01 March 2008

What a whirlwind!

G'day mate!

Well, we touched down at Sydney International just after 9pm on Monday night.

Customs was a total breeze - the reason for this was that we seriously did our homework on the SAAustralia.org forum and also on the AQIS site. Don't even think about trying to sneak in illegal stuff or food. I declared everything on the passenger card on the plane - foodstuffs? Yes - I had chewing gum bought in SA in my bag. Medicines? Yes - we had some Gaviscon, Disprin, No-Jet-Lag. Well, they say on the form that if you're not sure, say yes - so I did. They really did just wave us through. But then we weren't trying to "smuggle" anything in so I suppose there was no need to worry. But they're pretty thorough and will catch you if you're hiding something - those cute little doggies are sharp little puppies!

Scott's boss has been ill so his wife picked us up. What a wonderful warm welcome after such a long flight - no handshakes and pleased to meet you's but a warm hug and "Welcome to Australia!" And she took us past Hyde Park, Darlinghurst and then the Opera House & OVER THE SYDNEY HARBOUR BRIDGE!!! We were completely frazzled from the flight and the whole experience was becoming more and more surreal by the moment. We arrived at the company apartment in St Leonards - a swanky city apartment / office block called.... wait for it.... The Forum! Can you believe it?????? Another confirming sign that we're on the right path..... [Explanation: we spent hours & hours on the SAAustralia.org forum website before we came over so staying in The Forum is quite a coincidence!]

Looking down at the train line running North towards Chatswood (seen in the distance)

We managed to find a 7/11 (open 24hours) around the corner and bought a sim card (Optus - there was no Vodafone in stock). We couldn't activate it until the following morning. Funny how the mobile phone thingy works here. You buy a sim card but it isn't linked to a mobile number. You have to call the service provider from the phone and they then register your details and put you on a package (pre-paid have several different options) - only after this is done do they SMS your mobile number to you. So a pre-paid number can still be traced if used in a crime - excellent! There was also a Coles downstairs which closes at midnight so we bought a few essential supplies.

We were up at about 4:30am on Tuesday morning after only a couple of hours' sleep. We made some coffee and our very first meal in The Wonderful Land of Oz consisted of coffee sucked through Tim Tams!!!! [bite off opposite corners & use the Tim Tam as a straw] You truly haven't lived until you've tasted these incredible little morsels!

Tim Tams & Coffee for breakfast

Garbage Collectors - just regular blokes doing a job!

So we managed to activate the sim card by about 8:30am and then it was off to the bank to validate our bank accounts. What an amazing bunch of people! Our accounts were activated and we were given internet access for each of our accounts immediately. We've even got an application in for a credit card which Tami said should be approved without any hassle. If it's approved the card will be at the bank next week for us to collect.

Tami also gave us the heads up on where to get the best ice cream in Sydney (beachfront at Manly) and that you should put you Tim Tams in the freezer so that they don't fall apart in your fingers and fall into your coffee! Now this to me was truly sage advice! LOL!

We also popped into Scott's new office to say hi and find out some info re starting times, dress code, vehicle, mobile, etc. We have been given the company flat for an extra week so we went down to Kirribilli to change our booking at Carnarvon Lodge. Thank goodness we did - the place is a complete flea pit!!! So we just cancelled the booking altogether. WARNING: If it's cheap and seems too good to be true - it probably is!

Scott walking down to Kirribilli - Sydney Harbour Bridge on the right

Milson's Point ferry "station"

Me at Milson's Point ferry station with Luna Park behind me

We've done HEAPS of walking and the public transport is phenomenal!!! There is a weekly travelpass which you can get for $35 which will cover a huge area around the city and north shore. This pass is for all buses, trains and ferries except for the Manly ferry, jetcat and the airport terminals. It's meant that we don't have to keep drawing cash and getting change out of a wallet every time you need/want to hop onto a bus or train.

The Sapphire Princess in Sydney Harbour - we missed the Queen Victoria & QEII by 1 day!

We also took the ferry up to Manly and then a bus to Dee Why to check it out as we were quite keen to find an apartment close to the beach.

Scott on the Manly ferry Looking back at the harbour on our way to Manly

We were really battling without an internet connection so Wednesday I called around to try and find an ISP with decent wireless internet. Telstra were a nightmare to get through to. On our way downstairs, I stopped at the concierge and asked if he could help - the security guard he was talking to was brilliant! His wife owns her own networking company and he told us that Telstra (BigPond) were really bad when it comes to virus protection - apparently if there's a virus out there, BigPond users get it first! Anyway, I can't back this up so just passing the info on. I got hold of a company.....

Ooooooooh!!!! Yummy!!! Scott is a legend - he just brought me a cup of coffee and 2 frozen Tim Tams!

...called Unwired - I think they're pretty much the same as iBurst. They delivered the modem ($129) to Scott's office by midday on Thursday - within 24 hours! It took me all of 5 minutes to get set up - just plug & play really. Our current plan is: Casual 3GB 256k 256/64 - I get this for $29 per month and there is no contract.

