Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Surfing at Dee Why Beach

There is one thing you simply have to do when you come to Australia, and that is to take some time for surfing. Yesterday I had agreed with a surf school in Manly to meet up today morning to learn to surf for the whole day.
After getting up at six in the morning, taking the train to Sydney and then the ferry to Manly (recommendation from Iain, worth it, shipping past the harbour) I and a few others met up with Ryan, the surf school owner. Ryan's the typical Australian surfer you would think of.
Also doing the surf course with me where two English people with their Grandma from Lowestoft and a women from near Würzburg in Germany, Carina. So no language difficulties in any way.
Ryan drove us to Dee Why beach where we met up with our first trainer in the morning, sorry can't remember his name. After getting geared up in wetsuits and receiving a board we took to the sandy beach first of all to learn the move of getting up on to the board. After we had finished that satisfyingly we proceeded to head in to the ocean. Waves where a bit strange and inconsistent, that being said from an absolute novice like me. I tackled my first wave with the help of the teacher, paddled a lot so to get in front of the wave, was preparing to get up and surf, when I pulled something in my shoulder and the wave turned me over and I was in the water in no time. The pull in my shoulder had felt like my whole shoulder had fallen out, but it “slipped” back in again and was just aching a bit. It was my first try and I thought that I cant give up then. The whole morning was spent with me trying to get on the board, mostly failing and sometimes the weird “dislocated” felling in my shoulder. I managed to stand at the very last turn in the morning and what a felling it was.

We headed of to some lunch shortly after that and had some sandwiches. Our teacher had to go of, so we got a new one, more akin to a drill teacher, but still fun. The afternoon was filled with a lot of surfing, in total I think I managed to stay on the board around seven times. Once you are standing surfing is not so different from snowboarding. Lean to far back and you lose control of the board, lean to far forward and the tip will dip in and you go flying in front of the wave, just to be rolled over in the water by it. At the end of the day I had pulled my shoulder about seven times and was incapable to do any surfing for the near future, but I managed to surf. After getting dressed and having a sightseeing tour of the Northern beaches, viewing all the famous surfing champions from Australia in a sort of memorial they have built, we where dropped of at the wharf in Manly. Said our goodbyes and then Carina and me went to Manly beach and laid under the sun for a few hours. I ended up getting a sun burn in the end, even if it did not look anything like it at the beach. We said our good byes at Sydney Circular Quay and I headed back to Iains on a late train.

Unfortunate with my shoulder, I'll be seeing a doctor about that, but had a super time surfing.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Blue Mountains National Park

Completely overslept today. The plan was for Iain and me to head in to town at seven in the morning. Iain for Camerons graduation from university and me to look at Sydney during that time. After that we could have met somewhere.
That plan didn't go according to plan, as I woke up at 11.30 AM. After finding out my clocks where going right and Iain hadn't been able to get me up I had some breakfast and then continued on to the train station to get to Sydney. The next train left Springwood 45 minutes later, so I had a look around the town. After that walk it was a train ride of about one and a half hours to Sydney (don't know exactly, slept some more). The trains here all seem to be double deckers and I was at the top looking out over a valley whilst going to Sydney. Met up with Iain and Brendan in Sydney Central, Cameron had to leave early to get to a job he got. We had a look at the Sydney Opera house close up and the harbour bridge from afar. The Opera house is plated in ceramic tiles, similar to a bathroom floor.
After viewing that it was back on to the train for a journey back to Springwood, where we said goodbye to Brendan, who had another hour to take home. Went shopping and Iain cooked up something nice in the evening.

Aaaand I woke up early today again. Plan wasn't fully fleshed out that early in the morning. I ended up chilling until midday, as Iain went of to vote, Leanne got prepared for her netball game later in the day and Angus was still in bed (much like Daniel actually). Iain and me got dropped of at the station bye Leanne on her way to the netball match and took the train to Blackheath where Brendan, Maddy and Nicholas where waiting for us. After the rest of the entourage had voted (NSW has their votes right when I came) we set of towards a bush walk. We looked for snakes and the likes of animals on the way to some cliffs that overlook the Blue Mountains National Park, similar to where we had been the two day prior. Shortly before the cliffs we had a small break and Maddy went of home for some rest, whilst the boys carried on along Braeside Track to get to Govetts Leap at the end. Govetts Leap turned out to be a waterfall and the wind was blowing the water spray back over the waterfall itself on to the track we where walking along. It was basically very damp air on a hot day. We reached Govetts Leap at the end and met an Australian with his German companion and a few of the German relatives over for visiting. Had a small chat overlooking the fantastic view of the Blue Mountains National Park from Govetts Leap. Carried along through the bush, with Nicholas being swapped from Dad to Granddad. Always had a view to the left over the canyons as we carried on along Clifftop Track to Evans Lookout (same place we had been two days ago). We spotted two termite hills on the way, a few black parrots out over the canyon, some crimson rosellas (red parrots) in the trees and wild sundews (meat eating plants) in the damper regions. Arriving at Evans Lookout which was more touristy and stayed a while before Nicholas decided he had had enough and we returned back to where they live. They showed me the Grand Canyon exit and entry along the way, a track we might do sometime.
Arrived back where Brendan's family lives and where greeted by Maddys mother who showed us around their place, a pretty large spot of land surrounded in bush, before we carried on to a lively evening meal. After that a short stop by the three sisters after we had dropped of Brendan, Maddy, Maddys mum and Nicholas at their place. Watched the bats zoom around catching insects and viewed the three pinnacles known as the three sisters before we headed back to home for some rest.
Lovely and massive canyon system here in the Blue Mountains.

