A Visit from the Queen…

Today Darwin had a visit from the Queen Mary 2 which is a very opulent looking cruise ship owned by Cunard.

Queen Mary 2 in Darwin Harbour

The website for the ship describes the Queen Mary 2 as Cunard’s flagship and the most magnificent ocean liner ever built. She offers so much space on board and such an array of state of the art facilities including a 3D Cinema, planetarium and a superb spa – all sounds very nice indeed.

Queen Mary 2 in Darwin Harbour

She arrived in Darwin this morning around 9am and drew quite a crowd, mind you at the height and size of her it really is hard not too spot her and wonder just how she gets around!

Queen Mary 2 in Darwin Harbour

We popped down after work and got there just in time as she sailed back out of Darwin just as the sun was setting, although they didn’t get one of Darwin’s magnificent sunsets tonight.

Queen Mary 2 in Darwin Harbour

We watched her do a very impressive looking three point turn out of the harbour. I don’t think its possible to imagine something so big pretty much turning on the spot but she did and it was very cool to watch.

She is currently on her way to Bali which seems like a very good plan after her trip around Australia!

After watching her set sail again on her journey me and the Aussie stopped for some fish and chips which is always good when you are beside the seaside.

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The Gecko Games

The Winter Olympics have just finished and it seems that our Geckos are coming out to play! Of course that might be helped by the break in the rain but it’s lovely to see them running around the walls (inside and out of course) catching their dinner.

House visitor

I took that picture on my last trip to Australia. I have found it to be quite tricky to get a photo of a Gecko as their quite fast moving and if you get to close they, understandably, run away! I just found this picture on the laptop though of one of the different species of Geckos who visit out house.

On the ummmm Kitchen Table!
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A few days ago we noticed that one of the Geckos was chasing the little mouse pointer as it moved around the computer screen but I didn’t manage to get a video. This morning it did the same again on the Aussie’s computer so I whipped out my phone to take a video which you can watch here.

I did a bit of research about Gecko’s (aka a Google search) and this is what I learnt from the Queensland Museum.

Australian geckos belong to the families Diplodactylidae, Carphodactylidae and Gekkonidae. Geckos are easily recognised, being mostly nocturnal with soft bodies and tiny granular scales. They have well-developed limbs with five digits, large eyes with vertical pupils, no eyelids, and broad fleshy tongues. In the absence of eyelids, the tongue is used to lick the eye clean (charming).

Climbing the Wall – They seem to like being upside down
I Come from the Land Down Under

The diversity in Australian geckos is remarkable. There are boldly patterned species (for example, Oedura marmorata and Strophurus taenicauda), drab species (for example, Gehyra dubia and Heteronotia binoei) and some, like the leaf-tailed geckos (Orraya occultus, Phyllurus spp., Saltuarius spp.), with cryptic patterns and broken outlines that blend perfectly with their backgrounds. Some are smooth and others are covered with small, raised tubercules.

We have also found that when under threat from animals such as birds (or a wayward door) that they will drop their tail and then slowly grow a new one. We’ve had one who did that since I’ve been here and it was really cool watching the tail grow back and also to see just how quickly it did it.

Gecko with a hint of tail growing back
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Happy 30th Birthday to my not so Little Brother

Today is my brother’s 30th birthday, quite how that happened I will never know but I am a bit older than him so it’s a bit of a shock to the system to realise I am as old as I am!

Here is a picture of him when he was a baby, looking quite cute I think you’d agree
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Here we both are, I’m loving the colour co-ordination at such a young age! I would confirm how old I am in this picture but that might give an indication of my age and i’m trying to stay all illusive you know 😉
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He’s now 6ft odd and towers above me which is why its hard to call him my little brother sometimes!

I’m sad that I’m not with him to celebrate his birthday as we celebrated mine together and had a great time but I will see him in just a few months now when he comes to Australia with our parents so we will have plenty of time to celebrate his birthday and what better way to celebrate than visiting your sister in Australia!?!

I’m also extremely jealous about his awesome birthday cake. He is a huge Dr Who fan (his pressie from me might be along that theme too) and so this is the perfect cake. He just has to remember to save me a piece now (I think this will be impossible as it is a Devils Food Chocolate Cake with a White Chocolate Butter Cream Filling, decorated with coloured fondant by the Busty Baker)

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All that’s left to say is a HUGE HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY BROTHER!!!!!!

