Monday, September 30, 2013

Into the Valley of Death

I've been on another ferry trip the last few days.  It was supposed to go on Wednesday but kept getting delayed, as the previous aircraft broke half way home, and the company can't have two aircraft 'off line' at once.  So we couldn't leave Brisbane until the previous aircraft arrived back.  That meant it was Saturday before we got going.  

9.1 flight hours later, we wound up in Port Hedland.

I got lots of photos of our route between Alice and Port Hedland.

All of the same highly unoriginal theme.  Clouds, namely cumulonimbus.  They weren't particularly large ones, but we were up at 25,000 and couldn't go any higher, and they were still above us by maybe 5,000ft - so we had to do lots of weaving.

There's a picture of the weather radar there just for interest.  All of the little yellow dots are cells - and that is with the radar tilted up, at half strength.

At least it gave us something to do.  Along the lines of cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right...

Or perhaps the song Clowns to the left, Jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you... or something like that.

Port Hedland was uneventful, except for having a bed full of ants, but the second room was less infested, although still not particularly clean.

Day two had us operate Port Hedland to Selatar, Singapore, and took about 6.5 hours if I remember rightly.  5.5 hours of sheer boredom with 1 hour of actually working to finish off.

Equatorial crossing.

We managed to be lucky with clear skies most of the way, but about one hour to go, it all got interesting.

This picture is taken about 90 miles from this build up... which means it was sorta big.

Did I mention that our airframe de-icing system chose this point to fault?  

Given the tropical temperatures, we only had to descend to 16,000ft to escape icing conditions - glad it happened late on in the flight as it adds about 150kg an hour to our fuel burn !  (from about 500kg/h to 650kg/h in case you care). We were also very empty which helped !

We still managed to land in Selatar with a comfortable fuel reserve remaining.

Having spent yesterday in Singapore doing very little (I wasn't very well...) we flew back overnight on the Etihad red-eye flight, and it is so nice to be home.

Tomorrow I am supposed to be off doing a Gladstone overnight but am hoping that I am given a day off instead!

At the pool in Singapore.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Because I'm unmotivated today

Today is my second day home, after Auckland.  Yeah, the previous post was actually published two days after I wrote it, sorry.

Anyway, I've been home two nights already, and these are what my suitcases look like.  Yep, that's the front door, and they've made it into the house an entire metre.  I've even opened one of them.  I think I wanted some shoes or something.

The annoying thing is that I've one more day home, and then it's off to Singapore, so I really need to pack a suitcase.  And to pack, means to unpack, which is an entirely different story.

This next photo is of a bug.  Just because I can, and because I should be cleaning the house because we have an Inspection, and my housemate arrives home from Europe exactly one day before this Inspection, so it will be all My Mess, and Not His Responsibility To Clean Up.

The bug is sitting outside my front door, surrounded by ants, and I think it's dead.

The above picture is my stove top, that I just cleaned, and that I am intensely proud of.  See?  It's clean. It probably won't stay that way, but it's clean Right Now, and that's all that matters.

The next photo is of my C's sunflowers.  The fence that they are up against is taller than I am, which gives you an idea of how tall the sunflowers are.  They are mine for exactly five more days, and then C comes home, and hopefully he won't pick them.  

Also, it is very hard to keep a garden weed free when it is backed on to by a yard entirely taken over by weeds.  Kurt has kindly given the garden a couple of doses of "weed and feed" while I've been away on trips, so hopefully that will help the lawn along a bit.  The part closest to the house is nice green grass, but towards the back is 90% weed.

And yeah, I'm really just posting instead of cleaning the house, Because I Can, and because Dad complained that my last post didn't have any pictures in it.  I'm sorry, people, but I didn't take any that day.  I could go to google for photos, but that wouldn't be the same.

TTFN !!!
Can you see what I see, the wind-swept grassy hills that remind me so much of home?  Driving up the twisting roadway, with sheep and lambs grazing on the verge, the homesickness hits me hard.  I sit in silence and watch them, ignoring the conversation inside the car, just gazing at their familiarness, the green of the grass and the drizzle slanting onto the window.  Can you see the grey of the sky, or hear the howl of the wind as we stand on the hilltop to see the city spread out as hazily below us?  There's an oval race track lighted up, the sea in the distance with islands barely visible through the haze.  The wind is whipping my hair into my face, and I'm thankful for the winter coat that I brought.  The stone walls up here are old and lichen-encrusted, transporting me in my mind to the other side of the world.  I can smell the grass, feel it wet beneath my feet, and the chill of the wind on my face.

