Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blue Mountains

I was up and off early Saturday to take the train to the Blue Mountains for a visit. It's about 130 kilometers from Sydney and takes about 2 hours by train. Actually, the Blue Mountains are not mountains, apparently, but rather a large set of cliffs surrounding a plateau. People talk highly of the area so I figured it warranted a look-see.

The Blue Mtns spread for many miles and I chose the town of Katoomba to start my visit. I arrived at the train stop and huffed it a mile or so to Echo Point and one of the local visitor's centers. I had a quick chat with one of the friendly staff there and planned out a 10-12K "bushwalk" (hike). Started out up on the cliffs and walked along the ridge overlooking the plateau for several kilometers. It was a bit foggy and overcast, so many of the views were limited to start. Next it was time to drop down the "Federal Stairs" into the valley. The drop down was 30 minutes of rock-carved steps, old wooden stairs, rocky trails, etc. I was already dreading the trip back up the cliffs! The trip through the plateau was stunning, as the weather cleared and the views were amazing. I walked right under the famed "Three Sisters" and continued through the rugged paths to a famous mountain landslide from several decades ago. I also passed what the Guinness Book calls the world's steepest railway…..a train that drops 900 feet over about 2000 feet. It was used for dragging coal out of the valley many years back but now transports tourists too lazy to take the stairs! I continued walking around the valley and was planning on trying to make it over to a place called the Ancient Castle. About half way to the castle, I realized I'd been out hiking for almost 5 hours and that I wouldn't make it to the site and back before dark. So, I made the smart decision and turned around to huff it back to civilization. The final challenge was to take the Furber Stairs out of the valley…..900 steps very straight up! I got to the top and realized I'd pretty much reached the end of my physical limits…I was wiped out from 6.5 hours of tough terrain.

I hopped on the train back to the city and fell asleep not 5 minutes into the trip. I was exhausted but had an incredible day. Check out a few of the pictures to the right.

Funny Video

Ok, I was cleaning up the camera card a bit ago and found this video of the Penguin. I guess my co-worker using my camera took it. Pretty funny.

Also, check the link to the right for some Blue Mountain and Football Photos.

Australian Football (Soccer)

Friday it was time to see a "football" game in Sydney! They have a new league that started up 4 years ago, A-League Football, and last night was the first game of the season. I hooked up with my mate Dave from work and some other fellas at Forresters Hotel for a few rounds pre-game. It started pouring rain while we were getting our drink on and it forced us to delay departure a bit and have another round awaiting some rain relief! J We hussled up to the SFG (Sydney Football Grounds) and settled into the "Cove". This is the area of the stadium reserved for season ticket holders…aka the serious fans. Several more rounds were consumed while we watched an excellent first match. Sydney ended up losing 1 to nil but it was still a super time.

If any of you remember, Delane and I were a tad surprised that the Rugby fans were not more out of hand. Well, I think I found the wilder fans! The throwing of beer after an exciting play is an acceptable practice (although it still pains me to see beer going to waste like that!). People were literally saving small amounts of beer in the bottom of their plastic cups so they'd have something to throw!

I went to the Blue Mountains today….an excellent trip. Will post some details and pics soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Just a general update…..

So no fancy title this time around, just a general update on things. First, I have determined that I am getting old, and it's NOT because I just had a Birthday, but rather my inability to drink beer. I went out this past Friday with a few folks from work to "The Argyle". Delane knows the place, but it reminds me of a New York or LA Bar. Lines out the front and a handful of bouncers making sure you look the part to get in. A few hours and like 5 potent beers later and I was sloshed. Didn't really know how sloshed until I got woken up at 1:00 AM by a work related call (a big project was going in over the weekend). I answered the phone and at about the same time felt the THROBING pain from my hangover. I seriously felt bad the entire day Saturday. How sad is that?

Sunday was a terribly rainy day, but I was determined to get in a nice long training run in preparation for the marathon. I set out in a steady downpour and it going rained harder. 2.5 hours later I got back….soaked, chafed everywhere, and happy as a clam. I felt really good almost the entire run. Nice when that happens. I also ran a decent bit of the marathon course to learn what I needed to expect during the race.

