Spider with Rosie

Walking by the Mersey, I came across this stairway to nowhere. There’s a shorter one in Chessington, just a few steps leading to the back of someone’s garden fence.

Stairway to the M60

But this one looks far more interesting. I didn’t climb up, but I think if I did, and went through the little door at the top, I would find myself on the hard shoulder of the M60, Manchester’s Outer Ring Road. How scary/exciting is that!

There are lots of beauty parlours, nail salons, hairdressers, tattooists, body piercers and other related establishments close to where we live here in Northenden. One place I won’t be visiting for my next spray tan is only a five minute walk away.

Spray tan

Actually, maybe I would go, if I wanted to look like Shrek or The Hulk or something.

Our first gig was at Stoller Hall in Manchester. We saw Eddi Reader for the 4th or 5th time in real life, although she did entertain us in our rental cars while we were away. We sang along to all the songs we knew, not so much to the new ones.

Eddi Reader and her band

Once again, Boo Hewerdine accompanied Eddi, and it was his turn to sing Patience of Angels tonight: fair enough, he did write it.

The support act was Siobhan Miller who we both took to straightaway. And yes, I did buy a CD. Or two.

Siobhan Miller and her band

Our first non-familial visitor arrived: Rosie came up from Surrey for the weekend, and was delighted to be able to sleep on our sofa-bed. Not so delighted with her sleeping partner, a harmless little spider. Rosie and Liesel went out for the day, visiting Lyme Park (sorry I missed it) and Ikea (not sorry I missed it).

We all went to the seaside for a picnic. Formby is our nearest beach: in fact, it seems to be everybody’s nearest beach. We thought everyone went to the Trafford Centre on a Saturday, but no, they all came to Formby today.

Dunes

Above the beach, I was reminded of a book we had to read at school, Lawn ‘n’ Dune. I should read it again, I can’t remember whether it was any good or not.

From the car park, you walk over the dunes onto the beach. Most people then turn right for some reason, or just plonk themselves down at the earliest opportunity. We turned left and found plenty of space. Yes, we could see and hear other people, but we found a good spot to sit down for our picnic.

Big wide beach while the tide’s out
Where’s Liesel? Where’s Rosie?

I’m not one to complain, haha, but the ridges of rippled of sand on the beach were quite hard to walk on today. I think we all tried to find smoother, harder, easier patches to walk on.

The Sun in the sand

The police officer took her horse for a walk on the beach and, judging by the hoofprints, this wasn’t the first visit of the day.

PC with GG

What a lovely day on the beach, blue skies and warm sunshine with a very subtle breeze.

A pair of noisy, midnight black crows watched while we were eating. When I finished my apple, I was going throw one of them the core, but Liesel wouldn’t let me, even though that’s what it had been asking for.

Caw said the crow…
Selfie of the day

We re-visited the air raid shelters in Stockport, reliving the blitz. It was colder in the tunnels than outside, so what a surprise when we emerged.

Air raid shelter tunnel

In Manchester, we enjoyed a walk and then a couple of hours in the Art Gallery, until we were chucked out at closing time. Yes, we’ll have to go back and explore some other galleries.

Rodin’s “Oh no, I forgot to put my trousers on”

We’ve seen Grayson Perry on TV and heard him on the radio, but I don’t think we’ve seen any of his artwork before. This vase is fascinating and very colourful: I could have looked at it for ages.

Jane Austen in E17 by Grayson Perry
Jane Austen in E17 by Grayson Perry

Some of the captions have been given a ‘feminist revision’ that make you realise just how engrained is the notion that ‘male’ has always been and still is the default gender.

A feminist revision
The original text
Mesh man floating above the stairwell

We found Emmeline Pankhurst as we continued our wander around the city centre.

Emmeline Pankhurst, Suffragette

Today was Manchester Day, an opportunity to celebrate and enjoy everything that Manchester has to offer. Somehow, we contrived to miss everything, the parade, the bike ride, the music, the street food, everything. We’ll make more of an effort next year.

I don’t know how many times we’ve driven up to visit Jenny, observed and ignored the signs to Quarry Bank Mill. Well, today we drove there, a mere 15 minutes from home. This isn’t just some small mill by a stream. It’s a big place, with large grounds, and very good demonstrations of turning cotton into clothing.

Quarry Bank Mill

Samuel Greg started the business having moved to the area from Belfast. He didn’t want to be in Manchester itself, close to all the other mills, but found this ideal location in Styal.

Yes, his slaves were mentioned as part of the display.

As Boris Johnson is set to be ordained, crowned, annointed Prime Minister, we found an extract from his manifesto regarding the employment practices to which he wishes to return.

Be it remembered, we have it easy today
Cotton spindles used as a screen

After lunch at the mill, which we shall certainly re-visit, Liesel and I dropped Rosie off at the station for her long trek back home.

Meanwhile, Liesel and I rested our eyes for a while, glad to be inside just in time before the rain returned!

