Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Big Adventure - Week Seven :Queensland - Agnes Water and Peregian

Monday December 28th:
It was a long eight hour journey down the Bruce Highway.   Driving in Australia is tricky.   The roads have long, straight stretches, the speed limit is 100 km/hr, there is little traffic, the scenery seldom changes.  We out on the cruise control and there is little stimulation to the driving.   It is not surprising that there are so many accidents in Australia from drivers falling asleep.   But any way we arrived safely in Agnes Water.

Tuesday December 29th:
It rained for most of today.   We just chilled out in our room for much of the day, somewhat disappointed that the internet connection is so slow.

Wednesday December 30th:
This morning I decided to have 18 holes of golf at 1770 golf course.    It is a very tricky 9 hole course, and I hit a few balls into the woods and scrubland.  I was also somewhat taken aback when a very large lizard emerged from the undergrowth close to where I was about to hit a ball. 

  This afternoon we again went to the town beach for a couple of hours.  In the evening we had an excellent meal.

Thursday December 31st:
I had agreed to play in the weekly golf competition at 1770 golf course.   I played reasonably well and scored 30 points.  It was a fun day.   In particular, it was fun to see the kangaroos along the side of some of the holes. 


And so 2015 comes to a close.  It has been an excellent year in most respects.    We have travelled a lot, spent time in Indonesia, Spain, UK and now Australia.   We agreed to get married and had a superb wedding day.   We have, inevitably, lost a number of friends who passed away during the year.  That has been sad but also drives us to enjoy life while we still have energy and a modicum of brainpower.

Friday January 1st:
A new day and a new year.    In the past I have made many resolutions, some broken some partly kept.   I think this year I simply resolve two things -
1.  To be more aware.   Try not to lose things or forget things.  Keep focused.
2.  To live for the present moment.   To live each day in a new way.   To be where I am.  Be positive.

Today we left Agnes Water and drove down to Peregian Beach near Noosa.

Saturday January 2nd:
On a Saturday in April 1979, I stood at a street corner in Sydney rather nervously looking through the Sydney Morning Herald trying to find a room in which to stay.    I found a room in a house in Paddington with Marian and Julie.
Today, on a Saturday in 2016, some 36 years later, we met again with Marian and her husband Kenny, whom I also got to know in 1979, in their house near Brisbane.   It was great to see them after such a long gap.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The Big Adventure - Week Six: Queensland

Monday December 21st:
After disembarking the boat, we hired a car and headed for Daintree.    Great drive along the coast to Mossman and then to the ferry over the Daintree river.

Tuesday December 22nd:
We loved our morning around Daintree.   In particular we had an early morning visit to Cow Bay before a walk along a boardwalk through the rainforest.   Then there was a boat trip along the Daintree River.
Afterwards we had a long drive to Ingham for an overnight stop.

Wednesday December 23rd:
Another long drive from Ingham to Airlie Beach.   It was great this evening to see Boyd, 19 years after we last saw each other.

Thursday December 24th:
Boyd had arranged a jet-skiing day.   It was very good of him, but I was very scared.  Totally outside my comfort zone.   Part of the trip was down a crocodile-infested river - I was just praying that I wouldn't fall off the machine.   But I didn't and we survived the day.

Friday December 25th:
Christmas Day.   We went out on a day cruise to Whitehaven Beach.    It was a brilliant day and a great way to celebrate Christmas.   We loved the swimming on one of the best beaches world.   And then a BBQ Christmas Lunch.   A relaxing, enjoyable day.

Saturday December 26th:   We had a relaxing day in and around Airlie Beach.  In the morning we drove to Shute Harbour where we had a picnic lunch.  We spent part of the afternoon relaxing in Airlie Beach lagoon.   And in the evening, we had a farewell dinner with Boyd at Barcelona restaurant, which was great.  

I had lost touch with Boyd for over 15 years.   It was great to find him again and particularly enjoyable to be able to visit him in his home town.   And to finally meet Spud, his fantastic dog.

Both Andrew and I have loved Airlie beach.   Yes is a backpackers resort and yes we feel a bit old here.   But the atmosphere is lively, the scenery is fantastic, the Whitsunday Islands are close and overall it is a lovely place.   I hope we are not too old to be able to return one day soon.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Big Adventure - Week Five: Alice Springs & Cairns

Sunday 13th December:
The bus journey from Alice to Ayers Rock (Uluru)  is a long but fascinating one.   In the afternoon we headed to Kata Tjuta, which I formerly knew as the Olgas.  I remember being stunned all those years ago by these massive rocks and they were equally stunning today.   It is an amazing place.
Sunset at Uluru was interesting even though the cloud meant that we did not see the rock light up as predicted.   Because of the weather, the evening BBQ was cancelled. 

