A Travellerspoint blog

Yes! We are out of Canberra!

Relaxed in Merimbula and have made it to Melbourne!

sunny 23 °C

Sorry peeps that the last post was so broad and vague but we had to breeze through so much and I wanted to get to the present. Not only because I've sort of forgotten a lot of it and we we really did work a lot so there wasn't too much to tell.

So we left Canberra and made for the coast. After being inland and going for the longest stretch without seeing the ocean since we got here, it was a no brainer. We chose Merimbula as our destination because our friends Sarah and Maira worked and have friends there. We camped on some cliffs just down the road from the main beach and spent three days, soaking up some sun and getting reacquainted with the ocean. It was great. We went to the restaurant/aquarium that Sarah worked at and it was very very cool/very very delicious. It's right next to the Merimbula Fishing Wharf which in the warmer months you can jump the 15 feet into the ocean. Looking off from it we got to see some giant and I mean GIANT manta rays swimming around all over. It would have been awesome to jump from because Merimbula sits on a bays so the water there is smooth and clear as glass. Sadly no one was game enough to take the plunge with me so I'm saving for my next trip. The aquarium features all local marine life and taught us heaps about the local fishing culture. We went out with one of Sarah's old coworkers and had quite the fun night out even if it was pretty tame being a small town.

After our relaxing time in Merimbula we decided to book it to Melbourne because our picking friends Andrew and Mary were camping there for a few days before they head to Adelaide to fly home to Canada at the end of the month. It was a long day of driving and we drove through some beautiful country and saw some nice little towns that would probably be nice to stop over in but we had been lazy long enough and I was super keen to see Melbourne. We got to the outskirts before I realized that we were going to be trying to drive straight through the city to the other side to camp with Andrew and Mary...during rush hour. That coupled with the fact that Melbourne has this tram system that we've been hearing about how crazy it is since we got to Aus. They were not wrong. The trams run in the same lanes as cars do AND they have a whole other set of traffic lights just for the trams and everyone is always dodging in and around them. It was hectic. We also had gotten a text from our other friends who had driving into Melbourne two days prior that the tolls were pretty dear so we took the risk and got off the highway and were cutting through the city itself. We survived but it was some of the most nerve wrecking driving I've done. It was also Cory's first trip into a big city since the Brisbane fiasco so I was nervous about car problems the whole time too. Cory drove like a dream thank goodness. We found the campsite in one of the outer suburbs and got the campsite right next to Andrew and Mary! Rich and Scaff were in town too but were taking off to Tasmania for a bit so will see them again when they get back before they leave the beginning of June.

Today we went into Melbourne city and since it doesn't really have anything that you HAVE to see like Sydney has the Opera House or Canberra has Parliament we just wandered. Andrew and Mary and Mary's sister Nancy (it's so confusing having two Nancys around) have been in Melbourne for a few days so we caught the tram in with them and then met them in the evening for drinks in St. Kilda before catching the tram back. In between all that Nance and I toured anything that looked appealing and I had some delicious cheap coffees. We had lunch at a little back room asian restaurant for only $10 each! I love Melbourne! While we were wandering through a shopping centre we happened upon an advertising promo for a bar in this super cool atrium where they were filling 170 balloons with helium and going to float someone up through the 100 foot atrium. It wasn't the best laid plan because the guy they wanted to float was too heavy so they kept filling more and more balloons and when that wasn't going to work they tried to use another guy but even though he weighed less he only bounced around 40 feet up and then came back down. Might not have been worth the 45 mins we waited around but still pretty cool. Am looking forward to spending more time around Melbourne in the coming future because we are hoping to work around here for a few weeks if we can swing it. Also we are going to go see the penguin parade on Phillip Island too! Really starting to set in that we only have 14 weeks left and we still have so much left to do!

Posted by owensj11 03:55 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

What happened to March?

WOOFT! Can't believe it!

all seasons in one day 3 °C

So its been awhile, hasn't it? Um, when last we spoke it was March and we were ever hopeful about the joys of grape picking. Well now that it is April I can say that our hopes on the picking were not misplaced, as we have had heaps of fun, made some money, and met some great people.

