Italics are Narda’s notes – straight up – Terrell’s scribbles…
On the road early this morning; well, by 9.30 am. In retirement speak that is early. Locals have been saying we should visit the nearby hamlet of Laurieton, 42 km south of Port Macquarie. As you would know from your upbringing the Birpai (also known as Birrbay) people have lived in this area for more than 40,000 years.
We rode our bikes around town, over a couple of bridges which are in the amazing video below; the one with friendly kangaroos, a slow-moving goanna, a pod of hungry pelicans, and to the top of North Brother Mountain – with its fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean and our day at Diamond Head. Not the one in Hawaii – of course.
Further useful information is that Captain James Cook named “the Brothers” on 12 May 1770 for their resemblance to mountains in his native Yorkshire. He was unwittingly mirroring the name given to them by the Birpai. The Camden Haven area was explored on foot by John Oxley in 1818 and was first settled by Europeans in the early 1820s. A convict settlement was established at nearby Port Macquarie in 1821 and the first settlers were limeburners burning oyster shells for buildings there. Some of these lived at the foot of North Brother.
We did come across some large oyster farms on our bike trip. Too expensive for me, and Narda does not like them. They were $20 a dozen at the factory – before they hit the shops. I looked up whether these were overpriced and discovered that the most expensive oysters in the world come from Coffin Bay, a mere two hours up the road, and retail for $100 EACH. Why? Well, they are ENORMOUS: 18cm long and weighing up to 1kg.
We stopped at the local Coles Supermarket and bought lunch fixings of smoked salmon, rolls, Castello Blue cheese, and Farmer Union Iced Coffee (the best iced coffee in Australia, of course, from South Australia and took the dirt road to Diamond Head Camping grounds in the Crowdy Bay National Park. [Diamond Head gained its name from the quartz rich rocks, plentiful in the area, which contain an abundance of small, perfectly formed, clear quartz crystals whose appearance resembles diamonds.] Having lived in Waikiki for more than a year, a few blocks from Diamond Head Crater, I was intrigued by the sign pointing to Diamond Head when we were driving out of town. It is a beautiful place overlooking the Pacific with a lot of folks camping. If we had not already settled in on back in Port Macquarie we may have come here. Of course, Diamond Head in Hawaii is a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi. The Hawaiian name is most likely derived from lae plus ʻahi because the shape of the ridge line resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin.
We took the Hastings River Ferry from the Ferry terminal in Port Macquarie, New South Wales across the North Shore then rode the 9 K’s to the Settlement Point Ferry through the countryside. then back home to our caravan park.
November 24 2020
Yesterday, strong winds near a lighthouse warning of sharp rocks. A very blue sky, and an even bluer ocean. Walks with trails warning of snakes, glorious overhanging rainforest. Us on a balcony high above Port (the name the locals have for their lovely little city), There is a view and a constant breeze all around us. Our final night on the hill was a spectacular light show of lightning, with jagged spikes and light flashes showing the whole coast for a split second. We relaxed, the thunder came much later.
Today, cycling to Maccas for our morning 2-for-one decent senior coffee. Under the cicadas in the trees, the noise is sometimes deafening. Our caravan park is on the shore of the Hastings River. Last night we sat near the wharf in total silence.
Even the water, a wide expanse, had no ripples, Only those caused by the lone pelican which patrols the wharf. He seems quite old.
Today is Maggie’s 9th birthday. She got some money. I asked her what she might spent it on. She replied, in her 15-year-old voice, “clothes oma, duh”.
An offer of home exchanging with Pt Macquarie came through Homelink from Geoff and Rosalind. So here we are tyres pumped to 45 and 38 at the front, car serviced and way too many clothes packed. We managed Adelaide to Broken Hill in one shot, despite our misgivings. Following the same route as Brendan did in July. Stayed at the racecourse on the outer edge of town, not a great spot though it had lots of caravans ($20 no power), but next morning took a nice walk down main street with a coffee stop and a magnet purchase at the newsagent, which had opened 6.30am on a Sunday morning. Impressive!
We are up and ready early; thought we would be on the road at seven, maybe even six am. We slept in the caravan the night before and had the car attached, ready to race across Australia @ our usual elderly, dragging our home behind us pace. These plans seldom mature, we did well though, 8:15 out the door and headed across the country. Fifteen minutes later we were at the grandchildren’s house as we will miss Maggie’s ninth birthday later in November, we dropped off her birthday present. We give cash these days as children have too many toys that disappear into landfill for the next generation of architectural nightmares to be built upon. Maggie was happy as she is saving for roller skates.
Finally, on the road by nine, still a good start for us. We managed to go for almost an hour before pulling over for our first coffee stop. Port Macquarie seemed like a long way away. ‘18 hr 4 min (1,747.9 km) via Sturt Hwy/A20’ according to Google Maps, meaning it will take us five days if we hurry.
What a time we live in. This is our first long road trip since arriving back from The Netherlands more than seven months ago when we went into quarantine for a couple of weeks and stayed home for the following months except for two short camping trips.
We had Brendan with us for these seven months. Teaching in Lahore, Pakistan he was given 48-hour notice to leave due to Covid-19, did his quarantine in Adelaide then spent every weekday with us teaching his fifth-grade class via Zoom @ our house. The door was closed but we would listen in sometimes. They sounded like quite lively classes, quite different from the years Narda and I were teaching. One of my favourite interactions was when Narda took him a cup of coffee and a child in Lahore watching said, ‘you still live with your mother?’ We stayed away the rest of the time. We would have dinner every day at five pm as that was lunch time in Lahore and the children would be away for half an hour. They still had their regular schedules such as their specials; Phys ed, library, even music classes. All through Zoom as they were home. Sixteen students are a lot, I would think, to keep track of via computer, but Brendan did. It is an American private school with classes taught in English. We had visited Lahore in November 2019 (blog @ https://neuage.me/2019/11/29/lahore/) including a visit to Brendan’s school.
Brendan returned to Lahore a few days ago. They were doing a mixture of in-person teaching at the school and online teaching. After a week, the school went into lockdown and Brendan is back to teaching on Zoom, hopefully temporarily.
Two days before we left, my son, Sacha, came over from Melbourne. He had to do a two-week quarantine at a hotel as the border between his home state, Victoria and our COVID-19-free state has been closed since July so we got to see him for a couple of days before leaving. I wrote about that , ‘A cautionary tale’, https://neuage.me/2020/10/25/a-cautionary-tale/ at the time.
What a time before we left. I voted a month ago as I am a duel citizen, born in Michigan, growing up (sort of) in New York until 16 then all over the States (mainly New Orleans, NYC, Hawaii, California, Maryland, and Oregon until 33 years old when I moved to Australia). As New Jersey was our last home (Narda and I lived in Jersey City in 2010) I am voting through that state. Sacha, another one of those duel citizens you read about in comic books, born in Hawaii in 1981, six-months before we moved to Adelaide, voted in his first USA election, via Hawaii.
Narda, not exactly a duel citizen, we lived in New York from 2002 – 2010 (including a bit in New Jersey at the end) has a strong tie to what happens in the States. Her son, grandson and daughter-in-law live in Washington DC not far from the White House. We were so sure Biden would win by a landslide and it would be obvious by the end of election day on the third of November. We were aware of all that Bill Maher has been saying all year that Trump would be ahead by election night and would proclaim himself the victor. Tuesday in the USA is Wednesday in Adelaide. We had the TV on all day and as the day progressed so did Trump’s numbers. We were extremely upset and stressed along with 75,000 million Americans who voted for Biden. I became physically ill, sore throat, cough, runny nose – not COVID-19 because we had not been anywhere to catch it. The next day, our Thursday, things were looking even worse, with Trump declaring himself the winner. We got Sacha’s car back to him at six am as he was through his 14-day quarantine and we went out to brekky. At home we continued to pack and prepare for our road trip and three-week house exchange in Port Macquarie. We spent Friday with Sacha, the news of Biden getting Michigan (my birthplace) then leading in Nevada and Arizona was helping us heal. Then there was Georgia. Really! How could that be? A southern state voting for a Democrat. Holy Guacamole! Yes, it was true with more and more votes going toward Biden.
We felt good driving toward our first night’s destination, Broken Hill. We got there five o’clock, taking only eight hours for a typical five-and a half hour drive. We take turns every hour or so and the passenger keeps the driver UpToDate with what is happening in the States. We even took a break from the election, that Saturday, four days later, to listen to Michael Palin’s audiobook on his trip to North Korea. A good listen or read if you need something interesting to take your mind off whatever.
Broken Hill was our first time out of South Australia since March. There was no one at the border stopping people coming in. I believe it is only those coming into South Australia that are being stopped and checked that they have permission to enter. We are hoping when we return in December that the border is totally open. We plan to come home via Victoria if those borders are open. It is impossible to know what will be. The worse that could happen would be a new surge of viruses and we would have to quarantine in a hotel in Adelaide like Sacha did, @ $3000 for two-weeks, which we will not do. We will just camp as long as it takes to get home.
I passed through Broken Hill in 1992 when my 87-year old father came to visit from New York. My two children and I picked him up at Sydney Airport with a rented large RV and spent a few weeks driving up through Queensland and back to Adelaide via Broken Hill. [tales of such a life in, “Leaving Australia, ‘Again’: Book 2 ‘After’” https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M2CBL0X]. Narda and I had coffee and took a short walk with the agreement that we would return here in a few months and spend a week exploring Broken Hill
We found Broken Hill Racecourse Campground, which is listed in our free and/or cheap caravan places. It cost $20, cheaper than the usual $35 – $45 formal camping places.
Clean bathrooms and showers and quiet. We left the next morning @ 7.30 AM, stopping for coffee and a couple of hour later in the town of Wilcannia. This was the third largest inland port in the country during the great river boat era of the mid-19th century. At the 2016 census, Wilcannia had a population of 549. We had heard/read quite negative things about this town, though all we saw were closed shops with bars over the windows. We had a bit of lunch alongside the Wilcannia River. Narda, as she does, found some lads fishing and sat down and had a conversation with them about fishing, school, the river…’the river has gone down a lot over the years’.
The four boys were in agreement about Perch being much nicer to eat than Carp. They had sling shots which they told me were quite strong. I got a demonstration. The stone reached the other side of the Darling River. Two of the boys were in grade 4, one in grade 3. ’But he is in grade 5’. There is clearly a pecking order.
About the water level, was it getting lower? I was assured in an Eastern European accent by the boy in grade 5 that in 2016, the water level rose ‘very high’.
I told them I was a teacher. They looked at me with no expression and made no comment.
I had read several blogs written by my Grey Nomad fellow travellers, warning against stopping too long in this town. It was supposed to be dangerous and there was talk about caravans being vandalized.
All the windows we saw, petrol station, Catholic Care office, and the supermarket had completely barred windows.
The river is currently quite low.
Our next stop was along the Bogan River in Bogan Shire. Of course, I had to get my photo taken in front of the sign…
noun: bogan; plural noun: bogans
an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status.
Definitions from Oxford Languages
There is a great Australian series for those not versed in Australian lore… Upper Middle Bogan (TV Series 2013–2016) – IMDb “Middle class woman, Bess Denyar, discovers she’s adopted. She’s shocked to find her birth parents head up a drag racing team in the outer suburbs.” I loved this series, and it is what has made me realize that all I want in life is to enhance/fulfill my life as a bogan in retirement.
Caravan park. We watched Jo Biden speak to the nation while eating chiko rolls at the local service station. The Indian person behind the counter obligingly turned up the volume for us.
This trip has been completely dominated by the US election. We have had trouble sleeping but are now making jubilant daily phone calls with Chris in celebration mode.
By late afternoon we arrived in Cobar, staying @ the Cobar Caravan Park, http://www.cobarcaravanpark.com.au/. We paid $20 for a site without electricity/water. It was better than the power sites as they are closer to one another. The shower/toilet blocks are available for all and as we do not need the electricity non-powered sites are best for us. We rode our bikes through the small town and that is about all we can say for this stop.
Tuesday, the 10th, a week since election, we are feeling better about the States. We avoid any news about Trump, so that we can view life as once again normal. We managed to go for almost two hours before stopping for coffee and ice cream in a town called ‘Nevertire’. To state the obvious, not being tired we continued to Dubbo.
Adelaide is the haemorrhoid of Australia. This was our greeting as we pulled into a central, somewhat feral caravan park called Poplars. The guy had travelled all over, Bolivia, Thailand and South African, but he was not having Adelaide. He charged us $30 pn with power. Turns out Bren was there too, on a grassy spot with a view of the bridge. Kmart, Coles etc across the road, lots of bike trails and parks and a decent Asian Wok takeway. Easy stop, despite the caretaker. So, we stayed and did the right thing by visiting the Dubbo Zoo. We rode our bikes and it was great.
The only memory I have of Dubbo is from my drive-thru with my 87-year old father and Sacha (11) and Leigh (9). We went to the Dubbo Zoo, which is a zoo one can stay in their vehicle and drive through. [Formerly an army camp during World War Two, the site was transformed into a 300-hectare oasis of woodland and irrigated grassland. Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo opened to the public on 28th February 1977 and was the first zoo in Australia to be constructed on the open range principle.] This time Narda and I rode our bikes to the zoo from the Poplars Caravan Park we spent two nights at. The zoo is merely fifteen minutes away and we spent most of the day riding through the zoo. We are not zoo people; I think the only one we have been to in the past twenty years was the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo in Kerala, India, which is a great zoo with huge outdoor areas for the animals. Dubbo Zoo has larger areas than the Thiruvananthapuram Zoo for animals to roam. We especially liked a performance by some bamboo apes – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/ug_n_TG6WcA
Our other favourite display were the Galapagos tortoises – We have a short clip at https://youtu.be/RtVWFWGrG4M
As with any tourist event we were met at the entrance to the zoo by the local mayor-peacock,
The Poplars Caravan Park is a bit feral, a few long-term stayers, a bit of rubbish and car parts and ‘bogans’ around the place. At $30 per night it is cheap. The toilet blocks are a bit gross, the owner a loud opinionated character; “I loved America, the only problem is that it is full of Americans”. Narda has some quotes in her piece above. However, we did not mind, it is across the street from a shopping centre with Coles and Target and two blocks from the main street where we got take-away Chinese food our first night. There is a good bike trail along the Macquarie River taking us to the zoo and further if we were less lazy. The caravan park gets a one- and two-star rating on the Internet. We found it all quite convenient and quiet enough for a stay.
Fancy fences for horses in beautiful country. A shady spot, free, with clean toilets; this was Jerry’s Landing. We considered the pub but agreed on another caravan meal to eat through our fresh stuff, accompanied by Terrell’s gourmet egg dish which we have named “Bloody Eggs”: two sunny -side-up eggs slathered in tomato chutney. YUM.
We are out by 8 am and to our next destination, a free camp area in the village of Jerry’s plains. One of our better stays. Quiet, except for the road trains on the nearby highway. A very well cared for toilet block is nearby and we have a good sleep and are rested for our early morning trek to the New South Wales coast.
Google claims it is only a tad bit over three hours to Port Macquarie, so we are up early I eat brekky (Narda is doing one of those 16-hour fasts, eating only between noon and 6 or 7 pm) and we are on our way. We have all day as we are to meet our house-exchange hosts at five pm. After a couple of hours we see the New South Wales Coast, and as it is only mid-day and we have hours before we need to be in Port Macquarie and we are elderly folks who have already driven for a couple of hours, we pull over, have lunch, take an hour nap. We did not put the top of the caravan up as we did not want to look settled in.
Try it sometime, getting a big chunky caravan onto a vacant block, which has many trees and slopes steeply in two directions. Add to that a friendly neighbour, who offers to keep an eye on it, but does not want it to have a view of her living room, nor be anywhere close to her overhanging bushes which are due for a clipping on Wednesday. Half an hour later I had crushed the top of the awning against a tree. OK, enough; we have the caravan on the highest plastic risers and can sleep in it. If we decided to go to the portapotty sometime during the night, we would stagger into the left wall of the van.
Despite all this, we slept well. We enjoyed a nice evening tea with our hosts featuring local whiting (they assured us that the SA King George whiting was better), but it was nice evening meal. We were introduced to the Blue Burmese cat aristocracy. She, an elite member, has complete control over the occupants of the house. She sleeps in the queen bed in the master bedroom, uses the ensuite toilet (not kidding!!!). The only thing she does not do, is flush the toilet.
Our hosts come from SA originally, she was a Uniting Church pastor in Dernancourt, and knew the Hope Valley folks. Small world. Lovely people.
EmCee, the cat, does not sleep with us. We have decided to use the other bedroom and she’s not allowed in. Despite that, she will happily sleep on our laps while we watch Netflix, and we are actually taking quite a shine to her. This morning at 6.30 am she was waiting at our door. Bless.
There are a couple of guys working on solar panel on the house opposite in very HIGH winds. I have my caravan first aid kit ready to go. We’ve had warm weather, a nice walk yesterday morning to Miner’s Beach, just a few minutes down the road. Speccie!! Today we are getting the storms that seem to be crossing our country. Here just very windy with some spots of rain but not cold.
We got 2 cups of coffee, one small and one regular. The small one was free a Maccas for us tight arsed seniors. The area is called New Setttlement. Lots of homes on water front, which has been extended by artificial canals. But nice. We prefer the older bits, with a mixture of old houses, ex beach shacks and places on stilts. The new area is all square Lochiel Park style housing, mostly white.
“Ten years ago, my wife left me for my best friend. I still miss him”. That’s our host on the cruise. He and his wife busily doling out generous serves of pizza which was delivered to the boat on the of the landings. Then icecream with choose-your-own maltesers and lollies. No dophins really, just the occasional arched dive you had to be quick to see. But all in all very pleasant on a Sunday morning.
So now I am watching with alarm as these tradies and trying to hoist the panels onto the to roof across the road. The wind has not abated.
After two days here we did the most touristy thing to do, a dolphin cruise. https://cruiseportmacquarie.com.au/ We saw a few dolphins, the two-hour cruise was really good including all the pizza we wanted, I always get a lot as few chose the vegetarian selection.
,morning we took an hour walk down the cliff and to Miners Beach. What a beautiful area we are in, every day we will walk a different route either through the rainforest or along the beach. Our clip of Miners Beach – https://youtu.be/9lHozBc4vzM
There is so much to do and see. Today or tomorrow we will go to the Koala hospital, https://www.koalahospital.org.au/. We are looking at some 4-wheel drive into heavy rain-forest areas north of here too.
Meanwhile, we are settling in to a routine of getting up early, walking along the beach or through the local rain forest, blogging, taking an afternoon nap and watching shows on Netflix and Stan; currently watching Scorpion (Stan) which is getting routine by season three or four – whatever it is we are up to – they all blend into the same do-overs, Republic of Doyle, on Netflix, a Canadian comedy-drama television series set in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – two places we are looking for a house-exchange in as they look really good. Like Scorpion, it is getting quite routine by season four, but we like the characters. And the wacky Black Books, a British sitcom that must be watched to believe – up there with Schitt’s Creek though sillier. And less ‘nice’.(N). And ‘Brave New World’.
Tuesday, the 17th, we did the Sea Acres rain-forest walk, almost walking distance from our home, though we drove there. Well worth the visit.
There is an elevated path through it. We have a minute video at https://youtu.be/NNvjTWOedSo
We liked seeing and learning about the Strangler Fig, a Steven King type of vegetation.
After six or seven months of no virus in South Australia and the borders closed to Victoria, news today has it that Adelaide has its first Covid-19 cluster – 17. Not much compared to the rest of the world or even the rest of Australia but enough to shut down the state. Within a day of the news Western Australia and the Northern Territory have closed their borders to South Australia. We are in the next state over and so far, there is no lock down with New South Wales. Thought they are saying if you were in South Australia since the ninth of November to quarantine here, lucky for us we left SA on the seventh of November. At this time, we are still planning to go back home December 3rd, so we will see what happens.
STOP…OK things change. Yesterday, 18th, November – Wednesday, the folks who we are exchanging homes with rang. ‘Adelaide has just gone into a six day hard shutdown…as of midnight no travel…’ there was more but at 3 pm, when our hosts first heard the news they had until midnight to get out of South Australia or face staying at our house for six-days. Nothing bad about that, we have a nice home with a yard, a shed with my 183 ties [https://neuage.org/iso/], greenscreen studio and so much more as well as a sometimes-visiting koala in our front gumtree as well as very at home magpies visiting daily. However, they were concerned it could turn into two weeks then longer. Being in their 80s they did not wish to hang about in a covid hotspot, so they made a runner for the New South Wales border town of Broken Hill. They managed to get there by 9 pm which is really a good run to do in six hours. It took us much longer but then we stop for coffee every ten minutes or so. Bottom line, they want their house back. We checked out caravan places, we love it here and are not ready to go back to locked down South Australia, we could not travel there anyway now. We found what we liked best along the Hastings River.
Today, the next day, from the day before; which some call tomorrow if they were saying this yesterday, morning, our hosts rang and said they were going to take their time coming across New South Wales and were visiting family on the way. Perhaps next Monday, today is Thursday, they would arrive. We are happy with this arrangement as we like their large home overlooking Port Macquarie – and it is easier making a mess in their kitchen than in our caravan.
Talk at ya later…
“You can stay downstairs if you like. We would like to leave as Adelaide is going into full lock down, starting midnight. We’re planning to drive out of the state before midnight”. “That’s fine, said we, “there is always the caravan and we can find a park in this town easily.” Our minister host and her husband are on their way back.
So off we went to check it all out. The first park, the town park is expensive, right on the beach and people are walking through it all the time. We actually discovered this park on yesterday’s beach walk. Up a hill, down a hill, along a beautiful beach and so on. Then there is the Park next to Aldi’s. A bit too Aldi, even for us! Then we found a beautiful park in the Hastings River, full of residents, and only a few caravan sites, quiet and relatively cheap….. and a bonus: still close to Aldi. Bike riding country, nice and flat, unlike where we are currently living on the top of Summit Rd….the name speaks for itself.
“We have arrived in Broken Hill and have decided to meander around and take our time to get home”. OK so now we can stay until Monday or Tuesday. It’s all good; nice to have the freedom to be flexible.
Before the Rainforest board walk, I bought my groovy new drink bottle for $18 eeek.
Strangler figs abound. They grow from the top down, wrap their tentacles around the host tree, which dies in time, leaving a (often enormous) hollow strangler fig, which provides food for the inhabitants of the forest.
Finally, I have ordered new glasse., though I could change my mind before the eye test on Monday! 😊
I am off to grab my umbrella from the car to go hang gliding – hope to see ya all soon.
A cautionary tale
My son, Sacha, lives in Melbourne, Victoria. He came to Adelaide, South Australia. The state of Victoria has been in lock-down for more than three months with restrictions just starting to be lifted. My son had to apply 14 days before crossing the border. At the border he realized he needed more petrol and was told he could not stop in South Australia until Adelaide. He was meeting the police at two PM and had an hour to go 30 k’s back to a petrol station and be back at Bordertown by 2. At the border he had a police escort, the police car in front with flashing lights and a big sign; ‘follow me’ and the police car following just flashing lights. In Bordertown there were three other cars coming to Adelaide making a convey of four cars and two police cars for the five-hour trip to Adelaide. The whole trip from Melbourne to Adelaide is more than eight hours. By Tailem Bend where the police switched cars one of the passengers in another car needed the loo. They all went to the next petrol station where they were told they could not use the facilities, being from Victoria’s restrictions. They ended up using the loo at the Tailem Bend police station then continued for the next hour fifteen minutes to Adelaide. Sacha is booked into the Stamford Plaza.
He is in quarantine for 14 days with tests at the start and end. Being stuck in a small room, not impressed with the meals; this after paying $3000 for 2-weeks stay, we bought a box of ‘health’ snacks to hopefully last a few days. He brought $20,000 of music production gear so he will be occupied. Also, we brought his car home to save on the expensive fee the hotel was charging. To take his car, we were met by a policeman, Narda as driver had to put on full pp-gear: mask, gloves, plastic cover and be observed wiping down the interior of the car before we could go. The car is now parked in our driveway and we have been told it can not be driven for 15 days – until after Sacha has been cleared. See photos below. Saying all this, we do not have covid in South Australia. We have been lucky to be able to go to the gym and morning aqua Zumba and live life as usual. No one wears masks but we always wipe down. This is how South Australia has kept everything open without any cases and hopefully will not get any in the future. In a few weeks we are driving with our caravan across country to Port Macquarie in New South Wales for a month. When we leave South Australia, we will wear masks and do the whole nine yards and hopefully return in December to a covid free state.
Our current status (Narda and me) @ – we have arrived in Adelaide after 10 weeks in the Netherlands and flights back via Amsterdam and Singapore where we spent 17 hours – we have been given amazing help with a home in Swan Reach along the Murray River where we did our quarantine of two weeks in Adelaide until the 8th of April. Thanks to family, friends, strangers… for so many good thoughts, offers of help and keeping us positive. After fourteen days in quarantine plus two-hundred and two days in semi-isolation while carefully following South Australia’s strict guidelines for wandering amongst the locals, with our daily walks, bike rides, protective shopping, and of course starting this week – 09 June, Aqua Zumba and the gym. When we are not at the gym we are off in our caravan seeing South Australia, camping off-the-grid for a week at a time then back home, then out again. As of 25 October 2020, we feel good, but we can not visit you yet. Cheers. Updated Tuesday 25 October/2020 8.47AM #Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia. e-books
The Amazing Tie Challenge – Week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, LAST DAY/TIE final update 10 October/2020 @ #Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia
Behance Project – Thoughts in Isolation April 2020 – Adelaide, South Australia
Behance Project – Thoughts in Travel 2020 March – The Netherlands
BLOG – OUR TIME IN ROTTERDAM (MARCH 2020)
Our current status (Narda and me) @ home – we arrived in Adelaide after 10 weeks in the Netherlands and flights back via Amsterdam and Singapore where we spent 17 hours – we have been given amazing help with a home in Swan Reach along the Murray River where we did our quarantine of two weeks in Adelaide until the 8th of April. Thanks to family, friends, strangers… for so many good thoughts, offers of help and keeping us positive. After fourteen days in quarantine plus sixty-six days in isolation, then semi-isolation then carefully following South Australia’s strict guidelines for wandering among the locals, with our daily walks, bike rides, protective shopping, and of course starting this week – 09 June, aqua Zumba and the gym. As of 14 June 2020, we feel good. Cheers. Updated Sunday 14/June/2020 8.47
WHAT ONE DOES @ HOME IN ISOLATION – Tie Challenge Day 66 updated updated 14/June/2020
The ties are due to needing to wear a tie when I was teaching in New York & China (2002 – 2014) – I started collecting ties from thrift shops etc. around the world for the next decade. Instead of tossing them out I am doing this dumb challenge as I am @ home and cannot visit you. I think there are over 100. Perseverance Road, Vista, South Australia
February 20, 2020
This is our story of our stay in Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel which is between Gouda and Rotterdam. We took the train from Arnhem to Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel on 29th of February two days after the first coronavirus case in the Netherlands. In those days, when we thought of it being primarily in China with a few cases in the States we did not take any extra precautions. How different the world would be a month later. Our trip was cut short by three weeks with us returning to Australia’s quarantine toward the end of March. Narda’s writing is in italics and mine whatever else. Starting with arriving at the train station in Arnhem. Our neighbour drove us to the train station as it was rainy that morning. It was a fifteen-minute walk with an already increased luggage amount six weeks which with we arrived in The Netherlands six weeks ago.
We have included a few of the photos we took (we took a couple of thousand to be exact, 30 – 40 I have used in my series ‘Thoughts in Travel 2020‘)
They wanted to build an e-hub, offering e-bikes and e-cars for rent. Two fresh faced young Dutchmen offered us free coffee in exchange for an interview.
“Your main concern?” (in impeccable English)
“We have ‘being wobbly’ issues if you offer e-scooters”
We were reassured and took the train to Arnhem Centraal. Today was a train carnival. We started, getting a lift from Eef, our kindly neighbour. A day pass from Actievandedag.nl, so plenty of time, between spits (my new Dutch word, meaning rush-hour). The next train (we did not plan ahead) took us straight back in the direction we had just come, heading for Breda via Nijmegen. A bit out of the way, but with little wait time. After an hour of lovely scenery came an announcement that this train would stop in Den Bosch. What the hell? I could not find it on the map. Turns out that this is the ‘local’ name for ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Not sure about the ‘s, but we knew it from Hans Albers, and our host, Fred as it has Jan de Groot’s Bakkerij selling ‘Bossche Bollen’. We have yet to try this. If it involves chocolate I will be there. Apparently long lines are the order of the day on weekends, it is THAT good!!!!
A couple of friendly girls helped me with my smartphone challenges and mapped out a good route to Nieuwerkerk an de Ijssel. So back again, this time headed for Woerden (near Utrecht) on the local train, stopping every 5-7 minutes. One more leg and we’re there. No Uber. Tried 3 times. Raining. We considered the bus but could not find our bus passes. A MAJOR CATASTROPHE. No not really. We hoofed it, took about ½ hour for a 17-minute walk. Not awful, though Terrell was a shining star insisting on taking the bulk of the weight. When will we learn to travel with less!!!! We woke up the next morning feeling rather sore.
Now we are settled, feeding our funny bunnies, who have residence here, once a day.
The coffee machine makes great coffee….I select ‘mild taste’ and add ½ cup of hot water. Dutchies are into spoon-standing-up-straight strong. We have ridden our very large Dutch bikes to Jumbo. I can sit completely upright; for me the mark of an excellent bike. We also drove to a hardware exactly the same as Home Depot (USA) or Bunnings (Australia) in search of face masks, which are sold out, as they are all over the world.
Covid-19 End of February
About 84,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected, and about 2,900 have died. A new element to our trip.
We cancelled our China Southern and Guangszhou o/night stay for the next trip in June; luckily a full refund. We bought a new non-stop flight from Perth-London. Less variables, I guess. The virus seems to be spreading pretty fast.
(bought ticket Perth to London on 27th February. Our flight is for the end of June 2020, not sure if that will happen.)
It rained the first four or five days at our new home so we only did short bike rides around our neighbourhood which consisted of two-three story attached houses with canals all over the place and dedicated bike paths giving us the illusion we could ride in safety as, like everyone else here, we don’t have helmets.