We Were Sailing

We had a big day yesterday (Saturday) again as we went sailing on a boat that is owned by a friend of the Aussie. The Aussie loves sailing but his boat is out of the water at the moment so we have been taken sailing by a couple of his friends over the last few months.

Sailing

This time we went sailing on a catamaran with some friends of the owner – well they mostly sailed and I sat there with one of the other passengers getting slightly sunburnt (it doesn’t seem to matter how much sunscreen I wear I always get burnt in one spot somewhere) and enjoying the gorgeous sea breeze and views of Darwin from the sea.

Stokes Hill Wharf

We were out for a few hours and enjoyed a lovely lunch we all put together whilst we waited for a bit of wind as there wasn’t much available when we got started.

Sea Side of the City

After lunch the wind really came up and we sailed out towards East Point in Darwin and then back in to the jetty where we would get of the boat.

Look Out

It was a lot of fun and we saw some BIG boats and of course seagulls along the way so was a great day which we finished off with dinner and drinks at the Boat Club.

Darwin City

I was going to post this when we got home but the sea air definitely helped make us sleepy so to bed we went almost as soon as we got back!

We Need to Go Thataway Boys

Happy Anniversary

Fruity champagne

Today is my parents 33rd wedding anniversary so I just wanted to wish them an extremely happy anniversary!

Apparently you give amethyst as the gift for the 33rd wedding anniversary (take note Dad!). I couldn’t arrange that but called them on my way to work via FaceTime (thank goodness for the internet and smartphones/tablets) and gave them a bit of a sample of what Darwin has to offer for when they come and visit us in June from the comfort of my iPad.

Its sad being apart from your family and friends, especially on special days like birthdays and anniversaries but we will make up for it on their visit 🙂

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The Aussie and I paid a visit to Nightcliff in Darwin tonight after work. There was a lovely breeze and it was still sunny plus we got to walk down the jetty/pier thing which was closed last time we visited due to the slightly extreme weather!

We got to enjoy a gorgeous sunset as well as a nice beach side (well foreshore walk) and some delicious fish and chips! It was a very nice way to start the weekend off and also to celebrate my parents anniversary.

Celebratory Fish & Chips

Happy Friday to everyone!

What would you choose? Number plates

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I often have a laugh driving and wandering around when I see the number plates on peoples cars in and around Darwin, not in a bad way, I just love to see what they have on their cars.

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A lot of people have the standard Northern Territory plates which are just a set of seemingly random letters and numbers which in their own way identify a car’s date and place of issue.

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However you also find a lot of personalised number plates here in the Northern Territory and it seems like they can pretty much be anything as long as their not rude or insulting (or at least I have never seen any that fall in to either category).

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You find that they can be anything from a person’s name, the company name they work for if it is a works vehicle, to some kind of slogan or team support (I saw one that said WestHamU the other day which I assume is in homage to West Ham United!!).

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Sometimes they make no sense at all and me and the Aussie have spent many a time behind a car trying to work out what the number plate is supposed to say! Either way I find them entertaining and often laugh when I see what someone has chosen.

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There is even a website called Number Plate Stories where a lady in Darwin is taking photos of the number plates she see’s and asks people to contact her and give her their story for the number plate they chose.

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It got me thinking what would I choose as a number plate if I ever bought a car in Darwin, or maybe I can hijack the Aussie’s number plate!!! What would you choose?

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Useful Things I’ve Discovered about Australia and my Visa

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The sister of one of my friends messaged me to ask about my working holiday visa (visa 417) as she is thinking of applying for one here.

I’ve also had a few people asking me about how things work in Australia for someone on a visa so I thought I might just go through some of the questions I have been asked as well as a few things I have thought about that are helpful. I am by no means an expert and certainly not an immigration expert but these are the things I learnt, sometimes the hard way when I arrived. If you need more specialst advice you should contact immigration etc!

