I am currently on the way to New Orleans via Austin Texas, on my third plane in two or three days so I will tell you all about that when I get there, but I thought I would use a bit of my travel time to fill you in on my last few days in Bali. The move to the beach definitely suited me, I fell into a good daily routine, exercise was back on the agenda with yoga three times a week, my small exercise programme and long walks. The longest walk I did was 7 km 3.5 each way setting off at 06:45. There were still a lot of people about. As you walk along the pathway by the beach it sort of alternates between hotels, some private accommodation and cafes and little shops and massage places. A lot of massage tables on the beach etc. and of course the ladies are always asking massage madam. The sky was beautiful this particular morning and I got some great photos just as the sun came through the clouds. I also saw the mountains much more clearly in the distance, it was the first time I had seen them properly. They were also filming some sort of commercial on the beach it looked fab. One thing I know I haven’t told you about is the way the women carry things on their heads, usually they have a hat on, on top of that is a straw type of cap which has a flat top and then they put the basket on top of that. They are usually carrying things as well, I must say I was completely fascinated, would have liked to have a go at it myself. I never managed to get a photograph though, which was a shame. There are lots of fisherman as well either going out in their funny little boats, or just wading into the sea with a line. They all seem to wear those hats that you associate with Chinamen in old films. I am sure you know what I mean. I saw one man walking off with his catch of half a dozen fish in a plastic bag on this particular morning. The funniest thing about these walks is that obviously people are all using this pathway to run, walk and ride bikes on, but the English all seem to recognise that you are English and we say good morning to each other. I found that so hilarious, none of the other nationalities said good morning to me. How did they know I was English. Am I that obviously English.
I think every time I went for a walk I went further and was just surprised how many more hotels shops and cafes I discovered. The Hyatt is being rebuilt so at the moment there is an unsightly stretch of corrugated iron fence as the work is being undertaken with signs says grand opening July 2018. From what I have seen there is still a lot to do, so I am not sure about that date, don’t book yet for July if you are thinking about it. I won’t be.
I broke my personal best for 5 kilometres on my last two walks there, I am usually achieving one kilometre in 11 minutes something but I have done the odd one in under 11. That is a target I am setting myself, for my average to be under 11 rather then over 11. I have decided I would like to walk some of the Cornish coast this autumn, so am starting to think about that.
I spent time at the pool every day and enjoyed so much being able to be in the water, the clientele in the hotel changed quite a bit in the second half of my time there with more families and slightly less grey hair, and a few single women. I made two new women friends in the last three days, both from Australia, one in yoga and one in the hotel. Deb, in the hotel was leaving the same day as me to move up the coast a bit, but we both agreed we really loved the hotel, where it was and the ambiance and the service, the staff were just so great, nothing was too much trouble.
One day there was aerobics in the pool and I did it, there were only three of us, including the instructor, but we had fun. I was talking to the other lady who was Dutch and then it started to rain. My iPad was out on my chair and in my panic to get out of the pool and put it away I fell over the step from that pool towards the baby pool. I am still sporting a little cut and a fab bruise on my leg. I went to report it to the reception and I got a call from the duty manager and then they came to my room with ice and first aid kit and took a photo of my leg. The next day at dinner one of the ladies who works in the restaurant told me that she had heard I had hurt myself, the lady in 289 and I knew it was you she said. So sweet.
The next day I was having problems with the wireless it just wasn’t uploading my photos onto my blog, so I called to report it and the next thing the IT manager was on my doorstep, he routed me another way and said he would get the zone thoroughly checked out. That’s what I call service, in Melbourne they were absolutely useless, they are probably saying they have WiFi on the basis of very small bandwidth which just isn’t sufficient for the needs of heavy users like me. Here the WiFi was really good all the time and when it wasn’t they got straight on to sorting it out.
The hotel also has a shuttle bus into town, so one day I needed some batteries, and they didn’t have any in the local shop so I thought I would try the bus out. That’s when I realised how near to town the Hyatt is, and thought you could probably cut through around there. Plus there was a big long line of Bluebird Taksis waiting near the Hyatt. The supermarket was quite good, I couldn’t find any batteries and I looked at the wine, but didn’t want to pay for the Australian and New Zealand wines as they were quite pricy and I didn’t know what sort of Balinese wine I was drinking, so I walked out of the supermarket empty handed. I didn’t have my watch on or my phone with me so I had no idea what the time was, and we didn’t have too long as the return trip was half an hour after we left the hotel. So I felt I should just wait rather than going off to have a look at some shops. I have really got very used to the idea that I just don’t spend money in shops in more, no buying of souvenirs or clothes.
Having travelled now for five months with once bag of clothes, without much jewellery and trying to keep simple, I think I will need to review my life when I get home. But I have never been a big shopper, I only go shopping when I need something, the dangerous times for me are when I am on holiday and I have time to look around, well I am definitely done with that now. I am breaking a lot of habits, eating less, drinking less alcohol, being far more active and adventurous and I must continue when I get home.
It was great to have made a couple of friends, and have some talks about life and and that jazz. I had started to feel a little lonely, Bali had been quite a solitary experience, but it was always meant to be a time of reflection. My zen time. The yoga was just so fabulous, the yoga barn was an amazing place to be, I had a few sessions which included meditation and that was great, it has made me more determined to make yoga the cornerstone of my exercise including hot yoga, Bikram. I could feel that I was getting more flexible whilst I was there. And I was able to do one or two things I hadn’t done before like the side plank and holding my toes while sitting down with legs stretched out ahead. You are supposed to be kind to your self and work within your boundaries, and not look at what other people are doing, but a young girl next to me couldn’t hold her toes, so that made me feel great. There were plenty of things I couldn’t do mind you. The funniest thing we did was to clear certain chakras, we had to laugh, and with about twenty people all doing this very loud laughing you would see people walking past outside looking up and obviously thinking what that all about. I loved the chanting too, it was like a song in the room so beautiful I can’t even describe and it made me feel wonderful and part of something really special. I was most certainly in the right place in Bali. and I would very much like to go back again and be a little more adventurous next time now I have the lie of the land.
The hotel put on entertainment a few nights a week, Balinese dancing and a singer playing acoustic guitar. Some picture below. Also a photo of one of the pools which the restaurant looked out on and the private beach, which the bar was on. When it rained the whole thing was like a pool. And you almost couldn’t see where the pool started and the walkway finished. The hotel had its own temple ofcourse so a couple of picture of that too.
My quest for nature continues. There was a bird which was often singing outside my window first thing in the morning, I saw one in the tree and took a few photos to try and identify him from the little posters I had seen in the grounds. I wasn’t very successful though. I saw a little lizard climbing up the wall of the next building, and was always seeing the toads on the way to and from dinner but was never able to snap them they were so fast and it was dark. There was a bird that I saw a couple of times in the baby swimming pool, my favourite place. One day he was having a bath in there when I was in the pool, I walked out very slowly when he left and followed him, he went into the bushes behind my seat. I managed to snap him in the bushes and then he came out and I got a great shot of him. We were so close to each other and it wasn’t a problem. I also found a squirrel in the temple and got a great shot of him running up a tree.
My last day appeared so quickly. It’s almost impossible to believe I was there for a month. My flight was at 10:30 pm so I booked the hotel shuttle for 7pm. It was very rainy in the morning and I was up at six to pack. Deb and I had arranged to meet for breakfast at eight and were going to have a last pool session, she was leaving at noon after checkout. The rain eventually stopped at ten and we spent time sitting in the pool chatting and laughing. Then it was time for her to go. I had arranged for my luggage to be taken out of my room at 12 and a booked a special massage and pedicure at 1 which would take two and a half hours. Then I went to meet Kerri my other new friend from yoga, we had a bite to eat in the cafe on the beach and looked out to sea, and chatted for an hour. Finally we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, maybe see you in Bali again or Thailand or Australia or England, the possibilities are endless. Back to the pool for my final hour to soak up the sun.
Arriving at the airport was interesting, I had a porter, the best 40,000 rupees I spent, as he guided me through the process, you can’t get into the airport unless you are travelling. He lifted my luggage on to the scanner. That was the first security checkpoint. Then at check in they stuck some sort of device into my bags that were going into the hold. Then the usual sort of security for carry on stuff. I had checked in my rucksack too as it’s quite heavy and I was able to check in two bags. The good news was that my big bag is now under 21 kilos, lots of bottles of stuff where finished and I left behind the last few clothes washing capsules, and the horrible Nivea face cream. Disposed of some other bits and pieces which I decided I didn’t need to carry around any more. I was going to buy some new face cream in duty free, but it was 30 pounds more expensive than in duty free in the U.K. and I think even more expensive than buying in the shop in the UK so I decided not to bother. I will see if I can get it in to the States.
I felt I could have stayed there another month at least, if not longer. I also had a real sense that I was going home, even though there is still another month to go and still a lot to do and see, and people to spend time with. I wasn’t looking forward to the next twenty four hours which I was going to spend travelling to Los Angeles, especially the second flight which was fourteen hours long, but I tried to keep the serenity I felt in Bali with me. Once I got through security and everything I was able to find some food and had plenty of time to get to the gate. We left on time, and I took my last look through the window and said goodbye to my slice of paradise.
I am sitting on my balcony in the hotel, which is made up of lots of self contained units in beautiful grounds, mostly four units per building but some of them are six units from what I can see. I chose this hotel because it is right next to the Yoga place I wanted to go to, in fact I can see it from my room and when I am there I can see my room, so I couldn’t really be any closer. It takes me two minutes to get there. It’s Wednesday the 7th of February in my world, and I am taking a day out of the sun today because I think I overdid it a bit yesterday, despite factor 50. The rainy season has most definitely abated since last week and even more so since the week before that. There are still downpours but mainly at night, we did have a couple of big ones early this morning too. I had to borrow an umbrella from the restaurant the other night to get back, but generally it’s fine. The last few days it has been getting less cloudy as well so feeling hotter and more humid. The humidity is the hardest thing to handle especially if you are trying to exercise in any way.
I discovered that bluebird taksis had an app, so had ordered myself one to get here. But had a bit of a glitch, I checked a little later and it had disappeared so I ordered another. When I got the message to say the taxi was on its way I looked again and both orders were there again and I had two taxis coming, so I quickly had to cancel one of them. He arrived and we loaded my stuff into his boot. We got to the famous dual carriageway and he did a u turn at the place Google had suggested I cross. That was really scary, the traffic was coming and all these cars and bikes were trying to u turn into it, and there was no gap in the traffic and none of it stopped. I did actually think, this could be it and then took the only option of closing my eyes. We arrived at the hotel a minute of two later and the security guard at the gate actually checked under the car with a mirror, that was a first. We were allowed in because clearly we were not deemed to be a danger. Car unloaded and taxi driver paid, a young man indicated I should go up the stairs and as I did he hit a gong to announce my arrival. I was greeted at reception and we went through the process of registration, and I was provided a drink and cold towel. Then escorted by the young man ahi initially greeted me with all my luggage on a trolley to my room. This hotel has its own spa too, and has two swimming pools plus a private beach. My room overlooks one of the pools, but there is a big hedge which obscures my view. I can hear all the excitement and frolics though. It takes me about 30 seconds to get there. I spent an hour on the beach on my first full day, but I prefer the pool because it has a children’s pool and I can go and do a bit of floating in there supported by a wall between that pool and the smaller adult pool. You need the water to cool down.
Once I was installed in my room, I got unpacked and sorted myself out a bit, I had a little argument with myself about whether or not to go to yoga, which was on at 5 pm. I had to push myself to go, but once I had made the decision I got myself changed and turned up half an hour early. I took my travel yoga mat with me, but didn’t need it because they have everything there of course. I have been using it for the HIIT I have been doing, High Intensity Interval Training for those uninitiated in these technical training terms, so I feel I can justify the ten pound purchase. Anyway yoga on Friday night was a sort of relaxation/meditation yoga, so it was work, but not too hard. It’s an hour and a half, the building is all bamboo and other natural materials. Downstairs is reception, a shop, a cafe and changing rooms I think. Upstairs is the yoga studio, there are only three or four sessions in a day, in the morning and then evening, it would be too hot at any other time, the studio is of course open, as in no windows, so you get a bit of a breeze, if you are lucky. I really enjoyed it and was glad I had pushed myself to go.
The next morning I got up early and did some training and then went for a big walk down the pathway along the beach frontage, I wore flip flops because I though I would be able to do the walk on the beach but soon realised that wouldn’t be possible, because they have the stone piers built out to the sea and sometimes at the end of them a covered area where you can sit and meditate. I must do that one day. Even though it was early the heat was something else, well the heat and the humidity. I walked about 4.4km in total there and back. I had to go to and dry myself off before I went in for breakfast. Breakfast is a buffet affair, but very good. I had opted to go on half board for the week because I am fed up with having to make decisions about where to eat, sad or what. I have come to realise I can be a bit of a creature of habit. Anyway they have a lovely plain yoghurt which I am having with some melon and pineapple every morning and then generally I am having an omelette and maybe a small pastry or pancake. Then I don’t eat again until dinner time, the dinners are a little overwhelming too, but generally good. The patronage is mainly French and Dutch, with a few Australians and English. It is also mainly older couples, and clearly many people come here year after year.
After breakfast on the first morning as I mentioned earlier I went to the beach, after about an hour we had a bit of rain, so I decided to give up, it wasn’t long before the sun was out again, so I decided to try the pool, and I really like it there. It’s not too crowded and there is a nice bar. The service everywhere is very good and the staff all extremely friendly, I definitely made the right choice to stay here.
On Sunday I didn’t do any training as I was going to yoga at 5 pm but I did go for a walk and this time I wore my trainers, I really pushed myself and broke my personal best time for 5 Kms. I don’t know if I mentioned this before but I lost all my walking data for October when I was I Utah, I know I did 5K then in under an hour, but this time I think I did it in 55 mins, so I was really pleased with that, especially in this humidity. I am sitting in the shade at the moment on my balcony just wearing a cotton t shirt and shorts, and I am wet through. It’s crazy.
Yoga on Sunday was a restorative session, I did one of those in Nelson, it was really good and again I was glad I had gone. The following day I could really feel that I had worked, so decided to give the walk and workout a miss as I was going to Yoga again in the evening, this time it was Hatha. It was much harder, but I was able to do most of the things, I did have a major breakthrough though, when I was doing Barre Core before I left England one of the exercises we had to do was a one handed side plank. I could never do them. So we were in plank and she said now move to the side plank, and I thought oh no, I can’t do that! Then I thought well I really need to try. And I did it, just like that, no problem at all, I couldn’t even lift my body off the ground before, so I was so pleased with myself. Towards the end of the session I looked up into the roof eaves and there were two little birds just quietly sitting there underneath a bamboo pole each, so cute, but they quickly flew off when we finished the class. I have to say the next two days I could really tell how hard I had worked.
The Yoga barn has a holy cow, she has her only little enclosure and sometimes they tether her up in the hotel grounds in the morning. She is quite beautiful. Well I think so anyway.
The grounds have lots of wildlife, there are some spotted doves, and some Toads which I have seen when walking to and from dinner in the evening, there are signs around the place and pictures of the birds and toads.
As usual there are many statues and temple like structures and the statues are dressed in either gold or black and white. I was particularly taken with the frog below. The hotel ofcourse has its own temple too.
No more yoga for me until Friday, the sessions are all too advanced, so I did some training this morning and going for a walk this afternoon, before dinner I am aiming to do 6km today.
Yesterday I came back to my room at one point and found a dead lizard on my balcony surrounded by ants, I think they were trying to move it, the tail kept moving backwards and forwards. I called guest services and Rentokil came and removed it. Thanks Rentokil!
I talked about butterflies in my last episode, here is one black with white spots on one side and stripy underneath. It was difficult to photgraph these were the best, hope you can spot him, ha ha.
They are quite determined ants. The other day on my balcony they had a dead wasp in their clutches and they walked it the full width of the balcony, three times they went over the edge onto the vertical and they managed to walk the body back to the horizontal again.
When I was in the beach I saw a shell moving and then spotted some little crab kegs under it. It doesn’t take a lot to keep me amused.
The dragon flies are really big here and some are quite beautiful, on one of my early morning walks I walked into a big group of them flying around. I was trying to take a photograph but don’t think I was too successful, here it is anyway. Also some photographs from my first few days here.
As I mentioned in my last piece there are a lot of dogs around, fortunately the incessant barking isn’t a factor in the hotel grounds, however when I go for my walks there are a lot of dogs around and some of them are occasionally a bit boisterous. One thing I will say about them though is they leave everyone alone. I don’t know if they are stray but I believe they are, there are signs in restaurants saying don’t feed the dogs. One of the things I have accomplished over the last few months is to get over my fear of dogs, so they don’t bother me at all when I am out walking, a lot of them look quite sad though.
The other thing I have seen twice is a girl walking around in her wedding dress, she had it over some sort of plaid top yesterday. I wondered whether this was part of the latest craze in Japan I think, where they keep taking photographs of themselves during the honeymoon in the dress. I don’t think I could be bothered quite frankly.
Anyway that’s all for the moment. Time to go and get myself a little refreshment, before I get stuck into my story again, which I haven’t touched for a few days.
