Thursday, June 29, 2006

Australia's Red Center

Tracie and I rode the Train all the way to Alice Springs. It took three days. We rented a Toyota 4wd to drive to Ayer's Rock.

Alice Springs is a decent sized town, but it feels a little smaller than it really is. It is bordered on the South side by a long ridge. The train comes through a gap in the ridge that also contains a dry river bed.

While we were walking around, we saw an elderly aborigninal couple in an argument. The man turned his back and started walking away. The woman wasn't done fighting though and so she picked up a rock and hit the man in the back of the head with it. Now, to get a good idea of the size of the rock, imagine the size of rock that would be most appropriate for killing someone. It was definitely a two hander.

The sound it made could only be describe as sickening. Like the thud of someone slipping and falling flat on their back without catching themselves even a little. It was a hard hit, really hard. I'm surprised the guy didn't go down.

The next morning we picked up the truck from the rental place and headed out to see Ayers rock. The ride out is interesting, but after 200km you've pretty much seen it all. There are lots of road killed kangaroos, and more road killed cattle than I have ever seen in my life.

When you hit something in this region it is considered good form to drag it off the road. Hugh wedge tailed eagles like to eat the roadkill and because they have no predators, they feel comfortable not giving up their prize to vehicles driving past, and get killed themselves. Hitting a wedge tailed eagle would be almost as bad as hitting a kangaroo, the eagles have a wingspan approaching six feet at least. They are huge!

We saw four cars owned by aborigine's broken down at various points along the road. I felt a little bit guilty about not stopping for them considering the fact that we were literally in the middle of know where, with the nearest civilization 100km or more away. I blamed it on a combination of being taught my whole life that only muderers hitch hike and the recent release of the movie Wolf Creek in which a group of British backpackers are brutally murdered by a hitch hiker. Which just goes to prove that all hitch hikers are mass murderers, and that's ignoring the fact that the movie was based on a true story.

Maybe I'm just justifying not stopping for them. The truck was packed to the brim anyway and we probably couldn't have fit them anyway.

About 3/4 of the way there, there is a mesa that is often mistaken for Ayer's Rock mainly by people who are driving there from Alice Springs and are very excited about the whole thing. Really they don't look anything alike.

When we arrived at the park gate we were shocked to find out that there is a $25 fee per adult to get into the park. I figure that's a little steep but when you travel thousands of miles to see the place you pay through the nose. I really can't see what the money is used for in terms of facilities.

We looked around until just before sun set and then when to the sunset lookout point to take the cliche photo. It really does look amazing, although I get the feeling that the non-photographers don't really understand the whole sunset thing, especially here where they make such a big deal about the changing colours. Thousands upon thousands of pictures must be taken at sunset every single day.

The same thing happens at sunrise, which is when this photo was taken. The thousands of tourists stand there watching the rock, waiting for the sun to come up, not sure if it is the right moment for a photo or not. Finally the 20 or 30 buses signal that it is time to move on.

We walked around the base of the rock that morning. It is approximately a 10km walk. You really get a different impression of the sheer size and what it actually looks like when you are there in person.

That afternoon, we went to see the Olgas which are just great and well worth the extra drive. We must have arrived at the perfect time because relatively speaking there weren't many people there. I get the feeling that because of how things are advertised the Olgas and King's Canyon get unfairly neglected for how great they both are.

I really liked this trip with Tracie we had a lot of time to ourselves and a good chance to visit and see interesting things together. This little trip was the highlight of my entire time in Australia.

-Gary Milner

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Melbourne is a very beautiful city. One of the most unique things about Melbourne is the fact that rail trams are still a major mass transit solution. It seems odd to me that they haven't replaced the system with buses.

The Yarra River runs though downtown Melbourne and there are some spectacluar walks along both banks. There are rowing clubs that practice on the river and one day while walking we saw a couple of phys ed classes putting their boats into the water.

This is a panorama that I made in the courtyard of our flat. OZjet is a new low cost airline in Australia. Skywriting is big in both Sydney and Melbourne.

I will probably never be back to Melbourne.


All work and no play

Me and the Seal
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
As you all are very aware by now, our days in the land down under are numbered. Six to be exact. And I'm working twleve hour shifts for two of those. We have to be packed and out of the flat in five days. You'd think we'd be at least a little prepared but we are far from it. I am anyway. Gary might say he's ready. It only ever takes him 2 minutes to pack though, no matter what he's packing, where he's going or how long he's going for. What is it with some men ? I'm not as bad as some women though either. I met my friend Michelle in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and she packed a bigger suitcase for those four days than I did for my entire year in Oz.

