31 December 2007

2007: A Year of New Challenges

It's time to farewell 2007. Each year seems to go by quicker and quicker! At least I can say it's been a good year and can only hope 2008 will bring similar memories, fun and all that.


I suppose the biggest change, and therefore providing a challenge this year was my new job. I remember at the end of '06 writing about how interesting my two contract roles at UWS were, and now I'm working for them full-time and have farewelled Consortium (my previous employer) after nearly 5 years of work. My new job has been diverse, constantly changing and fun. I hope this doesn't wear off but it's interesting work with a great group of people!


I managed to go on two 'big' trips this year including the family excursion to Australia's island state Tasmania in January, and the big international trip to China in October with Eleonor. Both interesting adventures opening my eyes to new parts of the world. The travel bug continues to strike as I look forward to more travelling in 2008!


Musically, I've recently regained my interest in playing guitar, to the point where I bought myself one earlier in the month and have been rocking out heavy tunes with massive distortion ever since. I attended three concerts this year (slightly less than last year's four!), Roger Waters from Pink Floyd was amazing and Evanescence blew us away in February, while Linkin Park were absolutely fantastic in October. I've now seen all my favourite bands perform live except Limp Bizkit and Rammstein.


My interests continued in much the same 'plane' as 2006 this year. My automotive interests continued on and the Cougar still goes strong. She now wears a set of 19's giving her a much updated look and she took out the award for 'Best Cougar' at the 2007 All Ford Day. Even better than that, she represents the month of November in the 2008 Cougar Calendar put together by the NECO Forum. In racing, Dad and I took to the race track at Eastern Creek to do battle in V8 Race cars, while in the V8 Supercars, my hero team 'Team Vodafone' missed out on the championship win (again!) by 2 points... But, we did win Bathurst.


In aviation, I started my pilot training, and have unfortunately come to a stop due to lack of funds and recent bad weather. I hope to pick this up in '08 and get to my first solo and go beyond. I continued to visit Sydney Airport for spotting adventures, and finally saw the Singapore Airlines A380 up close and personal this morning! (Particularly after missing it when I was at Singapore a few months ago!) My diecast collection is about to hit the 200 mark (this time last year it was at 80!), and I'm now looking to build some sort of diorama so I can display my crazy hobby!


As always, I look towards the new year. '07 brought a lot of surprises and challenges, I hope '08 will be just as interesting and another year that I'll be able to look back on with great memories. I have hopes, dreams and goals all set so we'll see how it all goes, and I'll try to make sure it's all captured here!


Again, thanks for reading, I hope you all enjoyed your 2007 as well, Happy New Year Everyone!


See you in 2008.


Daniel

30 December 2007

Getting Away

With Christmas and the Holiday season here, Mum decided we should get away and take some time off. The fact that this happened whilst sandwiched in between two of her shifts at work is slightly ironic, but not unlike our mother.

So the four of us drove up to the north coast near Bulahdelah and the Myall Lakes. We stayed in a quaint little villa for two nights and just relaxed. We were attracted to events like bike riding, kayaking and archery, but none of us did any of those things! We did however indulge in a BBQ master chef 'presentation' where we were adequately and generously fed and provided with beer for the amazing price of just $5.00!

We explored the region a bit and saw many beaches which the north coast provides in abundance. We all got some sort of tan before coming back home.

Much like we began the year with our trip to Tasmania, it was a good way to end 2007 with a family trip up the coast.

13 December 2007

The Need for Speed

14 months after finding out I won the major prize in Performance Ford Magazine's subscription giveaway (http://theworldofdaniel.blogspot.com/2006/09/im-winner.html) I finally took to the race track to battle against Dad in our V8 Race Experiences at Eastern Creek Raceway.

Me, about to get into my racecar
The experience was definitely worthwhile, and I'm glad the guys there made more of it than just driving a car around the track and then you go home.

We were firstly given a lesson as a group on the do's and don'ts on the track, particularly at the corners. We then suited up in our race suits, and had our photos taken by one of their cars, a Ford of course so Dad and I were happy... many Holden supporters cringing at the thought of posing with 'the enemy' in the same photo!

From there we queued up and awaited our chariots of fire. The line was longer for the Ford brigade, but it gave us a chance to chat with the other lucky guys about to strap themselves into these V8 monsters and go for it on the track. Dad would end up driving #6, a Rentco branded Falcon, and I would get #21, the CSA Wheels Falcon... and the battle began.

Off I go...

The laps went quickly, and apparently I overtook Dad at one point, but when you're so caught up in the moment, you can't process everything else that's going on around you. To his credit, my instructor was quite laid back and prompting me to go better, I felt I had more in it, but the laps were up, and so was my car's fuel!

In any case, a worthwhile experience that I would have paid the money for! All the better it was free... I feel the need to go one better next time though...