We started by working at Surveyor's Hill Winery, where we met the previously mentioned Anthony, and through him and the owner of Surveyor's Hill, Lee, we were put in touch with the other Wineries in the area, when were not needed at one, we could usually be found at the neighbors. First there was Jennifer, who normally would machine harvest, but due the very wet weather, any attempt at getting the machine in would find the tractors bogged down in the mud. We worked alongside the Canadians we met over at Surveyor's and we were soon joined by two Scottish girls going for the required 80 days of agriculture work to qualify for a second year visa. Working at Jennifer's came with a perk though, although trying to get tractors up and down the rows was unavailable, we were able to drive a quad with a trailer behind carrying a bin into which we could dump our buckets. It was way nicer than carrying them from one end to the other. We worked there for three days I think, she provided us with coffee and tea at breaks, which was great. We worked for her through the end of the week. On Saturday we worked in the morning for another Winery, Pankhurst, which is across the road from Surveyor's. That wrapped up the season pretty much around here for the white wine grapes.

We had about a week of no work, broken up by a few days of putting up bird nets over the red grapes at Surveyor's and a new winery, Brindabella Wines, owned by Roger and also home of the actual Wine making facility, ran by Brian. Putting up the nets isn't so bad, it takes four of us, Jeff and I and the Canadians usually, plus Anthony driving the tractor. Three people walk behind the tractor, which carries the net on a big spool, two out in the rows that are being covered pulling the nets down and one right behind the tractor making sure there are no snags in the net. The fourth person walks behind us and using little plastic clips, clips the nets down so they don't blow away in the wind. On Sunday we were back at Pankhurst, first foray into red grapes and met some friends of the Canadians that they knew from picking grapes up in the Hunter Valley, Rich and Scaff. They've come into the area from Adelaide to pick up a few weeks of work with us. We got a call from Anthony about picking at another vineyard, this one called Wallaroo, they're looking for as many as they can get to pick for the next couple of days, they usually machine harvest as well and have a lot of ground to cover. We go out there on Tuesday and meet the owner of a local contractor company called Vineworx, he's one of the angriest men I've ever met. Even though we don't work for him, we were brought in and paid by the owners of the vineyard themselves, he still yells at us and isn't really helpful. He leaves though and we go about picking. The grapes here are so rotten that we would walk up and down the row with only one bucket and never fill it before reaching the end of a row. It started to rain so we cut out around 4. Called from Jennifer, who was managing the vineyard while the owners are away, not going to bother trying to pick anymore, there just isn't enough there to justify going after it. On Thursday we were back at Brindabella, picking shiraz grapes. We're down to only six of us, the Canadians left the night before, they're flying home soon and have many things left they want to do. Over the weekend we're headed about an hour north to another winery called Mt Margeleux to take down nets and pick. Its a smaller vineyard, the owners only do it as a weekend sort of hobby. Two of us go up on Saturday to take down the bird nets and all of us will go up on Sunday to pick. Jeff and Scaff go up Saturday to a day of hard work. Since they're small and only do it as a weekend thing, they don't have the machine mounted nice net handler, it all has to be done by hand. So Jeff rode around on the back of a trailer pulling the net in by hand and stuffing it into bags while Scaff unclipped and pulled the nets free. They were gone for most of the day while the rest of us lounged around. On Sunday though, picking there was so nice, only 23 rather short rows, and since they have the time to keep the vines pruned, picking was a breeze. There was no disease in the grapes, no rotten ones, so we could just go down the rows cutting everything. We worked for about six hours and finished just as it started to rain. We pile in our cars to drive up to the house, Jeff and I go up and park when we get called from the girls, their car won't start. Crap. None of us own jumper cables, so we have to ask the owner if he has any. He does! He'll go up and find them, if one of us will ride up with him to bring them back down. Cool we think, so Jeff and I park off to the side and wait. But then only Rich walks back down carrying the cables. Oh, so we're going to jump their car, got it. We drive up to the house, they offer us some of last year's wine to try and we settle up. On Monday we're back to picking around Canberra for a few days at Brindabella and Surveyor's. On Thursday though, we're headed to another new vineyard, this one called Gundog Estate and owned by Geoff Burton, a famous cinematographer. Really nice to work for, gives us breakfast and lunch as well as pays us quite generously. He has about 18 rows to do and we worked with some other people recruited for the day, we finished around 1, had lunch and came back. The girls left us after the Easter weekend to meet friends of theirs in Melbourne, we're down to just four of us left. Jeff coined "The Family that picks together, sticks together" weeks ago, but our family is slowly dwindling. We picked at Surveyor's for the week, but on Thursday we finished up at noon and for us, that was it. After five weeks of being in the Canberra region picking grapes, it was time to move on. We said good bye to Lee and Anthony (who gave us a bottle of home brew rum, good, but potent, it'll put hair on your toes) and the following morning we packed up the camp site, a sad occasion, as the Canberra Motor Village had been our home for the entire time.