Monday 14th December:
We left at 4.45 am to get to Uluru for sunrise.   Again the cloud prevented the classic lighting up of the rock.   We then pressed on for our tour around the base of Uluru.   It truly is one of the wonders of the natural work, so huge and stark, particularly because the surrounding area is so flat.   In 1979 I climbed the rock, but the aboriginal people do not wish us to do this these days and we respected that wish.
We went back this evening for another sunset viewing;  again the cloud cover prevented the rock from lighting up.  The BBQ did take place, but rain meant that it was brought inside and the talk about the night sky could not go ahead.  Pity.

Tuesday 15th December:
An even earlier start, at 4.15 am.   The drive to Kings Canyon took four hours and we had to be there before 9am which is when the canyon rim walk is closed due to extreme heat at this time of year.  Which is somewhat ironic as it was cool and very rainy during all of our walk.    It is still an amazing place, and a walk with some fantastic views  of the canyon itself and the Watarrka National Park.  It is not an easy walk - we were given many warnings and had to sign a disclaimer before we are allowed to undertake the walk.   And we had to carry at least 3 litres of water.    Most of which we carried all the way round - the weather (and lack of any toilet facility) meant that we did not consume a great deal of the water.   It was a great place.    Then we had another five hours in the coach before we got back to Alice Springs.

Our five days in the Red Centre were organised by AAT Kings of whom we have the highest praise.    The driver and guides were helpful and knowledgeable and all arrangements worked like clockwork.
It had been suggested that I re-read 'A Town Like Alice' by Nevil Shute, probably 45 years after I had first read it.    A good suggestion.   It was interesting to read it in the very area in which it is set.

Wednesday 16th December:
Now we head for the next leg of our adventure, the Australian East Coast.   A good flight had us in Cairns in time for dinner and a stroll around town.

Thursday 17th December:
We took a trip to Kuranda travelling by skyrail and returning by train.   Both journeys, one above the rainforest and one through the rainforest, were spectacular.  The scenery is so different to that in the Red Centre - lush and green.    We had an enjoyable day.

Friday 18th December:
We leave land now to spend three days on a boat exploring the Great Barrier Reef.   Unfortunately today was cloudy and hence the coral was grey and the water was somewhat cloudy.    We have booked a luxury cruise for three days, but have been disappointed with the boat and its limited facilities.

Saturday 19th December:
More snorkelling plus a walk along the forest on the edge if a beach on Dunk Island.    Again poor weather meant that the experience was somewhat below expectations.

Sunday 20th December:
If anything the weather has worsened.   Today we had heavy rain.    But I enjoyed snorkelling from a beach rather than from the boat.  Overall the experience has been disappointing, but it was still good to experience the Great Barrier Reef.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Big Adventure - week Four: Sydney and Alice Springs

Monday 7th December:
This morning we met my old boss, Michael Lynch for coffee in Bronte.  Great conversation and good to see him after over 10 years.    We walked round the headland to Bondi and after lunch had a couple of hours on Bondi beach.   Well you have to do that, really, when in Sydney.

Tuesday 8th December:
We started at the Museum of Sydney which gives a good overview of the early days of Sydney.  Then we met Rosemary and Lyn at the opera bar at the Opera House.   We first met Rosemary during our visit to Melbourne in 2002.    We had an excellent lunch.
In the evening, I decided to see a bit of gritty theatre at the Belvoir street theatre.   The play, Mortido, was about the drugs culture in Sydney and the movement of drugs from Mexico and Colombia.   I hugely enjoyed the evening.  The acting and direction in the play were excellent, but it was very complicated and some of the writing could I think have been more self-explanatory.   The constant scene shifting Sydney to Mexico was confusing.   I am glad I went, though.  It was a good antidote to the relentless upbeat nature of the tourist brochures.

Wednesday 9th December:
I joined the State Library of New Sough Wales a couple of weeks ago.  I love the peace and calm in this building.  There are good contemporary exhibitions, some great research material and very fact internet connections.    Which is why I am here writing this. 
Later in the day we went to Tauranga Zoo.   Not perhaps the greatest zoo in then world, but possibly the greatest view from a zoo.

Thursday 10th December:
A quiet day.  The afternoon was spent in the sun at Andrew (Boy) Charlton pool.

Friday 11th December:
Another quiet day.   This afternoon we paid our last visit to Redleaf Pool.   And had dinner at the Thai Restaurant that we like in Stanley Street.    Then it was time to do a final washing and get packed ready for our departure tomorrow.

So that's it.  Four weeks in Sydney.   It was a great experience.  We loved having time to chill out and see our local neighbourhood as well as, of course, seeming the iconic sights of Sydney.   It really is an amazing city.   Will we ever be back.  Who knows?   Depends on what fate has in store.   

