Friday, September 25, 2009

Sydney is the new Mars ;-)

9/23/09 (by Swiss) - Well, we're off heading into the largest dust storm to hit Sydney since the 40's.


We departed Brisbane two days ago with Fabio 2, our relo deal from Britz. The last couple of days in Brisbane involved hanging out, checking out China town (not all that great), and being unproductive members of society.

We were hoping for a Mercedes 4 berth vehicle, but to our disappointment, we got an Iveco 4 berth instead. So no “Hans and Franz”, and instead just “Fabio 2”. From what I can tell, Iveco is an Italian brand, so at least the name seems fitting. The good news is that it has a “tip-tronic” tranny (***transmission for my SF friends :)***), meaning Lawton can drive it. Neither of us had ever driven a vehicle with this particular type of transmission, which seems to lack a torque converter and the more traditional feel of an automatic. Instead, it seems to have an actuated clutch and gear shifter making it shift and sound like a manual transmission, minus any human having to do the work of operating a clutch or shift lever. Funky.

Britz vs Apollo

We figured it's time to do a little comparison between the two relocation deals we've had. From what we have seen so far, there seem to be two major campervan rental companies on the east coast: Apollo and Britz. We found that Apollo was a little more organized, they didn't charge for Propane, provided us with a full set of maps, two chemical tablets to operate the toilet, a welcome kit (including tea, coffee, sugar, soap, etc), and a flatscreen TV. Britz didn't offer those features, but did provide a free sleeping bag, bedsheet, pillow, and towel to be returned at the end of the journey, which was quite nice. The campervans were configured similarly, although given the larger size of the Britz van, it was a tad more comfortable. The downside of the Britz was that it was not brand new. Overall, it was agreed that Apollo provides for a better experience. Below are some pics of Fabio 2 for your consumption.

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A short day at Byron Bay

Given the relatively short relocation period, we opted to spend some time at Byron Bay on the way to Sydney. This spot, located about two hours south of Brisbane, came recommended by multiple Aussies. Our plan was to get there early afternoon on Monday, check out the town, I would try my hand at surfing (I enjoy wearing wet suits) Tuesday morning, and we'd then head off Tuesday afternoon to continue our journey onwards to Sydney. Byron Bay turns out to be a quaint little hippie town with a tourist flair, very nice beaches, and a wide variety of shops and restaurants ranging from cheap to expensive, depending on what you want to spend. It had a much more appealing feel than Airlie Beach, and watching all the hippies doing their thing reminded us very much of the Bay Area. We set up the camper van at a campground near downtown, took a stroll through town and down some of the beaches, and prepared some chicken cordon bleu with couscous and broccoli for dinner. Shortly after dinner, it started to rain, which lasted throughout the night, so no outdoor activities for us after that.

The next morning would arrive with me heading off for a surfing lesson while Lawton did a 5.5 km hike to the lighthouse and lookout spots. Although the rain had subsided early in the morning, we were hit by another shower mid-morning, a rather minor annoyance to me given that I was in a wetsuit and in the water, and a larger annoyance for Lawton, who wasn't quite as prepared for rain :)

My surfing adventure turned out to be a lot of fun, although I don't think I'm at a pro level just quite. I do plan on improving my skills over the next couple of months though, so watch out. As we were out in the ocean surfing, a group of three dolphins decided to join us. Quite the experience. Lawton, perched high above us on a cliff, managed to spot the same dolphins as well as some whales off in the horizon. Unfortunately, the weather prevented us from having any decent pictures, so you'll just have to take my word and use your imagination. The stay would be a short one, but we enjoyed it, despite the somewhat crummy weather. Below are some pictures from Byron Bay.

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As we hit the road to venture further south, we had a goal of getting to somewhere between Port Macquaire and Forster (pronounced Foster, don't ask me why.) Part of the relo agreement disallowed us to drive at night, which was probably a good thing, as we were both somewhat spent after surfing/hiking. Due to various construction along the way, we didn't manage the stretch goal of Forster, and settled for Port Macquaire around 6pm to prep some butter chicken with rice, green beans, and ice cream for dinner. Shortly after parking Fabio 2, we met one of our neighbors who was renting a six berth campervan to drive his family from Melbourne to Byron Bay. He explained to us that kids in Victora (where they are from) are currently on September holiday, and kids in New South Wales/Queensland start their holiday next week. Apparently it's very common for families to rent campervans for these occasions, which explains the pent up demand for campervan relocations to these areas prior to the school vacations starting. A quick inquiry also revealed that he was paying AUD 300 per day for his six berth van, plus a AUD 250 one way fee. Wow. It would be a lazy evening reading books (no TV this time) after dinner, awaiting the upcoming storm.

Final leg to Sydney

The scene reminds us of Armageddon, with dust coloring the air and sky with a slight yellow tint. We're happy we're not riding a bicycle (or suffer from any severe respiratory conditions), although the storm portion of the dust storm works wonders on our sail, aka Fabio 2. Apparently there were also two earth quakes in Melbourne (way south of us), which has led the radio station here to proclaim Armageddon. If you read this, the radio station was probably wrong, as I doubt this will be uploaded anytime soon. One more week in Sydney and we'll be off to Singapore.

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Unknown said...

I always thought Lawton could drive a stick... wait maybe I was thinking of something else.

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