Having left my little haven, I was on my way to a different sort of life for the next three weeks, I was staying in an AirBNB and the plan was to use the time to write, do yoga and go to the beach. But as they say the best laid plans and all that. I arrived a little early which was fine, my room was ready, There are five bedrooms in the house, one is taken by the host and her man, and the other four are all rented out. The bedrooms have open air bathrooms on one side, effectively half a ceiling which is really nice until it rains, the floor gets very wet and going to the loo in the middle of the night with a wet floor is not ideal. There are two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. They face out on to the communal area which is open with a small swimming pool, and to the side a small kitchen area. Breakfast is prepared for us every morning, either eggs and toast or Nasi Goreng or fruit. It is very comfortable and in a quiet street apart for the dogs, there are a few around and they seem to have fits of barking every once in a while.
So having settled in the first day I went out to a local cafe Dapur Deli, for something to eat, and had a lovely salad and a coffee. The next day I went in search of the supermarket. I asked one of the girls staying here how far away was the supermarket, and she said oh you need transport, I said how far do you think to walk. She said 15 minutes. Actually it was a lot less than that, ten at the most. But I was quite disappointed, I got cereal and milk and some pasta and a sauce and corn beef and beer. But there was no meat or vegetables for sale there, I found some salad across the road, but still no meat. There was however a huge variety of cleaning, beauty products and snack foods available, as well as things like bread and rice. I did go a bit further a field a few days later and found a Meat shop but it was closed and all the meat was frozen which wasn’t really what I wanted. Anyway. Supermarket shopping done, back to base to get some writing done.
The day I arrived was the day after the huge thunder storm and the road was almost one big puddle, when I went out to eat I was wearing cotton trousers and flip flops, I had to walk through the water and the bottoms of my trousers got wet despite pulling them up, I am happy to report though that the water was warm. By the next day that had almost all evaporated. The temperatures are in the high twenties, but the humidity makes it seem a lot warmer.
There are no pavements on these roads, so you have to keep and ear and eye out for traffic, mainly scooters. Everyone seems to have a scooter. They whizz past your ear, overtaking each other, often on the other side of the road. They carry anything between one and four people. Usually if it’s four it’s one adult and three children, none of them wearing helmets. Often they have contraptions built on them to carry various foods cooked and uncooked. I saw one man in Ubud, loading bricks into the front part of his scooter. They often drive with one hand, whilst carrying a tray of something in the other, I saw one women with a drink in a glass on a tray! I am desperate to take photos of them all, but feel that I shouldn’t, but here is one I managed to quickly take the other day.
On the third day I thought I better go and find the yoga and the beach, the yoga place I wanted to go to was right on the beach. To get there you have to cross the dual carriageway. My host had explained that I could walk on further to the traffic lights as it would be easier to cross there. google said I could cross before then, and that it took 25 minutes. I was wearing a light cotton dress but had my rucksack with a towel and my necessary bits and pieces on my back. It’s not far to get to the dual carriageway, you have to walk right around the hospital which is quite an impressive building from both sides. Once you are on the dual carriageway there is at least a pavement to walk on, it’s very high though, quite a step up. But don’t worry I was able to mange it. I could see this contraption in the distance on the pavement, thinking what on earth is that, it looked like scaffolding or something, perhaps they were repairing the wall. Then I thought Oh no I am going to have to step into the road to go past it, and the road is very busy. As I got closer I realised that it was a set of steps, and further more it was a bus stop. I think there were four steps and then you were in the platform for the bus. I didn’t see any buses but my mind was boggling about how high they must be. There was another of these bus stops but this time with a steep ramp, a photograph below
Anyway getting back to my walk, Google suggested I could cross the road at a point where U turns were possible. I tried that for quite a long time, no luck, so I moved on to plan b cross at the traffic lights. When I got to the traffic lights there was a policeman on duty, but that didn’t help me. It was a four way junction and very busy. I could see a zebra crossing on my side of the dual carriageway, and also and on both sides across the junction. When I finally got a green man and walked across I discovered there was no zebra for the second half of the road, and no green man and by now traffic was moving again, so I just had to wait and take my chances when I could. I wasn’t timing this walk but clearly it was going to be longer than Google’s 25 minutes, not that the length of time mattered to me, but I needed it for planning purposes.
Anyway finally I was safely across the dual carriageway, and then I had a bit of a zig zag walk to get to the beach. The beach front is full of hotels all with their own sun beds. There are restaurants and shops, there is a pathway which I walked quite a way down which has lots of little shops. I suppose with the volcano eruption they have had quite a hard few months so they all seem very desperate to sell. I had been into the market are of Ubud thinking I might buy myself a cotton dress, even though I was almost forced to try one on, with no mirror, and they kept dropping the price I walked away because I just get completely turned off by those selling techniques. It was the same here every shop they try to get you to stop and have a look. But as we all know I am not buying things. I tried to rent a subbed for the day, but it seems they are all hotel owned so I walked further down the beach the other way, and it just seemed to be the same. It was also clouding over quite a lot and I felt a couple of drops of rain. So I made tracks back to find the yoga place and made some enquiries and then made a decision to head back. So this time I did time it, I crossed the dual carriageway on the side where there were two zebras, only of discover there was no pedestrian light for the second half, but the policeman blew his whistle and got me across. Door to door thirty five minutes. That’s not bad, easier when you know where you are going, but it was a hard walk, the pavements are uneven, the roads without pavements are hazardous, I had a ring of black dust around my watch, and my dress was completely wet through becuase of the humidity Best laid plans.... I realised that my dream of walking to the beach and yoga everyday were just not going to happen. I decided I needed to revisit my plan, so I looked at the cancellation policy and cancelled my Airbnb from 2nd Feb, and booked myself into the hotel nearest to the yoga place on the beach. It’s only money after all. I will still have spent less that half of what I spent in Australia. Once I had made the decision I felt a lot better and just decided to hang and get my writing up to date and not worry about anything. After all I had been travelling for four months, and made the best use of most of my time, so this was always going to be downtime, just slightly different to what I had imagined.
So I have settled into some sort of routine, waking up really early very morning, but going for breakfast about nine, reading, maybe lounging around in the sun for a bit. I have done some writing most days. I started writing my story, which has been far more challenging than I thought, but again I have decided not to rush myself, the key is probably to just write and then edit it down.
I go out for short walks to the supermarket, and I go out for dinner each evening, I usually go to Dapur Deli because the salads are really good, and I have been missing my salads. It’s so cheap to eat out here that it just isn’t worth the effort of buying the food and cooking it. The cafe is always quite busy, people having business meetings, friends meeting up. There was a girl have a language lesson in there the other day. Everyday I see am English lady who I have surmised is a teacher. I saw her marking yesterday, and I found a big college or school close by yesterday too, so maybe she teaches there. We nod and smile, but haven’t struck up a conversation. She is always loaded down with bags and her scooter helmet and jacket. Have to be prepared for the rain, it is the rainy season after all. There seem to be a lot of people like her living here as well as the large number of tourists. The Airbnb is full at the moment two young couples who are travelling, and a young Russian guy who is travelling but working as a programmer I think. Sitting in the Cafe the other day the song ‘I wanna go home’ come on the radio, it’s a song that reminds myself and Asgeir of a friend of his, who was a musician and died at the age of about twenty in a car crash. They played him singing it at his funeral, so it always brings a tear to my eye, it was just so funny I hadn’t really heard any music in there and all of a sudden this came on, and I am of course thinking about going home, with only six weeks left of my adventure into the future. And the young waiter was singing along to it. There had been a big power cut all afternoon, so they were only serving salads and cold drinks, a bit of a slow day for them. So I think he really did want to go home.
We have had one bad thunder storm since I arrived in Sanur, but it’s been ok, mainly raining during the night, until today, today it is pouring down, and the puddle outside the house is huge. I am sitting outside, under cover of course, and watching the rain pouring into the swimming pool. I hope it stops before I have to go out to eat.
Talking of eating I mentioned I bought a tin of corned beef, I do like corned beef and was going to make a salad and have a couple of slices. Well, it wasn’t Fray Bentos is my first comment, and the key wasn’t strong enough to unwind more than half an inch. They had no tin opener so one of the ladies used a hammer and a knife to open in. Once open I saw this horrible gooey mush, I am afraid I found it completely inedible, I did think about frying it up to make corn beef fritter, but I didn’t think it would survive the process. So into the bin it went.
As well as food in the small cafes, known as Warungs, being really cheap, there are also food sellers going around with either a high type of box on wheels which has pans of food and also shelves with various bits and pieces on, some of them have adapted their scooters to hold their wares as well. They go around the streets ringing their bell and people come out of their houses to buy food. A bit like our ice cream vans in England, except they are usually on foot. Warung is the only word I have learnt other than Taksi which appears on the top of the bluebird taxi. I assumed it was Bailinese but looking it up all I got were posts about how they are the best taxi company and don’t use the blue ones with taxi on the top, because they are not real bluebird taxis and often don’t put the meter on. Phew. I will find out how good they are tomorrow when I have to move accommodation.
At around lunch time you see all the children coming home from school, I am not sure what time they start, I am never out earlier enough to find out. They are seen walking and on scooters and on bikes, they all wear school uniform. You see boys on bicycles all the time, I think they are practicing for when the get their scooters, because they often have another boy on the bike with them, and they go haring up and down the roads like mad scooter drivers. Funnily enough although all the women drive scooters I haven’t seen any girls on bikes. I have seen women on building sites, mixing concrete, laying slabs and delivering goods, so it’s good to see that they have equality in that respect. In the hotel in Ubud there certainly didn’t seem to be any discrimination, both sexes doing all jobs, how often do you see men cleaning hotel rooms in the U.K. I don’t think I have ever seen a male chambermaid, sorry should that be chamberperson, have you?
A little on the wild life I have seen, there are of course lots of little Geckos around, I had one in my room in Ubud, I am pretty sure he lived there because is saw him over a couple of days in the same place and then running back behind the mirror. I don’t know if they do live inside but I quite liked the idea. There were plenty of them around the hotel of course, and I saw one in the communal area here yesterday too. There are quite a lot of butterflies, but mainly big black ones, I have seen a few coloured ones, but not many, and the bees are absolutely enormous and black too. Again I am assuming they are bees and they may be carpenter bees, I see them collecting nectar outside the Dapur Deli. The other thing I saw in Ubud whilst walking the 100 steps from the swimming pool was a snake, slithering down, I don’t know who was more frightened me or the snake, yuk, it was only tiny and grey in colour, so I guess it was some sort of harmless grass snake. Having just looked up snakes, I see there are lots of scary snakes here, I though it was bad enough In Australia when I was told to look in the toilet before I sit on it. Oh well hopefully that is the only one I will see. I have mentioned about the dogs already, but I saw a cat the other day, and it was up a tree, it looked like a statue, I would have taken a photograph if I had had the chance, it moved and jumped off. It was so funny, I can only describe it as a cat in a cartoon, when they stop and all the hair stands on end and they are poised to do goodness knows what to get out of whatever situation they are in. Hilarious
The people in Bali are really lovely, they all smile at you and greet you when you are walking down the street and want to know where you are staying. They even smile and say hello when driving past on their scooters. That’s what is really great about staying here, I am not in the tourist trap with everyone shouting taxi and buy this at me. The day before yesterday I woke up to the sound of a lot of drumming. I knew something was going on because they had been a lot of activity at the temple behind the house across the road. Women had been arriving dressed up in their finery, beautiful patterned skirts and lacy blouses and coloured sashes. When I was in Ubud having my pedicure a big procession passed by and I asked what it was for and was told it was a cremation. The women were dressed like that then. I think if I was going to buy anything that is what I would buy a traditional Balinese dress. They look so elegant. I was coming back from dinner in the evening walking back down Gang 8, the road name, and a man said hello to me. Where are you staying, and then he told me that there was going to be a ceremony the next day for the full moon and I should come. So the next morning I asked Noni, our cook, who had turned up in all her finery, she was obviously going, and she said yes and there is dancing at 11 too. What should I wear, and she pointed to how she was dressed, well that wasn’t going to be possible at such short notice, I had a look in the wardrobe, such as it is, nothing really would suffice. So I kind of gave up on the idea.
So a lot more drumming the next morning and I had been to the supermarket for some face cream and some body lotion, as you do, and I was walking back down gang 8 and the same man said hello they are dancing now. Why don’t you have a look. I said I wasn’t sure I was dressed properly, and a couple, of them said, no it’s fine don’t worry. So I walked down the alley way. I couldn’t really get near, but I could see the backs of all the women and their hands were telling the story and they danced in about three columns probably six dancers in each column. What struck me more than anything when they turned around was, how beautiful they all were, they all had they hair styled up, and many of them were middle aged, but their skin was so beautiful. Not a wrinkle in sight. Why is that I wonder. I see women all working hard, at all sorts of jobs, and it is a poor community when you look at the infrastructure. But maybe they have something different here, a different less stressed way of life, sitting in the deli, and watching all the different people and the different things that are going on has certainly made me wonder. People seem carefree and kind and happy. Even when it raining cats and dogs. But then you overhear a conversation and realise that actually things probably are the same here as everywhere else. Below is a photograph of the Temple after the big event.
The last thing I want to tell you about is the offerings in all the temples and everywhere really. You see all these little boxes full of flowers and leaves and other bits and pieces and sometimes depending on where they are they have joss sticks lit as well. When I first arrived and was being taken to my hotel the guide told me that they have to make an offering every day. In this house a young lady turns up with a big pile of them every morning and places them on the temple but also in a corner behind the dining area and on the hob. She clearly does this for a living, I don’t know if she makes the offerings as well, but I have also seen other people in the town going from place to place with offerings. They get left on pavements too outside businesses and shops and trampled all over.
Anyway tomorrow I move on, so I will try out the bluebird taksi and live on the beach for a week, and hopefully get to yoga a few times. A few photos of my current abode are below.
Finally on the plane after hours of waiting in my still somewhat damp clothes. Wearing denim to lighten the load in the suitcase. I was allowed 30 kilos today, plus 7 kilos hand luggage. Hand luggage just scraped in by 0.01 and case was 24 kilos, so one kilo over for my next flight. Do you think wrapping your suitcase in clingfilm to avoid being accused of smuggling drugs together with a new lock adds a kilo in weight, maybe not, even though there was a lot of it. But no restriction on hand luggage weight on the next one back to the US. So hopefully still on target to be within the 23 kilos.
So two in the morning and the first thing they do is serve breakfast, you would think they would let us sleep first and serve breakfast before we land, but no. There were only two of us in our three seats which was good. Seat belt sign was on most of the way, but it wasn’t too bumpy. I was desperate at one point to go to the loo, I hadn’t really thought about seat belt sign, but it was stopping me from trying to sleep, so I went. Of course the minute I sat down it started throwing me all over the place, I had to hang on for dear life, so I definitely found out why you shouldn’t go to the loo when the seat belt sign is on, I had a good five minutes of wondering if I would ever be able to get out of there, really scary. When I finally came out there Steward said a bit bumpy? Yes I said with a rueful smile.
The girl sitting with me was on her way back to the U.K. after visiting friends in Perth where she had lived for some time. Like many other people she asked me why I was flying to Bali via Kuala Lumpur instead of flying direct, which would have taken half the time. Good question, I think I should ask my travel agent, maybe it is something to do with buying a round the world ticket, who knows.
We were a little late leaving but landed on time and it wasn’t far to the next gate, through security, no bags to pick up as they were checked right through. Once on the plane I was sitting quite near the back this time, and could see them loading the luggage. I could also see the plane I had just got off. A luggage trailer came and they started loading some of the luggage on it and then someone came along with a clipboard and started to question what they were doing. They retrieved one of the cases they had put on and the trailer drove off. Another trailer came and was sent on his way too. I think they even searched the luggage loaders who were in the plane when they got off. You know when you have that feeling that you luggage isn’t going to arrive with you, I just knew it. It was the way the whole operation seemed very chaotic. Having gone through the pain on a short trip to St Louis last year, where my luggage was still in London and it took three days for it to arrive, I have made sure I always have my valuables with me, and one or two essentials. But I didn’t think I could be that unlucky again, so no change of clothes, other than a pair of bikini bottoms I had bought for myself in the sale for ten dollars, in the hope that I have lost enough weight to be able to wear them with a bikini top I have. Don’t laugh!
Anyway it wasn’t a very long second leg, but long enough given I now hadn’t really slept and had been on the go for over 24 hours. We landed and I was last in the queue for the ladies, then I think I was last in the huge queue for passport control. I found the baggage carousel and was having a look around it when I was approached by two young Malaysian air ladies. They asked me if my name was on this list, the list had quite a few names on it and right at the bottom there I was. They explained that my luggage was still in Malaysia. My response was, I knew it, I just knew this was going to happen. They pointed me in the direction of the queue to report missing baggage, yes another queue. I had to wait about ten of fifteen minutes here as well. The good news was they said it would be on the next flight out and they expected it to land at 4pm it was about 12:30 by now. They promised to deliver it to my hotel. Fair enough. So I was waived through customs, I needn’t have bothered with the cling film! I wasn’t going to get searched after all. I did take some photographs from the plane, we seemed to go over island after island so I can’t tell you where they are.