17 November 2007

China

Can you believe that we've been back for over a week and a half, and only now I'm typing up a blog entry about our fantastic trip to China? You probably can, because that's exactly what's happened!

We covered so much and saw so many things it's hard to know if I'll be able to fit it all concisely into a blog post, but here goes!


Touchdown in Beijing occurred in the dark of the night, and fog. We were shuttled to our hotel to rest, and our first full day (Day 2) took us to Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City to start us off. You really get an appreciation for how large these places are when you're standing in the middle of them. Tian An Men Square is the largest square of it's kind in the world, and the Forbidden City was immensely long and you could easily spend an entire day there. We took a boat ride on one of Beijing's lakes as well as a tour of a Hu Tong before returning to our hotel. Eleonor decided to catch up with a friend in Beijing's Sun-li-tun area that evening.


Day 3 took us to the Great Wall of China. Truly magnificent even in the fog which had stuck around. We had enough time to go to the 'top' of our section at Badaling and escape the tourists! Our afternoon saw us visit the Summer Palace.


Day 4 we visited the Temple of Heaven before we had to fly out to Yichang to catch our boat cruise along the Yangtze River.


Day 5 saw our cruise commence and took us to Sandouping to see the Three Gorges Dam and the Five Stage Lock System. Our cruise continued to Day 7, with many excursions throughout the three gorges before arriving at Chongqing, China's largest city with a population approximately around 31 million people.


Day 8 we toured Chongqing before flying out to Xi'an, where we arrived in the night. Day 9 took us to the city wall and the Terracotta Warriors. There were many other great sights in this city and we were able to enjoy a night walk on Halloween!


Day 10 we flew out in the early morning to Hangzhou, probably the most beautiful city in China with the most trees, and reknowned for having China's most beautiful women! We were treated to a tour of one of Asia's largest Buddhist temples. We also visited Red Carp Pond, which was red with fish!


On Day 11 I turned ill and we visited the water town of Wuzhen. Despite not feeling the best, this was a great place to visit. From Wuzhen we headed by road to Suzhou. Come Day 12 and you'd think we'd have seen plenty of pagodas, but we saw the leaning pagoda of Suzhou today! We visited a private garden before continuing our road trip to Shanghai. We arrived at the 'Bund' at night, and viewed the wonderful light show that Shanghai puts on each night.


Day 13 in Shanghai took us to the Pu Dong area and we climbed the Jing Mao tower to it's 88th floor observation deck. Next door, under construction was China's tallest building, and soon to be second tallest tower in the world. We toured the city, shopping areas, museum and a Confuscion temple before experiencing a night cruise.


Day 14 left us to our own devices and we toured Nanjing Rd in an attempt to find some nice souvenir style shops, but failing. We did find Cybermart though which would be any technologists dream shopping complex! All of this occurred before we had to head back to the airport via the amazing Maglev train at 431km/h!


I've barely touched the surface of what we experienced in this amazing country. Our tour was diverse and an excellent introduction to a totally different place. A new country ticked off my list, one of my 'must-see' cities (Shanghai) as well, and a Great Wonder of the World :)


Bring on the next trip!

21 October 2007

Motorshow to Linkin Park... Bring on China!

Linkin Park

Last night I went with a group of friends to rock out with Linkin Park during their first show at the Entertainment Centre. Expectations were high and they delivered. Two of the guys in our group had never been to a concert before and were simply blown away. LP were high energy, entertaining and worthy rivals to take the honours from Disturbed on my favourite concert list!


I've now lost my voice and have a sore neck, but it was all worth it. Our group of eight forming our own mini moshpit amongst the crowd as they rocked out all our favourites including One Step Closer, Somewhere I Belong, No More Sorrow, Given Up, Numb, In The End, What I've Done and Faint. They also played a piano rendition of Pushing Me Away, the beginning of Breaking the Habit and an extended Bleed it Out.


All smiles here, and now buzzing with the feeling that in a few days I'll be leaving for China!

15 October 2007

Motorshow 2007

Motorshow 2007 In what has now become an annual event, we once again visited the Sydney International Motorshow. This time with a larger group of us going down to check out the latest automotive offerings.
Glamour girls were hard to find this year, though I remember two of the Mitsubishi girls from '06. Much of the range of cars was all the same with nothing really standing out as new or different. The new Ford Mondeo was a great car to finally see in it's full range of models and a wider selection of colours. In the supercar arena, aside from Lamborghini and Ferrari bringing in their usual suspects, the new Maserati GranTurismo was a beautiful machine to behold.
We spent a fair bit of time at the show and it was good to have everyone along for the catch up. We look forward to next week where we'll rock out with Linkin Park at the Entertainment Centre!
...the countdown continues...

23 September 2007

Let the Countdown Begin...

