Sunday, 29 November 2009

Perth, Australia

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,
It has been 2 weeks and some 4800km latter and we are now in Perth. Our trip started Monday 2 weeks ago when we left Melbourne in the rain and a mild 28 degrees. We hired were delivering a Toyota Hiace van with a fixed high roof for this leg of the journey. It was a comfortable van aprox. 07 model, but with more than 300,000km on the clock they re-badge them from Appolo to Cheapa Camper. Fitted out with a fridge, microwave, stove, kettle, toaster etc, it was similar to our own van, except the sleeping position was in the rear of the van and not very comfortable in the sitting position. Our first night was spent just before the start of the Great Ocean Road.

As I mentioned in the last post, it has been 21 years since we were last in this part of the world, the biggest change being that there are not as many Apostles as there once were and one of the London Bridge land arches has collapsed. This 30 km stretch of road follows the coast cliffs with views of the 12 Apostles, sandstone pillars left in the ocean by erosion and the London Bridge and the blowhole are tunnels through sections of the rock faces. New fencing, board walks and other well placed lookouts are a great enhancement. We stopped a dozen or more time as we found yet more vantage spots to view the spectacle from. It is well worth taking the time to do and can be done as a day trip from Melbourne.

We stayed overnight at Mt Gambier and stopped to gaze at The Blue Lakes, the bluest water imaginable, it has something to do with them being volcano craters. From the ocean to volcano craters our third night has by the banks of the Murray River at the appropriately named Murray Bridge. Only 50km outside Adelaide we enjoyed our stay by the river and exploring a marina full of house boats, it’s always about who has the biggest and best and some were floating mansions.

That afternoon and the following 2 days, the temperature soared to 43 degrees with a very uncomfortable hot dry wind blowing strait in from the desert. We crept into Adelaide to find Louise’s school friend Trish and her husband Derrick. Fortunately they had aircon and a pool and we had a couple of quite days keeping out of the heat. We really enjoyed catching up with Trish again after so long and hope it not another 20 something years.

We picked up our second campervan on Saturday morning and fortunately a soothing cold front moved in to cool things down to about 23 degrees which was a blessing. However our next campervan turned out to be a bit disappointing. It was a Backpacker van and very basic. The van was a Mitsubishi, new enough with only 30,000Km, but really very basic with no fridge or microwave and a stove that makes cooking too difficult, we chose to cook in the camp kitchens where possible. With no ceiling height it made manoeuvring in the van when the bed was made up a little like a beached whale flapping about, still better than a tent, but we had a week to look forward to in this van. The rain came down as we started out on our Nullarbor crossing.

This was the beginning of the really big driving days, 700km to Streaky Bay, 850 to Madura Pass in WA and a further 750km into Esperance. We particularly enjoyed Streaky Bay and we had a couple of good viewing points along the Nullarbor of the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. The cool conditions remained with us for the whole trip across and by the time we got to Esperance it was a mild 28 degrees again. We loved Esperance and decided we had to live there and get jobs there immediately, but in hind sight it was just an extreme reaction to crossing the Nullarbor and then finding this Jewell at the end. We found we were just as impressed by Albany and the Margaret River region. We did a spectacular tree top walk outside Walpole and I did a light house tour in Augusta at the intersection of the Southern and Indian Oceans. We spent a full day visiting wineries in Margaret River and we stayed in another nice town we would like to live in, Mandurah last night before rolling into Perth this morning. It’s certainly cheaper and quicker to fly across the bottom of Australia, but if you have a couple of weeks to spare, it’s a road trip to remember.

We are booked into a very ordinary apartment right in town in Perth. It’s cheap and the position is great, we have a hire car to explore the area for the next week or so and see what fate has in store for us. All the best for now.
Ric & Louise

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Melbourne, Australia

Dear Ethel, Family and Friends,
We have been back in Australia a week now, the big wedding is over and the Bride and Groom are now on their honeymoon in Paris. It was a relaxed and enjoyable wedding and Louise’s niece Katie looked fabulous as the Vintage Austin Princess (the car) pulled up the drive to the Chapel at Cockington Green, near Gungarlin, Canberra. Seventy five guests waited as the four bridesmaids filed down the aisle where the Groom Wayne awaited. After the ceremony and photos, the party retired to a large marquee close by to celebrate into the night. We stayed with Louise’s Brother Ian and Sally his wife, parents of the Bride and a pleasant time was had by all. Video still forthcoming.

