Leaving Australia ‘Again’: Before the After (e-book updated 27/09/2021)
These are a few rambling notes and photos from our little trip from Adelaide, South Australia to Cairns, Queensland. The final cost of fuel (diesel, not including the $93 petrol I put in instead of diesel and had to have the car drained when we were in a small town a month into our journey) was $2339 ($1721 USD) for 12,000 kilometres of travel and camping totalled $1138 ($841 USD). We had hoped to do more free camping. At the end of the day we did 28 nights of free camping, 24 nights at caravan parks and 8 nights at cheap ($10-$15/night places like showgrounds or donations at council run) places. We had planned about ten-days in Tweed Head as a house exchange, but it was cancelled amidst covid close-downs when we got closer. Food, etc we tried for a budget of $350/week. We came close to that with almost all our meals made in the caravan.
The last and only other time I was in Queensland was 1992. My father, 87 years old at the time, flew over from upstate New York. I was concerned such a long trip would be difficult and with changing planes in Chicago and LA and no assistance I thought somewhere he would come unstuck, but he arrived in Sydney. He saw Sacha first and almost burst into tears, he was afraid we would not be there after such a long trip. My two boys aged 8 and ten at the time, and I collected him at Sydney airport in a large RV. I had never driven an RV before and right off we had to navigate rush hour traffic and some bridge that was quite a fright in such a large vehicle.
We got as far north as the Gold Coast and Brisbane then went to our home in Victor Harbor, South Australia through Broken Hill. It was a rather difficult trip for all of us, about four weeks all together. I of course did all the driving, cooking, sorting out everything. My father and the boys all got quite grumpy at times. A typical experience was one Sunday morning I got up and my father was not in the van. Eventually he showed up in suit and tie and wanted to know why we were not ready for church. Holy cow I had not been in a church in a long time, like decades. It all went well as my father announced to seemingly many that he was from Clifton Park, New York. Later in the day when stopped at a shopping centre one of my boys (not telling who) came out with a toy. I asked where he got the money and he said they were passing around a bowl of money at the church and he took out a twenty. Yes, that really happened. One thing to this day that I regret not knowing was that we were supposed to empty the toilet. All vans have some sort of toilet or portable potty setup. We used the toilet until….well, until it was so full it would no longer flush. We also ran out of water due to taking showers. I was never shown how to fill up the water tank, so we just stayed at caravan parks. Gosh I was dumber then than now.
Italic notes are Narda’s notes – the other stuff from Terrell
Planned departure was around lunch time. Actual departure was some hours later.
We drove off happily at the end of the day into the Burra showgrounds. Met by a slightly grumpy caretaker who relieved us of $15 for an unpowered spot, we never-the-less slept like never before. I clocked up 9 hours …pretty solid.
Plenty of space at the Burra Showgrounds.
30 May 2021 Sunday Left home at 2.30 pm. Our plan was to leave about 8 am….so much for plans. We stopped at Stu’s so Narda could say goodbye to the grandchildren. They were not there. Got as far as Burra,
155 kilometres – overnight Burra Showgrounds it was 5 Celsius (41 Fahrenheit) the next morning. The fee at the showgrounds was $15 for an unpowered site. Basic toilets there – could not find the shower. OK for an overnight stay. We got out of there early the next morning.
@ Penrose Caravan Park, a very good caravan park with a lot of spaces. We booked a powered site for three nights @$35/night, which is a bit high and we will do (hopefully) a lot of free sites as 90 days at this price will mean we can only afford a block of tofu to live on per week. Worried about eating tofu we ate the first night at the Silverton Hotel pub I had a very tasty veggie lasagne (rare for me due to the high carbs and I had high blood sugars for the next two days – but worth the change in diet). Narda was happy with the road-kill version of lasagne. A lot of films and commercials are filmed in the Silverton area such as Razorback, Wake in Fright, The Slim Dusty Movie, Mission Impossible II, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The first stop for any Mad Max tourist should of course be the Silverton Hotel. There is a wealth of history surrounding the hotel, and inside you will find pictures from Mad Max 2, and many of the other productions that have been done out there over the years. The road out past Silverton will also take you to the Mundi Mundi plain, where much of the opening of the film was shot. I tried out for the Mad Max films but there was no one to sign me up, to my temporary dismay.
We went to the Mundi Mundi Lookout to watch the sunset. Missed it by five minutes as we were on Broken Hill time and Silverton – a few kilometres away is on New South Wales time – half an hour difference.
We got a photo of the road there that most of the Mad Max filming was done on.
If it sounds like I am a Mad Max enthusiast. I am not really – I think I saw one of the films many years ago but since so much is made of it here I jumped on the bandwagon as any self-respecting American Leo would. Though it is now on our list of flicks to watch if we ever slow down long enough to watch a whole movie. Speaking of movies; we recently say ‘Nomadland’ the Oscar winning film about people living in caravans and moving about in the States. It is so us. There are wild donkeys around the place – at the pub they say often they will just wander in.
The whole town consists of a pub, church, couple of art galleries…
and a couple of museums – of course there is the Mad Max Museum which we did not pay the ten-dollars to enter proving our loyalty to the film series.
01 June Tuesday
To Daydream mines tour – we have a bit of a video of this – https://youtu.be/_JF_lNJhU9E. The drive is quite rough – don’t take your caravan with you -we didn’t. Narda opened the gates along the way to get us across the barren landscape,
watch the video.
Then there was construction, or as they say in Australia, road works. Starting at Burra, this was a serious slow down for us. Barrier Hwy was slated, apparently, for many millions of dollars to be spent. We drove much of the section driving between 40kmh and 60kmh. So what’s changed, says Leon and Michael. And to that I have no comment except to say that I have more points on my license than perhaps you do. And that’s all I have to say.
I was very relieved when it was over. I am talking about the mine tour at the Daydream Mine. The name comes from the first prospector, who found a piece of silver in the ore. He could not believe his luck and said ‘only in my dreams’. It turned out to be a very productive silver mine.
We took the tour, after a nice introduction which included……no….which was ……yummy jam and cream and scones.. Then we had to put on helmets and go down, very far down. The headroom was much more suited to much short er people than me, and I found it a bit difficult. It cemented my belief that I would never like to be a miner.
Terrell also had a struggle with his leg seizing up and causing him grief, as it seemed to collapse on him as he tried to come back up to ground level. Something we will need to check up on.
“I don’t really believe that folks should be forced to have the vaccine, that would be communist”, said the friendly fellow, camping alone in the Silverton Caravan Park, called Penrose Park. He had his own camp set up, his firewood neatly lined up, and his matching blue kitchen utensils arranged in a wire bookcase. I asked him if he was OCD. He said he worked at the Silverton Pub and had a day off a week, and loved to live here, in his tent and the lovely layout.
The Silverton Pub is a treasure. Lots of famous celebs have been there, making movies like A Town like Alice, Mad Max 2, As Time goes by, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Dirty deeds, Mission Impossible 2, and many others. The area is apparently also used for many commercials, every 2 months or so. Including but not limited to Land rover, Pepsi, West End Beer, Dove Soap, Hyundai, Pajero, Smiths Chips….and so on.
The flying-doctor doctor told us that they often landed on the road to pick up folks in an emergency. We met this charming doctor and her mother watching the sun set at Mundi Mundi. We arrived too late, forgetting, I think, to make the time adjustment form SA to NSW. But it was fun chatting with this interesting person.
Then there was the couple form Melbourne, who, like most of the folks around here, did a runner from Melbourne when it shut down again. They had really interesting travel stories for us, including the Trans Siberian Rail trip, and traveling from Kazakhstan to Tashkent in Uzbekistan by train. We exchanged cards and promised to stay in touch.
So here we are in the caravan park, now on the second evening, feeling relaxed. I feel very sad about Henk’s death and not being able to make the funeral. Hopefully tomorrow we can see the ‘livestream’.
We first went in and had coffee and scones with jam and cream at the one-stop-shop for the mine. Then we did the tour where we learned that
“A miner’s life consisted of twelve-hour days, six days a week. Miners worked by Candlelight which were held in holders known as spiders. Mining method was mostly by hammer and tapping holes, then firing them. Miners did not leave the workings for firings. Pickey boys (Lads of 14-15 years old) would hand pick the ore after a firing, and bag it. Most miners suffered failing eyesight and respiratory diseases.”the internet
We got the senior rate for the tour ($30 each two bucks off the regular admission whoopee) but after scones and coffee, the bill was like thirty eight something – but they were good.
The tour before going into the mines was fine. In the time of covid we even wore masks.
02 June Wednesday
Rain all day – we stayed another night at Penrose Caravan Park. We watched Netflix in the evening.
Our first free camp. The road consists mainly of caravaners. Quite incredible, I think 2 out of 3. The road trains continue on their way oblivious, causing my extended side mirror to flatten against the car each time they whoosh by.
Terrell lit up a nice fire in the rest stop near the highway. There were 5 or 6 other vans and RVs nearby. A magical sky, all the constellations and far away galaxies in full view.
Left Silverton 11 am – shopping in Broken Hill. Found the local dump point (for those who have no idea what a dump point is and its importance to folks like us – think of an indoor loo with no outlet – just a collection tub and what to do with it after a few days) This is our second time to Broken Hill and both times just passing through. Last year we came this way on the way to Port Macquarie. (I am sure you read our blog on this) We will make a special trip here someday as there is so much to see. Mines and all and a train to Sydney.
(OK more interesting stuff too)
Overnight free camping alongside highway 100 Ks west of Wilcannia – arrived 4.45 pm – made a campfire to stay warm – 3 degrees Celsius – 37 degrees in Yank speak.
04 June Friday
Left 8 am – Overnight free camping alongside highway – arrived 2 pm, feel exhausted for all the nothing we have been doing. Perhaps driving through desert landscapes for hours is tiring. First nap since started – stopping in Cobar for petrol – used smoothie maker in bathroom – campfire – 60 Ks from Bourke. To elaborate on those notes…When home I make my daily smoothie with our super blender thingy: almond milk (yes at home I make my own – soaking ¼ cup almonds 24-hours, taking skins off them as we watch Netflix – blending with 4-cups water – enough for 4-days of smoothie, (when travelling I buy it in cartons) kale, blueberries, homemade yogurt, home grown sprouts, coconut oil, flaxseed oil (oils supposed to be good for brain development – ha ha ha – still waiting for that effect after decades of these things) tahini, and powders (hemp protein powder, sugar-free coco, cinnamon, turmeric, Matcha, Green banana fibre, Acai, Pea protein, Spirulina, and a Super Greens) Really! It is a bit embarrassing, so I never tell anyone outside of Narda. She calls it green slime and refuses it – I think it does me good. I made up two large containers of my powder mix – enough for a month+. When we travel, I have a small food blender mixer thingy – so I leave out the kale – everything else goes in. As we do a lot of free camping I usually mix it up and carry my blender into the toilet when we get petrol. There is always somewhere to plug it in – usually where the dryer is plugged in. The daily few hours drive is quiet good – though a lot of sameness,
this is what the landscape looks like after a few hours
I have a fascination with the road trains; many with four-carriages. Signs on the highway say they are up to 53.5 metres – that is 175.5 feet. Stand the truck on its end and about a fifteen-story building.
Another freebie, this time with only a couple of others. Another fire, some wine and a nap.
Met some interesting folks at this caravan park which is the nicest one we have seen. They talked us into going all the way to the gulf, which is quite a lot further than we had planned.
This afternoon (Sunday) we rode our bikes (not the electric ones!) into the small town. Everything was closed though there were many caravans in town. We seem to be spending a lot on diesel, at $1.50 per litre. Heater is on now, the nights are pretty cold, but days are sunny and 18C.
Spend a bit of time removing red dust from many things 😊
red dust after a few days off road (not our van)
Birthday stay, dinner at the RSL, and a wonderful visit to the Qantas Museum where we honoured Henk. Irene told us they had been there twice and he loved it both times. I even made an announcement about him and his long career with Qantas to the tour group we were with, and that the world had lost him only a few weeks ago. Got a very sympathetic response. Then we all had cupcakes for the 25th anniversary of the museum.
Walked through town in the evening, but everything (except the pubs) was closed.
Two degrees Celsius this morning – left Cunnamulla camp site at 9 am – stopped at Wyandra for coffee – drove through Charleville – lunch – walked through old pub Camping 45 Ks north of Augathella 70Ks south of Tambo. Tambo is a town with lots of buildings. We stopped at the library and had a long tour and talk of the town from the local Librarian.
We toured inside several planes including one that apparently cost $35-million to tart up and was to be sold to a Saudi Prince until he was told that the seats were covered in pigskins. Oops! Michael Jackson ended up with it for awhile then it sat in a muddy field in England and the Qantas Museum folks put it together and flew to Longreach.
We got tours through several other planes including a 747 jumbo. See ‘Celebrities and top-secret missions: Stories from the Qantas Founders Museum.
The town of Longreach is good – train station with a train going across to Brisbane that we promised ourselves we would take, ‘one-day’.
– left 2.15 pm to Winton
Lured by the prospect of another free site, we braved the corrugated road for 2 Kms. It was beautiful, on the banks of “The Long Waterhole”, of course all the water side spots were already taken by fellow tight-arses, but we had a beautiful sunrise.
Next morning drove into Winton, we took off the bikes and rode around town. I bought 2 tea shirts at the local Vinnies, and Terrell had an extended conversation with 2 ladies about America and other matters. Well actually, he did the talking and they gave him their rapt attention! One was from Scotland, and knew all about Findhorn, (a hippy place in the 60’s, we visited years ago, and they were still selling books on “how to communicate with your cat”), so that was a wonderful starting point.
Overnight outside Winton staying at The Long Waterhole – there about 4 pm – made campfire – cold. The landscape around The Long Waterhole is dry and dusty. We could have easily stayed for a few days but being at the beginning of our journey we thought one day would suffice. Winton is a good looking town – we missed the chicken racing though…next time.
It was just a pub with no town. But boy the caravans were there. The whole area behind the pub, where we had planned to stay for a gold coin donation was chockers. So folks like us parked on the footpaths, amply wide enough. A good stay and some nice yarns with people in the pub over a beer. We were advised by a local stockwoman to take the inland road over the Atherton tablelands, rather than the coastal road, which we did.
The Prairie Hotel is a free/donation appreciated campsite located on the Flinders Highway (Savage Street) in the small town of Prairie about 43km east of Hughenden in the Flinders Region of Northwest Queensland. The hotel is an authentic Aussie hotel providing a free overnight campsite on its grounds and is a must-see for its collection of stockmen’s hats and other memorabilia from the local area. It is a bit of a bogan (Bogan is Australian and New Zealand slang for a person whose speech, clothing, attitude, and behaviour are considered unrefined or unsophisticated) sort of place. We had planned to eat dinner there. The publican said dinner was steak and veg. I said what was there for vegetarians? He said ‘veg’. We ate in our caravan.
Overnight outside Winton staying at The Long Waterhole – there about 4 pm – made campfire – cold. The landscape around The Long Waterhole is dry and dusty. We could have easily stayed for a few days but being at the beginning of our journey we thought one day would suffice. Winton is a good looking town – we missed the chicken racing though…next time. This is commonly known as the locals’ waterhole. It is approximately 2kms from Winton on the Jundah Road. Long Waterhole is man-made and was once used during the Outback Festival as the site for the World Crayfish Derby! The road to it is pretty rough – even going slow it felt as if the caravan would fall apart.
Charters Towers was founded in the 1870s when gold was discovered by chance at Towers Hill on Christmas Eve 1871 by 12-year-old Aboriginal boy.
A much needed two night stay with power. Washing, clothes and bodies…all clean! Friendly folk in the van next door with good stories about driving on the dirt. An embarrassing exit, as we could not lower our awning. So we fumbled and forced, our neighbour tried to help, Terrell went into the caravan and applied the hammer….hey presto, all fixed.
Two degrees in morning – rode bikes around town, don’t think I would want to spend the rest of my life here, not much of a town in our world though they do their best to promote it with a great visitor’s centre. I bought a fridge magnet to end to our totally covered fridge back home, Narda bought a red backpack.
