Prepping in Perth

I woke up pretty early from our last sleep in Hanoi so that I could try to adjust my clock to the Australian time already since they are an hour ahead.  Quietly, I sneaked out of our room and went up to the rooftop restaurant where they remembered that I liked their jet fuel coffee, and they asked me if I wanted a couple of my usual. That was awesome.

I really wanted to learn how to make this coffee and try to replicate it home. Basically it is their usual Vietnamese coffee, just a larger amount in the mug and you serve it with condensed milk.

There is only so much jet fuel that you can drink before you need a fresh mango smoothie to calm the sillies down.

It took a couple of hours before everybody else decided to wake up.  Well, in fact they didn’t wake up, they got woken up by some construction and jack hammering that was vibrating through the walls of the hotel.  It could have been in the hotel, or somewhere down the block since all of the buildings are connected somehow.  That’s fine, they need to get up anyways to start the day.

We had a lot of packing that we had to do to get everything ready for the post office to send all of our Vietnamese souvenirs home. As well as having to get all of our bags packed for the flights.

While Deb and the kids were packing up, I headed down to the lobby to figure out where I could figure out where a print shop was.  Both kids have been doing math using MathMammoth textbooks as was recommended by their teachers, but trying to use the electronic version of the book wasn’t cutting it.  So, after a multi-step email to get it to the printshop, we stopped into the “business centre” that does all of these things down the street from our hotel.

Once we got everything settled and we checked into the room, we headed over to the post office to send our 13.5 kg box back to Canada.  For a mere 1,700,000 Vietnamese dollars (you feel like a kagillionaire here) we I sent our package home, not without a hiccup though. It wouldn’t be a postal service if they didn’t make it hard. as they don’t except credit cards at the post office and I had to boogie back to the hotel to get some money change.

That gave the kids and Deb a bit of a break to go enjoy a slice of pizza dominoes as a bit of a snack before we got on the plane. I wasn’t going to spend my last meal in Vietnam at dominoes, so we went out to Wilson’s favorite Vietnamese corner kitchen for some noodles and vegetables and a couple of wobbly pops well trying to sprinkle our leftover Vietnamese dollars around in the local shops picking up this that and the other thing.  The kids ate another meal as well, and actually Lulu liked it…great.  On the last day at the last meal she starts to like it.

The last thing that I needed to have in Hanoi was their Egg Coffee (video) that they are famous for.  So, we tracked down the restaurant that invented it in 1939.  My motto for trying food in a place where it is known for, is to make sure you do your research and find out the place that invented it, and then go there.  That way you get to taste the drink, dish, or dessert the way it was originally made.  Other eateries that take the recipe will twist it a bit to make it their own…which can either be bad or be good.  So, taste it the way it was intended to be tasted.  Egg coffee is like a caramel egg nog latte with Vietnamese coffee at the bottom.   The foam was at least 3 inches thick.  Un-freaking-believable.  I would have had this every day if I had it when we arrived here, and would have put on more weight than I have already.

Just for my future reference, and yours to try to make, here is a recipe that I found.

Coffee sticky greatness!

After sitting in the air-conditioning of the hotel lobby for a few minutes, our taxi showed up and we set off towards the airport.  We got there and thought we were ahead of the game as the check in counters haven’t where we got to the check-in counter and the ticket agent asked us for our Australian entry visas.  “What entry visa?” was our reply.   As far as our memory served us, we never needed one the last time we came to Australia, and nowhere during all of our research did we come into the knowledge that we required one.  Thank goodness it was all online and once you finish the online form and paid the $20, you could get your visa.  Easy peasy pudding and pie.

Nothing like experiencing this once more on the way to the airport.

Once we checked in at the airport and made our way through security, we worked our way down to the gate at the far end of the airport.  Suddenly the kids realized that they were in heaven as they found a kids play area that was completely deserted and it had a big ball pit and tumbling mat that they could play with.   I might’ve jumped in there for a little bit of fun myself.

Fun killer dad went into full effect after a while and told the kids that they needed to do some schoolwork that had been a bit neglected over the last couple of days.  So, what better place to do some school than in a pit full of balls!

We got on board the flight, and there was a single man with two very young kids sitting right behind us who were quite rambunctious, to the point that Deb actually had to say something to him.  Oh, we remember the days when our kids were the rambunctious ones.

Flight number 10!

