What a Long, Great Trip it has Been!

My apologies to the Grateful Dead for my title.

Nancy and I are sitting at Sydney Airport in the Emirates Lounge waiting to board the 1st of 2 14+ hour flights with 8 hours in a Dubai airport hotel in between. AND, I’m wearing long pants and socks again after two months! Yuk. Of course, using miles, we are traveling on Emirates highly regarded Business Class.

A bit of afternoon bubbly before boarding

The way I see it, west coast US is 19 timezones away. We are going through all of them instead of the much shorter SYD- SFO. Oh well.

By the time we are home, we will have traveled (by my reckoning and record keeping of course), 35,320 miles (almost 57,000 km). 30,000 by plane, 3,600 by car, 1,000 train and my favorite is 473, (to date ) by foot! I am not including various boats, bikes and buses and other commute like transport.

When I wrote the last missive, we were in Adelaide getting ready for the Indian Pacific train ride to Sydney. That train is quite luxurious and the pampering with our arrival at their exclusive station. No other RR companies use this terminal. The train is over 800 yards long – about half a mile! All passenger and support cars. We had one of the few double rooms so we had quite a large space for us. Most were half the size.

The terminal and preboarding beverages
Reflecting on the side of the train
A Kangaroo’s eye view
Our spacious digs
Skippy joined us for dinner! (He was delicious)

It was quite hot going through the desert and lots of bushfires so we chose not to do the Blue Mountain excursion.

We went to the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Drag show in Broken Hill – Australia’s most well known mining town.

The trip, while comfy was a bit hard on the ol’ sleeping muscles. We did not slumber well – a bit bumpy.

When we arrived in Sydney, my brother Mike was there to pick us up. He took us to his favorite YumCha (DimSum) restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown. It was also my Mother’s fave. Then he took us to our new digs in Manly.

(( Just a note: the rest of our stay was mainly family stuff for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Not a lot of interesting and scintillating travel and photographs will follow this. You can skip to the summary section if you like. There are a LOT of photos!))

Manly is where I spent my teen years. Family, school , work and friends. Just your basic IndonesianAmericanLibyanAmericanAustralian teenage lifestyle.

One of first stops was my Dad’s old club – the Harbord Diggers. I could not believe how they modernized it. I did not recognize it at all.

Aussies love to be outside

Growing up in Australia we spent a lot of time at the beaches in the area. Here are some shots.

Beaches!!!

Look who we met on the beach!
Ker splash
Where did I put that darn kid?
This was a beach wedding we happened upon!
These 2 previous pics are Shelly Beach, Manly where I spent a lot of time as a youth. I even worked in the restaurant that was 10 feet from the sand.

Most of the beaches around Sydney have salt water pools built into them. This is for a few reasons – so people can swim laps, no crashing waves and no sharks (although history shows a few did get in but only because they were washed in by big surf).

This heron is watching the pool action.
A little public art at the edge of the Fairy Bower pool

The surf culture is huge in Oz.

This fella seems a little stoned!

In the background, you can see what used to be a seminary. That is right across the street from my high school.

People have asked about the bushfires in NSW and around Oz. They are awful. The worst year to date. The ever enlightened Prime Minister has a plan for the fires and climate change (which to him does not exist – wonder what pinhead in America convinced him of that) – his plan is to pray. At least we have that going for us. You can see in the next photos that the sky is full of haze.

You can see how crappy the air has been. My brother, Kevin asked if we were in Beijing.
It made for interesting skies though

We had a house for the last 10 days of the trip. It was a great joy for us to be in a house where we could COOK after all the restaurant meals. We went grocery shopping and made brekkie at home most every day.

The exception was Christmas morning when Nancy, Mike and I had a breakfast picnic on the beach. That was a new one even for me.

Only in Australia!

The night before, we were 9 for the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner – the feast of the 7 fishes. I believe we were shy one or two sea creatures but it was great anyway. We (Nancy, Mike and I) even prepared vegan versions as nephew Bob’s girlfriend Rea is a vegan.

Rae, displays food she won’t eat while a very enthusiastic Bob lacks his chops
Niece Melissa showing off a few of the courses
And another with chef, Mike
(We did not have a lot of serving platters)

Christmas dinner was 6 of us at Mike’s place. We even had turkey and stuffing but no cranberry anything. A lovely mango salsa instead. Of course the family traditional Piecake was featured.

TURKEY!
Alex sneaking a bite
Melissa waiting patiently
May looking cute – not hard for her!
This candle is for our late Mom. Mike brings it out for special occasions

Manly has some great pubs and other gathering spots. Old pubs going back a century or more, harbourside boating clubs and brewpubs just to highlight a few.

The bed of this 50 year old truck is the bar!


Phillipa eyeing my beer
Great pub
And another
The Manly skiff club

There is also the Corso. This is a street running about 3 blocks from the Harbour to the ocean. Back until the 70s it was a proper street. Then they converted it to 1 block for vehicle traffic and 2 for pedestrians only. It is a most wonderful place for a stroll and people watch.

I remember in Edmonds about 15-20 years ago a consultant was hired by the city to come up with a plan for the town’s revitalization. They had all sorts of dopey ideas. I asked about turning downtown into pedestrian only. Their immediate answer was nope, they looked into that and it has not worked anywhere ‘in the world!’ What maroons!