A little town that boasts one the few sausage trees in the world. We went into the caravan park full of galahs, ducks and turkeys. Quite a racket. Luckily they all went to bed at night. Another nice little bike ride checking out the real estate.
An old disused railway station with carriages on the tracks and lots of memorabilia made the next caravan stay interesting. We stayed here 2 days.
At 930 metres (3,050 ft) above sea level, Ravenshoe is the highest town in Queensland, with Queensland’s highest pub. The railway station is where the caravan park is, easily walkable to town. We did a day drive the area going to the Tully Falls and Gorge. Quite spectacular and groovy at the same time.
We have a bit of a video of the falls and gorge at https://youtu.be/5NvNSorPrwQ
“I can remember my past lives”, the local art shop owner/framer/photographer assured us. He said he used to be a potato farmer in Ireland in a previous life. He was bon in 1953, though he remembers dying in 1954. I can’t quite figure that one out, but he said this sometimes happens and you can live in 2 lives at once. He actually seemed quite intelligent despite these stories. Got the hat in the local craft store, birthday pressie from Terrell.
We had difficulty getting out of this dude’s shop…he just went on and on. Having been ‘an astrologer’ for 40-years (it is how I got to Australia, I was speaking at a conference in Sydney in 1980…blahblahblah) and had spent a decade trapped in a cult, I had heard his spiel too many times to want to hear it again. (BTW I don’t believe in any of this anymore. I grew out of it as most people do). But I did think he had a very chilled dog – see above photo with Narda and animal. I shared a bit about this at https://neuage.me/2013/01/13/those-were-the-days/
The drive from Ravenshoe to Atherton was hairy. Very steep roads, with sharp bends. I was driving much slower than others it seemed, so I had quite a following. Nowhere to allow folks to pass. Sometimes the road had steep drops with no safety barrier. In a later conversation around a campfire, other drivers assured me that they were also freaked out by this particular road, while towing. So it wasn’t just me.
The next day I had pretty severe vertigo. Not sure if there’s a connection. We found a physio in Atherton who was great. She was an expert in this area and diagnosed me with 2 conditions; vestibular neuritis (viral infection of the inner ear) and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. I have to do brain retraining exercises (watch an X on the wall and rapidly moving my head to make my left ear canal and brain connection make up for the damaged neural connection. A couple of weeks should do it.
Today, 3 days later it’s much better already. Weird stuff.
Deb, a volunteer at the Rocky Creek Memorial Park welcomed us to our free (donation only) park; really nice place.
We stayed at this park for a couple of days. A great area outside of Tolga. During World War II they had the biggest military base in Australia – with the largest military hospital in the Southern Hemisphere — a 3000 bed hospital which treated over 60,000 patients from 1943 to 1945. Next to the caravan site is this great mine.
Now we are waiting for our damper in the last night at Ringers Rest RV Park. A great place, we are close to the nightly fire where a ring of oldies sit around drinking beer and pontificating. I have some nights got myself caught with true blue Trumpers. Blimey. But this is Queensland.
We bought a CD from Dave. A nice country mix “I remember” by his friend, Dennis Russell of his in a tribute for his dad, with also on song about Ringers Rest.
We decided to stay 3 nights, slow down a bit.
Below is the song about Dave and his damper…
We did lots of walks to the nearby stream. I wanted to see the local crocodile that lived there. Narda was not too sure. We were told that freshwater crocs don’t kill humans they just bit. Great. Nevertheless, we never saw it.
We did see a lot of termite hills, some quite large. We will show this later, next month, when we share our video of them along the highway.
One morning at 4 am we heard quite large noises, considering how quiet the countryside we were in was this got us up – we bundled up and went out in the two-degree (centigrade) weather and watched to hot air balloons in the nearby fields. They spent until sunrise – six am or there about – to get them in the air. Apparently, there were 25 people in each. Dave later told us that we could go for half price – $200. Below is a bit of a clip of this. 27 seconds… https://youtu.be/4IjhPwHyY4c
Parked at the caravan park, on the banks of a river. Nice to shower and wash stuff. Then headed off to Pt Douglas and stayed overnight with Carolin and Michael in a very pleasant Airbnb.
That evening we went to the local Irish pub were I drank a Kilkenny, accompanied with pulled pork sliders. All good. Gelatis for dessert.
We were walking to 4 Mile Beach with Carolin and Michael, (on a Tuesday…our holyday), we received the news from Chris that baby was pending, then an hour later baby Josiah was born!!!!!! They had a weird story to tell, with a 3 car pile up smashing into the back of their car, and possibly bringing on the contractions!!!!
Drove back to Mossman, only 15 minutes away and rode our bikes up to the Mossman Gorge Visitors centre. Also found a nice little shop where we bought some pressies for the new boy and his big brother.
Brendan is exploring Skardu in Pakistan, the Masters finally completed. The photo I saw on Facebook was at 13,500 ft. Impressive!!
This place is sooo beautiful. Tall rugged mountains all around, covered in rainforest. If the summers were not so fierce I think we could easily live here.
The drive from Mossman to Cairns follows a coastal road and is spectacular. We took it easy (much to the concern of those behind us!)
Our first full day was getting Terrell’s second shot at a well set up health centre. Today he got his official vaccination certificate from the Australian government!!! Yay.
Below is the exact place for this recent headline, “Queensland Environment Wildlife officers have spotted a crocodile in Lake Placid in Cairns just hours after a man survived a horror attack while swimming.” Apparently the dude went swimming here everyday…crocs watch for patterns, when someone or something does the same thing at the same time they think, ‘yumm’. Narda was opposed to us swimming here – not sure why.
Last night we had a wonderful reunion with Paul, a dear friend I had not seen for 20 years or so. We met his wife, Liz and 2 kids, Hannah (aged 16) and Matthew (aged 14) in their beautiful wooden Cairns house. Carolin and Michael also came. They made nice veggie curry, and we bought some naan bread on the way. Also brought our first attempt at homemade raita, which was enjoyed all round. Lots of reminiscing and great food and fellowship.
click on individual photo below to see full size
The train ride to Karunda was amazing. It reminded us a bit of the Shimla rail trip with steep drops and lots of tunnels; also built in the 1800’s. [in case you missed that blog – with video and photos shoot on over to https://neuage.me/2018/04/05/shimla/] There is a real tourist strip through the town but once we got past that …did not buy anything…[wait! what? yes you did, you bought a few pieces of clothing – I remember. I was there.] we found some lovely trails through rain forest, as you do in this part of the world.
We checked out downtown Cairns, parked in a huge shopping centre and walked down the main drag. We found a neat little market style place where we ate crepes, made by a real Frenchman.
We returned in the evening a few days later when here was a festival of some kind. Nice atmosphere. Terrell had his first parmesan, veggie of course, I had chicken and we got the up graded chips using sweet potatoes. Really good.
We are not those people who take photos of their meals then post them…oh wait!!!
This was one for the history books. A perfectly pleasant free camp (donation) with showers and toilets and LOTS of caravans. A big brown river passing by about 3 metres lower. It rained for 3 days and 3 nights. Solid! This was a first time for me I think.
So trips to Babinda proper, on the other side of the Brice highway were made, umbrella in hand. Eventually most things were wet, though the van did not leak. I was nervous about getting bogged there. We were parked in a bit of a shallow dip. We turned the van around the second day o get out of the water. I asked the guy driving the garbage truck if I should be towing us out to drier parts. He said “nuh, you’re fine. Only twice a year it floods and then it comes above my head. You’ll be fine”. OK.
On the first morning we inspected the brown river and I kid you not, it had risen a solid metre and was flowing alarmingly fast.
But we were fine, as we had been told. On our last morning we ate a hot brekkie, the full works at a café in the charming town, for $8. A bloke sitting nearby told us that Babinda and Tully compete for the dubious honour of having the highest rainfall in Australia. The pub that winds gets the rubber boot trophy until next time.
We went to the Babinda Boulders and the Josephine Falls, a tiered cascade waterfall on the Josephine Creek located in Wooroonooran. We did both on a rainy day. After three days of rain the falls were amazing. Narda said they were ‘the best I have ever seen’ and we have been to Niagara Falls (on both the Canadian and USA side)… whatifs – they were spectacular no matter the comparison. They are dangerous. @ least 18 folks have died slipping on the rocks/falling into the creek. Our photos and video really don’t show the force of these falls – quite incredible. Look at our slideshow below or better yet watch the one-minute clips.
click on individual photo below to see full size
OK! I will tell what happened while here…I was hoping Narda would. Two things:
this is exactly where Billy stopped – choking on the wrong type of fuel
here is a 25 second clip of that hour
A very crowded caravan park in a stunning place. The beach is gorgeous ringed with palm tress. A picture! Blue seas, mountains on the horizon and in the sea (Dunk Island I think).
Yesterday an old friend of Terrell’s (from 35 years ago) drove down to see us, with her friend. We had a nice breakfast in one of the café’s in town, and shared great stories.
The old friend was actually quite young. When I was raising my boys in Victor Harbor back in the 1980s early 1990s their playmates were the Rosalskis family. They were a Baháʼí family that looked after my boys and me when we were going through a very difficult period. In the early 1990s I started a radio station (E-FM Encounter FM) with Rik Rosalski and Sandy Mathewson down south. The last time Sacha remembers seeing Hannah Rosalski was when she was about six and he was ten – early 1990s. We would later see Rik Rosalski in Alice Springs on our journey home.
Vincent Bushy Park
The park was named after Vincent ‘Bushy’ Parker to acknowledge his significance; to many Vincent ‘Bushy’ Parker is known as a war hero. There is a real cool story about the dude here – read about a cool dude.
Another beautiful free camp spot! Nights chatting with travellers from interstate, one from Malta, the wife from Wales. Pleasant conversation. Then we went off to the next beach spot, and picked up some firewood. Riding our bikes to the main street of this little town was nice. We bought 2 post cards and mailed them to the girls. Masks mandatory in the post office/general store! This is a flow over from the Covid restrictions in Townsville. We bought a delicious pineapple (which grows all round here, for brekkie….$3!
After leaving Rollingstone we noticed the brakes behaving badly, locking and causing the caravan to skid. It got significantly worse by the time we got to Townsville so we rang the Redarc friendly tech guy who recommended an auto electrician, and we managed to get an appointment for 8am the next morning. (PS. these are those brakes that were not working days earlier when Narda had to back us up along a country road. They seemed to work a bit when dried out but suddenly did not work at all)
We drove through the trendy Airlie Beach, Whitsundays – kept going
Friendly folk at the auto electrician, a young guy worked in it for an hour or so, trying to save the appliance, but it turned out that we needed a new one. They charged about $450 which was not bad, given the retail price for the part was around that amount.
We had not planned to go to Townsville as it had been in lock-down for a week up to the day before we got there. However, there was no other place nearby to fix our brakes.
Next day we headed to Home Hill. The GPS gave us the run-around, taking us off the Bruce Hwy for 1/32 , then bringing us back onto it! Blimey. But we made a scenic little side-trip through cane fields and small towns.
John Moerman rang and wondered if we were still in Cairns as he was there, on his way to Cooktown. Bummer we missed him.
It was funny because both Paul and John made cracks about Home Hill. John told us it was an incestuous town. Ha ha. Actually, we did notice that in the dogs barking in front yard they were all similar, very similar!!
The campground was nice, an older couple (probably volunteers) were manning it. We paid $20 np for power which was nice, caught up on stories and recharging
The most delicious barramundi for tea was purchased from the local fish and chip shop. Yum. Mine was crumbed. The best fish I’ve ever had.
Off to Ayr to check on some memories. We found and photographed Paul’s old house and drove through the pleasant town. One the way chatted with some ladies at the info centre, outdoors. Lots of opinions about how to pronounce Mackay….Mackay as in Kay the girl’s name…the locals mostly use that version, or Mackay, as we pronounce it….the “posh” southern state version. We decided to stick with that one.
Narda got her second covid-19 shot there (I had mine weeks earlier in Cairns). We also had to get a new windscreen for Billy – bloody road-train threw a rock at him and cracked his window. We spent a day at Port of Mackay which is a relatively a nice place with a long breakwater that is drive-able on. See our clip below.
It was a caravan park next to the visitors centre. We paid $15 for an unpowered site which gave us a choice of places over a large field. The first human contact was a guy who was cycling all over Australia and making a movie of it. He had his little tent, and his gear under a tree and promised more stories. We never followed this, a pity, it would have been interesting.
Bowen is situated on a beautiful stretch of coast. We drove up to some lookout points and took many photos. Other than that it seems a bit of a rough town, at least parts of it.
On the way to Ball Bay we went through Ayr to find Paul’s house where I also stayed some 25 years ago. I took a photo and sent it to him. The place did not remind me of being there lot’s of changes I guess. I had a great gas bag with 3 ladies who were “information” at the entrance of Ayr, where we discussed Covid, as you do these days, and the pronunciation of Mackay.
Then we stopped by Airlie Beach, a beautiful place with lots of touristy things, including a market, shopping, a marina, lots of stunning views. We stopped at Bunnings and bought fairy lights for the caravan and a rubber mat. Then onwards to Ball Bay. I missed the turnoff. Terrell insisted on still going there, so we took the long way, and we certainly did not regret it.
This was a lovely experience. A free council site, about 20 kms off the Bruce highway, right on the beach. It had toilets, and little mini camp kitchen with a power point and hot water. Plenty of shade. When we fist arrived we just managed to find a spot, right next door to a couple we became quite friendly with, Kevin and Magda (?)
On the Sunday many folks left: end of school holidays. After that we had the van brigade with their young people and sliding doors. Locally called Whizz Bangers. It’s the noise those sliding doors make…all night. We made some friends. A young guy named Nick and his girlfriend of 3 months, Ebony. Lovely people. We met Nick in a laundromat in Mackay and got talking about where we were staying. I told him that if he turned up I would give him a beer😉
What was interesting to me that Nick was a true traveller and had spent much of his life working as a chef, and saving enough to travel, then going 6 months to India and many other places until he ran out of money. So had some nice talks about that, all of us really missing international travel in this crazy pandemic. They left us a lovely letter, an Elvis calendar and a little piece of art made from a twig. We have them on Facebook.
In the time in Ball Bay I had my second Astra Zeneca jab. No side effects at all, so far. We found an appointment in a surgery in the shopping centre in Mackay. I was part of a group, 5 of us, who got vaccinated together. We shared jokes about…was she going to use the same needle, what do we say to non-vaxxers etc. Nice. I didn’t feel it at all.
We explored the area, took some walks on the beach where we got some fantastic sunrise photos. Then a longer walk to the end, mangroves, and a lovely walk back (in the shade….lots of beautiful groves of trees, many paperbarks and palm trees. Some great beach houses. I think this is quite affordable.
Then there was the door. We fiddled and farted around with it, trying to install the very expensive little plastic handle ($56!!!!) which we had purchased at Jayco, Townsville. In the end, Kevin our friendly neighbour with the generator, installed it for us. He insisted that he did not know what he was doing, but that he was persistent, and liked to work things out. All good!
We had a couple of nice happy hours with these folks, set up by another newly arrived Czech couple, who came in their very fancy RV, complete with pull-outs. We had lots of conversations about travel, especially cruises. It was fun, our little circle in the middle of the grounds.
This was one of if not my favorite spot. We were there for six days. One of the ‘standards’ was this generation whatever it is for people in their 30s who would spend most of the day walking around the park in his boxer shorts and nothing else talking on his phone. I think he was working from home (well in this case from the caravan park) and he was always talking business. He seemed like a friendly fellow – wish I had gotten a photo of him – with no self-consciousness. He had one of those vans that people call ‘ Whizz Bangers ‘ next to us.
See our little slideshow of this place below – if you think we are throwing up a lot of photos, it is about one-percent of them. The photo with the fence around it is a crocodile preventive thingy – due to the number of these delightful playful creatures to go for a swim do it inside the fenced area or you will be quickly eaten.
And here I sit, writing this, in the caravan parked on the street behind the visitors’ centre, together with a whole street of caravans of all shapes and sizes. This is a free spot, hot showers included. Terrell is fast asleep, now it’s 6.30am, I’m getting close to accidently waking him up 😊…no I won’t do that.