In Australia we get a $200 fine for not wearing one. Perhaps the bike riders here are deemed safer drivers or the fact that the bike rider is always right if there is an accident – the vehicle running you over, takes the blame no matter what the situation. The local shopping centre is Reigerhof (https://winkelcentrumreigerhof.nl/) with our favourite grocery store, Jumbo, and favourite bakery because they have fresh low-carb bread baked every day, Bakker Klootwijk, and Hema – a Dutch variety store-chain that we like; we even found one in Berlin a couple of years ago. There is a large Albert Heijn supermarket with more in it than Jumbo but generally more expensive and taking only cash or a European credit card which we don’t have. Jumbo and Hema were the only two stores taking our credit card, by mid-March no one was taking cash due to the virus, so our shopping became limited. The shops were quite early in the social distancing dance with tape on the floor six feet apart to wait in line in. Several shops had either glass or plastic in front of the checkout person, not for protection like in a New York City liquor shop where shop keepers are paranoid of robbers but to keep out sneezes and coughs. Though Narda, the ever-perseverer managed to get one shop keeper to take cash. This was in those days when the shop keepers did not only want the customer at quite the distance but only a European card could be swiped for a purchase. Narda wanted tape to wrap around something she was packing. The shop keeper said absolutely no cash only a European credit card. Needless to say, once Narda wants something, consider it hers. She left the change on the counter a good distance from the shop keeper and she cautiously scooped it into the cash register using a glove. Of course, I wanted to purchase a fridge magnet, offering cash…no deal. If only I were Narda.
We did go for a car drive to find a hardware store to get a tool to raise my bike seat. Fred and Chantel have the most wonderous car, with graffiti on the side. We get interesting looks from others. These two elderly people, obviously infected with something, driving this car. If they hear me talk, they quickly realize with my New York accent (which Narda says I have but I believe my accent is clearly Australian) we are being typical New Yorkers, and they no longer look quizzingly at us.
To Utrecht March 3rd
After 3 angry flashes from cars coming toward us, I decided to pull over and figure out how to turn off my high beam. I can’t blame the Dutch for everything! Terrell discovered the solution quickly and we headed off again, slowly as I go. Terrell keeps reminding me that I can drive up to 80 km/hr and am currently ‘only driving 55’. Thing is, we have this competition going. It’s called ‘String of Pearls’. It started in our big-beast-caravanning days, when we would see who could accumulate the most cars following very close behind us in a ‘string of pearls’. On this trip I made it to 12, which I think is my record. Then I pull over, they drive past angrily, and we start again.
Well on this trip, returning from Utrecht, choosing ‘no freeways’, and ‘no tolls’ we were hit with a short but very intense hailstorm. I pulled over again, and we had tomato soup with balletjes (me), without for him; a nice little pub. The last part of the trip was dark and hairy, roads had narrowed to single width with significant waters on either side. When a car came toward us, they would move to the side a bit, and I would pass them with a pounding heart.
Oom Piet and Oom Rienk helped us devour a significant amount of cake, apple pie, some sort of nut tart and a sugary mix of cream and custard. Licking our chops (it was a good stop to the bakery on the way) we chatted over coffee about Oom Piet’s war experiences; Terrell missing most of it as it was conducted in Dutch. Rienk smartly reminded his brother-in-law that ‘Terrell cannot understand you’. Piet lifted his game and continued in pretty good English. He’s a trooper.
The day was lovely. We had lunch with Hans and Jose and then together saw an art exhibition in the Central Museum, a local well-known surrealist painter named Moesman. Interesting is a mild way to describe it. Coffee afterward at the museum.
Now we are watching Biden take the lead. Hmm. Perhaps this will be a good thing. Folks just want Obama back and that’s the closest they can get to their beloved former president. We’ll see. All we have on TV is Super Tuesday and Covid-19. Even hand sanitiser is impossible to buy. Apparently, the Aussies have done a panic buy on toilet paper. Shelves empty! Pretty funny. Just wonder where they heard that they might need so much? Reminds me of one of my images from Jinshitan when we taught at Dalian American International School over there in China. I called it toilet paper bride – 2011.
Rotterdam March 4th
Yesterday I gorged myself on cake and apple pie with slagroom. So today I’m trying to make up for it and increased my fast to 18 hours. It was OK, not too hard, you just have to keep up the coffee intake.
A beautiful sunny cold day, not too windy, we headed off on the bikes in the direction of Rotterdam. We found a park called Hitland…not quite sure of the origins of that name! But despite our concerns it was lovely,lots of great bike paths and scenery.
I think we stopped in Capelle aan den Ijssell and walked up and down the shopping street in an unsuccessful quest for croquettes. A little bonus, we found another giant Kringloop (second-hand store) and bought a sugar spoon for Frasier.
Yes, we did find a good second-hand store; I had a couple of records in hand for Sacha, as I always get him some strange (to us) records when we travel; he has a large collection back in Melbourne. As we were riding bikes we only left with a coffee cup for me, choosing to come back later with the car to get another suitcase (all ours are full and we already have so much more crap to drag back) and the records. Unfortunately, when we did come back a couple of weeks later the second-hand store as well as most others were closed due to the virus, so we bought a new suitcase for way too much money at an empty shopping centre near us. We had a two-hour bike ride which I find extremely helpful in controlling diabetes, my sugars go from an unhealthy 9 to ten to a normal 5.5 or so. I found I can get the result from riding for less than an hour, sometimes even half an hour if riding into the wind. I never get such good results from walking, weightlifting, though back in Adelaide I was getting that kind of result from doing aqua Zumba. I spend a good part of the day in retirement mode.
Terrell’s new tour plan. We ride into the wind for as long as we can manage, then come back with ‘the wind in our sails’. A very nice plan. He has an impeccable sense of direction, and when we got back to our town, rode straight home. I would have taken many different turns, so luckily, he was in front! 😊
Next day the same criteria, heading north-west this time. Through some dodgy cow country, in the rain, along narrow roads which we had to share with cars, then following A20 to the turn off to Moordrecht. BONUS. A gorgeous ancient town, best of. I complemented a few random citizens on the beauty of their town, and they responded enthusiastically with anecdotes. Then the next bonus, was the River Ijssell, which we had not yet been able to locate, up to this point in time. We rode over the hill; these are extremely rare, and I suspect this one was merely a dyke, though there’s nothing ‘merely’ about a dyke, and found another Pont. For 1.25 EU each, we took our bikes to the other side of this very serious river.
And the third bonus, we finally found our croquettes! A day late, but good. Terrell had the bami-filled version, also good. The trip home was simple, follow the Ijssell River back to Nieuwerkerk aan den IJSSELL. Duh!
As one who doesn’t shy away from compliments, I am constantly lost, I just don’t tell Narda and power forward; she thinks I know where I am headed but I never do. We took more than an hour to get to Moordrecht, on the bike trail following the highway. I just made a lucky, ‘let’s go right here’ direction and we stumbled upon Moordrecht. I could easily live here; the old town is about three- or four-square blocks. It seems like a simple easy to live place with clean air and not far from Gouda, another half hour or couple of hours if you get lost like us, ride up the path. Another day we were off doing one of our random bike rides only to discover if we stay on a particular path from near our house, Moordrecht is exactly fifteen minutes away from our door riding a dyke, and what true-blue fellow doesn’t want to do that?
Rotterdam March 10th
Back to ‘against the wind’, we rode along the dyke with a 35km wind blowing at us. It was gorgeous, long stretches along the Ijssell River, fast flowing river on one side, and lowlands (below the river) with green waterlogged fields and many canals on the other. Then we would come across small towns, with the obligatory old church, and some lovely old houses. Some modern blocks of flats, three stories high with a room or two on each level looked attractive as a living option. There was always the view of the river and the community which is a nice combination.
I was getting pretty hungry. The plan was to stop at a café (like a fish and chip shop but with croquettes). Nothing open until 4pm. So we kept going and found the Zalm (Salmon) restaurant. Classy, no room except at the bar, which we took. An hour later, we were served some expensive stuff, which satisfied the hunger. Flashy place, nice to go to in the evening for a function I think, but not really our kind of place.
A halfway stop for apple pie and coffee and then we sailed home, fast and easy.
This was one of my favourite bike rides. We took a couple of hours to get to the restaurant though that was not our goal. We had no end game. The wind slowed us down so going home was ‘a breeze’; no, I didn’t say that. We rode around through some small village, probably a burb of Rotterdam, there was no place to eat open, so finding a place to eat by 2 in the afternoon was becoming the thing to do. Narda has been maintaining her fasting thingy of sixteen hours and that had passed by a couple of hours when we found this one place open. We spent fifty euros for a ten-dollar meal to sit amongst the trendy folks of Rotterdam who were not concerned with social distancing. We came close to walking out after an hour and fifteen minutes when we it was past three; my bloody sugars were upset, Narda’s fasting was no longer fun, but then our food came. We were unable to get a table, the place was booked full, so we languished at the bar. We had a glass of orange juice while we waited and were contemplating where such expensive and prized oranges would be from that they could charge ten euros when the food arrived.
The ride was great, aside of a strong wind shoving itself at us, the view along the river was specky. We came across a large lift bridge, the Hollandsche Ijsselkering, that had a lock beneath for barges and signs with stories about the area and the great floods of 1953 when thousands died (1800+ in The Netherlands). Because the dykes broke from a large storm from the North Sea, a Delta committee was appointed to repair the dykes, this bridge was the first result. Narda reads some of this in the video above. This bridge protects the lowest-lying part of the Netherlands and was the first of 13 to be completed.
We found the largest land based modern windmill in the world. Its wing tips can reach a speed of 350 Km per hour, it can fully support 16,000 households and its whooshing noise does not bother anyone.
(And does not cause cancer as trump claims)
This turned out to be a car day and we found Futureland quite easily. An interesting presentation of the latest extension to the Rotterdam Port. The new port, Maasvlakte 2 will be covering 20 square kms, and offering a port of 20 metres deep to accommodate the largest ships. The land is being reclaimed from the sea. We watched these purpose-built ships drawing sand from the seabed further out and pouring into place to build the new port.
Nice drive out there, no traffic and interesting industrial scenery.
FutureLand is the port at Maasvlakte 2 built out of reclaimed land. Watch our video. This is an amazing place. At the visitor’s centre not only are there many displays explaining it all but there are interaction virtual spaces; for example, to find what you are suitable at. Of course, I figured I should be a captain of a major ship but after going through the exercise I came off as best to work in the engine room doing what I am told – like being married.
Regardless of the less than anticipated results of employment opportunity I learned a lot about this area and how Holland reclaims land. In this ever-expanding port, huge ships pump out water and sand forming new land; the depth of the water is 30 – 40 metres, deep enough for the largest ships in the world to bob about in. As with everything in our life lately, we were lucky to have seen this as it was closed soon after our visit due to the virus.
On the next day, March 09, Narda’s lifelong friend from Hamburg, Mäu, came to visit. She stayed for a week and at that time there were not so many Germans with the virus. A couple of weeks later they were one of the most infected. We did two trips with Mäu; Rotterdam Centrum and Gouda.
Chipcards are complicated. You have to swipe in and remember to swipe out or you lose all your credit. So, armed with 2 of them, I went to collect Mäu from Rotterdam Centraal. Punctuality is paramount! The train arrived at platform 14, as promised at 5.25pm and we dashed off to platform 15 to take the Sprinter back to Nieuwerkerk.
Last night a walk through the bike paths of our area, Mäu style! Not another soul in site. It’s rainy, so we’ll just have to talk. 😊
We are not panic buying, but we wash our hands and sing ‘Happy birthday’ twice, as instructed. The online chemist has sold out of medical alcohol (there’s a joke there somewhere but I can’t make it) and so I have ordered 12 little 100ml bottles of the stuff. The predictions are that it will get much worse; the USA has only just begun. They are woefully under-prepared. We saw huge crowds (on TV) at airports where folks dashed back to the USA ahead of being banned from landing there. No sanitizers in sight, and people are crowded together.
We have decided to hunker down, only shop when the store is pretty empty and as little as possible. Bike rides are good but we will avoid visiting our relatives for now. Chris and Stu are looking at virtual church, and Bren in Pakistan cancelled his trip to Egypt, and could be teaching from home until the end of the school year. We have decided together with our exchange partners to stay put, and perhaps postpone going home. So we may be here a bit longer if the bloody Schengen zone lets us. I like the idea actually.
It was a nice few days; a trip to Gouda by bus 190, along the dykes. We wandered though the old town, checked out the beautiful town hall and tasted some stroop wafels from a place that claimed to make them from scratch. The bus ride back was hairy; a very competent driver with her pedal to the metal on a road designed for single rows of cars, and steep drops to water (River Ijssell) on one side and low country (lower than the water) on the other. Then another bus, driving the same way coming from the other direction. We thought we were in Cambodia!!! Better to keep your eyes closed, though I did not make that suggestion to the driver.
Mau enjoyed the Kunst Museum in Rotterdam. We were too tight and uncultured to go with her and ate apple pie instead. But together exploring the back blocks of downtown Rotterdam was fun. Nasi Goreng and Satay Chicken was yummy at a great little café overlooking the yacht harbour. You can see I don’t step out much, food wise. Mau got back to Germany just int time before the borders closed!!!!
Mau heading back to Germany on Friday only had her ticket to Rotterdam Centraal, so I went with her for the ride there, and then back. Nice coffee (Koffie verkeert, my new fav…lots of milk).
Then there was bike riding to Seven Houses, or Zevenhuizen as it is locally known. Following Terrell’s impeccable travel plan of always riding into the wind on the way up, we managed a 45 minutes ride over the wetlands, and a 20 minute ride home. The thing was we were riding INTO the wind the whole time. Not sure how that is even possible…unless the wind conspired and changed direction midway!!!
Sunday, March 15 was a strange day as we reviewed our situation. Discussing the possibility of extending our stay here until things improve. Fred and Chantal are also keen to lay low at our place. No one is going anywhere. The numbers are skyrocketing in Italy, the new epi-centre. On Monday March 16, Europe closed its borders. Today March 10 Spain is catching up to Italy in numbers and France has locked everything down. Folks have to fill out a form to go anywhere.
We did our Last shopping at Hema and Jumbo at Reigerhof Nieuwerkerk aan de Ijssel, taking the five pm train to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. We booked an airport hotel – forget which one at the moment – took the shuttle to it only to discover that there were three with the same name and we were at the wrong one. We were already tense and stressed from the train ride and a bit grumpy. To make matters worse I put our luggage which had grown in size from since we left Australia to another suitcase and another bag onto a baggage cart which I got stuck in the revolving door. The girl at the desk was annoyed and had to get someone else to help move the door inch by inch to finally get it to move. I tried to be sorry and polite, but she was not impressed and chose to comment about why I couldn’t have figured out my crap would not fit into the revolving door. I am sure it had something to do with her thoughts about an elderly person on the loose. I noticed she had a run in her stockings which made me feel equal in inside thoughts we both harboured. And of course, she was a millennial which is one of my constant pet peeves. We did get another shuttle to the proper version of our hotel which was a crappy version of what we had seen online.
Next morning, we wandered through the empty airport and got our flight to Singapore. The flight was quite full, and the dozen hours went by OK. We did have one turn of fortune on the flight…my vegetarian meal – the alleged vegetarian meat balls were meat – I had my food taster tester sample it because it looked too much like meat to me and Narda gave the roadkill verdict. I called the flight attendants and pointed out their grievous error. It wasn’t their fault as the meals are made outside and they just warm it up and throw it at us the hapless passenger. I had at least four flight attendants apologize included some in charge type of person. I pointed out that I had been a vegetarian for about 55 years, and this was not vegetarian. As compensation along with a proper vegan type meal I was given a 75$ (Singaporean) coupon – about $50 USD – to purchase something from their inflight catalogue. I immediately found a watch I liked – one of the Citizen brands that cost about $1500USD. Realizing it was best to find something under $75 we found about two items in the whole catalogue. We needed a portable charger cube for phones and too many devices we cart around so we got one with interchangeable plugs we can use in travel for $50 bucks and that is our good news story.
We got to Singapore worried as usual. We had read that Singapore was closing the airport for all transit passengers at midnight, Sunday. Our flight is due to leave at 11:55.
We booked an airport hotel day room at the Aerotel Transit Hotel, Terminal 1. We are not allowed outside the airport unless we go into 14 days quarantine have visas and sing their national anthem. The airport itself was empty – we were there at 7 am and were to leave at 11.55 pm so finding our way to the Aerotel was easy. We had paid (too much, like $213 USD) for 12 hours; with that we got two meals and three-hours to use in the premium lounge after the 12 hours so all in all it was fine. The room didn’t have a window which was fine as we slept right away for hours after our overnight flight from Amsterdam and suspect meal. We were the only ones in the dining area, and we could look out at the many airplanes parked for who knows how long sitting on the runways. Which we find quite sad – this whole virus thing makes us sad. The Aerotel has a rooftop swimming pool but our swimming gear was in storage somewhere for the flight to Adelaide. The lounge was good too and we just ate our selves sick until our flight to Adelaide. We were concerned that the flight was about 75% full as it was one of the last flights to Australia at the time.
To Adelaide (Swan Reach)
Like they say on those dating sites (not that I know – read about them on some newsthingy) ‘it’s complicated’. We arrived at the Adelaide airport, got through all the checks. The checks are what has kept us tense: Amsterdam, Singapore, Adelaide – everyone taking temperatures all over the place. Singapore was particularly annoying as they had set up stations every 50 meters or so with testing and things being pointed at us. We were nervous we would get separated and sent off to some quarantine space for 14 days. We had read enough horror stories to keep us in a hyper psychotic state of mind, more than our usual hyper psychotic state of mind. Luckily, we survived it all. We got a taxi to Narda’s sister, where Narda’s ex-husband had left a ute for us and several family members had packed it with food. (We made a list and my list was different apparently to what people are used to; one sister said she would never ever go grocery shopping for me again and what is tempeh, spirulina, chia and about 30 other items anyway?) Apparently, she spent hours at a few places trying to get what was on my list…sorry.
Our house exchange people from our home in Rotterdam have our house and car as they are having issues getting to their next destination. We had hoped to stay in Holland, but the government would not renew our 90-day visa and we had the fear that if one of us became sick and hospitalized in Holland the other would be sent home which is quite nightmarish. So, we came home three weeks early. Meanwhile, Fred and Chantel were unable to get to their next house exchange. Narda’s son, Stu, put up on Facebook that we needed a place for a couple of weeks and a family member had a holiday house in Swan Reach they were not using and Narda’s ex, Peter, had an extra ute for us to take. It all worked out wonderfully and we had a great two weeks just chilling out in the Riverland.
We have ended our quarantine and are happy back in our home. Fred and Chantel are in northern Queensland – getting the last flight out of Adelaide. They will stay until the Dutch government flies them back.
In the future we will look back and see these guys in their apartment and in our house. We will remember them as a very special young (40ish) couple, dealing with a hell of a lot more than the average person, virus or no virus. She is permanently confined to her wheelchair, a victim of the horrible permanent disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and he is her full time, and I mean FULL time loving caregiver. They are full of courage and the spirit of adventure, and despite these setbacks, travel the world with enthusiasm and gusto. We feel privileged to have met them and to make our home exchanges with them. From both ends, our exchanges had to be cut short in this strange new world but we both plan to resume and complete them when all the drama is over. They have become our friends. Hey Fred and Chantal, we will see you again. If you have guests, we’ll just have croquettes with you and maybe some tomato soup.
We have no idea when we will travel again. We can’t even take the caravan out. We have a trip booked for July – September: UK, then Queen Mary II from Hamburg to NYC, DC and a house exchange for a month in Chicago. Looks like that will be postponed for a year as we won’t travel until we can have a vaccine. I update my homepage every day – https://neuage.org/
in the meantime
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2020/
Behance Project – Thoughts in Travel 2020 March – The Netherlands
Behance project for February 2020
Behance project for January 2020
Thoughts in Travel 2019 Kindle Edition $3 (USD) PRINT EDITION (01/01/2020) $27 USD
Daily picture poem collection updated 06 March/2020 #Rotterdam The Netherlands @Twitter ~ Tumblr ~ Pinterest ~ Flickr (2019) / Flickr (pre-2019)
Daily Thoughts for 2020 updated DAILY #Rotterdam The Netherlands (updated every day during 2020)
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
Leaving Book 1
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Thoughts in Patterns 7
This is our blog – our notes, photos, scribbles during our stay in Arnhem for six weeks.
OUR BLOG FOR ROTTERDAM WILL BE POSTED ON 9TH APRIL WHEN WE ARE BACK HOME AFTER OUR QUARANTINE…
Our current status (Narda and me) @ – we have arrived in Adelaide after 10 weeks in the Netherlands and flights back via Amsterdam and Singapore where we spent 17 hours – we have been given amazing help with a home in Swan Reach along the Murray River for us to do our quarantine of two weeks in Adelaide until the 8th of April then we will move back into our own home. Our flight Amsterdam to Singapore was good. About 75% full, we stayed covered and washed. The airport in Amsterdam was quite empty. The same for Singapore where we stayed in our hotel within immigration for 12 hours then in a premiere lounge. Thanks to family, friends, strangers… for so many good thoughts, offers of help and keeping us positive. As of our first thirteen days in quarantine we feel good. Cheers. Updated Monday 06 April/2020 10 AM
Daily Thoughts for 2020 updated Friday 06 April/2020
Narda’s writing is in italics and mine are not.
There are some overlaps as we tell the same story differently. How is that? We come home and write about our day; one would think they would match – two memories of the same experience. It is best we write them as we go – if we wait weeks, months, years, then our memories get really different, though quite interesting. Or I just ramble on randomly about something, which is normal.
We slept a few hours on the flight from Singapore to Amsterdam. Narda with her command of Dutch tackled the train milieu. I sat sipping pumpkin soup. We had a good start to the process as the Duchies who we are trading houses with gave us two OV-chipkaarts, which is the chipcard used throughout the Netherlands. Eventually, Narda came back triumphantly waving our enhanced chipkaarts and we managed to find the platform to Arnhem. After standing around awhile we realized we had not validated our tickets, ran up a flight of stairs with suitcases and backpacks, cameras, dreams of an easier method, wishes of having slept longer on the plane, and managed to get back down the stairs and into a packed train as the doors were closing. As we were only an hour from Arnhem, we were able to squeeze on and most of the people got off at the next stop giving us proper seats to watch the cold Dutch countryside pass by.As is so often the case we exchanged houses (and cars). This is the first time we met our people in Adelaide. We collected them at the airport, drove them to our house, showed them around and left them tomato soup made by Narda and an egg thingy from me. We took the bus back to Adelaide central and stayed at the So Ho Hotel before staying the next night at the airport hotel then on to Singapore.
From the train station in Arnhem we took a bus to a few blocks from our new home making the journey from our home in Adelaide via Singapore to the suburbs of Arnhem reasonably doable. We immediately took an hour nap – went to bed at six pm and were wide awake at three am.
January 24th 5am Arnhem, Holland
Now it’s 8.30am and still pitch dark outside. The house is nice, lots of room and a very high-end coffee machine. Yesterday we walked our bicycles (flat tyres) for 3 Km to the bike shop and they sorted it for free. We rode the rest of the day; nice bike paths through woods. We were looking for the downtown of Arnhem but then had to make a quick ride home as the sun was already setting. This was 4.30 pm. It’s a whole new world, this northern European winter experience.
Jumbo, our Dutch Shop on steroids (did I say that before?) is conveniently close, and I have eaten ready made gehakt ballen, stroop waffels, beschuit, Amsterdam Vintage cheese (old gouda), and rookvlees, thinly sliced as Mother would have liked it.
Our first day was a bit cold as I tried to turn up the heater which shut down the system. We had the neighbours over trying to help us, called the people who installed the heater, and eventually rang the owners in Adelaide. By the end of the day we had the heater working. During the day we made use of the fresh cold air outside by walking two bikes with flat tyres for 45 minutes to a bike shop where they pumped up and we were sent on our way after being told we should get new tyres as all of them were close to their ends. We ignored the friendly advice and rode home, safely. We even went for an extended bike ride and got home, frozen, as darkness of 5 pm greeted us we made some dinner and managed to stay awake until 6.30 pm when we surrendered, went to bed, wide awake at four am. I think we are gaining.
Normally I think of myself as not-such-a-timid-driver, but blimey, driving home last night was a challenge. Firstly, it was 8pm, and in these jetlag days, that is about 2 hours past our bedtime. Secondly, the Dutch are bloody crazy friggin’ drivers. This guy who judged my driving too slow (80km in an 80km zone) decided to join my lane and pass me on the wrong side…sharing my lane. Come on!!!! Thirdly, the night lights on the freeways are not strong, so I’m using the high beam occasionally and getting flashed at. OK …now that I have that out of my system………..
On Sunday we planned a BIG DAY OUT. So I had to practice. Took a short spurt on the freeway to get some confidence. We found Kronenburg Mall. Everything was there. We bought an egg timer, a bike chain, a groovy cork covered notebook for me, and some food. They even have Aldi. Sorry that was too much information. Next week Terrell will be DD.
January 24th 5am Arnhem, Holland
Yes, it really was 5am and we had already been up a while. We fiddled with the central heating and this morning it is not running, temperature around freezing outside and not that much warmer inside.
We left at 7.45am in total darkness to meet Ian and Kees for brekkie at their hotel in Zutphen, a lovely old town, ¾ hr north of here. So great to catch up with these guys. After they left to take a train back to the airport, we stayed for a second round of breakfast. (better than putting stuff in a plastic bag and smuggling it out).
Our third night, Saturday, we did really well; staying awake until 7.30 pm and up at 6 am on Sunday and driving out, in the dark at 7.30 am to Zutphen, an hour away where we had breakfast at the Hampshire Hotel with Cass and Ian.
Our two minute clip of our foggy early morning ride Arnhem to Zutphen https://youtu.be/R605AtvNSoc
We’ll come back to our breakfast in a moment. Narda worked with Ian years ago in the music department of their school. We attended Cass and Ian’s wedding at a chateau in Belgium ten years ago. They now live in Spain and were in Zutphen for a friend’s birthday the same time we were not far away, so in our wonderful world of synchronicity we all were together for a wonderful morning.
So many complain about Facebook, but because of Facebook we are always seeing people we have known from the past in various world spots, friends from childhood, friends from working in China, the USA, Australia and folks we meet along the way. Thanks Facebook. We just ignore stuff we don’t like and keep track of our community.
Then the longish drive to Utrecht where we met cousins, Hans and Mirjam at Ineke’s old age home. The home is pretty nice, divided into small cells of folks who live, cook and hang out together like families. It’s very nicely set up. Hans and Mirjam where singing for the residents in a concert/sing along. They are great. They have a really professional set up and do this regularly. Enjoyed by all….Ineke seems happy in her life there. We joined Hans and Mirjam for some great conversation (with the girls, Linda and Suzanne) over beer and Chinese takeaway.
We continued our day with a visit to Narda’s aunt in a nursing home. The nursing home was quite pleasant as nursing homes go, the Dutch know how to look after their own. Narda’s cousins did a musical gig for everyone, singing karaoke style songs that had lyrics beyond my understanding (they were in Dutch) and all the oldies seemed quite happy singing and swaying along. After the nursing home we went to the cousin’s home and had dinner with their family. Driving home on freeways for an hour after dark in The Netherlands is a challenge. Unlike our drive in the morning with very little Sunday morning traffic, going home in the evening with everyone else was less than fun but here we are.
Feeling the desire to be tourists we discovered that a nearby town may be the oldest in The Netherlands, Nijmegen. They have a great park and ride service nearby and we parked and went hooning down the road. All for 3.50 Euros which included parking for the day and free bus for the day for up to four people. The village of Nijmegen is only five-ten minutes away, but we stayed on the bus (line 300) and did a circuit of the town as well as another town and on the way back stopped in the centre of town.
My strange, perhaps funny, interaction came when Narda was entering or leaving a shop. In Asia and most of the rest of the world Narda is easy to keep track of being tall. Here she can even be short as many Dutch women are more than six foot tall. In Holland shops still use cash, unlike most of the world where credit cards are the only thing. We had some cash on us and I wanted a fridge magnet I had recently spotted. Narda was standing next to me, but moved, and I thought it was her I was standing next to as out of the corner of my eye there was a tall chick with the same colour coat as Narda and I put my hand on her, lucky she said ‘what’ or something in some foreign language that I did not understand and then I quickly realized it was not Narda. Lucky in the sense that I was just about to say, ‘could I have your money?’ I thought about that for days, vacillating between being horrified that she may have kung fu’d me and laughing as it did see funny (to me). What I did learn was not to assume the person next to me is Narda. A good life lesson. Especially if they are a millennial me-2er and realized I just called a female ‘chick’. (seksuele intimidatie door een oudere man).
Speaking of chicks; on the way to our local Jumbo there is a small farm, probably a pettying zoo for children, here is our video of the chucks. Narda loves chickens (but I don’t eat them). She has been saying for the past twenty years when we settle down we will get a few chucks. She is somewhat of an expert on them having raised them sometime in her pasat. I grew up on a farm (made an attempt of growing up) in Clifton Park, New York (Saratoga county) and my parents had lots of them – like a hundred or so. My parents ate the poor things and one of the many mean things I did to my brother was put a head of a chicken in his bed just to hear him scream.
Here is our clip of that chicken farm on the way to Jumbo…
January 28, 2020 off to visit our Rotterdam hosts
We passed the same turn off 3 times, each time we backtracked and repeated it. Crazy. The GPS (I’m firmly blaming it, despite being the navigator) took us on turn offs, then made us back track and repeat. Like Ground Hog Day. It was exhausting. Terrell kept his cool and drove with confidence following my confusion. Anyway, we swapped phones and things started to improve. Who knows why? It took 2 hours instead of 1 ½ hours to get to the home of our next hosts, in Neiuwerkerk aan de Ijssel.
Three dogs and two young ones greeted us in what will be our new house next week. The young ones, Chantal and Fred often take in dogs as an income stream; helps pay for their amazing extensive travel, which includes South Africa, The Caribbean, and the USA. We spent an enjoyable afternoon with them, lots to talk about and we enjoyed some nice Dutch fast food at the local shopping centre.
They are a friendly couple aged around 40, with the girl confined to a wheelchair and the guy a full-time career. They have incredible courage, travelling all over the world, despite this handicap. Inspiring.
The small roads we took on the way there, had us passing many more historic towns, and accidently crossing the river on a ferry. An unexpected bonus!
The trip home was easier, all the way on A15, which it bloody well should have been on the way up. Not my fault after all.
Drive to Rotterdam https://youtu.be/vpGyQSvqM84
We love our coffee machine – it is next to the fridge, larger than a medium sized microwave oven – makes mild coffee for Narda, super strong coffee for me from espresso to anything you want. It grinds the beans first of course so we get the strong beans and go through a kilo in a week. Not sure how we will go back to the customary instant coffee folks serve up back in Australia.
