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!

Eden to Bairnsdale

The Whaling Museum in Eden is probably interesting, but many other delights awaited us. Again we reminded ourselves that we can’t see everything, and what we miss will still be here next time we visit. We were not wailing at missing the Whaling Museum.

Ben Boyd was a popular guy. We have Boyd Town, East Boyd and the Ben Boyd National Park named in his honour. Not bad for a humble Scotsman.

We drove to the National Park to see The Pinnacles. But before we set off, we had to liberate yet another lethal Australian stowaway from the car.

Exotic beetle evicted from the car

The Pinnacles is/are is a stunning erosion feature, another study in text book geology plus, for us, an opportunity for a nice, gentle walk.

I wonder where all the logs came from to make this staircase?

We’ve realised that we can’t see too many beautiful beaches with beautiful turquoise seas. Lovely to walk on but lovely to look at from a distance too.

View from The Pinnacles Walking Trail

And if the sea isn’t a vivid enough colour, we were bowled over by The Pinnacles. Two different coloured layers of sandstone, still in the process of being worn away by the elements.

The Pinnacles stratified rock

Later on the loop, we saw what looked like termite mounds. In NSW? Not as big as those in Northern Territory, and this one at least was given a head start by being built around an old tree stump.

Termite mound
We’re not sure why so many trees have been felled here in the Park

We made our way to The Seahorse Inn in Boydtown, as it was recommended by a couple of people, features in the Lonely Planet Guide, has its own road signs, and it a very impressive and imposing building. But it was closed.

The beach was pleasant though, and it’s good not to have to worry about gingas lurking in the bushes this far south.

Boydtown Beach

As the day progressed, the weather worsened, cloudier, greyer and then it started to rain. Then we discovered there was no water in the windscreen washer bottle. So we now wanted it to rain harder so that the windscreen could be cleaned a little bit!

This was the state in which we arrived in the state we’re in. We crossed over from New South Wales into Victoria.

Welcome to Victoria
This is the song appropriately playing as we crossed the border

Cann River in Gippsland was a good place to stop for a break. Liesel wasn’t happy when I told her about the 10-feet long inch thick earthworms that live here in Gippsland. And how unhappy was I to discover that the Earthworm Museum in Bass is permanently closed. That was our punishment for not visiting the Whaling Museum. Karma.

The little church caught our eye: a cute little building catering for several branches of the Christian community. Uniting and Co-operating, no less.

St John the Evangelist, Cann River

Cape Conran doesn’t sell furniture, that’s The Conran Shop. My mistake. But there’s a beach, there were big waves, a pair of oyster catchers and an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air for a short while.

Beach with oyster catchers
And without … but look at those waves …

A sign warned us about the shallow sandbar, strong currents, submerged rocks and slippery rocks. There’s no life-saving service. The nameof the place? Sailor’s Grave Beach. There’s probably a sad story behind that name, but what a strange way to warn people of the dangers.

Cape Conran Coastal Park and Beware Reef Marine Sanctuary to give the place its full name. We walked on the beach, yes, but that was as big a risk as we wanted to take.

At Marlo, we looked at the Snowy River Estuary Walk and I walked down the path a short way.

Snowy River with Bass Strait in the distance

The sand dunes needed us to go over with a piece of cardboard to slide down on. But, no sheets of cardboard with us on this occasion.

Sand dunes by Snowy River

We drove by a sign on a dilapidated structure.

Don’t think this is the Snowy Rail Bridge

We arrived at our next b&b near Bairnsdale, dropped off our bags, and went out for a Mexican meal. The restaurant is called OzMex. We were called ‘walk-ins’ as we didn’t have a reservation. No idea why, but we were both just very tired.

The house is a new build, just a couple of years old. It blows hot air into our bedroom. When I woke in the middle of the night, what a relief to realise that it was the heating system making that noise, and that it wasn’t pouring down with rain.

We shared the house with our host family, and now, because of our squeaky bedroom door, they know how often we have to get up during the night.