We did a big U turn when we heard that NSW was closed and we would have to quarantine if we returned home through NSW. So back to Home Hill and onwards to the NT border and then home along the Stuart Hwy.
Last night we did something we never do…go to the pub for a drink and see the band. They were a duet of ladies with their guitars and no electronic add ons other than the PA/mics. They were great. Lots of golden oldies with great voices and lovely harmonies. Very enjoyable, though we were only there for about ½ an hour.
It was a lovely shady spot with a thick green tree shading us. There are we few more folks, but not crowded. The couple near us have been on the road for 14 years. They still love it. We took the bikes off and road along a service road next to the railway track. Half an hour of exercise.
We have started to get into a groove, leaving fairly early in the morning, on our way by at least 8.30am. Now we pack sandwiches; I eat mine at about 11.00am., and we take the thermos for coffee. It’s all pretty efficient and we make good progress
Julia creek is beautiful if you get there early enough for a water’s edge spot, but we didn’t and parked in the large dusty field. Not too bad, but on the second night a caravan parked itself right next to us…despite there being plenty of room not to do that. I was pretty cranky about it; you could hear every word they said!.
Then…..a wind gust tore the caravan awing. We tried taping it, but the more we tried the more it ripped. In the end I phoned Jeff Hale (bless) who said to just rip it right off, take all the canvas off. It worked, we folded the frame back into place and the next morning we were happily on our way. I made a phone call to a guy in Mt Isa to see if he could repair it. It will be an insurance job, but he said he could do it, but the awning would have to come from Brisbane which would take two weeks. So we decided to leave it until we get home to Adelaide (which I’ve just hear is in a 7 day lock down…schools closed etc, because of some Covid cases with the Delta strain in Modbury Hospital.
We also mailed a book for Liam, about the Australian monster dinosaurs.
I found the local dunnart’s interesting – even took a short clip of one though I am unable to find my file – hopefully you can see it here where I posted it on facebook –
Here I sit in the most beautiful place, above the blue waters of the dam. Incredible. There are hundreds of caravans here, but it’s a huge area. Many folks on the actual shores of the dam. We are up a bit, with a view of water from 3 sides.
Our trip here was interesting. After shopping in Cloncurry (called Curry by the locals) where I scored an awesome meat pie, almost as good as a Villis, we drove to the camping are, studiously following the directions in Camps 8. “At the first Y you take a left”. We literally did that, onto a 2 wheel track, not realising that there are proper dirt roads all the way. We got monumentally stuck. Too many trees, and a sharp out-crop of rocks which Billy got stuck on, but Terrell took care of this with his trusty hammer. Eventually we figured out that we had to saw down a small tree, (sorry Jess) and managed to squeeze though. No damage to the car or van due to Terrell’s good directing. Oh well, we got there, and it was definitely worth it!!!
We took a short afternoon nap, with the breeze wafting through the van and a walk around the grounds. Terrell slipped and fell hard onto his knees. A nasty fall, he now sports a couple of decent bandages on each knee and a ton of Betadine!
We drove to an amazing mine site called Mary Kathleen. It was owned by Rio Tinto who were mining uranium. They built a complete town nearby, with houses, cafes shopping centre and a school for the miners. It was closed in 1985 and all the houses were relocated to Cloncurry, where they are still in use today. Nothing remains of the town, part some foundations and road curbs.
The mine itself was a 6km serious 4WD ride away. A huge place, all in tiers, with a startling blue lake at the bottom. No one can swim there as it is still contaminated. Certainly worth a look, it was just 6 Kms from our camping site.
Our neighbours showed us their yabbie catch. The males have soft red claws, and they can be eaten though we were told they are not as tasty as lobster! They had planned to make a curry using 20 of these yabbies.
We reluctantly left Corella Dam, to get some connection. Nothing for several days. I had a very unpleasant experience on the drive, as a large truck overtook a road train on a curve and came over the double lines, at least a foot onto my side. I was doing 80Kms at the time, and managed to swerve off the road and into the shoulder. All good, but it sure left my heart pounding.
Mt Isa is dominated by the mine. Large chimneys loom over the town. It is quite large, Coles and Woollies (which we discovered was the better of the two) and we managed to get some help at the Telstra shop. Terrell could not get his hot spot working on the phone. It took two of them ½ hour to find it, but it turned out to be that the ‘data saver’ was on. They now also sell Oppo phones so that perhaps gives us a bit of tech help when we need it.
The situation in Adelaide is pretty bad Covid wise. Hot spots include Wyn Vale Dam, TTP, Modbury Hospital. The girls, Clare and Stu are all in quarantine at home for 2 weeks. Stu has lost 10 shifts of work. Really tough.
The caravan park at Mt Isa is pretty average with the usual squashed up site, for $45! But we did get stuff done, washed hair, washed clothes, checked internet stuff.
A couple of hours drive and we are at this town 12 Km from the NT border. We followed the Camps 8 directions, past the bridge, turn north, 2 Kms of dirt road and here we are. An amazing site, with our own little billabong, birdlife, 2 fire places and absolutely no road noise. Magic. It’s so quiet and private….
The petrol station was chockers, caravans lined up down the highway. They were charging 1.79 per litre.
Camooweal Billabong is a huge free camp on Lake Francis – even though hundreds go park we were isolated from the herd and had our own little billabong. We rode our bikes to town – bought an ice cream a couple of fridge magnets and that was one of our days. See our groovy photos below:
We got through the NT border, friendly cop, chatty, complaining that this border did not have QR codes like they apparently do In WA. Listening to Imran Kahn’s CD. Very interesting perspective on the USA after 9/11 and how they waged a “war on terror” costing many thousands of lives in the Muslim community world wide.
This place is great. Barkly Homestead. It has a caravan park, a little pool, lots of space, and tonight we went to the restaurant for dinner. I had meat lovers pizza and Terrell had seared salmon. All good. We watched the Aussies win the swimming in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Bren just texted that he’s back in Lahore after a really interesting trip north into the Himalayas. Looking forward to hearing more.
Josiah is 1 month old. That went very quickly. Sad that we can’t go over there to see the little guy. SA is in lockdown. It’s all a mess. Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison seems to think that borders closings are going to save us from the Delta mutation, instead of putting all effort into getting everyone vaccinated. Grrr.
We left Barkly Homestead early and got over the border and to Tennant Creek stopping at the Three Way Roadhouse. Three Ways is a roadhouse located at the junction of the Stuart and Barkly Highways, 25 kilometers north of Tennant Creek. Diesel fuel was $2.04 per litre – the highest on this trip. For comparison it is about $1.35 in Adelaide. We filled up not knowing if there would be more available between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs 508 KM away. One full tank gets us abut 450 Ks and having run out back Charters Towers toward the beginning of our trip we were a bit insecure. ‘Spoiler alert’… we didn’t run of fuel getting to Alice.
Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is a protected area in the Northern Territory of Australia located in the locality of Warumungu about 105 km south of Tennant Creek, and 393 km north of Alice Springs. the Devils Marble are important to the local Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarra, and Warlpiri people who live in the traditional country that surrounds them
An amazing place, but we weren’t the only ones who thought so. The camp site already had 35 caravans, pretty much lined up as in a caravan park. It is a national park, with some nice waking trails where you can see the rock formations from all sides. It’s pretty amazing and has a place in the indigenous people’s dreamtime stories. In the evening we were invited to a campfire to listen to a ranger tell us about his role as a manger of several similar sites, and lots of interesting information about the wildlife, kangaroos, snakes, and Australian’s largest lizard, the Perentie 2 ½ metres long, which keeps the snakes at bay. Much of their work is to cull feral animals (cats mainly, but also donkeys) which threaten the native population.
Another bonus was a guy who, toward sunset went up the path a bit, with the back drop of the rocks, and played his trumpet. Wonderful. Jazz standards like Autumn Leaves, Don’t get around much anymore, Summer Time, all with beautiful improvisations. I asked him about his James Morrisonesque playing and he said he actually had one of his trumpets which he bought from him. He showed me the inscription. Very cool.
A very pleasant little stay with some interesting characters. There was an ex-truckie in his own little set-up with car and tent, who watched me reverse the caravan ( I was little concerned) and told me later that I drove better than 90% of his trucker mates. Not true I’m sure, but I’ll take it!
Then we met a couple of women, both with their own fancy RV’s, who had met further up the road and decided, after asking each other relevant questions like “How fast do you drive?”, to travel together. So they follow each other at a decent speed of 100 KPH, and enjoy each other’s company’. They both gave me the guided tour of their vans and I told them to watch “Nomadland”.
Barrow Creek: “Barrow Creek is a very small town, with a current population of 11, in the southern Northern Territory of Australia. It is located on the Stuart Highway, about 280 km north of Alice Springs, about halfway from there to Tennant Creek. The main feature of the town is the roadhouse/hotel” We stopped here and ‘refreshed’.
Much nicer than I was expecting. A few years ago it was the most dangerous city in the world per capita, mainly because of the stabbings!
We met up with a friend of Terrell’s from way way back….30 years or so, Rik Rosalski. It was interesting to listen to his stories about his youth work with the Indigenous young people. Lots of issues but he is a gentle type and works well with them in a non-judgemental way.
The second day Rik invited us back for lunch, where we met his son Nik and his wife and little son. They were a lovely couple and we enjoyed shooting the breeze with this family.
We decided to stay another night and get some stuff done. The internet (Telstra) is pretty sparce on this trip. I worked with Shambhu in his project to earn some commission on carpet sales from the Moghul Company to my friends. I put up a blurb on Facebook with a bunch of pictures describing this situation (which for both Shambhu and the Carpet seller is pretty dire now with Covid) Surprisingly, I got 5 expressions of interest almost straight away (Jenn, Jo, Liz, Deanna, Marnie). So we’ll see. I hope it all works out.
Alice Springs is set amongst rocky hills, which reflect the sun and it make quite a colourful sight. It has a central area, usual shops, and a huge police station and Federal Court buildings! We bought a nice music box at a jeweller for Mabel’s birthday in the shopping mall.
Rik also showed us a nice lookout point dedicated to soldiers in different wars Australia has fought in. It was a beautiful spot. We also had a bike ride near the caravan park. The town is pretty good for that, with lots of bike paths, which Rik enjoyed with his newly purchased E-Bike….a real chunky one!
We got to the South Australia border – worried for days that we would be refused entry. We saw the sign – got rid of our fruit and veggies – we filled in the online permit covid thingy and hoped for the best. No one was there to greet us – I had wanted a full brass band, dancing girls in mini-skirts (oh shit the me-2 freaks are going to come after me – shut me down on twitter…and the other 73.5 social-less sites I inhabit.
A simple overnight rest area next to the Stuart highway. The highlight was sitting in our deck chairs in the dark looking at the magnificent sky. There was no moonlight, just a couple of sinister clouds sometimes coming across. Gorgeous.
We met a woman travelling with her sister in an impressive rig. Both husbands had died and they were off to Katherine, to turn left into WA and take a trip around and back to Adelaide, expecting to take up to 6 months.
One of them came from Mt Compass, had lived there forever and so Terrell and her shared stories of their memories in the 80’s. It’s a small world.
Found a decent spot in the middle of the red desert! It’s very quiet, not too hot, and lots of room for everyone. So far only 4 other campers, a long way from each other.
Terrell made a very respectable fire in the evening, which was still glowing the next morning so we also had a morning coffee fire. Nice!
Drove into Coober Pedy to get some supplies at their great IGA. They have so much good stuff, Terrell remembered this from last time. All sorts of gourmet things, and of course good health food stuff.
Then a fairly long drive to the next spot. It was blowing pretty hard, around 45 kph, which did not stop all night long. We had a bit of a restless night because of this I think. No fires tonight there was way too much wind.
We stopped at a petrol station hoping to have brekkie there, but the sign on the door said, no entry if you have been interstate in the past 2 weeks.
So onward to Lake Hart, a huge salt lake we have camped at before, back in 2017. We are a bit low on supplies, so we’ll be using some tins, and bits and bobs. Nothing too flash, but it’s a beautiful spot. Definitely back in the winter zone, coats and beanies. And I have a little stash of Peter’s drumstick, double choc. My new favs.
“Once one of Australia’s most prized salt deposits, Lake Hart was at the centre of a thriving industry in the 1930s. Today, it draws visitors for its isolation and natural beauty and can be spotted from the comfort of Great Southern Rail’s Ghan as it snakes its way along 2,979km of rail between Darwin and Adelaide.”
A nice site in Pt Augusta. We did not expect this. The caravan park was right on a water passage with long goods trains on the other side, really long! We set up camp, checked out the facilities (clean, new and pleasant , with a radio playing there all the time. Also a very well equipped huge camp kitchen, where we happily watched the news with the whole place to ourselves, the first time in quite a while.
That evening we met Gaynor for dinner at the local pub. I had a great beef lasagne, with salad and chips, more than enough, and Terrell had a nice fish meal. Nice to catch up, she is the safety officer of the large clean energy facilities, with windmills and acres of solar panels. She loves the job.
We took a bike ride to Maccas, underestimating the distance, but crossing the long bridge which was beautiful and made it worth the ride.
The next day we drove home. We were quite ready to be home again, despite the crappy weather. The kitchen when we walked in felt HUGE! 😊 And that first night I was looking for the portapotty. 😊
All in all a wonderful trip, which we will no doubt do again in a different direction.
Well we have run out of puff writing this – bottom line – long story short – we got home before my birthday. Turned 74 August 10th thanks for all the gifts, well wishes, love, poems, money…
We had bought our tickets to New Zealand for October – had two house exchanges. Of course, we take chances – though we really thought we had this one. Now NZ is closed to us all until end of the year. Maybe next April. Then maybe next July or so to the States. We were supposed to have gone this last year: had bought a ticket on the Queen Mary II, house exchange in Chicago for a month – had our round trip ticket on Amtrak DC to Chicago. Luckily we got all our money back, even the insurance except for a boat trip Great Britain to Hamburg to get the Queen Mary – got a credit for that one so hopefully next year. Looking forward to catching up with you soon. Put the kettle on – it won’t be long. 27/08/2021
SIGNS OF THE TIMES WE HAD
As we got back to celebrate my birthday – who won’t? we went to see the Van Gogh Alive show
And that’s a wrap – off to live a ‘normal’ everyday life – work in the garden – ride our bikes – play with the grandchildren and make videos with them and wait until next year to travel unless we do sooner. Of course, I write everyday on my page over at https://neuage.org/2021/ and at our #OurCurrentLifeWithCovid page
She was a carefree flower girl of 18
Selling flowers on Bourbon Street
I was a street artist…
Notes/photos of three weeks in Darwin. Individual articles were tossed up to https://neuage.substack.com/
Narda in italics Terrell whatever
It is more than an hour to the airport by bus from our house, which is free for us seniors, and we would rather pay the hotel than the taxi ride which is about $70. The hotel has specials and this time it was $122. We even walked over to Ikea for dinner which was less than half the cost of eating at the hotel.
Back to our messed routines. When there is a change in our routine, we get little sleep. We went to sleep about 9 pm – wide awake at 1 am – another hour or so sleep before the alarm at 4.30. Narda had just gotten back to sleep since being awake at one, I think I went to sleep about 2.30 which is the last time I saw the clock. By five am we were checking in. We had breakfast at the airport; a good Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce for me and an omelette for Narda. We were on the plane by a bit after six. Half an hour later they said we all had to get off the plane due to mechanical error and get onto another plane. As any zombie with little sleep would be, we staggered to the next plane. By 8.30 – a couple of hours later than we were supposed to leave we were on our way.
When we got to Darwin, taking a taxi ($35) to our hotel we were told our apartment was not ready, so we dragged ourselves to the nearest supermarket to get a few things.
We are on the 13th floor of the Ramada Suites – Zen Quarter. They have cute little Zen sayings all over the place and statues of Buddha. This one just happens to be on our floor viewed getting off the lift on the way to our flat.