Well, for those of you living in a hole (or in Canada where we don't follow any sport that's not played with sticks), the Socceroos are out of the World Cup. To hear Australians tell it, the Socceroos were unfairly "robbed" of the cup after Italy scored a penalty kick. They figure the refs made a poor call in calling the foul in the first place, but Australians are very, very poor losers. Many Aussies I've spoken to will admit this but I suppose they will do what it takes to ease the pain. They are considering having a heros welcome home parade for the team who has just got back from Germany, but apparently the team isn't really up for it considering they didn't even make it into the quarter finals. Ahhh... I'll miss Australia. I really will.

In other sports related news I bought Gary and I tickets to see Australian rules football this Saturday where the Sydney Swans will take on the Fremantle (a perth suburb) Dockers. As a West Coast Eagles fan (Perth's other team), I will have a hard time cheering for either of those two teams but it is the last game playing here in Sydney before we leave and even though all year I have wanted to see a game, I left it til the last minute to actually go. I might still wear my West Coast scarf to show my loyalty but I don't know if that's in poor taste.

Hopefully we can take photos in the Oval to post for you all on flickr.

How To Train an Animal

This should be required reading for all women everywhere. What Shamu Taught Me.
I have suggested several of the techniques to Tracie to aid in my own training, but she doesn't seem to think they'll work on me.

As if I'm smarter than a monkey. Gosh!


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why It's Good That People Think Americans Are Psycho

The other day I was riding the bus to work at 6:30am. As we were going down the street, we slowed down to let a pedestrian cross. The walker a man who must have been at least in his 50's, with white hair, slowly sauntered across the street. But not directly across, he started walking diagonally across.

The driver must have been in a hurry because he didn't come to a complete stop, but rolled slowly forward.

This must have angered the walker because he turned to face the bus, in the middle of the street and stopped to shout curses at the bus driver. Not literal curses, but random angry yells and profanities.

The driver responded by avancing slowly towards the man. Eventually the guy got out of the way. Unfortunately for everyone on the bus and especially the driver the next stop was right there and there were people waiting to get on.

The jerky pedestrian pushed his way to the front of the line and got onto the bus, angrily asking for the driver's id number to be reported to the transit authority. For what I don't really understand even though threatening a stranger's livelyhood is a great way to start the day or the week for that matter.

The driver pointed to his id card posted near the roof and said, "You should cross at the corner and go strait across. You were going diagonally and jay walking."

The walker responded, "I'm reporting you to your superiors you pushed me off the cross walk".

Normally a very calm patient person, this morning I was neither. I shouted, in my angry voice, none the less, "We all saw what happened, you were jay walking! Get off the bus and let us go to work!"

Now often in calmer environments people here in Australia can often tell that I'm Canadian about 75% of the time. I could tell by the pedestrian's reaction and the look on his face that I had caught him off guard and that he thought there was a good chance that his ace was about to be kicked by a psycho Yankee. He didn't say another work and retreated to the relative safety of the street.

-Gary Milner

ps. Don't abuse random people, that you have never met before, without a good reason.

Monday, June 26, 2006

West by South West

I forgot to write about the road trip that Tracie and I took in the camper van.

We drove to Kalgoorlie to see the superpit. The superpit is one of the world's largest open pit mines. It is a consolidation of a large number of regular gold mines in an area that was once known as the Golden Mile. The pit is now over three kilometers long and a kilometer deep. It is simply, spectacular.

Knowing how big the dumptrucks are and seeing how small they look only halfway down the pit helps give you an idea of how immense the pit really is. There is a public look out at the top of the pit. You can see them setting off a huge explosion every day and a half or so, depending on how quickly they clean up after the last one and the weather conditions.

After seeing the pit we headed south from Kalgoorlie towards Esperance. We ended up staying the night at some small town in between. It was only about 10pm, but we were a little paranoid about hitting a kangaroo and I guess we had come a long way anyway.

We met up with the French acquaintances the next morning in Esparence. We did a little sight seeing around Esparence and went to a national park at cape le grande. The beach there is phenomenal. The sand is white, the beach is long and the water is perfectly clear. This is a picture of Tracie body boarding there. Did I mention that we only saw 4 or 5 other people the entire time we were there?

After having our fill at the beach, we decided to go on a hike. We had a great time taking photos and hiking. About half way around the mountain, we came to a portion where run off had prevented dirt from collecting and bushes from growing so I suggested that instead of following the path, that we climb to the top of the mountain, which we did.

The view from the top was great. We could see in all directions, out to see, along the coast and inland towards the park. Our visit to Cape Le Grande was one of the highlights of the trip.

We drove back to Esparence to camp in a caravan park. While at the caravan park, Tracie had another little accident. This time we were in reverse, heading towards a gas pump. Figuring that Tracie knew it was back there somewhere, I made a point of not saying anything. Then there was a loud crashing sound. We talked to the caravan park owner and he said that this wasn't the first time the pump had been hit and that the last time, the repair bill was $1000. Luckily for us, he hadn't been selling gas in well over a year and wasn't planning on ever using the pump again, so he let us go.

