Two departures and a birthday

One day, I look forward to walking the length of the Transpennine Trail, but for now, I’ll just be happy to come across the short section that passes through Northenden. No doubt, a highlight for many a long distance walker from Southport to Hull.

Transpennine Trail sign

But that’s in the future. This week, as usual, we stayed pretty local. Out on a walk one day, Liesel sent a message asking me to pick up some painkillers from the pharmacy. Both the pharmacies in Northenden were closed, so I jumped on a bus that stopped at exactly the right time, thinking that wherever I ended up, I’d find one that was open for business. And yes, of course, I realised I should do more of these mystery tours, it’s a good way to get to know the wider area.

On this occasion, I was taken to Sale where indeed I was able to buy what I needed. I also saw a massive bee.

Bee Tree

Two of them lovingly carved from an old tree. And by coincidence, the same bus driver took me back to Northenden.

Liesel and I went over to see the family between gym and swimming. No, not us, it was Martha at the gym and William who went swimming later.

Yee-hah

Martha would make a good cowboy and I can’t help feeling most westerns would be improved if they rode unicorns rather than horses.

Jenny and Helen took me out for a couple of hours to go shopping. I haven’t worn a suit for many years, probably decades, but the time has come to find one that fits. We visited a place called Peter Posh where I expected to be served by someone like Mr Grainger from Are You Being Served? with a tape measure draped around his shoulders. But no, a very helpful, and patient, young lady helped out. I tried on two suits and a waistcoat. In my mind, I’d built suits up to being the uncomfortable uniform of office work, of business men making things worse for the rest of us. So I was surprised to find that these ones at least were actually quite comfortable, and nobody laughed as they said I didn’t look too shabby.

The lesser spotted Mick in a suit and proper shoes

So, good luck, Mick, at the next job interview.

Helen’s birthday rolled up as it always does just after Christmas, and how fabulous it was that she was here to celebrate with us this year. She and I went for a nice walk at Dunham Massey. We found some footwear here and there,  just part of an activity designed presumably for children.

Beautiful boot by a bench

The rose garden was spoiled by the stench of bonfire.

Bonfire grrr

How disappointing. I know the gardeners are all volunteers and we’re very grateful for all their hard work, but there better ways to dispose of stuff you don’t need, especially green waste. We said hello to the robins as we wandered round. Or was it the same robin following us? I keep forgetting to take a bag of mealworms with which to feed them.

On one path, we passed someone familiar to me. I didn’t pester him. But Count Arthur Strong later confirmed that he had indeed been at the same venue. As he said, he’s like the Scarlet Pimple, here, there and everywhere!

Liesel and I attended Helen’s party in the evening but I think, on the available evidence, Martha and William were more excited than she was. We all enjoyed the party food and I can now reveal Helen’s best present.

A few snacks

Let’s hope these snacks all make it through customs when she goes home. In other words, let’s hope the customs officials aren’t hungry.

Helen, William and Martha with the cake

Liesel and I drove to Heald Green where, for the second week in a row, she took a PCR test for Covid. A negative result means that she can fly to Alaska. While waiting, I found a couple of frogs. I didn’t realise these amphibians were still adorning the streets of Stockport.

The frogs in Heald Green

The weekly Wednesday well-being walk in Northenden has resumed, and nine of us had a very pleasant stroll through the woods and around the streets. We stood outside the café with our coffees: sitting inside in a large group didn’t seem a good idea.

In the evening: pizzas again. A second opportunity to wish bon voyage to Liesel. In the morning, I jumped on the boxes to squash them before putting them in the bin.

It was so cold on Thursday morning, we had to scrape ice off the car. I took Liesel to the airport. She’s off to Anchorage to see her parents and her friends and to enjoy all that a deep Alaskan Winter can throw at her. For the rest of the day, I donned my chauffeur’s cap as I was quite happy to help Helen with her various errands.

