ellensagh

Down Under – Part I – January 2013

 

NEW YEAR’S IN SYDNEY:

From Saskatoon – Denver – LA; wonder if they’ll announce Sydney passengers get off first as debatable if we will make connecting flight out of LA. They did and we just got on. We are in the air eating double chocolate desert after our midnight meal over the ocean. It’s a 10 seat wide, humungous plane. Fitful sleep but slept. Half way there; they gave us a huge sandwich; then 2 hrs later a huge breakfast served; which we didn’t take. 14000 miles travelled; 14 hours on the plane.

We are here; hard to believe we’re upside down on the other side of the world. Evergreen tree leaves grow upside down too. It’s 24 degrees. Changed currency. Nice to see flowers again. Passed a cricket stadium. We get top floor of a bed and breakfast we had booked in Sept. Windows wide open; no screens. Cup of tea and walk down Oxford street in Paddington; fashion mecca of Sydney – 10 dresses in a store and nothing else. Host showed us bus system. Slept for a few hours as have been going for 30 hours.

It’s New Year’s Eve and on bus with young people who have paid $500. for a place on a boat to see the fireworks. They said some had paid $2500. a ticket for the meal & evening out. We find a place at Circular Quay. Couldn’t be better; right between Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Lots of Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants. Full moon rising. Parade of 52 boats lit up in red just before the family fireworks at 9 pm. I slept on Bob’s shoulder for awhile; met a Chinese accountant and Swiss tourists; people had been showing up since noon. A crescendo of fireworks lit sky and seemed like from every building behind us and on top of us and over the harbour. HAPPY 65 BOB!

Police estimate in next morning’s paper: 1.5 million people. We walked shoulder to shoulder with all of them out of there at 1 am. Think near everyone has a smart phone or i-pad except us. As we are waiting for bus at 1 am; see one guy using smart phone walk into a low fountain. Alcohol not really an issue; glass was restricted where we were.

Walk next day; see English influence; Hyde Park; Kensington, English gardens. Walked much of 515 acre park inside the city; close to where we are; 4 foot diameter tree trunks; open windows everywhere on stores; bars. High school founded 1888. Bathrooms called public toilets and are everywhere. Really clean. Not just in parks. Downtown too. Water taps for dogs. Two and four person bikes with canopies. Bike lanes and bus lanes. 24 hour emergency telephones all over. “Press button for attention”. $14. for a hamburger.

Fields for cricket/touch football/lacrosse/rugby/softball/baseball/netball/lots of biking happening/horse riding/lots of fit looking people/families are on summer holidays/Bob’s theory/maybe they charge more for food and drink here /not so many big gulps/ or obesity.

Passed 3 golf courses airport to city. Bob taking a break but we did go see one. 3 Decks or Bays on top of each other for driving range and the balls that are hit roll to the middle for easy pick up. Cost is $45.-$55. for round of 18. Walk past an Equestrian Centre. Churches all over. Sign “ “Come Sing Carols. Free Barbeque.”

Little dust here. No bugs. Having an Aussie Beer with Fish and Chips. A bird comes in and walks around the upscale looking hardwood and tile floor. We had sat for 10 minutes before realizing you have to go order from cashier. They don’t serve here. You don’t tip either; Bob still does. Sign: Never let a mate walk home drunk.

First city I saw 2 young men holding hands. Toured Opera House. Sunburned forehead. Well over 30 today. Cruise ship in harbour called Crystal Symphony. Bought our Canberra and Melbourne travel and accommodation. Really helpful young woman at info kiosk did it for us; city worker; no fees. Toured The Rocks, China Town. Every few minutes could see 11 people being led over the top of the Harbour Bridge $250.00 a crack; could not take your camera. We did not do it. Instead; took a ferry. Saw Sydney national forest; tour Manly Island. First beach we saw. Kind of a cool rainy day. Sydney harbour full of sailing ships. Ferry horn sounds as one is barrelling towards us. Misses us not by much.

Toured the Paddy Markets. Free Shuttle bus. Did a 7 hour marathon sightseeing walk one day. Legs okay but sore like shin splints. Another Day – Bondi Beach. Surf coming in; kids can’t stay on their boards. Day before the beach was cleared; shark sighting. 40,000 people on that beach had to be cleared. Another Ferry ride. This one listing so much; the sudsy ocean spray hitting the kid’s faces. Found a library. Free email. Had duck cabbage rolls with grappado and mint leaves. Bob said like cabbage soup. Coffee costs $3.50 and tastes awful.

