Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Rain Delay - Gotta Love the Track!

So I thought that I would spare you all the crazy minute details of the second night of racing at Devonport as it was much the same as the previous night. I did, however get in a break during the scratch race with Katrina Heir (attending the Commonwealth Games for Scotland in the TT and pursuit) and we were away, but got reeled in with 1 to go. The crazy part is, that's probably the closest that I will come to winning a race here (in a break I mean)! So that was great - I also made the final for the 2000m wheel race where I was in good position with 1 to go but just couldn't stay on top of the speed - at least I know what I need to work on for the next little bit! So that's the short and sweet version of that evening. The definate highlight of the evening however, were all the adorable little kids who wanted to get a high-five as you rolled around to your event. Made me feel like a rock star - loved it - I wanna come back here next year! On a less positive note, yet equally outstanding, my lungs are dying - too many people smoking where we were warming up combined with a solid week of track - yeah the hack is back! Both Chris and I are hitting our groove a little more - but I really do think something is a little wrong when the only place I feel normal at the moment is on my bike saddle...a form of psychosis I tell you.
Yesterday saw a change of venue as we got to do a crit in downtown Bernie. It was "hot dog" shaped, which was a nice way of saying one long road with a U turn at each end. This resulted in an absolutely painful acceleration at the end of each straight - have I mentioned that the girls here are fast. It's the first crit in a long time that I have started hoping that I can stay in. As a result, I was probably a little more conservative that I normally would have been - but I still gave it a go once. It didn't last long though, as Belinda Goss attacked (in a much more convincing fashion I might add) just after and we got a bit of a gap - but the girls weren't going to let her get away. A little while later the field did let 2 girls get away and we were left sprinting for 3rd. I finished up 6th behind Belinda Goss, Peta Mullens and Jessica Berry in the field sprint - just out of the money, but I figure it was a better finish than I have seen prior to then. So that was my New Year's Eve. We were in the hotel room by 9:30 and called it a night shortly after that - we are party animals! Only to wake up this morning to pissing rain. We went into Bernie (where the carnival was supposed to be held) and grabbed a coffee at the McCafe where we ran into a commissaire and were told that the races were postponed until tomorrow - so I think Narnia is on the plan for today.
Oh right! And a Happy New Year to everyone at home! This will probably be the longest year of my life - only because I get to start it 18 hours before those of you in Calgary! 2006 has been rainy to date, but I figure things can only get better *as long as it doesn't snow here*!
And with a few thoughts to leave you with - here are a few games that I have started playing since I got to Australia - quite funny really:
1) How many BTs on the track at once? Chris figured that he got up to 9 in the A grade scratch race the other night
2) How many Lance Armstrongs are on the road? Very rarely do we do a ride where we do not see at least one Postal/Discovery/Yellow yersey (or combination of the 3) rider on the road
and finally 3) Fake or not? This one can only really be played at the beach. And while it may seem in poor taste for me to mention this one - you would be truly surprised at the number of visible female augmentation we have been witness to in Oz. Maybe it's easier to justify if you live in a bathing suit...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

SOOO cold!

Okay, so it's only Australia cold, but really, what’s going on? I think I’m having flashbacks to Nationals in ’99 – it’s supposed to be summer…but it’s cold! But it’s not racing so the show must go on. Another night and more racing – and I’m improving slowly but surely. My lightning wheel race (1000m) heat went really well. I caught the girls on the mark ahead of me (I started on the 25m) and then we quickly caught the girls ahead. Honestly, it could not have gone better – so I finished 3rd in the heat behind Jessica Berry and Belinda Goss so on through to the final. The final was less successful. There was a group of 7 girls from the back markers – but for whatever reason, the other girls didn’t really want to work. I ended up taking 2 pulls in 500m – so I did my part, but we aren’t going to catch the frontrunners if the fast girls aren’t willing to work. I was however, much happier with the state of affairs this evening. Right now might be the time to point out that we were talking to a new buddy of ours who said he has won 4 or 5 of the wheel races. However, in order to do this, each time he had to pay off at least 6 people in order to do it – so yes, it’s a bit of a gong show to say the least!My second, and only other race (which has proved to be a point of contention with all the female riders – we have an international caliber field, but as it the case so many times in women’s cycling we are not given the respect in terms of number of races and prize money that we deserve) so yeah, second race was a 4km scratch race. It was fast (again!), but I felt that it was my best race to date. It was a little sketch – I absolutely love that I have to turn my bike – that’s not normal – the banking usually helps you out a little more. But I made it to the end – unfortunately though I was shuffled to the back in the closing laps and didn’t get a good position going into the sprint. That having been said I moved up through the field during the sprint AND we dropped people that weren’t me! I was pretty stoked – still haven’t got my podium though!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Day 2: the Silverdome - yes, I'm still cycling, but doesn't it sound important?

The second night of racing proved to be as educational as the first – only this time my inner fire is starting to burn. With my self-confidence on the track returning, I was pleased to get to race in a most beautiful facility. The Silverdome in Launceston is an absolutely beautiful track – it feels incredibly fast and the atmosphere is awesome! The afternoon session started at 2pm, but I only had one event to contest – the Elimination. Now, anyone who knows the events, understands that tactics play a huge role – quite often more than fitness itself. I, myself, seem to have an interesting affliction of either doing incredibly well, or quite badly – my mid-range is somewhat limited. Unfortunately, this evening proved to be more of the latter. Off on the neutral lap, I thought that I was in good – sitting pretty in the top 5 girls near the bottom of the track, but the positioning was indeed too good to be true. Just before the end of the neutral we were swamped by the back half of the field overtop and I ended up in the back-half of the field – somewhere I didn’t really want to be with this kind of speed on hand. I managed to fight and play the devil for about 5 rounds, with my luck soon running out. On the lap I was eliminated I probably could have shot a gap coming around corner four between one of the Scottish girls and the field – but at the time I felt it was a little dicey, and didn’t really want to be known as the girl who caused the crash…but in retrospect perhaps I should have gone for it! :P
So, with the first race out of the way, I got to deal with the most exciting part of the evening – my new Kenda stuff has arrived!!! I’m super excited – nothing is more fun than new team stuff – so I got to sport it for the first time in the scratch race. After a more than humbling experience last time, I decided that I might as well try to give it a run off the front. Under the advice of a fellow competitor I also geared up – I believe that both the change in mentality and the slightly bigger gear helped me to fend for myself much better this evening. I did manage to pry myself off the front for about a millisecond – but the group was just moving too fast and I was countered immediately. However, the group did stay together and it came down to a bunch sprint. In the final lap there was some potentially bad clashing directly above me, so I backed off a little, but came around to finish 7th – not bad, but improvement is definitely being made.
Bring on the final event of the evening – the 2000m wheel race. Anger is the only way I can sum up how it went down. Off the line I somehow managed to drop the two girls starting on the 50m mark with me, while at the same time get more gapped by the rider on the 60m mark. Consequently, I ended up giving it my all for a lap and a half before the other 3 back markers caught up. By this point I was somewhat cooked and jumped on the back of their train. Unfortunately, despite the draft, Jessica Barry (who started on the 30m mark, and I can only imagine got a bit of a boost from the other two girls on my mark getting a slow start) road me right off her wheel. The whole experience was rather humbling, and needless to say, we didn’t make it up to contest the sprint. Therefore no final…but the positive part is that I was angry about it. How is that good you ask? Well, the thing is, the other day I was resigned to the fact that the other girls were faster than me, now I’m starting to get a little feisty and expect things of myself – I’ll be rocking by the end of the week! (because we all know that physiology can definitely change in a 7 day period…)Next it’s off to Devonport tomorrow – another day, another chance to get better…and I was to WIN! :P

