Saturday, August 26, 2006

Four more sleeps...

Yep! That's right, the Very Big Adventure is finally upon us and we will be flying out on Wednesday 30th August. Yihaaa!
From now on, I'll be using my other blog, so please check in at that one to read about the VBA.
See ya!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Yak attack!

Please meet Ani Dharma and Ruby Rinpoche - the newest members of our family. Ani Dharma is a brand new 2006 Hyundai 3-door Hatch Accent and Ruby Rinpoche is a brand new Subaru Forester. We wanted to get 'Yak' and 'Yeti' number plates but 'Yeti' was taken so went instead for 'Yak 60' and 'Yak 47' for our birth years. Aren't they gorgeous?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

How Many Sleeps To Go?

25! Yes, just 25 more sleeps to go before Smithy and I fly off for our Very Big Adventure (VBA)! After months and months and months of talking, dreaming and planning, it's hard to believe it's almost upon us. And boy are we ready! Got the visas, had the vaccinations, bought the travellers cheques, packed and weighed the suitcases - and yes! we're within our 30km limit - organised our journals, mailing labels and maps, sorted out a wee library of books to take (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is one)...all that's left to do is the 12.5km Bridge to Brissie Fun Run, an all-day bushwalk on each of the remaining three weekends, dinner with friends and cross off each day as it passes.
Mind you, I still haven't finished putting up the photos from our 2004 treks onto my website. I must get stuck into that, else it'll still be incomplete and I'll be coming home in 3 months time with a ton of new photos to add!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Marathon effort

Smithy and I did the Gold Coast Half Marathon on Sunday, with some friends from our walking/running group Brisbane Frontrunners. We never run it, Smithy and I, but our three friends - first-timers all - did. Our goal is to try and complete it in 3 hours. That's 7kmph - damned fast! In 2003 and 2004, we did it in 3 hours and 5 mins (give or take several seconds or so). This year we managed it in 3 hours and 3 mins!!! I don't think we'll ever break the 3 hour mark unless we run, which we don't want to do.
We hung around waiting for other Frontrunners who competed in the 10km run, congratulated each other, got a team photo taken, then Smithy and I toddled off to our hotel room (a further 3 km walk - are we mad or what?) where we unfolded the sofa bed, poured some wine and watched the Brisbane Broncos win a match they weren't supposed to! Ahhh sweet.
Apart from sore knees and groin and tender tootsies, we both felt pretty good considering....then I tried getting out of bed the next morning. Ouch ouch ouch. Sore stiff muscles in the backs of my thighs that lasted all day and night but today I'm feeling just great again.
Doing the half marathon is a good indicator of our readiness to go trekking, so we know our fitness is really good now and just need to concentrate on maintaining it for the next 7 weeks. A few long bushwalks and the 12km Bridge to Brisbane Fun Run should help with that.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cheques and balances

It's now just 101 days until Smithy and I embark on the Very Big Adventure (VBA) and we're going to have to crank up the fitness thing. We've been a bit slack recently - doing a 20 kilometre bushwalk once a month and a weekly 5km walk and not much a bit undermotivated and complacent for awhile there. BUT...come 1st June and it's all systems go! Apart from anything else, we're entering in the Gold Coast Half Marathon in July and need to be fit enough to do that. Not that we're running it...oh no! We walk the 21km and try to do it in 3 hours. Which we've done the last two times we've entered. Then in August we'll do the 12km Bridge to Brisbane fun run - again walking it, but trying to complete it in about 90 minutes or so. If we come up alright after that (ie no stiffness etc) we reckon we'll be pretty much ready for the VBA.
We took ourselves off to the city last week - taking advantage of the current exchange rate to buy US$1000 worth of travellers cheques. We'd already taken out the AUS$1300 we calculated we'd need. Walked into Travelex to be told the rate was 72 cents, not the 76 cents we'd seen on the telly the night before and it's going to cost us over AUS$1400. "Oh no that's the retail rate blah blah blah" says the agent. Oh well, if that's the rate, that's the rate we think. OK we need the biggest denomination available. Only $50 and $100 cheques are available, we're told. $100 cheques is the biggest you can get in Australia. OK, well we'll just have to have those then. We need $1000 each. There's only 2 $100 cheques available in the office! But we can order some. We decide to hold off for now since we don't know when we'll next have a day off together to come into the city.
Well, we mutter once back out on the street, that was a waste of time. Let's try the bank says Smithy. Nothing ventured nothing gained, off we go to the Commonwealth Bank. We need an appointment to organise travellers cheques, but there's one available in 45 minutes. Great! We go off to Borders for a cuppa and a browse then head back.
Not only can we get a single cheque to the value of US$1000, we get it at 76 cents in the dollar! So, guess where we'll be going in future to get the rest of our cheques? Since we have to take US$3500 each with us to pay for two treks and a stay in Chitwan National Park, the fewer cheques to sign the better! Bugger Travelex and their ripoff rates and fees!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Room With A View