Settling in

The ‘holiday mood’ persists and that’s not a bad thing. We’re back in our own place, yes, but because it’s still new to us, it feels like we’re still Airbnb-ing. We’re exploring the local area as if merely visiting. It makes me realise that once you’re settled, you tend to take your local neighbourhood for granted.

The Trafford Centre is as big as a small country. Most of the shops have no interest for us, but the mall itself is fascinating.

Trafford Centre welcoming committee

We were looking at armchairs, we know how to have a good time. Not to mention curtains, blinds, other window accoutrements, lamp shades and light fittings.

Not sure this one will match our curtains

There were some great photos to be taken, so I’m afraid I was looking elsewhere while Liesel was focussed on the main job of the day.

Little Greene Paint and Paper

Yes, we’re in the north now, so it’s only to be expected that on a relatively cold, wet day, the young ladies out shopping will be woefully underdressed.

Marble statue

We thought we were going into an old Egyptian tomb or something but it was only a lift taking us to a whole new level.

Going up
Nooses for curtains

Barton Square is partly a building site, but I’m sure it will be lovely when it’s finished. The glass dome promises to let in the light but not the rain.

Barton Square dome, under construction

Again, we ventured into ancient Egypt, a fantastic theme around the centre. It’s just a bit worrying when a young child screams for ‘Mummy’, you half expect a sarcophagus to creak open.

Spirits of Ancient Egypt

We later met Jenny at Costco where I made sure to get my steps in. Not as fascinating nor as glamorous as the Trafford Centre, of course.

Vegetarian magazine plus unsuitable free gift
They’re making peanut butter out of kangaroos, now

Other than settling in and finding our way around the local area , our main project is getting to know and looking after our two delightful grandchildren.

Martha and William came round while their parents, Jenny and Liam goofed off, I mean, while they enjoyed some quality time together.

Martha channelling Salvador Dalí
William channelling Sherlock Holmes

Both are very curious about the world. Martha barely stops talking and asking questions. William just tries to take everything apart. But they are both great fun, we are very lucky grandparents!

Liesel and I took advantage of a small hiatus in the late April showers and walked to Didsbury. We stayed away from the main roads as much as possible, venturing along narrow, overgrown, nettle-infested, sometimes muddy paths. We knew we were back in Manchester when we found a shopping trolley nowhere near its supermarket.

Modern art? Or rubbish?

Part of me must still be in Australia because when I saw a ripple on the surface of the river Mersey, in the distance, my first thought was ‘crocodile’. No, of course not, it was just a family of ducks.

Ducks cross the Mersey

In Didsbury, I could not resist the temptation to have coffee and cake at a place called FFS. I think it’s a front for something.

The first coffee I ever tasted, mid 1960s, was Camp Coffee: sweet, with chicory. It came as a dark brown liquid in a bottle and was alright, I suppose. At this point in history, we Brits drank tea and Americans drank coffee: that was the law. It was much later that I acquired a fondness for proper coffee, even though, in the UK, it was often over-roasted, burnt, too strong or just tasteless. But during all those decades, I was desperate to be able to send a message by telephone, ordering my coffee, so that it’s ready when I roll up at the café. Well, hallelujah, my dream has come true!

The wait is over

Our sleep patterns are settling down, we’re getting used to the rain but we really want a proper, warm, sunny Summer. One place in Lincolnshire is suffering badly after having received two months of rain in one day. Rivers bursting their banks, sandbags not doing their job. It’s not that bad here in Northenden, but even when it’s not actually raining, it looks and feels like it’s going to start again any minute.

Raindrops and full Moon

Not only was Sunday Fathers’ Day, it was also the day of the Tour of Tameside 7-mile run. I watched the participants with just a hint of envy but with plenty of admiration.

Lucky devils running seven miles

We watched Martha and William swimming too, always a joy, they are both very competent and enjoy their time in the water.

Three of us fathers gathered together at Jenny’s for the big celebration. Liam, his Dad Alan and I all received chocolatey gifts from our respective offspring. Chocolate. Oh well: the diet starts next month!

I’m forever blowing bubbles

We enjoyed playing with Martha, William and bubbles in the garden. Wimbledon tennis championships begin any day now, and we were in training for that too.

Smashed it

Jenny came up trumps again with pies and roast potatoes and vegetables! It was good to catch up with Alan and Una too after so many months away.

Another day, another opportunity to look after M&W so we took them by bus into Manchester. We visited the Museum of Science and Industry where their natural curiosity caused them to press all the buttons, turn all the wheels, move anything that wasn’t tied down. Martha was genuinely surprised and pleased that by turning a handle, she could lift a car into the air. Too difficult to explain gearing systems, but one day…

Red Arrows simulator

When we first entered the Museum, Martha pointed out the train. It wasn’t any old train either. Only the original Stephenson’s Rocket, back in Manchester for the first time in 180 years.

Stephenson’s Rocket

Both children fell asleep on the bus home. Liesel and I managed to stay awake but as soon as Jenny took them home again, we slumped.

We’re looking forward to our first musical performance since coming home. Hard to believe that during the ten months away, we only saw a couple of concerts and one theatre show. Next time, we’ll go out more often. Next time!