Not that much today, I woke up to go see a soccer game of Angus, which his team won.
The afternoon was spent with lazzing around a bit, doing some weeding and watching a film about the Blue Mountains National Park (The Edge). Didn't know they where the only place in the world that has Wollemi pines (100 million old plant species), one of the oldest and rarest trees in the world (less than 100 mature trees). Their location is kept a secret and people flown in are blindfolded to not give away their position.

After that the evening was spent with organising a surf lesson and checking the job market with what is available.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Australia: First Views

Wednesday was spent with a bunch of organisation stuff. I managed to get my tax file number (TFN) relatively fast, as the whole business could be settled online. After that I looked online for SIM Cards that I could use for my mobile phone. I found one online, but instead of waiting I looked for a local sales office if they had any prepaid cards and got a walk through Springwood at the same time. Spotted a long goods train on the track whilst walking to Springwood which was being pulled by three engines. Ran in to a bunch of political advertisers, as the elections for New South Wales are coming up soon. They didn't bother me and I got a SIM card at the local retailer store.
Walked back and spent a bit more time gathering information online about banking accounts and use of the SIM card I had just bought.
In the evening we watched a film until late in the night. I eventually fell asleep after midnight. No spiders or similar had got me last night, so the paranoia had subsided more or less (wasn't really there to begin with).

Thursday I woke up very early in the morning and laid in bed for something like three hours before I got up and said goodbye to Leanne, who was running of to work. Iain had already left, something had happened weather wise in the night, and Angus was still in bed, similar to what Daniel would be doing. I visited the bank and got all my stuff dealt with. Decided to do it in person and not online as my status as working holidaymaker is a bit complicated in the systems. Some visitors to the bank were a bit weird. A dog is normal, walking in with a parrot on your shoulder is not. The old lady who owned it could of at least put on an eye patch.
After getting that sorted out I dragged Angus out for a “short” walk along the Sassafras Gully Walk, which is a trail through the bush behind their house. Whilst walking down in to a valley we would occasionally hear strange noises here and there only to stop and spot nothing. We spotted the carcase or shed skin of a huge spider, but I don't know what type. Also we got entangled in loads of cobwebs of spiders I don't even want to know about. Fortunately we didn't meet any lethal ones. Angus also saw and pointed out a lyrebird (that bird that can copy nearly any sound, including a chainsaw) but I only saw a shadow race across the path in front of us and something rushing of in to the bush. We climbed out eventually after stopping at a waterfall and had traversed approximately 300 metres in altitude. Not bad for a place I considered not on par with the Alps until much later. We where near to his mums house, so we swung by Katherin and said hi to her. We had a small snack and then ended up driving to Brendan, his wife Maddy and his son Nicholas. I slept in the back of the car for most of the way with Joey, the dog. After saying hi to Brendan and family we took a walk through the higher up ground where they lived (about 850 metres above sea level, more the air condition what I am used to). Walking along we saw/heard some more lyrebirds and ended up walking to the edge of a huge canyon, Grose Valley. Spent a whole while there for some photos and went to another location after that for some more stunning views.

After that back to Brendan, Maddy and Nicholas's house to say goodbye and drove back with the sun just setting. After Katherin getting ready for work and dropping us of at the end of Crane Steet we walked back to Iains place. Spotted the moon for the first time on the way and was surprised at that is was being shined on the wrong way round. Not upside down but just the opposite side to normal was white and the other black.
Met Iain at home, had some dinner and then went to bed.
Stunning views of the Grose Valley today.

