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Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!
Category Archives: Travel
March 25, 2014Posted by on
Well the adventure has begun. We have packed our bags, all seven of them, said our good byes to the neighbours and are now sitting in a hotel at Sydney airport waiting to fly to Toronto tomorrow morning.
I walked out onto the front porch of the house, closed the door and got into the car without a single goodbye to the cats. I just couldn’t do it. They would have sensed how emotional I was feeling, that’s just not fair to them.
We have a bit of repacking to do before boarding the plane in the morning otherwise we are all prepared. It hasn’t been easy. It has been several weeks of cleaning, organising, packing, repacking, re-cleaning, contacting the appropriate people, re-organising but now we are done.
Until we get to Toronto, then we have to find a place to live so we get to start apartment hunting right away. The big problem with apartment hunting is that we don’t really know what we are doing or where to look. We want a “village” feel. Having asked a few different people for advice, we have heard a few different opinions and are no closer to knowing which area of Toronto we should be apartment hunting in. It will come to us, I am sure. And, if it doesn’t, then we will move as soon as the lease is up. After all, this is an adventure. It doesn’t really fit as an adventure if one knows how it will all play out!
Sydney, is sending us off with an amazing thunder storm. How cool is that? After weeks of beautiful weather, it’s time! Fall is on its way here in Australia. The perfect time to leave.
I was asked by a friend if Australia is now home to me. It got me thinking, where is home?
I have always felt and assumed that Quatsino was home to me. It is where I was born and raised. The boat turns into Hecate Cove, the Shipyard comes into view and I feel home. This is home.
But then again, I lived in Port McNeill for thirty years. So many friends and family on the North Island. The car stretches over the crest, the Beaver Cove turn off comes into view, the air cools and the smell of salt assaults the senses. I feel that I have arrived home. This area is so familiar and is filled with family and friends.
Then there is Nanaimo. Only four years, but many memories and good times. I always arrive via ferry into Departure Bay. As we approach the Island, I know, I am home.
Living in Australia for the last six years, we visit Canada every year. When we come back to Australia, I feel the same sense of home. Sydney airport, the train and finally Woy Woy. The waterfront is magical, our friends diverse and plentiful. Life is good at our little piece of Primrose paradise.
Where does that leave me now? Preparing to board a plane to a new adventure, a new home. Where is home? What is home?
It came to me yesterday, home is not a place, it’s a feeling. I feel at home with the memories I have collected along this path of life. The path I have chosen has taken me to different corners of the world. I won’t really find home in any of those corners. To me, home is about people. The person I am sharing my life with right now is Al. Together, we are what make a home. It is with a new sense of understanding that I can live anywhere in the world and know in my heart that if I am with Al, I am home.
December 18, 2012Posted by on
People can be very interesting, especially when traveling. My flight left Sydney a half hr late because it was a full flight and could not be loaded quickly due to all the people trying to stow their carry on luggage. I saw people with 3 or 4 bags each. Why Qantas lets these people have so much carry on, I will never know. But, who am I to question how Qantas runs their airline!
It just doesn’t matter, because boarding a flight means I am travelling. And, I am very happy when I am travelling especially to somewhere I haven’t been before.
This time, I am on my way to Darwin in the Northern Territory in Australia. I haven’t been to Darwin before, nor anywhere else in the Northern Territory. Exciting enough to be going somewhere new, but more exciting because Darwin is warm. Average temperature during dry season (which is now) is 20 degree lows and 30 -32 degree days. Lovely!
Darwin only actually has two seasons, the wet season from October to May and the dry season from May to November. Either way, the temperature doesn’t change much! The dry season means no rain for 5 months. Imagine!
I arrive in Darwin via a four hour stop over in Alice Springs. I have no plans to leave the airport because I have work to do, but want to come back another time to see Alice and Uluru. Will have to leave that for another adventure.
Flying into Alice gives one a sense of amazement of just how vast and ever changing Australia is. As we near Alice you can see the landscape change to desert like conditions although it is officially not a desert. The ribbons of sand dunes cover the land as far as the eye can see. There are specks of white, which I believe are salt marshes. Occasionally you will see specks of darkness where there are actual trees.
What a difference from the landscape I saw when leaving Sydney. Vast white sandy beaches, inviting blue ocean and breathtaking views of the Blue Mountains which really do have a blue hue.