During the week after the wedding, we have been wondering what to do with ourselves, as we hadn’t given it much thought up until the wedding was over. There have been no descent job offers from Vietnam so we cancelled the return fare back to Saigon. While I had been looking for jobs on the internet, Louise was revisiting an Idea she had a few year ago, Campervan relocation, driving the vans to the places they are needed. It didn’t take us long to make the decision. We browsed the website and made a few phone calls and we had an itinerary. Depending on the route and location, fuel is offered for the trips and a number of days to complete it, however further days can be purchased to make the journeys more comfortable and enjoyable. As we still had an airfare back to Melbourne as part of our trip back to Saigon, we decided it’s a good place to start and Louise has a Nephew here, David and his wife Catherine and their two grown up girls.

Our new adventure starts tomorrow, Monday 16th November when we pick up a campervan in Melbourne and drive to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road, about 1000km. Louise & I actually did this journey twenty one years ago as our first holiday together when we drove from Sydney to Adelaide via Melbourne. Anyway we have four days to do this leg and accommodation will be better than the tent we did it in last time. We have a few days in Adelaide and will stay with a school friend of Louise’s from Bathurst who we stayed with way back then. Mmm still remember doing the Nutbush dance on Henley Beach on New Year’s Eve with Trish, circa 1988. Following Adelaide, we get another van and drive 3000km across the Nullarbor Plains to Perth via Albany, Esperance and Margaret River. We have never been to Perth before and thought this would be a good stand alone trip and the ideal time to do it.
Well, call us crazy if you will, we think we are but we have no fixed address, no jobs and no place to be until at least March when we can get our house back again. However anything can happen between now and then. We’ll let you know how it goes, all the best until then.
Ric & Louise

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Back in Saigon

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

We are now back in Saigon after our 2 week Sojourn in Nha Trang. We had a great time and thoroughly recommend it as a mid to long term destination and defiantly a ‘must stop’ on your way through Vietnam. The Beaches here are fantastic. We have said many times that as we live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, it is hard to impress us with a beach. It is equal to anything in North Queensland with the tropical feeling, beautiful green rolling mountains in the back ground and lots of Islands dotted around the Bay. There are no real waves but it is a paradise for swimming, snorkeling, diving and sailing. Yes I finally got out sailing, only on one of those resort style hobiecats but lots of fun all the same. Although I prefer to spend my time on top of the water sailing, I decided to go diving as well.

The day I went diving was a miserable day, It was raining when I got up and driselling on our way out to the Islands. The diving guide made all the usual jokes about it not raining underwater to cheer us up. I have been diving a couple of times before on assisted dives which are great, as an experienced diver takes you down and guides you about. My guide was a young French girl named Marie who spoke perfect English but with that sexy French accent. Despite the rain, it was wonderful under the water, after my first few seconds hesitation, I remembered how to relax and breathe underwater. I was really amazed by how much coral and the number of fish down there. The group of 5 Islands off Nha Trang is a marine park so I did 2, 30 minute dives and It cost me about $60AUD.

There is a huge cable car connecting the Mainland to the first main Island, taking you to a gigantic theme park, Vinpearl Land. Although it’s not very ecological or attractive from the mainland as the land has been carved out of the side of a hill, the theme park is an amazing engineering feat, the sheer size and scale is astounding. The most amazing thing and more impressive than the cable car itself, is the aquarium. It is the size of the Darling Harbour aquarium in Sydney with an underwater tunnel walk with airport style conveyor belt. It has a large collection of Sharks, Stingrays, Turtles, Eel’s and all the fish you would expect. A waterslide park is another part of the park and I tried as many as were open. One in particular, the sink hole didn’t really agree with my neck, however after the masseur walked up and down my spine that afternoon the damage was repaired. There is also a collection of outdoor amusement rides, a great roller coaster, the chair ‘O plane, Pirate ship and one that I could only call the spasmatron (whirls you around, upside down 50 feet in the air) and some great inside amusements including a 4D movie cinema, a 3D cinema with moving seats. It all makes a really good day out but there were only about 50 in the place and more than a couple of hundred staff.

We caught up with our friend Diana again on her way back to Saigon. We took her to all our favourite restaurants in Nha Trang, French and Spanish being the best. We also caught up with another TESOL Graduate from Australia, Wheelie Pete. He is one admirable man, tackling Vietnam in a wheelchair he has recently completed a 5000km journey around Vietnam and Laos on a motorbike and is currently teaching English in Nha Trang. He took us to a great beach 20km south of Nha Trang where we lay around on a beach similar to Noosa North Shore and ate seafood.

Poor Louise is almost over her cold now and has spent most of the 2 weeks getting over it. We caught the train back to Saigon again and are now in our favourite Hotel the Hao Hoa . We have caught up with a few groups of students so far with more to go this evening and more to eat I guess. We have some job interviews on Monday and Wednesday and will be flying back to Australia on Thursday night. If we get some serious offers we will come back as we still have the return tickets, if not we will stay in Australia for Christmas.

All the best for now
Ric & Louise