Sunday, 26 November 2017

In Australia

Hey guys!

It looks like I'm resurrecting this blog, as I'm travelling again and I can't think of a more appropriate blog title than Aggie's Travels :)

New trip! Woop woop! Destination Western Australia, Perth to be more precise, Fremantle to be even more precise. Both situated on Swan River, Fremantle is the port, and sits on the mouth of the river, while Perth is a bit further upstream.

Reason for trip? Do I need a reason? Of course I need a reason! I'm joining the research vessel Joides Resolution (JR in short) for an international expedition that will take us to New Zealand! Ha! We're not staying in Australia :p

This is the Integrated Ocean Discovery Program (IODP in short), expedition 372. Click here for more details! You can follow us on facebook and on twitter using the #exp372.
IODP is a program with a very long history and any marine scientist worth their salt (pun intended) needs to go at least once. But it's not only marine scientists that join, geologists of any "denomination" come and many of them haven't been at sea before (which is really interesting that the first time they do it it's for 5 weeks!!!).

Now, before we get into the science and all the geeky stuff we get to do a bit of tourism, I got to spend a full day in Perth, a great city, albeit quite isolated, even from the rest of Australia. There are very strict immigration rules and what you are allowed to bring in. You have to declare everything, and nothing fresh, such as fruits or dairy is allowed in. You even have to declare whether the shoes you bring have been in rural areas and near lakes and such. They are very careful about contamination from foreign organisms.

I was in Perth on a Friday and it seemed like a very lively city with many well-dressed people having a good time, sitting outdoors having a good refreshment (beer mostly). I'm told that this is normal for a Friday but it's not like this every day. They also seem to have a good work-life balance, there is a certain laid back attitude here. I had a chat with my taxi driver who is a student at the university and drives the taxi in the weekends but made it very clear to me that if his friends contact him and tell him they're going for a drink, he'll drop what he's doing and go meet them. He's an absolute responsibility-phobe and he dreads having any pressure on himself, so he doesn't want a job that he has to work under anyone (he's doing a business degree...). I asked him if that's just him or if this is the culture and he said most people are like that. I don't entirely agree but I think they are doing something right. Now it was only one day I spend there so obviously it can't be a full picture, it's only a first impression.

Monument in honour of all sailors (male and female)!

 By the way, you are probably aware that it's the end of November and we're building up to Christmas! Well it's the same here only that they are transitioning from spring to summer, so you see all the decorations and people in flip flops and t-shirts. I saw a guy coming from the beach holding a bag with Santa and Ho Ho Ho written on. Here it's normal of course, but to me it looked like a dude in July holding a Christmas bag :p

I should say that the healthy lifestyle here is taken to a whole new level, and smoking is forbidden almost anywhere, even if it is outdoors. Bars and cafes don't allow smoking anywhere near their premises, but more bizarrely the city centre where all the shopping malls are and the streets are pedestrianised have non-smoking signs everywhere!

Yesterday I made my way to Fremantle where I met up with some of the people that will be on the cruise with me. I know a couple of people already but there will be a huge bunch of us and I don't know them, but I'll have many weeks to meet them. So, without wanting to be antisocial, I did not spend the day with them today. Instead I met with an old friend, a dear friend, that moved to Perth about 10 years ago and whom I haven't seen in some 9 years. Steve and I were office-mates during our PhD's in Southampton, from start to finish, 4 years of listening to each other and supporting each other. That bond doesn't go away, and we never lost touch, we've been emailing each other trying to catch up every so often. I finally made it to Perth so of course we've been planning to meet ever since I found our I was coming. He picked me up this morning and took me to the most amazing places along the north coast from Perth. I got to dip my feet in the Indian Ocean, saw all the shark fences as there are a lot of great white attacks here (so no I didn't swim mum) and then we went to a national park called Yanchep where I saw koalas and kangaroos! I saw koalas and kangaroos!!!!! I actually saw koalas and kangaroos!!!
See if you can find them! I couldn't see them at first, Steve had to work hard to get me to see them!

But he was a lot easier to spot, no zoom, we were really that close! Go any closer though and he can kick you so hard you'd end up in the hospital! 

After that we went to Lancelin, where there is a sea of giant dunes. It was windy as well and sand got everywhere! I think I'll be washing sand out of my ears for days! It was emotional to see Steve and we just kept staring at each other and saying "I can't believe you're here" and "I can't believe I'm here". For him it must be even weirder cause it's his home and my image doesn't quite fit here, so we just stared at each other and hugged. Saying goodbye is difficult. I hope it's not another 10 years until I see him again, but even if it is, with some people it doesn't how long a time passes it's like you never parted. And I'll leave it at that because I'm getting emotional.

Climbing the dune!

Tomorrow they're taking us to our new home, the ship. She arrived this morning after having done a 2-month cruise in the southwest of Australia. The current scientific party will be saying their goodbyes tomorrow as we swap. It looked a little bit choppy out there today so I expect some seasickness, but we're not sailing until Friday!

That's it for now, talk to you soon! Oh and feel free to leave comments and questions.

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