The next day was full of the usual holiday activities, up, out for breakfast, showers, trip to the National Library (Mick and Liesel), job interview (Jyoti), comments on the heat and humidity outside (all of us), comments on the coldth inside buildings (Jyoti and Liesel), coffee, food, food and more food.
If all this Indian food doesn’t cause total heart failure, unexpectedly walking past a building with a name like this might finish the job.
I don’t think it’s related to or owned by the dipshit-in-chief but you can’t help but make the connection.
The National Library is big, spacious and cool, not cold, inside. I wanted to write but wasn’t relaxed and comfortable in the café while many people were moving furniture around and preparing for a theatre performance or something. The coffee was nice though.
When Jyoti joined us, we walked to St Josephs Institution, the venue for an art gallery, but it was closed.
“The Explorer” was created in 1999 by Ng Eng Teng to commemorate the new millenium.
Over the Clouds
Beyond the Planets
Travels and Explores
We like the amount of greenery here in Singapore, lots of trees everywhere, and there are plants growing up walls of buildings and even on the roofs. Rooves? On the lids of buildings.
We visited the Gardens by the Bay but before we got there, we spent some time in what must be one of the biggest shopping centres anywhere, with shoppes (sic) for the more affluent people amongst us. There was nothing of interest to me here, but J&L enjoy walking around such places, so I tagged along: none of us had plans to buy anything though.
Marina Bay Sands is very shiny, very expensive looking, very clean and surprisingly quiet. Except for some loud music which we now realise must have been for the launch of the new Netflix offering, Triple Frontier, starring Ben Affleck.
Well, Ben missed out on his chance to meet us, but I did my bit to wear out the red carpet.
We walked to the Gardens and even the walk along the enormous concourse was entertaining: the walls are comprised of pictures of plants alternating with mirrors, so the effect is very colourful and spacious.
I bought some apples and grapes and I was delighted to be given a plastic bag. I haven’t had one of those for a while, it made me yearn for the good old days. In Japan, they thrust plastic bags on you, even if you haven’t bought anything yet, but I didn’t expect that sort of thing here in Singapore.
We probably won’t have time to go up on this trip, but Sands Sky Park Observation Deck looks amazing from down here on planet Earth. It looks like a ship has moored on top of the skyscrapers and there’s now a garden on board.
To save walking so far, we took a shuttle to the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. This structure is a remarkable feat of design and engineering, and we could have spent a long time wandering around. Unfortunately, so could everyone else and it was very crowded.
One thing I really wanted to see was Venus fly-traps made from Lego bricks. That’ll never happen, you’re thinking. Well…
The Cloud Walk was lovely. We took the lift up to level 6, walked up to level 7 then all the way down, alternately looking at the plants and the view of the Supertrees which light up as the Sun sets.
Had enough of plants? There are some geological items too, best of all, this amethyst geode.
I know that during our mass decluttering project last year, I swore I would never again collect anything. Well, we had to leave and reenter this venue, so I decided to start collecting stamps once more.
Spoiler alert: unlike one stamp a few months ago that persisted for a couple of weeks, these had all successfully been washed off within 12 hours.
I was ridiculously tired, not at all hungry, so I just loitered with intent while J&L had a very late meal. Back at our luxuriously delicious and immensely spacious studio apartment, I had a quick rinse in the shower, read my book for two minutes, and drifted away very quickly.
It might be spaciously luxurious but none of us would want to spend more time than necessary in the the studio apartment. There’s only one window and it looks out onto the front yard and pavement. We went to Lau Pa Sat food court for breakfast although by the time we arrived, it was our midday meal.
Hot spicy and hot temperature-wise was my soup, full of delicious vegetables. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having hot Indian or Thai food like like this for breakfast. A bowl of cereal or toast and Marmite sounds really good right now!
Looking up without falling over backwards is a necessary skill in a modern city. Coping with an element of cognitive dissonance is vital too. When I’m enjoying the countryside or beach, I am glad to be away from the hustle and bustle of a city. Yet here I am in a big city, enjoying the buzz, admiring the beauty of the cityscape while at the same time, feeling a bit sorry for those folks who spend forty hours a week stuck inside one of those edifices. I bet most of them would rather be spending time out of doors. They’re building upwards here of course, but also reclaiming a lot of land from the sea. Next time we visit Singapore, it might be much more than a little red dot.
We took a train to the nice cool Library where I did some writing while enjoying some coffee. Jyoti and Liesel both had slightly disappointing drinks although, to be fair, the colour of Jyoti’s concoction did match the top she was wearing
The spire of St Andrew’s Cathedral stands out against the new, highrise buildings.
As I walked towards the National Gallery to meet up with J&L again, I was delighted to see a game of cricket taking place. Jyoti’s Dad used to spend time at the Singapore Cricket Club all those years ago.
In the Gallery itself, we enjoyed artworks from the wider southeast Asia region, not just Singapore.
I always like geometric shapes so these interlocking tetrahedrons are right up my street.
I think they’d look jolly nice on our mantlepiece. If we had a mantelpiece.
We walked back to the shoppes at the Sands hotel conference and exhibition centre and onto the food court. On the way, we saw the Merlion, a lion’s head on a fish. The real one is much bigger and currently being restored.
Our plan to eat in the food court earlier in the evening, in order to avoid crowds, totally backfired. The place was heaving. Not only that, it was thrumming. So instead, we went up to a wood-fired pizza place. The pizza was nice and best of all, they gave us a knife and fork to eat with.
We paid a return visit to the Gardens on the Bay. This time, we concentrated on the Supertrees, the light show, the fountains and the dragonflies. It would have been fun to do the sky walk, high up amongst the Supertrees, but the crowds here were not only heaving and thrumming, they were jostling as well.
The sculpture of a baby boy was astonishing in itself, but when you realise he’s almost floating in the air, balanced on the back of his right hand alone, you can’t help but think, babies really are remarkable, aren’t they? They grow up, some become artistic and come up with things like this. Marvellous.
We landed at Changi Airport and, for the first time ever, we were going to venture out into the wider city/state. Not the first time for Jyoti though: she’d lived here for a while as a youngster.
