Mainly Manly

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

Pre-sunrise beach party

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

Late Autumn sunrise at Manly Beach

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

My shadow, with a extree leg

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

You only had one job

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

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

Mick in a jumper

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

More sedate people on the beach

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

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

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

Sunset over Manly Cove

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

Helen’s sunrise

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

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

Here we are, waving at Helen from the ferry

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

Watson’s Bay milepost

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

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

Parsley Bay swim club

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

Old gnarly tree, winner of the Knobbly Knees Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palm Beach and Sydney Observatory

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

Haze over Manly Cove

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

Palm Beach

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

Red flower plus ant for scale

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

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

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

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

Descending

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

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

Plane on the beach with no parking ticket yet

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

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

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

Sunset from the Manly Ferry

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

Sun setting behind the iconic Harbour Bridge

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

Not a very convincing Tardis

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

A well lit hotel
Lighting up the sky

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

Four Candles

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

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

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

The telescope just like the one I want at home

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

Henbury Meteorite – thinking of Sarah

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

On The Rocks

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

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

Mountain haze from Evans’ Plains

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

Mr Evans

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

Mick’s in the noose again

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

Blue Mountains from Govett’s Leap

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

Big beautiful Blue Mountains

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

Selfie of the day

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

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

A very pretty tile just like ours at home

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

Lots of antique artefacts at the back of the café

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

Wentworth Falls view
A bonus nother Selfie

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

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

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

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

A Manly sunset

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

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

Top didg player

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

Pink telephone box

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

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

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

Another Manly sunset

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

Dubbo Zoo

‘Twas a cold night in Orange. That’s the second time I’ve been able to say that. It occurs about every one third of a century.

In 1986, Sarah, Jenny and I slept in a campervan in a campsite in Orange. It was cold. So cold, there was ice on the windows in the morning. It was our coldest night camping ever.

Today, we woke up to a temperature of 45°F (7°C). A few months ago, we were enjoying 45°C (113°F). One extreme to the other. There was dew on the grass, maybe even frost, that’s how cold it was.

Cold, crunchy grass

During the nearly two hour drive, we passed a few wallabies and kangaroos wondering why their early morning grass was so crunchy. But it warmed up nicely, the sky was clear and blue, so a good day was definitely in store.

I’d last visited Dubbo Zoo in 1986: a return visit was well overdue.

Rainbow in the fountain

We arrived just in time to Prowl the Pridelands, to look at the lions. The bus accommodates over 20 guests, but there were just the three of us on this tour.

Four young brothers live and play together, and take advantage of the shadow cast by the bus.

In the shadow
In the light

Their parents are in a large, separate area, and they all looked very content. So would we if we could sleep for 16-20 hours a day.

It would be cruel and heartless to pull a lock of hair from a lion’s mane, but that’s exactly what someone has done.

Lion’s mane hair

It’s surprisingly coarse and it would have been difficult to untangle the dreadlock into which it had been wrought.

Taronga Western Plains, aka Dubbo, Zoo is very spacious, 300 hectares, so the animals have plenty of room to roam. The disadvantage for us visitors is that sometimes, they’re way over there on the other side of the field.

We hired a buggy to drive around the 6 km circuit. It didn’t necessarily mean less walking altogether, but we were able to visit pretty much all the inmates.

Parking the buggy

The meerkats were very active: well, some of them.

You have a rest while I do all the digging
Black rhino taking it easy

The zebras and other big animals are behind a moat and a fence that are well concealed until you’re up close, giving the impression of wide open spaces.

Zebra laughing at our shadows
Giraffes over there by the trees

In 1986, when we visited Dubbo Zoo, we hired bikes to cycle around. Sarah had 2-year old Jenny on the back of her bike. After a short while, I realised there were no brakes so I rode back to complain, and was told that you have to back-pedal to brake. Obvious. Well, later on, as we rode towards the hippopotamus pond, down a slope, Sarah momentarily forgot how to brake and she and Jenny nearly ended up joining the hippos in the water.