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing Day - First Day at the Races

And I'm trying to recover. Man, was today ever an eye opener - I'm just not used to getting beat quite so much on a track bike. It's like all the Aussie's have my exact skill set (all speed and bike handling) it's just that they are better at it - I was humbly reminded that while I missed out on the Canadian 500m National Title, I would have been like 8th in the Australian junior field. The speed is just unreal - and I don't like being dropped on the track!!! :P But I figure that I will race into it.
Part of my performance (or lack thereof) has to do with the type of racing they do over here. Most of it is handicapped as to allow the up and coming riders (such as a U17 girl I was chatting to before the final of the 2000m wheel race) to race with world class competitors (Belinda Goss is the heavy favourite in most of my races after having medalled in the scratch race at the first world cup). The organizers decided that I would be placed on the 25m mark (that would be 25m in front of the fastest girls on the scratch line) for the 1000m wheel race and as follows, the 50m mark of the 2000m wheel race. It will be interesting to see if they keep that mark for me in the days to come.
Racing at the Latrobe Recreation Centre started this morning at 10:00 with my first race being the 1000m wheel race (in case I have not made it clear, a wheel race is the handicapped race). My first jaunt on the track in Australia was a little lacklustre. After two months of long miles, the kilo that I was subjected to was a little on the harsh side. I managed to catch the Kate Cullen (attended the last world cup for the UK - competing with the Scottish team here in Tasmania) relatively quickly, only to get blown off the wheel in a bit of confusion about 400m in - I never really recovered and consequently did not make the top 7 in order to move on. Chalking it up to experience, I looked forward to the slightly longer 2km wheel race later in the afternoon.
Luckily, the 2km did indeed treat me better. I was at the 50m mark with a (very nice) girl from New Zealand named Rosie McCall - and together we were able to make up the majority of the handicap - however the speedsters on the 230m mark managed to elude our efforts and stay away. I squeaked into the final, finishing 7th in the heat with a turn of speed at the end (it was nice to feel fast comparitively!!!) The final played out similarly, but Rosie (who also made it through) had 4 or 5 girls behind us. Again we were unable to catch the girls who had started on the 230m mark, but this time I was blown off with just under 1 lap (approx 400m) due to a bit too long a pull into the wind on my part followed by the last lap speed serge.
After a bite to eat and a little recovery time, I was ready to tackle the 3km scratch race. I felt fairly strong and in control - I was riding my own race - but again the final serge of speed caught me out as the wind blasted me on the final lap. However, despite this, I feel like it was a solid day of racing on my part and the lack of results are more due to the excellent calibre of the field.
Just one day here and my outlook on track racing has changed a little. First off, my legs are not that big - most of the girls here are about my size, but with larger legs...and they are beating me. Second of all, I totally understand how the Australian dominate any racing that is FAST. From a very young age they are teaching their athletes to go fast over very short distances - and then you can extend the distance - a great example of this is Jesse McLean - one of the other competitors here is a former World Junior Pursuit Champion (from only a few years back) - but I'm starting to get it. Finally, track racing can be interesting to watch. The thousands of people who attended today's event (and I would guess that they weren't all here to watch the "chop" and running races!) are a testament to this - but then again, all the racing is geared towards the crowd. Short, fast, exciting and anyone can win - top this off with an announcer that must have experience at a horse track and it was quite the spectacle!
Chris had a similarly "for experience" day. He felt that a combination of an overly optimistic marking from the officials (he was looking for something a little more than 180m over 3km - those boys are cooking!) combined with some of the fastest racing he'd ever experience led to a painful, yet fun track experience. He had varying levels of success in the men's 2 and 3km wheel races as well as a 5km scratch race - not exactly his ideal set of races!
Tomorrow we get to rest up to prepare ourselves for a 5 day run of racing (Chris and I are definately feeling the intensity!) As for the picture - it is a Tasmanian Devil. Now I realize that the tasmanian devil has NOTHING to do with today's post - but Becca had made a special request and how could I possibly refuse???
Signing out from a girl who hopes my fast twitch muscle fibres wake up!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve in a Wind Storm

Well it ain’t snowing – mind you, sounds like it might not snow in Calgary either – but the rain is pelting against the door and we’re in high Christmas spirits. Checked in this afternoon to our home for the next week of track racing at the Bass and Flinders Motor Inn in the scenic town of Ulverstone, Tasmania. Seems like it’s going to work out well – making due with only a microwave and a bar fridge for our Christmas feast – however, we do have lots of garlands and Christmas Carols. Berdt is super festive as you can see – surprisingly enough only a few people have commented – we think they are under the impression that we are nuts!
On food related topics – Chris has been keeping up his protein intake over the last week – this hit home particularly when I was checking through my pictures and found three in a row of Chris eating various meals. We didn’t, unfortunately, get a picture of the BBQ Chris cooked up while we were in Hobart consisting of 2 steaks, 2 lamb chops and 4 beef sausages – and all that for only $6.47…we also had vegetables, but that’s of no consequence. Now, the impressive part being that I only ate 1 steak and half a sausage – leaving the rest to Chris – which he finished off quite handily. As my dad put it – it was most likely equivalent to about half the protein my sister ingested the entire time she was in China (which was about 3.5 months)…so yeah, he’s trying to become a bodybuilder – or at least that’s the best I can figure!
I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas – definitely weird not to be home but “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams”…

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Berdt Goes to the Doctor

Great news! Chris and I gave ourselves a starter motor (plus installation labour) to each other for Christmas - isn't that romantic??? Yes, I am stoked. I am also happy to report that after a 3 hour car hospital visit (with a much shorter surgery time of just over 15 minutes - we were there for when he woke up in case he was frightened and couldn't figure out where he was), I had a successful start this afternoon. No coughing, no studdering, in short, no sickly noises - only the hum of the Ford Falcon engine (after 310,000 km - a threshold we officially surpassed earlier this week). It is only a transplant - slightly used if you will - but hopefully it should work out well - at least we don't need to fret about stalling, or getting off the ferry anymore. Besides, Chris was just getting too darn good at the push start ;)
In other arenas (we have covered the car, so naturally the next news to share is about bicycles) we climbed Mount Wellington yesterday - I believe it may actually be the highest peak in Tasmania - and it's well worth it. Two hours of climbing put you just over 1000m above sea level and you can see forever! It's was however, a little chilly coming down seeings as we didn't have to pedal for 20km!
Today we have the great stocking mission on tap. Chris and I will set off into the great metropolis of Hobart (population of just over 100,000 I believe) and stuff the greatest stocking ever (barring yours Momma!) - I can't wait - it's gonna be SOOO much fun. I do, however, need to get off this computer in order to do that though - so if I am stranded without internet until after Christmas - Merry Christmas all. I will be thinking of you as the sun beats brilliantly (the UV index down here is off the map!) or the rain pelts down on us (in which case it gets unbelievably cold!), but I wish you all the best white Christmas ever - I'll let you know just how weird it is to be in the middle of summer!
I would also like to give a shout out to the city of Hobart - it's really very beautiful and the people are amazingly friendly. We both have really enjoyed staying here - it's A1!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let the Games Begin!