The Corso and Smokey skies
Street Paella
My sister is so lucky – she has 4 brothers!
From the New Brighton

Another touchstone for me is my high school. Probably the best view from any school anywhere- overlooking the amazing Sydney Harbour. Pity a few of the teachers are doing time for child molestation from my days there!

Several mornings Mike and did an early 5km brisk and hilly walk. How nice it is to watch the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean as we sweat by.

Great fauna and flora along the way as well – a brace of Ibis
A cooperative budgie
These sulphur crested cockatoos are everywhere- and loud.

BTW – I left out a story in an earlier chapter that I just remembered. Do you recall when we were in Fremantle, WA and I mentioned the terrific Little Creatures brewery? What I forgot to tell you is the guys who eventually started it had been invited to Seattle to discuss with the management of starbucks the possibility of them getting sbux off the ground throughout Oz. After several meetings they demurred but they had had some craft beer for the 1st time – specifically Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (not one of my faves btw) and decided to brew beer instead of cawfee! Pretty cool, eh? They are now one of the biggest craft breweries in Oz and someone else brought sbux there.

My eldest niece, Melissa lives in the western suburbs so N,M & I hopped a ferry into Sydney then the train to join her gang at the Petersham Bowlo. This is a lawn bowls club (similar to boccé and pétanque without the wine) played by the Brits and colonies. Petersham was a hoot. One pitch was a playground and the other for bowls. The best part was all the kids playing footy, soccer, cricket and handball all at once! That and the wonderful bar/restaurant.

Manly ferry docked in Sydney
Luke doing Daddy Duty

SUMMARY OF THE TRIP and OBSERVATIONS

After the NZ leg , I had some comments about our overall impression of that country and the people. I may as well do the same for Oz.

The changes I saw after being gone for 15 years (!) – the longest absence of my life as I was 13 when I moved there- was amazing. New buildings, new appreciation for fine food and great beer and just an overall modernization. What hadn’t changed was the amazingly friendly nature of the Aussie. They are still great.

Let me get the negative bits outta the way now. It seems every town large and small has Subway shop franchises. Kiwiland too. The hotels have all been great and comfy and quiet. However, they seem to be in a race to see which of them can supply their guest rooms with the world’s weakest lightbulbs in the reading lamps. Also, I learned in previous trips (word to the wise here) to carry a roll of black electrical tape with me to cover up all the little red, green and blue lights on tv, radio, coffee machines etc that are so bright at night – and now I’ll start traveling with light bulbs!

So much for the negatives!

We took a lot of public buses and trams in our various cities. It amazed us that almost every passenger upon exiting the bus thanked the driver. Even those on crowded buses and even leaving by the back door. Kids have been properly trained to stand for adults. Nancy gave one teen the stink eye when he stood for her!

Several bus drivers get into a contest for the best Christmas decorated ride! No wonder they get thanked by all the passengers.

Most restaurants, coffee shops, pubs we frequented do not have full table service. You order and pay at the counter and they deliver the food to you. It cuts down on labour costs. And speaking of paying, your credit card never leaves your possession. Most people just tap their card on a portable terminal. Much safer that way. There are very few cash transactions- almost all are tapped payments. To us, this is a much better system than that used in the US, mainly because you never give up possession of your card.

A POSTSCRIPT – we are now ACTUALLY in California. It is December 30. I tried to write this while flying but it did not work. This is a good thing since I can finish the latest (and last) volume of Nancy and Chris hit the Road Downunder.

It took us 45 hours from Manly to Oakland. Two flights – 14 & 16.5 hours. About 7 hours at the hotel in Dubai plus transfers.

The flights were comfy on Emirates Business Class and the lounges – especially the Dubai one were quite nice.

The seats had access to 3 cameras
Goodbye Sydney
Dessert
Flying over Iran
Cawfee in the lounge
Business Cabin
We are going thataway!
Comfy Nancy
View from our room of the lounge
We are in the presence of greatness – made it to California to see Jen, Trevor the grandkids

In Conclusion

One of the most evocative sounds of Australia come from these critters. I cannot hear them without smiling.

I tried and tried to put my own recording of the call here. Couldn’t do it. Dang, it was a good one. As a substitute, please click on the link to hear what some nature website has

https://wildambience.com/wildlife-sounds/laughing-kookaburra/

Well readers, that is all I/we have for this trip. It was a beaut and I hope you have enjoyed it along with us. Nancy is already planning the next one, so stay tuned!

Lots of Love,

Nancy & Chris

How ya goin’ from SA

(That would be South Australia)

Hi everyone, Nancy and I are now in Murray Bridge, SA.

Our original intent was to wait a couple more days to send another chapter in the “Oh, We Don’t Have a Long Enough Trip to do Everything We Want to do Adventure” (OWDHLETEWW for short – or if we worked for the government). You would think with a 9 week trip, that would be plenty of time for a voyage of discovery. You would be wrong. Oy!