Unfortunately the flight we got on for the first leg to Singapore was a bit delayed, and it meant that we were only going to have 25 minutes or so to get to the gate of our next flight in Singapore.   So during the flight we got in touch with the flight attendants about this bit of information, so they graciously moved us up to the front of the plane along with our bags. As a result, we were able to get off the plane as soon as the doors were open and we had to run probably 2 km to get to the sky train that would take us to our gate.

This was enough exercise for the day given the fact that we’ve hardly have any significant amount of exercise in the last month and a half. Out of breath, coughing, sweating like a pig, and now wide awake, we jumped on the plane and headed off for the second leg of our journey.  That was an Amazing Race moment.  We would for sure kick ass in the Amazing Race.

We got through security, and thankfully there were still a few passengers in line getting on the plane when we arrived at the gate. We took a big breath and settled in nicely and found our seats which were at the back of the plane, which was half empty!  Bonus for an overnight right where we want to sleep.  We unpacked our flight stuff and then we looked up only to see the single father with the two kids getting on.  We felt like chumps given the fact that we had ran as hard as we could to get to the gate and here was a father with two kids getting on.  I bet he caught one of those shuttles.  Not us!

Oh well.  We spread ourselves out into the empty seats and we settled in for a nap before we got to Perth, except the middle section of the back of the plane only had three seats, and unlike the four seaters, only two of the three armrests moved up to make a bed.  So, it was better than sitting upright, but we were curled up in a ball, except our two kids who had a nice place to stretch out.

Deb catching some shuteye..

Lulu resting comfortably

When we landed, it was already 27° at 5 o’clock in the morning. We knew we were in for summer now! Our Uber driver said that it was going to get up over 40 by the weekend.

We found our house and tucked in for a nap for a couple of hours, and then everyone woke up to enjoy the Western Aussie heat.  We played in the little pool at the house, which was a welcome site after being in the plane for so long.  The kids did a couple of hours of homework which was great and we are getting ready for our big Australian adventure the western coast tomorrow.

One…

and Two out for the count!

Deb and I got up early the next morning and went for a run before it  got too hot outside.  It was estimated that it was going to be 37C and there was no way that we were going to be running in that!  Since we hadn’t really run while we were in Africa, nor Vietnam, we were sucking wind….large.  All of the good food had added some extra LBs to be hauling around.  It was windy though, so I am blaming it on the wind for making the run harder than it normally would have been.  Riiiiiigght.

Bonus was that the place had a pool to cool down in!

The other reason for getting up early was to avoid the crazy Australian flies that come out once the heat starts to get going.  We ran around the neighbourhood, not at the same time as the kids were still sleeping, and we came upon a nice little park named after a man with an unfortunate last name.

I also round a nice little track, not rubberized like the one at home, but around the periphery of the track were nice picnic areas, an awesome playground, and a bodyweight workout station.  Super cool.  We have seen these open air gyms all over the world and thought that it would be a great addition to Huntsville somewhere.

After the kids got up, Wilson and I had a nice walk to the Apollo office where we were going to pick up our RV for this leg of the trip.  The was going to be 26 feet of fun, and the kids were looking forward to sitting in the back kitchen table playing lego and games while we drove.  We were looking forward to them being back there too.  A little bit of breathing room.  Out of sight.  Out of mind.  Love them to bits, but the trip thus far has made us very close.  Both physically, and emotionally.

Deb and Lulu packed up the house while Wilson and I drove the RV over, and we packed the house up super fast as we needed to check out of the house by 10am, and it was 9:55am when we rolled into the driveway.  So, getting everything out of the house and into the trailer was a bit of a gong show.

Nothing beats poking at your wife when she is already annoyed with you and stressed to get out of the house. Love you honey…xo

We shoved everything into the RV, including the piles of goodies that Wilson and I had snagged from the “leftovers” pile from at the Apollo RV rental agency.  That was pretty nice feature of the RV place…they had a big table that people returning from their trip could put stuff on, and people heading out on their trip could take their leftovers.  Unfortunately, someone left milk.  I wasn’t going to take that.

Packing up the trailer!

We made the necessary first stop at the grocery store and loaded ourselves up with food, trying to plan out the best we could for the next three weeks with respect to meals so we ended up with not much in the way of leftovers.  But we can always put it back on the “give to the next person” pile if we have left overs…

We left Perth and headed north en route to Cervantes, which was close to the home to a natural wonder called the Pinnacles.  Sightseeing and exploring was for Deb and I.  The kids tolerated it, full well knowing that there was a pool waiting at the campground that we were headed to.  Priorities you know.