Another element of traveling that I absolutely love is meeting people. I am probably considered a pain in the ass because I just about always get talking to whomever is sitting next to me on my flight.
The trip to Alice is no exception. I meet this lovely couple from Nepal. They have been five years in Sydney and are now moving to Tennent Creek via a sponsorship. He will work in Tennent Creek for two years and then they will be eligible to stay in Australia. To say they are excited is an understatement. They have no idea what Tennent Creek is like and they don’t care. She has learned that you can not swim in any water there due to crocodiles. She is not concerned because they are going to have their own house. Their excitement is contagious. By the time we reach Alice, I am excited for them and spend some minutes dreaming of their life to come!
My time passes quickly in Alice airport. There is free Internet and I have managed to get quite a bit of work done. I am more than ready to move on to Darwin. Warm weather here I come!
Al is at the airport waiting for me. What a Honey he is! He has already picked up the car rental, settled us in to Sky City Casino and Resort, and is now back at the airport to pick me up. My immediate thoughts on Darwin? Warm! Love it.
It’s dark and I don’t get to see much, but that’s okay. We have a lovely dinner and settle in for the night lulled to sleep with the sound of waves lapping on the beach.
Tuesday and Al has to work all day, so do I! I settle myself in for the day and work by the pool. I even had the pool boy (not Al) deliver my lunch. This is the way working life should be!
In the evening, we amble over to Mitchell St known for it’s bars and backpackers. Low and behold an ad for Canadian Club. They seem to be doing some heavy advertising in Australia lately. Go CC!
Wednesday is our day off. We take the opportunity to look around Darwin, walk the waterfront (don’t want to swim as there are crocs) and then Al decides we must drive some of the Stewart Highway looking for a road train. We didn’t have to go far. As we sat at the intersection waiting to turn onto the highway, two road trains went by. These pics are for Jason and Kallen. Not sure who will enjoy them more!
One would be remiss if they didn’t mention the sunsets in Darwin. They are spectacular, no wait, beyond spectacular. The sunsets alone are worth the trip to Darwin.
January 7, 2011Posted by on
After a leisurely (the entire) afternoon drive, Al and I had finally arrived at our destination, Bicheno, Tasmania, population 640 and one penguin tour company. We went straight to the tour company to make sure we could get booked in, but alas, it was booked out! How could this be, this isn’t even tourist season? Apparently, it is bus tour season, because it was a busload of tourists that booked the tours!
The tour operator seemed to genuinely feel bad and told us to just go to the beach at dusk and we would see penguins.
With lots of time on our hands before dusk, we decided to go exploring. There is a wildlife park in Bicheno, being the animals lovers we are, we had to go there. Tasmania has many unique animals such as the tasmanian devil, quolls and bettongs and the wildlife park has them all. The bettong looks like a cross between a rat and a wallaby. It is very small like a rat, but hops like a kangaroo. Very cute!
The Eastern quoll is about the size of a cat with a beautiful spotted coat of thick soft fur, but has a head like a rat.
The tasmanian devil reminds me of a little tiny bear, but it has a red mouth. Vicious!
All of these animals are nocturnal so they are not easy to see in the wild. Tasmania is also home to many different kinds of possums, kangaroos, potoroos, wallabys and other animals that roam the night.
After a visit to the zoo we decided to go and see the blowhole. It was quite spectacular when the waves were large.
Being in Tasmania one has to dine on crayfish as it is the local favourite. It was very nice and easily as big as a good size lobster. One thing I didn’t get to try while in Tassie was the abalone. Tasmania has abalone farms. Considering that abalone has been illegal in Canada since the 80’s, I wanted to have my chance to try it again. I was told it was only available in restaurants in Hobart. By the time we got to Hobart, we were tired and did not dine out in a restaurant with abalone. Next time!
Finally dusk had arrived, we went to the beach and waited and waited and waited.
It was not a warm day, in fact it was quite cold. Finally there is was…a tiny fairy penguin.