Walking track of Sassafras Gully Walk at GPSies.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Australia: Arrival

Another two days in one, once again a flight to blame for that. Woke up early in the morning and instead of indulging on the breakfast in the cramped up room once again, I finished my packing and set of towards the station after checking out of the hotel. Took a full underground to the Airport Terminal 3 and got to the check in relatively fast. At the check in a problem occurred. The UAE would not let me fly to Australia without getting an ETA before, conveniently costing 200 Dirham (once again about 50€). I had to purchase one from there so I would have the authority to come to Australia, even if I did already have a working holiday visa. After getting that sorted out (and carrying my luggage around the terminal) I got through security without a problem again and carried on to check in. Australia seems to take control regulation of organic components to a new level. After sitting down for a while we got taken through another check where our bags where searched for anything suspicious and after that we where allowed to board the plane. I got a short burst of free internet from somewhere and updated myself on things before getting my seat on the plane. I unfortunately did not get an emergency exit seat again, as they had been completely booked out. I was at the window, an elderly (complaining a bit about her back) lady next to me and a taller woman on the inside row. The elderly lady eventually got a seat by the gangway, as she had to because of her back, so the tall woman and me ended up sharing a row of three. All in all the complete flight was rather comfortable. I watched a few film, read some of my book, tried (and failed) to sleep a bit and ate some ok food. Little portions to drink meant I was parched after a good twelve hours. I had a kid in front of me which slept most of the time anyway and when she was awake she wasn't crying at all, but enjoying the flight.
We landed in Sydney to a red sunrise and a rainbow over the city. Getting out of customs was a bit complicated, but thanks to the attitude of the Australian boarder control (“You alrigh, mate?”) I got through with some chocolate for Iain and family. I waited a while for Iain to appear and he turned up eventually because he recognised me. We walked back to the car and after a bit of a ticket hassle got going out in to Sydney proper. The air was rather hot and humid, bit the sun only came out partially and there where specks of rain here and there. We went to Botany Bay National Park and had a walk around while we waited for the cafe to open so I could have something to drink and Iain could have some breakfast. We returned after looking at the historical places where Captain Cook landed in Australia to find the place still closed. We talked to the National Park rangers, one of them being the first Aborigine I met and talked to them about snakes and Kookaburras.

Had something to drink and eat at a cafe a bit further and Iain then drove me to Bonday Beach where we had a walk along. After that some fish with scrambled egg and a cup of tea. Walked back to the car and Iain drove me through down town Sydney, looking at the Opera house and the Sydney harbour bridge. After that to his house which has a step drive lane to the building. After a while Angus joined us and after we had had showers we looked at some pictures and Iain made some dinner. It was hard staying awake by then, so I went for a quick nap before waking up at eight for some dinner. Leanne had arrived in that time and we had a chat while and after eating dinner.
I am now laying in bed hearing unfamiliar sounds from outside and paranoid about spiders.

But, finally in Australia. :D

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dubai stop to Australia: Day 2

And today started my first and last full day in Dubai. Waking up I had a small breakfast consisting mainly of toast, butter and jam. The hotel doesn't offer a lot more than that, as it is the cheapest one I got. At least it has internet.
After breakfast I wanted to try the online check-in for my flight to Australia as it would be more comfortable for me to have enough leg room for a flight more than double as long as the one to Dubai. Unfortunately it didn't work for some reason again, so after chatting to Johanna in NZ and getting a few tips from Brian as to where I can find a good bar (he was here 12 years ago) I set of back in to the city proper.
First goal was the renown ski resort built in the middle of the dessert. Getting there wasn't that much of a challenge as it was uncomfortable. A full metro train is not really my thing I like doing. Arrived at the desired station and walked through the “Mall of the Emirates”. Loads of clothes, jewellery and sun glass shops. So many it took me a while to find the ski resort in itself. I was on the wrong floor to get in thought, so I walked once around the mall (which took ages) and walked in the correct way. I found the ski slope again, had a look at the prices and left. They charge 200 Dirham (about 50€) for a two hour ski pass. I pay less than that for a glacier in the Alps, so I stayed to watching the slope through a glass window. Funny felling seeing all the people inside wear snow suits and gloves when you are in shorts and sandals. When I walked around the mall before I saw the air conditioning machines, really big ones.
Getting back on to the metro I headed further south than before and visited the down town “living” section (I guess you could call it). From there I took a tram to the beach and then a monorail connection to the end of the palm tree they built in Dubai. At the end of the monorail/palm tree was that very expensive hotel they built a while ago. I didn't know it would take me there, but I got out with a rabble of Chinese people. Walked along the “artificial” coast for a while, walked in to the helicopter landing pad area and had a chat with a security guy that was there from Nepal to work in Dubai. Said goodbye to him after a while and repeatedly tried to get in the inner area of the hotel. But they seem to have set guards up at every small entrance. I did get in to the deposit area after a bit of wandering around but was told to leave the vicinity immediately (their fault if they build roads without walking lanes for the normal people). I also finally got to see some beach after getting on to an open beach of sorts. Got a picture towards Dubai down town and then went back on the monorail and the tram to the metro. I took the metro all along the way until I saw what I thought was the bar Brian had suggested. Walked down my first street with skyscrapers surrounding me.