Now Canberra wasn't all about picking grapes, though that took up most of our time, we also camped at the Motor Village next to Sarah and Mairi. We camped with them, hung out with them, picked grapes with them. We met them and in less than 2 weeks we had a bought a gazebo together. And that gazebo saved our lives. Canberra was pleasant enough when we got there but the week before we left it was getting down to 0-5 C every night. Let me tell you camping is NOT pleasant in that temperature. It is far far from it. Though no one succumbed to hypothermia so no harm no fowl. Between the cold and the mozzies I think we would have died but with the gazebo at least we didn't get bitten as much. Mairi has the unfortunate tendency to develop welts so she might have been the most excited. Our fellow pickers Rich and Scaff also stayed at the Motor Village for a spell so we could frequent the local pub together and drown out grape inspired woes in a pint together. By the time we left we had made some pretty awesome friends and might be lucky enough to meet them again in Melbourne because we all have that pegged as the next stop.

Posted by owensj11 04:20 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Heigh-ho Heigh-ho, it's a picking grapes we go.

Finally got some work!

overcast 18 °C

We are taking a hiatus from being men of leisure to pick grapes a little ways out of Canberra. This means that we are staying in Canberra for the longest time we have stayed anywhere. Canberra is alright but it's deliberate lack of a city centre is a bit annoying. I spent all of Sunday morning after the fail on finding a church, just looking for a nice coffee shop to spend a bit of time in and couldn't really find one. Sure it means that there isn't really any traffic problems and it sort of feels like it's a small town in the midst of a large park, but I miss having a main street you can just meander down. What I'm saying is that I'm looking forward to moving on from Canberra but with it's plethora of museums and galleries I wouldn't be opposed if life brought me back through someday.

Anyways, picking of the grapes. We're picking grapes in a small vineyard that sells some of what they grow to other wineries and then makes a few wines for themselves. It's the same sort of set up as when we worked with table grapes in St. George except that these are much more over grown and we are doing the actual picking not just working on the trellises. So all you do is get yourself a few 5 gallon buckets and a pair of snips and go to town. Down one side then back up the other. These rows are probably 300 meters longs or so and depending on how many people are picking it can take an hour to do a side or it can take 20 mins. The work isn't hard just really really boring. The career pickers, or the people who are employed by a company and just travel around and pick, plug in the headphones and just go. They are serious. When they are there the Nance and I are charged with ferrying the full buckets to the end of the row and tipping them into the bins and then taking the empties back down. When there is a good group picking that is all we do. Walk up and down the rows constantly. The buckets of grapes aren't heavy but after a while you just get sick of walking and walking and walking and talking to weird guy and walking and walking. His name is Anthony and he works for the same guy that hired us but is in charge of taking the full bins to the winery and whatnot. He is just an all around weird guy. So we did that all last week and were told that we are needed until Tuesday at least and after that we are talking to one of the picking crews to see if we can join them for another few weeks of fun. If we can and make enough money then I will be a Man of Leisure until we leave in August! We met two Canadians (surprise surprise) who also are working for Lee and trying to get in a picking crew so will see them Monday and Tuesday. Both are from British Columbia and have a very nice accent not like those one's we've met from Alberta.