While we were in Esperance they were holding a volunteer fair and one of the community groups was turning the keys to a new fire truck over to the volunteer fire department. Small town fairs are particularly fun. That night we didn't want to return to the caravan park for obvious reasons and to save the fee, so we decided to camp on the road. I found the perfect spot, right behind the fire house! It was the perfect spot. Since it was a volunteer fire brigade, we could rest assured that there would be no interruptions unless there was a fire and even then they would be too busy with the fire to bother disturbing us!

Our next major stop was Albany. At Albany we went to see a thing along the coast called "The Gap". You might imagine that we went shopping for clothes, but you would be wrong. The gap is a huge crevice that goes down for over 100feet to the ocean. The waves enter the gap with such intensity, that water sprays way above it into the air. A average of 150 feet above the level of the sea.

We stopped at a few other small towns on our way on to Margaret River from Albany. The two most important items of interest were the tree top lookout and the tree top walk. The lookout, in Pemberton, is the world's tallest freestanding tree top wild fire lookout. That they let people climb it is crazy. Imagine ladder steps made out of rebar spiraling to the top of a 100 foot tree. It seems incredibly dangerous.

The treetop walk is a lot safer, and wheel chair accessible. You pay an admission of 10 or 12 dollars and walk along a catwalk suspended high in the trees. It is about a km long and worth the money. We had a really good time seeing the view and taking lots of photos.

Margaret River was sort of a let down for me. The thing is that it is really a MAJOR destination in Australia and somewhat of a minor destination for the world. It is the wine producing region of western Australia. The other thing they do there is surf. They have major world surfing competitions there.

We went to the Tourist Information Center and asked one of the girls what we could do bearing in mind the fact that because I don't, going on a winery tour probably wouldn't be that fun for us. Well, the look of pure terror on this poor girls face was very amusing. It was obvious that there isn't really much else to do in Margaret River. We settled on going to see some caves and a little more body boarding.

The whole trip lasted a week and really for the amount of distance that we covered it would have been better to do it in two weeks. I would have liked an entire day in each town we stopped at and half a day of driving and exploring the new town. Two weeks would have been a lot better. We wouldn't have been so rushed and missed things at the end like what ended up happening.

We went on the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne a couple of months later and in my opinion the coast of southern WA is much better. The scenery is much nicer, you are all alone and you don't have to fight with the traffic like on the great ocean road.

I found this trip very fun because as you know I like driving with Tracie, but in addition to that we had traveling companion every time we stopped the van in one of the towns.

This trip has two first for me. I saw my first "wild" monitor lizard and my first echidna. There are pictures of both on my flickr account.

-Gary Milner

Crossing Australia By Train

Tracie and I bought a six month rail pass to ride the train all over the country. It worked out to be a savings for us, but that's mainly because we used it to go from Perth to Adelaide twice, to Alice Springs and then to Sydney.

If you aren't planning on riding the train pretty much every where it goes, it is cheaper to just buy regular tickets. But unless you really like trains, just fly. It is better than the train.

The train takes a very long time and for a major portion of that time, it is flatter than a pancake. I'm from the prairies and I know flat. The several thousand miles between Perth and Adelaide is flat.

There isn't much to do on the train, so you have to entertain yourselves. We played a lot of cards and visited with people we met on the Train. I really recommend going to the lounge car asap because it is much more comfortable than the regular seats.

We met a lot of fellow travellers on the train. People from northern Europe biking around the country. A French girl backpacking and lots of other interesting people.

I don't know why but the first leg of the trip to Kalgoorlie seems to take a disproportionately long time. There is a stop in Kalgoorlie for a longer than necessary amount of time and then you get back on and the train goes to the edge of town and sits for several hours. I guess it just has a lot to do with train scheduling. It seems as if you cover a lot more miles toward the end of the trip rather than the start.

Most maps of Australia show eight or nine dots along the track between the start and finish. Only one of those dots actually represents a town. Another represents a fuelling station. The rest represent structures along the track. Those structures are signposts with names that match the dots on the map. To be fair there are gravel tracks that cross the train tracks every so often, but take it from me there is no reason to be out there.

On our second trip across, the train stopped to drop off supplies for a couple of families. Their kids looked like they enjoyed seeing all the people on the train. I get the feeling that going to get supplies from the train is a pretty major outing for those kids.

You can tell when you are getting closer to Adelaide because there starts to be a little grass. Then the grass turns a little greener, then there are bushes then trees and so on until you pull into town.

Most Australians say there there is nothing to do in Adelaide. Often people not from Australia will tell you that too. I was only there for a couple of days, but I thought that it was a very beautiful town. There are lots of old buildings and lots of churches.

