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Monday, June 2, 2008

It’s been all work and no play for the last couple of days since we come from Byron Bay. We headed further North towards Brisbane and dropped in on the odd suburb or two before the Gold Coast. There are some places out there that are affordable but they are a little distant from the Brisbane CBD. We made our way right out to Redcliffe, the house of Cookie Composites who are manufactures of Skydiving helmets and accessories. Lynda ordered a helmet a while back from Cookie and we wanted to pick it up personally. James Cooke, the owner of Cookie is a great guy and we wanted to chat to him as well. Lynda’s helmet was ready and she fitted it but it was a little loose so James made up a custom chin cup right there which made the helmet fit perfectly. What awesome service but that’s what we have become accustom to in OZ. Awesome service and the friendliest people. Just 2 doors down from Cookie is a rigger who is able to build us spare cut-away cables for our wingsuits. This is great news because we decided that we would get spares as well in case we had a mishap on our BASE trip and we would have tears if we could not wingsuit while in Europe.

After we picked up Lynda’s helmet we went off looking for a camping ground. We found one right by the beach and settled in for the night. The following day we pulled out our laptops and begun doing some research for places around the Sunshine Coast. Next moment we had someone peeking over and chatting to us. Our neighbours were curious about how we were connecting to the internet. I told them that I was cursed at birth like Obelix and I fell into a barrel of microchips and swallowed a bunch and now I’m connected to the Internet all the time…. I think he might have believed me as he was asking me what chips and how big the barrel was. Russel and Cazna, are two Ozzie retirees also running around looking for the ultimate place to settle and live out their retirement. Russel was a famer and Cazna a Real Estate agent. Cazna is a good person to know right now although she worked mainly in the NSW state which has slightly different laws. Over the next few days we spent hours speaking to them. Great people with a bunch of very useful information. Russel is one interesting character and a very knowledgeable farmer. Things are quite different in OZ. This is very much a self help society. Russel basically ran his farm completely on his own with his wife. No farm workers. He did beef farming, sheep farming and dairy farming throughout his farming lifetime. I’m not sure of his age but he must be in his late sixties or early seventies but he looked fifty and had the energy of a twenty five year old. The day we met them, we decided to hit the beach for a day off and they were headed to the beach as well. Next moment we see him walk off with a funky boogie board under his arm. Later at the beach he is out there in the surf frantically catching wave after wave on his boogie board. It was so wicked to see. Gives me hope for when I eventually, maybe, kind of grow old one day.

We spent some time running around the hinterland looking at land to buy. Because this is quite far out one can pick up large size land real cheap. The trade off is that most of this land is sloping and quite a few of the plots don’t have counsel sewerage or water. You have to sink French Drains and make a plan with rain water. This all sounds romantic but maybe it’s a little too rough for us and it’s also a little too far from Brisbane. One day when we retire it will be a magic place but not right now. Strange thing here is that people build on stilts rather than do land levelling and filling. One other concept we have to get used to is that building here is far different from South Africa. They start with a cement slab. Once that is hardened, they erect a wooden frame on top of that which forms the whole house including the roof trusses. Then they put a plastic seal all the way around the outside except the door and window frames. Then they build around the outside of the wooden frame with a single brick layer and the rest of the inside of the house is done in plaster board / dry wall. No solid houses here. I think if you have BIG bucks then you might build in solid brick. Also, it is more chic to have a corrugated iron roof, they call it Colour Bond here, then a tile roof. The other reason is that corrugated iron roof’s capture water far more effectively then tiled roofs. Rain water use here is big. Just about every house has a water tank. New housing developments use rain water and they also reuse shower/bath/sink water. They also have solar heaters for their hot water and solar panels are also common. Getting used to all these new concepts in housing is taking quite a bit but it’s all slowly growing on us. The other thing is that new houses are always advertised with House and Land prices separate. The importance here is the land price and not too much the house price. All the house developers have show homes which one can go and stroll around in to get a feel for them. The idea of Housing Estates is also very big here with the difference being that there is no boom gate or guard house or security system of sorts. It’s simply the same as a Housing Estate in SA, like Kyalami Estates, but completely open for anyone to wonder in and out as you please. We have driven thru hundreds of these Estates admiring the beautiful houses. You basically feel like you are driving thru a Hollywood film set where everything is in its proper place and it’s all shiny and new. Kids are riding around on their bicycles and skateboards and there are parks dotted all over. There is normally a running track around the Estate that runs thru the parks for those wanting to keep fit or wanting to take their pooch for a walk.

I think Lynda and I have decided that we would like to live in one of these Hollywood neighbourhoods simply because it’s all nice and clean and usually quite secluded which means everyday traffic does not ramble thru the neighbourhood. Usually the building takes up most of the land so the neat little low maintenance garden that’s left is perfect for up keep. Also, when we go wonder off on a BASE trip around the world we can simply lock the place up and forget about it and hire a garden service to pop in once every two weeks to keep the place looking spic and span. We really like this idea.

