím totally up to date with the latest gossip and get a bit of an insight in the Aussie celebs. Most of them are former athletes and for me that explains the choice of people used in commercials where I often think: how is this person supposed to appeal to me? There is however one person that still has me puzzled. I mentioned him before: Bert Newton. No matter what he has done in the past, it is time for him to quit. He looks downright scary, as if he died and they make-upped him back to life.

The 4WD club organised a women only trip to a private property in Kersbrook in the Adelaide Hills. We joined the 4WD club about a year ago but I think AJ only did one day trip with them. The reason being that we have already been to 99% of the destinations and weíre not sure how we would enjoy travelling in a group when you have to leave at a certain time, lunch at a certain time etc, especially on longer trips. But the Women Only day I liked. The first part was a few weeks ago where we had a session at a 4WD workshop and learned about the car. The motto was Ďwhat ifí (your husband breaks his leg and you have toÖ). It was interesting and I changed (took it off and put it back on) a tire of our GQ which I thought was pretty cool. The second part was 3 weeks later when we went to Kersbrook. It was a serious drive with a lot of practice points along the way. There was a short but steep descent and I sort of misunderstood the trainers directions so I went way too fast and it felt like the car was about to roll over. But the rest went really well and it ended with a tour over the property. Up the hills, down the hills, and because the property owner was there and he led the way we didnít always follow tracks but went through the high grass which is difficult driving because thereís rocks that you donít see. I have no photos to prove it because I was driving, but it was a good and real (not extra easy because weíre women) 4WD trip.
(Cl 9 November 2008)

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Around Mildura (Vic)

Twenty-four hours after the rodeo we are setting up camp in the northern part of Murray Sunset NP on Lindsay Island, just over the border from SA in Victoria. It is only an island when flooded and not accessible then. We have a beautiful spot right on the banks of the river Murray. Here in Victoria the river is the border. The other side, including the water, is New South Wales. The days are nice but the nights are cold so we are glad the fire ban hasnít started yet. Because of recent rainfall the flood plains are covered with purple flowers which give the park a surprisingly colourful appearance. There are a lot of Red River Gums in various stages of existence. We drive a track which takes us right alongside the banks of the Murray for a few kilometres. lindsayisland
After two nights we drive over the Old Mail Route east. The area around the Murray in Victoria is the same our Riverland in SA with mainly citrus trees and vines. We cross the river to visit Wentworth in NSW, where the Darling River meets the Murray. On that location in 1830 did the Murray get its name from Capt. Sturt. Interesting to see those rivers that are so important to the States they flow through. I heard that Mildura is a place where a lot of South Australians spent their holidays. I have no idea why. The city has a facade of nice buildings, the shopping streets in the centre are alright, but when you drive a bit further it all looks worn-out. There are motels and caravan parks galore but really, would so many people want to stay here? After having a good look on the map we decide to stay at Kings Billabong, a wildlife reserve east of the city. There are no designated camp sites but camping is allowed so we choose a good spot, again on the banks of the Murray. The park is pretty busy but we have a spot away from the main tracks where we spent the rest of the week. The Kings Billabong is beautiful, we see lots of birds, a few kangaroos and 1 monitor lizard. We hire 4 kayaks to explore the waters which is a very peaceful experience: the sound of splashing water, the rustling of the reeds and the different sounds from the water birds. There are a few birds that wake us up every morning with the most magical sound I've ever heard. The birds look like small magpies and after having a look on the internet I think it is the Pied Butcherbird, although I can't find the exact song that our birds sang.
We cross the border with NSW a couple of times. Once to visit a winery right on the other side of the river where they have a very nice outside area on the banks. The lakemungoother time to visit Mungo National Park. Lake Mungo is part of the Willandra Lakes and the park is on the World Heritage List for its natural and cultural importance. The area consists of a series of lakes, dried up 19,000 years ago, and is beautifully visible on Google Earth. Lake Mungo has a striking dune line on the eastern shore line, named the wall of china, or lunette. This important park has been a sheep station, as we have seen so often with National Parks. Luckily, the treasures of the lakes have been saved from ignorant people and thousands of sheep by deep layers of sand. I saw pictures of fossilised human foot prints (not on view for public, they have been covered over to protect them, but I did see some casts) made about 20,000 years ago. Human remains have been found from 40,000 years ago.
Talking about dry lakes: we bought an updated map and where during our previous Victoria trip Lake Hindmarsh was coloured blue, it is now coloured white and it says 'usually dry'. And maybe when the drought continues (but it's not just the drought, it is taken more out than comes in, same as with lake Hindmarsh), Lake Alexandrina at the Murray mouth might be the next dry lake. The way home we take the highway which consists of only two lanes (one each way), but there is not much traffic and after being stopped at the fruit fly inspection station on the border (all clear) we are heading home.
(Cl 13 October 2008)

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Marrabel Rodeo

marrabelrodeoThe Marrabel Rodeo is always on the Sunday of the October long weekend and usually we are away. This year we left on the Monday, so finally we had the Sunday free to go to Marrabel. First thing we noticed was that all the fields were very green while driving up there. They must have had plenty of rain. I've never been to a rodeo before, only seen it on tv, and I was impressed. There was bull riding, calf catching (or whatever that's called), bare back riding, buck jumping and barrel race. The arena was not too big and we had good views everywhere we went. There was a corral on either side where the animals that had to perform were kept. I found the animal treatment positive, because I wasn't entirely sure about that part before hand. Once done, the animals are released of lassoes or straps immediately and then they just trot back to the corral as if nothing happened. Lucas had a go at lassoing a bale of straw with some success. It was a relaxing and entertaining day out.
(Cl 5 October 2008)

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Revegetating

ringsunYesterday there was a ring around the sun. Looked very nice although my first thought was kind of like endoftheworld-ish. It lasted for a couple of hours. Another strange thing: the other day I met an Australian who had never seen a koala in the wild. I was amazed and thought she was joking and then wondered what she had been doing all her life.

Now that the house on the inside is as good as finished, Iíve started with the front yard. Itís been emptied apart from the palms and offcourse the dragon tree because they have proven to be drought resistant. Unlike 6 other small trees that died. Five of them were boring conifers, so I was glad they could be mulched away. I promised the boys I will replace them with other trees, because at school they were taught that per car you have to have a certain amount of trees in your garden to make up for the emission.
I will be planting a mix of natives and succulents. To choose the right natives is not as easy as it sounds. For example, I bought a Flinders Ranges Wattle. It is a South Australian native, but it does not grow in my local area originally, and interstate they are considered a pest because they are from outside the area. For the plants Iíve bought so far my main criterion has been the amount of water the natives need (and than colour/shape, etc), no matter which area they are from, but Iíll try and get some local plants as well. At the moment the yard looks like the old SA: cleared. But in time it will look like the new SA: revegetated.
(Cl 25 September 2008)

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Royal Adelaide Show

bullLast Friday we went to the opening day of the Royal Adelaide Show. The show is a popular yearly event in every major city in Australia and is in Adelaide each September. Originally it started out as some kind of farmers market, but nowadays is a whole lot more. We didn't have a program, but seemed to be at the right place and time throughout the day. To give an idea of the diversity, we did rides at the carnival (I liked the Prison Break, very simple but effective), saw beautiful huge bulls and other cattle, there were dogs, cats and rodents on show, we saw horse jumping and cross country, 2 trained birds of prey, a cool Toyota Hilux V6 racing team doing tricks (I got an autographed poster), motor jumping with somersaults and all, and a diving pig (well, a pig that jumped into the water). And the show bags! Show bags are the most important part of the show for kids. They are plastic bags with a theme, filled with lollies and toys. In preparation for the show the paper prints pages long lists of all the bags available so kids can choose what they want. You can buy them in a large hall and they vary in size and price. The boys got 4 each and are still eating from it. The show is the topic of conversation these days everywhere we go and for the first time, we can join in. What I liked most was the good and relaxed atmosphere, a characteristic of all large and small festivals here in SA.
(Cl 7 September 2008)

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Mud & Water training

This weekend we had the 4WD Club mud and water training. It was held at a private property near Kuitpo. The recent rain made it extra fun: sliding through the mud, getting bogged and consequently practising the necessary snatch strap recoveries.
waterThe water training was spectacular, especially since there are not many places where you can drive through 0.7 meter of water in SA. It was an official training and AJ, who is going for his 4WD certificate, has passed both the mud and water section.
(Cl 31 August 2008)

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Renovation...done!

The renovation of the house is as good as done. Just some finishing touches are left. The house on the inside looks good, but the street view has been ruined by my work, i.e. taking out the grass (not on the air photo, there it is still dead lawn). It's just a slow process because of the many rainy days we've had. I have had two other people making an offer on my Dragon Tree, but I'm adamant: it's not for sale. The first few days after each offer I'm checking if the tree is still there in the morning and consider putting a gate around it. The highest bid was $500 so I was thinking when we have to renew our mortgage I might add it to our assets: a house, 2 cars and a dragon tree :-).
The winter seems at be at its end. We had a lot of rain, more than the years before. All the creeks in the hills that were normally dry have water in it and the water reserves, usually showing large sandy banks are now filled up to the tree line. And it has been very cold! Up to 3 degrees C in the morning and I think the cold lasted longer than previous years as well. I'm looking forward to spring and summer and we have some nice outlooks on trips to come and a nice finished house to go back to.

Before we moved to Australia I printed out some negative news articles about Holland (like increasing traffic jams for example) in case I would ever doubt the decision. This day hasnít come for me and I havenít looked at the printouts ever since, but I do have days when I am fed up.
Lucas wanted a scooter for his birthday so I went to a bike shop and asked if they had scooters. The guy didnít understand me so I asked again. He still didnít know what I was saying but when I was about to leave the shop the penny dropped. He said:Ē Oh you want a S-C-O-O-T-E-R, no itís your accent, you mean a S-C-O-O-T-E-R, they are over H-E-R-EĒ, and went on as if my accent meant I was retarded as well. He didnít have the one I was after but if he did, I wouldnít have bought it there for sure.
In those 3 years Iím here I have only once really felt treated as an immigrant. That was when an institute didnít accept (and didnít even want to look at) my marriage certificate because it wasnít an Australian one. That it was an international one (meaning that is was in English as well) and was good enough to get our visa did not matter. It is hard to deal with limited people like this, and all you can do is accept it. But luckily, it doesn't happen often and the sun shines for 9 months a year ... so who cares?
(Cl 30 August 2008)

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Kangaroo Island

Last weekend was a long one and we really wanted to go away. However the weather predictions were not suitable for camping so we decided last minute to book some accommodation on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is in the National Geographic Island top 10 of the world and the first Australian Island in the list, so this had to be something special.

The Kangaroo Island tourist guide has a few tips for wildlife spotting. Taking your time, observe from a distance, keep noise to a minimum, things like that. They overlooked the easiest way to spot wildlife by far: on and alongside the road. Really, the amount of road kill we came across was shocking. Possums were in the majority (including 4 possums within 2 meters, a complete family wiped out), but we also saw kangaroos, an echidna, wallabies, etc. So sad. Most roadkill on the road was fresh, others in different stages of decomposition alongside the road.

sealsKI is a special little island that didn't have electricity until 1966. At Seal Bay you can get close to the Australian Sea Lion colony but only under the supervision of a guide. This way the colony is protected and you get some interesting info on the way (a male sea lion has a retractable penis). KI is also home to the New Zealand Fur Seal at the amazing Admiral's Arch. Boardwalks have been put up so the animals and the plants are protected from visitors. They are fun to watch since seals are very playful animals, if the are not sleeping.
Kelly Hill Cave is named after a horse that fell into the cave system but was never (and still not) found. Itís an interesting cave that originated from a seasonal swamp next to a sandstone dune. And this cave has not only stalagmites and stalactites, but also helictites that grow vertically.
The bushfires of last December have left a large trail especially in Flinders Chase NP. There is some regrowth visible already, mainly from the mallee trees. But it is very quiet in those burned down areas and we didnít see any animals there, not even birds.
There are 3 lighthouses on KI, all still in use. The lighthouse at Cape Borda has a cemetery that gives an interesting but sad look into the hard life those people had. A lighthouse keeper died when he fell and got a stick in his eye, a baby died from a disease and a child fell of a cliff. The oldest lighthouse is at Cape Willoughby. The lighthouse has been built from local rocks of the cliffs in 1852. Because of the remote location of the lighthouses they used flags to signal to ships. Not always with success by the way because sometimes ships did not stop or help. rocksWhen we visited the Remarkable Rocks the sea was extremely calm and the sky pale blue cloudy. It was the perfect background for these huge round and hollow shaped rocks. Must have been an aboriginal sacred place at some stage Iím sure.
We have seen some new (living!) animals for the first time in the wild on KI. An echidna, some yellow-tailed black cockatoos, Cape Barren Geese and numerous little penguins that come ashore every night after dark. They are very cute and I couldn't resist taking some flash photos. I apologise for that.
Apart from the huge amount of road kill, Kangaroo Island almost has it all (and if youíre wondering, I think the Eyre Peninsula has it all).
(Cl 10 June 2008)

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The renovation continues

It is winter now and a few weeks ago we had some serious rain which brought the front lawn back to life, much to my surprise. The weather change made us continue the renovations of our house. The excuse of ďtoo hot to workĒ is not valid anymore and we started with the kitchen, the last big part of the house that needed updating. It is a long process, because we are also depended on the availability of the different tradies who all are busy people. The ceiling and most walls are renewed, insulated and painted. The kitchen is half done at this moment. The main change is that we took out a cupboard and added a dishwasher. The appliances have been replaced with stainless steel ones. We keep the existing cupboards and all appliances except the sink and tap are connected, but the bench top will take another 1,5 weeks to come in. Then the tiling can start and after the floor has been sanded and polished, it will be finished. Itís like a luxury sort of camping at the moment.

With all the renovations we have done so far comes an appreciation of the brick veneer houses. We thought we wanted a solid brick house because that is what we knew. But gyprock for internal walls have many advantages and we would never have it any other way. Easy to replace, insulate, put power points in where ever we want and what not. The only downside I can think of is that they damage quite easily. For years every time I saw an (American) movie and someone punched a hole in the wall with his fist, or threw a person against the wall and the wall broke I thought that it was just cheap special effects. But now I know that this can actually happen, although with us it was a book that damaged the wall. And talking about movies, I always found it a bit too convenient that a serial killer could disconnect the power by cutting the lines from the outside of the house, but all houses are like that here as well. So those movies werenít that bad after all ;-)

I havenít seen the possums since that one time, but I see paw prints regularly on my car. Iím not sure if it is from a cat or a possum. I think the latter, because Iíve never seen a cat in the neighbourhood. On the other hand, the apples we keep in the garage havenít been eaten. Weíre curious now and have installed a webcam that activates on movements. Nothing has happened since, but sooner or later we will find out.
(Cl 4 June 2008)

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Gold Coast

We all thought it was time for a holiday kids-style. So no camping and long car drives, but only fun stuff. We went to the Gold Coast in Queensland for 7 days, stayed at an apartment complex with pool and spa and had tickets for Movie World, Sea World and Wet Ďn Wild Water World for as often as they wanted.
We were lucky. Our rental car was upgraded 2 sizes because the one we booked wasn't in (only problem was that it took us 15 minutes to find that the handbrake was located left of the foot brake in the Toyota Aurio). And the weather forecast was rain, but we had 5 sunny days and only 2 cloudy and rainy ones. The Gold Coast is a long stretched city with the majority of the high rise located at Surfers Paradise. The high buildings only look good at night when all the lights are on. The environment was very green compared to SA. Since the Gold Coast is on level 5 water restrictions, it must be the sub-tropical climate.

It was good fun for every one and we had plenty of time to do all the rides, shows and other attractions in all 3 parks. Sometimes we did 2 parks in one day. The last day we were done in Movie World at midday, so on our way back to the airport we had time to have lunch at Tamborine Mountain and see a bit of the surroundings. It was a beautiful drive with nice views on the Gold Coast. That last day we did 4 states. Queensland, where we stayed, New South Wales, where we filled up the car because we missed an exit on our way to the airport, Victoria, where we had a stopover, and SA, back home.
(Cl 24 April 2008)

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The English cuisine

A lonely planet author has made up sections of his books. That totally explains the disappointing meal we had at the in the lonely planet recommended seafood restaurant Paul's in the city more than 2 years ago. The best seafood restaurant is in Streaky Bay, as far as we are concerned.

Shortly after we arrived I bought some cooking magazines. I looked through them, but because I had to get adjusted to so many things I couldnít be bothered to learn about cups, bicarbonate of soda and other unknown things. Recently I rediscovered them, and because I now know all about cups (actually easier than grams/millilitres) and where to find that soda (baking products), I gave it a go. And with success. Self-saucing puddings (never heard of before, but according to the magazine something grandmothers here already made) are one of the childrenís favourites. Roasts, very easy and tasty, lamb (either as a roast or on the bbq), all sort of steaks (sirloin, porterhouse, rump, etc for instance where in Holland it's mainly pork), pies and things like pumpkin and sweet potatoes are on our menu now. What we eat has changed anyway because of the (slightly) different supermarket supply. We like the English cuisine.

Sadly Roughs, the guinea pig, has passed away. We buried him in the front yard. There is another large hole in the front yard, from the septic tank. About 4 weeks ago we got a letter from the council that the septic tank was going to be emptied and that we had to get the lid exposed for pumping. We'd never seen a septic tank in our lives, but we had a look around and saw a lid. A day before the emptying the council came to check. What we had seen earlier was just an inspection hole and the actual lid was about a meter deep in the ground. So we spent the rest of the afternoon digging in the hard, solid ground until after 4 hours there was still no lid in sight (and we began to doubt if we were even digging in the right location) and we gave up. Luckily the council allows for people like us and on the day itself they had an excavator ready and dug the hole in no time. Because we had made an effort we didn't have to pay the $100 fine they usually charge. If we had known this upfront we would have been happy to pay and save us the work. We might do that next time, because this has to be done every 4 years.
(Cl 15 April 2008)

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Danggali Conservation Park

The heatwave lasted for 15 days and was over in time for Easter. I read Australia wants to make its own tradition and tries to introduce the endangered Bilby as the Easter Bunny. I'm just afraid not many eggs will be delivered then, since there are hardly any bilby's left.

We decided to go camping for the long Easter weekend at Danggali Conservation Park, a remote park located 90 km ndanggaliorth of Renmark. At least, thatís what we read everywhere. However, 90 km north of Renmark is where the park boundary is. There are a few parks, and Danggali is the northernmost. So instead of the expected 1 hour drive from Renmark, we drove 3 to arrive at the park campsite. The park is a biosphere reserve and consists mainly of mallee shrub. But because of the differences in height and density of the shrubs and trees, it has a diverse character.
We saw plenty of animals which was surprising considering the vastness of the park and the few tracks available. This park, as so many others was previous in use as a sheep station, or 4 in this instance. There are some traces left of that pastoral history in the form of a few huts, fences and dams. Only two dams we saw had water in it. In close vicinity of one of the dried out dams we came across 6 dead goats, including a baby goat. It was a very sad confrontation with the results of the drought. One of the dead goats was lying in the shade of a bush, as if it had laid down to die. In these kinds of parks we always see bones and skulls (and those stations/parks are so enormous in size, that the death of some sheep or goats go totally unnoticed), but when it is still an animal it is different. We saw a few small lizards, but we were on the lookout for the lace monitor. It is a big one we saw once in Victoria. Unfortunately we didnít see any but a lot of sticks seem to resemble a lizard, or maybe itís just me. We are always careful where we walk in these areas and usually look down to avoid any snakes and therefore almost walked into the web of a huge but practically harmless Golden Orb goldenorbWeaver, one of the largest Australian spiders.
On our way back we drove to Morgan to meet up with our mates at the Murray River. The road to Morgan is an endless dirt road, interrupted every now and then by a grid. The landscape is bushy with what the sheep don't eat and apart from the odd Homestead there is nothing for the 3.5 hours it takes to finally reach the bitumen to Morgan. So remote, that wasn't an exaggeration.
(Cl 24 March 2008)

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Heatwave

There is a heatwave going on. Twelve consecutive days over 35 degrees and it is predicted to last for another 4 days. It is the longest heatwave ever recorded for Adelaide. Rogierís basketball games are cancelled during this period and Lucasí footy training has been relocated from the oval to the local pool. The icepacks for Roughs (guinea pig) and Fluffs (rabbit) are being changed 3 times a day to keep them cool. Our lawn is dead now and turning sandy in some spots.
The combination of the heat and the hot wind has caused several (small) bushfires, and depending on the location we can smell the smoke. Despite the lack of rain, the water restrictions remain at level 3.

We try to stay cool, either inside where the aircon keeps it the temperature pleasant, or outside in the pool, the ocean (great in the evening when it is still hot, but no burning sun) or the river (great fun, but a lot of flies. I swallowed one).
Because of the drought and the water restrictions gardens arenít being watered as before. I read that as a consequence of the dry ground cracks are appearing in houses. It hasnít happened to us (yet), although we notice movements like doors that almost jam where they didnít before.