We went to the museum while we were there. Actually I think we sort of snuck into it by accident. We went into a part that was free and as we were looking around we found a corridor that joined to another part of the museum and so we just went over. When we were done looking at the stuff, we left through the most obvious exit and there were people at a desk charging admission. I guess we got lucky and didn't have to pay.

After a short while we realized that we were just sort of killing time in Adelaide so we moved on to Melbourne, although I would have liked to see a little more of Adelaide we didn't have the time, money or motivation.

-Gary Milner

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Perth finished

Perth is a really nice town. It is probably the only city in the world with a population of 1.47 million that feels as if it only has 250,000. Perth is growing a break neck speed. It is a city that is heavily reliant on natural resources and the mining industry plays a huge role.

There are a lot of engineers and consultants and consultant engineers in Perth, just like in Calgary.

While I like Perth it does have the reputation of being a boring place. I would have to say that there are no boring places, just boring people. A place is as fun as you make it. That being said everything is closed by 6:00PM. Most things are closed on Sunday. They do have late night shopping on Thursday in the suburbs (it ends at 9:00pm) and Friday's in the CBD (it also ends at 9:00). Forget about getting a bus anywhere after that.

Be prepared to wait for an hour any other time you want a bus. Hopefully you don't have to be there at 8:00 because it just ain't going to happen if you don't have a car. Perth is very car dependant, more so that Calgary by a long shot.

There are lots of fun things to do in and around Perth. I already talked about the beach, but I forgot to mention kite boarding. It's a lot like snow boarding only you have a parachute and you skim across the water instead of snow. It looks like it would cost about $1500 to get set up. I wish I would have found out about it a lot sooner to give me some time to save up some money. It looks spectacularly fun.

Another fun thing is boating. You can rent these catamarans down at the river. Tracie and I went one afternoon for an hour. I thought that we would need some instruction other than, "aim for the convention centre and turn away from the wind on your way back for the best ride." or at least mandatory life jackets. It turns out that that I could be an admiral and Tracie would make a pretty good ordinary sailor. Sailing is pretty fun, but with the boat we rented you do get pretty wet, even if you are careful.

Before I leave Perth, I'll tell you this fact. Perth is considered to be the world's most isolated city. That is to say that it is the city farthest away from any other city with over one million people.

-Gary Milner

Friday, June 23, 2006

People in Perth

This is Nick. He is tied with a very good friend of mine for being the nicest person I have ever met. He was my boss at the fruit shop. We stayed with him and his wife for a week or so before we left for Melbourne and I stayed with him for a while when I got back to Perth from the east coast.

Nick invited me to join him in his new shop to learn how to run it and eventually take it over. It would have been a very lucrative deal and would probably have made me a millionaire over the next 10 years. The situation wasn't exactly right and I had to turn him down, unfortunately.

Paul, our first landlord was a very interesting fellow. He is a very tall guy with huge dreadlocks. He ran a hostel in the past, but says that running a hostel doesn't pay very much and you have to do it because you love the hostel lifestyle. It takes all your time and you don't have a life outside of it. Paul got out of the hostel business and now rents furnished apartments and sets up tourists with all sorts of tours. It seems to be a very profitable venture. On the weekends he is a DJ in a local park and he uses copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. His looks and drug use don't really go along with his business sense. Paul is quite a character.

Tim is a barrister or maybe a solicitor. I'm not sure which. He seems like a barrister though. He is an interesting person that must measure his days in six-minute increments. (It will be a sad day when they start per-second billing like the telephone companies). He was called to be the Elders quorum president when we first arrived in Perth and then to be the Bishop a few weeks before we left. He organized an Australia Day cricket grudge match between the Elders and the Priests to give the priests a chance to heal their pride after they lost a few weeks before.

Justin is Nick's son. He is a carpenter that specializes in finishing kitchens. Like many sons he doesn't seem to want to work in the family business with his dad, but was very happy to build all the shelving units for the new shop. Justin is a great guy. I worked in the old shop with his wife. They took a trip to Italy around the same time Tracie and I were in Melbourne and Tasmania. Justin's wife stayed a few weeks longer in Italy to learn Italian a little bit better. Justin speaks Italian because he served his mission there. His dad, Nick, emigrated to Australia from Italy when he was 11 and so Justin feels strong ties to Italy even though he was born in Australia.

Dermot is a carpenter from Ireland. After living and finding a girlfriend in New York for a couple of years, has decided to live and work in Perth. He is a great guy. He is very fun and can be summed up by the phrase, "Yes let's". He is up for everything and really enjoys going to the ocean for early morning body boarding or fishing. He got Tracie and me hooked on fishing. Having never really fished by myself before, I can really appreciate how calming it can be. He wants to get a motorbike but is being strongly discouraged by Michele.

