From January 31 2009:

Aussieland egroup (blog and photo gallery are updated through Australia

Hi everyone, just a quick note to inform you that the photo gallery
and the blog have been updated through Australia.

We landed in Australia on Dec.3. After New Zealand we were used to
riding on the other side of the road and having English as a primary
language. So we knew we were going to have an easier time here!

While we were in Australia we had both fun and business to take care
of. We needed to get our visas for China, Viet Nam, and Thailand
and wanted to explore the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sydney. We were
also interested in possibly getting some temporary work to offset
the higher costs in Australia and the weaker US dollar.

With only 45 days in a country (also a continent) that is almost the
same size as the U.S. you had to move quickly. We prioritized our
time and decided to bike from Brisbane down towards Sydney
(following the Gold Coast), take the bus from Sydney to Melbourne,
a ferry to Tasmania, bike/work in Tasmania, return to Melbourne and
fly to Thailand. If we didn't get a little help from the local
transport we would be experiencing a very small fragment of the
country and culture...which goes against our goal.

When we arrived in Brisbane the heat of the summer was upon us. We
were reaching temperatures of 109 degrees and high humidity.
Australia has a huge hole in its ozone layer as well as New Zealand
and Tasmania so the sun is very intense! The landscape was very
green (season is spring) and hilly. We wanted to visit the hospital
where my (Ward's) father had spent time recovering from malaria and
a sniper bullet wound to his left arm during World War 2. After
considerable research at the National Museum we concluded that there
were 15 military hospitals in Brisbane during that time period. Most
have been removed and now have housing tracks on them. So, this
search was unsuccessful. Brisbane was a beautiful city and Jacky
wanted to take part in some Christmas Carol concerts. The city was
beautifully decorated with the colors of Christmas. However, it
was difficult to get into the Christmas spirit because of the
intense heat and lack of decorations on the homes, etc.

From Brisbane we headed to the Gold Coast which is one beach after
another. We spent a couple of nights in Byron Bay to get a sense
of the beach community. I can see how people that enjoy the surf
and sand would love this area. Jacky and I like this atmosphere but
one day is enough for us. It was beautiful hot beach weather which
made a dip in the ocean very inviting.

We went back to Sidney to pick up our China and Viet Nam visas. The
visa service had told us that everything would be done when we
returned. However, upon our return we were told that it would be
another 5 days. We were a bit upset but decided to make the best of
it and see as much as we could of Sydney. We took the opportunity to
meet up with some Decorah natives, Sue Zbornik and Royce Fullerton.
Sue has lived in the Coogee Bay area for the past 14 years and was
able to give us alot of insight and answer alot of questions that we
had regarding the Australian culture, etc. Rocye is studying in
Sydney at the University of New South Whales in the area of Solar
Energy. Coincidently, Australia is the leader in solar technology.

We kept hearing, "You've got to go to Tasmania. You've got to go to
Tasmania." Okay, we'll go to Tasmania. That's how our whole trip
has been. If a local tells us we need to go somewhere...we
typically try to make it happen. Also, we heard there was a greater
potential of finding work there on a fruit farm as our search so far
had been unsuccessful. In order to fit this new destination into our
time scale we had to take a bus to Melbourne.

We spent the week of Christmas cycling around Melbourne Bay.
Christmas itself was spent in the Ocean Grove area at the
Barwon Heads'campground. The beach was close by but it was chilly
(70-75 degrees F)so we went for short bike rides. We met a few
families that were staying at the campground and shared some
Christmas cheer with them. They even asked us to enjoy Christmas Day
dinner with them. It was a much quieter Christmas than we
anticipated. We had been told that the beaches would be packed and
the barbaque smell would be everywhere. This is an unusual year and
the temps are quite a bit cooler than normal so maybe that kept the
bikini santa and elves away. Later, we were informed that the
campers don't arrive until after Boxing Day and stay through the New
Year. Oops, our information and timing were wrong. It was still a
very nice Christmas.

We took the Tasmania Spirit ferry to cross the Bass Strait to
Tasmania. It was a ten hour ride throughout the night that was
somewhat rough. The swells were 3 meters high. They say the swells
can reach heights of 10 meters. Not good for the stomach.

Once in Tasmania we tried to get a little work and we had success.
We were able to work at an orchard, thinning apples, for 7 of our 18
days in Tasmania. It wasn't hard work but the 9 hours in the
intense sun really did a job on our skin even after applying special
sunscreen every 2 hours. However, it did feel good to have a set
schedule for a short time and actually make some money. While we
were in Tasmania we mainly biked the northern part of the island
because that is where we were working. We biked to Leven Canyon
where we free camped. You really feel like you are in a remote
area. Well, we were the only people there. We hiked the canyon and
then made a fire in the wood stove in the shelter and cooked dinner.
Then off to bed. The darkness of the night brought the "zoo" alive.
As we laid there you could hear the softer thuds of the wallabies
eating and hopping around our tent. Next you could hear the heavier
thuds of the kangaroos followed by the screaching cry of the
Tasmanian Devil. It was a bit eery since there weren't any humans
in sight for miles and we weren't really sure how these animals
would react to humans.

While in Tasmania we were also able to attend a local Ho Down. Talk
about a local experience. They had 2 bands and a wood chopping
competition. These guys were good. We chatted with many of the
locals and shared in their spirits. This is how we like to
integrate into the culture.

Tasmania's landscape is somewhat similar to New Zealand's with its
snow capped mountains, green lush national parks and high
hills/mountains. The people here are very down to earth which is
refreshing. They said to me, "we are 10 years behind in the time
and we like it that way."

We had the opportunity to tour a landfill with the Devenport Rotary
club. It was part of their weekly meeting program. It was very
interesting how they did their waste management. They were hopeful
to create methane and then burn the gas to produce electricity for
the operation of the landfill. This was different from the process
we use in the Winneshiek County Landfill. In Winneshiek County they
try hard to reduce the amount of methane that is produced. Tasmania
is about 15 years behind in their handling of solid waste as
compared to Iowa. Even some of the Rotarians knew they should
recycle, but what was the need, they did not see their solid waste
as a problem.

The feeling in Tasmania about their government is different than
what we see in the USA. They like to have few rules and then the
rules that are in place are not followed. I found it hard to get a
clear answer when it came to certain policies. Tasmania is
experiencing some difficult growth problems. Huge amounts of money
coming from Melbourne are causing housing costs to escalate and
locals are being forced to the street because rents are raising so
drastically. Also, because the population growth contains a higher
percentage of foreigners inrelation to natives the government will
pay you $5,000 for each child that you have. This does create a
problem. The teenagers are seeing this as an attractive way to earn
some cash.

Mainlander Australians had rather strong opinions about American
policies. I was surprised of their keen interests in our politics
and how strongly they felt about them. Sometimes I felt the
Australians grouped 300 million Americans as one personality.
Sometimes we needed thick skin.

We had a very good experience with the Aussies. It was time to move
on. On Jan. 16th we flew to Thailand. Until neext time....

Take care everybody.
Ward and Jacky