Starting tomorrow morning we will be spending 29 hours on the Indian Pacific train from Adelaide to Sydney. I figured I would have heaps of time to compose, edit, rewrite, have it proofed by the crack fact checkers… but no, we just learned there ain’t no WiFi on said choo choo so we better send this soon.

Where the heck is Murray Bridge, you ask. And why are we here? Well, we needed someplace to stay and a country pub an hour from Adelaide seemed as good a place as any. Right on the Murray River, it seems too.

That is Nancy waving to you from the veranda outside our room in this 105 year old typical Aussie country town public house. It was built before colour film hence the b&w.

Oops, it seems I have kangarooed forward and must now hop back to where I left off last time.

Where was I? Oh yes, Australia, as you may know, has many wine regions. The Margaret River south of Perth is one of the best. (They disregard ‘one of’ in their descriptions!).

We boarded a van with a few other couples and Aidan, our rock & roll viticultural guide for this very formal day with the fine and formal organisation.

By the 2nd stop, the group loosened up a bit

as we learned to savor the grape.

The tour included stops at an olive oil/balsamic vinegar producer & a proud patriotic chocolateria.

We hit about 5 wineries and had some excellent vino. They certainly know what they are doing here. There are 131 of them in Margaret River now. The industry started here 50 years ago.

The last stop of the day was a very nice brewery to balance things out.

A waste of perfectly good growlers

From MR we went to the seaside town of Albany (pronounced aaalbany). A lovely little place with a huge performing arts center that certainly does not fit the town’s atmosphere

One of Albany’s distinctions is it was the last Australian soil touched by many of the ANZACS (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) – WW1 and 2’s soldiers on their way to Africa and Europe. It also features in the history of the colony here as a landing point for emigres and convicts as well as a whaling station.

What do you suppose they are trying to tell us?
Nuff said
This is Albany’s CBD
Nearby Albany is the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse at the point where the Southern and Indian Oceans meet

Four feet in two oceans
There was a cowabunga competition in town! It’s a pirate bovine – note the hook and the eyepatched eye looking through the scope.
I think these cows all shop in the same stores!

There is a bit of the area called the Valley of the Giants where the largest gum trees in the world hang out (Tingles). While big , these fellas though have sensitive (awww…) and shallow roots. So to keep the curious from tramping the ground, the park people erected a tree walk in the canopy. Well, we certainly could not bypass that!

120 meters high!
And you call yourself a tree hugger?
This is a bit of fun with the phone. Showing my newfound flexibility. Finally! All those yoga studios I walk by each day paying off.

We next ambled our way to Perth. It was a beautiful drive through grape, hay, avocado, sheep and cow paddock areas. Lots of ranchers have signs on the road selling horse, pony, steer and sheep poo for $2 a bag. I can see how you collect most of that but Sheep? Those pellets are tiny and free range. The rancher must have a son he does not like!

This is an amazingly HUGE country! It is the size of the continental US and has a population of 25 million. Compare that to California- population of 40 million by itself! Western Australia is 6 times the area of California! I use CA as an example here because Nancy and I routinely drive through that (now tiny) state. I’ve always considered CA a big place. Not anymore! Driving for hours without seeing a town and only a few cars is just plain weird.

Millions, it seems of these hay bales. Good thing neither one of calls out ‘hey, bale’ whenever we see them . That would get annoying and tedious and wake up the passenger – not that she is sleeping!
Set up for Christmas- take THAT, Rockefeller Plaza!

Perth is a fun city. We only had a short time there so did the HoHo bus tour and walked around a bit.


The Botanic Garden of Perth is quite big. Along the main path there, each tree has a plaque at the base commemorating a fallen ANZAC.

Early the next morning we jumped on the flying kangaroo known as Qantas and headed to Melbourne. We love Melbourne!

It is a very diverse and cosmopolitan city but seems like a small town. There are little neighbourhoods each with their own vibe, broad boulevards with electric trams running up and down, smaller streets – some with those sneakily quiet trams and tiny alleys all with something to draw you in.

This bar takes up the whole alley!
And they have a cheery attitude!
Public art is everywhere – some better than others!

Hippos? Nope – an ancient and extinct
wombat
We did another bike tour – this is getting to be a habit.
We had lunch at a culturally and environmentally aware restaurant named Grub

On the ride, we learned another Captain Cook story. It seems one day in the 60s the Melbourne city Council read that Jimbo’s cottage in England was coming up for sale. They jumped on it to celebrate the bicentennial of him bumping into Australia (& more importantly to keep Sydney from buying it! Funny thing is, he never came to this area but did land in the future Sydney!).

Well, they had it disassembled, all the bricks individually numbered, shipped over and rebuilt precisely. Then they found out is was his parent’s house and most likely never stayed there!

(As an aside, he also related that there is a school of thought that Cook and the Endeavor are the prototypes for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise!)

Typical Melbourne house
Typical Melbourne toilet? Also public art?

You can see the image of an Aboriginal Elder here – Willam Barak was instrumental in the early days of the city and is honored in this unusual but culturally approved of manner.

The Melbourne food and coffee scene is world class. The little neighborhood cafe near our apartment is called Proud Mary. They have 2 locations- here and in NE Portland, OR! They also conduct 2 hour coffee making workshops.

