This past week has been a roller-coaster ride. We took possession of “Winston,” our new/old little 1997 Australian-made Winnebago motorhome, on Wednesday, April 30. We decided to name him Winston because most Winnebagos we have known were named Winnie, but this one is quite definitely masculine. We knew that as soon as we heard his diesel engine grumble to life on our test drive. Sydney RV Group, the dealership where we purchased the RV, is here in Penrith, and part of the deal was two nights in a nearby “caravan park” (that’s Aussie for RV park) on the dealership’s dime to allow us time to get settled into the motorhome and work out any kinks. That has now stretched into six nights.
First, getting the money here from the States to complete the purchase was quite a chore, since our credit union doesn’t deal with international wire transfers as some banks do. We finally reached someone at the credit union who told us about a trick with our debit card that solved the problem. It’s a bit scary, though, because if the crooks know that trick and get ahold of your debit card, they can wipe out your checking account pretty quickly! (Hence, I won’t tell you the trick in case some unsavory person reads our blog!)
Second, it’s amazing how much we take for granted. Back in our home on wheels in the States, we have accumulated everything we need to have close at hand. Now we have to think of all those things and reestablish our habits and routines in a much smaller space. Sydney RV Group did provide a “rental kit” to supply us with rudimentary kitchen and dining equipment plus a quilt and pillows for the bed. That was above and beyond what they usually do for customers, and we do appreciate it. However, it still leaves a lot of gaps, so we have made list after list and spent many hours and dollars at the shopping centers around Penrith. And all of this has to be done while driving the motorhome because we aren’t towing a car. Fortunately, it is small enough to fit in most parking lots, although we have to avoid parking garages, of course. We also have a couple glitches in the rig that are requiring staying here longer than we planned. That is understandable since it is 17 years old after all, and sometimes parts are hard to find.
Thirdly, the weather is definitely beginning to feel like autumn. Last Saturday we took the six-kilometer (about 3.6 miles) Great River Walk along the Nepean River that runs next to our caravan park. It had rained earlier in the day and remained cloudy, but it was a pleasant walk and we saw many indications of the changing season. We saw plants that look similar to plants back home, but not quite. We saw birds that look similar to ours, but they sound very different and are just a bit different in size or have a spot of white where one wouldn’t appear on the similar American bird. One of our next purchases will be an Australian bird book! It is all very confusing, kind of like the language that is almost the same but not quite. People are very patient with our asking for clarification, and occasionally they look perplexed about what we have said, too, so it works both ways.
On Sunday we rode the train from here up into the Blue Mountains, a small range west of here (hence west of Sydney) with a maximum elevation around 4,000 feet. The mountains look blue for the same reason the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Appalachians of Virginia and North Carolina look blue. It has to do with the scattering of light reflected on small particles in the air. In these Blue Mountains, though, the effect is enhanced by millions of oil droplets released by huge numbers of eucalyptus trees.
It was a beautiful ride, but the higher we climbed, the more we noticed the wind whipping the eucalyptus trees and the people at the train stations wearing parkas, knit hats, scarves, and gloves. We became concerned because Jon was wearing his ever-present shorts with just a flannel shirt for a wrap. Sharon was in jeans and a hoody. When we got to Katoomba and stepped off the train, we were hit with 8º Celsius temperatures (about 46º Fahrenheit) with wind chill temps around 4º C (about 39º F). Needless to say, we spent the day mostly on the double-decker “hop-on, hop-off” Explorer bus, with the occasional quick hop off to take pictures of the famous Three Sisters and to eat chocolate cake at the Blue Mountains Chocolate Company. We do have our priorities straight, after all!