Today, we arrived at the hippopotamus enclosure in style, on four wheels. We listened to the Hippo Talk, haha, no, we listened to a zookeeper talk about the hippos. There is one way apart from the obvious to tell the difference between males and females. A nice, neat pile of poo is probably deposited by a female. Males tend to poo and pee at the same time and get their tail spinning round like a propellor to spread it far and wide. A better metaphor for Brexit I have never seen.

Hungry hippo
White rhinoceros way over there

We watched a baby elephant having a nice mudbath followed by a dry dirt shower.

Elephant eating apples

I started singing “There’s a starman waiting in the sky” as we approached the black apes. The sideways text on the sign soon became clearer: siamang.

Siamang hanging about

Two of them were playing on the rope bridge over the water. Later on, one ate a carrot while the other ran off with a lettuce or something. Both kept their backs to us, they obviously know humans would be after their food, given half a chance.

Liesel and I hadn’t seen camels in the wild in the Northern Territory, so we were delighted to see some here. Liesel asked the question so I told her about the two different kinds. Bactrian camels have two humps, like the letter B. Dromedaries have one hump, like the letter D. I was hoping to find a sign confirming this.

Camels

The sign just described all the residents here as Arabian Camels. No Asian Bactrians, it seems.

We heard a booming noise. I thought it was the siamang using the echo chamber built into his throat. Liesel thought it was the lion. We never did find out the origin of the slightly spooky noise.

A quartet of locals: emu, koala, echidna and quokka

The quokka was cute but we couldn’t approach any closer than from the viewing platform, several metres above.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we were sitting outside the giftshop. I was eating my apple and this did not go unnoticed. The ring-tailed lemur over the water was watching me like a hawk. It wanted my apple but I don’t feel guilty about eating the whole thing all by myself, thank you very much.

Salivating ring-tailed lemur

If we’d wanted to visit Africa, this signpost would have been very helpful.

Kalahari: this way or that way?

It was a fun day at the zoo, probably one of the best zoo days we’ve ever had. Not once did we think the animals looked a bit unhappy or stressed and that makes a lot of difference. The weather was perfect, there weren’t too many other people, the buggy was fun to drive and none of us fell out.

The drive back over the hills to Orange was pretty, especially as the Sun began to set.

Sunset near Orange
Mick resting his eyes

This photo is being used as evidence that I fell asleep in the back of the car. Well, yes, I did rest my eyes for a minute or two.

As we were in Helen’s car, we mostly listened to her music. So lots of Snow Patrol and Killers. At Liesel’s request, we listened to the soundtrack from the film The Big Chill.

We kept the house slightly warmer tonight, but the floor was still cold, made from some material designed to suck all the warmth out of your feet.

To Orange

We woke up in Manly, several degrees further south and several degrees cooler than Queensland. In the morning, after work, Helen and Liesel went to the shopping mall. My invitation is still in the post, so I went for a massage and a walk instead.

A fire engine and several police cars in close proximity plus a few people looking at something: the something was a damaged car. It’s hard to see how a vehicle can be driven fast enough to cause that much damage in the narrow roads of Manly, but Helen assures me it happens all the time.

Grey, cloudy Manly Beach

Manly Beach provided two contrasting views. In one direction, a bit grey and gloomy. In the other, bright blue skies, an image worthy of a picture postcard.

Picture postcard Manly Beach

My second perambulation of the day was arranged to coincide with the ridiculously early sunset time of 5pm.

Early sunset

I was surprised to see so many people still out and about and playing in the sea.

A little bit later

For supper, Helen had baked pies for me. As requested. Pies with Quorn chunks and leeks. I do like pies and it’s been disappointing a couple of times to come across a pie shop only to find it’s not open. Or in some cases, to find that the only pies totally sold out are the vegetarian pies. I like pies and I miss pies probably more than any other single food item. Really looking forward to a pie fest when we get home. Lovely pies, thanks, Helen!