Here’s the bit you may have been dreading: please go away now if you’re not interested in the in-car entertainment we’ve been enjoying this week.

I downloaded some new music and deleted some of the old that we just don’t need to hear any more for a while. This car has Bluetooth, it connected to my phone almost without human intervention, just the way it ought to. We played our new stuff for a few days: Dolly Parton, Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack, Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack, Duran Duran but best of all, IMHO, lots of old Bee Gees tunes.

We (I) had a good old singalong.

But we are now back on so-called ‘shuffle’ and we’re finding again that it just ignores some tracks, focuses on others, and isn’t properly random. I have many ideas about how this could be improved and I shall be writing to Google and Samsung in very due course.

Moruya to Eden

Moruya is famous for its granite. Between 1924 and 1932, 173,000 blocks of granite were cut, dressed and numbered in Moruya before being shipped to Sydney to face the piers and pylons of the new Harbour Bridge. 240 employees from 14 different nations worked at the quarry, many of them stonemasons from Scotland and Italy. A small community was built around the quarry consisting of 72 cottages, bachelors’ quarters, a community hall, post office, store and a school. This was known as ‘Moruya’s Golden Years’. We can only imagine the noise and the dust generated by all that stonework. Fortunately for us, that was all a long, long time ago and we had a nice peaceful night in our b&b. Still can’t help thinking it would have been easier to build the bridge here in Moruya rather than lugging all that heavy stone hundreds of miles up the coast.

Moruya’s Golden Years

Our journey around the south-east corner of Australia continued and we stopped near Narooma, at the glorious Carter’s Beach. The colour of the sea was stunning.

The sea at Carters Beach

Again, a sign warned us of rips and strong currents, strong surf and submerged rocks. But from above, it looked so peaceful. We couldn’t resist a walk along the beach though. Yes, it was windy, but it was also sunny.

Where’s Liesel?

The sand was good for scraping the last of the mud from the bottom of my trainers. Yes, trainers. For the first time in months, I chose to wear proper shoes rather then sandals for a walk on a nice, safe, flat surface. This is for medical reasons. Months and months in the heat and humidity caused no problems. But just a few days in the relatively cold weather of New South Wales has caused the skin on my heels to crack. Crevasses worthy of an Antarctic expedition. Just a little sore. So it’s back to a regimen of moisturiser, socks and shoes.

Selfie of the day

We drove on to Narooma to look at a rock. Not a lump of granite, but the Australia Rock, so called because the hole in it resembles the shape of Australia.

It was a pleasant walk which gave us some nice views.

Narooma

The crew mowing the grass on the high bank were friendly enough, not so much the woman who drove past us, on the road closed to traffic, with a scowl so sour, she could curdle milk from a hundred yards.

Lean, mean mowing machine

Fortunately, we weren’t on the road a minute earlier, because that’s when a large ant-hill or something was mown, throwing clouds of earth in all directions.

Another day, another campaign against fossil fuel extraction.

No coal seam gas

The steamer, Lady Darling, carrying coal from Newcastle to Melbourne, sank near here in 1880. The site is now protected as an Historic Shipwreck. The masts were visible above water for a while, but no longer.

Adam had visited Montague Island to see and to swim with seals, but we decided not to do so on this occasion.

Where are we now?

The walk along the breakwater was enjoyable, but there was a slight smell. Then we saw why. Seals were basking on the rocks, soaking up the Sun, not at all bothered by us two or the handful of other visitors.

Seal taking it easy

A couple of young ones were playing and play-fighting in the water. I wish I’d caught this moment on video. One of the pups climbed out and nudged his Dad on the bum. Dad leapt about a foot in the air, grunted his disapproval then went back to sleep. We’ve never seen a seal goosed by another seal before.

Seal with pups

As we were talking to a local Aussie lady, we saw dolphins leaping a long way out in the sea. It was only a small pod and they swam right by the little inlet, but that was another wonderful surprise.

