Down Under – Part II – January 2013


Jan 17/13: From Hobart, Tasmania back to Melbourne by air; and into the fanciest hotel we’ve been in. A dishwasher in a drawer and glass shower we could see out of but you couldn’t see in?? Only in it a few minutes and out for my birthday supper; Black bean and Oyster Beef Dish with at least thirty Chinese diners. With their up and down singsongy language the background; we’re the only Caucasians; and only ones not using chopsticks. Great food. No airconditioning and the 40 degrees at this moment reminds us of Bangkok. Need to get back to the hotel as wondering if the TV alarm we set will work as the tour bus we booked about 7 days ago; is picking us up at 7:10 a.m.

GREAT OCEAN ROAD TOUR: Surprise! It’s a backpacking tour. Mostly 20 year olds. No one speaking English yet. All European; 4 Dutch, 4 Germany, 1 Netherlands, 3 UK and 1 Aussie besides us.

They were impressed how little Bob and I have for a month trip. We each had a packsack; a medium sized one and a little one. This day starts with 91 km of coastal ocean views. Bell’s Beach. Surf coming in. Hypnotic. Did an 1848 lighthouse tour. Went to the top. Bob goes out on some lookout and I’m saying, “Get back in here.”

Then into like a wind ravaged forest of trees. Like walking through a dead forest and that’s where the KOALAS are. Most we see are sleeping. Find out they sleep 20 of 24 hours per day. We could see 7 just by us stepping out of the van. Bob took good pictures. I was expecting them to be bigger but are like a big teddy bear. They look soft and cuddly. I was told they are not and they are not bears; they are marsupials and not like a big teddy bear. Gov’t has issue on it’s hands as too many ( they’d been called endangered) and they only eat a certain kind of eucylyptus tree and that’s why the trees all look dead. When the leaves are gone, they will starve. I am still in awe of the baby koala’s hanging on the trees sleeping sound.

Next shock was the Hostel. No ensuite. Bob went out, scrounged 1 towel. I used a pink fluffy pillow case for a towel. We are in this small town with a hostel, a hotel and maybe 2 houses; maybe 3. The others on the tour setting up tents. We had 8 different kinds of pizza for us 15 people from the town hotel.

An after supper drive to see this shipwreck coast sunset where 30 metre high waves at times. It’s a limestone cliff line; at one time had 18 limestone formations about the size of a house and 4 stories high just off the edge of the ocean. It was called Sow and piglets as there was one bigger formation and 17 smaller ones the size I describe. As the ocean claimed them; as in they collapsed; it became known as the 12 apostles. Now there are only 8. I did not have my sea legs. I think you call it fear. We walked down the cliff edge; down these steps from top to bottom with signs all over; saying “UNSTABLE CLIFFS” and when we got to the bottom, my legs would not stop shaking. We were there to watch the sunset. Twenty minutes I stayed down there and then we were out of there. We watched the sunset on top. You could see where those limestone cliffs had fallen in like landslides.

I was tired too; we had been on a rainforest walk that day; which was incredible and so many things so different. The stars are different here except ORION I saw which is seen upside down.

19/01/13 – Drank my orange juice out of a sugar bowl. Glad there was orange juice. Glad I had first shower. In a few minutes; there were 10 women around 2 sinks as there were other tours staying here too. Bob and I walked some marshland at dawn. The birds starting up sounded just like a tractor.

We drove to a gorge in our tour van. Went down to the bottom of it too. Heard a shipwreck love story from 35 year old tour guide. In the story, there were two 18 yr old survivors out of hundreds on a ship that went down. One swam back into the ocean to save the other. She (Doctor’s daughter) would not marry him ( a ship’s hand.)

We stopped at a small town and watched a kid’s life saving club’s competition between two towns. We had birthday parties for a 20 yr old and a 25 year old during the four day tour. Saw the Bay of Martyrs, Bay of Islands and town Warrnambool. We passed a cheese factory, dairy milk silos, and the tour host played songs like Pretty Woman, Spirit in The Sky and now Louis Armstrongs’, What a Wonderful World.

Eating lunch in a volcano; last erupted 30,000 years ago. Tower Hill. Emus all over; more koalas. Lunch of meat/cheese/tomato/sandwich that I mistakenly put Hawaiian hot,sweet, chili sauce on. Hot but not searing hot like the ant bite I got. Bite sting only lasted a few hours. Went for a walk up the tower hill. Others saw snakes. We did not and I am glad. All are poisonous. Kangaroos have no sweat glands. Sit in the shade a lot. The other most prolific wildlife was the flies. Awful.

Leave that area; drive through about 130 km of controlled burns. Still hot and fire threat is extreme. Stay at Ass’s Ears Wilderness Lodge or Asses (look that up on google); beautiful cabin. 11 kangaroos out in the meadow behind it last night. When the dog comes out; the kangaroos just streak across the field. A wallaby (smaller) was by our back step this morning. Incredible starry night last night; black sky; stars like diamonds as we took our wine and a chair to watch the kangaroos.

