Follow Amanda & Rob around the world for a year. From 30 September 2005!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Taking a Break

Well, we had been getting a little travel weary over the recent weeks. It happens every so often when you are constantly moving from place to place. We are still finding places all the time which make us stop and say, Wow (or Vow if we were an Austrian girl who Irecently met), but we needed a break, so over the last couple of weeks we have avoided hostels and have been lucky enough to stay with many friends and relatives.

First stop was Tiana and Chris on the Gold Coast, from where we had a top day sliding down water slides at Wet 'n' Wild. I became even more of a kid and ran from slide to slide throughout the day. My delighted cheer and raised arms when I gained first place out of eight down a high speed bumpy slide was probably not appreciated by the seven-year olds I was racing against.

Then on to Brisbane to stay with Bob and Elizabeth (relatives of Amanda's), who kindly showed us around and let us sample the many tropical fruits from their garden. The dragon fruit were spectacular and the custard apple has shot into my top three fruits (up there with passion fruit and tootie frooties). This is a strange spiky-looking fella with pulpy covered seeds inside which taste a bit like custard. Yum.

Then on to stay with Birgit (my former colleague frommy Nortel days), Rainer and Selina on the Sunshine Coast. We had to brush down our German for the first time in six months and were happy to finden that we had not vergessen too viel of it. It was great to see how well you have settled in down here - it's a lovely part of the world. Well keep our fingers crossed for you on the broadband!

Then on to Mooloolaba to stay with John and Megan, members of the Speake clan. From here we took a trip to Steve 'isnt she a little beauty?' Irwin's zoo. Steve was out catching crocs so we didn't see him but did see snakes, crocs, koalas, roos, emus, elephants etc. The highlight had to be the tigers. Gorgeous creatures. Now they are real cats. None of your namby-pamby domestic cats whose sole purpose in life is to poo in our back garden and make me sneeze. Was a good zoo, although very commercial. When the announcement came "Please put your hands together for the amazing Tiger show, sponsored by Coca Cola", you knew it wasn't your average zoo. I also failed to win the monkey impression competition, which was a huge disappointment as you can imagine, and, tempted as I was, I resisted the talking Steve Irwin doll in the souvenir shop.

After this myself and Amanda went our separate ways for a week. We decided that after 6 months spending every minute of every day with each other, it would do us good to stand on our own two feet for a bit. So Amanda is in Eumundi working with a German family. Her main responsibility seems to be shovelling up horse poo. I, on the other hand, have the slightly sweeter-smelling task of picking organic mandarins in a place called Kin Kin. Some people have asked us why, with our business backgrounds, we keep doing this funny work on farms and stuff. It is a great way to meet local people, find out about completely different ways of life and also to save a bit of money as we work in exchange for food and board. We said before we left that if we did work we didn't want to be sat in front of a computer (he says, whilst sat in front of a computer), and I've quite enjoyed picking and polishing hundreds of juicy mandarins.We are also learning things that will benefit us when we re-enter the corporate circus back home. I have experienced the shortest order-to-cash cycle I have ever heard of -

Thursday: get an order.
Friday and Saturday: pick, polish and pack mandarins like crazy.
Sunday: deliver requisite amount of mandarins and collect the cash.

If only a chemicals supply chain had been so simple, I would have far fewer grey hairs nowadays.

We haven't forgotten all our old business skills, and I would also like to categorically dismiss the much-touted managerial method of going for the proverbial low-hanging fruit when deciding what to do. I have now learnt that doing this means you wake up with a very bad back the next day. Next time I am in a project meeting trying to plump for the action item to do first, I will recommend going for fruits between waist and shoulder height. Much more sensible.

Similarly, Amanda has found it useful to think outside the horse box and has found new resonance to that phrase much-used in every business - Same sh*t, different day. So we are still learning all the time.

This weekend we continue heading north. Fraser Island, a Whitsunday Islands cruise (we picked the boat based on the food they serve on board) and then up to Cairns for 11 dives in three days on the Great Barrier Reef. Been looking forward to that ever since I did a school project on Queensland at the age of 9. The mission: Find Nemo.

We will keep you posted.

PS I bought a spangly new digital camera and we will post more photos in the very near future.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Australian Culture

It is only when we fail to blog for a wee while, that we realise how much we get up to in our layabout lives. So I'll endeavour to keep this brief and explain a little of the Australian culture that we have been experiencing over the last few weeks.

First stop is Ramsay Street which we visited when we were in Melbourne. All very cheesey and no spottings of Jellybelly which was a shame. It was, and hopefully will remain, the most touristy thing we have done so far.

It was great to meet up with some familiar faces in Melbourne. My cake eating marathon on my birthday was interupted when we met up with Steve, Sinead, Andy and Nicky for a midday curry and beer. Also met up with my Great Aunt Jennie (and stayed with her nephew Peter (thanks!)) and we now begin meeting up with various long lost friends and relatives as we head north, which we are both looking forward to. In all honesty, Australia is a place full of 18 year old, pottymouthed drunken English backpackers and staying at hostels all the time we find we don't have all that much in common with them. This makes me sound like a grumpy old man I know, but compared to Central America which was pretty much free of young, wet-behind-the-ears gap-yearers, it can get a bit tedious. So its great to meet up and stay with some locals to get away from the backpacker circuit for a while.

We drove the Great Ocean Road which was stunning. Stopped every mile of it to take in the breathtaking views and watch coachloads of Japanese taking pictures of each other in front of each view. If I ever get invited to a slide show of a Japanese person's holiday snaps, I will politely decline.

Then it was onwards to Sydney after an 8 hour stop in Canberra which wasn't as dull as Bryson makes it out to be. Sydney was cool. The cultural highlight here was the Kylie exhibition at the Powerhouse museum, featuring the famous gold pants. After that, the classical concert at the Sydney Opera House struggled to compete. We stayed with Emma (Amanda's uncle's ex-babysitter) which we thoroughly enjoyed, and she kindly took us to 'Summer Bay'. Again, no sign of Don or Sally, but it was most pleasant. In fact every beach in Oz is fantastic.

We have also been dolphin spotting and sandboarding on some huge sand dunes in Port Stephens. Unfortunately, the amount of sand now contained in my camera from this has meant a premature death for the poor chap. Got some top photos though. I think. Stayed at a top hostel whose owner had a pet python. Look out for the photos soon, but I can say that I was a real man and touched the thing. Ooooh. I didn't use the thing as a scarf as Amanda did though. She is a realer man I guess.

Then to a Koala Hospital where most of the patients were suffering from a disease known as 'wet bottom'. Made me chuckle. They were all very cute and cuddly though.

Next stop, Byron Bay to get battered by some huge waves. I am still getting sand and sea water out of my ears from that experience.

So that is where we are. Five more weeks and then its off to Asia for the final leg of the tour. Off now to play some didgeridoo and eat some Kangaroo Pie.