29th July 2006:
Well, I'm on the road again. I'm writing this from a plane, flying somewhere north of Sydney on the way to Cairns which is near the top of the continent. The countryside far, far below is completely different from the countryside near Perth (on the other side of Australia): here it is all green hills and valleys with not a sign of the red dust that dominated the northern Perth landscape. However, similar to near Perth, there is no sign of civilization whatsoever, so if you ever think of hitch-hiking up the coast, you may need to prepare for a loooonnnnggg walk!
The recent job hunting has finished and I am now an employee of "Vero", which is part of "Proxima" which apparently is the third largest insurance related company in Australia. Vero is a large corporate so it will be a change from my previous jobs at small/medium companies. The contract lasts until December 31st which is convenient: the next leg of the round-the-world flights begins in January so I can decide then if I want to stay longer with Vero/Sydney and come home for Christmas for a short break, or if I want to continue the round the world trip until the following March.
I have a couple of weeks off before starting at Vero hence the escape from the Sydney winter to the seemingly eternally good weather in Northern Queensland (well, until the area gets devastated by hurricanes...)
I was expecting the preparation for this trip to be easy after taking care of the arrangements between Ireland -> Asia -> Oz. However, things rarely go smoothly(!) and there was a faulty Qantas website to deal with ("Invalid configuration: please contract your administrator" was the helpful message), an overloaded Jetstar system (Jetstar is another airline and they just launched their summer sale so the website was up and down while their phone system was engaged nearly all day, and on the way from home this morning to the airport, an entire section of the train system was closed which meant having to resort to the bus with the associated traffic delays.
So, there was a bit of a MacGuyver moment with a mad dash to get to the check-in desk in time and I only just got there as it was closing. Still, once I was randomly selected for a chemical/explosives test it was like old times and it was great to know that I was traveling somewhere again (the security officer even commented that it was a nice change to have someone happy to do the test :) Also on the upside, I was expecting a seat near the loo having checked-in so late, but it turns out that Jetstar does not have assigned seating so I just joined the throng at the boarding area and still managed to get a good seat. They even moved the ubiquitous nearby screaming baby to a different part of the plane so things are definitely looking up.
There is one bit of local Sydney news which may interest anybody reading this who knows Sydney: Hyde Park is being leveled... Hyde Park is the equivalent of Central Park for New York and unfortunately they have found that subway work going as far back as the 1920s has allowed a fungus to infect the roots of all of the mature trees in the park: the result is that the roots have rotted and city officials say that its only a matter of time before one of these giant trees topples over onto nearby people/buildings. Thus, the park has to be completely dug up, all top soil removed and new top soil added to remove the fungus. Sadly, they reckon that it will take another fifty years for the park to recover :( I'll be sure to take lots of photos when I come back from Cairns.
Finally, I've abandoned the stylus/pen approach of tapping in each letter to type this: I got a present of a bluetooth, near-full size keyboard which folds up into a small easily portable unit and which talks wirelessly to the PDA: compared with the tapping approach it is bliss!
Well, I think I'll go back to chatting to the two English women sitting next to me: their accents are straight out of Emerdale (I don't watch that UK soap, just to clarify: I have lived with girls which were fanatics though.. sigh...) and the accent sounds odd hearing it in real-life, but we’re all off to Port Douglas so we can share the travel cost of the transfer from Cairns airport to Port Douglas: handy, oh-aye!