The pool takes a lot of little victims. Numerous flies and other insects, 2 huntsman spiders and 1 bird have drowned in it. Regardless of the species, I rescue everything that I see struggling (only to kill the flies again when they fly inside the house). We recently discovered 2 possums in our back yard. They were not hard to discover; they are noisy and walk through the garden as if they own it. I just hope they are good swimmers.
(Cl 14 March 2008)

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Goolwa and other things

In between the long periods of heat and sun we have had a bit of rain. The front lawn turns hopefully green after every shower, only to slowly fade back to yellow again.
We got a note in our letter box of someone interested in a plant in our front yard and willing to pay $300 for it. I googled it (Dracaena); it is a slow grower used in designer gardens. This one is pretty big and it is doing well without ever been watered, so I've decided to keep it. The plan was first to make a native garden, but during my internet search I got inspired and I will now make it a drought resistant garden with both native and foreign plants.

campingAfter Christmas we went to the river again. Lucas loves knee boarding and since he is doing so well with tricks and all, he got promoted to the wake board. He didnít get much chance to practice though because the temperature rose over 40 degrees for days and that is a bit much when camping.
We had a lot of days with temperatures over 40. The cold water from the tap is lukewarm and horses are wearing sun protection in the meadows. horse
The pool is great in this weather. Keeping a pool is said to be expensive and it is: so far we have lost 3 mobile phones in it :-(.

We have done some small trips in the area, but never long enough to finally update the Pictures page. One was to Goolwa. An interesting place because it is located near the Murray mouth and has therefore both fresh and salt water. To keep the fresh water fresh they built some barrages. The black swans and the pelicans swam on both sides, so apparently they like both waters.

Rogier starts High school coming Tuesday. He is going to the local high school, where all his friends are going. Australia has a system of public and private (high) schools, where the general opinion is that the latter is better. I have done my research, spoke to a lot of people and I requested brochures from both types of high schools. Frankly, the only major difference I've noticed is that the private schools are based on a religion and cost a lot of money. I don't think those two elements are any guarantee for quality, so Rogier can go to the school of his choice, which is a public school. I paid all the expenses, and including school uniform it was about a thousand dollars. Not particularly cheap if you ask me. He is looking forward to it, so that is a good start.
(Cl 23 January 2008)

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Saunders Gorge Sanctuary

Since Kangaroo Island was off, we were hoping to spend a few days at the beach, but the weather changed and we had a few days of rain. So our holiday plans fell through, but we were not bored.
We did a few things around the house and had a new garage door installed, so now the Nissan, which was too high for the old door, fits in the garage as well.
We went to Lobethal to see the Christmas lights. Lobethal is a small village in the hills where a lot of houses are abundantly decorated with Christmas lights.

We also went to Saunders Gorge Sanctuary for a 4WD trip which was surprising in many ways. Only about an hour away, a beautiful way through the hills to get there, and a 4WD track that can compete with the more well known ones. It is a private property, part sheep station and part sanctuary. The sanctuary is fenced off and it is amazing how much of the native plants have grown back in about ten years. As in many areaís, there are also a lot of bold, grassy hills. Basically, the native plants and bushes have been destroyed by fires, and the new growths have been eaten by sheep, so all thatís left is grass.
stonewallWhat I found quite impressive, and an interesting part of the European history, was the stone wall build by Scottish migrants in 1890. Areas like the Barossa had been divided 100 years earlier and they used normal fencing. Late 1800 fencing was expensive so they used the stones found on the land to divide the properties. The Scottish migrants were cheap because they came on the same boat as the imported sheep. Funny detail is that a lot of workers who came to work and sent money back home decided to stay in Australia and changed their name to Smith or Jones to be untraceable for the money-expecting home front.
A great day out that gave us a bit of that holiday feeling we had to do without.
(Cl 22 December 2007)

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Kangaroo Island bush fires

Last Thursday evening we drove down south where Rogier had a game. The city was misty and we could smell smoke. Lighting combined with strong winds caused several bush fires, including on Kangaroo Island. We had planned a holiday there, nine days of sightseeing and relaxation. We booked the ferry, bought the Kangaroo Island Pass and made all other preparations. We were to leave December 15th, so we read all the updates on the news and cfs website anxiously. The fires are still burning, one fire fighter died, the National Parks are closed, and more firemen are being flown in so yesterday we decided to cancel our trip. Even if the fires will be contained later this week, they might flare up with the hot and windy weather that is expected to come. We donít want to risk our safety and we donít want to be in the way. A local mp said that there was still enough to see for tourists. I understand KI (the abbreviation for Kangaroo Island, in Dutch KI is the abbreviation for artificial insemination ;-)) needs tourism but for us, we'd rather wait till it is over. And besides, we always visit and camp in National Parks, so we don't agree. We'll go another time.
(Cl 11 December 2007)

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Save the Murray

Labor won the elections. The reactions I hear around me are fear of rising interest rates and national debt, but people are willing to give them a chance for the next years to see if they deliver on their promises.
Australia has never been known as an environmental conscious country, but I think the mentality is definitely changing. Take the water crisis. The stakes are different here; it is not a matter of economising but lack of supply. Usually I read the news online, but yesterday I bought a paper which contained a token, to be swapped for a 4-minute shower sandglass. We already have a water saving showerhead, but I thought this was a great initiative. I tried it out and was so focussed on the time I had left that I forgot to rinse out my conditioner ;-) But it works great and I am happy to help save the river Murray, which is the slogan here.

We are still on water restrictions level 3. Even though we are allowed to water the lawn for 3 hours one day a week, weíve decided to just let the grass die. Some rain has been predicted, so that will just have to do. Besides, yellow grass is more Australian than the fresh green lawns. This is not England. I water my pot plants with a watering can, the rest of the plants are on their own. And most of them look good. My plan is to change the front garden into a native garden with drought resistant plants, but that is no priority until the house is all finished. We also have solar panels to provide us with warm water, so in that regards we are not doing too bad. The pool is the only water unwise thing we have. There is quite some evaporation, and we had to top it up twice so far. We should buy a solar blanket for it, which is obligatory for new pools, so we are looking into that. Personally I think the restrictions should stay at 3 and not go back. Level 3 minimum, level 4 or 5 when necessary.
(Cl 2 December 2007)

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Water fun

We have both state and federal elections coming up. We all are reminded of it by the radio and TV commercials, and by the pamphlets that come in by mail. State and Federal go hand in hand, state candidates posing with federal colleagues. The main parties involved, Labor and Liberals, donít just sell themselves, they also try to discredit their opponents. Closer to the elections the pamphlets turn into brochures and the tone gets a bit more aggressive I think.
The boys are in the last Term of the year and Rogier will be having his graduation at the end of it. Both Rogier and Lucas made the Literacy and Numeracy test, assessing the skills in reading, writing, spelling and numbers, measurements, data, space of students in year 3, 5, and 7. Both Rogier and Lucas achieved the benchmarks, with all Lucasís results outscoring the national and state averages, and Rogierís results all above national average, and 2 on and the rest above the state average. They have done extremely well in these 2.5 years and we are very proud of them.
The weather is great, 35 degrees and over. As soon as the boys get home from school, they jump in the pool. We have been back to the river where the water was surprisingly warm. It was great fun. Renovation-wise not much has happened, some projects are on the way and we take it easy. We'll have to, in this weather.
(Cl 17 November 2007)

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Bendleby Ranges

The Bendleby Ranges are located in the south east of the Flinders Ranges, an area weíve never visited before. It is a private property and a working sheep station. One big plus of a private property is that fires are permitted, where national parks have fire restrictions. So we could make all our meals on the fire and keep warm during the evenings.
giantgumtreeOn our way to the Bendleby Ranges we came through Orroroo again. On an earlier trip we saw the sign of the Giant Gumtree. This time we stopped to see it. The thought crossed my mind that it might be a fake tree, since Australia has a lot Big Things. So far weíve seen the Big Orange, Koala, Lobster, Miner and Rocking Horse, so why not a Big Tree. But the gumtree was real. Not the height was special, but the size of the trunk was big, 10.4 meters in circumference. The tree is thought to be at least 500 years old.
In the area is another attraction: Magnetic Hill. We were not sure what to think of it. The leaflets are vague, and when I spoke to a local, I knew he was not telling everything. But we were curious enough to make the little detour and sure enough, when we put the car in neutral, it rolled uphill. Pretty cool. We knew it couldnít really be magnetic, or it would have wiped the info off our bankcards and all the coins would fly to one point in the car. Back home I checked the internet and it is an optical illusion. I made little film of our car going uphill, but that footage isnít conclusive. So now we want to go back and check it out again, this time bringing a spirit level. Anyway, it was fun.
bendlebycampAt the Bendleby Ranges we had an amazing campsite of our own, with 360 degrees hill views. The property has some great 4WD tracks. There were no flies and no mosquitos, but we did see some kangaroos, emus, sheep, goats and 2 dead brown snakes, that seem to have died while fighting each other. The Bendlebyís have their own character, but reminded me sometimes of the Gammon Ranges. I love this kind of landscape; the hills, the rocks, the gum trees in the dry creeks, the pines and the black oaks. The drought is every day news in SA, and this property suffers from it as well. Normally during spring the hills would be green with grass and covered in flowers, but now the only green are the bushes and tree tops. The sheep are forced to eat the shrubs like salt bush, but they'll survive. Again, this is a place where we would love to go back to.
(Cl 14 October 2007)

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Weekend at the Murray River

AJ, as Arjan is called by the Aussies, and a mate went to the AFL semi finals between Port Power and the Kangaroos. They took Lucas with them, and although he is a Crows fan he loved it and Port won. Unfortunately this weekend the Power lost the finals with 44 to 163 for Geelong, the biggest loss in history.
The builder who did our house invited us to join him, his family and his mates to come down to the river Murray for the long weekend. murraybanksHe owns a boat with an impressive sound system and a couple of knee/wake boards. They have a camp site on a private property on the river bank. The weather in Adelaide when we left was rainy, but the weather at the river was sunny and at times windy. For us it was the first time we saw the Murray from the water. Despite all the articles in the paper about the drought and pictures of an almost empty Murray, there was plenty of water where we were and I was told that it is because of the locks. It is a beautiful river, and the banks are either high and made of yellow sand stone that seem to glow in the sunset, or low with reeds and trees where the water birds relax. The fast boats and the music donít seem to bother them. Although the water is not as clear as it apparently was 40 years ago (so I was told) it is a beautiful river. The atmosphere when we took a night ride was amazing. Calm black water, vague contours of the trees on the banks and a million stars in the sky. Apart from knee boarding (at which Lucas is a natural!) the boys did some fishing (although no fish, apart from 1 shrimp, was caught) and some arrow shooting. Real boys stuff ;-). We all had a good time and it is just too bad the long weekend is so short.
(Cl 2 October 2007)

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Onkaparinga River National Park

Yes! The North Adelaide Rockets U14 won the finals as well! They had their presentations with trophies at the Dome, the home stadium of the Adelaide 36ers. There were two 36ers players to give out the trophies to all the winning junior teams. There is a short break before the next season starts so we have planned a few short trips again. My Astra is back where it belongs: on my drive way. The day I went to pick it up I was prepared for everything I could think of (roughly ranging from "we have an Astra in repair?" to "not finished with it yet"), but it turned out there was no need for all that. It was waiting for me all shiny and as new. To give it a little exercise, we drove to Onkaparinga River NP, one of the last parks in and around Adelaide we hadn't visited yet. It is located south of the city and the road down south has koala crossing warning signs and a 100 km/hr speed limit. Seems a bit of a contradiction. The park is pretty big and follows a big part of the Onkaparinga river, the second largest river of SA. Because of spring all was green and there were a lot of wild flowers. We didn't see any wildlife apart from birds, but had some great views on the river down in the valley and the ocean. We did only one of the many walks, and again this is a park we will come back to for more.
(Cl 28 September 2007)

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Go Rockets!

Somebody told me bad things happen in three (and thanks for that). It makes me wonder what the third thing will be, assuming my phone was 1 and the car was 2. If it happens in an increasing order, well, donít want to think about that. But since Iím a positive person Iíd like to think that the phone and the car were number 2 and 3, and number 1 was when I hit my toe which Iím sure I did at some stage, or when I forgot to take home the free mug I got at the blood bank. The repair of the Astra is said to be finished this Wednesday. It will be as new and I bought a new phone so all's well that ends well (although I still donít have that mug ;-)).
I took the kids to Two Wells this Sunday afternoon. I've seen the exit a couple of times when we were heading north. It made me curious and the name is clear on what to expect. Although at Wild Horse Plain, a little further north, I don't expect to see horses. Some names are really great, especially of some mountains involving emotions. Mt Disappointment, Mt Difficult, Mt Hopeless, Mt Fatigue, Mt Misery, and more positive: Mt Remarkable, Mt Hope. I love that, because in my imagination I can reconstruct how the early explorers made up these names (a bit like: "can't cross that mountain, too difficult" etc.). But anyway, the two wells at Two Wells were in use by the aboriginals, and later by the settlers. They look like wells from a fairy tale and I don't know if the council has done that when they constructed the little park around the wells, but I expected a bit more history. The fact that it is located next to the highway doesn't add to the atmosphere. But if you are looking for ideas for your gate, Two Wells is the place to be. The gate at the entrance of the park is very beautiful.
And Rogierís basketball team, the North Adelaide Rockets, won the semi finals this weekend. It was an exciting match against a team almost evenly strong with a final score of 37-30. Go Rockets!
(Cl 9 September 2007)

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My poor Astra...

astracrashI don't think I needed my mobile more than I did yesterday. I was involved in a car crash. Not my fault. A car came from a left side street, didn't see me and hit my car on the left front side (for the non-Aussies: that is the passenger side). I was allright and so was the other driver (his first name starts with an N) but my car has severe damage. After my initial shock I was so angry at him. I didn't say it, but I know I gave him a few lethal looks. I hope he remembers that for the coming weeks. I certainly remember his face, he looked silly and I could see him saying "sorry". Not having my mobile meant not having any numbers with me to phone, and Arjan being abroad did not help either. To make a long story short: the police came, fire brigade, tow truck, the works. N should consider himself lucky that I wasn't driving the Patrol. I only would have had a scratch or two, but N's Toyota would have been a total wreck. I am glad none of the kids were in the car, and that when we bought this car, we did not only look at price and style, but at safety first. We could have taken the cheaper Barina, but those are made in Asia. We chose the Astra because it is a solid German made car. I know it was an accident but I wouldn't have mind if N had broken something (like his neck). At least his car was worse off; his front was totally smashed in. I phoned the insurance company and all is being taken care off. My initial anger has gone now although I still feel sorry for myself. It was hard to see my car again at the garage it had been towed to where I took some photos. The insurer arranged a rental with a Victorian licence plate ("the place to be") until the Astra is fixed. My Astra still smelled like new, my Toyota rental smells chemically clean as if it has to cover up for something. But I shouldn't complain really. It all could have been a lot worse. Cl 13 August 2007)

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By the way

Wanna know what Arjan is doing in Bangkok?
I'm sure he also does some work related study or something... ;-)
(Cl 9 August 2007)

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The number you have dialed, is not responding...

Weíre getting somewhere. Not totally finished yet, but the major part has been done. We had great local handymen to help us. The builder spent the most time here for the ceilings and the walls and I learned a lot from him. A few DIY tips, a few new English words (skirting, cornice and architrave) and about six different expressions with the word ďbuggerĒ in it :-) I really love this house, the more we do the more it becomes ours. As always it was more work than expected, but the results are great. We discovered a number of unexpected advantages to the way the houses are built here. It is extremely easy to add power points anywhere you want for example. They are all looped and with the hollow walls, even when insulated, cords get linked without having to damage the wall because it gets done from the ceiling. Oh, one little disadvantage about having a pool: when you drop your mobile phone in it, it stops working. The phone that is. I'm working on a "before and after" picture page, but there are not enough afters yet to show. Besides, Arjan is in Bangkok for work at the moment and he took the camera with him. Now that I'm on my own, the pace is bit slower. Or my priorities might not always be right. The doors still have to be painted, however I did plant my Wollemi Pine.
(Cl 3 August 2007)

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Renovating

June 15th was the settlement of our house and we celebrated that with a bottle of South Australian Champagne (very good!) and I bought a Wollemi Pine which I want to plant in the front yard. The inspection report we had done stated that the layout of the house had been changed a few times over the years. Together with the builder and the electrician we were able to discover what had been changed and as expected, it hadnít been done all that well. The builder has corrected the mistakes, replaced some ceilings (the worst texture paint I have ever seen, resembled a salt lake) and dry walls. There was a lot of work to be done, but it looks better every day and I am very happy with the results. The renovation of the house goes Aussi style as well. Nobody starts working at the agreed date or time, but they all do a good job and nobody has asked to be paid yet, not even for materials.
(Cl 4 July 2007)

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Two years in South Australia!

The 2 years they say it takes to know if an emigration has been successful are almost over. It seems to have been going in phases. Living and working while getting to know the people and the lifestyle, and getting to know our way around were the first few. Accepting the differences and adjusting in some areas the next, and I recently became aware that I have grown accustomed to a lot of things that I used to find ugly, strange, funny or great. These things are not remarkable to me anymore; they have become normal parts of everyday life.
Freddo Frogs fundraising, every day politeness, bush camping, prices in supermarkets (what is cheap, what is expensive), lounge/dine vs. family/meals, Bert Newton on TV (basically just one big head), the school system, iron fencing, pokies, how to prepare a koala (saw that in a museum), kit houses, the need for rain, John Howardís role (fills the news with his opinion on about every subject), footy, mutts, distances, shopping at The Good Guys (listed prices are just a guidance), the dog in the back of the Ute, Foxtel, 4WDs, endless bank fees, school uniforms, steak sandwich, Big Brother 7 (7!), Weetbix, cricket, Holden, Main North Road & North East Road.

It has been going very well for us. But emigrating has made me very aware of being Dutch, being not Australian, my accent and my limitations in the language simply because it is my second language. In that regard it is a pity that the Dutch Government does not allow dual nationality. If I were to become an Australian citizen, I would loose my Dutch nationality. And I am not ready for that yet, if ever. If I could have both, I would do it immediately. Anyway, apart from the feeling that comes with it, not being an Australian citizen gives us only one limitation: we can not vote.

Last week I had a Medication Training at the head office. It started at 9, but I ran a little late and the traffic was pretty heavy. Since being late is very accepted (more than that, not turning up is accepted) I didnít really mind and didnít rush as I would have done before and arrived at 9.10. Besides, I knew I wouldnít be the only one, and indeed, the last person arrived at 9.30.
Integration process: completed ;-)

I canít wait until the settlement and get to work in our house. Iíve only seen it twice, and by now I have forgotten how some rooms looked exactly. The real estate agent had only 4 photos on his website, so that isn't much help. Until then I have to manage with Google Earth. I have place marked the house and when I click on that, the program brings me there in no time: world...Australia...South Australia...Adelaide...north eastern suburbs...home!
(Cl 2 June 2007)

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A little piece of SA

The housing prices are expected to rise around September and we are noticing that houses are sold a lot quicker than a few months ago. Sometimes we planned to go to opens of new listings, only to find that the properties were already under contract.
We felt the pressure, not only from the expected price rise and the change in the market, but also from the @#$%$# barking mutts next door. (Such a mutt has been a reason twice to decline a house. Sometimes, when we drive past a kennel, we have to restrain ourselves not to buy 10 as some kind of counterweight. Childish, I know.) Besides, after the drought we have had some serious rain, meaning the weeds are coming back, and I donít feel much like weeding someone elseís garden anymore. (Stupid reason, I know).

