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