Also watched tennis. Federer and Tonic and Federer won. Blue and red parrots were at the back step too this morning. Blue sky, green trees; beautiful day; having breakfast in an outdoor kitchen. Then head for the Grampian Mountains.

Mckenzie Falls, waterfall ; walked down 267 steps Then we walked up and took a picture of the rest of them at the bottom; they looked so little. Bob going out on rocks freaked me out. Went into the Grampian mountains. Totally different flaura and fauna; to a fire lookout. Next place kangaroos all over; baby trying to get into pouch. They run up to 60 km/hr and hop 11 feet high. Then to an Aboriginal Culture Centre. Talked about the Stolen Generation. Heard the similar after effects of cultural genocide that aboriginals endure all over the world.

Said good-bye to 1/2 the tour guests and did the overnighter bus to Adelaide with Hannah, Mereky and Steffan. Out for supper together and two hour walk at Ballaret.

ADELAIDE: 6:30 am arrive by bus. Going to 35 degrees today and I will be overdressed soon. Had a coffee at an outside cafe while Bob read paper at Victoria square. It’s right here in front of us and is the site of the Aussie Tour de Down Under. Last year they had Lance Armstrong. Not this year. This has been an Australian Heat Wave. It’s Monday down town and workers using the buses/trams getting off, ready for work. Waitress gave us her top 5 picks of what to see.

Adelaide is called the City of Churches. Got on a City Bus Tour. Got our bearings. 80 churches. 200 bars; so the saying goes: Adelaide has the most religious drinkers in the world. Get a hotel room downtown so we can do laundry; and it’s out of service; so stuck our whites in one pillowcase; darks in another; and off to a laundromat. Toured the Tour de Down Under village. Sign: Not about Armstrong: It’s about the Bike.” A TREK bike is $9000. Shoes $450.

Just like a CBC or a BBC; I watch ABC while Bob shaves. On news today, Canada is now 10th as best place to live; was 5th in 1988; now Australia is 2nd and Switzerland 1st. US is 18th; used to be first. Obama’s inaugeration is the news. I did hear the word Canada tho; first time.

Yesterday booked today’s 1 day wine tour; and first glitch of trip. Tour went to wrong hotel to pick us up; when we phoned; they said take a taxi and they waited 5 minutes for us; we were last on the tour bus. Heard a bit of history. Adelaide settled 1836; no convicts. On a square; 1 mile x 1 mile. Nowadays, public transport is free for seniors from 9-3. 40% of city is parkland and surrounded by it as well. 70% of exported wines coming out of area are from the Bourossa Valley. Penford’s, Wolf Bliss. Jacob’s Creek. They send the wine out in 5000 shipping containers; and each container contains 12,000 bottles of wine. Mediterranean climate in winter. 13-17 degrees.

Saw a white kangaroo. We’re in the Bourossa Hills now; vineyard after vineyard; and tour leader says Coona Moora “Red Earth” Cabernet Sauvioun; Can’t go wrong. I don’t know how to spell it. They are making a cycling trail through the whole valley. Could be dangerous. So many wineries. 2500 litres of water a minute are pumped through big pipes from River Maori to Adelaide. Seeing oldest Chiraz vines in the world. Bob is now master kangaroo spotter. Picked out 10 in the last minute.

Wine process: Harvest, Crush, Ferment, Press, Rack, Clarify. Maturation. Had some with our lunch. Bob and I went for walk in a rose garden; where there were over 30,000 roses. A bit bedraggled as had been 41 degrees last week; and was over 30 today. Heard on news meteorologists have had to make a new color for weather charts due to the heat waves 50 – 52 and 52 – 54 degrees in Australia’s interior.

Had gigantic cream puff filled with cream and covered with chocolate. Roses line the vineyards. Went by a legal nudist colony with a high fence but I was in a bus.

Stopped at a dam in the shape of a crescent moon that would be like Saskatoon’s weir with no noise and you could walk across the top of it. It was called the whispering wall; as the phenomenon was when one stood at one end of the wall and whispered; the other at the other end could hear exactly what was being said. We watched it happen. Quite something. Bob talked to bus driver; the cresent shaped dam was about 175 yards across. Weird.

Stopped at a little German Town called Handorf. We tried a 100 % Kangaroo Jerky and Bavarian Beer at the Pokie Free Hotel. About 400 bikers and tv crews with cameras, from the Tour Down Under have passed us on the hills so we are behind schedule but no one is worried about it. Still in Serendipity mode; we get back and walking, wanting to know how to get to airport and airport shuttle bus pulls up; explains what we will need. Cheaper on the bus. This has been an awesome once in a lifetime trip.

Next day, walking Adelaide. Central Markets. Fresh everything; only thing I wasn’t recognizing; I asked. Plastic decorations. Atlantic salmon heads , only $2.95 each. Leave there. See a piano on wheels busker. Every 100 yards, a different busker in their outdoor shopping malls that runs the length of about Saskatoon’s 2nd ave. Tram is free to an Entertainment centre like Sask Place. Can park and ride all day for $ 2. within city centre. We take a tram $3.00 each out a 1/2 hour to a beach; and go for a long walk. $3.00 was only good for 2 hours; but really reasonable transportation; not so much eating and drinking; but better than Sydney. Solar panels on lots of houses.

