Category Archives: Australian Stuff

Australia Day

It’s January 26, Australia Day. The equivalent in the antipodes of July 4th, it commemorates the arrival in Sydney Cove of the First Fleet in 1788. Aboriginal Australians regard it as a day of mourning.

The Fatal Shore

I have a habit of keeping track of the day of the week, rather than the date assigned to it, so the only reason that the significance of this day dawned on me was the tweets from the Australians I follow – specifically, a human rights lawyer and a supporter of Julian Assange.

And, make no mistake, it is a significant day. I could have spent it in Australia, probably in Sydney. If I hadn’t got on that Qantas 747 back in April last year, and by doing so, lost my permanent residence visa, I’d still be there, on my way to becoming an Australian citizen four years down the line.

Continue reading


Dental tourism, anyone?

On Friday night, as I sat meditatively chewing a piece of pizza at home after getting off the flight from Plett, I noticed a strange, but depressingly familiar feeling. The crown on one of my teeth has broken, and this can best be described as the sensation of money leaving your bank account. Around R3000 – R5000, based on the last time I broke a crown.

It’s my bad luck to have been cursed with weak enamel. Because I grind my teeth, all of them will eventually have to be crowned. This is an astoundingly expensive exercise and one not covered by medical aid. It’s the equivalent of buying a car – quite literally. Or two, if you’re talking entry level: a Kia Picanto in the upper jaw and a Chevy Spark in the lower.

It could be worse. I could be living in Australia, where dentistry is so expensive and waiting lists so long that there’s a phenomenon known as dental tourism. Fly to Thailand or the Philippines, get your teeth fixed, have a nice holiday at a resort to recover – all for less than you’d pay in your home country.

My dentist is based in Parkwood and can look forward to making lots of money out of me this year. Sadly, no spa treatments will be involved.

More Australian signs and wonders

More signs spotted during my trip to Australia. This one is from a specialty butcher and greengrocer near Lane Cove where I bought a thank you gift for Chris and his housemates:


This is a standard Sydney parking sign. They’re pretty specific about the angle at which you may park:

45 angle parking

Across from the butchery was this sign at the local high school. If the image isn’t clear (my iPhone is useless in anything except bright light) it reads: “Good luck at state swimming Lachlan”. Every second male in Australia is called Lachlan. They used to be called Bruce, but that’s no longer the case. Jayden is also very popular these days, but is considered bogan.

Good luck Lachlan

Saw this as I walked into Sydney Airport and got into a bit of trouble for taking it.

Border Security

This snake warning sign is from Melbourne.

Snakes are found in these gardens

This list is from Taronga Zoo. I thought the Taipan was the most venomous, but apparently that honour goes to the aptly named Fierce snake.

Snake List

Coal seam gas is a big environmental issue in Sydney, where there are plans to mine it from under people’s houses in the west.

No coal seam gas

I spotted this one on the way back from Palm Beach, Sydney. On one stretch of Barrenjoey Road, there were several signs with messages for certain individuals. It seems to be a quirk specific to the area.

Welcome home Miles

April Fool’s Day ad for Hertz

Today I spotted this ad in The Australian, a national newspaper.

BMW ad

The ad ostensibly informs readers that between 12am and 12pm on April 1, the right hand lane is reserved for the exclusive use of BMW drivers. Non-BWM drivers should visit their nearest Hertz rental location  or have a look at this website. Though it looks like a BMW campaign, it’s actually an announcement that BMWs can now be rented from Hertz.

A nice tactical idea and one that would have nailed it if they’d added in something about the use of indicators being optional. I did like the way they showed Audi’s major German rival in the centre lane though.

Leaping into the unknown: day three

Day three began with sleeping late (thanks to insomnia, as usual) and some kitty love from 007, who snuggled up next to my modem and purred. He really is a complete slut, unlike Chairman Meow. Both cats get loads of attention, though 007 seems to enjoy it more.

Kitty love

Before we could head off for the day as planned, Chris had to go back to his old place in Lane Cove to finish some sweeping. He and his roommates have just moved, and the old house has to be handed over in the state in which it was received. Rentals in Sydney are very organized; I saw a 25 page inspection document for the new place (complete with signatures and photos of chipped tiles).

Australians generally do their own housework, though the wealthy do hire maids. Cleaning a garden can be a nightmare thanks to piles of dead leaves and Sydney’s vast and extravagant curtains of spider web, especially if you’re surrounded by nature. This gives you an idea of how green parts of Sydney are; to the left of this shot is natural forest.

Chris sweepingThen we were off to the Blue Mountains, a popular day trip to an area which begins some 50km west of the city. It’s a scenic drive, consisting mostly of gum trees, gum tree and more gum trees. The towns, all very close together, are mostly very pretty. Leura is like Dullstroom on steroids, without the trout. At Katoomba, which is full of lovely Art Deco architecture, we had a late lunch – an excellent roast veg sandwich for me, good value at $7.90 or around R79 – before heading to a couple of the lookout points. Many of the views are spectacular, somewhat reminiscent of God’s Window. Here I am at Evans Lookout:

Me in Blue Mountains

Then we drove to a place I’ve visited twice before: Govett’s Leap. It’s perhaps the most spectacular of the lookout points, since it includes the 180m high Bridal Veil falls. Standing there with nothing but the sound of rushing water and the occasional squawk of a rosella, it’s possible to be completely in the moment, thinking neither of past nor present, just being. For someone whose inner voice has verbal diarrhoea, that’s an achievement. I’ve been dreading the memories and associations this trip might trigger, and if any place was going to have that effect on me, it was Govett’s Leap. Legend has it that a bush ranger called Govett was being pursued by the authorities and rather than being caught, rode his horse over a cliff, but this is nonsense, apparently. Govett’s Leap is in fact the name of the falls. Still, a romantic story, one I feel inclined to paint. As a metaphor for leaping into the unknown, it has a certain appeal.

We took the scenic route back through the Hawkesbury, where the gum trees eventually give way to apple orchards and paddocks. Towards the end, I went very quiet and eventually nodded off. You’d think I’d be all sorted for sleep, but not: yet again, I went to bed way too late and had to ingest some Zolpidem. I lived on sleeping pills when I lived in Australia, and it seems nothing has really changed in four years. Who would have thought that something that comes naturally to most people would be so hard for me?

Lentil Chips and Australian Sacrilege

Thomas Dux is an Australian gourmet grocery chain. It sells expensive imported and organic fresh produce and groceries.  It is full of lovely things like “heirloom dishwashing liquid” in “Australian white grapefruit”. Yes, seriously.

Heirloom dishwashing liquid

Thanks to Thomas Dux, I have discovered that Australians with lots of money like turning vegetables into chips. We in South Africa think we’re on the cutting edge with our beetroot and sweet potato crisps from the local Spar, but do we have chickpea chips? Continue reading