Sunday, May 31, 2009

Melbourne Sights

Sometimes, Saturday night is a little too fun, so you spend Sunday riding your bike lazily around the city taking pictures and soaking in the late fall sunshine. Despite low clouds, it was a really great fall day.

This is the ferry that goes to Tasmania. It's the most expensive way to get across, but if you want to take the car, it's the only way.

I continue to find signs that amuse me.

This is the Bolte Bridge, which is part of Citylink. We can see it in the distance from our kitchen, but we happened to be next to it this afternoon.

Note the Southern Star in the background, that is trying to emulate the London Eye. Also note that it broke something like six weeks after opening, and now has to be taken down for structural repairs. Good thing it's under warranty.

Tunnels and Sewers

Yesterday was family day (or something similar) at NSP, the Northern Sewerage Project, and Shannon got us on the list to go down in the hole. There was no designated tour guide to take us down, so one of the younger employees offered to lead us around. Between that, and the small group size (7) we got a pretty good view of what was going on.

There are a handful of shafts but the one that we went down was about 65 meters deep. It was a long lift ride down. This is the view looking up from the bottom of the shaft. It looks deceptively small.

The shaft has two tunnel segments on each end of inner diameters 2.4 and 3.4 meters. The top picture is the smaller of the two.

At the end of the tracks in each direction is a tunnel boring machine (TBM). They were nearly 400 meters in on the bigger tunnel. I'm not sure how far they had made it on the smaller one because we didn't walk down. Too short to comfortably do it, and the people movers weren't in operation. Actually, most things were shut down for safety reasons (obviously).

This is the space between the two bores. Possibly the thing that amazed me the most was the amount of infrastructure that has been laid for construction. Obviously, the farther they go, the more infrastructure that must be created. Rail is laid continuously and power must be supplied farther and farther down the hole. Then at the end it's all got to come out. Wild.

So much effort to haul the city's ever expanding crap!

Washing Windows

While sitting at the desk the other day working, I learned it was time for the annual window washing. Having never lived or worked in a high rise, this was new to me.

We don't really live in a high rise here anyway, yet here he was.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trip Report, Great Ocean Road, Day Two, Part Two

Technically, the Great Ocean Road stops in Warrnambool. So, after a quick stop in Warrnambool for some go juice (for car and driver) we turned off the coast and headed inland to check out what was indicated to be a scenic route because of the volcanic history of the region.

This region of Victoria is supposed to be the third largest volcanic plain in the world. What we had read indicated that there was a lot of evidence of craters and lakes formed however long ago by the volcanoes. It wasn't what I expected, but I wasn't disappointed.

We made a beeline to the center of the state, but not before first seeing the clear winner for oddity of the weekend. We turned the car around for this one.

Farther up the road was Mount Elephant, which was surrounded by cows who were scared of our car. We couldn't tell if they don't see a lot of cars, or if cars are related to other cows not coming back. Also, Mount Elephant only looks like an elephant from one side. Note the huge rock slide on this face.

From here, we were off for a tour of the lakes. And this is where the trip got interesting. Everybody always hears about how Australia is in such a drought, and there are water restrictions in place (more severe in the country than the city), but I don't think too many people really realize the magnitude of the problem. Much like in the US, people are told things and it doesn't really sink in.

This is Lake Tooliorook. You can see that it shows up on Google Maps. Sorry for not embedding - it wasn't holding the zoom I wanted.

This is the boat ramp.

And this is the sign right next to the lake. Look how new it looks.

The condition of this sign perplexed me. Poking around the Internet, I found that the Department of Primary Industry (?) still shows it (bottom of the page) as a spot to fish. I found a personal website that shows a camping trip from 2007. The lake is full. Parks Victoria, however, has taken it out of their list of parks.

This lake has disappeared virtually overnight, at least in geologic time. I was, and continue to be, shocked at what we saw. The park, and the whole area around it, was like a ghost town. Perhaps the strangest thing was how clean the bathrooms at the park were. It was like someone was still coming out to scrub them down, despite no visitors. Great government job? By the way, we were there on a Sunday.

Naturally, it didn't get any better from there.