By 3 pm we were taking our nap – I lasted half an hour. Writing this I feel pretty icky. I am going off to the gym soon and tomorrow we will go into the pool and try doing our Aqua Zumba without a leader. We do the Zumba three times a week in Adelaide at an hour each time. Not being disciplined I doubt we will last fifteen minutes. We tried this a couple of years ago in Florida and after ten minutes then a lap or three we would go home.
After our first or was it the second nap? We went to the roof which is only a couple of floors above us. Great views of the sea and port. Narda is concerned about the balcony and at night pushed the sofa in front of the door in fear that I may sleepwalk and fall off the balcony. Considering I have never sleepwalked in my life that I know of I feel even more safe now. There are few people in the hotel now as this is low season.
Eating on our balcony is one of our favourite things to do (so far after one day here). This is with a storm rolling in.
A few views from our floor – there is a balcony in each direction so we do not always have to go to the rooftop to get a view.
A view of road-trains loading up the morning’s catch on their way across Australia
Here we are day 3 in Darwin. Day one we spent bits of the afternoon after arriving getting caught up on sleep and viewing the city from the roof of our building. Darwin CBD is small we walk it all in fifteen minutes. There is a mall and a shopping centre with a Coles supermarket ten-minutes away and a Woolworths supermarket eleven-minutes away. Fifteen-minute walk is the Darwin Waterfront Precinct a cool area with lots of restaurants and shops and Stokes Hill Wharf where cruise ships would come in if it were not for Covid-19. I have lived in Hawaii (1969 – 1971 / 1980 – 1981) as well as a few visits. I took my parents to Pearl Harbor and thought I knew lots of stuff. But until yesterday I did not know that more aircraft attacked Darwin than attacked Pearl Harbor. More bombs fell on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor. More ships were sunk in Darwin. On 19 February 1942 Darwin was bombed. We watched folks setting up a huge tent for the memorial in ten-days 19th February. A lot going on here in the next couple of weeks.
This is not what I was really going to write about – got side-tracked.
what Narda likes especially about Darwin – after being here for 5 days
When we miss Darwin, we’ll buy a humidifier.
We had our second aqua class today. Deep water – meaning feet do not touch the bottom. Luckily, being old as we are – we get a floaty thing to wrap around our belly. It is our first time to do this for 45 minutes – it was a good work out. Our instructor is from the Bronx so that made two out of about eight people there from New York. 25% New Yorkers in Darwin – a very cosmopolitan city.
I get up at five every morning watching the impeachment trial – always knowing the result. I want to sleep in – I am on holiday – well, being 73 and retired, every day is a holiday. But I am somewhere else, Darwin, we can only travel in Australia. Now even our home state South Australia is locking out our neighbouring state of Victoria for a week due to covid – 14 new cases in the whole state and the rest of the country locks their doors. More than one-hundred thousand new cases in the USA so far today – a few days ago there were more than two-hundred thousand in a day – 4,500 dead whereas in Australia no new deaths – there have not been any deaths for a long time. Happily, this is the end of the so-called impeachment trial. They just voted 57 – 43 so he is guilty but not guilty enough. What can I do? Millions of people worldwide are upset. I have given up on America and I am an American. My big protest I dumped on to Twitter.
Oh look! I have one retweet and 2 likes.
Another beautiful morning in Darwin from our 13th floor.
We walked along the wharf to the fishing fleet’s early morning arrival.
Yesterday we went to the Parap Market – rather disappointing, expensive eating places and local crafts. Took a random bus out of there and spent the rest of the day at Casuarina Square which is the largest shopping mall in the Northern Territory.
Now, Saturday morning, sick of all the senate farcical impeachment nonsense we are watching ‘Groundhog Day’. No more news – goodbye America – your democracy is a failure.
Narda in italics Terrell whatever
We arrived at the bus stop outside of Woolies for bus number 4 which would take us to the National Museum and Art Gallery. A minute later, a bus arrived heading to Cullen Bay Ferry Terminal. We looked at each other, and without much further thought or discussion, jumped on board. Luckily there were a few friendly folk on the bus who filled in the information we needed. “This is a bus taking you to the ferry terminal, you can go across the harbour to Mandorah”. It cost $30 for 2 return tickets, a fancy ferry. It was only on the ferry we realised that there was not a town at the other end, just a jetty. It was, however, a nice ten-minute ride. A free shuttle bus was taking travellers to Cox’s Tavern, but we were told that it might be full of people who had purchased package deals. On arrival we were the first off. We briskly walked to the minibus and sheepishly asked if we might come if there are spare seats. The bus driver said, “just get in”. We did. It was free. All is well.
A nice drive through some tropical forest, and there we were, a pub in the middle of nowhere, a band due to play in the avo, and pub grub waiting for us. We ordered fisherman’s baskets and sat with our young backpacker friend, called Max, with whom we had wonderful engaging conversation. The kid was 19 and heading out for a year long trip through Australia. Cool.
see our short video of this https://youtu.be/q96RNjktc54
A nice drive through some tropical forest, and there we were, a pub in the middle of nowhere, a band due to play in the avo, and pub grub waiting for us. We ordered fisherman’s baskets and sat with our young backpacker called Max, with whom we had wonderful engaging conversation. The kid was 19 and heading out for a year long trip through Australia. Cool.
This morning Max joined us in our second boat ride. It was a small, but fast vessel, with an amazing guy giving us the low down on the invasion of Darwin by the Japs in WW2. Fascinating. Incredible stories about Australian politicians ignoring warnings from the military and naval people, resulting in a gigantic surprise attack. Even as the bombers approached, folks pointed and said that it must be the Americans. There were many deaths, far bigger than Pearl Harbour, and also many heroic tales of sacrifice. One of the worst things was that fuel tankers and containers were bombed, spilling the fuel into the fast retreating 26-foot tide, out into the sea. It caught fire, burning many sailors and wharfies alive as they were thrown into it from the bombed ships. The ironic upside was that the thick black smoke obscured more vessels from the bombers, probably saving many lives as well.
or just chilling with a good ice coffee on the wharf
We sat under a fan in a giant marquee with I recon at least a thousand others.
The band of the 1st Brigade played, wreaths were laid, the last post was played, and notable people spoke. It was very moving. Then the air raid sounded sirens and a jet flew over, real loud, real close. The gunners shot rounds into the sea. Cosmetic smoke whirled around us.
Today is the 79th year anniversary of the bombing of Darwin.
and learned more about the bombing. There were special headsets where you could experience, virtual reality style, what it was to be there in the harbour as the bombs fell, the smoke, then falling from a fighter jet and nearly drowning. Quite the experience.
Our video of this wonderful day… https://youtu.be/j9kQd3e9jbQ
It was a small one but extraordinarily strong. No one expected it to disrupt their Christmas eve in 1974. The cyclone made a direct hit on Darwin, destroying 70% of the buildings and 80% of the homes, with gusts of wind up to 250 Km per hour. 30,000 people were evacuated, many of them never returned.
The museum has a special exhibition for the cyclone, lots of footage, even a small booth you could go into to experience the noise it made, in total darkness. Pretty amazing.
The museum was really good, one of the highlights of the museum was a maritime exhibition of many of the boats that carried people from Indonesia, Vietnam, Borneo and other islands, trying to get into Australia. Back then, in the 70s and 80s they were welcomed, though some were repatriated back to their countries. Now we treat them horribly and lock them up.
Barramundi was on the specials menu and Terrell wanted to return for the third time. I had Caveman Pizza…Yum. You can imagine it. Back to Stokes Wharf, we met with Joel and Phoebe. It was very enjoyable, lots of interesting conversation. These guys have done well here and love it. Cannot see them leaving. There is much to love, everywhere you look, you see water. Lots of rain, almost every afternoon. And friendly people. We have almost forgotten that it is also expensive.
Our new friend Max has found a temporary job in Kakadu, in a hotel called Crocodile Hotel, a nice start to his gap-year backpacking adventure. He said we should come down and see it all. Unfortunately, it is a 3 hour drive away, and with no car…though it was tempting.
We slept in late today because it was Sunday…oh wait! We do that every day. Nevertheless, when we did get our sorry asses out of the flat, we looked at our list of stuff to do in Darwin and in our first two weeks we have done most of what has been recommended – or we found what we like to do already done.
So, we took a random bus – the first bus that we saw to wherever it was going. We do this wherever we are in the world – a great way to see places never thought of or known about. Here in Darwin, being old farts has its benefits, there is no charge for public transportation with our senior’s card. The first bus to come along was the number 10. As we were enjoying the view of going through the Darwin burbs, we saw a market across the street from a stop and quickly alighted. The Rapid Bay Sunday Market was a local and wonderful market. It was like being in Asia except with Darwin prices (about 25% more than Adelaide and Adelaide is about 56% more than Asia). Lots of food stalls. We went to one that is advertised as ‘the one’, last Saturday (Parap Village Market, they even have a yuppie webpage https://parapvillage.com.au/) – very touristy – very western – like those organic markets one finds in the States etc. – where they just double the price and put the word ‘organic’ in front of everything. Like one would find in Eugene Oregon (think ‘Portlandia’) everyone looking so fresh, young, wholesome…organic. Perhaps I should not say such stuff, after all I was a tofu manufacturer in Adelaide for eight-years, flogging my bloody organic soyfoods… https://tofu.neuage.us/
That’s it – we had some lunch @ the Rapid Bay Sunday Market. I took a few photos – see our one-minute clip at
Oh, back to our list – most of which is done and crossed off in our first two weeks – five-more days to do the rest.
The number 8 bus goes from central Darwin along Stuart Highway to the Darwin Aviation Museum.
Not really real – but close…
Interesting stories about Darwin’s aviation history and wartime experience with 19 aircraft including a B52 bomber, 21 engines and a rare amateur footage of the first air-raid in Darwin on display. Aircraft include a B-25 Mitchell Bomber (one of the few surviving in the world), a replica Spitfire, Mirage, Avon Sabre, a Royal Australian Navy Wessex helicopter that assisted in the clean-up of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, F-111C, the legendary B52 Bomber.
Loving aircraft this was toward the top of my list. However, knowing that the beauty of these aircraft has the only purpose of killing takes away some of the lustre. The most distressing display was the photos of more than 500 Australians killed in the VietNam War. Even more distressing is that these young people, mostly in their early 20s, were conscripted– they had no choice about dying. What did it accomplish?
I (Narda) still have memories of bring my trannie (transistor radio) to my high school at the age of 15 and crouching over it with a group of my friends listening to the roll call of birth dates. My then boyfriend, Peter, later my first husband, (now my good friend) was not called.
To quote from https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news
WHEN the wooden balls began dropping from the barrel 50 years ago this week, there were many people who were hoping that this was one lottery in which their number wouldn’t come up. The prize was a trip to Kapooka or Puckapunyal, for National Service training and possibly a tour of duty in Vietnam. Often known as the “birthday lottery” it was held in secret in the boardroom of the Department of Labour and National Service in Melbourne. The draw was done from a barrel that had been used for 50 years for Tattersall’s cup sweeps, filled with 181 numbered marbles representing the days of the year from January 1 to June 30. Alternate lotteries would have 184 balls for the dates of the rest of the year. If one of the balls drawn corresponded to the birth date of one of the thousands of Australian men, aged 20, who had registered for National Service, it meant they were eligible for call-up. From that first ballot, on March 10, 1965, around 2100 men would be called up. While many of those went willingly, the birthday lottery was not without controversy. It was also not the first time a bingo barrel had been used to call up men for national service.
That was how it was done in Australia. In the States it was a bit different for us.
Nevertheless, a visit to this museum is well worth it.
See our two minute clip at https://youtu.be/Bu-gazFBOF4
Baked Mac and Cheese – perhaps an American thing like peanut butter and jelly. I have had to give it up for way too long. I am on one of those low-carb diets – defeating diabetes, wishful – wild attempts @ that… to reboot the system – with some success if success can be counted as being close but never complete. I have brought blood sugars down though still too high to proclaim that besides machine-learning my body is best (it isn’t).
We do Aqua Zumba a few times a week. We have been doing this for years in Adelaide; me and 35 women – my fantasy from 50 years ago, finally come true. We even found a class here in Darwin with our groovy NYC instructor, Audrey. We do a Tuesday Aqua- Pilates class and a Thursday deep water (over our head for 45 minutes) class. That is what brings my sugars down. For example, yesterday before class my sugars were 9.8 – 45 minutes later 5.9 (anything below 6 is normal). I will do anything to be normal – apart from aspiring to being a bogan – it is my second my sought after title, ‘normal’. After mac & cheese my sugars are between 18 – 20 – oops. The same with my second favourite food, mashed potatoes – and rice, bread, maple syrup…
Not being able to spend 67% of my life in the pool I try to control my diet. However, last night we decided to go out for dinner. Mitchell Street, ten minutes from our hotel, is a hub for restaurants. We go there most mornings, to McDonalds of all places, but that is because we get senior’s coffee – the second cup is free, and they do make good latte. I had it in my mind that I wanted a meal of mac & cheese – for the first one of 2021. I don’t think I had any in 2020 – but that was a bit of an unusual year anyway wasn’t it? We looked at heaps of places and no one was offering such godly tastes. We needed to find one that catered to Yanks. It is in the news that ‘Thousands of US marines to touch down in Darwin before June 2021’ (arriving in batches of 200-500 marines) – probably to find a good mac and cheese. Knowing that heaps of the critters are already roaming the streets of Darwin was a good piece of information. There must be a place that panders to the American palate. And there was. Six Tanks, a micro-brewery bar was our nirvana.
And yes, they had mac & cheese… (Narda had lasagna, probably because it had meat…yuck – though she claimed it was yummy)
And that is it. Nothing Zen about it. Perhaps it is because I once chased the Zen concept, whatever that was, lots of decades ago. I was thinking about that period so long ago when I saw that my favourite beat poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, passed away on Monday, February 22nd – he was 101 years old…
I remember going often to the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco in the 1960s – seeing him in NYC – following him for decades… reading my own poems all over the place back in 1960s. But that was then now isn’t and the only Zen in view is our hotel here in Darwin. Ramada Suites by Wyndham Zen Quarter Darwin – https://www.zenquarter.com/
And this is the meal I was so excited about
Then we stopped at Woolworths on the way home and got some magical chocolate and peanut butter ice creams to celebrate my high sugar/carb intake as we watched ‘Outlander’ on Netflix. I do not take my sugar readings during these times – I am having a holiday from myself. Loving it! However, here I am up since 3.30 am because I could not get back to sleep so perhaps I will not have mac and cheese for a while.
During our three-weeks here I took photos of the street art around Darwin and made a short clip of them.
Here we are back home. We took a chance going to Darwin. Often, lately, we would turn on the morning news and some area of Australia would be closed due to Covid. Flights, after landing, would be sent back. South Australia would close its border then Queensland or Victoria or Western Australia or New South Wales – it was a roulette table featuring a map of Australia – a dart board that once blindfolded the area we would want to be in would be the winner of our getting there.
We bought our roundtrip tickets to Darwin; a few days later a couple of states became closed for a week or so. The day before we were to leave, we booked into the airport hotel, Atura, as we do when we go overseas and leave early in the morning. We were up at 4.30 and thankfully our flight was still listed. We spent our three-weeks in Darwin, as highlighted below, and got back to Adelaide without a hitch. At Adelaide airport after going through a check to see where we had been, that we were not near any covid hotspots or overseas or feeling yucky and then we each got a little ticket that we could show on our way through the airport to safely get out. Really sophisticated tickets to say the least,
Our last morning we had breakfast at the Ramada where we were staying. The sunrise was so spectacular that even the kitchen folks came out to take photos.
These were taken minutes apart and are not photo-shopped. Obviously, I changed the settings on my camera but don’t recall what they were.
One of our evening past times was playing pool on the fifteenth floor. Narda beat me every time – not quite sure why. I think I used to be quite good.
As always, I bought a fridge magnet to add to our collection. Hopefully, we get lots more this year – probably none from overseas.
Of course, they become lost when the fridge is looked at from a distance – the two front doors and the left/right side leave little room for more. Narda’s rule is that we can not have a magnet from a place unless we stay at least one night there. No airport transit or day trip through a city – which as you can see limits me a lot, so I am just satisfied with this, now slowly, growing collection.
and that is all for now. Our next trip is a four to six month caravan trip through the Outback Queensland.