So cute! We decided to go back to the blowhole because that is where most locals had said we could see the penguins, they were right. There were tons of them coming out of the water to make their way up the beach for the night. It amazes me that they come in to the rocky shores even when the waves are pounding. It doesn’t seem to bother them at all. They mutter and mew amongst themselves and if a person gets too close they hiss and growl, which I found quite amusing because they are extremely harmless and small and very very cute. I guess they figure if they sound big, they will be safe!
After spending far too long with the fairy penguins, we decided we had better hit the road for the one and a half hour drive back, or so we thought that was how long it would take. It took way longer!
Why, because there was as many animals on the road as there was in the wildlife park. I am sure of it. It was a slow process so as not to add to the amazingly large amounts of road kill one sees in Tasmania. We saw two wallabies, kangaroos, many possums (too many to count), and tons of frogs! Because Al was driving so slow, we managed to snake our way through all of them without mishap.
We were driving over a bridge when I glanced to the side and there sitting on the stringer was a devil. I started screaming to Al, it’s a devil, it’s a devil!
Al being the sweetheart he is, turned the car around to take a second look. Sure enough, there was a tasmanian devil sitting on the side of the bridge. When we pulled up he growled and barred his teeth at us. He was not pleased with being disturbed. Very vicious looking and yet still incredibly cute. Most Australians will go their entire lifetime without seeing a devil in the wild and here we were, sitting on a bridge, in the dark, out in the middle of nowhere, looking at a wild devil. Lucky, lucky lucky! What an extraordinary day!
January 2, 2011Posted by on
Tasmanians know customer service. They understand the importance of being authentic and genuine. And, we experienced it over and over again in our short time in Tasmania.
When in Bicheno, we wanted to do the penguin tour. It ended up being booked out, although the guy that worked there had told us we could just go to the beach at dusk. He wasn’t worried about the sale, he was concerned about our experience. And it was genuine concern. It was evident he really wanted us to experience seeing fairy penguins. He was not alone, we felt the same level of service wherever we went in Tassie.
After leaving the penguin tour place we went next door to the coffee shop to drown our sorrows over cappuccinos. The waitress immediately struck up a conversation with us by asking where we were from. She then went on to tell us that we would definitely see fairy penguins if we went to the blowhole later. She also gave us another location where we could see them. In fact she went as far as to show us on a local map. She also told us we would need a torch (flashlight) because the trails have many tripping hazards after dark, so after our very nice coffee we went across the street to the loghouse store to buy a torch.
Immediately the couple that ran the store struck up a conversation with us. Turns out they have been to Canada. They loved it and wanted to share their experience with us. The difference is that they were just as interested in our Tasmanian experience and how they could help to make it better. Once again, people who knew what customer service is all about.
We stayed at two B&B’s when in Tassie. Both were great and both understood the importance of the experience. I would say the same for the hotel we stayed in while in Hobart!
Tasmanian customer service was a refreshing surprise. I can’t wait to return to visit the rest of Tassie. It’s on my list!
December 27, 2010Posted by on
The most civilised way to start any trip is to check in at the airport and then wait for your flight in the airport lounge. Now I know that not everybody can have lounge access, but if you can, do! We belong to Qantas lounge as Al travels frequently enough and works for such a nice company, they pay for the privilege. This means comfy seats, a glass of wine or two, some nibbleys, showers if required, nice bathrooms and lots of newspaper, magazines, or anything else you would like to read. Oh, did I mention computers?
Okay, those who fly business and first class will laugh at my little extravagance of the lounge, but at least I get to sit with them for a short time!
The trip to Tasmania is uneventful which are the best kind! We arrived late afternoon, picked up a rental car and headed for a little riverside town called Orford.
The beginning of our drive reminded me of home. The landscape is of beautiful rolling hills and farms, not unlike BC’s interior in the spring.
We stayed at the cutest B&B in Orford, a 1840 Heritage house called Sanda House (www.sandahouse.com.au).
Peter & Linda were lovely hosts and we enjoyed playing with the family dog, a beautiful young black lab called Chester.
I must mention Linda’s homemade jams. They were delectable as was the gluten free bread!
After a very restful sleep, we decided to try out the local golf course. Peter was kind enough to supply us with clubs.
The 9-hole course was a delightful surprise with it’s views of the coast and ideal playing conditions. Al played well, really well. I….didn’t! Oh well, next time!
First impression of Tasmania…beautiful scenery, lots of logging, dramatic coastline and friendly, authentic people! What a delight.