Back in Northenden

It’s going to take a while to acclimatise to Manchester. We expected some rain, eventually, not this much in just a few days. Luckily, we’re on the second floor, so we don’t need a boat, yet.

Learning the local language might take some time too. I visited Northern Den, the local coffee shop, and asked for a fried egg sandwich. Oops. I was given an egg barm. A barm cake is like a hamburger bun, a big, soft bread roll. Luckily, the word for ‘latté’ is ‘latté’.

We’ve had a chance now to process our ten months away from home.

We left home at the end of July, Day 1 and we left Melbourne for home on Day 316.

During that time, I walked 3,603,072 steps, a distance of 1665 miles. Liesel walked most of that distance with me. The hardest part was counting paces for that length of time, so it’s a good job I had a Fitbit to confirm my enumeration.

We enjoyed 27 separate flights, if ‘enjoy’ is the right word, with a wide spectrum of comfort. Often, you just have to write off the whole day if you’re flying somewhere, with all the queueing and waiting at airports.

We slept in 78 different beds during our travels, and again, with every possible level of comfort from hard on the floor, to mattresses made of marshmallow, with nylon sheets. But how lucky are we: our own bed at home is the best!

Yes, next time we may do some things differently. We’ll make more of an effort to learn some of the local language. We’ll do more research into the local food: finding vegetarian meals in Japan was a nightmare.

We managed well carrying just one small bag each, with one week’s worth of clothing. Liesel is delighted to be wearing something different here at home.

On just a few occasions did we wish we had a pair of binoculars. A proper camera with a decent zoom lens would have given better quality photos of small, faraway objects, but the phone camera was brilliant 99% of the time. I even managed a few shots of the stars at night.

While driving and even sometimes when hiking, there were a few times I wished I had my bike. But that would be a different kind of trip.

Overall, we had a marvellous time, it was a wonderful experience, and we would recommend a gap year adventure to anybody of slightly advanced years, who missed out in their youth.

There are quite a few places that we’d like to revisit and spend more time in. There are very few places that we have no desire to return to, but I think we’ll try to avoid extremely hot places where your energy is sapped, and you can’t fully appreciate the place.

As I think I said early on, I’m no good at remembering names of things, notably flowers and birds and trees. So I apologise for any mis-captioned photos: this blog was never meant to be a guide to the natural world, there are plenty of those already!

Some converstaions are universal. I think I’ve used every possible pronunciation of ‘latté’ over the ten months, and I’m sure some baristas just pretend not to understand this strange Englishman’s accent.

So many people commented on the colour of my Monzo card: hot coral. “You’ll never lose that”, they’d say.

When asked, I’d sometimes say I was from the UK. “Brexit? Hahaha! Theresa May? Hahahahaha!” So embarrassing.

When asked whereabouts in the UK do we live: “Manchester”. “Oh, Manchester United!!” or “Red or blue?”

We saw Fuji, Fiji and Coogee but bypassed Mudgee and Nadgee, ate a dodgy bhaji, listened to the Bee Gees, fed a budgie but not a geegee, used a squeegee in a shower.

We incurred no major injuries, although Liesel is still occasionally in pain if she walks too far, or sometimes even if she walks at all. Insect bites, splinters, sunburn once, minor cuts and a few broken nails are as bad as it got.

We’ve had a couple of days of medical appointments, walking around the local area and trying to find our way around the luxury apartment that we’ve hardly lived in!

Please drive carefully but feel free to park on and block the pavements
Ducks on the Mersey

Melbourne to Manchester

And we’re home.

On the way to Melbourne Airport, we noticed a few people in crazy costumes. It’s the weekend of Melbourne Comic Con. We left home during the weekend of Manchester Comic Con. What are the chances of that?

We saw some pandas, an unexpected bonus. No, not real ones. To celebrate 2017 Australia-China Year of Tourism, there are about twenty pandas at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport.

A row of pandas
A panda
A panda and a koala together

The first laugh of the day was provided by Etihad’s poster – we all know about tolerance in middle eastern countries.

Year of tolerance

It was a long flight from Melbourne to Manchester, lots of hanging around and sitting and not much sleep. Plenty of time to read, watch films and TV programmes, play games, eat the meals, enjoy some of them but mainly to reminisce and think about the last ten months’ adventures.

Looking down on England

Jenny met us at Manchester Airport with Martha and William and it was lovely to see and to spend most of the day with them all! Best of all, though, were the spontaneous hugs from a couple of children who haven’t seen us in the flesh for a significant portion of their lives. Jenny and Liam have done a brilliant job keeping us in their lives, thank you very much!

We went for a walk to a local place for breakfast, the idea partly being for Liesel and me to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. Martha is a very competent scooter user.

Martha the scooterer
Selfie of the day (thanks, Liam)
William won’t let Oma ride Martha’s scooter

We watched Martha and William swimming in the afternoon, both very happy and very competent in the water.