We have seen many, many properties and it has been very informative and in some regards, we have adjusted our demands. Finally we did find an interesting property and we bought it. There is some work to be done, but is very liveable already and has great potential to be extended. We have taken many things into consideration, like location, public transport to the city, saleability after x years and many things more.
Iím happy. Our own little piece of SA!
Only 2 drawbacks: our plans for another long trip will be postponed, and our weekends without the countless opens will never be the sameÖ;-)
(Cl 23 May 2007)

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No News Today...

nonewsSA is a save place to live. I hear stories about people returning to SA once their children are born. In fact, it is one of the reasons we like SA.
Don't believe it? See for yourself.... Today even news.com.au has nothing to write about SA ;-)
(Cl 5 May 2007)

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Gammon Ranges National Park

The damage the wind had done to our tent poles on our last trip got us thinking. Since we were looking for other qualities in a tent anyway, we decided to buy a BlackWolf T300. It has all the things we wanted, like room to sit in case of flies/mozzies/rain, good quality canvas (a bit heavier, but more durable and cooler), but the best part is that the tent can be set up in 30 seconds. If we want to put the fly over it, it takes another minute or so. Perfect for us, because we don't often stay very long in one place.

gammonrangesThe Gammon Ranges are the most northern part of the total Flinders Ranges. We left Thursday afternoon and spent the first night at the Mambray campground again, because we knew we would arrive after dark. Because of the long Easter weekend the campsite was absolutely crowded and we were happy to be able to leave again first thing in the morning. At least the tent didn't hold us up.
In the Gammon Ranges we choose a campsite close to a 4WD track, at a creek bedding. The weather was warm and there were a lot of flies, but we are getting used to them. All you have to do is wait till after dark to cook, because then the flies suddenly disappear and there were no mozzies to take their place.
The first 4WD track we did was the Echo Camp Backtrack at Arkaroola. The Gammon Ranges are very beautiful and surprisingly diverse. Although it is all mountains, they differ in colour (red, yellow, dark brown and grey), vegetation (trees, bushes, grasses) and shapes and density of the mountains (hardly any wide valleys). There are a few beautifully shaped waterholes. At one we caught a kangaroo drinking. It was such a peaceful sight.
At the end of the track was a great look out point where we stood on top of a mountain at the end of the ranges. We could see the plains before us and to the right at the horizon we saw the white of Lake Frome (white because it is a salt lake). Before going back to our campsite we took a detour to see the Paralana Hot Springs. It is a greenish spring with hot water where some bubbles emerge every now and then. It wasnít really worth the visit, but you donít know that until youíve been there. Because of the detour we entered the Gammon Ranges NP at sunset and because of yellowfootedrockwallabythat we saw the endangered Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby for the first time in the wild! We have been in areas where that wallaby lives quite often, but we never saw the animal. Sometimes we thought we did ("did that wallaby have yellow feet?") but this time we recognized it immediately. They do not only have yellow feet, they have a very pretty colouring of the fur. Every wallaby or kangaroo we saw afterwards seemed kind of dull. We arrived at the campsite after dark which was good because of the flies, and 4WDing in the dark is something else :-).
The next day we drove the 4WD track in the NP itself. Again beautiful views and impressive landscapes.
On our way back we stopped at Chambers Gorge to have a look at Aboriginal Rock engravings. It is a pity it is so far away and not doable in a normal weekend, because I would love to come back and see some more.
(Cl 18 April 2007)

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How are we? Weíre good, thanks

I saw a commercial on the TV about a pergola that worked sort of like a blind. My first thought was: I like that, I want that for our house. My second thought was: Oops, I liked that. I guess Iím finally getting used to all that plastic. In fact, every house has a plastic/iron roofed pergola (often mentioned as a selling feature in real estate), and you canít do without them.

I like my work in Aged Care. However I stopped working for the agency. Firstly because I really disliked being called at 5.30 a.m. for a shift, and secondly, although I learned a lot and seen many facilities, I didnít find that place where I would like to work permanently. So I quit and applied for a job at a nursing home Iíd never been before. It turned out well for me. I am currently getting my medication credentials so I can work in the hostel as well.
Rogier wears his special year 7 school shirt with pride. It distinguishes him from the ďlittle kidsĒ. Last year he had some problems with terminology, but he is doing very well in school now and the teacher said he is ready for high school. He stills enjoys playing basketball for the Rockets.
Lucas has been placed in the ace math and ace Japanese class again this year and is doing well in everything. The footy season has started. Lucas loves that game and is very happy to play footy again. They train 2 nights and play one game on Sunday.
Arjan works from home which can be hard when his phone calls are interrupted by the two barking @#$#@ next door. He keeps the 4WD up to date (it still had the original steer damper that has been replaced with a solid off-road one yesterday) and loves planning trips.

I feel we all have found our place and everything is going pretty smooth. There is one thing I am still having problems with: the polite start of telephone conversations. Hello, how are you, Iím good thanks, yourself? Not too bad. With me this results in awkward silences before I realise I was supposed to say Ďhow are youí or with 2 people speaking at the same time when apparently it wasnít my turn to be polite yet. But Iíll get there.
(Cl 4 April 2007)

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Redbanks fossil site

Redbanks Conservation Park is one of my favourite parks. Today we came back for a special occasion: the Burra Visitor Centre organised a guided tour to the Redbanks Fossil site.
In the surrounding of Burra many fossils have been found and the majority are from the Diprotodon. This is the largest marsupial of the mega fauna period (100.000 years ago) and looked somewhat like a giant wombat. The tour was guided by palaeontologist Rod Wells from Flinders University and the park ranger named Ian. They both had interesting stories about the area and the fossils found.
diprotodonIt started at the Burra Council Chambers, where they have a Diprotodon skull and part of the spine on display. After that we went to Redbanks CP where we saw some Diprotodon bones still in the ground. These bones are not excavated because they are in bad condition. Besides, they have found plenty of other bones and skeletons in the park.
The other important fossil site is Naracoorte, where we visited the caves 1,5 years ago. The difference is that at the caves in Naracoorte they found more hopping animals. Because, as Rod explained, hopping animals are more prone to hop into a hole and fall into the cave. The Diprotodon, walking on 4 legs, could feel a hole with one foot and hold its balance with its other 3 legs. And the Diprotodon was too big to fall into most holes anyway.

Redbanks has only been a CP since 2002. Before that it has been abused on an enormous scale. In the 1980s it has been used by people with their motorbikes who damaged the landscape and some fossil remains. These scars (tracks) are still visible in the landscape. Back then Burra Hospital had one of the best wards in the region for fixing up broken bones ;-).
After a few serious motorbike accidents the park was closed for motorbikes in 1992. The park has been cleaned up since, and 500 car wrecks have been removed from the area which apparently has been used as some sort of dumping ground as well. The discovery of the fossils in 2001 led to the protection of the area in the form of a Conservation Park. I love this park, and the fossil site adds to the mysterious atmosphere the park exudes.
(Cl 31 March 2007)

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Mount Remarkable National Park

mtremarkableLast year when we came back from the Flinders Ranges NP we had a stopover in Melrose at the foot of Mt Remarkable. We knew then that we would come back to this area, and this weekend we did. Mt Remarkable NP has a lot of walking trails and we had perfect walking weather, since the temperature dropped till about 21 degrees.
We stayed at the Mambray Campground which has two luxuries national parks usually donít have: flushing toilets and even solar heated showers! It is a great camp site with beautiful large gum trees. We arrived late because Lucas had a party to go to first, and when had set up the tent we went for a short walk at sunset. Great views and a lot of wildlife. That night it got very windy and we had the strange sensation of actually hearing the wind blasts coming from afar before they hit our tent and went on. The gusts were so severe that we had some damage to our tent poles (still standing, but a bit crooked).
aligatorgorgeThe next day we drove to the north side of the park to walk the Alligator Gorge trail. It follows an ancient waterway. Of all the walks we did, this was the most beautiful and adventurous one. Even the kids, who are not too keen on walking, loved it. The next morning we were woken by two emus walking past our tent. They make a low noise; actually I found it similar to the sound koalas make. Before heading home we took another walk following the waterway of the (dry) Mambray creek. We saw one new animal that Rogier found. It was a dead white and red scorpion of about 5 cm in size.
The park is a beautiful forested area and is part of the Flinders Ranges (Matthew Flinders wasn't modest and named the ranges that start roughly north of Port Pirie till the Outback after himself). We did all the short walks (upto 3 hours). When we feel like walking for 7 hours or more, we might come back.
(Cl 27 March 2007)

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Kangaroos, dinosaurs and houses

Despite our busy weekends (mainly because of Rogiers basketball obligations) we take the time to do something fun every now and then. When we were in SA for only a few weeks we went to a wildlife park to, well, see some wildlife. Last weekend we went to another one, Cleland Wildlife park, and although it was bigger and more natural then the other (Gorge wildlife park), it felt different.
redkangaWe have seen so many animals in the wild that it wasnít as special as before. Why look at a koala in a fake tree when you can see them in the wild in numerous parks. But we did have a good day and had a chance to notice the differences between the different species of kangaroos and wallabies, where before they were all just ďbig and small kangaroosĒ. The most beautiful one to me is the Red Kangaroo (who can be grey when female).

Last Friday we went to Walking with Dinosaurs, the Live Experience. Since the age of 3 Rogier wants to become a palaeontologist, so we couldnít miss this one. We had VIP seats and it was a great show with good light and sound effects. It was informative, there was humour and (relative) suspense. The only thing was that because we had such good seats, we could see the way the dinosaurs were driven, and sometimes that was a bit distractive.
It was also the weekend of the Clipsal500, and Arjan took Lucas to see the V8 race on Sunday. But I have decided that next year Rogier will just have to miss a training and then Iím going too again.

We have been looking at a lot of houses, both on the internet which can be very entertaining, and at open inspections. Open inspections can be visited by anyone, and sometimes I visit a house that is way out of my price range. That is not always obvious, and often the price is not mentioned on the leaflet you get when you enter the house. Last time the real estate agent asked me what I thought of the house. I didnít want to say that it was about $100.000 above my budget, so I said there was too much noise from the street. Which was the truth ;-). I mentioned earlier that a lot of houses are old and dated, but we only recently realised why that is. Most houses are owned by one owner, and they are now at retirement age and moving on. So few houses have been updated, or when updated is has been so long ago, that it is still dated.
(Cl 5 March 2007)

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Back on the housing market

After having thought for a while on what we wanted to do in the near future (keep renting, stay in this area, stay in this state?) and the conclusion being to stay here for the kids, we decided to look for a house again. No mortgage broker this time, or any other time for that matter.
We asked 3 different companies for a pre-approval, and from all 3 we got the approval in no time. One of those conversations was with a bank, where the woman made small talk by asking us about Holland. She called herself ignorant (really?) before asking if we had been in danger there or that it has a totalitarian regime. A lot of thoughts ran through my mind, but I decided to stay nice and told her the story all tourists like, and said the only danger we have is from the rising sea level, since 40% of the country lies below that sea level. Judging from the look in her eyes I think it had been better if I told her a story about our narrow escape from the dangerous Dutch military ;-).
But anyway, weíre back to scanning the internet and I must say, compared to last year, the prices seemed to have dropped and houses sell slower. Interest rates are high though, and we are now a bit in doubt whether to buy cheaper and renovate, or buy dearer and get a house already renovated (but then it has to be our taste to some degree, and Iíve noticed that a lot of people over estimate themselves as being good DIY-ers, so the quality has to be good as well). And we have to take into consideration that is has to be saleable in approximately 10 years time. We have narrowed our search to two suburbs as before and the weekends are spent working, beaching (I know thatís not really a word but I like the sound of it) and viewing.
(Cl 18 February 2007)

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Summer Heat

It has been hot the last few days. Today is a top of 40,5 degrees. And on this very day Rogier had a basketball game that had been postponed weeks earlier because of the heat since the stadium has no air-conditioning, but they didnít cancel it this time. He had 2 drink bottles and everybody was soaking wet after the game, but they all survived.
hutchTalking about survival, I have been putting ice packs in the rabbit hutch (Rogier and Lucas both got a pet we keep in a hutch in the garden) because I am afraid the rabbit and guinea pig might get a heat stroke or worse. It might seem exaggerated but it is so hot that even Africans here can burn their skin, which I found pretty remarkable.

Our spider wasp is not affected by the heat and has been doing its job. I saw it with a slightly smaller version of that big spider. It seems the wasp is not very intelligent, but it makes up for that with persistence. At least that is my conclusion after having watched the wasp dragging the spider up and down the side of the house about 5 times before it left the spider and flew off to find a spot to bring it to. Then it dragged the spider in the neighbours direction (great idea), but came back a few times. To be sure I put away a few items I didn't want to end up as a spider hiding place. However I didn't see where the spider ended up eventually because after about an hour of indecisiveness on the wasp's part I lost my patience and went back inside.
(Cl 4 February 2007)

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Adelaide Gaol

Since January the 1st the water restrictions are up at level 3, but still no shocking measures as far as I'm concerned.
The school holiday is almost over, and we had planned to get away for the weekend to the coast on a little camping trip before all the (mainly Rogiers sports) obligations start again on the Saturdays and Sundays. Unfortunately a large rain front together with hard winds came over the state and we had to cancel our trip. I saw on the news that cars in the area we planned to visit has suffered from king waves that buried cars in the sand as far as the roof. So it was good we didn't go. I know I complained about the rain last year, but I have wisened up since then and am happy for all those who needed it like the farmers and sheep stations.

adelaidegoalWhen we were in Melbourne we went to the Melbourne Gaol, but I discovered that Adelaide has a gaol as well. So instead of camping, we went there this Sunday. It was very different from the Melbourne one, but not less interesting. Like the bricks that are piled up loosely on the walls, a cheap and simple warning system in case of an escape attempt. Since the opening in 1844 a lot off add-ons were built (the prison has been used until 1988), sometimes at the expense of the historic value in my opinion. In this jail people were hanged as well. The bodies were buried within the walls of the prison, and because European history is very recent here in Australia, there are still flowers being laid on some graves by relatives of the hanged convicts. Although it is a sad part of history, this made me smile. Because (and I don't mean this in an arrogant way) it is so totally different from history in Europe where we have remains that go back 2000 years BC. The kind tour guide named Roy made it even more interesting with his stories and the boys, who were reluctant to go because they would miss out on computer time, found it very fascinating.
(Cl 21 January 2007)

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Eyre Peninsula

Although Eyre Peninsula is mainly agricultural farmland, it has a few unexpected surprises. Whyalla is not one of them. Their slogan is ďwhere the outback meets the seaĒ. Sounds great, but it is an old steel factory village covered in red dust. It is so ugly that is has a certain charm. The area has a surprising amount of shrubs and trees, but the mountains in the area look oddly square because they are digged off for mining.
After Cowell the grain fields start, and the further south, the vaster they become. The East Coast has a few mangroves (and Franklin Harbor Conservation Park is a small but beautiful and surprisingly diverse example of that) but is apart from that not very interesting. The beaches we see are covered in seaweed and not good for swimming.
sanddrivingThe good part starts at Lincoln National Park. We have a perfect campsite at September Beach, but unfortunately it is too cold to swim. We drive through the Memory Cove Wilderness, a part of the Lincoln NP for 4WD only, with open windows because it smells so nice outside. We see a black snake crossing the road. It is a beautiful park, but the best part is the huge sand dunes at Sleaford Bay. The colours are amazing. The white sand, the blue sky, the pale green of the shrubs and the aqua colour of the ocean. We have never seen anything like this before. It is like being in a sandy desert, but better.It makes Robe look like a childrenís sandbox. Driving there is almost unreal.

saoldestrocksThe most southern part of Eyre Peninsula is Whalerís Way. It has beautiful rugged coast lines and we see wild sea lions for the first time in our lives. A lot of emus and kangaroos live in the area, but the smaller marsupials are extinct because of the foxes. We also see SA's oldest rocks, 2460 million years old.
Coffin Bay is a lively little town. Coffin Bay National Park is even better than Lincoln Park. It is a lot more diverse: sand dunes, shrubs, trees, swamp, cleared parts, sandy grounds and rocky grounds. It is hilly and has a lot of great views. While sand driving at Gunyah beach we get stuck in the sand, but after a bit of digging and deflating our tires till 16psi weíre out. To get to the Northern tip of the park you have to drive over Seven Mile Beach. Sea on the right, sand dunes on the left and no way out when the tide comes. We come across a local who is stuck in the sand with his car. Strangely he hasnít deflated his tires enough, so we help him dig his car out and he is on his way again. Near Point Sir seaeagleIsaac we see an impressive Australian sea eagle. There are some great white sandy beaches here, and although we planned to have a relaxed beach (mainly) holiday the weather doesnít cooperate very well and we decide to go to the Gawler Ranges National Park first.
On our way I see that farmers are making stone walls up against the fences. The stones are part of the landscape and I realise that I hardly see that in Australia: the use of natural materials. It looks good but it must be an enormous job with the land sizes here.

The Gawler Ranges consist of large hills with wide, vast valleys. The colours are gorgeous: red ground, pale green shrubs, the trees a darker shade of green. There are plenty of kangaroos and for some reason they always seem to cross the road first before fleeing away from our car. On a number of occasions we see a shadow on the ground and when we look up we see the awesome wedge-tailed eagle. It is not afraid of the car and keeps on gliding, looking for a prey. There are also lots of lizards to be seen. One time we see a few wild goats. The tracks in the park are not spectacular (there is only one rocky climb with great view) but there are numerous creek crossings. The creeks are dry now, but it will be fun when they are filled. It is only a National Park since 2002. Before that it was a sheep station, and apart from the sheep, everything is still there. The buildings are being renovated and can be visited. The boys love it here. There are plenty of animal bones, Lucas finds a ram horn and Rogier some shiny rocks. We camp near a creek that has a little water in it where they play. The Gawler Ranges are volcanic rocks that are over 1500 organpipesmillion years old. On a few hidden places the rhyolite is visible in a spectacular way, like The Organ Pipes.
The area South of Gawler Ranges NP have a few hidden secrets. There are a number of big granite rocks, some more impressive than others. Mt Wudinna is SAís largest and Australiaís second largest monolith. Pildappa Rock has a striking wave pattern.

The weather has finally improved and we go back to the coast. The West coast has a lot of rugged coastline which makes it more interesting than the East coast. We stay a week at Streaky Bay, where the land has been cleared with a bit too much enthusiasm so the bay looks a bit dull. We have a great camping spot with view on the bay and its pelicans. Lucas finds a dead puffer fish on the beach. He brings it home and finds out that you can puncture an empty soda can 29 times with a spike before the tip breaks off.
The boys have been wanting to fish for a long time but we donít know how to, so inspired by the many Australians around us (who come purely for the fishing), we hire a charter boat at Sceale Bay. Lucas his first fish ever caught is a tommy ruff. Rogierís first one is an inedible fish they catch often and which name I forgot. We also see a few sea lions from close by. At the end of the trip we have a few whiting, a snook and a purple throated wrasse. We are happy the service includes the filleting of our fish and we have a great meal that night.
After our fishing adventure we get a bit overconfident and buy a fishing rod with two sets of hooks. The boys have collected bait from the bay and we go to the Granites near Streaky Bay. The first set of hooks is lost when it gets stuck behind a rock. The second hook is lost when we catch a big inedible fish (the same sort we caught at the fishing trip) and we canít get the hook out of its mouth. It looked easy when the skipper did it, but this is a big fish and after 15 minutes of trying the only option we have is to cut the hook off as close to its skin as possible. Luckily the poor fish survives and swims away, and disillusioned we decide not to fish again until we learn how to unhook a fish. We do eat fish that night, but from the local store.
sealionsAnother fun thing we do is snorkelling with Australian sea lions and dolphins at Baird Bay. It is a great experience. The animals are not fed, so when they come to swim, they do it at their own free will. The same with the dolphins. The dolphins donít stay around for long, but I see two big ones swim underneath me. It is awesome.

mtiveOur next destination is Mt Ive HS, a working sheep station in the Northern part of the Gawler Ranges. I already figured by the many grids in the Hiltaba-Iron Knob Road that the whole Gawler Ranges are sheep stations, except for the NP. Mt Ive has 5000 sheep. The tails are cut off from the lambs for some vague hygienic reason, and it looks a bit weird. The sheep eat the shrubs, and when it has rained they can eat some fresh grasses which they prefer. Sometimes the workers catch the wild goats and sell them for meat. We drive a track on their huge terrain and see some more rhyolites.
lakegairdnerMt Ive has private access to Lake Gairdner and the next morning we go there. It is the 3rd largest salt lake in Australia with a length of 150 km. The lake is National Park, all the surrounding land are private. Unfortunately it is not allowed to drive on the lake, so we walk. It feels and even sounds like walking on snow.
The weather is very windy and rainy and a few days earlier then intended we head home. To save us from a few hours driving we take the ferry from Lucky Bay (which consists only of a number of shacks) to Wallaroo on York Peninsula. Because of the hard wind and waves the boat trip is not as relaxed as we hoped, but almost 2 hours later we are on our way home.

