Mourning For The City I Love

It has been devastating watching the catastrophe unfold in the city that I've grown to love. I've said before that this is the first place where I've truly felt settled. It's the city we chose to live in when deciding to emigrate, and we've never once regretted it. Many parts of Brisbane are now a disaster zone, including some of my favourite places. Of course buildings and places can be re-built; there's nothing that can be done to replace the lives that have been lost.

The heart and soul of Brisbane has been damaged and it's going to be a long time before things are back to normal.

When we've had visitors arrive from the UK, to give them a good taste of what's best about Brisbane we always used to drive to Bulimba or Hawthorne and take the CityCat catamaran service down the river, around the Central Business District (CBD), and get off at South Bank. The South Bank Parklands being my favourite place in the city.

The CityCat service has largely been destroyed. Not the catamarans as such, but the majority of the terminals. Similarly, South Bank Parklands have been inundated by the floods.

Riverside and Eagle St Pier, Brisbane
Brisbane flooding

Images courtesy of Channel 9

It looks like it's going to take 2 years to re-build the areas that are affected. It's going to be a long clean-up process requiring lots of resources. More than 26,000 homes and 5000 businesses in 67 suburbs have been affected. More than 150 roads remain closed and many part of the city are still without power.

We've been very lucky that we chose to move to the Redlands area. We did look at rental properties in Milton, Toowong and other inner-Brisbane suburbs which have been hit, but chose to move out here instead.

At work (the day job) we're also looking at what we can do to help out in the community. Our engineers are already hard at work helping out our customers who have been impacted. Many customers had to invoke their Disaster Recovery plans, and we've got quite a few customers who need help re-building their networks to get their business up and running again. Besides that I know a lot of us want to help out with the clean-up effort in the local community. Our office is near Fortitude Valley which has been impacted by the flood, but we're situated on a hill so the office is unaffected. We also haven't been hit by the power cuts.

I appreciate how lucky we've been that's why I want to help out as much as possible. Our Premier, Anna Bligh, who has been doing a sterling job, says that they need two things: volunteers and money. This couldn't come at a worse time for us if they want money. However, while we're short on cash I have been able to find another way that I can donate. Virgin Blue allows you to cash in your velocity points for cash donations. I've got plenty of those so that's what I've done. The page to make donations from Velocity Points is here (it's quite hard to find on their website). I've also signed up with Volunteering Queensland. The form for that is here.

It's very easy to start a new year and think about personal plans (see my last post). Then something like this comes along and puts it all into perspective.

Trials and Tribulations in the Rental Market

We're moving out of our house on Thursday. The only problem is we haven't yet got a home to move to. Things were great with our current house to begin with. We're a short walk away from a park and our house backed on to woods so we could wake up to the sound of Kookaburras in the morning.

Then a few months ago we were suddenly awoken by the sounds of bulldozers. The woods across from our house has now gone and is being replaced by an estate compromising 62 houses. The noise is horrendous from 6:30am every weekday and even some Saturdays. Not only that but we're getting a constant stream of dust coming into the house from the construction site. It's not good.

Our rent came up for renewal so we decided it was time to move again. It's not just the construction site that's the problem. I haven't been able to get ADSL since we've been here so I ended up getting Satellite broadband, which is only any good when we've got clear skies, and it's not cheap. Trying to run an internet business from home with an unreliable internet service is not ideal to say the least. We're also in poor signal area to use 3G broadband. Rachelle has now given up her job and works for our business full-time so it's particularly important that we've got a good connection.

So we made the decision to move out and found a fantastic house in Manly. It's a bit smaller than our current house, only having 2 bedrooms, but it's only 200 metres from the water (Moreton Bay) and close to Cambridge Parade which has a good selection of quality restaurants. We applied, got accepted, lodged a deposit and signed the Tenancy Agreement. All set to move in this Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon we received a phone call from the estate agent to inform us that the owners of the house we are moving to have changed their mind and now want to move into their house. Some story about the husband having an accident in India leaving him paraplegic so they've decided to return home to Brisbane and live in that house. Whether it's true or not I don't know. If it is, I'm truly sorry for being so cynical and I feel for them, but I don't understand why someone who's paraplegic would want to return to a 3 storey townhouse. It all sounds a bit fishy to me.

So begins the nightmare. We've signed a tenancy agreement and given notification to leave our current place, so legally we've got a signed contract that's binding which allows us to live in the Manly house for the next 6 months. We spoke to the Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) who administer the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act, and who have powers to resolve disputes and issue fines, and they confirmed we’re legally in our rights to take up the residency.

The thing is, the owners have the keys, not the estate agents, and if we did move in they could kick us out again in 6 months time, which being 3 weeks before we get married would not be the best of timing. So we’ve been madly looking for somewhere else. The problem is compounded by the fact we have no option but to move out of our current house on Thursday as since we gave notification to leave, the owners signed a tenancy agreement with someone else.