The Welcome Home evening meal was Pie and Roast potatoes. Gorgeous! We should go away for ten months at a time more often…

Now we have a tonne of boring but necessary admin tasks to perform, household appliances to kick into action, medical appointments to keep and, when we have a moment, many boxes to unpack from last year’s house move!

Much more Melbourne

On the way to join Jyoti and Chris for breakfast, I was again reminded of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

My God, it’s full of stars!

Other than that, the walk and the tram ride were uneventful. Yes, Jyoti is back in town to spend time with Chris and so we decided to pester them too. Actually, Chris suggested the venue, The Auction Rooms. Liesel and I arrived first and there was already a queue of people waiting to be seated. So, a popular place with locals: always a good sign.

Chris, Jyoti, Liesel, Mick

It was wonderful to see those two love birds, gazing into each others’ eyes, holding hands and, in another place, the Morality Police would have been on the scene, blues and twos, no doubt! Chris had to work (we keep forgetting some people have real lives with jobs and everything) so the three of us went to the Museum.

The Revolutions: Records and Rebels exhibtion was previously shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Now in Melbourne, it includes reference to the fight for Aboriginal rights in the 1960s. It was fascinating, lots of memories for me. Unbelievably, at the time, I wanted to be a little older than I was. Not so keen on that idea, now!

Yes, it was all very interesting, and it’s just so sad and disappointing that some groups of people are still having to fight for equal rights, you know, real weirdos such as women, black people, gay people, Australian Aboriginal people. But we did leave with some fund-raising ideas for the WI.

How many joints in the jar?

The ’60s music was good, too, and we enjoyed watching The Who at Woodstock, just 50 years late to that particular party.

Roger Daltrey

There’s a replica of the first ever computer mouse, invented over 50 years ago.

Computer pointing device

I never knew until today that there was a road named after a top Australian rock band. AC/DC Lane is popular with visitors, partly due to the street art in the area. As usual, the creative work is ruined slightly by the boring, unimaginative tagging.

AC/DC Lane
Jimi, or not Jimi? That is the question
Melbourne

Vegetarian Paul McCartney would probably not be too happy with this tribute to his old band.

Wings night

We wandered around the 19th and 20th century Aussie art display in the Federation Square complex. We would have stayed longer, but at closing time, even we were politely asked to leave. The then new Sydney Harbour Bridge was still under construction but the painting’s finished.

The Bridge in-curve by Grace Cossington Smith, 1930

I was disappointed not to see any works by Michael Andrews: maybe we just missed him by a room or two, but this depiction of the red centre is quite evocative.

Central Australia by Sidney Nolan, 1949

On the way to the old Young & Jackson pub, we made a detour to another lane, where the street art is striking. One of the main news items at the moment here in Australia is about Freedom of the Press. The police raided the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the home of a journalist, in an attempt to discover who leaked some secret information. Someone was quick off the mark with this image.

AFP USB
Binge thinking

Many years ago, my Dad told us about a pub he’d visited at the end of the Second World War. I don’t think he remembered its name but he said it was opposite Flinders Street Station. He told us about a painting on the wall inside, a girl called Chloe. After three or four visits to Melbourne, it was time to track this pub down. If it wasn’t Young and Jackson, then I don’t know where else to look. He visited when he ended his war, serving in the Royal Navy, here in Australia.

It is an old pub, yes, and it’s seen a few changes in the 74 years since Dad was here. But I was really pleased to find Chloe, now 144 years young, on the wall in the upstairs restaurant.

Chloe by Jules Lefebvre, 1875

Cheers, Dad!

Chris joined us for an early evening meal, before he and Jyoti went home. Liesel and I walked over the river to revisit the Arts Centre.

Lazarus

I’ve seen Lazarus twice in London, Liesel just the once, and it was just as good and fun and entertaining but a little sad this time: the David Bowie songs are timeless and always magnifico. The stage set was totally different, and both Liesel and I had a much better view of the stage on this occasion.

Tommy and Elly played by Chris Ryan and Phoebe Panarentos

Fewer people sung along than I expected, so I had to project more to compensate. No, I didn’t, I was sotto voce all the way.

What an unexpectedly busy day then: a museum, an art gallery, some street-walking, a couple of meals out and topped off with a musical performance. Thanks, Melbourne!

And so we come to the final, full day on our travels. We’re looking forward to being home, not necessarily to the 24 hour journey getting there.

After a bit of a lie-in, we went out and enjoyed egg muffins for breakfast. Thinking about home, and being away, it was disconcerting to see this on the wall.

Where are we now?

I had to visit the Optus shop to query a large mobile phone bill I’d been sent even though I’m on a different kind of plan. No need for the AFP to come after me when I get home, I’ve seen what they’re like at the ABC. Thank goodness the bill is for the previous user of my Aussie phone number: forget it, nothing to worry about, the clerk will sort it out. So, fingers crossed.

We visited the ridiculously expansive Queen Victoria Market, walked around for a bit, passing time until Jyoti and Chris joined us.

I bought a couple of apples. Jyoti bought a new coat. We admired the Melbourne skyline. We bought coffee.