Dolphins in the distance

Our new friend told us where to go to see sting rays later on. They come up close to the beach when the fishermen are processing their catch. That’s why we went over to Bar Beach after lunch.

Narooma, Bateman’s Marine Park, Wagonga Inlet, Bar Beach, Eurobodalla, Narooma Bar, Mill Bay, Sapphire Coast. I’m sure they use all these names just to confuse us visitors. Where’s Bar Beach? Oh, this is it, you’re already on it.

I walked along Mill Bay Boardwalk because the sea water here was so clear, you could see the sea bed, the sea grass and any little fish that might come by. There may well have been sea dragons too, little sea horses, but they’re very well camouflaged.

The pelican was just swimming around and around for the sheer pleasure of it, he wasn’t looking for food or a mate, he was just having a good time paddling around in the water.

Pelican idling beacuse he can

Then from underneath the boardwalk, I spied this wonderful creature.

There were no fisherfolk gutting fish today, but I found the table where they would normally do their work. And I guess Ray knew what time of day to come sniffing around.

I found another one having a lie down, and I only wish I had some fish guts in my pocket to throw down for him.

Sting ray

Another breakwater was begging to be walked along, so I obliged. The only lifeforms on the beach were a young couple running and dragging their dogs behind. But, hooray, out at sea, another slice of dolphin action. Fantastic!

It’s always good to learn something new, and today, I found out that I’ve been spelling ‘telaphone’ incorrectly all my life. At least, according to this old phone box in Central Tilba.

Telaphone box

We walked up and down the main street here, admiring all the old buildings. Dairy farming and then gold attracted settlers to the twin towns of Central Tilba and Tilba Tilba.

Central Tilba
Procaffination (sp)

The rest of our drive to Eden was uneventful: we admired the views and hoped to arrive at our b&b before it became too dark.

Bega and its cheese will still be here when we next visit but we ran out of time today.

But how lucky were we today with the wildlife we saw, all totally unexpected! We’d seen signs warning us of the presence of wombats, possoms and kangaroos but we saw none of those on the road, alive, just a couple of corpses.

Our hostess in Eden was named Eve. No, of course not. She was Fran, a retired Maths and English teacher and very pleasant to speak with.

Manly to Moruya

We packed and dragged our bags back to Helen’s. We then breakfasted at Sketch, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. Helen took us to the next car rental place before we said our sad goodbyes. Not as sad as usual though, as Helen will be coming over to the UK in a month’s time, hooray!

Helen was delighted that the wine order she’d collected last week at Heifer was duplicated: a delivery was made this morning. So the dilemma is: drink it or return it? Helen did the right thing of course and was punished by having to carry the heavy box down to the post office!

The new car was much newer than the Queenland one, but a little smaller which is ironic since we now have a huge case as well.

And so began our final road trip in Australia, before our long journey home. Manly to Melbourne, mostly along the coast road.

After leaving Sydney and its suburbs behind us, we were able to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery.

Coledale was a nice little place to stop, rugged and rocky.

Coledale Beach

This sculpture celebrates the life of all-round local good guy, Mike Dwyer. It just invites you to walk round and round and admire it from all angles.

Comradeship by Didier Balez, 2007

It was quite windy and the sea was crashing onto the beach. Not surprisingly, nobody was on the beach nor in the water.

A little later, we stopped at Wollongong for lunch.

Wollongong Serpent, the Southern Siren

I went for a walk towards the lighthouse but was unable to complete the trek due to my inability to walk on water.

Sometimes, we gnarly old farts need a little help

I did make friends with a pelican in the harbour, though. We swapped stories and fishy tales.

Just the Pelly and Me

Today’s destination was Kiama Blowhole. It was windy enough for a good blow, but the tide was right out, so not much action today. Well, other than everyone walking around trying to keep their hats on.