...but not for us - but man, is it ever a good story! Chris has been referring to it as the best Canadian landing since Dieppe...but I'll start from the beginning.
After leaving Coolangatta, we headed down (via Seal's Rock for another great surfing lesson with Deano) to Sydney where we spent just under a week with Rob and Alex - had a great time, but were ready to move on and ride somewhere that wasn't Centennial Park (the 3km loop got a little old after the 3rd consecutive day! So off down to Melbourne we went where Sandy and Laurence and the kids (plus a new 10 week old kitten and 8 week old Lab/Poodle puppy) generously let us invade their place again - even Chris couldn't avoid the pull of the adorable young pets! So yes, that got us to heading over here to Tasmania.
Finding the ferry was a bit of a challenge and proved to provide a little entertainment when we got on a toll road with no possible way to pay the toll - this of course resulted in Jenny freaking out and getting off the road as fast a humanly possible (while respecting the rules of the road and using the appropriate off and on ramps that it) - but we got there in time (it was a really good thing that we had left ourselves 2.5 hours!) and hunkered down for an evening on a ferry. The ferry was pretty cool and went unbelievable quick as we were sleeping - and only once did I fear for my life as I woke up from a shift in the boat and had sudden images of the Titanic float (or is that sink?) through my head...but I'm still here!
Getting off the ferry was a bit of an ordeal - but Berdt decided to start - so we had achieved our first success of the morning - next mission: get to Rosebury to race bicycles. After a coffee stop just outside of Devonport we were off driving on small country roads through beautiful countryside...and masses of water falling on our heads. We both were a little apprehensive about the rain (they had been racing on the track in the rain in Brisbane - so there was no accounting what the crazy Aussies would do!) but we drove straight there - and in fact, straight through the town as the population tops out at about 1500 - but it is a major mining town on the West Coast (we would soon find out that the reason it was a major settlement is that, as the locals put it, it only rains 5 days a week - it drips off the trees the other 2!). We did find the track (a lovely circular asphalt construction around a footy field - appanrently we can look forward to more of this!) but we felt that there was something amiss as we pulled up. As we were ushered into a parking spot, all we could see was big burly men and soon enough they figured out that we didn't fit in. "Oh, you are bikies! Didn't anyone tell you?" At this point we were rather concerned - turns out that the bike races were postponed for a month due to the rain (go figure!) but that we were free to stay and watch the "chop". Of course, good times ensued. We saw 5 horus of lumberjack competition that day - the competitors ranged from 8 to 82 years - pretty phenomenal and I must admit they were handy with the axes. Although apparently the referee screwed up and placed one of the competition logs in a heat - and there were some nasty words exchanged as a result!
Rosebury then turned out to be one of the best experiences here on Aussie soil (although I'm not sure we are strictly in Australia here...we're in Tasmania!). Loris, one of the event organizers, took us in for the evening and took us out for dinner with the gang. It was a great time (although it did confirm that I am NOT a small town chicka) and the next day we got to be a part of their town parade!!! (see the picture) We were going to go for a hike after the parade (right down main street I might add), but we have gone soft and the rain chased us out - that afternoon we drove over 5 hours (which I'm pretty sure you have to work to do on the island) by heading over to the "tourist" town of Stahan (pop. 750) and over the interior all the way to Hobart. By the time we arrived I had pretty much lost my mind - but we were in good spirits - plus the guy at the only LPG suppling petrol station on the West Coast checked out Berdt and his battery and we now officially know that it is our starter motor - so all was not lost in the detour to Stahan.
As an aside - I know you all like to hear about Berdt - it really does highlight the advantage of a new (pre-grunge era) car!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Re-starting the Adventure

And we are on the road again - funny enough, despite a two month hiatus, nothing has changed when it comes to being on the road. The drivers here are still sketchy, my temper is short, the scenery is beautiful, and Bernt has decided to act up (oh goodie!) and I can't get internet access to provide you with photographic evidence of our trip. :P
After a great final week in Coolangatta, complete with crazy thunder storms (I swear I was up for like 2 hours, and every time I started to fall asleep I was awoken by another crash of thunder - just unreal, I guess they got 6 inches of rain about 10km up the road!), the start and end of The DaVinci Code, the purchase of the newest Diana Gabaldon book (which I'm super stoked to start tonight) we hit the road this morning (as Chris' coffee hit the windsheild). We said farewell to our temporary home in the morning and went to say goodbye to the Markwell Cafe for breakfast. Chris decided to be a devil and get a coffee to go - so we head off down the road. No more than 100m after we take off there is a roundabout. As we navigate through this roundabout, Chris is checking out the map and forgets that he has placed his coffee cup on the dash - only to get it in his lap half a second later. It was a riot! He's come around - mostly with the help of the coffee shop being dudely and giving him a free coffee to replace the fallen one.
So we were on the road again, for a mighty 80km. Byron Beach was our first destination as we wanted to say goodbye to the northern coast in style (it was of course the most beautiful day we've had all week and we were driving!!!) After a jump in the sea and a sunbake session we were back in the car headed down to Port MacQuarie (we are creatures of habit, what can I say?) where I am yet again standing at a computer terminal at the same campsite as I was 2 months ago! The only hiccup in our travel today was in Cough's Harbour - of all places! We stopped to get some gas and when we went to get going again, the blasted battery wouldn't start. Luckily a lovely lady gave us a boost (after the gas attendant almost killed himself with the booster wires - he got a good lesson on 'completing the circuit' - ie lots of sparks!) - it was nice that neither of the other parties involved questioned how a car battery wouldn't work only minutes after it had been running for 3 hours - I certainly did! So we got going again - but really we should have known better than to try to stop near the Big Banana - it's a cursed town I tell ya!!! While I'm thinking of Berdt maintainance - I have a poll question: when the car is leaking oil and you have to replace it entirely every 1000 or so km - do you have to pay to get the oil changed? Because really, the oil is recycling itself - ahh the backpacker car dilemna - but I would love to hear what you think.
Barring no other problems, we are getting up tomorrow to do a lovely ride only to hit the road again. Our first stop is Seals Rock for another surfing lesson (Chris is decidedly disappointed with his current improvement - beind none as we have only surfed the one time!) and then off to Sydney's northern beaches and Sydney to see Rob and Alex. Then over the next week we are going to make our way to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road - that being the road on the south-eastern corner before checking out a few digs and looking for jobs in Melbourne for a week prior to our departure for Tassie on the 16th. The next few weeks will be undoubtably eventful as our journey re-starts...but please keep your fingers crossed for the well-being of Bernt!!!
And a very Happy Birthday to my Momma!!! December teh 3rd is her special day - love you lots!!! Later kids...