I found Brians suggested bar after some walking, but they would have probably not let me in, in sandals, shorts and just a t-shirt. I ate in my first ever KFC instead. After the meal I walked back to metro and took the journey to the airport, to see how long it would take. The daily ticket I bought for the metro sure was worth it and I can see the good side that some town people have always said. You get there when you want to and in at least five minutes there is a train to take you towards your destination. Going back I realised that nearly every skyscraper has something no other city has in that quantity. A crane at the top. Most buildings are being built and used at the same time.
I arrived back at the hotel to have a shower and get prepared for the flight tomorrow while the Muezzins are calling out over the city.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dubai stop to Australia: Day 1

Important things first. Status: on my way to Australia! After months of planning the moment has finally come.
Friday was the day I was leaving, so I packed and tidied up all the rest of my stuff that hadn't been done yet. Including the complete dismantling of my computer. Mums was built up nearly instantly afterwards, as my former bedroom is now the new office. After a bit of rushing around getting last minute things done, I said my goodbyes to mum and drove of with dad to the airport. I was a bit nervous to begin with, must have been, I checked if my passport and ticket where there once I had already laid everything in to the back of the car.
Most of the way to Munich went without a hitch, the motorways where rather full. It did happen twice that we where stuck in traffic jams, but they dispersed after a few minutes of standing still. Arrived at the airport and had ten minutes to say bye to dad (he would have to pay to park, otherwise) before I went to the check in. Was nervous. I got my luggage in, after confusing the check in lady by saying my destination was Sydney (only if the next flight is within 24 hours or something like that) and getting pushed away from the bulky check in area by the police, as there was an unsupervised suitcase standing there. Got through the metal detector no problem once again and sat down to wait for my flight. Who rings up a few minutes later, Nico. Where is he, on the other side of a glass wall at the airport. He came to say good bye and to make some pictures of the airport. He managed to take a few pictures of the plane I was going to be on (Emirates A380). Had a talk with him standing not 50 metres away but with our mobile phones. Said my final goodbyes after a while and boarded the plane.
That machine is huge on the inside. I stand at 1,95m (6,3 foot I think) and normally have to walk through a plane in a crouched position, but not in this one. The leg space was a bit little for someone my hight, but I got a seat at the gangway so I could (occasional) stretch them out. A rather large screen and a whole load of information, communication and entertainment programs meant the flight wouldn't be too long. Seriously, until you have finished with everything they offer you'd have to fly around the world a few times. After a ton of information about flight security and the other usual things we took of from Munich airport, my last moments on German soil for a rather long time, I would wager. In flight was comfortable. I had a married couple next to me who where on their way to Thailand and the kids where following the next week. Watched a few film, checked where we were a few times, had some chicken, rice, dessert, etc. to eat and slept for about one and a half hours. Stupid me, started watching a good film which took nearly three hours.
Once we arrived in Dubai, the air temperature had already reached 24°C at six in the morning. Exited the plane and collected the baggage after waiting rather long. I had a look at the airport in that time. Strange, standing in the middle of the desert and seeing water being pumped about everywhere. Got my bag and noticed an immediate error, I had packed to much in my hand luggage and as I can't carry that on my back any longer due to me owning a trekking rucksack I carried the other one around like that. I just need to pack it lighter and I can fix it on to the back of the main rucksack. Until I managed to work out where the exit actually was, in my sleep deprived mind, and got a taxi to take me to the hotel I am staying in I was felling a bit knackered (stupid film). They hadn't got any rooms prepared yet so I waited for a short while to drop my rucksacks in a room and have an hour of rest.