The taxi took us to our new Airbnb and for such a small island, it seemed to take a really long time. Singapore is just a small red dot of an island off the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Surely is should only take five minutes to reach anywhere on the island? But, it’s nearly twice the size of the Isle of Wight and that can takes a while to traverse too. I think we (I) were (was) tired from the flight with no sleep, desperate to be horizontal, push up some zzzz.
We finally arrived at our new luxuriously spacious studio apartment. Shirley, our host, met us at the door, and showed us round.
At last, all ready for bed, teeth cleaned, lights out, and what’s this?
It’s like Houston Mission Control over there, all the lights and LEDs from the TV, the wifi router and all the other electronic gallimaufry.
Jyoti makes no bones about the fact that she is here primarily for the food. Liesel goes bananas at the mention of food too. Finding somewhere to eat is as easy as pie. Our first breakfast was Indian: dosa masala. Huge. And a mango lassi. For breakfast.
Jyoti needed to visit the Apple Store in Orchard Road (there’s a long story here).
This is one area that she knows well from many years ago. The journey by train was easy enough and a good way to do some quick sight-seeing.
Following the purchase of probably the most expensive phone in this sector of the galaxy, we went for a walk, shops, lunch, and on to the National Museum of Singapore.
Lunch? For me, the most disappointing meal ever. The picture and description made it look good. Kaya toast is a local favourite. The toast and coconut jam was ok. The boiled eggs were yucky, runny whites, and the tea was too sweet, probably made with condensed milk. The picture on the menu still looks like two halves of a hard-boiled egg to me. The official description is ‘half-boiled’. Just serve up raw eggs and be open about it!
I consoled myself with a pineapple and sour plum smoothie. And later, an apple.
The Museum was fascinating (and cool), the whole history of Singapura through British colonisation to full independence in 1965 and remarkable economic and cultural success since then.
In the evening, we went for a walk in the Botanic Gardens. We’re just one degree north of the equator here and I’m not sure the seasons match what we’re used to. The gardens were lovely, but there were very few flowers, not what you would call a colourful place.
The path was well-made and the only one that had cobbles and bumpy stones was named the “Reflexology Path” and I thought, what a clever bit of marketing.
We entered the area comprising the Singapore Botanic Gardens UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know what’s wrong with the rest of the gardens: it’s not like they’re all weeds or something.
The Evolutuion area was interesting: ammonites embedded in the path, petrified trees and a small homage to Stonehenge.
There’s an area dedicated to plants used for medicinal purposes, another with aromatic plants, and a whole lot more that we didn’t have time, nor legs, to visit.
As we turned one corner, we saw a bird run across the path into the bushes. It wasn’t going to be a kiwi this time, obviously, but we thought it might be something exotic and interesting. As I watched, in the shadow under the bush, I realised the bird was feeding three chicks, clearing back the leaf litter, letting the little ones peck at their own food. Only when she emerged from the shadows did we realise how exciting our find wasn’t.
I know Jyoti’s only little, but look at the size of these leaves. we know where to go should we need an umbrella.
I was sad to learn only recently that Dean Ford, the lead singer with Marmalade had died at the end of last year. I think their best song was Reflections of my Life. The lyrics include the following:
The world is a bad place
A bad place, a terrible place to live
Oh, but I don’t wanna die.
Yes, the world can be a pretty scary place. On our travels, we’ve seen signs warning us of earthquakes, tsunamis, snakes, sharks and now, today, this:
We should have donned our hard hats for this garden, not our flimsy sun hats.
Back in the city centre (actually, the whole country seems to be city centre), we visited one of Jyoti’s favourite restaurants from 1947, Komala Vilas.
It was very popular, very busy and we had to wait a short while for a table. Dosa for breakfast, and now, dosa for supper. Huge things.
We shared the three but, needless to say, none of us could finish. Trying to eat one-handed is a challenge: you’re not supposed to use your left hand while eating. Unless you’re using a fork, which is a handy get-out clause. I would have liked a knife too, I am British, don’tcha know, but a second implement, if available at all, always seems to be a spoon. The lady at the table next to ours was entertained by us, but in the end, we made eye contact and she smiled. Her husband, though, adept at one-handed eating as he was, was a messy pig. No, not pig, that’s inappropriate. He was a very messy eater.
We were in an area named Little India so it was no surprise to pass by a Chinese Theatre performance on the way back to the station.
We returned to our luxuriously spacious studio apartment where we cooled down in the shower and retired to bed. You think my description of the place is exaggerated? Nope.
We’d walked over ten miles today, far too much for Liesel, so we agreed to take it easy the next day.
Sitting in Manly Library, watching the workers and the students. I’d finished what I needed to do and while I was packing up, I received two text messages. The first was “Do you want a lift home from the library?” The second, timed ten minutes later was “Never mind, we’ve passed the library”. So I walked back to the flat, the long way, via the beach and the back streets of Manly.
There is a mural on a wall in Market Lane comprised of several headlines from the local newspaper, The Manly Daily. Some are obvious but some are intriguing. Someone must have read decades of old papers just to find the good ones!
I love the big tree in the middle of The Corso, the main street. It provides a lot of shade when you jaywalk across the road. Which I would never do.
Adam got up while it was still dark and went for a run before going to work, as usual. I didn’t wake up in time to walk down to watch the sunrise on this occasion. Helen was singing the song “Daddy’s taking me to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow”, and so it came to pass. Helen drove us this time although we’d previously gone by ferry. Taronga Zoo in Sydney is one of our favourites, the inmates seem to be well looked after and the view across the harbour of the city is well worth the trip.
I told myself I wouldn’t take many pictures this time, we’ve all seen the animals before and everyone knows what they look like. Huh. I very nearly ran out of digital film.
We had planned to meet up with Jyoti at the zoo, with her family, but insomnia had conspired against her. So she missed out on seeing the Sumatran rhinoceros.
There was a sign telling me that because this is a model, I wasn’t allowed to climb on it. The implication being, if it were a real rhino, I could jump on board for the full rodeo experience.
The baby chimpanzee was adorable, as babies often are. We won’t ask what this little chap was drinking, but it was a hot day and it hasn’t rained properly for ages.