Friday, November 25, 2005

Muffin Cake

Ahhh the muffin cake - the signature internet you interject "what on earth are you talking about crazy???" Well until a few days ago when we found a hot spot in our living room, Chris and I were travelling into town to use the internet at a cafe that offered free internet (as opposed to the place in Cairns that wanted to charge us more for using the laptop as opposed to their computers - how warped is that?!?), so the weekly visit usually included a muffin cake. Don't they look delish??? That's cause they are, and the only other snack that is topping my charts at the moment is an apple and peanut butter combination - you should give it a go (did I mention that I'm training a good amount at the mo?)
That is the story of the muffin cake - only one of the wonders brought to you by the Gold Coast of Australia - not sure if it's indigenous, but it's a pull...and so we're staying another week here in Coolangatta. Not necessarily because of the muffin cakes, we do have a few better reasons (like the beaches and my job and not having anything to go to) and the hope that all of next week will be like today: beautiful and sunny. Then after my ride in the morning I'll be able to head down to the beach to work on my tan. Of late, this hasn't been possible as the weather has been a little lacklustre. Rain has come in most afternoons after a brutally hot morning - like the inversions we get back home, but the storms are coming in at like 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Consequently everyday has been a bit of a race with the weather to get home. I'm not sure if I've mentioned, but when we first got here 2 months ago it was crazy hot (like it hasn't got that warm since) and they have been praying for rain - they hadn't had a wet season for 10 years. The first day we were here I joked around with a guy on the group ride that they needn't worry now that Chris and I were here the rain would invariably come...and low and behold. I mean it's great that they are getting their rain - but did it have to happen on my holiday? Chris and I are thinking of lodging a complaint with the tourism board ;)
But despite the inclement weather, we made it out to the local track twice this week. The track is located about half an hour up the M1 from here in the town of Nerang. As the picture shows there is very little banking and consequently you have to turn in the corners, but it gets the job done now doesn't it? If I were to pick it apart, I might also mention that the whole track is on a bit of an incline so you're actually going downhill into the finish straight and it's something like 356m long (another rather useless distance), HOWEVER I think we could learn a good amount from the Australians here. The facility is always open and free of charge. The lack of banking makes the track accessible to everyone on all sorts of bicycles, and the kicker being that they have constructed a criterium circuit around the outside of the track. The support buildings are also pretty impressive - including covered stands for spectators. Bottom line - it was pretty cool and both times Chris and I pretty much had the entire track to ourselves - definately no complaints.
Although not a track bike, in bike nerd talk, my brand new BLUE bicycle has arrived. It's a wee bit depressing as my mom now has a bike in her posession (despite UPS' best efforts to harm it in transportation) that I will not see for another 4 months :( - but if you want to check out a picture of it look here: On a related note - if you are interested in (or know of anyone who is) purchasing a 52cm compact super wonderful Specialized Allez Comp with Dura Ace - lemme know. It's on the market.
Without any appropriate segway, on a more pop culture note, we have also managed to download the first seven episodes of the OC. Consequently I'm a very happy chicka - probably need a little more sleep though. I do however have a concern that I was friends with Taylor Townsend in high school (and I won't even let myself consider the alternative!) Also - they better not play around with my Seth and Summer relationship -- they just are not allowed!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Worst Pro Stalker Ever

This is a picture of Surfer's Paradise (your call on whether that many buildings can be considered paradise!!!) from the beach at Burleigh Heads where we were yesterday. Can you guess which building got hit by lightning???
I’ll start by diverting those of you who aren’t interested in bike nerdism to the second paragraph (this includes my darling sister who will undoubtedly be rolling her eyes at the moment – Becs head on down past this schlock!) So yeah, Chris and I were riding out to do intervals on Friday afternoon when a couple of well clad lads road by the other way – after a little discussion we decided that it was Robbie MacEwan and his buddy the Belgian champ (I haven’t a clue who that is – Chris does, however if those who aren’t bike nerds are still reading, Robbie is a sprinter dude who has won the green jersey twice – provided that some random dude I road with when we first got here had his trivia right. On a more entertaining note, he also named his child Ewan – which for the record makes him Ewan MacEwan – bad idea…) So yeah, we figured it was them, thought “hey, that’s cool” and kept on with our ride. However, on the way home, we came out onto the main road and there they were again! Using my cat like reactions (which were tested a few years ago in San Fran when Dan and I thought that we saw Cippo, let him and his Saeco teammates get a few minutes head start and then we gave ‘er to catch them – yeah somehow it didn’t work out) so yet again, I saw the pro, thought about it, Chris and I had a little discussion and then about a minute after their passing we started hammering after them. We hoped that they would get caught up in the ALWAYS congested intersection – that was clear – so again I found myself giving everything (which after the intervals wasn’t terribly impressive) to try and catch a pro cyclist. Which brings me to the next question: who do I think I am? Why do I think that I can give some bloke who can finish the Tour de France a minute or so head start and then catch them? Now, to my credit, they both were sprinters (and Cippo wasn’t known for finishing the Tour…) but yes, it was a little ridiculous…not to mention – what were we going to do when we caught them? So hi – invite ourselves over for tea…a little beyond me – but it was a fun few minutes as Chris and I impersonated the commuter-dude who is intent on racing you home on the Goose…
K, the bike nerdom is done – now onto my life for the last week: ride in the morning, lounge around in the afternoon (unfortunately not outside as it has been crazy windy…mind you from all accounts of the weather at home, you probably don’t care to hear about this!) and then head over to work. In my week as a waitress, I think that I’ve covered a good long list of the don’t dos – I have mischarged customers and had it come out of my paycheck (actually it took my WHOLE paycheck…nothing like working for free!), I have almost (that being the key I would say) spilled food all over customers, and just last night, I managed to serve a vegetarian a plate of keema (meat) samosas. In the last case, he informed that he hasn’t eaten meat for the last 30 years and there was no way that they were meat samosas – so I just ran with it…but I hope that he’s not sick today! But despite my booboos, I am very much enjoying myself. I’ve got to meet quite a few really interesting people – who seem to pay me for talking to them – and they are all rather keen on my accent. That haven’t been said, I have also had someone tell me that I have a Queensland drawl when I talk (mind you I’ve never known anyone who has referred to a drawl as a positive thing!), and another guy tell me that I must just have been born in Canada as I have an Australian accent – honestly, I think they were both on drugs!
Speaking of drugs, in case you were wondering – if you plan on heading over to Bali – don’t take drugs with you. Don’t smuggle drugs in – they will find you, put you in jail and hopefully not sentence you to the death sentence…a little intense? Yeah, you might say. The same goes for Singapore by the way – this is what I have learned from the newscasts here in the Land Down Under. In the next week a young Australian is going to be hung in Singapore for smuggling $26,000 worth of drugs into the country…not the best idea at the best of times – really don’t do it when the penalty is death…what are people thinking? Also topping the news stories, and Aussie model is returning to the country (we got to see her flight home on the television) after serving a 3 months sentence for being found with 2 ecstasy tablets in a club. Really folks, if you’re going to do drugs – head over to Victoria – they don’t seem to really care there! Sorry, that’s my dumb person rant for the month.
But things are going rather swimmingly here on the Gold Coast. Bottom line is that I’m loving life – there is nothing in the world like the coastline here – I tell ya! Oh right, and for those of you who have been concerned as it’s been a few weeks since the last Important Australian Sporting Event, the Socceroos (that is honestly what they call their National Soccer team) beat out Uruguay for a World Cup spot last Wednesday – it stopped the nation. Speaking of winning moves, a high five goes out to a Mr. Eric Holland from both Chris and myself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wet and Wild

I may have said that I was going to Australia - but did I mention that the US is alive and well here? Not only are there terrorist "threats" all over the place (seems a little far to come to bomb somewhere if you ask me!), but there are Warner Brothers themeparks coming out your ears! On Monday Chris and I opted for the wet one of the bunch (as opposed to Sea World or Movieworld - we are going to California in a few months), but it was great! My favorite was a double tube ride that shot you down over humps so fast I thought we were going to catch air. Fortunately we stuck around late enough to out-do the families - by about 3pm all the 9 years olds were tired and we got through as many rides in the last 2 hours as we did in the first 5. Good fun had by all.
Other than that, things here in Coolangatta are going swimmingly. We are planning on heading south again in about 10 days, although as I have procured myself some employment, we might stay here a little longer. I'm a waitress at an Indian restaurant about 3 blocks from our place and enjoying it. It's a pretty relaxed environment and I've managed to get a few monster tips from people feeling sorry for the poor Canadian backpacker - I ain't complaining! The major downfall to this new situation is that we have to ride a little later in the day so that I get enough sleep - but it hasn't been cripplingly hot (yet) - although today was one of the windier expeditions.
So to sum it up - life rocks! I love it here on the Gold Coast - but I'm excited to move on too. The only crappy part at the moment is that my new Blue bike should be delivered to my Mom sometime at the end of this week - awesome...I get to see it in March....:(
As for the picture here - isn't it great that they sell SARS in a can here? They are far too concerned with "bird flu"...Chris said he really wanted the picture to be taken in the supermarket with a token asian guy behind him...but I wasn't quick enough...k, I lie - we haven't downloaded those pictures yet, so I decided to put a picture of our picnic with Alena and Ryan when they were here on the Gold Coast (they have since headed down to Melbourne).
I can't believe it - we've been here in Australia for 2 months now and we're off down to Tasmania in a month - on a 10.5 hour ferry!!! Why that sounds exciting to a girls who has lived on Vancouver Island for the last 3 years, I'm not really sure...but it does!
Anyways, hope all is well where you are!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Captain Cook