After that, exploring Dubai. I am here for two days and hope to see as much of the town as I can. To start with I had to work out how the ticket machines for the underground work. They have Arabic written coins which I don't have a clue about. No idea if its two or one Dirham. Luckily (for us western people) they have added our numbers on the back of the notes, so we can tell what is what. After getting that sorted it was of to main attraction, the Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world, and doesn't it tower over the rest. You notice it immediately. Getting to the building in itself was a bit of a challenge, as they have built a huge shopping mall between the station and the building. But once outside I came just in time to witness a water show in front of the building. As it is the highest in the world you cant seem to get it in to one picture from to close with a normal camera. After the show I strolled around Dubai for a while, without a plan just seeing what it looks like. Me coming from the land in front of the Alps in Germany am not used to the stench of a city, but that seems to be the price you pay for having trains coming in to stations every 5 minutes going the same way. The standard car in Dubai seems to be any type of SUV, mainly Range Rover. If you have a bit more money you mostly get yourself a Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini. I saw at lest two of the later and heard a few more throughout the day. After also seeing the huge (basically everything here is big) aquarium they have built in to the centre of the shopping mall, filled with sharks, mantas and other big fish, I hopped back on to the overfilled railways and went to find some beach. I saw the Burj al Arab of in the distance, and knowing it is built in to the sea, got of at the nearest station to it, which was still about three kilometres away from the hotel building. Did a lot of walking today, practically on and empty stomach, but that is probably a sign of what is to come. Could have got a taxi, but you don't get talked up by some Indian street seller, trying to sell you an iPhone. There is a large amount of Indian people in Dubai, but it could also be me, not being able to tell the difference between Arab and Indian people (still pretty sure most of them are Indian).
After walking through some touristy shopping centre I was close to the sea, but didn't get to see it as it is all brought and privatised. No public access. After lying in the shade of some palm trees for a while, drinking lots of water and watching some colourful birds squabble I headed back to the train station and to the hotel. Got myself something small to eat on the way back as the restaurants I have seen so far either look expensive or suspicious.

Back at the hotel I had a small rest and once the city night life had started I set out with my DSLR and captured night pictures of Dubai. I also watched a few of the water shows in front of the Burj Khalifa before returning back to the hotel for some sleep time.  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ski Teacher Silvretta Montafon

The annual ski teacher excursion was this weekend. Our goal this time was Silvretta Montafon in the Austrian Alps, just on the boarder to Switzerland. After a fun drive there with a bit of a traffic jam we got ready whilst Hanse got the tickets.
Heidi, Sebastian, Hanse and me then set of up one side of the valley to ski around in the resort on one side. You could also ski on the other side which is what we did after a morning of skiing down most of the off piste sections. It was a bit icy at some times, but Hanse and Sebastian can tell rather well how the snow is going to be, so we had two excellent guides. If a bit insane at some points, but we got down everything without a hitch.
In the afternoon and for lunch we went over to the other side and whilst Sebastian skied down to the very bottom the three of us that where left had some lunch at the top, with a view in to the mountains. We carried on skiing throughout the whole afternoon, met the others sometimes and basically where only on ski routes (not pistes) the whole time. The pistes where a bit to full for our liking. At the end of the day Sebastian and me had a run down a step black piste whilst Hanse and Heidi returned to the bus to make sure everything was in order.
Set of back home and had a great evening in the restaurant with all the rest of the ski teachers.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ski Touring Bleispitze

I had promised Norbert, a water rescue colleague of mine, that I would go ski touring with him sometime this year. So today was the day that we did that. I borrowed the gear from FlickFlack again, but just for one day this time.
So at seven in the morning, Norbert, Nicole, Christian and me set of towards the Bleispitze, a mountain located near to the Zugspitze (highest mountain in Germany). We arrived at the bottom at about 8 AM and got our gear ready. Nicole was the only one with snow shoes, the rest of us had touring skies. We set of up through a forest and had to climb over a few small water dams. We got out in to a bit more open area, but still with forest and carried on after a short rest. We breached the tree line and shortly after the sun hit us. I was lagging behind a bit from about one third up the way already, something was wrong with the joint between my hip and leg, probably not used to carrying the weight of a ski and boot. We walked along a snowed up valley with the sun now burning down on us. Sounds harsher than it was, actually. We had a bit of wind and the altitude to cool us down so the temperature wasn't to bad. Getting near to the top Norbert took of his furs, skied back down to me and walked up to the cross the rest of the way. Nicole and Christian where already waiting at the top and we had a short snack with a view from 2200 metres above sea level. Skied back down through rather melted up snow near the top but got in to super snow further down which we took full advantage of until to a small hut further down. Sat down in the snow and had an hour of peace and quiet in the sun. Skied down the rest and through the forest in which we had a narrow track to follow and a few drops near waterfalls. Got back to the car, de-geared, waited for Nicole (as snow shoes aren't as good as skies down hill) and drove back home.
Along the way we got stuck in a queue for a while and delivered my gear back in Pfronten. Went home and recover from some muscle strains but well worth it. Better a bit of an ache and done something than spend the whole day at home in this weather.
A track at GPSies from where we went and some pictures at Picasa.