Issue Number 37, 18 November 2002
Editors: Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber
In this issue...
Tropical storm risk website - Cyclone forecasts
Drought and dust storms
More Qantas history arrives in Longreach
Personal experience with budget accommodation in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra
December 4th 2002 solar eclipse news
Some sources of Australian gifts
Books by Len Beadell, the "last Australian explorer"
We sold our motorhome, but we won't stop travelling
The Tropical Storm Risk website offers long-range forecasts of tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic, NW Pacific and SW Pacific ocean basins. It also provides seasonal predictions of tropical cyclone strike numbers on the USA, Caribbean, Japan, and Queensland (Australia). The forecast for the Queensland coast is another low risk cyclone season this year.
The low risk of cyclones may be related to the low rainfall last wet season and all this past year, in most of the country. The contrast between last year's flowers and greenery (from the rain the year before and earlier last year) and this year's drought (the worst since 1983) is really striking. All the water storage reservoirs are down, some to dangerously low levels, and in late October a huge dust storm swept across Queensland and New South Wales. Eric reported that the storm got as far as Airlie Beach on the coast, and the dust in the air was quite noticeable. I (Jean) wasn't there at the time, and I missed seeing the dust when it came through Brisbane and Sydney, too.
Here's some quotes from the online news (links below): "A dust storm so vast it was visible from space swept across Australia's east on Wednesday, 23 October, reduced visibility to barely 100 meters in some places as it rolled across the outback in western Queensland and New South Wales and over coastal cities, including Sydney. The meteorology bureau said the dust storm at its worst covered an area 1,500 kilometres long and 400 kilometres wide and rose 2,500 meters into the atmosphere."
Qantas celebrated its 82nd anniversary by giving a 747 to Longreach, Queensland, for their museum. They figure the dry air will help preserve it, and it is now past its use by date. Eric reports that the landing was really spectacular, because the airstrip there is way shorter than the normal minimum landing length. It came in with no cargo, no passengers, and virtually no fuel. They had to shut down the outboard engines real quick, to avoid having them swallow rocks and stuff from the strip. Here's a news link:
The Qantas Founders' Museum is here http://www.qfm.org.au/
In the past month, I (Jean) have stayed in budget accommodation in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra. I booked through Quickbeds but the same places were listed (for approximately the same price) on NeedItNow, WotIf and probably other sites I didn't check. In each case the place I chose (for location -- close to the city centre -- and price) turned out to be quite basic but also quite acceptable, although one room was odd (more about that below). Here's a summary.
Brisbane: Good Earth Hotel, 345 Wickham Terrace, Spring Hill. The airport shuttle drops off and picks up at the door -- cheaper than the train, but I got the "scenic tour" of South Brisbane on the way to the place on the bus, so it's a good thing I wasn't in a hurry. I'd stayed here before, but had a room on the swimming pool level this time, just above the undercover parking area. It was quiet and comfortable and had a modem port on the telephone. You could even open the patio door to get some fresh air. The location is a short stroll down a hill to the city centre.
Sydney: Aaron's Hotel, 37 Ultimo Road, Haymarket, at the edge of Chinatown and just half a block from the Haymarket campus of the University of Technology, Sydney, and a block from Paddy's Markets in the other direction. I stayed here twice. This is an old building that has gone through several incarnations, including being a backpackers' hostel for some years and then renovated just before the 2000 Olympics. One of the airport shuttle services dropped off and picked up here, again cheaper than taking the train; not sure how the price compares to the city transit service's yellow airport bus, but it's certainly a lot more convenient.
The first room I had was on two levels, with a (hard to see) step down between the levels. Not good when stumbling to bed in the dark. The toilet and shower had obviously been added as afterthoughts, and were not in a separate room. The toilet had a folding door between it and the room; the shower didn't have a door or curtain separating the drying-off area from the room, although the shower stall itself did have a curtain on it. This room also suffered from being at the back of the building, and some sort of construction was going on in the street behind, because in the middle of the night, horrendous crashings and bangings woke me up. On my second stay, I had a double room with a normal bathroom, at the front of the building which turned out to be surprisingly quiet, so I had no complaints.
Canberra: Canberra Central Apartments, corner of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive. This is another place with a varied past. I think it was student housing at one point, and perhaps welfare housing before that; it has some permanent residents. The room was comfortable and had a full kitchenette but no telephone. The bathroom was arranged so you had to step into the shower area in order to open or close the door, but was otherwise okay. The location was great for my purposes and the building was quiet. The airport shuttle operates only on weekdays, and only once an hour, and picks up and drops off only at 2 or 3 locations (this hotel wasn't one of them), but I didn't have much luggage so the short walk to the transit centre wasn't a problem. Note: This venue has now closed and is being demolished.
Up until a few months ago, the card modems in our laptop computers (purchased several years ago in the USA) worked fine in Australia. Now they still work fine with some ISPs, but not with Telstra's Bigpond -- which worked until then. Eric (gadget man) figured out what settings he needed to change in his modem, but I haven't had time to do this -- I only discovered the problem a few days before I set off on a trip to the USA.
So although in the past we've said not to worry, your laptop modem with work -- this may no longer be the case, at least not without some tweaking. If you're buying a card modem (or a laptop with a modem built in), be sure to ask for an "international" modem; that should help.
Here's what Telstra has to say on the subject of modems: http://www.bigpond.com/Home/Support/Help/FAQ/modems.asp
Quote from NASA eclipse site: "This time around, Australia offers a tempting alternative to the African rainy season, but the choices presented to the observer will be difficult to reconcile. In Australia, better weather prospects come at the cost of a short eclipse and a very low solar altitude that will magnify the effects of any cloud that might be present. If we make the reasonable assumption that there is a one-third chance that scattered cloud will block the Sun and a two-thirds chance for broken cloud, then the chances of seeing the eclipse will range from about 55% on the coast to about 65% inland."
Looking for an Australian gift for someone this festive season? Here are some online shops. More information is on this page: http://www.avalook.com.au/shop.htm or go directly to the websites listed below.
These listings are for information only; we are not endorsing any of these shops or their products.
Steve Parish, well-known photographer: books, calendars, other products. http://www.steveparish.com.au/ourprod.html
Australian Geographic Shop: books, calendars, toys, many other items. http://www.australiangeographic.com/
Wilderness Shop: a great range of gifts. http://www.wilderness.org.au/shop/
About Australia: an Australian retail store and online shop in the USA. Sells "authentic Australian foods, gifts and souvenirs". http://www.about-australia-shop.com/
Accessory Supply: a Victoria-based seller of 100% Australian made pewter and other items. http://www.accessorysupply.com/
Len Beadell has been described as "The Last Australian Explorer" because of his lifetime of work surveying, mapping and creating access to a vast portion of the Australian Outback. He has written several very interesting books, which you can buy though this website if you can't find them in a bookshop: http://www.beadell.com.au
The site has interesting biographical stuff as well as book sales.
Our plans for lengthy camping trips have never worked out, and this past year we finally admitted that we really don't like being on the road for more than 6 weeks at a time, even if we aren't driving long distances very often, and even not counting all the big and little things that go wrong. So we've sold the motorhome; there was no point in having it sitting around most of the time, deteriorating in the tropical climate.
So we'll go back to our old habits of flying somewhere and renting a vehicle. That also saves us the nuisance of driving for a week to get to somewhere we haven't been, before the real trip even starts. Next year we're looking at starting off from Darwin and going over to the Kimberley -- the next step of the trip we'd originally planned for this year. Keep tuned!
© Copyright 2002 Eric Lindsay and Jean Weber. All rights reserved.
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