Two weeks in Australia

Fri 21 Oct 2011 11:18
37:51.65S 145:02.2E
Photos to follow
We have now been in Melbourne for two weeks. During that time we have managed to buy ourselves a car which we hope is capable of taking us all around this Island Continent and then sell again for a sum sufficient to ensure we have made the right decision not to hire. We looked at numerous Land Cruisers, all petrol engines in this Country but many with an additional LPG gas tank. Allegedly this is slightly less efficient than petrol but is a third of the price. Whatever, bound to be expensive to run. The problem is getting a fix on how efficient it really is. Everybody gives a different answer and the internet only adds to the confusion. It is also impossible to verify odometer readings. They have a thing called a Road Worthy Certificate but odometer readings are not recorded or maintained on any central data base. So buying an older vehicle is really a leap into the unknown. We eventually succumbed to buyer fatigue and bought a Nissan X Track. A more modern car, with a service history, good fuel economy, 4 wheel drive when we need it but not the indestructible tank that is a Land Cruiser.  The second hand car dealer was the same guy Jen & Ben bought their car from and he appeared to be one of the more respectable types. He has said he’ll buy it back upon our return to Melbourne in February. ( Oh yeah we’ll see!) In the end there is no right decision, everything is a compromise.
One of the problems with buying second hand cars here is there are so many to choose from. We bought from a place called Car City which is home to about 50 dealers all with hundreds of cars. In addition there are thousands of second hand car yards spread up and down the highways leading into town and on top of that, private sellers advertise on the internet. We were spoilt for choice from whom to buy and spoilt by too much choice of what to buy.
Insurance was easy and cheap. The car is covered third party injury (via the vehicle tax) so anyone can drive it, and you buy top up to cover third party damage, fire etc or comprehensive. No hassle, unlike dealing with UK insurance companies.
Steph has been out meeting local chiropractors who are on every street corner.  Again, Australia has a grown up attitude to health insurance with everyone covered through Medicare (a 1.5% tax) but you buy additional cover to suit your circumstances. It’s tax deductible and it works. Standards are high and satisfaction with the service widespread.  Chiro is covered so people use it extensively as are many other complementary treatments.
Melbourne is a town of (I guess) 3 million people, spread over a huge area, bigger than London. Wide, straight roads on a grid system. Trams run up and down the middle . Edna Everage was created here and you can understand why. Quiet, neat and tidy, no litter no mess. New Milton on steroids. Urban spread is one of the main differences I have noticed on recent visits to this country. The towns and cities go on for miles. In fact Australia is the most urbanised country in the world which is ridiculous for a place of this size with so few people. I guess this is the reason why camping, caravanning and 4x4 ing are so popular. Escape town and get out into the bush. Good idea, can’t wait to get going.
Last week we went to a Camping/4X4 show and were bowled over by the quantity and quality of the stuff on display. In Europe we are about a million years behind. There were caravans that even I would be proud to be seen towing. High off the ground, solid chassis, heavy duty wheels and tyres. Well built, indestructible. They also had camper trailers that pack down to the size of an ordinary trailer you may use to take the garbage to the tip but fold out to a complete camp site with cookers, ovens, fridge/freezers, hot & cold running water, double beds. Makes our tent look primitive. Will be interesting to see how we go when we hit the road.
The trek around Australia is a popular pastime. Thousands do it, and are popularly known as Grey Nomads. There are ads on TV were the lady worries that her husband may drop dead whilst they are on the road and she wonders about how to meet the funeral costs. No probs, buy the right policy and hope for the best. Could get back home a rich widow!!
Last weekend we visited Balgownie Winery which is the venue for THE WEDDING. Fantastic  place, really beautiful, great food, super wine and very good service. Classy. We are both looking forward to the big day and know that everything is going to be perfect.
The only cloud on the horizon is the weather. Forget the Sun Burnt Country. Melbourne has been bloody cold and grey. However, change is on the way and we are promised some warmth before long which will be very welcome. One result of the amount of all the rain is that that the dams are full and this has enabled them to release water down the Snowy River for the first time in 40 years. I remember what the Snowy was before the completion of the Snowy Mountain Scheme and to see it flowing again, when we visit later this week, will be fantastic.
Jen/Ben are in great shape. Doing lots of running, lifting weights and swimming. Got to be fit to survive the wedding marathon. They’re both in fantastic jobs, earning big bucks and happy which is, of course, the major thing.