The sheep don't seem to care that it's raining, they graze unperturbed.  Can you see the cropped greenness, the bare tree branches whipping in the wind, or the lambs bouncing down the slopes?  It's dusk now, as we drive downwards, away, but I could have watched for ever. Stood, and watched, and smelt, and felt, and remembered, and longed for home.  It's a strange empty feeling to leave it all behind and to know that it isn't really home after all.

Of course, I'm not often homesick.  Last night I dreamt that I was back in Ireland, with everyone there around me.  It was a happy dream, but when I woke, it didn't feel wrong to be here.  It's more a subconscious feeling of longing, memories stirred up by random scenes.

I'm happy here, well, not in New Zealand necessarily, (did I mention that this is where I am?) but in Australia, and with life in general.  I'm comfortable and don't plan to move anywhere any time soon, it's just that sometimes 'home' seems so far away.  Sometimes I want to see the same views that you see, I see a picture of home and it makes me ache, and at the same time sometimes I long to be able to share what I see with you.

Brisbane is home now, it feels like home, when I get back from a work trip, or a holiday, it feel peaceful to be back in 'my' airport, and to get back to my house.  However, I don't think anything will ever replace Ireland in my heart, and sometimes it's not easy that it's so far away.

Next week I will be in Singapore, and that's a strange thing as well, because I look at a map and think 'I'm so close to home.'  While of course, I'm not actually close to home at all but it feels like I should be.  It would be nice if I had a few days off at the end of a Singapore trip and I could just 'hop' home but it doesn't ever work like that.

Oh, we're getting staff travel now.  Hopefully in the next couple of weeks it will all be finalised, and the world will perhaps become smaller.  Perhaps you will come to visit me, and I can share some of my world, share my home, and you can see what I see.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Birthday antics

There are many levels of crazy.  I often read other people's blogs and think wow, she's my hero, she's got crazy down pat and I'm riveted, and I think there's no way I could write so well, even when on an insane sugar high and bouncing off the walls like a drugged up bunny rabbit.  Except rabbits are banned in Queensland and apparently there is up to a $44,000 fine for having one. But they're so FLUFFY!  

Yesterday I was a little crazy.  It being my birthday, and although I have decided to try a new lifestyle (not allowed to call it a diet), sugar was #1 on the menu.  I started with Galaxy Caramel for breakfast and finished with an awesome Black Forest Gateau, lovingly and surprisingly (sorry, Kurt) well made.  

Here's a random fact: People talk about me behind my back.  Sometimes it's really just Not Cool, and sometimes it's OK.  Like when Kurt decides to talk to Sarah about what my favourite food is so that he can cook it for my birthday, that's OK, and when... Ah well that's not really important but - you know who you are and really? Reeeally???

While on the topic of crazy, before I got side tracked, after two weeks of No Sugar, having half a bar of Galaxy Caramel, a Crunchie, and a bowl of ice cream and chocolate sauce, all before lunch time, makes for a hyper me.  I know, I'm a greedy pig and I Should Be Stopped, but that's OK, People, because it was my birthday and I can cry if I want to.  (I didn't cry, jus' because you were asking.)

I can still feel the sugar.

Anyway, Kurt made me an awesome dinner of roast chicken and Black Forest Gateau, not eaten at the same time, and I took pictures of him, which he wasn't impressed with (but it was my birthday I can do what I want to) and then he burnt himself which was sad and funny at the same time (sorry, Kurt) - but really, if you start rushing around in the kitchen while using a tea towel to mess around in the oven (when there are perfectly good oven gloves Right Next To The Eye Chart) what do you expect???  

So yeah, Kurt is now officially christened into cook-dom (as Caroline will surely sympathise) and found that cooking with one hand immersed in cold water is slightly more complicated.  That all said, he still managed to do an amazing job with dinner, and kept shooing me out of the kitchen, proclaiming "I said I was going to do this all by myself!".   OK, Well I did make the gravy - I may or may not have insisted, but heh, it's gravy, it's a Big Deal to me!

Here is the dinner!

And here are (is?) the making of and the finished product of the cake.  Congratulations, Kurt, you did awesome.