This cassowary wasn’t behind a fence, like the one at the koala place was a couple of weeks ago. With no obstruction, he looks even more prehistoric than usual, and proud of it.
We didn’t see a platypus out in the wild, we didn’t really expect to, so it was good to see this one in the dark, having a jolly good, satisfying scratch.
We saw some koalas too. Neville was on the move, walking along branches, heading for a lady koala. We even watched him walk backwards and then jump up to the next branch. The volunteer told us that Neville was missing a golden opportunity. He was ignoring the other female, the one that’s in season, ready to rock and roll. Don’t be like Neville. Choose the correct female for hanky-panky on pancake day.
Two of the meerkats were having a play fight, but they and the others were making the best of a very small patch of shadow in their enclosure. It was too hot even for meerkats.
When someone is being tenacious, not giving up with a problem, we used to say they’re like a dog with a bone. No longer. The expression now is, like a baby elephant with a bamboo stick.
It was a long stick, and he walked up and down with it several times, trying to bend it, breae it, pull it fully through the fence. Fabulous entertainment.
We took the opportunity of making a quick side trip to Sumatra to see some tigers.
It was a short flight, and I stood all the way. But it was worth it. Weather conditions remarkably similar to those in Sydney and yes, we saw some Sumatran tigers, of which there are only about 350-400 left in the wild.
There are three cubs, just a couple of months old, and they should be out and about at the end of March, ready for the public to see. Right now, they’re behind the scenes, seen only via CCTV.
We walked down via all the gift shops so that we could ride the gondola up to the top, where the car was parked.
Looking across the harbour towards Sydney, just along the road from the ferry terminal. The drive home was good and we stopped off to buy our evening meal. Home-made pizza. A great idea of Helen’s to use pita bread as a thin base. Prawns and pineapple were two toppings that I avoided but we all had great, unique, customised pizzas. And a bottle of wine
This was our final evening with Helen and Adam in Manly. Our departure tomorrow has crept up on us like those Weeping Angels in Doctor Who. Australia’s been fantastic as it always is and I am really pleased that we’ll be coming back after a few weeks away elsewhere.
Anticipation of a big journey never leads to a good night’s sleep. Oh, never mind, we say, we’ll sleep on the plane. That rarely happens, either.
After packing and showering, Helen, Liesel and I walked down to Manly Beach for breakfast. Any plans we had for a quick last minute swim were thwarted. (We had no such plans.)
The alarm must have only just been sounded as there were a lot of people on the beach and on the promenade, still dripping. If the shark sighting didn’t put you off, then maybe the signs warning of dangerous currents would. Our plan though was to visit The Pantry where the breakfast was brilliant and the view of the beach breathtaking. Helen showed me how to make an Instagram story, probably a vital skill in the 21st century, but what a palaver for something that self-destructs after 24 hours!
Helen kindly dropped us off at the airport again and while driving there, we watched the clouds building up, wondering whether it would rain on the clothes currently out drying on the balcony.
Liesel and I rendezvoused with Jyoti who had spent the last few days with her family elsewhere in Sydney. We checked in (there’s a whole story there), got through security (there’s a whole story there, too), I ate my apple, we bought snacks and waited to board the plane.
I only wish we were in the Canaries again. Then, I could say, the rain on the plane falls mainly in Spain. But we’re not. We’re off to sunny Singapore instead. This venue wasn’t originally on our list, but Jyoti used to live there, so Liesel and I are going with her for three weeks and spending another couple of weeks in Malaysia on our own. Exciting but I’m a bit trepidatious, those being two countries I’d never seriously thought I’d ever go to. An unexpected adventure.
Somewhere in the northern expanse of Australia, we caught our final glimpse of the desert for now.
A year ago in London, Liesel visited a physiotherapist by the name of Emma. Emma’s partner is also a trained PT, and he is Australian. Under some peculiar, twisted distortion and interpretation of Theresa May’s “hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, his work visa was revoked, and he was forced to move back to Australia. And naturally, Emma went back with him. So Britain has lost two fully trained physiotherapists for no good reason.
They are now living and working in Melbourne. Liesel tracked Emma down and made an appointment to visit her
So, the three of us took a tram to South Melbourne. While Liesel was being poked and prodded, Jyoti and I had a quick walk, to get some steps in and, yes, of course, we had a coffee at one of Melbourne’s famed coffee shops.
I always like a good pun when it comes to a shop name and hairdressers and barbers are particularly good at it.
Every now and then, we come across a shop named after a David Bowie song or album. Well, here, we not only had the album, the neighbouring shop was named after one of the songs on that album, albeit abbreviated so as not to offend your nan. Queen Bitch. No, not your nan, that’s the name of the Bowie song.
We caught the tram back to the iconic Flinders Street Station. We didn’t go into the pub over the road that my Dad had told me about: he’d been there after the war, in the late 1940s!
We crossed the road to Federation Square, to spend time indoors again.I had been here once before, when the geometrically and architecturally interesting buildings had first opened, in 2002.
I visited Australia in November 2002 specifically to see the Total Eclipse of the Sun. It was a trip that Sarah and I hoped to make together but she died eighteen months earlier. I was in two minds about whether or not to make the trip on my own, but now, I am immensely glad and grateful that so many people encouraged me to go for it. I had a good time, but it was emotional too. A Total Eclipse, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and on through South Australia to Kings Canyon, Uluru, Alice Aprings, Ghan to Adelaide. A great trip, but the detailed blog remains to be written! And now, back to the present…
“The Clock” is a 24-hour long video comprised of thousands of clips from films and TV programmes. As it proceeds, the shots of clocks in the various clips accurately reflect the time now, in the real world. The joins were seamless, and although there was no single storyline to follow, it was a very interesting 90 minutes that we spent watching it (minus a short nap, each). Where else would you see Ricky Gervais and Joan Crawford together? Snippets from films not seen for years, decades even. Christian Marclay is responsible for this colossal labour of love, but surely he must have employed many researchers? Yes, we thought about returning later in the day to see a different segment, but that will have to wait until next time.
ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is based here too. Yesterday, Chris had suggested visiting this collection of film and TV related exhibits, and the zoetrope in particular.
As it spins, a strobe light gives the illusion that the individual models are moving up and down.
One display celebrated Australian film and TV. The selection was OK but I was disappointed that The Paul Hogan Show was not represented. My flat mates and I used to watch that on late night TV with a tube of Fosters, and it was the funniest show evah!
I did enjoy watching an 18-year old Kylie Minogue with sister Dannii perfoming Sisters are Doing it for Themselves!
The whole place was very reminiscent of the old MOMI, Museum of the Moving Image, in London, but this was much more interactive.
The piano from the 1993 film, “The Piano” was here, but I wasn’t allowed to play it. I’m not sure Michael Nyman would have been allowed to touch it, to be fair.
Replicas were made for the film. A light one, to carry up the hill. And a heavy steel one to film sinking in the sea.
There is an Aussie TV fantasy drama that I now want to watch: Cleverman. They employed Weta Studios to design the special effects, and the aboriginal mythology underlying the story looks fascinating.
And now for the next edition of a favourite irregular item: Toilet Talk.
I saw this sign in the toilets and I thought, if I pee twice, I could save eight litres of water. Also, if I’m walking out in the woods and need to go behind a bush, when Liesel rolls her eyes I can just tell her that I am saving 4 litres of water! All this on the day that Network Rail have decided to abolish the six shilling charge for using the public toilets at Waterloo Station. Six shillings, 30p, Liesel will confirm I’ve been whingeing about this charge for years.
Bollards! It’s a shame that these large blocks of concrete are required to protect buildings in our cities, but I do like the fact that someone solved the Rubik’s Cube here.
We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre because it was time once again to shake our heads in disbelief and despair, weep for the past and feel absolute shame at what our British ancestors are responsible for. Australia is the only commonwealth country still without a treaty with its original people. Small pox, massacres, kidnappings, stealing their land, oh it’s a horrible story.
This chap cheered us up. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to live, about the size of a rhinoceros and is thought to have died out about 45,000 years ago. So chances are, it did live alongside humans for a period. Two metres tall, three metres long, but what a cute, cheeky face.
The other day we found a Chocolaterie and Ice Creamerie. Today we passed by a Fish and Chipperie. But our destination on Lygon Street was Milk the Cow Licenced Fromagerie. It was just along the road from Reading’s Bookerie, where I’d met Barry Humphries, as mentioned before.
Milk the Cow is a combined cheeserie and winerie and actually, my Cider Flight was fab, delicious even.
Four slices of different cheese each accompanied by a specially selected cider. With crackers and bread. Very nicerie, very tasterie.
We passed many, many other restauranteries on the walk home, some with very long queues of people. Our ice creams were just the right size: one scoop was enough, a second would have melted far too quickly.
The worst thing about Melbourne? It’s a great city, it feels a bit like London in places, with its nooks and crannies and alleyways and arcades. But, we have walked through more clouds of cigarette smoke here in the last couple of days than we have during the previous several weeks. There are non-smoking areas, but there are probably more smokers per capita here than in any other city we’ve visited.
Now it’s time to say farewell to Victoria – the place to be. Goodbye to Victoria – the education state. And cheerio to Victoria – the only state named after a Kinks song. Two of those three slogans appear on car registration number plates, or regos.
In the morning, before the Sun came up, we were greeted by the Moon and Venus.
Several shots were taken of which, this, the first, is probably the best. An easy distraction from the task of packing. The only extra item I had to squeeze into my pack was the apologetic bottle of wine from a couple of nights ago.
At about 11pm, we heard a very loud, humungous crash. We checked on Jyoti, she hadn’t fallen through or out of bed and everything else seemed to be OK in our little apartment.
When we left the building in the morning though, we had to limbo dance under the Police Crimescene tape around the entrance and the neighbouring passage. We could see no evidence of a car crash or any crime. We’ve found nothing in the news so can only be grateful we weren’t delayed for interrogation.
We took a tram, then a Skybus to the airport. The flight to Sydney was uneventful apart from the disappointment of not being offered any tea or a snack. Don’t sit in row 22!
It was a joy to be collected by Helen again and although it was warm here, it wasn’t as hot as Melbourne had been. And Manly looks magnificent as it always does when the Sun’s out.
Most of the afternoon was taken up with watching some fighting on TV. Adam’s a big fan of UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, is better/worse/bloodier than boxing, takes place in an octagonal ring, usually over five 5-minute rounds of jabs, kicks, holds, bars, parries, jumps, punches, with elbows, knees, feet, fists all involved. I don’t think this will ever become my favourite sport.
Despite discouragement, I went for a walk in Manly, keeping to the shady side of the street. I watched people playing and/or sunbathing on the beaches.
Helen walked down the road and we met at Fish Bowl where we collected bowls of rice plus veg plus sauce for our dinner. At the grand old age of 31, I still take twice as long to finish a rice-based meal as everyone else. Ridiculous.
We watched “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the new film, on TV, which we found very enjoyable. I was especially pleased to see Kenny Everett portrayed, back at “Capital Radio when it was good” which I am trying to get everyone to adopt as its official name. And of course now, we just want to hear all those old Queen albums in full again, especially A Night at the Opera.
Monday in Manly was mainly medical matters, refilling prescriptions (me), typhoid and hepatitis A jabs (both), dental check-up and clean (both). My plans for a massage made the cutting-room floor: no need to stir up typhoid and hep A juices unnecessarily.
So here I am once again, in Manly Library, typing away in the corner, this time sitting next to (inter alia) books by Keith Waterhouse, who I used to enjoy reading, gulp, decades ago.
Meanwhile, Helen and Liesel have gone to a shopping mall to do some shopping. I missed out there. (Didn’t really.)
The results are in, they have been independently verified and certified and all the judges agree. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (pts 1-7) was the final track we heard in the car. Partway through the Ss, nowhere near the Zs. We’ll pick up this alphabetical trawl through our music on another occasion. Meanwhile, Liesel and I have decided we do need a much wider range of music, by a larger selection of artistes. We need to find a way to balance out the discrepancy in volume between loud and soft songs. And we need a random shuffle that is truly random, that doesn’t discriminate against certain people or certain tracks or even some whole albums.