I'm not usually one to have 'countdowns' etc, but in a month's time (from tomorrow) I'll be travelling to China with Eleonor for a two week tour of all it's wonders. It's all quite exciting, and we're both looking forward to it, though we're hoping that time doesn't go so fast that we miss it all and are suddenly thrown back into our daily lives before we know it!

While we're away, I'll try and keep the blog up-to-date, and hopefully you'll be able to read up on our stories here and see some photos. For the Facebook-ers, you should also be able to track our trips as we go... but we're just going to have to see how we go about finding Internet access over there!

Busy times ahead, time to start preparing of course for the holiday away, but also looking at buying some new cameras for the trip. We also have a Linkin Park concert the weekend prior to our departure and numerous birthdays will start to pile up in October...

Will try and keep ya'll informed.

Until then...

09 September 2007

APEC Long Weekend


What with all the world representatives from the Asia/Pacific region having a party in Sydney, we were given a long weekend. So on Saturday, Steve, Elisa, Elly and I went for a road trip through the Hunter Valley sipping wines, tasting cheeses, dips, atomic chilli's, gelato's and more...

It was quite the adventure where we took a scenic route to Cessnock amongst cyclists and other great sceneries to the Hunter Wine Region.

We eventually made our way across to Nelson Bay, before heading to Newcastle for dinner. This was followed by dessert at Dippin' Dots, an interesting way to eat ice cream :)

All up it was a great time amongst friends and a great way to cover lots of ground in a day. Already looking forward to the next trip!

Alas the long weekend is almost over, but there are other interesting things on the horizon!

26 August 2007

Familiarity thru Regularity

I'm all hyped up for many different reasons at the moment, it's just been one of those weeks where a lot has happened, or plans have finally come together...

First though, it's great to get back in the pilots seat after a month of not being able to fly either due to weather or other commitments. Needless to say, my first circuit was rather awful, though I did manage to salvage a reasonable landing... keeping regular with my flying is definitely key. But, finally today I heard a mention, barely more than a whisper that I'm on course for my first solo - assuming I keep regular!

What's that annoying motto teachers like to use? Practice, Practice, Practice...

Anyway, in other news Eleonor (my girlfriend) and I have finally decided on what tour we'll be going with on our first overseas trip together. In just under 2 months we'll be heading out to the oriental wonderland of China. We'll be part of a 2 week tour exploring the major cities and sites of Beijing, The Great Wall, Xi'an, the Yangtze River and Shanghai - plus many places dotted in between. It's good to know we finally were able to decide which tour we'd take of the many available - and we've been able to make sure we can go to the Linkin Park concert in late October as well!

Also, I've become very addicted to Facebook and have managed to catch up with a great deal of friends from the past. I wonder if it's a phase that will pass in time...

13 August 2007

Where'd the Time Go!?

I've only just realised I missed an entire month!

July

Well, my brother turned 19 on July 12th. Happy Birthday bro! haha...

August

This month has been more interesting. Particularly with the Peter Warren All Ford Day occurring this most recent weekend. The EuroFordClub made their third consecutive appearance at the show and put on a display to be remembered. Our largest number of cars yet, biggest variety and most interactive.

I learned my lesson as well with a large number of plans for the car to be ready for Sunday all falling through at the last minute. I was thrown a strewn wheel stud from my front left wheel which put me into salvage mode on Friday tracking down a replacement stud. The after-effects resulted in a terrible wheel vibration which wasn't rectified until Saturday - but, at least it wasn't an expensive job!

The reward came on Sunday where my car won the award for Best Cougar 2007 in tight competition against the 2006 defender, and friend, Mark. Even without the additions I had planned, 1 point separated us in our battle to win the trophy. Mark did however take out the Best Presented, and Best in Club awards.

Having never won a trophy before, for anything, this is a very momentous occasion for me, and my beaut car!

So, signing off for the moment, but I'll try and make it quicker before the next one...

24 June 2007

Dad Turns 50

My final long weekend before we busy up at work... new challenges lying ahead, at least it was a good time to relax and take some time off beforehand. This week can be broken down into a couple sections...


Happy 50th Birthday


June 24th, 2007 celebrates my Dad's 50th birthday. We held a modest function at The Prospector's restaurant for dinner on the 23rd with family and close friends. The time was fun and well spent amongst good people and Dad received his fair share of alcoholic beverages and other well thought out gifts. He and I will soon do battle on the Eastern Creek Race Circuit now we are both set to burn up the tyres with V8 Race Experiences each! Bring it on...


Weather 2, Daniel 1


I was getting worried that our recent bout of stormy weather on the weekends would continue to prevent me from taking off into the skies again. But, finally, this weekend I returned for my third circuit training lesson. Gradually improving at least, though I did come back with a dead left arm!