Sun rise at 5:40 am. Tropical bird sounds. Reading book “Thirty days in Sydney.” Tour Royal Botanical gardens. Flowers wider than my hand. Red and yellow flowered trees. Parrots or biggest budgies we ever saw. Sweet smelling tropicals, cacti and succulents, palm groves, fern fronds 12 ‘ high, lunch and then a rose garden.

Our bed and breakfast host left at 5 am on a 4 hour trip to pick cherries for jam he makes. It’s hotter by the day. Beer drinking weather. Tour Darling Harbour. Cockle Bay, Rooftop bar at Sherbourne Hotel; high end shopping district. Worst pizza we ever had and I had ordered it. Anchovies, capers, ham; not so great wine either. 30 some degrees; using sunscreen; still burning. Most people bike or use buses.

On a train leaving Sydney for the Blue Mountains. See brick, tiled roof houses. Different flowering trees, palm trees, clotheslines and tv antennaes in most back yards; lots of playgrounds, parks, mountain bike parks. Out in English type countryside; then it changes to forest; just about jungly; Huge trees. Trees look skinned. No bark. Found out it’s the euchylyptus trees; oil from the leaves is why the blue haze for the Blue Mountains and why a fire would spread so fast.

We take a sky train with a glass floor 270 metres over top of a gorge and then a drop thing like a roller coaster down the steepest old mine railway line in the world; like going over a cliff; down into the rainforest. A little tense. The walk through the coolness of that on the bottom of that hot, hot day; was great prior to our cable car ride up past the Three Sisters Rock Formations. Then we walked down to falls and back to the town of Katoomba. Met some people from Woolmba by the coast. Now sitting in a town centre looking at butterflies and flowers around us. Toured a hotel from the 1800’s that still has all that era of fine dining furniture; everything in it. WOW! Met another young family; most have 3 kids.

Spent a day at Bondi Beach – swim between the flags only. Royal Blue to aqua marine turquoisy water color; sand shifts between our feet as surf pulls on us. No alcohol beaches. Cool breezes for 35 degree day. I’ve lost weight. Sauna day walks.

Incredible cashew chicken vegetable thai stir fry. Romantic love songs playing in this white fine dining place we chose. Shiraz is not white wine. Makes me laugh.

$317,000. is raised for breast cancer awareness when 26,000 people wearing pink show up at a cricket match at stadium a few blocks from where we’re staying. They have a kid zone outside with games for adults and kids. We watch a staring contest.

Outside market – quality fine art. Like a really unique lampshade and paper mache jewelry. Many, many booths inside and outside of a United Church. This morning’s walk has us in an Entertainment and Sporting complex for children and families. Theatre Production schools, Radio Broadcasting, film, lazer tag, bowling, karoke, Irish and German pubs, kiddie carousel; whole thing owned by Rupert Murdoch. Chose not to eat at the German place as $21. for a beer; was quite a big beer but still. Had pasta somewhere else instead.

Swam in the Tasmanian sea. Our walk home was a different route and through a park. BATS 12-16” across, big as crows, right over our heads; landing in the trees upside down hanging; I had to ask as I was kind of freaked out; they are bats; eat fruit; thousands of them; come in at dusk; they call them flying foxes. Stopped at our chocolatier place on the way home; strawberries in warm chocolate and green tea to finish the evening.

Sign: Possum Problem, Call us! Saw no malls, stores are unlike Canada; like an opal store, butcher, baker, open flower shops, sushi, latina cafe, money exchange, lots of green space, clothing alterations; not seeing air conditioners and it’s 40 degrees. Bikini Island store, Rip Curl, surfboards, Multi-level flats, Took a one hour bus ride to Watson’s Bay; walked along the cliffs. Walked “The Gap” where Sydney people commit suicide. Creepy feeling. Lifeline messages all over. Keep hope. Saw Hornby 1858 lighthouse.

Nude Beach at Lady Bay. Beaches with no shade. Some bring own umbrella. Took a cataramand ferry; wanted quiet time; so went to an observatory middle of Sunday afternoon. Few there. I did learn how explorers mapped the area using trigonometry pyramids. To The Lord Nelson Brewery (1830). Bob had a Three Sheets Ale and I the Beet Walnut Salad. Wow. Brasseriere (dining room) on 2nd floor. Kids can come in the bars here.