This was taken in 2004 whilst on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. It is part of a photo-essay I was creating on 'Doors and Windows'.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Very Big Adventure...Revised

We're not going to Mera Peak anymore. The company we chose to go with no longer operates out of Australia and their Kathmandu office never replied to our now, we've signed up with Peregrine Adventures to attempt Island Peak, or Imja Tse. It's 6,189m high, so a little shorter than Mera, but technically harder (so we've been told!). We're really excited about it cos it means re-visiting Gokyo (and another attempt for me to get to the top of Gokyo Ri), crossing the Cho La once more, up to Everest Base Camp, over the Kongma La (which we missed in 2003 cos of heavy snow), through Chukkhung and onto Island Peak Base Camp.
So, the whole adventure is now: a trip to Tibet, going to Tibet-side Everest Base Camp, then onto a pilgrimage around Mt Kailash; around Annapurna Circuit, with side trip to Tilicho Lake; and Island Peak. 3 whole months away! And only 158 sleeps to go.....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Tibetan Flag Flies Over Caboolture

Friday 10 March marked the 47th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the Chinese invasion, which ultimately led to the fleeing of the Dalai Lama into exile. The Tibetan flag is outlawed in Tibet. The Australian Tibet Council approached local councils around Australia asking if they would fly the Tibetan Flag on March 10. The council I work for, Caboolture Shire Council, was one of the few that agreed.

For more information about Tibet and its struggle for independence see Australia Tibet Council's website, Free Tibet Campaign website and the Tibetan Government In Exile website

Friday, February 10, 2006

Google Sells Out

Check out this website to pledge your commitment to breaking up with Google on valentine's day.

As a librarian I am committed to the concept of freedom of information. For Google to snuggle up in bed with an evil empire like China and design search parameters that deny people access to information, purely for the sake of money, makes Google morally bankrupt. I will be breaking up with Google from February 14 2006 and finding a new search engine to use.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Could the real me please stand up?