If I Were Indian

I'd have a totally different complexion, and possibly a typical accent... Well, look at what the marvels of technology can do for us! Entry into the Blacktown Workers Club can be annoying if you're not a member, but I simply don't use the facilities in a high enough frequency to justify the membership costs... so they now offer to scan your license into their system - fair enough... But what good is this system when it deciphers my (somewhat common) firstname like so? Take a look at the photo. All I ask is "What the...!?"

So this is Dshibi Collins, signing off, and possibly calling you from a market research or other call centre shortly...

11 June 2007

A Touch of Old and New

It's the long weekend here... Mum and Dad left yesterday for the Red Centre to explore Uluru and Alice Springs. Of course, this meant a trip to the airport and I thought I'd enjoy some plane-spotting whilst there. Seems some others (more well informed than I) had a similar idea as one of Australia's iconic jetliners was about to depart on it's final flight.

Boeing 707 - VH-EBAVH-EBA was Qantas' first ever Boeing 707, it was recently discovered in the UK and a team of specialists and enthusiasts have since revived her to her former glory. She left Sydney on her final flight to Longreach, QLD where she will be preserved in the Qantas museum. So it was a case of right place, right time to catch 'Bravo Alpha' on her final take-off, even though the weather was far from ideal.

Later in the day at Darling Harbour I attended an Italian Car Club show at Darling Harbour New Ford Mondeowith fellow motor enthusiast Alan. The show was a little less than we expected, but outside we spotted a small Ford display which included a brand new imported Ford Mondeo... a lot of hype is building up regarding this medium sized vehicle since Ford Australia announced it would be coming to our shores after a near 10 year hiatus. The car is simply stunning considering its designed to be a family car! The example was a top of the range model which oozed quality in all aspects. Very impressive!

With a longer weekend I set out to do more, but not sure if I succeeded! I'm back in the swing of video editing - working on some projects for the EuroFordClub which are coming together nicely. There are other projects I'd like to get back to, but all in time I suppose... The weather took away another flying lesson this weekend around, so hopefully I'll pick it back up next week...

03 June 2007

Back into the Swing of Things

Things haven't been that eventful lately I guess... but I was finally glad to once again resume flying after 4 weeks away from the Pilot's seat.

Whether it was stuffed up bookings or misinformation, today I finally got back into the swing of things and came away very confident from my second Circuits session. I conducted 4 smooth landings with a new instructor, in one of Aerospace Aviation's newly acquired Cessna 152's, so I felt pretty special all round today!


I also received excellent news from my avid Babylon 5 friends that the next instalment (it's been 9 years since Babylon 5 was aired on TV) entitled 'The Lost Tales' is about to be released on DVD in the US... I can only hope we'll soon follow as my other fave sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica appears to be a non-event, at least for the moment.

No doubt that with the same creative genius behind the new movie, and hopefully a sustained series, these new episodes will be just as inspiring and enthralling as the original B5 Series. I can't wait!

I'll try and keep you posted as events unfold, hopefully we'll have some more interesting things to talk about in the coming weeks!

All the Best...

21 May 2007

Middle-May-Update

I need to type my blogs up more often... Time always seems to be in short supply these days!

For those keeping up-to-date, you'll notice that I mentioned a staff member had left work. Well, news has hit once again that another staff member is moving on... Another hole to be filled, and there goes me again! The quickest progression up the ladder I've heard of in a while, and while its only a temporary positional change, it comes with such perks as higher pay, an iRiver and so on!

Yesterday I was able to geek out with friends at a 'Collectables Fair'. It was full of vendors selling collectables and memorabilia, mostly science fiction and I bought up large on Battlestar Galactica collector cards. It was quite an experience I must say!


Last week I got my flying fix when my Dad flew circuits in a Partenavia P68. I might include some photos at a later point of the experience but it was great to fly and just relax for a change. This most recent weekend I flew via Microsoft Flight Simulator, and next week I'll return to the command seat to another round of circuit training! Can't wait!

Oh, Australian followers look out for Street Fords Issue 26, I make an appearance with the EuroFordClub!

'til next time...

05 May 2007

Loose Ends

Hey!

Well, this week was momentus for a number of reasons I suppose. One of the valuable colleagues at work had his last days so the void has now opened and it's time to step up to the plate and attempt to help fill the hole. Thank God we're in a bit of a quiet period, but it still is less than ideal I suppose?

I got my car back! It only took three weeks? I had come to the conclusion that car dealers operate in a totally different realm and space time continuum or whatever to the rest of the world. All the while I was getting almost every excuse under the Sun... though, I suppose I have to expect it considering the sort of car I drive. Not your daily run of the mill Falcon or Commodore where you can find spare parts at your local supermarket for example. Reuniting was an emotional experience. Like meeting an old friend after a long time... well, very much like that in fact!