CANBERRA: On Greyhound Bus to Canberra. Thru Southern Highlands Wine Country. Horses I see are scrawny. Cattle same. Rocks, trees, deep valleys. Cattle Country. Need Rain. Bob saw 2 kangaroos. I haven’t seen any. Sheep same color as grass. Dry grass. Some places tower poplars or scotch pine all in straight rows. Planted forests. Fire Rating today: Extreme. Rice paddy one place; doesn’t make sense. Must be irrigation.

Canberra is 100 years old in 2013. Population: 350,000. City was designed from scratch to be a capital city. We are in a motel in a residential neighborhood like a Saskatoon Avalon. Bob is so humorous; he asks “ Do you want the single bed or the double bed?” We walk or take buses. 35 degrees or higher each day. Sizzling the top of my feet. Grass is like sticks. Parched. Gov’t town. Sydney was fast paced. This is not. Here bus drivers talk to you. Cheaper than Sydney. $12. for 2 pints of beer. Saw our 1st Mall and 1st store we see is a Target. We walk lots. People evacuated from wildfires are in same motel. As we walk there are no air conditioners humming like they would be at home. Unkempt yards surprise us; but could be the swelter day after day.

Tour new parliament hill (looks like a bunker). 4000 rooms in it. We were in press gallery; I had been checked for explosives; Bob had to remove a bracelet. Colors of chairs in House of repr was euchylyptus greeny blue and in the senate chambers rose coloured from the blossoms of those trees. Toured the old parliament and the National Gallery too. 70 km winds when walked to the National Australian Museum ( The museum was 3 x; maybe more bigger than West Dev’t Museum.)

130 fires burning in New South Wales today. 42 degrees here. 105 km winds. We are in bushfire emergency mode. They keep saying, “Know where you are.” We don’t. They’re calling it: Capital Summer Swelter. It’s a heat wave if 5 days in a row over 35 degrees.

Jan 9/13: Find out breakfast is not included when we’ve had it 2 days in a row. Lots of Catholic, Anglican, Salv Army Bldgs and yet Sikh bus driver, Arabic public school, motel maids visible minorities. Dropped camera. Bought another. Took bus to far end of city; like a Stonebridge called Tugernongong. Lunch at a Pattisorie. Saw my first kangaroo sitting in the shade under a tree. Santa Claus on a roof at same time looked silly and it’s 40 some degrees. Took bus to other areas; to highest lookout over Canberra; viewed the arborteum they’re creating. 85 different forests started. Then to a National Botanical Gardens. Had to watch for snakes in rock gardens; saw 2 foot long iquanna; missed 2 baby kangaroos and their mom by minutes. Parrots all over.

Our last nite at a neighborhood pub. Lots of little shops around it. All tables nearly gone at 5:15. We get a table just inside but with all doors open; it’s like you’re outside. There are 3 outdoor tents with plastic rolled up. They are all full. It’s all the after work crowd. Kids 8-12 years old show up on skateboards and join parents for dinner; can sit anywhere. All order from bar and then it’s delivered. Tonight is Schnitzel nite and when it comes, nearly covers the whole plate.

People are so friendly. 2 East Indian men walking holding hands. A young guy from Pakistan walked 3 blocks out of his way to show us a place we wanted to go.

10/01/13. Leave hotel. On bus. Bus driver and Biker have a set to. Third finger is given; then both apologize. We tour War Memorial, City Art Gallery, and a National Mosaic Library. We notice no matter where we are; all countries use US as a measuring stick/ benchmark – on TV; papers, clothes, magazines, movies, music.

Canberra was one hot dry place. I have heat blisters popping out on my arms. I have not seen Sask summer heat conditions this bad.

Seat mix up as we leave Canberra for Melbourne. A young woman changes for us. We will be on bus 2 pm – 11pm. Golden wild grasslands, smoke in air; hills with gum trees, sheep and cattle, horses covered in white canvass. Pure white goats. Pine forest, then a vineyard. Horse Stud farm. Acres and acres and acres of dead grass. See combining and baling at same time. Yesterday spark from a harvester started a grass fire. Now a wild fire still burning.

