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August 13, 2001
Sydney: "Completely different" (Russell)

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Our home for the next month

"This is completely different from New Zealand," said Gail.  It's mid-morning on August 12th, and we are driving a gigantic rented motorhome, desperately trying to avoid downtown Sydney as we try to navigate our way out of the city.  We are going through a large culture shock, but it's compounded even more by an equally large logistical culture shock involving our new accommodations.

Our departure from New Zealand on August 12 was pretty much uneventful, even though we had to get up at 4:00 in the morning to catch a 6:45 am flight.  One of the wonderful things about Star Alliance Business Class is that you get to wait in the executive lounges with all the business people.  Food, drink, and quiet all inclusive.  This is the first flight where Joss has been awake and not sick for the entire duration, and the first time we have let the boys sit together.  They had a great time watching the sunrise, playing cards, eating their special kids meals, and seeing us arrive and land in Sydney.

A taxi ride took us to the Britz motor home depot, where we picked up our Regent 6.  This is the largest motorhome Britz rents -- there are only five of them in the entire country.  Our first shock was the motorhome itself.  It's a very small space for the four of us to spend a month in -- larger than the rental car, certainly, but much smaller than the tourist flats we've had for the last two weeks.  Several factors were also much different from our expectations.  The doorway from the motorhome to the cab is not a walkway (as we were told), but a small window-like opening -- so it will be difficult for us to handle the boys while driving.  There is no external storage, so everything -- including the suitcases -- must be stored internally.  There is no oven (again, contrary to what we were told) so Gail will have to be even more creative with her cooking skills.

Taking to the road, we had our second shock.  After wonderfully benign New Zealand, Sydney was urban and  crowded.  The drivers were much more aggressive, shooting past our slow-moving motorhome on narrow-laned roads.  We were subjected to a long-forgotten sensory overload of billboards and road signs, making it difficult to find our way.  And the actual roads bore no resemblance to the map we were using, making both driving and navigating a challenge.  The map called our route "Highway 4," but road signs kept directing us to "31" and "44."  There were two "Highway 66"s.  And so on.

The third shock was the handling of the motorhome itself.  It's incredibly slow, but even worse, it's incredibly loud.  By the time we got to the Parklea Garden Village holiday park after an hour of driving, Gail was completely frazzled.  We discussed whether we should keep the motorhome at all, or return it and get something else.

On the other hand, Cameron and Joss were completely captivated by the novelty... and the bunk beds.  They launched "Operation Alpha," to convince mom and dad to keep the motorhome.  After much discussion, we reminded ourselves of one of our trip rules: "We need to make the best of what we have."  And we decided, because this is our only motorhome adventure, that we will see it through for the time being.

Then, while driving to get groceries, we drove under a metal proscenium and ripped the antenna dish completely off of the top of the campervan.  (We'll wait until Brisbane to get it repaired.)

Because of the time difference, everyone was hungry and sleepy two hours before the clock said so.  It only took an hour to figure out how to light the pilot light for the water heater.  Gail prepared another one of her culinary miracle meals, and everyone went to bed early and happy.  The boys were in the bunk beds in the back; Gail and Russell in the double bed above the cab.

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The boys in their bunk beds

Early this morning Gail awoke, looked at the low ceiling, and saw a large black shape about the size of a Rarotonga spider.  She jumped out of bed almost screaming.  It was a vent.  And so, our Australia adventure begins...


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