The Dutch love their croquettes and to be up to speed with those people I too am eating them, finding that there were vegetarian ones, of course, being carbohydrate intense I am limiting them to only when I eat them:
This is the day when I really want to be home for my Stu’s birthday! Hoping to ring soon. Thank goodness for social media and easy international calls.
We have a cold rating system. 3 brrs means we have to don snowpants for our bikeride; with 2 brrs, jeans will suffice. The top part is a given; gloves, scarves, warm jackets and a warm beanie. Yesterday I was on 2 Terrell on 3. Brrs that is.
We made our way south to Elst, heading south on nice farmland bike paths.
[Elst is a village in the municipality of Overbetuwe in the Dutch province of Gelderland. It is situated in the Betuwe, between the cities of Nijmegen and Arnhem. Elst has 21,447 inhabitants. Elst is known for its Roman temples, which are situated under the Saint Werenfried church.]
Our plan was to find a bike shop who would adjust my set for free. We found a friendly bloke, he did a great job on the dodgy connection, and then we proceeded to the Thursday market filling main street. I had no intention of spending any money, but I made an exception and bought a 15 Euro cute backpack handbag. Nice find. Oh and then we both made an exception and stocked up on cheese, advocaat (3 Euros) and good cheese and prosciutto. Terrell bought some bird seed and almond milk. Everyone happy.
My ‘bird seeds’, actually my breakfast is pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp, and a several other seeds…
Our clip of the Elst Fish Market with lots of Dutch going on https://youtu.be/40XHJ6Gna-Q
Try ordering a type of fish in age-four-Dutch. The guys in the fish caravan were very generous and pretended to understand.
These caravans pop up at different locations. It’s a ‘thing’; at carnivals, on Saturdays, at shopping centres and markets. We had pedalled to Elst for this purchase and enjoyed garlic prawns and deep-fried fish (lekker bek) in the following days, despite what I ordered
The second marvellous discovery was a giant secondhand store (kingloop) where we went to town and spent 16 Euros on mugs, some cool old tins, some classical CDs (old school) and other stuff I’ve forgotten
We drove the car to a P&R. I thought this was a store, but it turned out to be Park and Ride. We paid EU3.50 for the day and took the free bus into Nijmegen. It’s about 20 Km down the road, but this was easy. I think we got a complete tour, stopping all through the town, and finally getting off at the beginning of a walking mall as the bus headed back to the car park.
Today we rode to Arnhem. Being about 6 degrees centigrade we bunded up and found those great bike trails that are scattered all over the place. Once lead to another and soon (1.5 hours later, though our mean GPS laughingly we only had a 25-minute bike ride ahead) we were in centrum Arnhem. See our video, Arnhem Bike Ride https://youtu.be/lrvZppg8Kp4 According to the internet; ‘There is proof of early settlements in the city dating back as far as 1500 BC. However, many consider the origins of city to have begun in 1233, when city rights were bestowed by Count Otto II. ‘
Sunday, we went to Vianen a suburb of Utrecht, to visit Els in her home filled with her beautiful collection of world antiques, our story is from our visit to her house; we got on the wrong road going out of town, over a large bridge; we drove across on the bike lane and had to drive on the bike lane for quite some time on the other side before finding a road that was for cars. We have a minute clip over at https://youtu.be/WX0Ks36jn3s and hope there was no camera on the bridge as we have been told that there is a large fine for driving on a bike lane.
What do we do for six weeks in a place? The same as we would back home; I do Adobe stuff in the morning and post what I do on Twitter and six or seven other sites (not Instagram or Facebook… no particular reason, I just don’t). I have been doing text on images since the mid-1960s, a long time. Narda catches up friends, checks news, works on house exchanges which keeps us living for free in homes around the world, draws, mediates, reads. As we tend to be asleep by 9.30 pm, we tend to be up between five and six in the morning. Around ten am we are off exploring, usually on our bikes. We explored going to the gym for swimming and weight stuff, but the nearby gym won’t go less than a three-month membership and the swimming did not do our Zumba fitness classes we like back in Adelaide. But an hour or two of bike riding, in the cold keeps us somewhat fit and brings my blood sugars to normal and we get to see our environment. Evenings are little different than back in Adelaide; we watch our Netflix series and life goes on. The only difference is the environment, language too. Most people have enough English in The Netherlands and Narda does well with Dutch if they don’t. As most humans we like routines. I even continue with my low-carb vegetarian diet no matter where in the world we are. I think I could do this the rest of my life; just change houses every month, in a different part of the world. Thanks to Google translate or whatever app I have on my phone I can figure out foods I need and if we get lost, which we do at least once a day, our GPS, sometimes gets us home.
Arnhem February 6, 2020
Last year, and in the last years, the Netherlands has been in the grip of a drought. While perhaps more commonly known for floods than droughts, The Netherlands is allocating seven million euros to combat excessively dry seasons in the country. The money will be used to build larger water reservoirs in sandy areas, to monitor levels of evaporation, and to reduce the impact of salinization on drinking water production. “As a low lying country with large rivers, we are always working on preventing wetness. That explains why we are now so surprised by the drought”, someone said.
Video of morning walk https://youtu.be/GW7VWDt8dTw
So the lakes near where we live are now full, but have lost their reeds, as they “died in the drought”, explained our neighbour as we took a long walk yesterday around these wetlands (still very wet!). Our new neighbours are very friendly, and helpful. We had coffee at their place yesterday; he speaks no English, but we got by.
Our home is right at the edge of the suburban parts of Arnhem. They told us that this was the cut-off point, no more building, just farmland. It certainly makes this a nice area, with the option of “country” rides. When we go to Elst (where the market was) it takes about 20 minutes of pedalling through farmland. Nice!
This is on the other side of the road to Elst. Bike paths galore!
So then the next day I spilt my coffee over my pants and sox in a nice bakery in Huissen. It took us 40 minutes of pedalling though farmland and nature to visit this nice little old city. Still on my 16/8 intermittent fast diet, so I’m very ready for this coffee/cake. Wearing crocs (even fancy ones) is not a great choice for bike riding when it is 1 degree outside. My feet were frozen; well at least numb. So in my eagerness to get at the coffee and to wrap my feet in Terrell’s scarf (he did first take it off) I knocked over the whole thing. The Dutch bakery lady was very nice replacing it and mopping up without any untoward comment. We tried to pay for the extra coffee but she wasn’t havin’ it.
Main street Huissem
I bought some new sox at Hema, two pairs of “thermals”. Too thin to really be thermal, but nice enough. The trip back was long and mixed. I’m not going to say we got lost, because that’s getting boring, but the way back did take a bit longer. We stopped for a bit more food halfway home….you guessed it
….Jumbo….bought some pieces of goats cheese, a roll to share and some freshly squeezed O/J. Not too shabby, just a bit cold.
In our getting to know our local hood trip we took a bike ride to Huissen which is about half an hour by bike from home. We made a short clip and threw it up onto YouTube over here, https://youtu.be/A9JyOPGwHm0 .
Narda’s feet were cold as she was wearing crocs with holes, even though wearing socks, one degree centigrade is cold for feet. We found a bakery as we entered Huissen and went in for coffee. Stadsbakkerij Huissen, on Vierakkerstraat 3, right as you enter town, if you go in the direction we did. A lady set down our coffee, and Narda, picture this…who had cold feet, took off her shoes, wrapped her feet in my scarf to warm them up, knocked over her cup of coffee getting her pants and socks wet. Our coffee was quickly replaced, and a kind person cleaned up the mess. Luckily, (we live on luck) Narda had on ski pants, so the coffee didn’t penetrate. We found a Hema (Hema is a general store in Holland, like Woolworths) a few blocks away where Narda got two pairs of thermal socks and put them on. Life is good. While at Stadsbakkerij I came up with an idea for a name if I had a bakery with two girls: ‘two girls and a loaf’, OK that doesn’t gel with Millennials – no calling them girls, so maybe two women and a loaf, oh wait, feminists don’t like that word with men or man in it, maybe ‘a bun and a loaf’ Narda and I will start a bakery. Or not.
Arnhem, February 9 2020
Instead of “Operation Destination Jumbo”, we have decided to lift our game and become more cultural. Now, at least for a few days, we look for castles, or Kasteels as they are locally known.
Me here…I have always loved castles. Back in the 1960s when I lived in communes in California, believed in reincarnation, I thought I had lived during the era of King Arthur. There was even a psychic who told me so…how could it not be true? I read the Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy a couple of times and followed this mindset until at least the late 1970s – it took me awhile to get connected to reality. Nevertheless, I still love castles; though I can’t remember living in any or even imagine wanting to. They didn’t have Wi-Fi, how could they live?
Kasteel de Kingkelenburg See our groovy video here https://youtu.be/oixbZUYFEQQ
We are doing a Dutch castle crawl with our first castle being in the town of Bemmel.
De Kinkelenburg Castle first appeared in 1403 and more stuff was built around the original place in the 1700s and during WW 2 it became a headquarters for some folks and then the whole place got a restore a few decades ago. I really couldn’t say it better than the signage out front of the place…even if I could read Dutch;
I continue to have a distrust of smart phones, and my Google map is not recognising bike paths, despite offering this option SO I have drawn the map to this castle in pencil. It really makes a difference. Just the act of drawing it has boosted my memory and given me a mental picture of where we are in relation to north/south, the nearby freeway etc.
So we toddled off on our bikes. Mine is a man’s bike requiring a huge high leg swing to mount. This does not always end well.
Still the bike paths are stunning and so much fun. We followed the freeway for a bit, then headed inland over farm country, wearing our snow pants, which quickly got too hot. Half an hour later we arrived in the town of Bemmel and found our first castle.
It was basically a large tower built between 1200 and 1400. Impressive. Renovated in the 1700’s. Much of this town was bombed and flattened in World War 2, so the centre has more modern buildings. We did not get lost on the way home; more support for my pencil map
We have a named storm, Storm Ciara, currently ravaging Europe, which is why we are home writing blogs. We heard that the flight yesterday from NYC to London took just over 4 hours, at 800mph (or is it kph?) breaking records.
Pretty cool huh. We cancelled our planned trip to Utrecht to visit family and hunkered down for an exciting storm day. Waiting, waiting……nothing…..so we made a bike ride to Jumbo (back to our default). I bought 2 nice apple tarts (one to Terrell and one for me, I ate both), and some anijs blokjes (new packaging; suffered a small culture shock).
Back home, more waiting. Eventually Terrell made the proposal that we go for a drive, so off we went to Arnhem Central, and discovered the storm, flooding on the Rhein! We also got caught in a short but very windy rain shower. We got our storm fix!
Narda tells us about her almost trip to Hoekelum Castle 35 years ago and finally there today. https://youtu.be/2-l_KfOBS0Y Castle Hoekelum goes back to the fourteenth century, 1325 to be precise. It is between Ede and Bennekom, right in the heart of the Veluwe nature. Oh, the other thing is that our video is only a minute long. Cheers!
February 13, Arnhem
We got 7 packets of small cards to glue into our special book. This is a book given out by the Jumbos of Arnhem (could that be a movie title?). All in Dutch, it traces the history of the area, starting with the first residents (de eerste bewoners)
The archaeologists have found two firestones dating back more than 70,000 years. They are believed to be from an era when Neanderthals would have inhabited this side of Europe. (They have since moved to Trumpistan). In another part of the city, remains from 5000 B.C. of a hunter’s camp were found. In yet another area of Arnhem, signs of Neolithic revolution (an era which saw the rise of farmers) dating back to 2400 B.C. were discovered. Here 12 grave mounds were found.
Until 1530 settlements were not situated on the banks of River Rhine as they are today. The course of the river changed in 1530 and the settlers come down and made a city on the banks.
And there’s more. Every time we shop there and spend 10 Euros we get a packet of pictures which we dutifully stick into our new book, each picture in a numbered spot. So that’s what you do when you go and stay in one place for 6 weeks. We did a lot of shopping, a lot of collecting; there were too many duplicates – I even complained which fell on deaf ears or ears that didn’t understand my English. Now we have a book with missing stamps so if anyone is still collecting… we are still in The Netherlands with our book in hand.
Some 35 years ago my grandmother, Oma Albers turned 80. My sisters, one of their husbands and mum and dad, together with the Albers family in Holland went to celebrate her birthday as her guests in a lovely castle called Hoekelum. I didn’t go. Not sure exactly why, I think I had a small baby, maybe feeding him, who knows. Anyway, we found our way there on one of the rainy days. A bunch of teachers were doing some PD there. We were actually welcomed and offered coffee (do we still look like teachers??) until they realised, we were gate crashers. It’s a beautiful building and a beautiful setting. So that’s one more off my list.
It is a game changer! 38 Euros for about 2 ½ hour return trip. Not India cheap, but now doable. My previous quote was double that.
Off to Oostebeek, one station away, but an adventure, nonetheless. The trains are so clean, this one even had a loo; handy. We walked into this beautiful town. It was quite a surprise. Stately houses, and then a lovely old section nearer the Rhine, where we discovered the oldest church (so the claim goes) in The Netherlands. Coffee and apple tart with slagroom (meaning ‘çream’ does not sound quite as good in English) and Terrell had pecan pie, or as he insists, pecan cake….’too thick to be a pie’. (also with slagroom
Oosterbeck video https://youtu.be/drkuVXX4uMA
Oosterbeek is a town that mum and dad talked about; not sure in what context. We took the #2 bus, the local of locals, winding its way through Arnhem suburbia on its way to Arnhem Centraal, the railway station. This little kid in a seat opposite us was singing all the way, very cute. The next day in Kronenbug, our local mall, I met his mother again, by pure chance, in one of the shops. I asked her if the little guy was still singing and she told me that he had just survived an operation removing a brain tumour. Wow. We have no idea.
The very friendly woman in Arnhem Centraal whom Terrell insists was a man, also helped us find this new website.. We had a nice conversation with him/her, very helpful person. I wish we had some more gender-neutral pronouns.
He was clearly a he, just because he had long hair doesn’t mean he was a girl. The grandchildren back in Adelaide say I look like a girl because I have long hair, but wait, I have a beard, moustache and I am the most macho one in the family (between Narda and me). They always make fun of me. Maggie wanted to know why I wear a cowboy hat because I am not a cowboy. Wrong Maggie. I am.
Train travel in this fair country is expensive, more so for foreigners. They have all sort of discounts on their site, but you need a bloody Dutch bank account to pay for them online. Until today! A very helpful operator at the rail site and in the Arnhem station gave me a website which offers some of the deals; return tickets on weekends, some tourist trips including a ferry ride…this kind of stuff, and you can pay using your own credit card. We have some tickets for Haarlem for Sunday to visit Jolien. Nice not to have to drive; with stormy weather threatening again. www.actievandedag.nland the special link they kindly sent https://www.actievandedag.nl/categorie/goedkope-treinkaartjes
there is an earlier period to the below from the 1100s but this is enough to keep us entertained for now Of course, who can not love a good winkle – I have heard about winkles for the past twenty years and yes it just means store but the word is really cool… to me
He reminded us of Michael. The dog however was much more formidable. A big blackish German Shepherd. But he, the guy, not the dog, warmed to us as we chatted. By then we had moved from my age-four-Dutch, to English, and Terrell was making rude jokes about his girlfriend. The dog was ignoring us.
We had made a practice bike ride to Arnhem Zuid, the train station we will use on Stormy Sunday (no relation to Daniels). We saw the guy putting his dog and his bag into his car and decided he may be able to tell us if this spot is good to leave our car when we travel in Storm Dennis to Haarlem by train on Sunday. He said “there are no signs, just park near the street lights if you can”. He parks illegally all the time. OK. So that’s Sunday’s parking taken care of.
Castle # 3
Our video – Bilderberg castle https://youtu.be/DWkqQ9BJPkQ
The horse had the best deal in the photo above, she could get away. A bumper sticker I have always liked, though Narda doesn’t, is ‘stable horses are for horses’. Don’t read anything into that – I am happy with Narda – I just like the bumper sticker. We spent the day at this castle – had a great bike ride to there after a ride across the river on the local ferry. It is all in the clip above. There was a wedding going on while we were there so I took lots of photos to use in my writing where I tend to poke a bit of fun at such events sometimes.
After our Parking Information Stop, we pedalled on to Kasteel Doorwerth, a nice ride, following the trainline north and then west as we headed for the bicycle Pont (ferry). Two Euros later we were sailing the high waters of the Rhine towards the road to the castle. Our ferry driver informed us that this branch of the Rhine is known as the bike path, whereas further south the real Rhine, named The Waal, is the main Rhine. So are we confused?
We decided to suspend, temporarily, our tight arsed ways, and pay the admission and it was worth it. Occupied almost continuously from 1350; first as a refuge for local villagers, then later as a private home, and now a museum. Incredibly it remained almost intact until it was bombed by our allies in 1944. It was apparently full of Germans, in those days, a worthy target.
February 17, 2020 Arnhem Storm Dennis, the second on a Sunday. Becoming a weekly event. This one was fairly fierce but did not start until later in the day. We arrived in Haarlem on time after a short connecting ride on bus #300. My cousin (she’s actually my mother’s cousin) was waiting for us at the stop, in the rain! She lives with her husband in a very interesting neighbourhood of architecturally designed modern homes, full of light and style.
It’s a reclaimed area, 12 metres under sea level; not that you’d notice. She a lively one, full of energy and opinions! They relayed some really interesting travel experiences, including being stuck with altitude sickness in Tibet, and following the Silk Road through the back blocks of China and Asia. He built a lot of the inside of their house; it’s an interesting place. We enjoyed wine, a delicious savoury tart, a stunning lemon cheesecake dessert along with some great conversation.
She has a great doll house – apparently from her family – it is more than a hundred years old with upgrading over the years. I made a clip of it here…
Doll house https://youtu.be/4VW8IFaUojY
This is a miniature room in the doll’s house at Joilien’s place. She inherited it from her grandmother Oma Hauer, my great grandmother. She has spent years lovingly restoring it.
Supporters of Ajax joined us in the return train just south of Amsterdam. They had won their match, and some of them were loudly proclaiming that to a crowded train. Most of them got off in Utrecht. Our little red Citroen was still safely parked at the Park and Ride in Arnhem Zuid. We decided against the good advice of our guy-who-looks-like-Michael, which was to park where the residents of the neighbouring flats park. All in all, a nice outing.
Germany as a sidey
The girls at the cash register were speaking German. We had stopped at a petrol station for the loo and had to ask for a key. It was then we realised we had crossed the border. So coffee in Germany on a very rainy day. Our destination, Emmerich am Rhein was another 10 minutes down the road.
The GPS had strict instructions to stay OFF freeways, hence or long winding trip, where we basically wove around the freeway. But a pretty trip. The Lidl was noticeably cheaper in Germany. We later heard from Dutch young ones that when they have a party, they make a border run for snacks and alcohol. There you go.
To Germany https://youtu.be/IxGy5EDwN6I
February 20, 2020 Arnhem “There will be a wedding here later this week”, said the gardener sweeping the ancient cobbled pathway to the church. Another Michael clone. Blimey, the second person to be the spitting imagine of my brother-in-law, including voice and mannerisms. (Side note to Michael How big is your bloody family over here???) We had a really great day wandering around the Open Lucht Museum in Arnhem. Windmills, old villages, farmhouses, a church, and also a lovely indoor area where they do interactive presentations of the history of the Netherlands. It’s huge, and you really need several days to do it justice.
Open Air Museum https://youtu.be/Qrq4Hwg3DVA
Cycling down the street where I had lived for a couple of years did not really raise any memories, except perhaps memories of photos. Oom Piet gave me the street name and off we pedalled to find it. According to the lady in the fast food shop on the corner, who lived there back then, these flats were built in the mid 50’s which does fit.
Outside of Narda’s random photo of her breakfast we had an interesting stop on the way home from her childhood homestead search. Spotting a windmill on a street we were passing we side-tracked to it. Well worth the stop. It was not open to the pubic, but we went in anyway (because we are Australians and that is what Australians do). They said the stairs to the top were closed to the public but if I was careful, I could go up which I was and I did. When up there three dudes were preparing to start the windmill and lucky for me being there at that moment, I got to take this really groovy clip.
Windmill Arnhem https://youtu.be/yhoZvuPZDVI
Goodbye Arnhem Saying goodbye, going away Seems like goodbye’s such a hard thing to say Touching your hand, wondering why It’s time for saying goodbye. To be sung with the Muppet’s “Saying Goodbye” song
The glass in the bathroom gleams, the floor can be eaten upon, the car…is covered in snow!
Our next writing will be after we get back to Australia in the middle of April (it will appear here on 25 April 2020 – put it on your calendar now… of course we have to get back to Australia (via Singapore)
in the meantime
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2020/
Behance project for February 2020
Behance project for January 2020
Thoughts in Travel 2019 Kindle Edition $3 (USD) PRINT EDITION (01/01/2020) $27 USD
Daily picture poem collection updated 06 March/2020 #Rotterdam The Netherlands @Twitter ~ Tumblr ~ Pinterest ~ Flickr (2019) / Flickr (pre-2019)
Daily Thoughts for 2020 updated DAILY #Rotterdam The Netherlands (updated every day during 2020)
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
2018 – 2019 Thoughts in Patterns
Leaving Book 1
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Thoughts in Patterns 7
It has been a long time compared to the history of the world (or not) since we have been in Singapore. The last time we spent a few days here was in 2006. Narda looked fourteen years younger then – not sure about me, all the photos we have are with Narda in them.
For example: We have a photo of Narda standing in front of a subway stop in 2006. We have a photo of Narda standing in front of a subway stop in 2020. What is somewhat amazing is that I have only one photo from each year of Narda in front of a subway stop in Singapore. As synchronicity would have it, and what else is there in life? Both times Narda was in front of the ‘Harbour Front #6’ line.
Being older (every day) we thought we would break up our journey to The Netherlands which is where we are headed for the next three months by stopping in Singapore a couple of days. Eight-hour daytime flight from Adelaide and another 14 and half making the run north to Amsterdam a long time in our world. We have done these long flights dozens of times from Australia. We did the seventeen-hour flight Sydney to Houston several months ago but we have now decided for the sake of getting old, to break up trips.
The flight was OK, average, what one would expect, we got to Changi airport three pm, got the 3 Day tripper pass in terminal two, Daily: 8am – 9pm and headed out. The 3 Day tripper pass was 20 Singapore thingies ($22 USD) plus a ten $ for deposit which we got back at the end. It gives unlimited train (subway) and buses everywhere. A real bargain, especially as we like to take random bus rides.
We booked two nights into the pricey Orchard Hotel on Orchard Road. Our room smelt smokey as if the person before had been a smoker or just smelly. Narda was quick-as-a-flash back to check-in, and they changed our room, saying it was an upgrade. Not sure, as they looked quite the same but there was no smoky smell so that could have been the upgrade. Also, there was a good view of the streets and neighbourhood seven floors down and the yucky previous room faced another building much taller, giving no view.
We texted our mate, Ryan (Ryan Simo Simonet) that we were stopping in Singapore. We taught with Ryan in China, he and I were both tech people with me in the upper school and Ryan fielding the middle school. As Narda would later say, Ryan made Singapore come alive for us. As I mentioned above, we live in a world of synchronicity and as fate or whatever would have it, Ryan texted back that he was performing at the Hard Rock Café which just happened to be a block from our hotel on Orchard Road, or as know-it-all-google says: and that we really should pop over. The fact that it all started past our bedtime of nine pm didn’t matter when there are a few hours time difference anyway. It would be midnight in our world. It is always midnight in our world so it didn’t matter.
We had dinner with Ryan then stayed and watched his whole gig. He has his own band, Cronkite Satellite, https://www.cronkitesatellite.com/ which has been a one-man show for a long time. In my brush with fame, I helped make a film clip of one of his songs back in the day when I was teaching film at Dalian International School. On this night at the Hard Rock Café, Ryan played drums backing up a couple (Firefly Search Party – https://soundcloud.com/firefly-search-party) who were good. We got back to our hotel around midnight. I thought when we got old, we were going to take it easy.
So as not to repeat Narda’s notes I will glue her thoughts in here and continue with my raving after.
January 21 Singapore
Just about to leave our 3rd hotel. Here is breaking-the-trip-into-manageable-pieces taken to a ridiculous extreme. We stayed at the Soho Hotel in Adelaide because we had already picked up our Dutch guests/exchangers, then a second hotel (Atura) at the airport because we thought a 10.30am flight was very very early, and now 2 nights in The Orchard Hotel in Singapore to rest after an 8 hour flight. Blimey!
Singapore, the great dictatorship. I was always a little leery of this ‘sterile, perfect’ city. But no longer. We met a friend from Dalian days, Ryan. A lively, fun to be around guy, who worked with both of us back in the day in different ways. For me he had great ideas/skills in electronic music, and for Terrell another total computer nerd. Ryan has made Singapore come alive for us.
He invited us to his gig, playing drums with a great pair of musos at the Hard Rock café, right around the corner from our hotel. Starting at 9pm, we reluctantly promised to show up for a bit, and finished up staying for the whole thing. Great music, and fun. Maybe we’re not as old as we thought.
I told a guy with whom we shared a table in Little India (a cool area in Singapore) that we love India and where in India was he from? Turns out he is born in Singapore, has family in Sri Lanka. I felt a little foolish. These residents of Singapore are not Indians, they just look like them.
A ship on top of three skyscrapers! Only in Singapore, where one guy is in charge and lots of people have money. It’s expensive; I paid $18 S (about 13 USD for beer; Stu I did not smuggle any beer in my handbag!………for those wondering ‘what the’… I might have tried that once, but I don’t remember it that well). Well in defense of the Hard Rock Café, they did provide live music…pretty good actually.
We took a bus (Bus #106 from Orchard Road) and finished up here. On local advice, we managed to get right into the hotel which occupied this strange building and got a decent look without spending a cent!
The 7 Eleven Bar; you just buy your beer from their fridge at their price and enjoy it here! Very civilized.
Of course, Singapore has the largest indoor water fall in the world. This was at Changi Airport, terminal 3 at the Jewel Shopping, where we also had a pretty nice meal.
Clip is at https://youtu.be/lo2zMm3iSaA
We rarely ever sleep on flights, but because we had a middle seat free, and a little pill, we slept about 6 hours. I woke to find myself 40,000 feet from Brendan. The Golden Temple in Amritsar (India) was lit up and very visible. But by the time I had located my camera (sometimes known as a phone), we were flying across the border right over Lahore. How cool is that! (See the brightly lit, heavily patrolled border.)
Back to me.
In Australia we get two cups of coffee for the price of one at McDonalds. The only reason we go there outside of when the grandchildren are with us and we are unfortunate enough to come across one and they plead starvation and we empty our savings account getting them happy for their meals. In Victoria they give seniors free coffee, period. Which we make use of when we are dragging our caravan about. Anyway, to shorten the story, Narda asked for two seniors coffee, which drew a blank, so she added that the second senior’s coffee is free; ‘it is in Australia’. They didn’t come to the party. Incidentally, Narda tried this on at several McDonalds in the USA last May to July. I suppose if one can afford to galivant around the planet they can afford two coffees. It’s the principle of it all. Nevertheless, we left, graciously, and went to Little India; Coffee at Komala Vilas on 12-14 Buffalo road, where a good cuppa is about one Singapore dollar, instead of the 4 others charge. They have a good webpage over @ http://komalavilas.com.sg And of course the fact they opened their doors in 1947 – the year of my birth makes it even more groovy. BTW – they have hijacked groovy, our word for beyond good in the 1960s to make a computer programming language. Apache Groovy is a Java-syntax-compatible object-oriented programming language for the Java platform. It is both a static and dynamic language with features similar to those of Python, Ruby, and Smalltalk.
Speaking of gracious endowment… Narda was tired from our walking about and wanted to sit down without buying anything at some trendy looking outside excuse for a pub, so she did. A lady gave her a menu and Narda set it down saying she wasn’t going to order anything, that she just wanted a rest. The waitress said it was for customers only so Narda gave her the menu instructing her that she could give the menu to a customer. The waitress was a bit rude. Narda said that she just needed a five-minute rest. The woman walked off looking at her watch as she stomped toward some ‘real customers’.
Singapore has been a futuristic city for a long time. But are the people happy? Apparently not, from our sources. There is a good current article online at; Is Singapore’s ‘perfect’ economy coming apart? Once hailed as a model of progress, poverty and nativist resentment are on the rise. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Cover-Story/Is-Singapore-s-perfect-economy-coming-apart We were told that the people need to work so much and so hard to have anything that there is a general sense of depression. Apartments are expensive; having a car starts with a ten-thousand-dollar license fee. But from our eyes looking around, Singapore is so clean and safe. Perhaps for our age it is good to visit, there are cameras with facial recognition everywhere, we feel safe. It is quite the change from being in Pakistan and Sri Lanka a couple of months ago. There is no trash on the ground, chewing gum is legal since 2004, though the selling of it and importing it is illegal. No graffiti, though I personally like graffiti. It is all so new. Or the parts we saw. Everyone stays in line;
From our hotel on Orchard Road we took the #106 bus as a random bus ride. It was double decker with no one in the front row up on top. Unfortunately, it was raining so we didn’t get many photos. The bus drove right to the door of the Marina Bay Hotel with the shape of a boat going across three buildings. We spent the rest of the day there.
Of course, we went to the 57th floor to view the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool. There is a bar/restaurant there and we walked out onto it, informing people, after getting in the midst of the place and me taking photos, that we were not eating or drinking, just having a sticky-beak. They politely suggested we could be on our way in whatever body-language people use to suggest such concepts.
Looking over the edge of infinity pool. At over $650 USD per night we didn’t get a room for a few nights here. Perhaps next time we will stay here and do our aqua Zumba classes in the midst of their bloody ridiculous infinity pool, which we do back in Adelaide for an hour three mornings every week, to 1950s sound tracks with disco drum beats in the background.
Children’s play area at Marina Bay Shopping Centre Singapore
There is a lot to see in this area. Museum of the future – which we didn’t want to pay $28 to see, looked interesting. There was a ‘frozen’ display where children were yelling and running to – we gave that a miss. There are many high-end shops as one would see in any expensive area but looking at the waterfront and the architecture is worth the journey. Apparently, someone spent $8 billion (I believe that is USD) on Marina Bay Sands which makes it the most expensive stand-alone integrated resort property ever built. Further useless information is that it is owned by the Las Vegas Sands corporation. Hey, Singapore, eat your heart out; our hometown, Adelaide, South Australia has this heading… ‘The recent announcement that the New Royal Adelaide Hospital has been named the world’s third most expensive building…’ and of course Adelaide has the second most expensive building in Australia (the Myer Centre). We just can not be out done.