Kiama Lighthouse

If being blown along by the wind didn’t convince you of its strength, the white horses out at sea certainly would. Yes, it was windy, but the Sun was out and it was a bright afternoon.

White horses

The rock formations in this area are fascinating too, especially the attempt to emulate the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

Kiama rocks, OK

There’s a large area of what can only be described as a lunar landscape. And in the middle of all the desolation, there’s one small plant, one giant leap for plantkind.

Little plant growing out of rock

Our b&b in Kiama was called Itchycoo Park so of course I had that song in my head all night.

The wind died down at some point overnight. The brief peace and quiet was disturbed though by a tradesman turning up early to demolish the balcony over our heads as a prelude to Neil, our host, building an extension, with a great view towards the northern Sun.

We returned to the blowhole in the morning where it was performing very well.

Thar she blows
Much calmer Kiama sea today

Today was Jenny’s birthday. I shouldn’t give away a lady’s age, but this is interesting. She is now 6². I am 8². If you add our ages, you get 10². Yes, we are like the squares on the sides of a right-angled triangle. Very special. That sounds better than saying that our ages now total 100, so I won’t mention that.

Liesel and I went for a walk on the beach at Gerroa. The wind had found us again and our legs were sand-blasted and exfoliated perfectly. Fascinating watching the little sand dunes form and move across the beach, like an old Open University Geography demonstration.

Whistling, whispering sands

Despite the strong wind and the raging sea, we found a group of hardy souls, actually in the water, trying to learn how to surf. A Surf Skool in the Sea in a Gale.

Surfers with L plates

Berry is a lovely, quiet little town. There are lots of interesting knick-knack type shops. We saw something nice or cute or unusual in most places, even some furniture that we like the look of, but of course, we didn’t buy anything. Except in the toy shop: that was totally irresistable. I just hope we don’t have to go out now and buy and even bigger case to put the new purchases in!

Alexander Berry, popular with birds, yes, and so popular with people, they named the town after him

The wind in Berry wasn’t as strong nor as cold, so it was delightful just walking up and down the streets, window shopping.

Dog taking shelter under a cow

I found one shop offering Intravenous Coffee, seems like a good idea, so I went in but they just gave it to me in a cup, like a normal coffee shop.

IV Coffee
Dog in a boat on the roof

Proceeding southwards on the A1, we were surprised to see smoke in a few places. Just a few, late, controlled fires even though it’s very nearly Winter here.

Smoke in the distance

By the time we reached Hyam’s Beach, a little later in the day, it was a colder breeze again. Neil had told us earlier that Hyam’s Beach claims to have the purest white sand in the world.

What does the sand at Hyam’s Beach do?

Well, it is white and soft and squeaky but I think the authorities at Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays might have something to say about Hyam’s claim.

What else does Hyam’s Beach have to offer? More black smoke over there, a couple of youngsters fishing, plus, at the water’s edge, a young couple reenacting that scene from the film ‘From Here to Eternity’.

More smoke over in the distance
Fishing
Just good friends

But the pièce de résistance was without doubt seeing this cloudbow, which appeared fleetingly just before the Sun set.

Cloudbow

The b&b today stunk: someone described it as ‘funky chicken’. It had the smell of an old person’s flat where they never open the windows, overcook all the food, and smoke. This hosts were friendly enough, admitted to smoking but only in the back of the house and they were proud to be cooking up two days worth of stew. Well, I hope they enjoy it because we certainly didn’t enjoy the stench it produced. We drove into Huskisson where we had a gorgeous meal.

Needless to say, we didn’t hang around in the morning for breakfast, we just wanted to get away before all our clothes became infected with the cigarette smoke and the stew grease fumes and the air fresheners that were fighting a losing battle. I just found it unpleasant, but poor old Liesel doesn’t have the most robust set of lungs at the best of times.

A few deep breaths of fresh air and we were back on the road.

To prevent landslides, there are a few places by the A1 (and presumably elsewhere) where they’ve sprayed concrete all up the hill, a common sight in Malaysia. But here, the colour they’ve chosen here is a better match to the background earthy colours.