Melbourne skyline or a futuristic painting?
Melbourne, Mick and coffee

Yes, Melbourne does like its coffee, there are so many coffee places to choose from, we even saw Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese coffee shops in close proximity this morning.

We listened to Rhys Crimmin busking in the market, he’s not too bad, played the didgeridoo as well as guitar, harmonica and a drum, a good old-fashioned one-man band.

Rhys Crimmin

He performed the Men at Work song, Down Under which always raises a smile.

Again, poor old Chris had to go home to work, leaving the three of us to have a jolly good time. We walked to Royal Park and it was very pleasant, the Sun was out, it was warm, I tried not to whinge too much about being forced, well, requested, to wear jeans today rather than shorts. But we’ll soon be back in an English Summer and I can get my legs out again, for everyone’s delectation.

Royal Park

This view reminds me of the album cover for Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge. So yes, now I have that music in my head.

Final day, last supper. Round at Chris’s with his missus, to coin a 25-year old phrase.

Our Aussie adventures conclude with this sunset as seen from Chris’s apartment.

The Sun goes down on our travels

So we bid farewell to Jyoti and Chris, and to our final Airbnb up on the 9th floor looking over an alleyway into an office block.

And farewell to Melbourne, to Australia, to our adventures.

Here we are at the airport, waiting, waiting…

Wilson’s Prom to Melbourne

Rainy Days and Mondays always get me down. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration but a gloomy, windy, rainy Monday is a good enough reason to stay indoors. These occasional enforced ‘days off’ are quite welcome, to be honest.

Our damp, little red friend came by for breakfast, so we had a little chat about Brexit, Trump and The Carpenters’ back catalogue.

Good morning, Rosie

We passed the time by reading, writing, watching TV and looking out of different windows hoping for an improvement in the weather. There’s a Kind of Hush all over the house so we put some music on. Ironically, no Carpenters.

Later in the afternoon, we did venture out briefly, for a walk around Tidal River. We even walked along the river bed itself, there not being much water in it at this time: the tide was out.

Tidal River estuary

In fact, the tide was a long way out, it would have been a major expedition to even get ankle deep.

Very low tide

Liesel suggested a selfie and like the Superstar she is, she posed for quite a few attempts.

Selfie of the day

Yes, we are dressed up for Antarctic conditions, but it wasn’t quite that bad. 11° here, 11° in London and 11° in Anchorage right now. However, it’s Winter here and it’s meant to be Summer at home. We’ve only just begun walking through the campsite when Liesel spotted a wombat crossing the path.

Why did the wombat cross the path?

I hope we didn’t spook him too much as we approached. The pincer movement was accidental, really, I just wanted a shot of the wombat with Liesel, or vice versa. And here he is about to leap out and surprise her as she is on the phone, Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, I think, or maybe messaging a friend.

Wombat eyeing up Liesel

The wind and rain had caused some damage, at least one tree had fallen down.

Why did the tree fall across the path?

We enjoyed watching a wombat going about his business. He half-heartedly dug a hole, not as efficiently as a rabbit would.

Digging a hole

After a bit of a stretch and a bit of a yawn, revealing some pretty lethal teeth, he made our day by producing several green cubes.

Look at those gnashers
Another crap photo: wombat’s, this time

Yes, they are famous for their cubic poo, although Liesel was disappointed by the lack of sharp edges.

We saw some more birds on the way back, and a couple more wombats, including this one playing Solitaire in the flower bed.

Hiding

From Tidal River, you can see the 558-metre high Mount Oberon, with phone masts and transmitters perched on the top.

Mt Oberon

We walked up the path all the way to the summit, a nice, long, steady climb. There wasn’t much to see on the way up, just a glimpse of a view through the trees now and then.

Can’t see much through the trees except more trees

Then, as we approached the top, the trees opened out more, revealing a blue sky at first and then a magnificent vista. Yes, it was a bit of a slog, but well worth the effort.

One of the hairpin bends

Sometimes on this long trip of ours, I’ve wished to be on my bike rather than walking. I used to sing to my velocipede, I won’t last a day without you, yet somehow I’ve managed 10 months without a single pedal stroke. (Exercise bikes in gyms don’t count.) Today’s uphill tramp would have been tough on a bike, the gradient wasn’t too steep, but it was relentless.

Antennae

The only vehicle on the track was a tanker that had just delivered fuel to the antennae at the top: no electric supply here. On the other hand, what a great 4G signal!

After climbing several steps, we reached the summit. From the bare, bald rocks, we looked down on what could have been a model village Tidal River next to Norman Beach and Norman Bay.

Looking down on Tidal River

We’re on the Top of the World looking down on creation, with a 360° view.

Yes, of course I tried a panorama shot but it didn’t really work, just too much contrast between north and south, between Sun and shade.

Where’s Liesel now?

I know I’m retired from the mail delivery service, but I can sense a few of the more cynical readers saying, Please, Mr Postman, prove that you actually reached the summit. OK then, I will.