A terrific rooftop bar
Eggplant done right! The following is a clipping explaining the restaurant’s name.

Melbourne is pretty easy to navigate via the tram system. We also did a lot of walking.

We kept seeing signs (literally) reminding us that the next day was what would be my Mother’s 93rd birthday

So in homage to her we had to hit a local and massive landmark Italian bakery/ cafe – Brunetti.

We needed (on separate visits) some cookies and my favorite pastry (she loved them too happily), Sfogiatelle. Good thing a lot of Italians emigrated to Melbourne- they are a huge presence.

Of course to be washed down with cappuccini.

The graffiti alleys are very popular as well

After we left Melbourne we drove to and on the world renowned Great Ocean Road towards Adelaide. This is a 151 mile route that usually hugs the coast but sometimes goes inland as well.

Bells Beach was our first stop. This beach is reputed by the locals to be the best surfing site in the world. I reckon a lot of Hawaiian, Californians and Sydney types amongst others would disagree. There were a lot of guys out there having fun though.

Along this road is also a huge chocolate factory

How can anyone of a certain age watch this and not think of Lucy at her chocolate factory job?
Speaking of chocolate, this trip has a lot of nostalgia triggers for me. These are some of my favorite treats from when I lived in Australia.

Further along the coast is the iconic area known as the 12 Apostles- which is funny since not only are there not 12 but even before some eroded away, there were never 12 of these stacks. The original English name was the Sow and Piglets. They are spectacular though – especially at 6am, right Nance?

There used to be a stack called London Bridge. In 1990 though, the section attached to the bluff fell into the water. Nobody was hurt but 2 tourists were stranded on the outer section for a few hours. Now it is called London Arch

The town of Anglesea is quite small but they do have a distinction – kangaroos on their golf course! This is quite the attraction it seems.

Australia is well known for the only in Australia flora and fauna. Roos and Emus you have now seen in this travel tale. But there are many others including the elusive (usually) Koala (NOT a bear). I say usually since Nancy found a couple.

I found one too but nowhere near as cute

Australia is also well known for kitschy Big roadside attractions. It all started with the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour NSW. (We are not going there). Well, we did experience the Big Lobster and the Big Rocking Horse!

Kingston SE in SA
This is at a toy factory in the Adelaide Hills

At some point early in the trip in NZ, I somehow deleted ALL the music from my phone. So, we had to rely on Nancy’s playlist but there is only so much Joni Mitchell any one man can take! Good thing I downloaded a bunch of NPR podcasts!!! How I Built This is fascinating and kept us going through some of the Great Empty (I do not know if this is a real name for it, but it should be.)

Well, now you are up to date except I have to revise for you our location. We are now in Adelaide preparing to board that train tomorrow morning. Our hotel happens to be on Hindley Street. Big deal except we live on Hindley Lane. Weird, huh?

Not our hotel.



We had an incredible dinner at Peel Street in Adelaide this evening. Maybe the best meal of the trip!

That is all we have for now. Lots of love from Nancy and Chris

It’s BLOODY Warm Here!

G’day from WA (not Washington but Western Australia). This state takes up almost one half of Oz, kinda like if California started around OK and there were no other states before Hawaii!

It is 9am and 88°F here in Fremantle. We have already been for an Indian Ocean plunge. The water is crystal clear, warm and very refreshing.

But, I am jumping ahead in the narrative of our travels. I shall continue fromwhen I last sent you a chapter of this journey through the Antipodes

We had just left NZ as featured in this artwork we saw on a wall here (the artist is a Kiwi, I reckon, I like the relative sizing and his name for Australia) and flew to Darwin with a quick and hectic plane change in Melbourne.

Since our flight from Q’Town was delayed, we barely made our connection. But we did and all was good again.

Our hotel in Darwin, Northern Territory looked out onto the the Timor Sea and it was a beautiful sight the next morning.

But in opening the balcony door, we were hit by amazing humidity. I could not snap the pic above for about 10 minutes until my camera lens acclimated to the conditions.

It was about 108° (42°C for those of you following along from everywhere but the US, Liberia & Burma) and 90% (90% for all of us) humidity. Oy!

After an early pre stinkin’ hot time walk, we did what we often do in a new city and hopped on and off the HOHO bus. This took us to an outdoor marketplace called Parap. The place was a lot of fun with food and crafts and art booth.  Nancy bought a healthy blend of seeds and grains to bring home. Supposed to be a good gut food. The sales lady is proud of her sign

A customer review used the phrase so Kirby used it to make the banner!

We spent a fair bit of time that afternoon in the hotel’s refreshing pool. Around the corner is a brewpub (yay!) called 6 Tanks. Amazing beer served directly from their 300 gallon tanks. This place and a restaurant called Hanuman (Indonesian/Thai/Filipino fusion) were recommended by my brother, Mike who has lived in Sydney since we emigrated there as a family in 1971. He spends a lot of time in Australia’s various cities and has favorite establishments. He also has excellent taste!

Their eponymous prawns were served with Barramundi and Mango Mojitos.