Like we are on a serendipitous trip . Wherever we’ve been, bus appears when we want one; people tell us best places to see. Information man has a Tasmanian map in his pocket, after the airport custom’s officer and our b & b hosts tell us we must see Tasmania. Will we?

Go by a sign, “Wagga Wagga Wine Festival” Sheep are not sheared yet. They must be hot. Come close to the fire. Smoke hangs low. It’s nearly 6 pm and sheep are walking in a straight line kicking up dirt. Sign says “Orange groves” but unlike any orange groves I’ve seen in Arizona. A British Petroleum (BP) rest stop for supper. 1st modern grain bins we see just outside town. Bus driver has tatoo of Toronto Blue Jays and told us he had just been talking to his Missis at 7 pm in Melbourne and still 29 degrees at that time. Bob and I are watching the sunset and see about 15 Kangaroos on a golf course. Bob and I are on a bus; yes; due to the hills, we see 3 sunsets; but the kangaroos are out golfing and we are on the bus.

MELBOURNE: What a night! It is one am before we’re in our nice hotel room. 11Pm we were in Melbourne. First a policeman said he’d help us buy the “MyWay” pass that’s good for trams, trains and buses in Melbourne. He didn’t know how; so two more policeman came along and were helping. Then Bob didn’t have the right change and went and got some. 5 more policemen joined in; at midnight we had it all figured out. Bob and I put our pack sacks on our backs; and after a policeman took my name & birth date as they all had to account for their time; we walked across the street; waiting for the tram for awhile till someone told us it doesn’t come after midnight; so we took a taxi.

Had to buzz in at the hotel; but the guy was neat and offered to find a beer for us too.

People are so nice and helpful. Next day guy on the tram (from Tasmania) says “Hang on Mate” and gets off to show us the Free Tram and a City Circle Free Bus. We spend the morning going all over, seeing what there is to see. Lots of concrete and glass here in Melbourne. Looks like lots of money; lots of big name shopping.

The Tasy guy said cheaper to fly to Tasmania than to take the 11 hour overnight ferry and lots of B & B’s there. We went to the city Info centre and Ula from Holland on a 6 month working visa as a tourist guide booked us flights to Tasmania, a tour from Melbourne to Adelaide and a flight from Adelaide to Brisbane. It would have been a 20 hour train ride or something.

Then we walked Melbourne. A China town and an Italian District. Lots of Universities in this Territory of Victoria. Still such British sounding names. Bikes for rent all over. 1825 Queen Victoria Outdoor Market serves 200,000 customers a week. Took a tram to a whole different area – Chapel Street; whole long streets of shops like a Broadway and 2nd Ave together that goes on and on for miles.

Next day, 3 hour walk along the ocean; it was called Kilda Beach. Man sleeping there on the sand. Kayak school. Youngsters learn as part of schooling. Signs for kayaking, paddle boarding, and para sailing lessons are $260. for 3 hrs with a friend. Beach breakfast. I have issue with the coffee since I came. Don’t know what to order. Short black/long black/machado, mocha/cappachino/flat white/ latte??????? Most coffees I’ve had tastes like instant. We had eggs benedict and a porker omelette which came on a board. It was huge. Water is always served in wine bottles. Read paper. News of the day: Ellen DeGenerous and her wife coming to Australia. Parents forced to provide laptops for their children. Fire Rating: Catastrophic. To be 39 degrees today. Is 36 now.

Glad we’re sitting by the ocean. And then we walk. See 10 beach volleyball nets with fenced in children’s playground next to them. Walk by a lifesaving club, yacht club, health club. Then a six foot something with fins – black ( maybe a shark) washed up on beach.

Spirit of Tasmania ferry sitting at the pier where cruise ships dock. Getting too hot to walk. Take a tram. Bike paths all over the city. Shared lanes with walkers. See a Tea House Crown Hotel that is 2 blocks long. A World Trade Centre. To a box office but a day late for the show: “More Sex – We’re Seniors”.

Today, saw a whole different Melbourne. When we finally sat down at an outdoor cafe, Bob had French beer and when I asked how it was, he said, “If you had it at home, you’d throw it out thinking it was skunky.”

The sun strategy here is Slip, Slop, Slap. Slip on a Shirt, Slop on Sunscreen and Slap on a Hat. On TV I thought I was hearing about a Canadian Sports team; but it was Canberra. We have not heard Canada mentioned since getting here. Bob says, “Can`t believe not a thing about golf, can`t believe it and the Sony Open is on.” Here in Australia it’s all about tennis now. The Australian Open is on; it begins Monday and we’re leaving Monday.