Helen and I drove to Heald Green where she took a PCR test for Covid. A negative result means that she can fly back to Australia. While waiting, I renewed my acquaintance with a couple of frogs.

Next stop was Lester and Brown jewellers in Poynton where the High Street looks very slippery. The jeweller had taken an old brooch that neither Jenny nor Helen will wear, and made a pair of earrings for each of them, and as far as I can tell, he’s done a very good job.

Slick High Street

Next: Next in Handforth Dean where Helen returned a dress and picked up a new one for Martha to try on.

Next: Create-It in Cheadle to pick up  some mugs designed by the the children.

Next: Greens in Didsbury for lunch. Just a couple of other parties here in the restaurant and the food was, as usual, delicious.

And finally: Card Factory back in Cheadle where a couple of balloons were inflated: a dinosaur for William and a Unicorn for Martha.

New pets

Even though we’ve been living here in Northenden for over three years, I still used Google Maps all day. I don’t yet have a comprehensive mental map of Greater Manchester in my head. I’m sure it will come.

If I’m saying goodbye to one of the ladies in my life, it’s only fitting that we have pizzas. And so it was that we all met up at Pizza Express for a farewell meal. I won’t be having the hot jalapeño dough balls again. Steam blasted from my ears, and my nose didn’t stop running for ages. Incredibly hot and spicy. Helen was due to fly out from Manchester early in the morning so we said our goodbyes here.

I still can’t get over the wonderful surprise of actually seeing her here for Christmas.

Sisters are doing it for themselves

To lose one woman in my life, Mr Worthing, maybe regarded as misfortune. To lose two in the space of two days looks like carelessness. I think that’s from The Important of Being Earnest.

Liesel arrived safely in Anchorage and is already taking advantage of the very slightly different weather. Flying with Covid regulations and face masks adds an extra layer of anxiety to the whole travelling thing, but that’s something we’ll have to live with for a while.

Welcome to Alaska, Liesel

Earlier in the week, I’d pre-recorded and sent off the first radio show for Wythenshawe Radio in its own right. Unfortunately, due to events outside my control, on Wednesday evening, the previous week’s show was broadcast instead. Which is a shame, because it was a special one for Helen’s birthday. The correct show was released into the world on Friday afternoon. And I’ve uploaded a copy here if you’d like to catch up. There’s a news bulletin at the halfway point, but I left that out: nobody needs to hear the news more than absolutely necessary.

Nothing much

There has been a lot of sitting about this week. As usual. We tend to sit when we’re doing our things. And when we’re not doing anything.

Mick: I’m going to write this week’s blog.
Liesel: But nothing happened this week.
Mick: Oh, I’m sure I’ll think of something.
Mick in his head: And if not, I’ll make something up.

So here we all are, living in a rainbow.

It would be rude to put up a picture of someone else’s Christmas lights (that doesn’t usually stop you) but it’s nice to see them going up, as we approach the end of November.


The cold, dark evenings don’t stop the vandals from venturing out, unfortunately.

Picnic table out of order

Usually, we don’t use this picnic table beside the river because (a) someone else is sitting there (b) we didn’t bring a picnic or (c) most often, it’s just wet from all the rain.

It’s a bit late in the month, but here is our local war memorial in Northenden. We just haven’t been for a walk in this direction for quite a while.

War Memorial

We try to look up, not down, but some sights are just too horrible to ignore. Some people.

Fly-tipped oil drums

Things really are desperate when I resort to posting photos of what’s left of a chicken.

Feathers

I was going to collect them and make a feather boa for somebody’s Christmas, but Liesel said No.

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise. Well, I went down to the woods and I was surprised. One of the trees in Kenworthy Woods has been turned into a Christmas tree by three delightful cousins, Isabelle, Isaac and Jacob.

Merry Christmas, everybody

We’re all invited to go along and add our own baubles and tinsel. At the time of writing, there is a more conventional Christmas tree outside our local Tesco, but it hasn’t yet been decorated.