We crammed in as many viewings as we could this weekend and have found a house we love in Alexandra Hills for which we've lodged an application. Fingers crossed, but with the rental market the way it is at the moment we've got a lot of competition for the house. We've pulled out all the strings to provide the best application we can, including a cover letter selling why we'd make great tenants, great references, more than the 100 points ID, full records of our previous rental payments and good inspection reports, etc. Of course, our competition could have done exactly the same. We should find out tomorrow.

Even if we get the house, it’s not available until the 1st April. Luckily some friends have offered to put us up but we’ll have to move all our stuff into storage for a few days. We’ve told the estate agents of the Manly house that we expect the owners who have messed us about to cover any of our out of pocket expenses, including storage costs and the extra removal costs moving our stuff from storage to the new house.

We're currently up to our necks in boxes packing for the move. This should be an exciting time, moving into a new house. Instead, we're completely demotivated because we have no idea where or when we'll have our own house again.

Adventure Sailing

A couple of weeks ago I went on an Adventure Sailing Day courtesy of a gift experience that Rach bought me for my birthday.

IMG_0857 The Yacht I went on, which is called Solo, has quite a spectacular history. It has won the Sydney to Hobart race four times and circumnavigated the world 3 times. Also, it was the first sailing boat to circumnavigate Australia since Matthew Flinders did it back in 1802.

It was an early start when we slipped out into Moreton Bay on our way out to Moreton Island. It dawned on me that this was actually the first time I'd been out on a boat in Moreton Bay, besides catching the ferry over to Stradbroke Island. I never realised how many Island there are just a short sail away from Brisbane.

We sailed past St Helena Island and Green Island, spotting numerous Dolphins on the way and made our way over to Tangalooma on the protected west side of Moreton Island.

Once a Whaling Station, Tangalooma is now best known for it's Wild Dolphin Resort where you can stay at the hotel and then hand-feed the bottlenose dolphins which swim right up to the beach in the shallow waters during Sunset.

IMG_0860Tangalooma is also known for its Wrecks Dive site, which was where we were heading. Fifteen vessels, many of which were used to dredge the Brisbane River, have been deliberately sunk on the landward side of Moreton Island by the Brisbane Council to form a breakwall for small boats and a wreck dive and snorkel site. The Tangalooma Wrecks provide diving in depths from 2-10m and attract an amazing amount of marine life. Much of the wrecks is now covered in coral and the amount of tropical fish was very similar to when I went diving on the Barrier Reef.

This time though I wasn't diving, just snorkelling.

Unfortunately, as I jumped from the boat into the water I somehow managed to lose my snorkel. So for the first 20 minutes in the water I had to swim around in the water with only a face mask and no snorkel. I'm no free-diver so this became quite exhausting trying to hold my breath for long periods so I could get the snorkelling experience. Luckily some of the other passengers became tired quite quickly and went back to the boat so I managed to get one of their snorkels.

The experience was pretty amazing and I'll definitely be going out there again.

IMG_0869 After snorkelling the next stop was to go sand-boarding. By this time however the weather had turned and it started to rain. I new straight away that the sand-boarding would be out of the window as you can't slide on wet sand. So we sailed around for a bit and waiting for the weather to brighten up again. It didn't take long and within the hour the sun was shining and with the heat what it was we new it wouldn't take long to dry out the sand.

I've never been sand-boarding before. The picture to the right shows the sand cliff that we were to sand-board down. It's hard to get the right perspective in this photo, but trust me, it's high, and steep. The thing about sand-boarding of course, unlike when you go snow-boarding, is there's no ski-lifts to take you up to the top. To get to the top we simply had to climb, in the soft sand, in the searing heat.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the climb to the top was probably the most strenuous exercise I've had in years, in-fact, I think running the rock race up the Rock of Gibraltar was easier than that.

Now I've never been snow-boarding either so standing on a sand-board, which looked just like a snow-board, was a completely new experience for me. None of the boat crew could be bothered to climb up there and from the forty or so passengers on the boat only a handful of us tried it out. So I had no-one to show me what to do. But how hard can it be right? You just stand on a board and try not to fall off!

It took a few attempts to get my balance at the top and stay upright, and then once I was stable I pushed off. The idea is that you put the weight on your back foot to control the descent - the harder you dig in the slower you will go. That's the theory anyway. The truth is, as I quickly discovered, once the board picks up some speed it doesn't matter how hard you dig in, there's no stopping that momentum.

I'm quite proud to say I managed to make it about three quarters of the way down before I fell off.

I would have loved to have made it up for a second go but there was no way I was going to make that climb again. My calves were on fire!

IMG_0872 After sand-boarding, the speedboat took us back to the Yacht where we had a beautiful lunch before having a leisurely sail around the islands.

To end the the day I sat back, cracked open a bottle of beer and did a spot of sunbathing while we slowly made out way back to shore.

A good day was had by all!