We had tried to book a land tour for the next day but the few operators operating were full up. Lucky us it as turns out. We hired our own car and took off for Litchfield NP. It was a lovely drive and at one point I said to Nancy how great it would be if we saw some kangaroos along the way. No sooner had I said it then who do we see watching us drive by but a wallaby (a small roo)! We saw a few of them but they scarpered off before I could snap a pic. We are still hoping for some.

Here is a placeholder photo for now.

We did see a mother with baby emus that were polite enough (unlike their marsupial friends) to pose for us.

Litchfield is a large National Park and not as well known or crowded as Kakadu. It was relatively empty of people other than one rather crowded and cramped and regimented tour (that was luckily for us sold out). We had lots of spaces where it was just us. LNP is well known for (drumroll please), …waterfalls! Also lovely swimming at the falls and other swimming holes.

Nancy in the pool at Florence Falls – the most populous spot. Cliff jumping is not allowed but of course…
The Ranger showed up soon after these lads did their bit. She made them all read to her the sign prohibiting such frivolity.

(In the preceding photos I was going for the ‘soft water’ effect.  That there were people who moved while the shutter was open was unavoidable.)


Wangi Falls
Nancy enjoying Buley Rock Pools
Some of the same kids there too
Various critters were there as well

(As an aside, Nancy is currently reading a book I just reread <bought at the amazing Edmonds Bookshop of course!> that is kinda like our guidebook here. The American author is an astute observer of humanology and is accurate in his belief that practically every creature and some plants in Australia can and will kill you if you are not careful!).

CROCWISE?????

Also at Litchfield are two types of termite mounds. The Cathedral and the Magnetic.

A cathedral mound – named for obvious reason
The Magnetic ones are thus named as they all line up north to south for thermodynamic reasons. Bloody clever these bugs!

Another great dinner at a Mike recommendation followed by quite the electrical storm but no monsoon that night. This time of year in the North (or Top End) is The Wet. This is one of two seasons only.  The other is of course, The Dry. Both are unbearably (for us) HOT but one is muggy and the other ain’t. We are not sure why anyone would willingly live here. Oh well, it takes all kinds…

Our next stop in our Oz Adventure was Broome, WA. Two, one hour bumpity bump bump flights later we were in 115° (46°) heat but a dry heat! Relatively speaking.

Oh my, it was hot! Fortunately our hotel had a lovely pool and the dining room was such that the 1st night we stayed put. (Except we had to change rooms as our air con wasn’t working.). I even stomached (so to speak) their lousy beer selection.

We had a sweaty, low energy next day. The hotel shuttle took us into town and we wandered a while. We even spent about an hour cooling our core temps by sitting in their lovely library.

The ‘crosswalks’ are a bit odd:

Broome is home to the longest running outdoor garden cinema- started 1916. Go figure.

In Broome, you will see a tree that is only in that area of Australia and a section of southern Africa – the Baobab Tree. The relevant scientists do not know why. (Maybe they need to be more relevant?)

That evening we walked to Cable Beach for the sunset. This is a Broome Ritual. CB is 22km long, with deep and white sand. Some tourists pay $200 each to ride a camel there for sunset. We chose a less ungulating observance of this only once in a day event.

It is a beautiful location

Warm Indian Ocean water with no crocs around – we hoped.
This was earlier in the day

After dusk settled, we went to a nearby pub and were surprised to see this fella on the big screen.

Yup, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were on telly for Monday night football (on Tuesday in Oz) and beating the Vikings of course. A nice treat for us.

When we arrived back from dinner, this wise looking Yoda was waiting for us. He wanted to know the score of the game!

We flew to Perth on Wednesday. An easy flight with no bumps. We certainly flew over a LOT of emptiness. Very barren landscapes abound on this island continent.  97% of Australia’s population live within 3 miles of an ocean!

The drive to Freo aka Fremantle was short. This is a lovely seaside town of 30k. Quite cosmopolitan yet still has the small town vibe. You may remember hearing of Freo as the site of the America’s Cup races back in 1987. That was a huge shot in the arm and (re)vitalized the area.

This city was also very hot when we pulled in about 4 pm. Then, like magic (which was more like clockwork) the ‘Freo Doctor’ started blowing. This is a refreshing, cooling onshore breeze that makes you want to hug someone. And it happens everyday in the summer.

Restaurants, pubs and little independent businesses abound. Quite a cosmopolitan town. You can’t swing a dead barista without hitting a terrific coffee shop.

A locals only (usually) coffee shop called Moore and Moore. A great find!
Another coffee joint
Nancy having brekkie and matching the sign. It took us a while to find a color coordinated place for her.
This is Little Creatures, a brewery, restaurant, beer garden, event center, children’s playground, gift shop and who knows what else. It is huge! Greta beer, food & vibe.  We met a couple who took the train from Perth (30 minutes) with their young kids to Freo just to have dinner at Little Creatures.

The next morning, we went on a 3 hour tour – this time by bike. It was a great time with just the 2 of us and the guide – Mike. He and his wife started the business a couple years ago after a trip to the US where they did a few there. He is a 4th generation Freo and very proud of his city. He related the history and cultural aspects with so much enthusiasm it is impossible to not get excited.

He also later emailed us a summary of where we had been, restaurant recommendations and other helpful hints. We felt that was a classy touch as it is hard to absorb all the details as you go.