I’ve not watched any proper TV for ages but tonight, we watched the first episode of “Gentleman Jack”, several hours before it was shown back in the UK! Well, we watched half of it. Martha and William called Helen after their swimming lessons and we watched them on a laptop screen rather than a phone screen, both talking, both delightful to watch. William is quite happy to pilfer tomatoes from Martha. He’s quite happy to climb out of his chair and onto the table. He’s 18 months old, in case you’d forgotten.

Liesel and I have suffered a few early mornings but today’s early rise in Manly was really hard.

Adam’s away for work, so Helen’s offered to take Liesel and me away for a couple of days. Our third Aussie road trip on this visit. We left the apartment at 7am, drove through the busy streets of Sydney but, as a multiple-occupied car, we were allowed in the special inside lane for special people.

The city views were enhanced by the odd patch of mist.

Early mist in Richmond

Sydney’s a big city, it takes hours to drive through all the suburbs. And people commute these great distances too, which we all would find so depressing.

We stopped briefly at the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens and what a beautiful view over the Blue Mountains. The Sun was out, it was a bit misty in the valleys, there were some Autumnal colours.

Misty Blue

A Japanese artist would produce a much better image than my camera ever could, but it was a sunning view.

We had a quick look at some of the botanicals too, and as usual, a longer visit here is recommended.

Wollemi, a prehistoric pine

This display of colour is in direct competition with anything at the Chelsea Flower Show, which is on right now.

Forever Autumn

The sundial was fantastic: if we had a garden, this would fit right in.

Botanic Gardens Sundial

We stopped for lunch in Bathurst, and this is another cute little place that we need to explore more. The architecture is very attractive, once you look up from the modern-day shop façades.

Bathurst

Helen coped with it very well, but I wondered whether this ‘squareabout’, a square roundabout at a crossroads, which you drive around the wrong way, was designed purely to confuse the slightly less astute visitor.

Squareabout in Bathurst

The landscapes and skyscapes were great to look at: sometimes, we could have been looking at an English pastoral scene, but then you’d see something quintessentially Australian, and come back to reality.

We arrived at Heifer Station Cellar Door where we went on a tour of the vineyard, on a golf buggy. We sampled wines as we progressed, stopping every few minutes while our guide told us about the different grapes they grow here and the different wines produced.

The vines

We tried sparkling, white, rosé and red. They were all good, I recognised some of the flavours but my suggestion that one had a hint of licorice was slightly poopooed! One of the sampled wines was only bottled five days ago.

There are some animals here too, including a petting zoo with a Shetland pony, some goats and a pig. Best of all was the hieland coo.

Hieland coo

We all bought several bottles and if we don’t drink it all, Liesel and I will have to lug some bottles all the way home.

Car on a tree stump

Mount Canobolas is the highest peak in this section of the range. It is claimed that, looking west, there is nothing higher until you reach Madagascar. We drove to the summit in order to watch the sunset. We didn’t see Madagascar.

It was a little bit colder up on top, but the views were good, in all directions.

Setting Sun behind the Central Mapping Authority Geodetic Station
Selfie of the day (thanks, Helen)
Orange sunset near Orange

It became dark very quickly once the Sun set. Helen drove us to our b&b in Orange, stopping in town so we could buy some groceries.

It was a cold house. There, I said it. The floor is made of ice, or so my feet told me. We turned on the heater. A few days ago, we were still using air conditioning. No more. Heat is required. Helen and Liesel both feel the cold more than I do, but it was a bit of a shock coming into this cold storage unit pretending to be holiday accommodation. Brrr.

Back to Manly

We had a breakfast of Linda McCartney sausage rolls plus peanut butter on toast plus bananas plus a cup of tea. Later on we had coffees, snack bars and a cookie. Our evening meal was wood fired pizza and soft drinks from nearby Bundaberg. This concludes today’s exciting foodie blog.