We have the weekend off and went to the The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex yesterday. Did not communicate with any aliens but did see a moon rock and learn heaps about NASA and what they've been up to. Apparently when we landed on the moon the picture that was relayed to NASA in California was upside down so they actually used the footage that went through Australia for the live broadcast that was shown to 600 million people. They were quite proud of this fact. I guess it was upside down in Cali because they had a switch flicked the wrong way but those clever Aussies had done it properly so the pride is well earned I suppose. Is a fair ways out of town and there is only one road that you can take to get there and of course we started going towards it from the city and that half of it is closed still from all the flooding the past few weeks so we had to drive all the way around this mountain and come from the South. It was worth it though. The ask you to turn off any receiving devices prior to your arrival so they can "hear the whispers from space." I enjoyed it immensely and even learned that there might be an ocean under all the ice on Pluto! Who knew? Also hopes are high that life will be found on Mars. Not like Marvin the Martian life (though it'd be sweet) but single cell organism life. Also learned that August 7th this year the newest Mars Rover will be touching down and we might learn whether there is life. If only we weren't flying out on the 8th! Because of the time of day it is expected to occur the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex has been favored as the international viewing stage for the event so if you're around you could see first hand the landscape of Mars! Well now we have the day to catch up on laundry, clean the Corolla, and other errands because finally we aren't working AND it's not raining!

Posted by owensj11 14:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

At least it isn't raining

But holy crap, it is cold

overcast 11 °C

Cold. Can't feel my fingers cold. At least it isn't raining. Left Canberra to do some touring of the area, out to Wagga Wagga for a few days, which was a nice town, a regional city like Dubbo. We drove up to Narrandera to see the Big Playable Guitar, it was nice, but not as inspiring as the Giant Guitar in Tamworth.

Last night we were told by old mate at the camp ground that we should really think about leaving as all the rain up stream is causing the river to flood and the whole camp ground in expecting to go under. Cool, right? We were planning to leave anyway, through the Snowy Mountains down to Cooma, south of Canberra. We're doing a loop back to Canberra, we managed to get ahold of a guy there and may have a job starting next week. As we're planning to go to Cooma though we come across the news that it was being evacuated yesterday, also for flooding. But Cooma is on the way to either back into Canberra or the coast, so we're headed that way anyway, we'll see what it's like when we get there.

We left Wagga Wagga around 9am, back out to the Snowy Mtns Highway which takes us up into the highest peaks of AU (The Ceiling of AU as the billboards boasted) before going down to Cooma. Our highest point that we had a sign for was 1.4Km above sea level. Passed signs for another set of caves, but it was cold and windy, we couldn't really be bothered to get out of the car. We stopped at a scenic overlook in the mountains and that was enough. I stood out, took some photos and got back in the car. Jeff got out his jumper and left his water bottle on the roof as we took off. Last we saw, it was rolling down the road.

Passed a sign for a community that had "NO PETROL, NO ACCOMMODATIONS, NO REFRESHMENTS." Then what do they have? Guess they really don't want us going there. Started with an "A" but that's about all we remember.

Get to Cooma and it doesn't look flooded, people moving about, a lot of people shopping. Stop and break out the computer to check up when we over hear a woman explaining that yes, it flooded yesterday, the bridge was under, some 300 people were evacuated from low areas, but today the water has receded and things are getting back, just a little soggy. We're camping here for the night in a sight that is well above the river, but still damp from all the rain. According to the local thermometer it's around 10 degrees C. Holy crap, that's cold. About 50 degrees F. We don't really have cold weather clothes with us, Jeff is wearing four pairs of socks, three on his feet and one on his hands. It doesn't help that most of our stuff in still damp from all the rain, pneumonia.... nah, we're healthy. Pros? Very few bugs, not much competition for camp amenities, it's nice.

We've been having some nice real coffee yesterday and today, Jeff's Op Shop find of the week was a coffee plunger in Narrandera for a dollar! A mug of that today helped stave off the cold for a little while.

Posted by owensj11 02:24 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Canberra - Capital of a Nation.

So we've left the mountain town of Katoomba and have toured the Nation's Capital.