Looks like I'm off to New Zealand for a few days on Sunday. We've got a project over there that needs a little TLC and my co-worker (Dave) and I are going to go visit for a few days. Don't think I'll try to tack on much personal time this trip, but really plan to try to get back over for a few days later in October when the trout season opens back up.

All for now. Miss you all.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thank you!

Definitely not the same not being with my friends and family on my Birthday, but I so very much appreciate all the cards, gifts, emails, and post comments all the way across the world. It is days like today you realize what is important….friends and family. I feel very blessed to have such good "mates". Can't wait to be home sharing fun and fellowship with each of you.

So D and my family arranged, as usual, to provide WAY too many gifts! Just finished opening;

  1. Picture Frame and about 10 photos from Delane's and my vacation
  2. A cool jacket
  3. Australia T-Shirt from Queensland
  4. Yoga Mat (now I have no more excuses!)
  5. Alarm Clock (been setting my Blackberry Alarm every day until now)
  6. A new backpack
  7. Espresso book (I'm gonna buy an espresso maker when I get home!)
  8. A couple "VB" glasses. VB is Victoria Bitter, one of the popular local beers.

Check out all the stuff. Too much! The café across the street that I frequent for Coffee and Carrot Cake even gave me a massive slice on the house!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

You never can tell what you are getting into!

Who is this Penguin? And is he playing pool? You never can tell what you'll find yourself doing on a random Wednesday night! Coca Cola South Pacific IT and Office Services groups were due up in the monthly rotation to provide dinner and entertainment for the Ronald McDonald house last night! There are about 50-60 people that rotate through the house while a family member is being treated for illness at the attached hospital. So, about 9 of us headed over Wednesday afternoon to create a home made dinner feast and provide a bit of entertainment and time away from the constient pressure these families must feel.

We had TONS of food….I was in charge of Mashed Potatoes. Never thought I'd peel, cook, and mash so many potatoes in my life! They bought 20 kilo of potatoes, or 44 pounds! It took like an hour and a half just to peel them all! But the mash was excellent, if I must say. It's a specialty of mine!

I went Tuesday and rented the costume below. I was really cool seeing all the excitement in the room as I waddled along playing with the kids. A really fun group time. Several of us even managed enough energy to go for a pint or two after we finished up. It wasn't all work....I even found a few minutes to play some pool! :)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

City to Surf

Today was the race I've been excited about for a while.....After missing Peachtree this year, I was looking forward to the Sydney City to Surf. Over 60,000 people run in a race that starts Hyde Park in the City and finishes at Bondi Beach.

I was fortunate enough to get a number in the lead group, but seeding isn't as complex as it is for Peachtree. There are only three groups total, so I was in a group with about 10K other people! Starting temp was warm at about 70 degrees. It was about 1 minute before I hit the start line after the gun and the first 2-3K were extremely crowded. Lots of weaving and I didn't really hit stride till about the 3rd K. I'd been told it was a challenging course. It was fairly difficult. There were some hills early in the race, but the tough part was 6-8. It was a challenging 2K hill up to the top of Double Bay with no breaks. It rolled up and down until about 11K and then you literally fell off the mountain......3K down a very steep hill to the finish. Official time was 55:39 but my watch clocked my race as 54:48 with the start delay. No chips in this one.

Coke put on an excellent post-race party at Hotel Bondi! Tons of food and drink. I still very much miss Peachtree, but it was an exceptional day of fun. The line for the buses was HUGE so I ended up walking back about 11K to my apartment. I think I'll treat myself to a pint after the day! :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Back to my temporary home

Thanks to all that are keeping such a good eye out on my wonderful wife! It is great to have such awesome friends.

I got back to Sydney Saturday morning. I left Manila at 6:30PM Friday, flew to Singapore, then an overnight flight to Australia. I could have waited a day and take a direct flight, but my butt was ready to get back to be well rested for the City to Surf race on Sunday! It was amazing....I popped out of the airport about 10:15 and it was 75 degrees and not a cloud in the sky! A very nice welcome back to my temporary home.

Talked over my return with the boss and others. Apparently I can only stay physically in Australia for 180 days or there are tax issues. So, subtracting out time in Korea and Manila, my current drop dead return date (assuming no further travels) is November 17. There is some discussion about me heading back to the States for 2-3 weeks and then coming back for a while longer. Still fairly up in the air. But I am going to start the process of finding a replacement with our HR group in the next week or so.

