Well, I guess it?s time I take a few minutes out the day to send everyone the dreaded groupie. Since I last wrote home, loads have happened. At the moment, Kristen and I are 3300km north of Sydney in the town of Cairns. Heading to Alice Springs (another 2711km away!) tomorrow. Read on to get some of the goss.
First of all, Congrats to Sue-Anne and Vince who just had an 8lbs 6oz baby girl!! I believe her name is Caley but I?m not sure on that as I just found out today. Can?t wait to see her. (ps- thanks for the photos, they were great!!)
Happy Belated B-Day wishes to Leanne and Uncle Dave. Sorry, haven?t had a chance to write much.
(I wrote this part on Saturday, September 22, 2001 when I first attempted this email. I didn?t get too far.)
Of all the wonderful things that I?ve have seen on this trip, and of all the great experiences that I have had, the one memory that I will never forget the rest of my life will be the night of Tuesday Sept.11. I was playing hockey that night on a so-called all-star team that was put together to take on a touring team from Vancouver (talk about that later). When I returned home, I turned on the telly only to watch video of planes flying in the WTC. Kristen and I watched in utter disbelief as to what was going on. I don?t think either of us knew the severity of what we were witnessing as everything played out like a movie. It was so shocking. It brought tears to my eyes that someone could perpetrate such an act on humanity. I think for most people, life will never be the same. Australians have shown great sorrow for the families involved and have held vigils, ceremonies and tributes to those who have fallen and to the heroes who tried in vain to save them. Press coverage here was around the clock, not only on television but also on radio. Flags have been half-mass ever since and stores can?t seem to keep enough in stock as everyone wants to pay tribute in some form of way. The little things in life don?t seem so important anymore and the distance between my family and I has never felt so great. It?s hard at times like these to be without your family as you?re never certain as to what type of retaliation may take place and where that might happen. The horror that we witnessed will forever be etched in my memory. I can, like most other people, only hope that the world becomes a safer place. In the mean time, lets pray that it doesn?t become worse.
These past 2 weeks have also been tough on our family as three members have passed away. In losing my great aunt, my grandmother lost one of her best friends. My mother lost one of her cousins and my parents lost a related friend.
I played my last 3 games in Sydney before we headed off up the coast. They happened awhile ago so I?m sketchy on the details though. I know we beat Penrith 13-4 and lost to the top team Pearly Gates 4-1. I finished the season with totals of 13GP, 33G, 19A for 52PTS. I guess I did my part for the team. Since I have the left, the team lost 5-1to Newcastle and had one game cancelled due to poor ice conditions. At the moment, they are hoping the Grand Finals are pushed back a week as to allow my participation. Kristen and I are due back in Sydney around the 17th or 18th of the month but the finals wrap up on the 14th.
In other hockey news, I was chosen to take part in an all-star game against a touring team from Vancouver who were primarily made up of retired semi-pro and pro players. One guy, Wayne Van Dorp, played for the Chicago Blackhawks. He even had 303pim in one season!! The game was a contact game and to be honest, I was a little nervous prior to the game. Wouldn?t you be, the guy was like 6?8? on skates!! I haven?t played contact in 6 years so I wasn?t sure about the timing aspect as well as being concerned about getting hurt for my trip. In the end, I played defense, God knows why. I think it was because we had too many guys on the bench and I wanted ice-time. The only decent hit I made almost put a guy over the boards and because of it, I got a penalty. Refs don?t get any worse than they do in this country that?s for sure. We even had to tell them that the game was a contact game as that many whistles and penalties were being handed out. On top of the refs, the ice was more like slush. What a way to make a good impression. The ice had been OK (for Aussie standards that is) most of the season but for this game it all went to shit. Overall, the game was good even if we did lose 4-2. My line scored both goals so that was a good feeling. I think we could?ve beat them but we just couldn?t finish around the net. I was rather pissed with myself for playing D as I think I should?ve givin? it a go up front. Thoughts of Lindros going through the middle were in my mind I guess. Other than that, hit the goaler between the eyes with a ripper of a shot. He remembered me in the handshake that?s for sure! Well, right now the gear is in storage at good ol? Tony?s. He?s holding a chunk of our stuff til we get back.
My Sydney Travel News:
Before leaving the big city, Tony took us on a couple trips. The first one was too Wollongong and the South Coast and the second was to the touristy Blue Mountains.