I'm still flying high as well... though today saw me moreso flying in circles as I've reached the 'Circuit' era of my pilot training and I have to say it scared the absolute crap out of me! There's very little time to think or take a breather up there and I don't think I'd trust myself flying a paper plane at the moment, let alone a Cessna Trainer with two lives on the line! Though I may be highly exaggerating the situation, I conducted two extremely poor landings today... so no doubt I have a long way to go... A clerical error however means I'm not flying again until the end of the month!

I'll have to conduct my training as an armchair pilot for the next few weeks until I'm back in the saddle once more!

Will keep you updated of course.

Until then...

13 April 2007

My Interests: Cars

Hello All... I'll change the topic from what has now become regular flying lessons and turn onto another episode of 'My Interests'.

Since the later years of high school and thanks to the influence of a few friends whose veins pumped with 98 Octane Fuel, Nitrous Oxide and whatever else, I developed an interest in man's love for cars. I'll take you through my own personal rides at a later point, but since those days I've become more of a spoken out Ford loyalist and fan, V8 Supercar follower and albeit not crazy, but a car modifier and enthusiast as well.

Aside from the real deal, I pioneered our family collection of diecast cars which now includes a collection of road and race cars in all different scales, subscription and purchase of many car magazines and other literature, as well as membership of forums and active car clubs to share our interests/obsessions.

The passion for cars stems through my social group and at least the male side of my family as well, so I'm in good company pretty much wherever I go!

I think some of you could probably tell I don't have much to write about this week! haha :)

I don't even have a photo to share with you! Maybe next time...

01 April 2007

Repeat Occurrences

I'm a Winner... Again!

Earlier this week I received the latest issue of Performance Ford Magazine, as is consistent with my subscription. However, I couldn't believe they'd surprise me once again following winning their ultimate first prize last year. (See blog entry 'I'm a Winner').

So, unexpectedly, a feedback letter I sent to them won Letter of the Month, titled "Honesty is the Best Policy". It couldn't have been more appropriately named considering the pointers and review I included in my feedback. Regardless, I win a Meguiars car care pack which I know will be put to good usage!

You can find my letter of the month in Volume 7, Edition 2 of Performance Ford Magazine, though I have made 2 other appearances in the Letters section, 2 of the family cars have made 'On the Street' and of course, winning the subscription V8 Race Experience last year!

Taking to the Skies... Again!

Cessna 152 - VH-BRSI finally 'cashed-in' my introductory flight Eleonor got me for Christmas with Aerospace Aviation. This was a great way for me to compare a number of things between two prominent and well known flying schools based at Bankstown Airport.

Different to my first flying experience with Basair where I was able to open up the throttle on take-off and keep the plane straight and level, this was the next stage of actually maneuvering the plane (the pictured Cessna 152) up, down, and banking left and right. I have to admit I was quite edgy about controlling the plane in slightly turbulent conditions, but I believe I will adjust with enough practice...

In the end, after comparing facilities, instructors, planes, overall flying experience and so on, the two schools; Basair and Aerospace came out quite even. I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences! It now means hitting the books and looking through the advantages point for point to work out my next course of action.

I need to make a decision reasonably soon though as my pending birthday present from the parents is for a more in-depth flying lesson at the school of choice...

24 March 2007

Another Year in the Life of Daniel

Last weekend, March 17th I turned 24. Woohoo! Happy Birthday to me! As most of my birthday's over the past few years (since leaving the teens anyway) this was just another ordinary day. Though I have to thank my 5 closest friends for turning up to my planned evening dinner at Sicilian's Parramatta. It was a great night with all of you!

Prior to that, on the Wednesday, I finally cut my ties with my former job of almost 5 years. I haven't talked much about my employment so far, but I said goodbye to my nearly mundane role as an IT Assistant and Data Entry wizard to move onto greater things in a more secure and appreciative environment. The farewell was nice, with cake, cards and speeches, followed by more cake to celebrate my birthday on Friday at my new job as a Projects Support Officer.

Things have been on the road to improvement this year what with the new job, and new aspects to look forward to in the future. It could be a result of the Chinese Year of the Pig, in which I was born, or it could just be that window of opportunity giving me a break! Either way, things are looking good for the moment.

A short one today, and no pics I'm afraid... Stay tuned for the next update, hopefully in the next week or so.

18 February 2007

Rock N' Roll & Free as a Bird...

It's been almost a month since my last update, so here's a quick update on the events over the past few weeks...

Roger Waters Concert

Famous guitarist Roger Waters from Pink Floyd came to Sydney in late January and played some of the band's greatest hits. The first half of the concert was mostly a mixture of the best from the Pink Floyd albums, while the second half was a feature of the entire album 'Dark Side of the Moon'.

I accompanied Dad who had been long awaiting the opportunity to see Pink Floyd songs played live. Notable hits for me were the encore songs 'Another Brick in the Wall' and 'Comfortably Numb'.

Evanescence Rock Sydney

Last night, Evanescence returned to Sydney in one of the best concerts I've attended. Second only to Disturbed from last year and only because the audience were nowhere near as active as back then.