Thanks for sharing this moment with us.
‘Leaving Australia Book 2‘ (new NOW IN PAPERBACK & AS E-BOOK)
‘ Leaving Australia “Again’: Before the After” (See the first ten pages of each for free) Paperback Edition
Our current life with Covid as of 28 February 2021 Darwin, Australia
how we see the world today Thursday 25 February 2021
Thoughts in Isolation https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TW5FNHN
Lucky us: we left South Australia four days before the border was closed due to Covid 19, We left Port Macquarie a few days after massive rain and floods that would have put us under water where we were camping and we left Sydney 14 days after it is now being shut due to Covid 19. Here we are waiting to see you. And going over a few of our notes of the last part of our trip to New South Wales
Italics are Narda’s notes – straight up – Terrell’s scribbles…
Jerry’s Landing and Beyond December 6, 2020
The girl going in the opposite direction wound down her window looking a little alarmed at my frantic waving. “How much further?” I asked her. No, it’s not like asking “are we there yet, mum”. I was driving on a very bad stretch of corrugated dirt road. I had been promised by Google and by some blogs that this shortcut from Jerry’s Landing to Bathurst was “all sealed”, “suitable for a caravan”, and yet here we are. What the heck. Luckily, she assured me it was “not much further”. Another couple of kms at 5 kms per hour and we start climbing steeply, still on dirt. Worse still we had to come down the mountain. I engaged low gear and 4-wheel drive and inched my way down, heart pounding. Terrell, completely unfazed, happily took photos.
We questioned whether we should be leaving the New South Wales coast where we have been the past three weeks: Port Macquarie, Forster…various beaches, rainforests. Hiking, swimming, biking…chilling and wishing we lived here more permanently. For some odd reason we started thinking maybe we should get back to Adelaide by mid-December for various appointments and of course to see Maggie and Mabel who recently not only turned 7 and nine years old recently but who obviously are almost teenagers – at least by the looks of the posts that their parents put up. Mabel at seven already a basketball star, Maggie a star in so many ways. So, we are headed inland. Instead of going the way we came through Dubbo and Broken Hill we are going a bit south via Bathurst then across through Mildura. We had wanted to go through Victoria to stop in Melbourne and see Sacha but then there is the virus…Victoria has just opened…what if South Australia makes people go into two weeks at an expensive hotel when we cross the border like Sacha did last month ($3,000 for a mandatory 2-week quarantine)? We are just scraping Victoria – as Mildura is approved if we do not stop between the New South Wales border and South Australia.
As we did on the way to the coast, we stopped overnight for free camping at Jerrys Plains. It is off the main highway, Past Pagan Street, where else would one want to camp?
Jerrys Plains is horse country. It reminds us of Kentucky except the fences are not painted white.
Off @ 7 am – not us, but us; off down the Golden Highway, until we turned off to take the scenic route to Bathurst.
OMG what a winding up the bloody mountain down the bloody mountain even a dirt road thrown in to the ‘scenic mix’ journey. The dirt road is corrugated [‘Washboarding or corrugation of roads comprises a series of ripples, which occur with the passage of wheels rolling over unpaved roads at speeds sufficient to cause bouncing of the wheel on the initially unrippled surface and take on the appearance of a laundry washboard.’]. In other words, it was an extremely bumpy road. Narda pulled over a passing vehicle to ask how much further before the road became a ‘real road’. We were going at the amazing speed of about ten kilometres an hour at the time with Narda toying with the idea of turning around and going back. How we were supposed to turn around with Billy (our truck) pulling a two-tonne caravan (Holiday) was not discussed…probably because there was nowhere to turn around, anyway, the driver, a young girl with lots of face piercing and tats and red hair (why do I notice all this in a four-minute interaction?) said it was only a short piece before we got to pavement, keeping us going forward for the next half hour. Narda was driving at this point and became more alarmed when the ‘washboard’ road became a steep descent.
Short 30 second video of this road… Take a left at Denman and be thrilled by the “National Park” signs.
Of course, we survived, I am writing this, arriving at the town of Bylong with its one store. I took over driving for the next hour and lucky for me the road was just a regular country road.
Road trip to Bathurst
After stopping in Kandos for petrol we arrived in Bathurst at 1.30; our GPS had innocently proclaimed we would arrive at 10.30 when we left Jerrys Plains. Chalk it up to the elderly out on a scenic drive.
Looking back, with some PTSD, and cup of coffee, I don’t regret that road. The scenery was amazing! We were on the leeward side of the Blue Mountains, valleys and national parks and beautiful Victorian villages with little development. We had 2 eggs and toast while sitting near a table with two paramedics, me busy.straining to eavesdrop. They said that their last job was a couple nights ago, “there were 3”. I filled in the blanks myself (3 bodies? 3 cars?) and was glad they were not
A crazy old broad (also from Adelaide) came racing to us in her golf cart, skidding around corners. She was fun and friendly and signed us into the Bathurst Showground for 2 nights.
We got more than we bargained for with a “severe” thunderstorm and large hailstones promised. What do you do? Well, we took down the awning, which we can now do in under a minute (we’ve been practising) and unplugged the computers. We even asked the man in charge of the carnival, which was also parked in the showgrounds, sadly in the rain. He said, “don’t worry about the hailstones, the sky has to be green for that to happen”. Seriously, he said that. The guys standing around looked up at the sky and sagely nodded their heads in agreement. They call themselves “carnies”. We bought $5 admission tickets out of sympathy, and free hotdogs and chips was part of the deal. It rained the whole time; we were their only customers.
We are camping out at the Bathurst Showgrounds. Lucky for us there is a fair going on so Narda bought a hot dog and the only vegetarian thing they had was chips, so we had our nourishment for the afternoon and settled in for a nap.
After a stormy night – not us – the weather; high winds, thunder/lightening, rain, we did a bit of exploring in Bathurst, including going up the mountain to the racetrack. For non-Australians, it is the most famous of the racetracks: “Mount Panorama Circuit is best known as the home of the Bathurst 1000 motor race held each October, and the Bathurst 12 Hour event held each February.” https://www.mount-panorama.com.au/ We drove around the track at the blistering speed of 60 Ks – taking about 12 minutes to go around. The track record is 2 minutes, with the top speed being 300 km/h (190 mph) on a straightaway.
Tomorrow we are going to Sydney for the day, leaving at 7 am. The 4-hour train ride is through the mountains. The train back is at three pm; we will spend a day in one of those world cities you read about in the comic books. Being seniors, we get to do the whole day for $2.50 each which includes the train, ferries in Sydney, buses, and trams. Of course, we will spend our year’s pension on food.
We had coffee in midtown Bathurst with a friend of Narda’s she had not seen for twenty years. While talking about how we had thought of going to Sydney but changed our mind as we did not want to drag the caravan over the mountains to get there. She suggested we take the train. Not only that but that we use the New South Wales Opal card to get there. The Opal card gives seniors a day’s travel on any transportation in New South Wales for the crazy price of $2.50 for the day. That includes ferry, train, bus, and tram. We went back to our home at the showgrounds clutching our borrowed opal cards and waited as any children would do for sunrise to rush off to the train station.
@ 7.34 am we were settled in with our facemasks on. BTW, this is the first time since arriving in Australia from The Netherlands eight months earlier in March that we have had masks on or seen anyone else with one on.
The signs at the station and on the train suggest wearing a mask on public transportation but not as a rule. On the train we saw only one person not wearing a mask. I posted a photo of us on the train on FB and my sister in New York immediately wrote back for us to change seats as the person in front of us did not have mask on. Such is the life in the States. We did not change seats and wore masks for the day when inside.
In Sydney, more people wore masks in the shopping centres but not on the streets. Sydney is coming off a hard lockdown with no new cases for the past few weeks.
The reason I wanted to come here was to “see Leigh”. Leigh died in 2003 falling from the Novotel Hotel in front of the Olympic Stadium – I try to get here every year though sometimes we do not. What I always find surprising is that the tape is still on the pole where I posted a memorial of him in 2003 along with his baseball card from the Dodgers. The memorials have long been gone but the tape is still there. https://neuage.org/leigh.html
I find sitting across the hotel one of my comfort places in the world.
As we only had a few hours from when we arrived in Sydney to taking the train back at 3 pm we did not do more than go out to Olympic Park.
Catching the train at Central is almost like travelling again.
The ride home was as beautiful as the train ride there – well duh! Of course, it was on the same track.
Riding through the Blue Mountains [The Blue Mountains are an extensive Triassic sandstone plateau rising to 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) near Mount Victoria
We saw the effect the 2019-2020 bush fires had on the area, almost a year later green is beginning to re-emerge:
From an online page about the fires, “Here in the Blue Mountains the extent of the fires has greatly exceeded any previous recorded fire seasons. Over 80% of the Blue Mountains National Park has been impacted with 63% partly or fully burnt. In the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area of over one million hectares (eight reserves including the Blue Mountains National Park), over 68% has been fully or partly burnt and over 122 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been impacted.” https://www.bluemountains.org.au/bushfires.shtml
Then we drove back to Adelaide, taking four days, staying at free camping places along the way:
Lucky for us the river was not flooding the park when we were there – that would be a week later
And here we are back home. After five days home we realized we needed to go away again and booked flights and an Airbnb in Darwin for the month of February. As Australia has closed its borders to the world we will explore more of this great country. Our next road trip will be three or four or five months to Queensland after April or perhaps May.
“Can I help you find something?”. The cleaning lady at Maccas was full of ideas. So was Terrell. So yesterday we went everywhere man! Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks,
a long drive three on the road with a Wallis Lake on one side and the 7 Mile Beach on the other. The iced coffee we bought at Bluey’s Beach General Store was not Farmers Union, but it hit the spot. We took a decent walk through some rainforest; 200m (that’s metres not miles I hate to admit!!) and got lost on the way back.
We discussed a way of tagging our car, but don’t really know how to. Other than installing a load beeper….we are open to suggestions.
I’m writing today on a ‘down day’. The weather is cool, some rain maybe. The washing is in the $4 slot machine. This park is specie, called Lanis Holiday Park, with lots of nature where tenters can find the own isolated spot, mostly with water front onto lakes. It’s a little version of Thailand, compete with mozzies!. Could live here. Hm.
Riding over a very long bridge in winds gusting at 50Km is a bit scary, though it was a designated bike path with fences, preventing us from tipping into the traffic.
This is a flat town, great for bike riding without the bike paths. But riding on the footpaths these days seems quite acceptable. The views are amazing, another lake, fed by a giant river, running into a pounding surf beach. Northern New South Wales abounds with very respectable rivers. I’m quite impressed. Pity it’s so bloody far from Adelaide….nearly 2,000Km.
My favourite place on today’s hours of hiking was this blowhole – see it in the video above…
Day via ferry to Crescent Head
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
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Thoughts in Patterns 7
I long had dreams of going to Shimla, based mainly on watching the TV series “Indian Summers”. The setting is a beautiful green valley, with lovely gardens and walking trails. Shimla is NOTHING like that! It is a vertical city, perched on the steepest, largest mountain sides I have ever seen. Each building is above or below the next. A difficult city to get around.
We arrived on the narrow-gauge railway, built a hundred years ago by the meticulous Brits, to give their ex-pat citizens a place to cool down in the summer. The trip takes 6 or 7 hours about 22 Kms.
The train to here was amazing; see our clip of the Himalayan Queen here
The trains are old and restored, listed as World Heritage. You go over 800 bridges, through 103 tunnels and ascend to 7,500 ft, and there you are; Shimla.
We are staying in a small village, perched on a narrow ridge on the top of a mighty big mountain.
You look behind houses on one side of the road, and there is an almighty drop, then cross the road to the other side, and another similar drop. Blimey. Today we decided to head to downtown Shimla, where some lovely historical buildings can be seen along the “Mall”.
So we took the local bus. It is only a short distance, but takes an hour, with crazy turns; the fast-moving bus driving precariously close to the edge of a cliff.
I had to move to the other side of the bus and look away. The return trip was worse, with way too many people squished in, and us trying to stand. Each time when we thought, “no way, no more people, I can’t breathe”, another 5-people got on. The passengers were very good natured, no one got upset at having an elbow in their face, or their nose in someone’s armpit. Everything in Shimla is like that; that’s what I meant by difficult. It’s all a matter of perspective. We have a lot to learn.
See our one-minute video of our bus ride @
It is SPECTACULAR. The views are mind blowing. The Himalayas just keep on going, as you look towards the horizon, and the mountains get bigger and bigger. So here we are; the agony and the ecstasy.
We have a nice Airbnb, which is gorgeous inside, lots of space and friendly hosts living upstairs. However it can only be reached by going very slowly down a long set of outdoor steps, VERY steep and scary, especially with luggage. We are starting to get used it to it…a bit.
Our village, called Kasumpti, is becoming familiar. We have the older guy who sells us large bottles of water (you can only buy smaller ones from the other little stores), and eggs at 5 Rs (8c) each, sometimes a bottle of soda water and Cadburys chocolate. The village is just a strip along the mountain. There are often lots of people congregating in a central area, called the bazaar, who are waiting for buses. There is also a wine shop; first we’ve seen in India. I asked about the price of a bottle of Kingfisher. It was marked 85 Rs but he insisted that we should pay 180 Rs, so no-sale for me. Other store owners just charge the price on the item. Oh well.
Yesterday began another hospital day. I had squirties again, and a tummy ache, so I thought, better get onto this early. Our host very kindly offered to walk us to the local hospital. He has never driven a car! I guess this makes sense in this part of the world. The traffic is chaotic; with the road circling those mountains, always with 1000 ft drop on one side and steep mountain on the other. There is NO wiggle room. He told us that several times a year a bus rolls off the road into the gully. Everyone is always killed. I’m surprised that it is not more often. Anyway, you can’t drive up or down the mountain. There are steps which join the road loops around it. So, it’s mainly walking for most people. It’s much further to take the circling roads. We finally arrived at the hospital and I was waved ahead of a longish queue. I walked to the front, apologising to the folks, who simply smiled and pointed the way forward. The lady at the desk, a very efficient woman, who had it all ‘in hand’, said she was surprised that I was ‘a senior’. She then became my new best friend. I got the paperwork done and we (the three of us) sat down to wait. It wasn’t too long before we got to see a doctor in another building, who sent me off to have some tests.
We walked back home. Our host had been with us for some hours, a kind man. Today we returned and I had my very first Indian ultra-sound. Kinda cool. The radiologist himself was operating the thing….a wand? He dictated to his assistant the whole time and told me what he saw. ‘probably not appendix’ I have a really sore spot on the right side, which is some sort of infection, ‘needing further investigation’ when we return. Oh well.
The hospital ‘ground floor’ is actually the 7th story. So you can enter from here. Then you go down to the 4th floor (where the ultra-sound room is) and step out the back. When you look down it’s the roof of another 6 or 7 story building. The building seems to be anchored somehow to the mountain side.
The other day we took a walk in the other direction, following a very narrow path cut into the mountain side; the same deal. A massive drop to one side, and the steep side on the other. It’s so steep that you can hold you hand up to it to steady yourself. I keep my eyes on the path. I can only look around when I stop. It truly freaks me out. As we progressed, the path got narrower and I had to stop and head back. Terrell was completely comfortable with it, but not me. On the way back, we were greeted by a man sitting outside his house, which basically sticks out over the valley. We had a friendly chat, and he asked us in for a cup of tea. It was really nice. The couple are both retired, speak English well, and it was interesting. One of their grown-up kid’s lives in Chicago, the same as the son of our host. The house is heritage listed, 100 years old. He told us that the forest is also protected, 100-year-old pine trees filled with black faced little monkeys. It really is very beautiful.After our month in Kerala (see our Kerala blog) we stopped in Delhi for a couple of days. As usual we stayed in the Paharganj area in the Main Bazar. We have posted enough clips of that bustling area in previous blogs. We stayed at Hotel Hari Piorko with a fish tank in our room.