We had a few firsts this holiday. We ate lobster (firm meat but not really special), blue swimmer crab (tastes good but a lot of work) and oysters (plain not so special, but marinated...yum) for the first time ever. We ate real fresh fish for the first time (and that's a BIG difference from the supermarket fish, even Lucas said it was the best fish he ever ate). I was hoping to see some wombats in the Gawler Ranges, but apparently they sort of hibernate during the hot summer months. The sea lions were a first as well.
And usually only 4WD-ers greet each other (not in the cities), but in the inlands of Eyre Peninsula everybody greets everybody, no matter what car they drive.
(Cl 9 January 2007)

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Meet our wasp

It is Sunday and Dr. Phil is on TV. Three shows in a row and every show is about his weight loss challenge book and people who lost a lot of weight. I find it all a bit too messianic and during the third show I have enough of it and eat a bowl of potato chips. I feel better instantly.

spiderwaspLast week we went outside for tea (supper) in our courtyard, when we saw a wasp (who is about twice the size of a European wasp and has a bright orange colour) dragging a dead spider. I don't know if the spider was dead already or that the wasp killed it (and I don't want to think about where that spider had lived before!). We clearly disturbed the wasp, and I didn't want it to leave the spider near our table, so we went back inside to eat and give the wasp time to get rid of the spider, which it did.
Thankfully the spider has gone, but the wasp is still around. During the evening when I'm paperwaspinside it flies around the house and bumps into the windows as if it tries to get inside. Maybe it's building its nest somewhere. That nest is actually a nice little building, as we saw last March when we were having lunch near the river Murray. I'm not sure what to think of it, but if it takes out spiders this size, maybe I should welcome it to our garden. Herewith.
(Cl 10 December 2006)

Note:
My excuse is that Iím not an entomologist, but the two photos are actually about different wasps. The first one is called, very appropriately, a spider wasp (and there also is a wasp spider). It doesnít kill the spider, it is worse. It paralyses the spider, drags it to a nest in the sand, lays an eg on it, and the larvae will eat the living spider. I donít think I wanted to know this. But since it is one spider per egg, I hope she lays a LOT of eggs. The other one is a paper wasp. They make nests out of (self made) paper. (And next time, I'll use Google first ;-))

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Some Typical Australian Things

Summer has started (I have stained the wooden garden set that was bleached by the sun last year. Looks like new again!) and there always seems to be something going on. We had the Melbourne Cup (amazing to see how a race that only lasts for a few minutes occupies a country for weeks. It is not just the race, but it includes raffles and special lunches) and now we have the Ashes. Even in Aged Care these things donít go unnoticed. Residents are busy colouring horses (Melbourne Cup), or watching these boring (sorry) cricket games. (I would like to make a correction since I brought it up myself. The quality of Aged Care in Australia is incomparable to the Dutch Aged Care. Mainly because in Australia there is no lack of staff.)
We sent home a box of typical Australian things. TimTams, BBQ sauce, ANZAC biscuits, things like that. We included a DVD of Russel Coight (who falsely claims his surname is a Dutch word) back home. Very funny! Another funny Aussi character is Chopper, based on a real criminal. Not suitable for language lessons, and not for children, despite the mini-chopper ;-).
But the most striking typical Australian thing I saw in a home make-over show. If it had been a parody, it would have been really funny. They were improving a few windows on the outside of a house by fixing iron-roofed awnings! Some Australian things I will never get used to, but the BBQ sauce: yum!
(Cl 2 December 2006)

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The Australian Language II

Although I am participating in the everyday life I still feel like more like a tourist then a real inhabitant. Partly it's because of the hills and the beautiful gum trees, but another aspect is that we want to travel! We want to discover the country. There are so many beautiful places and we want to see them all. Since the country is so big we are considering to either live in each state for a couple of years (not really serious), or taking time off for travelling in between jobs or something (considering it), but there never seems to be a right time for that since we have to consider the kids (school and friends) as well. One day I would like to be able to make that puzzle in no time.
But the main part is the language. Everybody asks me where I'm from so I'm always reminded that I'm a foreigner. I wanted to work to learn the language better, but I think I have to be careful not to learn some old fashioned out-of-date English from the residents, who by the way think Claudia is an unusual and old-fashioned name ;-). And I thought I had an international name...
Another thing that doesn't make it easier is that the English words we use in the Dutch language don't have the same meaning here. What we call "second dribble" in basketball, is double dribble here. And I had a very confusing conversation with someone about Lucas' Footy team about the coach and the trainer. In Dutch (the English word) trainer is a coach. And the English "trainer" was a first-aid person. Or "lolly" that means candy and not (as in Dutch) lollypop.
And then of course there are the words that are Australian, and often not in my dictionary. Words you only learn when you live here. And although I consider myself to be good at English, I sometimes hear myself say stupid things. But that's ok, because my audience is mainly partially deaf anyway ;-)
(Cl 2 December 2006)

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Our Serious Truck

Lucas got a 1000 piece Jigsaw puzzle of Australia and we found the pieces of SA very easy because we recognized the names of the villages we visited, and those we plan to visit. We are planning a trip to Eyre Peninsula (Western part of SA) in the summer holiday and that is the last big part (except for the deserts in the North and Kangaroo Island) that we haven't seen. A good thing about travelling - apart from discovering SA- is that it creates memories, where we were totally blank before.
Another thing is that we learn a lot from every trip equipment-wise. The car has been pimped even more. We have a big fridge in the back, an extra battery (for that fridge), an UHF two way radio, sand flag, roof rack and sack and a snorkel. I am probably forgetting a few things, since this has been done over the months. Not all the things are necessities, like the TV card for the notebook and a thing to get the TV sound over the radio and thus the loudspeakers (from my clear description it is obvious that those are Arjans toys). We are having an awning made that we can attach to the roof rack to get some shade. The car looks really great. Someone called it "a serious truck" and I totally agree. We are ready for any terrain now.
(Cl 28 November 2006)

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A new Jim's

The other day there were two persons who though my accent was Canadian. I never heard that before, but I find it kind of interesting. I donít know what a Canadian accent sounds like. I do know that Canadians are made fun of by Americans, same as Australians makes fun of New Zealanders. Ah well, as long as they meant the British-Canadian accent and not the French-Canadian accent, Iím not insulted ;-)

The weather varies from hot (38ļC) to warm (about 23ļC). It depends on the direction the wind is coming from. (North=desert=hot, South=ocean=cooler).
The well-known problem Australia has with droughts are getting worse, and it is expected that water restrictions will be announced in the near future (of which most are plain common sense and could be used the whole year around imho) and water prices will go up. On the other hand, Holland has an opposite problem. It is expected to be permanently flooded in 50 years because of the, among other things, rising sea level. So we all have our problems.

I read Ikea has a service where they recommend an assembly service if you donít want to do it yourself. I suspect it to be Jim. After Jimís Roofing, Jimís Fencing, Jimís Mowing, Jim's Anything, etc, I expect to see a Jimís Ikea Assembly Service trailer real soon.
(Cl 14 October 2006)

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Burra Creek Gorge / Red Banks Conservation Park

shinglebacklizardThis weekend was a long one because of Labour Day, and we, inspired by our Camping Guide SA booklet, went camping at Burra Creek Gorge, near Burra. We had a great spot, close to the creek and a view on the hill. Burra itself is an old mining village and we went to see the large open cut mine, but spent the rest of our time in the 2 beautiful parks.
The gorge is not very big; most of it is private land, but there was enough for us to enjoy. The kids spent their time fishing with a cup and caught numerous little fish, and Rogier even caught a yabbie. They didnít want to swim because Rogier was bitten by a leech while he was standing in the water.
Burra and surrounding consists mainly of extensive farmlands, large green fields and brown treeless hills, but there are a few beautiful natural spots left. The Burra Creek Gorge is one redbanksof them, the Red Banks CP is another. It is a big park with large cracks in the earth revealing its bright red colour. There are permanent waterholes, once used by the aboriginals and later by the settlers for their stock. We saw some kangaroos, and a Shingleback lizard who tried to scare us by showing his blue tongue. It is a hilly park, but the red earth is only visible where the earth has split, so you only see it from certain positions, and often only when youíre close to it. It was a very surprising park, a bit mysterious even.
Leaving the park we saw a bearded dragon crossing the road with its tail up. We stopped the car and this one sat nice and still so I could take some photos. I also discovered a big Ė and I mean big- spider (probably a Whistling Spider) while unfolding our chair that had been lying in front of the tent. I was so glad that it was our last day anyway (because I donít think I would be sleeping very relaxed afterwards) and that it had chosen our chair instead of my shoes that had been standing there as well. But we like this way of camping, and no spider is going to stop us from planning the next one.
(Cl 3 October 2006)

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Weeds

We are well in our second year and I can already say it is different. We know our way around the city, the neighbourhood and the region. We know our way around companies and organisations (where to go for what). Driving on the left is the most normal thing to do and we have no more firsts.

Same as last year, the Adelaide Crows didnít make it to the finals (it will be between Sydney Swans Ė West Coast Eagles). We had planned on seeing another game, but the footy season is over before you know it. And time goes fast. We have to be careful to not just live our lives with all its obligations and forget to enjoy the things that make life here special. That is easier now that spring has begun. So last week we went to a winery, beautifully situated in the hills for lunch. We enjoyed it very much and as always we said to each other that we should do that more often. There are a lot of beautiful things to see, but because of the vastness of the country most destinations require a complete journey. We bought a camping guide of SA to plan some weekend trips and hopefully discover some nice places closer to home.

The landlord made a remark about the weeds in the garden. We have been weeding, but not very often and it grows back at a rapid pace. Apparently it is in the contract, so we will have to do it more often. Iím not sure what he would think about our little olive trees. I promised Lucas one so he could grow his own olives. We couldnít buy one because they are considered weeds, but we got 2 little ones for free from the winery. I put them in a pot, and since they are weeds, I expect them to flourish in no time ;-)
(Cl 23 September 2006)

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A little mentality shift

Rogier stopped playing for his school basketball team because he wanted more. Three weeks ago he did a trial for the Rockets basketball team, and the other day he received a letter that he is in! As instructed in the letter, I called the person on the given date who could tell me the date and time of his first compulsory training. This person had no idea what I was talking about, she didnít know about the letter and any date for the first training would not be known to her before September the 24th anyway. She said she would call me back after that date to give me the required info. After I hung up I made a note to self to call this person September 25th. Because I know she wonít call me.
On June the 16th photos were made by a photographer of Lucasí footy team. The footy season is already over, and the photos are still not ready. Although these things still surprise me, I am learning to deal with these situations. Because I know that the photos will arrive eventually (ďLucas, do you remember when you were 8 and played footy?Ē ;-)), and that these things work both ways. I know that if Rogier wonít be at that first compulsory training, it wonít be a problem as well.
(Cl 19 September 2006)

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I wonder...

Why did the designer of the Adelaide Crows costume choose matching socks? Just dark blue would be so much better.
Just wondering, that's all.
(Cl 2 September 2006)

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Glad to be here

A few weeks ago we were warned by the Magpie that spring had started. And we have had quite a few beautiful warm days already. Everybody knows Australia has a water problem, but as soon as the sun comes out, people start watering their front lawn. The majority does that on a daily basis, regardless of any rainfall predictions.
To be honest, I contribute to the water shortage. Since I have my own car (well, it's ours but I use it the most) I have noticed that washing your car is not just a Sunday activity, but also a necessity. The main problem is dust, and it looks so much better when it is shiny. I try not to get too obsessed, but if everybody would open and close my car doors only at the handles to avoid finger prints, that would be great ;-).

I meet a lot of people at my work. They all ask me where I'm from, and why we came to Australia. Their conclusion is always that Australia is such a great country. Well, it is, but the weather, nature and the space have a lot to do with that. Some things are not so great, but you never can have it all. But when I (only used to the wishy-washy legal system in Holland) read a news article like this [old news article removed from news.com.au regarding a deserved high penalty given] I think: Yes, I'm glad I am in Australia.
(Cl 28 August 2006)

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Goal Umpire

Lucasí Australian Football season is over. Last Sunday they had their last game and Arjan had to be the goal umpire. He said that no matter how big the project was he had to do for work, he has never been nervous. But for this, he was. He did his homework, downloaded the rules from the AFL website and talked to a few people to find out how many points you get when the ball is touched by the opponent before it reaches the goal and things like that. So he put on the white ice cream salesman coat, hoped for an easy game without too many goals on his side and waved and flagged. Besides just two little unclear situations when at one point the referee asked him: ďAll clear?Ē (ErrrÖ.what clear?), and a gesture Arjan mistakenly made that meant the ball was out which he corrected quickly, he did great. But it would have been so much easier if Lucas had chosen soccer.
(Cl 28 August 2006)

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Southern Right Whales

whaleIt is whale season and we saw on the website of the SA Whale Centre that a few were spotted in Middleton on Fleurieu Peninsula. The sighting was from a day earlier, but it was a beautiful day and we decided to drive down there anyway. And we were lucky. Amazingly close to shore we saw 2 adults and 2 calves swimming. The calves stayed with the adults all the time. They stayed in the same area so we could see them very well and it was a very special sight of something I'd only seen on TV before.
(Cl 13 August 2006)

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Melbourne

melbourneArjan had to go to Melbourne for work for a couple of days and the kids and I joined him on Saturday and stayed for four days. Melbourne is a big, busy and lively city. It has a modern city centre and there is a lot of building going on. We stayed in the Nunnery, a bit primitive, but on a great location in the Fitzroy suburb, near the city centre. We started at the Rialto Tower at the observation deck on the 55 floor where you get a good view of the city. We ate in Chinatown and went to an IMAX (3D) movie about the deep sea. On Sunday, after a great breakfast at Gluttony's, we went to the Luna Park in St. Kilda. The kids had a great day there. We were back at sunset, right in time to see the possums in Fitzroy Gardens. It is a park in the city centre, with a lot of possums who come out after dark. Lucas saved his last cookie that he fed to a possum. On Monday we went to the Melbourne aquarium. On our way there in the free city circle tram Lucas found out about an old jail, so after the aquarium we went to see the Melbourne Gaol. It is an (relatively) old jail where Ned Kelly was hanged. Tuesday was our last day. We spent the entire morning in the Melbourne Museum and the afternoon in the Docklands at the Leonardo Da Vinci Machines exhibition. I felt like a real tourist; camera around my neck, tired feet at the end of every day and almost getting broke on entrance prices.

Adelaide
Adelaide is considered boring. And compared to a city like Melbourne it is. Melbourne has plenty of choices on what to do. There are more museums, (international) exhibitions, great stores and so on. But being a bigger city has also its downsides. It is dirtier (rubbish on the pavements), to name a little thing. More homeless people.
Adelaide has a pleasant atmosphere, easy going. So Adelaide for living and other cities for visiting and staying informed would be a good combination.
When we were flying over Adelaide on our way back it was dark and we saw the millions of lights. It made me think back when we arrived a year ago. We had no idea what to expect, what the city was like and how it would all work out. But this time it felt like a homecoming.
(Cl 12 August 2006)

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A little update

The school holiday has ended and term 3 has started for the kids. I finished my course and did very well at my placement. The head RN wrote in my logbook: ďEstablished very good rapport with staff and residents. Highly regarded by staff for commitment and approachĒ. I used this in my Aussie wow-I'm-so-great-resume. I am working for an agency now on a casual basis. Other then the freedom this has no benefits for me (on the contrary, I had to pay an administration fee and buy a polo shirt with their logo on it) but the plan is to find a facility this way that I like and where I could work. We'll see.

We bought a new car, a Holden. It's a step closer to our integration ;-). Holden is the same as Opel in Europe. It's a very popular brand and you can buy all kinds of merchandise with that logo on it. I like this car. It drives much lighter and more silent than the patrol and especially the parking is much easier.

As far as the house we wanted to buy is concerned: itís off. After we overcame the obstacle of having a mortgage consultant (who kept trying to squirm his way back in), we couldnít overcome the fact that Arjan was still in his probation period of his new job. So weíll be living in this neighbourhood for a little while longer. This has its advantages. Renting here is much cheaper than buying, the children can walk to and from school and we donít have to renovate. And that last part, knowing how most Australians keep to their promises like returning calls, has saved us from a lot of nightmares.
(Cl 28 July 2006)

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Morialta Conservation Park

Morialta Conservation Park has 3 falls. Last year we saw the first one. Two weeks morialtakoalaago we decided to visit the other 2. It is a beautiful park with high rocky hills, lots of trees, numerous brightly coloured birds and the best thing is that is so close to the city. Near the car park is a clear map with all the different walks highlighted in different colours. Most walks are loops and we decided to start left. The path starts very steep straight away and after our first look-out, the path divided into two and both paths had the same signs. Those signs were not colour coded but had unknown names so we choose one side, which later turned out to be the wrong one. We didnít see any waterfalls but had really great views on the city and a koala in a tree. After a while we saw more signs in 4 different directions which seemed more like roads instead of walking trails and we decided to go back.
The next week we returned. We were early and there were ribbons of misty clouds between the hill tops which gave the park a mysterious glow. We started the walk on the right side this time. I took a picture of the map just in case, but that turned morialtafogout to be unnecessary. This path had lots of colour coded signs so we knew we were going the right way. When we reached the second waterfall we saw a sign that the path to the third one was closed due to uneven surfaces and damaged bridges. But we don't mind having to go back another time. It is a great piece of natural environment and only a 20 minutes drive away.
(Cl 28 June 2006)

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Ngarkat Conservation Park

ngarkatcpThanks to the British Queenís birthday we had a long weekend and headed East to Ngarkat Conservation Park for some great 4WD sand driving. Itís a big park which lies both in Victoria (where it is called The Big Desert and we visited during our holiday) and in SA. Itís a beautiful park with a lot of different landscapes. Maybe that has to do with fires that occur every now and then. There has been a recent one in January, and the effects of that were clearly visible on a dazzling scale. We drove to Mt Rescue where we had lunch and enjoyed a view of the park with nature 360 degrees as far as the eye could see. Amazing to see no building, rural ground or road (apart from the sand track), and hear no traffic. Impossible in Holland. We saw the usual kangaroo, emu and eagle.
We had one day left and spent that in Monarto Zoological Park, since it is located on the way back. It is a safari park on a large scale with limited animals and without natural habitats. But nevertheless we had a great day and were back home in time to watch Australia-Japan!
(Cl 12 June 2006)

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1 year anniversary (time goes fast!)

Itís been almost a year now, so time for a little review. I can hardly believe that it has been a year. On June 8, 2005 we arrived in South Australia without us ever been here before. We sold our house, left a good job and left everything behind to move from Holland to the other side of the world. It surprised a lot of people we did that, without having the same security of a job and a house over here. We didnít see that as a problem, we saw it more as an adventure.
The only thing that was difficult to decide was where to live. Our skilled independent visa gave us no restrictions so we could go anywhere we wanted. We planned to go to Brisbane, but for some reason we changed our minds and converted our tickets to destination Adelaide. And that is the only doubt I sometimes have, if that was the right decision. Especially when it has been raining for days in a row (SA the driest State? Yeah right, in the Simpson Desert maybe!). Or when the temperature drops below the average. Before we left Holland I got rid of my scarves, gloves and caps in a more or less ritual way. And I had been looking forward to that for a long time. Cold weather no more! That was a bit premature. It can get cold here. Not as cold as Holland, but nevertheless, a scarf is needed in the morning. The temperature can drop pretty low at night, and although the temperature rises till about 17 degrees during the day, it is pretty chilly waiting for the bus in the morning.

I remember the day we arrived so well. Once we were through the customs a friendly man told us we could walk on and didnít have to wait in the long line where the baggage was checked. From then on it seems we met only friendly people. We can honestly say it has been, and still is, a great experience. It is very interesting to see how things work in another country. Even the things we donít like, or have difficulty getting used to. The Australian culture is not that different so we didnít have a big culture shock (only a little one, about the laidbackness).
The mentality of the Australian is friendly, relaxed, and helpful. Donít ask an Australian for something (e.g. in a shop) when youíre in a hurry, because he will take his time to help you. While you are looking on your watch and think: never mind, Iíve got to go, the Australian is getting his colleague, because he might be better able to be of your assistance. Half an hour later you can finally leave. It is no use to be in a hurry here, and few Australians are.
Friendly and helpful is fine, relaxed can be testing sometimes. I wrote it before, relaxed and lax are often interchangeable. And a lot of things take a long time. To us that is frustrating, but that is just how it works over here and nobody gets annoyed. Everybody accepts if deadlines are overdue.

The average Australian eats out about 3 times a week. Food is cheap (and with matching quality often) so it is very affordable. And there are numerous restaurants, of which the most are some sort of fast food. It generates a lot of employment and it is interesting to see how they keep a big part of the economy going like that. Where in Holland it is important to work cost efficiently which often means a cutback in staff, here it is the opposite. Okay, the pay is a lot less here, but we are still amazed about the amount of people working in shops, restaurants etc. Sometimes it is totally unclear what their position is. Like the person in the supermarket who walks behind the checkouts, and it is not for security reasons. But again, it keeps the economy going.

Sometimes we had a little language barrier. I remember in the beginning we received a leaflet about a recycle company. One of the highlights listed was that it was ďundercoverĒ. That confused us. Doesnít the Australian want to be seen while recycling his bottles? It took a while before we realised it was literally undercover, meaning sun protection. Arjan had another language problem the other day with the girl at the meat products, which resulted in him feeling the need to shop in another supermarket for the next few months ;-)

I like the nationalism of the Australians. It is good to be proud of your country. A funny example of this I saw the other day. The Australian world map is different. We have North and South America on the left; they have Africa on the left, which positions Australia in the centre :-)
The child friendliness of the country (both in the facilities like playgrounds and the peopleís attitudes) is great.
And one small but remarkable change is that we are listed under the ďVĒ instead of the ďWĒ now with our surname, so weíre one letter up.

Our conclusion after a year is that both Holland and Australia have their advantages and disadvantages. Gain some, loose some. Although we think Australia has more advantages over Holland, it is no paradise here. But we feel that our quality of life is much better here. That is mainly because of the people, the weather and the nature. And quality of life is, when it comes down to it, the most important thing. And do we miss Holland? No. There are people we miss (and some food believe it or not), but not the country. We are happy over here.
(Cl 4 June 2006)

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P-Plate!