We drove three hours to get to the Pinnacles and put on our bug jackets as the flies were insane.  They are enough to drive you mad.  They look like houseflies, but fly at three times the speed, and they like to stick to the back of you with the occasional flight path They don’t bite, they just attack you, bounce off of you, and also seem to find their way into orifices, mainly on your face.

It was hot, and in the morning and afternoon until the sun started to set, the flies are in full effect here.  If you were to try to liken it to something, the flies that were like children with ADHD who just downed two litres of Coke (“Hey guys!  Guys!  Check this out!  A nostril!  An ear! A…squirrel!” …. bang bang bang, jumping from one area to the other). 

However, we were one step ahead of them using our bug jackets.  We were a little hotter wearing them, and a bus full of Japanese tourists actually full out laughed at us, but we weren’t flapping our arms around our heads like we were trying to escape a killer bee attack.  Suckers.  Canadians: 1.  Japanese: 0.

The information centre at the Pinnacles was full of great information in that it provided a good historical overview of how Western Australia got populated.  From what I took from the displays, Western Australia was predominantly in the Perth region, extending down towards Margaret River, and in the early years, the area’s main industry was agriculture.  However, as the populations grew, the government try to prevent communities and the European settlers from spreading out from the area too far in order to keep a close eye, from a tax point of view, on the residents, as well as “to protect them from the Aboriginals”.

However, it became inevitable that expansion needed to happen as overcrowding, both of people and animals, was happening.  So, the government sent ships of explorers up the coast.  Unfortunately, their boats met an untimely demise against the rocky waters and coastlines.  Far away from Perth.  In the middle of nowhere.  So they started to walk back towards Perth, making notes of the flora, fauna, and geology of the area which later provided evidence to the government as to the suitability of the land for agricultural expansion.  Along the way, they found the Pinnacles and established further studies in the years to come with respect to these interesting geologic structures.

The Pinnacles are interesting in the fact that they are anywhere between 1’ tall, to 10’ tall, but most of them are about 2-3’ in diameter.  Their origins are not totally known but they think that they are the remnants of densely packed subterranean vegetation that, after the plants above the ground were destroyed somehow, that the roots became petrified into rocks.  Since this area was a desert with lots of sandy dunes, the plants had root systems that reached quite far underground to reach water.

Over time, the wind blew the sand away, pushing it more inland as we are right on the shores of the Indian Ocean, but these petrified rocks remained like fingers rising out of the dunes.  Pretty cool!

We pulled into our first RV campground and settled in.  The kids helped out reorganizing the trailer for a bit, but quickly lost interest as there was a pool and playground to go play on.  Then Deb and I rearranged the RV to our liking, and then we went over to the pool for some fun.

 

They said the pool was heated to a balmy 22, but I think that it more like 22 Fahrenheit.   Nonetheless, we had a good splash around and got ready for supper.

Canadians have a thing or two to teach the Aussies about what a barbecue is.  For us, barbecuing is sparking up the ole grill, with the flames burning off what had accumulated  on the grills for the past several weeks.  An Australian barbecue is simply a big pan that is in a public space, not confined to a kitchen.  Kind of strange.  Kind of McDonaldish.  That being said, you could make a killer stir fry on this thing.  Barbecuing is still barbecuing if you have a good beer or glass of wine in your hand, and I found a good local brew to enjoy, while Deb started to enjoy the big reds that Australia is well known for.

One of the local brews…very tasty indeed!

Nonetheless, it was good to be back in the land of Oz, and back to a relaxed form of seeing the world.  Things aren’t compressed here into small countries like Europe or Vietnam.  The towns we are going to be visiting will be small, and there are several hours of driving in between most of them.  The advice that we got was ‘get gas when you can, and get water when you can, as you don’t know where the next stop will be’.  We took that to heart and lived by it as we travelled up the coast.

We have a sweet ride over here! Our first, and probably our only Mercedes, that we are booting around the country in.

Off to Kalbarri tomorrow to stay there for a couple of days and go inland to do a bit of hot weather hiking.

Chillin’ in Cervantes

Ok.  So, with our new home on wheels we started off with a bit of an awkward dance to set up and tear down our temporary plots of land and the home that sat on it.

With our trailer back home, we know where things were in the trailer, we know the setup and the tear down procedure, and when we are inside the trailer, we know how to “move” around each other so we don’t get in each others way in that small space.