Michele is Dermot's girlfriend and Tracie's best friend. She is also from Ireland but emigrated to New York when she was 12. She has a strong New York accent, but it turns Irish when she gets a little drunk. Like Tracie Michele is a nurse working for a nursing agency. She is wants to be sponsored for a working visa and eventually get permanent residency here in Australia. She has a lot of stress and is a bit of a worrier. Tracie calms her down a lot. I am jealous of Tracie and Michele's friendship.

Gerry is one of our current flat mates here in Sydney. He works for a company rents properties from people, furnishes them and then sublets them to all types of people. Gerry shows the properties to prospective renters. He is also an aspiring actor. He was in a show called, 'tick, tick, boom' and is in a new show called, 'Rent'. Rent was recently made into a movie because of the success of other musical movies. He is from Scotland and is supporting England in the world cup, sort of, because he has an English girlfriend.

Cedric is French. He is a great guy. Very fun. When Tracie had her second rental car accident and I told her not to worry, "It's only money". He really liked the phrase a lot and co-opted it into his meagre English vocabulary. He uses a bit differently than I do, he says it to mean spend your money having the time of your life. Money comes and go but the memories last until you get the mad cow disease. We had a really good time on his birthday with him and two of his French friends.

Sarah is a writer for an advertorial home magazine. It seems like a job I would love. Her magazine is owned by a Singaporean publisher who has a small portfolio of 10-12 magazines. Her magazine publishes four times per year. It looks very good. She asked me if I had any photos of Perth the magazine could use. They approved one and will pay me $100 when I invoice them. Sarah is Gerry's girlfriend and suppose his acting aspirations.

Liam was my boss at the restaurant. I like him a lot, but could hardly understand a word he said. He is from Thailand and has a thick accent. To make matters worse he learned English in Australia and so he actually has two accents for the price of one. I'm told that he is a very good boss compared to a lot of chefs who are real jerk-faces. I found Liam to be very nice.

Stephen is the owner of a small internet cafe in Northbridge. Tracie and I were two of his very first customers and he went out of his way to be nice to us. Over the few months we were there we saw his business grow along with the long hours he worked there. He would let us in while keeping others out because he liked us. In fact he gave Tracie his card so that we could call his cellphone if the cafe was closed and he would open for us. Sometime he was closed to have a little quiet time to work on the computers or something.

Tim the security guard is or was the security guard at the State Library of WA. I think he said that he was retiring soon. Hopefully he doesn't get shot on his last day. He gave us lots of great tips on the things to do and see around Perth. He is a very friendly and likable guy.

Narika is a gal that I worked with for a little while at TSA Telco group. When she was introducing me around the office she kept mishearing my name. After about three tries I settle on Jerry as being close enough. I though she would figure it out on her own. While some people did, her and another woman had to be told. Five weeks after I started there. This is one of my funniest and favourite stories from Australia.

I guess this is getting long and I'm having to think harder and harder to find interesting people to talk about. If I think of more tonight, I'll write more about them in the tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise it will be on to the train and Melbourne tomorrow.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Perth Continued

One of the things we really liked to do was go to the beach. We did a little swimming and a little body boarding. There were two main beaches where we went.

Cottesloe was the nicer of the two beaches, and the less touristy of the the two, although at the height of summer they were both very crowded. The train went to Cottesloe but not Scarborough so we went to Cottesloe most often. Tracie's near death experience also happened at the other beach so we tended to avoid that one for that reason as well.

We bought the body boards and wet suits right away when we got to Perth. Aside from a few surfers, we were pretty much the only ones at the beach until the end of September.

Cottesloe is a much prettier spot as well. Tons of people have wedding photos done there and there are a lot more trees and grass near the beach than at Scarborough beach. One other thing that Cottesloe has that the other one doesn't is a rock groyne going out into the ocean. This is a good thing because you can fish from it and it also affects the waves and makes them a little bigger as they approach the beach.

Scarborough has a few advantages to. It is a much longer beach. The waves are seem to be a little bigger and a little more consistent. I think Cottesloe is leeward of Rottenest Island. The other good thing about Scarborough is that there are a lot more restaurants near the beach and a giant hotel, although for some that is a drawback.

Two of the things that we did that are my favourites of my entire time here in Australia were going to see the Nambung pinnacle and the Wave Rock.

The pinnacle were much better than the wave rock. They are lime stone structures sticking out of the desert ground. It was one of the most interesting landscapes that I have ever seen. We took a lot of pictures. One picture got taken that I specifically requested not be taken. I had found a semi private bush to use and said to Tracie, "Don't take a picture of me peeing". Apparently in Girl world this means do take a picture of me peeing. At least my back was turned.