Tony had been promising us for a couple weeks that he was going to take us away and show us the real countryside. We finally took him up on it and made the trip south through the Royal National Park to Wollongong and the Kiama Blowholes. The only difference with this trip was that his wife, Margaret, came along for the day. She is a very nice lady and until that day, I thought she never existed as Tony never made mention of her or anything. Maybe that?s because she?s a little bossy?. from what I noticed anyway. Nice, a tad bossy and had teeth that could rival a horse on a good day. I know, cruel aren?t I? Let?s all remember my earlier pre-braces days though?.I could open cans of apple juice with them buckers I had!! If anyone has sympathy for her it?s me, but in order to sympathize, you have to be able to laugh at it. If I had a nickel for all the ?big lip? jokes I get from Kris, I could stay here another 12 months!!
The trip was nice, mostly scenery if you know what I mean. Tony and Kris both got a tick from the trip as that was they souvenir. The blowhole and the prawns we ate at Kiama were great, easily the highlight for me. After the blowhole, we decided make a stop in Bulli to visit the ?supposed? coach of our team. We stayed there for a while but Tony (another Tony on the team) wasn?t there so the side trip was rather moot. It was like one of those reunions where everyone sits on the couch with their legs crossed pretending to be engrossed in the conversation meanwhile reaching over for the cookies every 5 minutes or so to brake the boredom. U know what I mean. Left there and drove back to Sydney listening to the big game on the radio. It was the decider between the Wallabies and the All Blacks in the Tri Nations Cup. We listened to the game till we got to Sydney where we then headed to Duke?s pub to catch the end of the game with a meal I promised to dish out for. The game was great until the last 15 seconds when the damn Wallabies crossed the line for a try to steal the match from the All Blacks 26-23. Oh well, not my sport anyway.
A couple weeks later (about 4 weeks ago now ? man time flies), Tony was even nice enough to take us to the Blue Mountains, roughly an hour west of Sydney.
From LP guide: The Blue Mountains, part of the Great Dividing Range, were initially impenetrable barrier to white expansion from Sydney. Despite many attempts to find a route through the mountains - and a bizarre belief among many convicts that China, and freedom, was just on the other side - it took 25 years before a successful crossing was made by Europeans.
Tony knew all this info and detailed all the tribulations that the early folk went through to build this road. These mountains are like a smaller version of the Grand Canyon really. And if you're wondering why they're called the Blue Mountains, the blue haze is due to the fine mist of oil given off by all the Eucalypti trees!
The Blue Mountains were pretty impressive with all the gorges and fantastic scenery about. The first touristy thing we did was head to the small town Katoomba and Echo Point where we could get a glimpse of the much-heralded main attraction Three Sisters rock formation. We hiked partially down the side towards the valley before turning around and heading back. I'm not really sure why we did that but it is Tony after all (a 60 year-old trying to prove he's still young at heart). After the hike we made our way towards the Hydro Majestic Hotel, a majestic haven for people with loads of bucks. They supposedly used to have aqua baths an shit like that but I'm still uncertain as to whether they still offer that service or not - I'm assuming they do. We stopped there, as Tony was adamant on eating lunch. If he's not showing me something in the city, he's stuffing my face with food!! The lunch was tad expensive at $20 a plate but again, Tony took care of the bill much to our discomfort. It was a damn good lunch, roast lamb with potatoes and salads. Later on, we made our way to the Grand Canyon valley, while Tony continued with the narrative and tried (in vain) to show us a NSW Warratah - a large red flower. He and his wife are in to the gardening thing I think cuz they're always pointing out the flora for us. We definitely know how to spot the green and yellow Golden Wattle now!!
After lunch, we made our way through the rainforest and into the heart of the Longreach Valley. The highlight of the trip for Kristen and I was definitely the spotting of Eastern Grey Kangaroos!! Contrary to my first burst of excitement back in Katoomba when I thought a dog jumping the fence was a ?Roo, these were the real deal. They were so cute! I thought it was a rather surreal experience. When you spend 25 years of your life looking at an animated kangaroo on the telly. That?s all your really know. To me it seemed like a virtual carton or something. It was funny nonetheless watching them bounce about. It sure brought out the giggles in Kris and I. Something to remember that?s for sure. On top of that, we even got two donkeys heee-hawing back and forth at one another, which made Kris ?eeeeeh? like a schoolgirl again. All the fun had to end though as we made our way back to the city and in time for our 4-21 loss to the Pearly Gates I mentioned earlier. No wonder we lost, Tony tired me out hiking the damn mountains.
Quickie fact for yah: Why is the Kangaroo and the Emu on the Australian coat of Arms?
Answer: Because they are the only two animals that cannot go backwards.