Good news. I got my driver's licence! I passed the last test yesterday morning so I can exchange my L-plates for P-plates. I liked driving with L-plates, because other drivers are very considerate and made it easy for me. I think they feel sympathy because they have been through it themselves. That sympathy is over once you become a P-plater. They are considered annoying and careless. I will be the exception of course :-)

deepcreekIn the afternoon we went to Deep Creek CP in Fleurieu Peninsula. We were looking forward to do some 4WDriving, but 2 tracks were closed (one because of the rain, the other because of a fungus). There was one little track left which was open and led to a secluded beach. We'll keep that in mind for spring. The weather was clouded and rainy, but because it is near the ocean rain blew over quickly and we saw some beautiful skies. Dark and white clouds where the sun shone through with clear rays which gave the dark ocean a beautiful sparkling. The hills were beautifully lid with sunshine and dark shadows. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera (and the spare camera we keep in the car in case I forget my camera was left at home as well) so I have only two pictures made with Arjans mobile. I like this Southern part of SA. It has an open, hilly and varied landscape.

Last Wednesday my placement started. It was shocking. Of everything I learned in school, nothing was put into practice there. I didn't expect everything to go according to the book, but nothing... I really hope this place is an exception. I have to do this well in order to get my certificate, but I wonder I they want me to do well the way I learned in school, or if they want me to do well blending in with the other carers (whose number one priority is time management, and unfortunately, that is also their only priority). This, by the way, is not an Australian problem. There are numerous horror stories from Dutch residential care facilities I heard and read about. I just hoped it would be better here.
(Cl 4 June 2006)

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Busy

semaphoreIt's very Dutch to say we're busy, but we are. Arjan with his new job (he even had to go to Sydney, really hard work) and my study is taking up a lot of time. I have school 5 days a week now and have to do 7 written assessments, of which I handed in 3. Then I have 2 driving lessons a week and try to go to the gym 3 times as well. There's the arrangements for buying a house (not 100% certain yet) and we have only 10 Freddo's left, so we worked hard on that as well :-). The financial year is coming to an end, which means we have to look into the Australian tax declaration. Fun stuff.
Today we took it easy and went to Semaphore Beach. When the sun shines the weather is fine, although a bit cold because it is autumn.
Time goes fast: another 3 weeks and we have been here for 1 year!
(Cl 20 May 2006)

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36 Freddoís to go

Lucas brought home a box of 48 chocolate Freddo Frogs from the Footy club. They are to be sold at $1 each to raise money for the club. The box is standing on the counter in the kitchen which is a dangerous place and so far we spent about $12 in just a couple of days.

I started my official driving lessons. It is going well. The instructor is a nice guy. He tells me to keep as left as possible, because "we donít want to break the law". Donít stop over the white line because "youíre breaking the law". (Which always reminds me of Judge Dredd. ďI am the Law!Ē)
When I am the passenger I remind Arjan when he is doing 62 km/h he is breaking the law. He really appreciates that ;-)
There is one major difference in driving here (apart from the left side of the road) and that is the indicating when changing lanes or diverging. Here you indicate to state your intention and then you look if you can go. In Holland you only indicate when you are actually going. The rest is pretty much the same.

The house I wrote about earlier wasn't what we are after. Online the photos often look great, but irl it is often a different story. Some real estate agents only take photos of the presentable rooms. So you know that the rooms they haven't photographed are probably nothing. Others are so impressed with the bed or the sofa, that they take a picture of these things instead of the bedroom or the lounge. It is sometimes amusing to watch the pictures. Often the photographer is reflected in windows or mirrors. Sometimes there's a dog visible in the garden. One picture was of a pretty modern lounge with a big wide screen TV, but with an antenna on top of it. So you can watch the 5 public networks on your big telly, if the reception is ok.

We have seen another house though we like. The funny thing is that this house was not on our list. There were just a few photos on the internet which were bad and we were simply not interested. When we were driving through the neighbourhood we saw the open sign from the real estate agent and we stopped to have a look. When I saw the bathroom I suddenly recognised it. We both liked it and we are even thinking about making an offer. So, to be continued...
(Cl 5 May 2006)

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An alien mutated bird-grasshopper-spider

mothI thought I was getting used to the Australian insects, but this thing both horrified and fascinated me. Lucas saw it on the kerb and we didn't know what it was. It was 10 cm big and looked like a grasshopper, had spider-like legs and feather-like hairs on its head. Lucas and I went home and returned with a photo camera and a ruler to take pictures as evidence. Back home I tried to find it on the internet. What to use as search string. Mutated grasshopper? Alien spider with wings? I have never seen anything like it. After some thought I tried it with the word insect and although I haven't found it exactly, I think it is some sort of moth. A huge, magnified one. But I'm still not convinced it wasn't mutated :-).
(Cl 29 April 2006)

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A spider, a sheep and a Galah

This morning I was still in the bedroom when I heard Lucas say to Arjan in the lounge: ďLook behind you in the bookcaseĒ. I knew enough to stay put until I heard the front door or the spray can. It was the front door, which meant it was a non-venomous spider. Still a scary one, a big huntsman. It has rained, and that is when they come inside. House builders make it easy for the spiders. There are cracks under the front and back door where a big spider doesnít even have to bend its knees to get in.

There is a house on the internet weíre interested in, especially because of the location (near where we live now, but a different suburb). The open is next weekend. Iím very curious, because thereís only one picture online, and the information given is in authentic real-estate agentís language. It says things like: Ďbeautifully renovated spacious homeí and Ďall the hard work doneí. That sounds good, but we know from experience it doesnít really mean anything. Even a Ďnew kitchení doesnít mean that the kitchen is actually new, as we saw last week.
It is amazing what they use as features sometimes. I read about one home that it ďis close to Harvey NormanĒ (a big furniture store). Who would consider that a bonus? Another thing are those (iron) sheds, always mentioned as a feature. Thatís a cultural thing. Where for the Australian the shed canít be big enough, we think it takes up precious garden space. We visited one house where the street had a koala warning sign. Now that's a feature! Koalas in the garden! But that was also the house with the 'new kitchen', and it had no heating unfortunately. In the meantime weíve seen some beautiful homes as well, very modern, so thatís good. Itís not all old and dark brown. Still, itís difficult, because the houses are totally sheepgalahdifferent. They are built differently, and with different materials. I heard that Aussi houses are not built to last 50 years, which would mean that you do indeed pay mainly for the land.
A positive side to this house search is that we get to know the neighbourhood real good, and sometimes we see touching things on the way. Like the friendship between a sheep and a Galah.
(Cl 18 April 2006)

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Ikea!

This morning when I left the house I found the new Ikea catalogue in the letterbox. The Ikea opens a branch in Adelaide on April the 20th. Great! I love Ikea! In Holland we have 12 Ikea stores. I think everybody has something from Ikea in their home. I'm looking forward to strolling down the shop, gaining ideas, browsing through the nice thingies. Eating yummy hotdogs and apple pie.
I had a quick brows through the catalogue, and I didn't see anything new. Maybe they want to try out the Adelaide market first. We'll see.
Ikea is not all fun though. Thinking a bit more about Ikea, the bad memories arise. I guess it's a bit like childbirth. As soon as it's over you've forgotten all about the pain. I can still see us sweating over our Pax/Lomen wardrobe. Because one of the reasons the store is cheap, is that you do it yourself. So once you've bought the wardrobe, you drag it home, open the packages, find the manual, and when you look on your watch, you realise that it is already dark outside and you should have had diner hours ago, but are still not finished. Another thing about those wardrobes (and a lot of other Ikea furniture) is that, once you've managed to construct them, you have to leave it that way. You can't do it twice. Well, you can, but it does never look the same. That is why we sold our Pax/Lomen in Holland. For a cheap price, but the buyer had to take it apart himself. It was good to see someone else sweating over it for a change.
Ikea. In English it sounds a bit like "I kill ya" according to Lucas. Rogier and I think it sounds like a Japanese martial arts yell. Ikeaaa!
(Cl 10 April 2006)

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Easter in Autumn

Just when I wrote the weather was still good a few days ago, it started to rain. Although the temperature was still about 20 degrees it was cold because it was cloudy. It gave me the "dark days before Christmas" feeling (especially because it is dark at 6 p.m. already), but next week it's Easter. We know Easter as a real spring celebration. The Dutch Easter bunny is accompanied by green grass, yellow chicks, frisking lambs in the meadow, daffodils and sunshine. In Australia, with the opposite seasons (and I checked it in the advertising brochures: no lambs, chicks or other yellow coloured things), it has nothing to do with spring. Here it's just the bunny and chocolate eggs. Which, by the way, are expensive.
Today the weather has changed for the better and the forecast is good, so we can still get a bit of the spring-Easter-feeling.

Lucas joined the local footy club. They are actually called "the Kookaburra's". A good name ;-)
(Cl 9 April 2006)

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Looking for a house

Autumn has begun. The weather is still good, but the mornings and evenings are cooler and it gets darker earlier every day. At the beginning of this month the daylight saving time started, which means it gets dark even sooner.
Arjan's got a new job, Lucas joined the local footy club, Rogier's school basketball team has made it to the finals, and I am still enjoying my study.

We are orientating on buying a house. It is difficult to decide on where to live, but for now we are concentrating on a few areas near our current one. Back in Holland I dreamed about my new Australian House, but I soon discovered these dreams were unrealistic. I have now only two wishes left: as less sheets of corrugated iron as possible, and a bit of a view. And I'm not even sure those wishes can be met. We started our search last Sunday. Every weekend there are a lot of open houses, and we've seen about 10. I recognize certain architectural styles now, like the seventies arch, but I don't really care about the outside, and Australians don't seem to care about the inside. Most interiors were pretty depressing. That can be a cultural difference though. In Holland we live inside for most of the year, so we try to make it cosy. Another thing I've noticed is that the higher the asking price, the better the location, but it doesn't say anything about the quality of the house. Most houses are old and never updated. Important Australian features are a carport and/or garage, a shed (made of sheets of corrugated iron of course) and a lawn in front of the house. I think a large front lawn is a waste of space. Why not built the house 10 meters to the front and have a bigger back garden.
I realise that my 2 wishes are conflicting with the majority of the Australian houses. Most gardens have those iron fences (and a shed in the same colour) and block any view there might be. This is not going to be easy, that's for sure.
(Cl 4 April 2006)

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The Clipsal 500

uteSunday March 26th we went to the Clipsal 500. I can now see why SA uses that slogan. The festivals here are all great and extremely well organised. A big part of the success is the setting. The Clipsal was around the same parks near the city centre where the horse race was held and part of the Fringe Festival. That means that there is plenty of space for everybody and it's never crowded, and the kids can play and run around without bothering anybody. There are stands where people put their chairs (have to come early for that) and there are big screens were you can see the whole race. There is plenty of room alongside the tracks to watch the races. It started with small Aussi racing cars and ended with the big V8 Supercars. The V8 Utes were my favourites. Between the races were aviation shows like the RAAF Roulettes Aerobatic Team and a RAAF fast Jet salute.
It's really great to see the parks being used like that. I think we have another tradition.
(Cl 4 April 2006)

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The Festival State

SA calls itself the Festival State. The slogan is even on the licence plates. A nice thing is that you can choose from different plates. You can make your own text, choose your colour or a different slogan. We are thinking about the one that says: SA gateway to the outback, but we want to actually visit the outback first. Anyway, I think itís a friendly kind of freedom.

For some reason the majority of the festivals are all in February and March. We've seen some of the Adelaide Fringe (where I learnt the latest of my Newly Learnt Words: busker) and in two weeks we plan to go to the Clipsal 500.

Last Sunday we went to WOMADelaide in the beautiful setting of the Botanical garden in Adelaide. It had a high alternative content, judging by the clothing of the majority of the visitors and the stands with organic coffee etc. I bought a t-shirt and wanted a bag for it. The salesperson looked at me pityingly, but I wanted to keep my new t-shirt clean so the environment came in second. Sorry.
There were musicians from all over the world. Like some drum groups (the one from Japan played a few songs with an aboriginal didgeridoo player which sounded great) and the Gupapuynu dancers from Arnhem Land (where Lucas joined in the dancing). The highlight of the day for me was the All-Star Jam led by Johnny Dalsi from The Dhol Foundation (that show itself was also a highlight and they would easily fit in with any pop festival) where the different drummers together with a number of other artists, including the didgeridoo player, performed in a inflammatory show.
We had a great day and will go again next year. We have to make our own traditions again, and I think this will be one of them.
(Cl 18 March 2006)

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The Riverland

The Riverland is the part of the River Murray and surrounding land from Blanchetown till the border with Victoria. Since I have Fridays off and the primary school does not mind if you take the kids a day early, we decided to make it a long weekend and left for the Riverland on Friday. It is a part of SA we hadn't seen before and we wanted a relax weekend, so we went camping near the Murray River. The area is known for its fruit growing, but we also saw a lot of wineries. The river Murray is the biggest river in Australia and runs through 3 states, NSW, Vic and SA, where it ends. We went to the Murray River NP Katarapko, which was a beautiful park and resembled Murray Sunset NP in Victoria. Not surprising because it lies at the same latitude, but since we only have maps of regions and states because they are more detailed, you don't always see the bigger picture. But there were so many big ants and red flies of some sort in that park that we choose another spot. Near Berri and near the river where the boys could swim in the river and we could sit on the bank doing nothing. The river is used by waterbirds like pelicans, but during the weekend it is the territory of water-skiers. Water-skiers are nice to watch, especially when they fall, and for the kids it was fun because they caused waves. We also saw a few houseboats. That is something we would like to do someday, because the river is big, beautiful and runs through some amazing landscapes. It is an area where we will definitely return to.
possumAnd we got acquainted with a new (to us) Australian mammal, the possum! It is a really cute, furry, squirrel-like animal. They come out after dark, looking for food. We threw some bread on the ground before our tent and only had to wait a few minutes. Strangely enough they are not scared of humans or flashlight, and even the flash of my camera didn't seem to bother them.
Near the river was a sign about fishing. Of some sorts you may only catch a certain amount, some are protected, and the exotic (introduced) ones, like the European Carp "are not to be returned to the water alive - heavy penalties apply". I know of the problems with rabbits, the problems with foxes (introduced to eat the rabbits; in a lot of National Parks there are signs warning about fox bait), but I hadn't heard of introduced fish. So apart from being informative, the weekend was a success as far as relaxing was concerned. It was too hot to really do anything anyway ;-)
(Cl 5 March 2006)

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St Kilda Mangrove Trail

Arjan discovered this area during his work in Salisbury and it has been on our list a long time. Today we finally went there. As we have often seen, there is no transition area. The mangrove starts where the development ends. It is a truly amazing area where mangrove trees have adapted to living with salt water. It is a boardwalk trail which takes you right through the mangroves. It was low tide during our visit and we could see the aerial roots the trees use to get oxygen they can't get from the mud they grow in. It gives it a bit of a fairyland look. We could see the holes in the mud where the crabs hide until it is high tide. We read that a lot of fish and even dolphins swim into the mangrove at high tide. The mangroves, by the way, lie at the same bay where Port Adelaide is situated (where we saw dolphins in the harbour).
spiderwebWhere the mangroves were low (which indicates very salty water; the trees spent more energy on getting rid of the salt than on growing) we saw a lot of spider webs and they all had a curled up leaf in it. The spiders put it in there themselves and use the leaf as a hiding place against birds. I never imagined I would say this about a spider, but I think that's cute.
We plan on going back some day when it's high tide and hopefully see some fish, crabs and maybe even dolphins. It'll be a totally different place then.
(Cl 26 February 2006)

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The Australian language

I love languages. When we choose Italy as our favourite holiday destination, I learnt the language good enough to make small talk, order in restaurants and ask for directions. And, which is an achievement as anybody who has been in Italy knows because they talk fast: I could understand the answers.
Since Australia is not some holiday destination for us but our new homeland, I have set myself the goal to speak with an Australian accent within a few years. I donít know if it is possible to speak entirely without my Dutch accent, but I donít want to give away my nationality right away. So I am working on it. It is harder then it might seem. Sometimes when I think I sound real Aussi I have to repeat myself a number of times before I am understood :-)
I still canít order pizza with my mobile phone. When ordering from a landline you get redirected automatically to your local Pizza hut. With a mobile phone you have to state your neighbourhood to a computer to get redirected. I still havenít succeeded in that. Of course I blame it on the computer, but I know itís my accent. That is why I prefer the Australian teachers over the English ones at my course. Although the English teachers are easier to understand I learn more from the Aussie teachers. Not only pronunciations, but also a lot of words. Some words are totally new, but a lot are abbreviations. It's just something I have to get used to.
My understanding of the Australian language has improved a great deal though. I remember a few telephone conversations with our landlord in the beginning. He was talking and talking and suddenly hung up. Suddenly for me that is, because my mind was still digesting 3 sentences earlier and didn't get that the conversation was already over. That doesn't happen anymore and it gets better with practice. Where in the beginning I was translating a lot before speaking, I now do it straight in English. And in time, straight in Australian.
(Cl 25 February 2006)

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A test I failed and a test I passed

I swear I'm being tested on my "No Worries" mentality. My study started 1,5 week ago and consequently I've been taking the bus for that period. In this week and a half the bus missed my stop twice ("Oh, sorry about that"), once the driver didn't see me hail because I could see him picking up something from the floor and drove on and at least 5 times the bus was either late or didn't come at all. I failed the test. Maybe my expectations are too high. Without any it's easier. No bus? No stop? No worries. I'll try that for the next 18 weeks.
My course started with Senior First Aid, which I passed. I actually learnt that Redback and White-tailed spider bites are not that serious. They hurt, but the remedy is not, as I had imagined, being rushed of to a hospital in an ambulance, but just disinfection and a cold pack. There is one spider however who's bite can be deadly, and that is the Sydney Funnel Web spider, but he lives in Victoria, so we're clear on that. Of the other deadly animals I think we are most likely to encounter the various venomous snakes since we are planning a lot more camping trips in the future. When it happens, I know what to do.
(Cl 22 February 2006)

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The White-tailed spider

Just when I thought this would be another ordinary weekend, I discovered the famous white-tailed spider in the garden. I was watering the water feature (it gets empty quickly in this weather and I promised the landlord to keep it filled up. Besides, birds use it to drink from.) when I saw a spider with a white tip at the end of its body. I quickly looked it up on the internet to see if this was the white tail and the first picture I came across resembled my spider (a female according to the caption) exactly, so I quickly went back to take a picture. It was pretty big, bigger than the redback we had in the garage a few months ago. So now we've seen the 2 most common venomous spiders in SA. I read it eats other spiders, including redbacks, so I was in doubt for a while wether to kill it or not. But since I don't want to take a risk concerning the kids, the spider will have to come off worst.
(Cl 12 February 2006)

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Another first

I seem to be going back in time. After my Learners Permit for the car I now have a student card ;-)
There are going to be some changes in the near future. My study starts next week and the kids will be going to after school care during that period. Arjanís contract, after a few extensions, finally ends at the end of February.

1stfineAfter our first Christmas and birthdays in Australia, weíve got another first: our first Australian traffic fine. Arjan was driving on a road where recently the speed restriction had been changed. He was doing 62 where 50 km/hr is allowed, saw the infamous flash and a few weeks ago we received the fine. No meter adjustment or anything, just pay $175. For that amount (and for fun) we decided to request the photo taken. It's actually a nice one.
(Cl 10 February 2006)

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Hallett Cove

halletcoveToday we went to Hallett Cove Conservation Park on the south-west coast of Adelaide. Not too far away, because the kids still have a bit of a car OD since Victoria ;-)
280 Million years ago South Australia was covered in ice and the park has a lot of ancient landscape dating 270 million years ago, when the ice melted, forming this landscape. It is a nice compact park and the red, white and brown colours of the rocks contrast beautifully with the clear blue sky and the blue ocean. The rock surface that was both polished and scratched by the ice, and the so-called Sugarloaf hill appealed the most to me. The park is the habitat of the legless lizard. It looks like a snake, but you can tell the difference by the ear holes (which a snake has not) and the tongue, which is thicker than a snake's. We saw a snake/legless lizard but it hid so quickly we couldn't tell what it was. Then again, as if we would wanna watch the tongue and then come to the conclusion that it was a venomous snake.
A funny thing is that in Holland it was often too cold to go to the beach in the summer, but here it can actually be to warm. But not today. It was a beautiful day with a temperature of about 29 degrees, so afterwards we went to Henley Beach were we spent the rest of the day.
(Cl 5 February 2006)

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To sue or not to worry

The South Australian economy is doing very well. Sometimes that is a complete mystery to us. In our experience (and not just ours) companies and authorities hardly ever do anything right the first time. Really, the things that do go right the first time are exceptions. Numerous times we had to call 2, 3 or 4 times to get things right or go back to stores because products were defective or incomplete. At the garage (and not a sleazy one, but the official brand dealer) car problems are never fixed the first time. They say: ďSorry about thatĒ, and youíre supposed to say: ďno worriesĒ and everybody lives happily ever after. In the end the problems are solved, but why is it so hard to do it right the first time? Mistakes are made everywhere, but here it seems more like a way of life. Itís a completely different attitude. They literally donít worry (care) about it. And this is not just consumers vs. companies, but also companies between themselves. I heard stories where at work couriers donít show up, product are simply not delivered on the agreed day and without any notification (ďSorry about thatĒ. ďNo worriesĒ.) to name just a few. It is completely incomprehensible. A company working like that in Holland would be out of business real soon, but here itís all one big happy ďno worriesĒ family.