And it was delicious too!!!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sea Kayaking in Cairns

Our last full day in Cairns, we spent up in Cape Tribulation, which is almost two hours' drive north of Port Douglas.  Captain Cook gave the place its name, along with naming lots of other Australian landmarks, such as Mount Sorrow, Mount Misery, Skirmish Point, etc.  He doesn't seem to have had a very good Australian experience.

Half way to Cape Tribulation we had to take the ferry across the Daintree River, which slowed us down a bit, along with a wrong turn which set us back twenty minutes.

The River Crossing

The road from the Daintree River was extremely windy, and in places cut into the sides of the cliff, so the going was fairly slow.  Add that to the wrong turn, and the ferry, and we almost didn't make the kayaking on time.  Slightly nerve-wracking to say the least!

However, we did make it, and it was well worth every minute - absolutely amazing!  It was fairly overcast, and indeed rained a good proportion of the three hours we were out there, which was great to keep us relatively cool and unburnt! 

Kurt and me, ready to kayak

The guide

The guide, whose name I forget, was great at telling us all about the marine life, and birds, etc.  We saw an osprey dive into the waves in search of its dinner, although it came back up empty handed.  We were told with conviction that box jellyfish aren't actually dangerous at all, but I remain unconvinced.  We didn't see any dolphins or sea turtles, because it was too choppy and apparently they aren't fans of bad weather.

The sea was very calm on the leeward side of the Point

Playing with the poor tourists

We gave the camera to the guide to take some photos, and then our kayak gently drifted into two English girls' kayak.  We encouraged them to paddle, to keep away from us, and I held on to the rope at the back of their kayak while shouting "paddle! keep paddling!"  Both Kurt and myself were roaring with laughter, and the guide was snapping several photos... and seemed to also find it very amusing.  The funniest part was that, although I expected them to turn around and tell me to let go, they did not notice at any stage, even when they did turn to look at me...

The sea got a lot more choppy as we rounded the head, with four to five foot swells constantly breaking into the kayaks.  It was a long slog around, but well worth it to surf the waves in onto the other beach.  We had practised a few on the gentle waves on the leeward side, which we were very thankful for once we met the monsters!

We managed to capsize the kayak a couple of times, but still managed to surf some waves in, and I got myself an awesome battle scar of a bruise from the kayak, which I didn't realise had happened until the next day!

And then we traipsed through the rainforest and learnt about edible ants (no thank you) and wild pigs and snakes and other interesting things.

And then we paddled back, and I jumped into the ocean because I felt like it, and swam with the invisible crocodiles for a little while, and then that was the end of our kayaking adventure.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Apologies, etc.

I'm sorry.  I'm not a very good blogger, and for that I apologise.  As my dad explained, on his blog, it doesn't seem very fair to You Readers, to not blog with more regularity.

I mean, I do have things to blog about, as I never got around to crocodiles, and kayaking, but the muse has been sadly lacking, and that along with a general, all-round Return To Normal Life, the blog has been abandoned, and I'm sorry.

And regarding Normal Life, apparently I am abnormal because I use words like "conflab" in conversation.  Is that really so weird ?  

Yesterday, I boarded an airplane/aeroplane, and made my way incredibly slowly and painfully to Singapore.  Being that I have been introduced to longhaul business class, going back into economy is beneath me and undignifying, but I suppose it must be done.  Actually, my colleague travelling with me offered to pay for his own upgrade to business class (circa $1000 on our tickets) and was blunty refused.  Apparently this is frowned upon.

We arrived at the hotel late, and also to a different hotel than we are normally at, which annoyed me.  It still annoys me.  It's not that there is any problem with this hotel, in fact if anything it is nicer than the old, but I'm used to the other one, I know where the eateries are, and I don't like Change.  (and it was an extra 10 minutes in the taxi)

Oh, something about Singapore?  Unlike Australia, Singapore has no agriculture, and hence does not mind people bringing in food for personal use.  I think there's a limit of five kilos, and so today's lunch is safe, despite its contents of chicken, fresh veg, fruit and beef jerky.  I will just have to make sure it is all consumed before landing into Port Hedland.

However, if you try to sell a Singaporean chewing gum, that's an entirely different kettle of fish.

Speaking of kettles, not necessarily of fish, they don't provide milk in Singapore hotel rooms.  You have to pay extra if you want anything other than fake Coffee Mate, and it's not that I mind Coffee Mate, it's the principle, right?

Well that's it folks, and I promise I will get to the crocodiles and kayaking when I get home !