Sunday, March 03, 2013

The Wonderful World of Oz

Pinch me.  No, really.  Pinch me and tell me I'm not dreaming.  Since we arrived on Wednesday, I've rarely been without a smile on my face.  I love the heat....the vastness of the country....being able to watch Masterchef and know I can get everything at a store...and the genuine friendliness of the people.  When we arrived in Darwin, I tried giving the hotel shuttle bus driver $5 to thank her for picking us up, and she said, "You know you don't have to give me that -- we don't tip in Australia".  Lesson learned, but I told her to keep it.

Shortly after arriving, the team headed out for a seafood dinner in Darwin and my food dreams started coming true.
Food always tastes better with boats in the view
When I ordered the daily special, I wasn't expecting the whole fish to land on my plate!
The next morning, we all flew out to the project site on an 8 seat twin engine plane.
I got to sit in the co-pilot's seat which gave me a great view of leaving tropical Darwin to the "bush".
When I was invited to come to camp with Roger, I agreed with admittedly mixed feelings.  The last time I spent a night in a drilling camp, it was in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression in 40+C heat.  We slept in a tent and bathroom options were a hole in a ground or a bush.  But -- I figured I could handle anything for a couple of nights and went hoping it would be o.k.
Camp from the air
So, arriving in camp and being assigned the "honeymoon suite" that was an Atco style trailer with its own bathroom was fantastic.
There was even an outdoor gym

We had great meals in the dining hall/meeting room
Roger overlooking one of the drill sites 
This river can be flooded one day, and passable the next
Fossil found in the area which reminded us of Drumheller.  Dinosaur tracks and bones have also been found here.
I look like Granny Clampett goes Down Under
Looks like the grasshopper was attracted to Roger's camera
Back in Darwin, we went to Crocosaurus Cove for a bit of sightseeing and a tune up to know what's lurking!
This is a saw fish -- it was the creepiest looking thing I've seen!  It looks like it had make up on!!
This croc weighed about 700 kg!
Having dinner down at the Wharf
This time eating bugs was a good thing.  These bugs are a decadent and delicious shellfish that tastes like a combo of lobster/crab/prawn.

The next morning, I flew off to Alice Springs, and the guys headed to Melbourne.  I sat beside an 84 year old gentlemen who regaled me with stories of being a rally car driver in the 40s and 50s.  Races took intrepid teams around the circumference of Australia -- and back then, the roads weren't what they are today.

Craig's son Jake and his family met me at the airport and rolled out the red carpet of hospitality for me.  Craig had arranged the rental of a one bedroom apartment for us in Alice while the equipment gets readied for the job.  It was wonderful to walk into this beautiful suite with a pool and BBQ area a few steps away.

Jake, Jenna and their baby, Chloe drove me around Alice Springs to get my bearings and then to their house for dinner.  Most places I'll be able to walk to, and there is an aquatic center that holds water aerobic classes around the corner that I'm going to check out.
A beautiful family:  Jenna, Jake and Chloe on top of Anzac Hill where a war memorial is built. 
View of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill.  It's a very clean city with everything we need.
I'm practicing my "Nana" skills with Chloe - a happy, easy going 10 month old!
So far, everything has exceeded my expectations and it just feels so good to be here.  Some things are worth waiting for.  Like coming to Australia.

"The people are immensely likable - cheerful, extrovert, quick-witted and unfailingly obliging. Their cities are safe and clean and nearly always built on the water. They have a society that is prosperous, well ordered, and instinctively egalitarian.  The food is excellent. The beer is cold. The sun nearly always shines.  There is coffee on every corner.  Life doesn't get much better than this."
Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country

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