Strangely enough, on the other hand there is a suing culture, like in the US. I read an article on news.com.au about a claim made by a woman who hurt herself while visiting a garage sale. Friends of ours who have a company at home have to enter into an expensive insurance. There are no customers coming to their home, but the postman might slip and break something, and sue them for it. Unbelievable. Where is the common sense in this? Accidents do happen, it is a part of life. I could think of a few exceptions, like a drunk driver causing an accident, but these are just simple you-should-have-watched-out-better accidents. I mean, you do sue someone whose garage sale you decided to visit, but with a company that doesnít live up to its promises you just say ďno worriesĒ.
School plays it safe as well. I have to give written permission for every time one of my children takes a class walk outside the school grounds, or even has his face painted at school. A school camp cannot be joined unless 3 forms regarding the childís health are filled out and 1 where both parent and child have to declare to understand that there can be "rigorous physical activity" involved which may cause "increase of your heart rate and/or increase your risk of physical injury". Just to safeguard themselves.

Freely translated from Obelix: These Australians are crazy ;-)
(Cl 4 February 2006)

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The Kookaburra

kookaburraIíve never been into birds, but over here they seem more interesting, and not only because most have beautiful colours. Although we did not have a really positive experience with it, I do like the magpie. It is a bird with character. When we were first here we wondered why a footy team would call themselves ĎThe Magpiesí. Now we know they are fighters!
Another bird we got to know and like is the Kookaburra, nicknamed the Laughing Bird. I saw my first one in the Adelaide Zoo, but it didnít laugh. Then again, there is not much to laugh about sitting in a cage. Every now and then we spotted one during a walk, but never heard the laughing sound.
Actually we did hear it, but didn't recognize it as laughter. When we heard the sound we looked up the trees while wondering if monkeys lived in Australia and concluded that there must be a zoo nearby. And I still think the sound resembles a monkey more than laughter. Itís a real oo-oo-aa-aa-aa-oo-oo-oo sound. During our camping trip we heard and saw them often. They woke us up a number of times. Most other birds are shy and only seen from a distance. But Kookaburraís are not afraid of humans and often chose a tree near our tent or picnic table. They look funny, a bit out of proportion with a large beak and head and small tail and their feathers always seem to be a mess. They communicate loudly with each other and seem very social. It was amusing to see them choose a tiny branch which bends under their weight over the more solid ones. We like them, they have character too. I read that they even attack and eat snakes. ĎThe Kookaburraísí might be a good name for a footy team too.
(Cl 4 February 2006)

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Parts of everyday life

The day we drove back in town after our holiday in Victoria was the first time we smelled it: bushfires. There is a bushfire going on for days in the Adelaide Hills and a few days ago we could actually see the smoke in the hills. When we were in Halls Gap there was a fund raising barbeque for a family whose house was lost in the New Yearís fire. We had our dinner there. Now there are numerous houses lost in this area we visited just 2 weeks ago. I hope the rain will be of some help. I can imagine that, living in a risk area, the bush fires, or the threat of bushfires, are there all through the summer.

It has just been raining (that doesn't cool it down, by the way) and that is when the spiders come inside. Arjan just got rid of a big huntsman. I am still scared of these big spiders, but other (smaller and non-venomous) spiders and insects Iíve grown accustomed to, sooner then I expected. Where a (big) cockroach or an earwig used to scare me in the beginning, I now just put them outside. Where I bought garden gloves before daring to pull a few weeds in the garden, I now do it with my bare hands (mainly because it is too much work to check the fingers for spiders every time. I shook them, but was afraid one persistent spider might cling on so I had to check finger by finger). I think it's because I expect them now. When I put laundry lying on the floor in the washing machine, I expect at least one insect hiding so I even shake it out to save its life.

The computer of the boys stops working when the inside temperature gets above 27°C. The difference between the outside temperature and the inside temperature with airco is 10 degrees. So when the outside temp is in the high thirties, which often happens, the problem occurs. When playing games I always warn them to save it regularly, but with these high temperatures it is no fun anymore. So the computer, which always worked fine, has to be made 'SA Proof' by putting a case fan in it.
(Cl 29 January 2006)

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Halfway

Like I wrote earlier about the Australians being proud, it shows on Australia Day, which is a big thing. It is a day off for almost everyone, there are advertisements on television with the ďHappy Australia DayĒ message and a lot of people are dressed in clothes with flag pattern. We went to the city where some things had been organized (like a ute (=utility car) show, very Australian), and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed as always.
If I will ever feel 100% Australian, only time will tell. But I can make it halfway. I think a good indication might be when I have visitors from overseas and I show them around. And when they say: "Look at that car, and what an unusual colour", and I say: "Where? What car?"
When they say: "Look, those people walk barefoot in the shopping mall" and I say: "really? I didnít even notice."
When they say: "Look at those typical boots and they wear it even under a pair of shorts" and I say: "So? Arjan has them too". I think when I can give answers like this, I have made it halfway.
(Cl 28 January 2006)

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Australia Day contemplation

Thursday the 26th is Australia Day. I quote from the site: "On Australia Day we come together as a nation celebrate what's great about Australia and being Australian. It's the day to reflect on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation."

I am not Australian, I am an Australian resident. I can apply for Australian citizenship in 2 years. But being Australian is more then just living here. The longer I am here, the more I realize that I missed a lot. I donít have a past here. There is no primary school I went to, no playground I used to play, no high school I went to and no (old) friends from school, the neighbourhood or work. All those things are left behind in Holland and are of no use over here. I donít know any old Australian politicians, movie stars, TV series or musicians (unless they were international successes), childrenís books and things like that. The first 5 give away questions on “Who wants to be a millionaire” are no giveaways for me.
On the other hand life in Holland goes on. A for me unknown new TV channel has been introduced, commercials I never saw win awards and in a few years there will be famous Dutch TV and movie personalities and politicians of whom I will never have heard of.
Although I donít really mind losing touch with the Dutch society, I wonder if I, because of the lack of an Australian past, will ever feel like a real Australian. Then again, in 3 weeks my Aged Care course starts. After 6 months I will have a job. This gives me the chance of meeting more people, making friends and being an active part of society. And that might be a more important part in feeling Australian then having an Australian past.
For the kids itíll be a different story. They will have their whole life here. After 5 years they can apply for dual nationality, and I guess the Australian one will be their most important one.
(Cl 24 January 2006)

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The Australian sun

The sun over here is hotter than in Holland. Burning hot. The ground is too hot to walk on with bare feet, the laundry on the line discolours if left hanging too long (but dries very quickly), the boys tan despite the 30 spf which is supposed to be a sun block (not a problem of course, it just surprised me) and the wooden garden chairs, only a few months old, look worn already. The temperature has reached over 40°C several times these last two weeks and that is too hot to really do anything. We got an inflatable pool in the garden for the boys, and thatís about all they can do outside. With weather like this we, like every Australian, stay inside as much as possible, airco on, doing as little as possible. So much for the Australian outdoor life we wanted ;-). Where in Holland the hottest moment of the day is about 2 p.m., here the temperature rises till 5 p.m. In this (exceptional for January) hot weather the lowest night temperature last night for example was 34 įC so it never even cools down. And then thereís the unusual sensation of the hot wind, coming from the North. A breeze that doesnít cool you down but actually makes it hotter is a strange feeling. Thankfully the wind has changed tonight and we finally have our cool ocean breeze back. That doesn't make the sun less hot, but it does make it more pleasant.
(Cl 22 January 2006)

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Western Victoria

Going interstate is a bit like going abroad. There is a time difference and when you go back to SA there is even a border check, although not for passports, but for fruit fly (not allowed to bring fruit or veggies over the border). The endless grain fields in SA continue in Victoria. It is all coloured yellow, with the green from the treetops if present. The western part we visited is all rural area and National Parks, of which the rural areas are in the vast majority. And that is all, because the grain fields start as soon as the National Parks end.
The highway to Melbourne is a single-lane road. They call it highway, but there are signs to warn you for slow moving farm machinery. The small towns you come across are all the same. They have big grain silos and bearded men. A lot of these towns have serious problems with unoccupied houses, but they do their best to keep it attractive for tourists. Shopping there almost makes me feel like giving to a good cause. Another thing those towns have in common is that they are either a gateway to something (gateway to the Mallee, Wimmera, Grampians, Great South East walk, whatever) or they have won a Tidy Town award in some category some years ago.
We start with the Pink Lakes in Murray Sunset National Park. I've seen beautiful pictures of these lakes, and although the lakes are dry and therefore less pretty, the pink is still visible. Here too the salt was harvested once, but here they used camels instead of Clydesdale Horses as they did in Innes. The weather is hot and dusty with a hot desert wind, and we are the only visitors. We drive a track to explore the park. Kangaroos and magpies are scared away from their shadowed places alongside the sandy road by our car. We stay the night in an old hotel in Pinnaroo where the Christmas decoration blows in the wind of the fans. The day we check out there is a note in front of our door. The hotel is empty because of new year's day. If we will be so kind to leave the amount we owe in an envelope in our room, make our own breakfast in the hotel kitchen and leave. Charming things like this can only happen in a small town.
bigdesertThe Big Desert is only accessible by 4WD. The tracks are made of white sand. We have to deflate our tires till 22 psi. The white sand alternates with harder rusty brown ground of swamps. The desert is overgrown with mallee shrubs and trees and is very hilly. In the late afternoon it starts to rain and we check into a hotel in Rainbow. The hotel has a great balcony where we can spent our time outside despite of the rain. Although Rainbow suffers from serious vacancies, it is well maintained. In the main street is a median strip with picnic tables and hedges and little gates that often reminds me of Zoo Tycoon. Furthermore Rainbow has a few nice wall paintings.
lakealbacutyaLake Albacutya is a usually dry lake, according to our map. That sounds special so we go take a look. It is special to see and to be able to drive over what once was the bottom of the lake. Looking for a campsite we go to Lake Hindmarsh. Nice for the kids to be able to swim. On the map we see there's also a boat ramp, so what can go wrong? Well, this enormous lake is empty too. What a shock. The boat ramp is still there. The kids and I take a walk over the dried out bottom and see some fish remains. Later I am told that the lake has been empty for years because of an ongoing drought. Really, really shocking.
In the Little Desert we find the perfect campsite. It's called the Horseshoe Bend at the Wimmera River where the kids can swim. The little desert is much like the big one, but less hilly. The white sand here also alternates with swamp ground. I like the sand driving. It feels a bit like an amusement park ride.
We stay one night in a motel in Horsham, no gateway or tidy town this time, but the unofficial capital of the Grampians. We can do with a shower and clean clothes. We take a trip to Mt. Arapiles to get a taste of the Grampians. It's basically a big rock, blotted by a Telstra receiving station and used for rock climbing. Nice views from the top to the grain fields and salt lakes.
grampiansWhen we arrive in the Grampians I seriously have to adjust to the amount of people. What a bustle. On top of that we take a large commercial camping site in Halls Gap because we are all tired and don't want to look for another one, and are awoken by crying children instead of birds. Thankfully we have a 4WD and do some nice tracks (Chinaman track and Goat track, lots of rocks and steep climbs) where we are alone again.
There are a lot of trees in the Grampians. Nice of course, unspoiled nature, but it has one major downside: there are hardly any views. It's all trees and woods and although we see some great things here, I think that's the reason Flinders Ranges made a bigger impression on me. We were going for the Grand Canyon walk in the Wonderland Ranges, a walk of 20 minutes. The track changes over into the Pinnacle walk, and because we have slipped, slapped, slopped and have water, we decide to do that one as well. I don't think I ever made a more adventurous walk. This is not just following a worn path, it is rock climbing, going through ravines, very impressive. The view from the top is a bit disappointing to me, because I've seen enough grain fields, but we also can see Halls Gap and that is nice. But the walk, which has taken us 4 hours return, is better than the final view. A funny thing is that I see a lot of signs concerning the water restrictions in this area, but there's plenty of water, hot and cold, on our camping site. Apparently it doesn't go for tourists. We visit a few waterfalls, of which the McKenzie is the busiest and the most filled, and Billimina Shelter, where there are some aboriginal paintings on a nice shaped rock.
After a visit for the kids to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, a copy of a gold village (very real with hot sun, dust and horses going through the streets), we stay the night in Geelong, eat at Smorgy's all-you-can-eat on the jetty and see some dolphins swim by every now and then. Geelong is a big city with accompanying problems and prices. There is a note on our door warning to keep the door always locked and put the chain on when sleeping. What a contrast with the North.
GORThe Great Ocean Road is also busy. There is rubbish at all the stoppings and the villages are commercial centres with camping, hotels and motels and expensive supermarkets and other shops. If that’s the price to pay for being a tourist attraction, maybe SA should be glad it has not that many overseas visitors. The Ocean Road can be divided into 3 parts. The road from Torquay till Apollo Bay is pretty, the rocks of the Otway Range on one side and the ocean on the other. After Apollo Bay the rainforest starts. We spent two nights here on a great secluded camp site near the Aire River. We have a bit of rain, but you can expect that in a rainforest. We do all the touristy things like the Otway Fly and the Maitland rest Rainforest Walk and visit an again almost dry waterfall. The rainforest is only a fraction of what it once was. I read something about a proud logging history, so that explains it. The logging is connected by the way to the gold seeking villages like Ballarat, because there was great demand for wood. The last part is where the Twelve Apostles start. The coast line here is made of softer Lime Stone, which explains the impressive shapes that have been erodes over the years into the rocks. Reminded me of Innes actually, which is also Limestone Coast. My favourite is The Grotto (a name I only knew from the Playboy Mansion ;-)) which has a great look-through to the ocean.
We try to end our holiday in Victoria, but although the Swan Lake campsite at the Discovery Bay Coastal park is great (a kangaroo came hopping by real close and we heard his feet thudding in the sand, we made a night walk and saw a lot of other kangaís and rabbits. I washed my hands at a tap near the path to the toilet and heard something rustling in the bushes. When I took a closer look to see what cute animal it was I saw it was a venomous tiger snake (well, I didnít see that, I just saw it was a snake. Another Australian on the camp site saw the rest) and we had a great self made camp fire), it has no access to a swimming beach, so we drive further to Robe in SA where we spent our last days. Great beach, even greater sand driving in Little Dip Conservation Park (where we have to deflate our tires till 12 psi to get out of the deep sand) and some relaxing.
After taking a quick picture of the giant Lobster at Kingston because we also visited the giant Koala at Dadwell Bridge, we drive on home.

It was our first camping holiday as adults, meaning we started out with the manual in one hand and the tent in the other and not being able to make a fire because of the lack of firelighters, but we ended as Ozzies, tent erected and complete within 20 minutes and a camp fire made from local wood to cook the sausages on. We started our holiday with 45 degrees and ended with 25 degrees.
We had a great holiday and learnt a lot. We know now we prefer the bush camps over the commercial ones, we learnt how to sand drive and that by having a 4WD you see a lot more (well, we already knew that), we know our car still works after driving through steep, sandy tracks in 45 degrees for hours, we know it is not wise to take a walk in those conditions, even if it is only 150 m to a lookout, and we know that on a commercial camp site you have to leave at 10.00 a.m., but thanks to the Ozzie laidbackness 11.00 or 12.00 is also fine.
I also saw the bigger picture of Australia. The landscape of the National Parks in Western Victoria and SA has many similarities like the salt lakes, the swamps, the mallee bushes, the coast line. And, rather shocking, I learnt that the reason the National Parks are so important, is because it is the only natural environment left.
(Cl 16 January 2006)

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Innes National Park / Our first Australian Christmas

innescliffThe first time we went to Yorke Peninsula we were looking for beautiful landscapes to discover. Since Yorke is mainly agriculture, we were disappointed and turned back early. Now we knew what to expect of the landscape, it wasn't that bad at all, you just have to get through it. It took us about 4 hours to get to Innes National Park, which lies at the very bottom end of Yorke Peninsula. And it was worth the drive. We stayed in the secluded historic Inneston within the national park, in a former house, now renovated, that dated from 1913. I don't know what happened to the construction industry of Australia, but in many aspects, this house is better than our suburban kit house (solid brick walls, no rattling windows with strong winds...). It was very interesting to read about the history of Innes and York Peninsula. We were close to the lake where gypsum was extracted, and brought to the Jetty of Stenhouse bay by horse drawn carriages. There are ruins from the old bakery, school, and stables. It all looks old and decayed which is a bit strange since it is only nearly 100 years old. There are so many remains (not only of the buildings, but also of the machines used) that you can feel the history.
ethelwreckSaturday we spent driving and walking. We saw a lot of impressive coastal views. There was a strong wind which made the ocean wild and wavy. That went well with the often dramatic scenery. An advantage of the hard wind was that we weren't bothered by the flies. We saw the Gap at Spencer, which is a huge gap of 90 meters in height where you can see the different sea levels from the ice age till now. Another impressive thing we saw was the shipwreck of the "Ethel". There are numerous ship wrecks around the coast of York Peninsula, but the remains of this one are still visible on the beach. There were 6 warning signs at the top of the stairs which lead down to the beach (dangerous currents, high surf, unstable cliffs, submerged objects on beach, submerged object in water, edge), and I was almost afraid to even go down there. But I did (Arjan and the kids found the wind too strong and stayed at the top), and it was fascinating to see.
That same evening was Christmas Eve. After dinner we went home and lit the fire in the fire place. We had decorated the cabin with Christmas lights we brought from home, including our little fibreglass tree. The kids roasted marshmallows in the fire and we listened to Christmas music on the Notebook. In about every shop for the last months I saw Christmas crackers but didn't know what they were. I bought a few cheap ones to try them out for Christmas. They did crack and inside was a little note with a sort of joke and a cheap rubbishy present. Maybe I'll buy some more expensive ones in the sale to see what they contain.
On Sunday it rained a bit, but the kids were too busy with their Christmas presents too even mind. In the afternoon we planned to make the walk to the Stenhouse jetty, the same route the horses walked 90 years ago. We started the walk cheerfully, but we were not only haunted by flies, but also by horseflies. They sting through your pants and shirt, and made the walk a lot less fun. After 10 minutes we decided to go back and take the car. I did all the driving by the way, and that went very well. Not much traffic there, and the many unsealed roads make it a bit more adventurous ;-). The Jetty was renewed, but there was a piece of the old one, and the system they had developed to get the gypsum from the cliff to the jetty onto the ships was interesting to see.
After our experience with the horseflies the flies seem not too bad, until it is impossible again to just sit without waving your hands and arms.
Monday, second Christmas Day, or Boxing Day as it is called here, was a beautiful warm day with little wind and we spent it at the beach. The children played in the sand and the water, and we watched them playing and enjoyed our own private beach.
innesfloraInnes National Park has beautiful and colourful flora, fluffy fauna (kangaroos and emus), scary fauna (like the black snake of 1.5 meter we saw which was gone before I could take a picture) and fauna in between (like the lizards), impressive cliffs and an extraordinary coloured ocean (the North Sea only has 2 colours: grey and very dark blue, depending on the weather). I am glad we went back. On our way back home we had another "first". In Port Wakefield, where we had a stop over, blew a very stong, hot desert wind. It was a very strange sensation and I guess a taste of what's in store for us when we head up north.
(Cl 27 December 2005)

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The usual December bustle

Yesterday it was my birthday. After celebrating 35 birthdays in the winter, I had my first Australian birthday with a temperature of 38 degrees! And you wonít hear me complain about it, I loved it! A few days earlier Rogier had his 11th birthday and had a party with his friends. The school year has ended, and we had the usual (although it was celebrated outside on the grass instead of inside) school Christmas celebration. Here, on the other side of the world, December is still a busy month.
Christmas will be relaxed though, weíve rented a cabin in Innes national Park near the beach, on York Peninsula. Weíve been there before (on York Peninsula), but we found the landscape so boring that we turned halfway round and went back. Later we heard that at the very end of the Peninsula lies Innes National Park, which must be very beautiful. So we are going back to have a look.
Iíve heard al lot of European people complaining about the warm weather at Christmas in Australia. I never understood that. To me it sounds great to be able to spend Christmas on the beach. Since we hardly ever had a white Christmas in Holland, I prefer a warm one over a wet, rainy and cold one any day.
(Cl 21 December 2005)

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Pimp my ride!