We went for a walk later than usual one day. Fearing that it might be dark by the time we got back home, I think we both walked a little faster than we intended. A jolly good work-out. And our reward was seeing some colour in the sky. Not quite the Northern Lights, but we’ll take anything colourful right now.

Sunset over the Mersey

A little bit of pink and a little bit of orange.

Twilight zone

One day we walked by the pub. There was a queue outside, and a group of people over the road with their pints, sharing space with the wheelie bins.

Ivy fighting its way through the fence

Everyone in Northenden will probably tell me this sign has been here for years, but I’ve only just noticed it.

Go slow

At least with a 20 mph speed limit in the residential areas, some drivers might slow down to 40 or so, so that’s good.

We succumbed to temptation and purchased a Treat Box from The Northern Den: a chocolate orange cookie, a white chocolate and raspberry cookie, a jammie dodger cupcake, a Kinder Bueno cupcake, a biscoff brownie and an Oreo brownie.
You want a photo? They didn’t last long enough! This cake wasn’t part of the deal, but it looks delicious.

Another fine cake from Dani’s Bakehouse, Northern Den

No I didn’t try a fingerful of icing, but it was close.

We were sitting at home doing nothing much when our ears perked up at the sound of clip-clopping. That sounds like horses, we said to each other. It was a funeral passing by, which is sad, but conversely, the most interesting thing that’s happened in our neighbourhood this week.

Funeral procession

The theme for the radio show this week was Happiness (please listen here), so I had to include songs of that name by Ken Dodd and Tom Hingley, and you don’t often see those two in the same room.

Mick the DJ

This is a picture of me with the equipment for my Radio Northenden show, microphone and headphones.

Next week’s show is about Connection. Please send me your song suggestions and I’ll see what I can fit into the two hours. And don’t forget to tune in to Radio Northenden at two o’clock on Friday afternoon, it’ll be lovely to see your name up on the screen! (
I don’t normally say what’s coming up next week because I haven’t decided a whole week in advance, but next week’s show should be special.)

Hmm, as we thought, not much occurred this week, so here’s something I made up. Well, my subconscious made it up to keep me entertained while I was sleeping.

Me and my old school friend Oscar flew to Sydney for the weekend. We then drove north to Hayman Island, Queensland. I knew we had to book in on the mainland before taking a boat to the island itself. We found the resort shop which was full of disappointingly cheap and nasty tourist tat. We booked our tickets and accommodation and then ate in the greasy spoon canteen. I had a good look round, but then I couldn’t find Oscar. He’d gone missing. I kept looking for him, I asked the receptionist where the nearest hotel was, Oscar might have gone for a kip. Oh no, there are no hotels here, she snootily replied. Then she remembered. Oh, there is a backpackers one just over there, pointing across the road, behind a fence. Well, it was nearby, but it was a long walk. I asked at their reception desk whether Oscar had booked in, the guy said he didn’t know. Then I remembered I could try and call or message him, but my phone was nearly dead, and in any case, the Internet was very slow. A pretty girl said, ‘There are problems with all the phones around here, I feel sorry for the girls.’ Girls? ‘Hookers.’ Oh well, my friend Oscar’s out here somewhere if you want try and find him. ‘Oh, I’m not a prostitute,’ she told me in no uncertain terms. I thought, well you’re pretty enough.
Notes:

  • In real life, I haven’t seen Oscar since he left for San Diego in about 1984.
  • Flying to Sydney for the weekend is not really a viable option.
  • Driving from Sydney to Hayman Island is not a quick trip. It’s probably a 24-hour drive.
  • Hayman Island is a beautiful resort in the Whitsundays. Hello, Adam! Have a look. Dream. One day…
  • I don’t know if there is a shop and/or a greasy spoon restaurant on the mainland attached to the resort, in real life.
  • Also, in real life, we’d book everything in advance.
  • I’m not really a sexist pig who thinks every pretty girl could or should be on the game.