Two people in our Manila group got sick with some sort of intestinal ailment.....and I'm not 100% perfect either. I was very careful not to drink the water, but there are other risks I guess.

Happy (almost) birthday to my Mom! I love you, Mom.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Not much new lately…..

Have you noticed that the posts have dropped in quality recently (if there ever was any!)? I figure that with delane gone, it's just back to the normal grind of working.

Anyhow: I'm in Manila. Came in later Saturday. Arrived at the hotel around 10:00PM Sydney time (8PM here) and was STARVING! I'd eaten a meal on the plane around 1 but nothing since (not that I should have burned more than two calories after sitting on a plane for 8 hours!). Anyhow, so I drop my bags and walk out the door to……Outback Steakhouse. It struck me as very ironic that I came all the way to Manila, from Australia, to eat at Outback Steakhouse! Ended up meeting a few work folks at the lounge later that night and had a few drinks.

Sunday I roamed the markets and other areas around downtown Makati (the district I'm staying in). Nice, but very crowded all the time. There are just tons of people here. Met with the boss around the hotel pool and talked over some business and pleasure later in the day. About 10 of us met later for drinks and then a nice dinner out at a traditional Filipino restaurant. Good food….alot of Chinese type dishes but with some Korean and Japanese influence. A decent quality place and the bill for 10 of us was 5500 pesos, with tip. That's like 60 bucks. And there was plenty of beer included in that total. Food is crazy cheap here.

We had a LONG day of meetings today. We started at 7:45AM and finished the day at 8:00PM! Good stuff, but a long day. I really am lucky to be here with these very senior Coke leaders.

All for now……take care. Email me and let me know how you all are.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Marathon Training and Bagels

So it's just about time to get to training for the Sydney Marathon! (Actually, it's well past time…..). The race is in 7 weeks. My training to date has been somewhat weak. I've been running tons, but nothing real long. My longest run to date has been 1:35 minutes. So tomorrow I have given myself an ultimatum; I'm leaving the apartment in the morning and I'm not coming back until I've run at least 1:50 minutes! Can't be embarrassing the good ole' USA with a sorry performance!

I'm thinking that I should blame the lack of marathon training effort on a lack of bagels! This place is sorely lacking in good bagels. Delane and I did our best to find decent bagels but didn't do very well. There is one place that has ok bagels, but its 10K from here. Kinda a long way to go with no car just for bagels. So I've resorted to getting these really big raisin and date scone from a bakery about 2K away. The routine while D was here was for me to get up for a run and return with breakfast scones. I plan on treating myself to 2 if I make the full 1:50! J

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Upcoming Travels

Time for a business trip! I was lucky to not have to travel while Delane was visiting, but now it's time to pay the price. I'm off to Manila, Philippines on Saturday for a week. In terms of Australia, it's a reasonable flight time....about 8 hours. There are about 20 people from the US, Eurasia, and Pacific coming in for business planning meetings. We've got a full week....starting early Monday and finishing up mid-day Friday. Should be a good work trip, but I am dreading the environment......running there is very difficult (pollution, heat, roads, traffic, etc). I may be Mr. Treadmill for a week!
I'm arriving Saturday evening so I can meet with my Pacific boss on Sunday. I should get a better idea how long I'll be in Australia after our discussions. My visa expires Nov. 30 and my apartment lease is up Nov 17, so I suspect that is the long end of my potential stay.
I had a bit of a difficult time making sure I could be back by Saturday evening. I wanted to make sure I was back and well rested by Sunday morning for the big City to Surf race here in Sydney. Ended up having to fly through Singapore on the way back. One of these days I'll actually stop for more than 2 hours in Singapore...I hear it's a nice place.

Delane back safe.......

Delane made it back to Atlanta safe and sound Monday. If it isn't a long enough trip with no hiccups, Delane suffered through an even longer trip because of a missed flight! Apparently, the process of claiming luggage, going through customs and immigration, and rechecking bags in Los Angles takes about 3 minutes longer that the hour and a half she had! :( At least an upgrade to Business Class on the last leg of the flight made the delay a bit more tolerable!

Already been missing her to death. Calling all friends and family; keep her in your thoughts and give her a shout when you can.