Next, let's have a look at Lake Martin. Google is starting to show how dried up it is. Note the two parts that are named the same thing, but clearly aren't connected. Also, this used to connect to Lake Corangamite, but even the map shows that it doesn't.

Near this old flood gauge, there was a parallel farm road crossing that had five absolutely huge pipes that connected the lakes. Now, the pipes, and the floodgates that you can just barely see the controls for are totally try.

We eventually made it around to the main shore of Lake Corangamite, and you can see that the picture isn't much better. Also, you can see how much larger this lake is than anything around it.

But wait, is that a glimmer of water in the middle?

Yes, it is, but it's become so saline that is is mostly full of brine shrimp now. The upshot is that it provides a feeding ground for birds from as far away as Japan. I can only presume that this water once was used to drink and irrigate crops with.

Without getting totally preachy, seeing what is left of these lakes was a real eye opener for me to the severity of the situation in this country. It will certainly make me take shorter showers. It also makes me think that humans have a far larger impact on their surroundings than they realize. I even read an article today about how there are fears of Angkor Wat sinking because the water tables are being depleted so quickly to serve new hotels in the area. And while I can't say that these lakes were totally destroyed by human factors, I can't help but think that everyone should read Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. That was a hell of a read.

Amazingly, we did get a bit more volcanic action in before calling it a weekend. There is a hill called Red Rocks, and from the top, you can see craters and flat farmland that were formed by volcanoes back in the day. You can also see why it's called Red Rocks.

On the way home, we stopped at a craft brewer out in the middle of nowhere and had a few samplers by the fire and pondered the water situation. It was striking, and still is after a few days of mulling it over. Then we hit the road and called it a weekend.

All in all, a great trip. It reinforced the notion that you never know what you'll find when you travel.

Trip Report, Great Ocean Road, Day Two, Part One

To start the report from day two, we need to back up to day one for just a bit. We ended our day in Port Campbell, which is a really small town. As you may have seen in the Apostles pictures, there was some smoke in the background, and driving into town, we saw this why - there were pretty serious fires going on above town. We asked at the bar (naturally) and were told that CFA was doing some burnback work. No problem.

The map that we had showed two campgrounds in town, one clearly more removed, and without hookups, so that seemed like the logical choice. Once we finally figured out how to get in, we learned that the campground was around and above a footy oval. So we drove around, and there wasn't a soul there. It was actually pretty creepy, because you could see the fires still, and you were close to town, but there was absolutely nobody around. It was just close enough to town that we were concerned that without being able to tell anyone that we were there, we might have an issue if CFA started doing something overnight. Oh, also, camping there was seemingly free, since there was nobody around. When we were leaving, we saw a tree very close to the entrance that had sparks falling from it. After the Black Saturday business, we were out of there, and went to the $20 campground in town. It was fine, whatever.

The next morning, we went back up there in the daylight to see what was actually going on. The sunrise was great, and we learned that they had finished a burn where we saw the sparks, so it was just in the process of going out. Better to stick to the paranoia I guess than get in a bad spot.

But, back to the drive. We were on the road a few minutes after 7, and basically had the road to ourselves. It was pretty awesome. The landscape is sort of a mix of desert, the moon, and the California coast with taller cliffs.

Our first stop was at The Arch. It was like something in the Utah desert, just in the ocean.

Next stop was London Bridge. We presume this is because part of it fell down. It seems to gone for the same reasons as the Apostles.

Stop number three was to The Grotto. At this point, we realized that we weren't going to make good time. The Grotto was this really cool cave that had no roof and emptied into the ocean. Pretty sweet stuff.

Next stop - the Bay of Islands. It's sort of just like the name suggests - its a huge bay with a ton of land masses in the middle. To me, this may have been the best part of the drive to me. We stopped a few places in the park, and got a number of pictures that didn't really capture any of the beauty of it. But to me, this is way underrated, and I liked it that way.

Also, we learned that Australia knows how to build a boat ramp. It really is as steep as it looks.

Shortly after leaving the Bay of Islands we were treated to what we feel that we should have seen in New Zealand - a flock of sheep running down the road blocking traffic. Luckily, we were the first car, and got pictures. We probably followed them for 400-500 meters down the road.