While breaking our fast, we saw a couple of bush turkeys out in the field.

Bush Turkey 1: Oh no, there’s a human.
Bush Turkey 2: Suppose we’d better run away.
BT1: They’re OK, it’s Jack that worries me.
BT2: Yes, he gives a good chase, him and his one sticky-up ear and one lying-down ear.
BT1: That always makes me laugh.
BT2: I’m not sure his heart’s in it really, he very rarely even barks.
BT1: Well, as a last resort, we can always fly a bit, he can’t, he won’t catch me.
BT2: I’m not that worried. That dog couldn’t catch a cold on a wet Tuesday in Macclesfield.
BT1: Oooh, Macclesfield, aren’t you well-travelled!

We thanked Susie for her hospitality, for the peace and quiet, and set off for another long day in the car.

An almost empty road with a distant mountain

After all the rain, or maybe it was our imagination, everything looked a little bit brighter and greener. Well, not everything, not the sky, that varied between very dark grey and very bright blue with white fluffy clouds.

We stopped by a school playing field and successfully avoided being arrested.

This magpie approached: maybe he’s used to being fed by passers-by.

Magpie on the running track

As I walked around the running track, I was keeping an eye on the trio of kangaroos just lying there. I managed to approach closer than expected before they stood up. I cautiously stayed behind a tree. They were big, I think the tallest kangaroos we’ve seen so far.

Uh-oh, here comes trouble, I’ll stand up
Hello, Big Boy
Maybe a quick hop is called for

Our first planned stop was just south of Rockhampton. We’d had to give both Rocky and Yeppoon a miss this time, but today was a landmark occasion.

Tropic of Capricorn

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn so for the first time in 71 days, we are no longer in the Tropics.

Capricorn Spire

This Spire marks the position and other cities on this line of latitude are commemorated too.

Where to next? Rio de Janeiro or Johannesburg?

We saw several goods trains, each with dozens of cars. I hate to think how many tonnes of coal were being taken south while empty cars were being taken back north. The coal industry is a big debating point during the current elections here.

Part of a coal train

We didn’t expect to see a giraffe in Queensland, except in a zoo maybe, but nevertheless, here is one.

Giraffe

Liesel commented that some of the conical hills look like Hershey’s Kisses.

We wondered whether Mount Jukes is a real mountain and what are the criteria for a hill being a mountain anyway?

The lush, green landscape gave way to what one of us called “brown and ugly”. I disagreed and said it had its own kind of beauty. The red/brown colour of the clay seems to be the default colour in a lot of places, though.

The sign warning us of “Slow trucks carrying explosives for the next 5 km” should have caused alarm, but it was another interesting or fascinating feature that eluded us.

Driving north along the A1, Bruce Highway, Highway 1, there were several convoys of army vehicles. We wondered whether they were heading for far north Queensland in case emergency help and rescue is needed once (now ex-) Tropical Cyclone Ann strikes land. Or maybe Cyclone Trevor has already caused damage? It’s very hard to keep up to date with an intermittent internet connection.

One rare sight today was the petrol price: 147.7 per litre. Point seven? Petrol prices are always something-expensive.9 in whatever currency.

We passed a sign pointing towards the Old Bruce Highway. Who was Old Bruce, I wondered. Probably Robert the Bruce, suggested Liesel. He would never come to Australia if he knew about the spiders here, I surmised!

At some point, Liesel said we should be recording some of the bizarre conversations we were having in the car. I thought that was a good idea so I have just done so.

Musical ents today were provided by Martha Tilston, Kirsty MacColl and Sam Brown.

Cécile met us at the b&b in Maryborough. She’s From France, lived in Fiji for five years and is now in Queensland. I didn’t ask her who she’s on the run from.

We went out for a pizza but the place we were aiming for appears to have closed down. Plan B was a Wood-fired pizza place.