December 27, 2010Posted by on
One can not travel to Tasmania without a trip to see Fairy Penguins. Therefore Al and I set out for a 2-hour drive from Orford to a little town called Bicheno located on the East Coast of Tassie. This little town is where we could join a penguin tour, or so we thought.
We had thought the drive would only be one-two hours, but there is just too much to see! We followed the coastline dotted with cute little towns and spectacular white sandy beaches, but the draw for us was the boutique wineries along the way.
We just had to stop and sample the wine. Or, at least I did, poor Al had to drive!
We also came across this funky bridge called “spiky bridge”.
It was built by convicts in 1843.
Some say it was built spiky so that sheep couldn’t jump off, I like to think that the convicts were being “cheeky” and built it that way just to make a statement about having to build a bridge in the middle of nowhere while in chains! Either way, the bridge is beautiful, more like a piece of art than a bridge.
In the small town of Swansea (what a pretty name for a town) I had to stop and take a picture of the logging equipment.
It seemed so out of place, but it really isn’t when in Tasmania. Logging is common and really much of the traffic we passed were loaded logging trucks. Sniff, sniff, makes one homesick!
We stopped at St John the Baptist, Parish of Buckland.
I am telling the truth, Al stopped at a church. Okay, this church isn’t just a regular church, it is made from local sandstone, features the oldest stain glass window in Australia and is believed to date back to the 14th century. The cool thing about this church (other than the graveyard surrounding it) is that it is unlocked. You can just walk in!
We also saw sheep. Not just a few sheep, but field after field of sheep, unless it was a field of poppies.
Yes, poppies, many poppies! Why poppies? Because Tasmania is the worlds largest producer of opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market. Welcome to Tasmania, isn’t it quaint?
December 27, 2010Posted by on
Australia has an amazing system of public transport, trains! Which means, for the first time in my life I have been reliant on trains, therfore I have had to learn how to read train schedules, as well as bus schedules (go ahead, call me a small town girl), that connect with the correct trains. It has been a steep learning curve, but fun.
Just finding out which exit will suit you best when at Central Station is difficult, but trying to find the next train is even more difficult, especially when you are not sure if it’s the Eastern Suburbs, a city circle or maybe even a country train. I have learned to go to the big electronic boards, look for my destination, figure out which train system it’s on and then stress about where the platform might be as Central has three levels of platforms!
Speaking of trains, did you know that here in Australia there is a carriage called the guards carriage? This is where you will find the guard in case you have problems or it is late at night and you don’t feel comfortable traveling on the train alone.
How do you know which one is the guards carriage? There is a blue light on the exterior of the carriage. Apparently everyone knows this means there is a guard in that carriage. I wonder if tourists know that, because I sure didn’t?
Speaking of which, I always wonder how the tourists know where to buy their tickets, which tickets to buy and the most important thing…hang onto the ticket because you are going to need it to exit the train station on the other end! Maybe it’s just me, but this is all stuff I have had to learn being a “newbie” at train travel.
I have grown to enjoy train travel as long as I get a seat. If I have to stand, I of course, don’t enjoy that. I actually don’t mind so much as long as people are not taking up seats with luggage, purses or other paraphernalia that they think will keep the seat free for their use. I feel that when city rail personnel come through the train to check tickets, they should charge people that are using more than one seat if they don’t have an extra ticket for the extra seat. This would quickly stop the rude people that take up more than one seat!
For the most part, I am liking the train. It is inexpensive, a great place to people watch, enjoy the scenery or immerse yourself in what can end up being a very quirky conversation with fellow train travellers!
July 14, 2010Posted by on
We are on a road trip that takes us 770 km northwest of Sydney where we find ourselves at the “Ridge”, Lightening Ridge that is! No gold here though, it’s opal territory, not just any opal , but home to the largest known deposits of black opal in the world.
We are in the Outback of Australia, or rather on the edge of the Outback and very near the Queensland border. And, we have stepped into another world. A world of dreams, opportunity, miners, true blue miners who spend their days looking for the elusive black opal.
As we hit town, we see the Lightening Ridge sign, quickly followed by a sign that says population ?.