We drove around the loop twice. The dirt track they have as a road around the park is lined with rocks about the size of your head to mark the path and the loop is somewhat teardrop shaped. As we were beginning the second lap, Tracie was taking the corner a little wide. I thought to myself, "Tracie is might hit that rock. I won't say anything though because it really bugs her when I critique her driving and she must know it is there anyway."

Sure enough a scraping sound ensued. Luckily the rock was short enough that the paint transferred from the car to the top of the rock was from bottom of the car where it was not noticeable.

The Wave Rock trip was good because we got to see different parts of the Australian landscape. We got to see a much more farming oriented landscape vs a mostly desert scrub landscape on the way to the pinnacles.

The Wave Rock itself was significantly smaller than I expected it to be. But it was very interesting. The rock is used as a rain catcher and supplies the nearby town of about 3000 people with a huge proportion of their water. I saw a small snake almost catch a lizard which was the most exciting thing of all.

I guess the thing I like most about both those trips was that I had time to have long conversations with Tracie. That's one thing I love about road trips with her. That's something I haven't had enough of with Tracie since mid September. And it has been very hard on me. Tracie doesn't understand why I don't like flat mates much even though they are very nice and very good people and why I don't like travelling companions.

Another nice part of Perth is King's Park. The parking inspectors there are jerks but the park itself is very nice. Lots of people get wedding photos done there. King's Park is HUGE! There is a large area of natural fauna and a large area of manicured areas. The entire park over looks the Swan River and the Perth CBD. The view is very good and there are lots of walking paths to explore. It is a must see if you go to Perth.

Well, I guess more about Perth tomorrow. I guess I'm going to talk about the people I met there and maybe the Train ride to Melbourne.

-Gary Milner

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Perth Review

When we arrived in Perth, we had no idea what we were going to do. We didn't have a place to stay, we didn't know anyone there. Luckily we had a number for a hostel in Northbridge on Money street and were able to call them from a pay phone.

Chance was on our side because the girl who answered the phone was on her way to work at the hostel and agreed to pick us up at the airport and bring us to the hostel for free. We didn't even know what direction the city was in.

Outside the airport, it was the coldest day that I have seen in the entire time we have been in Australia. We could see our breath! It hasn't been that cold since. It was a big shock considering that it was 30+ degrees in Singapore.

One of us tried to get into the drivers side by mistake, I can't remember who but I'm sure Tracie does, me would be safe bet, but I might have taken the back to be nice to Tracie. The hostel girl ask if we wanted to drive and thought it was pretty funny.

We were in the Hostel for a couple of nights but soon moved onto the apartment in Highgate. The hostel was OK, not many people were there at the time which for any hostel is a big plus.

The new apartment was nice and we had a couple of weeks alone there before our roommate showed up. This apartment was a little cheaper than a private one would have been, but looking back, I would get the private one next time.

The flat had single beds pushed together and no heater. We made do with pushing the beds together (which is what we have been doing for pretty much the entire time we have been in Australia) and by buying our own space heater. Luckily it was the end of winter clearance time and we were able to pick up an electric heater for only 12 dollars. There were a lot of cold nights even with the heater.

The best thing about the apartment was that it had a washing machine in the bathroom. I haven't been in a place without one since I left Argentina seven years ago and not having one is a real pain. Although there was no clothes dryer, that isn't as big a problem as it seems especially in places where there is no below freezing weather. I don't really like to hand the clothes to dry because they end up crunchy (especially sock and jeans) and get bleached by the sun much more quickly than I would have thought.

The best thing about the being in the building was that we had two really good neighbours and Michele has turned out to be Tracie's best friend in Australia.

The location was also really good because it was only a 15 minute walk downtown which meant that we did a lot of walking and didn't really need a car. In fact finding parking, and having to pay for parking along with buying gasoline made not having a car somewhat of a blessing. We were also about an hours walk away from Blockbuster so I could still rent as many movies as I wanted.

Did I ever tell you that I met a guy living in Argentina who liked to go to Blockbuster there because, "It smells like America"?

Tracie started working pretty much right away for WANA, a nursing agency in Perth. I think she got her first shift with in the first two weeks.

It took me a little while longer. Eventually I got a job doing dishes in a Restaurant. It paid $14 per hour which wasn't bad and by the end I was working five nights a week. I think they liked me a lot there. I didn't do any screwing around and got the job done well enough. Knowing your place is an important part of being on the lowest rung of the ladder.

Once one of the sous-chefs made one of the steak parmas too small and it made the head chef really mad. The head chef wouldn't let the underling have it to eat and said it was for me. I think it was a little bit because he was mad and a little because he liked me. They would make me special meals all the time. The dish washer before me got in trouble several times by asking the owner for cervesa even though he knew that was against the proper protocol. I think it caused the head chef a real hassle. You must always be offered and never as for a beer. The offered me several bottles of coke at the end of every shift. By the end though I was ready to quit. Dish washing can be fun, but really I'm too old to be doing it. I had another job at the fruit shop during the same time for a morning job, and I liked it too. It was my job to unload the truck. It was pretty much the same thing I was doing at sears only with more fruit and refrigeration.

