Category: The Big Trip


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I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to be home. Ten days with the kids off in some foreign land requires tons of patience (and probably some prescription mood stabilizers) but we did it. We’ve both decided that was the last big trip for the kids for the foreseeable future. The kids did great on the long haul trips, but the same petty fights and jealousies are quite evident whether we’re walking down Hawk Spring Hill or around Sydney Harbour.
It was fun, memorable, and will be the last (as a family) for a while.
DeAnn is off to grocery shop, I’m off to unpack, and the kids are off to be themselves on their last night of Spring Break 2009.

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Well, vacationing finally beat out blogging. First chance I’ve had to sit down and do some writing…
Just got back from the Roosters/Broncos Rugby match with Emily. Fun times, good to watch in real life what I can only glimpse on Setanta Sports.
Day four was great, Nelson Bay is always a winner even if it rains. Saw lots of dolphins and took the kids sandboarding (like sledding, except on sand dunes). Will try that one of these days.
Day five had us galvanting across Sydney. Opera House tour is well worth the money, Manly Beach is well worth the ferry ride (even if it’s 68 degree water). Ended up at Darling Harbour for a quick meal and souvenirs and crashed at the hotel.
Day six, we hit the museum circuit. Lots of interesting birds, dead animals, and a surprising list of things that will kill you in this country. I think the only safe place to swim right now is in the toilet of the bathroom….
DeAnn and I still love this place, but maybe the sheen has worn a bit. We are all homesick, ready to get on the next flight and put this behind us. It hasn’t been an easy trip, the kids have had their various neuroses about being away from friends and fun. But it was something I think we had to do. This will probably be the last “big” trip for a while. DeAnn and I still love Nelson Bay, and I would move there in a heartbeat except for the distance. Maybe in the future that will change.
Most pics are uploaded, and I’ll get the rest tomorrow morning. It’s going to be a long day tomorrow and we’ve got plenty to do before we get on the plane less than 24 hours from now.

Well, if you have read my day three notes about our day four plans, it involved sitting poolside with Nathan while we leisurely waltzed through Sydney’s finer establishments on a carefree Wednesday.
That didn’t happen….
I was poolside with Nathan and Hannah, watching Nathan do his best underwater karate/ninja impersonation when the hotel manager came to the pool. I had thirty different ideas why he was out there… “you are too loud…one of your daughters is tapdancing on the flagpole…” but DIDN’T expect “a tour company has called and was concerned that you missed your shuttle”.
I looked at my phone, 7:30. Bus leaves at 8:00. Nathan is in the pool and Hannah is in la-la land. DeAnn was just getting ready to have a bowl of cereal and Emily was in that land that most 17 year olds find themselves…comatose. There was no possible way we were going to get to the place in time to catch the bus. Hell, the “bus” wasn’t supposed to be there until Thursday. What the hell were these people talking about?
I thanked the hotel manager and went upstairs to see what we could do. There was no way we were going to get the entire clan out the door (let alone out of the pool) and to the bus in less than thirty minutes. When I got into the room I saw DeAnn literally throwing things into our backpack and Emily awake, dressed, and ready to go. DeAnn gave me that look of “you better get your crap together now” and I rushed back down to collect Nathan and Hannah to get them out the door.
Back up the elevator with a soggy kid and a grumpy teenager who was pining for her boyfriend; we get into the room, get Nathan dried and changed and out the door we went. 7:38. No way we are going to make it…
A minute later we’re in the lobby and the manager had called and told the tour company we were on our way. Dashing with the kids out the door, our hotel finds a taxi that will “grudgingly” take us to where we want to go. Star City, on the other side of Darling Harbour. Normally a seven minute ride on if there’s no traffic, people, etc. But we’re heading down in rush hour…not going to happen.
Aussies love us Americans. We tip for everything, it’s like a load of free money fairies descend every morning from the airport and dump cash wherever we go. I am no exception to the rule. I tell the driver our story and said I tip very well if we get there in time. He tells me he’ll do his best and high tails it down Pitt Street.
7:43, we’re in the bus terminal at Star City. I give the driver a $20 for the $9 cab ride and we blaze into the terminal.
And there’s no bus. No one. Not even a person from AAT Kings to console us and try to upgrade us a package of scuba diving and parasailing/kickboxing. No bus, no trip, grumpy family. Yeah, can I rewind at this point where I was blissfully unaware at pool side only fifteen minutes earlier? A frantic phone call to AAT Kings, and then to our hotel to make sure the manager told AAT we were coming and in the distance a bus pulls up smothered in adverts about “Australia, the Movie” with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman almost sucking face. And yes, that’s our bus…7:51. We went from poolside to frantic packing and taxi rides to seeing Hugh gets it on with Nicole. Not sure if this was a good thing at this point…
More about Day Four later. Sandboarding, Dolphins, and a whole slew of other crap that I’ll get into after I’m done getting ready for Day Five.

Day Three pics can be found here. Apologies for the poor quality, my lovely new HD camcorder took a dive and may not come back from the murky depths of “not holding a charge” hell. I’m shooting from my iPhone which as you can see does not make a great camera.
Long day yesterday (it’s 07:00 Wednesday here in Aussieland) and we’re getting around so that Nathan can swim and the others can sleep. Took a long train ride (~ two hours) to the Blue Mountains which are quite beautiful. The kids ran around a bit and we rushed through all the sites before we hopped back on the train for an hour ride to the Featherdale Wildlife Refuge.
Featherdale is a great park buried in the depths of Sydney suburbia (literally…house…house…Wildlife park….house) and has a great selection of rescued Australian wildlife. The kids all got to pets Wallabies and Kangaroos and Koala which run wild around the place. Nathan had a run in with a big kangaroo which tried to escape from the enclosure and deicded to use his face as a launch pad. No major injuries, just some hurt pride and such. Long train ride home, but we made it in one piece and crashed in the room.
Plans for today include a museum, possibly a beach, and some other things. Better pics with a different camera later!