Oops sorry, I usually warn uninterested viewers that this “Music News” is about to appear. But I didn’t this time. If only there were some way to go back in time and fix it.
The sky was clear enough overnight to see the southern stars and the Milky Way again. At least until the Moon rose over the sea.
There are much better, clearer, higher definition photos of the Monn available, but this isn’t too bad with a phone camera.
And in the morning, Venus greeted us before the Sun came up. People were already swimming in the sea at dawn, and I envied them as I crawled back into bed. Or vice versa.
The wind had died down so we were able to break our fast on the balcony.
And after packing, we drove to the car park where we’d spent some time yesterday and enjoyed a long, long walk along the beach.
The temperature was perfect, the wind was mildly refreshing, the sand was soft, a cushioned insole under bare feet.
There were plenty of gulls, but we were surprised at the lack of oystercatchers. Maybe this beach has the wrong kind of shellfish. Jyoti watched a snail extract a clam from its shell, before a wave took them both away. There was one solitary, but dead, starfish too.
Then we stopped by a coffee and pie shop in Port Fairy for a coffee and a pie before our long, long drive to Ballarat. This would be our longest driving day in Victoria. And it was long. We saw signs warning us of the presence of koalas and kangaroos but we didn’t see any. We watched the temperature creep up from 25° to 34° as we progressed eastwards. The land was flat, the roads were straight, some tree-lined, we passed lots of fields with brown grass, hay bales, bulls, cows, horses, sheep. When we saw a small hillock in the distance, we called it a mountain. This wasn’t the most enjoyable drive for sightseeing. Liesel commented on the dearth of Highway Patrol Cops here in Australia. Well, within a minute, we saw one on the other side of the road having a word with somebody.
We stopped in Smythesdale, definitely equine country: we saw at least three shops selling horse feed. I had a big bottle of cold coffee, J&L enjoyed an ice cream. The town remembers its early settlers too, German and Chinese.
Of course, the drive was made more bearable by the music. The highlight was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Burl Ives. Thankfully, Santa Claus is Coming to Town failed to appear: we had two versions of Santa Cruz by Erin McKeown instead.
Our b&b in Ballarat is on the second floor: we had to climb 36 stairs to get there. The view isn’t as good as the one in Port Fairy of course, but it’s a nice big place. It’s still warm and we are very grateful for the fans.
We went for a quick walk after supper, down to Lake Wendouree to enjoy the cooler end of the day and to see the sunset. Ballarat is known as a mining town and sure enough, as we were crossing one road, we saw a car driver having a go: finger right up the schnozz to the third knuckle.
The first surprise by the side of the lake was an oak tree. When Liesel sat down on the bench underneath, I warned her about the acorns falling, but she said she was more concerned about birds, before moving to another bench.
This lake was the venue for the rowing events in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
We watched the Sun set behind trees and we watched a photographer with a proper camera taking pictures of the sunset too. In the end, she wasn’t happy with her results so she’s planning to return tomorrow, probably further round the lake.
Ballarat was another one-night stand so there wasn’t a lot of time to see its history. But we did visit Lydiard St, famous for the Victorian architecture (Victorian as in from the era of Queen Victoria, not just because we’re in the state of Victoria; obviously everything here is Victorian in that sense, it goes without saying, so I won’t say it). This cinema complex exemplifies how forward-looking people from the era of Queen Victoria were, even to the point of coining the word ‘Multiplex’.
By chance, we found the Eureka Stockade, another place where honest working men had to fight for their rights. We didn’t visit the museum, but the Eureka Circle sculpture outside was very well designed and executed and a plaque told the story.
As well as this historic event being marked, we were quite lucky regarding wildlife too.
Liesel was driving us to Melbourne today, not convinced we were going the quickest way. I checked and the option to avoid motorways was still turned on from a few days ago. Oops. Dropping the car off was easy and we caught the Skybus into the city centre.
We bought Myki cards to make use of public transport easier and then caught a train to our new place. Above the railway station sits an alien blowing cold air into the concourse. It was 34° outside.
Ballarat: 36 stairs. Melbourne: we’re on the 27th floor, our highest Airbnb ever! Thank goodness there’s a lift. A Schindler’s lift and yes, of course I made the usual gag. The building, we think, is Chinese owned. Certainly our host is Chinese and so are many of the other guests that we’ve seen. We later learned that the Chinese community is the largest in Melbourne right now. We knew that Melbourne was the largest Greek city apart from Athens, but the Chinese thing was a surprise.
The view from an apartment this high is brilliant. We can see the park in one direction, the sea in another and some hills over there.
This chap made me laugh on our walk to Vegie Bar for our evening meal. I’d googled Veggie Bar by mistake and the nearest one of those is in Tel Aviv. Of course, here, they spell it with only one G. But the food was good, just too much of it and none of us finished our meals.
We walked back through the park, past the Exhibition Hall and Melbourne Museum.
From our luxury suite, we couldn’t determine which way the Sun was setting. So, when it comes up again tomorrow morning, it could shine its light on any one of us. But almost certainly, we won’t even hear the loud birds from this height.
What we did hear quite late was a knock at the door. Earlier in the day, we noticed the rubbish bin hadn’t been emptied by the previous occupants. Liesel sent a message to Jess, our host, but in the end, we used the shute just along the corridor. Now, here was Jess, with an apology and a bottle of wine.
Jyoti witnessed the sunrise, Liesel and I slept through it. We had to pull the blinds down overnight. Many of the high-rise buildings have lights at the top, and one in particular stood out: shining its bright white light right onto my pillow. That said, a city at night has a beauty of its own, not better nor worse than what nature provides, but very different and inspiring in its own way.
We all went out for coffee with Chris, a friend of a friend of JyJyoti. He’s lived in Victoria for many years and was kind enough to act as a tour guide for a couple of hours. I hadn’t been to Melbourne since 2002 and as you’d expect, some of the sights were familar but a lot has changed here.
We couldn’t understand why the Harry Potter play was being advertised everywhere, when tickets are sold out already.
