Monday, 7 September 2015

Farewell New Zealand……. Hello World! (Well America and Australia at least)

Well it’s been about 4 months since we last wrote anything and to be honest it’s not something that I’m particularly motivated to do right now. But being as spare time rich as I am and the fact that I may need to present this blog with accompanying photos and boarding passes to potential future employees as evidence I wasn’t banged up behind bars for 2 years. Here goes.

Selling The Car & Getting Rid of Shit.

The first mission once our New Zealand adventure came to a close was to lighten the load. The heaviest item being a 2000 Toyota Estima V6. Now I hadn’t owned a car in nearly 15 years and have never really been a car person but I actually bonded with this machine. It drove pretty much anywhere and ran like a dream. It was in impeccable condition too, aside from a full length scratch I gave it reversing through some trees.
Now the thing with selling a second hand car is that it’s a buyers market. We picked it up for $3700 when the seller was asking $6000 (the joys of online auctions - no face to face haggling that would otherwise lead to insult) so as a seller we would be happy to get $2500. Especially since we were trying to get rid of it within 2 weeks. A bargain if you ask me. After all I would rather have kept it and shipped to to Australia but you can’t do that unless you’ve owned it for at least a year.
The plan was to list it for $4900 and take the first cheeky offer and be done with it. And after 10 days of being listed with 4 to go until the auction closed we hadn’t had a single enquiry. Then Sherren took a call from someone saying we want to buy the car for $5000. Well they came round, took one look and said we’ll take it!. To which I replied, do you want to look inside? Have a look at the engine? Take it for a test drive? To which he answered while grinning from ear to ear, no! I know this car.

So we’d killed the budget in buying this car but got in all back plus a bit to pay for the tyre, battery and gas we’d put in. Pretty sure we’ll never get this lucky again.

The Silver Bullet

All square with the budget now. Off to have some fun in the good ole USA.

We decided to give Fiji a miss. Was a bit pricey as a stop over and not Vegan food friendly at all. Perhaps we’ll save the whole tropical island getaway for the next retirement.
Flew Qantas and I’d recommend anyone thinking of booking with them give it a miss. They’re average at best. Senior union labour that just don’t give a shit. I had 3 drinks spilled on me by the stewards (none of them were even mine) and struggled to get someone to even bring me a napkin to mop it up.

Landed in LA.
Customs officer says anything to declare and I say yeah! Got some Java Satay sauce for my brother, he can’t get the one he likes here. Man says I know just what you mean. I’m from Texas and you gotta have the right sauce. Welcome to America. Stamp!

Got a pick up from the Bro, headed straight to Huntington Beach and got into a few drinks. Didn’t have too much of a plan for LA. After all it’s just another city. Did the usual Venice Beach and Hollywood thing and then just chilled out at the beach for a week drinking too much, eating too much and getting in the occasional morning yoga. At one point we even went to the local Bikram to sweat out some our excesses.

Go Ahead, Make My Day!
This Made Sherren's Day (Hollywood Boulevard)
Eating out Vegan in The States is never a problem cause if there’s one thing they don’t ignore is a dollar. If there’s money to be made from Vegetarians and Vegans they’ll make it. And they have. We found a Vegan Thai Place, A Vegan Japanese and Even a chain of dirty ass vegan burgers and mexican styled dishes. And they got two supermarket chains called Sprouts and Wholefoods that cater for all you organic vege needs at about a 3rd the price you’d pay in NZ.

Got shouted a trip to Catalina Island. Saw a huge humpback cow with her calf and a pod of about 200 dolphins on the helicopter ride over. The migration had ended about 6 weeks earlier so we were very lucky to have this sighting.
Catalina is a pretty cool place. Privately owned by the Wrigley family (famous for chewing gum), it has a twenty year waiting list for the residents to import cars owing to the maximum number allowable on the island and as a result they all drive around in golf carts.

A Catalina View
Humpback En Route
Girl Racer
My brothers partner took us on a horse trek. There hadn’t been any rain in about 9 months so Cali is pretty dry to say the least but it was fun. My first time on a horse and it probably wouldn’t have mattered what the scenery was like cause I was busy watching the horse. Sherren was in her element and got a much feistier beast than myself.