The sound mix was perfect this time around, though their support band was really quite a disappointment. Nevermind, Evanescence were capable of more than making up for that with all their great songs, hits and a few snippets of music by other bands as well. Five of us went along to scream out the lyrics of each of our favourite songs and our vocal chords paid the price (as did my neck!) Too many great songs to mention, the stage lighting was excellent and Amy-Lee was appreciative of how loud the crowd were after every song.

Take to the Sky...

No one would be surprised to hear that I have flown before, as a little kid when my Dad used to be a regular pilot at our local flying clubs, to more recently, travelling in airliners to holiday destinations. But today, I took control for the first time (under instruction) of the pictured plane. No, I didn't take that photo, but I was just lucky that the promo photo used on Basair's website was of the plane I captained.

This was all part of an initiative which began last month with an information seminar where I received a free introductory flight with Basair, one of Sydney's Pilot training flying schools. I was given charge of opening up the throttle on the Tecnam 2002JF for take off, and then keeping her straight and steady during our flight out from Bankstown, to Parramatta, over to Prospect and returning to base. It was a great way to get a feel for flying, and just what is involved in controlling a light aircraft in the air.

Needless to say, the introduction has me wanting to go back for more... What with Dad now in the process of renewing his own Pilot's licenses, this is as good a time as any to get myself into the air up there...

I'll try and get into a more regular rhythm with the postings as some busy events are coming up shortly!

Until then...

20 January 2007

Tasmania - The Last Days

I figure I'd better start with the second half of the trip before I start to forget things! As it happens, I'm still sorting through the masses of photos we took from our trip, but it is a winning battle...



So, let's continue with the events of...

Day 6 - Strahan/Queenstown to Hobart
We enjoyed our seaplane flight over some of the exquisite and untouched landscapes around Strahan. Well, except Mike who was getting a bit airsick on the trip out to Gordon River. Our landing in a ravine was awesome, into a calm area where we viewed a waterfall and took in the serenity before flying back to Strahan. Our first seaplane experience and it was a lot of fun.

So let the 'Cross-Tasmania Trek' begin. We had the longest leg ahead of us, travelling from Tassie's west coast to the east. Destination: Hobart, via Queenstown and Derwent Bridge, or so we had marked them out on our map. We left Strahan under overcast conditions, which is about all we'll remember of the weather there, reaching Queenstown in blue skies after twisting through the Lyell Hwy... it was only the beginning.

Queenstown is extremely colourful, a tribute to mining the area and turning it into a multicoloured landscape of another world. However, given our delayed departure because of an earlier hiccup in Strahan, this place made for a great lunchstop.

The road to Derwent Bridge was long and extremely winding. This was the road we were warned about - but, there was no other logical way to get across the state. It almost seemed as though the road authority had put bends in for completely no reason, but, after 2 hours 45 minutes we made it to Derwent Bridge, a third of the way to Hobart... and found nothing. Oh, there was a petrol station which opened late enough for people to buy themselves some food, but we had to press on. We made a brief stop at 'The Wall' exhibit, which is a huge monument in the making (or sculpting).

We finally reached Hobart in the early stages of the evening. Luckily the sun doesn't set until around 8:30pm, so, arriving at 7:00pm was no problem as we followed the Derwent River to Tasmania's capital. We had crossed such differing landscapes en route, but, most importantly, we had made it back to civilisation, and Mike and I were very quickly inundated with SMS and Phone messages!

After such a long day, we had dinner at our hotel's restaurant, and it was actually quite good. We were all quite tired, but Mum decided it would be a good idea to walk around a bit, so we went to Salamanca Place and Constitution Dock before calling it a night.

Day 7 - Port Arthur
One week in Tasmania... We headed over to Port Arthur on this day. We firstly made stops at three places by the sea near Pirate Bay. These were the Devil's Arch, Devil's Kitchen and a Blowhole. The first two were interesting 'caverns' cut into the cliffs at the sea. The blowhole was worth seeing just because this one actually blew, unlike that dodgy thing they have in Kiama...

Aside from Cradle Mountain, we'd never seen so many people at any other place than when we got to the Port Arthur historical site. It was amazing and interesting though. We spent the entire day walking around and exploring the ruins of this place. We had an introductory tour at first in a group before being let loose to walk around the different buildings that still stand after all these years. A boat cruise around the nearby water added to the convict experience, as well as plays acted out by staff depicting events from diary extracts of some of the convicts.

It was very interesting and a real eye-opener for me. A day well spent.