My hands are cramping up so I will continue tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Two Weeks

Well, we'll be out of our apartment in two weeks, and the day after that we'll be in Tokyo. It is hard to believe that our time here is virtually over. Eight working days left, thank goodness. I just about fell asleep several times today, but that being said I can use the money.

I'm going to work on a review of the last year here in Australia. It might take a while and I'll probably have to publish is in instalments. I'll be starting with Perth and obviously end in Sydney.

I think that I'll give my impressions of the places and the people we've met. There have been quite a few experiences some good and some bad and I've learned a lot of things. Lots of things about both Tracie and myself. I don't think things will every be the same.

This is a photo from the walk that we took down to Luna Park. You don't see this view of the Sydney harbour bridge very often because they prohibit commercial photography in/of Luna Park without a property release which costs a fortune. There is a big sign at the front gates proclaiming that any photos you can take can only be used for your own personal enjoyment.

I hope that you are personally enjoying this photo of Luna Park and the bridge.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Water Under the Bridge

Tracie and I went on a very long walk yesterday. I just measured it using google earth and it was 7.5 km one way! That means that we went on a 15km walk. I can't believe that it was that far.

While we were out, we crossed the bridge and went down to Luna Park which is a small amusement park for younger type kids.

As you can see from the photo, we saw the Spirit of Tasmania heading off under the bridge on it's merry way to Tasmania. I get the feeling that it is worth the extra $20 to fly unless you have to bring your car with you.

The ship probably isn't that bad, but the time you save on a plane is the real deciding factor. Actually it may have worked out well for us to take the ferry so that we could have avoided spending the night outside in the cold in a park.

We got some really good photos, some of which I have uploaded to my flickr account and some to istock. I've just been cruising along, much like the ship in the picture, at and average of one download a day this month. Hopefully it holds strong. I have 11 photos in the inspection que right now. About half of those have Tracie in them so my hopes are pretty high that they will do well. I may have to work on my key wording a little bit.

The weather has been pretty good for the last week or so which is a big relief from the rain that we had for the entire week before that. Our flat mates were beginning to think they had never left the UK.


Friday, June 16, 2006


Well, things are going good here in Australia.

I've been following the World Cup in a pretty close manner. I bet Argentina and Holland would both win last night and they did. Argentina won 6-0 but I do have to admit that after the first three goals it was a pretty one sided affair. Holland won 2-1.

I'd give out my predictions for tonight, but I'm not sure who is playing tonight without consulting my magazine. Just to put things in perspective, of my 5 predictions, I was correct about all of them.

While we are only a third of the way through the first part of the world cup, I am going to predict a lot of draws in the second half of round-robin play. Most of the teams will have either secured their positions or been eliminated and there isn't any point in taking any chances on games where the outcome doesn't really affect anything.

I have a good feeling about a few more teams, and I let you know how I do.


Real Sick, Real Ick

Originally uploaded by garmil.
It's official. I'm sick. I have a terrible head cold. I'm congested, I'm coughing, my nose is dripping and I can't breathe. The worst part is that all of those symptoms are exacerbated when I lay down so sleeping right now seems out of the question. I just called in sick for work for the second day in a row which I really didn't want to do because we need the money for our upcoming trip to Japan.

Oh well. Can't really complain I guess. I haven't had a cold in years. They never really come at convenient times though do they ? At the very least I could have been sick last week when it was raining everyday.

This photo of me and my sisters has nothing to do with being sick. I just like the photo. Although I talked to my sister Megan last week and she was very sick. Much sicker than me. Her kids were both very sick too. If I had a picture of them I'd post it too.

Tracie - Don't feel too sorry for me...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Real Kink

I woke up yesterday with a big kink in my neck. I went to work, but only lasted two hours and had to come home. Luckily for me, our flatmates had some medicine that I could have.

My neck has been sore for two days, but it is getting a little more relaxed now. I will be able to go to work in the morning. Not being able to turn your head is a pain in the neck, let me tell you.

We don't have much time left here in Sydney and the time we do have is going fast. I don't want to spend it with a kink in my neck.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Three Weeks Left

Fish bench
Originally uploaded by Tracie Milner.
I just put in our notice...we'll be out of the flat in exactly 3 weeks from today on July 4th. That also happens to be the last day of my contract at the hospital. We fly out of Sydney July 5th and after a brief stay in Japan we'll be back to Canada July 16th. What a whirlwind. I just can't believe that a whole year has come and gone already.