Our first room didn’t meet our requirements; i.e. the TV didn’t work, the bed was too hard, we couldn’t plug our computer into the powerpoint… so we got them to change our room – something which happens surprisingly often. We enjoyed our stay; the next room was good. I did worry about one of the fish in the tank – it looked depressed, didn’t swim around with the others, and kept to herself. Narda said it was a ‘bottom-feeder’ and that was perhaps its normal behaviour. It did move about a bit but she did not respond to my tapping on the glass. Maybe I should reassess my communicative style with females.
The rooftop restaurant was good both for the view and food. We had an Ayurveda massage and I got some Ayurveda crap for my hair; allegedly makes it grow thicker, longer, healthier, and perhaps will awaken my brain-cells clustered at the foot of my hair follicles.
Kalka is a town in the Panchkula district of Haryana.
We arrived on the train from Delhi at 11 pm, staying at the $16 USD/night, Kalka Hotel Dharam Villa, which was a good hotel. They made us a great omelette breakfast the next morning. The room was clean and the shower sort of OK. I think it was our cheapest place in three months of travel. We paid $22 USD for it on the way back a week later due to it being high season for tourism.
We grabbed a smoothie on our way to the train station in the morning,
Got a tuk tuk to the train station and got on the toy train.
On the way to the train I saw a very distressed horse with a sore foot. I spoke at great length with him and Narda and I went out to find an apple for him, but as we do, we got side-tracked and when we went back the horse had disappeared. He was obviously in pain. Someone had put on a plastic bag and tape, but the poor thing was not happy.Solan
The trip from Kalka to Shimla is about six-hours. We went for four hours, stopping at Solan.
Solan is our first venture into the state of Himachal Pradesh (listen), literally “snow-laden province” which is situated in the Western Himalayas with such groovy borders as Tibet and Kashmir. See the map that I borrowed from Wikipedia.
Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh check out Wikipedia’s article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh.
Folks have been enjoying the cold and heights for heaps of time, for example, the Indus valley civilisation flourished here between 2250 and 1750 BCE – so after more than four-thousand years one would think this is one of the more advanced areas of civilisation in the world. This is what we are in a quest to find. Is there an advanced civilisation in the world or are we all just muddled bystanders to the winds of fate? We Westerners like to think we are the top of the pile but watching the news I think we are the bottom-feeders. To read more about Himachal Pradesh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himachal_Pradesh Wikipedia’s article.
We stopped at Solan at a height of 5,000 feet (1,600 metres) so I could climatize to higher altitudes before hitting the 8,000-foot mark in Shimla. Years ago, in Quito, Equator, at ten-thousand feet we had to get off the mountain due to my not being able to breath. Of course, even in small towns Narda finds things we ‘need’. Solan is a city that reminds me of a medieval European city with narrow streets and oldness, a bit more mildew and more trash about the place with a few cows standing in the middle of the street looking overwhelmingly content and people speaking Asian, Solan is tops for us. One night, two days is not enough to hang out here. In the evening from about 6 – 10 the main street is blocked from traffic so the locals all go out for a stroll; so cool. We stayed at the Mayur Hotel Bar And Restaurant, http://www.mayurhotelsolan.com/ an adequate space at $26 USD/night. There were no fish tanks in the room but good just the same.
India is known for its sweets – and once again I gave my sugar-free diet a rest… as well as Narda did so likewise,Narda has posted about the toy train to Shimla. The only downside was that there was a narrow path to the train station, so we were unable to get a tuk tuk from the town of Solan to it. The night before we really struggled to get up the hill with all our crap, plus it was raining so we were on the bit of a self-pity side of life when we finally did get to our hotel.
Coming back was fine with it being down a steep hill to the station. There are more than one-hundred tunnels between Kalka and Shimla – this one is next to where we were sitting at the station. People pass through them, I suppose as a shortcut, which explains why the train sounds its horn when it gets to each tunnel. For those of our multitude of readers (I think we have four or five family members who feel obliged to skim through these long winded things) who are familiar with the children stories about Flat Stanley http://www.flatstanleybooks.com/ I am sure one could think of that being the result of folks who do not obey the train whistle warnings.
The train made several stops and we all piled off. At one of the stops, children lined up to have their photo taken with Narda. Not sure why she is always so popular (more than me – but I am not complaining – just wondering what I can do to get as much attention) – this has happened for many years in many countries. A selfie with Narda is just so cool for folks. I know I do it too. The carriages are smaller than regular Indian trains as they are on narrow gauge tracks. There are toilets in the front and back of each carriage. The distance from Kalka to Shimla by rail is 97 kilometers with several bends, 102 tunnels, 988 bridges and 917 sharp curves. It takes more than six-hours to make the trip up.Last year, the train had met with an accident near Dharampur while it was travelling at a speed of 28 km/hour. The driver was dismissed for speeding. The one we were on went considerably slower, making leaning out the window to take photos and video easy, though Narda gets nervous as I go out the window or door to get footage. Our favourite sign along the way at one of the stations on the way up to Shimla. Now, a week after Shimla, in Amritsar, the centre of Sikhism (that story is next) we are learning this is the crux of what the Sikhs have to say.
Shimla ( listen), also known as Simla, is the capital and the largest city of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The climatic conditions attracted the British to establish the city in the dense forests of the Himalayas as the summer capital, from the 1940s. The main shopping area is Mall Road in the centre of the city. It is closed to traffic except for emergency vehicles, making walking rather pleasant. There are many monkeys around the place – I liked this bold one.
And of course, Narda got more folks rushing up to her to get a selfie – no one asked me.We had a nice Airbnb, Narda wrote about this above. We were on the edge of a forest area and often monkeys would be everywhere. The photo below is moneys at our house – one was licking the wall. Narda captured one of their capers this morning; I had put out a bag of trash, hearing lots of noise, a monkey was taking a few prized possessions out of the bag – we didn’t record much, so it does not show that there were six or seven soon after at our door. They are very bold and used to humans. Narda’s sister, Caroline, was bit by one a couple of years ago in Indonesia and had to have shots.
See the short clip of our monkey-thief
Narda has written about our stay in Shimla. I will just add that it is one of our memorable places we have visited. We would not do it again as it was a bit difficult for us. The narrow roads, steep drops, climb down and up to where we lived, and our flat; two-bedrooms, two bathrooms, large lounge area, lots of English news stations and easy to plug in our HDMI cable to watch our latest series of our computer, ‘The Last Ship’, and the Netflix documentary on the Rajneeshees, ‘Wild Wild Country’ – we were just in Pune for a week, even stayed at an AirBnB run by a couple of their devotees and last year we were in Oregon, their US Centre – so we are quite interested in their stuff. Of course, you can reread the ‘Pune’ blog about this. And the other difficult part for us, the elders, was that there was no heat. It would be five-degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit), cold for us, warm for our New York family and friends, in the morning. There was no shower, as we have done in other places, we used the bucket provided and got enough warm water to dump over our shivering bodies. During the day it was warmer, outside, but for a week, we never got warmed up in the house. We wold wrap up in blankets in front of the TV. The other minor complaint we have had before is that beds are incredibly hard. Luckily there were enough quilts to pile under our sheets to make it bearable.
These houses are built not only on mountainsides but in areas that are not accessible by vehicles, every brick, window, roof tile, everything is carried in. We have seen men with washing machines on their backs, 50-kilo bags of cement mix, and so much more. When we left our flat we were unable to carry our suitcases up the hill and paid a man to carry them; he took two suitcases and a bag of our not-needed crap (hey family we bought you each something) all together on his back.
We took the railcar – a single carriage train back down the hill. 8,000-foot drop in four hours. As it left Shimla at 5 pm we only had an hour of daylight. After dark I spent a few hours catching up on our writing and video editing, all the things I seldom have time to do as we keep adding more experiences to our trip. There was only one stop along the way and we all ran to the toilet and grabbed a bite to eat then we were on our way. We stayed at the same hotel in Kalka that we stayed at coming up.
See our clip of the Shimla to Kalka Rail Motor Car – about two-minutes
We only had a few seconds to see the sunset as the mountains covered the setting sun most of the way. This was not touched in Photoshop. Do the Shimla trip once in your life.
video for Langkawi at http://youtu.be/xjsETcPNtNI
Not to be confused with Maui wowie or anything to do with Hawaii except what a great place Langkawi is.
Left home. Home was back there. Back there was Ao Nang. We had made ourselves at home so quickly. Like within hours. We left the motor scooters out front where we got them two-weeks earlier. I re-read the local tourist magazine ‘Passport Magazine’ again paying particular attention to the section about ‘motorbiking in Thailand’ as I had ignored it before we rented our motor scooters; “Statistically, Thailand is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive (or ride)’… the article goes on to say a lot of scary stuff about how many people get killed a day, especially tourists riding motor scooters. Not to worry. We survived for two-weeks on country roads and highways with others who seemed to have little regard for us or who cared whether I stayed alive to write this blog. After all I had survived heart surgery in Hong Kong two months ago and I have survived three major car accidents any of which I should have been killed in and I survived the 1960s and 1970s and of course the following decades but it was the 1960s that was the most challenging as all people in their 20s come to realize that if they can get past their 20s they will make it a bit further.
Narda got our home from searching on airbnb.com and it was one of our better finds. The price was reasonable; a whole house for $22 US a night and the scooters were six dollars US a day. Of course we did not pay for insurance for the motor scooters. What could go wrong on a little thing like that? The house was basic but being in a quiet forest area at the bottom of a cliff we found it our kind of home. There were a few things that were different than living in Campus Village back in Dalian; such as the huge rats that would run along the rafters and clang around the roof at night until I would throw something at the metal roof then they would quiet down for a bit or until I put in earplugs then they would not seem so bothersome. We learned on the first day that no food could be anywhere not even a crumb. Ants of various sizes and the red ones do bite would be so quick to be there – like spontaneous combustion – well that is a stupid analogy but they did appear suddenly. Of course anything edible would bring forth the rat families. They even chewed up the sponges we washed dishes with no doubt being tricked by some foot smells on them of course there were spit out chewed up bits of sponges further down the way; stupid rats.
The frogs were OK though the first time I heard them at night when I went outside to the loo – well not outside outside but outside to the loo that was attached to the outside of the house; I thought someone was saying hello in a deep voice so I kept saying ‘hello’ back until I realized there was no one there. After a few nights of freighting myself in the middle of the night I realized it was not a human saying ‘hello’ but a frog I stopped saying it myself to no one at all but to frogs. It is the dumb things we do in life that no one knows unless of course we tell them, which I would never do, that are funny but they are only funny to ourselves if we do not tell someone else and a problem I have is that I will tell someone something that I think is funny and they don’t so after many decades of being a self-appointed-comedian I am thinking about call it a day with my humour and I will learn to laugh at other people’s jokes instead of my own that no one else thinks is funny.
And there are the cats who live nearby that hang out at our door for affection or food or maybe even both but who are too lazy to chase away the rats or who are afraid of them as the rats are the size of the cats. They must have been given attention by the previous tenants as they believe; there are three, that they can just waltz into our home when they want and meow. We did not feed them during our two weeks thinking they would go away but they didn’t. This morning I gave them a bowl of sweetened condensed milk as we had a tin left. We developed a taste then an addiction for sweetened condensed milk back in Hanoi a few years ago and now only drink coffee with it in. Narda said they would get sick from such rich milk but I gave them the tin full anyway. The kitten of the trio took to it right away but the older cats only had a bit. Blimey, I am getting bored with writing this…
This is always a writing dilemma; keep my audience, which is me, interested, at least to the end of the paragraph. I do not believe in astrology and I have written about this in length before, but as a non-believer I will just add that part of my writing dilemma is having Mars conjunct Uranus at 25 degrees in Gemini. (really very interesting is that Uranus was discovered when it was at 25 Gemini in 1781 and here I have it at its returning point in 1947; holy cow – see http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0000270.HTM for the meaning of Uranus) I suppose that if I said and that conjunction is in my 8th house you would say ‘well this sentence is dead in the water’. Get it? 8th house being the natural house of Scorpio, a fixed water sign. My 8th house is ruled by Taurus and I have my Moon in Taurus there as parts of my fixed cross between Moon opposite Jupiter all square my four planet conjunction in Leo in the tenth. Go figure! So all that is why I no longer believe in astrology; of course it is obvious with my Neptune in the 12th and Neptune rules my 5th house which is the natural house of Leo. I once gave presentations at astrological conferences on ‘The fifth house and self-realization‘. Thus is life; a series of miss guided belief systems we cling on to try and explain why something or why we are the way we are.
Our house, probably a shack by some definitions; had lots of open windows, all without screens. So besides the rats and the talking frogs and the ants and cats we had heaps of mosquitoes. Fortunately we slept under a mosquito net and we had lots of mosquito coils and mosquito spray to slow the bites. I showed a picture of my knees well bitten on the previous blog ‘next’. Obviously with everything we could do we could not keep from getting bitten. Not to worry if we were getting any diseases from them I am sure we would have them now.
We did like our little house though. We had a lazy time. We even developed a routine of walking to the main road, about twenty minutes, to get coffee at a local outdoor ramshackle bamboo hut then across to a market for a liter of water each and back home to get our scooters then off for a bit of a ride.
In the late afternoon we had a swim, and either we would go out for dinner or make something at home and watch a couple of episodes of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ which I find rather dumb, predictable and over acted but we have the series with us. There were other routines too such as the rats having a party at two or three in the morning – I would throw something at them, whatever I could find, so there were often shoes or other items that flew out the window when I missed the ceiling and there was the call-to-prayers about 5.15 every morning. What is that about? Considering we live on a country road with a house on both sides and one across the road then nothing for a long way why such a loud production each morning? I am not a music person like Narda is a music teacher and musician but to me ever who was doing it seemed really off key. It did not sound as musical as what I have heard when we were in Istanbul or KL or other Muslim entranced places. Nevertheless I never had a good sleep so part of my routine was taking a nap every afternoon. Narda saw this stay as a trial toward retirement but I hope retirement does not have so many rats, mosquitoes, stray cats and talking frogs and ants and calls-to-prayer.
Really. Do those prayers really change anything? As a researcher of many belief systems and a down-to-earth human being I would say nope.
And the king, what is up with him? Photos of him everywhere sometimes doing various activities and of course he is on the paper money. We learned this from a previous time in Northern Thailand a few years ago that it is best not to even mention the king. I think of the prime minister of Australia and how everyone just makes fun of him or her or whatever is in office. The same with the president of the US everyone seems to have a go at him. And the king and queen of the Brits get dissed often in Australia but not the king of Thailand. My favourite photo of him is on their one-hundred baht bill with him holding a camera. Maybe he is a photo buff as I have seen large paintings of him with a camera around his neck. It is a Cannon and I have a Nike so we are on a different page. He probably was not a hippie either nor does he hoon around Thailand on a motor scooter or stay at $22 US a night digs with rats. What is the point of a king? But the people of Thailand seem to think he is an OK chap. We have read and been told that if you drop paper money with his image on it and it starts to blow away do not run over and put your foot on the money to stop it as one can get a fine or go to jail for that.
Our lives are governed, controlled? By turns taken. We are sitting on this crap ferry because of a direction taken not meant to be taken or at least by the conscious part of what we think we use to control the directions we take in life; our brain. We researched and decided to take a train from nearby; probably Trang, down to KL; about a day and a half. What we have read was that the overnight sleeper through Thailand is great but the train through Malaysia is air conditioned and quite cold but we still wanted to do the ride. We rode our scooters to Krabi Town – half an hour from home, to purchase a ticket. We had read we could buy one in Krabi Town. When we got to Krabi Town we came to an intersection that we could not get across nor could we turn right which was the direction to downtown where we wanted to purchase our train ticket to KL. After sitting too long and getting freaked out by the traffic, and remembering the article about Thailand being one of the most dangerous countries to drive in, we went left thinking we could make a U-turn and get our sorry-asses downtown. There was nowhere to immediately make a U-turn and in fact there was a foot high barrier in the midst of Utarakit Road for a kilometer or two.
