A Tale of No Internet

Trying to get internet in Australia is worse than talking to Comcast back in the States. Who would have thought? But so it is.

We’ve been trying for the past 6 weeks to get Internet. Paid one provider for a modem and right before they came to set up service, they said oops, there are no more available pipes in your area. It then took another 3 weeks for them to refund us the money.

Found provider #2. Took them 3 weeks to come out. Attempt #1: “We came but no one was home”. Er hello no one rang the doorbell. Attempt #2: “Oh your work order doesn’t specify the unit number. We have to change it before we can install”. Attempt #3: No one came by; I had the door propped open. Waited on the phone for over an hour before I was finally patched through. Then waited again while they tried to hunt down the dispatch unit. And what do you know? They said, oh the same crew came out again this morning but no one was home. Hello? If it was the same crew, they would have known where our front door was – and it was open!

I had lost my cool with the operator after attempt #1, but kept it this time since I’ve more or less lost faith in the whole process. This hapless operator told me that the earliest he could reschedule was for March 23, but I pressed him to escalate up to his supervisor. Another 10 minutes later, we managed to set a fourth attempt for this Friday. So, developing story. We’ll see, but at this juncture, I’m no longer holding my breath.

Mosman to Waverton Walk

Mosman to Waverton Walk

Officially, it’s the second day of autumn already. Man, time flies, a little too quickly! This morning, I decided to do a little urban exploration of north Sydney area. Took the bus over to the Spit / Military Road junction, then walked down to Mosman Bay. There were lots of cute little cafes and stores along Military Road, though I didn’t stop to linger.

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The quiet little marina by Mosman Bay. I’m a little sad that summer is officially over, but it was nice walking in slightly cooler temperatures.

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Peeking out into Mosman Bay

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Doing the Cremorne Point Loop. These gorgeous houses have the most stunning view

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Oasis in the middle of the city

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View of the iconic opera house and harbor bridge at the foot of Cremorne Point

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After Cremorne Point, there wasn’t any nice waterfront trails from Neutral Bay to Milsons Point, so I strolled along leafy avenues, past stately mansions with million dollar water views, till I hit Luna Park. There are always people milling about outside the park, since it is situated right by the water with a great view of the opera house and the harbor bridge, but I’ve never seen anyone taking any rides. I wonder how it survives.

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I walked past Luna Park, along Lavender Bay, and then cut across to Blues Point Road, where I grabbed a much welcome coffee and a pick-me-up of toasted banana bread slathered with butter. After, I finished the walk through Waverton Oval and Berrys Bay to the Waverton Station.

In all, about a 11km (6.9mile) stroll. While the scenery wasn’t as dramatic as the Bondi to Coogee walk (got to redo that one again!), it was a quiet and peaceful one. As far as urban walks go, it’s definitely up there!

Kayaking Wrecks of Homebush Bay

Wreck of Homebush Bay by Brent Pearson

Wreck of Homebush Bay by Brent Pearson

Sunday: We were originally signed up for a walk of the Blue Mountains with one of the meetup groups, but at the last minute, Jeff had to catch up on work. I didn’t really want to take the drive myself and so instead decided spontaneously to join the kayaking meetup group on a paddle of Homebush Bay along the Parramatta River.

Another stunningly blue and hot day (although, as I write, the weather has suddenly turned. Thick billowing clouds are churning overhead, kicking up swirls of dry leaves) out on the water. We were going to see the famed wrecks of Homebush Bay.

In 1966, the Maritime Services Board set up a shipwreck yard to house old ships that had served the first and second world wars. These vessels are now shells of their former glory. Most rest partially submerged in river, with mangrove trees taking root on rusted iron hulls. We glided amongst them silently, as if in respect to their age and service. Check out this article that speaks more about the history of each ship.

Good short workout. After, we mingled for a bit at the pizza place down the street.

Enjoying a glass (or two) of Barossa GSM

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We have a little wine shop right by our train station. Its family run, and their selection is mostly Aussie centric. They are a really nice bunch though, very helpful, and whenever we pop in to pick something up for dinner, they are always quick with a suggestion. Best of all, they don’t upsell. I went in the other day to buy a bottle we could bring to ny aunt’s place (or first cousin once removed if you will). I asked for a recommendation of something in the $30 range, but they kept on gushing about this $16 Light & Finniss Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro (GSM) 2012 from Barossa Valley.