The Fremantle Prison is another big draw for tourists and travelers. It was built by transported British convicts to house themselves. WA started as a free colony but things were so difficult the people petitioned London to send some labor. Those guys jumped on ridding themselves of more miscreants like they did to the rest of Australia at the time and dispatched the first of many ships full of ne’er do wells. As soon as these poor buggers arrived, they were put to work to build a Big House for themselves. What cheek! It was used after the convict era as WA’s maximum security prison until 1991! And by the way, it had no internal plumbing the whole time. Just buckets in the cells – for water and…

Through the peep hole – looking in of course.

Fremantle Markets are where the locals go to buy produce for the weekend and tourists go to buy all their essentials?

Hundreds of stalls for food, crafts and crap in a big converted warehouse.

We toddled around town, the heat had abated somewhat.

That girl always seems to find a heart sculpture wherever we go.

This was the view from outside our hotel. Nice evening light.
Fishing for the not so elusive mint chocolate chip gelato is still a big industry in Freo.
The Shipwreck Museum was a good hour or two spent.  The anchor is wrapped as part of a domestic violence awareness program. 

 Sunrise Beach Yoga
Changing sheds by the beach
A Freo house
Lots of public art
S.O.Y. I figgered this out pretty quickly
Pink Floyd probably does not have a problem with this. I don’t.
Semi-public Art
A refreshing new brew – watermelon Pilsner???? It was just right for the heat. Note the genteel pinkie lift.

Freo’s port is heavily involved in the shipping industry. I saw a ship that looked a bit weird so I asked Mike about it.

This is as big as a container, grain or car carrying ship but with open looking sides. Strange, huh? Well it turns out a few of these were purposely built to carry livestock- primarily lamb, sheep and beef cows from Oz to the Mid-East. A lot of frozen meat used to be shipped after being slaughtered in the proper Halal process but then someone over there decided the butchering would be better done locally. So…all the critters , great and small get to go for a long sea voyage. There is a lot of ventilation!  We were wondering what the crew of this vessel does with the sheep ship’s sheep shit.  They must sluice the decks on a continual basis.  What do you suppose the fishies along the way think of this?  A good thing, most likely.

IT IS NOW SUNDAY THE 8TH. I STARTED WRITING ON THE 6th SO I WILL CATCH YOU UP AND TRY NOT TO BE CONFUSING.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the sheep ship. As we were heading outta town for points south yesterday, we could detect a not so faint or subtle odour. Apparently when I first noticed the moored vessel, it was empty. Well, now it was almost full and it was apparent to everyone in town for miles around that the little lambies not only were well fed but had efficient digestive systems. The beautiful summer morning breeze was not cooperating as well and filling the town with quite the whiff!

Windows up and a/c on, we beat feet outta there.

I finally found a kangaroo to hold still for a photo on our last night in Freo:

So, where are we now? In Margaret River of course. It is one of Australia’s prime wine areas and luckily a hot bed of craft brewing.

Today, we are going on a several hour coffee, wine, beer, cheese and chocolate tasting excursion with about 10 of our new best mates (once we meet them, that is). Should be fun and will most likely be the first topic of the next chapter of this tome.

But before I let you go, I’ll tell you about yesterday. After leaving the newly odiferous Fremantle, we stopped in the bustling city of Busselton. Their claim to fame besides gorgeous beaches is the jetty. It is 1841 meters long – over a mile and the longest jetty in the Southern Hemisphere and the second longest on the planet. They even have a small slow train running down it. At the end is an underwater observatory. So, we walked the length of it – no choo choo for us!

30 knot winds though!
They offer scuba and snorkel diving and at only 8 meters depth I would be able to stay down for hours but the surge was too much for diving. This is through a window.
My goofy wife in a front loading washing machine.

Two more food pics from dinner last night then I’ll finish up. We want you all to know how much we appreciate your responses and enthusiasm in reading this blog. Keep the notes coming.

Until next time – lots of love from the traveling band!

 

Linguine Marinara
Oysters Kilpatrick

PS – I was awakened this morning at 4:30 by a sound I had not heard in years. A Laughing Kookaburra. I grabbed my phone to try to record the next song but he has been quiet for the last 3 hours. Hopefully my memorialization will not be the same as the kangaroo’s above!

Kia Koa, Aotearoa & G’day to me old Aussie Mates!

Hi Gang, as I sit here writing this, it is Thanksgiving for our US readers & Black Friday in Kiwiland.  Yes, the stores all participate in a shopping excess day following an eating excess day that have no point of reference here!  Go figger – I guess any reason to have a sale is a good reason.  I wonder if in February the furniture stores all have Presidents’ Day sales here….

We are in Queenstown now, getting ready in a few hours to jet off to Australia. Aotearoa (the Maori name for this country means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ which I believe I mentioned before) is an amazing place and we feel we barely scratched the rich top six inches of the surface in the 3 1/2 weeks here.  We shall have to return.  Soon, hopefully. Before I go on & on about our impressions of the place though, I will fill you in on our adventures since I last wrote.