I was being picked up by some sort of taxi service, I was hoping that they would be there unlike Fiji where there was no show. You know when you walk through the door into arrivals and there are usually a handful of people holding up names. Well there was a sea of names, that’s the only way I can describe it. I went past the first lot desperately searching for a Faben, it was at least three deep, couldn’t see one, then I went past a pillar and there was another sea, no not there either. Then finally in the third lot right at the very end in the second row, there I was Mrs Faben. That’s me I pointed and the man said to go around and he would meet me at the other side, which is exactly what happened. His first question was where is your luggage, KL I replied, oh no, I wondered if there was a problem because it’s taken you a long time to get through. Do we need to wait or do something, no I said it’s ok. They are going to send it to the hotel. So he took me to where all the cars were waiting, oh boy, wait here he said whilst he went into the middle of it all to indicate for the car to come forward. So I had a driver and a guide. Very nice too, nice big black car, very comfortable. The drive will take about an hour or an hour and a half he said, Ok, I had been warned that the traffic was terrible, I am sure that those of you who have travelled in Indonesia know exactly what I am going to say now. There were so many scooters and my driver was mainly driving right down the middle of the road on the white line, making a third lane. Dodging between cars and scooters and dogs, yes dogs. I decided the best thing I could do was look out of the window and try not to wince too much when I happened to glance at what was going on in the driving department. My guide was really nice, we were laughing at some of the fully laden bikes, some had four people on them and lots of people with no helmets. Mainly children with no helmets to be honest. Anyway he was telling me about all the temples and how if you built a house you had to build a temple and go and pray there every day, but only for five minutes. All the shops full of carvings in stone and wood for the temples. He explained that people are farmers growing rice but their main occupation was an artist. Some of the stuff looked like it had been there for years covered in moss, it’s hard to believe they sell it at all to be honest. Then you look at every building and and they do all have temples and ornate carvings and stonework everywhere, so clearly they do.
We arrived at the hotel in what seemed to be no time at all, given he said possibly an hour and a half. Although we had moved out of the city of Denpasar and passed through the country before reaching Ubud it did seem as though it was just one continuous place. No end and no beginning, so I was taken by surprise when we pulled into the entrance of the hotel. As I got out of the car there seemed to be about six people waiting to greet me. Heads bowed, hands in praying position, I felt a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I was guided almost to reception and got registered. I was staying for seven days, but had booked it in two parts, I had booked a spa stay to start with and then a five day stay once I had decided what I was going to do in Bali. Needless to say they only had the booking for the spa stay, but I told him and he adjusted everything. Or so I thought. I was given a towel to refresh myself with and then a drink of rice wine all whilst I was checking in. The phone rang and it was for me. A man from the spa said I needed to get down there that afternoon for a treatment which was going to take 90 minutes or so. I had a small panic about no clean clothes and told him my suitcase hadn’t arrived, he said what time do you want to come, so I opted for four o clock. He also told me I need to be in reception at 8am in the morning to go for a guided walk for an hour or an hour and a half.
I was taken to my room, feeling a bit spaced out by now, I had a bit of time just to chill before I went for my massage. The room was absolutely beautiful, and I had a lovely balcony with amazing view of the grounds, lily pond and pool. Ubud is up in the mountains. The grounds were laid out in terraces, and were really quite stunning. I felt really really happy to be here in this beautiful and blissful environment. I remembered my bikini bottoms and decided they would do for going to the spa with my tshirt and bra and I had my flip flops with me too in my carry on rucksack.
A bit of a rest and I was on my way down the steps. There were a lot of steps, some a bit uneven, some with handrails, small paths between the sets. I remember thinking that I was going to have to be really careful wearing these in flip flops, a couple of times I almost caught the toe end. I made it to the pool and then further down following the signs, to the spa and into this cavern, to be met by the man I had spoken to on the phone. I was too early. Come back in 15 minutes so I went back to the pool and then back again at four. I was led further into the spa, and eventually into a an area where I met the lady who was going to do the massage. There was a little sofa and a table and although it seemed as though we were in a cave, the front was open to the bottom of the valley where there was a steam of brown water running through quite noisily. I had been able to hear it from my balcony. There were stone carvings everywhere in the gardens and pool and spa area of toads and monkeys. She showed me a mortar and pestle and it had some ingredients in it, ginger, black pepper, rice to name some of them, I did mean to write the list of them down. We both spent time grinding the ingredients into a paste taking it in turns and then she added some hot water whilst I mixed and ground. We left it then and went into the room, which had a wall at either side, a curtain on the side we entered and was open to the sound and view of the stream on the fourth side. The room had a massage table and a bath. She gave me a wonderful massage, and then spread the mixture on my body, she must have added some other ingredients because it now covered my whole body and the amount that was there before would never have done that. That was allowed to stay on my body for a while and she ran a bath with the water running through a bag of herbs. Then into the bath for a nice soak. Then she washed all the mud off me and and covered me in soap and washed that off and finally put some body lotion on me. Considering I was pretty exhausted when I arrived this massage made me feel so much better, I checked later it was a detox massage.
About half way through when I was lying face down on the table the noise of the water had changed and I asked if it was raining, she said, yes it rains everyday now. I did know I would be here in the rainy season, but that was some rain. When I was ready to go, she gave me a towel to put over my head in order to get up to my room. The water was falling down the stairs like a very fast flowing waterfall. I must admit to thinking I was going to have to be even more careful in this. Having reached the shelter of my room t shirt completely soaked, I settled down for a bit of relaxation.
A little later when the rain had eased a little I made a dash to reception to check on the possible arrival of my case, no news but they would let me know as soon as it arrived. I thanked them and decided room service was the only real option tonight and early to bed, hopefully after my case had arrived. Finally the call came through about 9pm to say it had arrived and they were sending it over. A knock on the door and this young man was standing there with my 24 kilos on his shoulder, yes his shoulder, I can barely pull the thing and have had golfers elbow ever since I left home, which is aggravated every time I pull this case, even though I think it’s been rested and is feeling better.
Off to bed as I need to be in reception at eight am to go trekking, should I take my poles, need to go for an early breakfast.
The restaurant was set out in three areas, and likewise there were two lounges, arranged in such a way that you had views over the surroundings and no windows where you faced out. Breakfast was a good variety everything you could want really, and I was in reception to meet my guide at five to eight. There was supposed to be another party as well, but they didn’t turn up and were not contactable on the phone. So just me and the man, we were taken out to the country about ten minutes drive away and then we walked back into Ubud from there. There were a few little artists workshops and shops on the way and houses, signs for houses to let everywhere. Mainly there were Paddy fields and beautiful views. He asked me if I was tired and I said no not at all and told me I was very fit, it was supposed to be a slow ramble I think and we did it in just under an hour. There were many people on the path in both directions, and we got held up at one point because some young people were filming some sort of pop video. We just arrived at the tail end of it so it didn’t impact us too much.
Back at the hotel I went to the spa to sort out what else was on the agenda for the day, he said I got a free lunch and afternoon team, and a leg and foot massage and use of the whirlpools, sauna and steam rooms which were all just in front of the reception area. So I booked my leg and foot massage for 3pm and had some pool time, and then went upstairs for my lunch. Have you got a voucher, no, the man in the Spa said just to tell you it was included in my Spa package. So it was a special menu, three courses and I must say very enjoyable. More pool time and back to the spa for leg and foot massage. It was at this point that I realised I needed to get a pedicure because my toenails were too long and hurting when she was working on them, tomorrow’s priority. I was going to use the other facilities after that but it was busy so said I would come back later. In the end I didn’t bother. I went for my afternoon tea which turned out to be tea and cake, not the full afternoon tea menu which was on a board in the lounge area, perhaps as well after a breakfast and three course lunch. It was definitely not going to be necessary for me to have dinner that night.
The next day I did some research to find a recommended beauty salon for a pedicure. I found one that had good reviews and set off down the main road. It is a busy little town and there are pavements on all the main streets but there are one of two big holes in some places, you have to keep your eyes peeled all the time, makes window shopping and taking in your surroundings quite difficult. I found the place quite easily and went in, yes they could do it straight away, brilliant. She was very good, I had a bit of red area on one of my toes that had been there for a long time and was quite painful when touched, and she is the only person who has recognised the issue and actually worked on it until it was resolved, so I was extremely pleased with the outcome. Back to the hotel, reception called me to ask when I was checking out. I’m not I am here for another five days. Oh yes I see, but we have you in another room. oh no, thinking that wasn’t going to be acceptable, especially as I had told the first receptionist, then she decided it was ok I could stay where I was, thank goodness. Then they delivered a bowl of fruit to me, and then they rang to say there was a voucher for me at the desk for a free dinner. It was all go.
I went down to the pool and spent a peaceful afternoon down there, eventually making my way back and going to the restaurant for dinner. The voucher meant it was a fixed price menu, but very nice and three courses again. The good thing was it wasn’t too much, ordinarily I can’t eat three courses these days, in fact two is a real push, and I have got a little fed up with being served huge main courses that I can’t eat whilst I have been travelling, but portion sizes here were just right.
The rainy season was well and truly settled in, I read that it’s always worse in the mountains. I was spending my time at the pool, or in the lounge or our for short walks or in my room. One day I decided to go and look for a yoga mat, because I was starting to do a bit of exercise and needed a mat. It was only raining a little when I set off and I had my rain jacket. I took it off after a while, but then the heavens opened. I eventually found the shop I was looking for, having walked miles out of my way in the first instance, and got my mat, the woman said, aren’t you going to wait for the rain to stop? I said I don’t think there is much point I am already soaked to the skin.
Trying to get myself into some sort of routine was quite difficult after all the travelling around. I got some writing done, but I was actually glad of the respite, I have really been on the go for four months, so I stopped feeling guilty about doing nothing, and just got on with doing nothing. I started reading more, which I haven’t really done for a long time. I brought one paperback with me and it took me until Perth to finish it. I gave it to two women in a shop at the station, because I didn’t want to carry it around any more. I measured myself one day and discovered I had lost another inch and a half off my hips and half an inch off my waist making a total of 17 and three quarter inches off my vital statistics since I left home. So even though I haven’t been on a diet, just eating less and walking as much as possible, the weight is still coming off. I do then tell myself, you still have a long way to go, but then I remind myself that I have time now and I will get there. I know I haven’t done the excercising I wanted to do whilst I have been away, but yoga will start soon, and when I get home I will make sure that I am going to classes and walking all the time.
The days passed and I just settled into life and was happy with my surroundings and suddenly it was time to pack my bag and move on. My next port of call is for 21 days in Sanur which is a quiet seaside resort north east of Denpasar. An Airbnb with the promise of a beach not far away and yoga too in the same vicinity.
Packing my case, the day before I noticed that things were a little damp, the room smelled a bit damp too, definitely the right time to be moving on the rainy season was taking its toll on the room. The last night there was the most awful deluge and thunderstorm, it was three am before it calmed down, and I was finally able to fall asleep.
I tried to put my new lock on my suitcase and I couldn’t get it to lock, so thought I better leave that until I got to my next destination and sort it out then. All checked out, my transport arrived to take me to my next destination. See you in Sanur. But leaving you with some more photos of the hotel and pool and my walk around Unbud on a rainy day. Also a couple of photographs of the nice chap I had hanging from my baconly roof, I think he must be a fertility symbol, too late for me though 🤣🤣.
I really knew very little about Australia before I came here, I have learnt about the make up of Australia now, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, the Northern Territories, New South Wales and Western Australia which on the map looks like the biggest of them all. I have started to understand the size and scale and learnt a little about the heat, and the fact that skin cancer is the biggest killer in this country, a man told me that whilst chatting in a park in Perth. He was looking for a light and we talked about lung cancer versus skin cancer, the conversation was light hearted it just went that way. There is a lot of talk about the convicts who came and built this country and then the people who chose to come independently, about cities being built based on convict labour and free cities which were made of of the people who immigrated of their own accord. It’s vibrant, bright, awake and alive. It’s beautiful and it grows on you. I have caught buses and trains and trams and planes and boats and coaches and driven a car and walked miles. I haven’t scratched the surface yet. I keep being told that I need to go to the Northern Territory to see the real Australia and to live in it to fully understand what Australia is about.
I do however believe I have seen a lot and experienced life a little in the five weeks I have been here. I can see and understand why people would choose to come and make their lives here. If I was thirty years younger and had realised what was in the Southern Hemisphere then I think maybe I would have made a decision to come. I have travelled a reasonable amount in my life, but not really long distance apart from a few jaunts to the USA. Just pondering that and wondering why, I never really had a yearning to see the world, that’s the part of me that’s the little mouse. Happy with my little hole in the wall. But something has changed in me over the last few years, and whilst I planned this trip on a whim and was really quite terrified before I set off, only able to think of the each individual part as I approached it, I am feeling quite overcome whist I reflect on the experience. Of course it’s isn’t over yet, but I am so glad that I did this and recognise that I am very lucky to be able to afford to do it. It has changed something in me, I have been able to just take time to experience life in all these places at my own pace. A luxury in itself. But also time to reflect that despite all the heartache and losses I have suffered over recent years, I am very lucky in so many ways, and have so far lived a full and interesting life. A life where I have been able to make a difference to the people around me and in the work I have done. I do have to recognise that I am at a real, what now? moment in my life. I am certainly not ready for my pipe and slippers. So on that note maybe we should go back to Perth.
Leaving my new found friends I called my trusty Uber stallion to get me to Northbridge one of the most happening places in Perth from what I have read. My original booking had been cancelled a few weeks ago because the host had been offered and accepted a new job and had to travel that week, he couldn’t find anyone to greet me and make sure all was ok whilst he was away so I had to find somewhere else at quite short notice. I found a place in the same area, it looked beautiful. Nice big room, air con, private bathroom and all the facilities I needed. The Uber driver tried to drop me off at completely the wrong place but I wasn’t having that, finally we arrived and my host came downstairs to collect me and help me with my luggage, there was a lift too thank goodness. A young Englishman who is working as a Chief Technical Officer for a IT type start up. He was on a conference call to the states with his CEO, so I made myself scarce.
I haven't really talked about my AirBNB experiences which have been varied and interesting in their own right and I don’t intend to start now, all I want to say is that I felt myself being on the edge of Mother mode with this young man. But I resisted, other than to provide him with some motherly feedback at the end. I had a quiet evening, didn’t really need much as I had had a hearty breakfast and lovely lunch on board together with a few glasses of vino. So I settled myself in and finalised a couple of bookings for trips and things and had an early night. Perhaps as well as I was awoken at around midnight by a lot of noise outside, cars, shouting and goodness knows what else. So sleep was pretty broken throughout the night, I think I finally got back to sleep properly after about 4 am. The next morning when I looked outside I realised why, there was a nightclub on the corner opposite. There were a number of thoughts that went through my head at that point from unprintable ones through to maybe it’s not open every night, please. Anyway I had a look at good places for breakfast because I hadn’t been shopping yet, and set off with trusty google maps in the wrong direction. Two minutes later, about turn, and finally I found the place only to discover it was closed until January 8th, umm it was the 7th, don’t think I can wait that long for breakfast, but I spotted a supermarket as well so toddled over to that and tried to be circumspect in my buying, given no matter how hard I try I always leave food behind wherever I go. Two loaded shopping backs later I walked back and went into another cafe for breakfast. After placing my order I took a seat and grabbed the local paper. I was glancing through, reading one or two articles, the one on the front page was about the Mayor of Perth coming back to work after a number of months off whist her expenses were investigated. Umm so Australia has the same problems as the U.K. then, interesting. Then I came across an article about where to drink coffee in Dalston in London. Those of you who know London may know that Dalston is an up and coming area, the new Overground line has provided it with a big new station, and its been a long time coming, so to speak. Anyway one of the reasons it caught my eye was the coffee they were talking about was Allpress. I had never heard of Allpress until I was with Phil and Derek in Nelson. Their number two son Aidan, sorry for calling you number two Aidan, works for Allpress. Here I am in Australia, reading about the coffee business that Aidan works in, in New Zealand, being drunk in place very near where I lived for a number of years. Anyway this distracted me from the fact that not only had my food not arrived but neither had my much needed coffee. Finally my poached eggs arrived, but no coffee, oh you ordered coffee? Clearly they needed a better ordering system. I really don’t know how half these places survive based on the service they provide. Or maybe it’s me, maybe I have just become so invisible at this age, I just keep being forgotten.
Back to the flat, now I am sure you will remember that I said my host took me up in the lift, so in the lift I go. Flat 35, obviously the third floor. I spent at least two minutes trying to unlock the door when I looked up to see I was trying to open flat 65. Oops, what planet was I on. Quick reverse to try and find 35, floor 1. Time to do a bit of writing and then off to explore and get my bearings. I found that the walk into the city took about twenty minutes, the only fly in the ointment was the massive construction going on to build a new square at the station, which to be honest caught me out in terms of finding my way to the train station. More of that later. I found the bus station, the possible train station entrance and the harbour area where I was picking up a boat for a river cruise with wine tasting. I found a place for some lunch and then walked back up and wandered into a park area in front of the law courts. Very peaceful so I chose to sit for a while. I hadn’t been there very long when a young man with a skate board strolled past asking if I had a light, we struck up a bit of a conversation talking about life and Perth and families and parents. Turned out he was 40 in the music production business but with little work. He said he had given up all his vices except smoking. There were a couple of Aborigine women in the park and one of them approached us for a light, we said we didn’t have one and off she went. Then there was another couple in the park and the other woman approached them, they chatted for a while and then she came over to us. When we told her that we didn’t have a light she went absolutely bananas, accusing the young man of lying, ranting like there was no tomorrow. She went off and asked another couple who were sunbathing, and we could see that she was successful, so my companion trotted off as well and I took my leave and went back to my abode. The pictures below are of the quay which is all newly developed I understand, making an area for families to come to during leisure time, very well don’t I thought.