That piques my interest. It’s my first question to our personal tour guide, miner and good friend Kayt. The opal bug bit her years ago. She and her husband have an opal mine in Lightening Ridge, which they work when they are not living their regular lives working in Sydney.
Kayt tells me that the reason they don’t know the population of Lightening Ridge is because the Ridge is a place where people come to disappear and disappear they can. The 2006 census counted 2, 602 people, locals believe there are more than 7000 people who call the Ridge home. Slight difference there!
My first impression of the Ridge was of surprise. It is much more touristy than I would have thought. Perhaps it is because more than 80,000 tourists pass through the Ridge every year.
Which is why you will find an amazing mine shaft full of carvings and art galleries, not to mention a house made of bottles. It was built by a woman, an obviously very talented woman.
I was again surprised when I walked into one art gallery and was confronted with a painting of raccoons. The artist who is an animal lover told me that she always thought raccoons were so beautiful and mischievous looking, so that is what she had tried to capture. She had never actually seen a live raccoon and was impressed that I immediately knew what they were and was interested to hear that I had seen more than my share of “coons” in my time. She had done a wonderful job of capturing the playful side of the raccoon. Besides the coons, she had many painting of dogs, cats and Australian wildlife. Very friendly lady, very genuine, as were all the people we met in Lightening Ridge.
The mine shaft full of carvings was spectacular. The carvings are all carved by one man. A miner turned artist. He is still adding to the carvings most days. Great tourist attraction and well worth seeing if you ever happen to be in Lightening Ridge.
June 21, 2010Posted by on
I love road trips. In Australia, this usually means seeing kangaroo’s. I don my roo glasses (sun glasses) and start “roo hunting” immediately. Al being the good sport that he is, stops (when safe to do so) whenever I start my “ROO ROO ROO” rant. I don’t always take pictures of them anymore, but I never grow weary of watching them watch me.
Last Thursday was no different. Al and I had started out on our road trip to Mudgee for an overnight stay, then on to our final destination of Lightening Ridge. It was a great day for a road trip. The sun was shining, the air was warm and the back roads were calling our name. We do take the highways when we are in a hurry, but this road trip was not hurried so we wound our way through rural New South Wales to enjoy the sights and smells of farmland and the quirkyness of the small towns that dot the roadside.
Imagine Al’s surprise when I started yelling “WOMBAT WOMBAT WOMBAT” (not easy to say) instead of “ROO ROO ROO”. Al dutifully pulled over, but said “it will be dead, because that’s the only wombat you will see during the day”.
“No, it’s alive and grazing on the side of the road”, was my reply.
He humoured me and backed up. Sure enough, there was this very rotund wombat grazing in the nice green grass, near a river. I am not sure why he was there, but I was happy and feeling very lucky to be seeing a live wombat during the day. He may have been out because of all the rain we’ve had lately making everything an unnatural green and lush!
I was stoked! We continued on our way seeing some kangaroo’s and believe it or not, camels! Out in the middle of nowhere was a guy and four camels. He seemed to be walking them. These would not be wild camels because camels are not found in New South Wales. It was interesting to see though!
We stopped at a little General Store on the side of the road. While Al went to the toilet (yes, this is what they would say in Australia). I was asking the lady what the population of this little town was, her reply…five! She did mention that about 30 other people lived in the surrounding area!
We had stopped there because they had a sign saying “best coffee in town”. It was the best coffee in town, even if it was the only coffee in town, it was good. I struggle with the term “town” when only five people live there, but who am I to argue!
It was then my turn to go to the toilet, which was situated out back! As I rounded the building I noticed a woman just closing the back gate after having driven through. She had five dogs with her who were obviously not counted as residents!
Me, being the animal person I am, immediately struck up a conversation with this woman. I had to pet the dogs and chat with her about the beautiful area she lived in. Of course, the conversation finally got around to me saying “I saw a wombat on the side of the road this morning”!
Her reply was expected, “Yes we get lots of dead wombats on the side of the road”.
“No, this one wasn’t roadkill, it was alive, well and grazing on the side of the road”.
She was surprised! Then to my surprise she leaned forward over the fence and whispered to me, ” I have one”.
“I have a wombat”.
I was shocked. Did I just hear her right? How could this woman HAVE a wombat?