In this Museum/Art Gallery. What I liked best was shelves behind glass cupboards filled with their treasures: Opal/wheat/gold/copper/limestone/iron ore/coal/ green glass/talc/abalone shell.

Back to hotel for a sleep. Walk along the lake and then to the Austral hotel for beer and schnizel. Good sleep for our last night in Adelaide and as we are getting ready to head to airport; on morning news, the morning tv crew join the plane crews practicing drills for getting into the dinghy; a drill for death at sea. Oh, Great!

BRISBANE: Jean, a woman we met in Europe; picked us up at the airport; we went to a small town called Redcliff; the start of the sunshine coast; had to buy umbrellas as started to rain. I had flipflops; we called it aquaplaning; what was happening; my feet would slip out from under me trying to walk the marble type walk on the long piers beside the ocean. Bob had to hold me up. It’s 30 degrees out and a downpour.

As we drive away; we notice fences have spikes and poles have spikes so possums can’t climb. Light standards are bent so sea gulls can’t sit and shit on windscreens. IBIS birds all over.

Jean said a Brighton Beach in every town. Her language: Fair dinkum means right on. True means for sure. Brelly for umbrella. Knappers; our knapsack. Queenslander; type of house; up on stilts.

Next day went to Australian Days and listened to an old time “Ran Tan Band” who sang a song; that the whole audience joined in:

“Tour a lour a lour a

We’re bound for Botany Bay,

A home with lots of gum trees

And lots of plum trees

A sheep or two, a kangaroo

A clothesline out the back

A veranda out the front

And an old rocking chair.”

One day, walked downtown to place called Southbank. It is a riverfront that has been completed so well; like our Spadina with the trees growing over the road; they had Pink Beuganvillia growing over a trellis for miles. We did a ferry ride all over one end of city to another; and could get off and on at different parks and different parts of the city. Later in day, we were going to buy sticky date pudding for a desert; looks like a big muffin and you get a caramel sauce with it; and it was $9.50 each and we wanted 4; so we only took 1. Jean made us a Pavlova; which was like a meringue pie; with mango & passion fruit and cream. My mouth waters writing about it.

GOLD COAST: 27/01/13 – On a quiet carriage, of an Express train taking us down the Gold Coast; then a short bus ride to Surfer’s Paradise. Today on radio; talking about tornados; we’ve now had over 7” of rain; 300 households are without power in Brisbane. Expect wind gusts to 125 km; torrential winds as cyclone and monsoon trough passes through. They keep saying like they did in southern Australia, “Know where you are.” We understood all this is north of Brisbane and we are going south.

Train ticketer says worst weather he’s seen in 40 years. Now I’m not so sure about this train. We thought train would be a safe place.

We step out of the bus at Surfer’s Paradise. Bus drives away. We are 1/2 way across a street when the typhoon hits. We struggle holding onto our backpacks; trying to put up an umbrella. It breaks. There are umbrella’s flying by us. I’m trying to get my backpack under my poncho; and I’m losing my poncho. Rain is lashing our faces.

Wind and water like a blizzard at home. We are in the cyclone in like a city about a half block from the beach called Surfer’s Paradise. We duck into a hotel car park; watch kids hold street lamp poles so they don’t get blown away. A steel chair flies down the street. Beach has been closed; ocean froth covers the beach. We make a run for it to get back on the bus a half hour later. We are a little scared of what is going on. We’ve never seen anything like it. Has now rained 15” in three days.

One hour train ride back to Brisbane. Swollen Rivers, Bent trees, flooded cars pushing water out their hood; truck submerged. Trees down. Flooded land. Train security called us a taxi.

Was really happy to see the taxi. We stopped at a bottle shop (called LiquorLand). Our friend said she should have known flood was coming as ants had come into the house a few days before and her possum was not in residence. Next day at the airport; delay in boarding; as cyclonic winds.

LAST DAY OF OUR TRIP: MAYBE! At airport this morning when I explained to an attendant where we are heading so we’d be in right line; Bob thanked me for getting us in the right line. I so appreciate him and told him so; as he is a great travel companion. We have been together 24 hours a day, for one month and he was thanking me. I could keep travelling; although looking forward to golfing again.

We missed our flight. Winds. Plane could not land to get us from Brisbane to Sydney. It did get us there later that day at 5:20 pm. Our plane to the States had left at 4:20 pm. When we phoned United Airlines, they booked us in for the next day’s flight. There is no compensation for extra costs.

Now it’s pelting rain in Sydney. Cost us another $ 260. for night and meals in Sydney; but enjoyed. Toured an opal factory; went up The Tower; watched golf for the first time; and Graham Delaet from Saskatchewan is in this weeks’ top ten of the PGA.

Drove through Woolloomooloo Area of Sydney on our ride to the airport; and thirteen and half hours on the plane. Bob slept on and off; and is in a great mood this Wed morning in Australia; which is Tuesday morning in Canada. We land in San Francisco; and we’re headed for Mesa.


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