I applied for the Working Holiday Visa which lasts for a year (it can be renewed for a second year as well in some circumstances) and this entitles you to work for six months for any one employer and also study for up to 12 weeks so is very handy for getting your way around Australia. A handy key fact sheet is here. I tried to find out how much you need in your account when you arrive but I couldn’t find that bit. I think when I got here it was between $4,000 and $5,000.

Medicare
This is like the NHS in the UK as it will pay for medical treatment costs. Some people have Medicare and private health cover and some have just medicare. Here is a link I found explaining what is and is not covered.

I discovered whilst doing some research that there is a reciprocal health agreement between some Countries and Australia so you are entitled to apply for a medicare card if you have a passport from those countries.

I applied for a card by visiting my local Medicare Office (they are in all sorts of places including shopping malls so fairly easy to find) filling in the form and then providing proof of my ID with my driving licence, passport (you will need this all the time when you first arrive) and visa details.

Now the first time I tried to register for a card I was told off because I had been in Australia for more than 2 weeks and so they for some reason couldn’t just accept my visa stamp in my passport. They sent me off to immigration, who shook their heads in wonder about why I had been sent there and then printed me off the original visa letter I had confirming when I was entitled to stay in Australia.

The whole process went smoothly from then, other than when they spelt my name as Vistoria rather than Victoria. It’s an easy mistake to make!

Going to the Doctor was easy, you can seemingly go to any Doctor, although I have heard that they like you to stick to one really, make an appointment and then just pop along with your Medicare card and be seen by a Doctor. The surgery had to check I was entitled to treatment with Medicare but it was all very straightforward.

It’s useful to know that there are Doctors here who do bulk billing where they invoice Medicare direct and get paid for seeing you. There are also some surgeries where you pay the Doctor for the appointment and claim it back which I have heard can be a hassle. I’ve also heard that some Doctors charge more than you can claim back (about $90) and so you end up out of pocket. I haven’t experienced that but that is what I have been told.

There seems to be lots of bulk billing places around so should be easy to find.

Tax File Number
This is crucial if you plan to work as, you can work without one but then you pay higher tax and have to claim it back etc. I applied online here and it took about 2 weeks to arrive. I just filled in my details and visa/passport details and they sent it straight through.

Then when you start work you give them the number and they set everything up for when you get paid. It also links to the Superannuation (like a pension) which everyone has. With the click of a few buttons it was all sorted out.

Banks
I found opening a bank account relatively easy to do. I just looked around for the migrant bank accounts each bank offered, applied online with my visa details and then received confirmation online shortly afterwards by email. They then ask you to make an appointment to go down and show them your passport and visa and arrange for your card to arrive. I tried doing this by email before I arrived but it became very convoluted so I just turned up at the bank one day (ok two as the first time I forgot my passport) and they opened the account for me.

My problem was I applied had applied for the account to soon before I arrived in Australia, so the bank in Darwin had returned my card to the main bank. They quickly sent a new one direct to my PO Box and it took about a week (probably not helped by living in the rural area so everything takes much longer).

I have found its a bit inconvenient not having an Australia credit card here, especially to buy things online as the bank card I have is not a debit card like we have in the UK. If you use foreign cards here you attract the charges as well so its a bit of a pain, especially when you want to do something like book a cinema ticket.

Paypal works but I didn’t want it running from my UK bank account and I was eventually able to set up an Australian account but as I don’t have a credit card that means I have to transfer money from my bank to Paypal account in advance to pay for things, unless I am doing something wrong.

I have now just applied for a pre pay credit card and when it arrives will give that a go.

Travel Insurance
I thought I would just be able to buy a travel insurance policy which would last me for a year and I would be fine. However when I read the small print I found that these actually limit the length of the trips that you take in that year. I did some research and found that gap year insurance was the best deal for me as it has good coverage and you can use it if you venture farther afield as well depending on the level of cover.

My policy cost me about £300 in total and was easy to set up as there are lots of comparison sites like this one.

PO Boxes
As I mentioned before we use PO Boxes here as lots of places don’t have street delivery.

There are lots of places around where you can apply for a PO Box and then its really easy to use but you have to have proof of your address in Australia, usually via your Australian driving licence which is tricky. If you can prove that then its just a case of filling in another form and they give you a key for the box.

Lots of information there and I hope some of it was useful! To break up the text here is a picture of a kangaroo from my garden

Kangaroo