I must admit – every time I see a crocodile all I can think of is Peter Pan and Captain Cook – so there was a whole lot of that yesterday. We headed out to Hartley’s Crocodile Farm (farm as they breed crocs to sell for skins) – but it was one of the best animal viewing areas I’ve ever been to. The highlight of the day was the very first boat tour where they took us into a lagoon with 18 crocodiles and fed them off the side of the boat. Chris actually got the most amazing video footage – that I would put on here if I could – but you’ll have to see it when we get home!
We ate real crocodile meat for lunch (described as a cross between chicken and fish – but it was verging on a little leathery) so that was a treat and saw a lovely young woman handling the most deadly snake in the world – the Easter Taipan. I actually figure that all the tourist items that we have taken advantage of since we arrived here in Australia have had to do with the sun and beaches – or weird and wacky indigenous animals. Which leads me to my ignorant person of the day rant.
So we took a bus transfer up north to get in the croc park (as it’s halfway to Port Douglas for those of you with a map) and on the way we picked up an older British couple who sported perhaps the most pretentious accent I’ve heard in a long while. They jumped on the coach and we drove down the beach where they had just recently placed the stinger nets. A little background: stinger nets are placed in the warmer waters to create “safe” areas to swim in as the box jellyfish is somewhat deadly – not like the fun bluebottles that we get down on the Gold Coast. So yeah, they had placed the nets in the previous day and the woman comments that she was happy they got a swim in before that – it was just that more pleasant (at this point I asked myself if she thought they attracted the stingers, but I still gave her the benefit of the doubt). However, about 3km down the road she then proceeded to ask our guide if they would also have stingers on these beaches…now perhaps I’m being a little intolerant – but really. Come on now – it’s an OCEAN – I’m guessing that the whole concept was a little beyond the woman – but I honestly felt a little like I was watching This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ talking to Americans – but this time it was snooty British…sometimes I wonder about people – but she did give us a good deal to talk about later that day.
One might wonder what Chris and I have been up to here in Cairns other than being super tourists – and the answer is “not much.” It’s been great – although we are both looking forward to jumping back on our bikes tomorrow (and maybe heading up to Noosa where we get to see the big boys of Australia cycling duke it out in a crit – I want Baden Cooke to win!) Cairns has been everything we were expecting – namely hot and gorgeous and it has given us a chance to interact Aussie style with some locals. Consequently, I’ve been working on my Oz vocabulary and here are a few of my favs:
True: Used in a context of “you’re kidding me”
Flash: As in I have a flash bike – we might be more inclined to use flashy
Fair Dinkem: Chris’ favourite and I haven’t quite figured out how to use it, although many a postcard try to explain it!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Reef Magic

Unrelated quote of the day: “There [Lance] is – right where he belongs between the boobies and the rap stars.” A charming quote from my lovely boyfriend in reference to where the Lance magazine was located.
So you walk into the Reef terminal and there are a bazillion different providers eager to take you out to the Great Barrier Reef – so how do you differentiate yourself (and the commerce student in me comes out)? But honestly, how do you decide who you are going to pay your $150-$200 for a day out to one of the wonders of the world…I just don’t know. We had a little advice from Keith’s (2nd cousin – not going to get anymore into the relations – as one of the people here mentioned – we’re “prick” relatives) girlfriend Faith who organizes tours for a living – her advice was to go all the way to the Outer Reef…but that doesn’t narrow it down all that much. But this is my take on it:
So the first key is to give out a free voucher for your cruise out to the Reef. Really that makes all the difference in the world – and Reef Magic had us won at that…but then, let’s sweeten the deal. Let’s take you out 500m and have one of the gear boxes fail on the motor – take another 2 hours to get back to the original dock – all the while feeding us fruit and snacks, only to get back and have the impatient and irritating 25% of the clientele get off the boat. At this point, I wasn’t completely convinced that we had made the correct decision (that having been said, we weren’t the honeymooning couple that had had a boat break down on them twice in two weeks) – but then the company moved on and gave us complementary snorkel tours and wetsuits – and I was actually impressed. So we were a behind schedule by a bit – but the day was incredible – so for those of you planning on heading out to the Reef in the near future (which is undoubtedly most of you!) – Reef Magic is the one I reckon.
Once out at the Reef (after I was a little concerned that I was going to lose my lunch on the way out there – apparently I take after me mum) we saw some of the most incredible fish – I really can’t believe the colours! There was one fluorescent striped fish that was my favourite and we saw a Nemo fish – the whole experience has made me want to see Finding Nemo all over again! There was one ginormous fish that was kinda ugly, but cool and we also saw a manta ray – or perhaps a stinger ray – but that made my day!All in all Emma, I dub the Reef festivus fun – it definitely had the potential of falling miserably under New Year’s fun – but it’s a winner – a definitely must do!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Makybe Diva - it's a horse!

Another day, another major sporting event here in Australia – but today it’s the Melbourne Cup. The most important horse race on the Australian calendar occurs on the first Tuesday of every November and is titled “the race that stops the nation.” Makybe (pronounced ma-kie-be) Diva took home her third straight win this afternoon making Melbourne Cup history – the nation’s pretty stoked. In Melbourne it’s a holiday (however, as Hannah and Michelle put it – it’s instead of Halloween) and the holiday has some of the more atrocious hats I’ve ever seen, but the rest of the country just seems to call it a day at noon to head off drinking…which is of no great surprise.
Chris and I celebrated this wonderful event by betting on a horse (when in Rome), well two horses to be exact, and neither did anything, so we’re out $8 – but the nice thing is – that’s what I was expecting. We’ve been up in Cairns since Friday staying with my mom’s cousin Penny and her family who have been incredible! Spoiled yet again, we’ve now been to a real Aussie barbie with lot-s-o meat and two Australian sports stars. Apparently my 2nd cousins (well they are mom’s cousin’s daughters) have a knack for dating celebrities. The eldest is married to a footy star who’s team actually won the Grand Final (great sporting event from September in Melbourne) a few years back (his name is Ben) and the youngest Nicole is dating a rugby superstar Billy Slater and the two of them were in the paper this morning. However, Chris and I – although we were close to these sports stars, didn’t manage to speak to either one of them…mind you we didn’t know at the time what we were dealing with!
Tomorrow we’re off to the Reef – the big Great Barrier Reef – I understand that I can head home after this…then on Thursday to a crocodile farm. So we’ve been kept busy here in Cairns. Yesterday we went up to a small town called Kuranda (I think) in the Rainforest and took a gondola down (we both took amusement in the fact that it was made by Pomma) and it was absolutely beautiful. Everyone’s been dudes here – just unreal – we are really very lucky – well if you discount the fact that we didn’t win anything better on the Melbourne cup and Chris’ sunglasses were devoured by Penny’s dog Keela (who is adorable).
Saturday we’re off “home” to the Gold Coast, where with any luck, Berdt will have kept the air in his rear right hand tire (which seems highly unlikely at this point) and we won’t have another escapade with the car (again, highly unlikely) – so again, nothing but fun from the Ford Falcon (there was a horse in the race called Leica Falcon – Chris remarked that they might have to push start it!). Life’s great – no complaints…I’m super stoked to see the reef!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sell your soul