Just before getting to Warnambool, we stopped at a "whale nursery," and weren't quite sure what to expect. Turns out, it was just a beach with a huge viewing platform. According to the signage, whales frequent the area during migration. Despite being there at the right season, we saw no whales.

This got a lot longer than expected, so I'll break here and write about the second half of the day later.

Breaking Up

I thought we had something special. We've only been together eight months, but I thought it was real.

You, with your average coffee and free wifi. Me, with my caffeine problem and work to do. It seemed like a match made in heaven. But since you failed to retain the pleasant waitstaff, all you're left with is surly baristas. It's a people business, people. If you don't like them, try another line of work.

There shouldn't be any place in a cafe for attitude (naturally, except at Cafe Attitude, SF). When I say "thank you," I'm looking for something a little more than a cold shoulder. And for the price of six coffees, I'm all recharged on the wireless broadband modem.

Grocery Bar, we are done. Finished. It's been nice knowing you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Trip Report, Great Ocean Road, Day One

After a brief trip to Seattle, it was quickly back to Melbourne and time for a quick holiday. For those keeping score (Joey), the return trip contained zero appetizers, one nice eye mask, and one competitive flight attendant, but only on the SYD-MEL hop.


We decided to take the drive down the Great Ocean Road, because 1) we hadn't, 2) we heard it was beautiful, and the forecast looked nice.

The road starts about 90 minutes southwest of Melbourne, in the town of Torquay, which in itself is worth a visit. We had been there before though, so we motored through. The coastline is pretty spectacular, and we stopped at a number of places throughout the day to take in the views, get snacks and have lunch, take pictures and the like.

The ultimate goal for the day was to make it to the Twelve Apostles. One might argue that we shortchanged some stops in favor of making the Apostles before sunset, but you've gotta make a choice sometimes. We wondered if it was one of the seven natural wonders of the world, but it turns out, not so much. I don't want to give the impression that the rest of the drive wasn't worthwhile - it was beautiful.

As an aside, someone we know once told us that he didn't "see what the big deal" was about the Apostles, and that they are "just some rocks in the water." This man is the epitome of a bogan.

The view of Split Point from the Great Ocean Road

Quality time with a magpie

Eagle Rock/Split Point Lightstation

Typically quality Australian signage

The Twelve Apostles - The changing light changed their appearance for the few hours we hung out. Sadly, there are limitations to point and shoot cameras.

Note the remains of a fallen Apostle in the foreground.

We didn't get the postcard-worthy summer skies, but we got a pretty good sunset all the same.

Later, day two.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Slices of Heaven

On my ride today, I had contact with various bits of heaven.

-I rode by the local McCormick plant - you know, the spice people, and it smelled a bit heavenly.
-The heavens opened up, and I got quite wet.
-As usual, the locals tried to send me to heaven with their car doors, stepping into traffic blindly, turning in front of me, and various other shenanigans.
-My fiveish year old iPod (the first click wheel - 4g?) again refused to head off to heaven to give me the justification to get a new one, despite the water that it was exposed to for an hour or so. Why are iPod batteries so good and Macbook batteries so bad?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On The Road Again

Back to the greater Seattle area. Appetizer is back, cheap socks are too. So that's 50/50.

Weather in San Francisco was amazing. Pat and I managed to get a sunburn at the Half Moon Bay brewery. Up to Seattle, and it's a bit rainy tonight after a pretty nice Sunday night and Monday morning.

Also, Richard Branson amuses me. Spotted this one at the Sydney airport, as part of his ongoing campaign against that other alliance.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I think I had the best coffee I've had in Australia this morning. It was perfect, and the (warm, huge) muffin to go with it made my morning.

I'm going to assume this cafe doesn't have wifi, for the good of my wallet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I did some checking yesterday, and Tuesdays with kangaroos are way better than Tuesdays without kangaroos, even if they do block the trail a little bit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

New Favourite Sign

Kangaroos at Lysterfield

Same park as last week, just this time with a camera. Plenty of kangaroos enjoying the sunshine.

Turned into a fun ride too!