[The top 10 most expensive buildings in the world: One World Trade Centre, New York City – $3.9 billion (2014) Palace of the Parliament, Bucharest – $3 billion (1988) Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide – $2.1 billion (2016) The Palazzo, Las Vegas – $1.9 billion (2007). As of Mar 25, 2015] Though as resorts go Singapore has us beat – but just wait, I am sure Adelaide will come up with something.
In our effort to downsize economically, we found a nice, though basic, hotel in Little India that we will stay in for a couple of days at the end of our journey this time around (The Netherlands for three-months). So, we will get to see Ryan and his wife and the wonders we missed of Singapore again in mid-April.
or as the 2006 Narda would say, ‘happy New Years’
Our next writing will be from the Netherlands where we are 20th January to mid-April.
in the meantime
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2020/
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
2018 – 2019 Thoughts in Patterns
Leaving Book 1
(https://tinyurl.com/y29ygazd) published 05/July/2019 in eBook & Print Edition (664 pages) As with all Amazon books read the first ten % free.
Thoughts in Patterns 7
Ahead of us was a flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka to Lahore, Pakistan; leaving at ten pm, arriving four hours later, which due to time change was midnight in Lahore. We knew we would be stuffed by the time we got there which would be two am in our world. But as luck would have it…We received an email from Sri Lankan Airlines saying we could upgrade to business. All we had to do was put in a bid and if it was accepted, we would be travelling like the elderly should, but usually cannot afford to. The bid range was $30 – $90 USD so we reckoned midway would be good. We put in $60 and got business class seats. It turned out that the business section was mostly empty so we could have gotten them for less, but we were happy to have the better seats. Considering the ticket to begin with was $260 each it was good a deal.
Narda’s notes (italics) Terrell notes
My first impressions of Pakistan, after three days, is that the people are very friendly. For example, we can rarely go a block without someone wanting a selfie with us, shaking hands, saying “thank you for coming to Pakistan”. My other impression is from the pollution. My app says 305, Hazardous; avoid all physical activity outdoors. Yesterday it hit 670.
It hangs in the air. Brendan’s house is in a gated community with a lot of trees and I think that helps. We also have machines around the house that are supposed to suck in the bad air. I can taste it when I am outside. In comparison where we live in Adelaide is a breathable 8; . Apparently, it is the µg/m3 reading that is all the rage to know about; Micrograms per Cubic Meter of Air. Bottom line, the µg/m3 should be between 0 & 5. Anything above 35 stay inside and watch Oprah and eat chocolate.
What stood out besides what we saw, was how many people wanted selfies with us. It is usually Narda getting all the attention
but today, I would say I had a hundred selfies at least. It took forever to get through the temple we got stopped so much, perhaps not forever, because now is now and we are not there, and forever is not over. Fortunately, Sofie and Maryam were patient. The Pakistani people would shake my hand and say, ‘thank you for coming to Pakistan’.
It was amazing. A few weeks ago, at the first cricket game here since 2004 (that year the Sri Lanka team’s buses were fired upon, though no one was killed; but it did stop teams from coming here until now) the Pakistan fans held up signs thanking Sri Lanka for playing here (even though Sri Lanka won).
Pakistan has been treated poorly by the western media; these people are so grateful to have western visitors. I even had women in full burkas doing selfies with me. I didn’t know the protocol in these situations, so I didn’t put my arm around them…maybe next time.
https://youtu.be/s0iyHOJ76WQ our video for our tromping about the mosque.
The Badshahi Mosque is a Mughal era masjid in Lahore, capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab, Pakistan. The mosque is located west of Lahore Fort along the outskirts of the Walled City of Lahore, and is widely considered to be one of Lahore’s most iconic landmarks.
Brendan’s driver, Imran, took us shopping to Al-Fatah Mall. (https://www.alfatah.pk/): The grocery store, in the basement, has more western products than our local supermarket in Lahore. For example, we got peanut butter, but they were out of tofu. On the third floor I bought a shalwar kameez suit, black $26USD at Al-Fatah.
The dress of Narda’s was from material she bought and had made. We have a video and story of that later. Sales tax = 17% on clothes and most groceries. Milk doesn’t have any tax, yogurt has 10%, everything else at the supermarket had a 17% tax wacked on. We have been told by a few people here that everything costs more since Imran Khan became prime minister, including higher taxes. We thought locals would have a good impression of Imran Khan but so far those we have spoken with don’t think he is doing well. The most general comment is that he is trying to go to fast, ending corruption, changing stuff. For those who don’t know, before entering politics, Khan was an international cricketer and captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup. We have liked his speeches we have seen on YouTube and on the news. Especially in relationship to India. We had the same feedback in Sri Lanka in relationship to their head of state, no one seemed to like him. Of course, it is the same in the States, so where does one go to find a head of state that a majority like? I don’t know.
Tuesday 29th October.
Imran took us to Liberty Market alongside Main Boulevard Gulberg. Liberty Market is made up of many individual shops with frontage to the streets. Mainly women’s clothing shops they are small and seem to be owner owned. We got there after eleven am only to find most of the shops closed. They open after noon and stay open until late at night which seems to be the way with markets in Lahore. We did buy a bedspread for about $32USD at Thar Maleer Handicraft shop. Heaven only knows why we would need another bedspread, but I just carry the parcels I don’t seem to understand why we need more. Narda bought another scarf ($4) at a street stall, and a dress for $19. Narda is finding getting a dress that fits her ten-foot frame difficult, even for extra-large. I would joke with the salespeople; one refined shop keeper remarked that she had a healthy body. At the end of a few hours of looking, on our walk back to our meeting with Imran, a dress in a shop widow caught Narda’s eye. She tried it on, it was a bit too small in the shoulder but otherwise what she wanted. The shop owner adjusted the hem a bit to make it fit.
What was interesting was an in-depth conversation with the shop dude. He was quite concerned about westerner’s perception of Pakistan, something that comes up quite often. He said Pakistan in the safest country of all and that Lahore is the safest city in Pakistan. That tourists are given a lot of respect. That it is the United States policy to create tension between Pakistan and India and others. We didn’t say anything as we have heard India’s side often that it is Pakistan creating division. He had recently lived in Belgium for three years and him and Narda could chat in Dutch. This is such a recurring theme here that people are so happy we are visiting, that it is the media creating a bad rap on Pakistan. We just listen. We will say that the people here are extremely friendly. We got a slight reprimand when Narda did a Namaste (a slight bow with paws pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. In Hinduism, it means “I bow to the divine in you”, or to us it is “you are cool too, mate”), and a man said that he was a Muslim and they just did the thumbs up thingy. He was friendly about it but I guess there is some mixing of culture we are not up to speed on. In India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, everyone is bowing and gesturing all over the shop. So, remember when in Pakistan it is thumbs up.
When we got home, we went off to our local market for dinner fixings
and as is so often is the case we were surrounded by folks wanting selfies with us. Firstly, a woman in full black niqab wanted a photo with us and her daughters about 8 to 10 years old. Next, a few young blokes with matching tee shirts, then more of them, then about a dozen, all wanting group photos and individual photos. They were a university cricket team all excited because they had made it to the grand final game which I think is tomorrow. Then there were a few other stragglers along the street that wanted selfies with us.
Just to keep the difference in women’s wear understandable, not that it is even at the best of time, here is something I grabbed off the internet so that I could sort it out somewhat:
The word hijab describes the act of covering up generally but is often used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in many styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
I even had to wear something on my head at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar in India last year.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It is a one-piece veil that covers the face and body, often leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close-fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and a tube-like scarf.
For more about what is what with garb see https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241
Narda writes about Brendan’s home below. I will just add that due to being a gated community, the chooks and cats wander through everyone’s yards. They had a routine they kept to everyday. At four pm the rooster followed by several hens and a try-hard rooster would enter our yard, peck around a bit, chase away a cat or two then wander on to the next yard.
It was the first time for the guy in Lahore who processed our visa. A bunch of earnest looking Pakistanis prompted him every step of the way, but despite that we got out and on our way with Brendan and his driver Imran. There was an important looking pollie…I think…who was met by fawning officials with papers to hand him and cameras…who shared business class with us. I think he had some anxiety, his legs moving from side to side for most of the trip.
Right now I’m watching a guy wearing a beige shalwar kameez sweeping our lawn.
He did it yesterday too. The flat where Brendan is living is enormous. Huge lounge with high ceilings, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms on 2 levels. All the flats in this enclosed area have leafy gardens; there is a pristine swimming pool and serious security here, manned all the time.
We saw an accident, lots of blood on the road, Brendan told me not to look so I looked. Pretty disturbing; a motorbike rider. We continued our walk and finished up in a little enclave of western coffee and carrot cake. A couple of girls on the way out commented on my Punjabi dress…starting a nice conversation. Turned out that one of them also taught at the American school years back.
It’s a big busy city, reminded us of Delhi; without the cows. Though you do see the occasional cart pulled by a sad scruffy donkey. The road home was completely taken up by the devout at prayers…took up the whole road and we were diverted. I love all this stuff, new and exciting.
Brendan showed us his skills as a crazy driver in Lahore, narrowly avoiding hitting a tuk tuk, a beggar or another flash vehicle. Nicely done! We actually found a place to park, despite my doubts; he paid a guy some 30c to take care of the car, and we went inside a supermarket. Terrell found what he needed to make a nice, unusual veg meal, as we watched the Breaking Bad movie on Netflix. And I have been initiated into drinking Murree beer. First glass, ‘not sure’, but second glass ‘pretty OK.
This morning (Bren still asleep) two of his friends visited; we had a nice chat. It was 8am. They were wearing their bathers, and we were still in pajamas. The only way to make new friends.
Oct 24 Lahore
The top-end furniture guy cleared a couple of VIP chairs and made a space on his desk so that we could enjoy our cups of chai purchased from the local chai wallah. We had an audience of men, watching us closely, asking, with a head waggle, if it was all OK. ‘Sugar? OK?’ For me ‘Yes’. When we came back the next day, we tried sitting on the rough wooden bench, but the whole thing was repeated, as we enjoyed our sweet tea, like Lord and Lady Muck.
It’s about 20 minutes’ walk including dodging and weaving (potholes, tuk tuks, donkey carts and piles of unknown things) to our closest shopping area. We’re quite familiar with all that. We go to Jamals ‘(all air conditioned) for some groceries, some soda water for Bren, try to support the street stall buying fruit, buy some rich coloured chicken downstairs and then head home. Imran, Bren’s man and driver usually does his shopping cooking, irons everything (including underwear I think) and is generally the one to make things happen on a local level…a fixer. He’s a sweet, kind man. Yesterday he drove us to another market area where we bought a bedspread for home.
I’ve forgotten the name of the restaurant but we had another experience of Brendan’s driving skills (and courage 😊) as we ate a beautiful Paki meal in a really nice BBQ place, owned by the parents of one of Bren’s students. And lots of leftovers!
Terrell and I are all Paki-ed up.!! He has a real cool shalwar kameez, ($22) in black with embroidery, and I have an amazing red dress with large ‘diamonds’ on the collar, looks really dressy; they had to let it out for reasons I’d rather not discuss, all for the total of $19. (All dollars quoted in USD; gives us the illusion of spending less 🙂
Sophie, Brendan’s friend, invited us to a big day out, going with a few colleagues from LAS for a tour of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort built in 1566. Sean; maths teacher, musician, ballroom dancer and crazy driver, drove us there. Mariyam, the HR person and I discussed the possibility of me doing a short replacement gig at LAS, to Brendan’s horror. Hmmm.
Now we know what it feels like to be famous. We were literally inundated by folks taking selfies with us. Most asking politely; once you pose for one, the next groups are awaiting their turn. It was fun actually. Terrell was accosted on the way home from our local supermarket by a bunch of cricketers, posing outside the shop that sponsored them. They asked me to join too, but that was being polite; he was the one they were after.
The girls (Sophie and Mariyam) did a wonderful tour guide job. The whole place is really worth visiting; at the end of the day we chose having a meal over another museum; that was unanimous. The view from the restaurant was specie; 4 (rickety?) stories up. We ate local food, yummy daal and naan….just like pizza, with some deep fried things….like giant pappadums, which were delicious. Sophie and Mariyam, generous and hospitable girls, paid for us, despite our protests.
‘There’s no way we want to reunite with India’, said the man selling me my red dress. He went on to say that it is the USA meddling that has caused most of the conflict between the two nations. ‘And it is 110% safe here’ he went on to say. ‘Very safe, you are welcome here’. He lived in Belgium for 4 years and was very happy there, even speaks some Dutch (this I could test!). Another interesting thing was that he said that things were getting more expensive in Pakistan since the new Prime Minister started. That the cost of living for his family is 30,000 rupees a month, (about $150 USD) but he can only earn 15,000 rupees. So it is very difficult. Taxes, we heard from others, have gone up a lot, and generally the cost of living. Others have told us the same, including Imran, Brendan’s man.
We have 2 Shalwar Kameez (plural?) for Terrell, a red dress, a bed spread and a whole lot of stuff for Bren’s apartment (that part thankfully funded by him). It’s actually looking gezellig, with plants and pictures on the wall, little table clothes and cushions; all ready for family to visit!!! Even a strange lamp. We bought it at an antique place, thinking this was very unusual, only to find it online in an Ikea store. Oh well. Still looks good.
It wasn’t only shopping. Yesterday we had a great breakfast /brunch, at a pretty nice restaurant together with a couple of women from the LAS community, Venla (Finnish) and Saeema (American); both long termers here. We’ve also been dashing about with Sean the calculus teacher (reminds us of Robert from DAIS), who took us to a very fancy western mall, Emporium Market. That’s where Terrell bought his second Shalwar Kameez.
I felt hopelessly inadequately dressed. I actually wore my black thongs (flip-flops for you shocked Americans!) and my new red diamond studded dress, but boy, do theses guys go all out. Gorgeous stuff, all trimmed and beaded and glittery. It was the niece of Brendan’s man who invited us, and we were indeed fussed over.
This was the 1st day of a 2 day-long reception, first day for the bride’s family, second day for the groom’s. I sat for short while I (didn’t want to push it) at a table with the men drinking whisky…or gin…not actually sure, but it was sweet and good. Brendan was also dressed in traditional clothes with an added vest, very smart…..and some strange shoes which he might show you.
Halloween was big. We attended a ticketed event at LAS, lots of security getting in. Bren had his class stall, where they made and sold ? sticky goo. All the kids were elaborately dressed up, and the music was excruciatingly loud; I was assured (by Brendan, my chief critic and advisor) that this was the way things are in Asia. All very interesting, we got a good look at the school and Bren’s classroom.
‘I’ve lived here for 57 years’, said Lulu at the International Club, where we went after the school event. Lulu (from somewhere else) and Franz (from Holland) were the coordinators of the club, trying to keep it viable. I enjoyed the chat with these folks, as the young ones, with Terrell, went to the bar. Aron and Sophie joined us at a table for a really good buffet, Turkish themed. Yum.
Lahore is surprising. You see folks from Biblical times, and then Gloria Jeans coffee places. Folks sleeping in the back of tuk tuks or in the park with their children, to shining, pristine shopping malls. I usually get annoyed at these malls in parts of Asia with their bullshit designer shops that nobody can shop at. This however is much nicer. More (still somewhat high end) shops with local style clothing, very stylish and for us anyway, affordable. And more people.
But the air is a worry. Last week the pollution index topped 500; today it is about 200 and most of last week it was in the 300’s and 400’s.
Nov 7, 2019 Lahore
Today, our last day, Brendan got what is for us a ‘snow day’. The head of school texted the whole community; a high of 650 was predicted (hazardous) and the school was closed. BONUS! So we get to relax, pack, have a lunch kindly donated by one of Bren’s TAs from last year.
Last night we could only just see the top of the Pakistani flag and the sun was orange/red. Imran took us to the Wahga border (sp Wagah, Wagha, Wahga????). Google assures us it’s the first one, but we see local signs with one of the others. It was a feast. We saw the Border Closing Ceremony once again (last year from the Indian side). We got VIP seats 4 rows from the front. I stuck wet tissue balls in my ears (we were dangerously close to the speakers 😊) and we had a ball. The guy dancing on one leg was still there; I even got the chance to thank him personally.
Cantt stands for containment. This means that there are army bases all over the place that do not want foreigners in them. We found “Food Street” but we were far too early, so no food.
This was a strange messy day (bit like this strange messy blog entry). Our driver took us part of the way, then got stuck with road closures, so we transferred ourselves to to a tuk tuk, which went a little further (this all in pursuit of ‘Food Street’) The tuk tuk driver also got stuck when a large demonstration (I think it was…people everywhere, many sitting down) appeared at the end of our road, also completely blocking it off to traffic. He turned around to us to explain this in Urdu or Punjabi. Luckily a young lady walking by put her head into the tuk tuk and translated for us. He was happy to continue, perhaps wait awhile, but we had to pay him $1 more.
Finally got there, no food, so we wandered around the old town, discovered the music street …pretty cool, lots of drums and guitars being made, and the shoe sole street, which speaks for itself. I have never seen so many shoe soles in one area in my life. OK, by then (the reader is getting exhausted) we had accepted that there was no food. So we got an Uber to take us to a mall. Always a safety refuge for us. The traffic was almost at a standstill. So the trip to the far away mall was long.
Now I am getting back to ‘containment’. We entered a military zone in the bloody Uber. They pulled us over and demanded our passports, which of course we ‘no have’. ‘Who goes shopping with passports’, demanded Terrell angrily from the gun-slinging soldier. Hmmm. They took him away, leaving me in the Uber. After what seemed a long time, maybe 15 minutes (seemed longer) he was duly returned, and we resumed our journey into the banned mall. A day to remember. I was a bit cranky; I must confess. All this protocol.
I had pizza with 4 cheeses and a nice thin base last night at a nice restaurant. Bren had Moroccan chicken, and Terrell had a creamy pasta dish. All good.
Lahore is a trip!!! Where else do people (complete strangers) come up to you and say ‘welcome to our country, it is an honour for us that you are here’.
Wagha Border video https://youtu.be/0AD8cmi1Ujo
General Lahore videohttps://tinyurl.com/rqayfep
Just to add to Narda’s wonderful narrative above; first some photos (we have over a thousand if you want to invite us to your home and we will sit and show them all – let us know)
This is Narda with the bride (the bride is on the left) – I call it ‘Narda giving Australian/Dutch wisdom to the newly wed’.
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
Brendan’s servant (we didn’t like to call him that) who got us into this wedding; this is his daughter (on the left – the one leaning away from me as I lean toward her) and his wife (leaning toward me as I lean away – all the body language one needs).
The poverty hits one hard. We all live in such rich countries and we visit these places. We did give beggars money but there is no end to it all. Near us is a park with several tuk tuks parked; families live in them, 3, 4, even five children sleeping during the day in them.
Narda is always so ready to get on the next transportation and head out. When she was four her family was getting on a ship in Rotterdam to migrate to Australia. They drove from their home in Utrecht to Rotterdam, about a three-hour drive. When they got there Narda said ‘it is really a long way to Australia’. Those three hours to the next place have become many decades long.
At the airport. The sum equation of all that is Lahore, or at least our experience of it. Enormous clouds of crowds everywhere. All so foreign. So as usual a person shows up, he has a badge, I didn’t trust him, he escorts us quickly past the crowds, we show our passport and ticket, get past a few islands of security, put bags through big scanners, and get to the Thai ticket counter and our helpful dude wants money.
So today we had a snow day. Bren’s school was cancelled for high pollution levels. 635 was expected (Adelaide has about 20) So Bren had the day off, which was a last-minute gift from the gods. As it turned out the pollution was ‘only’ about 130. Another gift. Packing, talking, Bren driving us to the local market, and then Imran made 2 airport runs, first run for Bren heading to Bahrain for a conference, the second 3 hours later for our midnight departure.
Passport was a hassle, we stood stationary for about 45 minutes as folks pushed in ahead of us, all dressed in white. Later we realised these folks were headed to Mecca, where all people wear white so that there is no distinction between rich and poor.
Arriving in Bangkok at 6 am we actually felt pretty exhausted. Bought some Thai sim cards and then took a shuttle the nearby Novotel for a great buffet breakfast. Worth the money!
Ahead of me I see temple spires, a phone tower, a restaurant with plastic lawn (they have good food!) and some quiet streets. I am sitting in the kitchen of our tiny modern, clean and secure little flat in the building in Udan Thani called The Base. 14 stories, with a rooftop garden, a swimming pool, gym and comfy bed.
Also some bits and pieces for the grandies. We observed small children gleefully eating a plate full of deep fried and spiced bugs. They looked like hornets and crickets. (see one-minute video of market and bugs https://youtu.be/t74hNiB9VCs )
Sizzler still serve that cheesy toast. Do you remember? This was in Central Plaza, a 10 minute walk away. No movies that suits us. Bummer. But we had a nice Sizzler buffet and got caught up on salads and veggies.
Now I’m sitting a home with a large lump on my head and left knee. I walked into the glass door of the Crocs Shop. You may well laugh. They were offering 15% off. No more squat toilets for me for a while. The knee has lost some function. Oh well. Not serious.
One of the most colourful festivals of the year in Thailand is Loy Krathong; full moon festival. This is when people go to their local waterway to float small bowl shaped containers called Krathongs in Thai. Inside are three incense sticks, a candle and usually a few coins. They float the Krathong to ask Mother Nature for forgiveness for polluting the rivers but also to thank her for water that brings life. Most people also take this opportunity to make a wish for good luck in the future. As they watch the krathong float away, they hope it will also take any of their bad luck.
Watching our little reed boat sail off into the lake was the highlight of Monday night’s Loy Krathong Festival. Everyone was there, all 150,000 Udonis. Incredible. Our reed boat had 3 sticks of incense, one for Leigh, one for dad and one for mum. See video at
An Irish guy named Martin gave us the low down on why Undonis don’t talk to us. Well actually he didn’t know why, but in the 12 years he has been living around here, they don’t talk to him either.
This is a strange thing and a complete contrast to the friendly Pakis. We are completely ignored. It takes a little getting used to, until we remember that’s why we are here. No hustle, no offers of tuk tuk rides. When you walk into a store you actually have to grab the sales person by the scruff of the neck to get some action…….almost.
And these folks are SO tidy! Not a scrap of rubbish on the ground, anywhere. Even when 150,000 of them are tromping, clockwise of course, around the market. Never seen this before. The dirt is all in the air, with an average reading of about 150 at the moment (remember, Adelaide is about 20). Furthermore, there is NO English. Well, maybe a tiny, tiny bit. Local restaurants have menus that are completely undecipherable. It is really hard to act out a dish you want. Try acting our Chicken with cashews, or worse still Pad Thai with no meat.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
our next blog will be from The Netherlands where we will be mid-January 2020 until mid April 2020
in the meantime
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
Sri Lanka was the next choice. We spent three months in India in 2018, last year, and we were there in 2005, we’ll do India again some other day. The actual reason had to do with our wanting to cross the Wagah Border at Amritsar, India and go on to Lahore, Pakistan to see Brendan. Soon after Narda did all the work of getting us there, India and Pakistan began shooting down one another’s planes and there was talk of war then the Wagah Border was closed. After much looking how to get to Lahore, Narda found flying from Colombo, Sri Lanka would be the easiest, so she spent months planning a month trip around Sri Lanka and had us booked into hotels, Airbnb’s and train trips around the country by Easter (2019).
Then…on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three churches and three luxury hotels, a housing complex and a guest house in Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings; 259 were killed. The targets were Christians and tourists.
Indian intelligence agencies had provided specific information to Sri Lankan authorities about the method and target locations for the potential terrorist attacks to Sri Lankan authorities as early as 4 April, and again on the night before, and as close as two hours, before the first attack. This included information about the threat to churches, gathered from interrogation of a suspected ISIL recruit in Indian custody. The Sri Lanka government did nothing, and the attacks went ahead.
Nevertheless, we proceeded with our plans.
Slept well in the Amari Hotel (Bangkok). Alarms woke us up, we dashed around had a shower and packed, and headed to the departure lounge, checked in our luggage, paid for a good seat (about $22 USD). Our seats, 2E and 2D where in the front row, lots of leg room and we had a really good flight. I watched episodes of “Unbelievable” which I had downloaded from Netflix onto my phone. New technology for me!!!
Airport arrival was easy, friendly, not long to wait. Seemed to be very few tourists around. We bought a month long 16 GB simcard each which they installed for us. Now we are Sri Lankan locals. The public bus took us right to the central station in Colombo. First a fast freeway with tolls, then stop start crawling through a very busy Colombo. We got off at the Central Station and caught a tuk tuk to the hotel.
Since the time change meant it was earlier, we were settled by about noon. Easy. We enjoyed a buffet lunch in the dining room upstairs, with a speccie view of the harbour (closed to us unfortunately) It’s all pretty high security; they checked our bags coming into the hotel, and then again later going into a shopping mall. Then we took a nap, as we do!
Later we decided to walk along the foreshore; really nice actually, though lots of development coming. We had a few conversations with people asking us where we were from and so on, but always steering the conversation to….’now would you like to take a tour with my brother’s tuk tuk, would you like to see the gemstone shop, everything is very cheap today’. Kinda gets exhausting.
We came upon a lovely gathering of locals, some in the water, lots of kids, and lots of food stalls. Nice.
Slept well and ventured out to find some more evidence of Dutch settlement in the Old Fort section, where we are. Again a conversation with a friendly guy ended in him hustling us into a tuk tuk, an instructing the driver to show us everything. BLIMEY We put the driver straight and said we just wanted to go to the Buddhist temple and see the baby elephant. Which we did. But when it came time to pay (after being reassured that this tuk tuk was on the meter, he tried to charge us 10,000 rupees each. I laughed and said that’s a funny joke. He said no, just 1,000 rupees each……and he would not take no for “NO TOUR PLEASE. Really annoying.
Anyway…… the Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya Temple, was a nice experience, lots of little kids dressed in white, for some sort of trip and visit. Some of them wanted selfies with me, just like in Shimla. Cute.
Then off to the local mall to watch Downton Abbey. Nice movie, no violence. And we happily negotiated a public bus home. I think our tuk tuk days are over. We had to cancel the first part of our next leg as there is a train strike, so now we’ll stay 3 more days in Colombo..in the burbs.
OK here we are, still in Colombo. This train strike shows no signs of being resolved. When I google this, it appears that train strikes are rather regular. I see concerned tourists back in June, 2019 asking, on Trip Advisor forums, ‘when is the train strike likely to end?’ So this is not the same one, just a new one, now about a week old. Teachers are on strike too.
Can’t complain though. We extended our stay here. It’s a lovely house, we have tons of room, nice kitchen, comfy bed with aircon and a giant lounge. So we have decided to go into ‘long term, just living here’ mode. It’s pretty hot, but the fans are plentiful and effective. And lots of screened open windows, tropical style. I do like it. Our hostess is lovely, actually we found out she’s an Aussie citizen as well as Sri Lankan. We have had some nice chats with her about the local stuff.
Local buses are everywhere, many decorated with flashing lights and Buddhist bits and bobs. I think perhaps that we have ‘mastered’ the buses. Using Google maps, it’s pretty easy to get from A to B. Yesterday we ventured right to the other side of town, two buses, didn’t miss a beat. Had a nice lunch on the other side of town, near Decathlon. I had beef lasagne. It was so yummy, I ate the lot and felt very bloated for the rest of the day. OK vegetarian friends, I can hear your reprimand.
A note on the buses in Colombo. Holy Cow! They drive insanely. If you want the thrill of a lifetime take an owner’s bus (they are blue) not the government bus. How to tell? The ones that are colourful, driving erratically and very fast. They race one another to the next stop or wherever there is a passenger standing waving to them. On board there are a lot of shrines; Buddhist and Christian; hedging their bets of who will save them, loud music and sometimes video. Be ready to get on quickly, they don’t stop, just slow down. see our clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUjj6bd5dS8
Checking out the local library was great; a 5-minute walk away. You can sit there, under the fans, reading whatever you want. Quite a civilised way to spend the day. While Terrell happily devoured English newspapers, I found a book by Paul Theroux that I had not heard of. ‘Elephanta’; about America tourists trying to navigate India, three different stories. Well written as always, good for a chuckle. I started the book, sitting in the English section of the library (can’t borrow it, even with a passport..oh well). I thought we’ll see how those people go with a trip like that, feeling very superior. But, here is my confession, they sound rather eerily similar to us. So now, having crashed back to earth, I will finish this great book (perhaps on Kindle).
Spar is our favourite supermarket (I think the word is from the Dutch…meaning save). Not that Dutch though, not a salted dropje to be seen. We met Helen over coffee in the café section of Spar. She (Scottish) and her husband have been in Sri Lanka for some 20 years, running a textile company with a 45 million-dollar turnover. They also have factories in India, Pakistan and China. Amazing! Nice lady, recently retired and bored shitless. After a job like that I guess it’s hard to adjust to slumming around, as we are. We saw her again a few days later, this time in our other favourite supermarket, Cargles (sp?). Expat community probably not so large.
We’re sleeping well. Afternoon naps as well as early nights and getting up at 6am. It’s the humid heat; makes you pretty tired.
We are bus people over taxi people. Being so, we took the 45-minute airport bus to Colombo Fort, ($2.20 USD for the two of us including baggage) see our little clip of that ride at https://tinyurl.com/y3nhaua8
Off to the main bus station near to the Fort area. We took what would become the first of several overpriced hustling tuk tuks to our hotel for the outrageous cost of 600 Rupees for a ten-minute ride. OK, so that equals $3.30 USD but it did seem a lot in comparison to the cost of stuff in the area. We are at the Grand Oriental Hotel, https://www.grandoriental.com/ which is old and huge and on the waterfront. Narda had originally booked us before the terrorist’s attacks for three nights at their usual price of about $60USD/night. We cancelled and rethought our trip planning to stay only two nights and rebooked and the rooms were $20/night, no doubt because so many people cancelled their trip to here due to the attacks, which were about a block away, plus this is low season.