Kristen?s Sydney Versions:
The last couple of weeks, a friend of Jamie's (a lost Canadian man, Tony) took us on a couple of weekend trips. We headed down the south coast to do some walking and see some breathtaking views.....and I even got a souvenir: a grass tick on my wrist! That was a bit nerve-racking, but taken care of by my boss at work...he was confident that he would be able to pull the whole thing out and then didn't and was apologizing the whole day about it. No biggy though, grass ticks aren?t harmful at all - unless I come home with lime disease, then I guess they'll think a bit differently....
We also ventured to the Blue Mountains, with Tony again, and saw our first Kangaroos! Definitely the highlight of that trip!
Our last week in Sydney was jam packed with loose ends to tie, pubs to visit (couple good little crawls there), mail to sort and friends to say adieu to. And of course, as is the rule with time, that week dragged on!!!! My days at work were endless and the fact that business was slow didn't help. Anyhow, the girls (from work) and I tied a couple on before I left, observing some of the genuine Ozzie blokes from afar.... you seriously have to keep your distance from them - real grabbers if you know what I mean!
Jamie was finishing up with hockey and for one of his last games, got picked to play an all-star team from Canada (Vancouver area). They were all old NHLers so all the Australian guys were pretty nervous, but they held their own I must say - one of the best games I?ve seen in awhile. They lost, but got a t-shirt to take home...not a bad trade.
On Saturday (Sept. 15th) Jamie and I became official tourists and decided to live up to our newfound status.
We headed over to Stadium Australia on Sunday and took in a tour (Jamie?s idea). Here?s a picture of us on the tour:
www.e-pics.com.au/stadiumaustraliatours picture # 4178
We also made our way back to town via the Parramatta River on ferry, quite cool. We went for lunch at my cafe on Monday where my girls got me a going away teddy signed by everyone - the sweet things they are! We walked the famous bridge, went on a corny cruise around the Sydney Harbor that we got for free, and went to the Sydney aquarium - huge day for us and we were exhausted...this touristy stuff is very draining and takes awhile to adjust to it again.
Jurassic Park 3: Better animation and new dino?s but the same old plot. Makes you wonder about government measures this movie does. Like they wouldn?t blow this island up already. And going there 3 times is a little far fetched. 6/10
A Knights Tale: Teenage girl dream boy Heath Ledger in a sloppy movie about jousting of all things. Had its funny moments. Better than the shite above. 7/10
Blow: No, not the porn! Long movie but good. I think the truth is stretched a bit in this one but it was interesting to say the least. The acting was also good but I thought Penelope Cruz looked like a cross between a voodoo doll and a stick bug. 8.5/10
Sexy Beast: English movie with Ben Kingsley who rocks in this flick. Worth the $10 for sure. 8.5/10
He Died with a Falafel in his Hand: Aussie movie that Kris and I loved. It was funny because it was so unique. It?s about this guy, Noah Taylor, and his ordeals of living with flat mates and falling in love. Some great moments in true Aussie comedy. 9/10
The Fast and the Furious: Think ?Point Break? in cars. Awesome action that makes up for the cheesy plot. 8/10
Things missed and forgotten:
I thought I would include Kristen?s versions just for the details. We did make an attempt to see the Opera at the Opera house but the night we went it was sold out. Not to be I guess. Instead, I took K out to dinner in The Rocks. We went to a really nice restaurant called the Italian Village. I don?t think you could?ve asked for a better view with our meal: one side was the Opera House and the other was the remarkable Hyatt and Harbor Bridge. I think that is definitely one dinner I will always remember. The bill came to $90 but the dinner and view was well worth it. Sometimes you just have to go big.
We also made it to the Star City Casino where we tried our luck with our left over pocket money, 2 bucks! Lost it on the shitty slots and made our way home. One thing about the slots though, they?re crap in this country. The pokies are the major source of government income here but they don?t have any one-arm bandits. No good.
Cost us $70 to get a stain removed from our carpet as Kristen spilt hair dye on it. Dough head she is. Britney Spears was at Bondi beach but I didn?t get the chance to show her the 6-pack. Shaved my head again, look like a nerf ball. Also had to spend $300 at the dentist to have 2 fillings taken out and replaced as I was suffering for about 3 months with severe sensitivity. It?s all good now thank God, lets just pray the Insurance pays up!
So that?s basically everything that happened in our last 4 weeks of being in Sydney.
Next message will have all the details of our trip. Our itinerary has been as follows: This is for you Uncle Dave!)
Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise, (Brisbane) Noosa, Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, Airlie Beach and The Whitsunday?s (Great Barrier Reef), Cairns, Cape Tribulation, Cairns and tomorrow we?re onto Alice Springs which we?ll be in sometime on Sunday.
Till next email, Jamie