This is why I rarely tell people my dreams: they need so many explanatory notes and don’t make sense to anyone, not even me, sometimes. Yes, I would love to be able to meet up with old friends. Yes, I would love to be able to go somewhere warm and sunny. But at least my dreams are still Covid-free.

Melbourne to Manchester

And we’re home.

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

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

A row of pandas

A panda

A panda and a koala together

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

Year of tolerance

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

Looking down on England

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

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

Martha the scooterer

Selfie of the day (thanks, Liam)

William won’t let Oma ride Martha’s scooter

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

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

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

Much more Melbourne

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

My God, it’s full of stars!

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

Chris, Jyoti, Liesel, Mick

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

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

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

How many joints in the jar?

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

Roger Daltrey

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

Computer pointing device

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

AC/DC Lane

Jimi, or not Jimi? That is the question

Melbourne

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

Wings night

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

The Bridge in-curve by Grace Cossington Smith, 1930

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

Central Australia by Sidney Nolan, 1949

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

AFP USB

Binge thinking

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

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

Chloe by Jules Lefebvre, 1875

Cheers, Dad!

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

Lazarus

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

Tommy and Elly played by Chris Ryan and Phoebe Panarentos

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

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

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

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

Where are we now?

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

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

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

Melbourne skyline or a futuristic painting?

Melbourne, Mick and coffee

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

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

Rhys Crimmin

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

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

Royal Park

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

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

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

The Sun goes down on our travels

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

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

Here we are at the airport, waiting, waiting…

Wilson’s Prom to Melbourne

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

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

Good morning, Rosie

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

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

Tidal River estuary

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

Very low tide

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

Selfie of the day

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

Why did the wombat cross the path?

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

Wombat eyeing up Liesel

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

Why did the tree fall across the path?

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

Digging a hole

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

Look at those gnashers

Another crap photo: wombat’s, this time

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

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

Hiding

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

Mt Oberon

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

Can’t see much through the trees except more trees

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

One of the hairpin bends

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

Antennae

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

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

Looking down on Tidal River

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

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

Where’s Liesel now?

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

Triangulation point

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

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

Tree

Fern

Orange fungi

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

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

Waterfall and stream

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

Crayfish climb trees

Galaxias climb mountains

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

Bushfire 2009

The same path today, 2019

I arrived back at the Unit just on sunset.

Sunset from the Lilly Pilly Gully carpark

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

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

A couple of emus

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

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

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

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

Big chocolate fisherman

Beach at Tooradin

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

Big silver gnome

We passed an old episode of Doctor Who

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

Where’s Liesel?

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

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

Fair dinkum bridge architecture

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

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

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

9.10

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

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

Raymond Island, Walhalla and on to Wilson’s Prom

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

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

Typical unsealed road on Raymond Island

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

Very calm water

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

Jellyfish

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

Heads up, human approaching, time to skedaddle

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

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

Fish in the remarkably clear water

Another crap photo (be glad your device has no smell output)

Looking back along the beach: where’s Liesel?

Black swans having a pleasant swim

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

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

An empty gum tree

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

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

Koala needs a kuddle

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

Koala having a kip

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

Koala looking really kute

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

Innumerable mussel shells

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

Gentle waves

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

Lorikeets and parrots

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

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

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

Power station

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

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

View from our Star Hotel verandah

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

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

Yarnbombers brighten up Walhalla

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

Stratified rocks and a secret green door into the mines

Fairy tale house high on the far side of the valley

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

A rusty old steam engine

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

Smoke and mist

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

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

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

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

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

Hazy shade of Winter

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

Goldfields Railway Engine

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

Railway bridge over the creek

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

Smoke and clouds

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

Mural: picnic and cricket in North Mirboo

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

Spectacular view, rolling hills

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

Emu having his afternoon tea

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

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

Darby River Valley

Rock thinks it’s a zebra

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

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

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

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

Tidal River War Memorials

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

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

Puddleducks

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

Wombat walking with purpose

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

Wombat walking by just a little 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.