Triangulation point

After a bit of rest at the top, the return walk was a little easier. The 2 hour walk actually took us 2 hours and 14 minutes, including a couple of breaks to catch breath and to remove small stones from shoes. Yes, I must walk funny to attract so much grit, but Liesel walks a different funny, splashing muddy water up the back of her calves even when there are no puddles.

I left Liesel in Cambridge while I went for a solo tramp towards Mount Bishop. At a mere 319m altitude, I couldn’t be bothered. Well, I could, but the walking distance involved would have seen me descending at sunset, and I didn’t want to be out alone in the dark. Instead I did the delightfully named Lilly Pilly Circuit Walk and the Lilly Pilly Gully Boardwalk. I saw just two other people on the circuit, a few small birds fleetingly, but no other animals. Mainly trees, ferns, fungi.

Tree
Fern
Orange fungi

This path was also well-maintained, albeit with a few modern obstructions, more recently fallen trees.

I stood by this little waterfall and stream for a while to see if there were any fish climbing up the rock or any crayfish climbing up the trees.

Waterfall and stream

Are you mad, I hear the more cynical reader suggesting? Possibly, but this is Australia, the animals aren’t normal. Lilly Pilly burrowing crayfish climb trees. And Climbing Galaxias nip up waterfalls and sheer rock faces like Edmund Hillary on speed.

Crayfish climb trees
Galaxias climb mountains

We’ve seen plenty of evidence of bush fires, whether controlled or accidental, and there was one here 10 years ago. The place was devastated, but it’s all part of the cycle, and these pictures show the difference between then and now.

Bushfire 2009
The same path today, 2019

I arrived back at the Unit just on sunset.

Sunset from the Lilly Pilly Gully carpark

There are now two crimson rosellas pacing up and down, waiting for a hand-out. (They Long to be) Close to You, Liesel, I gently crooned.

We slept, we ate breakfast, we packed, we departed. We have a Ticket to ride back home soon, but we’ll be busy for a couple of days in Melbourne. Or as the recently reformed Spice Girls might call it, Melb. We said Goodbye to love, well, goodbye to Wilson’s Prom, and as we left, we saw six, yes six emus in total: four in a field and two crossing the road. The funniest thing was seeing two people peering into bushes, apparently oblivious to the emus not that far behind them.

A couple of emus

A few days ago, we passed by a place called Bumbo, and the 12-year old me wanted to live there. Today, we saw a sign for Poowong. One day, I want to move there instead!

It didn’t feel like rain today, but there was total cloud cover. The scenery was captivating, as we retraced part of the route we’d followed from Walhalla.

There are a lot of cattle in NSW and Victoria, big black bulls, white and brown cows, signs telling us they might be crossing the road. We’ve seen lorries taking herds of them to their final holiday destination. But we’re very disappointed with how few sheep there are, though. Not even José Merino sheep, brought over to play football a couple of centuries ago, unless I’ve misremembered my Geography lessons. For all we know, they’re hiding up in the trees, dislodging the drop bears.

Tooradin appeared at exactly the right time. There’s an honesty box for the car park fees which we didn’t raid, honestly.

Big chocolate fisherman
Beach at Tooradin

A short while later, Langwarrin’s big silver gnome cheered us on.

Big silver gnome
We passed an old episode of Doctor Who

Before dropping the car off, we made a detour to Liesel’s favourite place in the whole wide world. A little bit of America in Australia.

Where’s Liesel?

We bought a couple of things to take home and had a greasy cheesy piece of pizza for lunch. Better than a slap round the face with a wet fish, I suppose. This branch of CostCo even sells caskets, or coffins, which we both found dead funny.

We traversed this bridge twice today. Once in the car, then again on the Skybus from the airport to Southern Cross Station.

Fair dinkum bridge architecture

When we dropped the car off, the attendant seemingly was not interested in the intermittent beeping from the car, warning of open doors when they’re all slammed closed. And then on the inevitable online follow-up survey, there was nowhere to make such a comment. Oh well, so much for seeking to improve the customers’ experience.

We deposited our new, super-heavy case at the airport until we leave this wonderful country in three days’ time.

It’s a short walk from Southern Cross to our new b&b apartment on the 9th floor.

9.10

Why does this door remind me of a Beatles song? Because it’s the One after 909.

It’s also a short walk from our b&b to the nearest laundrette. While Liesel watched the washing go round and round, I went out to buy us some drinks. I have a pocket full of loose change to dispose of. Why? We’d been saving $1 and $2 coins for the laundromat. But in this one, here, today, The Lonely Sock, you pay electronically, with a card. 50% impressed and 50% peeved at lugging all that weighty coinage around for so long!

Raymond Island, Walhalla and on to Wilson’s Prom

We’d considered visiting Raymond Island on the way to Bairnsdale but we’re so glad we didn’t. We spent the following morning there instead, far longer than anticipated.

From Paynesville, the ferry ride was so short, we probably could have waded across to the island. But then we wouldn’t have had a car for the slow drive to the far side of the island.