We moved out of the Sunshine Coast and headed south of the Brisbane CBD to do some research around the south of the city. We struggled a little to find a campsite and when we eventually found one I told them we would take what they had for three days without first having a look. Bad mistake. We should know this by now but hey, live a little. Once we paid and got in the car to drive to our site we noticed that just about all the sites had people permanently living on them. We hit the trailer park of note! Holy crap, this place looked a little creepy. I was beginning to wonder if we would ever emerge from this place again. As we start to pitch our tent some dude comes past and starts telling us about previous campers that camped there and lost all their clothes in a rain storm and their radio blew up and the Martians abducted them and and and…. and he just freaking mumbled on. It felt like a mozzie hovering around my head that I couldn’t swat. There were severe weather warnings on the news with some harsh rain on its way. We got a little worried with our tiny two man tent. We didn’t want to get washed away but there is little we can do about it. As we finished pitching the tent the skies opened up and the rain started to pour down. We jumped into Moondust and just sat and read books. For the last couple of days the rain has just poured down in buckets. A town just north of here had one seasons rain volume in two days! The water has been collecting under our tent simply because the ground is so water logged and we feel like we are sleeping on a water bed. Luckily this little tent of ours is the king of all tents and it’s been keeping us bone dry never mind what the weather throws at us. Well, if Queensland was having drought issues for the last couple of years then it’s all over by now. It’s been flooding and pouring down here like crazy. The warnings are still going on the news all the time with more severe weather on its way for this weekend. I guess we are going to be rained on a whole bunch more. In the meanwhile we jump out of the tent into the car and we drive to the campers kitchen and practically live in there. At least the campers kitchen has everything one needs. We have been on the internet for a whole bunch of time doing research and catching up with the world. Lynda is the research wizard and she plots and writes pages and pages of information on land and housing for sale. One awesome thing with Australia is that you can get so many statistics on areas such as population, ages and count, earned salaries, medium house prices, medium rentals, houses owned vs. houses rented and so much more. This gives you a very good idea of the area and whether it’s a good investment to buy there or not. It takes quite a bit of the guess work out if you are new to the country and you don’t quite know the layout. Things are also quite deceiving because even if an area is a little poorer it will always have a few stunning houses so sometimes you are not quite sure if the area is of a higher class or not but after driving around many many neighbourhoods we are starting to get a good feeling of how to spot the differences. I think we know more about Australia than most of the citizens themselves now :-).

Well, I’ve got to run. Lynda is chasing me to go off to see some property on the Gold Coast. I thought it would be a good idea to go and see things further down south while we are in the area. So far nothing has struck us as the place. No rest for the wicked even on a Saturday although I lose track of days. Everyday feels like a Saturday. The rain has stopped for a little while so that’s a good thing.

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Yeeeeeee haaaaaa!!! We have found home! It seem like we have found the place we would love to live at. Doubt was starting to take over as time was flying by and we were not finding our place to live. We only have less than two weeks left before we have to leave OZ and the primary mission behind this three month trip was to find the ultimate place to live. It was looking like we were never going to find the place that would captured our souls. Our little piece of heaven. During this search we changed our minds and ideas so many times that we were starting to lose track of the basics. At one stage we found plots of land out in the hinterland up in the mountains and the price vs. size was very attractive but the compromise is that one is far out of the main CBD. We eventually realised that we have been flip flopping our vision and we needed to go back to basics and fit our core needs. So what do we want? We decided that we needed a place that was either brand new or only a year or two old. So either we will build or buy something that was just built so that we don’t have to waste energy and time renovating. We want a place that does not have very big gardens so that we don’t have to waste time mowing huge lawns or tending to gardens. We want an easy neat indigenous garden that has very little maintenance and is echo friendly. We want to be in a new development area simply because everything looks new, neat and modern. We want a place that we can lock up and forget about for a few weeks or months while we travel the world on more adventures. In order to meet these requirements we will have to be a bit out of any major CBD but we want to be close to public transport so that if you want to catch trains to work it’s easy. Not much of an ask.

We have found just that place. The place simply took us as soon as we stepped into the suburb and the estate. The suburb is called Coomera. It’s the north most suburb of the Gold Coast which is just south of Brisbane in the state of Queensland. I guess we have always had a bit of a bias to the state of Queensland for so many reasons. Coomera is a relatively new development area. Most of the property around here are large plots of land and forest which have now been released for housing development. The nice thing is that the state government has the environment in mind and the requirements for developers are strict with minimum environmental impact in mind. The forest is preserved in sections of reserved parks and the place looks really beautiful. One gets a feel of a suburb by looking at the shopping malls and facilities available nearby and we went to have a look. They look great. The whole area is just stunning and everything looks modern and new. The particular estate that we found has a real forward thinking developer that develops with principles that have minimal impact to the environment in mind. This is a huge thing in OZ. Water recycling, best sun utilization, solar heating, rain water usage and the list goes on. We really love these philosophies and the less impact our living has on the environment the better we feel. The plots of land are relatively big for Ozzie standards and the houses are not cardboard boxes. On the contrary, they are very spacious and mostly built with maximum open plan living allowing for good movement of air and maximum light. So we found our utopia. Thank goodness, we were starting to get really worried we would never find it. Coomera it is. It’s 60km from the Brisbane CBD which sounds far but it’s not bad at all. 50 minutes by train which means one can do some work on your laptop while letting someone else do the driving. It’s only 100km from Byron Bay Skydiving!!! WOW, we are as close as anything to the skydiving club that has welcomed us with open arms. That is a major bonus. Only 5km down the road and we get to one of the many waterways that connect out to the sea. If we get ourselves a little rubber duck we can drop our boat in there and cruse off to a secluded beautiful beach or if I ever get into fishing I can simply drop in there and do some fishing. Hmmm, don’t see that happening anytime soon but the waterway is huge and kite boarding comes to mind. We are almost at a point where we want to simply walk in there and buy buy buy. I’ve got Lynda jumping up and down next to me here with the thought.

We will keep you posted.
In the meanwhile the Google Earth location for our new house is 27°50’34.70″S – 153°20’12.39″E

Love and peace
Eddy & Lynda