Day 8 - Hobart & The Huon
We said we'd try to visit the Cadbury factory whilst in Hobart, though we didn't think of booking until we got to the city... needless to say, an automated message said there were no vacancies until the week following our departure from Tassie, so we took a dive and rocked up early to the Cadbury factory, aptly located in the suburb "Cadbury". Even more impressive than the outside of this place with Freddo flags and models that were used in their TV commercials was the fact they had enough room to fit the four of us on one of their tours! We all had our chocolate fixes that day... I can still smell and taste the chocolate... Mmmmmmmmmm....

From Cadbury we explored a few other smaller places around Hobart, including Alpenrail, which is an acclaimed model replica of the railway through the Swiss Alps. The people there were very friendly and talkative with an excellent model to display, and it's not finished!

We then travelled back through Hobart to the southern region of the Huon Valley. Here we passed through Geeveston to get to the Tahune Airwalk. This is a suspended walkway which takes you over the canopy of the Tahune rainforest. At the end is a huge cantilever which allows you to view the Huon River. We also visited Australia's biggest tree, which apparently is dying.

On our return trip I took the opportunity to divert us to Mount Wellington, not far from Hobart, but approx 1200 metres above sea level. I wasn't sure what to expect at the top, but we found a huge telecommunications tower called 'The Pinnacle' which can interfere with car immobilisers, as well as an excellent lookout offering a near 270ยบ view of Hobart and the surrounding areas.

Day 9 - Richmond/Swansea/Freycinet/St Helens
Our time in Hobart was already over, so it was time to move on and up to the North East. We were a little concerned today as our destination of St Helens was not too far from a raging bushfire, and the skies were already looking hazy.

We made our first stop at Richmond, probably about 30km's out from Hobart where there was a great model village replicating Old Hobart Town from the 1800's. This place has won tourism awards and for such a small village, it was surprising how it kept us all interested. Everyone gets a mission to find four particular figures amongst the village though, so that may have been part of the reason.

Passing over the famous Richmond Bridge (without even realising it) we headed for the coast and Swansea. We'd heard nice things about Swansea, but to be honest I couldn't see what all the fuss was about? We continued on to the Freycinet National Park, in the hopes of getting close to the picturesque Wineglass Bay. If you've had a look at any Tasmanian Travel catalogue/brochure, you'd have seen Wineglass Bay.

In the sweltering heat we made it to the Freycinet Peninsula and headed down for another one of these Great Short Walks to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. This walk lived up to the standard of The Nut and Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain... we all died. Again. I don't know how long it took us to climb this summit but Mum trucked on like a machine while the three men faltered and died in her tracks. The final viewing of the bay was worth it for the photos, but we needed our heads checked! Thank God the return trip was mostly downhill, and I got to mingle with some Wallabies in the carpark afterwards.

Now dead, we continued on our way to St Helens, which wasn't too much further. We drove through areas of bush totally destroyed and burnt out by recent fires, and drove past (not through) the fires that had been publicised on the news. We made it to our accomodation in the late afternoon and had some local fish and chips for dinner. This was our second last night in Tassie...

Day 10 - St Helens back to Launceston
We soon found out that St Helens didn't really have too much to offer tourists, so we went for a drive up to Binalong Bay and an area called the Bay of Fires. There were some beautiful beaches here, and the water looked sweet. However, only one of us (Mike) had bothered to pack any sort of swimming gear so it was useless pining over how good the water looked. We began our trip back to where it all started.

We made a few stops along the way, our first was at a cheese shop where we had free tastings and bought some locally produced cheeses. We soon came into Derby, a small, very small mining town along the main highway. I had a browse through some of the shops and had a chat with two shop owners in particular who gave us a run down of what we could take a look at on our trip back into Launceston.

So on we went, and we found the wood carvings we had previously been told about which were sculpted out of trees into an Anzac memorial. It was a shame that they weren't better publicised as they weren't even on the main road, but it seemed some people knew they were there.

From here, it was a short hop over to Scottsdale and their Environmental Centre which looks like an oversized shuttlecock in the ground. Our trip continued uninterrupted from that point until we reached the outskirts of Launceston and passed our original accomodation from Days 1 and 2. Dad wanted to make a quick stop at the Australian Maritime College so we had a drive across the Tasmanian University campus. We found our final place to stay, had one last walk around the Launceston shopping district before finishing up for the day and preparing for our trip home tomorrow...

Day 11 - Returning to Sydney
We were all up early enough to be ready and have a Macca's breakfast. It was a strange feeling at the end, and because our flight was due at around 11am, we couldn't actually do too much with our morning. Yet we were up too early, so we drove around Launceston one more time, and found the Boag's Brewery for a photograph... just to say we'd actually seen it. We drove the Camry around a bit more, just because we had overcalculated our fuel requirements and thought we'd use it up a little bit more before heading to the airport.

On time, we had done everything right, only to find our flight was delayed by almost half an hour! VirginBlue had sent us their 'PacificBlue' jet named 'Peta Pan' to return us home. The return flight was quick, highlighting that Tasmania isn't too far away at all!

