Calling the Cape Town crew…

I’ll be having a holiday with my family down in Cape Town in January – leaving Durban on the 5th, and getting back on the 23rd. Little sister is off to start her second year at UCT Medical School, so we thought that we’d have a nice long family holiday down there.

This is something that I’m really looking forward to, given my love of the place. I was there for a holiday in 1994, then spent a year there while at UCT myself in 2003. I’ll probably end up moving there one day, although that day is still years off. Firstly, I need enough work experience for a senior developer position, secondly I need to complete my part-time studies (around June next year if all goes well), thirdly I need a car and fourthly I need cash in the back – and I’m currently lacking in all four departments, although they will all come with time. (Then of course, there’s the worrying consideration of Jacob Zuma becoming South Africa’s next president that may throw a spanner in the works of my future plans – but let’s not go there.)

Anyway, I’m planning on what to do with myself while I’m down there for all of two weeks (plus two days getting there and two days getting back – we have a habit of making the road trips part of the holiday, which I consider to be a Good and Fun Thing). I’m trying to organise a movie evening at Cavendish with part of the PCF crew – Jeff (silv3rback on PCF) is helping out here. Then, just before we leave, I celebrate my 23rd birthday on January 21st, and I’m told by my sister that if you go to the Table Mountain cableway on your birthday and bring proof of your date of birth, you get a free trip, so that’s that sorted out as well. Other than that, I don’t have much planned. Yet. I obviously would like to meet up with as much people that I know down there as possible – old UCT mates, old school friends that are down there now, and former Durbanites that have taken the trek down there (jerith, that means you). If you’re interested in any reunions or meetups, you know where to get hold of me – comments, forums, e-mail, IRC, GTalk, MSN, Facebook, yadda yadda.

Photos from Down Under

As promised, some photos…

Here’s me at Durban International, thinking “Can I get on the plane already?”

Seems I wasn’t the only one…

I had a five hour wait in Johannesburg when I landed, so… here’s a photo that I took out of total boredom. Guess which flight was mine?

Talking about Perth, here it is:

… and here’s their supposedly world-famous beach. It’s kind of strange to imagine that Durban is at the other side of that ocean…

Here’s Melbourne:

That last photo is the queue of people waiting to see Shane Warne. Needless to say, I got out of that area pretty damn quickly.

Couldn’t resist this one, though…

Melburnians have a little competition amongst them to see who can put on the best Christmas lights display, with some rather spectacular results. Here’s one of them, taken on the night before I left for Sydney:

This is the place that we went to for Christmas Day:

… and another “can’t resist” photo:

I took many photos in Sydney, mainly of the harbour bridge and opera house, but I won’t post them here, mainly because everyone’s seen photos of that. So here’s one from the Blue Mountains, about an hour and a half west of Sydney. They boast the steepest train ride in the world, as these photos show:

That’s my cousin Lachlan next to me in that last one. And no, that wasn’t the actual train, just a model of it just for people who want to take photos.

There’s many more photos, but I don’t have the time or the space to post all of them. Maybe I’ll put them all up on my website if enough people bother me about it.

Oh, OK, I’ll post one more; this is the photo of me when I finally got back to Durban:

Spot the difference.

Australia, land of hopping rats and Shane Warne.

Firstly, happy new year everyone 🙂

I left on the 16th for Australia, departing from Durban’s little backwater airport mid-morning and arriving at Johannesburg an hour later, then had to put up with a 5 hour wait at the airport. Yay for my MP3 player. Then it was on to one extremely cramped 230 seater Airbus for the flight to Perth.

And herein starts my first rant. The plane wasn’t too large and was extremely cramped. The in-flight entertainment wasn’t adequate. The food was terrible. Shame on you, SAA.

Next time, I’m saving up for a business class ticket.

Anyway, I got into Perth the next day at around 09:20 Perth time (02:20 SAST) and got greeted by my aunt and cousin who live there. Most of the day was spent trying to acclimatise, but in the evening we all headed off to Carols by Candlelight, which was really, really great. The next day was spent being shown around Perth and I was taken bowling by my cousin in the evening.

The next day I hit a real brick wall – jet lag had caught up to me big time (damn 7 hour time difference) and I was feeling rather dehydrated. It’s quite hot there – nothing I’m not used to coming from Durban, but it’s a dry heat rather than Durban’s humid conditions, which means you dehydrate quicker – something that I wasn’t quite prepared for. So, the day was spent lying in bed and watching DVD’s. Until the late afternoon, when my uncle took me to fly his model aeroplanes. He hooked up two controllers to let me take control of the plane, and he flicked it back to his control whenever I got the plane in a death spiral. So it went, until we succeeded in nose-diving the plane into the ground directly after take-off (we blamed the wind). It was a home built plane, so it wouldn’t take long to repair.

That night my cousin took me to watch Eragon in Gold Class. Gold Class, for those of you who haven’t been to Australia, is really awesome. The cinema consists of around 40-50 reclining seats, every two seats sharing a table. You order your food (I had pizza and beer) before the movie starts and you tell them when in the movie you want them to bring you the food, and sure enough it gets brought to you while you watch the movie. That was really great. The movie itself was really good too. Now why can’t we have something like this back in South Africa?

The next day (Wednesday) was spent at a theme park just south of Perth, and the day after that I was off, on a flight to Melbourne. Just a little 737 to get us there (3 hour flight), but it was quite comfy and the in-flight entertainment was of the best quality. Unfortunately plane food is, well, plane food. ‘Nuff said. Anyway, I got into Melbourne in the middle of 35 degree heat, and was picked up by my cousin (who’s 13 years older than me). It was her birthday that day, so we all went out to dinner.

