Friday, April 30, 2010

Plan the Plan's Planny Plan

I guess it's been a while--or maybe never--that I've given an update on the big picture for our adventure plans (thank you Todd for reminding us). While it may be obvious based on all of our downsizing and selling-off talk, I should clarify that we are moving from Australia to New Zealand in a few days. We've been in OZ just over 2 years and have definitely become fond of many things about this place. My mom asked me the other day if I was "excited" about moving to New Zealand. I couldn't enthusiastically say "yes". At the moment, thinking about NZ conjures thoughts of logistics and "planning the plan's planny plan".

We will arrive in NZ on Tuesday May 4th. We will get a rental campervan, and will use it for a week while we shop for a campervan of our own. Since my birthday is on May 13th, I guess my birthday present will be a new (old) van. New Zealand is the most campervan-y place we've ever been to. When we visited the South Island for a week last year, about 90% of the vehicles on the road were campervans. This means there are also lots of used campervans on the market. Since it is the start of winter, we will probably find it very easy to buy a van at a good price.

We just dropped off four 40 lb boxes to the post office that will get shipped to NZ. 160 lbs of clothing, sporting goods, living items, and some tools -- seems excessive doesn't it? We have spent hundreds of hours sorting through all our stuff trying to pare it down to the absolute minimum. We've been taking a lot of our stuff to Vinnies (St Vincent De Paul--like Goodwill or Salvation Army).

The other day, one of the volunteers met us as we took stuff out of the van and started going through it in front of us. He said he would probably be throwing away everything we brought. Basically, if the item didn't look clean/new, it was going to the landfill. it. It made me so upset to realize that much of the perfectly functional stuff that gets donated to Vinnies is just put in a landfill. In fact, he told us that they throw away 2 TONS of stuff every DAY!

Back to the planny plan, we hope to spend at least 6 months and hopefully more like 12 months in NZ. We are bringing our mountain bikes, kiteboarding gear, and snowboards. We hope to enjoy some mountain biking and kiting in the dryer/warmer times and to snowboard the rest of the time. We haven't snowboarded in over 2 years -- that is something we are definitely excited for.

We have our sights set on Vietnam and Thailand for 2011. We'll see what can never plan on the plan's planny plan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Selling our Soles

The past couple of months have been dominated by the logistics of selling our stuff. We're still having fun, but we haven't really taken pictures of our adventures for at least a month. All of the pictures on the camera are the items we were putting up for sale. In a previous post, I think I alluded to us having reduced our "stuff" down to what could fit in (or on) our van -- still way too much.

The windsurfing gear was the biggest and stupidest thing to bring to Oz. Really, we should have sold the windsurfing gear in the USA. We only ended up using it a few times. When we finally managed to sell it (3 boards, 5 masts, 3 booms, 10 sails, etc.), it was for a song. Wavesailing in Oz just isn't as popular as we had assumed, probably because many people, like us, have switched to kiteboarding. This will be the first time in 12 years that we won't have any windsurfing gear -- a nostalgic event, given how this sport dominated many years of our lives.

Our main tool for selling things has been eBay. There have been a few surprises -- a used Leatherman sold for $60! Six months ago, we bought a used roof luggage box for $150 and we just sold it for $225. A Yakima Rocket Box that we paid $280 for 10 years ago at GI Joes (RIP) sold for $417! Most things, we were just happy not to put in a landfill. We've had much more success selling Scott's stuff. It seems that most girls here don't buy wetsuits, snorkeling gear, biking jerseys, etc. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. We've seen very few girls surfing, kiting, or biking. The only item I managed to sell was a pair of $120 near-new Dansko shoes for $25 -- lucky girl.

We've given away most of our clothes and shoes, except for what we're wearing now and some winter items for New Zealand. Even though I hadn't worn some of these clothes for years, it was still hard to say goodbye. However, now that they're gone, I definitely don't miss a thing.

Our biggest concern was selling the van, but with 2 weeks to go, we've found a
buyer. He put down a hefty deposit, didn't negotiate, and is accommodating our travel schedule. Our net loss on the van after 2 years will be less than 1 month's rent at our Sydney apartment -- almost too good to be true. It scares me to even type it. I've only done half of a happy-dance, hoping not to jinx us.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Fields Full of Teddy Bears

I usually prefer to write about our adventures soon after they occur, but the last few months have been so fast and furious that I haven't made time to write. The month of February was full of adventures. Our locations varied from South Australia through Victoria to Tasmania. When I look back on February and March, I mostly remember the wildlife encounters and the fantastic scenery. A specific highlight was traveling "The Great Ocean Road" in Victoria. It proved to be as spectacular as all of the hype suggested. On top of the incredible coastal rock formations, we spotted our first (and only) wild Koala on a short forest hike near the coast.

We drove to the Port of Melbourne where we boarded the "Spirit of Tasmania" with our van. We were amongst hundreds of other motorhomes and caravans traveling to Tasmania. The 10-hour boatride proved to be quite rough. Both Scott and I narrowly escaped without tossing our PB & J. The 2 weeks we spent in Tasmania were quite memorable. Tasmania is mostly uninhabited, with extensive national parks (NPs) protecting the wilderness. Tasmania funds their NPs by charging the tourists $60 for a 2 month pass. This is the most expensive NP pass in all of Australia.

We disembarked the "Spirit of Tasmania" around 7pm and stopped 30 minutes down the road to witness some Fairy Penguins coming out of the ocean to feed their chicks, who were patiently waiting for their nightly feeding on the shoreline. I think I said "sooooo cute" at least 20 times. The Fairy Penguin is the smallest of all penguins and the adults only get to be around a foot tall. This is hard to imagine (until you've seen them), after having watched all the movies depicting the massive Emperor Penguins endemic to Antarctica, which reach 3 feet tall.

We saw a Tasmanian Devil cross the road while we were driving. We learned that these animals are plagued by an extremely unusual and fatal cancer. It is only one of three recorded cancers that can spread like a contagious disease. The cancer is passed from devil to devil through biting. The live tumour cells aren’t rejected by their immune system because of a lack of genetic diversity among Tasmanian devils. After learning this, these scary and ugly looking creatures suddenly seemed cute and helpless.

As we were traveling across the Bass Strait to Tassie, we read various tourist brochures.
One of them described Narawantpu NP as a place where you can see fields full of wombats. The wombats in the brochure looked like teddy bears! I quickly decided my goal in Tassie was to see these fields full of "teddy bears". On our last night on the island, we stopped at Narawantpu NP and watched a full moon rise over a field full of teddy bears (and kangaroos!) -- mission accomplished.

Tassie reminded me how much I love climbing mountains. We spent almost everyday hiking or biking up a mountain (much higher than anything on the mainland). Cradle Mountain, the most famous on Tasmania, lived up to it's fame. The climb to the top required some difficult
scrambling on jagged boulders, but we were rewarded with expansive views of the valley and surrounding mountains. To our delight, Tasmania also has some fantastic free camping, with views over the ocean or across a valley.

Another memorable part of Tassie was visiting the capital city of Hobart. Hobart is on the southern coast of Tassie, and it is flanked by 4200 ft Mt. Wellington. Without a doubt, we feel that Hobart would be on our short list of places we could live. A laid back city with an ocean, mountain, and rivers within miles of each other.

We were worried that we would regret only allowing 2 weeks to explore Tasmania. We were right.