Sydney hadn't changed a bit! But it was good to be home even though we had a great time in Tassie.

I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of going. We learnt a lot from our trip, and there were still a few places we didn't get around to seeing... Definitely worthwhile tho.

It'll be back to normal blogs after this entry (once I put some more pictures up!)

Thanks for reading and thanks to all those people who commented in my last post as well!

08 January 2007

Tasmania - The First Half

I've had some time now to go through and update this report a bit more thoroughly. So for those of you who've read this already, take another look and hopefully things make more sense and sound a bit more interesting, and now note, the new photos!

So, I'm in a cafe in Strahan, which is the South Western most town in Tassie. The weather hasn't been too good lately, but, finally, the sun is coming out.



Day 1 - Launceston
Arrival from Sydney aboard VirginBlue's "Hobart Honey". Our flight was actually delayed but we managed to fit a lot into this day after picking up our Sportivo Camry! We drove into town, to take a look at an Auto Museum near our hotel. It was full of cars from waaaay back and some interesting bikes and race cars graced the collection as well... a great start to the holiday! We then started a walk around the city of Launceston. It's a small city, probably about the size of Parramatta with an easy to follow one-way system circling the major shopping area. We went to our accomodation - (which wasn't anything special) shortly after. Launceston butts right up to the mountains, and is nicknamed 'The Valley City' so we walked from our 'lodge' to the nearby Cataract Gorge. There were some nice sights and it turned out to be a decent walk, but it ruined Dad's ankle. We had dinner at a place, highly advertised, called the Jailhouse. But we all had to serve our sentence waiting near on an hour before receiving our meals!

Day 2 - The Tamar Valley
Out from Launceston we headed to Beauty Point to see Seahorse World and Platypus House via Beaconsfield. We had a tour of the now famous Beaconsfield mine, and got to see Seahorses, Platypuses and Echidna's in action. From there we went to a Lavendar farm, Batman Bridge and onto Low Head. I don't know why it's called Batman Bridge, but it has nothing to do with the superhero! We got to Low Head too late for any of it's attractions, and too early to view the Fairy Penguins, so we had a look at a museum that was open, but unattended, before venturing back into Launceston.

Day 3 - Launceston to Smithton
We had to trek across Tassie now to the North-West corner. Our long drive took us through Deloraine; a quaint country town, Latrobe; where there was a small chocolate factory and Devonport; where the Spirit of Tasmania docks and onto Burnie for a McDonald's lunch. By mid afternoon we were at Smithton which is basically a nowhere town with a nice hotel. We went to the Dismal Swamp, which really was Dismal considering the 'value for money' principle, so we ventured to the 'Nut' in Stanley. Mike and I were stupid enough to try and walk up this thing, when there was a decent chairlift to make the work easier for us. Mum and Dad took the latter option. So, my brother and I died on the way up, collapsing at the top! We took the opposite route's on the way down, however. From the hotel we took a tour back to the Nut in the black of the night where we saw some Fairy Penguins in their rookeries!

Day 4 - Smithton to Strahan
A colleague at work warned of some of the roads between Strahan and Queenstown, they've got nothing on where we went today! Basically we took our Camry offroading! 175km's of unsealed, winding and remote roads. There was no phone coverage (and there still isn't any), no fuel and there was no sign of life at all! Our only hope were the distance markers slowly counting down to our destination in 10km intervals, and there was a ferry... the Fatman Barge, that was about it. There was one section of sealed road with a 'No Speed Limit' sign, which was kinda interesting, but overshadowed by our twisting, cross-mountain trek. We got into Strahan, and then, the aftermath of Western Australia's superstorm came by and it started to rain, and then pour... We did manage to have our first crayfish at this point though at one of Strahan's restaurants.

Day 5 - Cradle Mountain
From Strahan, we thought it was time we ventured to Cradle Mountain. Unfortunately, the weather had stuck with us and caused some concern as to whether we'd actually see anything. So, we decided to roll the dice and go anyway. It was beautiful when we finally arrived, and the weather lifted a little for us. We did a decent walk around Dove Lake, taking us past Cradle Mountain itself. The walk took it's toll on everyone though as the first half was very easy, and the second half was mega hard. Unfortunately though, due to the weather and clouds, we never actually got to take in the full view of Cradle Mountain... unless the photos prove otherwise. We drove back to Strahan, where the weather still hadn't lifted. Dinner was provided by the local bistro.

Day 6 - Today
Well, the weather is finally clearing, and I'm sure I've missed some important points. We're awaiting a seaplane flight to take us over one of the wonderful sights of this place, the Gordon River. If not, we'd basically be leaving with no comment on Strahan. From here we'll venture across the state over to Hobart...

Til next time, I've now been able to put up some photos (I know, only four, but I can't put them ALL up!), and still looking through the rest, so stay tuned for the second half of the trip coming soon!