She walked over to a big basket that was sitting on her back porch and started pulling blankets and cushions out of the basket. “That little rotter, she has gone in through the cat door again and will be curled up behind the stove. Go to the toilet, I will go find her and meet you out front to show you”.
I was back in a flash, but she had still beat me to the front. She was waiting in the coffee shop with a very excited Al gazing out the window watching for my return. When the lady had walked into the coffee shop with the wombat, Al had got all excited and said, “You have to wait until my Canadian girlfriend comes back, she will go nuts”.
“I know, I am waiting for her”, was her reply.
I got to meet and hold Mia. It was magical.
The story behind Mia… friends of the people who are raising her had come up from Sydney for a visit. On the way, they hit a wombat. Being animal lovers, they had stopped to make sure it was dead. When feeling for it to see if it was still breathing, they noticed a movement in the pouch. They put their hand in and pulled out Mia. She was about three weeks old. They took her back to Sydney and nursed her for a week, but then quickly realized that Sydney is no place for a wombat, so brought her back to their friends in the country.
Mia is registered and will be released back into the wild when she is old enough. She is only eight weeks old right now. I am not going to say which town or which General Store, or I suspect these two very nice ladies would be swamped with visitors wanting to hold Mia. I do appreciate their kindness in allowing me to hold Mia. This is something that most Australians will never have the chance to do in their lifetime, I cherish the opportunity given to me. It was a moment I will remember forever.
Mia was beautiful, soft and cuddly. She is a typical baby and likes to be cuddled. She has huge buck teeth, really long claws that will one day be able to dig burrows for her to live in. She also has a little backwards pouch. Being backwards, this will allow her to dig without the pouch filling up with dirt. Most surprising is that most of her back is made of cartilage acting as a natural armour for protection. Isn’t nature amazing?
Mia will be raised in this home for about one year before being released back into the wild. Her carers are hoping that Mia will one day build her burrow on their large farm and remain nearby. Mia is one lucky wombat to have been saved and then have such incredible people take her in. I am one lucky person for having met Mia and her carers to whom I am thankful for helping to create a lifelong memory for me.
But, alas, we could stay no longer and it was back out on the highway, looking for adventure or whatever came our way!
January 13, 2010Posted by on
Summer in Australia produces a blend of beauty and terror in and around our beaches. Killer sharks, lethal jellyfish and the dangers of an environment that is now inhospitable to humans – perhaps we should never have left the sea in the first place.
Australian summer is a cocktail of a hot climate, beautiful beaches and warm, clear ocean waters. When the mercury climbs on a balmy antipodean summers day, there can only be one thought, “to the beach!” Well, and a cooling beverage, the occasional frothy, sparkling brown wine.
My lovely partner, Kitty, and I love the water. We both grew up with it. For Kitty, she would be in the water as often as possible. In the chilly waters of Canada, this was not always possible so she had to be content with holiday swims. However, she grew up in a place only accessible by water; being on and around the water was part of her daily life. I grew up south of Sydney, I was on and in the water constantly.
When Kitty moved to Australia, her one thought was to spend as much time in the water as possible. Despite her love of water, the risks of things that will kill you in Australia made her a little concerned. She read Bill Bryson‘s “A Sunburned Country” on the way over. Bryson’s famous quote “Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else” seemed to have an impact on her, as you would expect. I’m sure the first time I took her swimming in the ocean she was seeing the shadows of lethal mammals all around us.
More than two years since Kitty first visited downunder, she is now a devotee of the surf, swimming and now, since Santa gave her snorkeling gear, taking a look under the water. This too brings a renewal of concern of scary Aussies, other than those hanging outside the pub. Last week we went snorkelling at The Haven in Terrigal. We went right our along a rock reef and saw lots of things. One special moment was when a black stingray about one meter across gracefully flapped along the sandy bottom right below me.
Kitty is such a water person and I love our water adventures. I am so impressed with the way she has taken to our deadly seas. She shoots waves like a veteran, occasionally ending up staggering out of the water with her bikini top wrapped around her face. She goes snorkeling confidently, despite wallowing like a beached seal with flippers in the air (not quite like the woman in “Along came Polly“). Taking life by the horns and giving it a solid shake!
From hardy Canuck growing up in a remote and beautiful coastal settlement to Aussie beach babe and big city shopper! Thats my girl!