Over the road, we watched children and others having a good time in Anzac Park, the skate park. We saw people on BMX bikes, skateboards and scooters, all doing crazy stunts and sometimes falling off.

Fun in the skate park

We’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time. At last, here is Liesel together with Mary Poppins: two practically perfect people together at last!

Mary Poppins delighted to meet Liesel

Mary’s creator, PL Travers, was born here in Maryborough, and Maryburgians are very proud. Crossing the road here is a delight, so I did so couple of times.

Pedestrian crossing lights

When we returned, Cécile showed us a lovely, shiny green frog that she’d found in her garden: they live in the area. It was croaking for help and I was glad to see it released again. Spooky that it doesn’t appear in any of my photos. I think it must be a vampire frog.

It was a long day in the car, but we enjoyed it so much, we opted for a second long day in the car. This time, all the way to Brisbane where we had an appointment with a Tiger. A Tiger Air flight to Sydney. We felt bad about not giving Maryborough much of our time, but that’s not unusual these days.

Goodbye Cécile. And…

…Goodbye, Mary

We also missed out on the Sunshine Coast, Caboolture, Noosa Heads. Next time!

Google Maps took us on a road parallel to the A1, probably because it felt the three minutes saved were important. It would have saved even more time if it had told us to turn right at a certain point rather than insisting we stay on the same, wrong road for 53 km.

We passed by a few kangaroos grazing at the far side of a field.

Fascinating cloud formations

On Highway 15 to Gympie, we saw signs warning us of the possible presence of all kinds of wildlife on the road: kangaroos, horses, koalas, school buses, echidnas. And all we saw were a few cows and a few goats, not even on the road.

We also saw a convoy of Morris Minors, all bright colours, beautifully polished, I’m guessing not off to the breakers on this occasion.

The A1 became the M1. For a long time, we’ve been seeing signs for PC World, and I thought it was a bit strange. Turns out PCW stands for Pacific Coast Way. This road must be the one of the most polynymous in the world: A1, M1, PCW, Bruce Hwy, Hwy 1, State Hwy 1. No wonder Google Maps gets confused.

But it wasn’t long before we dropped the car off, flew to Sydney, and found ourselves on board the Manly Ferry. A flock of seagulls (not the 1980s synth-pop band) joined us on our voyage across Sydney Harbour. The nearly full Moon was peeping out from behind the clouds and I spent far too much time and wasted far too much film trying to get a photo of a bird in front of the Moon. Well, not film, but the limited storage in my phone.

Artistic shot of the day

It was lovely to see Helen who met us with food from the Japanese restaurant, Mira: we wolfed it down back at her apartment. Sorry about the further outburst of foodie bloggage.

In real life, the results of the Australian General Election were coming in. Good to see so many women but other than that, what a widerange of old, middle class, white males on display, both politicians and TV presenters.

Castlerock Farm Eco Stay

Before leaving Dolphin’s Head Resort, I went for a quick walk as we were in for a long drive later. The part of the beach close to us was rocks but way over there in the distance is a nice sandy beach.

The rocky beach

But it is out of reach to us mortals. All the ‘beachfront’ accommodation is private property. I could buy a house here and get my share of the beach, but I’ll leave it for the crocs and jellyfish to make friends with the occupants instead.

One of the exclusive beachfront properties

We refuelled the car, bought some vittles and set off. We decided to miss out on seeing Mackay due to time constraints.

It was Mother’s Day here last weekend and I always miss my Mum on that day. This year, I would have bought her the best present ever.

Happy Mother’s Day

It was another grey day but not raining. The road was long, we drove for the best part of five hours. We passed more sugar cane, more cattle, more trees, lots of grass, caravans, campervans, a crocodile… yes, that was a surprise.

Crocodile on a shop front

Some of the roadsigns were quite funny.

How long to go, Dad?
Still 2 hours to Rockhampton, kids!

We saw signs warning us of stock on the road for the next 10 or 20 km, but we only saw cattle in fields.

