Sunday, September 21, 2014

"S" is for...

Spring! It has officially been spring in Melbourne since September 1st and our temperatures have been on the rise. It is nice to know that the cold, windy, rainy days of winter are mostly behind us.
A calm spring day. It is often windy in spring, so we relish calm days!
Pretty spring bloom on our street.
A view of the CBD from Albert Park, where our Year 10 students were running the 5km loop.
Swooping season. This is no joke! Magpies in particular are very conscious of protecting their nests and if you walk/run/ride on a footpath near trees with nests in them, prepare to be attacked. Getting swooped is startling!
A warning about swooping in our local paper.
This is how cyclists attempt to protect themselves during swooping season.
Apparently the "protection" is not always all that helpful!
Sunsets. Our days are getting longer every day, and I have been taking advantage of the extra daylight with walks along the river near our house after work. Spring seems to bring some spectacular sunsets! All of these sunset pictures were taken from different spots on different evenings using my phone.

On this evening the sun was blazing an amazing orange color as it dropped from the sky. I had to run in order to get to a spot where I could see it fall to the horizon, and it was worth the extra effort!

Snakes. When the temperature warms up, snakes come out of hibernation. On my evening walks I have started to become a bit more vigilant about being on the lookout for snakes. I have only seen one snake near our house in the three years that we have lived here, and I am pretty sure it was a brown snake, not the kind of snake you want to be bitten by!
Our local paper warning us about snakes in the area
Sausage sizzles. These actually happen year-round, but once the weather warms up, everyone heads out to their local Bunnings (the equivalent of Home Depot/Lowes in America). Each weekend a different group serves up sausages outside the store, usually offering fried onions with the sausage and serving them on a piece of bread. These sausage sizzles serve as fundraisers for different organizations, and shoppers are always keen to have a sausage in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend.
People queuing up for sausages
What the finished product usually looks like. Mind you that is tomato sauce, not ketchup!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pumping Petrol

One of the things that still baffles me about Australia is the process of putting "petrol" into a car. Fortunately we rarely drive our car, so we only have to fill our tank about once every 4 to 6 weeks. However, when that time rolls around, I am quickly reminded of the differences between here and the States.
Signage at our local servo
"Petrol" is what goes in the tank. This is the same stuff that is called gasoline in America. However, "gas" in Australia is propane, or what you would use for your grill (barbie). Some cars here actually run on "gas" (also called LPG), which you can also get at the "petrol" station. Are you confused yet?! Therefore, because people are generally not putting "gas" in cars, the place is not called the "gas station", it is called the "service station". Of course Australians love to shorten words, so it is actually called the "servo".
A gas tank in Australia
The things I've described so far are just formalities, so while it may get a bit confusing, those differences in terminology do not actually affect the process of filling up the tank. The next two oddities, however, can be annoying.

Most servos are not equipped for us to pay at the pump. Therefore, we have to pump the petrol, wait for it to finish, then walk inside to pay. I cannot remember the last time I had to walk into a gas station in America to pay! Also, while pumping, there is no latch to lock the handle while the tank is being filled, so people actually have to stand at the pump and hold the handle the entire time. I really miss the handle lock in winter when it's cold, rainy, and windy outside!
Petrol pump mp3h0355
Look mom, no hands!!
I haven't even mentioned the fact that petrol is in litres here due to the use of the metric system, so we have to do a complex conversion to try to figure out miles per gallon if we want to look at the mileage like we are used to in the States. On the bright side, our local servo has free air for our tyres (yes, tires are spelled differently in Australian English!), which almost makes up for all of those other crazy differences.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Magnetic Island

Our awesome weekend in Townsville was capped off by a day spent on Magnetic Island, often referred to as "Maggie" by locals. Our friends, Joe and Marley, joined us on the day, which made the experience that much more enjoyable!

We took the Sealink ferry from Townsville, and the ride was smooth, taking about 30 minutes. Upon arrival, we tried to hire a "moke" or a topless car, however, those types of cars were unavailable, so we ended up with a tiny regular car for the day. 
Leaving Townsville. View of Castle Hill from the ferry... we would drive to the top later in the evening.
Arriving on "Maggie Isle"
A topless car. Doesn't it look like a Barbie car?!
Our first stop was Picnic Bay, where the scenery was spectacular!

After visiting Picnic Bay, we drove back towards the ferry terminal and along the east coast of the island. There are several bays along the coast that have gorgeous little beaches with no one on them! Eventually we ended up near "The Forts" track, which Marley suggested we walk. It is a really nice walk with great views, particularly as you near the top of the Forts. Along the way there are remnants of structures that were used in World War II. Apparently it is common to see koalas along this track as well, but we did not see any on that day.
I think this is Cape Cleveland
Overlooking one of those bays along the coast
By the time we reached the car park we had worked up an appetite, so we headed to Horseshoe Bay in search of lunch. We ended up at Marlin Bar, a pub with a nice view of the beach. Horseshoe Bay is one of the more popular areas on the island, but we were visiting on a Monday so it was quiet. We enjoyed lunch, a few drinks, and some ice cream before hanging out on the beach for a bit. 

We had some time to kill before catching the ferry, so Marley suggested we stop at Bungalow Bay, where he knew there was going to be a bird feeding taking place. Sure enough, a guide came out with "bird food" and the birds started going crazy! It was actually a bit overwhelming and freaky to have birds landing on our heads.
These birds are definitely not afraid of people.

Hair or hat, the birds like to land on people's heads!

After our bird feeding adventure we headed to the ferry terminal to return the car and head back to Townsville. Once arriving back on the mainland, we headed up Castle Hill, where we watched the sunset and got a glimpse of Magnetic Island from the hill. It was a fitting end to a fantastic day. 
Love these guys! Magnetic Island in the background.
Marley headed back home to Ayr and Joe arranged for Erik and I have dinner from Zambrero, a restaurant chain that is owned by his friend. The concept is similar to Chipotle and while the food was very tasty, it was not really "Mexican". If someone could open up a Chipotle franchise over here, I think that person would be very successful! After dinner and a quick shower at Joe's place we were off to the airport, arriving about 45 minutes before our flight was scheduled to depart. Gotta love domestic travel in Australia, where security screening is a breeze, you do not need a boarding pass to get to the gate, you board the plane from the tarmac, and you can bring your full water bottle with you on the plane. We had not traveled domestically in over a year, so we had almost forgotten how good that was! About three hours later we were back in Melbourne to endure a few more weeks of winter, already missing the North Queensland sunshine. Thanks to Joe and Marley for being such amazing hosts during our weekend getaway to Townsville!