The hotel is 180-years old and showing its age as we all do. The rooms are comfortable, the outside is crumbling and in desperate need of restoration. We had their lunch buffet as we were settled by 2 pm (there is an hour and a half difference from Thailand, earlier here). Our second buffet of the day. It was nowhere as good as the breakfast buffet back at the Amari Hotel in Bangkok but there was enough to keep us full and entertained for about $8USD. It is the view that makes it worth the effort overlooking the port. It is one of the busiest ports in the world. Wikipedia has info about the two-thousand-year history of the port if that floats your boat. After lunch we went for a walk. As so often is the case when we go for a walk in Asia someone will suddenly appear, very friendly, asking questions about how many children we have; blah, blah, blah. The first one tried to sell us a tour, then a trip to his gem store; very special today only due to some bloody holiday, and on and on until Narda got us away from him. In our first day or half-day in Colombo we had five different people tell us about some bloody gem show. We told each the same; we are not into gems, we don’t know one from another, I don’t wear jewellery; blah, blah, blah. One fellow who saddled up to our walk said he worked at the Australian Embassy. We doubted that but as he seemed a bit more sincere than some of the others, we took a tuk tuk that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, as they all do, to the gem place. We went in to use the loo, and to be polite we thought listening to a five-minute spiel would pay the price of the loo. No, they had to show us this stone and that stone and tell us this story and on and on and ; blah, blah, blah, we got a tuk tuk home.
The next day, today, Sunday, the 28th, we got the same, someone walks alongside us telling us the quality of their tour, what they could do to help us; blah, blah, blah. We had two or three of those today. We just wanted to go for a long walk. No one understands that. Finally, we let ourselves get talked into ‘a short ride in a metred tuk tuk to a special temple…’ ten minutes later, with the tuk tuk driver trying to sell us tours the whole time, we got to the temple. The tuk tuk was not a metered one and the driver at first said ten thousand each ($55USD). We laughed, then so did he, well at least he tried it on. I think it is because we said it was our first day in Sri Lanka and they figured we are dumb as a brick, which could be true. He threw out a bunch of other figures, then continued about taking us on a tour after the temple. He said finally one thousand each ($5.50USD). We gave him five-hundred and walked away. Last night a fellow drove us home, it was a long way as we had walked for a couple of hours along the shore (see our video of that walk; https://tinyurl.com/y4uycbnk) , and he got lost, but thanks to our GPS we got us home. He had a meter and it came to 230 Rupees, so we gave him 300. We understand the difference in our economy, and that it is difficult for people now with so few tourists around but being hustled gets our back up no matter what country we are in.
We ended up at the Gangaramaya Temple and spent about an hour there. As so often happened in India, people, especially children, wanted selfies with Narda, so I watched that wondering why no one ever wants a selfie with me. https://tinyurl.com/y3ol83hp
The day before was some big deal holiday with an elephant that was 75-years old, ten feet tall, leading a procession. We saw a baby elephant that was tied from front and back feet and whom was very unhappy. There are many statues, a lot of ivory carvings (I thought that was illegal) and a jade Buddha which is one of their centrepieces. Apparently, it is the oldest temple in Colombo. When we were there today, Sunday, there were a lot of school children having classes and like school children anywhere they seemed quite jumpy/disruptive. Here is a twenty-second clip of them. https://tinyurl.com/y6slzdon
Before leaving the temple, we used our GPS to see if there was a nearby shopping centre and how to get to it without a million tuk tuk drivers descending upon us. Lucky for us, we found that The Mall at Colombo City Centre, Sri Lanka’s largest shopping centre was a five-minute walk away. So off we went, gleefully saying we didn’t need a tuk tuk. Even going into the shopping centre drivers came up to us saying they could take us for a tour when we came out. We got lunch, found there was a cinema and that was where we ended up. We saw Downton Abbey. The cinema was not as luxurious as ones in Chiang Mai, Phnom Penh, even Adelaide but the seats were comfortable, and the tickets were $5 bucks USD. We took the city bus home for 25 Rupees for the two of us (14-cents USD) and walked two blocks. It was a much more pleasant experience than the tuk tuk for so much more.
Narda spent so much time planning our trip around Sri Lanka, mainly by train. Guess what? There is a train strike for the past three days and no one knows when the strike will be over. We were to leave tomorrow, Monday, for Anuradhapur which would have been a three-hour train ride. The way to get there now is by crappy bus which would take six to eight hours. So, we just cancelled that trip and now are booking an Airbnb for four more days here in Columbo. If the strike is over in that time, we will continue our trip, if not, I don’t know. Perhaps we will just hang out at the shopping mall and watch movies.
A couple of examples of travelling in different-than-what-we-are-used-to spaces:
As we could not get to our next destination due to the train problems, we cancelled our accommodation and tried our best to get another place through Airbnb. We found what seemed quite suitable in another part of Colombo and booked it. The host wanted some national ID which we didn’t have, though we have our passports and photos on Airbnb. After an hour back and forth and Narda spending way too much time on the phone with Airbnb; getting to another of her speaking with the supervisor’s supervisor person with little progress. They would fix it within 24-hours, we had until next morning. A few more emails and phone calls and by ten pm we were told it would be taken care overnight. It wasn’t. Next morning, more phone calls. The message was the same that they would fix it within 12 to 24 hours. Narda explained in a Narda explaining type of way that we had to check out of our hotel in two hours and we would be on the street in a Colombo, a rather dangerous situation. Finally, we got a person who seemed to be able to do stuff. But now we had cancelled the person who was unable to take our ID and found another one. Narda tried to get the host’s phone number, to no avail. However, Crystal, our new best friend, was able to call the new host. Next, we knew we were on the way to the next place. Thanks Crystal at Airbnb, you’re the most. We got pretty much a whole house, a bit expensive for us for Airbnb at $50 a night, but the place was good and in a major city in a safe place. We were among embassies with the Thailand embassy in front of us. It was a traditional Sri Lankan, or what we would think would be a traditional Sri Lankan house. We cooked meals, wandered around the area, had good conversations with our host who was an Australian, though a Sri Lankan woman, she had family in Melbourne and spoke perfect English. One-minute clip of our Airbnb https://tinyurl.com/y4t2grmyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgtpI3n1tVA
October 9, Kandy, Ella. Hill country
Here we sit in a cloud, literally. Drinking Lion beer with a young couple; not actually a couple but 2 friends travelling together. She is from Melbourne, full of interesting ideas about alternative medicine, he is a Sri Lankan from France who also lived in Melbourne; quite the united nations, and disagrees vehemently with all her hippy medical stuff. We enjoyed talking about the cricket, Aussie rules footy, and Eudunda, where she hopes to buy a church and do it up as an Airbnb. Refreshingly, not a word about American politics.
Checking out the local library was great; a 5 minute walk away. You can sit there, under the fans, reading whatever you want. Quite a civilised way to spend the day. While Terrell happily devoured English newspapers, I found a book by Paul Theroux that I had not heard of. ‘Elephanta’, about America tourists trying to navigate India, three different stories. Well written as always.
So what happened? The rail strike is over!!!!! We were poised to take another driver for $60 USD from Colombo to Kandy, travelling east up the mountains. So we decided to visit the museum of the tooth relic (Buddha’s tooth, not Terrell’s).
The ride was uneventful, except for the most amazing toilet, a dark slimy set of descending stairs, a hole in the ground, no door (so Terrell had to stand guard), and all in pitch darkness. It got the job done. We bought some snacks at the café above and continued on our way. Oh, and we took a wrong turn and finished up on a single lane road of astonishing beauty. I had my moments about oncoming traffic, but all was well.
There was a lot of kerfuffle (Maggie, in this context it does not mean vomit) in the area, many folks taking photos of people dressed in white exiting the museum, and photographers eagerly photographing them. Something political, we never quite figured it out. However, by chance, we got into a conversation with on onlooker, and were told the train strike was over; already the day before. Blimey…good bloody news. We dashed over on the nearest tuktuk to the station and bought ourselves two 3rd class tickets with allocated seats for the 7 hour journey to Kandy. We had already booked an Airbnb there for 3 nights. Brendan assured us we would be OK in 3rd class. He, after-all, had completed the trip standing all the way, and loved it. Hmmm.
We arrived at the station the next day, more than an hour early, as we do. No one there yet. I went to the counter to ask if there any possibility of a cancellation…..ha….and there was. We could not get a refund on our previous ticket which cost us $2 each, but we decided to live dangerously and buy the upgrade regardless, for a princely sum of $5.50 each. For a 7 hour ride!!!!!!!
I missed a bit. We did take a driver to Kandy. He was a nice gentle soul, as the Sri Lankans seem to be. So very friendly, always smiling at you.
The Airbnb was one of the best we have ever been in. Stylish, modern amenities, a full kitchen with all the bells and whistles, 2 bedrooms and a gorgeous garden with the occasional monkey. The area around was also lovely. Very tropical, a steep narrow path that took us to the road above us (a little like our Shimla place in Indian Himalayas last year, but flasher). We discovered a nice local eatery, run by a family which specialised in dosa. I had pineapple dosa twice. This is the way to manage the spicy dips, cut it with pineapple. And the dosa itself was the best we’ve had and that includes India.
We enjoyed our homey stay in Kandy, though we did venture out occasionally between naps and eating and reading (just finished a great book; A Woman in Berlin, published recently anonymously by her family. It’s about the experiences of a young woman in the weeks after the defeat of the Germans, living in Berlin with incredible hardship, including frequent rape by the victorious Russian soldiers. Incredible story, and worth reading.)
Tea is a big deal in this country. We found a friendly, not pushy, tuk tuk driver at one of our hopeful trips to the deserted train station. He took us to a factory, where we got a complimentary guided tour though all the steps of tea production. Actually we had a very nice guide who was really knowledgeable. At the end, a tasting. Cups of tea, in different stages of strength; you took a teaspoon to taste the difference. Then we smelt all the different flavoured teas, which was nice. Bought a few overpriced packets, but it was worth the experience.
Sightseeing is not a prerequisite for us to enjoy a stay in a new place. I prefer the transaction with locals, the small things; like finding food, taking naps, checking out the mall. Our young couple, the ones we met inside a cloud in Ella, complained that there was nothing to do in Kandy. They were there for 1 day, saw the museum, the lake, the big Buddha high on the hill, and a museum. We were there 3 days, saw none of these things (except we did see the lake, from a distance) and loved it. OK, to each his own.
The train ride from Kandy to Ella was amazing. The scenery is gorgeous. Lots of tea growing, big vistas, waterfalls, small towns. The weather was bright and sunny, the last couple of hours of rain, which was also beautiful. A million photos were taken by my precious Terrell!!
I am now writing this, sitting in a dark bathroom on the toilet with a pillow (lid down). Terrell is happily snoring away. It is 6.30 am and I’m thinking (just thinking) of accidently waking him up. I’m getting hungry.
We decided to leave Colombo on Sunday; train or not. Sunday morning arrived and sure enough no train. We booked three nights in an Airbnb in Kandy, took an Intercity Uber for 8000 rupees ($40USD) and had a nice ride to Kandy. The driver had very little English, got lost and we ended up on a very narrow road that was more like a footpath than a road, drove for a while in a monsoon type of storm and arrived at our destination four hours later. We gave the chap 10,000 rupees, which he was grateful for. See our video of this ride @ https://youtu.be/SrR96tL7FKU
Our place in Kandy is good. More modern than our place in Colombo, two bedrooms, full clean newish kitchen, nice lounge and dining area. There is no air conditioning, but it is cooler in Kandy and there are ceiling fans everywhere. We are surrounded by well-manicured gardens and we are close to the centre of town. Ten-minute walk to a vegetarian restaurant and the supermarket. We love the place. $20/night. See our clip of our house and area https://tinyurl.com/y3jpyzhz this clip shows the craziness of the buses and streets.
Our second day we walked to the train station. Holy cow! We barely could walk the street, there were so many buses, like hundreds, due to the train strike, they were taking up the slack. We looked at buses to Ella, our next destination, wow! We could not have ridden ten minutes in them. Sorry, we are too westernized. Taking an eight-hour bus to Ella was out of the question. We changed all our hotels for the next few weeks and started over. Obviously, the train strike would continue. We had to decide by Tuesday what would we do next. Today was Monday. We continued to the train station. No one had a clue when the train strike would be over. Everyone said it was a political situation with the train drivers trying to force out the current government. We asked tuk tuk drivers, police, café people, strangers in the street. No one knew when the strike would be over. A couple of policewomen shrugged their shoulders, laughing, said ‘maybe next week’, ‘maybe next month’. I said maybe next lifetime.
While drinking tea at a scrubby little café next to the station tuk tuk drivers, all quite desperate for work, suggesting tours. One was very persistent, so we went with him to some tea factory ten kilometres out of town. He was a nice bloke, charged us 1200 rupees ($6USD) we gave him 2000, for the drive there and waiting for us for an hour, driving us to some tea fields, where we were hustled by several tea picking women to give them money for a demo, so we gave them a couple hundreds. See our clip of the tea tour… https://tinyurl.com/y2ugo2ut
The train to Ella, they say is one of the best in the world. Not sure about that, we thought the train last year up to Shimla, India was about the best one could get; https://neuage.me/2018/04/05/shimla/ (our video of that seven hour ride is at https://tinyurl.com/y6ne9x4d ) This clip of the five-hour trip to Ella is only two-minutes; perhaps we are shooting less video, enjoying the ride more… https://tinyurl.com
/y32tu5p7 And there is a story to it all…Of course. We had decided to go to Ella no matter whether the train strike ended or not. It had already gone on for twelve-days, so we would get another Uber and do the five- or six-hour hike. We were on our way to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, in central Kandy. Outside the gate we said to someone next to us something about the stupid train strike would never end. He said it had ended this morning. Holy Cow! (I think that is a Hindu thing to say) we got all in a huff and grabbed a tuk tuk to the train station, which was a ten-minute walk, but we were in a hurry. What if all the tickets got sold immediately? OK, not quite sold out, only a couple of westerns in front of us at the ticket counter. How do we get ourselves into such a knot? We asked for first class tickets, no sold out; how about second-class? No, sold out. Shit, we are stuck with third-class tickets and we have not heard nice things about third-class. Sitting in a third-class carriage at the station. At the end of the day this was not my carriage. We had no choice. We shelled out the 800 rupees for the two five-hour train rides (that would be $4USD) and were somewhat happy that at least we got on the bloody train. Well, I wasn’t too happy. This is a fault in thinking and life experience. Thinking I should be able to go first class when others can’t, why? Of course, why not. The only chance I get to ever go first class is in Asia. I can’t afford second class on flights or western trains. I always end up in the baggage section with the animals. Next morning, we were up at five. While packing I realized I had left my beloved hat (bought in Brighton, UK, last year, in memory of my best mate, Randy Dandurand) at the vegetarian Dosa restaurant we had dinner at the night before. In sheer panic, I moaned, walked around in circles, and thought there is no way they would be open at six am. Was I willing to miss our train for my hat? I found the caretaker of our Airbnb and told him my sad tale. He walked with me to the restaurant and there it was, on the counter. I gave the chap 500 rupees for his assistance (OK it equals $2.50, but still that is a lot in these parts). Would I have given up the train trip for my hat? Well, we didn’t get the answer, did we? We were at the train station at 7 am for an 8.30 am train. We thought we would at least try to upgrade, perhaps someone won’t show up. Holy Cow! There were lots of first-class seats available, but we would not get a refund for our third-class ticket. Four dollars gone. The first-class tickets were 2400 rupees ($12 bucks for the two of us). Wow! Narda told the ticket dude to give our third-class tickets to a poor person. Not quite sure how, but I think there is something wrong with a picture where we believe a poor person can go third-class, but we shouldn’t. Not to worry, that thinking didn’t affect me for long. We had wonderful seats, very comfortable, on the right side of the train to Ella, which is what the guidebooks say is the best side. We ate junk food all the way and got to Ella all happy. We left Kandy at 8.47 (that is my birth month and my birth year; how cosmic!) – arrived at 3.30. Almost seven hours. Ella was always going to be just a one-night stand. When we arrived, there was one of those monsoon afternoons they have in these parts. We got to our hotel, Grand View, Passara Road (www.9arch.com) and settled in. I think we only have two maybe three hotels on this whole trip with the rest being Airbnb. The streets are quite shocking, just muddy paths with lots of holes, but the hotel is good. We walked into town, in the pouring rain, saw a Mexican Restaurant and remembered the good Mexican meals we got a few months earlier in the States. NOTE: Mexico and Sri Lanka are not on the same page, the same menu, the same, nothing. We ordered some Mexican things that were far from Mexican, and expensive. We were the only diners. I wonder why. The cooks and waiters seemed more interested in the cricket game on the tv than serving us their crappy food. Lesson learned; don’t eat Mexican in Asia. Brendan’s comment “Rookie mistake”.
There is no train from Kandy to the coast. We had looked at this extensively whether to take a bus down the mountain, get a driver, perhaps even rent a car. There is no Uber. The hotel came up with a driver at 11,000 ($55USD) which we thought was a bit dear in relationship to other costs in Sri Lanka. For example, two first-class, seven-hour train tickets were $12. Due to rain, and we just couldn’t be stuffed, our proclamation to the hotel that we would let them know, fell flat, and ten minutes later we said we would take the driver.
The drive down the mountain was a bit nervy. Steep drops, our driver, though quite good in relationship to buses we have been on, passing vehicles on curves, dogs, cows, monkeys was a bit scary. The drive down, literally, was hairy at first. Pretty windy and steep, lots to see; waterfalls, and panoramic views. After about ½ hour we reached the flatter lands, featuring rice fields, small villages, lots of greenery and buffalo. I relaxed and tried to sleep occasionally for the remaining 4 hours. The driver has 3 children, aged 8, 11 and 16. He is very excited about the upcoming election (this seems to be a theme, I suspect the rail strike is somehow involved).
Another Narda fun morning. We are at the train station. We came here yesterday to purchase a ticket, rode our bikies, got a sunburn, stuck in traffic – see our video clip; https://youtu.be/j7gX6PakrwM, told to come back the day of the travel. Here we are. Eight am, took two tuk tuks; (try saying that fast!) one for our bags the other for our bodies. 350 rupees ($1.94USD) each for a short ride, oh well. So, we get to the station, bright eyed and bushy tailed; ticket dude says buy ticket at 9 am for the 9.20 am train. I say that is fine I will do some Photoshop or Premier video or write this…so much to do. Narda thinks no is the wrong answer and tells the ticket dude we want our tickets now at 8.10 not at nine. Ticket dude says no, come back at 8.30. @ 8.30 Narda is at the booth, the ticket dude says train is late come back in 45 minutes. Narda says that it OK she will just wait at the window. Of course, no normal person wants to have Narda standing looking at them for 45 minutes (except me) so now we have our tickets. 80 rupees each, 44 cents for the half hour ride to Galle, second class.It looks like a resort on Booking.com, but it’s actually a home stay. So the pool is not a dark blue infinity pool as illustrated, but an aqua pool, complete with algae. We love it! Right on the beach, you hear the waves (when the fan is off) all night. There are many mozzies, but I think we have that one down. The view and the area are spectacular. Last night we took our complimentary bicycles out for some exploration. We passed a restaurant on the beach which advertised chicken parmie 😊 This was not actually the case, but the food was nevertheless really excellent. We ate on a wooden platform RIGHT by the water, and looked for turtles, which the waiter swore were right there. We didn’t see any but will return. The sunset was speccie and the Lion beer was good. Our journey home was in darkness (no bike lights), despite our best efforts to leave on time. But no matter, we got back without falling into potholes. So we make our own brekkie, try to do our own washing, only to have it snatched out of our hands. It’s almost an Airbnb. I think we would stay here a good while if we could.
Checked out of our homestay/hotel this morning. It’s hot. Blimey. Yesterday we had a really great day with 2 bikes, just pedalling around the neighbourhood. Lots of narrow streets, with minimum traffic. We left pretty early, and just followed the roads that lead close to the coastline, figuring we would not get lost. 4 hours later we were not lost, but boy was I sunburnt! Oops. The heat is tiring, and we sleep more than usual.This morning we headed to the train station to go to Galle. We got there bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8.15am, and the train did not leave until 10.45 after a few announcements of delays. Oh well. I spent a lot of the trip standing in the doorway enjoying the breeze and the views. For a 50 minute trip in second class (still had to scrounge for seats……nothing reserved) we were charged around 55cents (USD). It’s worth taking the journey for sure.I’m sitting in the lounge of our new Airbnb, aircon on and enjoying some cold water. We need this air-conditioning to get our core temperature down; might take a few days. This place is right in downtown Galle, supermarket 5 minutes away, and the famous historic Dutch Fort about 15 minutes away, walking, I think.
Dinner in the Dutch Fort, in a western style place, pretty nice. Because it was a full moon religious day, they could serve no alcohol. ‘No matter’, the waiter reassured us, and brought the beer in a tea pot, complete with cups, and nice lacey table cloth. It tasted great, and I did not have to pour carefully to avoid a giant head. The food was good too, chicken satay. I must confess, I haven’t really got a handle on the local food yet. It is always spicy, despite assurances about “no spice”.
We’re heard some pretty heart wrenching stories about the tsunami in 2004, both today about his flat, which was under 6 feet of water, and the previous place in Matara where the whole property was destroyed. Apparently Galle was the worst hit, with the water coming from 2 sides. So many people were just going on with their daily work and did not see it coming. The guy told us that 42,000 folks died in Sri Lanka. I also feel bad for the struggling folks depending on tourism as there are virtually no tourists here at all, after the shooting in April. The owner today told us that the Chinese are still coming though; good on them!
Sitting in the Dutch Fort in Galle is pretty cool. It is considered to be Sri Lanka’s best preserved colonial landscape. In 1640, the Dutch captured the Fort, built by the Portuguese, and expanded the fortifications, creating a street plan which survives to this day. You can walk down Church Street and see a Dutch Reformed Church there built around 1755. The whole place is full of atmosphere, narrow streets, many original low-rise buildings that have been restored in recent years.So here we are. I said it was cool, but actually we were very hot, waiting for our food. The waiter thoughtfully brought us some little cold face-washers. He had some very strong opinions on the state of affairs in Sri Lanka, including the 41 candidates for the upcoming November elections. He says there is so much corruption here. (not the only ones…private thought) We asked him about the 2004 tsunami. He said the water was black, and so were the people rescued, covered in black. We guessed it might be volcanic ash? The tsunami did not hit the Fort; it would have remained completely intact, walls are about 20 ft thick!!! The area was protected by a peninsula; and the waves made a direct hit on the town beyond. He recalled losing several family members, and rescuing small children, all covered in black. Terrell would ask him questions about the history of the Fort, which he ignored and continued his passionate tirade about the state of things in his country, including the fact that the government had a warning from Indian Intelligence about the April, 2019 bombings and did not act on the information. I had also heard this version of things on a podcast from The Daily (New York Times). (thanks for the recommendation, Chris). Shocking really. The government was so busy with internal squabbles, this piece of deadly information was apparently ignored.
We walked to the station, bought second class tickets again (less than $1) and got great seats next to an open window on the ‘sea’ side. Two tuks tuks took us to White Villa, a modern 2 story place, all sparking white, roomy and nicely furnished. ($45 for 3 nights….this is low low season).
We met a friendly German guy, Peter, our age, who lives permanently downstairs and had a beer with him at ‘beer o’clock’. He’s lived in Sri Lanka for 40 years, goes home to Germany for 3 months each year. Interesting stories to tell. He’s had a lot of experience with corruption here, especially after the tsunami. For example, he came back from a trip to Germany with a decent amount of money donated by friends. He bought 10 computers for the local school with it. The local government officials insisted on handling the donation. When he went to the school to check, they had only received 5 computers. After that, he told us, he was doing it his way. Only directly with folks who needed help, despite being reprimanded by government officials who threatened to take away his visa if he did not do it ‘through the proper channels’. “But not,’ said Pete “this little black duck” (or the German equivalent). And he is still here. With a proper visa!
We took a local bus to the tsunami museum, down the road about 15 minutes. There are a number of little galleries displaying photos. The one we went to was owned by a couple in memory of his mother, who was killed by the flood. The photos are pretty graphic, you see much more than the media showed. Pretty shocking. This man gave us an interesting running commentary of all the photos. He is certain that there was some sort of poison in the ‘black’ water that washed in. You could see it, he said, in the bodies, and the way they blackened and swelled.
They had one of the carriages on display from the tsunami so I went in it – kind of spooky.
From Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Sri_Lanka_tsunami_train_wreck The 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami-rail disaster is the largest single rail disaster in world history by death toll, with probably 1,700 fatalities or more. It occurred when a crowded passenger train was destroyed on a coastal railway in Sri Lanka by a tsunami which followed the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The tsunami subsequently caused over 30,000 reported deaths and billions of rupees in property damage in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's seismic monitoring station at Pallekele registered the earthquake within minutes but did not consider it possible for a tsunami to reach the island. When tsunami reports first reached the dispatching office in Maradana, officials were able to halt eight trains running on the Coastal Line, but were unable to reach the Matara Express. Efforts to halt the train at Ambalangoda failed because all station personnel were assisting with the train, and no one was available to answer the phone until after the train had departed. Attempts to reach personnel at stations further south failed as they had fled or been killed by the waves.
We actually rode on the same train with perhaps a carriage from the tsunami on the same line in the same area – though of course fifteen years later. They fixed all the cars and the engine – except for the one I took a photo of above.
A hundred metres down the road was a turtle rescue centre and hatchery. A guy who collects turtle eggs from the beach and hatches them, then returns them when they are viable. He said the survival rate, in nature, is one in 100, but using his intervention, more turtles can be saved and preserved. Seemed genuine to us, though Pete the German was a little more cynical.
The bus driver said to us at the beginning, “long, long way”. It was long. We thought, we don’t mind a long ride along the coast, but this bus was the local of the local, visiting every single hamlet off the main road. But worth it. Gorgeous scenery; and who’s in a rush??
I woke during the night with a big headache; immediately thought, I have dengue fever. After taking Panadol and 8mg of codeine I slept. Woke up with a woolly head and a bit of a cold, but no dengue and no headache. Still woolly as I write this, but it is soooo hot. The humidity (no aircon here) really takes it out of you. The other day I took a 2 ½ hour nap. Blimey. We have a fan. The kids are out on the adjoining oval, in the sun.
Our first tour this trip was a river boat cruise. A small boat run by a couple of young blokes, one of whom basically followed us around the town for several hours, in the nicest possible way, before finally convincing us that it was worth doing. It was raining, pretty much all the time. Never cold, just wet.
We considered this trip and checked out the little boat. There was a black canvas cover, but the seats looked very wet, and for a 2 hour trip, we decided to wait for the rain to stop. So much to the boy’s dismay, we walked off and sat ourselves in an expensive western style coffee ship to eat carrot cake and drink coffee. We actually thought that the trip was all over. But one hour later, our young friend found us in the coffee shop, the rain stopped, we had checked with another group of travellers that these trips were OK, and we were out of excuses, so off we went with Bentota River Boat Safari. It was a great little trip, lots of mangroves, a couple of monitor lizards of the dangerous type. Apparently these guys have some poisonous barbs in their tails, which they use to swipe people or prey. And it can result in a bad injury.
But actually what I remember about this trip was the strange conversation we had with the boys. They, like other Sri Lankans we have spoken to, are some what anti Muslim. They say that the Muslim folks in the north, near Jaffna want their own homeland. The other Sri Lankans strongly oppose this, saying there is no reason why Buddhists, Christians and Muslims cannot share the country. They also told us that the Muslim doctors have been accused to secretly sterilizing non Muslim Sri Lankan women, so that the population growth of non Muslims is reduced. We also heard the same story from our homestay host, who seems quite rational and educated. I googled it. There has been a doctor recently arrested on these charges, but they have not been verified. Our local boys say this is because money has changed hands. Much to think about and you wonder what is really going on.
The boat safari dropped us off on the sand near The Eden Resort and Spa, a great western enclave where we can order whatever we want. The first time was tapas and beer by the pool. We considered buying a pass for the pool for $5 but didn’t get ‘round to it. A potato salad with satay chicken for lunch; all good.
Learned how to spell it, probably don’t come close to saying it properly but if I say to the bus driver or a passing monk where I want to go they seem to point me in some direction. We took the train from Galle. Only a bit over an hour; the second-class carriage was fine. See our video which includes a bit of the train, our visit to a turtle hatchery, a random bus ride, and well that is all in this video. https://tinyurl.com/y48x5pde
We left Galle on the 10.35 am express which set us back 44-cents USD each. We seem not to favour the humidity here. Temperature is OK at about 30C, which in Adelaide would a nice summer day. Here it is almost unbearable. In Galle and every other place, we had air-conditioning. In Ambalangoda we do not even have an overhead fan, just a stand-up fan that keeps us sweating. We have gone for walks in the morning, which is fine, but by ten am it is too hot. We have a nice apartment, on the second floor with a balcony in both front and back. Keeping all the doors and windows upon during the day helps a bit but come evening we need to close everything due to mosquitoes. It is setting us back $15USD a day so we hope to find an air-conditioned restaurant for lunch – dinner – breakfast; anything. So far we have not found any in our first couple of days and I doubt whether they exist.
A short clip on Bentota, Aluthgama Train Station and our Bentota river safari which was two hours with most of that time looking for crocs, lizards, birds, mangroves and just chillin’ as one does in Sri Lanka. https://bit.ly/2J3IPuT
Our guest house in the rain – https://youtu.be/Gefj3TThunA
Train to Negombo https://youtu.be/SrR96tL7FKU
We asked someone about the shacks along the train track. Apparently the government, after the tsunami in this area build apartment buildings and put everyone in them. The locals don’t want to live in a modern apartment and built shacks along the rail line which is where they prefer to live.
Got into a conversation with a couple of girls from Chile. They urged us to visit; ‘very safe’. This area of the world has been neglected by us; we seem to follow the same paths, Western Europe, USA and SE Asia/Indian subcontinent. Yesterday was a big train day. It started at Aluthgama Station, our closest largish station. Anyway we boarded the train, plenty of window seats in 2nd class, cranked the window right up (also for the girls) and enjoyed a spectacular ride along the ocean. Best train ride I’ve ever experienced, perhaps even better than the Kandy to Ella one.
We arrived at Colombo Fort at 1.10pm and some helpful locals waved us on to the nearly departing train to Negombo. Nice, no waiting. But then we realised that it was the local commuter train, with folks also standing (we did find seats) for the next 1 ½ hours. But interesting still. Lots of rain, and entertainment. A child throwing a tantrum which lasted the first half hour; the mother was amazing. Some train food, rice-bubble crumble? And lots of city….almost the whole way. The houses seem more middle class, compared to the coastal ones south of Colombo. In fact, on that south coast we went past some really poor areas, tiny little houses made of temporary material enjoying the most specie view of the ocean. Like a little slum…..a long narrow one. We found out later that these folks are offered new small flats to live in, but they prefer to stay where they are.