The next morning I was off on the wine tasting, I was up early enough but skipped breakfast because my host was fast asleep on the sofa. This was Monday morning, so I would have thought he should be getting ready for work, see what I mean about the mothering instinct. Anyway I decided just to get going rather than disturb him. As it happened by the time I got down the the harbour they were already allowing passengers on board, and coffee and cake was being served. So I got some breakfast after all. The Swan River was very wide and gave a good view of the city, especially as it wound back on itself a couple of times. They are building a big new Arena/ stadium and it looked very beautiful I have to say. They were in the process of building the structure for the access roads. There were black swans and pelicans and some dolphins. We went under many bridges but one of them seemed to be a railway bridge and it had a little lane below the rail level where bicycles could be ridden, I only know because I saw a couple on it, ingenious idea. I tried to take a photograph but I don’t think you can really see the bikes. After about an hour, we started the first wine tasting of the day. They provided us with a little board of cheese and meats and crackers, and we had a sizeable taste of about four wines. The boat was quite empty and I found myself sitting alone for most of the journey. Some people were sitting outside, but it was very hot, so a couple came in and joined me. They were Swedish, visiting his Mother who lived part of the year here and part in Sweden. We had a great chat about Perth and our experiences and plans, my experiences really being about my whole trip not just Perth.
After a couple of hours we arrived at our destination the Sandalford winery, and were met by the host there. We were actually taken on a tour of the winery, which was quite interesting. All their barrels were made externally and lasted three maybe four seasons, and they brought in external bottlers to do the bottling rather than send the wine away or have their own equipment. They have beautiful grounds as well and host concerts in those grounds . The walls are covered with signed posters from many gigs. They also have a beautiful restaurant outside underneath some very old vines. We were taken into lunch after our tour and of course more wine tasting, six this time, all ready and waiting for us. After lunch we were given to opportunity to spend some money, I bought a couple of bottles, but as they didn’t ship to the U.K. that was my limit.
Then we retraced our steps back into Perth, without the commentary this time, the bar was open and one of the crew sang a few songs for us towards the end of our journey. A very pleasant day out all in all.
The following day I caught the bus to Scarborough, yes if you have been following me this is the Scarborough in the city of Stirling. It had been recommended to me by my host in Adelaide and the Swedish couple were also staying there. It was about half an hour by bus, two zones, four dollars 70. I didn’t need to buy a travel card in Perth as I was so central, so I decided just to pay my fares ad hoc. It was indeed a lovely seaside town, the sand was very white, and the beach wasn’t too crowded. I spent the whole day there, having a couple of beers before I set off home. I thought I had managed to cover myself in factor 50 often enough, but apparently not. I had burnt the very tops of my legs of all places. Also one or two other very small patches of red here and there. Maybe not such a good idea to spend the whole day on the beach, but I did enjoy it. There was also a lot of construction going on here on the promenade so you had to walk through the works to get to the beach, but it didn’t impact my day and I could see it was going to be fab when it was done with shaded areas for sitting. Whilst in the bar I picked up the paper and lo and behold a big article on Ophrey Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes. A friend had already sent me the link and I had watched it, very moving and very right. I am very interested to see if she decides to go for President, obviouslyDonald thinks it’s laughable.
The following day was another early start I was booked on the 9:30 Ferry from Freemantle to Rottnest Island. I had also booked a hotel in Freemantle for the night so I could spend some time there the following day. I got myself into a bit of a muddle getting into the the railway station, even though I had checked out the entrance. There was a ramp alongside and I walked up that and down some steps only to discover I had no access to the station that way, I went all the way back and then remembered the access was not via the ramp, but further along on the main road. I caught the train by the skin of my teeth, but I had built in plenty of time so that I could have breakfast in Freemantle so if I had missed it I wasn’t going to miss the boat It was strange being on a commuter train, it’s been a while. The train was clean and the journey very easy about thirty minutes. Off at the other end I found a great healthy eating cafe a few minutes walk away, had some breakfast and then found my way to the quay. It was a fast ferry and I had been warned that it could be quite a rough ride, they weren’t wrong. The nearer we got to the Island the worse it got. It was a two deck boat and I was on the upper deck so I think it was a little better up there because you didn’t see the waves in the same way as you did on the lower deck, as I discovered on my way back. Perth is known as the Windy City, and clearly this was one of the ways in which it demonstrated its title.
Once on the Island I had hired a bike, as had most people. There is only one place which is really inhabited and it’s called the Settlement, where we landed. They warn you to make sure you have water and food before you set off, there are some toilets but not many and only one or two water fountains. I went to information and got myself a map, the Swedish couple had been there a few days before and they said go left around the Island because the most beautiful beaches are on your way back then and then you can spend a bit of extra time. There were a couple a guys waiting to talk to the information lady and they were giving me all sorts of ideas about the best places and must dos. One or two people had mentioned that there were lots of hills, I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a repeat of the Old Coach Road on North Island. The only other options to get around the Island were a train, which although I saw one stop I never saw the train and the hop on hop off bus which basically followed the single road around the Island. I was told I had plenty of time, because I was on the five thirty ferry back to Freemantle, to do the whole island. So I went to one of the cafes, and bought a couple more drinks, I had brought one with me, and had a quick coffee before setting on, feeling a little nervous about the expedition. The bike was good, I had read some reviews of an all inclusive tour which said the bikes were rubbish. So I had followed another reviewers advice and made my own way to the Freemantle and booked my own ferry and bike, it was cheaper and you got more time on the island, it was I have to say very sound advice. I found the brakes a little unresponsive in comparison to my bike, but they did work and once I got use to them they were fine. I set off and it wasn’t long before I had to face my first hill, they weren’t that steep but the problems were two fold, firstly the wind. I mentioned that Perth was a windy city well that was nothing on Rottnest. To begin with I was cycling straight into the wind, but there were times when the wind was blowing straight across me and I wondered if I could stay on my bike. Because there were constant ups and downs initially it was hard to get up enough power to help propel myself up a hill still in second gear, and only if I was quite near the top before I changed gear back down to first would I generally be able to get enough momentum to reach the top without having to get off and walk the hill. I did get better, mainly though grit and determination and by trying to increase my momentum as I went towards the hill. I wasn’t the only one who struggled, there were plenty of us who had to get off and walk. The other thing was that there were so many places where you had to stop to look at the view of visit the beach. The sea was the most beautiful blue green and the sand white. I went down to a couple of the beaches and sat for a while. People were snorkelling but there were very few people on each beach. Very peaceful,and extremely beautiful, breathtaking really.
The route around the island eventually becomes a single road to the west coast and back and there is a point called Narrow Neck and I decided that would be my tuning point as I still had a long way to go. The total distance was supposed to be 22 Kms. I could see from sign posting that I still had a lot to do to get back. So I pulled in at Narrow Neck parked my bike along with all the others and walked down to the beach. I found a beautiful little bay full of boats which was completely deserted and I clambered up onto some rocks and ate my lunch. Blissful. A little dingy came ashore and let a man and his daughter off, they were the only other people who appeared on the beach and they walked off, presumably they were catching the bus or had bikes.
Eventually I dragged myself away and started the journey back to the settlement. I was getting better and better at the hills, but that wind was something, nearly knocked me off my bike at one point, and although I had a helmet on, my hair was just one knotted mass. The guys had told me I must stop at Parakeet Bay, so I did and went down and sat for a while. All the beaches were really wonderful, I was so happy that I had made the effort to come. The guys had also told me about a huge osprey nest in Salmon bay, I did see it and took a photograph but it was at times like that I really wished I had a real camera with a proper zoom lens. I have taken the liberty of finding a proper photograph on line, so that you can really see it.
The other thing that Rottnest is known for is the Quokkas, I posted a picture on Facebook and was immediately asked if it was a Rat. They are much bigger than rats, but from what I have read it sounds like the early discoverers of the Island thought they were rats too and that is partly why the island has its name, Rats Nest. They are in fact marsupials with very short front legs, quite big, and the roam over the island. Visitors are given strict instructions not to touch them or feed them. I first saw one at a stop by a beach, working his way through all the parked bicycles, so cute. I saw more when I got back to the settlement, with people going to great lengths to try and photograph them with selfie sticks. Jan a friend of mine wrote to me not long after I posted the picture on Facebook to say he had just been reading a book which talked about the discovery of Rottnest Island and the Quokkas, small world we live in.
Also on the way back to the Settlement there are these lakes and they blow bubbles across the road, it turns out they are salt lakes, I had never seen one of those before, a bit of a treat. I didn’t take any photographs though, I was on a mission to get back.
I made it back to the settlement in one piece, having done over 20kms, feeling pretty good about it, especially as I had a bit of sunburn on my derrière. I wasn’t too saddle sore, but had a couple more hours so decided to see if I could get rid of the bike so that I was free to wander. The young boat hand was very helpful, yes of course he said. I found the local hotel which had a wonderful outdoor area, got myself a glass of cider and sat and read my book for a while, whilst watching the people, families, friends, couples enjoy a drink at the end of their day. I then went to a little area which had a few shops, there was a lovely dress shop, but the prices were eye watering so I decided to pass. A great ice cream shop and I had to queue for about five minutes to get served, at six dollars a cone for a single scoop, buying for a family you needed to take out a mortgage. So the photos below are of my journey around the Island.
So back to the boat for the voyage back to Freemantle, I made the big mistake of sitting downstairs this time, it was a bit scary, the waves were so high and the boat was moving from side to side a lot. Anyway we made it. I made my way to the hotel, to discover it was actually very nice. The woman waiting to check in after me gave me a bit of a dirty look, me in my shorts and t shirt with my back pack and matted hair, she was dressed to the nines with her nice little carry on. Oh well that’s another life, I am in this life now.
The room was sumptuous and after the hard work of the day I decided I couldn’t make a decision about which of the many restaurants in the hotel to go to dinner in, so I had room service and what was called a light meal of fish and chips. Light, that was a joke, there were two pieces of fish and a big pile of chips and a salad. So most of that was left... of well.
The next day I went out into town for breakfast and then made my way to Freemantle prison for the tour. Perth was a free city, but they didn’t have enough people to build the city, so in the end they asked for some convicts. The first thing they did was built the prison, and a fine building it was too. It had been extended over time but remained a working prison until the 1990s. It was inspected and they were told you can’t keep people in these conditions, definitely not a good place to be. Our guide gave us a good run down of the place, and we even went to see solitary confinement, pretty grim and the gallows even grimmer.
I found a place for a late lunch, the usual poor service and a risotto which was extremely disappointing, oh well. Made my way back to the station and the train home. Coming out of the station, I discovered a whole new exit and area of the town, quite by accident needless to say. I found the Arts area. As you probably know I do usually find a gallery but I hadn’t really got around to it yet, so now I knew were it was I added it to my list of things to do, although I was running out of time
Friday was a day of rest after being out very day for the last four days. I had some admin to do and did some writing and washing and started packing my case to move on. It was the day before I realised I had a gap in my diary for places to sleep. I had nowhere for Saturday night, so I had asked my travel agent to book me an extra night at the airport hotel. Uber on Saturday morning to the hotel and I settled in for a couple of quiet days. It was so hot outside I couldn’t bear to go out there, but rain was forecast as there had been a typhoon of sorts in the north of West Australia and the rain was going to come from there. I was flying at 2am on Tuesday morning, so my plan was leave the luggage in the hotel and then go into Perth to the Art gallery and have dinner and come back as late as possible and then go to the airport. Of course I hadn’t taken into account the rain which had by now started, but wasn’t too bad. When I had first arrived at the hotel I asked was it easy to get into town from here, oh no. You need a car, are there any shops, on no you need a car. It was less than ten minutes walk to the bus stop and twenty minutes on the bus. I am faced with this all the time, people seem to think the only way to travel is by car. People don’t walk. Anyway. I got into town and it was raining a bit more, I did a bit of shopping and then found my way to the Art gallery. It was really raining hard by now and I found a covered walkway which took me through to the station and from there it was only a tiny walk. I discovered I could have got to the covered walkway through the shops I had just been in, oh well you live and learn.
As always I enjoyed the art gallery some great pieces and an exhibition about a young Australian actor director Heath Ledger, who died at the age of 29 of a drug overdose. Very sad, especially when you see what he was achieving. There was a sculpture of a big black woman, in a yellow dress, I glimpsed as I walked I got the gallery and it made me smile, then would you believe it my friend Jan sent me a message when he saw the picture on Facebook, he had just been sorting some photographs and had come across one of a white woman in the same style. We decided it had to be the same artist, twice in one week our paths had crossed all the way around the world.
The classical collection is in what used be the old court room, still set up with the dock and the witness box, and you can see where they brought them up from the cells, and the doorways with the stained glass windows. Lovely.
I had lunch in the restaurant there and decide to have gnocchi, something I rarely choose, but it was such a horrible wet day, service was slow because they had been completely packed out, but the food was wonderful as were the two glasses of wine and the strawberries and ice cream they gave me when there was nothing else I fancied on the menu. Nice to leave the country on a food high for once.
Eventfully I made my way back through the covered walkway and the shopping centre to the bus stop. I had to wait ages for a bus, and the rain was getting to me by now, I mean I was quite wet and was going to have to travel in these clothes, lovely. By the time I got back to the hotel drowned rat is the only way I can describe my state. I asked them to put me in the first coach to the airport because I really didn’t want to wait in this tiny reception, and at least there I would have all the facilities I need. So I arrived at the airport at about 6pm for my two am flight, I made good use of the time, managed to update my blog, had a beer, got my suitcase wrapped in cellophane which I had been advised to do given my destination and read my book. Finally at 11pm I checked my baggage in and went on the the gate.
I have enjoyed Australia enormously, although I have to say I have spent more money here than anywhere else so far. I think I have been eating out too much, and have paid for far more trips than I have anywhere else. But it’s only money and you can’t spend it when your dead. Next stop Bali, so hopefully that will be much cheaper, well everyone keeps telling me it is. See you in Ubud.
I suppose the first thing I should say if you haven’t already gathered is that I love trains and especially the romance of travelling long distance in what I would call old fashioned luxury. In the days of high speed travel today you have arrived almost without the journey. For me the journey is just as important. I have always wanted to go on the Orient Express but never felt I could justify the expense, although we did do a short dinner trip on one a few years ago. Anyway when planning and booking the Australian leg of my trip I came across the Indian Pacific which goes from Sydney to Perth via Adelaide and takes three days. There is another train too called the Ghan which goes from Darwin to Adelaide. So I thought for about five minutes and decided as my accommodation in Bali was so inexpensive that I could afford to splash out on the train. There are basically two levels of service on the train, Gold and Platinum but only the Gold service offers single occupancy so I didn’t have to worry about making the decision to spend money on the Platinum fare... thank goodness. Platinum gives you a much bigger cabin and cabin service if you desire it. Anyway more about the train in a minute or two.
I had been to the hairdressers and was quite smartly dressed having managed to get into a lovely pair of cream striped trousers which now fit me and a blue top. I arrived at the Australian Centre for wine just after five pm and was checked in by the team there. They took my baggage and all I had to worry about was my handbag, assuring me that my rucksack would be in my cabin and my main case would go into general luggage. I had had a moment a couple of days previous to this when I was reading through the information that I couldn’t take all my luggage into my cabin, and the way my packing was configured I didn’t know how I was going to manage that. How could I put my dresses, because I was sure we would be dressing for dinner, into my rucksack along with everything else I needed for two nights on board. I had actually dashed off to the local shopping centre in Marion to see if I could buy a suit carrier. When I got there it was a Westfield Shopping Centre, it was just like being at home. I failed in my mission, but in wondering around I manage to work out in my head how I could configure my packing. I did however buy some makeup and a lock for my suitcase, a necessity for travel to Bali I had been told, and got my eyebrows done!
Anyway back to the Australian Centre for wine. We were escorted into a very large dining area and there was wine to taste and canopies. I sat down at a table quite near the door and was sitting next to an English couple one side, from up north, and a couple from Adelaide on the other. We also had a mother and daughter who were in Platinum, both grown ups I might add and a mother, father and daughter, also all grown ups, the parents live in NZ and daughter lives in Perth. The wine flowed and flowed and the dinner was delicious and there was a cute young man singing and playing the guitar for us. Eventually they told us it was time to get ready to go, we were put on the coach and driven to the station, which wasn’t the main Adelaide station. The people who had joined the train at Sydney had been out on various tours and then for dinner. The young man was singing to us again whilst we waited in the waiting room and were given the opportunity to buy souvenirs. Then we were told it was time to board and all the newbies were directed to their coaches and cabins. It was I must say much cosier than I expected. It had a single seat and a table and a footstool on the other side, a small wardrobe and a little sink in the corner. A young lady called Wednesday explained everything to us individually. Our corridor was in the middle and was a funny bendy shape, a bit like a child might draw a snake or a worm, or maybe not. With compartments on both sides, offset so you didn’t see right into the one which was sort of opposite when you opened your door. We shared two toilets at one end of our carriage and two shower rooms with toilets and sinks at the other. The shower rooms were bigger than the bedrooms, and certainly we won out in comparison to the people with double cabins which were en suite and tiny. I was a little worried about not being able to access facilities and bumping into people in the night, but actually it was completely fine. So having got us all plastered at dinner, they put our beds down and it was an early night for us. I was really tired and thought I would drop off straight away. But no, it took me a good two maybe three hours to finally get to sleep and then I woke up a couple of times, once the train was just stopped and silent which was a bit strange. The bed was I must say very comfortable but when you got out of bed you didn’t have much room to manoeuvre, I suppose the only way to decide it is standing room only.