Yesterday I found myself in a small windowless interview room, with two people flashing gold badges at me and wanting to "ask me a few questions". A very long way from where I had planned my day to go, I must say! Smithy and I were going to the city to 1) renew my re-entry visa 2) wire our trip deposit to Nepal 3) fax confirmation of said deposit to Nepal 4) buy a new Lotto ticket and 5) visit the travel agent who acts for the company we want to use to climb Mera Peak. All pretty straightforward, you would think...
So, first things first, let's go to the Dept of Immigration and get my visa. I'm a Pom with permanent residency, but need a visa to be allowed back into the country if I go overseas. My last visa ran out last year. So this trip was mainly to find out if I needed to produce all the original paperwork proving my permanent resident status again, or if I could just be reissued with a new visa. Turns out, I can just get a new visa. Take a number and wait. We sat and waited, making satisfied sounds to each other about how efficiently the queue is moving along...quite a surprise for government bureaucracies. Within 15 minutes, my number is called and off we trot to Cubicle 18. Looks like we're going to be out of here in under half an hour! I tell the officer that I just need a new visa and hand over my visa. We're all chatting and joking when the officer, let's call her Jane, taps at her keyboard repeatedly, tsks, mutters 'Won't be long' and walks off. Comes back in a minute or too, taps the keyboard again and leaves with my passport in hand.
20 minutes later, back she comes. There's bit of a problem that she is not able to discuss. Could I please fill in as much of this form as I can and her manager will be here in a minute. 20 minutes after that, Jane returns with her manager who wants me to go upstairs to answer some questions. What's this all about? I ask. It's that fake passport isn't it? He can't answer any of my questions, if I would just come with him. They are waiting for me upstairs. Can Smithy come too? Of course she can. As we head to the lift, I tell the manager I've never had any problems before. Got my first visa no dramas, why the problems now? Sorry, he doesn't know anything.
Up we go to Compliance and Investigations. Good grief! We're kept waiting another ten minutes or so, then the investigator comes out and introduces himself (let's call him John) and leads us to the little interview room so I can answer questions about how I came to be in the country, and how I came to have this passport! There's another investigator in the room - Jill, shall we say - and they both flash their badges at Smithy and me so we know they really are who they say they are. It's about now I wish I had a gold badge of my own so they'd know I was really who I say I am!
This is about a fake passport. Back in 1998, a supposed friend stole my ID, got herself a passport in my name and used that as proof of ID to get a loan which she then reneged on. How did I know all this? The loan company rang me wanting to know why I had missed my first payment!
It took a lot of interviews with police and the loan company to get my name cleared and exonerated from any responsibility for the loan. Meanwhile, my 'friend', Joanne Cole (her real name) had fled the country on my passport. Many calls to the British High Commission later I was assured that the episode would not hamper my own efforts to get a passport when the time came....and it didn't. Nor, fortunately, was my credit rating impaired - I did include a statement of past events in case my name had been blacklisted - and I've travelled in and out of Australia happily and without incident over the past three years.
I tell John and Jill that I emigrated here with my parents in 1970. I relate the above story, tell them when I got my passport and give them details of my last trip overseas. They leave the room for 20 or so minutes to check some details. Smithy's muttering that she won't leave my side. She'll bail me out if they arrest me. She won't let them deport me without a struggle. She's a great comfort, a tower of strength is my Smithy.
Finally, back come John and Jill and it's all smiles. Apparently the fraudulent passport has been flagged and it tripped the system recently and they had to verify that I was the real person. They showed me a picture of Jo and I confirmed it was her. Smithy was speculating that whatever she had done, it had to have been after I got issued with my first visa. I suggested it had to have been since we arrrived back in Australia in 2004 as I hadn't had any hassles returning that year. Neither John nor Jill would give details, but they gave me my passport back and John took us back downstairs so I could get my visa, telling me he would put a very clear note on my case file that I was legitimate. We had to wait again, then got called back to Cubicle 18 with Jane, where I finally got to hand over $120 for a new 5-year visa. Jane said 'You have no idea how much she (Jo) has messed things up for you' and she confirmed that Jo had tripped the system in the 2003/2004 period.
So, an hour and a half after entering the building, we finally got back outside, with me clutching my passport with its hard-won visa stuck securely inside!
My only concern now is that when I finally do get around to taking out Australian citizenship, I'll be denied as a 'bad', 'undesirable' character cos of this bloody fake passport business. Jane reckons I should be OK, but a statuary declaration outlining the situation probably wouldn't hurt.
I've wanted to track this jo down for years and give her a good punch on the nose for what she's done. You can imagine how I freaked when, shortly after moving to Brisbane in 2000, I went to join the library and was told there was someone else of my name already joined! I mean, mine is not exactly a common name and the stolen ID thing was still pretty raw. The idea that that low-life was passing herself off as me made me anxious and pissed off, but there wasn't much I could do unless I wanted to stake out the homes of every person in the White Pages with the same initial and surname as me. After awhile, the whole thing faded - not forgotten, but no longer an anxiety. Then in 2004, Smithy and I entered the Gold Coast Half Marathon as part of our fitness regime for our upcoming trip to Nepal. Out come the results, and immediately under my name, is that of another woman with exactly the same name! It's that woman who's also a library member. And I know it's not low-life Jo cos she's a big fat slob who couldn't outrun a cold, let alone do a half-marathon! There is another, legitimate 'me' out there! Weird!
Anyway, the rest of the day went as planned, albeit slightly behind schedule. We've now paid our deposits for Annapurna Circuit, Mt Kailash/Everest Base Camp trips and flight to Lhasa from Kathmandu. It's all systems go now! Yihaa! Confirmation of deposit duly faxed, chat to travel agent accomplished, lotto ticket checked (didn't win a brass razoo) and new one bought. Then it's home for bit of a lie down to recover from all the excitement.