But for the immediate future we are looking forward to the next part of the adventure in Alice Springs.

Saturday 12th December:
The flight was a pleasant one and we arrived on time in Alice Springs.   This afternoon we had an Alice Springs tour to the telegraph station, school of the air, flying doctor service, reptile sanctuary and Anzac Hill.    All very interesting.    I guess what was particularly interesting for me was trying to recall my visit in 1979 and how things may have changed.    To be honest there has not been a great deal of obvious change.   Of course Alice Springs has expanded, but I still remember the layout and many of the places we visited today.   Back in 1979, many of the indigenous people gathered of an evening beside the Todd River and drank a lot of alcohol.  Progress has been made there and many of them now have work within Alice Springs.   I hope at the same rate of pay as their white counterparts.
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Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Big Adventure - Week Three: Sydney

Monday 30 November:
Today we had a museum day.  We started by visiting the Australian Museum.  This is a museum of Australia fauna and flora, animals and mammals, geology and geography.   Relatively interesting, but quite a lot to take in.
We headed then to the Anzac memorial and museum.   This is very moving.   A brilliantly designed memorial and a harrowing museum charting the sacrifices made by ANZACs from the first world war through to the gulf.
One of the people I had been trying to find in Sydney was Michael Lynch, who was CEO at the Southbank centre when I worded there.   Suddenly last week I noticed that he was giving a talk on creative leadership this evening given by SAMAG, the Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group.  It was a fascinating and impressive talk and it was good to see Michael again.   He recognised me straight away and knew my name, which I was not necessarily expecting.  Mind you I think I did a good job for him at the Southbank in difficult times.    We are meeting Michael again next Monday.

Tuesday 1st December:
No trip to Sydney is complete without a Blue Mountains tour.   Which is what we did today.   I have been four times to the Blue Mountains, 1979, 1996, 2002 and again today.   The area is always impressive and the scale is vast.
Wednesday 2nd December:
Today I went off on my own to explore Sydney, to do some shopping and to climb the Harbour Bridge Tower.   It was a good day.  To begin with, I headed for Paddington where I lived for 6 months in 1979.  A lot of memories flooded back as I arrived in Hargrave Street and stood outside the house where I lived during those happy times.  I wonder what has happened to those people I met during my time there?   One of them, Marion, we hope to see in Brisbane later in our tour.
I enjoy just walking around, seeing where roads take me.    I took the bus to Circular Quay where I had lunch, wandered through the rocks area and finally climbed the tower.   I have decided not to do the bridge climb;  partly because I do not have a head for heights and partly because it costs around $300.   The tower climb cost $8.50 (senior concession!) and gives just as good a view.  And there is a fascinating exhibition in the tower of the construction of the bridge which, back in the 1930s was an amazing engineering feat.

Thursday 3rd December:
Back in the summer, as part of my aim to be a tourist in London occasionally, I visited the London Canal Museum.   It was a really interesting place.   Subsequently, Marion suggested that I read 'The Secret River' the story of Solomon Wiseman who as a young lad, worked on the London canals.  It was a hard life, and he could not earn enough to feed his wife and 2 young kids.  So like all canal workers, he pilfered a bit of the cargo.   But he was caught, convicted of theft and sentenced to transportation to Australia.   After completing his sentence, he became a free man and started a business transporting items from Sydney to the settlers up the Hawkesbury River.   He then claimed some land for himself, because a prosperous farmer and started a ferry across the Hawkesbury.    That point is now called Wisemans Ferry and we visited it today.   It is a lovely tranquil spot.   And in the local cemetery, we discovered Solomon Wiseman's grave.   So the circle from London Canal Museum to Wisemans Ferry was complete.

Friday 4th December:
We had a quiet morning sending Christmas emails to family and friends.   In the afternoon, we headed again to the Andrew Charlton pool for a relaxing couple of hours.

Saturday 5th December:
It was a warm sunny day, so we headed on the bus to Watson's Bay and walked onwards to Lady Bay, one of Sydney's naturist beaches.   The fact that it was high tide meant that we shared a very small sandy expanse with a large number of naked guys.  What can I say?   An interesting afternoon.  Afterwards we walked around the Heads from where there are some amazing view out to sea in one direction and inwards to Sydney city in the other direction.
In the evening, we had an excellent meal at the Colonial Indian restaurant in Crown Street, close to where we are staying.

Sunday 6th December:
Today we took the train down to Heathcote in the Southern Part of Sydney.   We walked for about 90 minutes along the Karloo train deep into the National Park, quite a tricky path.    At the end of that walk, we came across the Karloo Pool, which is a pool suitable for swimming at the bottom of the gorge.   The swim was wonderful.