rain 25 °C

Where to begin. We get a campsite a few K's from the town centre, yeah that's right camping a few K's from where the government of an entire nation happens. After we unpacked the tent I ventured forth for supplies and about 5 minutes of driving and I was going over Lake Burley Griffin, which is the man made lake with divides the city in two. Then I took a left and parked on a grassy lot and walked over to the Parliament Building. No traffic, no security, no anything to give it away that I was here. I can't believe that this is a city of 300,000 people it felt like 4,000 the entire time. The city reminds me some of Washington DC because there is an axis of sight venturing from Parliament to the War Memorial straight across the lake to the to bridges and then roundabouts and all that. I stopped at the shops picked up some tucker and some wine and studied my map for tomorrow. The next day was Saturday so the Gov't wasn't in session but we still were able to park under Parliament and then tour it. To tour Parliament all you have to do is go through a really low sensitive metal detector and then you're in, never took off my belt or my shoes. I thought that this was because it was the weekend but when we came back on Monday to see it in session it was the same routine. I guess they figure that everyone likes Australia so there isn't any need to be super intense. Parliament and Canberra are relatively new, the Australian Capital Territory which is like Aus's DC is a small plot of land where the city of the Government resides independent of the other states it governs. It'll be celebrating it's Centennial (that's 100 years folks) next year. Parliament is new, it overlooks Old Parliament down the lawn and is supposedly a billion dollar building. Just heard the slogan the building was nice but I think I could have do it for less than a billion. Got to tour the Senate and House of Representatives Chambers and see the Magna Carter as well as a nice bust of the Queen outside of the aptly named Queen's Terrace Cafe. From there it was to the National Library and then I went to the National Museum which is on the opposite shore of Lake Burley Griffin. The lake's shoreline totals 28 KM so even taking the bridge it took me almost an hour to walk there. It was worth it though, very cool exhibits showcasing Australian culture and history. Then I has to hustle back because the Nance had punctured his air mattress so he wanted to replace it. "My back hurts...I barely slept...wah wah wah" The next day was spent perusing the National Gallery and the Portrait Gallery. Both of which were spectacular. Spent a few hours then wandered down along the lake before checking out Canberra's premiere shopping Centre. Monday we went back to see the Capital Exhibition which explained how Canberra was a planned city right from the get go and how Walter Burley Griffin, an American Architect, designed the winning proposal with help from his architect wife. Very cool stuff. Then it was back to see Parliament in session. Parliament in session is best seen during Question Time which is from 2-3p everyday where all the elected leaders congregate and debate. To me it seemed like just a lot of bickering/yelling at opposing members of opposing parties. Though I should point out that Monday was also an election day. From what I've gathered you elect a party not a prime minister and the winning party is the one who elects the PM. So Julia Guilliard is the current PM but she was getting heaps of flak from other members of Parliament so she called an election to put it to rest. Please note that the current PM can call an election any time they want if they feel they have the majority and so she called for an election about a week prior. Monday the voting happened and she won so I can understand why some peeps might be peeved but seriously one guy that actually got ejected from the Chamber was ejected for asking a long winded statement followed with the question, "Is there any promise you are not willing to break?" It might be that I am foreign to their politics or it was an odd day, either way very little Governmental business was discussed during that Question TIme. From there we went and looked at the ANZAC War Memorial. Now you can see the monument all the way across town at Parliament but it still is awe inspiring when you walk inside. We wandered around the Memorial for a bit and then saw a sign for a museum underneath. I was not prepared for how great this museum was. I expected it to complement the Memorial but it is by far one of the best museums I've ever had the pleasure to tour. It goes through all the wars and details Australia's part and has mementos and small theater shows throughout as well as whole aircraft and full military camp reenactment setups. I was there for a few hours and still felt like I rushed though much of it. Tuesday we spent the morning in a coffee shop job hunting and discussing the future of this trip until we were getting ready to leave and I found one last number to try. As it turns out this was the first real lead all day and if the weather cooperates we shall be working on a grape plantation putting up bird nets and then picking the grapes next week! Then we took the rest of the rainy day to go find out where Keilley and Kirstyn were born and the house that Uncle Denny built in the suburb of Kambah. No signs depicting it as the 'BIRTHPLACE OF AN AUSSIE GREAT!' or 'HOME OF THE NATIONAL ICONS The Owens' Girls!' or anything but as Keilley mentioned it is the offseason for tourism.

Since we have to wait until next week to work and it's rainy and gross in Canberra we've decided to do a quick inland jaunt to Wagga Wagga (Wah-Gah Wa-Gah) and then go down through the Snowy Mountains and back up to Canberra this weekend. Wagga Wagga is a nice city and even though it's rainy here too it's not as built up as Canberra so it's alright. That and the campsites in Canberra weren't the best so it's nice to move on for now.

Posted by owensj11 00:56 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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