The place we are staying is excellent; aircon, 300 metres to the beach and (so we were told) ‘360 restaurants nearby’. At around 4pm, we enjoyed a great meal at Dolce Vita 27 Restaurant. So much to choose from, so little time 😊.
We are right on the Dutch Canal, built by….you guessed it, the Dutch a couple of hundred years ago. The water is the same colour as the canals in Holland.
Have you ever heard of tuk tuk racing? It’s a thing I am told. A bunch 6 crazy New Zealand chicks checked into our quiet hotel, having just competed a tuk tuk race around Sri Lanka. All in their mid 50s, some having never ridden a motorcycle, these girls called themselves “Birds of a Feather” flying flags and wearing chicken beanies. What a hoot. We joined them for drinks and stories as they polished off a significant amount of gin. They left again at 4am next morning leaving their ‘vehicles’ in the hands of our host. A nice end to our Sri Lankan stay.
OUR NEXT BLOG STORY IS ON OUR TIME IN LAHORE PAKISTAN AND WILL BE AVAILABLE HERE 25ST NOVEMBER 2019… we get back from our trip on the 19th – and we will finish assembling our Pakistan and last ten days of our trip (Udon Thani, Thailand) when we are home in Adelaide, Australia.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
Our first leg of our Asia 2019 trip (September) Narda’s notes / Terrell’s notes
When does a journey begin? Perhaps like all of us entering life itself. Conception (we’ll give those details a miss); the conception of this trip I think began when Brendan accepted an offer to teach year four(which turned out to be grade 5 at the Lahore International School, Pakistan. Nine months of planning for whatever is to pop out and challenge the parent’s perceptions of everything possible for as long as the journey goes; in our case the planning, Narda, the master planner, said easily, we’ll go to India for a month or two then cross the Wagah Border at Amritsar, and bingo there is Lahore and Brendan. She had us going up to the foothills of the Himalayas, up to Darjeeling, then a train across to Varanasi and a stay in this or that place. Then bingo… Bloody Hell, who names their baby Bingo? Well it all became unstuck when Pakistan shot down a plane or two and India did the same and India and Pakistan made faces at one another then closed the border. OK, easy, regroup and find another way into Pakistan. More on that later.
Then birth. The first sounds of life on the journey. Well we started early, yesterday to be exact, the 16th of September. We stayed at the new airport hotel. So much easier than getting up at four in the morning, cleaning house a bit, getting a family member, or taxi, or Uber, etc. to the airport. We have spent a week cleaning and setting up the house, tarting up the garden and lawn. We even bought a power sprayer and I spent three full days cleaning the patio bricks, the carport, driveway, footpath, front porch, sprayed the car, windows, neighbour’s cat… a new toy that gives results. The reason for such an extra clean up is that we have a family from France staying for six-weeks, with whom we will exchange in the future.
We got to the airport hotel at four pm. We took the bus from in front of our house and that was the birth of this journey. The Atura Hotel is good. We had dinner and the buffet breakfast that was included – a very good buffet. We were on the sixth of seven floors with the runway view, nice to watch the sun rise over Adelaide. Below photo isn’t the sunrise, night-time – we live at the foothills of the Adelaide Hills in the background about 45 minutes away, or an hour on bus.
Next time we will ask for the opposite side which we reckon is the seaside and sunset. Also, with check-in, next time we will check our bags in when the gate opens at 6.45 am for the 9.45 flight. That way we can walk back to the hotel and have an hour for the buffet, read the paper, get ourselves all worked up about the world’s issues (today was when some unhappy folks sent drones over to Saudi Arabia to bomb their oil wells taking out 5% of the world’s supplies, and Trump saying he would deal with whomever that the Saudi’s (the ones who bombed NYC on 911) told him to do, such as bomb the shit out of Iran. When travelling it is best not to be too alarmed with loudmouths. Anyway, we still would take the extra time for the buffet as we did it in less than half an hour which made me feel rushed. Hey, I am 72, everything makes me feel rushed. The hotel restaurant is a couple of minutes to the check-in gate, they are connected. It has taken Adelaide a long time to catch up and get an airport hotel and it sure is good. Everything is getting better in our little town, which was recently rated as #10 in the most liveable cities in the world.
So we rush through security, Narda is in one line with all our stuff, taking computers out of bags, keeping track of stuff, I am opening my shirt to show my implant, waiting for someone to compliment me on all the gym work I have done in the two months back in Adelaide, no one does, and I get the usual extra Leo treatment, being special and all. Then we must go through another security line in the international area, why they can’t have one security check for both domestic and international I don’t know, perhaps when they do Adelaide will be #8 in the world’s most liveable cities category. Anyway, this time they aren’t doing body checks, just the carry-on crap. I have my usual two items, the backpack with camera, laptop, gadgets galore and my shoulder bag with what doesn’t go in the other bag + my hat. So, we are sitting in the lobby waiting to board our plane being board and I realize I have left my shoulder bag back at the security area. In my usual panicky way, I run back and get my bag. Now I am in the doghouse with someone next to me a bit cross with me wanting to know why this has happened and why I could not keep track of two bags + my hat. I try to explain to deaf ears that I am having a hard transit of my Mercury from Saturn and it’s making me feel a bit loopy. If anyone has ever read any of our other posts, this could be a recurring theme in our travels, me losing stuff and a significant other being a bit cross with me.
I travelled with my two boys in 1985, when they were two and four to New York from Adelaide and again in 1992 when we stopped in Hawaii, LA, and New York to see family and friends then on to Europe. Both times I came back with very little of what we started with though we had other stuff replacing the misplaced somewhere in the world items. Sacha still talks about those trips; he is scarred for life. Buys the best luggage available and does the pack-supreme routine that the significant other next to me has adopted as a way of travel.
Right now, I am keying away on Malaysian Airlines, MH138; Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur with a one-hour pit stop then up to Bangkok.
The last blog, USA2019, took a couple of months to complete. A couple of months after the trip. Narda had said, not again, she edits, keeping some of my more stupid/silly/ridiculous/too wordy stuff from getting too out of hand, and adds the intelligent stuff. So, the mandate is to complete this soon after we get home in the middle of November, nine-weeks after birth of this journey and my corny metaphor. Plus, a month after we get home is getting close to Christmas time and we are expecting everyone to visit. You will probably visit too. We have the four boys and family; Sacha and Georgia driving over from Melbourne, Chris – Jessica – Liam here from Washington DC, Brendan from Lahore and Stu, Clare and the girls from the next suburb over. We have a lot to do before then. I even want to paint the house and cover a section of the patio that is too open for Adelaide’s hot summer. Then we are out the door again with a three month stay in the Netherlands, January to April 2020, and two lots of home exchanges from there staying at our house, six weeks each. So, what doesn’t get written on this trip will never be shared, lucky for the reader who skims this. And that is the introduction that you could have skipped to get to the actual trip.
Hopefully we will be able to add to our magnet collection. Narda’s rule is that we had to have stayed at least one night at a place before qualifying for space on fridge. There is still room…
18 September Wednesday
Thailand is our first stop on this trip. The changeover in Kuala Lumpur as usual was smooth. We had a couple of hours between flights and took the shuttle train over to the international departures. Note: if you are hungry and in search of a meal, there are more restaurants in the main terminal where overseas flights arrive plus there is the great tropical rain forest to wander in. To go international from KL hop the aerotrain over to the Satellite Building. There is a Starbucks and a local eatery. We grabbed a couple of quiches on the go as we did not have much time for our two-hour flight to Bangkok. We were served good meals on the flight so the rush to grab a bit was not necessary.
We made a bit of a mess getting to our hotel in Bangkok. Thinking we could get there by the metro from the airport we navigated our way onto the train and happily headed off into the night. To the end of the metro line as we believed our hotel was across the street from there, in the rain. The stop that we had thought was our stop was the Bangkok railway station, unofficially known as Hua Lamphong station, and not the stop we wanted. Bangkok has less English-speaking people than other places we have been in Thailand and it took us quite some time to get tickets to wherever it was we thought we were supposed to be going. Needless to say we got the next metro stop confused and got another metro line, eventually getting within walking and grumbling distance of our hotel by ten pm. A couple of hours of wandering lost around Bangkok in the rear-view mirror. Tip: take a taxi from the airport.
We stayed at the Hopeland Hotel (1110, 5 Sukhumvit Rd, Khwaeng Phra Khanong, Khet Khlong Toei, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110) http://hopeland8.com/ The website looks a lot better than the place itself. The many girls behind the counter when we arrived seemed more interested in their cell phones than in serving us. Narda rang down immediately when we got to our room saying the bed was too hard and we could not sleep on it, could they bring us a mattress topper, which they either did not have or could not be bothered with. We were so exhausted that sleeping on a hard bed didn’t matter by the time next morning arrived. We paid the USD $22 for two buffet breakfasts which was good. The swimming pool is outside the dining area. We wanted to go in, do our aqua-fit/Zumba exercises we do three mornings a week back in Adelaide, but to be thrashing about in front of people eating seemed like an idea to miss. We paid an extra 1000 bahts ($33) to keep our room until 6 pm. I found an exercise-weights room which we both made use of; well I used the equipment and Narda did the vibrating electric chair exercises.
It was a long long drive in gridlocked traffic to the train station to go Chiang Mai. The station is full of homeless folks living there permanently. It was nice to see a bunch of volunteers distribute food in little take away containers to them. We had lots of time to spare, so we ate a meal in a hotel opposite the station. Pretty nice food, and a view. We almost got caught in a sudden monsoonal downpour on the way back to the train. Really hard rain with strong winds! Blimey.
Not knowing how to get to the ticket office from where we were dropped off at the train station we marched across the road; big multi-lane roads, three of them, dodging traffic to get to the DOB building where the likes of us get tickets. Narda had paid for them online and we had to collect them in person. Note: Book ahead by months to get a train as they fill up, like in India where we had to book three-months in advance to have any hope of getting a train. Boring story short, there is a tunnel, from the train station to the metro to the other side where the DOB building is that we found to get back to the train station then back to the other side to eat. Note: Don’t expect to find a good meal at the train station, there are a couple of coffee shops and a very local suspect looking eatery. Narda spotted a restaurant at the top of a hotel so we trudged off in search of a feed and ended on the 12th floor of the Prime Hotel Central Station Bangkok, see photo below. The food was good, expensive, but it was a good place to spend more than an hour away from the crowded train station.
Narda found Dunkin Donuts and bought us each one which unfortunately I sat on when we were on the train, so they were merged, flat doughnuts, paper thin.
The train trip was very scenic. We both hit the sack, me on the top bunk. I slept pretty well considering; rocking and people talking a lot, and the fluros on all night. A friendly conductor tried to teach me some essential phrases in Thai. He said, “You are a teacher?” Not sure what to make of that??? It’s a slow train, but well worth the trip. You do need to rug up because the aircon is pretty cold.
video of the train ride over at…. https://tinyurl.com/y69zv9ry
The train left on time at 10 pm and arrived 12.30 the next afternoon. Narda got settled quickly, I stayed up writing and playing with photos I had taken. It all seems secure; our main bags were outside of our cubby house along the hallway. We kept our bags with laptops, cameras, phones, etc. in our sleeping areas. There is a first-class train with individual cabins but that left earlier and arrive six am. We wanted to see the last section, through the mountains and only the second-class train did that. The bed was comfortable, softer than the previous night’s hotel. We were both up at five am then slept a bit more, then off to breakfast which was eggs, toast, coffee, and Narda had the roadkill, probably whatever the train hits along the way fried up for meals. The lower bunk, my bed, folds back in to two seats.
According to the internet – “Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.”
It’s cooler today; been pretty hot and humid. The last few days we walked around the area, discovered the Ping River, a China town nearby where I bought 3 metres of nice material to make something. Not sure what yet. The dentist was all good, no cavities for either of us. My kind of dentist! I’ve been bitten by mozzies despite my best efforts. Big inflamed bites. But it’s only 1% that become Dengue fever, so the odds are ok, I guess. Yesterday we saw a cool movie Ad Astra. Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.
We rarely don’t go to the same place for meals but the restaurant across the road has such a good breakfast. Chedi Home (22/5 Chaiyaphum Rd S. 1. (chedihome.com) 100 Thai Baht ($4.82 Australian / $3.28 USD). First a fruit dessert like thingy; todays was purple substance wrapped around banana and rice in a banana leaf, yesterday’s was something else quite good and the first day was banana in a sweet milky substance. Then there are two plates of various fruits that we mix and match, and Narda gets eggs, toast, salad, roadkill and I get three eggs, toast, salad. We eat at 7 or so and not again until noon we are so full. Our Airbnb doesn’t have a cooking area so all our meals we eat out. It is a bit of a challenge for me as I have been on a low-carbs diet for years and here it is impossible, so I am just relaxing and letting my blood sugars go nuts for a while. View from our balcony.
Narda does an early morning coffee run across the street. We even take our own cups. The coffee lady opens her stand about 6 am and her official hours have her there until two pm. However, we have found that she nicks off about 10. No doubt because she runs out of coffee by then. Narda says that she brings the boiling water with her and brews at in her stand. The longer one waits in the morning the cooler it becomes so we get ours early. Here is a one-minute clip from our balcony of Narda doing the coffee run. https://bit.ly/333T1ep
We took a songthaew, the Thai pickup taxi truck, (The songthaew takes its name from the two bench seats fixed along either side of the back of the truck) to Maya Shopping Mall – SFX Cinema and saw the flick ‘Ad Astra’, which Narda reviewed above (Not academy material but a fun sci fi into future planet travel starring Brad Pitt, which is really enough for me.) 450 baht, for the two of us, about $7.50 USD for the luxury seats. The price has doubled since we were here last (February 2017). We are paying seven bucks Australian, seniors’ rate, for movies in Adelaide in luxury seats now so not such a great deal. We find the eatery in the basement the best place to eat. There are many vending stalls and I loaded up on sushi at five baht (sixteen cents USD) each. We left the mall at 2.30 thinking we would go home and have a bit of a nap. We got home at 5.30. A series of missed directions a couple of songthaews and a tuk tuk finally got us home. It took us twenty minutes to get to the mall and three hours to get home. And yes, that is with GPS using maps me or some such app. We were so fatigued we didn’t go back out for dinner and had crackers and cheese for din din which didn’t sit well during the night. See, even at 72 years of age one doesn’t do everything correctly in life.
And a video of our tuk tuk rides; https://bit.ly/2nhHkSb
In the evenings we ate dinner at local dives/eatery across main road. One we did not like and we would say to give a miss was Sompetch Kitchen, I had mushrooms in sauce which was OK, Narda had Pad Thai which she didn’t like and the spring rolls were coldish and yuckish.
Narda watching Thai television in Thai wondering if the narrative is worth understanding in some soapy soap opera, while waiting for our takeaway Pad Thai meal.
Of course, the real reason, we tell ourselves, that we are in Chiang Mai is to go to the dentist. We have been here a few times with the most recent being in February 2017 – https://neuage.me/2017/03/10/thailand-2017/ our dentist says we should come more frequently. Hey mate, Australia is a long way to go every six-months for a teeth clean. Which is all we needed this time, thankfully. It set us back 1200 Thai Baht, $39.38 USD, about a tenth of the Australian price. Yes, we get free medical stuff (not prescriptions, they are set at about $5.60 Australian/month/script) in Australia, scans, blood tests, doctors visits (including the many specialists I go to), everything except dental and glasses. The last time we needed fillings, crowning and etc making it quite worth the while. http://www.chiangmaidental4you.com/ They are top notch, having the latest crap to drill around with. Our friend Frank had implants there a few years ago and said the cost was a tenth of what it would have been in the States. It is our fourth time to the dentist.
We spent a week in Chiang Mai, thinking we may have to go back to the dentist after our first visit, but lucky us, we just got to hang about for a week. We were staying outside the walled old section and we did the usual, went to a modern shopping centre (nice air conditioning on a hot, as every day is, day), got a massage at the local Women’s Massage Center By Ex-Prisoners for about eight-dollars each for our hour’s labour. Narda got the full body massage, I got the foot massage for an hour. Very good, highly recommended. Do so every few days to stayed tuned into something or the other; the cosmos, inner Self, afternoon nap… http://www.dignitynetwork.org/womens-massage-center/
We did do some shopping, nothing significant. Narda saw some material she went ga-ga over so we bought it, realized once home we didn’t want to drag it around Asia for the next few months and trudged off to find a post office to mail it back to Adelaide. The local river, The Ping River, is a lovely shade of brown. Here is Narda going across it. My concern, after seeing some fish, floating haphazardly on the top, was that perhaps eating fish here was not the best idea.
And there are many temples and shrines all over the place, well worth the wander through. We didn’t do temples this time as we have before, though we know they maintain the happiness culture of the Thai people in Chiang Mai. I enjoyed watching the monks each morning stopping at the restaurants and food stands in front of our house collecting stuff from the locals. For example, two adolescents from the restaurant in front of us would each morning stand in front of their place with bags of apparently consumable stuff, when a monk would come they would be on their knees, the monk saying stuff, probably singing a Dylan song from the 1960s, give him their bags of goodies and then go off chatting as any two adolescent girls would (oh dear is that sexist? Millennial Me-2ers shoot me).
24 September Tuesday
25 September Wednesday
OK time to move on. We checked out of the nice little air bnb and all of its mozzies. I think we finally got control of them; our electric Indian mozzie plug, plus the spray on, plus me wearing long sleeves all the time, plus the tennis racket slapper…seemed to do the job and I did not get bitten again.
We took a red songthaew to the bus station, way too early, and enjoyed our business class bus to Chiang Rai (VIP Green Bus!) Big seats that almost recline to lying down; there are 3 across the bus, 2 on one side and one on the other. Nice.Tim and Agnes were waiting at terminal 2. We had a lovely reunion with our dear friends, so nice. Lots and lots to talk about.
We always get inspired by them; their generous life and attitude to others. We might try some of their ideas. Online courses in just about anything for free. One of the courses is about the human biodome, which I think I would like to do. Also courses of health and the human body. And perhaps this new diet that some folks are doing, where you eat for 8 hours a day then fast for 16. Not sure if I have the stamina for it. It is supposed to rejuvenate your cells and hence your body.
They had a nice meal prepared for us and we (Tim and I) drank beer.
The second day we had a relaxing morning, an interesting lunch where we made our own fresh spring rolls, then went for a nice drive around the countryside; saw some beautiful views and different areas of Chiang Rai we had not seen before.
Then in a nice lake setting we had afternoon tea, and Tim and I made some good headway on our beer drinking. In the evening, we had dinner at a restaurant belonging to people they were friends with. I had chicken satay, they all had mystery vegan stuff.
Dinner at Give Green Farmhouse Restaurant
Then off to the airport and a short flight back to Bangkok; the other airport. In the Amari hotel now; just ate some expensive but good pizza. The hotel actually joins right on to the airport which was wonderful. A 4-star place for sure.
26 September Thursday
Our video clip below with Agnes and Tim and how to make Butterfly Tea and so much more is at https://tinyurl.com/yy8rmbhf
27 September Friday
As so often is the case of life with Narda, we had a major, perhaps minor, incident at the airport. We checked our bags in and went through security. I did my usual sidestepping to avoid the radar due to my implants and Narda’s bag set off the alarm. OK, she forgot to take her precious Swiss Knife with all the gadgets out of her carry-on bag and put into her checked in luggage. They tried to confiscate it with Narda pleading to keep it. Finally, they said she could put it into her checked in luggage if it was not already on the plane. She went back to the check in was told in no uncertain terms that they would not retrieve her bag to put the bloody knife into it. Narda said, as only she is capable of saying, ‘No, is the wrong answer’. Which of course confused everyone present. She asked for the supervisor’s supervisor, getting someone saying that if the bag was not already on the plane they would go get it from the trolley headed to the plane, which they did, as Narda had already pointed out that no was the wrong answer. She slid the Swiss back into her bag and triumphantly returned through customs to tell me her good news. She would never have gotten away with such antics in Australia or the USA or anyway else in the world for that matter. We have many stories over the years like this, my favourite being the, ‘Do not take my Vegemite’ story, https://neuage.me/2013/08/11/do-not-take-my-vegemite/, where some mean official-acting people tried to take Narda’s jar of Vegemite from her at an airport in China.
There is an adequate series of restaurants on the top floor; Narda had another Pad Thai, her fourth in a week and she put this as number two of OK Pad Thais. I had some stringy vegetarian slop, that like all food in Asia makes my blood sugars go up and up.
As we had the paid equivalent of ten bucks more for upgraded seats on the Thai Airlines flight to Bangkok, we were in the first rows. The plane was full, from row five back meaning we were the only ones in the first five rows. We could see why no one had paid the extra ten bucks, the seats were the same as the rest of the plane except for a red cloth on the headrest. There was no more space between the seats, and they were not wider. However, we both had a row with the three seats to ourselves and I took another zillion photos of clouds to illustrate my writings with.
We arrived at Don Mueang International Airport at 4 pm, staying at Amari Hotel connected to airport $60 USD/night including buffet breakfast. It is a four-star hotel with a gym and swimming pool. We had dinner there choosing Western meals; pizza and beer for Narda and spaghetti for me. Both were quite expensive for Thailand. Narda liked her pizza and beer, my meal was quite average and definitely not low carb. As we were a few minutes from the terminal we went over and checked on our early morning flight and paid eleven bucks extra for seats in the first row of the plane as we were told these were the best seats.
We were up at five am and at the check-in counter for our flight to Colombo by 5.20am. As were the first people in line of no one else (then I suppose it is not really a line) we had our bags checked in and we were headed back to the hotel by 5.30. The buffet breakfast did not open until six; but when did silly time rules apply to us? Seeing there was already food set up we went in and started filling our plates as several people came running toward us to say the buffet begins at six. Too late mate we already have food on our plate. We were very polite though firm as we are when we know we are pushing boundaries in order to get what we want. At St Lukes School in the village, New York City, where Narda worked for five years the staff have a saying, ‘what would Narda do’ and the verb, ‘I will Narda that’. Even new staff members who never had met Narda sometimes use that term, we were told. (It means that sometimes it is easier to get forgiveness than permission and , and sometimes ‘no’ is simply the wrong answer). We did say our flight was leaving early, the buffet was included in our hotel price and besides they should have opened at 5.30 for people catching early flights. We did compromise and sit in a section of the restaurant that was not visible from the front. By the official time of six arrived, and folks came in to hurriedly eat breakfast before their flight, we were almost finished. BTW, the Amari Hotel at Don Mueang International Airport is the best breakfast buffet we have ever had. There were so many islands of so many foods and drinks that we left quite full.
By 6.30 we were through immigration and sitting in the waiting section for our flight which left at 7.55 feeling quite full and content with our front row of three seats which had more leg room then the rest of the plane and we had the middle seat to spread our crap out on. I got to take another zillion photos of clouds and we arrived in Colombo three hours later.
As I have done since the mid-1960s, when I used to call my work picture-poems; including years as a street artist in New Orleans (1972-74)/ Honolulu(1980)/ Baltimore, Maryland (1977 – 1979 (/Adelaide, South Australia (1994 – 1996). I write on to illustrations and photographs: now my stuff is called ‘Thoughts in Travel’ and I update them often daily on Twitter, Linkeden, Pinterest, Flickr, Tumblr
Or all of September’s are over at Behance
We are now in Sri Lanka and will post that one at the end of October.
cheers from Narda and Terrell
homepage @ https://neuage.org
Daily writing https://neuage.org/2019/
Books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Terrell-Neuage/e/B017ZRK55U
As is so often the way we do things, this USA 2019 trip has been a long time coming. We started with planning to be at Narda’s son’s Chris’ 40th birthday, several years ago. We wanted to do a combination of Airbnb, Chris’ home in Washington DC and Home Exchanges. This is how we have travelled the past few years in Europe. In Asia we combine Airbnb and hotels/guest houses. The idea was to stay out of hotels for this three-month trip and we succeeded. We first contacted a couple in Denver, 9th of November 2017 and they wrote back soon after. We confirmed exchanging in July 2018 for now, April – May 2019. They are looking at our house for early 2021; their winter, our summer. Currently they are sailing in the Caribbean. In 2018 we began speaking with Lawrence, our teaching mate from our China years, for a trade in Florida. Quick jump in this story is that we had a wonderful stay in Orlando at his home toward the end of this trip.
We have the rest of this year long ago planned/paid (Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), as well as next year, 2020 (settled last year). Currently we are negotiating with people for 2021. I am saying this as even when I re-read our blogs, I think we do so much travel, how does this happen? Narda does the legwork of getting places to stay, tracking down incredible flight deals, and generally does so much that all I need to do is play on the computer, look out the window and excitingly exclaim what a marvellous place we have suddenly been transported to.
Instead of many videos this trip we have made sixteen slideshows and only one video. They are grouped together here or view them as they are slotted into where we are speaking of. The slideshows are about a minute each.
All USA Playlist https://tinyurl.com/y4o3halm I have also made a QR image to click with your phone if that floats your thingy.
15 April Monday
Our last days in Adelaide and we “child sat’’ the grandies. Can’t say babysit anymore now that they are five and seven. We spent a day packing; how to get all we need for three-months into seven kilos carry-on and 22.7 kilos (50 pounds) check-in stuff. Narda is the master-packer, I easily make my piles of all that I want, and she makes ‘executive decisions’ of what is taken, as I see my many favourite tee-shirts and other garments find their way back on to their shelf.
Getting our home ready for three months away is always a project. People will be staying, coming and going and we always seem to have too much stuff in our bulging suitcases. We have been doing this for twenty-years and have yet to master the luggage thing, though we do well leaving home, it is returning that becomes a nightmare with all we collect along the way. This trip was exceptional too much stuff brought back home – I will get to that, later. I am sort of responsible for this excess.
We left Adelaide in the afternoon and had an overnight in Sydney. As we had an afternoon flight, we had planned to take the bus from the front of our house to the airport. Knowing that we can go to our bus stop and 45-minutes later be at an airport then off to anywhere in the world is a wonderful feeling. However, the day before we were to leave, Narda’s sister, Caroline, offered to drive us to the airport which was a nice option.
I try to go to Sydney each year as a memorial to my son, Leigh, who died there in 2003 and this year the only time we could get to Sydney was by doing it on this trip as a stopover to the States. We stayed at the Budget Ibis as it was near the airport and was cheap. Note to self, yuck: location sort of OK, but we had to cross lots of traffic getting there with our crap, though we got a shuttle the next day. The rooms were old, small, dingy which is OK. It was getting from there to the metro to get to Olympic Park that was difficult; lots of construction, crossing busy large intersections. Nevertheless, we had lunch downstairs at the Ibis-Novotel that we try to get to each year. We spent the rest of the day getting back to our cubicle at the Ibis.
Friday we were on the 9 am flight, 17 hours from Sydney to Houston. Long flights are boring, and we
have found United as one of the worse airlines; unfriendly staff, food not very good, though the movie selection is good, and it is the cheapest. We ignore the yucky parts and move forward. We had three hours in Houston before our flight to Washington D.C. A rather uninteresting note; the pilot announced that we had left Sydney at 9.06 am Friday and arrived into Houston at 9.06 am Friday. Groovy. We had just spent seventeen excruciating hours flying, only to discover that we had not used up any time.
We were to stay in DC from Friday evening until the following Tuesday when we were to fly to Denver. However;
Narda’s friend from her teaching days at St Luke’s had a tragic event in her life which changed our plans. Her eldest son, only in his late 20’s, died suddenly several days before we left Adelaide. The day before we left, we learned that the funeral would be on Saturday, the day after we would arrive in DC. Instead of going to Chris’ home after we arrived in DC we decided to continue.
Two hours after arriving in DC we were on the Acela Express to NYC. We booked the overpriced Doubletree Hilton at Times Square (much higher than usual as it was Easter Weekend) and finally got to lay down after close to thirty hours of travel. We were back out around midnight as hunger got the best of us. Luckily, there was a Taco Bell a block away and we got to eat with the denizens of the night before going back and passing out…until the hotel clock radio woke us up at 6 am, no doubt from some previous weary traveller heading out of town.
Once again hunger entered our world and we took a subway to the West Village. Getting off at West fourth we headed to Rocco’s (Pasticceria Rocco) on Bleeker Street for a wonderful NYC breakfast. The funeral we were attending was a few blocks away on Bleeker.
I wore a suit and tie for the first time since working at Dalian American International School in China, five years earlier, such is retirement.
The funeral was incredible, full of JD’s many friends, some dressed in the colourful blazers he loved to collect. The room was decorated with lots of his stuff, notably Star Wars memorabilia. His love of Star Wars was celebrated; after each of his friends gave a eulogy, they would say “may the Force be with you”, and the gathered folk would respond “and also with you”.
After the funeral we went to Cowgirl’s for lunch (519 Hudson St) a couple of blocks away from where Narda taught for five years (St. Lukes). After Cowgirl’s we went uptown and spent time at Ronnie and Karen’s place.
Not having an American sim card, we tried several phone companies; Verizon and some other losers could not help us. The problem is that US sim cards are not compatible with our Australian phones. T-Mobile at Times Square thought they could help and after hours of little success (one of their cards worked in my phone but would not in Narda’s) we left late at night back to our hotel. Times Square is a miserable place. It is used to be groovy in the 1960s, even in the 1970s, but now it is worse than Disneyland.
On Sunday (21st April) we took the bus from NYC to DC. The bus was $30 and took about three hours depositing us at Union Station. It was comfortable with Wi-Fi to keep us from needing to talk with one another. Narda’s son Chris collected us and left us at the church he preaches at and at the end of his session we took Liam home, stopping at his favourite eatery, Chipotle Mexican Grill. I rarely eat at chain restaurants, except for McDonald’s in Australia because they give seniors a free coffee for a purchase over three dollars. Since a coffee cost $3.70, we order one coffee and get the second free and get to read the newspaper. A big day out in our world when in Australia. Chipotle is good though, probably not good for a low-carb diet but they know how to make a vegetarian and a meat eater happy. We spent the next day walking Liam to school, riding on buses and mainly catching up on sleep and getting used to a new time zone that is 13-hours different from what we had been used to.
Well not exactly getting into sync with our new time zones. Though we have been in NYC for a couple of days, one would think we would have gotten some sleep, but we got even less in NYC. We were up too early the next morning and packing ready to fly off to Denver. Believing it would be warm(er) in Denver we left a suitcase behind for when we would return in a month. As we usually do when in DC we took the shuttle to the airport and were off to Denver. Our roundtrip to Denver set us back about twenty bucks for the two of us as we used our United points.