I read in a paper yesterday about an MP scandal and his pranks over the years; including undoing the bra of a female staffer; squirrel groping a male colleague and the drama of his extra marital affair that went bad; and there was worse I couldn’t write about.

I saw on a map a little penquin close to the beach by our hotel and it said they come out of the ocean at sundown; so at 6pm we walked there. People said if the penquins do come, it`s about 9:30 pm. They must see us coming. Had another fine dining Catch of the Day experience; (only restauant out on the breakwater). We could see the whites of two penquins in their nests in the rocks so after our meal, stood from 8pm – 9:50pm with an Aussie family of 5 on holiday. At 9:40 , saw a zigzag looking duck or something; it was a penquin; it stood up, waddled a fast zigzag to it’s nest in the rocks. It was worth it to me. Some nights 300 penquins; some nights none; some a 1000. I think Bob heard the young father’s life history; or certainly his starting his business history; something to do with insulation I think and how it is going these days. Interesting!

We nearly got run over next morning as heading downtown to meet 2 women from our Europe trip for a 12:30 lunch. Cars do not stop for pedestrians anywhere in Australia. You have to look to your right. Walkers treated well in other ways tho. Signs all over city; kind of like a street sign but signs that point downtown: City centre 4.9 km, Botanical gardens 3.5 km; Art Gallery 4.1 km. Free for walkers to get into events, etc. Today free for us to walk the Royal Botanical Gardens. The Fern Gully rainforest was best for me and the red trees.

Walk along the river; a Sunday High End Art Market (all Australian home-made leather, hats, silver, opals, scarves; much in red earth ochre colors; soap, hand made paper journals). Met Cat and Anne; who we met on our Europe trip; at Chloes(famous for naked lady statue). Spent 2 1/2 hours and they gave us a great history of Melbourne. Rest of afternoon; National Image Gallery (great Aborigine Art); then what we thought would be walking thru the Tennis Open Tent City; turned out was actually the Queer/Gay/Lesbian/Transgendered Pride Day. They don’t have the right to marry there or the Equality Rights Canada have.

Our last night in Melbourne, stopped at a Belgium Beer Hall & Gardens which goes every day and Sundays too; kids there playing in the park or with parents; about 40 inside and 400 outside enjoying themselves.

TASMANIA: We are in exit seats with lots of leg room on flight to Tasmania. Must be ready, able and willing to assist in event of emergency. Lead air hostess writes down ideas for us where to go/what to see in Tazzy as she calls it. We are in a rental car. Narrow road. Incredible views. Like the brochures. Embarrassed that I didn’t know there was such a place; thought it was a joke about tasmanian devil. We stop in Richmond; a smaller town in country; Bob only had to do 3 roundabouts to get out of populated area. 1st Penal Colony; 1st Goal. 1825. Built for 60 women and had over a 100 in it. Bob is doing fine. A bit jerky but we have a big car. The car used like a credit card to stick in the dash and then push a button to start.

Landscape now similar to Maritimes. Some green fields but those are irrigated. Signs all over: “Fire permits required.” Next little town: Jerusalem Creek, public toilets, cricket club, Colebrook Tavern. We are in southern Tasmania heading north on a sealed road. We would say paved.

Sign says: “Drowsy? Wreck your life just like that.” 5 km down road: “Drowsy? Rest stop 5 km ahead.” Suggest drivers stop every 2 hours. Bus drivers and truckers have to. We stop. Historic Female Factory Site for prisoners. 20,000 women of 70,000 prisoners came through there. Most in their 20’s for stealing. After 6 months time, hired out as domestics; returned if pregnant and punished for their crime.

Sign into a B and B hotel in Campbell town. We were having lounge to ourselves and 20 male golfers showed up. They’d been in a tournament in NW Tasmania; on way back to East Coast. Ones we talked to owned wineries and businesses and gave us cards to come visit. We went for a walk and the whole sidewalk down main street had lines of bricks down the sidewalk. Example on a brick: Lady’s name: convicted of stealing coat and shirt in England. Got 7 years. Married someone’s name in 1850.

Convict labour built a brick bridge there in 1836-1837. It is still used and has never been touched and is beautiful.