This trailer, well, it took a bit to work out the kinks and find those new routines.   

The master bedroom with en suite bath (ya right) is in the back of the trailer, which is one of those collapsed dining room table unit kind of beds.  Well, the cushions slid off which meant that Deb slept on the dining room table pretty much.  On top of that, Lulu and Wilson simply could not tolerate being with each other in the bed above the drivers cabin, so Lulu climbed in between the two of us.  I had my sleep mask on, so I didn’t know that this happened or let alone who was lying beside me.  It was nice as I had this warm body nestled into me.  I did find it strange that Deb was snuggling with me (I like to snuggle….Deb, not so much.).

Deb and I woke up before the kids, as per usual, and each went for a run along the coastal trail, which was not as bad as the day before.  Working off the extra weight I have packed on during the first leg of the trip.  Slowly.  I hope.

Nice little trail run along the shores of Cervantes.

Packed up and ready to hit the road, we drove about 5km and then we came to Lake Theris and the stromatolites.  This was a quick look see at these really cool bio-geologic formations (I made that word up.).  Basically, the water in this lake is super salty.  Like one and a half times saltier than the ocean salty.  So not much grows in the lake other than cyanobacteria.  These bacteria rise up and mix with calcium carbonate and leave rock bubbles on the surface of the shores of the lake, and in the shallow waters.

The kids were so excited to start school today that they sprinted to where the stolomites were\. Either that or they were trying to out run the flies.

The really cool thing is that the bacteria that makes these stromatolites are of the same variety that were the earliest “humans”.  They have found fossils dating back 3,400 million years ago in Shark Bay, which is where we are headed in a couple of days.

We then hit the road up the coast to Kalbarri, but not before stopping in the grand metropolis of Geraldton (not the same as the one you grew up in, Freddy…but I think some of your relatives live here… hahaha).

After travelling this far around the world something was bound to happen to my camera.  I had taken over 15,000 photos by this point.  There was sand from the Sahara and Serengeti in all of the cracks and crevices.  There was a ding or two off of the lens ring.  And I would occasionally get an “lens error” where my lens wouldn’t come out, but then fix itself.  So, when we were packing up in Perth, my camera slipped off of the table while we were packing, and fell on the table.  I didn’t think much of it, as it had fallen a short distance like that again.  But, I guess it was just enough in the right way landing on the right part I guess.  This in addition to the fact that it had accumulated a bunch of dirt in various places from the Sahara, Serengeti … well, Africa in general, and Vietnam.

The funny thing is that when Deb and I travelled the world 15 years ago, my camera broke after she knocked it off of the picnic table the day before we climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.  That was back in the days of film, not digital.

So, we happily took pictures of our ascent, not knowing that one of the lens shutters had jammed in the closed position.  This meant that the top half of all of the photos were black.  Awesome, especially when, usually, the top of the photo included the peak of the mountain.  We didn’t know this happened until the rolls of film reached Canada and Debs parents developed the pictures and let us know.  Thankfully we were stopping in Singapore, where electronics were relatively cheap, and we could buy a new camera.

Homework and chips. Down to the last drop.

I looked up where to go look at cameras there, and found a store that had good reviews.  When I got there, there was nothing more than a display case in a pharmacy.  Big let down there! Anyways, the great metropolis of Geraldton, as you can imagine, doesn’t have a plethora of big box stores that can offer a good selection.  The pharmacy staff then told me about a store called Harvey Normans, which I thought was going to either be a used car lot or a mens store that sells bad suits.  But in fact, it had an awesome selection, and the owner of the store actually knew what he was talking about.

 So, I am the new proud owner of a Canon G7x Mark II, which is close to the camera I had, but not the same.  Oh well, it will do the job and we will still get some great photos out of it!

The kids finally got to play with the LEGO we bought in Hanoi…

We stocked up on some necessities in Geraldton, including a French press for some larger volume coffee making since the Vietnamese coffee makers were sent home and we had a couple of mini-Vietnamese coffee makers that will be good for a mid-day coffee, but not for the three cup blast we need in the mornings!  And then we pushed onwards to Kalbarri

The kids were happy as the campground has a pool and a jumping pillow, which they will get to burn off some of their energy on…. The next couple of days are hiking and exploring the Kalbarri area, and maybe some snorkelling, so we are really looking forward to exploring the area.