It has been a while since we went exploring, and I canít wait! After Innes National Park we are going to Victoria for a longer holiday. Since most tourists do the whole of Australia in 6 weeks I thought that 18 days for Victoria should be enough. But having read the Lonely Planet Guide, a book on National Parks, a book with 4WD routes and the internet, Iím glad if we make it till Melbourne.
We have prepared the car for the longer journeys. The car has been equipped with a long range fuel tank (150 litres), a cargo barrier (for safety), it has been heightened and equipped with new springs and shocks (for 4WD tracks). Last week the windows have been tainted with a nice (not totally legal) dark colour (against the heat) and before we go to Victoria we will buy 5 new tires. As far as equipment is concerned, Arjan has bought a 60 litres bladder water tank (just in case), weíve bought tents and other camping stuff. A few weeks ago Arjan had his 4WD training day. He learned a lot and he said that he would drive the Sky Trek with a different technique. Or maybe better: with a technique instead of just driving ;-) But I think we can say we are prepared, and we are all looking forward to it. It will be our first real holiday in 3 years. Yesterday Arjan and I went to see the movie ďWolf CreekĒ. Talking about preparation: we will NOT accept a lift from a stranger in case of car trouble ;-)
(Cl 21 December 2005)

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6 months anniversary

We are here now for nearly 6 months. And apart from some irritations here and there (mainly because we are still too Dutch, but that will get better ;-)) Iíve seen a lot of things I like. Things that made us come here in the first place, although we didnít have a clear picture of it then. It is the friendly atmosphere. The way people are and behave themselves. I noticed it at the Pageant and after the footy and soccer match. The police are there for the traffic, not for the riots. Going to a footy game is an outing for the whole family. 300,000 People at the Christmas Pageant and not one push or a shove. Rush hour in the city at 5 a.m., but there is a neat line of people waiting for the bus, and nobody would think of pushing forwards.
This is it. This is the kind of society I want my children to grow up in and I feel privileged that I can.

Another thing is our social life. When you start you know nobody. Now we are beginning to get a circle of acquaintances and even friends. Both Dutch and Australian. I still remember the first time a car honked and the driver (someone from school) waved at me. And it may sound silly, but it made me happy. I was no longer a total stranger. Now, in these 6 months, we have met people, got to know people and we are beginning to invite people over and people are inviting us.
(cl 6 December 2005)

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Those #*@# Flies!

Those flies over hereÖ. Talking about irritating. It is an understatement. They haunt you. They keep following you when you walk and canít be waved away. They sit on your sunglasses and climb under them so they get in your eyes. Not many, one or two, but that is enough! Australians say that is worse than normal. When we were in the Flinders Ranges there were many of them. Sometimes we stopped for lunch but decided to drive on because of those annoying insects. But that was Flinders. This is a suburb. We had about eight flies inside the house. You wave them away and they come back over and over again. You put a plate on the counter and they come sit on it immediately. I spent an hour trying to kill them by hitting them with a cloth, but I only hit two. That was it. I never have been a supporter for spray cans, but it was the only solution. We bought one, sprayed it with pleasure and then there was peace in the house again.
I hear Aussies are afraid of the European wasp. Whatís wrong with our wasps? If you leave them alone, they are practically harmless. But those fliesÖ
(Cl 6 December 2005)

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Belair National Park

koalaSunday November 27th we went to Belair National Park. We wanted to go to Morialta (yes, we bought hiking shoes), but the paths to the second and third waterfall were blocked because of the heavy rain a few weeks ago. So we decided to go to Belair, which lies southeast of Adelaide. You can enter by car and as many parks we have seen before, it has good facilities. It is a very big park with lots of tennis courts, pick nick areas and nature walks. We did the longest walk of 6.5 km. It was a great walk, very adventurous for the children. We came across 2 waterfalls, but there was hardly any water. That surprised us, because there has been enough rain.
For the first time we saw koalas in the wild. It is an amazing sight. And we heard them too. They make a sound like a deer, very low and loud. They are very relaxed animals. Arjan always said he wanted to come back as a cat in another life, but he changed his mind. What a life these animals have. Sitting in a tree, chewing some leaves, enjoying the view, no worries whatsoever.
Lucas spotted a koala on less than a meters distance, sitting at the bottom of a tree. It was really special to see it so close. It was kind enough to even make the noise we heard before from other koalaís high up in the treetops and take a little walk. Cute!
In addition we saw a kookaburra, an emu and many colourful lorikeets and even some parrots.

Outdoor life
Some Australians say we have seen more in this short period of time than they have. I wondered about that, because this country is known for its outdoor life. Maybe I understood it wrong, and is the outdoor life the way our next door neighbour does it. He is in the garden all day (i.e. outdoors), listening to the radio and opening beer cans (and drinking them, but we hear that clicking sound). But today at Belair, I think I saw the outdoor life Australians have. They drive to a playground, the kids go out and play, and the adults sit and eat and drink (with of course the chairs and the esky). They can easily spend the whole day like that. And the parks are made for it, so outdoor doesn't necessarily mean travel.
(Cl 27 November 2005)

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About rubbish and pride

We are still learning about Australia.
We learned that ďsecond handĒ is a synonym for rubbish. We were after a chest of drawers or a bookcase or something for the study so we could tidy the place up a bit. Last Saturday our neighbours across the street had a garage sale and when I peeked through the curtains I saw exactly the cupboard we needed. But when we were close it was nothing. Old, decayed. Because we often see signs of garage sales in the weekends, we decided we would drive around the neighbourhood. We found four garage sales, and they were all the same. Old rubbish that we would have thrown away years ago. Unbelievable what people here try to sell. The second hand furniture shop we came across was even worse. Old trash at absurd prices. They wouldnít have cost that when they were new. Ah well, nothing shocking, but apparently a part of Australia. Maybe a tip for future emigrants: bring everything you have. Ship an extra container, because here is a market. The study is still a mess.

Another thing weíve learned: the Australian is proud. And rightly so. It is a country to be proud of. There is an Australian flag at school and one in the swimming school. Not too many, but enough. When we were watching the soccer game Australia vs. Uruguay and the national anthem was played, the kids recognized it immediately and began singing it. Every so many weeks they have an assembly at school where they sing that song. I like that. In Holland everybody knows the first 2 lines, most know the first 4, but it is hard to find anybody who knows the other 116 of the Dutch national anthem. And I think most donít want to know it either.
In the supermarkets terms like ď(proudly) Australian madeĒ en ďAustralian ownedĒ are often printed on the products. And if it is not Australian made or owned, it contains partly Australian ingredients. It gives you the choice to buy from, and thus support the national companies, which I think the average Australian prefers. And when it is all Australian, you can choose ďlocalĒ.
After writing this, I found this web site. So I guess I did have a point here.
(Cl 26 November 2005)

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Christmas and Sinterklaas

Australia is in Christmas mood. In Holland we celebrate Christmas, but only with a tree and dinner etc. But no Santa, we have Sinterklaas. So I took the kids to the Magic Cave in the David Jones to see Santa. He was very nice and took his time to talk to the kids. They were impressed I think. And he is a lot like Sinterklaas, and since Santa gives presents too, they donít really mind which man with a white beard and red suit gives it to them. And I found out who Nipper is, because he was in the Magic Cave. It is a Christmas horse. I'm not yet sure what his role is though.

Lucas had a topic about foreign countries in his class. On Wednesday they had to bring some food from other countries. I completely forgot about that, but I had some Rollmops in the fridge. That is herring, and since herring is a typical Dutch fish, I gave him 2 in a little container to bring to school. I warned the teacher that the kids wouldnít like it, but that it might be interesting since it is food from another country. She thought it an interesting story, especially the part that we eat them raw with onions holding them by the tail above our heads, and that there are special stands where they sell herring, just like you would sell ice-cream. And I must admit, it must sound strange, it even sounded strange to me when I told it. And, as I expected, nobody liked it, including Lucas.
Since it is Sinterklaas season (well, in Holland at least), I decided to give them something the next day that everybody would like. So I gave Rogier and Lucas a bag of pepernoten (Dutch treat only eaten when it is Sinterklaas season) to share with their class mates. I printed the Sinterklaas document for their teachers. It was a big success. Everybody liked it, and they spent about half the morning talking about it. Lucas was asked to read the document and tell how it all works, and Rogier was asked to sing a Sinterklaas song.
Yesterday we received a box with Sinterklaas candy and presents for the children from their grandparents. It had been opened by the Australian Post for quarantine inspection (and everything passed). Smelling all the candy when opening the box, I understood why the detector dog had picked it out ;-)
(Cl 25 November 2005)

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Feeling at home

santaChristmas is on its way. The shopping malls are full with Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations. Saturday November 12th was the annual Christmas Pageant. We have never seen a Santa, so we went to the parade. It was busy (300.000 people) but the atmosphere was relaxed. The children loved it. It made me realise that there are many Australian Fairy Tales we don't know. I heard a little girl say to her mother:"Look, it's Nipper!". And there were more figurines we've never heard of.

After this, we went to a park in the city centre where there was a horse cross country. Free entrance, warm sun, blue sky, sitting in the grass, watching the horses...it was great. And that's what we expected to find here, the outdoor life. We are not Australian enough yet to have 4 chairs in the car and a picnic blanket and esky as everyone else seemed to have, but we will.

I am beginning to feel more at home. Iím getting used to the endless rows of car dealers on the main roads and the buildings, I know my way around the supermarket and Iím getting used to the food courts. These are places in shopping malls where there are a lot of tables and chairs surrounded by a dozen different food stands. So you can choose from fast-food, tea and cake, Chinese, donuts or a healthy sandwich at Subway (when ordering at Subway be prepared for an endless list of choices. Sauce? Sure. Which one? Errr, whatever you recommend. Still not used to that). First it seemed to lack atmosphere, but now I see the positive side. Every one can choose what he or she wants to eat, and you can still enjoy your meal at the same table. Iím beginning to know now where to shop for nice clothes and remember the sizes. Rogier no longer has a 145, but a 11-12. I think they count in years, instead of height. I havenít discovered the logic in shoe sizes yet, but that doesnít matter because the kids have to fit them before buying anyway.

And, finally, the magpie chicks must have grown up because we can take our normal route to school without being attacked.

Socceroos!
Wow, what a great soccer game yesterday against Uruguay. Thank God the Australians are not Dutch and won by taking penalties. They did a great job. An exciting match till the very end!
(Cl 17 November 2005)

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The laidback way of life

One of the advantages of Australia often mentioned is the laidback way of life. In Holland it sounded attractive to us. But now we've been living here for almost 6 months, we changed our minds. Or maybe the word is just wrong. We think it is not laidback, but lax. We find that sentences like: "we will call you when the car is ready", is just an expression. It does not mean that they will actually call you. Questions through email to companies are hardly ever answered within two weeks, if answered at all. Even if it concerns big orders, as Arjan experienced at work. When I apply for a job I don't get an answer. Not even a rejection, just nothing. And I heard similar stories from other (Dutch) people. Well, we may not like it, but it is the way it is. And once you know you won't be getting a call or a letter or an answer, you can adept to it. It is just a matter of changing your attitude. So instead of waiting for the call, I call myself. No letter? Whateverrrr. No answer to an email? I call, because this country is not ready for email yet. But when I had a question for a Dutch company last week and I received an answer within a few hours, it felt good. I wonder what an Australian would think of that. Show-offs?
(Cl 3 November 2005)

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Integrating

redbackYesterday, Wednesday November 2nd, we encountered our first famous redback spider. Rogier found him in the carport were he was playing. The kids were excited and thought it was cool. I didn't share their opinion and called a friend because I wasn't sure what to do. She was very firm about it: "kill it!".
Normally I am not in favour of killing spiders or other animals, but because it is a venomous spider I took her word for it. Arjan went to the shop and bought a spray can of which there were only 2 left on the shelf, so we are clearly not the only ones. Arjan sprayed but the spider was a tough one and kept on squirming so in the end he had to kill it by stepping on it. It is still a spot on the garage floor. Arjan told the kids the spider fled into the garden, but when they see the flat remains they will know he lied.
On the one hand we know it is a part of living in Australia, but on the other hand it scared us a bit, so we sprayed all the windows for a precaution. I'm not really sure that helps against spiders, but it helps us feel safer.

The weather has improved a great deal. The average temperature is now 30 degrees, so that's more like it. One of the first books Arjan bought here was the Barbecue Bible. Last week we bought a barbecue so he could finally use that book.
Yeah, with the redback and the barbcue I feel we are really integrating into the Australian society.
However, we won't be integrating completely. Apparently, part of Australian life - at least in our suburb - is getting a small, hairy dog. You keep that dog in your garden all day for the neighbours to enjoy their barking. When you're home and the dog barks, you shout "shut up!" to it. And when the little mutt gets dirty, you arrange for a mobile dog wash (preferably a pink one) to come and groom it. No, I'm sorry, but I won't be a part of that ;-).
(Cl 3 November 2004)

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Flinders Ranges and the Sky Trek

flinders rangesNo brochure could ever exaggerate about the beauty of the Flinders Ranges.
What an amazing landscape. The mountains, the red rocks, the gorges, the (dry) creeks, the kangaroos, the emus, the aboriginal rock paintings and the fact that it is one of the most oldest ranges on earth.
The landscape from Adelaide towards the Flinders varies from sloping, green, treeless hills with sheep or enormous and endless grain fields till rough rocky mountainous scenery.
The little villages you come across on the way are small, with broad roads, and many dilapidated houses. But no matter how small these towns are, they all have these brown signs displaying a "historic centre", a museum of some sort or some other vague tourist attractions. In Orroroo the brown sign said: Giant Gum Tree. Arjan thinks I'm being negative, but with things like this I image that once there was a whole wood of these giant trees, and they were all cut down except for one. Well, never mind that, back to the Flinders.

I feel that we did not only visit the (Southern) Flinders Ranges, but we experienced it.
The first day, Saturday October 8th, we spent 10 hours there, without ever getting bored. There are so many different sceneries, and they’re all beautiful. Sometimes it felt a bit like a safari because we saw so many emus and kangaroos from the car. We drove through two gorges, did the geological trail where the creation and the different rocks are explained on the way. Especially the red rock was amazing.
We saw some ruins of settlers houses and ancient Aboriginal rock engravings. They were sometimes hard to find. And without meaning to be disrespectful, I wonder why they, for example, drawn a kangaroo like an arrow and not more like a kangaroo-shape. And they used a lot circles. I guess you can say they worked in symbols. I saw one shape what looked like a man and that was the only thing where you could see what is meant. Well, if they meant to draw a man, that is.

skytrekThe second day, Sunday October 9th we did the Skytrek, a 4WD track through the mountains of the Eastern part of the Flinders Ranges, including the highest point accessible by 4WD at 923 meters on Mt. Caernarvon. It is a 61 km long track which took us about 7 hours. But again, there was not a boring moment, even the children enjoyed every moment of it. There were scary moments since this was our first real 4WD track, but no boring ones.
The first half of the track was nice, with two aboriginal engraving sites (all circles) and beautiful scenery. The second half was the real thing! Steep climbing and steep downhill tracks. You climb a hill and then there's another hill and another one and another. You climb higher and higher and the views get better and better. At one point we even saw the Australian Wedge Tail Eagle. It flew next to the mountain we were standing on over the valley.
The tracks are narrow and full of rocks. The climbs are often so steep that when you're near the top you only see the bonnet of the car and no road. It was great. You sometimes wonder how you are ever going to get up a hill with all those rocks and sand and steep slopes, but that is what the Nissan Patrol is made for. And it did great. Near the end of the track however we got a flat tire. A pointy rock at an edge made a puncture at the side of the left front tire. We had a spare and it took us about 40 minutes to replace it. Although it was near the end, there were still a lot of climbs and we didn't feel as confident as before and there were sharp rocks everywhere. But we made it without further problems.

On the third day, before heading home, we visited another Aboriginal cave painting site on a beautiful shaped cave in the rocks and a few ruins from the early settlers. Australia must be the only country where they have real photographs of how the ruins looked when they were still buildings! The ruins may not be ancient, but they are of course a very important part of Australia's history.
(Cl 10 October 2005)

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Naracoorte, Mt. Gambier and Mt. Schank

caveFriday night September 30th we left for Naracoorte, in the South East of SA, also known as the Limestone Coast. Half way it got dark and we drove for hours without being able to see the surroundings. Because when it gets dark here, it really is dark. We noticed the stars seemed much brighter because of that. A few times we came across the famous warning signs for kangaroos. It scared me a bit, because you can't see them coming in the dark. We have a big car with a bull bar, so we will be fine if we hit one, but the roo won't, and I really hope I never have to experience that.
The next day, Saturday, we all woke up early and were anxious to see those famous caves. We bought tickets for 3 caves and went to the Alexandra cave first. Although the caves have a different origin then most because they were formed by still waters instead of flowing rivers (and therefore more wide than deep and narrow) I can now say that caves are caves. Stalagmites and stalactites are the same everywhere. There is no difference between the photos from the caves we visited in Belgium and the ones I took here. (If you take flash photos they all look a bit like exploded whale somehow ;-))
The second cave, the Victoria Fossil Cave, was a 10 minute drive away and that is the special one, the reason the caves are on the world heritage list. I saw a map and there are 24 out of 26 chambers where they found 50.000 year old fossils. Unfortunately we were only allowed to see 2 chambers, of which one contained fossils. So to be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment.

When we parked the car to visit the Victoria cave we saw wild kangaroos from only a short distance. They saw us too, but kept on eating. Maybe to an Australian seeing a kangaroo is as exciting as it is for a Dutchman to see a sparrow, but we found it very special.
Before going to the last cave, the Wet cave, we had a picnic in the park. The kids played Footy and we prepared hotdogs on the barbie. We felt like real Aussies!
The Wet cave was nice but the highlight of the day for me was seeing the wild kangaroos.
The landscape of the Limestone Coast is sloping or flat, filled with sheep (mostly shorn) and vineyards. Sometimes those are combined and you see sheep grazing in the vineyards.

Since we had 2 days left, we decided to go to Mount Gambier on Sunday. It is an hour's drive from Naracoorte. Between Naracoorte and Penola is the famous wine region Coonawarra. It is one road with about 25 wineries with wine tasting opportunities, but since it was only 9.30 in the morning we decided it would be better to drive on if we ever wanted to arrive in Mt. Gambier ;-).
Mt. Gambier is a town build on an extinct volcano and is famous for its blue lake, a lake in bluelakethe crater. It was beautiful, and very blue! We climbed the centenary tower where we had a great view of the lakes, the city and Mt. Schank. We also went to Valley lake, a greenish lake in another crater. There we stopped for a picnic and the children played in the playground. There also was a wildlife park we visited. And all this in the crater, which is a nice but strange idea. In the afternoon we went to nearby Mt. Schank, also an extinct volcano. We climbed to the rim where we had a great view of the volcano. On the bottom of the crater someone had made the letter P from white stones. We decided to make it a W, and went down the crater. The children loved it and didn't mind the -sometimes tiring- journey.
On our way back to Naracoorte we saw a sign to Little Blue Lake and because we saw the big one, we went to take a look. It was a small natural lake, used as a swimming pool in the summer by the locals.

On Monday we went back. First we drove to Bool Lagoon to have breakfast. It is a wetlands reserve with a lot of birds. After our little picnic (we're getting the hang of it) and a few boardwalks I decided to take my first driving lesson. There was nobody there and it was very quiet. We put the L-signs on the car and I drove a bit. It went very well (I've had lessons before in Holland) and I avoided a snake and a lizard who were lying on the road. When we saw a sign "only for 4WD" I took that detour. How's that for a driving lesson! After that we drove (Arjan did) to Kingston, a beach town, and after a stop there we went back to Adelaide. We got a good feel of the vastness of the country. You drive for hours and the landscape hardly changes. We saw a different part of South Australia and we feel we got to know the state a bit better.
(Cl 5 October 2005)


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The Australian Salesmen

The Dutch are known as traders. I would describe the Australians as salesmen.
Take the rťsumť. A Dutch rťsumť is merely an overview of your education and work experience. In an ozzie one, you sell the product "you", and in such a way, the company would be foolish not to want to hire you. Work experience must be described with the CAR method (Challenge, Action, Result). It goes something like this: the place was a mess, but then came I, and now the profits are up with 25 %. I think if you would use an Australian rťsumť in Holland, you would be considered an arrogant bastard.

Then some places we visited. They can describe the most boring places in such a way (in a brochure for example), you are eager to go there. But once you're there it's nothing special. And when you're back and read the brochure again, you see they didn't actually lie, but just know how to use words to make something out of nothing. They know how to sell.