Yes, and for $14/hour plus bonuses, you too can sell your soul to the devil. Chris and I both had the opportunity to partake in an afternoon of "telesales" yesterday afternoon. I lasted an entire shift of 5 hours while Chris only made it just over 3. Definately a proud moment for both of us - sad when the greatest accomplishment is actually quitting the job. We're still here in Coolangatta and we thought we had got the perfect job: 12:30 to 4:30, airconditioned, our feet up and not bad pay...well it might be under the title of "too good to be true"...and so we sit here at a cafe at 2:10pm the next day...unemployed yet again and soaking in the beautiful weather.
All I can say in my defense of not returning is that I'm fairly sure working there compromised my integrity - and I would like to think that its worth more than the aforementioned fact I like to think of myself as a morally upstanding individual and tricking people into buying advertising space didn't fit into the picture somehow. I did however feel a little better after talking to Chris and finding out that he had indeed seen an output the previous day and it wasn't simply organized crime...but definately verging on it.
As if anyone really needs me to tell them this but, DON'T GIVE OUT YOUR CREDIT CARD INFO OVER THE PHONE. Apparently they didn't get that warning here in the land down under - cause this company was making sales...very shady indeed.
But other that that forray into freaky, things are going well, I believe that I am going to ride for an American team - Team Kenda Tire for the 2006 season and I'm stoked. The manager seems really on the ball and I'm going to race a whole different calendar based mostly in the states. So that should really be a different experience - which is what I was looking for!
The weather isn't prime - haven't been in the water for a few days, but I'm doing my rain dance every night and it seems to be holding off for the moment...I'm sure to be back on the computer if it doesn't :P...lata!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

We got a visitor...

So we're settling in quite nicely here in Coolangatta. Found a few cool bikes shops (we got a couple free beanies - tuques for the rest of us - from one of them - why they even manufacture the things here is beyond me!) and we're enjoying the lifestyle. I'm still searching for the moneytree though - maybe one of the million eucalyptus trees grows money...the seethrough part might be difficult though...
Yesterday we tried out "the crazies" training ride. Guess what - they aren't kidding. It is honestly the most insane thing I have ever experienced. We contributed our part by getting up at 4am to meet up with a few guys at 5 to ride up to Mermaid Waters where the ride starts at 5:45. We caught up with the 80 or so other keeners and wheeled around for about 5 minutes before EVERYONE in the group started hammering as hard as they could for the next hour. It was highly unpleasant and just plain bizarre. We ended up hanging out with a few 75 year old men and a masters world champ - not to mention that one of them was on a fixed gear...mental.
But that's when the joy comes in - we got home (at like 8am!), had a little nibble, a little nap and then headed out to the surf. Just in case you're wondering - no, life does not get any better than this!
Unfortunately we had a little critter come and drop-in late afternoon. Well actually little isn't the correct adjective - it was HUGE! And ugly - and Chris was a wonderful boyfriend and killed it while I went into the other room. I know I'm a really big baby - but at least Canadians can kinda understand where I'm coming from - here the woman where we rented the place from just about laughed at us last week when we mentioned that we had seen a cockroach. Her response was "they won't hurt you", which I suppose if you live in a land with 127 breeds of snakes (most of which are poisonous according to our friends at the Healesville Sanctuary) you do need to prioritize. So I didn't sleep all that well last night as a result, but I'm trying to be strong.
We had our first electical storm last night - they get a few good downfalls! But again, the internet is pricey - it's far cheaper just to call home - how ridiculous is that?!? So I shall be off...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Coolangatta: Home Sweet Home!

So after a week or so of living out of Bernt as we stumbled up the beautiful Australian east coast - Chris and I decided that it was time to settle down a little. A few irrational moments had hit home just how tired we both were - so we hit up a hotel for an evening when we made it just south of Brisbane in Surfer's Paradise. The first comment I would like to make is that Surfer's is anything but a paradise! After 10 days of travelling a little off the beaten path, we were agast with the commercialization of this place. Driving through it made me want to cry - I was not enjoying it at all. On the flip, the riding scene appeared to be amazing - a track nearby in Nerang, a group ride every morning with 80 riders (mind you it starts at 5:45!) and a friendly crew. So we stopped in and tried the group ride on Saturday morning and enjoyed it quite a bit - most of the ride was along the waterline - beautiful sandy beaches and amazing surf, we road along the indy track (Indy is next week and a BIG deal here) and everyone raved about all the riding - to the south are a few great mountains. So despite my initial impression, we started looking around for a place to stay. All rent amounts are done by week here and we had decided that $250 should get a good place and based on what we had seen in the paper, it seemed quite likely. So we started calling around and we apparently fell a bit between the cracks - leases start at 6 months, but we are staying too long for some holiday resorts. After calling a dozen different places and getting no where (including a dude who informed me that his place was FAR too small for 2 people...) we went to a real estate broker in downtown (which is actually the CBD here - central business district) Surfers and she was only moderately helpful. She showed us many beautiful places - but we just didn't feel like dropping $350 a week (I paid less than that a month in Vic!). So we then got in touch with an extremely helpful lady down here in Rainbow Bay (hence the Rainbow on the building we're living in!) and she helped a ton. We figured we've done the student ghetto for a few years now - what's another few months!
So yeah, the pictures are our new digs - we are honestly a block from the beach! Today we went for a spin and then threw on the suits to hit the beach - what an amazing luxury! So tomorrow's off down the town to try and coherse people into giving us jobs...
The rest of the week may involve a group ride (as aforementioned)...but that means we have to leave our place about 4:30 - so that might be a challenge - and yes that is in the morning!
To leave you thinking - we're situated right on the border between New South Wales and Queensland - we're actually in Queensland - so we don't change our clock over for daylight savings time...on the other hand they do in NSW - so that'll be a treat as the next street over is Boundary Street - and it is the boundary...I wonder if the shops open at different times....

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Policier, policier...

So despite my superior driving skills, I was pulled over this morning on the highway between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. My adrenaline soared (ask Chris, my hands were shaking!) but it turned out only to be a random breathalizer...have I mentioned that this was at 12:30 in the afternoon? Apparently (I asked the officer) they get "heaps" of people testing positive...not sure I want to drive on the roads anymore!!!
Anyways, prior to leaving PM (it was a great town! I really enjoyed it by the way) we headed out at 5:30am to try to meet up with the group ride. Try being the operative word, still not sure what we did wrong, but we didn't end up meeting up with anyone and did a nice little loop just the two of us. The highlight was by far heading to the Peleton Coffee shop for a drink just before we left the city. It's a small coffee shop attached to a bike shop (but I think the coffee shop is the major attraction) and the people there are incredible! First off, they were just super friendly and interested in talking to us, second of all, they gave me their copy of Ride magazine because my helmet and left leg made it into a picture (from the Tour de Montreal) - it's like I'm famous. It made my day.
This was a good thing as we're now in Coffs Harbour and I'm not overly impressed...could have given it a miss, but we're here now and apparently there is the worlds largest banana (that Lonely Planet has rated as lame), but I'm keen to see the gift shop! Hope all is well!

Hardcore Aussie!