Next day we drove to Vegas. The drive itself is a little boring given it's just an interstate in the dessert but just after you cross the California/Nevada state line you come over a hill and see an incredible sight of an enormous solar energy plant in the middle of nowhere. Could be one of the Tesla projects methinks.
Just after we arrived at Clint’s place, he got home from his calendar shoot and it was time to have a drink. Now I’ve softened a lot in the last few years of my life and I can’t sit up drinking till 8am anymore. But I gave it a go on a few occasions just to remind myself just how much it hurts. And in between those nights we managed a few outings such as:

Chill by pool - Not to be mistaken with a pool party. Been there, done that but just some good old fashioned relaxing in the heat by the pool.

Lake Mead wake boarding - We rented a ski boat and tried our hand at wake boarding. Sherren was a total natural and got up on her first try. It’s also a great way to see the Hoover Dam too.

Sherren In Her Element
Me In Mine
Lake Las Vegas SUP - This place is about halfway between Lake Mead and The Strip. Awesome if you want to get away from the madness and do some stand up paddle boarding. Nice hotel and resort too.

Grand Canyon -  Splashed out on the Mavericks helicopter tour. You fly up the strip, over Hoover Dam, then off to the Canyon, land, have a drink of bubbles, then head back. About 3 hours I think. We’re both used to helicopters so that in itself is not so amazing but it’s cool to see these sights from the air. My favourite bit was actually taxiing up the runway of Las Vegas Airport in a chopper only inches off the runway.
The Maverick (Even Comes with Cheesy Top Gun Music)
El cañón Grande
SkyWalk (Looking at You, Looking at Me)
The Baron Scaped Hoover Dam
Vegas - Dessert Oasis
Fantasy Girls - Strip show with singing and comedy routine. The silk routine and pole routine are pretty amazing. But what really makes this show is Sean E Cooper the comedian. He is pure evil genius and quite easily the funniest man in Vegas.

Carrot Top - To be totally honest. Just looking at this dude freaks me the hell out. There’s something about gingers that frightens the life out of me and this one is the scariest I’ve ever encountered.

Thunder From Downunder - Without the acrobatics and breaking of Clint, Leigh and Dave this show ain’t what it used to be. Yeah the old boys gotta make way for the new young talent. Trouble is that new talent just don’t cut the mustard. But hey! The drunk chicks probably don’t give a hoot. It’s their very own Vegas meat market for 75 minutes.

Steel Panther - These guys are a Mock ’n’ Roll bands take on Motley Lee Roth. They do original numbers themed around 1980’s glam rock complete with spandex and misogyny . And they do it quite well. They’re bloody funny, really good musicians and if they actually did some serious music, I think they would kick ass.

Spandex Heaven
Le Reve at The Wynn - I’ve seen 3 Cirque du Soleil shows now. This show although not a Cirque, was written by the guy who created Cirque after he left the company. And it is by far the best of the bunch. Doing the math regarding the small arena, number of staff in the show and the low price of the tickets. It’s plain to see Vegas doesn’t make money from shows like this. It’s all sponsored by gambling.

'O’ Cirque du Soleil - These shows are what they are and will always impress.

Roller Coaster - Sherren went on at New York New York. Not me I’m chicken.
Gambling - Between dinner and a show, Sherren put $20 bucks in a slot, pressed the button and won $2.50. Cashed it in and said “I’ve won, lets go”.

Las Vegas strip - Lights, fountains, drunk people, extroverts and their penis extensions (cars) and superheroes!

Sherren went shopping. Got a manicure, pedicure and a pair of heals. Got dressed up like a ‘slut’ (commonly used term in vegas for someone playing dress ups) and we hit the town. Woo Ha!

Just Seeing What All The Fuss Is About
We have not done a lot of yoga and I think my hips have ceased. Heels will do that to a man!

I’ve been to Vegas 3 times now and spent about 2 and a half months there and am yet to see someone actually win some money (real money). Yet any time someone tells you about their trip, they won big. Bit like fishing really.

So all in all. America made us fat. I gained 6kg and Sherren gained 3kg. And although I reckon we wear it well enough that we don’t look it. It’s time to head back, put all this excess behind and hit the mat once again. Still, it was fun.

The Ridiculousness of Flights These Days.

The route back to London from NZ goes like this:
Auckland - Sydney - LA - Brisbane - Auckland - Sydney - Dubai - London. Why? It was cheaper than:
Auckland - Sydney - LA - London.
And we wonder why airlines aren’t making any money.