When we did get to the U-turn we thought it was another one of our synchronous moments because right there at the U-turn was the Government Tourism Office. The dude in there printed out a train timetable for us and in the midst of our excitement over getting a train all the way to KL he rang someone whom he sent us to so we could purchase our fun ticket. I wrote about our Muslim travel-agent chick in the last blog, ‘Next’ so I will leave it to the fact that she was not sure how to get us a train ticket but she could get us on a ferry to Langkawi and from there a flight to KL. She made it all sound so groovy and pleasant we left singing her praises – me singing off-key like our neighboring call-to-morning-prayers chanter or whatever they are referred to as.
So here we are sitting on the Tigerline Ferry. What a horrible little piece of junk it is. A fast ferry? Not sure about that. The webpage and brochure shows a two level deck and the ticket lady that convinced us to go this way instead of by train said there was a café on board where we could order food. All that is close to that is some deck hands selling beer and water from an esky at the front of the boat. We are sandwiched into our narrow row – four seats on either side of the row with little leg room on the first level with scant air conditioning. There is a pool of liquid in front of the loo door coming down the aisle. The second level is upstairs as all second levels are – but it is outside with a small covered area. They have sold twice as many tickets as there are seats so the top is covered with folks sitting on the deck in the glaring sun. it is also very loud as the motor with two smoke pipes pouring out thick polluting smoke are up there too. The boat is old, rusty and filthy. There are a lot more people than there are life jackets and we have noted where the kick-out-windows are in case this thing goes down. The ferry we took from Phuket to Ao Nang was first class compared to this. The ferry we took from Dalian to Yantai was more like a small ship had state rooms and was cleaner than this. This boat should be condemned and sunk or used for target practice for the military.
Maybe it is because we are old and get grumpy over things. I do not see anyone complaining, just Narda and me. We started off with a mini-bus from Ao Nang to Krabi. When we got on the Tigerline Ferry mini-bus there were already six people on it and we collected four more in Krabi. They were all in their 20s. A different mix than when we took a mini-van tour in Phuket with a van full of folks from India. These kids were quite the mix: three males from South Africa, a couple from Denmark, two girls from Briton, a girl from Germany a couple with an accent I could not work out and us wherever we are from. Young travelers are good and they just accept the way things are. Young people just think of sex and beer no other part of the brain has kicked in yet so conversations are limiting usually. Travelers are a little easier to speak with but with large signs advertising ‘beer pong tonight’ in the backpackers where we collected some I think all people in their twenties are pretty much the same. Narda said I was an original hippie from San Francisco and the British girls seemed impressed. One asked if I wore flowers in my hair. I am not sure about that but I did have hair to my waist and I did live quite the hippie life in San Francisco at the end of the 1960s. And I suppose at other times along the way.
Maybe I have gone full cycle or full semi-cycle. Life is cyclic often and we do end up where we were though we should be at a higher place on the circle than we were the first time around.
I dropped out in the 1960s as many of us did; tune-in, drop-out, turn-on then kind of tried to integrate myself back into society raising children and teaching in universities and K-12 schools for the past 15 years or so and now we are dropping back out gradually. I think some refer to it as retirement.
Kids today; not sure how different they are. We all had long hair and dressed quite colourfully in the 1960s and now the thing is to have tattoos and piercing. People in their twenties have lots of tats. At the beach it is so noticeable of course as these are not Muslim kids but Western kids in a Muslim area thought no one seems to care. Some tats are picturesque but some are look like a drunken sailor had a go with some needles and ink. And the piercing; belly buttons, lips, eyelids, ears, tongue, checks, and probably some areas that were barely covered. Other than the tats and piercing and the music adolescents or whatever the next stage is now are the same as they/we were in the 1960s.
Before my generation there was not much happening for folks in their twenties, just wars and farm or factory work. The main difference now is that these kids are not part of a big war movement like we were in the 1960s and the protest movement has moved from the streets of developed countries for the most part to developing countries like in the middle east. There seems to be a big protest movement in Thailand or at least in Bangkok but as I only have seen glimpses of headlines for the past two-weeks I am not sure what the beef is. Where we are there is no protest and all the westerners are out having a great time. It seems that a large number of people in Thailand want to shut down the country on January 13th. We left Thailand two days ago on the seventh so we are good.
My son has a huge tat across his chest and probably by now lots more. He turned 33 a couple of days ago and in my opinion is now too old to get tats. I Skyped him and told him I got married when I turned 33 and had him; he may do the same this year following in my style though hopefully with a better marriage experience than I did when his mother and I got hooked up for some unexplained reason.
I have told the story before so will not get into it again; we met at an astrological conference in Sydney, she visited me in Maryland a few months later – we hated each other from the get-go but being young as acted and still in our twenties even though we were in fact in our 30s and thought of little more than sex and beer as all twenty years think only of… so she went back to Adelaide in March of 1980 (after the two of us drove across the USA from Baltimore Maryland to San Francisco drinking huge amounts of hard liquor as we drove for four days and at the end I deposited her at the SF Airport; which should reinforce the message not to drink and drive because the results can be disastrous) and I went to Hawaii to hang out with Randy Dandurand whom I first met toward the start of 1969 in Laguna California and knew from too many trips (I will not elaborate on what that exactly means) and who at the end of 1969 I ran in to in Honolulu and who got me into the cult order I ended up in for a decade. Again in Hawaii, again with Randy Dandurand and again stuck – this time in June 1980 when I got a phone call that started with ‘guess what?’ and not to repeat the whole story again, that was 33 years ago and that was Sacha on his way. I have my Moon descendant line or is it the MH line? going through Hawaii so that could explain my two interactions in Hawaii; joining a cult order and getting married, neither of which worked out. Fortunately I no longer believe in astrology so that of course is all nonsense.
I was just saying to Narda yesterday the thing about learning is not the learning but what is being learned. I studied astrology for 40 years and I know all the interpretations and calculation systems and heaps of crap all of which I wish I had never learned because it is all nonsense. I am not sure why I think it is nonsense but I know for 40 years I used to make decisions based on where the planets were and almost all those decisions were stupid, ill founded, mistaken, crap. I have not followed astrology since 13 August 2003 and life outside of the event that caused me to stop believing in it or looking at it anymore has been OK. I think I make a lot of decisions based on common sense and they tend to be good whereas I use to make plans and decisions based on astrology and they did not work out.
Nada says I assemble together too many words to say something. So in fewer words or simple thought I wish I had learned a language instead of learning astrology. Which simply put as a life learned lesson do not learn stuff that you will never use in the future but of course how could we know that at the time on embarking upon the learning? Then again learning, anything anytime anywhere no doubt is good for the brain muscles. Some things we should have learned along the way but did not because we did not see the importance. For example in boy scouts I did not go for the orienteering badge and yesterday we got helplessly lost coming home from downtown where we are now. After that – the next time out – Narda drew a map of every street and turn and building along the way so we would not get lost again. Of course that was not needed as we got a ride home the next time we walked to the downtown area of where we are now by the owner of where we are living but more of that later. The price we paid was that after walking for more than four hours in the sun along a country road Narda, having one of those Northern European types of skin, got burnt and I became darker.
After the first half hour and we were out of Krabi the Thailand countryside was well worth the trip. It was about two hours to Trang and most everyone was asleep except the driver and me when we got close – which was good. I listened to my 1960s music: Dylan, Joplin and the likes so I would keep perspective on my life. Thailand has really beautiful countryside. The last hour we were along the coast passing through small fishing villages and large palm tree plantations on our narrow country road.
At the Port of Trang we waited for the ferry that was to arrive at 12:30. It arrived at two pm. I sat on the pier with the kids from our mini-van; three South Africans and the girls from England and Germany. Narda found an old couple; well probably our age, from Holland and stayed with them. What do young people see when they look at me? I feel at about the same level as them feeling youthful and liberal and free and though I have invisible tats and non-piercing piercing I have them psychologically and I am sure I could win at beer pong except for the fact I don’t drink beer but psychologically I feel intoxicated. The Brits said I was really kool whatever that means in their language. Probably like my “my granddad is your age and he is really kool”. “I mean he has a pace-maker and sits in his wheel chair all day in front of the telly and he drools and wets himself but for the few moments he is conscious every day after a bit of gin and a smoke he says some funny shit…” so that is about the level they see me. “Hey girls I was quite the stud in my day… I could tell you stories.. wait here comes my wife…maybe later I will tell you about living in a commune in San Francisco in 1968 – 1969 or the time I lived on a nude beach on the island of Maui in 1971 (Makena Beach) or… damn old age where is the toilet around here?” Actually we had a chilled time waiting for the luxury ferry and then there it was.Bloody ferry should be condemned. The whole Tigerline Ferry should be closed down. We got into the main cabin – well actually there was only one cabin, and it was packed. Luckily we managed to find two seats left but the 40 or so passengers that also got on at Trang had to go up on top. The ferry had come from Phuket and was full.
Our baggage was tossed amongst the rest – see photo below…Toward the end of the day we got close to Koh Lipe. Those of us headed for Malaysia were herded to one side of the boat and the majority on board going to Lipe got on the other side. We were put onto a Longtail Boat – much like we rode in Ao Nang and in Krabi. No one, or none of us, knew what was happening. Someone joked we were going to Malaysia in it but of course that seemed impossible. There were 14 of us with the hundreds of others getting on another ferry and headed to the nearby beautiful shore of Koh Lipe, a young person’s paradise so of course it was only fit to send us away.
Then they took our passports and the teenager that took them made jokes like ‘bye bye’ after collecting most of them. All except Narda and mine which she was not going to turn over until we realized we were not going any further until we did. Apparently this is immigration, Thailand style.
Koh Lipe with our boat heading toward us (really). As the sun began to set we got off at the floating immigration and our passports were taken to some other boat that said Thailand on the side.
My biggest concern was that there was no toilet at immigration and another person said wait until sun sets in a few minutes and go over the side. With more than a dozen people standing around I thought I needed to get over myself and my being old and wait until we got to Malaysia which we were told was only an hour and half away by fast boat when the actual boat arrived.
When the boat arrived and we got in and took off everything changed. I sat in the back taking a zillion photos as I do and as the sun set our boat with its two 250 hp motors took us onto a journey like I had never been on before.
Once it became dark and my camera was away I just watched the darkness with only the waves from the back of the boat visible. Here we were riding very fast in an open sea; the Andaman Sea. Riding between two countries we could have been smugglers, James Bond types, anything; even ourselves. I wondered what would happen if we saw a boat coming at us and stopping us a gun point and taking us hostage. There are kidnappings and extremists wandering around Southern Thailand and Malaysia. I thought maybe I would throw my US Passport overboard but Narda thought maybe the Yanks would be the ones who would rescue us and me being the only Yank on board, I use my Australia Passport all the time and only use the US one when I enter the States, could get us all saved. The rest on the boat were from Australia, Holland, Poland and some non-definable, though Western, countries. The driver and his mate looked like adolescents and surely were not over 20 so what they would do to protect us I am not sure. Narda said she was thinking how it could turn out if the motors stopped and we drifted to one of the islands along the way and no one found us and we became like the people in the series, ‘Lost’. After half an hour I just stopped thinking and plugged my iPhone into my ears and listened to Dylan, Creedence, ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominos (often voted on radio stations as the greatest rock song of all time) and just chilled like I have never in my life. This became the greatest ride of all time for me.All because we could get across Ut Tharakit Road back in Krabi Town and ended up at the government travel bureau that directed us to some small tourist centre where the chick there could not figure out the train ticket to KL from Trang or did not want to and hooked us up with Tigerline Ferry. She told Narda that at one time the brother or cousin of the owner of Tigerline Ferry wanted to marry her. Not sure how the dialogue got to that point but Narda and her had quite the tongue waggle and Narda said “you are quite the character aren’t you?” Whether the Muslim chick had a clue what Narda said or not I have no idea but even though her English was limited (not Narda, the other chick) they seemed to hit it off.
Narda is a social creature whereas I just look around for a place to get onto the internet – ‘hey what is the password?’
For example, we were riding our scooters around the back roads of Ao Nang and Narda wanted to check out real-estate of all things, something about coming here for six months when we retire soon; good grief. So we came across streets with nice little houses with for rent or sale signs in front and if there was a European hanging about Narda would end up in conversation. I would sit a few meters behind looking for the way out. We spent one afternoon doing this. Of course we have now found another place Narda wants to retire to; Ko Langkawai. I imagine Ko means island as it is front of every island name.
We did get to Langkawai; proof is that I am writing this from there, and everything where we docked was dark except for one light in a building which we once again turned over our passports. Narda went off to find an ATM to get some Malaysian ringgits and I stayed behind guarding our crap and waiting for our passports. We started off with bag each so how we ended up in Malaysia with seven bags I am not exactly sure but I think we have more crap to put into storage when we get back to Australia after we leave China in six months. Of course the amount of stuff we have in China to send to Australia will fill a container vessel by itself. Now I know what the difference between the twenty-year old backpackers we see everywhere and us. It is not their youthful tattooed-pierced bodies barely covered and their sole thoughts of beer and sex that differs us but that they travel with a backpack and that is probably all they own in the world and we lug around cargo ships of merchandise.
Once we had our passports and ringgits and seven bags lined up we saw all the rest of the folks get into the three taxis that were there. A man said he would take us for 40 ringgits (about $12 US) to where we were going but he was not an official taxi driver. Another couple was left behind and they were going to the same area as us so we negotiated at 30 ringgits per couple and piled in. OK what not to do in a foreign country in the dark with no one around; get into a car with someone who speaks a few words of English and head out into the night. But we have found ourselves in sticky places in Guatemala, Mexico City, Cambodia and heaps of other places and we lived in Jersey City for three years being the only white people in our area so we go through life taking chances and living in the moment. Narda had the phone number for where we were going so that helped and the driver actually found our way out of the way place and at 10.30 pm we arrived at this beautiful house.
Home now is much different than our rat infested shack back in Ao Nang but we are paying four times more and there is a bit of downside. We really are in the country. The next morning, yesterday, we looked out and saw the paddocks and the little bike width road to town. ‘Only about 20 minutes” people staying in the next cottage said. So we walked it and half an hour later arrived onto the main street of town and across to Pantai Cenang Beach. We had been there the night before at 10:30 PM. When we arrived in Langkawi we were very hungry having had only a couple of sandwiches that we had brought with us for the day. The owner of the place we are now at sent us by taxi to her café which is on the beach, an incredible and beautiful place; white sand tables on the beach and really good food. We ate there the next night, last night too.
Coming back home yesterday we got lost and walked for three hours along a country road and burnt Narda and me we were not impressed. We got this place the day before we left Ao Nang as we thought we were taking a train and never having heard of Langkawi.
We had a good stay howbeit the long walk to any place to buy food was off putting and the beach was a half hour walk but the swimming was great.
All in all our three-week winter holiday was relaxing and now at two AM we are waiting for a plane in KL to get us to Shanghai though not fun being so tired and all I must say it has been good. This could be our last trip during a school holiday as we may not work after this school year and where we will be next year to start 2015 will be as much of a surprise that we will not know about until we are in the moment once again just like we had no idea we would be out to sea on a fast boat between Thailand and Malaysia until we got on to the boat. We never even had heard of the fantastic island of Langkawi until a week before we went there. So life goes forward taking a turn here and a twist there and if we just can perfect the letting go and enjoying where we are being taken all will be fine.
Of course some things never change. When we got back to Dalian low and behold they lost two pieces of our luggage. Once again. Just like the times before. Thanks China Eastern you make life so predictable.
http://youtu.be/8YGAf2A7NtM (Ao Nang)
(Koh Klang Island, Krabi) http://youtu.be/92Vx8hSsXzs
What Narda saw from her hammock http://youtu.be/l02Wi9lYdbc
Saturday 21 December
Warmth has many interpretations, perceptions, explanations: emotional, physical, spiritual, local, worldly, universal, chemical, mental and so forth and so here we are seeking warmth that encompasses it all. Simply put, because really who wants to hear one whinge and whine about their lot in life? I will just say ‘oh look we are going to southern Thailand for a three-week holiday to get warm’, who wants to know that when they can stay at home and watch the television and news shows showing the worst of humanity over and over.