They started waking people up at 6am, not quite sure what the logic behind that was, anyway breakfast was in the Queen Adelaide Dining Car and I had to walk past three carriages of double cabins and then through the bar to get to it. We had our own restaurant manager, and she had to fit us all in somehow or other as the dining car isn’t big enough for everyone. Meal times were usually over a one and a half to two hour slot. There were three or four options for breakfast and I went with the full breakfast, it had baked beans but I didn’t particularly like them and spinach which I usually love but again I wasn’t impressed. I am not moaning by the way, just stating facts. I was sitting with a man and his wife and another single lady who didn’t say a word. It took a bit to get the conversation going but eventually we got started. Breakfast over I went back to my room which had been converted back into a day cabin. I did a bit of writing, I decided I had better make use of the mornings that way, before the drinks started flowing at lunch time, after all it was a free bar and from what I had seen so far people were taking advantage of that, well why not, it cost enough.
So significant progress made on the writing it was time to head back to the lounge for pre lunch drinks. The scenery so far had been pretty red and mainly sand dunes. We were told we were going on the longest piece of straight track in Australia, and that the ground would change as we did. And it certainly did, it was another of those moments where every thing changes in an instant, it became flat and more like scrubland. And you could now see for miles and miles. We got to a place called Cook where we stopped for a look around whilst they fed and watered the train and changed the crew Only four people live in Cook now, once the railways were privatised they stopped mainline trains running on that line and the town just closed down. Now there is only this train there and back, that’s twice a week and a large number of freight trains. The village is all still standing there. Empty school, empty houses. Train drivers often stay over night too some houses are used for that. I think we had at least three changes of train crew for the whole journey from Sydney to Perth. We were trying to imagine what it would be like living there, four of you, in the middle of nowhere in all that heat. Admittedly it was summer whilst we were there, so it was really hot, and I couldn’t stay out there for too long, I took a quick hike out and back. It was windy too, lost my hat a couple of times and had to go chasing after it. There were quite a few trees around and the story goes that they decided to plant a large number off trees to prove they would grow in this climate. They erected a stone to celebrate their achievement and many of the trees are indeed still there.
By this time I had started chatting with the couple from New Zealand, Liz and Dave and their daughter Pippa and another single John. We had an enjoyable lunch together and I was quite relieved that lunch was quite light. I was a little worried that it was going to be three courses every meal time. The rumour was that we were getting off the train in the evening for dinner, it was billed as dinner in Rawlinna on our timetable. It’s a railway station by the biggest sheep station in Australia. I had decided I was getting dressed for dinner regardless, Pippa agreed too and the lady who was in the cabin opposite me was also up for dressing for dinner.
One of the funniest things about the trip is because Perth is three hours behind Sydney, they get everyone to change time on their watches in stages. They call it train time. As if it’s not confusing enough. They announce the changes on the intercom but if you are in the dining car you don’t hear the announcements. So we had to change time before we went to bed on the first night and then again the following day. Pippa was all dressed for dinner and she said something about the time and I said but it’s only 5, no she said it’s 6, no I said we had to turn our clocks back again. Oh dear no wonder you weren’t rushing off to get dressed and I have started drinking too early was her response. Anyway the three of us went to get dressed and finish our evening preparations and when we came back into the carriage some of the men were passing comment, wolf whistle type stuff, all taken in good humour, but we were the three best dressed women in the carriage. We had by now arrived at Rawlinna and the staff were busy outside laying the tables for dinner. There were a lot of tables. I should really explain at this point that the train was laid out in such a way that there were a number of carriages for one gold service so we were carriages H,I,J and K plus lounge and dining car. Next to us were three carriages of Platinum beyond that another set of gold, beyond that more platinum and so on in both directions. I think we worked out that there were five sets of Gold and at least two Platinum. I didn’t actually count the carriages, but the train did seem to go on forever. So all these people were being fed outside on a train platform, on bench tables seating eight. As they starting laying the tables, it started to spot with rain. Wednesday went out at one point and lost her hat in the wind and then lost her shoe chasing for her hat. I can report that both were successfully retrieved. She told us afterwards that the hats are very expensive and that was her priority, when the shoe fell off she was going for the hat no matter what.
We were wondering if dinner outside was actually going to happen especially when serviettes started flying in the air as well. We heard later that it was touch and go, but the forecast said the rain would hold off so they decided to go ahead with it. Our young musician was set up outside ready to play as well. Finally we were invited out to take a seat. Around 6:30. Despite the fact it was threatening to rain it was still baking hot. We found a table nearby and were also joined by another couple and John from Enfield who was by now part of our party as well. We were wondering how they were going to serve dinner, which was roast lamb, very appropriate for a sheep station. They eventually brought platters to each table for us to help ourselves. It was very good and extremely well orchestrated. Pudding was a bit strange, I took one bite and decided not to bother, I think it was an Australian standard. Too sweet for me, not sweet enough for John. By now we had a beautiful sunset which was being hidden behind the train we had fairy lights lighting up the whole area and then lightening started. No thunder though, thank goodness, but the sky was being lit up with amazing bolts of lightening. It was a fantastic sight and an amazing atmosphere I have to say. Seeing everyone on the platform like this gave you a much better idea of how many people were on the train. The way they had it sectioned off was really good because you were able to get to know a few people. If there had been say four dining cars in a row you would have not seen the same people and would be starting from scratch every time. It made it a far more intimate affair. I became know as the woman who was travelling the world on her own, what on your own? Back to the lounge after dinner and I am sorry to have to report that Pippa, John, Dave and I were the last men standing in the bar. Needless to say we were having lots of fun, and when the staff finally disappeared and said to call them if we wanted anything else we thought it probably time to call it a day.
Off to bed finally about 11:30 and I am happy to report I was able to sleep, I think I woke up once only. Talking the day before to people it seems that the first night on board for most people was a difficult one, in fact just about everyone I spoke to said they barely slept the first night.
The following day followed pretty much the same pattern, up early, breakfast. I went back to my cabin and got a good couple of hours writing in and then back to the lounge for pre lunch drinks. Followed by lunch. I was chatting to John over lunch, and it transpired that he had been in the hotel around the corner from me in Melbourne and had been to watch the whole of the test match. Then he had been in a bit of a mission following up some ancestral hunting done by his sister previously, tracking down a relative of his, a great uncle I think, who had come to Australia and done very well for himself. He had managed to find his grave, and seen statues of him if the town where he had become Mayor. What a fantastic journey that had been and then he caught the train from Adelaide. We all have our own agendas on these jaunts. We both agreed that we would come back in the future and do the Ghan. Not together though. It was during the afternoon that we were all talking about the Art Gallery in Adelaide and we had a big discussion about the horses. Dave thought there was a foal in there too, but I didn’t see that. We all agreed it was very strange. We were also talking about the miniature models and how gruesome they were. That was when I discovered that the gallery rooms were set out in themes.
The scenery had slowly been changing as we started to approach civilisation again after the miles and miles of barren land. All trying to spot wild animals. I didn’t see any kangaroos but I saw some emus and plenty of sheep, a few cows but no sheep at the sheep station. We had our last few drinks together with promises to keep in touch and then arrived at Perth station and went our separate ways. Was it worth the expense, absolutely, I am a real pushover when it comes to trains. I really must consider the possibility of the Orient Express, maybe I can work for six months to save up for it if I am still employable! That might be a bit doubtful.
Perth adventure coming up, can five weeks in Australia be over so soon. Surely not! See you there.
Another early start, the airport was a local and domestic one rather than the main airport and quite a distance from Melbourne. I was advised it could take an hour in the early morning, and was told I should be there two hours before. Uber arrived and loaded off we set, there was no traffic and it took about 35 minutes. I arrived to a virtually empty airport and no one even on the checkin desks. It wasn’t even 7am and I could probably have had another hour in bed. There were about four other people already there when I arrived and I joined them in the paltry, well to be honest, non existent seating area. I had to sit in one of those massage chairs. Seven o’clock struck and staff started to man security and the desk and passengers started to arrive. I was already checked in so got into the queue and got rid of my baggage. I then went through security, they put my bag through twice but didn’t search it, strange I thought, afterwards I realised I had gone through with a bottle of water, what can I say!
The departure lounge was fairly empty and I ordered some breakfast and found a seat, which wasn’t too difficult under the circumstances. The airport started to fill a little. I was travelling with Jetstar, the cheap subsidiary of Qantas. I had heard several times on my travels that’s they were terrible from a service perspective and you had to pay for everything on board. This is clearly new to Australia as a concept, we have been living with it for years. Anyway eventually we board and take off. The flight was only an hour and as I was up so early thought I would get a bit of shut eye, well at least try to. I was in the window seat and the stewardess starting addressing me by my name, I opened my eyes and she said, sorry to disturb you but you have a complementary 10 dollar voucher, would you like to choose something from menu. I can only assume that somehow this was because this was part of my round the world ticket, but really have no idea. I should have asked, but didn’t so we will never know will we.
The flight was only just over an hour and the clocks moved by half an hour, this really confused my, I haven’t experienced a half hour change in time ever before, oh well. My landlady at the next AirBNB said I could turn up whenever I wanted to, which meant I was able to just jump into an Uber and go straight there. Always a releif when it’s an early arrival, that I don’t have to try and find a way to fill my day with a load of luggage. Below are some photos of Adelaide taken from the plane and one of the tiny departure lounge at the airport. I think there are only two gates.
I was soon settled into my room and we had the cricket on so that I could follow the test match after watching the day before. I have discovered that the Boxing Day test match is an institution and whenever I mention I went to it people say oh brilliant, we usually go, or we always went with my father, or I was there too. The Australians clearly are cricket mad it’s on the television all the time. I should, also mention there is a lot of other sport on as well. My landlady suggested I go for a tour of the Adelaide cricket ground, called the Oval, what a surprise, during my research on the Adelaide oval I discovered that there are Oval cricket grounds all over the country. I found one in Fremantle this week too.
Anyway I have to admit at this point I wasn’t feeling too well, I had a sore throat at the cricket match and by now I was feeling a little worse. I went to the local supermarket which was pretty awful I have to say and got one or two things, it was probably one of the most uninspiring places I have had the misfortune to shop in since I have been travelling. I actually got a frozen pizza for my dinner. That was a first. There was another couple staying there as well. So after everyone had done their cooking I did my pizza and felt throughly ashamed I have to say. It was pretty awful too. So it wasn’t long before I had excused myself and took to my bed. Then the coughing started. For most of this week I would just about be feeling human by the afternoon and then I was awake during the night coughing, horrible, I did get some cough medicine from the chemist and that helped. All I could think about was that I was going on the Indian Pacific train journey and I was going to be in a little cabin and I did not want to be ill for that.
The next day I wandered into town, got myself a bus pass and found the bus station where I had to be picked up for the wine tasting outing I had booked. I then went for a wander and I passed Chinatown and then the main shopping area. I found the art gallery and went in. It was 4:30 by now and it closed at 5:30 so it was a bit of a whistle stop tour. Of all the galleries I had been too this one gave me the least pleasure. I found it quite muddled. It transpired, I found out later, that it was organised by mood and I had not spotted that. I did see some good pieces though and photos below. There were a couple of pieces I would like to talk about, the first of which I didn’t take a photograph of, because I simply could not bring myself to. The piece was made of two horses, they were headless and their bodies arranged in such away that they were vertical with one placed upside down to the other and they were interlocked in a way. I love art but I found this piece really macabre, I don’t know what it was about it, but I really did not like it at all. However it is still in my head and when I was on the train we had a big conversation about it because other people had seen it too. Maybe I should have taken the photograph as it seems I am not going to be able to get it out of my head.
The other piece I wanted to mention was in the same room, I did take some photos of this, well there were two of them. They were models and a photograph of one of the models doesn’t tell the story. It’s the detail. Minute figures, I am not going to say anymore, you can see for yourself. In the close up photographs. I couldn’t imagine the amount of work that must have gone into these pieces and again they were extremely macabre but I thought they were amazing.
When I came out of the art gallery it was raining a little so I waited a while and then decided to go and get something to eat at Jamie’s Italian which I had spotted nearby earlier and yes he’s here too. I was quite early, so didn’t think there would be a problem, but they told me they were fully booked and then agreed to put me at one of the counters to eat. That was fine by me, so I had a good view of all the people coming in for dinner and the place did fill up quite quickly. The food was welcome, nice bit of fish and heritage tomato salad. I took my leave and then managed to find my way to the bus stop to get home. But I must first tell you that I when I was waiting for my bus there was a youngish man across the road, the streets are very wide so difficult to guess his age. He was screaming the F word at a couple of younger men at the bus stop, continuously for about five minutes, I have no idea what it was about but I found it quite disconcerting. Eventually the others got on a bus, which must have been why they didn’t just walk away. Then he sat there for a minute or two and someone spoke to him and he walked off. More on that later.
The following day I was booked on the morning tour of the oval and I am going to admit here that I managed to get myself lost, well not lost exactly, I was going to the Oval and the was a Southgate on the map on google, which was where I had to go in. When I got there I was at some local Oval. I couldn’t believe it, I had been using the bus app to find the way and clearly just got it completely wrong. It was a cricket ground, but that was all really. What a shambles. I rang them up and said I wasn’t going to make it because I had gone to the wrong place and asked if I could go on the afternoon one instead, he had a little chuckle and said of course. This is one of the reasons I know there are a lot of ovals....
So I got to the correct address and discovered a whole area that I hadn’t spotted the day before which was was cross the river. They are developing an Arts Centre and the Theatre was there too. I had seen that the musical the Rocky Horror show advertised all over the place. I went to see if I could get a ticket, Craig McLaclan was starring in the show, and it was only on for two weeks. I got a ticket for the following Tuesday night and then had a glass of wine and a lovely beetroot salad in the bar. The theatre had just reopened the day before following refurbishment and it was very plush, the carpets were so new I almost bounced along on it. The barman didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but in this instance it was almost comical. He apologised for his inept behaviour and one of the women also behind the bar said Read into that its only day two! We both had a bit of a laugh, it was so obvious. The chef was coming out and telling him how to serve me my salad. Yes chef !
Anyway some pictures of the area, with its new very expensive footbridge linking the cricket ground to the festival centre and the station. This bridge has water running off the end of it. Very picturesque.
Refreshed it was time to make my way across to the real Oval. I went to collect my credentials and the young man who I had spoken to in the morning said, oh you managed to find us then, ha ha, yes I did I said, that will teach me to trust Google . I think it was because I wasn’t very well therefore not finding on all cylinders, that is my excuse.
The tour was absolutely fascinating, there has been a complete redevelopment of the facility in the last few years, with new stands and new facilities. We were taken behind the scenes and went into the area which Audi uses for hosting events, complete with a car in the area. They also have seats in the stands. It is on the second floor I think and they get the car in through a special window which has to be removed. Then it has to be lifted down to the floor below and the doors removed so it can be taken out. Apparently one day a man said he wanted to buy the car, and Audi said certainly sir we can order one for you, but the man said, no I want that one. So they obliged, that will have added to their cost of sale.
The cricket ground has an old scoreboard which is a listed structure and still fully working. When matches are on, both football and cricket, it is used alongside the big digital display. I should mention that the ground is shared equally by football and cricket. There is I think quite a bit of tension between the two sports as well. Anyway back to the scoreboard. It is operated internally by levers, pulleys and handles. All the names are made up of individual letters a bit like an old printing press, and at half time they swap them all around. We were being allowed inside to look, but the Adelaide women were playing that day so we had to be completely silent in there as they were working and we were only allowed in four at a time. They watch the game through holes and are able to recognise all the players even from that distance. The main watcher recognises people by things like the way he wears his hat, the colour of the soles of his shoes. It was absolutely wonderful to watch. The funniest thing about it though was that we were all asking questions about how it worked and people were asking if you could get an apprenticeship to do it and work your way up in the organisation from there. Our guide who was quite humorous kept a straight face and answered it was certainly a possibility but it wasn’t a full time job, as cricket wasn’t played all day everyday. When I actually got inside I realised that he must have been having quite a laugh to himself, the two men I saw were about 70 with white hair. They need four altogether to run the scoreboard and the other two were upstairs and we were not allowed up there. The digital scoreboard is run by an outsourced organisation and they have programs which change words all around the pitch and stats are put up on the board, we all know the sorts of things that technology can do. They probably have one person running it, maybe they even run it remotely. Of course it will cost a lot of money to set up, but I am sure most of it is standard software. Then there are these four guys watching the match, lighting lights, changing scores, changing names on the scoreboard all manually. I did wonder what will happen when they die. There didn’t seem to be any succession planning in place.
Walking over the bridge back from the Cricket I was approached by a young man and I realised quite quickly that it was the guy from the bus stop incident the other day. I was in the same area. He was clearly high and giving me some load of bullshit which was clearly leading to asking for money. I was extremely polite and then he saw someone going in the opposite direction who he clearly thought would be a better bet than I was. Phew I thought. I was off to check out a hairdresser so carried on walking down the road. A few minutes later I heard this man shouting from across the road. I looked across, he was an aborigine, and the man he was shouting at was my new best friend who was now just behind me and had started to run for his life past me. The man on the other side of the road was trying to cross a road full of traffic desperate to catch this guy. It was comical to watch but a bit scary to I have to say.