The funny thing is that the actual salesmen in shops are not like that. They don't force themselves upon you, they give honest information, they go with what you want and don't try to sell you the most expensive product. And they refer you to the shop of a competitor where the product might be better or cheaper. And this was not just once, but we have experienced this over and over again. An honest salesman. That always seemed to be a contradiction, but now I'm not so sure anymore.
(Cl 28 September 2005)

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Suburban Wildlife

lizardYesterday we encountered our first friendly looking animal (apart from the birds) in the neighbourhood. It was a blue tongue lizard and it sat on the rocks in the sun next to a foot path. I think it was about 15 cm long. We couldn't see it well because it hid between the rocks. The Australian who was with us told us its name, otherwise we wouldn't have known. The children loved it and are now looking for the lizard each time we walk there.
Earlier we met the less friendly looking bull ant, an ant of about 3 cm long. Interesting for the kids also, and it doesn't walk too fast, so they are able to take a good look at it every time we see one. They can bite, but we haven't experienced that yet.
I did experience however the bite of another ant. I don't know its name, but it is an agressive, tiny ant. They live in large groups, and climb on your shoes and trousers when you are, as I was for example, hanging the laundry on the line. Really annoying little creatures. We have them in our garden, but they also bit me on the grass near school, so I guess they can be found everywhere.
And then there are the spiders. We had 3 large spiders in the house at different times. We were never really fond of spiders, but now that you know they can be dangerous, they are even more scarier. Someone told me to watch out for white-tip spiders. Well, once you're told that, it seems that every spider has something white somewhere. But when I checked it turned out they said white-tail. So now I know where to look for the white part ;-).
I don't know if it gets worse when it is hot, but I thought there would be more spiders. Maybe they have a season, just like the magpies.
(Cl 27 September 2005)

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3 months anniversary

How's life? Well, the Magpie is getting more agressive, the Adelaide Crows didn't make it to the AFL finals (the Sidney Swans won those finals) and the weather is still rainy.
One more week and the kids have a two week school holiday. Arjan has two long weekends in these weeks, and we've planned a few nice trips. We are going to the Naracoorte caves (South Australia's only World Heritage Site) and Flinders Ranges. After that (maybe not the preferable order, as we want to do some 4WD at the Finders) Arjan has a 4WD course, so October will be a busy month.

It's been our 3 month anniversary in South Australia on September 8th. Although a bit early to make any conclusions, it might be nice to see if it was what we expected. Well, yes and no. We like the country from what we have seen so far. The people are very friendly and relaxed.

We wanted space.
Enough of that here, sometimes a bit much when you'd like to go to an amusement park and realise you have to drive for 3 days to get there. And not enough space as far as the gardens are concerned. Low maintenance is the motto, and in the newer suburbs that means: small gardens.

We wanted better weather.
We arrived in the winter and although we had a few cold days, it is nowhere near as cold as a Dutch winter. But the houses are build with regard to the long hot summer. So things like insulation and dubble glazing are uncommon here. If you are lucky you have gasheating in one room, the family. If you're not, you have a wood fire or something. So it can get cold in the house, especially in the bedrooms. But with spring in sight, the weather is improving, so I think we score well on this point.

A better life for the kids.
Is it? They think so, but that's merely because the level of education is lower thus easier and they spent more time on sports and art at school. I think the quality of life is better for children because there is room to play outside. There are plenty of parks with playgrounds and toilets. And there is real nature to wander in. That's something we don't have in Holland. I mean, a wood were the trees are planted in nice rows isn't really a wood in my opinion. It is a friendly place for children in general. Yes, I think we score well on this point too.
(Cl 25 September 2005)

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A Waterfall Sunday

Sunday September 11 we had a waterfall day. The weather was a bit rainy, but there was enough sunshine in between to go and explore. First we drove to Waterfall Gully in Cleland Conservation park on half an hour drive from our home. We could park the car nearby and within the minute we were at the waterfall. That's how we like it! There was a path to the top of the waterfall and from that point were more walks. We used the excuse of not having proper hiking shoes to take the short walk to a second fall, and left the long route to the summit for what it was. The second fall was much smaller, but was nice anyway because we could come really close via the stones in the water.

morialtaOn our way to this waterfall we took a wrong turn. When looking on the map where we were we discovered another waterfall, called Morialta. So why not making it an waterfall day. I'm glad we did, because this one was impressive. There were 3 falls, but we saw only one. The climbs to the others were real steep so we took the easy walk to the first waterfall. The surrounding was different, mountainous, spectacular rocks, even a cave... yes, impressive is the right word. And the hiking shoes will be bought, because we all wanted to go back, climb the hills, enjoy the beautiful scenery and see the other waterfalls. And as many places in Australia there are (free) toilets, nice parking spaces, a childrens playground and off course the barbecue places. So next time we come prepared! Not only will we have hiking shoes, but some meat to put on the barbie afterwards ;-)
(Cl 11 September 2005)

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Dolphins at Port Adelaide

dolphinsOn Sunday the 4th of September (yes, fathersday), we went to Port Adelaide, because we heard you can take a special boat to see dolphin there . And so we did. We would have seen them without taken the boat, because when we were on board waiting to depart, we saw some dorsal fins in the water from a distance. Apart from those ones, we saw 3 dolphins swimming about five minutes after the boat left. And again on the way back. (In between we were told some stories about some ships we saw, an old jetty and things like that. We suspected them of knowing the dolphins are only to be seen at the beginning of the trip and hoping you'd get bored and start ordering drinks and stuff, which we did). The children both were allowed to steer the boat a few miles. A task they took very seriously.
I found it surprising that the dolphins live there. It is a harbour, there are boats sailing, it it not the most clean spot, but they seem to be doing ok.
(Cl 6 September 2005)

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Driving Licence test

In South Australia you may drive a car with an international driving licence for 3 months. Since the 3 months are almost over, Arjan and I both took the theory test. I can see that here a driving licence is seen as a necessity. The booklet with the rules you have to learn costst only $5, or you can download it from the internet. You can practice the questions online and when you feel you are ready, you go to the nearest SA Transport office and take a test. No need for an appointment, just pay $25 and make the test. When you fail, you can take another test straight away if you want, after you've paid the fee. For some reason the theory seems much less then what we've learnt in Holland, but very complete. Arjan and I both past the test.
Arjan had to pay a fee to get his Australian driving licence and that was it. Very easy.
And just when you think: wow, that was easy and relaxed, something comes up. For me, in order to get my Learners Permit (since I don't have a Dutch driving licence), I had to go to an optopmetrist, because I said on the form that I wear lenses. And they want prove that I can't drive without them. I know I can't, but my word is not enough. No, I have to go to an optometrist. Sure, whatever, I have money galore and nothing better to do anyway. After that little but annoying obstacle, I got my Learners Permit, meaning that I can take driving lessons. Again, this is not the commercial bussiness it is in Holland. I can get lessons from anyone, as long as that person has a valid licence. So all I have to do is get some L-plates, stick them in our 4WD, and Arjan can teach me.
And before anyone thinks this is a bad situation, the traffic here is relaxed and friendly. Everybody is polite, even to pedestrians. I have hardly seen any agression. The agression I have seen came from Arjan, who has to get used to the laid back way of life, and the driving on the left ;-).
(Cl 6 September 2005)

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Magpie Season

magpieIt's Magpie season, as the boys found out the hard way. It means that the Magpies are breeding. (My first thought was: why would they breed in autumn? I guess it will take a while to get used to everything being in reverse). There is a nest in the tree in the playground on our way to school. Apparently, this bird has had some bad experiences with boys climbing up the tree and smashing her eggs. So, when she has eggs, she attacks all boys that walk or play there. The bird doesn't harm girls or adults, only boys. She attacks them just above the ear, as also happened to Rogier and Lucas. Now we know why she does that, we know how to avoid it. So on the path over the playground during Magpie season you see boys running with their bags, sweaters, hoods or whatever over their heads to make it to the other side safe.

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Spring is in the air

It is almost spring. The weather has been great. A lot of sunshine and blue skies (although we did have a few heavy showers earlier this week). The foreign trees in our street are blooming. It looks nice, but it smells a bit strange.
This Sunday, September the 4th was Fathersday. Yes, in September! It is a big thing here. The advertisements stay the same, but they added: "for fathersday". So the Australian father wants books, chocolates, clothes, hardware, things for the car, food etc. Anything, as long as he gets something. I got Arjan something every Australian father alreay has (I think): a stubby holder, or a beer cooler. He liked it.

Lucas has had his first winter birthday on August the 28th, but there was no difference as far as the weather was concerned. We spent the day playing mini golf, one of his favorite games. I ordered a chocolate cake for his birthday, more or less by mistake. I didn't quit understand the man behind the counter and he was clearly irritated with me because of that. Thus I ordered a mudcake. The man said it was lighter, but I didn't know lighter than what, and he didn't tell me. It turned out to be a chocolate cake, and because Lucas loves chocolate cake, there was no harm done.
Chocolate cake is very popular here, I don't remember seeing those in Holland at the Hema. Then again, I haven't seen a slagroomtaart here yet.
Speaking of differences, at the Chinese the Honey Chicken with Sesame Seeds is to the Australian what Babi Pangang is to the Dutch. And if you order Spare Ribs at a Chinese restaurant, well, I don't know what you get, but it looks nowhere near the Spare Ribs we know.
Also different are the pancakes. They are smaller and thicker and according to the children better then the Dutch ones. That was Lucas his choice for dinner on his birthday.
(Cl 4 September 2005)

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Things are going all right

The Adelaide Crows are second in the AFL (Australian Football Leage), we subscribed to Foxtell so we have a little more then the standard 5 tv channels, the car has new brakes (covered by the warranty) and Lucas has learnt the days of the week in Japanese.

boxes yardThe container has arrived. Everything passed quarantine! When the boxes were in our backyard to unpack, it felt very definite. Now our complete life is here. Some boxes were badly damaged, but only a vase and 4 bowles were broken. I found a picture of the ship it was shipped with. Impressive to think that ship sailed half the world.

The children started swimming lessons. In Holland you learn the breast stroke first, here they start with free crawl. Lucas had never done that before, but it went well and they both received a certificate for it. Rewarding plays a big role in children's learning I noticed. Lucas also received a nice "wel done, keep up the good work" card at school.

This Saturday (August 13) we went to the city. We visited the South Australian Museum. To our view it has a bit of a strange mixture of different and totally unrelated exhibitions. It has, for example, a room with stuffed animals from different continents, a small room with Egyption artifacts, a room with minerals, two with aboriginal history and one with sea creatures. But we enjoyed ourselves and took a special interest in the Australian parts of the exhibitions so we learnt about the Aboriginals, Australian animals (you can see a lot more when they stand perfectly still ;-)) and the minerals that can be found in (south) Australia. In the museum shop, after we paid, the check-out girl asked us (for statistics sake) if we were from overseas or interstate. We answered "local", and although she did seem to write that down, I don't think she believed us, having heard our accent ;-)
Afterwards we took a walk through the city. It was nice to be there again.
(Cl 20 August 2005)

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Discovering the area

We have been using or weekends to the fullest to discover the surrounding areas of Adelaide and South Australia. The children find the touring rather boring. Last weekend we went to Yorke Peninsula. That was boring. While we drove there I wondered what the landscape would have looked like originally. It was a sloping landscape, a lot of endless farming grounds, and the trees were along side the roads and the farming fields, but further it looked quite empty. Later I read that this land was emptied for farming, and that is the only right description for it. Emptied.
Another striking thing was the roads. The majority of them were bulldozered in the landscape. road yorkNeed a road to the beach? A road from the east to the west coast? Call for the bulldozer. We had a map of the region which was full of grid lines. Those were roads, we realized when we were there. It was a strange landscape.
We brought stuff to stay the night somewhere, but the region wasn't nice enough to spent two days. Later we heard that all the way down south there was a beautiful national park. You can call it national park, or the part they didn't empty. Anyway, we may go back and see it the way the whole area must have looked like once.

On sunday we went to Fleurieu Peninsula. Wow, what a difference. What a beautiful, varied landscape. Hills, vineyards, meadows, forests, it was all there on only a 2 hour drive. We drove to Victor Harbor, and walked to Granite Island, where sometimes whales are spotted. We didn't spot them, but I was very impressed anyway. The island was beautiful, the ocean wide and a pretty green and blue colour, I could imagine the whales swimming there. It was a pitty we had only one day to spent here, but we are going back for sure.

This weekend we went to the beach on Saturday. The weather has been great all week, and it was a nice beachday. The children looked for shells and found some pretty ones, very different from the shells they found on the beach of the North Sea. Bigger, more colourfull. When they were finished we toured a bit through the Southern part of Adelaide. This area has a good mixture of hills and oceanviews.

barossaOn Sunday we drove the Torrens River Scenic Drive. As you can guess from the name it was beautiful, and ended very near the famous Barossa Valley. We drove up a hill to a look out point. A large tourist bus pulled up so we knew that this was the place, but we weren't impressed to be honest. Barossa Valley is basically a large plain with vineyards. We continued the road up the hills insteads of the plain, which was a lot better. We did come across a few vineyards there when we took a few gravel roads and sand roads. Those were more like we had imagined it. Romantic in a hilly scenery.

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Container news

Probably only interesting for us, but we will have our things later this week, or the beginning of the next. Last Thursday we recieved a phonecall from the transport company in Melbourne (Adelaide doesn't have a container harbour). Customs was going through our things and came up with my teddy bear called "Geeltje" (yes, he is yellow), my loyal teddy for 33 years. They were afraid he might be stuffed with straw, which wasn't the case, and I gave permission to open him up and there were no further problems. They put the stuff on the train to Adelaide and tomorrow a local tranport company will collect the boxes and deliver them here.
I never realized how often our boxes were going to be handled. I hope that everything survived alright. Since we didn't have enough to fill a whole container, we had a groupage container. We brought the stuff to a mover, who put everything in a large crate with no regard to the boxes labled as 'fragile' whatsoever. Later they put everything in a container and it was shipped. In Melbourne it was unloaded for customs, put on a train and now another company picks it up, maybe stores it for a few days and then delivers it to our house. So that is about 7 times of loading and unloading. Hope I used enough bubble wrap.

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Life in Adelaide

The weather is great. It seems as though when the sun shines, the degrees go up by at least 5. The sun feels warmer. Always interesting for Dutch people: life overal is cheaper here. Supermarkets are about the same, meat is cheaper. Going out to dinner or ordering in is a lot cheaper. I wondered about the many, many fast food and other restaurants, but going out is a way of life here, and an affordable one. Almost about as many as the restaurants are the many car dealers. From the city are a few main roads in different directions filled with car dealers. Preferably with red/white/blue flags and festoons. It made me wonder how they could all make a living, but I forgot that over a million people live here. And they all need a car (or two or three) and they all go out to dinner. And those main roads are the main places you find them. But because we use the main roads more often then the others, you get the feeling that the city is strewn with them. You tent to forget about the 1.1 million people that live here. The city doesn't feel crowded at all.
I am still not used to looking right first instead of left when crossing a road. To be on the save side, I look both ways about three times. Shopping is taken a normal amount of time, so that's good.
I like the fact that, although it is winter, everything is green. Apart from a few foreign trees that shed their leaves. They make a nice change and let you know when it is autumn. When the sun shines, it could easily be summer. Well, actually I'm told that that's not true. In the birds playgr.summer here it gets very dry, so the green turns yellow. But we haven't experienced that yet.
And I've said it before, but after seeing dull pigeons, blackbirds and sparrows all my life, I keep being amazed at the colourful and exotic birds that fly here and walk on the grass in the playground.
(Cl 1 August 2005)

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The first weeks

Finally, we have an okay internet connection so I can make an update.

It has really started, our life over here. Before we left we thought we'd do a bit of traveling, getting to know the city and surroundings. But because the first house was such a depressing disappointment, we had to rent a house. That wasn't hard at all, and a week after we arrived we had a house. We could move in the next week, so we spent that week shopping for furniture and stuff, everything we didn't bring with us in the container. Having made these contributions to the South Australian economy, we decided we could use some income. So Arjan made some inquiries, which resulted in about 5 joboffers in the second week. He choose one for four months which he started this week.
The children were bored with shopping and really wanted to go to school. We found them a great school close by in the third week. They like it, make a lot of friends and improve their English every day.
So our lives at the moment are pretty much the same as in Holland, only the people speak English instead of Dutch and the weather is better :-)
We are all waiting for the container to arrive. The children are missing their toys, and I would like to have my personal things again.
We've rented another car and are going to buy a car of our own so we can spent the weekends exploring and can make some interesting photos to put on the site.

From what I've seen so far I've noticed the following things:
Australia is more into telephone than internet. Every company wants your phone number. They don't neccesarily need your address, but they always want your phone number. You can call for information, rather than visit a website. And if you can apply for information online, you recieve in e-mail where they say they will call you.
Every KFC, pizza place etc. has Pepsi Max, which is my favourite brand.
Some people feel the need to have an aviary in their garden, while the most beautiful birds just fly around for free!
The hills and the palm trees, which give me a nice holiday feeling.
Those ugly sheets of corrugated iron used as fences.
The shopping. You spent hours going through the rows, and than you still haven't found a pot of peanut butter without sugar. I wonder when we will be able to do the grocery shopping within 10 minutes again.
The traffic jams, of which there are none.
Every Australian seems to have a Dutch brother-in-law, uncle, neighbour or whatever, or they say they can speak a few German words (that's nice, but what has that got to do with it ;-))

We bought a car! It is a big second hand Nissan Patrol 4wd, and we can't wait to discover Australia with it. The RAA (Australian equivilant to the dutch ANWB) are doing a check up today, and if they say everything is ok, it's ours. We are looking forward to try it out over the weekends. Arjan has arranged to be free in the december holiday (the summer holiday). By then we will be experienced enough to make a larger journey. We won't take any risks while visisting the outback. I've seen enough Discovery Channel episodes while doing cardio at the gym in Holland to know that travelling unprepared can cost you your life. If everything goes well we can pick it up on Saterday. I hope it will fit in the carport ;-).

The weather is bad right now, which is a pity because the boys have their holiday. It has been raining for three days now, and the temperature dropped to around 10 degrees. Maybe we should have chosen Brisbane after all. Ah well, we can allways go there if we choose to. But first we try out Adelaide. According to the locals, who also like to complain about the weather, it's been a long time since it has been this cold. And they all tell us to wait till we had a famous summer here, which apparantly are the best of whole Australia.

Everything is going so well that is is like we picked our lives up in Holland and continued it in Australia. It makes me wonder what things we will encounter, because emigrating can't be this easy, can it? It is a good thing we didn't take part in one of those television shows like '"no going back". We would have been too boring and would have never made it on air ;-)

The RAA found only some minor defects on the car. The garage will take care of most of them. And with the weather improving we'll be able to do some exploring at last. Well, at last...we're here only for about 5 weeks, but it feels more like 5 months. Probably because we did so much in such a short period of time.

(updated on July 9, 2005 by Cl)
(revised on July 13 and 14, 2005 by Cl)

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We're there!

Arjan has kept the Weblog updated, now it is my turn to update the site. After a long and tiring journey and a stop-over in Singapore, we arrived in Adelaide on Wednesday the 8th of June 2005 at 6 o'clock in the morning. We thought we did well by arranging for On Arrival Accomodation, a service provided by the South Australian Government. Unfortunately, it wasn't at all what we expected. It was a depressing appartment to say the least, so we left almost within the hour and checked in to a hotel in the city centre. So much for not wanting to spent a lot of money on housing right at the beginning ;-) To quote a famous Dutch soccer player: "every disadvantage has its advantage". We really get to know the city, and everything we have to arrange (like a bank account, tax file number), is in walking distance. The city of Adelaide is beautiful, the city centre is surrounded by parks. It is clean, the weather is good, the sky is blue and the sun shines. The birds have the most beautiful colours and the people are friendly and always willing to help. We are here now for a little over a week, and already we've found a house. It is a in a nice, hilly neigbourhood, close to schools and shops and we are all looking forward to moving in next week. We are shopping for things we didn't put in the container, so we won't be moving into an empty house. We have done some koala cuddling and kangaroo feeding to get the real aussi feel. We like it here and it was the right choice for us. Not that I have ever doubted that.
(17 June 2005 by Cl)

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After the visa (but still in Holland)

That we got the visa is old news now.

We're busy with the last preparations which are going fine and on schedule. Next week a visit to the bank is planned to make some arrangements, we've planned the move of our things and booked a holiday bungalow for the last week (because the conveyance of the house is on June 2nd and we're flying on June 6th).
We've already visited some friends and family to say goodbye and will continue with that these last weeks.

Because packing is always more work than you think and you always have more stuff than you think, I've already began to pack.
The bedrooms of the children are pretty empty, apart from their beds and some last toys, and the livingroom is getting emptier every other day. But the house is not empty yet and it is still livable. I mean, we don't have to sit on the ground just yet.

So, all is going well and we are looking forward to start our new life in Australia!
(May 2005 by Cl)

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The application process

When the ACS approved, we applied for a skilled independent (Class BN, subclass 136 ASCO code 2231-11) visa. In the beginning of April 2004 we received the acknowledgement from DIMIA (The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs). After many, many months of waiting we finally received the requests for our Medical examination and the Police checks on March the 7th, 2005. The visa was granted on April 11th, 2005. So it has taken a little more than a year.

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How it all started

Somewhere in 1998 we had vaque plans to move to Australia, but it never developed to more then vaque plans.

But in 2002, while lying on the beach in Italy, we thought about it some more. Seeing the degradation in our country, we wanted to let our children grow up elsewhere. Other reasons for wanting to leave were the lack of space, increase in crime, the weather and the daily traffic jams. Australia seemed to be the answer for us, and although we realise it isn't paradise, we know it'll be a lot better. We want to go to Adelaide, South Australia.

The next step was gathering information. It turned out that Australia has a completey different immigration policy than Europe. To get in Australia you have to prove you are an asset to society. You get points for things like skills, age, english language ability and work experience, and you have to get a certain amount of points. Luckily we met the requirements and started the procedure in December 2003 with our skills assessment with the ACS (Australian Computer Society).

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