‘Straya Mate.

We enter Australia and almost Immediately apply for a partner on New Zealander visa for Sherren. This will allow her to stay and work for 5 years. Although not the plan now, it means we can hit the ground running when we come back and will be earning some money to fund the $6000 to $10,000 it costs to get a permanent visa. Yes it is that desirable to be an Australian.

Here’s a little take on how it went.

Apply for Visa providing everything required including post office bank draft as payment.
2 weeks later, no news, call and find out application not received even though it was recorded delivery. Between post office and immigration our shit has been lost.
Cancel post office bank draft.
Pay for new bank draft and resend new application recorded delivery.
Receive confirmation application and payment received.
Then receive confirmation they found and received first application and bank draft.
They bank and clear both payments even though the first was cancelled. Post Office says not our problem anymore, apply for refund from immigration.
Apply for refund from immigration.
Advised by immigration despite proving all necessary documents they now want proof of our ongoing relationship and future plans together.
A medical and chest x-ray request when previously advised it was not required.
Requested to send original documents for previously requested certified copies.
Despite having travel insurance and being from a country with reciprocal health agreement asked to prove this.
Apply for Medicare Card that states Reciprocal Medicare treatment.
Sent all that shit in…..
2 and a half months and a small fortune in recorded deliveries.
….. and Wallah!

Visa Granted. However they’ve still not refunded us for the double charge. Time for Holiday to commence.

So while this was going on we managed to pick up a car. Now buying a car in Australia is not as a rewarding experience as it is in New Zealand. Probably the only thing other than Rugby New Zealand wins at. Now I knew we could rent a car with unlimited kms and zero excess for about $900/month so for the 5 max months we are here we wanted to pick up something pretty cheap so as to save on that sum. Trouble was every thing we looked at was in terrible shape. Until we finally found a Subaru Liberty we were willing to part with some cash for. Now the thing is an old bomb. Sherren says I shouldn’t insult it while we still have it but I see no point in lying to it. After all we purchased breakdown cover.

Car goes a little like this: Bearing in mind this car has passed it’s road worthy test:

Fill it with gas, engine light comes on.
Take to mechanic, he say don’t use 91 use 98 Octane.
Drive north 1000kms, muffler falls off.
Call breakdown cover “we don’t fix mufflers we can tow you up to 100kms”. (we need to go 120kms)
I jack car up and cable tie on muffler and we drive 20km to mechanic and he bolts back on for $50 bucks.
Oil is low so I top up and engine light comes on.
Sherren syphons out some oil.
Drive back to Sydney.
Decide car may be reliable after 2000kms so fit new set of tyres and get a service.
Drive to Melbourne. Car is sluggish and doing about 150kms less per tank.
Melbourne - Tis Cold
If You Look Hard There's Giant Bats In The Trees
Check oil and mechanic had over filled and oil is at the top of the dip stick spout and has been spraying out all over the engine while we’re driving.
Sherren and I syphon out some oil.
Drive back to Sydney. Mileage has improved.
Drive to Byron Bay. Engine light is almost a permanent fixture now but after 5000km who gives a toss. We’ve decided to stay in Byron for the remainder of our Australia trip. I may take it for a drive to the Red Centre for a look but Sherren won’t come with me. if it dies now, we’ll scrap it.

I think we should have rented but Sherren thinks we’re still in the black. We agree to disagree!

And while all this was going on, I quietly turned 40. Do I need a midlife crisis? Am I already in the midst of one? It doesn’t feel like a crisis. It’s much too liberating. I’ve had a few dreams I was back at work. Can I invoice for dreamtime spent at work?

Travelling to new unfamiliar territories is fun and adventurous but exploring the unfamiliar and new found yogic territory within is now much more preferable.

Practicing yoga at The Centre of Balance in Byron Bay now with Christian Graham. An Authorised KPJAYI teacher and soon Dena Kinsburg and Jack will return for an intensive. 12 weeks of stretching, sweating and balancing before getting on that plane back to what was once called home.

Of the last four months, Sherren says we slept a lot and used a lot of cuss words.

As for me, I feel rested, yet sufficiently worn out enough each evening to get back to sleep. Life is wonderful!

The Suffolk Park Posse
The Thing With Spiders Is They Hide
This Fella Was Too Big To Hide at about 2 meters
Wasn't About to Lay Beside Him For Perspective Though

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