We left Christchurch last saturday (23/11 or 11/23) for the long drive to Mt Cook – NZ’s highest peak – at 12,220 feet (which is about half way between Mt Baker & Mt Rainer in Washington State).  It is a majestic mountain and the home field training climb for Sir Edmund Hillary.  The excellent national park visitor centre is named for him.

As we say in WA when Rainier is hidden by clouds, the mountain was out for cleaning that day so we  did not sight the peak but saw much of its bulk.  It is surrounded by other massive mountains, unlike our Cascades at home which are usually all by themselves.

Along the drive we went by Lake Tekapo (there are LOTS of big lakes here!).  Making stopping worthwhile are the fields of Lupines and the Church of the Good Shepard.  This little building is the site of many weddings and the subject of more photographs than any church in NZ.  As you can see, it is tiny.  One of its distinguishing features is the view of the lake window behind the altar leading to many a distracted worshipper!

 

Since it was a 333km drive there, we decided to have a rolling picnic lunch. Stopping in the picturesque Geraldine, we popped into Talbot Forest Cheesery for some lovely local cheese and continued on.  My copilot kept me in crackers slathered in a fine Mesopotmia Blue.

Once arriving at Mt Cook village, we went on a hike to see the Blue Lakes (that are green) and the Tasman Glacier overlook – quite windy there, as you can see from the photo above with Nancy & her scarf.

At dinner in their pub that night I started educating my poor deprived wife of the finer points of the Cricket match on the telly.  NZ was in the process of shellacking the Brits in day 2 of a 5 day test match.  They were up 365 runs but it is a long game and anything can happen!

The next morning we were on the road fairly early as we had our longest drive of the trip – 423km (263 miles) on the way to Te Anau (tee—an-ow).  At home, this could be done in 3-4 hours.  In NZ – closer to 6-7.  A lovely drive even though it was slooooow.  Beautiful farmland, lakes & mountains everywhere though so not too bad a sacrifice.

I was very aware that this day was the first anniversary of my Mother’s passing.  We were discussing her, memories, funny stories and favorite moments and as we went around a bend in the road, this appeared in front of us:

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Nancy said it must be Mom thinking of me.  I think she was right!

We had to go through Queenstown on the way to T-A and just north of there is the world’s first commercial bungee jumping business.  It is a BIG operation with a very hi-tech shop, loud music and lots of t-shirts to buy. We watched a few knuckleheads jump off a perfectly good bridge but did not participate.

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Te-Anau is about a two hour drive south of Q’town and much smaller.  It has the advantage though of being two hours closer to two major attractions – Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.  (Milford is STILL 2 hours from Te Anau!)  We chose to visit the larger, less visited and much closer Doubtful Sound.  The name comes from the ubiquitous Jimbo Cook who wrongfully assumed as he was steering the Endeavor by the entrance that  the Sound did not have winds needed to move his ship in & out.  Boy was he wrong and he missed a great spot.  If we ever run into him, we will set him straight.

To get to the Sound, we drove about 15 minutes, hopped on a big comfy tour boat across Lake Manapouri (did I mention there are a LOT of lakes here?) for 45 more, went up over Wilmont Pass. Our rather entertaining driver also snapped a photo here as he said it was the first day in weeks where he could see (hear?) the Sound from the Pass.  We had absolutely PERFECT conditions that day!

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Then hopped on the actual DS boat for a 3 hour tour.  What a fun day that was!  One of the highlights (for me anyway) was sighting NZ’s tallest (unofficial) waterfall – at 857 m tall, Browne Falls is a beauty & I have pics to prove it!

It is unofficial as some other Fall laid claim to the title some time ago & all the brochures say it to be so and they don’t want to reprint, I guess.  I told our guide he should start referring to Browne as the tallerest waterfall in NZ.  He liked the idea!

Then on Tuesday we hopped back into our buggy and drove back to Qtown which regretfully is our last NZ stop.  We turned in our rental car (900 miles in this one totaling 2,000 miles throughout the trip on both islands) and spent the next few days walking and busing.  The traffic and pedestrian situation there is quite the thing to behold.  Our hotel was about a 20 minute walk outta downtown and up a BIG STEEP hill.  We more often walked it than bussed it and that makes up feel better about the ice cream, gelato and other treats!

Speaking of which, there is a place there called Fergburger.  After walking by it a few times and seeing the very loooooong lines, we researched the joint and it has great reviews so we decided to try it.  A 10 minute wait in line and 6 minutes for the food & viola, amazing burgers and gelato thick shakes.

Here is the line and my food model. (She wants it known that she did not eat the whole thing.)  If you can see the Bakery sign next to the burger joint – that is theirs as well and the delicious buns are made there of course.

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These were humongous beasties and actually worth the wait.  If the line was much longer though, who knows.

On Thanksgiving we did the traditional kinds of things.  We boarded yet another lake boat (Lake Wakatipu this time) in Q’town for a 45 minute ride across NZ’s 3rd largest but deepest lake (they have a lot of lakes here) with rental bikes.  There were about 150 other guests but only 2 other riders doing the time-honored turkey day 8 mile expedition from the 100,000 acre Mt Nichols High Country Farm to the Walter Peak (PEAK???) High (HIGH??) Country Farm.  At the end of this sojourn through beautiful farm land with mountains on the right of us and a lake on the left, we were feted with quite the classic T’giving BBQ.

