Some Fun Australia Facts

I really should be working on my presentation for Sunday and writing my January newsletter but getting reacquainted with google seemed like a nice diversion.  And justifying it as work, I googled Fun Facts about Australia.  Here are just a few interesting ones that I have compiled for your reading pleasure:

  • Sheep outnumber people in Australia.  There are over 100 million sheep and only 20 million people.
  • Melbourne has the second largest Greek population in the world, after Athens.
  • The Australian Alps, or Snowy Mountains, receive more snow than Switzerland.
  • Australia has the world’s largest population of wild camels with one hump.
  • Apparently the first European settlers in Australia drank more alcohol per person than any other community in the history of mankind.
  • There are 1500 species of Australian Spiders.
  • The first ever car to be mass produced in Australia was the FX Holden (model 48-215). This was produced at Fishermans Bend, Victoria in 1948.

And there are many more where that came from.  Thank you Australia Outback Travel Secrets,  Australian  and Nomadic Matt for these gems.

Yeah, Pismo!

Camping at Pismo Beach with friends was pretty awesome.  We endured sand showers and lack of other showers in order to enjoyed a bit of Jeep off-roading on the sand dunes, campfire cooking, late night jam sessions, long walks on the beach, trips into town to relieve our windblown faces, great community and all sorts of other fun!

I haven’t been camping american style in years so this was a great treat.  The picture below was taken from Pismo Pier and you can see the sandy dunes way in the background.  The weather was great except the afternoons which were super, ridiculously windy.  We all definitely came home with enough sand to make our own commemorative sand art.  Gotta love the beach, friends and California!

Cruise Control could save us all and other thoughts about California Freeways.

When I am on a highway, I use cruise control because it is one less thing to think about.  I know what speed I am going, it helps with fuel economy and I can focus on the road while singing along to the country songs playing on the radio.  If I come to a slower section of the road, I just reset it, if the speed limit increases, that’s an easy adjustment too.  This seems to be a pretty straightforward concept, I even understand it and I haven’t really driven in three years.  But there are lots of people who don’t seem to grasp the simplicity of this.  I am not talking about around town or in rush hour.  I am talking about the long wide open stretches like on the 5 or the 101.  Cruise control could save people a lot of grief.  While on the 101 yesterday two cars in particular would race up behind me when I was passing a truck or slower traffic on the left and then once I moved over would zoom by, just to slow down once again 50 yards ahead.  This doesn’t help anyone.  And I saw it happen many times ahead of me where someone would move aside for a ‘faster’ car to go by only to get boxed in because that car then slowed down.  Cruise control can’t save the world but it could save people a little frustration and of course fuel the improved fuel economy should appeal to everyone.

With use of the cruise control people would also be encouraged to move over for faster cars.  I am happy to get over and let someone zoom by me but I am less happy to get boxed in because that person decided they didn’t really want to pass.  Keeping right is another simple concept that can save us all some frustration.  But if you are going to pass on the left, please actually pass.

While I am already on this roadway rant, please put down your cell phones.  With all the amazing advances in technology I am very surprised to see so many people talking on their cell phones or obviously texting while driving.  Get a smart phone, get a hands free device, hand your phone to the person sitting in the passenger seat, pull over and finish your conversation.  There are lots of options here people.  And if you are going to insist on using your phone while driving, at least turn on your cruise control, then maybe your fluctuating speed won’t give you away.


Ode to Heated Seats and Other Modern Conveniences

Modern conveniences are wonderful.  Toilets, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, garbage disposals, central heating and many more wonderful things that make life easier, that make life better.  Better is a relative term but after living without many of these items for a time and some of them for most of the last three years, I can say that most of them really are nice to have.  But some of them I appreciate more then others.  Indoor plumbing, electricity, a refrigerator, washing machine and heating in cold weather are at the top of my list.  A dishwasher, dryer and garbage disposal are nice to have but I know that I can live without them.  However, if I had to choose one splurge I would choose heated car seats.  I love heated seats.  What is your favorite modern convenience?

The Joys of GPS and Freeway Culture Shock.

Ok so I may be a bit behind the times but in my defense, a lot has happened in the past 3 years.  When I left I knew a handful of people who had GSP systems and they were pretty much only handheld, most people with a BlackBerry phone needed them for work and smartphones were just gaining mass popularity.  It was exciting enough during college just to use mapquest to get directions.  But now things are different.  It is common to have built in GPS in cars, BlackBerrys now have touch screens too and smartphones are everywhere.  You can still use mapquest or ask for directions but now it is much easier to use GPS for directions or your smartphone to see how to get around traffic.

Yesterday I drove down to southern California to visit my cousin and her new baby (pictures of the G-man later).  Instead of asking for directions I simply punched in their address to a GPS and let the voice guide me.  This was great on the freeways of Los Angeles because I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road to look at a map or worry that I missed a freeway turnoff.  Maybe this isn’t amazing to any of you but for me it made all the difference.  Since LA is just a mass of freeways, driving could have proved very difficult but two miles before a turn or merge, the GPS would warn me.  This gave me plenty of time to navigate thought the LA traffic and I made it to and from my destination with no problems.

I had to laugh at myself as I was driving.  For the first part of the trip the roads had relatively light traffic and we were traveling at pretty normal LA freeway speeds but I was a bit nervous.  I turned my music down and concentrated fully on the road.  Traffic and driving are still ‘new’ to me.  However, just before LA the traffic slowed down to a crawl with red taillights as far as I could see.  Instead of getting frustrated (the normal drivers reaction to traffic), I felt my pulse slow down a bit and relaxed.  Inching down the freeway, I turned the music back up and could enjoy the drive.  By the time the traffic thinned, I had calmed a bit and was ready to resume the freeway speeds that I will hopefully get use to once again.