So what do you get when you have a six year old who falls asleep at 15:00 local time? One that wakes up at 00:30 local time.
Nathan totally crashed on the bus tour yesterday and our limited tries to wake him were completely unsuccessful. So I’m up with Nathan at 04:00 as we have watched Scooby Doo, watched parts of Hoodwinked, and have wandered down to the 7-11 to get a couple of donuts and a slurpee.
Today we’re heading out to the Blue Mountains. We’re doing this trip a bit differently since we’re doing it on our own. The tours out there are a bit pricey and the train runs right past the two points we want to visit. We’re looking at a two hour train ride out there, and two hours back. So I’m trying to figure out where Nathan will be (will he be up for a two hour train ride out or should we do the shorter ride to the first stop and then do the long ride back?).
More later, along with pics and other monstrosities of the day.

The first day in any foreign country is usually a wash. In between the lack of sleep on the flight and the excitement of being there; not much really gets done especially with a family. We got off the plane this morning in Sydney around 08:00 (it’s right now 21:18, about 14 hours time difference) and while we were tired, we had to get through customs and hopefully into our room.
After a surprise sandwich was found by the roving beagles, we received a stamp on our declaration papers and were told to “go to the end of the terminal” which to my mind meant “fun with customs!”. Surprisingly, after a couple of turns we found ourselves bypassing the lines and out to freedom. Wandered down to the train station and paid for our Sydney passes (a bit more than expected, but we’ll use them) and we headed off to the hotel.
I’ve only been to Sydney once, and I really didn’t lay out “where” the hotel was in reference to the train station. I knew it was within a block of the station, but the actual distance between “station entrance” and hotel was more like three to four blocks. So for those of you who can imagine the entire Wohlgemuth clan dragging luggage down a major thoroughfare at 9:00 in the morning surrounded by students and business-types, yeah, that probably beats my 200 yd dash in Tampa Airport a few weeks ago.
Got into the room early and promptly cleaned up and headed out to hit Sydney. To our surprise, the “big bus pass” we had didn’t get us on the double decker bus, but on the city run buses which was a bit of a disappointment. We decide at that point (since the other bus company was not doing any favors for us in trying to get the other bus to stop since it would infringe on their business), we decided to walk to the Aquarium to kill some time. A half mile walked slowly turned into a mile plus due to traffic and such, but we got there and wandered through a variety of sharks and crocodiles before we called it and headed out to the bus.
We found the right bus and decided to just putter around town until we got to the hotel for some planned swimming and rest (it was about 14:00 at this point). The bus winded its way through the hills and history of Sydney, bordering on the lines of interesting and annoying (apparently all of the tour drivers here have some sort of psychological problem which causes them to create an annoying persona while they talk about the area). As we went through Sydney’s past, Nathan started tog et more agitated, and then promptly passed out. When we finally got to the stop, he was like a 48 pound sack of potatoes and was not getting up for anything. I slung Nathan over my shoulder once again and carried him to the hotel (with DeAnn doing some of the heavy lifting as well).
We all got into the room and promptly passed out. Nathan was done for the day (at about 15:00, yeah, he’s going to be up early tomorrow) and the rest of the kids and I passed out in successive order. A couple of nie but overpriced pizzas later and we’re all heading to bed hopefully to get an early start on the Blue Mountains in the morning.
Sorry for the lack of pictures today, will have more tomorrow as we attack koalas and kangaroos.

Well, we once again find ourselves sitting in an international terminal waiting to get on another insanely long flight down under. This one is a bit shorter this time due to the lack of a stop in Hong Kong, but will be more eventful with the addition of three of the kids. Nathan is currently trying to contort himself to lay down across several of the gate seats while Emily snoozes away on the chair next to me.
I’ll blog and post on Facebook as I did in the past. For those of you interested, I hope this meets your standards. For those that aren’t….why are you reading this? 🙂
Here’s a pic from happier times (about 30 minutes ago).
IMG_0465.jpg

One Year Ago….

We were in LA.
And then two days later, we were in Sydney.
And now we’re planning our next excursion….ideas anyone?

OK, I lied. Another post from the trip.
Interesting post on Instapundit today, regarding more quality control issues with China. We saw these issues first hand, during our meetings with our various Chinese businessmen and companies. I actually wrote about this scenario in my final paper….

If Dr. Ko’s cavalier attitude about avoiding U.S. Customs control is pervasive throughout China, this type of tragedy could be the start of increasingly stricter border and trade controls. Poisoning thousands of pets are one thing, if the contaminated wheat gluten had reached the U.S. human food chain, it very well could start a trade embargo or possibly an open conflict between two nuclear powers.
It is without a doubt that the Chinese government and economists worldwide are aware of these issues noted in my humble paper. The question left is if these issues are not as dire as I have put them, or if the profits being generated are overshadowing the consequences of these decisions. In the case of the latter, a correction is probably on the horizon, most likely driven by events similar to what we saw recently in the news.

The Chinese business culture almost seems to relish their ability to sneak around our border and information controls in order to make a buck. While I am sure there are countless Chinese businesses who wish to follow the world example, it is the “success without repercussion” of these few exporters that will eventually bring China to a screetching halt….

Hong Kong Video

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=495126388110448458&hl=en
Probably the last post for the big trip. Put together a quick video last night that captures the highlights of the trip. Enjoy!