Intrigued, I bought this back for ourselves. Decided to open it tonight. What a treat! What a find! One of the tastiest wines we have had here to date, especially at this value. Very plush, soft, and refreshing, with just a hint of spiciness of the shiraz and mouvedre at the end. Will just have to pick up a few more bottles!

An Evening Out by La Perouse and Bare Island

We had a relaxing but fun Sunday. So lucky that the rains came and left by 9am, leaving behind the refreshing scent of wet grass drying in the cool breeze. We strolled to check out the farmers’ market at Coal Loader, an old industrial site that has since been converted into a center for sustainability – and host of farmers’ markets. While this farmers’ market didn’t have in the way of fresh produce and meat to pick up, there are craft stores and little stands hawking freshly baked goods. Picked up two bite-sized chocolate raspberry tarts and a lemon meringue for a quick breakfast, then doubled back to the same store to pick up a almond-ginger-date cake for our lunch dates (we’re inspired to try out this recipe at home too, once our stuff from Chicago finally gets here).

Lunch – back when I was growing up in Singapore, my family was very close to (my parents still are) our neighbors. We even hung out with their extended family on multiple occasions. One of them moved to Sydney nearly 30 years ago after she got married, and apparently we even stayed over at their place when we visited over 20 years ago. Anyway, long story short, my neighbors found out that we were moving to Sydney, and got in touch with their sister, who insisted on bringing us out to lunch. It took several attempts to find a date we were all free, but we finally got to it. Dim sum at Yum Cha over in Chatswood. :)

Back home for a quick breather, then it was out the door again. This time we drove south, under the tunnel, to end up at La Perouse. We were going to join another photography meetup for an evening around La Perouse and Bare Island. What a find this place was! We arrived a little early, and checked out one of the beaches in Conwong Bay (there’s a nude beach the next cove over, but we didn’t have time to check that one out, to Jeff’s chagrin it seems). The waters were clear and calm, and most inviting. We eyed the swimmers enviously, and later found out online that this area is reputedly the best diving spot in all of NSW, with easy shore access, good visibility and shallow diving. We’ll just have to come back for some snorkeling and diving!

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This was a great meetup group. We had roughly 20 people in all, and everyone sort of just spread loosely out over the rocks, occasionally coming together for a bit of a chat and to exchange photography tips. I could go crazy playing with the different angles and not have to worry that my companions were getting a little bored with the view. Hehe.

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We saw some spear fishermen swimming around under the bridge, and a father-son duo who snorkeled for – and bagged – some huge sea urchins. What a delicious dinner they must make!

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We didn’t get to enjoy the full sunset, as clouds started to gather low on the horizon and the sun disappeared behind it. Nothing to complain about though – we’d had a fantastic evening out already. Most of the group decided to reconvene at a fish and chips stall over the hill for a bit of a bite and share their day, but work calls (for Jeff anyway), so we called it a night then. 

Lunar New Year Festivities at Tumbalong Park

We’re lucky that my dad’s cousin (in other words, my first cousin once removed – we had to look this up) lives in Sydney. For Chinese New Year’s eve, she invited us and C (my cousin, who also happens to live in Sydney!) over to her place to have dinner with her family and some close family friends. It was most lovely, and we spent the evening over good food, wine, and much laughter.

To further soak in the festivities, I signed us up to join a photography meetup group to go around Pyrmont Point Park and Tumbalong Park by Darling Harbor on Saturday evening.

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I’m quite terrible at street photography, mostly because I don’t have the guts to point my lens into someone’s face… and when I do, my shutter speed is usually too slow. Haha. Still, it was good practice, and even when I wasn’t actively trying to frame a composition, I was consciously looking for angles and lighting and absorbing the scene in front of me (rather than walk blindly around in my own world, as I am wont to do).

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It was nice to see all the new year decorations – the lanterns and the little stores set up displaying bright red lanterns for sale. There definitely is more of a Chinese New Year atmosphere here in Sydney vs. Chicago or even New York!