We stopped at a place called Milton, where the views could be English pastoral scenes, evoking paintings by Constable.

Milton scenes

Breakfast at Ulladulla was very welcome. The Sun was out, the sky was blue, hardly a breeze, we found a place mentioned in some of the literature, Native!, and it lived up to its reputation.

Ulladulla Harbour

Boats in harbours always make me happy and I wonder if this is because one of my very first jigsaw puzzles, when I was small, depicted such a scene?

A fish out of water

I had more fun than Liesel did in Ulladulla for which I feel very guilty. No I don’t. I sat in the library writing while she sat in the car looking out for Traffic Wardens, or Rangers as they are called here.

When I reached a stopping point, I went to meet Liesel and was delighted to find this sundial, with its unorthodox orientation and gnomon placement. It told the right time as far as I could tell, taking into account the equation of time and daylight savings, but I could see no reason why it was set up this way. It was erected in celebration of Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988.

Sundial at Ulladulla

Burrill Beach at Dolphin Point has no crocodiles, hooray, no mention of jellyfish, fantastic, so a lovely place to go for a dip, you’d think.

Burrill Beach warnings

But even without those hazards, the high waves plus the strong winds were far too intimidating for us.

Burrill Beach surf’s up

I went for a quick walk along the beach and had the place to myself again. At one end of the beach, there was no wind. One minute, I had to hold my hat on, the next I’m standing feeling the heat of the Sun on my back. Magic.

Calm end of the beach

I tried to make friends with the oystercatchers, but they weren’t interested. I was intrigued by the structure of the beach’s surface here, though: usually you see roughly parallel lines in the sand, whether from waves or from wind.

Sand like orange peel

Yet another reason why I regret not pursuing a geology course at some point.

Burrill Beach has many holiday homes and would probably be a great place to spend more time. But a lot of those homes don’t look out over the sea. There are tall trees in the way. Or, if you’re really unlucky, you look out over the caravan park that is right next to the beach.

Just when you’re thinking, ooh, we haven’t seen any wildlife for a while, we turn a corner in Kioloa and find a field full of kangaroos relaxing.

Field of kangaroos

And if that wasn’t enough, just along the road, we passed by a house with several kangaroos in the front garden. These were not at all timid: in fact, they seemed disappointed that I didn’t offer them any food. But I swear the one at the front rolled his eyes when I asked, “What’s up, Skip?”

Garden of kangaroos

It was bright and sunny in Bateman’s Bay too and although we didn’t see much of the town itself, we did find some great sculptures.

The octopus on a buoy certainly drew our attention.

Buoyansea by Jesse Graham
Lavender is an old, old, old, old lady (RIP Ken Nordine)
Dance by Haruyuki Uchida
Selfie on the Bay
Portal by John Fitzmaurice

Our final stop tonight was at our b&b in Moruya. On the way, we passed this sign, so now I had another song in my head.

Roll over, Batehaven

When we entered the premises, we held our breath but, phew, this place didn’t smell too bad at all. And relax!

Mainly Manly

It was delightful waking up in time to wander down to Manly Beach for the main event of the day: sunrise. As expected, the place was humming with humanity. Many people were on the beach or on the parade, doing something or preparing.

Pre-sunrise beach party

It was a beautiful sunrise, no clouds on the horizon, just the Sun emerging from the sea while a few brave souls were out there, swimming or kayaking.

Late Autumn sunrise at Manly Beach

Not forgetting the joggers, cyclists, tai-chiists, dog-walkers, dog-runners and fellow Sun worshippers of course.

My shadow, with a extree leg

It’s the week of A Taste of Manly, the world famous food and wine festival. I watched the workers setting up stalls and stages on North Steyne and The Corso. Lots of tasty looking street food would be up for grabs later on, along with plenty of wine. Grilled halloumi, mmm. The music progam [sic] looked good too.

