NOTE: I flew out on Feb 13th, took a 16 hour flight and then arrived on the 15th. I crossed over the international date line. Which coming to Australia makes you jump a day. So I skipped February 14th (Valentine’s Day) entirely.
My friend Nick had given me a SIM card with an Australian number and said he has some left over minutes on it. I put it in my phone, but it didn’t work. I had no service. I thought oh well. It took probably an hour and a half to get my bags and then wait in line to walk out of customs. They scan your passport and then you have to look into a camera, to verify it’s you. I was expecting to get a stamp in my passport, but I was bummed. No stamp! And then you walk out of these big automatic doors… and then your bombarded with hundreds of people. Lots of people with signs, taxi drivers, family members etc.
The person who was picking me up at the airport was named Simon, he was the other Cellar Hand to work vintage at Sunshine Creek. When I arrived I checked my email on the airport wifi and Simon sent me an email saying he’d be waiting outside of customs for me. I only knew what he looked like from a few Instagram photos. But initially I didn’t see him. So I went and stood in a corner of the airport. Phone still didn’t have any cell service and the airport wifi was really slow. I waited a little bit and still didn’t see anyone I recognize, or at least anyone with a sign with my name on it. I was starting to get a little concerned so I finally sent out an email to Simon saying that I’m standing by the currency exchange. I instantly recognized Simon when he walked through the airport doors. I mostly recognized his wine-stained work clothes and winery work boots. That had to be him. I called out to him and yup it was him! He helped me carry my bags to the car and I told him about my flight over. When we got to the car I was instantly confused because the steering wheel appeared to be on the passenger’s side. And I was sitting on the driver’s side. I just thought that they drove on the wrong side of the road, but their cars are designed differently too! As we were leaving the city, it felt so weird to be on the wrong side of the car and road. It almost made me dizzy. It took us a while to get out of city traffic but when we finally got to the outskirts I immediately felt at home. Rolling hills with dry grass and trees scattered everywhere. But instead of oak trees, they were eucalyptus. On the drive over, Simon and I were just talking about the usual where he/I grew up and life in Australia/The States. I started to realize the language difference. Sure they speak in English, but many of the normal sayings are different. They say “I reckon” and “G’day mate” and everything is in kilometers.
We pull up to the winery and I am just in awe of the building. It’s all new and the doors to the building are huge. The main building is a huge concrete rectangle and then there are 3 above ground tunnels in the back that attach to the winery. Only one of the tunnels is complete, they keep their barrels in there. Another tunnel will be for cold storage (cases, fruit etc) and I can’t remember what the third tunnel will be for. On the left side of the building are all the tanks, probably about 50 tanks or so. Their biggest tanks are 10,000 L and the smallest are about 3,000 L, equilivant to about a 10 ton tank and a 3 ton tank. On the right is the construction crew. They are putting up huge windows and building offices. I met the two winemakers, Mario and Chris. It’s just a brief meeting as they have work to do and I won’t officially start until the next day.
So Simon drives me to the nearest town, about 2 miles away and I set up an Australian bank account. It was easy and just looking out the bank windows, the town looks so small and cute. Finally get all that set up and then Simon takes me to the guest house where we both will be staying. The house is on the vineyard/winery property and we drive through a small orchard, rose garden, horse pastures (with horses in them!) and finally pull up to this brick house. We walk in and I’m just in shock how nice this place is and that this will be the place we are staying. Simon gives me a quick tour of the house: kitchen, 3 bedrooms each with their own bathroom, laundry room, and the large porch/BBQ area. I pick my room and set my stuff inside. Simon leaves me as he has to go back to work and I would see him later.
When he leaves I walk around and check out the property. It actually quite hot but the view is just breath taking. When I walk back to the front door, I hear something rustling around in the gutter. I look and see the nose of a large reptile. On no…here it starts. I just hear everyone’s voice in my head, “Watch out for all those deadly snakes and huge spiders!” But I mean this thing is huge. I can’t see all of it, but it’s nose is huge. Freaked out I go to my room and start to assess what’s here. There bedding, towels, soap…and WHAT THE HELL IS THE ON THE DOOR! On the bathroom door is a huge brown spider, about the size of my palm. I’m officially freaked out. And then I start to notice all the spider webs everywhere…. Oh no.
I decide to go on a cleaning spree and use the shop vacuum that’s in the laundry room to suck up all the spiders and spider webs. I do the kitchen, laundry room, my room/closet, and then the bathroom. I decide to squash the bugger with my shoe. But this spider is almost as wide as my shoe. (Okay I might be exaggerating, but this spider is huge. I have pictures as proof and plan to post those later.) After a few minutes of prepping myself, I finally smash him and then suck him up with the vacuum.
Then unpacking. I only brought one large suitcase, a small carry-on and my backpack. A relatively small amount of clothes and items with me to live somewhere for 3 months. At least for me. I honestly feel like I’ve been living by my suitcase for the past 6 months. (I was in Portland, then moved back to SLO and now I just moved to Australia).
Then laundry. I wanted to wash the sheets and blanket that were currently on my bed. Quickly I realized there was a washer…but no dryer. A little worried at first, but then realized that its blazing hot outside and there’s a clothes rack. No problem! Drying my clothes outside. I know my grandma used to do it all the time, so why can’t I? everything dried within 30 minutes. That’s faster than a normal dryer haha, I don’t know what I was worried about.
By late evening, I was relatively settled in. Everything unpacked, washed, de-bugged. My co-worker/new roommate got home around 7pm. And we went to the grocery store. The town closest to us is called Yarra Glen. It’s a really small town with one grocery store called IGA (Independent Grocers of Australia). Bought all the essentials and food for snacks and easy (and large meals). The first meal I made was a large pot of pasta. Rigatoni with a tomato and ground beef sauce. Really basic. But I made a lot. (That meal went on to serve me for 4 days haha.)
And then sleep. I tried to go to bed early, not knowing how tomorrow would be and how I would actually sleep. And well, first day of Australia complete. I was still a little weirded out by all the bugs and potential snake that is living outside, but I did get some sleep.