I have been wanting to see Denver Airport terminal since first reading the conspiracy sites about it. One theory is that there is a secret bunker located under the Denver Airport. DIA is the largest airport in the United States, the second largest airport in the world behind King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia. Of course, the conspiracies began shortly after the invention of the internet in the mid-1990s (the internet was invented in 1990) as most conspiracies have. [For example, layout of the runways of the airport is in the shape of a swastika. But it is the artwork on the walls that has everyone going nuts. Murals that can be viewed in the baggage claim area feature content that, according to some, feature future military oppression and a one world government like the concept of “big brother.” The most memorable of these pieces is a large green soldier of sorts with an eagle symbol on his hat, a bayonet tipped gun and a large curved sword in the other hand. Underneath the soldier are signs of poverty and distress, a woman clutching her baby and children sleeping in ruins. Viewers of the piece state that it appears to represent themes of future military oppression and a one world government. The artist of the piece, Leo Tanguma, however, claims that the mural and others like it represent man-made destruction of the environment and genocide while the people of the world come together to live in peace. The two large murals are entitled “In Peace and Harmony with Nature” and “The Children of the World Dream of Peace.” Within the Denver International Airport there is a dedication marker which is inscribed with the compasses and square associated with the Freemasons. Additionally, this marker lists two of the grand lodges of Freemasonry located in Colorado. Among all the odd decor of Denver International Airport is a statue of an open suitcase. Within this suitcase is a honed demon with its head in its hands.] This stuff is from this website if you want to read more, https://www.exploringlifesmysteries.com/denver-international-airport-conspiracy/ And there is more about bunkers beneath the airport, statues and other silly stuff. So, were we rewarded for all our research? No, the whole bloody airport is going through a reconstruction and the walls are covered. Next conspiracy…
We have a house exchange in Denver. Our hosts had left their car at the airport long term parking and we found it with little effort and were off to our new home. American freeways in the dark, with lots of road construction, after driving on the other side of the road for the past whenever months in Australia is a challenge. Not to worry we rocked up at our beautiful new digs and found the remote to open the garage and we were able to get inside and say wow. The house was three sizes larger than ours. In our month there we decided to move into the basement as that was large enough for us, it had a lounge, bedroom, bathroom, and a big table to do our never-ending computer work on. We never used two of the lounges upstairs or the master dining room or several of the bathrooms.
We slept in. We have a month to explore Colorado so there was no need to rush out into the high altitude. That was our first ah ha moment. Not only jetlag, then after sort of adjusting to eastern time for three days we now were in Central or is it Mountain time? Then there is the height thingy. A mile high. Cool. After a couple of trips between the basement, the main floor, the next floor up we were puffed out. I get altitude sickness at two and half thousand metres, or I came to learn of that when we were in Quito, Ecuador, 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) a few years ago. After a couple of days, we had to flee, unfortunately, we only had those couple of days to see that wonderful city. Recently when we spent a couple of weeks in Shimla, India I was fine. There the altitude is 1924.00m (6312 feet). Denver is around 1,730 metres (5,700 feet). Not quite sure why we both got puffed out more in Denver than in Shimla where we walked heaps. We drank lots of water as recommended.
Our first full day in Denver, our stay for the month was in the town of Centennial (Arapahoe County), about sixteen miles from Denver City Centre, “the safest City in Colorado for the last eight years” according to their site, http://www.centennialco.gov/ Not sure as there was a school shooting while we were there, more about that later. We found the area friendly and it was easy to find what we needed. We were in a very suburbia area meaning a car-friendly area; though we did find walking trails not far from our home. We (well me in particular) excitingly found Sprouts Farmers Market, within walking distance. A giant health food store with those wonderfully high-priced products, which happily we found later at Walmart for much less. Left to my own devices I could have walked home with a suitcase of ‘health foods’, needless to say, I didn’t. We stayed home most of the next day too except to go to a nearby Target store to get photos printed. I seem to be stuck in the digital world of photos and Narda likes to print photos and put them in her diary. As we travel, we look for stores that have a photo machine that does small prints, for her book. As Narda points out, we still have family photos from many years ago (I have family photos from the early 1900s from my parents, not with me in them in the early 1900s, I am only 72) and we have lost many digital setups. So, there you go. Having both is the way to save those fleeting memories that last for hundreds of years. We worked on our projects at home; Narda’s writing diary and my online textual-photos I post on too many social sites.
On our third day we got out into the world and found a T-Mobile centre to try and sort out our phones. We found a friendly chap that not only got us a three-month card but gave us new phones with it. Not top of the range of course but they work as phones and not as computers and cameras, recording devices, navigational, and all the other useless bells and whistles that phones have. They still took photos and had navigation and all the basics, just not high quality, which all we wanted them for was as phones, and for that they were fine. Our Australian ‘high-end’ phones were still useful as cameras and computers when there was Wi-Fi.
After three days we rose from our zombie-zoned-out times and felt normal. Our friends, Frank and Kay from teaching days in Dalian, China, came to visit. The last time we saw them was in 2014 in Bagan, Myanmar, when we were also with Jean and Sean from our Dalian teaching days and who we will visit later during this trip, in Florida. They stayed for a couple of nights with us. It was fun.
After an evening and next morning of catching up and sharing stories with our friends a bit we Frank drove us on a sight-seeing tour of some of the mountains. We went to where Buffalo Bill was buried and did some stuff and learned about cool Bill, found it all quite interesting took photos then moved on to Red Rocks Amphitheater. http://tiny.cc/b6xdcz
Red Rocks Amphitheater at Morrison, Colorado, https://www.redrocksonline.com/ is the home of outdoor music on steroids. Most music stars since the early 1900s have played in the 9500-capacity arena. My personal experience here was great. We were trolling around the place looking at the music hall of fame, looking out at the view, taking too many photos when I realized I did not have my phone. (I change lenses on my camera and thought I must have set my phone down when putting the zoom on our camera) Not only did I not have my phone but my phone was one of those wallet setups that us post-millennials (decades-post…) put our credit cards, driver’s licenses, photos of ourselves or our loved ones, which ever fits in the most… in panic we all looked all over, spoke to people, left phone numbers and went off to find the best way to cancel our credit cards which of course would have stuffed us up no end. As we were walking out of Red Rocks toward our car one of the staff came running up to us and said, “is this your phone”. It became our Red Rocks miracle.
Frank and Kay live in Loveland, Colorado. There are about three excellent sculpture parks in Loveland. Benson Sculpture Garden is the one we spent the most time at. Well worth the visit. Our little slide show of the sculpture garden is over at http://tiny.cc/4cydcz.
We spent a few days, two different times at their home. They were such great tourists guides, we had experienced this in Myanmar five years earlier when they showed us around their hometown, at the time, of Yangon. We spent a day driving up into Rocky Mountain Park, and even in April there was snow on the ground. See our one-minute slideshow of this amazing area at http://tiny.cc/yeydcz
We had a couple of down days staying at home, eating low-carb, organic, allegedly nutritional substances, walking around our area, acting out the same routine as we do back in Adelaide with our morning walk. I have a bowl of seeds, probably bird seed, but I like to think it is doing me good, have our super healthy dinner and watch Netflix series. We watched ‘After Life’ (http://tiny.cc/bgydcz); series created, produced, directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais. We haven’t liked too many shows that Ricky Gervais is part of, he seems to appeal to the millennials, (we rarely think he is funny) but this series was well worth the watch. I see there will be a season two so that will be what we will watch in some other part of the world. (Netflix has announced it is renewing “After Life” for a six-episode season 2, which will launch in 2020. … But now I have to make sure the second season is even better, so I’ll probably have to work much harder than usual. Annoying really“ said Gervais. Apr 3, 2019). We also watched ‘Hell on Wheels’, which I describe a bit below when writing about Cheyenne. Really the series to be watching when in this part of the world.
As excited as children possibly can be, we awoke 30th, April to snow. We went bananas. It may be difficult to discern, but there is snow falling in the below photo. I built a snowman (on the outside table) and posted the photo on Facebook. (spoiler alert, I did this photo in Photoshop)
We found a local cinema (AMC) and the only movie that looked interesting was one about India partition; ‘Kalank’, a 2019 Indian Hindi-language period drama film set in 1945 in the pre-independence British era (http://tiny.cc/bkydcz). As we are going to Pakistan for a few weeks in October, originally crossing the border from India, but due to some conflict between those two we are going from Colombo, Sri Lanka, we are trying to make sense of what their beef is. The next time we visited this cinema there is a school shooting, described below, but this time we enjoyed the film. Though apparently, I fell to sleep for a portion of the movie according to Narda. But the part I saw was interesting.
We went to Loveland for our extended visit with Kay and Frank.
Cheyenne Wyoming Slideshow http://tiny.cc/ypydcz A lot of photos of our day in Cheyenne.
I had wanted to go to Cheyenne since the start of this trip. A blast from the past and all. I lived there in 1974 in one of those strange moments in one’s life where we look back decades later and think, I did what? I was in a cult group; The Holy Orders of MANS, in the 1960s (I joined in Hawaii), then left in 1971 and returned in 1974 to the San Francisco centre. Bottom line, they sent me to Cheyenne as they had one of their many cult-houses there. I was in a subset of the Order called the Brown Brothers of the Holy Light. Meaning I had to wear a robe and be in that group for a year. The Brown Brothers was the celibate section of the Order, where I was sent off to, for former ‘indiscretions’. What was tough was walking around Cheyenne in a brown robe. People would laugh, (you are probably laughing right now), call me names and whatnot. I spent six-months in the winter of ‘74-’75 there, not very happily.
That was then, this is now…all those celibate years later, caught up in the Me2 hype of being an appropriate male, or not.
This year (2019) Wyoming celebrates the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, they were the first state to give women the right to vote along with lots of other women’s firsts:
If you get to Cheyenne visit the ‘The Cowgirls of the West Museum’, what’s not to like about such a museum? http://cowgirlsofthewestmuseum.com/ and it is free entry. Checkout the slideshow above for shots of women in cowgirl gear, and other random pics of Cheyenne.
Cheyenne is also an early railroad hub – See the Cheyenne Depot Museum. Frank and Kay told us about the Netflix series, “Hell on Wheels“, which is set in Cheyenne in the late 1860s and is about the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad across the United States. Well worth the viewing if you are into historic fiction, with a bit of Hollywood. To get the lowdown of how the story goes check out, “Why is Cheyenne called the “Magic City of the Plains”? Cheyenne was called the “Magic City of the Plains” because it seemed to spring up practically overnight”. https://tinyurl.com/y2aydorc Well there, I spoiled the narrative, but still, look it up.
On a trip to Denver, we took a tram around the city to get a feel for the place. On the tram I took this photo of this girl with a service dog. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with her. Where we come from a service dog is the eyes or ears for someone who does not have physical sight or hearing.
I did not realize why this girl had this service dog until now, back home in Australia, when I was writing up our trip. We did notice a lot of people with ‘service dogs’, at airports, bus and train station. Everywhere. Wow, what was going on in the States? We did not learn until two months later when we were visiting our friends in Florida that people have ‘emotional support animals’. What?
If you have an emotional disability, you can legally qualify for an ESA, short for emotional support animal. You must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other duly licensed and/or certified mental health professional.
Damn! What is going on over there? We lived in the States from 2002 – 2010, and of course, I am a Yank from the get-go, though I left in 1981, for the stable sensible land of Australia and neither of us had ever heard of an ESA.
All domesticated animals may qualify as an ESA (cats, dog, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, etc.) and they can be any age (young puppies and kittens, too!).
OK folks, here is the reality. Another word for an emotional support animal is pet. Get over it. I think people were just looking for a way to get their pet onto flights for free and not have Fido stuck in the hold of the plane. Of course, I don’t have an opinion on all this but it did take us by surprise. We both felt that America is in crisis, people were more upset, insecure, paranoid, than when we lived there (during the Obama era) and now the good citizens of the USA need support animals to protect them from the harsh reality around them.
We left Frank and Kay’s about 1 pm, stopped at a thrift shop and I got a Colorado tee shirt for a dollar (big spending tourist that I am). I was looking for a cowboy shirt with a fringe. I thought it would suit me but in Denver they were around the $200 mark and I had a budget of five dollars. I want to look like a rodeo rider when I get back to Australia. Unfortunately, in months of looking in thrift shops I never found one so I will look like another elderly person riding a bike in Adelaide instead of a stud in a cowboy-rodeo shirt, on a bike.
Our favourite shop is Walmart and we did most of our shopping there. My friend, Randy, Eugene, Oregon, never went into a Walmart all his life. Principles or something. But it was our shop of choice, so much cheap crap. Now, with the mass shooting in El Paso (August 2019), I am not sure whether we would go to Walmart. And the tweets that say the owners make 11-million dollars an hour and workers $11 an hour do not make it the shop of choice. However, for the likes of us, retired, on a budget, why pay twice as much for the same thing at the local hippie organic shop?
I always have projects I am working on. I have been doing a combination of paintings/photos/text since the mid-1960s when I first started being a street-artist in New York City. My longest time in one place was in New Orleans 1968 and 1972 – 1974, though I had about the same length of time being a street artist in Adelaide (1993 – 1995). Other places have been Waikiki (1980), Baltimore (1978 – 1979) and in the mall in Washington DC (summers of 1978 and 1979). I no longer sit in streets displaying stuff but do it online on numerous sites. I was working on my ‘Thoughts in Patterns 7’ on this trip which I managed to complete and make available on Amazon as print and as an e-book. They are really ‘thoughts in travel’ with the combination of images of places we are in with thoughts embedded. Book 7 with many photos and textual impressions is at https://amzn.to/2NgoQvU
My nephew lives in Denver (his mother, my sister, lives in New York) and we visited him on a couple of occasions. We have a short photo album of Denver at https://is.gd/Vkpvyd
Back home in our little burb we went to the picture theatre. There was little of interest except for comic book films so the one that looked least painful to us (meaning we did not need to know a backstory or have seen a previous edition to understand it), BTW, we still didn’t understand it (Captain Marvel) but that is not what we remember about the day. Actually, now a couple of months later I have no recall of the movie but of the day. As we entered the car park, we saw many police cars, ambulances, a couple of helicopters I looked on my breaking-news app and saw that there was a shooting nearby. This photo is from the cinema door. We went into to see Captain Marvel, at this time the report stated that the shooters had not been found. We live a short distance from Columbine High School, site of the Columbine High School massacre which was commemorating the twenty-anniversary of the shooting, this week. Seven years earlier, also in Aurora, where we were seeing the movie a person went into a theatre and killed a lot of people. At the time, the attack had the largest number of casualties (82) in one shooting in modern U.S. history.
When we came out of the film, they were still reporting the incident, the people involved were in custody. As we constantly pay out Fox News, not believing anything they say, at least politically, re. climate change, etc etc, Narda wanted to meet face-to-face Fox news people. Of course, news gathers are not the same as the nut cases that fill the Fox channel with their incoherent drivel (not that I have any opinions about this fake-news media.
As we are in Littleton, we explored the town. We discovered that Littleton is a sister city to Bega, Bega is a town in the south-east of New South Wales. They have a statue of a kangaroo and their idea of Australia. There is even the Ned Kelly pub. Not having been to Bega, Australia, we cannot confirm whether these two cities are sister cities or just me2 wannabes. We had a couple of other snowy mornings, each time just a bit then gone with the sun. We found what looked like a typical USA taco joint (Taco House – 1390 W Littleton Blvd) for lunch in Littleton, not sure if they have one like it in Bega. For anyone passing through Littleton, it is a bit of a dive, though cheap, probably authentic. We both had indigestion for a while after which simply could be that we are not used to this type of cuisine or the over-saturated oiled Mexican dishes we ate.
Toward the end of our stay in the Denver area we went to Colorado Springs. Narda has an Australian nephew living there. After a visit we spent the rest of the day in the rock formations nearby, Garden of the Gods, an amazing place to wander around in. See our one minute slideshow of this area at https://bit.ly/2k5frLm
We also visited Suzanne, who worked with us at the school in Dalian, China. She has an amazing house built into the same type of rocks as there are tossed about at the Garden of the Gods. I had wanted to go to the top of Pikes Peak, but the road was closed due to snow or some sort of wintery mix. One of the Yank’s favourite tunes, “America the Beautiful” was put together by Katharine Lee Bates after she visited the Pikes Peak summit in 1893. Not having made it to the summit I was unable to match her creativity. This is close as we got (using our 300 mm lens). The 14,110-foot summit is visited by more people annually than any other peak in America, and it ranks as the second-most visited mountain in the world, after that one in Japan (now I am really upset I didn’t get to the top).
Before we left Colorado, we had another big day out with Kay and Frank. We looked at motor-homes and chose ones we would tour the world in (houses on wheels) and had lunch at a famous truck stop; Johnson’s Corner. https://www.johnsonscorner.com/ “Retro American diner & travel plaza opened in 1952 serving classic comfort food & cinnamon rolls.” In 1995, Johnson’s Corner was a location for the Hollywood movie “Larger than Life,” starring Bill Murray, Matthew McConaughey. The film was financially and critically unsuccessful. Not to worry the restaurant was good.
We not only had a large beautiful house but a good van to explore the Denver area with. This is why we love house exchanges; we get to live as if we were locals. So far, we have spent time in Denmark (six-weeks in the beautiful town of Ringkøbing), Spain (Noja), Berlin, a few places in the Netherlands, with many more coming up; two more Netherlands, a few in the UK, France and lots in the planning. We still do a lot of Airbnb. After nineteen years of travelling we have just begun, there is so much more to experience.
This was an especially easy place for us, our hosts left their car at the airport and we left it there again at the end. How easy is that? Again, I had hoped to find all the conspiracy images at Denver Airport but due to remodelling the walls were still covered. Obviously in preparation for a future alien invasion. We had an easy time through security – even got through with a few pounds over our fifty-pound suitcase limit.
My little special treatment for each flight; can’t go through the security scan because of my defibrillator/pacemaker thingy. They should let me choose which person gets to frisk me. ‘I will take that lady there please…the agent with the red stilettos, & the USA flag tattooed on her thigh …’ bloody ‘me-too’ movement put the kibosh on that didn’t they?
We arrived Newark at 1 pm with a six-hour layover on the way to Albany, New York. We had recently changed our Chase credit card to a different one, same United points setup, but about $50 a year cheaper than their other card. With it we get priority boarding which is great in the States. Unbelievable you Yanks. In Australia, as well as with international flights we get seven-kilos carry on. This includes all carry on, camera bag, computer bag, and all the other crap we drag around the planet that has to be at our beck and call at any moment (well me, I need a computer and our Nikon, and zoom plus other lenses, always, Narda seems content with just a Kindle and a passport – wow how thrifty) but in the States? Wow! Firstly, there does not seem to be a weight limit, secondly the size is close to a regular suitcase, plus the extra bag is equal to a large backpack. Then there are the service pets that the Yanks need to comfort themselves in these trying times. I have seen people barely able to lift their suitcases. This all makes it very difficult to get bags into the overhead once on the plane if there are a lot getting on first. Priority boarding put us up right behind the first-class suckers (no jealously intended). They also now wave foreign transaction fees (which has been costly in the past), give us free luggage check-in (saving $30/bag) and the other fantastic ‘reward’ with our new Chase card was that we had a free hangout in a United First-Class lounge, Over in the A section where you enter through security, near gates 27, 26. Newark Liberty International Airport, as you would know, is the worst airport in America, and is only 16 spots shy of being the worst airport in the world. It must be true, the report (study) is on the internet – https://njersy.co/2U0BIYu. Not to worry, we had the United Lounge thanks to Chase. It was wonderful; good soup, the cheddar broccoli was fantastic, lots of finger foods, salads, free alcohol (pity I stopped all alcohol in 2005, and Narda only had one glass of wine, now Narda is sleepy, but just the thought of unlimited alcohol made me a bit drunk with memories of when and why I don’t anymore), juices, coffee and on and on, good Wi-Fi, comfy seats. I was obviously a bogan (an Australian term, look it up) in the wrong setting but who cares? I had my stuff spread all over; computer mixed with food and drinks; clothing scattered about… Life is good. After six-hours we had to leave our natural habitat and go sit with the riffraff, waiting for our flight to the world-class-cosmopolitan city of Albany, New York.
At Albany Airport we rented a car for the week. Albany is an important place in our world. We lived there 2002 – 2006, teaching at Albany Academy for Girls and Albany Academy for Boys. That was a neat gig; Narda was the chair of performing arts and I was the chair of technology, for both schools. We even shared a small office; two chairs living the life. I also taught part time at the State University of Albany and at Russell Sage College, Troy. We were in the area for those years to look after my father who was in his late 90s (he hung out until he was 102 – https://neuage.org/100) I grew up (well, made a grand try of it) nearby in the town of Clifton Park, leaving there in 1964 when I was 17 to explore the world. The farm I grew up on is below, that is my brother and me on the barn roof. I think this was taken early 1960s. Now route nine is four lanes and the farm is all concrete with Cracker Barrel exactly sitting where our house once did. As usual when in this area we ate at Cracker Barrel and as usual I thought about what a change in sixty-years. Where I used to live I now eat – not so unusual – though in this case it is. Cracker Barrel is one of the few chain restaurants we go to. Not expensive and a good feed, especially when one is a vegetarian and the other eats roadkill.
We went to Oneonta, to visit my sister and her family for a couple of days. She is a very talented artist (https://omordah.com/). Narda sang with Susan’s dog Kota,
The Dog Whisper (video) https://bit.ly/2kq3dNO
we talked about our lives, explored the Oneonta area had lunch at some nifty cafe then drove back to our Airbnb in Clifton Park. We like going to this part of the world, having bought two one-hundred year old houses and renovating them https://neuage.org/house in the boutique historic town of Round Lake, New York. Returning to one’s childhood stomping grounds is a mind twister. I left when I was 16-17 years old, came back over the years to visit my parents in the 1960s, a few times in the 1970s, twice in the 1980s (once as a single parent with two children in tow; age six-months and two and half), 1992 (again with children following along), then not again until Narda and I moved there in 2002. As all places it has changed in my seventy years back and forth. Lots of suburbs, shopping centres, freeways. I grew up on a farm; they don’t seem to exist anymore. Clifton Park was established in the 17th century and named in 1707, not really a new burb. I went to Shenedehowa Central School. When I started in 1954, there were 1700 students for the whole school now there are more than 9800 students spread over a few campuses. Just an example of the growth of this area. Where I grew up there is a shopping centre. When I lived there Clifton Park had one small general store, the church I got dragged to for many years, and two pubs. The cemetery is there, though a bit shaggy. We went and saw my father’s, mother’s, and brother’s grave. There were several people raking up leaves. A couple of people remembered my parents and one fellow remembers my mum as his elementary school teacher in the early 1950s at the old school on Cemetery Road, just a hundred metres from the cemetery.
We sold our houses in Round Lake a few years ago. In our large house the new owners found a box of stuff I had left behind. Instead of tossing the content they wrote me so we went to visit and collect the box of stuff that should have been tossed. There were a lot of records from the early 1900s. I kept two for us and two for my son who likes to mix tunes in his studio back in Melbourne. This happened to us the last time we were there, a couple of years ago, several boxes of stuff we didn’t really want in the first place were waiting for us. Stuff that was more than a hundred-years old. Stuff that was never meant to be dragged across the world then down-under to Australia, but I did. More boxes in the shed laying in the trenches for declutter day. Or as I recently said to my son, good luck when we die sorting out our stuff. Of course, Narda and I know everything will be sent off to landfill. Four sons, no collectors. Where have we failed.
This has been another one of those ‘catching up’ trips. Everywhere we go. To add to our list we had dinner with several of Narda’s teaching mates from Albany Academy. By the end of the trip we would have caught up with six from our teaching days in China (in Denver, Colorado Springs, and in Florida), four from upstate New York, everyone Narda taught with during her five-years at St Lukes in NYC, as well as friends of mine since high school in the mid-1960s. As well as my sister and family, Narda’s sons, and other once-have-known people. A lot has to do with Facebook, keeping up with folks.
We also met an old fellow probably well into his 90s at De Voe’s Rainbow Orchard, there on Route Nine, Clifton Park, who remembers my father. DeVoe’s has been around since 1931. My father used to pick fruit since it opened. I used to pick fruit there too; apples and strawberries that I remember, in the 1950s and early 1960s. When we lived in the area 2002 – 2005 we used to go there for our fruit and vegetables. If you are in the area, get off the Northway (the freeway between Montreal and New York City) Exit 9, Clifton Park and go up Route 9 – it is right before Walmart. Tell them Terrell and Narda said hi.
By 26th May it was time to head toward our next adventure. We dropped off the rental car at Albany Airport and got a Lyft to the Albany/Rensselaer train station for the ride to DC. It stops for a change in NYC and got us to DC at 8.30 pm where Narda’s son, Chris, collected us. Amtrak is a better train than the Overland. We took the Overland from Adelaide to Melbourne recently (722 Kilometres) and the eleven-hour ride was good but there is no Wi-Fi, or electric outlets. Amtrak to DC from Albany (600 Kilometres) took about seven hours and we had Wi-Fi and we could charge our laptops. However, the Overland provided us with good meals, ( we paid extra for that) and the seats, though old, are comfortable with a lot of leg room. We love trains everywhere. The ride along the Hudson from Albany to NYC is great. We used to love taking that train in the winter when it was snowing.
The day after we got to DC we went to the Memorial Day Parade (see our one minute slideshow) https://bit.ly/2kCjmPY
The parade seemed a bit boring with mainly high school bands but still worth the watch. We walked many hours, following the parade and wandering around DC. There are many things that make DC amazing. One is Rock Creek that goes through the district. It was a ten-minute walk from Chris and Jessica’s house where we were staying to the creek. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890. It was only the third national park established by the U.S., following Yellowstone in 1872 and Mackinac National Park in 1875. Three-year old Liam would ride his bike alongside us, and it became almost a daily walk. One can be in nature, on a wooded trail following a mountain stream then be walking or bike riding to the White House, Capitol, museums all in a very short space of time.
Narda, Liam, Jessica, and Stuart at Rock Creek on one of our frequent walks.
Here is our one-minute slideshow of Rock Creek Park Sunday Walk. https://bit.ly/2lZzoUq
See our slideshow for the Smithsonian Museums, Smithsonian Museums https://bit.ly/2lCwHrP
Brendan, Narda’s son teaching in Pakistan, arrived on the third of June and we went to collect him at the airport. On the sixth the rest of the family arrived from Australia; Stuart (making the third son to be present in DC), Narda’s ex-husband and his wife. Narda’s birthday was on the eighth, making this her favourite birthday of all time: three sons, two husbands and a grandson. A couple of days later was Chris’ 40th birthday, the reason we are all in DC. We had Brendan’s 40th birthday in Phnom Penh a couple of years ago (we went to that and so did Stuart and the other husband), the next 40th will be my son, who lives in Melbourne. We haven’t sorted what to do for that yet. Stuart wants to have his 40th in Bali in a couple of years. Fact being, Narda and I may be getting old.
We drove Brendan to Union Station so he could catch a bus to Pittsburgh for a few days visiting a friend. Being near the capitol building we thought we would just park the car nearby and go catch a senate hearing. Life seems so simple before having a clue that there could be more than the original idea. Any original idea. Firstly, we were unable to find a place to park, obviously, and carparks looked expensive, and we saw a few tow trucks sneaking around looking for customers – like our car, so we just kept going away from the capitol. Going up Third Street or Third Avenue, not sure which now, we noticed it looked quite residential and folks were street parking with no meters or harassing signs to tell them to piss off. On Rhode Island and Third we shoved the car into a spot and headed out. As we needed a toilet (bathroom to the Yanks) and there were no shops anywhere within sight we saw a bus stop and thought that a random bus ride would get us to some place of relief. Along came bus number 96 and we got on having no idea where to. We have always enjoyed random bus rides in various cities and where this was going, we didn’t care as long as we saw a shopping centre or public loo along the way. Lo and behold the bus wound around hither and thither ending at Union Station, right where we had left Brendan a couple of hours earlier and a couple of blocks to the Capitol. The Hill and all that. Can’t recall but I think we found a loo which was our original mission – no doubt at Union Station.
There were long lines everywhere in the visitor’s centre, except at the international desk. We showed our Australian Driver Licenses and became our own little line, getting into the senate with seats to spare. Sucked in Yanks, waiting in lines. Apparently, if you are from the US of A you need to get a note from your representative, we don’t have one because we are foreigners.
Well, I am a duel citizen but we didn’t tell them. As long as I keep my mouth shut no one knows that I am from these woods. It was all quite boring as there was a vote being held on some person or the other taking on some position on some committee. The vote was in the 80s or 90s for and only 8 or nine against, so everyone seemed to like the dude. We got to see Chuck Schumer who we favour and Mitch McConnell (Moscow Mitch) whom we don’t. If we had done it all correctly, we would have gone to the Congress chambers. AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was there and they had a big vote about The Dreamers thing that has been in the news for quite some time. AOC, is my hero in politics at the moment.
We easily found the bus back to where we had parked, and that was our day on The Hill.
As Chris and Jessica’s house is so full we were lucky that we could get an Airbnb two houses away from them for a couple of weeks. We still spent most of the day together but how many family members fit into a three-bedroom house? Chris and Jessica were working on making their basement into an Airbnb while we were there, it is finished now, so if you want a great place at a great price a block from bus service, not far to DC central with all their buildings and the metro to everywhere, let us know. We have a good connection to help you out.
On Narda’s birthday we found that there was a gay parade so we went to see floats and folks dressed up. As it started rather late in the day we were there for only a bit and did not see much as we were all going to dinner for the birthday girl. This was good for lots of reasons for Narda. From 2002 – 2015 we were overseas (from Australia) on her birthday with only me around. Since being back in Australia we have had a few birthdays with her family though not with all her sons since 2001.