I found the hairdresser I was looking for and made an appointment for the day I was catching the train. Even though I had coloured my own hair, there was still a lot of white, but it wasn’t just that, I felt that all the layers the last hairdresser had cut into it were making it look a real mess so had decided to get it coloured and tidied up. This time I wanted to go somewhere which had good feedback not just the first hairdresser I came across. In my defence, she says, why am I defending my need for a hair cut, it had been something like eight weeks so it was due. From there I went to china town for some dinner, I didn’t intend to go there but ended up there as I couldn’t find anywhere else I wanted to go on the way. I am starting to realise I spend a lot of time walking past places, indecisive as to where to go, but other times my decisions are instantaneous. Funny woman that I am. It was a little early for dinner and I found where I was going to eat, having walked passed lots of places. There was a bar next door and I got myself a glass of wine and went to sit outside. I don’t know what it was about me this particular day but a drunk came to sit a a high table near to my low table, he could barely carry his drink, was wearing Ugg boots and had his arm bandaged, his chat up line was I like your shoes. He was from Liverpool, single, looking after his Dad you had had a stroke and was lonely oh and did I mention he could barely stand. Again I was trying to be polite, then he came and sat at my table, my queue to get out of there pdq, bye then. I am off for dinner now. Straight into the restaurant next door, no I didn’t want to sit outside thanks, no I don’t want to sit in the window, back here somewhere will do. I haven’t been approached in all the time I have been away and suddenly two men under the influence of something or other in one day. Deep joy.
The next day was given over to a beauty appointment in Brighton, yes Brighton. I caught the train, just like being at home really. The station before Brighton was Hove, good to see they are still together in Australia, would be awful if they were separated after all these years wouldn’t it .
I will mention at this point though even though it’s next week that Scarborough in Western Australia is in the city of Stirling, moved north quite a bit! I can’t help it, having lived all over the U.K. and travelled a lot of it as well, I find it amusing to have twins and cities displaced.
Anyway I had a wonderful chat with the lady in the beauticians, she was one of the people who was talking to me about women sofa surfing upon the breakdown of their marriages. We talked about Mr Trump and Brexit and Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and much much more. It’s just great when you meet a complete stranger and can have such a big conversation. She gives back by supporting women in shelters, not that there are enough of them. There are not enough of them anywhere. Watching TV a bit today there was a section of #me too. Interestingly Craig McLaclan has had to step down from his role in the Rocky Horror show after allegations of sexual abuse which he completely denied, stating these women were lying. He also stars in a TV program called Dr Blake Mysteries and this has been put on hold too and more allegations about him have come from that show. #Me too is going to keep on rolling it is cropping up in conversation a lot on TV here. Oh by the way #me too.
After beauty came lunch and the beach, except lunch became a very long drawn out affair due to the Fawlty Towers nature of the cafe I chose to eat in. It took them an hour to deliver to me a plate of mussels, they gave the last portion, my portion to someone who ordered after me and I had to wait for more to be delivered from the fishmonger who was only five minutes away. Free glass of wine and reduction in the size of the bill, but I really would prefer to have service as it should be. I know what sort of trouble I would be in if I delivered my services they way some of these places deliver theirs. This time it was Manuel’s fault, he was new and gave my mussels to the wrong person. But actually I saw him ask the more senior waitress and that’s what she told him to do. She was having a hissy fit because the boss had given her something to do that she didn’t want to do. As for the boss she had to go and apologise to so many people, so she was obviously running a very tight ship. It’s fun people watching.
Then the beach, which by now was only really going to be for an hour or so, but it was quite nice, good to see Brighton got rid of all those awful pebbles.
The next day I was off to wine tasting in the Barossa Valley. The day got off to a bad start because I couldn’t find my house key. I had done a bit of shopping in Brighton and gone straight to the fridge to put it away, and was sure I had put my key down there. I was still quite poorly so clearly hadn’t thought about it when I went to bed. So I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it but knew I had come in with it. So I asked the landlord and he got me a spare as I had to catch the tram. That was the other problem, I had checked on the route to the bus station the day before and even remembered putting in the following day arrival time into the app. But when I checked that morning, no buses only the tram and the tram was quite a long walk. So I set off but just missed it by a minute, the next one wasn’t going to be for 20 minutes and I wouldn’t get there in time, so I ordered an Uber. It kept saying it was a minute away, finally I realised that it was on the other side of the tram tracks. I just got to him before he abandoned me. In the mean time the next tram had come in. Nightmare morning, I was gong to need plenty of wine to get over this.
I got to the bus station in time, and we had a long drive out to the first of two stops, which was a winery called Seppeltsfield. we were taken in for a tasting, these days they specialise in fortified wines but supply many wines to other companies. I bought a nice port, it reminded me of Madeira and all the fortified wines we drank there. The winery production area was built on a hill so that everything just flowed down from one production point to the next. It is a unique production plant. This winery had been privately owned for many years and had eventually been bought out by a corporate but was now back in private ownership. They were letting out parts of their buildings to other small outlets and were concentrating on their fortified wines. They still make wines too but they sell it on within the wine industry. It was a beautiful setting and is also know for all the palm trees which were planted on the road side approaches. It was founded by German immigrants who farmed something else, and couldn’t do that so started a wine business instead.
Then off to Wolf Blass, we passed Penfolds on the way. Most of these wineries are now owned by big corporations, including Wolf Blass, another German immigrant, but his winery is full of him, and apparently even though he is in his eighties he is still very active in the industry. We had a wine tasting there and then went in for lunch which was excellent. I had opted for the steak and of course there was more wine tasting with lunch. I bought myself a nice bottle of sparkling rose, shame I couldn’t have bought more, but traveling light and they don’t deliver to England free of charge. I have to admit that even on the way there I was having a problem keeping my eyes open. We then had to drive for two hours to get to the town of Hafndorf which was established by German immigrants. A cute town which was clearly different in its architecture. By now I was really ready to go home, there were lots of shops, I had a walk up and down the Main Street but when you are not buying things shopping becomes very boring, not that I am ever that excited by the prospect. I settled for a beer in one of the bars. Then back to the coach at the appointed time and the drive back to Adelaide. I made my way home and was met there by the other couple who were staying there and we had a glass of wine to celebrate the new year, yes it’s New Years Eve already.
New Year’s Day, the first day of 2018, my plan was to spend it writing which is pretty much what I did. I think I have mentioned before that I get behind when I spend time with people and then it starts to become daunting if I have a few chapters to write. I have to take care not to try and rush it because then I forget to talk about some of the things that I want to mention. I am thoroughly enjoying the process once I start and there is a lot I want to write about. I am planning when I arrive in Bali to change the tempo of my trip and I hope to be able to settle into the writing of my story which I have promised to do.
The following day I walked into Glenelg which is a seaside area. Adelaide used to have a great tram system which was mainly dismantled some years ago and replaced by buses. The only tram line to remain is the one into Glenelg and it has a cycle and walking path along side it, so I walked along this path to the seaside. There has been a big furore going on in Adelaide because they have closed some of the main roads from today to extend the tram track. Everyone is up in arms, bus routes have changed, bus stops have changed, but I suppose if they are going to do it no time is a good time. I have received two text messages from the Theatre to tell me that the normal entry will not be accessible and I will need to use a different entry because of the road closures. Anyway back to the beach, good walk down there and then I found a lovely little seaside town, I went for a bite to eat and then wandered down to the beach. It wasn’t too busy, but none of the beaches are ever that full. I spent a happy couple of hours relaxing there and then needed to get a move on back because I was going to the Theatre. I had to put my best foot forward because I had to walk over 5kms. Then when I arrived and was ready I was trying to make sense of the buses and it turned out yet again I had picked up the wrong destination inadvertently. Leonie, my host, set me on the straight and narrow. I set off with not too much time to spare, and the road closures had of course affected my journey but I made it in time. The Theatre was buzzing with excitement and it looked like it was a full house. As for the performance it was ok, to be honest I thought it was a bit pedestrian and relied very much on the star to carry it. The music was too loud a lot of the time, drowning out the words. Don’t get me wrong I was glad I went, I had never seen it before, but I suppose I have been spoilt by the Theatre in London. Interestingly after Craig McLaclan stepped down I read one article in relation to #me too where an actress didn’t go for a role because of his reputation.
The next day was going to be my last full day so it was taken up with the usual housekeeping chores, washing, packing and writing and I spent time by the pool, yes there was a pool there. The fourth was the day I was going on the Indian Pacific train and I was very excited. I got up early and went for a bike ride on the track to Glenelg and back but had only done 8 Kms so continued in the opposite direction and in the end did over 13 Kms, a new personal best for me. I felt I could have gone on. My plan was to get a cab to the hairdressers and have lunch next door to the hairdressers. Then a cab to the Australian wine centre where we were to offload our luggage and had been invited to dinner before being taken by coach to the train station where we would be leaving from. The hairdresser was from Switzerland but lived most of his young life in Germany. He had worked for Vidal Sassoon in London and Toni and Guy, had worked for a high flying hairdressers In Los Angeles before coming to Australia. He had his own Toni and Guy salon for many years in Australia but when he had to move locations he decided to leave them and they have since lost their footprint in Australia. This was a huge salon and he was the only one working actively, there were a couple of others there but they spent most of their time in the back room. It was also a licensed premises so I was offered a glass of wine. Obviously it would have been rude to decline. They actually had optics up behind the counter. It was quite an experience all in all. He told me my hair had been cut to a point at the back, deep joy, and he agreed with me that the layers had made a mess of my hair. So he gave it a good tidy up and dried it really straight, which was a bit strange. Anyway job done I was feeling much better and off to dinner before my train journey.
I think the train journey really deserves a section of its own. I must first of all say though that I have enjoyed Adelaide enormously, it’s a lovely city, very different from the others I have visited so far. So thanks Adelaide for having me, I have enjoyed the people, the city and the beaches. Maybe see you again one day. So bye for now.
An early start to get to the station in Melbourne, usual mode of transport my Uber was ordered. This time I was taking a detour to drop another AirBNB’er at the Domestic airport which was en route. Seemed to make sense as we both needed to leave at the same time. There were lots of roadworks around the station so I got dropped off in the wrong place and ended up having to pull my luggage up an escalator to get to the city departure point, I was initially in the local area platforms. I was travelling First class and my information said I had to be there half an hour before to check my luggage in. I couldn’t see any signage for luggage check in so asked a member of staff who kindly escorted me to the check in area. The rules were two bags max of 40kilos. I have by now got my 23 kilos more or less off pat, and my back pack is full. The way the rules were written it was a 20 kilo limit but you could have two bags up to 40 overall. So I thought I would be ok. Oh how wrong could I be. This is 23 kilos. It’s too heavy, well I have this other bag, No said Mr Grumpy you will have to take stuff out and put it in your other bag. I can’t do that I said, there is no room, well you can’t check it in and anyway it’s too late now! Oh so what am I supposed to do then. Take it on the train with you, it’s on the platform right behind you. Phew for one minute I thought I was either going to have to leave it behind and or cart it all the way back across the station to another platform. Thanks for your help I said, I obviously meant every word of that as you can imagine, miserable old man he was.
My carriage wasn’t too far away and there was floor space on the luggage rack so I was ok, didn’t have to lift it or anything. I found my seat which was a window seat, very comfortable with a lot of leg room. Good window for viewing the bush..... a lady came along and into the seat next to me, she was travelling to Yass junction. I asked her did she live there and she explained she had a property in Sydney and made frequent visits there, but lived in Yass. Within minutes of meeting the laughter started. We just hit it off straight away which made for an extremely entertaining first few hours of the journey, swapping life stories and hearing about life in Australia. The first thing I noticed was my ticket said departure was at 07:32. Her ticket said 07:42. I said am I on the right train, she assured me I was and said it usually is timed to leave if 32 so she didn’t understand why she had 42 on her ticket. It was all pretty immaterial because it didn’t leave until well after 8, so there would have been time to put my overweight bag in the train. I am not moaning, honestly. We finally set off and then they announced that the train was running with only one locomotive and they were trying to repair the rear locomotive as we were travelling. But it meant we couldn’t go as fast, and as we had missed out slot we were also having to give way to other trains which were on time! The next announcement made me think I was back in England, because of the high temperature outside the rails are too hot, so we will only be able to travel at a maximum of 90 kph. By now it was clear that we weren’t going very fast and 90 would have been an improvement. As the day wore on the reported delay in arrival time got longer. They were unable to fix the locomotive. They informed us that when we arrive at Albery they had put on a replacement bus service for us, oh and there would be a free bottle of water available to us all on the bus. I am not sure what they thought they were achieving with that massive gesture of good will, but everyone was just taking the mickey out of them for it. The train was supposed to arrive at Albury at 15:11 and arrived at 18:00, nearly three hours late by this time. I was very fortunate because all I had to do was get a taxi to my hotel, a lot of people had connections which they had already missed, and one lady was travelling with her 90 year old mother and was wondering how she was going to get two more trains and if they would even be running by the time we got there. We got the the place where we had to change to a bus, and they had different buses going to different route to cover the stops and try and improve on the time it would take. But the reality was it was four hours on the bus to get to Melbourne with one other stop for us. No one had any mobile battery left by now with no means to charge anything on the bus and it was almost impossible to help people work out if they would be able to get a connection for the next part of the journey or not with batteries running low and the signal was very poor as well. On the train they led us to believe that the bus journey would only two and a half hours but it was four hours. We arrived at 10 pm. I really felt for the lady with her 90 year old mother. She hadn’t been able to contact her husband to get him to collect her and needed to charge her phone before she could do anything. A complete nightmare for her.
My hotel wasn’t far and I was installed in my room within 20 minutes of leaving the bus, and crawled into my great big comfortable bed, in my air conditioned room. A delight after the heat of Sydney. Sleep came pretty quickly that night. The next morning I went down to breakfast quite late and it was a buffet style, I had been persuaded to order the night before when I checked in as it was cheaper that way. I wish I hadn’t bothered to be honest, nothing worse than half cold buffet breakfast. That was the last one I had of those.
I went to the local 7 /11 to get my travel card and got a few bits I needed, work out they lay of the land, find the tram stop. The area was quite nice and there was a wonderful view from my bedroom window of Albert Park and the Golf course adjacent to it, the park had a big lake in it, so that was going to be a walking objective for one day. There were quite a lot of restaurants and cafes on the road running parallel behind the road my hotel was on. The city centre was in easy reach too on the tram which also ran on the road behind me, St Kilda’s Road.
I had arranged to meet my friend Gilda from my Fiji trip the following day and I was expecting her to call me to finalise the when and where. I decided to have my usual quiet day after travelling and did something I had never done before, I coloured my own hair. Blimey what a mess that was. First of all I had just got the stupid plastic gloves that they provided on when Gilda rang me. The phone would not left me answer with the gloves on and in getting one off I stretched one of the fingers completely out of shape. So having called Gilda back, getting back to the job in hand I eventually had to cut the end of the finger off and pull it onto my finger separately. Needless to say it kept falling off, it must have been a real comedy watching me do this. Anyway I finally accomplished it after a fashion. Then I thought I would have a nice soak in the bath. Well apart from the fact bath was not really long enough for a soak, the plug didn’t really fit in the plug hole so I had to keep putting my foot on it keep the water in. I think you get the drift that this wasn’t turning out to be quite the relaxing day I had planned.
Anyway I watched some tv and had a room service dinner which was ok and an early night, Gilda was getting a lift in from her son and was going to be at the hotel at 7:30am.
So the next morning I was down stairs at the appointed time and there she was. We spent an hour or so sitting outside by the pool, and then went out to find some breakfast. I thought we would try one of the little cafes I had spotted the day before, and we had a lovely freshly cooked breakfast of eggs on toast and a great coffee. After this we went into the city and had decided we would go to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. We got off the tram and went into the Arts centre to see if there was anything I could get tickets for whilst I was there. Yet again I was thwarted. There was nothing on, I was quite disappointed because I had seen an musical about Bobby Darrin advertised but it didn’t start until the day after I left. Oh well we thought we better get moving, and eventually found our way to the Art Gallery which was slightly off the beaten track, so we asked someone who was giving out information and we got a map too which helped.
When we got there it was an exhibition about the emancipation of women. It was brilliant. It wasn’t a very big gallery but there were some amazing pieces, including one which was made up of all the words from banners from a recent march about women’s rights, after the lovely Mr Trump was elected. I think this happened simultaneously all over the world. It is quite disturbing how little progress we have made in my life time even. I was discussing this with Becky when in Brisbane and I told her that I had been asked at work to talk about my career to some groups of women. It was a really interesting exercise to look back at my life and see my journey so far. Becky said she really wanted to read my story, so I have agreed to write it up and put it in here. Perhaps other women will write their story too. I have been quite shocked to hear that a lot of women in Australia are finding themselves homeless as a result of their marriages breaking down, they have been housewives and have no skills that they can take to the market place, have no money and end up sofa surfing at friends houses. This has come up in general conversation a number times and not only with women. I met a woman recently who is virtually homeless as a result of her marriage breakdown, so it is very real here. But is not something I am aware of in the same way in the U.K. but I could be completely wrong. This is a topic in its own right and something I do want to research more and write about later in my journey, both the physical journey and the journey into the rest of my life.
I do consider myself very fortunate at this point to be able to travel and take this journey of a lifetime, but it’s not just fortune, it has been years of hard work which was as a result of finding myself single again at the age of 28. I joke about it being 48 years of hard labour, but in reality it was a labour of love brought about by necessity.