So I guess the moral of this story is that LA freeways are a good place to test out GPS systems and how they work.  And that culture shock can manifest itself in many funny ways.  I should remember this a few months from now when traffic no longer seems like a nice calming break.


And the Winner of the “Coolest Car in Ukarumpa” is…

From your votes on the blog:

The Firetruck

 From the Votes in Ukarumpa:

The Yellow Sub

 And totaling up all the votes:

It’s still the Yellow Sub but with the Blue Bomb Honda and Firetruck tied for second.

 Each of these three vehicles owners will receive gift certificates to R&R Video.  Thanks for your participation!

For those of you who are interested in how everyone else placed:

Blog Vote:

1. Firetruck
2. Yellow Sub
3. Attack Tricyle
4. Blue Bomb / Surveyor’s Pride / EBC Truck / Clean Machine
5. Limo aka Brenda / Candy Cane

Ukarumpa Vote:

1. Yellow Sub
2. Blue Bomb Honda
3. Surveyor’s Pride
4. Clean Machine
5. Firetruck
6. Limo aka Brenda / Attack Tricycle
7. Candy Cane
8. EBC Truck

All Together Now:

1. Yellow Sub
2. Blue Bomb Honda / Firetruck
3. Surveyor’s Pride
4. Clean Machine
5. Attack Tricycle
6. Limo aka Brenda / Candy Cane
7. EBC Truck

The “Coolest Car in Ukarumpa” Contest

There are lots of great vehicles in Ukarumpa so I decided to give the community a chance to submit their cars and let the community decide who owns the “Coolest Car in Ukarumpa”.  But I thought I would also give my blog readers a chance to vote and see what you think.  Ukarumpa is currently voting and so just look over these fine rides and email me or just comment with your favorite ‘car’.  As you will see ‘car’ is a very loose term here.  Voting will only be allowed a short time so vote only once but vote now!

Candy Cane

Candy Cane is awesome because I, Lesley (age 6), and my sister Hattie can drive (steer) on Dad’s lap.  We also car surf!  Car surfing is while someone is driving, we stand up and act like we’re actually surfing…trying not to fall.  See the missing tail light?  See the other dents?  See the non-fancy hubcap?  This van also has a high ceiling, missing rear-view mirrors, and duct-tape upholstery.  My mom thinks that the non-power steering is sure to help “buff” her arm muscles!  Candy Cane…an Ukarumpa treasure since the 1980’s.

Blue “Bomb” HondaOur blue “bomb” Honda not only has rust spots, a crooked bumper, a door that can be opened only from the outside, a piece of Erector set to activate the starter, but where else will you find UIS seat covers and a padlock on the door???  It also knows how to get dressed up for special occasions, like a visit from last year’s seniors!  Is that cool or what???

The Yellow Submarine

The Yellow submarine.  Need we say more?  The epitome of style and comfort.

There is not really a competition here; what other car has an octopus on the side?  Nuff said.

 Limo aka Brenda

This must be the coolest car in Ukarumpa  A two door coupe with sleek lines, beautiful oranges and lemons two tone stripes, It has plush back seat with sheep wool cover for your riding comfort. It also has the guts to get up any hill as long as you get a run up.  Previously known around town as Brenda it has now been up-graded to be called the Limo (short for Limousine).

Attack Tricycle

The  AT800 attack tricycle is the perfect car for the active man on the go.  It’s Powerful 200 CC aircooled engine can carry handyman, tools and materials up and down Ukarumpa hills in any of 5 forward or 5 reverse gears.  Best of all, it can carry up to 4 people for that (rare) night out on the town.

EBC Truck

The Perfect Escape-From-Center Vehicle – reliable and tough enough to handle PNG’s back roads, with plenty of room to take a few dozen friends with you!  As a former EBC mission vehicle, its distinctive brush guard provides anonymity off-center, as children on the roadside yell “EBC! EBC!” as you drive by – well… as anonymous as it gets as being a whiteskin in Papua New Guinea.

 Clean Machine

Mitsubishi Delica:  How cooler can you get than seats that fold down to make a bed, privacy curtains, cool fog lights, lightning pin stripes, and power windows and locks that really work!  Best “luxury” car and cleanest vehicle on centre!

Surveyor’s Pride


Doesn’t do long distances or heat well.

Can never go very fast except downhill.

Susceptible to the elements.


Zero carbon footprint.

Engine needs more tender love and care than most cars.


During the nine years since the Firetruck was decommissioned from a fire department in Japan and imported to PNG, my vehicle’s potential for awesomeness has been firmly established by a community that has used it not only for hauling (hundreds of kilos of cargo including motorbikes) and transportation (up to 21 people or one complete high school Spanish I class), but also for parties (add a band including tuba and lights and, voilá!, a covered mobile bandstand for Christmas carolling), sports (we teed off a croquet game from the roof), gardening (the corrugated tin roof trims trees as it drives by), smuggling (many hidey holes of various sizes are built into the frame of the truck), and inspiration for folk art (as in the sing-along “Mi laik kalap/insait long Pia Truk, mi laik kalap”, a tribute to the coil springs in the back bench seat).  Though it perhaps goes without saying that no vehicle could win Awesomest Vehicle in Ukarumpa without experiencing those local rites of passage of being stuck in a ditch on centre, having been used as Banquet transportation, and having been video-taped, let me assure you that the Firetruck passes on all counts.

That’s all folks…now make your vote count!