So what have I learned in the last few weeks (other than the fact that I have a complete obsession with McDonald's or Maccers as they call it in this country, once I leave Canadian borders - it's all together weird, but yes I'm oddly intrigued) yes, back to what I've learned, it's that Australians love to abbreviate things and have them end in "y". For instance, my bike becomes a "push bike" down here, but they are referred to as "pushies", we're going up to "Brissie" (Brisbane), we eat dinner on the "barbie" (BBQ) and so on and so forth...good times - sounds kinda funny. Regardless, the last 24 hours have been super hardcore for Chris and I. First of all, we were hanging out in the campsite yesterday morning and this guy starts shooing away an animal from our neighbours rubbish. We're curious - what is it? Well it was a 3 foot lizard, the name of it is kinda like an iguana - but it has a different prefix. Yeah, so there was a 3 foor lizard about 20 feet from me. This guy started throwing rocks at it and even hissed at it while it went away - it was rather bizzarre!
After being mildly alarmed by this, we headed out in the avos (super hardcore sufer dude lingo) and hit the waves. It was incredible! I couldn't believe just how much fun it was - the boards were smaller and the waves bigger than what I have done previously and after 2 hours I was dog tired - it rocked! Good thing I already spend on my money on cycling paraphenalia - or else I might take up surfing! We then headed back to the campsite and were walking up to the store to get beans for our beans and toast dinner when we saw a rather large snake by the side of the road. I took a picture of my first Aussie snake sighting and I'll put it up when we get the chance. It was all ready to pounce - kinda frightening really!
So this morning we headed up to Port MacQuarie which is where I write from at this moment (the camp site has free internet) and we went to a koala hospital this afternoon. They are super adorable, although the number of animals with chlamydhia (I know I spelled that wrong) or "wet bottom" was kinda alarming.
I'm sorry I haven't been calling Mom and Dad - it's a little pricey where we are on the phone cards, but the second I get somewhere where it's reasonable I'll be giving you a shout home in a heartbeat. Love you lots!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Finally in the heat!

So we did manage to leave Melbourne - and there were a few long days in the car that followed. We spent the first night in Yass - we put all speculation on the name and tried it out - but despite our ability to overlook the obvious, Yass was indeed what the name led us to believe. Two crappy meals and a lit up campsite just off the highway sleep later, we were outta there - and happy for it. The second day's obstacle was getting through Sydney - which was lotsa fun, but again we made it and headed up north of Newcastle, only to find that there were limited camping spots as it's spring holidays at the moment. We ended up in a campsite that was a little bizarre to say the least - there weren't any stalls, you just picked a spot of grass (everyone else also picked a spot for their campfire, we figured Smokey the bear wouldn't have been impressed) and apparently some guy came around and collected the fee - we never saw him, and while we are a little concerned about the karma of sleeping in a park on the river with a million other people without paying, it was nice to have a free night's accomodation.
Which brings us up to Seal's Rock - a beautiful beach campsite that until this morning was competely innondated with people as today's a holiday Monday. So we broke out the bikes yesterday and checked out some amazing scenery (the highlight of which was 100m from our site) - the 3.5 hours seemed a little much, but it's all good - we survived. The road down into the site is interesting - a good 4km of gravel road is fun both on the bikes and in the car - the speed limit is about 80km/h - which as Chris put it, is more of a dare than anything else. Evidently those who wrote the limits weren't driving Bernt!
We're just up the coast at the moment waiting to start a surf lesson - it's super hot out and it should be a blast! Can't wait - will try to get pictures soon!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

No more dead rat in the back!

Okay, so it only smelled like a dead rat - but for the record it was actually bad enough that I kept wondering if we might not find something back there. Alas, we did not, but we got rid of the carpet and the molding floor board over top of the gas tank (Chris very handily replaced it - and I put Hawaiian beach mats over top) and now we can actually sit in the back without dying! I'm very proud of us - mind you it does look a little hippy like for my personal liking...
Meaning...the car is finally good to go! And yes, we're still in Melbourne - new plan of attack is to leave here tomorrow - but we're so ready for it now - we have a mobile (I'm not trying to be pretencious, but that's what they call them here), the car is all spiffed up and we managed to do a little sightseeing in Melbourne (other than getting to know local television culture!) I have a picture of Chris in some Ned Kelly head armour that I just can't wait to get up here. Ned Kelly (for those of you who don't know the Australian legend, rent the new movie, it has Orlando Bloom and Heath Ledger's heaven...) was actually hanged in the gaol here - so we checked that out yesterday. Near the end I felt like I had seen enough, but I was happy to have gotten to see it - apparently one of the local universities has classes in one of the old cell blocks...a little creepy if you ask me! We also tried to check out the velodrome in the Vodaphone center, but it was all shut up for the night and when we inquired nextdoor, they weren't sure if it was even up at the moment - but regardless, the set-up they have is pretty cool. There are about 5 arenas all within a block - I can only imagine how cool the Commonwealth Games are going to be. Anyhoo - I'm off for a run (it's been rather cold and on and off raining all day, so we decided to delay the ride until later...I don't know how I'm ever going to be able to come back to Canada!!!) Laters.

Monday, September 26, 2005

On the road again....almost

So the money pit is finally roadworthy - doesn't look all that different, or feel all that different, but the charming lads at the stupid car garage have told us that the Falcon is now safe to be on the roads (never mind that 1000km I drove before I paid a million dollars to have the rear door open properly). As a result, our plan is to hit the pavement and start heading back north tomorrow...I feel that we have imposed ourselves on our most gracious guests a little too long now (especially now that Chris has so kindly passed on the death virus to Sandy and myself).
Consequently, the last few days have been full of sleep and cross stitch (I keep surprising Chris, first I helped Hanna with a little knitting now I'm cross stiching...I think he thinks I'm 70!) The footy game was super intense - came down to the final minute - I think we saw an epic match. Unfortunately my adopted team, the Eagles lost by 3 points....booo! But they definately rallied at the end - and footy has my props as an interesting sport...just in case you were concerned! We're now off to the mall to help make Berdt a wee bit prettier (had to pull out the mat in the back because we think something died in it) prior to our travels. So long!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sick for Footy

Based on the 100,000 fans who lined the streets to watch the Aussie rules players parade down the streets of downtown Melbourne yesterday - I think the country might be a little nuts over the game! Lawrence (family friend from Calgary, related to Sandy-super mom) continued in the spirit of great hosting by taking us downtown to his office yesterday to watch the parade. We were able to see everything from the first floor balcony - it was pretty cool. The truly phenomenal thing about the turnout however, is that there isn't even a Melbourne team playing - it's the West Coast Eagles (Perth) and Sydney Swans (both of who's mascots could be mistaken for chickens, but that's not nearly as magestic now is it?) The energy downtown was pretty amazing - I enjoyed it - Chris and I are planning on watching the game today, mind you we figure it'll be a whole lot of confusion - I let you know how it goes. It appears that Sydney has it's very own Todd Bertuzzi on it's hands. Their captain, Barry Hall, apparently hit someone in the last game, but the tribunal has allowed him to compete in the final - this is definatley a front page controversy!
Other than that, Sandy and I seem to have caught Chris' the energy around the house is pretty mellow. There is a great deal of sleeping and TV watching - but I figure it's the first down time I've had since boarding a plane in Calgary over 2 weeks ago - so it's all good :)
Earlier in the week we went to the Healesville Sanctuary which was really great! Kangaroos, wombats, koalas, tasmanian devils...and a thousand devil's school holidays, so we were fighting to see a few of the displays. There are a whole lot of marsupials - and to be honest, after awhile they all kinda blur together into a sea of cuteness - it was great. I also got to pet a kangaroo which was a little foreign (you aren't supposed to touch animals in the zoo!) but super cool.
So Berdt is in the shop getting roadified (I'm trying not to think about how much it's going to cost - but the shop guy seems to have backed off on the number of things he feels he needs to fix) and so we're chillin in the city for the weekend...the Grand Final weekend - I'm going out on a limb here and I'm going to cheer for the Eagles. I figure choosing the team from Perth - they must be the underdogs - and that's a good Canadian thing to do...
Oh right and I feel that it is my duty to inform those OC fans out there that Caleb Nicol used to be on Neighbours here in the land of Oz - weird eh?
Later folks!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Berdt's maiden voyage