Anyway back to the girls day out in Melbourne, one of the reasons Gilda and I hit it off is because we have both had to provide for our families and bring them up, those sorts of common basics in life make for a good friendship to build very quickly. We went next door for some lunch at the bar connected to the Malthouse Theatre and then we went back to the South Bank and had a wander down the river bank. The weather was beautiful and of course the bars were full of people having the Christmas drinks, everywhere was packed. We stopped somewhere for a coffee and then made our way back to the hotel and Gilda’s son came to pick her up. They were off to Brisbane the next day for Christmas so we said out goodbyes and promised to catch up in Lytham St Anne’s or somewhere more exotic next year. It seems that Gilda has the travel bug too and will be off again somewhere else soon after arrival home. I definitely understand that after being on the road for over three months at this point.
I had dinner in the hotel that night and was interrupted by a message from a friend asking if I was ok and then a call from my son. This was the day that the car drove into a tram stop in Melbourne. We had been very close to the incident and had left a few minutes before the stopped the trams so were completely oblivious. I did notice a lot of helicopter actitity but there are at least two helipads on the river bank and probably more elsewhere. We were same but many injured, it’s really difficult to understand why people take this action against their fellow man.
I took to going to the same cafe every morning for breakfast, and taking my iPad to write a little. They had good WiFi there which was more then could be said for the hotel. It was impossible to get anything published and I wasted half a day trying to upload photographs there and then everything hung and I had to use the hotel computer to sort it all out. I complained so they gave me the premium service free of charge. What a joke that was, no different at all. They still didn’t do anything about it. Blamed their supplier, that’s a familiar story for those of us who have worked in IT. Anyway I enjoyed my breakfast at the little cafe every morning. Except they closed from Christmas Eve onwards so I had to get supplies of yoghurt and blueberries in for breakfast in my room.
The next day I went on a cruise on the River Yarra it was just a one hour cruise and the first part was under three very low bridges, the captain couldn’t talk at the same time as go under these bridges and he had to blow his horn, not quite sure why! There was a good view of the architecture of the city from the river and I have to say again that I really liked the architecture particularly the use of colour on the tall buildings. Needless to say river living has become the place to be here as well and the premium for living on the river was very high. They took us right out to the harbour and we saw some of the huge contTiner boats and the way the automed cranes were filling them at a rediculously high speed. We also saw the tug boats which can not only move forwards and backwards but sideways too, unbeleivable.
I went to a restaurant on the south bank for some dinner that day and there were birds flying in and out all the time, one perched on a girder above me and pooed on my head. Please will someone tell me that is a lucky omen. It seems to be an ongoing hazard in both New Zealand and Australia, no one except me seems to bat an eyelid.
The following day I did the red bus, which had two routes the seaside route and around the city and for once I did not take lots of photographs. I have to say though I was very lazy and didn’t get off the bus at any time. I was still enjoying the coloured buildings and learned that some of the designs and colours have specific meanings in relation to the city’s history. The city does have a real buzz about it. We stopped at the market which is absolutely huge and extremely vibrant and I must admit I was tempted to go and have a look, but shopping when you are not buying anything is a little boring to say the least. There is also a little Italy and the driver was saying that the Italian food there is better then in Italy. There was quite a lot of one upmanship in Melbourne. Everything is bigger and better than Sydney in particular. There are two big concrete pillars on one of the river bridges, they don’t actually do anything but they represent the gateway to Melbourne, and the are 91 feet tall, one foot taller than the two stantions on the Albert Bridge in Sydney. I am sure you get the idea.
The next day was Christmas Eve and I went to the National Gallery of Victoria, it looks quite bleak from the outside a large grey oblong shaped building, but at the doorway there is a window with water running down it, and behind it something in green which looks like the water is running down it, but when you get inside it’s actually a seating area. Very clever. There is a picture of it in the bottom left hand corner of the gallery above. I very much enjoyed my visit there. There was an outside garden which had some lovely pieces in, includung bean bags and places for people to lol about. The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was exhibiting here, I had seen her work in Brisbane. Here her work was a room where people could place Poppies. There was some lovely costumes and furniture. I was particularly taken by a section on recycling computers to make office furniture and I loved a cabinet made out of old CPUs. I reached saturation point before I saw it all, I usually find this, I can only look at so much. So set off for the Gardens.
The gardens were across the road from the gallery and there were three different areas, the Kings Domain, the Shine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanical Gardens. I walked through the Kings Domain first and found some water to sit by. I saw a family of ducks. dad got out first followed by mum and then the babies and they went wandering off across the path. The Domain was very pretty I thought and I didn’t even realise I hadn’t yet made it to the Botanic gardens. There were lots of people arriving in preparation for the annual televised Carol concert which was taking place in the Domain. Before circumnavigating that I went to see the display which was a floral clock. I was taking photographs and noticed one plant which was the wrong colour.
I then walked towards the rehearsal area where lots of children were penned in with their parents in the baking heat, rather them than me I thought, and all the musicians were making there way into the area. Bypassing that I made my way into the Botanical Gardens, which were quite lovely. There was an area of water and I saw a punt but didn’t managed to catch it with my lens, in other words it took me too long to get my phone ready. Families were picnicking everywhere, it’s something I find again and again all these beautiful open spaces being used to the full by families and friends. Very heartening and a different way of life because of the weather.
I then made my way back to the road to get the tram back to the hotel, and found the Shrine of Remembrance on my way. I found a little enclosed space at the back and spent a few minutes in there, it was extremely peaceful and very beautiful in a simplistic way.
So finally it was Christmas Day, I planned to take it easy, I went for a long walk around the lake I could see from my bedroom window, it was a good 8 kilometres, people were barbecuing wearing their Christmas hats, groups of families and friends. It was lovely, and all the swans were black, they are so rare in England. They were all tagged as well. I spent the day watching Netflix and drinking wine, and talked to almost all my family in the evening. It was really nice to have a stress free Christmas Day, no cooking.... or cleaning up. But of course it heightens the feeling of being so far away.
The next day was Cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Ashes, fourth test. Australia had already won the first three, and therefore the Ashes, but with two more tests to go England obviously had to work hard to save some face. I set off early as the gates opened at nine even though the Cricket didn’t start until 10:30. I think I have explained already that my Father was a big cricket fan, and my brothers are too, so I was there to represent them all. I found myself a seat next to an Australian gentleman, we had a lovely day together talking about the cricket and about life, I missed the first wicket, Australia were batting, but there were two more and England did well not to let them get too many runs in the first day. The Barmy Army were in full voice in the afternoon. Someone was trying to get a Mexican Wave going and every time it got to the Melbourne Cricket ground club stand it just died and everyone booed. At the end of the test it was a draw. We were quite high in the stand and protected from the sun for most of the day. But it started to get warm about 4:30 and my companion left first. He thanked me for a great day, hr actually said I made the day for him which was very nice of him I have to say. So clearly I fit into the cricket world! It got to about 5:30 and I could feel my face and knees burning. So time for me to go. It was great to be there on whatbin Australia is clearly a hugely important day in their calendar.
Next morning was an early start as I was flying to Adelaide, I had really enjoyed my time in Melbourne, a beautiful and vibrant city, I would definitely visit again. Bye Melbourne signing off now.
Having said my goodbyes to everyone including the lovely Bear, I set off in my little white Hyundai for Sydney some 900 plus kilometres. I was a little later setting off than I intended, I don’t know why, probably enjoying me freedom before two days driving in my little car. But before I leave Brisbane entirely I must mention the birds. Becky and Shannon have a big garden and it is full of birds everything from cockatoos to the Australian magpie which is much more black and white than the English version. In England we talk about the dawn chorus, but believe me you haven’t heard anything until you have been woken up at five am with this lot in full voice, what a racket. No lie ins possible there until you get used to that. So that wasn’t my reason for being so slow that morning!
Anyway I loaded my car and as I was leaving I could see Bear watching me go from under the back gate, so sweet I could easily have dog knapped him. The route took me out through the centre of Brisbane so I was driving on all the roads I had been looking at when walking in the bank of the river, there is a sort of highway built alongside the river bank and it looks very impressive from the opposite side. Once in the centre it was five lanes, and as we left the metropolis it became four then three then two and eventually a single lane carriage way. The road is called the Pacific Highway and I was looking forward to seeing the Pacific. How wrong could I be! All I could see was bush, sometimes the bush was even in between the carriageways. It was still very scenic though and I enjoyed the drive. I was going to stop at some services but I missed my chance, I hadn’t distinguished between a sign which genuinely meant a service area and a sign pointing to amenities in a small town often some way off the main road. So I went on a few wild goose chases looking for something decent for lunch and eventually settling for an ice cream and a bottle of water and a bag of crisps from some shop at a camp site. Oh well you live and learn.
I had booked a night stopover at Coffs Harbour and towards late afternoon started to make my way from the main road down the this coastal town. Before I talk about that I must mention that there is a huge project going on rebuilding the Pacific Highway so there were lots of roadworks all the way long the route. At first I didn’t really understand the scale of what was being done. Obviously they are increasing the number of lanes which is generally one or two. There were often signs about flooding and in areas where there were big rivers or bodies of water and a lot of these roads where being raised significantly to overcome these issues. I went over one bridge where they were building new bridge alongside the current one and they had most of the pillars in the water, at its apex it was at least twice as high as the bridge I was on. The other thing about the roadworks was that once you got off the main road, there were more roadworks related to the same project elsewhere so it was as if the road is being completely rerouted in places. There were also lots of entrances and exits for working vehicles to the roadworks which seemed to be miles from the roadworks themselves. I would have loved to have see the overall plan and how it all fitted together.
As well as travelling through the bush, I was staggered by the sheer size of some of the rivers I crossed, and the enormous bodies of water which there were, the beauty of these areas was fabulous, really you need about a week to really explore this whole route. I suppose this journey started to give me a feel for the size and scale of the country. When you consider in New Zealand you can take a train from Auckland to Wellington in a day, all right that is not the full length of the island because you have the northern area as well, but here it was taking me two days to get from one city to the next. Much more like America, but you look at America on a map and you can see the scale more, you might not appreciate it completely until you travel some of it. But in Australia you don’t really get the scale until you are here, and there is so much of it which is just bush. I am sitting on a train as I write this and all I can see is bush, mile after mile. And it was the same for this car journey. Bush with a bit of water thrown in, just going on forever.
Anyway back to the journey as I made my way to Coffs Harbour I passed a small local airport, they are everywhere too, and I came over the top of a hill at one point and caught a glimpse of the sea. The one and only time I saw it in the distance. Even when I got to Coffs Harbour, the sea was still hidden by bush, trees everywhere and you have to make your way through these to get to the beach. I was booked into a motel which had what was described as a pub style restaurant and bar. The accommodation was pretty basic, but you get what you pay for and it was only one night. I put my nose into the restaurant which was laid out pretty much like a school dining hall. And it was already packed with overwhelming noise. I should say at this point I had been unable to have any music on in my car because the satnav was plugged into the usb and so it thought I was playing multimedia. So I had spent a day in virtual silence. I thought I would go for a walk along the beach to blow the cobwebs away first and then go back and try and face the noise. It took me a while to work out how to get on to the beach but eventually I found a little pathway and found my way down there. White sand, blue sea, almost deserted what more could I want. I wandered along for quite a way and then back again. I then ventured a little nearer to where I thought the hotel was before finding a way through the trees I was still a little shy of my destination, but not far off. I made my way into the bar and ordered a drink, this place was really big and clearly catered for far more than just the motel which was only a few rooms. I asked about eating and was told to place my order over there in the dining area and then they would call me to pick it up. So off I trotted only to stand in the wrong queue to start with. Anyway in the right queue I ordered the steak, mainly because I had read a review about the place and the guy said he had the steak and it was really good! Am I too easily led I wonder.
I found a table nearby and was guided by a couple at the other end as to where to find a knife, fork and serviette. All self service there I am afraid. My buzzer went off, the sort you get in Marks and Spencer when you eat in their cafe. I went to collect my steak and it was enormous. Anyway I hadn’t really eaten much during the day so I ploughed on. Meanwhile another lady who had just collected her food asked if I minded if she joined me at my table. Please do I said glad of a bit of company and hopefully a good conversation. I am glad to report it was both, she and her husband had moved to Australia a few years before , having visited for a holiday and fallen in love with it. The we’re currently living in Brisbane and she worked for a Credit Union, they seem to be big business in Australia, far more so than the ones we have in the U.K. She had flown down a couple of days before for work. Her motel didn’t have any restaurant and this had been recommended to her. I had looked in google and everywhere else nearby was a car journey away or had poor reviews. I am relying quite a lot on reviews the more I travel. We had a great chat about the country and missing home and how easy communication was these days. She does multichannel chats with her mother and sisters at the same time, and probably speaks to them more often now then she did when she was living at home.
Early night for me because I wanted to be at a particular cafe by the harbour for breakfast at 7 before I set off the the second leg of my journey and my dinner companion had work the next day too and still had some work to do before the morning. Thank goodness those days are over for me.
I got to my cafe and had a big pile of pancakes, don’t know what possessed me to order that, but it was quite nice and made a change but was unable to finish them. I then googled the nearest petrol station, upon arrival I found it was derelict, so I looked up another one filled up and set off down the Pacific Highway again. I stopped after a couple of hours at a proper services this time and went into a fabulous outlet with all really healthy food options, I got a chicken salad for my dinner and had a light lunch and a much needed cup of coffee. Off again, eating up the seemingly endless kilometres. The suddenly the scenery changed in an instant and I was surrounded by rock. Yellowish rock on both sides of the carriageway, huge rocks as though the carriageway was cut out of the mountain, which it probably was. Then I was passing Newcastle and almost in Sydney. It was a little like when I left Colorado and entered New Mexico the terrain changed in an instant.
I was a little nervous about driving through Sydney, but it was ok, I had to drive through quite a few tunnels which is always a little worrying when you are relying on a sat nav to get you into the right lane, but I knew the place I was going to was quite near to the airport so if all else failed I would just follow those signs. I had of course hit traffic by now, the first time on my journey, the joys of commuter traffic, just like being in London. So the journey was much slower and I was glad I hadn’t stopped again because time was marching on and I had to have the car back by five pm.
I had planned to make another stop but had decided as I was making good time and was feeling ok to just bat on regardless. But by now I was actually wanting to go to the loo, sorry restroom if you are reading in America, or Ladies. However I made it to the car rental place which wasn’t in the airport area but not far from it. I had to fill the car and hadn’t seen anywhere I could do that. So went to the rental place used their facilities and went off under some sort of direction to fill the car. That’s when the trouble started. I couldn’t find the place he told me about, and I ended up driving around in circles, I saw one petrol station on the other side of the road took a right turn but then could not do any sort of turn to get back to it, and ended up in a nightmare traffic jam with roadworks. I was trying really hard not to get stressed or crash the car after my so far successful journey. I got back to the car place and tried again. I was also trying to use my crappy phone to find a petrol station but the signal kept cutting out so it was completely useless. I followed the original instructions again and this time carried on a bit further and lo and behold there it was, still on the wrong side of the road, but I managed a right and then a u turn in a small road to get back to it. Phew. Some forty five minutes later I deposited the car in one piece and got the all clear that I hadn’t done any damage. Uber ordered to take me to my apartment I was standing in the forecourt and there were two cars identical to mine which were completely written off. I wondered how many that happens to and I was wondering how the occupants of those cars ended their journey. Doesn’t really bear thinking about.
My Air BnB wasn’t too far away, that’s was a lucky accident and nothing to do with my planning I have to say. My host had told me he would be out celebrating his birthday but had given me instructions to get in. It was a little confusing because the complex was made up of a few units. And I made my way up there with all my luggage only to realise the letterbox with the keys in it was back downstairs. Oh no, please don’t make me cart all this stuff back down there. Luckily a girl came to the door and I explained my situation and asked if I could just leave my luggage inside the door whilst I go and get the key which she was fine with. Finally into the apartment only up two small flights of stairs and into my room. It was so hot and I was wet through and tired and quite stressed. It was early evening by now, so I had a bite to eat and was in bed quite early. There was no air conditioning and just a fan in the room. I spent a very hot and uncomfortable night I have to say, the next day I was just shattered and not really in the mood for anything. I think this was the first time in my travels when I felt that I wanted to just go home now. The day I arrived in Sydney was three months exactly since I had set off from home. I am afraid I just mooched about all day and apart from going to Woolworths, yes Woolworths for some groceries I didn’t set for outside. It was so hot out there. In retrospect I realised it was a combination of tiredness from the journey, the heat in Sydney and lack of air conditioning that really changed my mood. For those of you who don’t know Woolworths in the UK went into liquidation a few years ago, having been the stalwart of many high streets in the U.K certainly all my life. It sold a variety of goods from sweets and toys to kitchen equipment and general household stuff. My very first job was as a shop assistant on a Saturday in Woolworths. I earned the princely sum of 10 shillings and sixpence for the day, wore a green overall thing and was on the counter that sold luggage and records. In those days each counter had their own till. No checkouts like we have today. Woolworths in Australia is a food supermarket.
The next day I decided I needed to get out or Sydney was going to pass me by completely. It was the shortest stay I had booked in any city. I was staying in a place called Wolli Creek which was really very central. On the train the next stop was the airport and it was about eight stops to get to the harbour area. So I got myself a travel card and set off for the Opera house. Coming out of the station you are straight into the harbour area and there are many ferries going to all sorts of places around the harbour. Its part of the public transport system, so as long as you have your card topped up you can get on and off any train, boat or bus. I made for the Opera house, and the first thing that struck me was that colour. I expected it to be white for some reason but it is more of an off white or cream colour. There were many restaurants along the way all packed with office parties celebrating Christmas. So there I was in the midst of office celebrations and I realised I don’t belong to any organisation any more. It was quite interesting watching all the different groups all afternoon, the hierarchies the Christmas drunks, the marginalised, the bosses, the leaders, the gofers. It brought back a few memories of Christmas parties past. Big and small from the recent do it yourself twenty pound a head parties, last years was a curry, back to the sumptuous dinner dances with black tie and posh beautiful gowns which required a visit to the hairdressers.