Today I was looking back at some of the photos we've taken over the year and I am just amazed at how many things we've seen and done and how many people we've met and how many friends we've made. I now know people from all around the world. Some of them I may never see again and some of them I will try my very hardest to stay in touch with because their friendships have meant so much to me over the past year. I feel a terrible loss at the thought of leaving this country that has been so good to me over the year. I am excited to go home but I don't yet know what awaits me there and so I'm quite terrified at the same time.

It looks like we will probably not make it to Queensland on this trip, which is crazy since most people who plan a trip to Australia go straight there. We had planned to save it to last but time and funds are not on our side. Next time for sure...which I hope will be sometime not too far in the future.

I'm sure my posts and emails will get sappier and sappier over the next three weeks so please bare with me. I never used to be a very emotional person but I'm quickly becoming one.

Go The Socceroos !!

We just beat Japan 3-1 in our first ever World Cup game win. I can still hear horns honking and people cheering in the streets. It was a great game...all 3 of our points were scored in the last 8 minutes or so of the game. Next game I'd really like to go watch from the Circular Quays where the action is. The only problem is that since the games are all played in the afternoon in Germany that makes it very late to middle of the night here in Australia. Oh well, no worries. Soccer fever is definitely in the air.

Good on ya Socceroos !

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I've been reading a blog about lighting techniques called Strobist. It details some very interesting techniques for using off camera flashes and explains very effectively how to build an inexpensive lighting kit (sub $200).

He says that dollar for dollar a buying lighting system for your camera will give you much more bang for your buck than buying expensive lenses for your camera.

It makes me want to buy a flash and some other gear to help with the light in my photos.

I've been doing pretty well selling the stock photos. I'm averaging over one sale a day this month and I have already surpassed my results selling stock photos last month. In a day or two I will probably have sold double the number I sold last month. I'm already 10% of the way to getting my first cheque.

Things are going fast here in Sydney. We will be home in 5.5 weeks. That means only three more weeks of the most boring job in the entire world. I am beginning to understand the main character in Office Space more all the time. I really want to stop coming to work.

If only I had 100x the number of photos and downloads on the micro stock site, I would be able to quit my job.

-Gary Milner

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The lowly Hummer

I've just finished reading a consumers report put out by J.D. Power about the quality of vehicles. Where as Toyota took top honours this year. The lowly humvee was ranked 34th worst out of 37 brands of SUV's. Now I feel even worse knowing that my dentist spent my hard earned money on a piece of crap.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nursing in Oz

I though I'd post one of the pictures of Tracie in one of her nursing uniforms. She looks good doesn't she? Adding the stethoscope was my idea. It is always good to have a prop.

We were watching Scrubs a couple of weeks ago and she said that she thought that is was very funny that the chief resident of the hospital in the show had a $10 stethoscope. In fact everyone on that show has a $10 stethoscope. The one in this picture cost $200. They all look the same to me, to be honest. On the set of the show they probably just grab a different one out of a big bin every time they are about to do any shooting.

I wrote before that I uploaded a series of these nursing type photos and some photos of Tracie in the apartment complex pool to the micro stock photo site. Let me just tell you that I have sold more photos in the last week than in the last month! Tracie is fast becoming my most popular subject.

We're planning of doing more photos of her down in our apartment complex's fitness club and maybe a few more nursing uniform shots. It seems like it would't take an extremely large library of photos to make a nice amount of money selling these photos online. It gets a little bit easier once you develop a little bit of an eye for stock photography too. I think I'm getting a lot better at it already.

Having pictures of a person's face sure makes a big difference! Hopefully it will be easy to find more models once we get back home to Canada.

I have a large potential sale coming up, although I don't like to count my chickens before they're hatched. One of my flat mates is a writer for a large realestate "style" magazine, and she is doing a story about Perth, and her magazine may buy one of my photos. The money from the sale would go a long way towards buying a flash for my camera.

-Gary Milner

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Eric Robert Hutchinson The Problem Child

My Sister Jackie had her second baby on June 4th, 2006. She and Glen named him Eric Robert Hutchinson.

Like his mother, who was nearly born on Halloween, Eric has a nearly cool birthday, 04-06-06. Just two days short of being the devil baby.

You can tell by the photo that he is much too good looking to be a devil baby, but he looks mean enough to be a problem child which is almost as bad as being a devil baby. Just think back to those awful movies problem child 1, 2 and 3.

Ryker is going to have to do a lot of punching, kicking and biting to keep Eric in line. It isn't easy being the oldest kid.

Good luck Ryker.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Graduation Day

My brother graduated from The University of Lethbridge yesterday. Now you can refer to him as "That backmasking guy with the degree".

I know the sense of relief and dread that I felt upon graduating uni, and I get the feeling that Jeff must feel that way a little bit himself. Although he is going to Quebec for the next few months so at least he has that much of a plan.

I don't even know where I'm going to be living when I get back to Canada. (Most likely squatting in my parents house while they are away.)