Again, here we are at the International area at Shanghai Airport, we’ve done this stop heaps or at least some dozen or more times which is heaps to some and not many for others. Usually we are here on the way to Australia. Though this is one of those rare times when we are spending Christmas not in Australia. I think we have missed going to Adelaide two or three times in the past dozen years. Before these past three years in China it was the 30 hours of travel from New York, usually a couple of times a year, to Australia. At least these past three years we have been close to the same time-zone.
Shanghai Airport, the last few days of 2013, still struggling with English words – in their international departure area I know, seeing ‘coffee and cates’ means no one here is in a rush to become Western too fast… there are lots of indications throughout China that yes they will cater to our lot but we are and always will be outsiders and why don’t we just learn their bloody language and stop being so precious about the English language and of course we Westerners are just too precious.
Last night was good. Yesterday, Friday, being the last day of school before the holidays meant that many bailed at the end of the day or were packing to leave this morning. But there were at least thirty-five that showed up for a sing-a-long in the lobby of Campus Café. Narda played piano and Tyler guitar – our music teachers bringing everyone together. It wasn’t just singing Christmas songs; there were a whole slew of songs with the words on the wall and from children to us oldies and every decade in between happily singing along. From our sports teacher to the owner of the school, principals, head of school, elementary, upper school and our Chinese school, Huamei teachers we had quite the cross section. Narda thought maybe no one would show up because of it being the start of holidays but this is a school that is a community and with us all living here music brings everyone together. We often say it is really assisted living though of course those in their 20s, 30s, even 40s would not want to say that but us over 50, OK over 60… damn I am the oldest, see it as assisted living. I was there in my slippers, so was Narda, others had their blankets; Joe Fred and Cindy had their Dallas Cowboy blanket over them. We are not big Grid-Iron fans but we did live in New York for a decade and watched the Giants beat some team, I think from the mid-west, in the Superbowl at a pub in Brooklyn a few years ago so I suppose that makes us Giant fans. But saying anything to Joe Fred about how Dallas is doing this year, or the past few years, is not a happy topic. I think they lost by a point or two the last few games. But they beat the New York Giants, though of course everyone is beating them this year including their selves, so who am I say? But they had their blanket and they shared it with the head of school and on a minus six degrees centigrade night we all were warm. And here we are at Shanghai Airport headed for a warm climate full of warm thoughts.
Narda has just finished her last concerts; the elementary winter concert, helping Tyler with the high school one and last Sunday conducting with some folks for the first international concert of our province. She had practiced for months with a group from some local school. At the Sunday concert there were politicians and a mixture of our school and whomever we had joined with. The concert was supposed to be at 2 pm but due to a least moment comrade-meeting by The Party the concert was put off until 6 pm because some members wanted to go to the concert and we were told you don’t mess with them. Sort of like ‘don’t mess with Texas’. But now it is all over, Narda’s concerts are at a break until the next series start up, the spring concert and I think she is doing ‘Sound of Music’ later in the next year, next year being next week.
Narda has a long history of doing concerts. When she was ten years old she would get her sister, 8 years old, to join in and they would do concerts for their nieghbourhood. Narda and Helena would wear matching dresses, put flyers in letterboxes on their street and perform for ten – fifteen minutes, playing guitar and singing. They would charge like ten-cents and I am not sure what would happen to the children of the street if they did not come but the Narda-ten-year-old-mafia-style-concert always had an audience. The only song I remember her saying she did was ‘you have lost that loving feeling’ by the Righteous Brothers. I find it interesting how we follow our destinies that we map out in youth. I was going to be a writer when I was ten-years old. I use to write all the time, novels, stories, poems, movie scripts… but over the decades that dwindled down to a few blogs and all that I ever got published was a children’s story that Scholastic Magazine published in the mid-1980s. My brother and I use to play restaurant and make up a menu and cook for each other Sunday night but neither of us got to the restaurant stage of life though I did manufacture tofu and many tofu products and to combine my ten-year old wants I am working on my tofu e-book (subtitled ‘Astrology made me a bad tofu maker’) which is really a novel/story/autobiography/cookbook and that of course I will never finish. (And of course it would never come close to Joanne Harris’s “Five Quarters of the Orange” which I just finished reading and I like about the best of any book I have ever read. She uses parts of a journal the mother in the story wrote which tells the story mixed in with recipes. I was doing the same thing but after reading “Five Quarters of the Orange” I wonder why I would continue with my book. Harris wrote the book : “Chocolat” one of my favourite movies and in fact is the first movie I saw with Narda after we got married which of course has nothing to do with what I am writing about here which is our holiday here in Thailand and Narda being a concert giver.) All unlike Narda with her making sure the neighbourhood showed their presence at her concerts and she would rehearse and prepare and make her posters all of which she is doing now many, many – (oops now I would be in trouble if she read my blogs) years ago.
We get into Kuala Lumpur at 1.30 – that is 1.30 AM – sometime after midnight, then grab a flight to Phuket at 4.30 AM and get there at 5.30 AM or so. It is easier to do the 30 plus hour flights from New York to Australia because the flights are long and sleep is just a pill away but these short hauls are a bugger and we will be more loopy than usual when we stagger into our hotel in Phuket. Last I saw it was 30 degrees centigrade which is warm, maybe hot, but not what it was in Adelaide this week which was 43.5 C or 110 F.
Sunday 22 December
On the short flight Dalian to Shanghai they hand out their boxes of food. For once they got it straight that I am a vegetarian and they even stopped at my seat to confirm it. What could they possible give me? Considering on these short trip we only ever get a roll and a sweet bun it was not like they were going to pull off some strange; possibly chicken or a derivative of a farm animal, and give me a piece of carrot which is usually the way. In my little box, which said veg on the outside I got a whole-meal roll instead of a white roll like my neighbour passengers got. And a small piece of possibly carrot cake whereas my surrounding guests got something looking chocolate like, it was brown. The longer flight Shanghai to KL was better with a curry veggie smothered in rice and not the other way around. Surely we can make analogies to life based on experience on Chinese airlines with China Eastern being at a class in need of enlightenment (the lowest caste, the Dalits in the Hindus trip) and Singapore Airlines being the Brahmins.
So when we got to KL in the early hours and then to Phuket at even a more unreasonable time – like five AM and to our hotel in Phuket Town at seven giving us a 24-hour trip with a reasonable three hours at the max sleep. We get more sleep going from New York to Beijing or to Melbourne not having interrupted… I am losing interest in my story here..
Monday 23 December
So Phuket is OK. We stayed in a guesthouse; Summer Breeze in Phuket Town) that was in sort of a small village off to the side of stuff and that is always more interesting than being tossed in with the tourist throngs. We did the one-day tourist journey to Monkey cave and to James Bond Island (Koh Tapu off of the Ko Khao Phing Kan island in the Phang Nga Bay, Strait of Malacca) – all too expensive and a waste of a day. We almost never go on tours but fend for ourselves getting lost on buses or just wandering and being our own tourist guides. If we don’t know what something is we make it up as we would remember our own historical narratives as much as if some tourist guide told us what something is and our interpretation is always good. We should start a tourist guide business and whatever we say something is then, dig it that is correct. ‘and on the right of your tuk tuk Buddha blessed that tree, which of course is thousands of years old… well the tree isn’t, obviously, it is just a few years old, but the great-ancestor to where that current tree now is stood a mighty tree that the Buddha looked up at and said “life sure is kool” before going on and starting a religion that people even today leave fruit on alters for in hopes that it will be eaten by the Buddha but surprise surprise it is still there the next day’.
Tuesday 24 December
We took the ferry over to Ao Nang Beach, Krabie for the two-hour run. I fell to sleep soon after we left port. One thing I have always been good at is going to sleep – staying asleep is another thing – I wake up at two in the morning ready to climb a mountain or at least go look for something to eat. My best sleeping time is when we are taking off in a plane. I almost always will be asleep by or soon after being in the air. My record that I remember is one time being awake as the plane started down the runway and I thought I would just close my eyes for a moment – and waking up half an hour later in the clouds. Waking in the clouds is quite different than my usual being already awake in the clouds such as when I am at work. I rarely am tired or plan on sleeping I just like to close my eyes when the plane is leaving but almost every single time I am asleep by air time.
When you get on to the ferry everyone is told to put their bags into one large area so a couple of hundred people with a couple bags each, a couple of hundred bags, all happily leave their bags. The majority of the passengers, at least on our boat, were Australians and being young and backpackers were happy to find all the open areas at the front to show off their tats and youthful bodies to one another whilst Narda and I found the padded comfortable seats inside.
Somewhere in this setup there was a potential pain-in-the-ass moment.
We found it.
So when we get to Ao Nang Beach and everyone grabs their bags and get on land Narda and I count our bags. Of course unlike backpackers who have one bag each we have seven in total. Just because we have traveled steadily for decades does not mean we have figured it out. Oh wait! We now have six bags and the next set of passengers are all rushing on. I go back to find the missing bag but there is already a pile of bags where ours once were and one still is. The boat is leaving in five minutes and no they will not unpack the ferry to find ours but they will ring us when the ferry is back in port if they find a bag at the next island before the next group gets on and the ferry stops again at Ao Nang Beach. We are concerned mainly because we cannot remember what is in the bag. We have both our computers, Ipad, Kindle, cameras and lenses and clothes but even after unpacking we cannot figure out what is in the bag. Until I go to take my heart-medication; something to do with having four stents put in a few weeks ago in Hong Kong.
Oops maybe we should worry.
Narda’s friend from Hamburg is on holiday in Northern Thailand and we were planning at trying to get up there but now there is a concern about my pills. We stopped at a travel centre and it will take us a whole day to get to Koh Lipe (Koh Lipe is a small island in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Andaman Sea, in the Satun Province of southwest Thailand, close to Malaysian border). Four hours by min-bus and several hours by ferry, one overnight and another whole day coming back. Narda writes Mau that it is all quite difficult plus there is the potential that my pills would be gone. We hadn’t seen Mau for years, we use to pop into Hamburg each year on the way to Australia from New York but lately we seem to be Asia based. She realizes how difficult it will be to visit and she is going back to Germany at the end of the week so we will wait until somewhere else in the world is easier to get to visit in. My tie to her is from eleven years ago when we stopped in to visit; Narda met her in Budapest Hungary in the 1980s at a Kodály study program and they have been friends since. We spent several days at her home and I started writing my never-to-be-read by anyone except maybe my son, “Leaving Australia” in July 2003. It ended up being 570 pages and about 170,000 words plus lots of pictures, experiences, philosophies come and gone, relationships… I printed and leather bound two copies one for Sacha and the other sits on my shelf in China. It was a book to my children, as I was the existing parent, or sole parent from babyhood to hoods, explaining my life and why our life was the way it was based on my life’s experience. I wrote heaps for three days as Narda and Mau caught up on stories of their life. Two weeks later my son, Leigh, would fly to Sydney from where Leigh was playing baseball in Florida for the Los Angeles Dodgers and went off his 15 story hotel because his girlfriend broke up with him. It took me another six years to finish my book then I decided I would finish it for both sons even though only one decided to stay on the planet. Somewhere in the universal mind – some place in the slippery slope of galactic evolution there may be a particle of Leigh that exists and is conscious of what I say to him, so often, sometimes daily, sometimes just in my dreams. So that is my connection with Mau and every time we would go visit I would add to my “Leaving Australia”.
The ferry is due to stop at five pm at Ao Nang and at 4.30 Narda is insistent that we meet the ferry and not wait for them to ring us. We have rented motor scooters for two-weeks and go swimming each day – the water is warm – and go exploring and get ourselves lost on lots of back roads. So we get to the ferry and wow wow they have my bag with my pills. Not knowing what else we could have in the bag we quickly look and see our four seasons of “Sons of Anarchy”; we watched the first two seasons back in China. I have not really taken to the series mainly because the acting is so bad and the storylines are just stupid but because the two series we have been watching: ‘Homeland’ and ‘the Good Wife’, are done for the season and we did not have anything else to watch, ‘Sons’ became something to watch in the evening as I worked on my webpages and Narda watched. Narda’s DVD player, which plugs into her computer, was in the bag too. So we were happy though we have yet to have a TV on since being in Thailand for a week.
Then a day later, today, Thursday evening, we are looking through the bag we had left on the ferry and found my US Passport in a side pocket. Oops again. I only use it for when I enter the States, using my Australian Passport for everywhere else. Really! Who wants to say they are an American when traveling? I also found my Chinese bankcard which would have been a mess to replace.
What we realize when we travel and do not put the telly on is how peaceful and wonderful the world is. When we watch the news all they have is stories about bombing here and there and shootings in the States. We have no idea what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Egypt or really anywhere, now. Here the weather is fine the neighbours are great – Muslims are unlike what the news tries to do to portray them as such badies and even Narda has started to cover up like the local women but she does it because it is so bloody hot and when we are riding our motor scooters she gets so sunburnt so a black scarf over her head under her helmet covering her shoulders gives a local look. When we are on holiday I wonder why we ever bother to watch the news to begin with. Maybe that is what one does in retirement let the world get all crazy about the stupid news reports. I often wonder why we sit there looking at what is happening someplace where we are far from, have no ties to, will no doubt never go to, and which has and never will have an effect on us. It is close to being as bad as celebrity watching, something I have never paid much attention to. It is a good feeling to see a face on magazine covers and have no idea who it is; makes me feel not sucked in. I could not name a celebrity, singer or actor under forty and I am proud of that. Life is good here far away yet in the middle.
Thursday 26 December 26, 2013
And I have found warmth. From the sun to the people of Thailand to the foot massage – an hour for 200 Thai Baht ($6.10 US/ $6.84 Australian) which included a head and shoulder massage – to the warmth of being with Narda and the warmth of not having anywhere to go or anything to do. And Narda just read me that where we are, Aonang – is the world’s second best beach as stated by many travel magazines. The article did not say what magazine or what was the world’s finest beach. Having just come back from a swim as the sun set we can say it is definitely quite good.
Maybe I will post this and edit my videos in the Premier Creative Cloud Suite. Now there is warmth and the only news I need that today’s Adobe Creative Cloud Suite updates are downloading even with a slow Internet. And of course that the Australian dollar is back to 88 cents from 95 cents last month and that is the extent of the news we need. And of course that our friends and family are well and had a good Christmas and we got to Skype OK. Yesterday was Christmas and our Christmas present was a swim in the ocean and an hour massage. I think today we will ride our scooters to Krabi which we are told is half an hour away though we being old and slow and stopping too many times along the way, not to mention how easily we get lost and change our mind it will no doubt take the whole afternoon.
Tomorrow we buy our train tickets to Kuala Lumpur from Trang Thailand – leaving in two weeks on the 30 hour train ride.
Video for this blog at http://youtu.be/AzaiYZU3zZk
Where we are always seems to be not as interesting as where someone else is though why we say that I am not quite sure when wherever we are is where we are because that is the totality of all we have done so far in life and the final destination at this moment. One turn anywhere in life and most likely we would be somewhere else more or less interesting than where we are now.
Think I will come back to that thought in a bit.
Two weekends ago we where in Hong Kong or was it the weekend before two weekends ago? I stop and think for a moment what did we do yesterday – or even worse – what did we do earlier in the day. Not because at 66 I am slowing down in memory – I did that back in the year 1966 – go figure – what I did in 1966 and of course those interesting years later – effects the way I think now on the eighth of December is how long since we were tromping around Hong Kong. I went to see my doctor – who I think is quite kool though why a doctor is kool I have no idea but he just seems kool. Dr. King. I believe his name is TIAN LUNG but thankfully for me he goes by Dr. Peter King; Chief of Cardiology, who speaks English, Mandarin, Shanghainese, and Cantonese. I know I have been in China for three years and this may sound quite stupid but saying one speaks Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese to me sounds like me saying I speak New Zealand, British, Canadian, Australian and American. Nevertheless Dr. King speaks great English. They did their slew of tests on me from lots of tins of blood to scans of various sorts. After a couple of days meeting again with Dr. King he said I may need to have some laser treatment on my heart. A month earlier he slipped four stents into my arteries. I could use some laser treatment to get rid of some wrinkles here and there but shooting at my heart?