The tram system is fantastic: rides are free within a certain area. And there’s a nice mix of old ones, albeit covered in adverts, and new ones with those concertina-like joins between the cars. Like the bendy buses, they should but don’t play a tune when they turn a corner.
Last time I was here, I met Barry Humphries at a book signing. What a top bloke. He signed his own name and Dame Edna Everage’s. So what a joy it was to see that a (very) small part of Melbourne has now been named in her honour.
Chris took us through an old arcade that was very reminiscent of London’s Leadenhall Market, with its ornate ceiling and decorative floor.
We walked by Flinders Street Station, Federation Square and over the River Yarra.
We’d enjoyed some relief from the soaring temperature in the arcade and we were delighted to visit the NGV. Even watching the water fall down the glass walls had a cooling effect, never mind the air conditioning inside the National Gallery of Victoria.
We had a laugh at the many pictures of Weimaranas dressed up or posing in ridiculous positions. ‘Being Human’ is a collection of mainly Polaroids by William Wegman taken over a period of several years. Actually, some of the photos made us (well, me) wince a bit. I’m sure no dogs were embarrassed in the production of this exhibition.
Chris had to leave us at this point for work, but we were quite happy to spend more time in the Gallery. Not just to avoid the heat, a scorchio 35°C, 95°F.
What’s got four legs and flies? Regular visitors will know the answer. I’m pretty sure this one was never alive, though.
After lunch, we bought timed tickets to see MC Hammer, no, not him, it was M C Escher, 160 of his works in a display designed by the Japanese company nendo. “Escher X nendo: Between Two Worlds” is utterly magnificent and fascinating. This is the sort of mathematics that should be shown to young children when they first start school, not times tables.
Halfway round, I realised that many of my doodles (when on the phone, for instance) are inferior versions of some of Escher’s drawings.
He has always been one of my favourite artists, because of the mathematics behind the art and the incredibly clever way he makes tesselations work. We’re glad we didn’t come across any snakes in the Aussie bush, but these ones are very cute, the picture very complex and very clever.
The design of the show often used the simple motif of a house. There was even a large 3D reproduction of houses that you could walk through to see even more works.
M C Escher made woodcuts and the amount of chiselling, gouging, scraping, cutting to achieve that amount of detail is phenomenal. Especially when he tries to get to infinity and beyond.
And when you zoom in to the edge, you can see a shadow effect too. On a woodcut. Amazing. Yes, I took far too many photos and yes, I would have loved to buy the 2-inch thick book that accompanies the exhibition but… we’re not buying more stuff!
“If only you knew how entrancing, how stirringly beautiful the images in my head are, the ones I am unable to express.” M C Escher.
The trams were all packed so we walked back to our place, making use of cooler arcades and shade where possible.
Jyoti went out for a meal with Chris while Liesel and I went out for a different meal, to Trunk, located at an old synagogue. We had to go as its name literally has my name in it.
While we were inside, it rained! Only for five minutes, but a little precipitation cooled the city down by half a degree.
We’ve stayed in some nice, interesting places over the last few months, but this one is probably the most urban, modern and industrial-looking. And as far as we know, the only student accommodation we’ve inhabited!
That’s two nights here, time to move on, to move on. First stop was Cape Otway Lightstation. We spent more time here than anticipated, it was so fascinating. Jyoti was delighted to find another warning sign depicting her favourite kind of animal. Not.
The seas are quite rough here, it’s easy to see how so many ships came to grief along this coast. Cape Otway was often the first sight of land following the long voyage from Britain. It also marks the point where the Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean, although the ‘join’ isn’t as obvious as that seen at Cape Reinga in NZ.
The path to the lighthouse itself was not in use but the ‘Caution’ tape confused some people: they thought there was no access to the lighthouse at all. And with an air ambulance, some police cars and other medical staff, it was easy to suppose there had been some kind of accident.
Alas no, the lighthouse was open and as always, I began to count the steps as I climbed, but was distracted by someone running down very, very fast. So I’ll just say, there are about 967 steps to the top of Cape Otway Lighthouse.
Although this is the wrong time of year to see whales in the ocean, we did actually see one outside it.
And against all odds, we saw a kangaroo too.
One thing we weren’t prepared for was how much this area was involved in the second World War. Trouble not just from the Japanese, but the Germans were here too, laying sea mines between Cape Otway and Wilsons Promontory, attempting to prevent access to Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne.
A large area is devoted to understanding the local aboriginal culture. In the Talking Hut, Dale told us about the local history. He’s of aboriginal descent, his great (x3?) grandmother is Bessie Flower, the first ‘educated’ aboriginal woman. Dale is white, he also has Dutch origins.
Outside on our short Bush Tucker tour, he showed us which plants were safe to eat, and we sampled the salt bush (salty), the local rosemary (sweet, then very bitter), the ‘lemonade’ berries (fizzy). The attractive red berries are not edible, but when he squeezed one, the juice was pure magenta dye. Will we eat these leaves out in the wild? I suspect not, we’ll be far too cautious.
He told the story of his 5-year old son going out into the bush, catching a small bee, tying a filament from a particular plant around it, so that when it flew back to its nest, he could follow it. He then pulled a lump of honeycomb from under the stones. One root which resembles a turnip can be cut up and is used for relief of toothache.
When I was at school, we were told that Aborigines had been in Australia for between 20,000 and 40,000 years. It is now thought that it’s more likely to be 100,000 years, although the evidence is flimsy right now.
Cape Otway has the second purest water in the world: the actual purest is on Tasmania. It also boasts the oldest known farm in the world, at 6000 years of age. It really is a place of superlatives.
As we drove away from Cape Otway, we continued to look in the gum trees for a you-know-what. I was driving and when I saw something cross the road in front of me, I braked and we came to a halt. It took a moment to register, it was so unexpected, but there it was: a koala. We didn’t want to frighten him, but equally, we wanted photos, so we all leapt out of the car.
The old-looking koala walked off into the woods surprisingly fast. On seeing the picture, one of my daughters compared his hairy ears to those of a grandad’s. I have no idea to whom she is referring.