You only had one job

Too many photos of the sunrise, so I had to go through and edit them. The best place for this was of course Three Beans, so I had a coffee and a muffin to accompany the procedure.

Back home and my new career as a clothes horse began today. Helen asked me to try on a jumper and I think it looks rather fetching. The model’s pretty hot too.

Mick in a jumper

Helen, Liesel and I went for a walk. The food festival was, we felt, too busy to be fun, as Helen had warned us was likely. The beach was busy too, seemingly a different breed of Sun worshipper.

More sedate people on the beach

Liesel and I moved into our new b&b, just a few minutes up the road. Adam was coming home from a week’s work in Frankfurt so it was only fair to give him some space and time to recover. Plus, we didn’t want to be around when he opened his case stuffed with illicit German sausages.

To further distance ourselves from such comestibles, bizarrely, we went to The Bavarian Manly Wharf for a late lunch. We had the best salads, each selecting our own ingredients from the pre-printed order sheet.

To bracket the day, here’s another Manly sunset as experienced from Helen and Adam’s balcony, to which we briefly returned.

Sunset over Manly Cove

The following sunrise was witnessed by Helen and Adam, somehow I slept right through the event.

Helen’s sunrise

Helen made breakfast for us: Liesel’s chilli eggs, a recipe passed down through many generations. Plus fake bacon, or fakon. After this, Adam needed a nap. Well, we probably all did but the rest of us had no excuse, we weren’t fighting jetlag.

Liesel and I caught a ferry to Watson’s Bay.

Here we are, waving at Helen from the ferry

Watson’s Bay is a mere VIII miles from Sydney.

Watson’s Bay milepost

But we weren’t walking all that way, oh no. We had a nice, gentle walk to Vaucluse House. Gentle? Well, it was a bit hilly.

The bridge over Parsley Bay was interesting, very slightly wobbly, but you could make it shake even more if you wanted to. To one side, we could see a small beach at the top of the inlet. To the other, we witnessed people swimming across.

Parsley Bay swim club

Despite Google Maps, we found our way into the grounds: we didn’t walk the extra miles the long way round that it prescribed.

Old gnarly tree, winner of the Knobbly Knees Competition

Vaucluse House was owned by William Charles Wentworth, whose eponymous Falls we visited a few days ago. The house is now set up as it was in his day, the 1860s, including CCTV cameras and barriers preventing you from walking into some of the rooms.

It’s a bit like the Sloane Museum in London, with lots of useful items and many interesting old artefacts, but nowhere near as cluttered.

These books intrigue me, I’ll try to remember to look them up sometime. Maybe even download them onto my Kindle.

A very select selection of books
Crenellations just like those at our Manchester apartment
Wine cellar: Vaucluse House or Helen’s?
Fireplace decorated with old QR codes

After coffee and cake in the tearoom, the walk back to the wharf seemed easier and quicker somehow, which is often the case. We watched people while waiting for our return ferry.

Back at Manly Cove Beach, we sat by the path trying not to inhale (too many of) the pot fumes while waiting to meet Helen. We carried on watching people, some slightly worse for wear, probably too much wine from the festival.

For our final evening meal in Manly, we dined at The Skiff Club. I watched the Sun set behind Helen but the photo of her glowing hair didn’t really work, thanks to the reflective plastic sheet protecting us from the elements.

Adam joined us later, after a long nap. He was due to fly back to work the following day, up to Hayman Island in the Whitsundays.

It did feel odd, sitting outside, albeit under awning, with heating turned on. The sudden change from needing AC to using heaters is quite a shock to the system.

Outdoor space heater
Selfie of the day (Mick’s version)
Selfie of the day (Helen’s, superior, version)

During the night, I remembered why I don’t drink so much beer any more.

Palm Beach and Sydney Observatory

We had planned to walk to Spit Bridge but over night, smoke from the mountains had blown in. Liesel noticed the smell, but the haze outside told the full story.