Birthdays are why we are here, not just us as humans on planet earth, we the visitors for family birthdays in Washington DC. One could say the main event was Chris’ 40th birthday. Or we could say the main event was Narda’s 65th. Or are we here to celebrate Father’s Day in the USA? (Father’s Day is in September in Australia). Or are we all here just to groove? Nonetheless, Narda’s birthday was first, not first as she is the oldest ever, but first on the list of celebrations. 8th of June. After twenty-years of gift giving I was having a difficult time finding the best next thing. Fortunately, in Denver, Kay and Frank had a nifty wine bottle top that chirped. (ChirpyTop Wine Pourer) Kay got me one and I was able to keep it hidden for a month in my bag. (they have some over at Amazon, so when you are purchasing one of my books and need a chirping wine pourer go to https://amzn.to/2lMfpZc) Nothing unusual about that except Narda is always repacking my bag and for a month I was constantly rushing to pack my bag. She thought I was taking responsibility for my packing, ha ha, the month is over. I always get her an Amazon voucher for her birthday and she buys books for her Kindle all year with it, so it was good to have something to go along with the usual. Of course, Narda’s best-ever birthday was because she had her three sons together. And a couple of husbands. One of Narda’s sons is a pastor and the previous Sunday (my rare times I go to church – with Narda to see her son) one of his congregation, thinking I was Chris’ father, made a mention of something and I said, ‘oh, that is her other husband’. So Narda’s three sons, her ex and his wife, Chris’ wife and the grandkid, Liam, Narda and me went for a walk along the beautiful Rock Creek that flows through DC, and in the evening went out for a great birthday dinner.
Narda’s three children, (Chris, Stu, Brendan) not such children now, watching the Adelaide Crows in a rare win early one morning DC time, evening game time in Adelaide. Or perhaps they were watching something else, as they have wine glasses, so maybe not early in the morning. Though I did see them with their father, Peter, one morning, five am, glued to the telly watching a Crow’s game.
Narda and I moved into the neighbour’s Airbnb leaving a crowded house for the others. It is great, we have meals together and spend the day tromping around DC. The Aussie males had a great first morning in DC, arriving Saturday, on Narda’s birthday; Stuart, Peter and Marion were just in time to watch the Adelaide Crows game that was being played Friday evening in Adelaide along with Chris and Brendan. And to make everyone happy the Crows won. In my Australian family the Crow’s situation makes the weekend around us. Narda and I are not really fans, though we went to a game once. There are two teams in Adelaide: Port Adelaide and the Adelaide Crows. Narda’s family are Crow supporters except for Chris who favours a team in Victoria. Funny how wins and losses can affect a family for a couple of days, and it spreads all the way to Pakistan. If the Crows lose, which they seem to do often, we can hear the groans all the way up to Pakistan with Brendan expressing his grief. I suppose it is like the Yankees and the Mets in New York. Being a New Yorker, I grew up liking the Yankees and even though I no longer follow professional baseball in the USA I still would be a Yankee fan if I were a fan of baseball at all.
By the 10th of June we were all settled for Chris’ 40th birthday. We had a nice family gathering at a Mexican place in town, and then on the following weekend, a party a block away at a pub that was decorated for us and Chris’ friends. All fun and party!!! As is always the case, Narda and I left and were home and asleep before ten, probably before nine thirty.
As it was the end of the school year, we all toddled off to watch Liam graduate from preschool in full graduation drag. They sure won’t do such a production in Australia. The excited family (Narda, Stuart, Brendan, Peter (ex), Chris, Jessica, Marian (ex’s wife) watching the event of the year with Liam expressing excitement beyond belief.
I spent a couple of days wandering around DC on my own. One show I particularly liked was THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH PRESENTS:
THE DONALD J. TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TWITTER LIBRARY See the Washington Post on this at http://tiny.cc/46eybz
18 June Tuesday
The Washington Express Bus is cheap, $30, takes about 3.5 hours, has Wi-Fi, power points, and comfortable seats. I was so comfortable that I left my phone on the bus, rang them as soon as we discovered I didn’t have a phone on me (minutes – such is the importance of always being connected) but the bus had already left and they said come back the next day. Sure enough the driver had found my phone and once again I felt whole. Not that I lose stuff (every day)… outside of my phone at Red Rock Amphitheatre, Denver, a month earlier but I sort of left my laptop on the same bus company a year and a half earlier. We discovered so when we had gotten settled at Chris and Jessica’s house in December 2017. At midnight we drove to their depot in the back blocks of Jersey City, recovered the wandering computer, and got back home intact hours later. No point in going re. other items gone astray (some returned) over the years, suffice to say, Washington Express Bus is a good company.
Our flat in Bronx. OMG. Narda puts a lot of effort in finding us places to park. NYC was pretty much booked full due to gay month or some such gathering. Brendan was at a conference at Columbia University for this week, sent there by the American School of Lahore, so Narda was tasked with finding a place not too far. Brooklyn was too far, Manhattan too expensive and the Bronx, just right. The Goldie Locks of burbs; close enough to Columbia, affordable, transportation, local Bronx vibe. The apartment was a bit small, two small bedrooms, Narda suggested the boys could share one room and sleep foot to head. Of course, why not, the girls do (age 5 and 7) when we go camping in our caravan. Brendan took the coach, Stu the small bedroom and we took the master suite, meaning there was enough room to turn around in. We had a small, one person could fit, kitchen. And the lounge was large enough for us to sit in when Brendan wasn’t sleeping. Across the street was the local ambulance centre, 8 – 10 ambulances about the place when they weren’t sounding their sirens and roaming the Bronx. Next to our four-storey building were 25 storey projects, blocks of them. Being summer, the locals were sitting in front of the projects playing loud foreign Bronx music, until when, I don’t know, once the earplugs were in deep enough I could hear them but eventually would go to sleep, by morning it was qui except for the usual sirens, babies crying, dogs barking – just like in those TV detective shows. We, being fearless, would walk the fifteen minutes to the nearest subway, which was at Yankee Stadium. Even at night. We were the token whites for the hood, and everyone ignored us. We had a key lock outside of the building to leave the front door and our apartment door key in. One evening, Stuart had gone home earlier than us, and the keys were not in the ‘secure-keylock box’. Poor fellow had to wait quite some time for us. Narda rang the Airbnb owner who did not seem alarmed and said she thought she knew who would have it. Considering we each had a laptop (mine was one day old, Narda’s a couple of months old – both expensive) and our passports, money, etc were all inside, we were not impressed. Eventually someone let us in and we were all highly annoyed.
Growing up in New York, of course, I was a Yankees fan. My long-time friend, Marta, a Yankee fan, suggested we catch up at a game. The last time we had a quick breakfast with her when driving through Poughkeepsie, New York, a couple of years earlier. We have known one another since the mid-1960s, when she was my brother’s girlfriend and we try to catch up when we can. A few years ago, she wrote a book on my brother, which I was fortunate enough to contribute to. ‘The Art and Life of Robert J. Adsit’ (https://martawaterman.com/).
Narda and her two sons, Brendan and Stuart, had never been to a baseball game. I had stopped following baseball after my son, Leigh, pitcher the for the LA Dodgers, died in 2003 (a couple of weeks after turning 20), and for me this was closer to watch a game again. Since the age of ten, Leigh said he would play for the Yankees when he grew up, and he never got far enough in life to fulfil his goal.
We met Marta at a well-known eatery (I forgot the name) a block from the stadium. We were all excited. It was raining and we were worried the game would be stopped. Our tickets were the next to the last row at the top. Marta had said this was the best place as it was undercover in case it rained. Lucky us, the section in front of us, seats being in the $150 range were wet, our seats were $28 and dry. The game started at 8 pm instead of seven, after the rain stopped. Narda and I forgot to bring jumpers and getting cold we went to the stadium shop and found the cheapest jumpers, $75. In the future we forget about the cost and remember the experience. Well this is three-months later, I have the jumper on now, and still remember the cost. The Yankees were doing well, there were some homeruns, and we were all very happy. By 11 pm there were still a few innings to go, we were tired, Marta had a long way to go home to Woodstock, New York, so we left and discovered the next day the Yankees had won. If you would like to share the photos of our one-minute slideshow see them at http://tiny.cc/2kt2bz
We spent the rest of the week wandering NYC. I got to tell Brendan and Stuart stories from when I was a hippie in NYC in the mid-1960s; about 1963 – 1967, before I wandered on down to Florida, New Orleans and finally to California and Oregon ending the 1960s in Waikiki. (I saw myself as a beatnik at the time instead of the commercial hippie label). Whether everyone wanted to hear my stories or not they got them. I even got to show them St Mark’s Church on East 10th Street where I read poetry with famous poets such as Alan Ginsburg in a 1965 Fast for Peace reading. St Mark’s Place (East 8th street) was my stomping grounds in the 1960s and on the top of my list of places to see again and to show the family.
In her 400-year history of St. Mark’s Place (St. Marks Is Dead), Ada Calhoun called the street “like superglue for fragmented identities” and wrote that “the street is not for people who have chosen their lives … [it] is for the wanderer, the undecided, the lonely, and the promiscuous.” St. Marks Is Dead: The Many Lives of America’s Hippest Street.
‘A’ train to JFK to Florida arrived 7 pm, dinner at airport – Lyft to Lawrence’s.
Lawrence is our last house exchange for this three-month trip. We taught with Lawrence in China. He was a principal at our school. Lawrence helped me set up one of my most fun-filled positions at any school. I put together an inhouse television station. See sample of DAISlive at https://bit.ly/2ltar3z I still have Lawrence’s greenscreen and lights, they are in the shed for our little video studio that we use to make silly movies with the grandchildren. We spent a couple of weeks at Lawrence’s home. Because Lawrence belonged to the local country club nearby, we did a daily swim in a very warm pool. Our only mishap was when Narda picked up a hitchhiker – a tick, as we walked along the lakefront amongst the grass instead of going around on the road. This is the view from Lawrence’s backyard. I pulled out the tick (the photo has been censored, in other words, Narda doesn’t want me to share it with you – the tick waving from Narda’s leg), we put it in a jar, with its little antennas gyrating furiously, we went off to the nearest emergency room. Just to be sure we did not pick up Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia which is spread by these little buggers. We spent a good fifteen minutes at the hospital, the nurse looked at it, the doctor looked at it, prescribed an antibiotic, she did not want to see the still dancing tick in the jar, and, I watched the clock, spent a whooping five-minutes with the patient, Narda. The next person came in with the bill for us to pay on the spot. $1500. OK, we are insured but hey that is a bit rich. We were told the doctor bill would come separate, and it did, a few weeks later, $950. OMG! What a corrupt system the US medical institution is. If you have a calculator handy, let’s say the doctor sees 5 people an hour at about a thousand each, times five hours a day for a four-day week…. Gee, a new Bentley every month.
Around the lake there is a lot of wildlife. We heard that there was even a bear and a cub or two, but we didn’t see them. We did see deer that came up to the house and lots of birds that visited.
Our first trip was to the Cape Canaveral Coast https://bit.ly/2kgCbs6 We enjoyed our newish Mercedes, quite a luxury compared to the tug we drive back in Australia, Billy, who pulls our caravan, Holiday, around various destinations in Australia.
We had set out early in the morning having seen online that there was a space thingy launch. After finding a good spot along the coast someone passing by said it had been scrubbed. Nevertheless, we went to Cape Canaveral then on to Coco Beach which advertisements claimed to be one of the more famous/beautiful beaches, in the universe? Living in Australia, beaches everywhere, and having been on beaches on several Hawaii islands, as well as beaches in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and lots of other places, we were excited to go to a ‘must put on your bucket list’ that we saw advertised in many places. Wow what a dump. Sorry, just first and only impression. We went to their idea of a fancy pier, ‘It’s Not Just a Day at the Beach, It’s the Ultimate Beach Adventure! A historic landmark on Florida’s Space Coast, the world-famous Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier …’ Really? Last year we were at the Brighton Pier in the UK. Now there is a pier. We trotted out to the end of the pier; overpriced restaurants, wannabe pubs, generations XYZ struggling to look relevant. Nothing special. Nevertheless, I quickly added it to my bucket list so that I could cross it out. On the way to the coast is the beautiful Manatee Sanctuary Park, located at 701 Thurm Blvd. It is a 10-acre park that is set on the Banana River.
Lawrence’s daughter was still at home. Lawrence and the rest of his family were in Russia on a visit. She is attending her second year at University of Central Florida. It is the first time we have ever been in an exchanged home with someone still there. But what a lovely young person. Young people could take lessons from her in social skills. Perhaps growing up in Russia makes a difference. Having an academic family (mother has a school in Moscow that she can run from anywhere online; Lawrence has been a principal at a few international schools, and they are both teaching in Orlando.) She shared some meals with us (being a vegan was the first compatible thing) and was always willing to listen to us, something few people would do – respect us old tarts. She showed us around her university and gave advice of places to visit. Her name is Sasha, my son’s name is Sacha – and his mother is Russian so that was interesting. She also drives a new Subaru Outback, the same as my Sacha in Melbourne, same colour too. That is where the similarity stops, though Sacha is a hard working determined young person (well not quit so young – edging 40) and Sasha (maybe 20) is extremely determined, talking about what she wants to do her masters in, something mathematical and beyond our brain space. An example, we went away for a few days, coming home on the eve of the 4th of July, party time for most Americans, got home about eleven pm and she was at the kitchen table studying for an upcoming test. A young person not covered in tattoos, or on drugs, that values education above all and that had the time and patience for the likes of us. I didn’t know they still made them.
Slideshow for Orlando, Disney Springs, https://youtu.be/eg4iZ-DXhF8
We were not interested in Disney crap, which is what this area is all about. “Orlando, Florida, had 75 million visitors last year as the theme park mecca continued to be the most visited destination in the United States” Why? What is wrong with humans? OK, so I did take my kids to Disneyland in LA (twice) during my single-parent days, but that is because my friend Daniel Bushnell, who we were visiting (1985 & 1992) talked me into it. Suffice to say that Narda and I did not have interest in going to such an overrated overpriced thingy. Saying all that, Sasha recommended going to Disney Springs, which is a bit like a free Disneyland without the silliness. We even took one of their free buses to some Disney village place and back. There were OK restaurants there and lots of children wearing Disney hats, and their parents too.We took two more road trips. One to St. Augustine / Daytona Beach and the other to the west coast, see here for a one-minute or so, slideshow of our trip to and west coast of Florida, https://bit.ly/2lCu1dy
This picture, is the result of a very long trip in my world. I left home in 1964, before I turned 17. I had a few mishaps/missteps in life back in Clifton Park, New York / Shenendehowa Central School. Suffice to say that I left before completing tenth grade, not that I was doing well, I was a terrible student and the only subject that I passed was band. I took off on my motorcycle, ended up in Florida, not sure why in Groveland, but that is where I ended. When the next school year began, I was 17, sort of midway between tenth and eleventh grade, I signed up at Groveland School. My parents must have funded me, I don’t think I worked. Believe it or not, my apartment became a hangout for teenagers. I think there was some beer and females involved, short story shorter, my academic career came to a grinding halt, I lost my apartment, so I went to Key West, Florida. This is in my book, ‘Leaving Australia’ available from Amazon. I remember reading an article when I was there that Disney was buying up land in the area for another Disneyland. If only I had bought land, there then… so on our trip to Englewood we had to go through Groveland. I think I remembered something or the other but where I lived, who knows? The original school had burnt down (no it wasn’t me) but I had to return to the place where my life was a bit shabby. Here I was parked in front of where I once was a crazy teenager, now with a new Mercedes (OK, not mine, but still I was driving), and with a PhD. I had my tenth grade education until I was in my mid-40s then did the long haul of seventeen years of school in Australia, getting my BA in journalism, Honours in Children’s literature, and Masters in communications from Deakin University in Melbourne, then the seven year stretch of completing a PhD at the University of South Australia. A few years later I got a teaching degree too.
Thanks Australia, you’re the best. And of course, hooking up with the supremely cool and popular, all-star wife, Narda and my groovy son, Sacha. And I am only 72, just starting this exciting trip called life.
Back on track… we were on our way to Englewood to see Sean and Jean, whom we worked with in China for a few years. We saw them last in Myanmar (remember the photo of us with them and our friends in Colorado; Kay and Frank, all of us on motorbikes, earlier in this short narrative?) and as this trip seems to be a reunion of people we have worked with a couple of more were on the ticket. (this must be a reunion year as we will be seeing our friends; Tim and Agnes, in Chiang Rai, Thailand in a few weeks)
On the fourth of July we went up to Tarpon Springs to visit Kathleen and Jimmy. Kathleen, I have known since my strange days at Shenedehowa, she was my girlfriend back in tenth grade before misadventures/missteps/mishaps found me headed to the wonderful town of Groveland in 1963. The wonders of Facebook, we had gotten in touch about ten years ago, forty-five years after last seeing one another. We caught up for a dinner a couple of years ago in Clifton Park, New York, and we were planning to stay a couple of days this time in Tarpon Springs. Unfortunately, it did not work out and we only had lunch at a very nice seaside restaurant. Also unfortunately we do not have any photos of our visit, but of course we all look the same as we did back in 1963 so if you have the Shenendehowa Yearbook for 1963, as I do, you can see how we still look the same, except my hair is a tad bit longer, there is some grey shit sneaking into my once beautiful black hair, now brown through no fault of my own, and I am more educated, somewhat.
Knowing we had a five-hour drive ahead of us, and it being fourth of July, we left as darkness overtook our visit. It was an interesting drive with fireworks throughout the night especially when we got into the Disney-Madness area there were fireworks welcoming us back to Orlando on both sides of the highway and in front of us. When we got home around eleven pm, they were still going off in our neighbourhood, as I mentioned earlier, Sasha was home studying for an exam when we came in.
We had a few down days, going to our local pool and gym and getting caught up on writing. I completed two more books and made them available on Amazon;
In my world a biggie as I have spent a lot of hours over this past year, including three-months on this trip getting them finished so it was all making me feel a bit accomplished.
It is terrible with the gun stuff in the USA, one marketing tool that was creepy we saw was a gun-proof backpack for children. It was quite heavy and for $250 seemed a strange way to protect a child. Firstly, children’s backpacks are heavy as it is. I watch Mabel, age 5, and Maggie age 7, with their backpacks and they seem to weigh as much as the child carting them about. Then what is a child to do? Someone starts shooting at them and they put their heavy bag in front of them to stop the bullets?
We did one last road trip up the east coast to St Augustine, the oldest city in the USA. The area was first spotted on April 2, 1513 by Spanish dude, Juan Ponce de León. The city grew, the Spanish killed off lots of Indians with Smallpox and Measles and were themselves raided in karmic led attacks by pirates and the Brits and various other unfriendly folks. Nearly a century of conflicts and raids convinced the Spanish that a strong fort was needed at St. Augustine. In 1672, the Spaniards began construction on the Castillo de San Marcos, creating the fort as a barrier to enemies. The structure still stands today. That is the history lesson for now.
On the way to St. Augustine we stopped at Daytona Beach. I had only been here once, back when I had left home in 1964. I had gone to Daytona Beach for a holiday – perhaps that is not the exact narrative, I don’t remember why I was there but I was walking through town along the boardwalk thinking of sleeping on the beach at night as I had little or no money for a hotel, and at the time did not have a house to exchange and there were no Airbnbs, if I had money. Short story shorter, police stopped me, put me in jail for vagrancy, so I had to call my parents for money to go wherever I was headed in life at the time. This was another one of those closure moments. Hey Dayton police, look at me, driving a Mercedes through your ungrateful town. Meaning they were not grateful for someone returning and spending money in their town (we had lunch).
We took the scenic route from Daytona Beach up to St. Augustine along route A1A along the coast, so much better than the freeway which we took back to Orlando from St. Augustine. Hurricane Matthew in 2017 wiped out much of this road and it is currently going through a rebuild, especially at Flagler Beach where it is slow moving but interesting to see. Lucky for this area Hurricane Dorian, September, 2019) came close but did no more damage. Check for hurricanes before driving along here, otherwise, enjoy.
With a few days left in our USA odyssey we flew back up to DC to say a final goodbye to Chris, Jessica, and Liam. When we were at Chris’ birthday party at the local pub, I got to talking with the neighbour who gave us his Airbnb for a couple of weeks, and he said that he was a bell ringer at the Washington National Cathedral. I said we would love to see the bells and the cathedral, and we made arrangements for when we came back after Florida to get the tour.
In morning went to Washington National Cathedral with Alex for an hour and a half – walked around the cathedral. If you don’t look at any of our slideshows do check out this video of the bell ringing tour we had, https://tinyurl.com/y4ydfdym
Simply amazing. He has been a bell ringer here for more than a decade, including a four-hour session on the fourth of July. He knows about what places in the world have bells, such as knowing which cathedrals in Adelaide had them. This is not a common gig in the world as most places have recorded bells ringing. Also, this is not one of the tours on offer by the Washington National Cathedral, making us feel special, well we always do, but this was extra special. We were up in the tower overlooking the city, even went out on the roof. Did you know that the CIA/FBI have listening devices and cameras straight across to the Russian Embassy from where we were? Of course, we are not admitting or denying that we know anything about this. It could have just been something we saw once in a comic book. Or not.
And that is it. One other thing, we do not eat out much, my crazy dietary desires/wants/requirements (vegetarian, low-carb, organic, blessed by a Tibetan monk/Hippie minstrel, and all the rest) along with our opposition to tipping (hey, if you come to Australia, don’t tip, it is not done here, no no no) precludes our eating out, but because it is Liam’s favourite place we did a few times have Chipotle’s takeaway. No tipping, inexpensive, immigrant-flavoured dishes, vegetarian options. I personally only had the food twice as it is high-carb and my blood sugars went to high, plus it is not blessed by a Tibetan monk or Hippie minstrels. But if you want a good feed Chipotle is OK.
That was our little trip. As I got several of my books from Amazon delivered to Chris’ house, we had them in our luggage. When we opened our suitcases in Adelaide, we saw that they had been thoroughly inspected. My books were separated from their lovely envelopes. What did they think were in these packages? As we have been watching Queen of the South on Netflix, we thought obviously we look the part of drug mules. Saying that, if you get the opportunity to see a great movie, see The Mule, directed and starring Clint Eastwood, I would say his best flick.
See ya next time. Next week we will be in Thailand, taking the train up from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, spending a month in Sri Lanka, couple of weeks in Pakistan visiting with Narda’s son, Brendan, then back to Thailand for a couple of weeks. Just a nine-week trip instead of our usual three-months. Perhaps, we are getting older and need more time at home. No that would not be correct as we are home for two months for Christmas when hopefully Narda’s three sons come and my son Sacha and his partner are here then to The Netherlands for three months. Follow our blogs to see if we are in your neighbourhood somewhere in the world. Cheers Narda and Terrell
In the Aljazeera interview today 16 September, 2019, with Imran Khan “Imran Khan on ‘genocide’ in Kashmir and possible war with India” Khan said he could see Pakistan starting using nuclear weapons against India – we will be there in a month – hey mate, wait for us… https://bit.ly/2lXohv9
This is our final instalment of the three- or four-part series on our three-month European whatsup trip. The main focal points being The Netherlands, Berlin, Northern Spain, with a yarn or two about the UK (London, Horsham, Brighton, Portsmouth, and of course our mini-cruise, the ferry).
Lovely overnight on the ferry. Pilar and Josera met us; the ferry was an hour late arriving in Santander, Spain. During the night it was quite rough. Little bit nervous a few times – have to confess.
Our flat is nice, strangely located in an area where people have second homes, so this time of the year almost every apartment block is all boarded up. Nice and quiet! Though shops are still open (‘Lupa’, the local supermarket). No one speaks English, but they seem friendly, though no one smiles at you in the street (very unlike Denmark) We ate croissants at the local café.
Our hosts, Pilar and Josera, collected us from the ferry and drove close to the hour to our new home. As Narda pointed out above, we are the only ones here. The owners live in Bilbao another hour away. For a few miles in each direction there are rows of houses as above. We have a tennis court in front of our door. We will get back to our world of tennis further on. It is a bit spooky with no one around. On weekends a few people would show up, during the week, we were the masters of our surroundings. I liked it. Like one of those end-of-the -world films where two survive. We are them.
But perhaps you survived too as you are reading this.
The flat was well furnished and everything we needed was there.
We enjoyed walks in the small town of Noja – pronounced No gHa, (with the G sounding like ‘gezellig’ in Dutch; not so useful for most of you) and the seaside views a block away. Noja is in the autonomous community of Cantabria. Cantabria is the northern section of Spain that borders the sea. We stayed within Cantabria for the most part, except, for when we travelled a bit to the east to the Basque area.
While snooping through the flat we had for the next three weeks we found tennis rackets and balls. Outside the building was a tennis court. Putting all this exciting new information together we decided to play tennis. Nothing extraordinary about that, except, neither of us had played before. We went onto the court, had a bit of a look-around the neighbourhood, saw no one was in any of the flats, to possibly watch us, and off we were. Back and forth, back and forth. I think that first day, well, the whole first 27-minutes, of our fierce rivalry, our record volley in a row, before hitting the net, putting it over the fence, or watching it half-heartily bounce into the next court, was three times, back and forth over that bloody net. I never realised how hard it was to get a stupid little ball, hitting it with a large surface, would be so hard. Knowing we had done our exercise for the day we went back into our cosy flat, had coffee, looked at pamphlets, brochures, and webpages to plot our exploration of the continent, or at least Northern Spain.
We thought we would put off driving for another day, as we had not driven in Europe yet on our three-month trip. Now, back here in Australia, I forget which side of the road who drives on what, but I think it was either the same or different than Australia. In Berlin, we had use of a car, but chose to ride bikes the whole time, the same in The Netherlands, and UK. I am so used to Narda yelling out that I am on the wrong side of the road when riding a bike, it all just becomes one big blurry, ‘you’re on the wrong side, still’.
Being our first day, recovered from our tennis tournament of geriatric-bouncy-poo, being hungry and in need of substance, we Google-mapped the nearest grocery story, ten-minute walk away, and were off. There are three food stores in Noja: Lupa Supermercados, Coviran, and the Carrefour Express. We went to Coviran first as that was nearest but it was small, so we got only a few things. Our market of choice became the largest of them all, Lupa. We both like foreign supermarkets. Our favourite is Jumbo, in The Netherlands, but any foreign market is fun, trying to figure what dangerous items they have slipped into the ingredients section. Of course, in places like Spain, India, France, well anywhere we don’t know the language, it is quite the challenge, so we just go by the pictures on the package and hope our bodies can separate the righteous items from the pretending-to-be-food items. Throw in my low-carb-vegetarian-make-that-organic diet, and the challenge becomes even greater. Nevertheless, we got home with a couple of good stuff.
After settling in, learning tennis, exploring Noja from side to side, and having now been in Spain for a whole day we decided to give driving the car left for us a go. Narda being born in Holland, gave her a right-of-passage to be the first to drive in Europe. We are used to our truck back in Australia and driving, I think it is on the left side of the road, so having a good-looking Volvo station wagon waiting for us and driving on the right side seemed doable. Me, being the Yank, driving on the right side as we do, it should have been me driving first.
The car is a lovely Volvo, complete with leather seats, and great to drive. Our first venture out was to a beach town called Isla, where we tried the potato croquettes. (I added chicken).The scenery is spectacular, cliffs, small beaches, inlets, rocks. Then we drove on to the lovely town of Santona, where the first thing that you notice is a strong smell of fish; that is if you take the backroad, which we did. Apparently it’s anchovies, which are caught, washed, aged, cured and dried. Folks in Santona are the experts in this.
Santona became our local ‘big’ town to troll. Via the internet, there are eleven-thousand people in the area, http://www.aytosantona.org/. If there is such a thing as a typical Spanish town, this would be it. We found a printer for Narda to print photos for her travel-book, some of which I am borrowing passages of for this blog. Santona has the sea on one side and mountains in back, or front if you are facing that way then the sea would be in the back. I liked apartments built into the mountain, as below, facing the sea.
The Spanish countryside is beautiful. The first town after Noja is Isla, a copy of Noja, with lots of holiday apartment buildings. If you are in town, we found lunch at Hotel Alfar tasty and affordable, with croquettes, though probably not low-carb. http://www.alfarhotel.com/ I did find the word for vegetarian, so, probably what I ate was not once an animal. We were there at low-tide, with what was becoming our often-viewed sight of the sea from many towns and angles. After Isla we went through the towns of Argons and Castillo, both smaller than Noja, beach-side tourist enclaves, on the way to downtown Santona. The whole trip is about fifteen minutes, if not stopping, or getting lost, which, surprisingly, we do.
There was some event in our town on the weekend. Tents were put up, people mingled, and there was a day and evening of music, with bands, cooking shows, and lots of foreign stuff happening. We made a short clip to give an idea of the tent and music – http://tiny.cc/tc7c3y.
Wow, talk about being clueless, I just looked up that weekend in Google, trying to piece together why there was such much merriment going on;
“Hispanic Day (Día de la Hispanidad) or National Day (Fiesta Nacional de España) is an annual national public holiday in Spain on October 12. It commemorates when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the Americas in 1492.”
Ah, something just went off in my brain-stem. When we lived in New York City, there was Columbus Day Weekend. We would go to Fifth Avenue and watch the parade. I have videos of it on YouTube, for example, you don’t want to go past this Narda/Terrell classic @ http://tiny.cc/v2mb3y ‘Columbus Day Parade New York City 2006’.
In fact, what I wrote back then about the parade was, “Not a very good parade, surely not up to New York City standards. Most of the parade was very disorganised with people wandering around as if they were in the parade. Some of the floats were OK but overall very budget”. That somewhat sums up the Columbus Weekend in Noja, except, there were no floats, but it all did seem quite random. Of course, not reading/speaking Spanish we had no idea to begin with.
For a 20-second clip of us stuck in a herd of cows in Northern Spain http://tiny.cc/5inb3y on one of our random-day-wanders through the Spanish countryside.
Most of our days were highlighted by sleeping in, playing a spot of tennis, going for a few hours drive around the local areas, taking an afternoon nap, and watching our Netflix series in the evening. The bit of a nap is not because we are as old as the hills, it is that is what the Spanish people do. From 2 – 3 or was it 4? Shops close, people go wherever they go, presumably a glass of wine and a nap, then have dinner between 9 – 11 pm. That is their day. We tweaked their day by having dinner at 6 or 7 and to sleep by 10, old-as-the-hills.
Laredo, 45-minutes away was another groovy Spanish town we visited a couple of times.
Laredo is slightly larger than Santona. It is a beach city with one of Cantabria’s longest and busiest sandy stretches. It had a very old section, dating back to Roman times. Not current Roman but old old Roman times. As with elsewhere in Spain, the folks disappear in the afternoon. We wandered around the whole old section for hours without seeing anyone. As it was siesta time, we didn’t get into the 13th-century Gothic Iglesia de Santa María cathedral. I got lots of photos which are posted somewhere.
At the end of a street we came across the tunnel leading through La Atalaya hill to the sea. I can’t find my notes on this tunnel or information on the web, though I found it was built in the 19th century, no doubt, in anticipation of our arrival in the future.