Early on Friday morning I watch the news. It’s a 30 minute news bulletin, with 25 of those minutes dedicated to Shane Warne, who had just announced his retirement from cricket. (He comes from Melbourne, which partly explains the bias in the news builletin.) I was taken to the local train station, and told “take this train into Melbourne, off you go and get on with it”. So that’s what I did, and I spent the best part of the day exploring the city centre and shopping for presents to take home.

On Saturday we didn’t do too much in the morning, but in the afternoon we went for a walk along the banks of the Yarra river looking for koalas. You just have to look in the tops of the gum trees and eventually you’ll see one – koalas spend 22 hours of the day sleeping, and they’re extremely sluggish when they do wake up. Those things are worse than sloths. After that, we took a drive in the country looking for Hopping Rats (aka kangaroos).

That evening, we took a drive in the suburbs admiring all the Christmas lights. In Melbourne, the residents compete as to who can put on the best Christmas lights display. Some of the displays have to be seen to be believed – I’ll be posting the photos later this week, and then you’ll see what I mean. Then it was back into the city for a look at the city lights.

While I was in the city, I had a “hook turn” demonstrated to me. Melbourne is known for its tram tracks, which run in the middle of the road. To stop cars turning right from being taken out by a tram, Melburnians have devised the “hook turn”. If you want to turn right, you go in the far left-hand lane and you stop in front of the traffic coming in from the side. You then wait for the lights to turn green for the side traffic before turning and going across the intersection. Sounds confusing, but it works.

The next day (Sunday – 24th December now) I was up early for my flight to Sydney, and was then taken two hours north of the city (Maitland) to where my other aunt, uncle and two cousins were staying. We had a big Chrismas Eve party that night, yet I managed to get up early on Christmas Day to head off to church. After the present opening we all headed off to a wine farm an hour away for lunch.

Boxing Day was spent being shown around the area, and watching Day 1 of the Ashes test. In the late evening I also managed to get coverage of the South Africa vs India game back home in Durban. The 27th was mainly another big souvenir shopping day.

On the 28th (Thursday) my cousin went back to his grotty little flat in Sydney, and I went off with him. Most of the day was spent just getting there (lots of traffic), but in the evening we went on a cruise around Sydney harbour. I think the photos I took there are the best of the whole trip. On the 29th (my last day before leaving home) we went up into the Blue Mountains for some sightseeing and walking, and in the evening more Sydney sightseeing.

The 30th deserves little mention – it was a 27 hour ordeal to get back home to Durban, once again aboard that blasted Airbus.

All in all, it was a thouroughly enjoyable trip, and I look forward to my next visit. I can just see myself living there if Jacob Zuma ever comes into power. 😛

I’ll post some of the photos later this week, once I’ve recovered from the jet lag.

UPDATE: Just saw how much business class tickets cost – nearly fell out of my chair in shock and horror. I think I’ll rather go for sleeping pills instead. Much cheaper.

And I’m off.

I leave for Australia tomorrow. See you all next year. 🙂

On that note, here’s something that I posted on my forum that I think I’ll repost here – what if operating systems were airlines?

DOS Air: Passengers walk out onto the runway, grab hold of the plane, push it until it gets in the air, hop on, then jump off when it hits the ground. They grab the plane again, push it back into the air, hop on, jump off…

Mac Airways: The cashiers, flight attendants, and pilots all look the same, talk the same, and act the same. When you ask them questions about the flight, they reply that you don’t want to know, don’t need to know, and would you please return to your seat and watch the movie.

Windows Airlines: The terminal is neat and clean, the attendants courteous, the pilots capable. The fleet of Lear jets the carrier operates is immense. Your jet takes off without a hitch, pushes above the clouds and, at 20,000 feet, explodes without warning.

OS/2 Skyways: The terminal is almost empty — only a few prospective passengers mill about. The announcer says that a flight has just departed, although no plane appears to be on the runway. Airline personnel apologize profusely to customers in hushed voices, pointing from time to time to the sleek, powerful jets outside. They tell each passenger how great the flight will be on these new jets and how much safer it will be than Windows Airlines, but they will have to wait a little longer for the technicians to finish the flight systems. Maybe until mid-1995. Maybe longer.

Fly Windows NT: Passengers carry their seats out onto the tarmac and place them in the outline of a plane. They sit down, flap their arms, and make jet swooshing sounds as if they are flying.

Unix Express: Passengers bring a piece of the airplane and a box of tools with them to the airport. They gather on the tarmac, arguing about what kind of plane they want to build. The passengers split into groups and build several different aircraft but give them all the same name. Only some passengers reach their destinations, but all of them believe they arrived.

Wings of OS/400: The airline has bought ancient DC-3s, arguably the best and safest planes that ever flew, and painted “747” on their tails to make them look as if they are fast. The flight attendants, of course, attend to your every need, though the drinks cost $15 a pop. Stupid questions cost $230 per hour, unless you have SupportLine, which requires a first class ticket and membership in the frequent flyer club. Then they cost $500, but your accounting department can call it overhead.

MVS Air Lines: The passengers all gather in the hangar, watching hundreds of technicians check the flight systems on this immense, luxury aircraft. This plane has at least 10 engines and seats over 1,000 passengers; bigger models in the fleet can have more engines than anyone can count and fly even more passengers than there are on Earth. It is claimed to cost less per passenger mile to operate these humungous planes than any other aircraft ever built, unless you personally have to pay for the ticket. All the passengers scramble aboard, as do the 200 technicians needed to keep it from crashing. The pilot takes his place up in the glass cockpit. He guns the engines, only to realize that the plane is too big to get through the hangar doors.