So it's official - we now own a vehicle on Australian soil - so like any good Canadians, we decided to jump out on the open road and drive. I'm actually dedicating this part of our trip to Dan - as I feel that the amount of driving we are doing is rather Dan-like. For instance, Monday, after we purchased the car we decided to get back to the hostel as quickly as possible, head to the Olympic park and then get on out of Sydney as fast as possible. The Dan tribute starts with the fact that we made it back to the hostel using the force. We had maps that showed the different areas in Sydney, but nothing more useful - not to mention this was my first time driving on the left hand side of the road (as long as I discount the previous day's test drive where I think the car's previous owner Dan (also he who named the car) was likely praying that would pay for the car even if I crashed it), but regardless, we made it seemlessly back to the hostel. The Olympic park was neat in that the Olympics were there, but honestly, I wasn't overly impressed. The best part was a small fountain with bricks underneath it paying tribute to all the medal winners (I got my picture taken with Jan's!). Then we had to head out of Sydney - one of man's greatest suburban sprawls...and I'm from Calgary! I would like to point out at this time that prior to Sunday, we had been planning on heading up north of Sydney to find some warmth (I really didn't bring enough clothing to be where we are!), but instead we are now down in Melbourne (complicated story, but we had to come to Victoria to register the car as it's a Victorian car, and we wanted to come visit family friends - who are the BEST hosts in the world! and we're leaving our bike boxes here too) so yeah, instead we headed 180 degrees the other way. For those of us in Calgary, it would be like deciding to take a holiday in Vancouver, but heading to Winnipeg first (and you know you'd do it Dan if you thought there might be anything remotely interesting in Manitoba!!!). So we started out on the open road...out to test Berdt's skill (oh yeah, I'm not sure I'm spelling that right, in fact I'm almost 100% sure I'm not...but it's my car!)
So about 30 minutes into our drive we got a scare. Here's some more background - in Australia they have discovered a 3rd type of gas (petrol) that fuels cars: regular (leaded and unleaded), diesel AND LPG...well it turns out that Berdt can do both LPG and regular unleaded (I don't think I've specified unleaded since I was 5 years old but anyway...) and the kicker is that LPG is only 40 cents/litre instead of $1.30/l - so it's a score. So here we are trucking down the freeway and Berdt starts to disagrees with our plans. I would push the pedal and I would have a bit of resistance, then I was getting a little worried as we slowed down to 40km/h, but I kept my cool. I mentioned to Chris that it felt like something was wrong with the fuel pump - at which point he saved the day and suggested that we switch to the other sort of fuel - and presto we were on our way again. Now, I would like to point out just how embarrasing it would have been to call out roadside assistance only to have them point out that our problem is that we ran out of gas and that in actual fact we didn't run out of gas as there is half a tank of unleaded...I tell ya - oh and for the record, there is no gas gauge for the LPG - I'm not just stupid!
So yeah, all's well that ends well...and I would like to say that was Berdt's only idosyncrasy...but it's not. Only the right windsheild wiper works, there is trouble opening all of the doors (you have to physically lift them up), there is a bit of a raunchy smell in it (so we are going to febreeze it until it goes away), oh yeah, and it only starts when it wants to. Yesterday, we had to get jump started from the campsite and then push started from one of the gas station we're getting the garage to look into that one. But he purrs when he's happy (except for in 3rd where I think he is decidedly unhappy) and he fits 2 bike boxes and bags while leaving the rear window completely unobstructed, we're in Melbourne and he was only $700 - a bit of an adventure - but good times all the way. I'll add pictures when I'm able.
Anyways, I'm about to head out on a run. Chris is sleeping downstairs as he's really quite sick, but we have Sandy super mom helping to take care of him, and really with the amount of running around we've been doing, I think it's fair to take a day's rest! So I'm outtie!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Ford Falcon

Well it appears as if our short sojour in Sydney might be nearing an end...we made a purchase today - an '87 Ford Falcon - it's rather ugly, but it has a whole lot of room in the back and a dent from a kangaroo (that's right, for those of us in North America, I actually think it's a selling point) in the front. The guy we bought it from is heading home really quite soon and I feel that we might have taken him a little. He bought it 4 months ago for $2300, and we are taking it off his hands for $700...mind you, it's most definately a beater...I'm just crossing my fingers hoping that we didn't get taken for a ride. However, as a result, we have had a change of plans and are heading down to Melbourne, Victoria tomorrow - I can't wait to get out of a hostel. It's been fun, but I'm looking forward to roughing it a little more at a campsite and having a little more freedom. Not to mention, I really can't to start the physical activity up again, I'm feeling a little less than charming - mind you, Chris has caught a bit of a bug, so I am doing better than he is.
But we've been troopers with the sightseeing. Yesterday Alex very wonderfully volunteered her day and took us around - Bondi Beach, the Gap, a massive mall with 5 cell phone dealers on the floor we saw and Paddington Market...oh right and Campos coffee - which is supposed to be the best coffee in Sydney....Well I can tell you this much - I was shaking by the time I left the cafe from my cappucino - so it was good times all around.
Anyways, I'm not sure how much internet we'll have in the near future so I'll sign off - but I'll keep you as informed as I can!
Jen :)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Tourist in Sydney

September 16, 2005 – I’m in Sydney baby!
Sydney, Australia (Billabong Gardens hostel)

Brought to you by Country Roads Fijian remix…cause it’s still in my head 24/7

So today may not have been the most beautiful day to be a tourist in Sydney – in fact it was pretty awful weather – felt like winter in Vancouver…and let’s be honest, I just don’t have the wardrobe for it to be like that! We started off from the hotel bright at early (think we are still a little jet lagged…oh yeah and everything seems to start early south of the equator) and headed out to find a neat café. We had an amazing breakfast complete with coffee as we were informed that coffee is one of the things they “do” here in Australia and were ready to attack the day! After Chris figured out how to order coffee (an Americano is a tall black – he had to choose between that, a short black and a flat white) we headed on down to see a few tourist attractions including the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, and Darling Harbour.

We then started a search for a used car – a neat little adventure…not sure how much progress we’ve made but we did get our bartering debut in Nadi so I’m sure we’ll kick ass! This evening we’re going off to dinner with Alex and Rob (Chris’ roommate a few years back who moved back to Australia 2 years ago) again – it’s been great to see them and it makes the transition here seem really normal. In fact I have found Sydney to be a very welcoming and easy city to become established in. I’m fairly sure we won’t stay here as everyone we’ve spoken to has mentioned that the riding really isn’t very good, but Sydney really is a metropolitan city as it reminds me of Montreal and a few of the European cities I’ve visited. The strip we’re staying on is THE place for shopping and it’s pretty sweet – too bad I’m not making any cash at the mo’!
Anyways, I should get off the computer and rejoin the “real” world…more specifically it’s dinnertime – so until next time…cheerio mate. (needed to get the cheese factor in!)

Feejee Experience photos

Drinking up the Kava

My man Able telling us all about Fijian culture

Left: Chris and 3 adorable Fijian kids in the first town we visited
Right: Showing my little buddy the wonders of the digital camera

Our bus was an all terrain bus - I actually thought I might die at this particular point

Horses on the beach - does it get much more exotic?