There were signs telling us about the presence of koalas for the next 20 km, but we didn’t see any at all. In fact, as far as we could tell, there weren’t many eucalyptus trees for us to look in as we drove by.

The authorities have our welfare at heart. So many signs telling us to have a rest, where the next rest area is. “Rest or RIP”.

I thought this one was a Batman logo from a distance.

Driver fatigue crash zone

“Don’t sleep and drive”.

Today’s soundtrack was provided by Pink Floyd. I tapped my foot and drummed my fingers on the door handle. Liesel accused me of tapping completely out of time with the music. I pointed out that Pink Floyd sometimes have very unusual time signatures and crazy rhythm patterns and… but I couldn’t keep a straight face.

Tropical Cyclone Ann is likely to make landfall in northern Queensland in the next few days, the first May cyclone to hit since 1989. I heard a couple of guys talking the other day about a place that had been evacuated.

After hours and hours of taking it in turns to drive, we turned off the A1 (Highway 1) towards Byfield National Park. I keep saying Byfleet of course, because my larynx has muscle memory of familiar placenames from home.

A hillock in Baga National Park

In an otherwise flat or gently undulating area, this rock could not be more out of place.

Susie met us at Castlerock Farm Eco Stay, where we are staying in a caravan for a couple of nights.

Our home: caravan plus tarp cover

A caravan with an awning. It’s gonna be a tight squeeze. The waterless composting toilet is quite a trek so we’ll leave a couple of lights on. The cooking area is ok but not 100% mosquito-proof. We’ve been warned that small bats sometimes come in and leave their mark on the floor.

We really are in the middle of nowhere, no 4G, the only wifi is just outside Susie’s house and it feels a bit rude to loiter there too long, although she said we were welcome to.

We’ve heard several birds, especially around the time of sunset.

A bit of a sunset

Susie told us about the snakes and the huntsman spiders, putting a little more adventure into our planned bush walks!

It rained all night and when it wasn’t raining, water continued to drip (pour) onto the tarpaulin ‘roof’ just six inches above our dozing noses. Despite that and a few nocturnal bladder-related excursions, I felt refreshed in the morning. Liesel not so much.

Hello there, Sunshine

I brought cups of tea and bananas back to the caravan. Liesel later brought back jam and peanut butter rolls. Then we got out of bed and went for a walk around the farm hoping to see spiders at least, but no such luck. No snakes either which I have mixed feelings about. A few birds and butterflies full of the joys of what passes for Autumn here

I lost count of the number of mosquito bites I acquired: the Germolene will be working overtime later.

Very pretty red and yellow flower

We enjoyed walking by a variety of fruit trees: lemon, lime, mandarin, persimmon, mango, banana and although we didn’t come across any, there are avocado trees here too.

Fruit bowl

It was the perfect temperature, just a little damp. We’ve gone from hot and humid to comfortable but damp in just a few days.

Small pond

We both returned to our kitchen/living quarters with sweat pouring off, something we’d not anticipated.

The rest of the day was a day of rest. Reading, writing, arithmetic. Well, two out of three, anyway. We listened to the wind in the trees, the odd few birds, we chatted with Susie before she drove into Yeppoon.

The outdoor shower water is heated by a donkey. Not that sort of donkey, but a wood fire burner water heater that Susie lights each day at 4pm. We can have showers at other times, but we’d have to fight, I mean light, the donkey ourselves. It was a very pleasant shower: I think we both would have stayed longer if the water was on tap rather than from a tank. Maybe a bit strange having a shower outside while wood fire smoke billows around, but it was a mosquito-free zone.

The Moon rose and the Sun set marking the end of another fantastic day.

Moon behind the palm trees

The buzzing sound in the kitchen was made by what we thought was a plain old housefly, but it was much more interesting, we noticed, when it landed on the window.

Pretty fly

Again, it rained for much of the night but being inside, under cover, warm, cosy and dry is a wonderful feeling.