Typical unsealed road on Raymond Island

The sea was so calm, perfect for skimming stones. But there were no suitable stones lying around which can only mean one thing: they’ve already been thrown in. This island is in the Gippsland Lakes Reserve area, and the water here is sheltered from the main ocean currents by a series of islands further out from the mainland.

Very calm water

We walked along the beach, of course, trying not to step on any of the jellyfish left stranded on the sand.

Jellyfish

The water was so clear, I thought I’d walk to the end of the jetty in the distance, to see if there were any exciting or exotic fish. What I didn’t realise from a distance was that a million cormorants or maybe darters were at home on the far end of the jetty and I was still over a hundred yards away when they decided to take flight.

Heads up, human approaching, time to skedaddle

The exodus began slowly, then the bulk took off. It was interesting to see how long the last, brave few would hang about. I was still nowhere near the jetty when the final one deserted his post.

It’s quite a long jetty and halfway along I began to notice the ammoniacal aroma. I’m surprised the structure hasn’t collapsed under the weight of guano, never mind the birds themselves. But I was rewarded for my stoicism in the face of rank odours. There were indeed a few fish in the water.

Fish in the remarkably clear water
Another crap photo (be glad your device has no smell output)
Looking back along the beach: where’s Liesel?
Black swans having a pleasant swim

It was quite an adventure driving back towards the ferry port and, more importantly, to the Koala Trail. Most roads are unsealed, they all look the same, and as they became more and more narrow, we wondered whether we’d gone wrong. But we found our way back: it’s quite hard to get lost on a small island, really.

The Koala Trail is a well marked path around the developed, inhabited area, facing the mainland. And we were on a koala hunt, looking in the trees, listening out for pig-like growling sounds.

An empty gum tree

It was a nice, easy walk, with very few other visitors on the Trail. A group of young German girls helped our quest by staring up into the more interesting trees, the ones with koalas in residence.

Seeing this first one was wonderful, of course, at least we’d seen what we came for.

Koala needs a kuddle

We saw a few more koalas and yes, many were in the Land of Nod.

Koala having a kip

In fact, there were almost too many to shake a stick at. So I picked up a stick and shook it, for which I received a severe reprimand from Liesel. It was in fact a fallen eucalyptus branch, brimming with juicy leaves and it did, briefly, attract the attention of an erstwhile dozy koala.

Koala looking really kute

We walked the long way round back to the ferry terminal, including along a stretch of very narrow beach.

Innumerable mussel shells

The soundtrack to this tramp was provided by the thousands, millions, of mussel shells that it was impossible to avoid crushing underfoot. The water on this side of the island was a little more active, but still nowhere near as violent as we’ve seen in other places recently.

Gentle waves

We passed by another couple of koalas in a tree in someone’s front garden. And round the corner, in another garden, a flock of rainbow lorikeets and parrots provided a gorgeous, colourful photo opp.

Lorikeets and parrots

A quick return ferry ride and we were soon back on the road. The obvious place to stop for a coffee, a pasty and an eclair was Stratford which by coincidence is on the Avon River.

We are getting better at knowing when to ignore Google Maps’ instructions: sometimes it shows a right turn, but vocalises ‘turn left’. Sometimes it wants to take us off the main road, the A1, go right, left, right, left, right left and then rejoin the A1. Why? For the sake of a few seconds maybe? And why does it sometimes suggest leaving the route and driving around in circles for the rest of eternity?

Passing by and admiring the countryside, we espied a power station in the distance. Smoke belching. And looking it up, I think it was a diesel powered power station. We never even knew such places existed. I know we need a power supply, but this really was a carbuncle on the face of a much loved friend, as Prince Charlkes might say.

Power station

We were leaving the coast behind and heading up into the mountains.

The Star Hotel in Walhalla was built during the gold rush period of the 19th century and rebuilt in 1999, retaining the original façade. We were staying in the Happy Go Lucky Room, nothing as mundane as room numbers here. The view from the verandah was magnificent.

View from our Star Hotel verandah

Dense trees growing up the steep sides of the valley behind a bandstand. Perfect.

Walhalla’s population was about 5000 in its heyday. It dropped to 10 and is currently about 20. We met at least 20% of the population over the next day.

Yarnbombers brighten up Walhalla

The Long Tunnel Extended Mine walk took us about an hour. I put my coat on. It was slightly chilly up here in the mountains, even without the wind. We didn’t go down into the mine, 950 metres deep, and I don’t envy any of the miners that did so. The mine was closed in 1915. From a total of 790,724 tonnes of ore, a mere 25.43 tonnes of gold were produced.

Stratified rocks and a secret green door into the mines
Fairy tale house high on the far side of the valley

The path along what was once a tram track was littered with fallen rocks. A sign told us not to throw stones down from the tramway on pain of prosecution.

A rusty old steam engine

The mist and cloud mixed with smoke from wood fires in people’s houses giving a mystical, ethereal feel to the landscape.

Smoke and mist

Strangely, we didn’t find the smoke here as offensive as it had been in Malaysia. Folks are just trying to keep warm here, not burning any and all of their old rubbish.

