Monday, December 15, 2014


For the last few years, Erik has talked about wanting to try kitesurfing. Kitesurfing/kiteboarding (not sure if there is actually a difference?!) is huge in Melbourne, and people can be seen kitesurfing in Port Phillip Bay on a daily basis, particularly in areas like St. Kilda in the east and Altona in the west. When a Scoopon (like Groupon) deal popped up for kitesurfing around Erik's birthday, I thought I would take advantage of a good deal and bought a voucher for him.
Lots of kites out on this windy day! Melbourne's CDB is in the background.
The voucher was for a 2 hour lesson at KSS Altona. Erik tried to book in a few weekends ago, but on the day he was meant to go out for his lesson there was no wind. Last weekend, however, there was plenty of wind, so we headed down to Altona for his lesson. Our first impression was not great, as we were told the instructor would be 30 minutes late. 30 minutes turned into an hour, so we ended up waiting quite a while for the instructor to arrive. I actually overheard the instructor saying it was the first time he had taught a lesson, and based on how he was organized, I could tell!
Some instruction going on in this picture. You can see how windy it was based on the waves in the bay!
Eventually Erik and the two other people taking the lesson headed down to the beach. It seemed to take a while for the instructor to decide where to operate on the beach. It was VERY windy and there were a lot of kites out, which made it fun for me to watch.
Erik is holding onto the kite in this picture.
The group went through a lot of set-up and safety stuff which seemed to take forever. After an hour or so, Erik got to steer the kite through the water. His first go was funny to watch as he nearly lost control of the kite. After a few minutes though, he got the hang of steering the kite. However, at that point he had to hand the kite over to someone else in the group. All up he probably held the kite for 4 minutes!
Erik steering the kite!
After the group each took turns steering the kite, the lesson was essentially over, as they went over how to pack up the kite but did not get another chance to steer the kite and they did not do body drags through the water, which was supposed to be part of the lesson. The instructor also ended the class about 20 minutes early. In the end, I think Erik enjoyed controlling the kite, but overall the lesson was poorly run and unorganized. Regardless, Erik was happy to have had a go at kitesurfing and perhaps for his next lesson I would try a different shop, given the slightly negative experience we had with KSS Altona.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Erik and I have spent a bit of time on airplanes during our travels over the last few years. I have developed a keen interest in airplanes with all of that travel, and not just when flying. Interestingly, all of the homes we have lived in have been located within a 15-20 minute drive of an airport. In Chapel Hill we could often see planes landing at RDU. When we lived in Elkridge, we were very close to BWI and therefore could see and hear planes landing. Here in Australia, we live near Melbourne International Airport (MEL), and over the past 3+ years we have spent many evening and weekend walks or bike commutes to and from work watching planes land and take off from MEL.
The Qantas A380 above Melbourne
The exciting thing about watching planes enter or exit MEL is the wide variety of airlines that visit the airport. In America, most airports are busy with LOTS of domestic flights and a handful of international flights. Here, it is always fun to try to see the plane's colors and/or logos to determine where it is coming from or where it is headed. With us both being first born children, we sometimes turn this into a competition! MEL has numerous domestic flights too, but remember there are only a handful of major airports located in Australia, so there are not as many flights coming in from other parts of the country as we used to see in the States.
Heading up the east coast of Australia on a domestic flight. While we are often taking pictures from the windows of planes while traveling, we occasionally take pictures of planes coming into MEL, especially if one of us is at home and the other one is on the plane!
I have an app on my phone that lists all departures and arrivals from MEL, and I can use it to look up which planes are arriving or departing at certain times and also to see if those flights are delayed. In the matter of a few hours, international flights will arrive from Air New Zealand, Emirates, Singapore, Etihad, Thai, Malaysia, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, Air Asia, Garuda Indonesia, and Air India! Also, there are three different airlines that fly from MEL to China that we frequently see; Air China, China Eastern, China Southern. There are only 4 major domestic airlines in Australia: Qantas, Virgin, JetStar, and Tiger. All of those airlines except Tiger also fly internationally to/from MEL, and usually we can tell if it's an international flight by the size of the plane. 
One hour's worth of international departures at MEL
We sometimes try to guess the type of planes that we see in the air. The easiest to identify is the Airbus A380, which is identifiable by the 4 very large engines. It is my plane of choice when visiting the States, as I find it quieter and more comfortable than other long range planes. United has started flying the "Dreamliner" 787 flight from MEL to LAX, and I'm tempted to give that one a go just to see what the plane is like. Nerd or airplane enthusiast? You be the judge!
The Qantas A380 at MEL