Haze over Manly Cove

Instead, Helen drove us to Palm Beach, where the air was clear and the views magnificent. We walked along the soft sand beach and up the sloping path to the lighthouse.

Palm Beach

Last time here, there had been a big fire and the vegetation had only just started to grow back. Today, it was lush and green and there were some pretty but unusual flowers too.

Red flower plus ant for scale

Looking down on the picturesque Palm Beach with its pair of back to back beaches gave us all the encouragement we needed to reach the summit.

Iconic view of Palm Beach from halfway up to the lighthouse
Barrenjoey Lighthouse

This is the place to come to see whales at the right time of year, but we were just happy to look out over the blue, empty sea.

Having walked up one way, we decided to walk back down the other, down the steps.

Descending

I was delighted to complete the descent in fine fettle, having passed a few young people, all puffing and panting and sweating. Then Liesel pointed out that we were walking down while they were running up.

Walking back along the beach and on to the restaurant, we passed what we thought should be our next hire vehicle.

Plane on the beach with no parking ticket yet

In the loo queue, I spoke with a lady from California, mainly about the British monarchy. She knew more of the cast list than I did, of course! Plus, she thought I had an Aussie accent.

We stopped briefly at Warriewood Square, a huge shopping centre, on the way home. Liesel bought the biggest suitcase in the world. Well, it isn’t, but compared with the small, 10-litre backpacks we’ve been travelling with, it’s enormous. Have we really acquired that much extra stuff? We have a few bottles of wine from a couple of days ago plus a very few other small bits and pieces.

We all caught the ferry into Sydney and while on board, I watched the Sun setting behind the suburbs.

Sunset from the Manly Ferry

With about twenty other passengers, I was waiting for the magic moment when the Sun would appear behind or underneath Sydney Harbour Bridge. I thought how tragic it would be if someone were to fall overboard in the crush. On the other hand, there’d be fewer people in the way of a good picture. The best shot, cropped to lose people’s heads and some ferry superstructure, isn’t too bad.

Sun setting behind the iconic Harbour Bridge

For the second time in two days, Liesel and I found ourselves walking towards The Rocks, this time accompanied by Helen.

Not a very convincing Tardis

Vivid Sydney is a festival where art, technology and commerce intersect. Three weeks of game changing ideas and seminars, amazing music and light sculptures that transform the city. From our point of view, the lights would normally be an attraction. But the crowds of people might diminish the experience.

A well lit hotel
Lighting up the sky

Plus, tonight, we didn’t need any more light pollution than was already present. My very welcome, late birthday present from Helen was a visit to Sydney Observatory, on top of the hill, above The Rocks.

Four Candles

The guide showed us round and it was interesting and exciting to be back inside a working observatory dome again.

Just about everything here is controlled electronically, so things are much easier than they were at Mill Hill Observatory, 45 long years ago, when I was a student.

We visitors took it in turns to look through the telescope at a couple of items. We managed to split the binary star ɑ Centauri and we viewed The Jewel Box star cluster too. Darker skies would definitely have enhanced the image.

The telescope just like the one I want at home

The planetarium was just a big umbrella onto which images of the night sky are projected. It was interesting to compare the sky in Sydney, about 120 stars visible, with a really dark sky and 3000 stars visible plus The Milky Way. There’s plenty of other fascinationg equipment and artefacts here too. Maybe a longer, daytime visit is required. Next time.

Henbury Meteorite – thinking of Sarah

We booked an Uber home rather than walk, fight the crowds, run for the ferry and walk up the hill in Manly. Thanks to Helen for being a wonderful host, chauffeur and guide today!

On The Rocks

We left Orange behind and drove towards the Blue Mountains. Preventative back burning is taking place, and we realised that the presence of smoke may affect our journey today.

We could see smoke haze in the distance, adding to the blueness of the mountains, but we didn’t want to arrive home smelling of old ashtrays.