At Castle Cove, we enjoyed the sunshine and the views and this was the venue for our long beach walk of the day. Keep on the path. Snakes. We walked down the steps, noting that the sea was rough, the tide was high but even so, there were quite a few surfers.
The rock wall at the top of the beach was beautifully stratified, very soft sandstone and it had a greenish tinge due to iron. There were a couple of small caves, too small to explore and in the middle of all the sand and rocks, this pretty, solitary plant,
Gibson Steps gave us our first sighting of the Twelve Apostles, the iconic limestone stacks formerly known as Toots and the Maytals, no, formerly known as the Sow and Pigs.
What we saw was in fact Gog and Magog, east of Castle Rock. We walked 1.1 km along a further section of the Great Ocean Walk, through the visitors centre, to see the actual Twelve Apostles. It was late in the day, the Sun was low, so we saw the stacks in silhouette. Even so, what a remarkable sight. We walked as far as we could along the path to the Castle Rock lookout. And as if things weren’t scary enough already, this is one of the signs.
As it was Jyoti’s birthday, we thought we’d buy a cake at the café at the visitors centre. But it was Sunday, it was late, it was closed. We began the 1.1 km walk back to the car, away from the Sun now, so a little more comfortable, especially with a slight breeze. L&J were ahead, and some Japanese people pointed to the ‘porcupine’ crossing the path and by the time I caught up, the echidna, for that is what it was, was in the bush.
What an exciting day: a koala and an echidna! And then, as we were driving awa from Gibson’s Steps, in the rearview mirror, I saw a kangaroo crossing the road.
There are many other places to visit on the Great Ocean Road, but as it was late, we headed straight for our new b&b in Nirranda. A shopping trip in Peterborough was disappointing, the single, solitary supermarket mostly specialised in fishing bait.
The b&b is built from old shipping containers. I thought surely a metal wall would make it really hot inside. And so it proved. Thank goodness for the ceiling fans.
We didn’t realise at the time, but we shared our room with a grasshopper. We’d seen ants and flies and heard a mosquito or two, but we didn’t know about this chap until the morning.
I let him out into the garden. One moment he was sitting there, the next, gone. Probably the strongest jumping leg muscles in the world. Well, it is a superlative area. Witness the petrol price at Lavers Hill: $1.70 per litre, compared with $1.20 to $1.30 elsewhere.
Liesel and Jyoti went shopping, all the way to Warrnambool, which takes its name from the whales that thrive in the ocean here. Just not at this time of the year: we’ll have to come back to go whale-watching.
Later, when J&L and I had eaten lunch, I tore down the large curtain from the living room window to take with us. We’d decided to walk to the nearby beach, about a mile away. Well, it was hot and there was no shade but it really did take much longer than the advertised 20 minutes.
This bush looks weird, we thought, and we certainly weren’t going to taste its leaves. It can only be described as a turd bush, since its fruits (?) look like animal droppings.
The dusty, stony, gravelly path continued on and on, up and down, disappointment every time the sea failed to come into view over the brow of a hill.
But then, the end came in sight.
Holding tight with both hands, I started my run-up towards the cliff edge. Suddenly, I heard someone yell “Nooooooo!!!”
Apparently, you can’t go hang-gliding just holding on to a curtain, you have to use specialist equipment such as a hang glider with landing wheels, a harness and a helmet. Oh well, I tried.
The walk down to the beach was difficult too. A very narrow, steep and sandy path. We were all wearing sandals, not the best footwear for such terrain.
We gave up, discretion is the better half of Valerie, or something. It looked like a nice beach to walk on too, what a pity.
We drove to The Arch, an unusual rock formation, but we couldn’t work out how it got its name.
We drove to London Bridge, an unusual rock formation, but we couldn’t work out how it got its name. Especially since London Bridge has fallen down and it’s now just another stand-alone stack.
There’s a beach here too, another nice looking beach, ideal for a walk, but we’re asked to stay away because of the penguins. We didn’t see any penguins of course, but there were plenty of footprints in the sand. Penguins or other birds, we don’t know.
On the path back to the car park, I spotted a small black lizard, probably a skink, but it might have been something more exotic: my hasty photo just shows a black blur in the grass.
We drove to The Grotto, another unusual formation. As we went down the steps to see what is really just a hole, a young girl ran up by us, and then she ran back down past us. She and her two friends were planning to swim in the still water but I did take this picture.
And finally today, we drove to the Bay of Martyrs, part of the Bay of Islands. I walked down to the beach, attempted a selfie with the Sun setting behind me, over the sea.
For supper tonight, my contribution was to pick tomatoes from the plants in the garden. The courgettes weren’t quite ready yet and we didn’t fancy the rhubarb. We had cheese and crackers and chutneys with red, red wine, a belated birthday party for Jyoti. Almost. Still no cake.
Before going to bed, we all went outside to gaze at the stars and to listen to whatever animal was making a noise like fff-fff-fff-fff over and over. In fact, it was still doing this later on when I got up briefly. By this time, the Moon was up too, so only the brightest stars were visible.
Jyoti and I were sitting on the step outside the house, drinking our teas, shooting the breeze, watching the trees, when Liesel told us we had half an hour left. Uh? To pack and to move on. We were away with five minutes to spare. Bit of a shock to the system though: both Jyoti and I had totally forgotten that this was moving day.
We had a pleasant drive to our next b&b, but I did have an agenda. We need a new electric plug adapter since the old one broke. I tried fixing it and it worked well for a while, but here’s a tip: sticking plaster, Band-Aid, Elastoplast, doesn’t reliably stick to plastic for very long. And another tip: if you need tin foil to help make an electrical connection, try to use pieces larger than the torn-off bits from the blister pack containing your drugs.
As if lilies aren’t enough, we soon drove by a farm with a strange collection of animals: sheep, goats, llamas and camels.
Warrnambool didn’t provide us with an adapter. “Oh no”, said the man in the electrical shop, “we don’t sell that sort of thing. Try the Post Office.” I thanked him through gritted teeth for his help.