Had lamb cutlets and rack of lamb ribs. Bob said our car is a Renault. It’s quite luxurious. Our room is not but it is ok. No air conditioning. We are in like a rustic, lean to motel with a fancy car in front, and it’s about 25 degrees out at night.

Next day driving watching farmer fencing; another on motorcycle with sheepdog rounding up. Trucks on roads similar to Datsun’s. Narrow semis like in England. Something we take for granted is how to steer a steering wheel. Challenging when it’s 110 km/hr. Road kill all over. Signs for rodeos, for honey; for shearers. Huge 20 feet high letters out in a field – they spell E N J O Y L I F E – Help Fight Suicide.

Took a picture of my eggs benedict in Launcestown. Would win 1st in Presentation. Bob’s Ketchup usually comes as tomato chile jam??? An eating adventure. Met a woman yesterday; late 40’s; just became principal of a one room primary school ( Grade one to six); 20 students. Waitresses make $ 15. – $16. an hour here. Went for a walk along the brown Tamar river in Launcestown. Sign : Do not drink or swim. Bob says, “No kidding”. And then an 8 foot seal right in front of us; out sunning itself. Bob gets real close taking pictures. Draws a crowd; tv cameras and all.

Signs in town: Farmer’s Graziers Assoc., Vehicle Assessment Centre. Flood levy walls really high. Fresh cut grass on other side; first time we smell fresh cut grass since leaving Arizona. Victorian looking houses and streets. Brick city buildings over 200 years old.

Out of town again. More forests than fields. Logging fence posts in yards. Dingo dog type road kill. Long tails. Saw a live possum. We are in the bush. Planted trees; then forest. Winding rainforest; then hair pin turns, 15km/hr signs. Solar powered caution light signs for night. Semi in front of us goes over edge of pavement. Gets back on. We are high up. Scenic look out. Have to take pictures 4 ways. Stands of ferns 15′ high, 10 feet wide. Not parched here. I have 2 rope tension muscles in my back by the time we’re in a valley again.

Most of day, high bush country; then valleys; raspberry, apricots. Slippery when frosty signs. Poppy seed fields. At our coffee stop, find out they are fields of opium for the Opiates for drug companies.

Walk along the Rigamaroo River; an 1830 – 1920 Chinese Tin Mining Site. Then back into bush country, high up myrtle forest. Similar to Oregon Coast but can’t stop anywhere. Scenic ocean glimpses. Scary. Fresh fish and lobster signs. Old grave marker signs along road. Much drier here. Get to valley. Pick your own blueberries sign.

St. Helen’s and white beaches. Pristine. 24 degrees. Not a person to be seen. Aquamarine colored water. Vineyards up the valley hillsides; across the road. I missed pictures of miles and miles of white sandy beaches. Walnut orchard on side of road when there was a 15 minute road construction delay.

Just stopped by a policeman. He said, “ where you going? where you been?” They had a complaint about Bob’s driving. Lady said crowding her. Bob said, “I didn’t think I was doing too bad.”

“Just pay close attention,” said the policeman, “I had to check if you were pissed.”

Stayed in Swansea, 10 miles down the road. Checked Backpacker’s Haven. Would be $74. but no room. End up with $110. beach front room with balcony overlooking the crystal clear green/blue color (Bob calls opal); Oyster Bay which is part of the perfect curve of Wineglass Bay.

Swansea is oldest municipality in Tasmania. Restaurant signs: The Ugly Duck Stop and The Horny Cray Take Away. Seafood: crayfish, scallops, oysters, salmon and berries. Prawns are catch of the day.

Wake up looking at the ocean. Just woke from a dream where I was saying to a crowd, “Good day mate. Welcome to our play. Let’s get on with it.” People here are really neat. Friendly but I can hardly understand what they say. They are really happy we came, as tourists have stayed away due to the fires. For us; glad there is less traffic.

The bush fire that raged for 4 days was across the bay from us; and there are signs all over town about fundraisers for the families. On the news today; 40 more houses burned in New South Wales. Go for a walk; lilies big as my hand. Orange & purple tropical flowers and red and pink hedges.