The proprietor of the hotel was also wearing shorts so from that, I deduced it wasn’t that cold, really.

Our evening meal was very nice, very tasty, although I’m not a big fan of panna cotta, moreso since I found out it contains gelatin. The bottle of house Shiraz the spot though. Cheers!

After a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we checked out. We were invited back, but don’t leave it for thirty years like some people do, he advised. It’s a great place, and I felt bad that we’d only spent one night here. A couple of other walks would have been fun, and we’d certainly recommend this hotel.

The first surprise of the day was just how cold it was. Wipe the condensation from the car’s windows? Easier said than done. It was ice. Proper, frozen water. It’s now meteorological Winter here and it feels like it. For the second day in a row, I put on a coat.

Hazy shade of Winter

Unfortunately, the first ride of the Walhalla Goldfields Railway was at 11.00, and that would mean leaving the area much later than we wanted to.

Goldfields Railway Engine

We drove alongside the railway track for a while, as we left Walhalla behind us.

Railway bridge over the creek

Near Tyers, we saw the power stations again. Yes, there were at least two of them. Thick, belching smoke isn’t that appealing usually, but when it rises to collide with the low clouds, it’s quite a sight.

Smoke and clouds

The first stop of the day was at North Mirboo where we visited the Strzelecki Bakery. That name is familiar because in 2002, I watched a Total Eclipse of the Sun from somewhere near the Strzelecki Track in South Australia. There wasn’t a lot of Sun today!

Mural: picnic and cricket in North Mirboo

The clouds were threatening but it didn’t rain. The views were great but by now, I think we both just wanted to reach our final stop for the day.

Spectacular view, rolling hills

We passed by Yanakie and a sign welcoming us to Wilson’s Promontory, hooray. I said to Liesel, there’s a couple of emus. She didn’t believe me at first, but we did a U-turn and went to have a longer, closer look. They were just eating grass, not bothered by us at all.

Emu having his afternoon tea

How exciting, to see some wildlife within five minutes of entering the National Park. Then, almost as exciting, we saw the sea in the distance. We’d only been away from it for 24 hours, but it felt a lot longer, somehow.

There was much less traffic now, allowing us more time to take in the views. All you can do really is enjoy the scenery, gape in wonder and take photographs that don’t do justice to the reality.

Darby River Valley
Rock thinks it’s a zebra

We’re staying in a self-contained Unit in Tidal River. I finally made it into Cambridge.

Our Cambridge Unit, not a hut, not a cabin, not a caravan, not a tent

It looks terrible from this angle, but there are windows on the other side. Liesel had been driving all day so she was happy to have a sit while I went for a quick walk around Tidal River, the town. Various categories of accommodation are available here but, given how cold it has become, we’re glad we’re not camping. I bet this is a hive of activity at the height of Summer, not so much today.

One thing I’ve noticed all over Australia is the prominence of the War Memorials.

Tidal River War Memorials

At home in the UK, they’re often out of the way, but in Australia, they’re usually in a prominent location on the main street or, as here in Tidal River, right in the centre of town, close to the Information Centre. This ℹ is a good place to visit, plenty of local artefacts and information.

The first birds I saw were ducks, plain, ordinary wood ducks, I think, no offence intended. There’s a river not far away, plus the sea, so why these two chose to try and paddle in a small puddle is beyond me.

Puddleducks

I proceeded along the path in an orderly manner when I was surprised to see a small animal apparently munching on grass. Yes, it was a wombat, and I was really pleased to see it.

Wombat walking with purpose

I approached slowly and was surprised how close I could get. I crouched down to film him/her walking towards me but at the last minute, he got just a bit too close!

Wombat walking by just a litte too close

I walked down to Norman Beach just for a quick look.

Path and gateway to Norman Beach

It felt quite pleasant here, but the clouds over the hill looked ominous. Not surprising, though, as rain had been forecast for the next day.

Storm clouds approaching

It was good to see a couple of birds on the way back to our place. I very nearly missed this chap, he’s so well camouflaged.

Crimson rosella

I think he was eating grass seeds or maybe collecting material for a nest.

These galahs were definitely having a good time pulling up the grass.

Memories of the Great Ocean Road King Parrots came flooding back when I returned to Cambridge and Liesel. A crimson rosella was sitting on the rail of our balcony, dancing, shifting from left to right, from one foot to the other, obviously begging for food. You’re not supposed to feed the wildlife here, but this pretty parrot knows that people means food.

I can eat with one foot while standing on the other

What harm can a bit of muesli do? Nuts and seeds only, we took out most of the raisins and lumps of cinnamon!

What a good way to end the day and to commence a few peaceful days here on Wilson’s Prom. Which for some reason, I keep calling Arthur’s Seat or Arthur’s Pass but we really are at Wilson’s Prom. No idea why my brain is misfiring in that way. The only Arthur Wilson I know is a character in the old sitcom Dad’s Army.

A couple of rolls of thunder and the sound of rain didn’t detract from a good night’s sleep, thank you very much!