It’s hard to know exactly where the Great Ocean Road finishes. The GOR, B100, ends at Allansford, near Warrnambool. There, we joined the A1, Princes Highway. On the other hand, some of the literature for Port Fairy considers it part of the Great Ocean Road. Either way, when we arrived at Port Fairy, “The World’s Most Liveable Community”, we’d definitely reached the end of the world’s largest, and arguably the world’s most functional, war memorial, for this trip.
It’s a cute little town, enhanced by protective/advertising hoardings at the base of the lampposts.
After a coffee break, we went to sit by the beach for a while. Yes, sit by the beach. Not on the beach. In the car, in the car park, looking at the beach. Why? The wind was strong and cold.
I still went for a walk, solo, and found two memorials, close to each other, both emotionally moving but for very different reasons.
We checked in to our new, first floor, b&b and wow, we have a view over the beach. But the wind was still strong and we decided not to sit and be blown off the balcony.
I fancied another walk, and I thought the lighthouse at the far end of Griffiths Island would be an ideal goal to aim for.
Short-tail shearwaters or “Mutton birds” nest on the island, but again, we’re here at the wrong time of year.
I did wonder whether these nesting holes might currently be occupied by snakes or other squatters. And then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. A kangaroo was hopping across the field.
This was the first one I’d seen in the wild, although J&L had been lucky a few nights ago.
I followed the track to the lighthouse, but the amorous couple sitting outside deterred me from walking right up to the door.
The track followed the beach for part of the way, and I was surprised to see volcanic rocks sitting amongst the soft, white sand.
It was warmer now, the wind had calmed down and I thought maybe J&L would go out for a walk later.
While I was out, Liesel and Jyoti had been planning ahead, making plans for the next month or so. Bookings were made, despite issues with various websites and credit cards.
Unfortunately, up in our b&b, out on the balcony, the wind felt just as strong as ever, though not as cold.
We were talking about our various medical issues and the consensus is, we’ve been pretty lucky and injury-free. Liesel’s piriformis is still a PITA and it affects other muscles at different times. Other than that, a few insect bites, a couple of broken nails, cracked heels is as bad as it’s been.
Now is the time for those viewers not interested in the musical soundtrack to our travels to press the yellow button on your device and be transported to a totally different place.
We didn’t bother connecting my device to the car’s Bluetooth at Uluru because we were only there a couple of days. But with a new car in Melbourne, it felt right that we should play the whole Slim Dusty album for Jyoti’s enjoyment. We then returned to the alphabetical playlist. Picking up where we left off in New Zealand with Nomad Blood. At the time of writing, we are in the Rs. Q was interesting. The first one was a mistake: somebody at the CD factory had entered the song title as Que est le soleil? instead of Ou est le Soleil? And of the genuine Qs, 4 out of the 6 were 2 versions each of 2 David Bowie songs. What will we do when we’ve reached the end of the Zs? And will we even reach the end of the Zs by the time we return this car?
Two days in one place is the new norm, well, for now, as we proceed along the Great Ocean Road.
At the cabin, we enjoyed the interplay between the cockatoos and the king parrots. Cockatoos are twice the size so guess who wins most of the time?
The big surprise though was getting up to find that the heater turned on. Yes, it was cold enough for an actual heater. I wouldn’t have bothered, myself, of course, but you have to look after the ladies with their narrower comfort zone when it comes to temperature. (Mick ducks.)
We returned to the Deans Marsh Store for breakfast. Outside, in the bed with rhubarb and strawberries, I found a rock which I should have moved to a different location, but I didn’t. Vic rocks, along the lines of Chch rocks.
Yesterday, we’d driven past a sign warning us of echidnas riding skateboards. For some reason, we didn’t stop to take a picture so today, we decided to retrace our steps for a photo. Wild goose chase. We never did find it, we all remember seeing it but we all began to doubt our collective memory and sanity. So we resorted to that fount of all knowledge, the internet, and found this picture, thanks to whoever it belongs to.
We saw a few temporary signs in Chinese. Programming error? There is a lot of logging in the area, and we wondered whether they’re owned and run by Chinese companies.
Stevenson’s Falls was a very pleasant walk. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders whether this is a genuine warning?
Are they trying to preverse the berries for the local wildlife? Or, if they have used chemicals, won’t that be detrimental to local wildlife as well as to us humans?
There are lots of fallen trees here. In fact, they’re in most of the forests and woods we’ve visited, and it’s good that the old trunks are being left for nature to make use of. Sometimes, though, a tree might keel over in the wrong direction and (potentially) bonk someone on the head.
This must have been an exciting few moments for any innocent bystanders.
We were advised that Kennett River was the place to go: guaranteed to see lots of koalas. Again, we doubted our powers of observation when, after quite a long walk along the trail, we’d seen hundreds of gum trees but no cuddly little chaps. Maybe it just takes a while for our eyes to tune in to the right frequency.
Eventually, we found this beauty, much lower down than we would have expected. And another one!
On the walk, we heard lots of birds and even saw some, including a kookaburra, coots, swamphens and, er, butterflies.
Back on the mainly westbound road, we stopped several times to admire the coastline and the Bass Straight. Jump up high enough and you’ll see Tasmania.
The view from Cape Patten revealed a rugged coastline but the clouds were fascinating too.
Apollo Bay welcomed us with phonelines along our road, all but fully laden with galahs, or pink and grey cockatoos.
We enjoyed a relatively lazy day at Apollo Bay, in our b&b. I wrote. Liesel read. Jyoti went to use the wifi in the local library.
Later in the afternoon, I did go for a quick walk with Jyoti. It was a Saturday, and the town was very busy.
The Great Ocean Walk starts here, and we did a short section of it, just round the corner to the harbour.
Jyoti dragged me into Tastes of the Region, the local beer shop. There, I was strongly encouraged to sample some of the local beers on offer. I selected 5 from a list of fifteen and tasted them in the recommended sequence, cleansing my palate with plain water between samples.
My favourite was the Otway Stout, so I bought a bottle to take home for supper. We also bought coffee to take back for me and Liesel, who was enjoying a totally relaxing, pain-free day, for a change.
One of the streets in Apollo Bay won an award 25 years ago and rightly, they’re still very proud.
On the other hand, they should be genuinely proud of one of the most ornate drinking fountains I’ve ever seen.