Driving today; beach is 50-100 yards from road. Forest of gum trees on right; all the bark gone. We’re up high; then down in a valley; like yellow grass pastureland; poppy fields. New kind of tree with blue-grey sage color leaves. Names of places we passed: PontyPool/ Yellowstone Creek/Windsong B & B/ Wattle Paddock/Triabhuna Tandhara. We’re back at the ocean; Bob is doing great on the roads; wishes we had a smaller car. Stop by ocean. 17 degrees. White fine sand.

Expect the Unexpected said on a kid’s T-Shirt. That is true here. We did not know what narrow was. We left the ocean and going up. River is down below on right; rock cuts out of mtn on left; falling rocks. Fire went through here. Power pole took a beating too. Black hillsides; then out of it just like that. In town called Sorrel, got diesel and I nearly sent Bob into a line of traffic; hard to get left side of road into your mind. Then got a little lost; but ended up in subdivision of new homes/new construction. First we saw here. Back on road and apricots, cherries, oysters and kangaroo signs. Fire 20 yards from road.

Went through miles and miles of fire; some just out. We had to stop. Men at work. Power poles being put in. Pulling line right in front of our car. Trees being cut down. Sheep wandering. Unfenced roads. Orchards burned. Plowing burned off grass.

Worst devastation I’ve ever seen. House after house after house gone. So shocking. Smoke still happening not far away. Blackened sheep wandering through the carcasses. Fire went right through the town. Donnelly. People in orange coats with clipboards still going door to door of the ones still standing. On news it said people in evacuation centres holding up well; asking do they take a cleaner or a builder with them? We saw families standing in the ruins; probably with adjusters. So bad, I did not take pictures. We stop at a community Emergency relief centre. Made a donation.

We turn around and leave; and see where irrigation was; slowed the fire there down a bit. Realize again how many have nothing left. We are lucky we are able to stop ahead for cherries and apricots and talk to the neighbour who is just outside of the town.

Went on a long, long bridge; I guess a Causeway. A mile long at least. Into Hobart. Best golf course we saw yet. The new subdivisions there; up the hillsides; houses look ultra modern like in magazines. Now going past the airport where we were Monday. On Tasman Hwy. 110 km. Out to Kingston Beach; Walk; and then sit and read papers of where not to go re current fires. Had my first ever Expresso; cause still can’t figure out the coffee; that’s not it; strongest coffee I’ve ever had. Back in car.

Up another mountain pass. Down into Tas’ most southern Municipality – The Huon Valley. Many vines and orchards covered with netting. Greenest place we’ve been. Booked a motel surrounded by flowers for $100. at Port Huon. It’s across from a marina on an inlet, that’s part of 100km river system. Went for walk. Town with only 1 hotel, 1 motel and 1 cafe has a first class sports facility with a pool, raquetball area/basketball & volleyball courts/ 2nd floor gym fitness area and a shop where I bought a bathing suit. I’ve now gained weight.

Having a seafood supper; pine euchylyptus, and oak tree stands on the hillside across from us. When my crab arrived, I had to ask Bob if it was alive. He didn’t know. I asked. No was the answer. How do I eat it,? I asked. Eat it all she said so I did; pickled salad and all. Had traditional Sticky Date Pudding with rich Russian caramel sauce and ice cream for desert.

A heat wave has come into the valley. It’s going from 21 to 29 tomorrow here in Tasmania and 39 on the Mainland. It’s my birthday, Jan 17/13. Lovely email wishes. Bob checked internet if NHL lockout over. Just. Had breakfast at that internet cafe. Talked to motel owner for 1 hour. He could not say the word Saskatchewan; although he tried as his grandfather lived there for awhile. He talked about having a barby (barbeque) and we talked about cost of an oyster farm.

There is mist over the port as we drive away in this apple capital of Tasmania. There are 70,000 volunteer firefighters working in Australia right now. Found a Refind Store and bought a pair of red pants. YEAH! Back on the road. Climb a mountain; remember; pass on right. Back down by the water; fields of gladiolas on left. Bob saying, ”Holy Sh.–, this is tight!” Found a Marina Discovery Centre; went for a walk; can see the oysters in the water.

Into Hobart and lunch and walk by the wharf. Met a young Norwegian man working on a sailing ship. Said could take us for an 8-10 day sail one side of Tasmania to other for $3500. each. That included sleeping and eating.

RENTAL CAR RETURN; NO DAMAGES. We are at airport, headed back to Melbourne for the night as tomorrow morning starting what we booked before heading to Tasmania: “The Great Ocean Road Tour”.

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