We've been to see a couple of properties now. We've got an application in for an incredible apartment in Chatswood - close to trains, buses and right on the Pacific Highway. Please hold thumbs that we get it!!! I think we really impressed the real estate agent as we came fully prepared with a pile of copies of passport, drivers' license, letter from company confirming employment, salary & that they will pay the rent and two references from previous rentals (in Cape Town). We handed in our application right then and there. He said we should find out before the weekend. There were only 2 other people at the viewing - but that was because it was the middle of the week and it was p*ssing with rain. He's having another viewing on Saturday where he's expecting at least 60 people! So we're really hoping to be approved before Saturday!

Wednesday night we stayed in - there's HD TV here so Scott's enjoying Battlestar Galactica - the latest series - in High Definition! Wooohoooo!!! We had our first bottle of Aussie wine - a chardonnay from Margaret River in WA. Very yummy!

Thursday was spent running around some more! We went off to Chatswood and Lane Cove to see a couple of properties and in the afternoon we came back and set up our internet connection. Friday we stayed at the apartment to look for properties on the interent and make up a schedule to view properties on Saturday.

We didn't realise the severity of the demand for rental properties in Sydney. WOW! The estate agents here set 15 minute viewing times for each property. On a Saturday, you can have up to 100 people viewing a property within that 15 minutes - everyone lines up outside the property until the agent arrives. You then collect the application form from the agent and send it in ASAP. They then choose the applicant they want - there's really no jumping any queues or getting any advantage here. Today (Saturday) we viewed 6 apartments - in various areas (Wollstronescraft, St Leonards, Chatswood & Lane Cove). This involved run/walking from train station to apartments to make it in time for a 15 minute viewing with all those other people. It's pretty scarey really. We've decided that we're not going to be fussy anymore about where we look or what the state of the apartements are in - we're just going to apply for everything and hope we're able to secure just one apartment.

We headed into the city for the first time yesterday late afternoon. I think we were both suffering from cabin fever after spending the whole day searching for properties on the 'net! We took a train into Central Station and just started walking aimlessly. We ended up walking through Chinatown and then came accross the famous Harry's Cafe de Wheels where Scott had a Chilli Dog & I had a Chicken & Cheese Pie (a chicken pie with cheese sauce on top!).

Me at Harry's

Scott eating his Chilli Dog at Harry's

We ended up at Darling Harbour and walked around gaping at all the swanky bars and restaurants. We eventually decided to take a ferry around to Circular Quay where we could have a look at the Rocks and find a pub for a well deserved beer. We hopped on the ferry and it ended up taking us right up through the Sydney waterways all the way up to Meadowbank. Only then did it turn around and take us to Circular Quay! This trip happened to coincide with sunset so we basically had a great sunset cruise. After it got dark, there were these really large birds (about the size of a really big crow) flying overhead - we could just see them in sillouette. Scott was convinced they were bats. They're not bats - they're birds going to find a roosting spot for the night, I scoffed!!!

Our sunset ferry cruise

When we finally got back to Circular Quay, we walked around The Rocks for a while. It SUPER trendy!!! Not the kind of places you can walk into wearing takkies. While walking around the rocks, Scott stopped me and pointed out a GIGANTIC bat eating fruit in a tree next to the road. Man, did I feel stupid! Those bats are enormous!!!! I've looked them up - they're Grey Headed Flying Foxes.

Grey Headed Flying Foxes (fruit bats)

By this time we were getting a bit tired of walking around aimlessly so we took a ferry across to North Sydney and found out the hard way that North Sydney ferry stop and North Sydney train station are NOWHERE near each other!!! LOL! It was about a 15minute long hike up a rather steap hill to get to the station where we caught the train back to St Leonards. At this stage it was about 11pm and we went straight to The St Leonards Tavern for an ice cold Victoria Bitter and a few games of pool. Damn! Pool is expensive - $3 per game!!!

We met a couple of ozzie blokes - Scott & Tim - who invited us to St Leonards Park today for the weekly touch rugby game. We had every intention of going along but we were so completely exhausted by the time we finished looking at properties that we decided we'd give it a go next weekend instead.

Okay, so this has been a really long catch up ramble! It's nearly 1am on Sunday morning now and I'm just hoping that some of what I've written here makes sense!




Anonymous said...

Sounds fab guys! How's the bat!!
Waiting for more!!!

xxxThomene & Pat

Carol Markusse said...

What a stunning update you 2!! I am so glad you are there and that all is well and you are finding your way around. Holding thumbs on the house. I can actually not believe that you guys are there. I understand the surreal feeling very well. It doesn't go away in a hurry LOL!!! We are looking forward to keeping an eye on your updates and seeing all the photos. Who knows, maybe you'll do a good job of selling us OZ he he!!
Lots of love the Canadian crew ;o)