I was still in a bit of a mood and couldn’t be bothered to go downstairs to gain access to the Opera house, but walked up the steps to the top, all the doors guarded by security guards, no access points up there it seems unless by invitation.
The botanical gardens are right next to the harbour and they had a tour on a little train, so I opted to do that. I sat on a bench until it was time to board and was visited by an Ibis. The tour was actually very good, it is a really big garden and it goes past the Conservatoire, which of course made me think of my son Asgeir who attended such an institution for many years first on Saturdays and then studying for his BMus Hons in Classical Double Bass.
After the tour I decided to go and find something to eat and chose one of the restaurants close by. The Seagulls were terrible waiting for any opportunity to swoop on any food that was available. There was one sitting above me on the umbrella keeping an eye in my plate, cheeky blighter.
Then back to Wolli Creek and another night fighting the heat. The next day I took the ferry to Manly Beach and this was were I bought my Australian souvenir a Manley Beach, beach towel in bright pink, from a closing down sale. I was fed up of not having anything to sit on on the beach so decided to bite the bullet and spend a few dollars.
My host had told me I should get fish and chips and eat them on the beach, so I found the fish and chip shop, just like everyone else, queued and eventually took them down to a table on the seafront. Some kids decided to feed to seagulls their leftovers right next to me, birds everywhere, I had to ask them very politely of course to shove off so that I could eat my food without fear of it being stolen. As for the fish and chips they were ok, but wouldn’t have them again and quite a few went in the bin. The bins were, I am pleased to say, seagull proof.
I then sat for ages on the steps by the beach wondering if I could bare my body in front of all the body beautiful people on the beach, in the end I managed to summon up the courage found a spot and went for it. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours laying in the sun and then made my way home.
Crossing the water back I was struck by the huge variety of boats on the water, ferries of all shapes and sizes, there was an enormous cruise ship docked there whilst I was there, tiny sailing dinghies, huge motor boats, water taxis, luxury cruisers. You name it it was in the water and I was amazed that accidents weren’t happening all the time. I did hear the next day that there had been an accident involving two boats. All the men in my life love sailing so I am sure they would have been fascinated by this spectacle.
The next day was a Sunday and an early start because I was going to go to the Blue Mountains. That entailed catching a train to the central station which was five stops away and then from there catching a bus to Penrith as they were working on the track. So the good old replacement bus service. At Penrith we got on the train which was a nice double decker job, as indeed were the local trains, but this one had better seats because it was an inter city train. On a Sunday the maximum fare you pay if is 2$60, so for that massive amount on money I travelled all the way there and back probably about two hours in total each way, Sunday is a very cheap day to travel in Sydney.
When I got to Katoomba I first went to a little Art Deco restaurant and had egg on toast with mushrooms for breakfast and a lovely cup of coffee. I then bought a ticket on the local red tour bus. The stops were pretty close together a lot of the time but it took you to some good viewing points as well. There was quite a lot to do there and as I wasn’t staying over night I opted to do three things, the Three Sisters, the Leura Cascades and Leura itself. Before hoping back in the train to Sydney.
They are called the Blue Mountains because there is a blue haze across them from all the Eucalyptus trees growing there. The mountains just seem to go on forever and it is quite beautiful, I would describe it as serene.
The Three Sisters are three rocks which stand side by side. They were used as an area where the indigenous women taught the younger women, indigenous men were not allowed near the area it is a sacred woman’s place. To this day indigenous men will not go there. The three rocks stand proudly side by side and of course for me my thoughts were with my sisters, sad that we will never stand side by side again in this life, but hopeful we will again in the next and wondering if they are watching over me still on my travels or off on adventures of their own. I miss them so much. You could walk down to get a closer view which I did, you could also walk right the way up to them and across to them somehow, but when you see the pictures you will understand why that wasn’t for me. They were a fabulous sight standing tall and proud, so worth the visit.
Then back on the bus to the Leura cascades. This was a brilliant walk down into a valley following this small waterfall . The only thing that really got in the way of my pleasure was the tourists taking endless photographs of themselves and each other from every available angle at every available viewing point. Which reminds me that was one thing that really got on my nerves at the Opera House, just everyone taking selfies, I don’t know why it irked me so much, it was as if they didn’t look at the Opera House itself they just photographed themselves with it. It was the same here. When you got the the bottom of this walk you could go up in another direction but I decided not to, however there was a wonderful sort of staging point here to look over the valley below.
So having walked all the way down, there was nothing left for it but to make your way up, I was amused that the guidance said there were some steps involved, it was steps all the way down and of course up again.
Back up to the road and hopping back on the bus I went on to Leaura itself and was pleasantly surprised what a lovely town it was, I had some lunch outside under a huge tress which provided the canopy for the whole courtyard, and browsed the shops many of which had vintage goods in them, then back on the bus and off to the train station and home. It was a fab day out, good to get out of the city and good to be in the mountains again. My batteries were well and truly recharged after my outing. I had also by now got my sleeping sorted out, using a sheet instead of a duvet and keeping the fan on all night. So things were looking up.
The next day was a chores day and packing ready to move on the Melbourne with an early train st 07:32. On Monday evening I met up with Clare, who I worked with twenty years ago, at the same time as I worked with Montse who I met up with in Denver, we all worked for Daiwa in the city. We had a lovely dinner at Milsons Point on the opposite side of the harbour so I got a different view of the Opera House. Then we caught the ferry back and went to the Opera House bar which is of course outside. It was a good evening and a great catch up, were does twenty years go, I have no idea. A fitting end to my Sydney visit.
Well that’s Sydney. See you in Melbourne.
An early flight to Brisbane meant and unearthly start, 4 am. Luckily I was in a hotel for the last night which was only five minutes from the airport and they had a shuttle service so no Uber required for this journey. But I slept very badly, waking up every five minutes, anxious about the early start, anxious about having a car, goodness knows why. This was the only stop which I had elected to get a car, because I was staying with a friend Becky and I wanted us to be able to get about.
Anyway the flight was fine, and I had a time change of minus three hours, so an early start coupled with and extra three hours in the day. I managed to get through customs having declared all my drugs and my Nordic walking sticks and been given the green light that I wasn’t a threat to society. So that was a bonus.
First stop sort out my phone and I had to pay the princely sum of 30 NZ dollars to get in unlocked and then I got it on a simple pay as you go package for Australia. The sun was shining. A definite change in the weather. I then rang the number to get the car company to come and pick me up and made my way to the pick up area, I had a bit of a wait because I think they were expecting more people so they waiting for them as well. Anyway we finally got off to the car place and I met my new little white Hyundai compact. I sorted out the usual insurance, I never go with the basic having been burnt twice like that, and got a sat nav too. It was only a short distance to the hotel and apart from the fact that the indicators and wipers were really the wrong way around it was all fine. Most of the journey seemed to be in a big tunnel connecting the airport to the city. Once out of the tunnel I was only about five minutes from the hotel and was quickly parked in the hotel car park. Of course it was only about 10:30 am local time, so my room wasn’t available but I made myself comfortable in the bar and had a couple of coffees. Just after noon I checked again and it was ready, 9th floor. First I couldn’t get the lift working with my key card, reception came and did it for me. Then of course I got to the room and my key card wouldn’t work there either, all the way back down new key card and they came with me to make sure. I should have realised when the lift didn’t work that the room wouldn’t unlock either. I went down to the basement to collect my luggage and then got into bed, where I spent most of the rest of the day. Lack of sleep time changes and stress and travelling just do me in every time. This was as well the first time I had started to feel a little homesick. I had been gone nearly three months and here I was starting on a new country. I had had a message from Becky the day before saying that she and her husband Shannon had both had a nasty tummy bug earlier in the week and neither of them were still on top form, so I had extended my stay in the hotel, it gave us both the opportunity to recover and I was actually quite thankful. Room service plate of pasta plus the obligatory glass of dry white to go with it and an early night was in order. My room had an amazing view, I hope you realise that I hadn’t made any mention about panicking about being on the 9th floor, but when I got up there I was a bit oh my God, and the curtains didn’t close for some reason. Anyway it was all good.
The next day I woke and was ready for action, went down for breakfast and then hit the streets. There was a park next to the hotel, which was recommended but I was making my way down to the river, coincidentally called The Brisbane river, because I had read a bit a trip on the river which was coupled with a visit to a koala sanctuary. On the way to the river I had a text from Becky to say the sanctuary was near her so we decided that would be fun to do together. Instead I went on an ordinary river cruise. I was instantly taken by Brisbane it seemed bright and clean and interesting. The south bank of the river had theatres and art galleries on it, and there was a wonderful walk way all down the riverside. I crossed a bridge which I think was quite new to get to the south side and it’s design was interesting all in white with huge white rounded girders holding it up. Just before into the I got onto the bridge though there were some cameraman clustered around the end of it and reporters, and a man came out of one building and went into another all suited and booted with a trilby or something similar on his head in this boiling heat. They all rushed over to film him, I asked another man who was standing nearby and watching in just the same way I was, what was happening, who was it, and he said, I haven’t got a clue, must be someone important though. Before you ask I did look at the news later on in the day and I couldn’t find anything that related to this man. Oh well. The bridge was for pedestrians and bicycles and was clearly marked which side you should be on all very efficient. And it had wonderful vistas. I took some photgraphs which probably don’t do it justice but here you are anyway.
Down on the walkway I found a boat which was leaving shortly paid my money, and bought myself a coffee off a couple of young girls with one of those little coffee cart things that’s are springing up everywhere these days. Then I made my way onto the boat and managed to get a seat in the second row, not quite fast enough to get to the front. It was a lovely ride for a couple of hours with some interesting facts about the city and the river. There are some beautiful properties on the river bank needless to say. There was an option to get off at one end and have lunch in a very old and famous hotel coming back when the boat does it’s second journey of the day, but I decided I wanted to do some more exploring on the south bank so just stayed on as indeed most people did. I managed a few good photographs. Apparently whenever there is a downturn in the economy they build a new bridge across the river, and it’s been going on for years, made me laugh. They don’t need all these bridges and believe me there were a few and all very different, often named after the people who had built them or sponsored them.
Once back on the south bank I went to see if there were any tickets available for any shows or opera or ballet or anything... none, nothing was on that I wanted to see unfortunately, and in reality there was nothing much on at all So next I made my way to the Queensland Art Gallery. Immediately I walked through the door I was pleased to be there. There were internal and external water features / sculptures. There was a wide range of art from classical to modern. I have to say I had a few favourite pieces and one favourite exhibition. That was the sketches by Picasso which I just though were wonderful. Photos below as usual, but I have to give a separate write up about my favourite piece. It was called Problem Wisdom, by a Thai artist made in the 1990s. Each day for a year starting on his birthday, he took an article from the newspaper about a problem in the world, could be traffic, murder or anything he thought represented an issue in the world. From the newspaper itself he made a small sculpture representing the problem out of paper mache with the final covering on the piece being the article itself. Then on the same day in the following year he made a sculpture of something which he thought could solve the problem. All the pieces are laid out in date order, I just thought it was completely fascinating.
I then went for lunch in the cafe of the gallery and sitting outside was completely taken aback by two things which were completely at home in the outside cafe. The Ibis bird and the lizards I think they were water dragons, which were just wandering around. Apparently the birds which are quite big have become a bit of a pest and will eat what they can find, you can get quite close to them and some of my later pictures will show. One couple came in and I could see them moving towards a table which has a water dragon under the chair, it just kept on moving around to get out of their way as they sat down, until she spotted it and let out a small squeal, we caught each other’s eyes and both laughed a little.
Next on the list was the Gallery of Modern Art, there were a few pieces by Yayoi Kusama on display some of which were interactive. She is a Japanese artist now aged 88 who is still prolific and one of the pieces was a completely white room and people were offered the opportunity to place coloured dots over everything in the room. They were allocated some stickers as they entered the room and given some basic dos and don’ts. An interesting concept which people were very engaged with. There were also quite a number of her other art works being exhibited.
By now it was time to go back to the hotel as I had been on the go all day and still had quite a big walk back. Finding this and that to photograph as I wandered back.
Dinner in the hotel. I opted for something I had never heard of Moreton bay bugs, they sounded pretty gross, but were really delicious a combination of crab and prawn, quite big, split I half and grilled. Followed by an early night.
The next day I wandered into town and found myself a place to get my hands and feet done, and then down to the Botanical Gardens, which were much smaller than I expected. I got a message from Becky telling me to go back to the hotel because a big storm was expected. I had already been caught in a small downpour but was still dithering about staying out or going back. I was all checked out as I was going to drive to The Gap where Becky and Shannon live later afternoon. In the end I decided I better get back to the hotel and go to their place as I didn’t want to be driving in a big storm.
The drive was easy and I was soon finding my way into the back garden to be greeted by their lovely dog Bear. We spent some time together for a couple of hours, I took the opportunity to catch up on my writing and the storm never really materialised in the afternoon. Apparently these storms are a regular feature of Brisbane weather. Shannon was home from work first so we had an opportunity to get to know each other a bit before Becky arrived home. It’s been ten years since we worked together, and it was great to see her doing so well in all aspects of her life ten years on. We had a lovely dinner cooked by Shannon and an early night.
A photo of Bear waiting for his mummy and daddy to come home
The next morning Shannon was going to the airport to pick up his mother Trish for his brother’s Masters Graduation. Becky and I went to the Market at Dean Street and had a bite to eat there, then off to see the Koala bears plus lots of other animals. It was a lovely afternoon and I paid for the privilege of holding a koala called Connery named after Sean of course, he was very cute but quite heavy. I went to feed the kangaroos but they simply were not interested, too many people feeding them.
But then at the end of our visit we went to see the Tasmanian devils and the fun really started. There was one who seemed a bit mad and aggressive. Then we found one that was in a little burrow and I was taking his photograph when Becky said “is that a tail” and sure enough right in front of its face was a tail, which had been severed from its owner. We decided we better tell someone, so I stood guard whilst Becky dashed off. It was a good job I did because another devil appeared and took the tail. I followed him and banged in the window and he ran off and left it. But then came back and took it into a little burrow and started eating it, yes eating it, that’s what I said. Becky arrived back at this point and we showed the young lady what we had found. I think she was just as horrified as us, so we wished her a good day, a bit mean I know and took our leave.
We were going out to celebrate with Shannon’s brother that night so we got all dressed up, nice to have a reason. We got an Uber into town and just as we arrived it started to pour down. We got let out at the wrong place and ran for cover. Shannon ran in the pouring rain across two roads waiting under cover half way in the hope that someone there would have an umbrella. No luck, so Becky cheekily asked a gentleman passerby with a big umbrella if we could hitch a ride across the road under his brolly. He kindly escorted us to our doorway. What a gentleman is all I can say.
We had a couple of drinks in there with the gang, but we really needed to go for some food, so we took out leave and ventured out, fortunately it had by now stopped raining. We went to a lovely restaurant but talking was really hard as we were close to the serving hatch and the kitchen was right there in full view. We asked to be moved but that wasn’t any better so we went back to where we started. Then they delivered our main before we had finished the starter and then proceeded to put it under the hot plate in full view of us to serve it when we were ready. Another discounted meal coming up. Back to my favourite theme of service.
After that Becky wanted to take me to this new Gin bar which had just recently opened. I know you are not going to believe me when I tell you that I was refused entry to the gin palace because I didn’t have ID. I know it’s been over 45 years since I was asked for ID. The reason I was given was there was a lot of false identities at the moment. Personally I think he thought I was too old... but I could be wrong, so we went to another place for our gin but it wasn’t the same. We picked Shannon up then and jumped into an Uber only to get stuck in a traffic jam as everyone poured out of the Paul McCartney concert that was on. We did have fun though despite all the little trials and tribulations.
The next day I spent a morning writing and people were coming over to dinner so we just took it easy and had a lovely dinner and convivial evening sitting outside on the back deck. I have to say it is a lovely way of life down under.
Becky and Shannon were back at work the next day, but I got up early with Becky to take Bear for his morning walk. Trish and I spent the day together, we went down to a local lake and and Trish had a swim and then we went for coffee and a spot of lunch. Lots of interesting talks about life and work and women at work and another new friend found along the way. When Becky got home she took me to bikram yoga which is a series of twenty something yoga positions over an hour and a half in 40 degrees of heat. I have done it before, and in the early stages of doing the sort of yoga the biggest achievement is staying in the room, which I managed. I do like it and it’s really good for your body, it definitely has to become part of my new life. I always feel so inadequate though because whilst I can do some things others I just feel I will never be able to do that, but I know that given time I would improve.
A lovely dinner at home and an early night for everyone. I was starting my two day drive to Sydney and Trish was flying home on an early flight. I was the last to leave and just of took my time doing the last of my packing and saying goodbye to Bear. I have to say I have sort of fallen for Bear he is so cute and loveable. Hope my boys aren’t reading this, think I am safe there.
Thanks Becky and Shannon for your hospitality, good luck with it all and don’t forget you are always welcome at my place, where ever that may be. Love you lots.