Mountain haze from Evans’ Plains

We stopped for a second time in Bathurst, impressed by the extensive war memorial park. Bathurst claims to be the first inland settlement in NSW, with deep gratitude to a Mr Evans who opened up the west.

Mr Evans

There may have been a place of execution here, if the pavement markings are to be believed.

Mick’s in the noose again

The mountains would have moved towards us, I’m sure, but instead, we made the effort, mostly Helen, thank you!

Blue Mountains from Govett’s Leap

The smoke was still too far away to smell, but there was a definitely pall in the distance. The view at or from Govett’s Leap was fantastic, though, the escarpments and the gumtrees. A couple of walking tracks are closed due to landslides, but we weren’t planning a long walk today.

Big beautiful Blue Mountains

As usual, a little picture on a small screen doesn’t do justice to the scale of this place, it’s immense and so impressive.

Selfie of the day

And then we go and spoil it all by doing something stupid like taking a selfie in front of a terrific view.

A café in an old theatre with an antiques display at the back seemed like a good venue for lunch, if only we could find such a place. Blackheath rose to the challenge, and we found ourselves in the Victory Café where I had a liquid lunch, though not in the conventional sense of the phrase: I had curried sweet potato soup, vanilla milkshake and water then jumped up and down to mix it all up.

A very pretty tile just like ours at home

You have to walk through all the crap old and interesting displays to visit the dunny but it’s very risky, the aisles are very narrow.

Lots of antique artefacts at the back of the café

We went forth at Wentworth Falls, just a short loop, but a welcome bit of exercise after lunch. I could just stay there and look at this view all day. Not much happens, clouds glide by, birds swoop, leaves rustle in the breeze, but it’s so quiet and peaceful.

Wentworth Falls view
A bonus nother Selfie

Either we travelled at warp speed or I nodded off in the car but we were back in Manly in no time.

While we were away, the plumber had been in to fix the toilet, to cement it securely to the floor. After using the facility, I put the seat down and closed the door. Only the door wouldn’t close, it was obstructed by the toilet seat. The plumber had tightened up the screws, but only after moving the seat forward by an inch or so.

I found a saw and was about to cut a notch into the door, so that it would close fully, without bashing into the toilet seat, but Helen said she’d rather get the plumber back instead, to move the seat back to its original position.

The sunset is usually good from Helen’s apartment and today was no exception.

A Manly sunset

Helen had to work the following day, someone has to, I suppose, so Liesel and I were left to our own devices. After Liesel visited the local spa for some treatment, I met her over the road for breakfast. We can recommend Sketch, it was one of the best breakfasts we’ve eaten out, and we’re thinking we might return before we leave Manly.

We caught an early ferry to Circular Quay where I had a chat with my new BFF, an Aboriginal gentleman playing the didgeridoo. He’d been to the UK as part of a group, travelling down to Devon and all the way up to John O’Groats. They’d even played at the Edinburgh Tattoo.

Top didg player

We were here to meet an old friend, Maggie, who’d moved back to Australia from Chessington over 30 years ago. It was good to catch up after all this time. Our children no longer need babysitting of course, but their children, our grandchildren, might. She brought a friend, Carol, who I don’t think enjoyed the long-ish walk to The Rocks area for lunch as much as the rest of us did.

Pink telephone box

Maggie is enjoying retirement too and we talked about a few mutual friends from Chessington who are no longer part of our lives. It’s always sad when you lose touch with people, but we can be quite philosophical about it.

There was a cruise ship in port, dwarfing some of the older Sydney buildings.

On the ferry back to Manly, I realised we hadn’t taken any photos with Maggie. I’ll try to remedy that when we meet up again in another thirty years!

Another Manly sunset

Phhh-psst, sneezed the elf living in Helen’s kitchen. Bless you, said I. After several such exchanges, I investigated further. It’s not a little person after all. There’s a machine that squirts elephant repellant into the air every couple of minutes. And it works: there are no elephants in the apartment. No bugs either, so that’s a bonus.