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The enchantment of sunrises

I’m not naturally an early riser, so it always surprises me when I manage to drag myself out of bed, just how many people are out and about getting their exercise in before the sun rises. But it makes me smile too, always, with the feeling that we are somehow sharing a special moment together, watching the sky turn a beautiful kaleidoscope of colors, and the rest of the city coming to life.

This past Monday and Tuesday, I took advantage of the good spell in weather to catch a couple of sunrises. On Monday, I took the train over to Milsons Point to capture dawn over the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House. I’ve seen classic images shot from this vantage, and wanted a photo of my own.

Sydney Feb 16 Sunrise over Habor Bridge (1 of 4)

Sydney Feb 16 Sunrise over Habor Bridge (2 of 4)

Sydney Feb 16 Sunrise over Habor Bridge (3 of 4)

Sydney Feb 16 Sunrise over Habor Bridge (4 of 4)

Tuesday, I drove over to Balmoral Beach to watch the sun rise in between the gap between Manly and Watsons Bay. Jeff had brought my over to Middle Head for a picnic on Saturday (all fine and dandy until a daring kookaburra swooped in from the branches overhead to take off with Jeff’s sandwich!), and I wanted to explore the area in a different light.

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Enjoying the Barbee

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Ever since we finally figured out how to connect our new grill to the gas line (use way more force than we think we need, and then some), we have been enjoying using the grill. Hehe and feeling quite Australian as we do so!

It’s funny how we had a grill back in Chicago too, but never got around to using it. I suppose, grilling in the patio is more fun than off the master bedroom balcony, over looking the alley. :)

Sunday Surprise: Seaplane to Palm Beach

Sunday: Jeff made me reschedule a lunch but was very mysterious about the activity that he had organized to replace it. Just be prepared to be out the full day, and bring your swimmers. There may be kayaking.

Oooh. I was afire with curiosity when at 830am, we took the train into the city and then caught the ferry to Rose Bay. Were we going sailing, to some island for a spot of kayaking? Or deep sea fishing?

Nope, we were flying a seaplane! To Palm Beach, all the way at the tip of Northern Sydney!

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When the pilot asked for a volunteer to squeeze into the front of the cockpit with him, I volunteered at once. It was really cool – flying along the craggy and windy coastlines of Manly and beyond. The scenery was just spectacular; those occupants living in the mansions sprawled along the coastlines just have the most breathtaking views.

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Although it would have taken us an hour to drive up to Palm Beach, we arrived in style in just 20 minutes by seaplane.

We took a picnic lunch of olives and sundried tomato pasta and muffins in the shade of a tree along the beachfront, then lathered up the sunscreen for a 10km kayaking exploration of Pittwater. It was hot, but happily we had the spray of seawater from our paddling to cool us down.

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Afterwards, we had a bit of time before the seaplane picked us back up, so we strolled to the tip of the hammer-head shaped Barrenjoey Peninsula, and up the to lighthouse where we were afforded gorgeous views of the calm waters of Pittwater vs. the raging surf along North Palm Beach.

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Making our way slowly back to the boathouse, we dipped our toes in the surf at North Palm Beach and marveled at the surfers and kite surfers.

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And then it was time to head back. Another glorious day out in the sun!

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Another morning, sunrise and other thoughts

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Got up before sunrise as usual to check in with work in Chicago. While on the phone, I peeked outside and saw faint blushes of pink clouds overhead. So I grabbed my pocket camera, and strode out the door, to the marina at the foot of the hill – while still on the phone. I lucked out. For a fleeting moment, the sun lit up the puffs of clouds into gorgeous orange and pink hues.

Anyway, we’ve been at our new address for over a week now. Still awaiting our shipment from Chicago, but it’s interesting to see how we’ve managed to adapt to a minimalist lifestyle. We’ve been making do with just the bare minimum of furniture – a bed, a table and a couple of chairs. I miss sprawling out on the couch though… I think we’re innately too much of pack rats to be able to subscribe to this lifestyle long term. I mean, we just went out to buy some patio furniture – an outdoor dining set and a lounge set.

Remarkably, we’ve also managed to make home cooked meals with just a large stir fry pan. I definitely miss making my soup noodles that’s for sure, and I think Jeff misses eating rice, but it shows really how little we need to keep a comfortable life. Then again, that’s what we did back in Uni, where we whipped up multi course meals with nothing more than a little electric pot, in the bathroom. Hah.