The lady of the lake (boat) gave us one simple instruction for finding our way to lunch – keep the lake on your left.  We did & were amply rewarded.  So much so, we did not have much of a dinner that night – kinda like a REAL Thanksgiving.

 

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The setting was amazing.

Before doing that trip, we thought we would have a different NZ feast that day:

 

On the way back to Q, we were on a different ship – this time it was the TSS Earnslaw – a 1912 coal fired vessel (still).  TSS stands for Twin Screw Steam (I had to ask).  The captain, all of a sudden, had to tend to some personal business (too many desserts, I think) so he asked me to take the helm with strict orders to ‘stay to the left!’ It was fun…

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Kiwiland has some fun about it –

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This is a beer delivery bike with 2 kegs in the fridge!

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This is to remind divers how to stay warm underwater!IMG_6494

Even the road crews are unfailingly polite – the flaggers wave to just about every car going through.

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We are not sure about this one

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One of Qtown’s big attractions – besides the burgers!

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In case the triple scoop of ice cream is not enough – add some melted white/milk/dark or all 3 chocolates to it!

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Now that our NZ leg of the trip is over (Australia beckons), we would like to give you some of our overall impression of the country and people:

The BIG picture is we loved it!

As you obviously discerned, Nancy & I like good food.  The Kiwis do too. We did not have one bad meal the whole time there, whether it was a cheesy driving picnic, a pie and sausage roll or a 1st class dinner house.  The variety of cuisines even in small towns was tops.  Diversity rules here.  EVERY place it seemed had options for the various food issues people have, gluten, vegan, vegetarian, dairy etc. The burger place I told you about earlier had a vegan version appropriately called the ‘Holier than Thou’!

The whole country seems to thrive on amazing beer, wine and coffee.  Some breweries’ beers are only available directly from them but the wineries seem to have better distribution.  Every place that serves coffee uses an espresso machine.  We never saw a drip coffee pot.

For some reason though, we also never saw a single cloth napkin in any restaurant – they all use paper.  Must be a good lumber industry lobby there!

We did not stay in one hotel where we were bothered by noise from the street or other rooms or guests.  It was like we were all alone.  Also, ALL the beds have been very comfy as were the pillows.  Nancy wants to bring them all home!  She has also been quite pleased with all the showers.  After a while we realized that we had no complaints about any accommodation.

The roads are excellent.  While we had many construction projects along the way, especially on the South Island due to earthquakes, we never saw one pothole!  No freeways but no axle breaking holes in the road either.  Smooth as the butter you put on your toast.

If you are driving intercity, you do not need a map or GPS – the signs are terrific – at roundabouts (of which there are a plethora), intersections etc.  However, once you are in the city you were going to, you can’t find your way because the streets are rarely signed and NOBODY likes to put their house number on their house (or business)!  Having read stories about how in Europe at the outbreak of WW2, the countries invaded by the Germans removed all the street signs.  I wonder if the Kiwis know the war is over & they won.

The tourism industry is doing a good job of organizing operators and other facets.  Every little town has an ‘I’ office or 2.  They can arrange bookings for tours, hotels etc.  Very efficiently – we used them a couple times.

The employment situation is so strong, most anybody can get a temporary work visa allowing you to be in NZ for a year and employed.  But depending on your country of origin, you may only be able to work for any particular firm for 3 months then you have to find another job.  That does not seem like it would be too hard as in many places we saw heaps of help wanted signs. It seems to us though that it would be toughest on the business owners – just when you have someone trained, they HAVE to leave.

Like the PNW, the weather in NZ is constantly changing. From, sun to rain to wind to sun and… in any one day was not unusual.  We think it is partly due to the changing of the seasons.

It is an incredibly clean country – the whole time in NZ we saw maybe 3 pieces of litter (and picked them up, of course). Roads, highways, beaches, parks etc were pristine.  We did see in a couple towns official signs saying the Council has removed trash bins in an effort to reduce litter!  It seemed to work.  Even in places with bins, they are few and far between. This is odd because you (I, anyway) would think this would increase litter not reduce it.  Who wants to carry their rubbish around?  Kiwis do, apparently!

Whether the restrooms were in bars, restaurants, rest stops, pubs or public parks and streets, they were all clean, fully socked & functional.

Finally, the people of NZ – the Kiwis are amazingly friendly and welcoming.  Not only the staff of hospitality businesses (frequently foreigners anyway) but anyone we met along the way – in restaurants, gas stations (up to $US6 per gallon btw), to anybody else we met was cheerful, inquisitive about our home, length of stay etc.

Those accents though!  If they speak fast when excited, oy!  It was sometime really hard for us to comprehend.  Even such – terrific people with a lot of pride – as they should have.

With that,  we say so long to New Zealand – we will be back.  Now however, it is time to go back to Australia where I spent many years of my youth.  Nancy has been a couple times with me but this visit will include places neither of us have been.  It is time to put away jackets, sweaters and jeans and rejoice this December in shorts, t-shirts & thongs (Australian for jandals which is Kiwi for flip-flops).

Until our next dispatch – see ya mate!

Chris & Nancy